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    Recipes, Vegan

    Recipe: Medicinal vegan red lentil & lime soup

    Look, I’m not about to tell you that food will cure you, but after two weeks of having the flu and still feeling pants, I decided that my diet of hot cross buns and more tea than I thought humanly possible could probably do with some help. So I decided to make this medicinal soup, and bonus points it’s vegan too.

    Without descending into too much woo, this has a bunch of stuff that supposedly has some health benefits: onions have been used for centuries to reduce inflammation, coconut is apparently helpful to balance gut bacteria, and limes are full of vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant and stops you getting scurvy. Although if you’re worried about that, I recommend drinking daiquiris.

    I have no idea if it’d cured me, but it tasted good so I figured I’d share. I stuck with it as it is in the recipe below because I didn’t want to challenge my stomach any more than I was already, but the punchy lime, sunny colours and slight heat meant that next time I’ll be adding shredded chicken or pork, some beans, maybe a pinch of cumin and upping the chilli slightly to make it a more filling soup. But as it is, it’s a pretty nice medicinal soup, although pretty citrusy (some people might want to tone that down, I quite like it).  It’s also vegan if you use right kind of vegetable stock; I used Marigold Swiss vegetable vegan bouillon powder in this recipe.  I also mentioned garlic and ginger pastes because I have them both in my fridge and was too poorly to be faffing about grating ginger.

    Recipe: Medicinal red lentil soup
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
    Recipe type: soup
    Serves: 4
    • 1 large onion chopped
    • 100g red lentils
    • 2 heaped tsp turmeric
    • ½ tsp chilli powder
    • 1 tbsp coarsely grated ginger or paste
    • 2 garlic cloves, sliced or tbsp of garlic paste
    • 1l vegetable stock
    • 400ml can coconut milk
    • 2 generous handfuls baby spinach (approx 50g)
    • 1 lime, juice and zest - you may want to reduce this if you don't like things too citrusy
    1. In a large pan, fry the onions in a little oil until soft and golden
    2. Then add the lentils, turmeric, ginger, garlic and pour in the stock.
    3. Cover the pan and simmer until the lentils have softened, this should take around 15 minutes
    4. You might want to season with some salt now, depending on how salty your stock is
    5. Pour in the coconut milk, give everything a good stir and simmer for another 15 minutes or so
    6. Add the spinach, and cook it until it wilts.
    7. Stir in the lime juice and zest, and serve.

    Disclosure: Brought to you by the flu and the realisation that after two weeks I was starting to get bored of bread, which is more painful than the flu itself. Also, if you’re really sick, go see a doctor and get actual medicine. But only have antibiotics if you *really* need them.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Trying out the new autumn/winter menu at 1847


    I’ve been talking a lot about comfort food recently.  It’s not really surprisingly, given the recently dip in temperature, the dark nights (which I actually like) and that time had three hours sleep because I stayed up for my traditional watch a Big Thing happening in another country.  I think anyone would be forgiven for craving comfort.  But what I didn’t expect was to find it at a vegetarian restaurant.

    I’ve posted about 1847 (which used to be called Bistro 1847) before, several times in fact.  It does vegetarian and vegan sort of fine-dining style, in a bistro in the heart of the Great Western Arcade, which is rapidly becoming quite the go-to place for those who like to excite their taste buds.  It’s a bit crass and overdone to say that as a meat eater I like the place, because that would be like going to dessert parlour and talking about dinner; it’s not about what’s missing it’s about the ingredients they use taking centre stage.  And whilst vegetarian options are now pretty standard on most menus they’re not always the most inspired, whereas at 1847 they’re the stars.


    This time round I pitched up for a taste of their new autumnal menu, which already tells you there’s a transitional move into comfort food, but it’s not heavy and bloating.  The menu picks up lots of the flavours and ingredients of the season – cauliflower, mushrooms, sage and butternut squash, but with some extra flavours for colour.

    To nibble on whilst we waited for everyone, we had focaccia with shakshuka hummus and if this was as good as it was to get (spoiler, it wasn’t) I’d have been happy; lightly toasted but still warm bread, drizzled with oil and a shakshuka hummus which was smooth and salty.  It was simple but delicious.

