1847 (Manchester)

I don't really do 'up norf' on a week day very often, but somehow found myself there today and looking for lunch. 1847 looked promising - though the concept of pizza from Dough sounded good in theory; I've a natural gravitation to all vegetarian places.

Decor's pleasant and the menu fairly average looking; I didn't have long so ordered a starter and main to come together:
Deep fried salt and pepper tofu, satay, wasabi and soy sauce (v) £5.50
Sage & leek sausages, vegetable mash, spring vegetables with red wine gravy (v) £10.95
Main+drink is £10 on a weekday lunchtime, which is really not bad at all. Unfortunately the soft drink choice is limited, so if you're not drinking wine then it's not so great.

The restaurant was about a third full - service was polite and the food come relatively quickly:

Cubes of plain tofu with salt and pepper seasoning; kind of dull on its own, not greatly improved by soya sauce and sadly the tsp of satay sauce didn't really go far enough.

The main course unfortunately wasn't much better:

Generous portion of greens and mashed potato, but virtually unseasoned and after a few mouthfuls more of an endurance than pleasure. The sausages were bland and the gravy not plentiful enough to compensate.

Given away by my less than surreptitious attempt at taking photographs; the experience was in part rectified by being spotted by a friend of internet days past. It was good to catch up and having waited 10 minutes for our plates to be cleared (and still 30 minutes until closing) we got to share the mutual disappointment of finding that dessert was no longer being served.

What's with that? I've heard good things about their puddings - it could have made up for an otherwise sub par meal. Supposedly the chef was working 'as a favour', which is why they'd stopped serving.

I want to like 1847. Its 33 of 613 restaurants on TripAdvisor and in amongst the horror stories there are many positive reviews too. Perhaps they were having a bad day?

Next time I'm in Manchester I'll get a main course at Dough and dessert from 1847 (if they're still serving it that is!).

Quiche Lorraine

I've been through a phase recently of not doing much cooking. It's mostly because I can't be arsed, partly because I've lots of other things vying for my time. Whilst hungry and driving 100 miles home on Friday however; my mind started to wonder onto the subject of recipe creation.

There are several things that I've been waiting too long now for other people to veganise. One of which is quiche - I've tried several attempts over the years and none have really hit the mark.

All that I've tried haven't had quite the right texture, level of creaminess or depth of flavour. Adding insult to injury, some contain yellow colourings (such as cumin and pakrika), which weird the flavour. The tofutti ones sold in H&B are probably the best commercial attempt, but like all frozen food they're not that great.

For my first attempt I wanted to go for the 'traditional' lorraine variety, which in the UK contains cheese and lardons. Most vegan versions I've tried have contained silken tofu, which bulks it out but adds no flavour. Therefore I decided to go with smoked tofu as well as fake bacon.

Yesterday I made four test recipes, using various ratios of smoked tofu, soya cream, cheddar spread, soya milk and salt:

My original hunch was right, so I made a larger version today, along with actual pastry:

  • 225g Smoked Tofu
  • 150ml Alpro Fresh Cream
  • 100g Tesco Freefrom (Scheese) Cheddar Spread
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Pack of Redwoods Rashers

    The result was very good. I'd rather have used a deeper tin with smaller diameter, but I forgot to buy one earlier in the day. Therefore it ended up pretty thin - still good though.

    It's insanely creamy. I think it could take more smoked tofu, but the flavour is spot on. The top surface cracked slightly whilst cooking - I'll try a lower temperature for longer next time, as well as possibly floating slices of tomato on the top to help retain the moisture.

    You can use ready made / rolled shortcrust pastry if you're feeling lazy - Jusrol is now actually labeling its products vegan. If you've a food processor though then the following is very easy (not to mention far cheaper):

  • 150g Plain Flour
  • 85g Pure Soya Margerine
  • Pinch of Salt

    Place all ingredients in a food processor and wizz till you've 'breadcrumbs':

    With the motor running add a small amount of water, so that it starts to come together. Remove and mold into a ball, wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

    Roll it out, line a greased 25cm flan dish (leave the edges overlapping) and cover with a layer of foil and baking beads (fuck you Delia). Bake for 15 minutes at 180 celcius (160 fan), then remove the foil/beads and cook for a further 5.

    Allow to cool, then trim the edges with a sharp knife:

    Meanwhile, slice the rashers into smallish pieces and lightly fry. Don't cook them as long as you would if you were making a sandwich - they shouldn't brown or crispen.

    Place all remaining ingredients in a food processor (break the tofu by hand into smaller chunks) and whizz until completely smooth:

    Add the bacon, then pour into the pastry case.

