Review: Deliciously Ella (London)

When we discovered our one-day trip to London was going to last another three days, Clare headed back down to Torquay to grab some clothes and arrange for the pets to be looked after, leaving me to explore London by myself. Not enjoying crowds or noise, I took a long walk around Hyde Park before heading off along the minor roads in the vague direction of Crosstown Doughnuts.

On the corner of Weighhouse Street and Binney Street I discovered Deliciously Ella, and several hours later I returned, clutching a bag of Lush bath bombs, for a late lunch. You order at the counter and then sit around a communal wooden table where the native Londoners try to avoid making eye contact.

deliciously-ella

This is the sweet potato, chickpea, and pumpkin curry (£8.95), which is served with brown rice and optional coconut chips and chilli flakes; I turned down the chilli. It’s a wholesome and delicately flavoured dish, which unfortunately suffers from having too high a rice-to-curry ratio. In the corner of the photo is the organic chocolate cashew blend, which was pricey (£6.95 for 500ml) but wonderfully rich. For a cheaper drink, Belu water is available from a fountain in exchange for a donation to WaterAid.

While not that special for an (impromptu) holiday meal, I can imagine Deliciously Ella being a great option for those who work nearby and want good quality food without a wait.

Review: Li’l Mama’s Vegan Kitchen (Paignton)

When Paignton-based Li’l Mama’s Vegan Kitchen became available through Just Eat last October, many reviewers complained of long delivery times. Attributing this to the initial stampede that greets every vegan launch, we decided to wait a few months.

We placed our order at 5:20pm on Wednesday evening, and were given an estimated delivery time of 6:20pm. With no sign of our order by 7:00pm, we called and were told the delivery driver was outside but couldn’t find our flat, so Clare went out to find him.

When we unpacked our order we found the vegan mac and cheese was missing. Fifteen minutes later they realised their mistake, and called to offer us a refund on that item.

So what about the food we did receive?

kate

I had the Vegan Mince Lasagne (£12), which was a big contrast to the Plant Kitchen lasagne from earlier this month. The cashew cheese and marinara sauce was thick and creamy, and the pasta and mince were dense and chewy. It was easily the best lasagne I’ve ever had. It came with a side of herb-roasted baby potatoes, which were cooked until just tender, although a little bit salty for my taste.

clare

Clare had the Fully Loaded Vegan Kebab (£8). She thought the seitan was perfectly spiced, tasting just like the real thing, the coleslaw and salad worked well, and the flatbread was fluffy and soft.

Our experience ordering from Li’l Mama’s Vegan Kitchen epitomises the phrase ‘good things come to those who wait’: amazing food, but not a good choice if you’re hungry and used to takeaways arriving in under an hour.

Update (7th March 2019): This evening we gave Li’l Mama’s Vegan Kitchen another go. We placed our order at 5:30pm and were given an estimated delivery time of 7:05pm. The food finally arrived at 7:55pm.

The lasagne and kebab were as good as before, but the herb-roasted potatoes were lacking in herbs. This time the Mac & Cheese (£3) wasn’t forgotten, but in contrast to the lasagne it was very bland, with an almost flavourless sauce.

pasta

Two and a half hours is too long to wait for a takeaway. We won’t be ordering again.

A Riverford recipe (Vegan Mofo 2018)

Today’s Vegan Mofo theme is food inspired by the “leader of a country, place, or group”. That sounds a little nationalistic to me, and after the Aung San Suu Kyi affair I’m struggling to see much inspiring in our current batch of national leaders (although I’m cautiously optimistic about Jacinda Ardern). So I’m going to write about a different kind of leader, and one more obviously connected to food: Guy Singh-Watson of Riverford.

Guy converted his family farm here in Devon over to organic framing in the 1980s, and started delivering vegetable boxes to friends and family. Thirty years later Riverford delivers almost 50,000 veg boxes each week all over the UK. For many companies that kind of expansion would lead to a creeping managerialism and inoffensive polished marketing, but Guy has keep Riverford true to its principles and a little rough around the edges. Each weekly veg box comes with a little newsletter containing recipes, ideas, and — most importantly — Guy’s News. Guys writes on topics ranging from local problems on the farm to big global issues such as pesticide use and climate change, and he isn’t afraid to share his strong opinions. It’s not just talk either: long before Blue Planet II brought the issue of single-use plastics into the British public consciousness, Riverford commissioned the University Of Exeter to investigate the sustainability of Riverford’s packaging.

The most significant development in Riverford’s history happened on 8th June this year. After years of ignoring offers from potential investors who were only interested in the company’s profit-making potential, Guy transferred 74% of the business into an employee trust, guaranteeing Riverford’s values will be be protected into the future.

