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    Musings, Recipes, Vegan

    Recipe: Vegan Shepherds Pie

    vegan pie

    Chances are if I’m cooking something at home and it’s meat-free it’ll probably be vegan too.  I could spin you a line about the ethics of this, but really it’s just that dairy and my digestive tract don’t always get on. And if it’s not going to make much difference, I’d rather switch it out for something that isn’t possibly going to kick me in the gut and give me a hangover (and that’s the polite version).

    I have a similar view of meat really, that unless it’s the star of the show then I don’t really mind it being switched out for something else.  So after seeing some recipes for shepherd’s pie that used lentils for the filling, I figured I’d have a go at making my own vegan version.  Again, I’d like to tell you that the sweet potato was a conscious health choice, but really it was just that I had one left over, although to be fair given that I didn’t bother with cheese I hoped it would add a bit more flavour, which it did.

    Apparently this should’ve fed five people, which I think would’ve made rather generous portions and I ended up making seven – although I’m not keen on a lot of potato, so whilst the filling is enough for seven, you might want to up the amount of potato (there was more in the photo, I just ate it so you could see the lentil mix).  I used these fab little dishes from IKEA (picked up as part of the Live Lagom project) which are, in my mind, just the right size and they can go from freezer to oven which makes them really handy. I defrost my pies before cooking, but they can be cooked from frozen if needs be.  They’ve become my go to TV dinner when I’m late home from an event, but not late enough to justify picking something up en route.

    Enough blathering from me, here’s the recipe for vegan shepherd’s pie…

    Recipe: Vegan Shepherd's Pie
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
    An easy to recreate vegan version of a shepherd's pie which can be made in bulk and frozen.
    Recipe type: dinner, frozen, batch cook
    Cuisine: vegan
    Serves: 5-7
    • 1 onion
    • 2 carrots
    • 3 sticks of celery
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 100g mushrooms (I used button)
    • a bay leaf
    • 0.5 tbsp dried thyme
    • 250g dried green/puy lentils
    • Splash of soy sauce (Worcestershire Sauce if you’re not wanting a vegan version)
    • 2tbsp tomato puree
    • 850ml vegetable stock (use about 700ml to start and top up if needed)
    For the topping
    • 1kg potato – I went for 350g sweet potato (then peeled), 650g salad potatoes with the skin on
    • 40g dairy-free margarine
    • 50ml almond milk (but any milk will do)
    1. Add a splash of oil into a pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for five minutes, then add the carrots and celery until everything is soft and golden – should take about 15minutes in total.
    2. Stir in the herbs, and then add lentils, give it another good stir before adding the stock. Simmer for 50 minutes until the lentils are very soft, stir in the tomato puree, then season to taste.
    3. Whilst the lentils cook it’s time to sort out the potatoes; peel and roughly chop the sweet potato. Frankly I can’t be bothered to peel the little white potatoes, so I just chop them and add them, but peel if you’re keener. Add to a pan of boiling water and cook for about 15minutes until they’re tender. Then drain the potatoes and mash with the dairy-free butter and milk (I used almond, but I think any will do just make sure it’s unsweetened) and don’t forget the salt and pepper.
    4. To make the pies divide the lentil mixture between your dishes and top with mash. Add cheese if you like (there are some vegan cheeses about). If you’re eating straight away, heat the oven to 190c/fan 170c and bake for 30minutes until the top is a bit more golden.
    5. If you’re freezing them, keep them for no longer than a couple of months and it’s best to defrost them before cooking. But if not cover them with foil and bake at 160c/fan 140c for about 30minutes – 1hr (individual pies will take about 30minutes), then uncover and cook for a further 20minutes.

    Disclosure: As part of the Live Lagom project IKEA let me have a few of these glass dishes, but I also bought some myself, because I am a little obsessed. IKEA don’t know I’m writing this so they definitely didn’t ask me to be nice about anything.

    Round ups

    January update

    janaury_diaryOrdinarily I’d do a bit of a January round up about this time, but given I’ve only posted four times in January it seemed kinda pointless.  No one actually said anything, so I’m not even sure if anyone noticed that the blog had been a little quiet but it was a deliberate thing, I needed a break.  You see the thing about blogging, at least the way I’ve done it, is that it can get a bit all consuming – feeling the need to say yes to every opportunity, being out almost every night and the ones I’m not were spent editing photos or writing or scheduling social media.  And I’m not complaining, because it’s all on me, but this is a hobby and over the last few months I was feeling a bit burnt out by it.

    And one thing I’ve begun to realise is that it’s important to be kind to yourself.  And like almost everyone else, although unusual for me, I made some New Year’s Resolutions.  Last year felt like it was all about food blogging and I’m trying to rebalance my life, because I’m immensely proud of this blog and so ridiculously thankful for the opportunities its provided, but I wanted to feel like my I had more hobbies than blogging, even if it’s watching hours of Netflix guilt-free.

