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 jalapeños. Yeh yeh, it’s ALL about spicy food 🙂

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. 

Jackson and Rye, London

  

I’m off to the Arctic for the next four weeks, which means that my partner and I won’t see each other for a very long time. We took the day off work today (Friday) and set out to do some tourist London exploration, because I realised that I never, ever big up my home town enough.

I reckon that’s because the vegan food offerings here just aren’t very good. Why not? The centre of London has a dearth of places that serve vegan breakfasts. Vegetarian food offerings are awesome, but if you have allergies or have cut out animal items from your diet totally, London is not the best place for you.

That said, I live here, so make do I must. Tibits is great for some vegan food, Inspiral is super, and unintentionally vegan ethnic offerings are plentiful. But it’s no New York (hello vegan Chinese) or LA (they have a vegan CHEESE SHOP). And this continues to make me sad.

So we took the day off work and this took us to Jackson and Rye because I was determined not to go to Hospital Club AGAIN (my fail safe brunch location). It sucks for vegans. And for anyone with allergies. But it’s glorious inside, and their country style potatoes with caramelised onions may well be one of the most delicious thins I’ve eaten this week.

I literally have a plate of avocado and some green juice, but hey, the tiling is nice and they have a bottle of Tabasco, so life’s not all bad.

And if you’ve got a meat eater in your life, I imagine they would be a huge fan.

Vegan hotdogs in Santa Cruz, Tenerife

With four hours left before my flight home and having finished all the work I’d come to Tenerife to do, I decided to locate Santa Cruz’s vegan offerings. This is Northern Tenerife, well away from the crowded high rises and apartment blocks of Los Christianos. 

  
I’d been really surprised by Tenerife. For a start, I’d spent the last four days cowering from the freezing cold weather – in early June, fog and wind had been the order of the day. This is an island of microclimates, and my trip had taken me away from the sunshine. First up to El Teide, a mountain in the centre (fog), and then along the northern coastline which is reminiscent of California’s craggy Route One.

  
The purpose of the trip (oh the hardship), was to track down gourmet Tenerife – the culinary heart of the island. Over the last few days I’ve tasted some incredible wines and eaten a vegan menu at a two star Michelin restaurant. But now, with a few hours to myself, I left the comfort of the hotel’s saltwater pool and comfy loungers, to find Burger Mel, a totally vegan hamburger joint in Santa Cruz.

  
The fact that such a thing even existed surprised me for many reasons. The main one is that Spain is not known for its veggie friendly cuisine, and yet, according to Happy Cow, there seem to be about five Burger Mel’s. She offered me vegan mayonnaise but normal cheese (possibly – my Spanish is mediocre and she didn’t speak English), so it might be worth double checking before you go faux-dairy crazy.
I had absolutely no idea what I just ordered until she just brought it just now. I seem to have got a hotdog with vegan mayonnaise, salsa, onions, and topped with avocado. It’s awesome. Best of all is how cheap Tenerife is away from the tourist areas – it’s incredible.

  
I packed nine euros (now worth about 5 pounds) in my purse worried I wouldn’t have enough and the whole meal including a piña (pineapple juice) came to 4 euros. Amazing. It’s good too. It lacks a little texture but  made a nice change from Tenerife’s high end restaurants. And perhaps the meat-free wind is starting to blow here. 

Vegan hotdogs in Santa Cruz, Tenerife

With four hours left before my flight home and having finished all the work I’d come to Tenerife to do, I decided to locate Santa Cruz’s vegan offerings. This is Northern Tenerife, well away from the crowded high rises and apartment blocks of Los Christianos. 

  
I’d been really surprised by Tenerife. For a start, I’d spent the last four days cowering from the freezing cold weather – in early June, fog and wind had been the order of the day. This is an island of microclimates, and my trip had taken me away from the sunshine. First up to El Teide, a mountain in the centre (fog), and then along the northern coastline which is reminiscent of California’s craggy Route One.

  
The purpose of the trip (oh the hardship), was to track down gourmet Tenerife – the culinary heart of the island. Over the last few days I’ve tasted some incredible wines and eaten a vegan menu at a two star Michelin restaurant. But now, with a few hours to myself, I left the comfort of the hotel’s saltwater pool and comfy loungers, to find Burger Mel, a totally vegan hamburger joint in Santa Cruz.

