Fresh, yet another vegan restaurant in Moscow. (Yawn)

First things first, go here if you want great vegan food. Now we’ve got that covered, a few thoughts.

Maybe it’s a Russian thing, or maybe a vegan thing, but everyone is very hasty to take your order here. Similarly to clear. And to give you the bill. One thing I’ve also found, is that servers look a bit dazed when you enter the restaurant. I haven’t been turning up one minute before closing or at 3pm, just normal eating hours, yet they look shocked that you’d come in. I had one woman in Fresh, where I’m sitting now, just wordlessly hand me the menu and block my entrance. Weird.

  

The menu here is incredible. As well as being in English (bonus) it’s full of things you actually want to eat, as opposed to many vegan restaurants that are a bit worthy.

According to the website it’s a Canadian import, and it feels more a low-lit Pret than either of the other more Soviet style establishments I’ve been in since I arrived in Moscow.

There’s lots of mention of chia seeds, carrot fettuccine, and there’s a great salad selection. All of their deserts are vegan including blueberry cheesecake and panna cotta. Despite this, I just went for Carrot Cake – damnit!

  

Coffees come with any milk you might require, and breakfast looks like something any hungry vegan might crave – avocado toast, oatmeal with almond milk, or tofu scramble. I’m in love already and I only ordered the thai style burger – a protein heavy burger (much needed after all the walking today) with coriander and a peanut sauce. I ordered a glass of wine too, which means that I couldn’t order more food. I don’t know whether it’s because I skipped breakfast, or have been out since 8.30 in the snow, but I’m still ravenous. 

Maybe posting a picture of the burger and the menu will help. And my carrot cake if it ever arrives…

  

Ps. The vegan carrot cake with coconut cream was the tops. Just sayin’

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Jet lag cure: spicy lentil, ginger and kale soup

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I’ve suffered from jet lag more than I’d care to admit this week, mostly because I’ve been a dumbass and rather than overriding it, have embraced it. But embraced it not in a good way. Yes, I’ve been staying up until 5am and not getting up until 11. I think I even climbed, sighing, out of bed and filled in two job applications. Such is the life of a vegan postgraduate journalism student. But I knew I had to put an end to this. So yesterday I went for a swim in the mahoosive, cold, outdoor pool next to my gym, took a run on the treadmill, dunked in the hot spa pool, cycled back, and cooked myself some warming, healing soup. 

Soup soothes frayed nerves, and this one soothes better than others. Fact. So here’s the recipe.

 

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic

A teaspoon of mustard seeds (not essential)

A teaspoon (or two depending on how smokey you want it) of smoked paprika

1 thumbfull of ginger

A white onion, finely chopped

One carrot, finely sliced

One red, medium chili, finely sliced

A hefty squirt of tomato puree

A shake of cumin, coriander and chill powder

A pint and a half of water

A shake of bouillon powder

 

Method

Fry the garlic, ginger, chili and mustardseeds in a teaspoon of oil. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft. (10 minutes should do).

Add the rest of the dried spices and stock, then add the water and puree.

Add the lentils. 

Cook until lentils are soft (about 20 minutes), then add the kale. Stir and cook for a further five minutes. 

And there you have your easy, warming soup. 

California inspired salad: pink grapefruit, kale and avocado

 

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Disastrously, the only salad picture we got was from a distance!! Sam eating salad in Zion NP

Ok, so the combination of ingredients might not immediately jump out at you as the most delicious combinations of vegetables and fruits you’ve encountered. But trust me, once you’ve put all these together you’ll be in heaven. This salad was so good that I made it eight more times while I was in America. That’s right, EIGHT more times. This includes mixing together all the ingredients in the dark in Zion National Park after we’d just arrived in the campsite and had forgotten our camping lantern.

Another time I sliced open my thumb hacking at an underipe avocado in the Grand Canyon Mather Campground (also in the dark) in my hurry to slice all these ingredients up. The most memorable of these salad making escapades was probably in a Quality Inn motel just outside Flagstaff where my partner and I had just hiked to the top of Humphrey’s Point (12000ft+) and were just dying. I prepared the salad in a massive washing up bowl, sprawled on the bed, feet up, while watching Big Bang Theory.

Seriously, this is a salad that will carry you through any situation. Best of all, none of the ingredients need to be cooked, although a handful of oven-roasted almonds could only add to the dish.

I’ll stop droning on and give you the ingredients now, shall I? Just a hint: the wonderfulness of this dish really helps if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby and can buy the spicy peanut vinaigrette. If not, then I’ll also give you a nice little vinaigrette recipe that works wonders!

