The Guacamole salad, Mexico

Hands up who doesn’t love guacamole? The creamy avocado, the crunch of red onion, the sweetness of chopped tomatoes, a squeeze of tart lime, and the fragrant balancing act of the coriander? Exactly. To not like guacamole would probably be travesty.

  This is my fourth time in Mexico, and for the first time ever, im struggling as a vegan. Normally, it’s all about corn tamales filled with veggies and smothered in a habanero sauce (the hotter the better). That, or tacos piled high with frijoles, strips of avocado, and doused in jalape√Īos. Yeh yeh, it’s ALL about spicy food ūüôā

This trip a few people have tried to sneak cheese into my food despite a “sin queso” plea accompanied by a winning smile. This winning smile has got me approximately nowhere. Also managed to buy a bottle of soya milk in the supermarket that was apparently only masquerading as soya milk. “Contains 2 percent cows milk” the ingredients said in tiny tiny lettering below the rest of the ingredients. Why? What anti-vegan jokester is enjoying their elaborate practical joke from their millionaires milk mansion?

  Fast forward to El Tabano, an open-kitchen food joint on the beach road in Tulum. Tulum’s a strange place. With the central town, (home to more backpackers types), to the low-slung beachfront all-inclusives (for the most part sympathetic with their surroundings), it’s divided into local v tourist. The food by te beach tends to be super over priced and a bit same-y, but this Guacamole Salad meant that El Tabano deserved a mention.

It’s not really that much different from guac, but the avocado is beaten so that its creamier, there are olives, which give it that umami, cheesy taste, and there are young sprouting leaves and big chunks of tomato in it.

  When the sun’s beating down and you’ve got a chilled margarita in hand, this is the sort of light, filling salad that vegan avocado lovers crave. And El Tabano have nailed it. 

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Being vegan in Georgia? Almost impossible.

  I am starving. I didn’t think it would be this hard. There are always salads and French fries if the going gets tough I had reassured myself. But I hadn’t considered the incredible heat that would make ferreting out new places so difficult. 

There is very little to eat here if you’re vegan. Georgian’s are huge cheese lovers. Cream is slipped into everything. The main food, a bread, is stuffed with cheese. And I’m jealous because everything looks amazing – Georgian food is rated among one f the world’s best cuisines.

Certainly, spice carts sit on the corner of every street filling the air with a fragrant, saffron air. 

 I found a Thai restaurant last night and ate a vegetable curry but was hungry two hours later. I suppose in a way, I’m lucky it’s so hot. I’m far from feeling hungry, but I feel the lack of food sapping at my energy, inducing lethargy. 

  
After a fruitless hunt for two places which apparently served vegetarian/vegan food, I settled on the Green Cafe on freedom square, where I’ve ordered a salad and, you guessed it, fries. After some furious googling, I found out that Mushroom Khakali – dumplings – are also vegan, so I ordered two of these as well. And the salad is excellent, covered in thyme and a salty walnut paste. I’m glad I’ve finally found a hint of Georgian food I can enjoy. And hopefully not die from …

Fly. And  gnocchi. 

Yesterday a plane crashed with 150 people on board in the foothills of the French Alps. Today, I’m 38,000 ft in the air; we’ve just reached the altitude of the plane that crashed yesterday had before it went into a fast, eight minute descent.

It’s easy to feel immense sorrow for all those involved in the Air Asia crashes, but closer to home, in European airspace, on a German plane that apparently crashed arbitrarily, with no bad weather reported, the risk seems greater. Taking a flight is still immensely safe, but it’s a little like playing poker. You have to go all-in to have any fun. Once you’re on the plane, that’s it.

I’m on my way to Moscow, but since hearing the news about the plane crash yesterday, I’ve felt jittery. There was once upon a time when that was it – I wouldn’t have set my alarm at 4am and I wouldn’t have gone to the airport. This wasn’t that long ago- just last January Sam and I were booked in to go to Morocco and I got as far as the plane. I chatted to the pilot, and then I calmly got off and took the bus to Amsterdam instead.

