Review: Waitrose Vegan Spinach Ravioli

Waitrose are trying to up their vegan game. We approve because it’s one of the few supermarkets in walking distance and it makes us feel fancy to shop there. One of the few offerings we’ve managed to track down so far is the spinach ravioli.

There was a point in our life when we lived off supermarket ravioli. We’d have spinach and ricotta ravioli whenever we were stuck for ideas so this is a real nostalgia trip. Of course it has no ricotta in it; instead the packet promises ‘solidified coconut derivative’. That’s not a joke. That’s what the packet says: ‘solidified coconut derivative’. At this point I’d recommend Waitrose hire some better writers.

Despite the plain packaging and the bizarre description this is a pretty solid midweek, no-fuss option. We tossed ours with some tomato sauce and relived our memories.

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Pot Luck Perfection: Cinnamon Rolls (VeganMoFo 2018)

If I’m bringing a dish it’s going to have yeast in it. Why? Well just because it seems so much more impressive. So if I’m going savoury it’s got to be focaccia either with a dip tray or fancy toppings to make it a little more awesome.

On the sweet side it’s cinnamon rolls all the way. It’s yeasted, it’s got icing, it’s got cinnamon. I actually have two competing favourite cinnamon roll recipes. If you read my post about it earlier in the month you’ll know I love the Cinnamon Snails from Street Vegan but when I want a more traditional, all-squished-together-in-a-pan cinnamon roll I turn to Vegan Brunch. Then I bring them to potlucks, holiday breakfasts, meetings, and any other occasion when I feel like being praised.

Pantry Meal: Meatballs (Vegan MoFo 2018)

I decided to make meatballs for my pantry meal. Not my usual meatballs (from Isa Does It) but something that doesn’t require anything out of the fridge. So I turned to Seitan and Beyond. The recipe in there is entirely Seitan and as I have dried herbs and spices on hand and I get vital wheat gluten on subscription from Amazon everything was in the pantry.

Of course a meal of meatballs would be… monotonous. Thankfully I also get tinned tomatoes on subscription from Amazon. We don’t drive so anything heavy that we use a lot of gets delivered now. So I made up some tomato sauce.

And what to put it on? Well we always have pasta. I like to buy pasta from the zero waste shop in Totnes or from the bulk bins at Real Food in Exeter. I know that the idea is that you can buy just what you need but I live so far away that I tend fill up a whole container and hope it lasts until my next trip.

How did the meal pan out then? Well, pretty badly as it turns out. The meatballs were not a success. They’re basically boiled seitan. Which means they’re quite soggy. And although I’m absolutely normal (yes, I am) I do have a few texture issues and this totally triggered them. I think in future I’ll stick to my tempeh meatballs or slices of the Seitan and Beyond Italian Sausage.

Free From Day: Milk for Everyone (Vegan MoFo 2018)

With a plethora of Vegan Milk in the market there is something for everyone. At the moment we offer oat, almond, soy and coconut at the coffee shop; at home I’ve played with a lot more and this is the sum of my wisdom.

Soy milk is the old classic. It has a distinctive taste that you either like or you don’t. It’s high in protein and often comes fortified with lots of loveliness. When it comes to making coffee it’s not the easiest to work with. It will turn into pure foam if you even look at it funny. A flat white with soy isn’t the easiest thing to make. Soy is also a common allergen.

When it comes to brands I don’t really have a recommendation. I find the cheap supermarket own brands to be the easiest to work with.

Almond milk has a nuttiness to it. That can be a plus. I think it’s great in a hot chocolate but you might not want it in your tea. Almond milk is low in calories. The one I have in my hand is 13 kcal. If you’re cooking with it it goes great in cheesy dishes. Almond is my favourite for a vegan mac. When it comes to steaming… it can be mixed. It’s not as eager to turn into a foam as soy but it’s not the easiest thing to work with either. And of course almond is another major allergen.

I like unsweetened milk from roasted almonds so I tend to go with Alpro or make my own if I’m at home.