    Cook for about 20 minutes at the same temperature as before (180/160 fan). Allow to cool, then remove from the tin and slice:

    Next time I'll go for a smaller dish and make it deeper, but I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. It's a simple enough recipe - will experiment with adding extra flavours to it with time.
  • Lancrigg (Cumbria)

    Considering that it really is the middle of no-where; The Lake District is actually surprisingly vegan friendly.

    Windermere is generally best avoided - it's where all the people who came to the lake district with no intention of doing any walking go. It's got a co-op, but that's where the vegan friendliness ends. Ambleside is mostly populated by people who intended to go walking, but instead went shopping for outdoor clothing they'll never use! It has a couple of vegetarian restaurants though (same owner) which both cater for vegans. Zeffirellis is the cheaper and in my opinion better option - Fellinis more expensive and less good. Keswick has the Lakeland Pedlar, which is my favourite cafe in the North of England - it also has some stunningly beautiful walks close by. Further afield is the Quince and Medlar, which is one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants in the UK. The Lake District has many great walks for even unfit people like me - the effort : impressive view ratio is the best in the country. I can highly recommend Buttermere, Catbells and Latrigg.

    There's several vegetarian (friendly) B&Bs in the area, including Nab Cottage (stunning views of Rydal Water and cooked vegan breakfast, but terribly uncomfortable bed!) and Yewfield (not yet been, but website looks promising). Lancrigg's the only vegetarian hotel that I know of - I've stayed there a couple of times and visited their restaurant as a non-resident.

    Lancrigg's location is excellent, though can be slightly confusing to find by car! It's walking distance from Grasmere in one direction (the gingerbread shop will claim it's vegan if you ask, but we've reason to believe they lie), Helm Crag and Easedale Tarn a leisurely walk in the other. The house itself dates from the 1600s, with former owners including William Wordsworth.

    Decor is 1870s meets 1970s. There are several snotty reviews on TripAdvisor from people who disliked the interior design. Personally it doesn't really bother us, but it'd be good to update (rip out) the offending bathrooms and replace them with something more tasteful. One of the rooms (Kitty Crag) is offsite - a short walk through the grounds to the main house. I stayed there the first time and quite enjoyed the seclusion, views and cheaper rate. Again people who've unwittingly booked it have had a whinge (why visit The Lake District if you hate walking so much?!).

    The room rate's not cheap, so it's worth signing up to their mailing list for news of last minute offers. We recently stayed 2 nights in Silver Howe - normally £396 for £195 on a last minute deal. The room is one of their best and has stunning views across the valley.

    Food at Lancrigg is well above average and vegans well catered for. We were so underwhelmed by a meal at Fellinis one night that we opted for dessert at Lancrigg instead :)

    Breakfast is 3 course: fruit or cereal followed by cooked or continental breakfast, then by toast & preserves. There's even a choice of 4 vegan suitable cooked breakfasts!

    Full English - Burger, grilled tomatoes, sauted mushrooms and baked beans, served with wholemeal toast:

    TLT - Seeded roll filled with marinated grilled tofu, lettuce, tomato and sunflower mayo:

    Potato cake topped with sauteed muhrooms, served with grilled tomato and a green pesto:

    All delicious! (though for ultimate gluttony I'd include tofu scramble, sausages and fried bread :)

    Lancrigg's evening meals are excellent too, with 3 courses an extremely reasonable £20pp when booked with the room. Quality of ingredients, preparation and presentation is above average, though level of adventurousness is fairly old school vegetarian cooking - don't expect to see anything on the menu you've not had many times before elsewhere.

    A few of the things we ate......

    Chickpea & coriander falafels - with tzatziki, harrisa sauce & olive focaccia bread:

    Mushroom & Brazilnut puff pastry roulade - with red onion gravy, seasonal vegetables & potato celeriac mash:

    Chocolate espresso mousse with coconut sorbet:

    The highlight of our stay however wasn't food related - it was waking up in a comfortable bed with sun streaming through the gap in the shutters and cool breeze:

    As someone who usually hates net curtains with a passion, I'm now considering a set for our bedroom at home :)

    I expect that we'll return to Lancrigg many times over the coming years (especially now we know that they're baby friendly).

    If nothing changes and I get the same experience / level of service each time then I'll be quite happy. If at some point they give the place a slight update and get a bit more adventurous with the menu then it'll be a great bonus. In the meantime though I'm happy to recommend it to other vegans.


    A long, long time ago this was a recipe blog. The more I started travelling the lazier I became, so it turned into a restaurant / cafe review blog instead. Why make yourself when someone else can do the work?