I’m an aviophobe, one who has spent their entire life trying to overcome it. Want to hear the hilarious twist of fate? I am, by profession, a travel journalist. I’m fascinated by aviation, new plane models, runways, airports, and, I guess, the destination. My job has been formed by my fear- my need to ask questions and to reassure myself that “everything will be ok.”

Fear of flying for me at least, is fear of fear itself. That lack of control when the plane is bouncing through the clouds, and the pure terror when the plane hits an airpocket and the captain comes over the tannoy with a strained voice: “Cabin crew, take your seats immediately.”

Nothing can floor me more than that – grief, physical pain, love. Nothing affects me more than inflight fear. So, it seemed cutting that the night before getting on a plane where I knew my stomach would be roiling, I should make something hearty, filling, and nutritious. To calm the nerves and cleanse the soul, so karmic turbulence wouldn’t hit!

Gnocchi with avocado sauce

Ok, I get it. This looks a bit green, and green doesn’t scream “yay!” It screams “health kick.” But hey, the blogs called Fly Green Vegan and I’m doing all of those things, so tough shit.

Serves two

Ingredients

1 cup gnocchi, boiled for three minutes until tender

One large, ripe avocado

Juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

Enough almond milk to make it liquid

A handful of basil leaves

Salt and pepper

1 cup button mushrooms

1 leek, sliced

1 clove of garlic

 

Method

Add the chopped leek into a pan with a dash of oil and cook until softened. Add a dash of water to help things along. Add seasoning, a tsp of stock, and mushrooms. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

In another bowl, blend the avocado, almond milk, lemon juice, garlic and basil together until you have a liquid the consistency of double cream.

Add the avocado mixture to the mushrooms and leeks, and tip in the cooked gnocchi. Stir, and season to taste.

Hopefully this will quell any pre-flight terror you have!

Bring in the Christmas cheer with GF, DF mince pies!

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The last mince pie, at work

One thing British supermarkets have been able to get right is the production of GF, DF mince pies. Even Morrisons have their own version, although I still swear by Hale and Hearty’s (stocked at posh shops) selection of mince pies. Clearly conglomerates are saddened that their allergy ridden customers might have to miss out on Christmas-the rest of the year they’re pretty happy showering us with horrific rip-offs of bread and Bakewell tarts.

Even though I’ve bought at least seven trays of supermarket mince pies over the last few weeks (Yes, mince pies are the culinary highlight of my year, every year), it’s still better to make your own.

Last night I found a jar of vegan, GF mincemeat in the supermarket (for my American readers this is a mix of currants and wintery spices). My boyfriend and I knocked up some sweet pastry, put a spoonful of mincemeat in each, added a lid and whacked the little pies in the oven.

The house smelt curranty and christmasy all evening and I went to sleep with the smell of nutmeg, allspice and pastry in my nose. However convenient it is to buy a tray of mince-pies, nothing can beat the buttery-style pastry of these sweet cakes.

I wish I hadn’t eaten the one I brought in for an afternoon treat for pudding!

Ingredients:

50g Gram Flour

120g of Doves All-purpose GF flour

50g white sugar

120g soya margarine

Method:

Heat oven to 180 degrees.

Mix together flour and margerine until texture of fine breadcrumbs (if the crumb is too large and feels sticky add more GF flour)

Make a small well in the mix and break an egg into it, add 1 tablespoon of water and mix together before mixing into the  crumb.

Add small amounts of water/flour until you have the consistency of pastry. Wrap in clingfilm and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

Grease shallow muffin tin using soya margarine.

Roll pastry out (I do this on a piece of clingfilm as it tends to stick to the worktop and this means you can lift it up easily.)

Cut circles out and press into tray, bake blind for ~5-10 minutes (Pastry should still be pale but firm)

Fill with mix (1tsp of mincemeat should do)

Cut smaller circles and place on top: I use a small amount of soya milk around the edges to help seal pastry lid.

Pierce top of each pie to prevent explosions

Bake until done (normally about 15 minutes or until pastry is brown)

And there you have it. Beautiful mince-pies. Dust wit icing sugar for desired beauty. Merry Christmas from my work desk folks

Fabulous Ice Cream Parlours in Central America

From a time before I became allergic to milk:

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Central America is full of ice cream. In every town there is a Sarita, an ice-cream parlous that stocks piles of creamy, margerine-ey ice cream that Nigella Lawson would throw her hands up in despair at. But when there’s no air-conditioning, and, frequently, no fan either, a lump of cold margarine is just what you need to get through the day.