And, best of all, because my photographs of the salad itself are so lacking, and you only have Sam’s rapturous face to carry through your belief that this is in fact the best salad you’ve ever eaten, below are a range of images from Zion NP. Because it was pretty.

Ingredients:

A handful of Kale, shredded

A head of Romaine

Finely diced red onion

Two fresh, ripe avocados

One pink grapefruit cut into chunks

(If more crunch desired, add some almonds)

Spicy peanut vinaigrette dressing (Mix a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter with a dash of soy sauce, rice-wine vinegar, chili flakes, a pinch of brown sugar and two tablespoons of whatever oil you have around. Vegetable is probably best. Beat it all together until it’s a smooth liquid with the consistency of a soy milkshake.)

 

Method:

Literally, just mix everything together and slather in dressing. Serve with crunchy bread if desired, but I don’t think it needs even that. Maybe some crouton would be delicious with this, but the avocado is filling enough in my opinion.

 

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How to eat and order a taco in Mexico

Tacos should be:

1. Cheap (8 pesos per stacked taco is recommended to be about the maximum)

2. Mild (but with the choice to add a variety of salsas ranging from picante to fiery, burning picante)

3. Plentiful (you shouldn’t be afraid to order more tacos if you feel like you need them)

4. Potentially vegetarian (my two favourite varieties are tacos spread with frijoles and layered with salad, and fried mushrooms layered with avocado, onion and coriander)

5. Not necessarily mouthfuls (maize tortillas are soft, flappy, and made to be bitten into, not the crunchy style tacos we get in the UK

6. Fine to eat messily (dive in. I have never succesfully eaten tacos without dribbling some kind of liquid out of the taco

7. not be ‘fine dining’ (there are a number of tourist restauarnts in Mexico that sell plates of four tacos for over $180 pesos. I don’t know what they’re putting in these tacos, but there’s noway that taco is ‘authentic if it’s costing you the price of a night in a cheap hotel)

8. Enjoyed.

Le Rif-A vegan look at life in the north London souk

Le Rif.

172 Seven sisters road, Finsbury Park, N7 7PX is not the sort of location where you’d expect to be whisked back to the sights and smells of the Morccoan souk simply by spooning a mouthful of Tagine, but whisked I was.

The decor is unassuming. There is a wooden terrace outside which provides seating facing onto Seven Sisters Road. I’m not sure whose terrible idea this was as any flavour is immediately masked by the taste of petrol coming from the late rush hour traffic jam that stews there. We moved inside under the pretence of rain, just in case…

The inside is fantastically basic. Without wanting to sound gooey, the owners cheerful smile and the good nature of all the staff working there immediately made up for the 1970’s factory-line cafe decor. Though I appreciated the single memento to Morocco-one of those stained glass tin lamps that you get hassled for in the souk every time you set foot there-there wasn’t much else to tell you it was a Moroccan restaurant, but that was probably to its credit. There are only so many cushions and drapes that one needs. However, I think you can tell strong personalities from weak ones by the types of souvenirs people buy. Lamps from the souk suggest an eagerness to please, and a slight terror of walking away mid haggle. I also have a lamp in my bedroom. I empathise with the owner.

Yet, eagerness to please is a reasonable trait for a Moroccan cafe owner, and, as long as he wasn’t going to try to hoist his lamp on me, I could deal with the sparseness. Especially as tasty, tasty things were on offer, especially for vegans and vegetarians. Vegetarian tagine was for sale at under a fiver (4) and wraps stuffed with falafal, hummous and vegetables were only three.

I was most excited by the juice selection. Morocco will forever be in my mind as a selection of juice carts. In Marrakech’s main square sit around 20 orange juice carts at least, all screaming at tourists to invite them to drink their wares. And it’s the tastiest, sweetest and most refreshing juice you could drink on a burning hot day under the winter sun. At only 20p, I was unsurprised by the mark up to 2.20 here, for a drink of far worse quality. But hey, a mans gotta live!
The tagine was stacked high and with an amazing depth of flavour. It was dairy free (it is normally) and scattered with torn mint leaves. I could taste the turmeric and the cumin and the sweetness of fruit and the depth of the root vegetables.
The falafel wraps were good. There wasn’t as much depth of flavour to the falafel as there was to the tagine, but it would make a tasty, quick snack. The best thing about the wrap was the way the flatbread itself had been griddled so that it gave of a smokey, charred taste. If you’re vegan, there is coleslaw in it, but they obviously make each one made to order so just ask him to leave out the coleslaw. Otherwise, it’s perfect!
Other options include stuffed aubergine for 4.50 and a choice of moroccan pastries, which, for people who have been to Morocco will remember are sweet, sticky and totally yummy.

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