Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Food: Four Vegan Lunches To Try This Month

Veganuary might be over but vegan food isn't just for January. Whether you're vegan, thinking of becoming vegan or just interested in how varied and creative vegan food can be then you're in luck. The vegan food scene in London has never been better - whether its a quick desk lunch from Pret, street food or a vegan junk food fix. Here are my top picks from this year so far - vegan lunches definitely do not mean going hungry picking at a sad salad:

1. Indonesian Street Food from Makatcha Eats - £8

vegan street food london

A regular at Kerb, Makatcha Eats serves up Indonesian rendang curries and offers a vegan option (alongside two meat options). The mushroom and chickpea curry served on rice with peanut sauce and pickles was the perfect winter warmer on a freezing winter day and my first taste of Indonesian cooking. For the time I was eating this I definitely felt like I was somewhere warmer and less grey and vegetables can definitely pack a huge flavour punch.

2. Vegan Doner from What The Pitta - £8.50-£9

vegan street food london

What The Pitta specialise in vegan doner kebabs - either in a wrap or a box. They operate from a stall on Shoreditch High Street but I discovered them via Ubereats on a rainy day when browsing vegan options and was intrigued at how a food with a dubious reputation could both be made vegan and be appealing to sober people during daylight hours - turns out these kebabs are much more inspired by traditional Turkish ones than end-of-drunken-night-out offerings. The box comes packed with vegan "meat", cous cous, salad and loads of sriracha-drizzled hummus - the perfect antidote to a rainy day.

3. Vegan Nachos from Club Mexicana - from £6

vegan street food london

Club Mexicana has been on my list for a long time - the street food stall (which is now in residence at Pamela) makes fully vegan Mexican food and has received glowing reviews from vegans and omnivores alike. I visited the Kerb Camden stall at lunchtime and opted for the nachos which were the best I've ever had - the portion is probably meant to be shared alongside other foods but the joy of being a grown-up is giving yourself permission to eat crips for lunch sometimes.

4. Temple of Seitan (/Temple of Hackney) - from £6

vegan street food london

The street food favourite now has a permanent residence on Morning Lane, opposite the big Tesco, in Hackney. I arrived at 12pm on a rainy Wednesday and ended up sixth in the queue - keep up with their Twitter if you're planning a visit as some days they sell out. I tried the seitan strip sub and the mac & cheese - definitely not my usual food choices but the buzz, ingenuity and queue had me intrigued. The food is super tasty, salty, indulgent and everything you want from a fast food fix - the mac & cheese was the winner for me, super creamy but totally dairy free. Temple of Seitan are still relative newbies and I can't wait to see where they go in defying perceptions of what "vegan food" is.


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Art: Anna Laurini - "Profiles"

Last year, I sat eating ramen alone (the only way to ever eat ramen) opposite a piece of graffiti painted on a boarded-up shop opposite the restaurant. I snapped a quick picture, the abstract faces and the quote getting stuck in my head without me realising at the time.

anna laurini street art

The little ramen restaurant is no more but over the next few months I spotted more of the faces in different levels of detail and colour around London and then, on the Lower East Side in New York on a hot afternoon while I forced myself to keep walking through the streets to capture every last bit of the city.

anna laurini street art

anna laurini street art

anna laurini street art

anna laurini street art

Instagram's geo-tagging helped me track down the artist as Anna Laurini, born in Milan she has studied art in her home city, in London and in NYC. Anna even re-grammed a few of my pictures of her works and I kept an eye out for more across London, the faces standing out despite East London not lacking in colourful street art.

Anna Laurini's work is currently being exhibited at Lights of Soho - the Brewer Street gallery is small and friendly and I always pop in when I'm close by (they do great coffee). The exhibition features larger works which are bright, beautiful and don't lose any of their character in the transition from shutters and hoardings to a traditional canvas. Anna has also produced a number of original works in smaller sizes with prices starting at £50 - art is often seen as something out of reach but for the price of a new pair of shoes you can take home an original piece and support an artist whose work you've enjoyed for free.

anna laurini lights of soho

After a lot of time flicking through the folders, I was drawn to a brightly coloured face painted onto a menu from nearby Damson and Co. Other artworks have used pages of the New Yorker as their canvas, covering the words of our times with red lips and broad brushstrokes. Art is so personal but this piece was the one I needed - partly because I love reading restaurant menus and because maybe it will be nice in twenty, thirty, fifty years time to look back on what we were eating during these crazy times. If I survive any impending apocalypse I'll be sure to take this with me of a reminder of life, art, city streets and oven-roasted cod with bok choy, coriander and lime.

anna laurini lights of soho

anna laurini lights of soho

Lights of Soho, 35 Brewer Street, Soho, W1F 0RX
Exhibition runs until 11th March 2017 


Friday, 10 February 2017

London: Barbican Life

Who are you calling ugly?