    I still do a fair amount of cooking, but it tends to be highly reliant on finished goods (premade sauces etc) rather than from scratch. I don't blog recipes that aren't tried and tested - I've taken some great photos of attempts before that haven't quite worked out taste wise, so ditched them and continued experimenting.

    This blog is useful for me too - though I go through phases of making something I'll then completely forget about it for 12 months, only to realise that I can't remember the recipe. Old age and all that. There are several things that I've made up and not blogged - now I'd have to start again from scratch! So, think of this as own personal cookery scrap book.

    I've been experimenting with Carbonara for a few years, using different types of vegan cheese. I made pretty good stuff with Redwoods super melting, but it uses a whole block which is both expensive and horrendously fatty. Scheese will melt if you grate it finely enough and apply enough heat, but it's taste is too easily lost. Alpro cream works well, but needs thining. The new Tesco scheese will melt into sauce but causes it to set up as it cools.

    What does work well is the new scheese cheddar spread that's sold in Tesco (see previous blog post for more). Combined with Alpro cream it tastes great, but isn't runny enough. Thinned with soya milk the taste is less intense, but the compromise is worth it.

    Serves 2:
  • 120g Tesco Cheddar Spread
  • 125ml Alpro Fresh Single Cream
  • 50ml Plain Soya Milk
  • 4 Redwoods Bacon Rashers
  • Oil, Salt & Pepper

    Slice the rashers into sensibly sized pieces and put enough pasta onto boil for 2. Spaghetti and linguine work well, shapes can be good too (except those designed to hold loads of sauce as there won't be enough).

    Fry the rashers in a little oil until crispy, then add the rest of the ingredients to the same pan and whisk until smooth:

    Add salt to taste, then pepper before serving. Vary the quantities of each ingredient to suit.
  • Vegan "Cheese" Roundup

    Cheese: yeasty, salty fat; solid at room temperature that melts when heated. You'd have thought the perfect vegan version would have been created by now, but you'd be wrong.

    The situation has definitely improved over the past 12 years but we're still not there yet.

    I don't expect vegan cheese to taste identical to dairy cheese, but I do expect it to exhibit the following qualities:

  • Salty, yeasty, creamy (fatty) - in a balance that makes you want to eat the whole block
  • Solid at room temperature, smooth, easy to cut, grateable, edible
  • Melted with heat, smooth, stretchy, still edible

    All that I've tried so far have failed at one or more of the above.

    Here's the low down on vegan cheese that's currently on the market, in order of availability:


    Original style has been around forever but is barely edible and doesn't melt. It's widely available (inc supermarkets) and frankly I don't understand why it still exists.

    The super melting variety made a lot of people very excited when it was launched (2004?), because not only did it taste vaguely like cheese, but it melted too. It didn't go stretchy/stringy and it tastes nasty raw, but vaguely passable cheese on toast was possible for the first time.

    For reasons unknown they stopped selling blocks of the cheddar (selling only slices instead, which cost twice as much by weight), but have in the past year or two bought out a soy free cheddar in block form.

    I regularly buy the mozerella and soy free cheddar. Not so fussed on the Edam style or any of the new ones they launched last Christmas. @cherrivalentine likes the blue one.

    A few years ago they released feta which tasted OK - I guess they never found a chain to carry it though as it disappeared as quickly as it came.

    Mozerella is the default variety that we use when we need something that'll melt. We eat pizza at least once a week and typically use half a block per pizza. It can be crumbled but is better grated.


    I seem to remember trying scheese years ago, and not liking it at all. I don't know whether it changed or my taste buds did, but when I tried it again in 2008 I actually quite liked it.

    I regularly buy their strong and smoked cheddar varieties and it is passable on crackers / eaten straight from the fridge. The texture's not perfect, but it's decent enough.

    It doesn't melt though - if you put it on pizza it just stays whole. It will melt eventually in boiling soy milk, but its taste gets lost too easily (i.e. you need a whole block to make cheese sauce).

    In the past month or two they've started producing 2 meltable versions for Tesco, who sell it under their Free From range:

    The mild is too bland for my liking but the cheddar pretty good. It doesn't melt as well as Redwoods, nor does it go stretchy, but it is edible unmelted. It grates well and I've taken to mixing it with Redwoods mozerella for use on pizza:

    The cream cheeses they sell are pretty good (I've been working on a carbonara recipe using the Tesco cheddar spread), but tofutti are better.