    For starter I went for maple roasted parsnips, parsnip cream, apple and pumpkin seed, because honey-roasted parsnips are an absolute winner in a Sunday roast and I wanted to know what a maple version would be like.  They’re delicious; cooked well so that the parsnips are soft but not mushy and the naturally sweetness of the vegetable is heightened by the maple syrup.  Sure it’s sweet but it’s just the right sized dish that it doesn’t become sickly. 


    For main I went for spätzle, roast squash puree, smoked mushrooms and whipped feta.  I have a soft spot for spätzle ever since my German university housemate Barbara showed me how to make it.  The knöpfle variety is a German pasta which is like little droplets.  To make it, I used to comb the dough through a colander and cover with grated cheese once cooked, but the roast squash puree and smoked mushrooms gave it a really interesting flavour.  I wasn’t sold on the whipped feta, the tanginess of it seemed at odds with the other flavours, but then I’m not a massive fan of feta.

    Sadly, the only real misfire of the night was the dessert for me.  I went for the coconut malabi with apple rice donuts and caramelised pear because it felt like a nice comforting, lighter dessert but just didn’t quite work.  The coconut malabi felt a bit lacklustre; I’m not keen on overly sweet things but this dish felt like it needed more sweetness, perhaps more caramelised pear and it was hard to know whether you were supposed to swipe with the sauce with the anarachni-like donuts.  That said I did try some of my friend’s chocolate brownie with my coconut malabi and the creaminess worked well with the richness of the brownie, so it’s not bad it just didn’t seem to come together as a dish quite as I’d have liked.

    apple_rice_donuts_1847Overall it was a really enjoyable meal, even with the slightly disappointing end.  There are still some well loved classics on the menu like the battered halloumi, but the autumnal dishes really are a delight.  Once again 1847 have proved that vegetarian and vegan dishes don’t need to be the poor-man’s meatless afterthought but can be hearty, comforting and yet delicate.

    1847, 26 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU

    Disclosure: I was invite for a complimentary meal by Brumderland in exchange for my views, but wasn’t required to be positive. Which is just as well because after three hours sleep I’d struggle to lie anyway.

    Cafe reviews, Reviews

    3 Three’s, vegan cafe in Birmingham


    As someone who frankly overthinks everything, dietary requirements are pretty high on my list of things to think about (I arrange a lot of events, it happens).  You know, there’s always that box on an event sheet that asks about them and I’m always curious about the response; is it just for religious, ethical, moral and health reasons, or should people tell us if they really don’t like mushrooms (true story)?  And then when someone tells you they don’t eat wheat, gluten, sugar or processed foods, only to then discover them snacking on a biscuit which has all those things are you allowed to be a bit pissed off?

    And as someone with a lactose intolerance, which provides some fairly unpleasant results for me and anyone using the bathroom after me, I tend not to mention it unless I think whatever is being provided is going to lead to DEFCON one.  But I’m always really grateful when there are places that I don’t need to worry about it and that’s mainly anywhere that properly caters for vegans.  And so I’ve been wandering past Birmingham’s first vegan/vegetarian cafe, 3 Threes in Martineau Place, Birmingham city centre for the last few weeks, wondering when it’ll open.  And finally it has.


    The cafe itself has plenty of seating and was surprisingly busy on the Friday lunchtime I trundled down, considering they’d only opened that week.  The decor is fairly nondescript which is not to say it’s boring…it’s just not that bloody industrial look everyone is going nuts for.  It feels functional, but comfortable, like it could be good for working in there off a laptop all day as well as hosting a spoken word night in the evening.  It feels like a coffee shop, which is surprisingly becoming a bit rare.  Also, the staff are lovely.  As one of them dropped off my sandwich, he checked on my drink, then came back with it later, apologising for the (not very long) wait but that the barista wasn’t happy with the first one and started again.  I liked his honesty.

