Vegan Bilbao

IMG_2300.JPGVeganism is alive and kicking in Bilbao. I remember the days when it seemed chips and salad were the only options for vegans in Spain, but my last visit to Barcelona proved those days are long-gone and Bilbao is keeping up! Just walking around the streets, I stumbled on a number of health foods shops (I even found Tofurky which can be tricky to find in Bristol). A fair number of cafés have signs up advertising the fact that they offer soya milk. The times really are a changin’!

Language can be tricky if you don’t speak much Spanish, the Basque (Euskara) language is unrelated to the other languages of Europe or any other known language. If you have a bit of Spanish, you should be able to get by! ‘Yo soy vegano’ (I am vegan) is a good start along with ‘sin carne, sin huevos and sin queso’ (without meat, eggs and cheese).

La Camelia is a 100% vegan café on Calle Villarías 3 in Bilbao. There are a number of tables inside or you can sit at the table outside or takeaway. They specialise in vegan sushi, homemade miso soup, tofu, tempeh and seitan sandwiches as well as hummus. They make fresh juice too or you can have a beer. I tried the tempeh sandwich which comes with vegan cheese, rocket and tomato and a sweet relish (€5.50) and the sushi (€13 for six pieces, a salad or dip and a drink) – it was all lovely. The sushi rolls are large and stuffed with cucumber, tofu, ginger, sprouted lentils and other tasty things and they come with soya sauce and wasabi. The seaweed salads are amazing. It makes for a very filling lunch!

Bohemian Lane is a vegan bakery on Calle Carniceria Vieja 3 in the old town. They specialise in cupcakes, tarts, coffees, teas, infusions, juices, pintxos (small snacks a bit like tapas), sandwiches and salads. The people who run the café are lovely, very friendly and happy to see how delighted we were to find a totally vegan cake shop! The woman working there the first day I went had made all the cupcakes herself and on her recommendation I tried the carrot cake cupcake (€2.50).  It was lovely and moist with a great flavour. On another day we shared a slice of almond and cherry cake and apple tart – again – spot on flavour!

Then there’s Bizu Bi in the Plazuela Santiago, again in the old town. This place looks like a burger joint but has a separate vegan menu! I tried the seitan fillet with sweet onion, lettuce, tomato and French fries (€9). It was all good and the waiter was a really nice fella! Maybe not the place for a romantic dinner but a good place for a quick stop.

If you are looking for a lively, music bar with vegan food, head down to Muga on the Calle de Maria Munoz 8, in the Old Town. It’s one of the few places that stays open late – Mon-Fri 12:00pm-12:00am, Sat 12:00am-1:00am! It was a bit of a surprise that many of the bars seem to shut around 10.30pm but these guys were still serving food at 10.30pm. They serve a few vegan pintxos, sandwiches, burgers and salads. We had the pintxos one night and a seitan burger another night. The burger comes stuffed in a large, crusty bread roll with pickles, salad and vegan mayo (I think there was some ras el hanout in there maybe). It was very tasty and good value for around €5.

Green Bistrot on Juan de Ajuriaguerra 13 is a few minutes’ walk from the Guggenheim. They serve various vegan pintxos and have a small vegan menu which you can order from after 9pm. There are some tables inside and few out on the pavement. The food was OK, the usual seitan burger etc. I had a Seitan a la jardinera con trufa negra (€8.50) – seitan steaks with a tomato sauce, some chips and salad.

One of the foody highlights has to be the ice-cream shop Amorino – Guggenheim on Iparraguirre 1 (literally a stone’s throw from the Guggenheim). This international chain of ice cream shops offers a range of vegan sorbet flavours, such as chocolate, raspberry, mango, passionfruit, lemon, hazelnut and lime and basil. I had hazelnut, raspberry and chocolate in a small tub, it was €4.60 but was so worth it!

Whatever bar, café or restaurant you are in, it’s always worth checking the menu as veganism is on the up and there seem to be options in the most unlikely of places. The bar Marzana right nextdoor to our Airbnb apartment for instance had a roast veg wrap with cous cous and soya yogurt dressing on the menu. It was very nice too and Duane the dog waited very patiently to get the last bite!  

