Raspberry Crumble Squares

Raspberry Crumble Squares (12)

For her recent birthday, my mother expressed an interest in a celebratory afternoon tea.  There are few things I love more than afternoon tea, so I was determined not to miss out on the occasion:  I swiftly volunteered to provide the feast myself.  And so I did, with extremely pleasing results.  I put together a vintage tea set in the month leading up to it, and thought long and hard about suitable savoury options (not being a fan of sandwiches generally, it was quite tricky).  But really, of course, it was all about the cake.  Scones were a necessity, and the birthday girl herself requested a jaffa cake.  Then I opted for an easy golden syrup cake, a light and dreamy lemon poppyseed cupcake and these raspberry crumble squares.

afternoon tea

They have a delicious flapjacky base, a layer of zingy fresh raspberries and a sublimely crunchy crumble topping:  very special indeed.  They are also easy to throw together, and keep very well – they kept us going for almost a week afterwards!  The recipe below really does make a lot, so halving it might be a plan.

Now I just need some more ideas for my next afternoon tea – I don’t want my pretty tea set going to waste!

Raspberry Crumble Squares

Very slightly adapted from Ms Cupcake

Ingredients:

350g plain flour

300g rolled oats

100g brown sugar

100g caster sugar

50g ground almonds

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 banana, mashed

2 tsp vanilla extract

250g margarine

1 tsp almond extract

350g raspberry jam

300g fresh raspberries

a handful of flaked almonds

For the crumble:

50g plain flour

50g rolled oats

Method:

Raspberry Crumble Squares (1)

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C and lightly grease a 33x23cm baking tin (or cheat and use a foil one).  Mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar, caster sugar, ground almonds and bicarb with your hands.

Raspberry Crumble Squares (2)

2.  Add the mashed banana, vanilla, margarine and almond extract and give it another good mix with your hands.

Raspberry Crumble Squares (3)

3.  Set aside 350g of the mixture in a separate bowl, and spread the rest into the prepared tin.

 

Raspberry Crumble Squares (5)

4.  Cover evenly with the raspberry jam, then top with the fresh raspberries.

Raspberry Crumble Squares (4)

5.  Mix together the 350g reserved base mixture with the extra flour and oats for the crumble.

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6.  Sprinkle this mixture on top of the fruit.

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7.  Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and scatter over the flaked almonds.

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8.  Return to the oven for 10 more minutes, then set the tin on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Vegan in Manchester: Greens

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Greens is something of a Manchester institution:  a fairly fancy vegetarian restaurant in a fairly fancy part of town (Didsbury).  I have long been a fan of Simon Rimmer, the omnivore who bought the restaurant, learned to cook and kept it all vegetarian.  For any special occasion since my family moved to Manchester, Greens has been the immediate and obvious choice.

I fully expected to love it as much once I became vegan, but truthfully I can’t say that’s the case.  While there are at least three vegan options for starters and mains, none of them are marked on the menu which means dragging over the waiter to check – not a massive inconvenience to anyone, I suppose, but I try to keep my veganism as unobtrusive as possible.  Similarly the wine list isn’t marked either, and I constantly find this the biggest problem in being vegan.

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That’s not to say I’ve completely lost faith with Greens:  the food is still good.  When I was there most recently, my boyfriend and I found the food tasty but not particularly overwhelming.  We kicked off with the taster plate of black pudding (the mayo is not vegan, that was just for my fellow), which was beautifully crisp from deep-frying, but besides that not too different from the kind we buy in the local veggie shops and occasionally add to a breakfast fry-up at home.

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The last two times I’ve been I’ve chosen the same starter and main, and I’m genuinely not sure if that’s because they were so good or just because I wasn’t massively tempted by the other options (and also my belief that where possible I should avoid ordering the same food as my companion).  This scorched broccoli is like a plate of health – I don’t care if it’s doused in oil, I always feel extremely virtuous when I eat it – and the dressing is full of Asian flavours:  ginger, soy sauce, lime and garlic, with hazelnuts thrown in for a bit of crunch.  Occasionally I feel like scorched is too fancy a euphemism for burned, but the richness of the flavours win me over.

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And for my main I’ve had these sublime aubergine koftas twice.  The tabbouleh (capsized by the waiter, not by me, I hasten to point out) I can take or leave, but the koftas are like meatballs in a rich tomato sauce.  They inspire in me that classic dilemma of wanting my beau to share in the joy, but not wanting to lose out on any of the deliciousness myself.  In scenes of unprecedented generosity, I allowed him not one but two spoonfuls.