    Food wise, I suspect it’s in a bit of flux at the moment.  They’re doing vegan hot dogs, which looked good, but being it was a working Friday I opted for the British classic; sandwiches and a bag of crisps.  Okay sure, a vegan version of a chicken, sweetcorn and mayo sandwich isn’t exactly standard, but there we are.  In some sense, I think I ordered this because I wanted to see if chicken-flavoured stuff would taste as such and it does, in fact it tastes exactly like those packaged chicken slices you get in the supermarket.  So if you’re vegan and missing these, great, or you’re vegan and want to drag your meat-loving friend somewhere that you can both eat, then this is a good way to distract them from that.  Crisps wise, they’ve got a decent selection of Ten Acre crisps, which are vegan-friendly.  Sure, you might ask, why is this even A Thing, but for some reason most standard flavoured crisps are full of milk products.  Ten Acres aren’t, and their cheese and onion flavoured crisps are great.

    I rounded off my lunch with an almond milk latte which was superb (clearly worth making a second time); sweet, creamy and delicious.  For that alone, I’ll be back.  I also bought a caramel rose cupcake, which was all sorts of animal free and there were several gluten free dessert options available too.  I took this back to the office with me and it travelled well, was flavoursome and whilst not as identikit as the sandwich for its usual counterpart, was very tasty.

    All in all a large almond milk latte, cupcake, sandwich and bag of crisps came to around £8 which is pretty standard for the less animal friendly versions elsewhere in the city centre.  On leaving, the guy who served me asked if I’d be back and I will.  Not because it’s vegan friendly place in Birmingham city centre, but because the service was good, the latte was damn tasty and I want to try some of the ice cream I spotted on leaving.


    Disclosure: Took myself off on a lunch date and paid for myself. Who needs other people when food is the best company?

    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.

    News, Pop Ups and Streetfood

    Birmingham’s first vegetarian street food event

    bbyveggie7Brum Yum Yum and vegan street-food vendors The Vegan Grindhouse have teamed up for the region’s first meat-free street food event this Sunday in Kings Heath village square.

    Featuring Birmingham’s leading street food chefs, the event is open from 11am – 5pm will showcase entirely vegetarian or, in some cases, vegan dishes available on each stall – Vegan Grindhouse, Pietanic, Bare Bones Pizza, Savanna Grill, Bombay Tapas and 9 Tea Cups are all confirmed.  It’s not just food that’s on offer either, Coventry’s all vegan independent brewery, Twisted Barrel Ales, will be there along with stalls selling organic fruit and vegetables, crafts, cakes and a juice bar.

    I was going to make some pithy comment about put down the burgers and head over to try something new…but The Vegan Grindhouse’s “cheeseburger” is pretty bloody good. So maybe just head over there and pick up a burger (if they’re doing one).

    Lisa Burbidge-Brown, co-owner of The Vegan Grindhouse said “Street food has become more and more popular in Birmingham, and it is about time people got to try some amazing vegan and vegetarian street food from some of the most popular street food chefs.”

    Duncan Stanley, Brum Yum Yum founder, said ” Here at BYY we’ve always set out to prove that street-food isn’t just about the meat-in-a-bun classics and I firmly believe that a lot of the best street-food out there is served up by the vegan and veggie traders. What better way to spend a Sunday than stuffing your face with some of the tastiest and most interesting meat-free meals in town?!”

    Brum Yum Yum goes veggie on Sunday 19 July, 11am – 5pm, at Kings Heath Village Square, High St, B14 7RA

    News, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Bistro 1847’s kickstarter for Liverpool

    They say there’s no such thing as a free dinner, but when the pay off  is to hear all about the launch of Bistro 1847’s Kickstarter appeal to launch a new venue in Liverpool, I can’t say I mind so much.

    Joining a host of fellow bloggers, general foodies and Bistro 1847’s regulars, I sat down to a sumptuous three-and-a-bit course meal to hear all about owner Damien Davenport’s vision for a third venue in Liverpool.  In the same way Bistro 1847 has brought a new style of vegetarian dining to Manchester and Birmingham, Damien and his team hope to do the same with Liverpool.  There’s more over on Bistro 1847’s Kickstarter page as well as options to pledge as little or as much as you like.

