Lavender Cordial

Another of this year's creations: lavender cordial.

Making syrup is the first step in making sorbet, which is partly what I had in mind when making this batch.

For the recipe you need dried food grade lavender, which can be found in independent health food stores (I believe that Suma distribute it). I used 50g, which cost under a pound. I could probably have gotten away with using less, but as usual I was making it up as I went along :)

  • 50g Dried Lavender
  • 500ml Water
  • 250g White Sugar
  • Lemon Juice
Heat the water and sugar in a pan, stirring until it has all been dissolved. Wash the lavender and add it to the pan. Stir, cover and leave on a low simmer for about half an hour.

Strain the mixture and add lemon juice to taste. Bottle and keep in the fridge.

Serve with lemonade or use in cocktails. A little goes a long way.

Peanut Butter Smoothie

I don't know why I've not tried this before:
  • 1/2 Glass Apple Juice
  • 1 Banana
  • Handful Blueberries
  • 1 tbsp Peanut Butter
Blend until smooth.

p.s. I stole this idea from Aloka :)

Blueberry Waffles

It's been a while since I posted a new recipe. Various other things have been going on in my life recently, including eating out a lot more than normal. Don't worry, I'll start recipe posting again sooner or later. In the meantime you'll have to make do with the following post.

When my parents get a list of things I want for my birthday I normally end up with something I like, but from the more practical end of the scale than fun. This year however I got a shock, when to my delight I was given a waffle iron. Not just any waffle iron: a beautiful Cuisinart one.

A few years ago I tried buying a waffle iron. To my horror I found that there were none available on the UK domestic market. I investigated whether or not to import one from the states and get a power convertor, but in the end gave up.

Upon receiving this I started trying recipes from books and the web. The 3 I tried from Vegan Brunch all (in my opinion) sucked.

I'm aware that yeast risen ones are probably nicer, but haven't tried any yet. What I did try however was my standard cake recipe, which gave the best results by far. Thus I made a few minor modifications and blogging tonight's rather tasty attempt at blueberry waffles.

I think there's probably some refining left to do, but I could quite happily eat one of these again.

  • 150g Castor Sugar
  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 150ml Water
  • 75ml Sunflower Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Essense
  • 50g Blueberries
Heat the iron on setting 3 (of 6). Mix the dry ingredients together then add the wet. Mix thoroughly, then stir in the fruit (I used small frozen berries). Grease the iron and spread the mixture onto it (you should have a small amount left over).

Cook for around 8 minutes, resisting the urge to peek (which will cause them to split). When done the amount of steam produced should have visibly reduced. Carefully extract from the iron and serve with vanilla icecream. Makes 4 waffles (each of which serves 2 people, or one hungry person).

Brighton Restaurant Binge

Following on from last month's 24 hour London restaurant binge, this month we celebrated my birthday with a 48 hour Brighton restaurant binge.

The trip itself didn't go exactly to plan, but we ate out an impressive 7 times and had some awesomely good food. I paddled in the English Channel and we even got time for a little shopping, including Heals, Montezumas and my favourite kitchenware shop in the country - Steamer Trading.

The weather, having been gorgeous the week before was mixed; with periods of rain, sunshine and cloud. We stayed in the ever glamorous Brighton Travelodge so we had more money to spend on food.

The posts that follow include reviews from Terre a Terre, Aloka, Red Veg, Infinity and Iydea.

Infinity Cafe (Brighton)

Despite a thoroughly miserable lady behind the counter at Infinity, we really enjoyed the few things we had there.

I didn't bother photographing the BLT I had on the first morning because it was pretty much just a BLT. The rashers (almost certainly redwoods) didn't look as if they'd been cooked at all, which was a little strange.

When we returned the following afternoon we had cake, which was far more enjoyable. In fact, it was the best cake I've ever had from a cafe/restuarant/shop - up to homemade standard! :O

The banana cake (as pictured above) was really good. I could just eat a slice of that now (damn you blogspot!). I'm definitely going to have a go at making something similar when I get a chance - watch this space.

The chocolate cake was pretty good. Not on the same level as the banana, but still the best chocolate cake I've paid money for.

Infinity also have a shop on the same road, which is similar in calibre/choice/slight overpricedness to Fresh & Wild in London. They weren't stocking Go Max bars anymore (apparently they contain GM), but I picked up a few other things I don't often see, including:
  • Raw cocoa butter - the first time I've ever seen it in a shop, and they had a choice!
  • Cocoa nibs - not sure what to do with them yet, but thought I should probably buy them anyway
  • Raw chocolate mousse - which wasn't great (not surprising as it contains moss!)
  • Maverick Chocolate Honeycomb Bars - which are grim and bare no resemblance whatsoever to Crunchie bars, despite what some people online claim.
  • Chelsea Buns - Not the best ever, but I'd eat again
  • Focaccia - Not up to my focaccia fiend standards I'm affraid :(
All in all, I hope you Brighton people know how bloody lucky you are to have so much choice of tasty things on your doorstep! :p

Aloka (Brighton)

Having not planned to go to Aloka at all we ended up going twice whilst staying in Brighton, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The first time was randomly after eating a big meal at Terre a Terre. As we left and found it almost directly opposite we thought it'd be rude to not at least check it out.

