Monthly Archives: July 2013

Recipe: Avocado toastie


The only thing standing between me and veganism for the past few years has been butter on my toast in the mornings, and small amounts of cheese. The latter has finally got the chop; the former will stay, if only because I detest the alternative spreads with a fiery vengeance. So I’m in the market for non-cheese fillings and toppings.

Avocado’s a pretty spiffing sarnie filling, and if you mash it up, you don’t need butter with it. But it always needs something there to perk it up a bit, hence why those supermarket sandwiches with it in are so bland. So play around with a base for it. My work colleague Emma suggests Marmite. I’ve used soft goats’ cheese in the past. Both of these work well, as the sharpness/saltiness contrast nicely with the creamy avocado.

You could stop there but I like it with finely-chopped spring onions and a drizzle of sweet chilli dipping sauce on. I did try red onion once when I was out of spring onions, but the slices need to be thinner than thin things or it over-powers the flavour.

And this cries out as well for decent chunky bread. I think it’s better toasted – and you could rub a peeled garlic clove across as well. I’ve tried it with bagels and it’s good, but a thick-cut slice off a white farmhouse or bloomer loaf wins by a whisker.


Thick slice of bread
Soft goats’ cheese or Marmite
Half an avocado
Spring onion
Sweet chilli dipping sauce

Toast the slice of bread and spread with the base of your choice. Mash or thinly slice the avocado, depending on how soft it is, and pile on the bread. Sprinkle thinly-chopped spring onion on top, then drizzle over some sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Recipe: Falafel


I love falafel, but I’ve always failed when making them before. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how disciplined I was in terms of leaving the things alone in the pan, I always ended up with varieties of mush – tasty mush, but not what I was after. I stumbled across this recipe for them when searching for a way of using chickpea flour instead of whole chickpeas. Typically, for my kind of internet search at least, it doesn’t involve chickpea flour, instead it uses raw, soaked chickpeas. I think this might be the key. The little balls held firm and didn’t fall apart when fried. Result!

I’ve kept the spicing light for these, as per the original recipe, but there’s no reason you can’t add a few bits of chilli and such like to the recipe. One practical thing to note, though, this is shallow frying, not just a splash of oil in the pan. You need to keep pouring the oil in until it covers the base of the pan. It doesn’t need more than that (it’s only a couple of millimetres), but any less will fail.

A yoghurt and mint sauce would go nicely with these, or, if you want to keep it vegan, a cucumber salad would be nice as well!

Falafel photo DSCN0766_zpsd84b42d5.jpg

100g chickpeas (dry weight), soaked overnight in water
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 small bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp flour

Drain the chickpeas and put in the food processor with the rest of the ingredients.
Process until you have a quite a fine grained, dry mix.
Form into golf-ball sized balls. You should get about eight from this quantity of mix.
Leave them in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up.
When you are ready to cook, shallow-fry in a medium hot frying pan, turning over once one side is browned.
Serve, after draining on kitchen paper to remove the excess oil.

Serves 2

Review: Loungers


Chain restaurants are a mixed blessing for vegetarians. You’re probably going to get something edible, but the chances are it won’t be very thrilling. Cue risotto or variations on pasta with sun-dried tomatoes …

So it’s worth celebrating when you come across a gem. And based on two visits this weekend, Loungers is somewhere to return to time and again. It looks like there are currently about a dozen branches in England. Not only do they have a good vegetarian menu, there’s also a vegan one which restores your faith in restaurants (mind you, Loungers call themselves café bars). And if you need gluten-free food, there’s a choice for you as well.

The only slightly odd thing is that the vegan and gluten-free menus aren’t out on the tables, and I suspect most people wouldn’t think to ask for them. We only found out in advance because my sharp-eyed partner in crime Anth had found the website.

Three of us visited the Westbury-on-Trym branch of Loungers for a Friday night meal, then again on the Saturday for brunch. The decor is all wooden tables and chairs, and comfy sofas. You find a table and then order at the bar.

As you might expect, Friday night was busy and we nabbed the last free table upstairs. Saturday we sat downstairs by the big open windows. The place had a nice buzz to it both times and we all commented on how cheerful and friendly the staff were.

Friday night’s choice boiled down to my guilty pleasure of a burger and fries (funny how I’d never have dreamed of eating one back in the dim and distant days of meat), or a selection of the tapas. Eleven out of 16 of the tapas choices are vegetarian, and seven are vegan. The dishes are £3.25 each or three for £8.50, and come with ciabatta bread. Three is a good amount for one person, based on my friend Linda’s choices. She went mainly for meat, but we did sneak a taste of the potatoes with smoked garlic and wasabi aioli which were very moreish.