    One of my New Year’s Resolutions is inspired by a project I’m doing with IKEA.  It’s called ‘Live Lagom’ and it’s the idea that just the right amount is enough; it’s about living a more sustainable life.  And I figured that one of the best things I could do was be more mindful of what I ate, by cooking more at home, eating better and producing less waste.

    So where does this leave Full to the Brum? 

    Well after giving myself a month off from self-directed pressure, I’m feeling more positive about things.  To be honest, I’ve probably spent as much time focusing on food, but I’ve been meal planning and modifying recipes and battling with my food tracker app to try and work out what constitutes as a good meal.  I’ve still been going out for dinner and I’ve got a bunch of reviews to share with you, but I’ve also got some recipes too, as well as some other food and drink adventures.

    Sorry, this isn’t the usual irreverence you’ve come to know from me, and that will be back, I promise.  But I felt like I owed this blog, and its readers, an explanation – and myself a reminder that it’s okay to take a step back every once and a while.

    Round ups

    December round up

    Hey up, how was everyone’s Christmas?  I fully planned to do loads of blogging but then decided that a rest was probably a wiser plan.  Unlike nearly everyone else celebrating Christmas, my carb-phobic mother means we don’t really do overindulging and as well as a five mile walk on Christmas day and my Boxing Day was spent cycling and another five mile walk.  Although my mum did cook a great fish pie for Christmas Eve and a glorious pheasant dish for Boxing Day.  Christmas day was a mountain of food at my aunt’s house, along with my boozy sticky toffee pudding which I’ve made every year for the last four (and was specially requested).

    gas_st_social_festive_drinksPre-Christmas I stumbled into a three course meal at my friend’s house, which was truly something…it was definitely a great precursor to Christmas.  It wasn’t the only festive Christmas stuff I did, as I went to a festive mini-bar crawl at The Mailbox including Aluna and Gas Street Social.  I also put together a little Birmingham food and drink gift guide, for anyone looking for last minute food inspiration.

    December always feels like one of those months for running about the place, seeing friends and family, catching festive shows and the like – I was at the Hippodrome twice, once for the Nutcracker with my mum and another time to see Aladdin.  I also wrote up my trip to the BBC Good Food Show winter, along with all the fantastic things I got to try.


    Talking of new things to try, one of my favourite new venue openings happened in December – Original Patty Men and Siren Craft Brew opened a fantastic little venue in Shaw’s Passage, just round the corner from The Bullring.  I also re-visited Sabai Sabai for Loy Krathon, although this was the first time I’ve gotten round to writing stuff up for the blog.

    Writing it all down, I didn’t get to do a great deal of blogging in December, which means that January will probably be another busy month.  Over the break I went to check out Resorts World and visited Waters Restaurant and like most people I’ve also made some New Year’s Resolutions so I’ll be cooking more, which may or may not mean more recipes.  And of course, Happy New Year to you, have you made any resolutions yourself?

    Round ups

    Ten food/drink gift ideas for Brummies


    If you’re struggling to come up with a present for the food and drink lover in your life then here are a few ideas.  I’m pretty crap at knowing what I want for Christmas, but usually alright at buying stuff for other people.  These are mostly Birmingham-based and some are really good last minute ideas too…

    Independent Birmingham card

    Want to give someone a gift that keeps on giving, right through ’til next Christmas?  Then the Independent Birmingham card is perfect.  It has a positively dizzying array of discounts at a number of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as a bunch of non-food places (yeah, that’s a thing, who knew).  Did I mention there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant on their offer role?!  What’s more, they’re doing a deal if you buy two cards at once, so that’s one for a friend and one for you – after all, sharing is caring.

    Tickets to Whisky Birmingham

    Anyone else like presents which means you get to continue Christmas a few days after the 25th?  Well then, getting someone tickets for Whisky Birmingham festival means you can carry on celebrating right through until 12th March (that might be pushing it).  And what a celebration you’ll have as Birmingham’s festival of whisky and whiskey (and bourbon) showcases some of the best whiskies from around the world.  What better way to spend a Saturday?

    A bottle of Langley’s Gin

    A bottle of gin under the Christmas tree is always going to make me happy, but when it’s a bottle of the local stuff then event better.  Distilled in the B postcode area at the well respected Langley distillery, Langley’s Gin has a mix of eight traditional botanicals that produce a lovely smooth gin, which could be drunk over ice, as well as with a good quality tonic or in a cocktail.   

    A cookery class from Loaf

    Stirchley’s Loaf does more than just make amazing bread (seriously it’s great, as are their sweet bakes too), it also hosts a cookery school, teaching everything from bread basics to butchery, seafood and foraging.  As well as running some of the classes themselves, they also use a range of well known culinary geniuses from around the region.  I did the bread basics one a few years ago and went home with armfuls of bread, as well as more confidence in bread baking.