Decor wise I love Aloka, I've somewhat of a lighting fetish and really like their chandelier. Their seats are unusual and comfortable (apart from the wooden ones in the window, which are best avoided).

We ordered a couple of cakes: a cupcake and a slice of chocolate biscuit cake. First impressions on food? Not that good; the cupcake was dry and biscuit cake so-so. We were however intrigued by their raw cashew cheese, so vowed to return at some point over the next 48 hours.

We ended up returning the following lunchtime, when they have a pay by weight buffet laid out. We attempted to order off their standard menu, but only managed to acquire the cheese from it.

I wasn't overly taken by the idea of the buffet, but am super glad I tried. The only buffets I'd been to previously are the all you can eat type, so weighing seemed like a bit of a con to me. The food was however good quality and our plates came to £5 and £6 each, which is very reasonable for a sit down lunch.

The deep fried seiten things were a little strange, but I'd happily eat them again. The filo parcels were really good, with butternut squash, pesto and various other things contained within. Nothing else really stood out, but the whole meal was fresh, flavoursome and pleasing (with exception of perhaps the polenta, which wasn't so great).

Having been impressed by the cashew cheese at Saf we were sadely less so by Aloka's attempt. They must be congratulated for their inclusion of a sensible number of raw tortilla chips with it (something Saf scrimped on), however they were more bendy than crispy which was a little odd!

The cheese itself was more paste like than cheese like, but it was pleasant enough. I suspect it was made with a less sophisticated recipe than Saf's, who actually ferment the cashew milk. I'd probably eat it again but not rush back for it.

When in Brighton again I'd certainly return to Aloka, both for their lunch buffet and to try their evening raw menu. I recommend that others do the same :)

Terre a Terre (Brighton)

Terre a Terre was one of our main reasons for visiting Brighton.

We planned to just dine a la carte on my birthday, but somehow we ended up visiting twice; having a set menu the first time and tapas the second. You're only 29 once, right? In total we spent around £110 on 2 starters, 4 mains, 3 sides, 4 desserts, 2 alcoholic drinks and 3 non alcoholic.

As expected, the food was excellent. It's difficult to compare restaurants serving very different things to each other, but food wise Terre a Terre is certainly now in my top 5. It's a large restaurant that was busy both nights (Monday/Tuesday).

Atmosphere was pretty good. Service on the first day was excellent. Service on the second day sucked and somewhat spoilt our overall enjoyment, which is a shame. More on this later.

Visit #1

Our impromptu visit on the first evening was due to discovery of their £15 for 3 course deal, which seemed too good to miss. Entitled the "Great Grower's Menu" it offers a choice of 2 vegan starters, 1 main and 1 dessert; made with local, seasonal ingredients.

We ordered a garlic focaccia to nibble on when we arrived. It was served quickly and whilst not outstanding was pleasant enough (i.e. i'd order it again, but not rush back for).

Our decision to sit at the front of the restaurant proved a success. With several members of staff passing us regularly service was prompt, polite and we felt well looked after.

We normally order a couple of drinks then switch to table water when eating out. I prefer water with food anyway and am in no way a wine fan. My 'elderbubble' was probably the least exciting thing we had there - cava mixed with elderflower cordial in. Becky's lychee/pomegranate non-alcoholic cocktail was half the price and twice as nice.

Our starters were both excellent, which is surprising considering the inclusion of broad beans!

My dish, "Pulborough’s Asparagus Army" is described as "Broad bean lemon thyme espresso with samphire, linseed flowery leaf relish and fried asparagus soldiers":

The broad bean 'espresso' was actually quite pleasant, bearing no ressemblance to the disturbing taste of the last (and first) broad bean dish I had a few years ago. The samphire salad thing was quite tasty and the battered asparagus well cooked. I'm not sure how much the 3 things went together, but I enjoyed the overal dish.

One thing I dislike about vegetarian restaurants is when they offer a vegan option, but don't tell you what it is until it's placed infront of you. Often you're left feeling disappointed. "Tomato Tea and Hot Parmesan Cream Eclair (vo)" did not, unfortunately come with a veganised eclair:

The "Brandy wine tomato consommé" was seriously impressive - really, really nice - rich, fresh and flavourful. The substitute eclair was less impressive indian tasting bread, which was almost certainly an uttapam borrowed from one of their main courses.

Our mains were both "Lettuce and Lovage (v/gf) - British pea and parsley pikelets with St Germain sauce, a warm salad of seared lettuce, shallots and baby potatoes, finished with lovage salt and mint oil."

It was pretty weird by my standards, but with the exception of the lettuce I thoroughly enjoyed it all. It's the first time I've had cooked lettuce and I think it might be the last. The pikelets weren't at all what I was expecting. Far from crumpet like they were actually kind of mini burger type things. I guess "mini burger things" doesn't sound as appealing on a menu however!