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Vegan Farinata

Farinata or socca is a sort of thin, unleavened pancake or crêpe of chickpea flour originating from Genoa and later a typical food of Liguria, from Nice to Elba Island. Traditionally it is cooked with fresh rosemary, pepper and sea salt then cut into triangular slices and served warm. I made this with asparagus and some other veggies that needed using up. It’s pretty cheap to make (especially if you used plain tofu) and it was bloody tasty! I reckon it would make great party food, thin slices served with a cold beer!

For the batter:

  • 200g Taifun Organic Tofu with Basil
  • 1 cup gram (chickpea) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp bouillon
  • 1 cup soya milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Veggies:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano or thyme
  • 1 small head of broccoli, chopped into ½ florets
  • 12 asparagus spears

Heat the oven at 180°C and put a cast iron pan in to warm. Throw all the batter ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth. Fry the onion in a little olive oil with some oregano or thyme until just beginning to brown. Chop the ends off the asparagus spears leaving enough length to place the tops clockwise around your pan. Steam the asparagus ends, tops and broccoli until just soft then mix the cooked onion, asparagus ends and broccoli in with the batter. Transfer the whole mix into the hot pan and place the asparagus spears clockwise around the pan – push them gently into the batter. Cook for 45 mins. Serve warm with salad.

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The Wardrobe Theatre and a Baked Mushroom

The Wardrobe Theatre first opened in May 2011 above The White Bear pub on St Michael’s Hill in Bristol, providing a mix of theatre and comedy. I saw the brilliant Two Punks and a Tandem there in 2015.

Later that year they moved to the Old Market Assembly Rooms in collaboration with the team behind The Canteen and No1 Harbourside. They say their aim is to provide exciting, diverse events, not be afraid to take risks and to support up-and-coming companies in the region while remaining accessible and affordable.

I’ve seen some great shows there now; two of the best were the hilarious Golidlock, Stock and Three Smoking Bears and Rocky: a Horror Show. This week I went to see Sex with a Stranger, a sad tale of three people trying to find their ‘happy ever after’ story… you know how it goes.

The Old Market Assembly Rooms offer a small menu but say they will alway have something for a vegan – this week they had two options, an asparagus, pea and leek white sauce pizza (£8.50) and a baked mushroom with puy lentils, caramelised onions, roasted garlic mash, spinach puree, greens, mushroom sauce and red cabbage cress (£9). I went for the mushroom and it was very nice too. It looked quite small but was actually very filling – they bought bread, oil and vinigar for us to nibble while we waited and have a good selection of wines, beers and spirits. I’ve had a very nice G&T in there before. They also have a selection of cakes, the sticky toffee cake was vegan, and they have soya and almond milk for coffeee.

If you fancy a seeing a show in an informal setting (~100 people) sat on tiered benches, watching young actors cutting their teeth, you might be in for a real treat. Go early and eat to make a night of it. IMG_2178

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Plum frangipane

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I made these for Valentine’s Day because I reckon the plums look a bit like a  love heart. Well I thought that anyway.

For the pastry:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • ½ cup vegan margarine
  • 1 dessert spoon ground almonds
  • 1 dessert spoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water (you might need more)

For the frangipane:

  • 3 tablespoons cold non-hydrogenated vegan margarine, cut into pieces
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoons cornflour
  • Pinch salt
  • Large pinch of ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 fresh plums, halved and stoned

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C.
  2. Grease six small tart tins.
  3. First make the pastry. Rub the margarine into the flour to make fine breadcrumbs then add the almonds and sugar. Add the water and combine to form a firm pastry. Try to add the smallest amount that you can in order to make the mixture hold together. Don’t worry if it is a little bit dry. Rest the pastry in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Line the six tart tins with a thin layer of pastry then return them to the fridge while you make the frangipane.
  5. In a blender, combine the margarine, sugar, almonds, corn flour, salt, cinnamon, almond milk and vanilla. Blend until smooth. Spoon the frangipane mix into the pastry cases.
  6. Gently place the plum halves in the centre of each tart and slightly ease them into the mix – don’t push them under!
  7. Bake for 35-40 mins until the frangipane starts to brown. Turn the oven off and leave them in the oven to cool.
  8. When still warm, brush them with some heated apricot jam to make them nice and shiny.

Serve warm with vegan ice-cream.

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Where the Wild Garlic Grows

Jules: So, tell me again about wild garlic.

Vincent: Okay, what you wanna know?

Jules: It’s legal to pick it right?

Vincent: Yeah, it’s legal, but it ain’t a hundred percent legal. I mean, you can’t just walk into the woods and start pulling up the bulbs. You’re only supposed to pick a few leaves, and just here and there.