    Yipsy Macarons

    What do you get the person who has everything? Food of course, you can never have too much food! And whilst it’s Christmas, a bag full of cheese might be a bit much, but something light, delicate and indulgent would be perfect.  Yipsy Macarons’ limited edition Christmas-themed macarons include festive flavours of gingerbread and mince pies, and are hand decorated with snowflakes and other festive scenes.


    Okay, not strictly Birmingham, but dotcomgiftshop do deliver here.  There’s lots of lovely food related things on there and I really like this recipe tin which I was recently sent – I’m terrible at remembering to write down recipes, so having this tin in the kitchen is really handy, as I can scrawl the ingredients down on a card and recreate the recipe later. 

    A hamper from Anderson & Hill

    Anderson & Hill is a great little deli in the Great Western Arcade and full of treats throughout the year (not least of all their epic sandwiches).  But at Christmas you can customise your own hamper – for a gift or just for your own really special Christmas.  With everything from cured meats to coffee, alcohol, chutneys as far as the eye can see and lots of other treats, the only real struggle you’ll have will be either finding a hamper large enough, or your wallet hampering your options.

    A cocktail masterclass

    Got a group of friends and getting a bit bored of secret santa?  Why not treat each other to a group cocktail masterclass?  There’s a bunch of places in Birmingham doing them, including Island Bar, The Edgbaston and Bar Opus, and you get the added benefit of avoiding dry January and having fun with your friends…and you don’t have to wrap anything.

    Gift vouchers for Carters

    So I can’t claim any credit for finding this one, my sister sent me a gift voucher for Carter’s of Moseley as last year’s Christmas present and I put it towards a Sunday supper which was awesome.  You can buy the gift vouchers in denominations for £20, £30, £50, £100 and £200 straight from Carter’s and can be put towards food and drink at this Michelin starred restaurant.


    Okay, okay this is such an obvious one that I know you’ve already eyed up a selection box whilst in the supermarket.  But why not try something a little different?  Chouchoute in the Great Western Arcade opened in 2002 and sell luxury chocolates made by their artisan chocolatier.  Charlie’s Mom’s Chocolate Factory can often be found at craft fairs in and around the city (the latest one was Bearwood).  But of course there’s always a box of Cadbury’s Roses too.

    Disclosure: I wrote this because it’s Christmas and I wanted to do something nice.  Photos aren’t mine, they’re mainly promo photos, but the macaron photo is by stacie tamaki the chocolate by Artizone and the cocktail kit photo is by ProFlowers – all from Flickr.

    Round ups

    November Round up

    Hola! So, well, what a month.  It was busy, of course aren’t they all, but this month particularly so because I decided at the beginning of the month I’d try and blog every day in November.  I got to about the 18th before realising that I totally admire people who do this, but it isn’t for me.  Sure, a lot of content was published and I cleared some of my backlog, but it also saw way too many three minutes to midnight postings – I just didn’t get to spend the time on the posts that I wanted to and yeah.  Anyway, it did make me realise that I procrastinate way too much and if I put my mind to it I can find more time to blog…so hopefully good things will come.



    I did get to write up some event reports though, so that was a positive.  One of them was for the return of Rib Nights, which was actually the first one I managed to get to because I was always busy when they came round last time.  It also reminded me why I don’t like eating ribs in public, because holy hell are they messy.  Talking of returns, I went to the last Birmingham UK Burger Battle and I’m hoping they return too.

    There weren’t a massive amount in the way of restaurant reviews, but there were a fair few pop ups.  Ahead of opening their permanent venue in BOM Lab, I went to Nomad’s Man and the Myth pop up at Urban Coffee Co, which was delicious. Birmingham Breakfast Club held another of their special breakfasts, this time at Simpson’s, a three course breakfast which was just superb.  Breakfast pudding, lets make that a thing, folks.  I also got to meet Marco Pierre White as he came to Birmingham.


    Afternoon Tea and Casual Dining

    For something more casual I posted my review of Sunny’s Soul Shack, which took over the Sunflower Lounge’s kitchen a few months ago, with it’s deep south Americana vibe.  And then for another international cuisine there was Treat Greek Deli in the Great Western Arcade – somewhere that I’ve been back to for their Bugatsa a couple of times since.

    I’ve been eating my way through Birmingham’s afternoon tea too.  I finally got round to posting about a trip to Cadbury World to check out their afternoon tea, because any excuse to go to Cadbury World is a’okay by me.  Another favourite place, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s new cafe is somewhere that I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for, and I got to check on BMAG’s afternoon tea as part of a blogger event.  Then a few weeks later some friends and I booked in to go to The Edgbaston for afternoon tea…oh, my, lord.


