Saturday, 31 August 2013

Vegan MoFo 2013

Vegan Mofo starts tomorrow and I'm really excited to be taking part again! I'm going for a month long theme this year and here's a few clues. This part of Manchester played a big part in the Industrial Revolution. Marx and Engels visited here and their experiences fed into the Conditions of the Working Classes in England and later the Communist Manifesto.

With it's old textile buildings and fire escapes the area often stands in for the East Village, New York amongst other places in films. When I visited the East Village for the first time I felt right at home! Hollywood films shot here include Captain America, Alfie and Sherlock Holmes. There's also a plethora of music venues, fashion wholesalers, galleries and independent shops and eateries.

So, old mill buildings, a hotbed of creative activity, radical politics and sights like this vegan burger?..............

Yep, I'll be blogging for the whole of September about Manchester's Northern Quarter. I'll be exploring where to find vegan food and chatting to vegan business owners, artists and musicians with links to the area. Come along and enjoy the virtual tour!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Delicious Art from the National Gallery

Last week I received an email asking if I'd like to review a tea blend inspired by a painting in the National Gallery. I jumped at the chance as tea and art galleries are two of my favourite things. The tea is part of a collaboration between the National Gallery and the East India Tea Company. What caught my attention was that it was more than the usual box of Earl Grey with an image from the collection on the packaging along with some matching shortbread biscuits. The company's tea master Lalith Lenadora has used what's going on in the images to inspire these new blends. As someone who used to work in an art gallery education department where we were always looking for new ways to interpret art this idea caught my imagination. There's 6 teas altogether as shown in this picture.

I got sent Blend No 129. This is a blend of fine black ceylon fbop tea flavoured with cinnamon, orange flowers, orange peel, black,white and red pepper, nutmeg pieces, vanilla essence, cloves and vanilla pieces. It's inspired by a lovely Dutch painting by Heindrick Avercamp called A Winter Scene With Skaters Near A Castle. The tasting notes say " Avercamp's painting, dating back to 1608, intruiged me, as the flavours we generally associate with winter - Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Orange - were all extremely rare at that time and of great value. The blend combines these favourites with spicy red, black and white peppers, tempered with soft vanilla for one of my favourite winter warmers".

So what did I think of it? Well, when I first read the ingredients I wondered if it was going to be like chai which as regular readers will know I'm a big fan of. It's not though. The flavours are blended so that none of them stand out and dominate making it a rather more sophisticated brew. It also has to be said that this is one of the best smelling teas I've ever had a sniff off. I sat with my head in the box for 10 minutes after opening it! I found it refreshing and elegant and it's made me interested in trying some of the other blends. They are all black tea blends, either assam, ceylon or darjeeling with the exception of the tea inspired by Van Gogh's Sunflowers which is a blend of chamomile, rose buds and orange petals which sounds like an excellent evening drink.

So where can you buy it? Well, it's for sale either through the National Gallery shop either in person or online or at the East India Company shop in London on Conduit Street. The East India Company also look like they do an amazing selection of preserves like plum, walnut, rum and raisin jam and tomato and thyme savoury marmalade to name but two! I'm surpised the gallery don't actually serve it in their tearooms. I'd definitely be interested in buying something like this as a visitor. At £7.50 for 15 teabags this tea doesn't come cheap, working out at 50p a cup and wouldn't be a replacement for an everyday brew. You are however paying for the champagne equivalent of the tea world. With tea of this quality if you make sure you brew it properly in a teapot you'll get three cups out of a bag, well I did anyway! For someone who's into unusual teas this would make a great gift. My family always ask me to do a birthday and Christmas presents list and fancy teas have been a permanent feature on it for the last few years. I'll be adding these to the list.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Green Gathering

Last weekend Matt was playing at The Green Gathering so we headed down to Chepstow just over the Severn Bridge into South Wales. The setting was beautiful, unfortunately the weather was not and neither was the woman who'd taken summat funny three tents away from us who screamed and ranted for most of Saturday night keeping everyone awake and making all the babies cry! We went to some interesting talks though (including one about Superfoods) and had what was the best vegan food of any festival so far this summer. My favourite was Gohan, a macrobiotic vegan cafe who served amazing and beautifully prepared Japanese food.

I had freshly made miso soup with this lovely sushi that came in a little bamboo cone. Matt went for the awesome salad platter. Everything on it was great and I need to figure about how to make those millet balls. The Gohan tent also looked beautiful, if you see them at a festival then definitely check them out.

The food at Gohan suited me perfectly as I'm allergic to some types of chilli and often the only vegan friendly food at festivals is on the spicy side. Matt on the other hand loves a curry and he enjoyed this tea of 'chapati and three' from Authentic Curries. The dahl and spinach curry were actually pretty mild so I was able to have a taste and can confirm that they were very tasty.

Whilst Matt was scoffing curry I went for the delicious pizza from Pan de Mania. This was cooked to order in a woodfired oven and was just how I like my pizza with a thin crispy base. The Vegan Garden pizza was topped with tomato sauce, olives, spinach, seeds and fresh rocket. They could teach Pizza Express a lesson or too!

My drink of choice at festivals even above beer has turned out to be chai! I tried it from three different sellers at Green Gathering. Everyone seemed to have a different approach. Some people made black chai and then left it to the customer to add cows or soya milk. One seller made a vegan one with rice milk but my number one was the vegan chai from the Buddafields Cafe. This was made with soya milk and already sweetened. It was just the thing to drink in the drizzly weather.

All the businesses mentioned do the festival circuit and I'd visit all of them again. Sadly our £25 Aldi tent managed to survive Glastonbury and Tolpuddle but not the Green Gathering. We are going to invest in a good one for future camping. Does anyone have any recommendations for a 3 person tent?