The Allotment Vegan Restaurant – Review

The most unlikely of places for a vegan restaurant, it’s true. Fine dining vegan even more so! Manchester has the odd few places, V Rev for the times when you are in need of some serious junk food action and The Earth Centre for vegan comfort food like dahls, pies and soups. Then most places have some vegan options on the menu, but they never really stray much further than a bean burger or some fried tofu. Wander slightly further afield to Stockport however, a 20 minute drive, and there you will find what is starting to become a foodie mecca.

Down a steep declining hill from the market, on the corner of Vernon street you will find a bright, minimal but warm restaurant, stocked with hanging plants and succulents and a bustling open kitchen. We visited shortly before 7 on a Thursday night and it was almost full and by the time it hit 8:30 every table had guests, a good sign that they’re doing something right!!

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Starting with some water flavoured with cucumber, mint and orange as we browsed the menu, deciding between the 10 or 7 course taster menu, the a la carte or the early bird. The menu is short and concise, but even so I struggled making a decision on what to eat, everything sounded so tempting. The wine and beer list isn’t extended either, all the more easier to pick and choose, a few award winning wines and craft ales, also a wine pairing menu if you so wish. I would have walked out sloshed if that were the case.

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First out came an amuse bouche, aubergine, beetroot and cucumber, a perfect little tasty concoction whilst sipping on our chardonnay, just a little taster of what was to come. Don’t get me started on the plates, the temptation to lick the plate clean and stuff it into my handbag definitely ran through my mind.

Next along came the starters, one the courgette scallop with sea herb salsa verde. A pan-fried courgette scallop with a samphire salsa verde on a celeriac puree, tapioca pearl, apple and nori. A salty sea freshness and the smoothest celeriac puree that has ever graced my mouth. Alongside the allotments’ signature dish cauliflower hot wings with some roast garlic hummus. Addictive doesn’t even explain it. My mum is not a fan of cauliflower at all. No matter how much I try to disguise the flavours she will always shove it to the side of the plate for me to pick at. These went down pretty well though. How can they not really? They’re deep fried!! 😛

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I opted for the aubergine manchurian for main, an indo-chinese spiced confit aubergine, spring onion rice, chilli popcorn, lemon kale, pickled vegetables and fried enoki. Full of different textures and flavours, some spicy some sharp and the meaty aubergine to mop up all the lovely sauce. For my mum was the sweetcorn and pickled chilli. A fried sweetcorn and jalapeno fritter, lemon thyme and cumin potato puree, tomato marmalade glazed roasted romanesco, white bean, pine nut and avocado. All plants. Yep not a bit of meat, eggs or dairy in sight! And that’s coming from someone who when a dish isn’t feeling quiiiitteeee right, cheese is always the answer.

Another glass of wine down and out came an unexpected (and my favourite bit of the night). A PRE DESSERT. Can this be made obligatory at every restaurant. K thanks. A bottom layer of turmeric custard, topped with a pink fir apple compote and some toasted chopped hazelnuts. We could’ve eaten this by the bucket full. Only to be followed by the dessert, a sweet potato custard tart with meringue shards and lemon sorbet. Nicely spiced, in between an egg(less) custard and a pumpkin pie, a bit of crisp from the meringue, all cut with some zing in the lemon sorbet. We did share the dessert, I’m sure much to the dismay of some of you, but stuffed we were and it topped off a lovely meal.

Sorry that there’s no images of the pre-dessert and dessert, you’ll just have to picture it in your head. We just wanted to tuck straight in for once, it was my birthday, let me off!

I’d like to add that neither me nor my mum are vegan or even vegetarian for that matter. We tend to eat plant based meals the majority of the time, but still do enjoy some fish once or twice a week and the odd roast chicken or steak. That being said, dinner at the allotment was refreshing and inspiring, every plate full of varying textures and using ingredients together that you would not normally dream of. There is indeed a cheese course. Cultured nut cheeses served with seasonal nut cheeses and raw crackers, something that I am yet to try and anticipating it to be sooner rather than later!

Starters cost £6-£7, mains are between £17 and £18 and desserts are £7, it’s fine dining so don’t expect large portions, but that just means you can try more of what they have to offer. If you do visit though, please make sure to order the cauliflower hot wings. Just for me. Even if that’s all you go for, it’ll be completely worth it.

The Allotment Vegan, 6 Vernon St, Stockport, SK1 1TY

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Asparagus and Jersey Royal Spring Salad

A month or so ago the first of the British asparagus hit my local greengrocers. Little bundles of the tufty spears piled high, all in need of a quick steam and toss with golden salted butter. All for the reasonable price of £4.20. I think not.

