Cafe Gossip: Vegetarian, Coffee & Tea Room

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62 Broadway Market
Hackney
E8 4QJ

I adore Broadway Market. Infact, I’d go as far as saying it’s probably one of my favourite parts of east London. I often take a wander down the market on a Saturday morning and have a rummage through the book stalls and a nibble at the olive stalls.

Visiting the area on a Wednesday afternoon when the market wasn’t on was quite a different experience. It was so calm and quiet. Definitely not the usual hussle and bussle of a Saturday.

I decided to visit Cafe Gossip, a quaint little coffee and tea room which also sells vegetarian and vegan sandwiches and cakes. What a treat! It was so quiet in there so perfect for chilling on a big orange sofa with a good book. They even provide their own small selection of books for public perusal.

Food wise, I opted for a big avocado, hummus, sun-dried tomato and basil sandwich on lovely wholemeal bread. I had a large soy latte to drink but in hindsight I wish I’d opted for one of their many tea selections. As you can see in the pictures, they even sell handmade tea pots. I may just have to buy one next time I visit!

As I was so engrossed in my book, I ended up staying well over an hour and didn’t feel rushed to leave like you do in some coffee places.

So if you fancy sampling a new type of tea or just wish to escape the chaos on market day, this little gem is definitely worth a visit!
http://www.broadwaymarket.co.uk/shops_details.php?shop_ID=34
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Creamy butternut squash and sage speltotto

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Speltotto?!

Those of you who are fans of Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall will know that this is a risotto made with pearled spelt rather than arborio rice used in most regular risottos.

I’d never even contemplated using spelt until I stumbled upon it when using one of the River Cottage recipes. When I researched the health benefits of spelt, I realised that it is very high in protein which most vegetarians don’t get enough of in their diet. Spelt also has a low GI and therefore releases energy slowly. I decided that I would use it in all my risotto dishes from now on.

I bought the Sharpham Park brand of spelt, available from Waitrose and good health food shops. For more information on Sharpham Farm products, visit the website http://www.sharphampark.com/

I’d never made this risotto (speltotto) before and was making it up as I went along. Nevertheless, it turned out to be scrumptious and made enough for 3-4 portions.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into small chunks
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250g pearled spelt
A small knob of margarine
100ml dry white wine
800ml hot veg stock
A handful of fresh sage, chopped
1 1/2 tbs creme fraiche
A few sprinkles of grated veggie hard cheese (see earlier post)
Salt and black pepper for seasoning

METHOD
1) As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I really like my butternut squash soft so I boil it for around 8 mins, drain then set aside for later.
2) In the meantime, heat the oil in a large pan and sizzle the onion and garlic until golden.
3) On a medium heat, add the spelt and margarine, stirring until most of the oil has been absorbed.
4) Stir in the white wine until it has almost all been absorbed by the spelt.
5) Keep the hot stock in a pan on a very low heat and add a scoop to the speltotto.
6) Stir until the liquid has been absorbed and repeat this step for around 40 minutes or until the spelt is of your preferred texture.
7) As you stir in the stock, add a few sprinkles of sage at a time. Sage can have quite a strong flavour so keep tasting the speltotto until you’re happy with the strength of the flavour.
8) When almost all of your stock has been absorbed, add the soft butternut squash and stir in the creme fraiche.
9) Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and leave to stand for a couple of minutes.
10) Serve with some grated vegetarian hard cheese and a leaf of sage for garnishing.

I served this up with some warm crusty bread and will be eating the remainder for dinner tonight!

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Vegetarians and Hard Cheese

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“Would you like Parmesan with that?”

“No no no!” Is what I repeatedly reply to waiters in restaurants.

You’d think that after specifying my dietary requirements upon arriving at restaurants, waiters would know better than to offer a vegetarian Parmesan. Unfortunately, what most waiters (and some chefs) fail to realise is that most hard cheeses contain calf rennet, making them most definitely not suitable for vegetarians.

A couple of weeks back, I went for some food at a particular Italian cafe on Hoxton Square. I’d been there before and was impressed with the food. On this occasion, I opted for a spinach and ricotta tortellini dish which was advertised on the menu as vegetarian.

The dish looked delicious and as I tucked in, I realised that something wasn’t quite right. To my horror, it dawned on me that the pasta I’d been eating was covered with Parmesan!! Noooo!!

My boyfriend complained to the owner/head chef who…no word of a lie…laughed and couldn’t comprehend what the “fuss” was about. I then had to explain why Parmesan isn’t vegetarian-friendly and fully expressed my discontent at the fact the tortellini had been incorrectly advertised as suitable for vegetarians.

