My experience at St Albans Vegan Fair

Fairly, recently, ok at the end of August (the 27th to be precise) Martin and I attended the St Albans Vegan Fair, which was the first ever vegan fair in St Albans. For those who don’t know St Albans is about twenty minutes on the train from London, and as there are so many great vegan eateries and businesses in London it makes it a prime location to hold such an event.

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The fair was held at Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre which is about ten minutes from the town centre and involves walking down (and then unfortunately later on up) a steep hill. From what we could see there were stalls outside and then a room with vendors inside (which you had to pay £3 to enter). In terms of price, I think that was more than fair but I think any more would not have been considering that the room itself was not too large (and there was only one room in total – please correct me if I’m wrong here!).

Martin and I arrived a little past 10am when it opened and it was already quite busy. Due to the size of the venue it was a little hard to see all the different vendors and get tasters of the products available so I think we missed out a little in that way. It got busier as we was there and I think if we’d have arrived any later it would have been a little hellish. However, when we arrived the queue moved fairly quickly and the staff were really nice.

To get the slightly negative element out of the way first, I do think the event could of been better organised. Like, I said demand hadn’t been taken into account, so I do believe the venue was too small. Also, when I contacted the fair on Facebook after the event to see if they had any photographs, as I struggled due to the amount of people (although, honestly, I could have tried harder but I wanted to enjoy myself!) and if they could send me a list of vendors to jog my memory of the day, they never got back to me. For reference, I can see they’ve seen the message and I messaged twice. I wouldn’t usually mention something like this but I wanted to give this as a reference to the organisation I felt was lacking at the event. I wouldn’t have minded if they responded saying no, or they’d get back to me, but I think it’s bad practice to ignore someone completely. However, I will point out that I messaged after the event and so the organisers may now be too busy to message back (this is probably not their full time job after all!) and I did not exhaust my list of contact options. This is because I only found out on writing this post about their email address (despite it being on one of the images, essentially I’m an idiot) and I’ll be honest I didn’t want to wait for a response – I wanted to get this post out!

I want to close this bit of my experience by saying I love supporting members of a community I feel close to (I’m a vegetarian not a vegan for reference) but I wanted to be honest and say that element let me down a little bit.

However, the food options truly did not.

I only managed to taste a small selection of what was on offer but it was all delicious.

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One thing I was really excited to try was Kimchi when I saw it and the event, as I’ve never tried it before! I actually thought it was great and picked up some from a brand called Love Kimchi. I haven’t had a lot of this since purchasing, as I can only have small amounts because my stomach isn’t used to it but I’m excited to incorporate some into rice dishes in the future.

Another brand I tried was Badger’s Vegan Kitchen. The texture of their egg mayo was really great. This is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to go to the effort to make their own version, however, I have a soft spot for a tofu egg mayo recipe I made up based on a tofu scramble (probably because it’s more indulgent and I really love tofu) so I don’t know if I’d pick this up again.

One of Martin’s favourites from the samples we tried was from Vork Pie – the scotch eggs being a particular favourite. Their Vork on Mars scotch egg I have to say is particularly delicious.

There were some other great food experiences we had, which I can’t remember the name of including a lovely cheese sauce on a hot dog that Martin tried and I stole a bit of which was delicious; a seitan burger that tasted so good, Martin got one after tasting mine and a BBQ Seitan that had a amazing smoky flavour. There was also a cake stand that looked AMAZING, which you can tell by many photographs of it above but I got so overwhelmed by the choices that I didn’t actually order anything in the end!

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Apologises that it’s half eaten I forgot to take a photo! The only thing it lacked is mayo (why do people think just ketchup is enough, ha, ha). 

Another stand that was packed was vegan cheese makers Kinda.co, I managed to grab a bite of their imitation greek style cheese in oil, which was lovely, but was unable to try anything else. I definitely would love to try them if I see them at another fair but I think they are definitely an indulgent treat kind of place, as their cheese averages at around £7.00.