Dessert was very impressive. "Raspberry Rumble (v) - Raspberry frangipane tartine served with raspberry sorbet."

The frangipane was small but really very good. The sorbet tasted like it was from a supermarket, but by that point I didn't care. Unlike the other 2 courses this isn't an item on their main menu, which is a shame.

Visit #2

Our second visit was less impressive than the first. The food was still of really high standard, but we left with that "I just want to leave now" feeling.

We decided to try the tapas, which gives a taster of most of the vegan friendly things on the menu.

Whilst we waited we ordered a bread selection and some Hoisin Tofu:

The bread selection was pretty boring if truth be told (and hence no picture). The Hoisin Tofu was really good, it'd been deep fried and had a beautiful texture.

It's difficult to remember all the items on the tapas plate, so I shalln't try:

I shall mention however that it contained the nicest polenta I've ever had, by quite a long way. At least, I think it was polenta! What the meal lacked however was sauces. For instance, it included the pikelets from the main course the night before, but without the sauce they were previously served in the taste wasn't quite complete. Still, it was good to taste lots of new things.

The tapas comes served with a bowl of (extremely chunky) chips, which don't seem to fit in with the rest of the food. They were pretty good chips, but we couldn't eat them all.

My dessert was "Frangipane Tea and Cake (v/gf) - Earl Grey soaked prunes and frangipane tartine served with amaretto ice cream and hot green and orange tea tot":

The orange tea was gorgeous - sweet, rich and orangey - not the orange scented dishwater you get from herbal teabags. The almond icecream was OK, nothing to get excited about. The frangipane was a disappointment compared to the one I had the night before. The actual franipane was just as good (I assume it's the same mixture) but the prunes really detracted from the taste.

Becky ordered the dessert we've heard so much about, the "Rain Vodka Cherry Chocolate Churros (v) - Sugar spice dusted doughnut straws served with sticky dipping chocolate and Rain Vodka sozzled cherries":

I'd been looking forward to trying this for a while. The doughnuts were pretty doughnut like, the chocolate sauce OK. When the mint had been removed from the top of the cherries however the cup they were served in was visibly dirty. It looked as if it'd been through a dishwasher and something caked on.

Unsure whether to say anything or not we mentioned it to a waiter, who quickly whisked the whole thing away and promised us a new one. The good news is that it took a while to come (i.e. it wasn't the same one). Whilst we waited however another waiter (who looking at her picture in the Terre a Terre book I bought a few months back appears to be the owner) decided to come and tell us it was just icing sugar.

I wish I'd taken a picture before we said anything, as it was quite clearly not icing sugar. We both found it really dismissive and completely uncalled for. When it eventually did arrive neither of us wanted the dessert.

It's a shame really as it spoilt what was otherwise a very enjoyable two meals. Normally I'd complain, but as it was potentially the owner I don't think it'd do much good.

I'll certainly return to Terre a Terre, as the food is undeniably very good. All other waiting staff were pleasant and helpful. I just wish that particular incident had never happened.

Red Veg (Brighton)

Red Veg is one of those places I'm glad exists, but can quite happily go a few years in between visits.

I first stumbled upon their (now closed) London branch about 10 years ago. I used to eat there regularly around 2004 when in the area a lot.

Red Veg serves vegan 'fast food', sort of like a McDonalds wannabe (but without all the death). Their burgers were at one time highly impressive, but now with the likes of Frys not so much so anymore.

If there was one in every town I'd probably go more often, but as there's currently only one in the country it doesn't happen very often.

The last time they had my custom was in 2006, when they served me a slab of non vegan cheese in my burger. I didn't realise until I'd taken a bite. What was most impressive about the episode was that I was with about 20 other vegans at the time and must have mentioned the word at least 5 times whilst ordering. Hence I wasn't in a great rush to go back.

The food is pretty much how its always been. They only seem to sell one burger, adding sauces / fried mushrooms to create different combinations. They do however sell excellent onion rings.

All things considered I'd rather have a plate of healthy food from Aloka, but Red Veg is worth a visit every 4 years or so just for the novelty factor

Iydea (Brighton)

I haven't much to say about Iydea, other than that I've no intention of setting foot in their cafe again.

Whilst staying in Brighton we visited on 2 consective mornings (8th/9th June) to try their vegan breakfast muffins. Both times we found that they weren't available.

The first time we arrived just on their end of breakfast slot (literally within minutes). Whilst it would have been good if they'd served us anyway, I can hardly hold it against them that they didn't. We instead got our breakfast from Infinity (I'll post about that separately) and decided to try again the following day.

The second day we ensured we arrived 20 minutes before the end of service, just to be sure.

Success? Nope, they weren't willing to make any as they'd already started making lunch.

Why advertise that something is available until a certain time when it's not?

So, all in all I've nothing to say about the place really, other than that I shalln't be rushing back.