  
The fact that such a thing even existed surprised me for many reasons. The main one is that Spain is not known for its veggie friendly cuisine, and yet, according to Happy Cow, there seem to be about five Burger Mel’s. She offered me vegan mayonnaise but normal cheese (possibly – my Spanish is mediocre and she didn’t speak English), so it might be worth double checking before you go faux-dairy crazy.
I had absolutely no idea what I just ordered until she just brought it just now. I seem to have got a hotdog with vegan mayonnaise, salsa, onions, and topped with avocado. It’s awesome. Best of all is how cheap Tenerife is away from the tourist areas – it’s incredible.

  
I packed nine euros (now worth about 5 pounds) in my purse worried I wouldn’t have enough and the whole meal including a piña (pineapple juice) came to 4 euros. Amazing. It’s good too. It lacks a little texture but  made a nice change from Tenerife’s high end restaurants. And perhaps the meat-free wind is starting to blow here. 

With four hours left before my flight home and having finished all the work I’d come to Tenerife to do, I decided to locate Santa Cruz’s vegan offerings. This is Northern Tenerife, well away from the crowded high rises and apartment blocks of Los Christianos. 

  
I’d been really surprised by Tenerife. For a start, I’d spent the last four days cowering from the freezing cold weather – in early June, fog and wind had been the order of the day. This is an island of microclimates, and my trip had taken me away from the sunshine. First up to El Teide, a mountain in the centre (fog), and then along the northern coastline which is reminiscent of California’s craggy Route One.

  
The purpose of the trip (oh the hardship), was to track down gourmet Tenerife – the culinary heart of the island. Over the last few days I’ve tasted some incredible wines and eaten a vegan menu at a two star Michelin restaurant. But now, with a few hours to myself, I left the comfort of the hotel’s saltwater pool and comfy loungers, to find Burger Mel, a totally vegan hamburger joint in Santa Cruz.

  
The fact that such a thing even existed surprised me for many reasons. The main one is that Spain is not known for its veggie friendly cuisine, and yet, according to Happy Cow, there seem to be about five Burger Mel’s. She offered me vegan mayonnaise but normal cheese (possibly – my Spanish is mediocre and she didn’t speak English), so it might be worth double checking before you go faux-dairy crazy.
I had absolutely no idea what I just ordered until she just brought it just now. I seem to have got a hotdog with vegan mayonnaise, salsa, onions, and topped with avocado. It’s awesome. Best of all is how cheap Tenerife is away from the tourist areas – it’s incredible.

  
I packed nine euros (now worth about 5 pounds) in my purse worried I wouldn’t have enough and the whole meal including a piña (pineapple juice) came to 4 euros. Amazing. 
It’s good too. It lacks a little texture but  made a nice change from Tenerife’s high end restaurants. And perhaps the wind is changing here. 

Michelin star vegan Tenerife – At the Ritz.

I am not a dressy person. Dressing up for me means brushing my hair. So when I remembered two kilometres away that I was heading to the Ritz for a two Michelin star dinner I panicked. I’d memorised my itinerary (very badly) apparently and I was now changing rapidly in the back of an empty minibus in a layby while the driver shielded her eyes.
I’d been invited to sample some of Tenerife’s gourmet food. Initially sceptical that I would be able to eat anything at all, time and time again, I was proved wrong.
There were five others in the group I was travelling with, all of whom were meat eaters. Not only do I not eat meat, fish, or dairy of any sort, my gluten intolerance had recently kicked back so I’d had to recut bread out of my diet AGAIN. And I looked like a tramp to boot.
But I was kinda surprised (and delighted, Obvs) when the chef (Basque chef Martin Berasategui) had prepared me a special menu. 

Yes, there were a lot of textures of tomato, but him and his team had gone to a lot of effort to make me feel like I wasn’t missing out.  It was two Michelin starred food, but meat free, which was super exciting. 
  
We started with breads. He brought me rice crackers with different flavours and the things that look like crayons on the table are in fact flavoured butter.

  
Strawberry daiquiri ice cubes arrived next, moulded into the shape of berries. They were incredible – an alcoholic sorbet to cleanse the palette before nine course tasting menu. In reality such a long menu is just an excuse for a chef to show off, but if he continued  showing off like this, fine by me.

  
A series of amuse bouches-esque things arrived next and this was the only bum note of the meal. Spherication had happened here, and it really shouldn’t have. A luminous blob of green didn’t look appetising. It did what it said on the tin – exploded with liquid as I bit into it – but the taste was like chewing on one of those berries from a tree that would kill you. 

It was bitter and left a lingering and hideous aftertaste. That said, it was the only bum note of the meal, but man, it was weird. After eating quite a lot of swish meals, I’ve realised that texture really is important to food. This is where nature excels and sometimes chefs should leave well alone. An example is an apple. It’s crunchy and soft at the same time. Genius. Don’t mess with that.