The first thing that struck me when I walked into one of the parlours was the variety of ice cream in the buckets under the glass counter. Central America isn’t famed for variety: the chance of ordering rice and beans for every meal is high here.

So you can see why I was surprised when I entered Sarita in Guatemala. I could have a sundae, a cookie dough sundae, a banana split (and a million and one more categories of this variety), the choice of tones of ice creams and blitzed icy cold drinks and fruit juices. I could have lazed around the place all day revelling in its variety, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Sarita ice cream parlours are the hottest places I have ever been in.

The ice cream itself is nothing special. It’s definitely of the margarine variety. You can tell this because when it starts to melt it not only retains the shape of ice cream, but actually becomes warm.

Sam ordered a ‘mini banana’ today and ended up with two enormous scoops of fresa and chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, banana, sprinkles, jelly babies (?) and a glac√© cherry. All very exciting and all for about a dollar. My cannonball size scoop of bubblegum ice cream came to about 40p.

So I just thought I’d throw a rainbow coloured curve ball of variety into the otherwise monotonous choices offered by Nicaragua. Not volcanoes though. They have a lot of those.

Eating out vs eating in

I know from reading other peoples blogs that eating out gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian is a nightmare. I constantly suffer nightmarish panics when the server a) doesn’t understand me and b) when they have to fetch the ‘allergy list’.

Although this blog started out as an attempt to identify bog-standard restaurants in London that catered for those with many allergies, people who were vegetarian, or those who were just plain picky, I’ve realised that most of my time is spent eating in. Eating out all too often results in extreme, crippling hunger, or even worse, vomit.

So my blog is changing tack a little. I’ve always loved cooking, making up recipes, and sharing what I cook. From now on, I’m going to be sharing both quick, cheap and fun recipes to cook for a quick lunch, dinner or supper, and keep my eyes peeled on London’s allergy friendly restaurant scene.

Please feel free to enjoy and share as much as you want

Ellie

Starbucks-I am so angry

Before my sudden plummet into the world of lactose intolerance and then veganism, my mornings were made by a trip to starbucks, a small skinny latte to go and occasionally a croissant.

This morning was the first time I’d pushed open that heavy glass door since V-Day (Veganism Day). This was the letter of complaint I have just written and sent to Starbucks HQ.

Dear Sir or Madam,

 
Having having recently being diagnosed with severe lactose intolerance (the smallest amount of dairy can make me very sick), I went into Starbucks in Hammersmith and ordered my usual soy latte. I then asked if there was anything Vegan (it’s usually the safest way to find out if something is dairy free) and then confirmed this by saying: ‘Dairy free because I’m allergic’.¬†
 
Two staff members said ‘No’, quite rightly. (Which in itself is very disappointing because a ¬†global multinational such as yourselves should really think about stocking snacks suitable for people who can’t eat dairy-it’s quite common and we get hungry too sometimes!). A third staff member chipped in with ‘The Granola Bar is vegan. There’s no dairy in it’. So, starving and late for work, I bought that.¬†
 
It tasted greasy when I got back to my desk, and I went online to your allergy chart in order to ascertain whether or not this item was vegan and dairy free. It wasn’t. So I had to throw it away which is a waste of money, and, I’m still hungry!¬†
 
I think you need to make your staff more aware of what is vegan and what is suitable for food allergy sufferers. There was even a sign on the front of the glass cabinet that said ‘Food allergies? Ask, and we’ll find out’. That’s great customer service. If the staff member had actually done that then I wouldn’t now be feeling ill and having to research it myself online.
 
Finally, please don’t mark-up soy lattes to 30p more. It isn’t my fault I’m allergic to dairy. I’m not a fussy eater. I just want a coffee that isn’t black and I’m not convinced that soy milk costs that much more. ¬†
 
I hope you can understand my frustration and I look forward to hearing from you soon,
 

Me.

Moral of story: Starbucks has a flimsy choice of vegan food. Plus, for those of you who weren’t aware:

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2017852081_starbucksbug28.html