It’s something I’m yet to get my head around, paying such a premium for produce from our own country, when you can buy a pack from Peru or Mexico for a mere £2.

Where’s the logic in that?

I just had to practice my patience for a little longer, only a week or two, and now of course it will feature in every meal possible up until the end of June. I know it’s available to us year round, but when trying to eat seasonally there’s nothing more exciting than the first encounters of our British grown produce. It marks the new season, along with the newborn tiddly lambs and daffodils sprouting everywhere, asparagus means spring really does feel official.

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It’s such a versatile veg too, and if you’ve never tried it, you’re missing out. Along with your buttered soldiers try some asparagus to dive in your dippy egg. The nooks and crannies in the spear grips onto that golden yolk, and not forgetting it’s one of your five-a-day already in the bag. The first arrivals tend to be thinner, perfect for serving simply with a crack of black pepper and sea salt. Shave with a speed peeler or mandolin (watch those digits!!!) and serve as a tangle in a salad. Towards the latter end of the season it starts to become woodier, so lends itself to being grilled or roasted for some charred tips and smoky edges sitting perfectly beside some protein like salmon, steak or chicken or in a big veggie bowl with a dip.

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The week following Easter I spent some quality time with my mum, doing what we do best – coffee shop crawls and a bit of clothes shop perusing (the big venture for a dress for my mum for a wedding). The weather was a bit grim and grey but to make the most of a bad thing off we went out for a scone with clotted cream and raspberry jam and a pot of chamomile tea. The tea rooms we visited are set deep in the countryside, surrounded by rolling green hills, I cannot imagine how beautiful it would be on a bright sunny day. To kill two birds with one stone (so they say) we also went to a nearby farm where they have a shop selling all homemade produce which I’ve been meaning to visit for a good while (in the past I just sent my dad). A haven for homemade sausages, bacon and black pudding all using local, free range, rare-breed pork, smoked fish (all smoked themselves), eggs, jams, chutneys and smoked cheese. It really is in an old cow shed – as the name suggests – but there’s so many magical products nestled inside. I managed to bag a couple of boxes of eggs, all of which are mixed colours and sizes coming from the different breeds of chicken (and of course the yolks are golden), a couple of packets of sausages and some smoked peanut butter (I’m thinking sticky satay chicken wings or aubergines!). Sadly I missed out on the wild garlic pesto. I know, I’m annoyed too. I had dreams of smothering it over pasta with some roasted tomatoes, rocket and Parmesan. But it only means I have to go back soon. Not really sad about that. Not. At. All.

I had plans that night for a super chill meal for my mum and I. Ideas of a salad, but warm, hearty and full of veggies, felt necessary. Also I fancied a bit of stodge, so new season Jersey Royals were a no-brainer. The asparagus was roasted, and the potatoes boiled whole then both tossed in a nutty herby dressing whilst still warm to absorb the oils and flavour. The dressing was a kind of pesto/salsa verde mash up, loads of watercress, parsley, mint and dill, capers, lemon and toasted pistachios because you can’t have enough green. I reserved two of the asparagus spears and shaved them into thin ribbons, mixed with cress, watercress and some jammy yolked eggies, this truly was the ultimate spring salad.

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Asparagus and Jersey Royal Spring salad

If you don’t have all the herbs for the dressing just use extra watercress and up the amounts of the ones you do have. Some wild garlic would be an excellent addition, some basil too – if it’s looking a bit sad. If you’re struggling to get hold of some asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli (broccoli rabe I think it’s called in America), tenderstem or your bog-standard broccoli would even do the trick at a push.

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • Jersey royals – around 8 or 10 depending how hungry you are
  • Bunch of asparagus
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 packet of cress
  • 1/2 bag of watercress

Dressing

  • 1/2 bag of watercress
  • Small handful dill
  • Small handful parsley
  • Small handful mint
  • Fennel fronds (optional)
  • 2 tbsp capers (in brine, rinse if in salt)
  • Handful pistachios (without shells
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Turn the oven to 180 C
  2. Wash the Jersey Royals and place in a pan of cold water with a big pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then turn down to bubble for around 20 to 30 mins until tender.
  3. Meanwhile boil the eggs. Bring a pan of water to a vigorous boil, add some salt, then dip the eggs in the water briefly, remove and then fully submerge and leave to cook for 7 minutes. When the timer is up, stick the eggs in ice cold water to stop them cooking further.
  4. Reserve two asparagus spears for later, and with the rest snap off any woody ends and put in a roasting tin with a drizzle of oil and some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for around 10 to 15 minutes until tender and crisp on the edges.
  5. To make the dressing, finely chop the watercress and the herbs and place in a bowl. Next chop the capers and mix in with the herbs. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add 2 tbsp of olive oil, the mustard and red wine vinegar and a little water to make a thick dressing, the same consistency of a pesto. Check for seasoning and add more lemon or vinegar if you think necessary.
  6. When the potatoes have cooked, drain the water and leave to steam dry for a minute or so. Slice them in half and place on a platter with the roast asparagus and half the dressing. Toss together until everything is coated.
  7. With the reserved asparagus get a speed peeler or mandolin and shave thinly, put on the platter along with the watercress and cress. Toss again and dot the remaining dressing all over.
  8. Crack the eggs and peel them, they should be cool enough to handle. Slice into quarters and place on top of the salad.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

