Hi Everyone! So good to be back...
I had a wonderful time in Wales, full of gorgeous vegan food as always.
First stop was the Mulberry Bush - the little organic shop and vegetarian/vegan café in Lampeter. I didn't actually manage to take a photo of my food as it totally slipped my mind when we wandered upstairs and bumped into an old friend. I had the vegan dish of the day which was a creamy mushroom pie, accompanied by some very tasty beetroot, carrot and broccoli salads. My father opted for the vegetarian quiche, spicy potato wedges and a salad.
We did a bit of shopping afterwards, as my father hadn't got any supplies in, so I got some gorgeous Sojade blueberry yogurt from the shop downstairs and then went across to Sainsbury's to stock up on tomatoes, cucumber, bread, and some Good Life nut cutlets. These cutlets were extremely good, I'd really like to sample more in their range. I have discovered they are available in the Health Store at the Square in Tallaght so I'll definitely be buying some again in the near future. We cooked the cutlets in dad's halogen oven (the wonder-oven!!) and topped them last minute with some cherry tomatoes and Cheezly vegan cheddar cheese, and ate them with dad's homegrown parsley and vegan butter-covered baby "charlotte" potatoes, baby broad beans and peas. Perfect!
Another meal I ate while at home was a mixed salad with two savoury vegan pastries we picked up at the farmer's market in Aberystwyth. This stall, run by a company called Parsnip Ship, was the only one to label its food as vegan. I think there were about 4 different things I could have chosen from, but I decided to bring home the mini Thai butternut squash pie, and a type of Indian bhaji that contained beans and many different grated vegetables. They were both really good and I shared them with my dad who loved them too. I'd definitely go back and get more on my next visit!
While in Aberystwyth we also popped into Lidl and I found that they now sell bags of vegetable crisps and a lentil soup which is labelled as suitable for vegans. I bought this soup but didn't get around to eating it, so I'm going to purchase a tin in Dublin and will let you know what it's like. Other snacks I picked up were some maple syrup roasted cashews, macadamias and almonds... WOW. These were fabulous! A really good find for vegans as they're quite like honey roast nuts but even nicer, and totally guilt-free! The cracked black pepper and salted cashews and macadamias in the picture were nice as well, but I have a sweet tooth so definitely preferred the maple ones. After shopping we stopped for a well earned drink at a café where they sold Teapigs products where I had one of the nicest chai soya lattes I've ever tasted, so I decided to buy a box to take home. My dad had never tried chai before as he doesn't drink tea, but he says he's going to order one next time he's at the Mecca. I seem to have got several people into chai over the last year or so, but wasn't expecting to convert a seasoned tea-hater into a chai-lover! The café also sold mint and vanilla versions, which I haven't heard of before, although I think it may just be a regular chai with a dash of flavoured extract or syrup added to the mix.
One of the evenings, one of my father's friends invited us over for a meal. I was seriously impressed at the lengths she went to, seeing as I think she finds it difficult to understand what I can/can't eat! We had a large mushroom stuffed with hummus, topped with crispy breadcrumbs, encircled with cherry tomatoes. The main was a version of Glamorgan Sausages, a well-known traditional Welsh dish. These sausages were wrapped in pastry and made with vegan cheese, breadcrumbs, leeks, herbs and spices. I must get the recipe and post it here, as they were delish!! My father loved them too, but the other non-vegans weren't too impressed. Dessert was a sweet gooseberry crumble, made with fruit from the gardens at local National Trust property, Llanerchaeron, where our friend is a volunteer. I never used to be keen on gooseberries from our garden as a child, but then again when I was younger I didn't like cooked fruit very much on the whole... this time though, I could have eaten it until I popped!