  
I was then served textures of tomato (which were delicous) while everyone else got slightly cooked oysters cooked in a broth that smelt of the sea. It was served in a dish that looked like a volcano and it smoked…

  
I was grateful for a respite as the chef was unable to come up with nine things that were vegan, so I sipped an amazing gin and tonic while everyone went mad for their next dish. After that, I was served a simple salad with vinaigrette. For anyone who has battled through a tasting menu, you’ll understand when I say that as delicious as everything else was on the table, everybody was envious of my salad.

  
The standout dish of the menu followed – white asparagus tips with a rich mushroom sauce. It was decadent and everyone else was served the same dish, which suggests just how good it was.

  
Then came an egg in broth with salty girolles. 

  
Then gorgeous artichoke hearts, wonderfully turned with a type of Palm syrup and more mushrooms.

Desert was Unphotographed because my phone died and British Airways doesn’t have charging points, even in business. (Gah). But it was lemony, zesty, with lots of sorbets, sugars, and an amazing lime and apple and mint granita sauce. Delish.

Alfred Prasad’s tasting menu at Sani Gourmet festival, Greece

The night started off as any other night as a vegan. With low sighs and frustration as I leafed through the delicious sounding tasting menu. Everything said it was coated with yoghurt, meat, or other non-vegan miscellany. So I asked the waitress behind me if it would be possible to order a salad from another restaurant on the resort while the press group I was travelling with tucked into to a sensory, delicious eating experience.

But she looked shocked at the suggestion. A second later a waiter came over and told me that Prasad and his team would make a vegan friendly menu for me, so I could enjoy everything. I was so bowled over by this generosity (considering how crazy the kitchen must be) that I must have just beamed. I had loved Atul Kochar’s Benares and I was excited to experience Prasad’s cooking too. Michelin star Indian cooking is just so interesting and exciting – it’s almost as good as a big bowl of curry and naan.

Each course was staggeringly good, and here, in pictures, is why you should go and eat at one of Prasad’s restaurants. It was exceptional. I want to thank his team for making me something spectacular that I could enjoy as much as my colleagues.

To start

Chickpea and tamarind

Chickpea and tamarind

This chickpea pate (almost) tasted like a swish version of Bhel Poori balls. Sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, wheat strains, and puffed bread, it was the most exceptional dish of the evening. It burst with flavour, and went from sweet, to sour, to bitter, to sweet again in seconds. An absolute joy to eat.

Next

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Sorry for the BLUR

While everyone else got a broth of mussels and a scallop (which smelled fragrant and delicious), I was served a spiced fruit salad (almost like a chaat) served with a potato cake. On the potato cake (which was gently spiced), there was a spread of pepper relish which lifted the potato. The only strange thing? Such a salad worked well with the mango that was in it – I don’t think I’m ready for spiced strawberries and potatoes.

Next

IMG_5256

While everyone else was eating something different (probs more fish), I was served a Greek classic – with an Indian twist. A softly baked tomato served with Indian spiced couscous and a circle of pickled red onion. It was warming and delicious, and I appreciated it very much, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the first chickpea course. MAN.

Palate cleanser

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This divided the table – a tamarind granita. I’m tired of gushing, but this was a grower. It was like a salty lassi – on first sip you’re not sure it’s really what you want. But the coldness cut through any strange salty undertones, went to a sweet granita and finished with fresh mint. It was the best palate cleanser I have ever had, hands down. I could probably have drunk an entire mugful, it was that good.

Main

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Butter Chicken is the classic Indian dish. And I think I got something better. Soft, fluffy rice topped with an incredible tomato vegetable sauce. How can I describe this without salivating? Impossible. The vegetables were cut and cooked to perfection and the sauce they were cooked in was rich and decadently spiced. But the highlight of the main? The tiny pot of coconut curry sauce which, if I’d been alone, I would have licked out to make sure none was wasted.

Dessert

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Dessert is a tough one to replicate for vegans with just 2 minutes notice, so I’ll forgive the kitchen for not going to town with this one. I got two scoops of sorbet – one, a beautiful, creamy mango, and the other, a tangy and quite harsh pomegranate. But, happily, they were decorated with shards of raspberry tuile which were TO DIE FOR.

Alfred Prasad, I salute you and your team. You made my week. Thank you for accommodating such a tricky eater. It was all wonderful. And to anyone else who fancies checking out this talented chef, he plans to open his own London eatery soon.

DISCLAIMER: I was on a press trip to Sani Resort, where the event was held, but my views on my blog are my own.