Beech Gardens in the summertime.
The Barbican often divides Londoners - a huge, brown concrete complex in the middle of the square mile which is home to an arts centre, cinemas, a conservatory and 2,000 flats. One of those 2,000 has been my home for nearly three years, a tiny studio apartment which compensates for its miniscule size by being part of a new architectural and social vision, and for revealing new secrets on a weekly basis. The fifteen minute walk to work is appreciated and one of, but not the only, reason for making this part of London my home.

Frobisher Crescent taken from the Sculpture Court.
At weekends, photographers, tourists and students come onto the Barbican Estate to take photos, attend architecture tours or just have a nose around. Sometimes they are just lost looking for the cinema (it's underneath as the Barbican is on a raised "podium" level so also remember it is "P" and not "G" in the lifts!). The Barbican has evolved with time but aspects of the original vision remain - cultivation of window boxes on balconies is actively encouraged and while the Barbican supermarket could not compete with Tesco Metro, there's now a farm shop selling freshly baked bread and organic produce. I still have not yet made a Sunday morning trip for fresh pastries. 

The residents' garden looking deceptively inviting on a January day.
Residents have access to private gardens which often feel like they are just mine, albeit with the surrounding flats having the best view out of their circular "Hobbit hole" windows. Barbican residents are, it is fair to say, generally a little older than I am. It's not "just bankers looking for a place to crash Monday - Friday" who live here, I've had the best conversations with people who have called the Barbican their home for over thirty years and have seen so many changes to this part of London.

The Barbican Kitchen and the terrace block overlooking the lake.
There's never not something to do at the Arts Centre (which offers discounted membership for residents) and the conservatory (open only on Sundays, no I don't have a secret key to it) is beautiful escape from the rain and gloom. On a sunny day, sitting by the lake with a drink in hand it feels like I am anywhere but in the middle of the City of London.

Inside the Conservatory.
It's not all concrete utopia, my shower is decidedly un-powerful, the lifts in my block sporadically temperamental and the bill for the service charge always makes its appearance when I'm contemplating long haul flights or browsing Net-A-Porter but in this city I can't imagine living anywhere else. 

St Giles Church and the lake during Ragnar Kjartansson's "Second Movement".
Barbican - Silk Street / Lauderdale Place, EC2 (Barbican or Moorgage tube)
Come have a nose around on Open Squares weekend - details here 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Food: Honey & Co

Honey & Co has been on my to-visit list for the last three years, so it's only right that I ended up visiting twice in one week - on a rainy Tuesday evening for dinner and for a Saturday brunch. The food and experience was well worth the wait - the restaurant is tiny and the menu is small but still incredibly hard to decide what to order from it.

honey and co review
Green Shakshuka for brunch - eggs with spinach and herbs, goat's yogurt and sesame bread
Founded by a husband and wife team, Honey & Co serves up the sort of food you can imagine eating on holiday or at someone's home. Simple ingredients and perfect flavours meant that I left full and happy on both occasions after sampling the mixed mezze for the table and a main course each time. The desserts on the counter look beautiful if you have space for one and the ginger and pear G&T is a must-try, too. Brunch is the better value option, £16.50 getting a selection of dips, breads and cereal to start and then an egg-based main. Dinner is £28.50 for a bigger mezze selection and a main course - it's a lot of food!

honey and co review
The best hummus 
The downside of such a tiny restaurant is that bookings are a must and once you've got one, the table is only yours for 90 minutes. One to visit with punctual, fast-eating friends. I'm not usually a fan of table-turning but its understandable in a small space although shared starters, a main and a dessert may be an ambitious amount of food to get through in an hour and a half as service is not super-speedy until the end of the time window. That said, I'd definitely go back - as a vegetarian the menu presented a rare moment of indecision at both dinner and brunch and staff are lovely and happy to explain the menu and offer suggestions of their favourites.