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Dessert is where Greens falls down for me.  None of the regular menu items are vegan- you actually have to ask and they provide one option only.  This makes it seem like vegans aren’t exactly welcomed, and that wowing the vegan guests is not a priority.  And to be honest, the desserts I’ve had really don’t deserve a place on the regular menu.  Greens isn’t exactly fine dining, but it does aim to be classy and impressive, and the vegan dessert never meets the normal standard.  The first vegan pud I had was this crumble.  The presentation isn’t much to shout about, and it was just a pretty basic crumble.  On my last visit it had changed to a carrot cake – just a slice of cake with no icing.  Come on – we may be vegans but we still want treats!  This time it was back to crumble, though as the picture at the top of the page shows, at least the presentation has improved.

Bistro 1847 in the city centre is still the new kid on the block when it comes to higher end vegan dining in Manchester, and I feel like it may have surpassed Greens.  I just need to convince my fellow to take me for another fancy meal so I can begin a more complete assessment!  They do at least take much more pride in their vegan desserts and mark all their vegan options – small things which make you feel a bit more at home and a bit less of a nuisance.

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Thai Overnight Scramble

Thai Scramble (9)

Breakfast is, as everyone knows, the most important meal of the day.  For the first six months I was back in the UK, I never had any morning classes and could enjoy a leisurely breakfast any day of the week.  Now I’m back working mornings and a hasty bowl of Weetabix is all I can squeeze in.  This means that lazy, luxurious weekend breakfasts are once again worthy of week-long daydreaming.  I usually lean towards something sweet for a treat breakfast, but I do occasionally rustle up something savoury as well.  This scramble is lovely, and preparing it the night before is just a bonus that means you actually can enjoy it for a mid-week pick-me-up breakfast too.

Thai Scramble (10)

The flavours are delicious, and the sponge-like tofu just soaks it all up.  When I became vegan I thought I would miss having eggs for breakfast.  Far from it, when there are alternatives like this!

Thai Overnight Scramble

Serves 4, from Isa Does It

Ingredients:

1 pack of tofu

2 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp Thai red curry paste

100g thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms

3 spring onions, thinly sliced

2 tbsp bread crumbs

1/2 tsp dried thyme

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Thai Scramble (1)

1.  The night before:  crumble the tofu into a mixing bowl.  This is very satisfying!

Thai Scramble (2)

2.  In a ramekin, mix together the lime juice and curry paste.

Thai Scramble (4)

3.  Add the paste to the tofu with the mushrooms, spring onions, breadcrumbs, thyme, basil, coriander, garlic, ginger, turmeric, red pepper flakes and soy sauce.  Mix well with your hands.  Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.

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4.  In the morning, heat the oil in a large pan.  Cook the tofu for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until warm and lightly browned.  Season and serve with toast.

Thai Scramble (11)

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Vegan in Teesside: The Waiting Room

Waiting Room 1

Recently I saw a list of the top thirty vegetarian restaurants in the country.  My initial reaction was, of course, to drool Homer Simpson-style at all the feasts that awaited me.  My second reaction was one of outrage:  why no Waiting Room?  Being a vegetarian teenager in Teesside wasn’t particularly a challenge:  there weren’t exactly exciting offerings, but the majority of places at least provided a solid veggie option.  Now that I’m living in Manchester and enjoying the range of entirely meat-free restaurants and the prominence of marked vegan dishes on menus, I can see what a struggle it would be to still live in Middlesbrough with my current diet.  It was slim pickings, but there was always this ray of sunshine:  The Waiting Room, situated right by the train station in Eaglescliffe.

Waiting Room 2

It is such a good place, in fact, that I made a day trip back to the north east to catch up with a dear friend there rather than opting for our usual middle ground of York.  The Waiting Room is fairly unassuming from the outside, simply inhabiting the ground floor of a terraced house, and the decor is similarly low-key:  a selection of mismatched tables dotted through what would have been the living room, a pretty old fireplace, the menu displayed on a large blackboard (an extension at the back of the property houses a more modern looking section).  It’s easy to feel at home there.

Vegan options aren’t marked, but are readily provided by the helpful staff:  there were two vegan options for each course, and a couple of savoury dishes that could be adapted.  I chose the cashew, carrot and apple loaf, as it was a Sunday and I fancied something traditional.  It had to be served without the non-vegan white wine sauce, but as someone who is partial to dry food it wasn’t a problem.  The loaf was very tasty and moist, accompanied by roasted vegetables and some beautiful sesame seed-coated roast potatoes.  It was filling yet sufficiently light:  the perfect Sunday dinner balance.