    So, what would a Bistro 1847 in Liverpool get our fine Liverpudlian brothers and sisters?  Well, I’ve already been to Bistro 1847 Birmingham a few times and sampled some of their fine dishes (I actually went back a couple of days after this event with some friends too), but to launch Bistro 1847’s Kickstarter we were treated to a proper celebratory feast.


    Up first were some pre-starters, consisting of: pea puree with basil jam and grapefruit in a pastry case; pickled mushroom and chargrilled cucumber; and beetroot soup, coconut creme with dark chocolate.  The mushroom and cucumber had an almost sushi style to it but my favourite was the beetroot soup.  I like beetroot anyway but this was a warm soup which was hearty, yet not too thick which was an interesting contrast.  It also had none of the earthiness you sometimes get with beetroot but a lovely texture which alongside the coconut creme was just lovely.


    Our starter was chargrilled asparagus and salted baby turnips – and 63degree poached egg if you hadn’t opted for the vegan meal, which I had…we got more salted baby turnips, which were like the vegan equivalent of scallops in my mind and pretty tasty.  The asparagus was from Evesham and was lovely.


    The main course worried me a bit when we were told what it was; confit tomato, ratatouille, red pepper jus, burnt aubergine puree, polenta hash brown and chard red onion.  One thing I’m really not keen on is raw or kinda-raw tomato, it’s usually only ever a garnish so I can pick it out, however as the star of the show I wasn’t overly sure I was going to like this dish.  Thankfully, all the things I dislike about raw tomatoes had been cooked away enough for this something you could still cut into but not too sweet and fleshy a tomato.  The polenta hash browns were a lovely texture and the red pepper jus was a nice sauce for them.


    Our pre-dessert was probably my favourite dish of the evening; a poppyseed crisp with banana custard, peach rhubarb and micro-coriander.  This had a lovely combination of textures with a sweetness to the poppyseed crisp, along with a creaminess from the custard and the delicacy of the rhubarb.  I would have been quite happy to eat a plate of these for pudding.

    Before our dessert was served, Bistro 1847 owner Damien Davenport came over to introduce himself to our table (which was made up of a few fellow bloggers and a couple of Bistro 1847’s regulars).  He talked about why he set up Bistro 1847 and his vision for expansion – first Liverpool, but also cookery school to train staff and offer classes for customers, which sounded pretty cool.

    jam_tofu_cream_strawberriesI know strawberries and cream are a British institution, but for me a pudding is not a pudding is it’s primarily fruit.  However this twist on a classic with apricot and thyme jam, tofu almond creme and cube coated strawberries was actually pretty nice – and vegan to boot!  The slight tang from the apricot and thyme jam complemented the creme nicely and the strawberries gave it a bit of bite.

    Overall it was a lovely evening and great to hear about the planned expansion for Bistro 1847.  If you’re a fan of the brand and want to support the Kickstarter, the link is below.  They’re offering a number of different rewards, from branded aprons to tickets to the Liverpool opening night and a special seven-course tasting menu.

    Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of Bistro 1847 to celebrate the launch of their kickstarter. I wasn’t obliged to write anything about the event but I wanted to – mainly because their Kickstarter URL sounds like a Back to the Future BBC spin off series.

    Events, News

    Birmingham Humanists ask Why Go Vegan

    The Birmingham Humanists are hosting an event to explore the ins and outs of veganism on 28 October in Moseley.

    The discussion, entitled Why Go Vegan, coincides with the 75th anniversary of the setting up of the Vegan Society.  Jasmijn de Boo and Ruth Semple from the Vegan Society will be on hand to explain why the movement is more relevant than ever.  The event will take place at the Moseley Exchange, situated in Moseley Village at 7.30pm.  There is no charge for the event, but they do ask for a small donation to cover costs.

    The Birmingham Humanist group was founded in the 1960s, and is part of a network affiliated to the British Humanist Association.  They regularly meet meet to discuss a wide range of topics – philosophical, moral, social, political, scientific – and who work together to promote humanist ideas and values (seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs).

    For more details, visit the Facebook event page