Summer tarts

Some of the best meals are made from leftovers or what you have hanging around in the IMG_3306cupboard, fridge or garden! I’ve had some Jus-Roll puff pastry in the fridge for a couple of weeks now so it needed using up. So I made some tarts with the last big tomato leftover from last week’s veg shop. Cut the pastry sheet into six squares. Run a knife gently round the edge of each, about 1cm from the edge, just cutting into the surface of the pastry but taking care not to go through it. Spread the pastry (avoiding the edge) with some wild garlic pesto (you could use shop-bought pesto or make your own tomato sauce by boiling down some tinned tomatoes with garlic and herbs) then scatter some small chunks of Violife Blu Wedge (vegan blue cheese or any other vegan cheese would do) then top it with slices of tomato and halved cherry tomatoes. These tarts take just a few minutes to knock up and bake in the oven at 180°C for 20 mins while you make a salad to go with them.



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Blackberry Cardamom Pavlova


It’s blackberrying time of year! Get out there and pick some – nothing beats food for free! This recipe is adapted (veganised) from one by Adventures in Cooking. I made it for a family celebration lunch last weekend and everyone loved it so I’m making it again this weekend for friends.

Makes 6 individual pavlovas or 3 double-deckers!

Blackberry Jam

  • 2 ½ cups blackberries
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Big slug of brandy

Blackberry Cardamom Whipped Cream

  • 1½ tubs Oatly vegan crème fraiche
  • 1 can coconut cream, chilled in the fridge (the only place I have found this is in Waitrose and Ocado)
  • 1 tbsp blackberry reduction
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom

Meringue Discs

  • Aqua faba: water from a can of chick peas (no added salt)
  • A pinch of cream of tartar
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • Handful of fresh blackberries (cherries, raspberries or blueberries) for garnish
  1. Get everything ready! Line a baking tray with baking paper, draw six 4 inch (10cm) circles on each and heat the oven to 100°C.
  2. Prepare a piping bag over a jug or pint glass.
  3. Drain the chick peas and transfer the aqua faba (juice from the can) into a saucepan.
  4. Heat the aqua faba gently reducing to ½ a cup in volume.
  5. Let cool to room temp in a glass bowl then add cream of tartar and whisk for several mins with an electric balloon whisk until stiff peaks form. This might take some time – maybe 10 minutes!
  1. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time whisking all the time until all the sugar is mixed in – you should now have glossy stiff peaks.
  2. Transfer the mix into a piping bag and pipe out 6 medium-size meringues, circling around the edge of each to give a raised border.
  3. Bake at 100°C for two hours then turn of the oven, unclick the door and leave to cool for one hour.
  4. When the meringues are done, gently loosen each one from the baking paper but keep them on your lined trays (if they are still sticky, cook for aother hour then allow to cool).
  5. Meanwhile, heat the blackberries over a medium heat, simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove 1 tbs of the blackberry reduction for the cream.
  7. Stir in the sugar and allow the blackberry jam mixture to continue simmering over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes or so.
  8. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon and allow to cool to near room temperature before chilling in the fridge.
  9. To make the blackberry whipped cream, combine the crème fraiche, coconut cream (only the creamy bit from the top – don’t add the watery layer) blackberry concentrate, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and cardamom – fold in gently. Place in the refrigerator to chill.
  10. To assemble the pavlova, first loosen the jam a bit with some brandy then spread the blackberry whipped cream on top of a meringue disc then top with boozy blackberry jam and then arrange some fresh fruit on the top. One layer should be enough but if you are feeling really decadent (greedy) have two!


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Mushroom and Chestnut Bourguignon



This is a good one for chilly autumn nights and it seems that we are nearly there already, even though we aren’t even half way though bloody August yet. Hey ho, at least Halloween is coming.

Serves six

  • 700g shallots, peeled
  • 70ml balsamic vinigar
  • 2 large tbsp muscovado sugar
  • 3 sticks of celery, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • Large sprig of fresh thyme
  • Large sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 150g oyster mushrooms
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms
  • 500g whole cooked chestnuts (I like Merchant Gourmet ones)
  • 1/4 bottle of red wine
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 400ml stock
  1. Mix the balasamic vinigar with the sugar and shallots and roast at 190°C for 45 mins.
  2. Sweat the celery and garlic with herbs in a pan until soft and just starting to colour.
  3. Sauté the mushrooms in a large frying pan until slightly browned.
  4. Combine the onions, celery, garlic, herbs and mushrooms in a large, heavy casserole dish with the wine, tomato purée and stock, stir and simmer for 30 mins.
  5. Serve piping hot with roast or mashed potatoes and green vegetables.
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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


  • 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


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


  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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