The owner continued to laugh and deny any wrong-doing until I had to resort to digging my iPhone out of my bag and show him that I was in fact correct (thank you Google). He did apologise but I was past caring by this point. The fact of the matter is, people who own and cook in restaurants should know the full contents and ingredients of the food that they serve. Ok so vegetarianism is my choice but what about people with specific allergies?

Anyway, I’ve just returned from a shop at Waitrose with a big smile on my face. They sold a veggie-friendly hard cheese, as you can see in the picture. Ive been trying to hunt this down for ages! I’ve stocked up with a few blocks as who knows if they’ll still have it there next time I visit. This will make a perfect addition to the creamy butternut squash and sage spelt risotto that I’m cooking up this evening. Here’s one happy veggie!

My favourite vegetarian cookbook!

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These days, I generally prefer to experiment with my own ingredients and recipes as I sometimes feel restricted when following the recipes of others. However, when I find myself struggling for ideas there is one book I often turn to for inspiration; ‘River Cottage Veg Everyday’ by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

This book was a present from my brother and I hadn’t actually seen the Channel 4 cooking show at the time of receiving the book. As soon as I looked through it I became excited by the vast range of curries, casseroles, risottos and pasta dishes.

What I love about this book is how versatile the recipes are and how they can be adapted to suit personal tastes. For instance, when I first made the dhal (p238), I did find it a tiny bit bland so I added a dash of garam masala and stirred in a stock cube for added flavour.

Even my meat-loving boyfriend has used this cookbook, making us a peppery/egg dish called chachouka for breakfast (p20). Some other favourites from the book include a squash and chickpea stew (p30), kale and mushroom lasagne (p34) and a tomato and mozzarella risotto (p272).

The book is currently half price on Amazon so definitely worth a purchase in my opinion!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1408812126/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1375029648&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX110_SY190

Street Feast, Dalston Yard

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What to do on a Friday evening? My friend suggested this quirky little food festival just tucked away behind Dalston Junction overground. Ok, I wasn’t expecting the whole place to be filled with vegetarian food stalls but I thought there’s got to be a couple of organic veggie/vegan options, right? Wrong. Whilst undeniably a great place to have a drink and soak up the atmosphere, unless you’re happy to be surrounded by smells of fried squid balls and barbecue wings then this is not the place for you.

Did I have to sit there quietly starving whilst watching my friends munch on meat? Thankfully not as I found one stall that had some veggie options which were right up my street. As you can see from the picture, I chose a pizza option. Your eyes are not mistaken, that is infact PURPLE pizza. Beetroot-infused dough with goats cheese and caramelised red onion to be precise, alongside a mozzarella and basil pizza. DELICIOUS! Thank you Born & Raised British Pizza!

So Dalston Yard Street Feast. Great if you’re a meat eater. A slightly overwhelming attack on the senses if you’re vegetarian but worth a visit if only for the pizza and cute little cupcake stall!Street Feast

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Spinach and feta wholegrain lasagna with portobello mushrooms

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A busy week of end of term chaos, Lovebox festival and a wedding party have meant that I haven’t been cooking much, thus not blogging! However, this evening I’ve been back in the kitchen in great need of a hearty but healthy home cooked meal!

I came across the spelt wholegrain lasagna sheets in an organic food shop on Broadway Market. I generally prefer to use wholegrain pasta so I was delighted to stumble upon these sheets. It means I can make a delicious lasagna whilst also upping my fibre intake.

Now this is not a dish that I had made before. I told my boyfriend that I would cook him a lasagna but wanted to make one with a twist. When buying the feta, check the packet carefully as not all feta is suitable for vegetarians! Here’s what I did:

INGREDIENTS
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
2tsp dried oregano
2tbs tomato purée
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 tbs red wine
1tsp sugar

250g baby spinach, chopped
800ml boiling water
200g feta, crumbled
200g mozzarella ball; grate half and slice the remainder
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of black pepper

2 good quality portobello mushrooms, sliced
6 wholegrain spelt lasagna sheets, available from good organic/health food shops

METHOD
1) Pre-heat the oven to 180c. For the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a pan. Add onion, garlic and oregano and sizzle on a medium heat until lightly golden.
2) Stir in the purée and tomatoes and reduce the heat.
3) Add the red wine, stir and add the sugar. Once you’re happy with the flavour, set aside.
4) For the mixture, put the spinach in a large sieve and pour over the hot water. As the spinach shrinks, allow to drain.
5) Place the feta and grated mozzarella in a mixing bowl and add the spinach. Stir in the egg and season with black pepper.
6) Take a 30x20cm oven-proof dish and pour half of the tomato sauce onto the bottom then place 3 lasagna sheets on top.
7) Spread half of the cheese mix on top then add half of the mushrooms.
8) Repeat steps 6 and 7, sprinkle with black pepper, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
9) Remove foil and arrange the sliced mozzarella on top.
10) Put the dish back in the oven for a further 20 minutes or until golden and bubbling.
11) Leave to stand for 15 minutes and serve.