Martin also wanted me to give a shout out to the May Bakery where he got an Oreo cookie sandwich from which he said was delicious. I’m not as big of an Oreo fan so I only sampled a little bit but the cookie texture was on point. I definitely will be looking out for them again.

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Apart from food there were a few ‘lifestyle’ stalls including a place selling vegan bags and shoes (which honestly, unfortunately, weren’t really my style and Eden perfumes who I wrote a blog post about).

Overall, I think this was a great event for vegans, vegetarians or even omnivores, as it was honestly great, tasty food. If you’re a vegan or veggie and struggling to explain to your family that what you eat is still great tasting, this might be a good event to take them too. Honestly, everything we tried tasted great and the creativity on offer was really inspiring.

For me, I’m just happy to see the continual rise of more veggie options in the UK – I can’t wait to see the landscape in five years time!

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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Berry Smoothie Bowl with bananas (and spinach)

As some of you may have noticed who follow me on Instagram; I’ve been trying to cook from scratch a lot more recently. This has really ignited a lot of my old passion for cooking and trying out recipes that I kind of lost as I’ve got busy over the years.

While I now that a smoothie bowl is not strictly ‘cooking’, I’ll admit never being much of a smoothie person myself until recently I didn’t know where to start. After looking up a few recipes and consulting my friends, I made up my own recipe for a smoothie bowl. And still it took a little bit of trial and error to get it completely right.

I started with a just berry and banana mixture, which I posted on my Instagram. I included oats as an option because I personally prefer something a little bit more substantial for my breakfast. However, I’ve now added spinach to the mixture and a whole bunch of toppings, which makes this much more filling to me. If you don’t want to add toppings (it doesn’t have to fruit – it can be whatever you like!) then I’d suggest pulsing some oats into the mixture to give it some texture.

Smoothie Bowl 3

Without further ado, I’ll get onto the recipe. This is in American cups as the measurements (despite me being British) because a lot of the recipes I follow are usually from Americans so I’ve just got used to that system! If you google the measurements you should be able to easily convert them to grams.

Ingredients

1 cup frozen strawberries

1/2 cup frozen raspberries

1 banana (preferably ripe for the sweetness)

1/2 cup almond milk

1/2 cup plain alpro yoghurt (I use plain but you can use any flavour)

1/2 cup baby spinach

1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup to make this recipe vegan)

Optional 

1/2 cup rolled oats (add at end and blitz in the blender if you want extra texture or just mix in).

Toppings: I used a whole banana, about a handful of blueberries and raspberries, a teaspoon of chia seeds and a tablespoon of vegan chocolate chips (this would work well with dark chocolate chips or any other you want to use).

Method

Place all ingredients in blender and blend! It’s that simple, ha, ha. I like making mine the night before and adding the toppings in the morning. If you want it more of a smoothie bowl consistency don’t blend for as long (I blended mine a little too long) or add more yoghurt.

If you struggle to get in your 5 a day, I think this is a great way to get your body started. I honestly was worried about the spinach as I didn’t want to taste it in my smoothie but I couldn’t taste it and I actually think it tasted better with it as it calmed down a little bit of the tang from the berries.

Please let me know if you liked this post and you’d like to see more recipes from me. I think for now I want to start off slow with smoothie bowls and breakfasts and then maybe work my way up! I’m vegetarian so all my recipes will be veggie friendly and I’ll always make sure to include a vegan option if the recipe isn’t vegan (but most of them probably will be).

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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My new favourite vegan banana bread recipe

Full disclosure before we start. This is not my recipe. I am not going to at any point pretend it is. It is however delicious and a good breakfast if you’re like me and like something a little bit sweet in the morning (and is at least healthier than straight up sweets- hopefully- probably not). I also love to read reviews of recipes before I try them out so see this as more of a review of a recipe!