    Products and Recipes

    Talking of sweet treats, I stumbled across Mr Kipling’s cocktail fancies which were three different flavours of cocktail, and teapigs everyday brew…really I could’ve had my own afternoon tea at home.  I did try out some savoury food too; Holy Cow curry sauces which, as a Birmingham resident, were always going to need to be pretty top notch to rival something I could get out and about.

    Despite most of my food adventures being able what other people can cook, I tried to share some recipes of my own – chorizo & beef meatballs which work well as tapas or a main meal, and a winter warmer in the shape of toad in the hole.  I’m on two minds as whether this is something I’ll continue doing on the blog as it has mainly been about food actual professionals cook, but hey it’s food in Birmingham.  I’d really appreciate your views on whether to continue with the recipes or stick to writing about other people’s cooking.


    Good Food and Drink

    November is usually all about the BBC Good Food Show and this year was no different.  As part of the Good Food Show blogger team, I got sent a parcel of goodies that suitably whetted my appetite.  I also ran a competition to give away a couple of tickets and a bottle of Thomas Dakin gin, which proved pretty popular but the competition to win a Firelight Eating Kit from Debbie and Andrew’s positively exploded.  I’ll get round to writing up my experiences soon.

    Drinks are something I’m hoping to start writing more about in the future too.  I started off pretty well this month with a write up of a Glenfiddich whisky tasting I went to, thanks to the Birmingham Whisky Club…and to carry on the whisky theme there was a recipe for a Hot Toddy using whiskey and Crabbies Alcoholic Light Ginger Beer.  Oh and if that wasn’t enough, I also wrote an article for Area Guide on festive drinks.

    Thank you and Next…

    The final post of the month was only yesterday, but it was a big one – I won the Birmingham Award for Blog of the Year.  I don’t want to re-write it here, because this post has gone on long enough.  But again, thank you…just thanks.

    Coming up this month.  I thought about doing Blogmas, which is posting each day on the run up to Christmas, but frankly I think after this month that might be a bit much…and I’m pretty sure none of you want to read that much from me again.  I’ve got a few posts that I’d like to try and get out; the Good Food Show winter, Sabai Sabai’s Christmas menu, Barnt Green Inn and Island Bar’s new Tiki menu.

    I mentioned in my thank you post that I love getting emails and messages from people.  If there’s anything you want to tell me about drop me an email on hello @ fulltothebrum . co . uk or catch me on Twitter or Facebook.

    Musings, News

    An award win and a massive thank you


    A couple of months ago I found out I’d been shortlisted for a couple of awards and I’m so very pleased to be able to say that on Friday night I went home with one…the award for Blog of the Year from the Birmingham Awards.

    Thankfully no one made me say anything on the evening because I was already struggling to walk (I was so convinced I wouldn’t win I wore pretty but impractical shoes) and would probably have just come out with something even more ridiculous that usual.  Bless the presenters, I think I pretty much tried to run away from the stage as soon as I got there because being the centre of attention is something I actively avoid…and being in photographs, if I can help it.  I know everyone says it but the competition really was strong, and I consider two of the others shortlisted friends, so it feels like a massive honour to have won.

    I’m pretty terrible at taking compliments, or people being nice to me generally, but it really does mean the world to me that people read my little part of the internet.  I said in my interview that I measured success by the people who talk to me on Twitter and Facebook, comment on the blog, ask for dinner recommendations, suggest places for me to go or tell me stories about how the blog got referenced by one of their friends or in their university classes…but now I have a physical manifestation of that for next time I’m losing the will to live, trying to take photographs at midnight so I can publish a new post.  So, really just thank you to everyone who gets involved.  Thanks to my long suffering friends and family who’ve learnt to live with me taking photos of their food or drinks before they’re allowed a mouthful; to my fellow bloggers for their hints, tips and encouragement; and a special thank you to my mum – loads of people have told me how much they like reading about our dinners together and she’s been a massive support (and receiver of parcels).

    Full to the Brum was started to try and add to the chorus of voices shouting about Birmingham’s thriving food and drink scene, as well as for me to blather on about my dinner.  In the last year I’ve noticed more Birmingham based food blogs which makes me incredibly happy, particularly as the dining and drinking scene in the city seems to have really gone up a gear this year.  Long may it continue.

    Ps. That photo was taken by Edwin Ladd of Social Frames

    As featured in, Musings

    Festive Drinks in Area Guide

    area_guideSo, national Christmas adverts are flooding our TVs and timelines, and Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market (and Craft Market) has firmly entrenched itself into the city centre…so we’re clearly allowed to start talking festivities!  The folks at Area Guide let me waffle on about some delicious cocktails (and a beer) which are full of tradition and plenty warming for the autumn and winter months.   To read the article in full, head over to the online version of their November / December issue of Area Guide.