OK, so both Anth and I went for the burger – butternut squash and nutmeg falafel, served with grilled halloumi, chipotle salsa, cos lettuce and tomato (it becomes vegan with the disappearance of the halloumi!) And very good it was too, with a decent texture and subtle flavours. The chips met with universal approval, as they were proper chips and not skinny fries which turn into twigs after ten minutes. A small side salad completed the ensemble.


We didn’t have dessert, but Linda claims the warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce is to die for. And I fully intend to try the vegan dark chocolate and ginger torte.

The next morning we turned up at about 11am for breakfast. Linda went for the full range of pig products, Anth had the vegetarian option and me the vegan. Apparently they will substitute items, which solves my usual problem of not eating egg in any shape or form. But I wanted falafel and hummus for breakfast …

The vegan brekkie came with falafel bites, warm hummus, grilled red pepper (not something I’d think about for breakfast, but very nice), button mushrooms, grilled tomato and baked beans, plus a generous slice of toast. The rather unusual combination worked really well, and it was only much later that I realised it hadn’t come with the advertised diced crispy potatoes! The vegetarian version comprised mini sweetcorn fritters, hash browns, tomato, beans, mushrooms, peppers and toast, together with two fried eggs. I didn’t hear any complaints from Anth.


Oh, and there was freshly-squeezed orange juice and very respectable coffee. And some more chatty staff kept up with the busy Saturday morning comings and goings. Loungers is definitely a good find whether you just fancy lounging around and drinking coffee, or want something a bit more substantial. (this is right and not a typo!)

Recipe: Poached Peaches with Chilli and Mint


It’s peach season! Nectarines and apricots are here too. I have to say, I often find supermarket peaches a bit disappointing. Peaches from childhood memory were almost dangerous things to eat. They ran with juice. They were impossible to eat without at least one slurp. And you would be sticky and attractive to wasps for the rest of the day. Now you’re more likely to find ones with all the give and juiciness of a cricket ball and a similar taste, I imagine. There’s a generation of children growing up who think that peaches and nectarines are crunchy.

This recipe will help with those peaches which stubbornly refuse to ripen properly. Use the tip end of the chilli rather than the stalk end for this – the chilli is milder at the tip. You shouldn’t really taste the chilli as you eat, it should just give you a little love-bite on the way down!

Poached peaches photo DSCN0870_zps39dccdd3.jpg

500ml water
150g sugar
1/2 tsp red chilli, finely chopped
1 sprig mint
2 peaches, halved
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp mint, chopped as a garnish

Bring the water, sugar, chilli and mint to a simmer in a saucepan.
Add the peaches, cut side down.
Simmer for 5 minutes and then flip over and simmer for 5 minutes more. Repeat as necessary until the peaches are tender.
Remove peaches from the poaching liquid.
Keep simmering the cooking liquid for another 10 minutes to reduce slightly.
As soon as the peaches are cool enough to handle, slip their skins off.
Leave everything to cool.
Remove the mint sprig from the syrup.
Just before serving stir in the juice of half a lemon to brighten the syrup.

Serves 2

Recipe: Easy, Spicy Barbecue Sauce


The sun is out, it’s barbecue season. It’s the time when you can’t walk down a street on a weekend without being assaulted by the smell of some hapless, dead animal being charcoaled to an inch of its afterlife. It can be tough going for vegetarians as well. Friends who have watched you order vegetarian food in restaurants all year without commenting can suddenly develop an urge to wave their bottulism- sorry- burger in a bun under your nose.

However, I have a way of mitigating the whole situation. I have a great spicy, barbecue sauce that, if you take it along to a friend’s place, will do much to ease your path through the bbq nightmare.

I’ve based my recipe on one for Kansas City style sauce which calls for ketchup. I love ketchup but I didn’t really want to start a recipe with 250ml of it. I substituted passata instead. It also calls for 1 tablespoon of chilli powder. I think that’s going to make it a bit hot for most people’s taste, so I’ve suggested 1-3 tsp so you can get the heat you’re comfortable with. You can use any type of vinegar in this sauce, but I think it works best with good old malt vinegar and there aren’t many recipes where I’ll say that.