It’s also I think quite a versatile recipe. You can add some nuts to it if you want. Or some currants. You can add some over spices other than cinnamon if you wanted to. My friend Callie suggested chocolate chips (and if anyone knows anywhere I can get some good vegan chocolate chips let me know- milk preferably- as I’m interested in trying them out). I think that the chocolate chips would taste great with how I like to eat it this banana bread- with peanut butter on top and extra bananas.

If you are into exercising and building up muscle you could probably add a little bit of protein powder as well (maybe one with a flavour might be nice!)- just be cautious of adding too many dry ingredients. Also, if you’re trying to gain muscle you probably (maybe) won’t be eating banana bread.

However, to get to my point essentially this post is about a recipe I really like that I didn’t come up with but I wanted to share with everyone. Also, apart from the initial cost if you don’t have the ‘baking essentials’ in your cupboard you can make this recipe time and time again by just repurchasing bananas.

Banana Bread 1

So without further ado here is the recipe (I would say it makes about 8-10 substantial slices).  If you want to go it a go please give the person who made the recipe some love and here is the original link to the recipe. I found the recipe on BBC Good Food (it was literally the first result that came up when I searched vegan banana bread into google). The recipe was submitted by the good food community on BBC Good Food so essentially it was user generated recipe- and this recipe was by the user helenrothwell (thank you so much you are literally my new favourite person). All the ingredients below (apart from my conversions are from the link I stated above).

Ingredients:

  • 225g Plain flour (or use Self-raising flour and reduce the Baking powder to 2 heaped tsp)
  • 3 heaped tsp Baking powder
  • 100g Brown sugar
  • 3 tsp Cinnamon or Mixed spice
  • 3 large Black bananas, mashed
  • 75g Vegetable or Sunflower oil (weight)
  • 50g Dried fruit or nuts (optional)

I’ve not used black bananas yet with mine (mainly because I only like to eat bananas when they are yellow and maybe with a brown spot or two otherwise they are too mushy) and it was still super nice. I think if you wanted a stronger flavour of bananas then definitely go with the black bananas.

Since I don’t currently have any scales I converted the recipe into American cups (because they were cheaper to buy than scales).

So this is what I used (through some googling- so apologises for the accuracy in advance- though it still worked for me!) and might be useful for anyone who uses the American cups system:

  • 1 1/2 cups of Self-raising flour
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 a cup of light brown sugar (I think you could use dark as well but I prefer the taste of light brown sugar)
  • 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 3 large in my case ripe bananas (mashed by Martin)
  • About 75ml of a vegetable oil and olive oil blend

The method is also super simple, which is great if you’re like me and like baking but just don’t have the time anymore to do something complicated.

Method: (as mentioned before this is taken from this link)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  2. Mash the peeled bananas with a fork. Mix well with oil and sugar.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, and combine well.
  4. Add any additional ingredients.
  5. Baked in a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin for 20 minutes, before checking. Cover with foil, if the loaf cake is browning. Bake for another 40 minutes (approximately).
  6. Allow to cool a little before slicing. It’s delicious freshly baked but even yummier when it goes gooey the next day!

The first time I did the recipe I kept it in my oven for the full hour but the second time I went for 45 minutes instead to see if there was any difference. There was, the banana bread was definitely more moist but a bit more crumbly- I think I definitely preferred it though.

Banana Bread 2

This one was a darker colour than my first batch, and didn’t split anyway near as much as the first did. 

Also, fun fact the first time I did this I forgot the cinnamon and already had the cake in the tin but luckily not the oven so just added it to the mixture, stirred and hoped for the best.

So there it is, my trying out of a tasty vegan banana bread from BBC Good Food from a happy vegetarian who is trying to eat a little bit more vegan and try out some more vegan food (my Mac and Cheese recipes are currently not going well though Temple of Seitan’s Mac and Cheese was really nice and I can’t wait to have it when I visit their brand new restaurant Temple of Camden, which opens on the 31st January!).

Banana Bread 3

Banana bread 5

April

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