If you’re ever in the Peak District area do make a visit to The Old Cow Shed in Chisworth and The Woodlands Tea Rooms in Charlesworth for a traditional afternoon tea or lunch using locally sourced produce.

I’d love to hear if you’ve managed to get your hands on some wild garlic or how you make the most of asparagus when it’s back in for the ever so short season.

All the love

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Carrot and lentil patties

If you know me fairly well, then you will know of the huge pile of cookbooks I own. Let’s say two huge piles. It’s become a bit of an addiction of mine. I’m that person who reads cookbooks from front to back and whenever I have a spare moment will happily flick through. Each birthday and Christmas I will, rest assured, add one or two new additions to my collection and swiftly forget about the others. Brutal, I know. I do have my absolute favourites though, that I return to time and time again, the tried and tested which are guaranteed to please. But even those recipes are few and far between, saved for when we are feeding guests or want a dish that I know will be a knockout, no stressin’! The rest of the time is dictated by what I’ve seen on blogs, TV, Instagram and most importantly the contents of my fridge.

That’s where the magic is!

 

At lunch I always feel the need for a falafel or patty, whatever you name it, something to finish off my bowl of veggies and grains and that will sit nicely with that obligatory hummus dollop. I always have the intention of making some but then get too hungry so end up going without or I don’t have any beans or grains already cooked (the whole point of a recipe like this is for making something out of the leftovers). Often too, I’ve had the intention of making a big batch to freeze but they end up dry, only palatable if smothered in a TONNE of dressing (make it a tahini one and its not a bad thing). I suppose given that I don’t follow recipes and add a little bit of this, take out that as we don’t have any in the cupboard, it’s guaranteed that many of my attempts will end up in the bin. It’s all a process of learning, except for those times when you don’t remember your mistakes and make them numerous times. The EXACT SAME ONES. Been there.

 

 

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Pre-bake, with a dusting of polenta for that much needed CRUNCH

 

This occasion however was a day for success. Thank the food gods. 

These carrot and lentil patties, came out unscathed, crunchy on the outside, and just what my lunch bowl was needing. Here I used some french lentils that I had overcooked, but any other beans or lentils would suffice just make sure to give them a bit of a mash first. The grated carrot could be changed to courgette or beetroot, any fresh herbs, omit the cheese all together or use more or less (I would’ve added more but it was the end of the block) feta would be nice, as would cheddar or some Parmesan. I haven’t tried making something like this without egg, it’s a great binding agent, but I’d assume a flax egg would work in the same way. And if they don’t hold together, well it just won’t be a plate to photo for Instagram I suppose. Sandwich in between your favourite bread or in a wrap, these would also be brilliant bites for a savoury energy ball. I find snacks rely too heavily upon dates and nuts, so one or two of these would be a great alternative.

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Carrot and lentil patties

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated/crumbled cheese
  • Handful of fresh herbs, any mixture of basil, parsley, coriander, mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Polenta for coating
  • Oil

Method

  1. Put the lentils in a large bowl and mash slightly so half are crushed and half are still left whole.
  2. On a box grater grate the carrot and add to the bowl along with the cheese.
  3. Finely chop the herbs and add to the lentil mixture along with the spices, oats and some seasoning and mix well.
  4. Crack in the egg and mix again to form quite a wet mixture.
  5. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 mins to firm up slightly.
  6. Heat the oven to 200/180C fan and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or a silicone sheet.
  7. With damp hands form the lentil mixture into 8 patties and place on the baking sheet.
  8. Brush with some oil and sprinkle over the polenta, this is what will give the crunch.
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 mins until firm and slightly golden.
  10. Will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for a few months.

Side note: if you plan on freezing the patties, bake for a little less time, around 10-12 mins then leave to cool before freezing. Place back in the oven when you want some from frozen until crispy and piping hot in the middle, this will ensure that they won’t dry out.

 

So here’s to happier lunchtimes and turning those droopy leftovers into something new.

Get rolling those patties!!

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