After eating such wonderful homecooked meals I was very disappointed with the one restaurant we did go to. I was expecting great things of the Belle Vue, seeing as this pub/restaurant caters for vegans on request. One of my father's colleagues is a vegan and eats there regularly, so imagine my shock when I received the most dry, bland and inedible dish imaginable. This "maize cake", as it was called (although it looked and tasted more like a lump of clay to me), was so dense and stodgy with no flavour to it whatsoever. It came on a bed of buckwheat (which is also quite dry, so you can imagine these two combined was not at all good) accompanied with roasted peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes and olives. There was no sauce to moisten it at all, and when offered sauce I was only given the choice of mustard, ketchup or brown sauce! I'd have been happy with just a larger portion of the buckwheat and the vegetables, to be honest, and I left pretty much all of the maize cake, so I hope the chef got my point!! I very rarely like to make a fuss and complain about something when someone else is paying, but in hindsight I really should have said something, especially as my father and other people who tried it also thought it was rather disgusting. I was very glad that I managed to eat quite a bit of the starter - shared platters of crusty bread, olives, pickles, hummus and balsamic syrup. This was the meal's only saving grace! I certainly won't be asking to go back to the Belle Vue ever again, not just because of the food, but because service was terribly slow as well. Everyone else ordered meat and seemed to like their dishes, but there seemed to be a bit too much mashed potato heaped onto the plates. Everyone else's food came with some sort of lovely looking sauce, so it was quite annoying that mine came with nothing. Even a plain tomatoey sauce would have been very welcome.
It's a real shame when you go out somewhere and have a disappointing meal which cost quite a bit, then go somewhere else the next day and hardly pay anything for a huge plate of delicious vegan food. We went to the Royal Welsh Show during my visit, and I immediately spotted an Indian Cuisine stall selling lots of vegan/vegetarian options. For £8.50 dad and I shared a huge mixed platter of vegetable curry, lentil curry, onion bhaji, pilau rice, and naan bread (which he ate as I wasn't sure what was in it). We were so stuffed! It was such a good find. I suppose the Royal Welsh isn't a very typical place for a vegan to visit, seeing as it's an agricultural show and you're surrounded by meat and cheese from local farms, farmers showing their livestock in the ring and row upon row of stalls promoting dairy products and cattle feed supplements. I'm not sure why, but this doesn't really bother me at all. I guess it bothers me a bit that the money you spend on the entrance fee goes to the NFU, but then again not all farmers are dairy and animal farmers, so I try to put it to the back of my mind. Going to the Royal Welsh has been a family tradition since I was small and I wanted to go there and experience it again. The main reason also being to take photographs of the event. It was very enjoyable walking around the flower and vegetable tents, watching the Section D stallions in the main ring, talking to the people at the Greyhound Rescue Wales stall, sampling the world's first organic whiskey made by Da Mhile, tasting the Co-op's new Moroccan chickpea hummus, eating some yummy fresh cherries, meeting some cute otters, and wandering around various wildlife conservation and alternative energy tents and stalls. We were lucky with the weather and it didn't rain too badly, although there was still quite a bit of mud!
So I had a very enjoyable time. Gerry was ecstatic to see me when I returned, bounding all over the place. My dad got him a present - a ball that makes about 20 different zoo animal noises - so it was hilarious watching his reactions to it. I was also quite shocked to see that he'd put on a bit of weight, seeing as my boyfriend (who couldn't make it to Wales this time as he couldn't get time off work) is afraid to let him off the lead in case he doesn't come back to him, so he hadn't been burning off much energy. I've had to put him on a little diet, with restricted treats, and am going to take him on extra long walks to places where he can start running with other dogs again! Poor little Gerry!!
Since being back, I've been researching starting my own photography business, which I'm extremely excited about. There will be more news to come on that when I've actually got the ball rolling. On my return I also did a big food shop and have discovered that Tesco are selling Innocent's new Veg Pots half price, at only €1.99 each. I bought five of them and shall review them in my next blog post. All of them are labelled vegan and look like they are going to be really good - a brilliant idea for a healthy, quick, work lunch. I don't think I'd pay full price for them though... well I suppose it depends on how much I like them. Watch this space! :)
I'll leave you with a few random photos from my visit.