    Their cream cheese has always been pretty good - it's the one to use if you ever want to make an unbaked cheesecake. There are several varieties that we eat ocassionally on crackers - garlic and olive are my favourites:

    The sour cream is practically perfect - works very well with mexican food.

    Their other cheese (slices, grated) have always sucked. Period. (we call it feet cheese). It kind of melts but certainly doesn't go stretchy.

    It transpired a few years ago that the sugar they use in america isn't definitely vegan, but that the stuff sold in the UK is made in the EU and OK.


    When i turned vegan in '00 there was no passable margerine available. Hard to believe i know, but i even tried stuff that was grainy! Vegan books of old suggest using tahini as margarine, which obviously isn't going to work.

    Given how amazing Pure spread is, vegans got pretty excited when they started to promise cheese varieties - the hunt was on.

    Eventually when they hit mass market we found how gross they are - both the slices and cream cheese are inedible. Make a cheesecake with it and you'll wish you didn't. It's an example of how what's in supermarkets isn't nessecarily the best you can get.

    On a side note: they were originally promising Dairylea style cheese triangles, but they never materialized.

    Nutritional Yeast

    Gets a special mention here. Mostly because some nutjobs (mostly Americans who affectionately call it nooch) believe that nutritional yeast is like dried grated cheese. It's not. It really isn't.

    Cheese is yeasty and so is nutritional yeast - that's where the similarity ends.

    It is useful for making white sauces taste slightly cheeselike - @cherrivalentine makes insanely good macaroni cheese with it.


    We're now getting into the realm of hard to find. Vegusto sell their wares online, at festivals and previously (where i bought one of each) at Vx in London.

    I can't remember how much they cost, but they weren't cheap.

    Melty was creamy and did melt. It was OK, but not worth the effort in sourcing. It didn't go stretchy when melted but we did finish the whole pack....

    Snack confused the hell out of us. I assumed that Vx had mistreated it in some way and that it wasn't in fact as gross as it was when we tried it. It improves when cooked (as per the picture), but wasn't worth the effort for us to finish the whole pack before it went mouldy at the back of the fridge.

    Dezent was weird. The taste was unpleasant (almost spicy - what you'd expect human breastmilk cheese to taste like) but the texture was as close to dairy cheddar that I've ever tried. It's difficult to explain how or why, but both of us were a little creeped out by how good it was.

    Still, it wasn't good enough for us to eat the while pack - like the snack variety it went mouldy in the fridge.


    Vegourmet is what Vx started selling when they claimed that Vegusto got too expensive.

    The flavours are a little odd and it's just nasty eaten 'raw', but it does melt and tastes reasonably good on pizza.

    It doesn't stretch though and it isn't worth sourcing.


    We bought one of each variety (Cheddar and Mozerella) recently from Veganstore, because it's the only brand currently available in the UK that claims to stretch when melted.

    It doesn't.

    OK, it does, but not in a good way. If you melt it at 260 degrees then it does kind of go stretchy, but more in a snot way than a dairy mozerella way. I don't know the name of the stuff it reminded us of in texture when melted, but it's a type of flubber/slime/gunge that was sold in toy stores in the 80s.
    We usually cook pizza at 200 degrees (fan), at which it goes dried out on the outside and melted in the middle. It doesn't taste very nice and honestly I can't imagine ever buying it again.
    Incidentally, the wrapper recommends you use 10-14oz per pizza, which at veganstore proces costs £4.45 to £6.23 (exc P&P) !!!


    A couple of years ago there was a sudden influx of evangelical posts from the US about Daiya, which on all accounts was the holy grail of fake cheese. Not only does it melt, but stretches too!

    Daiya made a lot of vegans in Europe very sad, because no one was importing it and Daiya themselves don't seem to have any interest in selling it over here. The reports of its amazingness continued to appear online, but we weren't getting any.

    I did consider paying a high sum of money to import some myself, but never got round to it.

    Therefore, I was more than excited to buy 7 packs in the states last year and bring them back to the UK with me.

    Without wanting to sound too negative: Daiya is fucking horrible.

    Yes, it does melt and yes, it does stretch. It only stretches about 5mm however - it doesn't create 20cm long strands when you cut a slice of pizza with it on. It also goes really oily - yuck!

    Taste wise - gross. It's a reasonable attempt at creating highly processed cheese slices - i.e. not something any European would ever consider eating.

    I persevered with it over several months, but the only thing i found it worked better than Cheezly with was enchiladas:

    In all other cases it ruined rather than improved the taste.

