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.

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Six steps to roast potato perfection

The first cookbook I ever owned was called, simply, Potato. I’m content for a meal to consist solely of potatoes, and will react with confusion when Clare asks “But what are we having with the potatoes?”. As a potato fundamentalist I’m keen to see people get the fundamentals right, so here are my six steps to roast potato perfection.

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1. Choose the right potatoes

Potatoes range from waxy (good for boiling, as they don’t fall apart) to floury (good for baking, as they produce a fluffy texture). Roasting requires potatoes that are sufficiently waxy to survive parboiling, but not to the detriment of the final texture. Any potato sold as an ‘all rounder’ will do; Maris Piper is a widely available variety.

2. Choose the right oil

Potatoes can be roasted in any oil with a sufficiently high smoke point. I use a blend of about ten parts vegetable (rapeseed) oil to one part olive oil. Strongly-flavoured oils will affect the taste of the potatoes, so you might like to try a few different blends and see which you prefer.

Pour a thin layer of oil (no more than five millimetres deep) into a pan large enough to fit the potatoes in a single layer, and heat in an oven at 180°C while you prepare the potatoes.

3. Parboil the potatoes

Parboiling the potatoes softens the outer layer, letting you roughen it to produce crispier roast potatoes.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into evenly-sized pieces. I prefer relatively small pieces around four centimetres across; if you prefer larger pieces you will need to increase the roasting times in steps 5 and 6 to ensure the potatoes are cooked through. Put the potatoes in a pan, add enough water to cover them, and add a couple of teaspoons of salt. (The salt prevents water moving into the potatoes through osmosis, which would cause the outer layer to break apart.) Bring the water to the boil and then boil for five minutes.

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4. Roughen the surfaces

Tip the potatoes into a colander and leave them for five minutes to dry. Shake them in the colander to roughen their surfaces. This increases the surface area of the potatoes, giving a crispier result.

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5. Start off roasting in the oil

Take the pan of oil out of the oven and put it on a hob to keep it hot. Using a spoon, transfer the potatoes to the oil; they shouldn’t splutter if they were left to dry in the colander for long enough. Spoon some of the oil over the exposed tops of the potatoes, and then return the pan to the oven for thirty minutes.

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6. Finish on a tray

After thirty minutes, the potatoes should be starting to brown, particularly on the bottoms that have been submerged in the oil. Depending on the variety of the potatoes and the size of the pieces, they may need more or less time; judge them by their colour. Take the pan out of the oven, transfer the potatoes to a baking tray using a slotted spoon, and return them to the oven for fifteen minutes. This allows the excess oil to drain off and cooks the surfaces evenly.

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Once the potatoes have browned to your taste, remove them from the oven and serve.

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Visiting Visto Lounge

Visto Lounge – part of the Lounges chain – has been a staple of vegan eating in Torquay since it first opened. There is a full vegan menu available including brunch, tapas, larger dishes and some deserts, though I’m told the chocolate torte is often sold out. Why has it taken so long for me to try it for the blog then? Well mostly because the menu doesn’t appeal to the other half. Most of the vegan options involve sweet potato, falafel, avocado and/or black beans in different combinations. Which gives you a good selection of options unless you don’t like any of those things.

So I went alone. The location is one of the best in town, with a view of Torre Abbey sands available from the huge windows or the outside seating. It’s also dog friendly, perfect for when my Dad comes to visit with his Doggo. The decor inside combines industrial elements with well worn, mismatched Cafe furniture. It looks great but the high ceilings make it super loud. Fun, but not a great place for an in depth chat or a romantic dinner.

I ordered the Sweet Potato Falafel Burger (two out of the four!) which came with vegan slaw and fries. The fries came in a mug even though there were clearly more fries than space in the mug. Just put it on the plate guys. That’s not my only complaint about the chips. I found them incredibly greasy, and left feeling a little queasy. The rest of the food was great. Which made the chips even more disappointing. The burger was just right. The sweet potato falafel patty tasted great especially with the added crunch from the gherkin and lettuce. The beetroot hummus pulls everything together. It’s probably one of the best burgers in town.

I’m definitely going to go back to Visto Lounge but with realistic expectations. The menu isn’t as diverse as it looks and the quality of the food is hit and miss. What will keep me going back though is the location, and the place being dog friendly.

Sampling Linda McCartney’s Christmas Offering: Vegetarian Beef Roast With Red Wine & Shallot Glaze

Christmas is coming and the pestering has started. We’re asked almost ever other day what we’ll be having for Christmas dinner. We’re going to my in-laws this year. That means spuds and vegetables are taken care of and we just need to provide a meat substitute. So it’s time to get sampling.

This week we’ve tried the Vegetarian Beef Roast that’s new to the Linda McCartney range this year. It comes in it’s own roasting thin so it can easily slide in the already full Christmas Oven. When it’s done you turn it out and out plops your beefy roast, glazed and ready to be carved. I was pleased to be able to get the slices nice and thin, like roast beef.

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Beefy?

So what of the taste? Fairly beefy, though it still has a beady texture. If you looked at the picture and think it looks like a loaf shaped version of the sausages then you would be right. I wasn’t a fan of the glaze, I found the red wine overwhelming, but you can’t really taste it unless you are nibbling along the bottom edge.

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Roast Dinner

It’s edible, and it’s not unpleasant but it didn’t exactly blow me away. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t the worlds greatest fan of beef in the first place. I wouldn’t mind eating this again and unlike a lot of the other Christmas roast options it’s easy to find in regular supermarkets but it’s not going to win a spot on out Christmas plate.

The White Rabbit Pizza Co. Smokin’ Vegan

When we hear about a vegan product being launched in the UK we just sort of assume it will take a while to filter down here to Devon. So I heard about these pizzas long before I got to try one. The White Rabbit Pizza Co. makes gluten free pizzas, two of which are vegan. One of them has made it onto the shelves of our local Sainsbury’s.


Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way. This is not a low cost vegan option. When I got mine it cost £5 which is about the same as a chilled Pizza Express pizza. It’s the same sort of size too. As it’s vegan, gluten free and organic it’s going to cost a bit more to make but that does mean I can’t afford it all that often. 


Let’s talk taste, then. I was pleased with the amount of toppings. Pepper and olives will always make me happy. The cheese didn’t taste all that smokey to me, disappointing because I love smokey cheese, but it is nice and creamy. As for the base, well you have to remember that it’s gluten free. It’s not a chewy, bready base. It’s rather cracker like but it is tasty. 

All in all it’s a solid weeknight meal option. 

Vegan Richa’s Everyday Kitchen

I was so excited about the release of this book that I pre-ordered it. Unfortunately, as I’m in the UK it arrived right in the middle of Vegan Mofo and just before I went up to Manchester to visit my family. Not great timing, I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved. Thankfully I’ve had time to play with it a little since then and it’s amazing. But before I tell you just how amazing you might want to go and order yourself a copy. You can read the rest of my review while they are delivering it.

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Chickpea Tikka Masala

Vegan Richa’s Everyday Kitchen is a wealth of simple everyday dishes. At the core are the Awesome Sauce recipes. You make one of these sauces and then you pair it with another recipe. For example lets take the Makhani Sauce. That’s the first one I made. You could make lentil balls to go in it, add protein or vegetables, or alter it slightly to make a Tikka Masala Sauce and make Tikka Masala Chickpeas. Which, as someone who grew up eating the English take on Indian food, is just pure comfort. It’s super easy to make too.

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Makhani Vegetable Pizza

With my leftover Makhani Sauce I decided to do something a little different. This time I made a delicious Makhani Vegetable Pizza from the Deep Dishing section (my current favourite) the creamy sauce combines with spiced tofu and crunchy vegetables to make a the fusion pizza of my dreams. The base also deserves a special mention, it only takes around twenty minutes to rise and it tastes great.

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Alfredo Spinach Pizza

Speaking of pizza we also couldn’t help trying the Alfredo Spinach Pizza. It starts with a white garlic sauce, followed with spinach fried in garlic and topped with more garlic sauce. Clearly you want to stay away from this one if you don’t like garlic but if you do it’s glorious.

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Smoky Mac Bake

Then we made the Smoky Mac Bake. pasta baked in a smoky cheese sauce with a breadcrumb topping. Amazing. The addition of broccoli give you one of your five a day. Which brings me to another great thing about this cook book. It’s suggested that you can make it with cauliflower, mushroom or zucchini. There is a variation with a nut free sauce and the Smoky Cheese Sauce could go equally well ‘over roasted vegetables, baked sweet potato, dress burritos, nachos, toss into pasta and what not.’ There are almost endless variations on everything, and Richa guides you through your options allowing you too cook creatively and not just follow the recipe exactly.

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One Bowl Pumpkin Bread

Like a good meal this review is going to end with something sweet. I made the One-Bowl Pumpkin Bread. Deep orange, lovely spices and chocolate chips. It… disappeared rather quickly and I have the ingredients ready to make another.

If you didn’t go and buy it back when I wrote that first paragraph then all I can suggest is that you buy it now. Vegan Richa’s Everyday Kitchen is packed with flavourful, flexible and filling recipes and you are going to love it.

 

 

 

Tried and Tested: New Vegan Ready Meal Options at Waitrose.

The theme for mini mofo (the miniature, monthly spin off from the vegan month of food) is lazy. Which is fantastic. What a time to be alive for the lazy vegan in Torquay. We can buy our lunch from The Kind Grind, order pizza or ring for an Indian. Just because we can’t be arsed doesn’t mean we’re forced to eat hummus. No, I eat hummus because I choose to eat hummus. Still there are a few gaps in the market. For instance, what do you do on nights when you have enough energy to turn on the oven but not awake enough for food prep? Well now we have some new ready meal options.

3 bean chilli

Waitrose announced a new range of ready meals for vegetarians that included, for the first time in the UK, meat from the Vegetarian Butcher. They’ve started to arrive in the local branch on St Mary Church Road so it’s time to see what this means for vegans. For starters it means options! Choices. You can have a Rainbow Vegetable Stew, a Green Thai Curry, Three Bean Chilli and Couscous, or Vegetarian Chilli with Rice. Each weigh in at £3. We went for the Green Thai Curry and The Rainbow Vegetable Stew.

green thai

Desperate to get our hands on some of that Vegetarian Butcher meat we went for the Green Thai Curry. The chicken did have an incredible texture, appearance and flavour. it wasn’t exactly like chicken but its the closest I’ve ever seen. Very impressive. The rest of the curry was a bit meh. We both found that our curry was full of big chinks of chicken and big chunks of bamboo shoot but it only had three or four small pieces of french bean. It made it seem really unbalanced. The sauce also seemed really heavy to me and could really have used some crunch french beans to lighten it up.

rainbowstew

The Rainbow Stew, in contrast, was full of veggies. Mostly squash, bits of beetroot and kale to round out the rainbow. It was all served in a lovely tomato sauce with gorgeous little lentils in their to fill you up. For my taste the vegetable were a bit under done. Textbook al dente, but I generally want more of a melt in the mouth quality in a stew. The variety of texture, flavour, and – of course – colour from the different veggie worked well.

All in all I’d eat either of them again, though I might wait for a sale. I felt a little let down, though that might just be my expectations. These are ready meals after all. Keeping in mind that they are ready meals, they are good ready meals. Worth stashing in the freezer for a rainy day.