And now for the food. When Riverford sends us green beans, I make this ragú (minus the Parmesan). It may not be much to look at, but the slow-cooked beans and tomatoes have a wonderful flavour. Clare isn’t keen on the farinata (chickpea pancake) so has her half on pasta instead.

ragu-farinata

Recipe: hot chocolate dessert

Today is the Late Summer Bank Holiday in England and Wales. The phrase ‘late summer’ might give you visions of evenings on the beach, putting on a fleece as the sun sets and the air starts to cool. However, as any Brit will tell you, bank holidays mean awful weather. That doesn’t stop half the population waiting for hours in traffic though, as they optimistically head to the coast on Friday and disappointedly head home on Monday. I’d rather stay at home with some warm comfort food, like this simple hot chocolate dessert.

dessert

Ingredients:

  • 20g cocoa power
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 200ml oat milk
  • 20g cornflour
  • 20ml water

Method:

Put the cocoa powder, caster sugar, and oat milk in a saucepan, whisk together, and place over a medium heat.

Put the cornflour and water in a small bowl and stir to make a thin paste, known as a ‘slack’.

Pour the slack into the saucepan. The heat will cause the cornflour to thicken the dessert, so whisk it continuously to avoid the bottom layer thickening first.

Once it has thickened to the point that the whisk leaves faint trails, pour the dessert into a bowl to serve.

Review: vegan fudge from Roly’s

Before we went vegan I loved fudge. Not the sickly sweet, strangely smooth substance made by Cadbury and the other confectionery giants, but the crumbly stuff the Scots call tablet. I learnt how to make it one summer, and treated my workmates to a different flavour each week. I’ve experimented with different oils to try to make vegan fudge: coconut oil fudge was too brittle and greasy, while cocoa butter fudge showed promise but needs works. Fortunately you don’t have to wait for me to perfect the recipe: Roly’s Fudge have beaten me to it.

fudge

As they describe on their blog, it’s made from coconut oil, soy milk, and cashew butter, and comes in two flavours: maple and cashew, and salted maple and pecan. The pecan one has pieces of pecan in it, while the cashew one is just fudge. They have same crumbly texture I remember from their non-vegan fudge, and the price is the same too. Clare picked up a bag of each in Dartmouth, and as she doesn’t like fudge I had the whole lot to myself; they lasted almost a day, as I alternated between them trying to work out which was more delicious. I think I might need another couple of bags before deciding. If there’s a Roly’s near you then pop in for some (tip: they also do vegan ice cream), and if not you can order online.

Review: By Chloe (London)

We like Chloe Coscarelli’s recipes — just an hour ago Clare served us pasta with pink sauce from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen — so we had to visit By Chloe during our trip to London. (We’ve since learned that Chloe is no longer associated with By Chloe, following an acrimonious legal battle.)

After a long walk through Hyde Park (home of ring-necked parakeets) and past Buckingham Palace (smaller than I had expected), Big Ben (entirely encased in scaffolding), and the Ministry Of Defence (suitable fascistic), we were ready for breakfast, and found By Chloe on Russell Street around the back of the Theatre Royal.

by-chloe

Inside it was modern and clean, with a choice between normal seating and hanging chairs. It was also surprisingly noisy; not from the customers, as it wasn’t busy, but from the music. This led to communication problems: our receipt shows they thought Clare was called Cleer, while the table next to us had their order messed up not once but twice.

The menu seemed expensive, even by London standards, but a big breakfast is worth paying for. Unfortunately what we received was not a big breakfast. Remember the beautifully presented almond butter and banana on toast from Good Vibes? Here’s what By Chloe managed for £6.60:

toast

That’s a single slice of toast, messily smeared with almond butter and scattered with unevenly sliced banana. I manage better presentation at 6:30am without even trying.

Clare ordered the sunrise burrito and quinoa hash browns. The ‘s’ on the end of ‘hash browns’ might lead you to expect a small plateful. English grammar would lead you to expect at least two. You know where this is going:

hash-brown-burrito

Despite the small portions the food was good, with Clare particularly enjoying the seitan chorizo. The drinks were another matter. Clare had the cuckoo’s nest smoothie, which she describes as “just awful”, with the balance of flavours all wrong and the beetroot overwhelming the other ingredients. I asked for the Jade Tips tea, and was told they didn’t have that but did have green tea, which when it arrived turned out to be Jade Tips after all, in the form of a teabag in a paper cup of boiling water.

There’s something depressing about tea in a paper cup. It’s what you might get at a conference, where they have to provide refreshments but don’t really care. It’s not what you expect from a venue that describes itself as a restaurant. This sense of cheapness was reinforced by the flimsy plastic cutlery. If I had to describe By Chloe in a single phrase, I would say: imagine a vegan McDonald’s.

The great thing about London is that when it comes to vegan food you have so much choice. Do yourself a favour, and choose somewhere else.