Now this sounds lengthy and complicated but it was actually really easy.

What you serve this with is down to personal taste but I chose some watercress with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Vegetarian heaven that even my meat eating boyfriend approved of! What’s more, there’s 4 more portions left for later on in the week..or at least there was until we had seconds!

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Grilled halloumi and tomatoes, served with olives and cous cous

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Along with goats cheese, halloumi is one of my favourite types of cheese for adding to a main meal. Its chewy texture makes it a wonderful meat substitute. I grilled it in fresh mint for an extra refreshing flavour. The ingredients below actually made enough for two moderate sized portions so perfect for a light dinner tonight and tomorrow!

INGREDIENTS
100g cous cous
300ml boiling water
2tbs olive oil
A few leaves of fresh mint, chopped
100g halloumi, thickly sliced
100g cherry tomatoes
50g mixed pitted olives (I used the fresh ones)
A few sprigs of fresh coriander

METHOD
1) Place cous cous in a bowl, add boiling water, cover and leave to stand.
2) Place tomatoes and halloumi separated on a baking tray. Mix the mint and olive oil then drizzle over the halloumi.
3) Place under the grill and cook for approximately 10 minutes on each side or until slightly golden.
4) When the halloumi and tomatoes are ready, leave to stand for a minute and fluff up the cous cous with a fork.
5) When serving up, I dished half into my bowl and half into my tupperware. Mix the cous cous with tomatoes so that it absorbs the juice a little.
6) Add the olives, cut the halloumi into smaller pieces and place on top.
7) Finish with a few sprigs of coriander for extra flavour.

That was delicious! I feel comfortably full and can’t wait for dinner time tomorrow!

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Linguine with grilled tomato and courgette, served with goats cheese and rocket

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After a day of sunbathing, I really fancied something light yet flavoursome. I had some linguine in my cupboard so played around with this concoction!

INGREDIENTS
1 courgette, sliced
125g cherry tomatoes
1 tbs olive oil
75g linguine
20g soft goats cheese
A handful of rocket

1) Place courgette and tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and a little black pepper if you like.
2) Place under the grill and set the timer for 20 minutes. Keep checking and turn veg over when necessary.
3) In the meantime, boil the linguine to suit your tasting. For me, the softer the better!
4) Once the veg is slightly charred and golden on both sides, remove from the oven and set aside for a couple of minutes.
5) Place linguine in a large pasta bowl, tipping the grilled veg on top.
6) Stir in the goats cheese and serve with the rocket on top.

A very simple, yet filling meal which incorporates some of my favourite ingredients!

The Reliance, Old Street

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My boyfriend and I were having some post-work drinks around Hoxton last week and decided to head somewhere to eat. Much to my dismay, he had a craving for “a pub burger”, so I assumed that wherever we ended up, my choices of vegetarian food would be limited. We headed to the Reliance near Old Street as it has the added attraction of a great jukebox selection. Vegetarian mains were limited so I opted for the Greek Mezze platter for two…just for me!I think the picture speaks for itself; stuffed vine leaves, hummus, tzatzi, olives…sensational! So if you’re in the area, I’d definitely recommend visiting The Reliance!

http://www.thereliancepub.co.uk/

Quorn bolognaise with wholewheat spaghetti

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What to cook on a Wednesday evening for one

From this recipe, you should have plenty of bolognaise left over for two more servings. All you’ll need to cook next time is the spaghetti!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 100g closed-cup mushrooms
  • 1 tbs tomato puree
  • 300g Quorn mince
  • a dash of red wine (and a glass to enjoy with the meal!)
  • 500g sieved tomato passata
  • 75g wholewheat spaghetti
  • handful of basil leaves
  • a few sprinkles of grated cheddar (vegetarian of course!)

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion, garlic and oregano.
  2. Sizzle on a medium heat for 2 minutes then add the mushrooms. After a minute, stir in the tomato puree.
  3. Add the Quorn mince and allow to sizzle for 5 minutes. If the mixture starts to get a little dry, add a drop more olive oil.
  4. Pour in a drop of red wine and stir.
  5. Add the passata, cover and turn down the heat. Leave to cook gently for 20 minutes. Occasionally check; if the bolognaise is looking a little dry, just add water and stir.
  6. In the meantime, boil some water in a pan and add the spaghetti. Remember, wholewheat spaghetti takes a good deal longer to cook that white spaghetti!
  7. Serve bolognaise on top of the spaghetti with fresh basil leaves and a sprinkling of cheese.