Jules: And those are in public places?

Vincent: It breaks down like this: unless you’re the landowner, it’s illegal to pull up the bulbs. But it’s legal to pick it, it’s legal to carry it, and get a load of this, if you pick enough of it, you can make shit loads of pesto and freeze it. I mean, that’s a right!

Jules: Oh, man! I’m going, that’s all there is to it. I’m fucking going.

Vincent: Yeah baby, you’d dig it the most.

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 Wild garlic pesto (makes four small tubs – think of a regular hummus tub 2/3 full)

  • 350g Wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 175g Pine nuts, toasted for 3-4 minutes in the oven (watch them like a hawk – they can burn in seconds and that’s an expensive mistake!)
  • 25g Vegan Parmesan cheese
  • 200ml olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Put all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until you like the look of it. Unlike peanut butter, I like my pesto smooth but some like it with a bit of crunch. So get  picking! Don’t hang about, it’ll be gone by June. Get seasonal and serve it with jersey royals and asparagus, or add it to a spring risotto, or potato cakes or scrambled tofu for a perfect seasonal brunch.

 

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UK’s first vegan Fish n Chip shop

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Tonight I got my tea from the UK’s first vegan fish and chip shop! The new takeaway is based in the Fishponds area of Bristol just along from the giant Morrison’s on the main road. They serve Tofish and chips, battered sausage, curry sauce, mushy peas, salad and a host of other things you expect to see in a fish and chip shop but all vegan.

I had a nice chat with Jon, one of the owners of the new venture, who is very excited about the amount of interest the takeaway has attracted, not only from Bristol’s vegan community but from the Bristol Evening Post, prolific blogger Fat Gay Vegan and today, Sea Shepherd sent a ringing endorsement and best wishes via Facebook! I heard that a vegan fried chicken place just opened in Hackney in London but as far as I know, and Jon too, this is the UK’s first vegan fish and chip shop. How lucky are we it’s in Bristol?!

My fella and I bought large fish and chips twice (£6 each) and were kindly given a very nice salad and some tartar sauce to sample. We dashed home and dished up… The tofish is made from battered, marinated tofu with a layer of nori. The batter was really light and crispy – perfect! It was surprisingly fishy, but in a really good way. The portions of chips were very generous and the salad and sauce was very tasty, a good mix of leaves – no iceberg in sight!

They have big plans for the future aiming to offer the healthiest fast food take out possible. Everything from a vegan take on a chip shop, right through to super salad bowls and wraps, using sprouted and krauted seeds, beans and vegetables. Pie, chips and peas, vegan fried cheeken (a take on fried chicken) and gluten-free battered sausage and chips, along with the much loved tofish and chips. Kebab wraps, homemade sauces like chilli, sweet and sour, gravy, curry sauce, garlic mayo. They plan to develop the menu to include other classic takeout wok dishes and even pizza, all made from vegetables from the wholefood shop Jon runs called Matter Wholefoods – always organic and wherever possible local and seasonal. There are plans to include desserts from pineapple, banana and apple fritters through to raw vegan cheesecakes and homemade super chocolate. Their dishes will be aimed at everyone – not just vegans!

What a treat having this just up the road. It’s actually a two minute walk from where my fella works so I can see it becoming a regular thing…

www.facebook.com/Matterfastfoods  

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Choose vegan

I keep seeing the words “Choose vegan” and wincing. Surley you choose to go vegan? But then I thought how fitting it would be to tweak John Hodge’s poem written for the film Trainspotting:

Choose Life. Choose a compassionate job. Choose an ethical career. Choose a kind-hearted family. Choose a fucking big heart, choose cruelty-free washing powder, no leather seats in cars, compact disc players to listen to Morrissey and tin openers for your chick peas. Choose exceptional good health, low cholesterol and less cancer. Choose ethical investments. Choose a forever home suitable for rescued animals. Choose your friends – carefully. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage, no leather, wool or silk. Choose a three-piece suite in a range of fucking cruelty-free fabrics. Choose DIY and knowing who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-expanding, spirit-lifting documentaries, stuffing vegan junk food into your mouth. Choose dancing and laughing to the end of it all, embracing all life in a happy home, more than an inspiration to the angry activists you encouraged to replace yourself.

Choose your planet’s future.

Choose vegan.

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