Going on holiday can be a stressful time when vegan. If food isn’t something you care a whole lot about, or can survive on not a lot, you can get by. But if, like me, you love food and love being able to try new things and maybe even introduce others to some vegan food, then preparation is key.
Eating out in foreign lands brings with it a host of challenges; probably more so than self-catering. But the latter usually means a lot of foresight and planning. My parents, sisters and I planned a trip to Wales for 3 days in a cottage. The cottage has a big open kitchen and the weekend provided plenty of opportunity for great sharing food. The difficulty: I was the only vegan out of 11 of us.
Amongst them was a baby, a toddler, a pescatarian, a couple of flexitarian/veggie-friendly eaters, and the rest largely meat-and-plenty-of-dairy-eaters. So the challenge was, obviously to feed me, but also to fit in with everyone elses food habits, in addition to providing a few vegan samplers to those who don’t often dabble. In summary: it was going to be a busy but fun weekend of cooking and baking.
The accommodation we were staying in was a couple of miles off the nearest main road, up a steep hill. We’d ordered a food delivery from Tesco and after arriving were starting to regret it. Fortunately, and in true Welsh charm, a cheery delivery driver confidently pulled up outside the cottage, informing us it wasn’t his first delivery there. Decent luck!
Once news of a pizza oven filtered, there was no further discussion: Friday was pizza night. And try as I may, I was unsuccessful in securing an artisan vegan cheese from Brighton before I left. But, armed with a Violife Mozarella block, I was easily able to assimilate into a dairy & meat pizza fest. I’m not a vegan cheese convert myself, so I didn’t try to convince anyone to try mine, but used sparingly, I’m on board with vegan pizza and this was no exception.
I topped with peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushroom, basil and vegan bacon.
I took it upon myself to make a seasonal pumpkin soup. I’d nabbed a recipe I’d seen shared on Instagram. So with half our party setting out on a walk I began the arduous job of “peeling” the pumpkin. I don’t think I’ve ever peeled a pumpkin; the skin is tough. So, armed with the sharpest knife in the house, I set about pain-stakingly peeling the skin off.
The best part of 2 hours later, and I had the pumpkin roasting, the onion, garlic, potatoes and stock bubbling away on the stove, and I could finally catch a rest. Finally, after several batched trips from the blender into a second saucepan, it was complete.
Lovingly served with roasted potato skins, pumpkin seeds, kale and crispy chickpeas. With hot, crusty bread on the side it was an Autumn treat to savour. Everyone loved it.
To start, the non-vegans enjoyed a combo of smoked salmon & cream cheese and grape & goats cheese crostonis. My sister made some avocado and tomato ones for me which were actually really good and goes to show a delicious vegan alternative is never that far away. As part of a second appetiser (we were on holiday…) a little earlier on, I’d started prepping my Buffalo califlower wings from the BOSH! cookbook. Bit of a different vibe to canapés, but I love caulfilower and thought something different would be appreciated.
It was quite fiddly to get the ratios right on the construction - I got through my breadcrumbs quickly, and the remaining got a bit gloopy. I suspect being more careful when dipping and breading might help.
I held back on the hot sauce a bit (although needn’t have really), and barely used half of the huge cauliflower that turned up, but the end result went down an absolute treat. Helped out by the hot roasting oven of the Aga - and the fact we ended up leaving them to rest for an hour or so, before reheating - the result was a crispy, chewy, melty “wing” with a decent amount of heat. The ranch on the side was slathered on with equal levels of gusto.
Another vegan success.
A salmon fillet was on the menu for the main for all but me. I swapped out for a simple Frys schnitzel duo, alongside quinoa and roasted veg, which did the job just fine for me. Special mention also to the English Cheesecake Company chocolate cookie cheesecake another of my sister’s picked up for me. Decadant, and very unhealthy but completely moreish and no giveaways it was vegan but for the price tag 😆.
After so many delicious vegan brunches at Tilt, I decided I wanted to try making my own. Armed with some rustic, homemade hash browns I’d made the day before, I got up early to prepare a vegan feast for the Sunday morning. I was pleased the whole party opted to try the vegan brunch, putting aside yesterday’s sausage, bacon and eggs start to the holiday.
The final plate consisted of tofu scramble, Linda McCartney sausage, hash brown, avocado, roasted tomato & mushroom, homemade hummus and toast. Quite a feast.
The scrambled tofu was delicious, and the first I’ve made with the magic ingredient: Kala namak (black salt). Kala namak is manufactured from the salts mined around the Himalayas and is renowned for its strong “eggy” aroma. In all honestly, it wasn’t as potent as I was expecting though; so I may be a little more liberal in my usage next time!.This recipe, again from the boys at BOSH!, used both firm and silken tofu for a very rich and protein-strong egg substitute.
The hummus I’d made the previous afternoon and was the dud of the weekend. At home, with my Magimix, I’ve mastered Cookie and Kate’s delish smooth, silky hummus recipe. But in Wales, with just a small blender and Nutribullet, I battled hard but ultimately was defeated when trying to blend the dry, sticky ingredients required for hummus. It turned out OK in that it was edible, but was a far cry from the batch I made at home a few weeks ago.
I don’t often cook for 9 people, so it was a bit of a challenge. Next time, I’d cook more food, not being quite so strict in counting out ingredients, to allow for second helpings.
Sunday morning was spent making a coffee cake. I’ve never been particularly into baking, but since being vegan, baked goods are a big deal! Finding a vegan cake out is like golddust. With a bit of help, I managed to bake a tasty - if a little vertically lacking - frosted coffee cake (recipe from [lovingitvegan.com]). A combination of 8-inch tins instead of 7, an Aga oven of unknown temperature, and the seeming lack of a significant enough raising agent (plain flour + 1 tsp baking soda). I ended up using baking powder, not soda, so this may have been to its detriment.
The cake was very sweet (too much so for my tastes), but the flavour was delicious. The texture was great and the coffee flavour really came through. Baking in a foreign kitchen is tricky, especially when you’re not a strong baker.
To accompany the cream tea, I made two lots of vegan sandwiches: hummus, avocado and cucumber; and roasted pepper and pesto. I realised afterwards the plan - and more conventional combination - would have been hummus & red pepper; and pesto, cucumber & avocado. Hey ho. The pesto was store bought, but all the other ingredients were homemade. You do have to get a bit more creative with vegan sandwich fillings, but it’s worth the effort!
The non-vegan sandwiches were egg mayo, smoked salmon and cream cheese, cheddar and chutney, and cucumber. And honestly they all went down just as well as each other.
This weekend was a great reminder of a few things. The first, family bonding time is so important; I really did nothing else for 3 days but cook, relax and enjoy great company. Secondly, vegan cooking is delicious, and can be easily dropped into a holiday for vegans and non-vegans alike to enjoy.