    Americans are lovely people (some of them anyway). I don't think they're all liers - I think some genuinely think this stuff tastes good. If this is the case however then it does explain why there are quite so many US recipes online that just frankly don't work, which when English people try them they feel like they've just wasted a load of ingredients / x hours of their life they'll never get back.


    We're not there yet. There are different options that work in different circumstances, but no one 'cheese' that ticks all boxes.

    I'm quite sure it's possible, but it'll probably involve someone who understands chemistry and can replicate the milk proteins required - rather than an amateur cook. We'll get there in the end.

    In the meantime, if you're a vegetarian who's considered veganism but can't give up cheese; without wanting to beat about the bush, get a fucking grip. Cheese is not addictive. Fat and salt taste good, but there's more to life, surely?

  • 42Raw (Mayfair, London)

    I sometimes wonder whether I'm being a bit harsh on restaurants/cafes where I have bad experiences. Afterall, shouldn't we (vegans) be encouraging all businesses that cater for us and helping them succeed?

    I read various blogs however where authors have amazing experiences every where they go and everything they taste is simply amazing. It just becomes a bit sickly and unbelievable after a while - either they're lying, mental or have incredibly low expectations as to what constitutes good food and good service.

    On the whole though the majority of places do get it right - I've had some very positive experiences recently and discovered many new places that I'll certainly return.

    42Raw is the latest (mostly) raw vegan cafe to open in central London. Its existing sister cafe in Denmark gives it an obvious advantage over start-ups, bringing an established brand, well tested menu and a slicker than average execution. Its decor looks almost identical to the Copenhagen branch - even the food looks as if it was made by the same person.

    It definitely shows - combined with good service 42 have done a good job of hitting the ground running.

    Its location in Mayfair (close to Tibits / Regents Street) is both impressive and a hindrance - time will tell as to how well it does in its current building. Despite knowing its address I walked up and down Burlington Gardens a couple of times before I eventually found it. At first I assumed that it must be hidden in Burlington Arcade or above a shop - it was only when I'd given up looking that I saw a lone sandwich board pointing into The Royal Academy of Arts.

    The building itself is beautiful, with extremely high ceilings and extensive architectural detailing. You have to pass the Academy's security however to enter and they've obviously imposed strict restrictions on the amount of signage/advertising that can be seen from the outside. Success will depend heavily on word of mouth and other media.

    The set up is takeaway, with a few small tables outside the main room in the reception area of The Academy. The food itself however is restaurant standard - both in terms of quality or ingredients and presentation. Everything's vegan (except dairy milk in drinks), but there's currently too much slant on (boring) salads rather than complex dishes (for my liking).

    Like Urban Eats (which also opened recently & I visited last week); there's more on the menu than there is available - hopefully the selection will improve with time as they get more trade. Unlike Urban I found the staff at 42Raw much easier to interact with.

    I could lie and claim that I did it for research purposes, but through gluttony alone I ordered the same things that I had at Urban Eats last week:
    Lasagna £7
    Squash, tomato sauce, walnuts, parsley pesto, cashews creme and baby spinach

    Chocolate Cake £2.50
    Cashews, dates, cacao butter and cacao powder

    Mint Cake £3
    Coconut, dates, cacao powder and a mint cream topping
    Prices were a little higher but still very reasonable - I maintain my stance that Urban Eats are undercharging. In context, Wholefoods Market is a short walk away and charges over £1 more than 42 for raw cheesecake.

    The lasagne was very good indeed:

    Though creamy it didn't really have a well developed cheese flavour, but the whole dish tasted fresh and well balanced. Visually it looked stunning, with well defined layers and variety of colour. I'll certainly order this again.

    The cake was a mixed bag:

    Good base, not so good top (the exact opposite of Urban's attempt). Just a bit too bitter for my liking and not quite smooth enough. The mint cake survived the 100 mile train journey home, which meant that we got to eat it with cream:

    On first taste I didn't like it. Not because it didn't taste good but because it tasted like nothing I've had before. Usually minty things have a minty taste - either from mint oil or synthetic. This however actually tastes like fresh garden mint, captured in its entirety.

    It definitely benefited from being eaten with cream (Soyatoo Rice Whip, which I realise isn't raw) and I'm not sure I'll order it again. It is good to experience new things like this though - vegan cooking certainly isn't dead! I look forward to having more surprises from 42Raw in the future.

    It's difficult not to compare Urban to 42, but on the whole I like them both. Competition is good and the market's certainly big enough to support many more raw cafes/restaurants in London. If the joined forces it'd be awesome - Urban's 'cheese' on 42's lasagne, 42's base on Urban's cheesecake. If not then hopefully they'll visit each other at some point and perform some espionage :)