honey and co review
Home made ashura cereal - would happily order this as a dish on its own
Make sure to head to Honey & Spice across the road after where you can stock up on hummus, labneh, pastries and the excellent home-made granola.

honey and co review
Cakes to take away and friendly chat at Honey & Spice across the road  

Honey & Co, 25A Warren Street


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Life: January Round-Up

I said as a new year goal that I wouldn't dread things I had no control over and January turned out to be a pretty good month while I type this my own month pales into insignificance against recent events. I rarely struggle to find the words but now is one of those times. This link and this link are ones that you may already be familiar with before I delve into a look back at January (which was neither dry nor vegan and that's ok):

1. A walk around the neighbourhood - still love these "ugly buildings" (I don't live in this one don't stalk me).

2. Bouncing around at Oxygen Freejumping - I remembered how to do a "seat drop" which is cool because I can't remember what I did last week.

3. A symmetrical bus journey home.

4. Dinner at Pham Sushi - chirashi bowls are usually the least wallet-upsetting way to enjoy sashimi.

5. Got my hair cut by Lisa at Jones and Payne, happy days to have actually long hair again.

6. Lunch in the sky at City Social. The food looked like works of art but I didn't get any photos because I was there in my "actual adult person" guise.

7. Popping in to see Sherlock Holmes (we didn't talk about season 4). The Speedy's Café is an actual greasy spoon (do people even say that?) on North Gower Street.

8. Finally made it to Kerb at the Gherkin for vegan rendang from Makatcha Eats.

9.  The St Pancras Grand in the winter sunshine.

1. Accidental shopping and an apt message on inauguration day (👗ASOS).

2. Kon-Marie-ing unearthed some hidden gems like this NSFW American Apparel dress (which left glitter all over my flat, no complaints).

3. Hosting my annual indoor picnic (no dining table life) with some Scandi eats.

4. Falling Shawls at the Southbank Centre.

5. Walking past the derelict Shredded Wheat factory in Welwyn Garden City, reminiscing about break times as a child and the smell of shredded wheat in the playground.

6. Winter Lights at Canary Wharf, absolutely freezing but really worth seeing.

7. Visiting Battersea with my mother, trying to make her a cat person one day. How adorable is this five-month old kitten?

8 - 9. A quick trip to Brighton for one night of sea air and blustery walks.

How was your January? 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Food: Baked Tofu + Vegan Pesto Pasta

Veganuary might be over but there's no deadline for trying out a new vegan dish. I'm trying to cook more this year and if something is quick, easy and good for the planet than I'm much more likely to be found in the kitchen than browsing Deliveroo.

vegan pesto pasta

Florette sent me a bundle of vegan goodies to inspire me to make a high-protein, easy vegan recipe. This pasta dish only took around half an hour and was super tasty.

I used some of the ingredients I was sent but you could use regular dried pasta (fresh pasta contains egg) but the kale, quinoa and brown rice pasta I used is available here and is gluten free. Regular pesto isn't suitable for vegetarians or vegans (I only realised this recently when a vegan friend explained why) but Zest Pesto is vegan and tastes amazing. Tofu is a great source of vegan protein but I used to have no idea how to cook it - baking it is really easy, or you can make a tofu scramble (recipe here), it's much cheaper to buy plain tofu than the pre-flavoured stuff but its definitely one of those ingredients that takes a bit of trial and error to make it really tasty.

To make the baked tofu:

- remove the tofu from the carton and place between two plates on kitchen paper to remove as much water as possible
- make the tofu marinade, I used balsamic vinegar and a splash of maple syrup to give the tofu its golden colour
- cut the tofu into cubes, dip into the marinade and place on a baking tray
- bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 180 degrees, turning halfway through cooking

For the pesto pasta:

- cook the pasta, drain and return to the pan
- mix in a tablespoon of pesto per person
- serve on a bed of Florette Leafy Rocket and sprinkle with nutritional yeast (sounds bizarre but it's a vegan substitute for parmesan cheese - I use this one)

vegan pesto pasta

I have to confess that this is the first time I'd cooked pasta for about five years - when your kitchen looks like this even boiling pasta is a bit of a challenge!
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