This is sweet, sour, smokey, hot and really moreish. The picture shows this on grilled tempeh, but it’ll transform the blandest of carbonised veggie burger or sausage. You can even share it with your meat-eating friends if you like!

barbecue sauce photo DSCN0869_zps9421b506.jpg

2 cloves garlic, crushed
250ml passata
4 tbsp malt vinegar
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1-3 tsp chilli powder, according to taste

Sweat the garlic in a little oil in a saucepan.
Add the rest of the ingredients and season with salt.
Simmer on a low heat for 15-20 minutes until it has reduced by half.
Let cool.

This will make about 150ml of sauce.

Recipe: Sweetcorn Fritters with Spicy Dipping Sauce


Yes, I know it’s another recipe with sweetcorn in it. I promise this is the last and I will just step away from the sweetcorn for a good long while now.

I had these for lunch at a restaurant this week and had to try and make them myself. I’ve always loved Thai fishcakes and I have missed them a bit since I went veggie. I think I might just like these better though, they have more texture than the fishcakes and you get these little bursts of sweetness as you bite into a kernel. They’re considerably cheaper than fishcakes too, even if you get the fresh corn from cobs.

I’ve kept the spicing in the fritters low-key so the sweet crunch of the corn really stands out. It’s the dipping sauce that has all the zing and heat. The sauce will also go with lots of other oriental style nibbles.

Corn fritters photo DSCN0863_zps0d91153f.jpg

For the fritters:
100g sweetcorn (if frozen or tinned, leave to drain for at least half an hour)
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
zest of half a lime
1 egg
2 tbsp plain flour

For the dipping sauce:
Juice of half a lime
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/3 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
1/4 tsp sesame oil

Put the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside while you make the fritters.
Put the dry ingredients for the fritters in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly.
Add the egg and flour and mix until they are properly incorporated around the dry ingredients.
Heat a little in a pan over a medium heat.
Drop about a tablespoon and a half of the mixture per fritter and fry until golden on both side. The mixture should make about 6 fritters.
When they’re cooked, put the fritters on kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil.
Serve the fritters with the dipping sauce alongside in a shallow bowl.

Serves 2 as a starter

Review: Coffee7


Please welcome a guest blogger. Let us introduce you to Yvette Elliott, who’s a schoolfriend of Sharon’s and an amazingly talented feltmaker and textile artist. Go and drool over her creations at Starjump Arts. Yvette has found us a new veggie cafe in East London to explore …

In January 2013, Coffee7  vegetarian cafe opened its doors to a grateful and expectant Forest Gate clientele. An attractive and welcoming place, with vintage furniture and crockery, fresh flowers and genuinely friendly staff, it has a small menu of simple, well-made dishes (with the ‘special’ changing each day), good coffees and teas, and delectable cakes.  The atmosphere is relaxed, with a children’s play corner, a little outside sitting area and a snug side room with comfortable sofa and shelves of books to browse.

I recently visited for lunch midweek, and was pleased to see the place busy.  I chose roasted pepper stuffed with cous cous and served with green salad and butterbean and celery salad, while my friend went for the houmous  with wholemeal bread and salad.  Other choices included a salad platter and sandwiches made with your choice of speciality cheeses and relishes.


I didn’t have the chance to photograph my friend’s meal as she tucked in enthusiastically while I was snapping mine!  She found her homemade houmous garlicky and delicious, while the wholemeal bread was moist and had a light, open texture.  She was especially pleased to find avocado in her accompanying salad!  My peppers were nicely gooey and softly collapsing, and generously stuffed with cous cous gently flavoured with onion, cheese and parsley – and extremely well-priced at £6-00.  Sadly, we had no room for pudding, but chocolate brownies, sponge cake and huge home-baked cookies are typical sweet offerings.

The café has quickly established itself as a popular meeting place and is particularly lively at weekends.  When we visited, it was hosting an exhibition of work by a local artist, and it acts as an information hub through its ever-growing noticeboard. I’d recommend it whole-heartedly.



10 Sebert Road, Forest Gate, London E7 ONQ


Recipe: Quick Sweetcorn and Tomato Salad


This is just a quick salad I made from an idea on the Running with Tweezers blog. Sweetcorn and tomato seems like an odd combination but it works really well. I swapped red wine vinegar for lemon juice because I wanted a fresher tang. I used tarragon here, but mint or basil would work just as well.

Sweetcorn & tomato salad photo IMG_0393_zps40ec0ab8.jpg

150g sweetcorn
100g tomatoes, deseeded & chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the ingredients in a bowl, season with salt & pepper and mix thoroughly.
Leave to stand for half an hour at room temperature before serving.

Serves 1 as a light lunch, maybe with some nice cheese and a few crisp green leaves