Oat milk is by far my favourite to work with. And it preforms very similarly to diary milk so even baristas who are scared of nondairy milks should be able to use it. The special barista versions that we use are fairly high in calories (59kcal per 100ml) making it perfect for kids too. It’s also great for baking because of the relatively high sugar content compared to the other plant-based milks. It browns nicely. Most oat milks contain trace amounts of gluten, though we have found a brand without.

Minor Figures is my favourite, closely followed by Oatly Barista. For gluten free there is Oat Dreams.

There are, of course, milks I haven’t mentioned. Coconut milk is creamy and has a milk coconut taste that goes great in a chocolate milkshake. Hazelnut is beautiful in a hot chocolate. Buy you can milk almost any nut. These are just the ones that work for me.

Low Salt, Full Flavour (Vegan MoFo 2018)

I’m going to be a little controversial here and talk about my favourite salt brand on Low Salt Day (question: who else has a favourite salt brand?)

So our favourite salt brand is Cornish Sea Salt. A couple of months back we bought a packet of their seaweed and salt mix to try out. Partly to get more seaweed in our diet, partly to ease off a little salt. Kate’s a little worried about blood pressure. We’ve used the seaweed and salt mix in sauces and stuff where the extra umami was welcome. The plain seaweed flakes are amazing in stirfries. A little sprinkle for the extra flavour, especially with dishes that would traditionally have things like oyster or fish sauce. I love it.

Review: Crosstown Marylebone (London)

We popped across to London on Thursday. Unfortunately it was just for an appointment, not a protest. While we were there it only made sense to find some yummy vegan treats. I especially wanted to try the vegan location of Crosstown Doughnuts which had opened just two days after our last visit.

The shop is small with just two tables outside and a bar inside. It has plenty of doughnuts though. I was torn between trying one of the more adventurous combinations or getting something more plain. In the end I went for the Vegan Chocolate Truffle, somewhat between the two.

Here the doughnut is topped with dark chocolate and has a truffle filling. It’s a very grown up chocolate doughnut. Dark, decadent and absolutely perfect.

Kate, as is traditional, went for the pink one. This is orange blossom, with pistachios and pomegranate. There is an orange custard inside and it was just as delicious as my chocolate choice but a bit more light and summery in flavour. This would be a two-thumbs-up review that would enthusiastically recommend you go to buy doughnuts if it wasn’t for one thing that’s been bothering me. This is a card-only location. No cash is accepted and that means that anyone who can’t get a card is shut out. Yeah that’s a small minority but its generally a vulnerable one. And as vegans we should be looking out for the vulnerable in society. I still recommend visiting for the doughnuts but if the no cash thing bothers you too maybe shoot an email.

Review: The Copper Spoon in Marazion

Last week Clare and I (along with Clare’s dad and his dog Watson) hopped over the border from Devon to Cornwall for a winter holiday. Looking for places to eat that were both vegan- and dog-friendly, we uncovered a few gems.

The Copper Spoon is a vegetarian café located a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach in Marazion (pronounced two letters at a time: ma-ra-zi-on), the town at the end of the causeway to St Michael’s Mount. Storm Eleanor brought 110 kilometre-an-hour winds to south-west Cornwall during our stay, and the Copper Spoon’s friendly atmosphere (and hot drinks) were very welcome after invigorating walks along the beach.

The Copper Spoon

The café offers several vegan lunches — including filled ciabattas, salad, and the soup-of-the-day — but Clare and I were more interested in the sweet options. The contents of the cake cabinet vary from day to day, and we enjoyed vanilla bean cupcakes topped with dark chocolate buttons. What really excited us, however, was the hot chocolate. While many cafés now offer vegan hot chocolate (with the best using oat milk), the Copper Spoon has an entire hot chocolate menu.

Hot Chocolate Menu

Each hot chocolate can be made with vegan whipped cream and vegan marshmallows, and over the course of three visits we sampled the entire menu. The tasted as good as they looked.

Honeycomb hot chocolate

The café also sells a selection of products ranging from the expected — reusable coffee cups, Cornish tea, and jams — to the more unusual: we picked up a bottle of basil-infused olive oil.

If you’re visiting the area (or are lucky enough to live in the far south-west of Cornwall), be sure to pop in. We’ll certainly be coming back on a future holiday.