We needed a bit of a breather before tackling dessert, but there was no doubt that it would be done.  I went for the summer pudding- the first time I’ve ever had one.  The layer of fruit in the middle was zingy and refreshing, bursting with tart berries.  It was sublime.  Even with the rain falling outside, it tasted of summer.

The Waiting Room may be the best veggie restaurant in Teesside by virtue of being the only one, but it is also pretty stellar by any standards and definitely deserves a place in any top thirty list.

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Vegan Adventures in London Part Two

Sushi 2

On our second evening in London we had a Japanese feast at Itadaki Zen, a vegan sushi restaurant.  I had been looking forward to it immensely.  Japanese cuisine has always somewhat passed me by:  I wrote sushi off as being fishy, and found vegetarian food difficult to come by when I actually went to Tokyo (just poor preparation on my part, I suspect now).  Now I’m trying to get into it a bit more, with the help of vegan-friendly places like this and Moshimo in Brighton.  The menu was a bit nonsensical to me, but I opted for the tempura set menu -who can turn down tempura, after all?  It got off to a promising start with this plate of assorted nibbles:

Starters

Followed by the sushi pictured at the top of the page.  The one on the left, topped with a piece of deep-fried seaweed, was absolutely spectacular.  The tempura itself also exceeded expectations.  The dark coloured deep-fried seaweed was beautiful, but the crispy vegetables, heavy on the onions, were the real stand out.

Tempura

My companions both opted for the chapche set, which included a vegetabley noodle dish, miso soup, spring rolls with more of a tofu than vegetable filling, and some tasty sushi rolls:

Chapche

Sushi 1

All of us decided to go for the irresistibly named zen cakes for dessert.  They are made without sugar, so were not too sweet, which was quite nice after a big meal.  They are summed up as scones with a slightly crispy edge, which may sound like it’s a bad thing, but that’s not the case at all.

Zen Cake

After so much good food, a lengthy evening walk was required.  As someone who usually gets around London on the underground, it was a real treat to explore on foot and see some of the spectacular buildings, old and new.

Ms Cupcakes

Sunday was yet another hot day when we needed plenty of fuel for our adventures.  A trip to London wouldn’t be complete without a trip to my baking idol, Ms Cupcake, in her Brixton home.  The Ferrero Rocher cake of hers that I had at Brighton VegFest remains very near the top of my cake league table, so I was obviously very excited about giving another one a go.  This time we split the Oreo and Bakewell cakes, and both of them were tasty and moist and absolutely heaped with icing.  Well worth a visit!  It was also my first ever trip to Brixton, and I loved it – there was just so much going on.  After our cakes, we went along to an art fair spreading along a nearby street.  There were some excellent paintings, if only everything weren’t so expensive.

Art Fair

Finally, before jumping on our train home, we popped over to the Boiler House market, which promised several vegan options.  There were at least three stands which proclaimed themselves vegan-friendly, and a few others where we enquired about spring rolls and dumplings and got mixed responses, for example:

Me:  Do you use egg in the batter?

Market People:  Yes.

Me:  Oh, nevermind.  (Turn away)

Market People:  I mean, no!  No egg!

So we played it safe and stuck with places that brandished an actual “vegan” sign.  We went for these colourful, hearty, amazing Ethiopian plates of food.

Ethiopian Wrap

Ethopian Plate

Last time I was in London I ate Ethiopian as well, though it’s not something we see much of in Manchester.  But it’s so tasty, I am determined to track some down.

Bellies heavier, wallets lighter, we made our way back to the north feeling well fed, thoroughly entertained, and pretty exhausted.  It was a marvellous adventure and I shall start saving some pennies for the next one.

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Vegan Adventures in London Part One

Afternoon Tea

Allow me to break with tradition and not share a recipe this week:  I’ve got too much other food to talk about!  At the weekend I went for a trip to London again, armed with another list of vegan-friendly places to hit.  Generally speaking, when we go adventuring I plan the food and my fellow plans the activities and we both do our jobs alarmingly well.  So when we arrived on Friday I took him for an early dinner at Tibits before he guided us over to the theatre for our evening entertainment.

Tibits

Tibits, for the uninitiated, is a vegetarian buffet restaurant where you pay by weight of your plate.  If it were all-you-can-eat, we may well have missed the start of our show.  There was a great selection of food, and vegan options were well marked.  Despite the abundance of fried food on my plate (I was on holiday, after all), it was actually the other dishes that I preferred:  the pasta salad, and the tofu-based twist on the Caprese salad.  Everything was really fresh and delicious, and it was quite nice being able to peck at so many different dishes.  Unsurprisingly, dessert was the highlight.  I’ve been waiting a long time for a vegan sticky toffee pudding, and this one is reportedly -and deservedly – always on the menu:

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The food fuelled us through the evening, when we went to see The Book of Mormon, the musical by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  As someone who has never seen a single episode of South Park, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I was also mildly concerned that our cheap seats up in the gods would hamper our enjoyment.  Fortunately, I was delighted on all counts.  We could see all the action (except that we suspect we missed out on a Darth Vader boogie at some point) and it was hilarious.

Marc Bolan

Saturday kicked off with a visit to the Marc Bolan memorial not far from where we were staying, followed by a real treat:  afternoon tea at The Coach and Horses, a vegetarian pub.  I went there for Sunday roast last time I was in London and was jealous of all the afternoon teas taking place around me.  I thought it worth enquiring about a vegan option, and happily, they said it could easily be done. It can be seen above in its full glory.  Vegetarians get three options of sandwiches, but we only got cucumber.  I hate cucumber with a fiery, irrational passion, but these were actually quite tasty.  Possibly I was just swept up in the fanciness of the occasion.  The scones were also a delight.  Obviously though, I was counting down to the cakes.

Cupcake

The cupcake was a touch heavy, but very nice -there were chunks of dark chocolate in the sponge, and the icing was lovely and rich.  We had to have a bit of a breather before embarking on the quadruple layer carrot cake (we certainly got our money’s worth!).

Carrot Cake

Again, it wasn’t the most breath-takingly amazing carrot cake I’d ever had, but as part of the whole experience it was really lovely and I applaud The Coach and Horses for catering to the vegan market.  There’s nothing so civilised as an afternoon tea, even with my uncouth gentleman friend stuffing down his sandwiches in one mouthful!

South Bank

We spent the afternoon basking in the sun on the south bank and sightseeing in Somerset House, working up an appetite for our next meal.

Somerset House

More on that to follow in part two.

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Giant Choc Peanut Cookies

Choc Peanut Cookies (16)

This weekend was one of massive sporting disappointments.  Not only for the likes of Roger Federer, Mark Cavendish and the Colombians, but also for me and my thwarted plans.

Manchester is home to an outdoor World Cup fan park which shows all the matches in a Brazilian-beach-style venue.  Despite the decor, the weather remains strictly Mancunian:  we had planned to watch both Friday evening games there, but were driven indoors by the incessant rain.  The fresh air and lively atmosphere would have most likely kept me awake, whereas in the comfort of my own home I managed to nod off and completely miss the Colombian penalty.  I fared little better on Saturday night, when my boyfriend roused me from my initial slumber with the exciting news that a penalty shoot-out awaited, with a change of goalkeeper no less!  I promptly fell back asleep and missed all the drama.  Curse these late kick-offs.

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But those disappointments were nothing compared to our Saturday attempt to get to the Tour de France finish line in Harrogate.  My beau is a die-hard Tour fan (Tourette?), and I had spent hours (or a while, at least) reading articles about it and listening to his enthusiastic and patient explanations of how it all worked.  We set off on Saturday, buzzing with excitement.  Our train from Manchester was delayed, but we remained optimistic.  That optimism died a swift death when we arrived at Leeds to change trains and were told to join a three hour queue in order to get to Harrogate.  Three hours!

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After a brief look around the colourful, Tour-themed phone boxes, we tracked down a vegan cafe and had a freezing cold slice of cake and a warm milkshake (it seemed like we weren’t the only ones having a bad day), and began our journey back to Manchester, defeated.  Our spirits rose again in the evening when we watched the excitement of the Tour highlights and my fellow was delighted to see a rider from his fantasy team take the yellow jersey.  Making up for the poor cake and shake, we also rebounded with an absolute feast of a Chinese takeaway.  All, apparently, was not lost.  It was a frustrating day, but sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Speaking of cookies…

Choc Peanut Cookies (9)

Giant Choc Peanut Cookies

Slightly adapted from Vegan With A Vengeance

Ingredients:

250g plain flour

200g rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

175ml rapeseed oil

127g chocolate peanut butter

200g brown sugar

125ml soya milk

3 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Choc Peanut Cookies (1)

2.  Mix together the flour, oats, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Choc Peanut Cookies (3)

3.  In a separate bowl, combine the oil, peanut butter, sugar, milk and vanilla.

Choc Peanut Cookies (4)

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until everything is well combined.

Choc Peanut Cookies (5)

5.  Roll handfuls of the dough into balls, place them on the prepared baking tray and flatten.  Leave plenty of room for spreading.

Choc Peanut Cookies (7)

6.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.

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7.  Stand on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Choc Peanut Cookies (11)

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