A city’s first vegan festival – an insider’s view

 

We don’t know exactly how many people attended the Thrive Vegan Festival in Peterborough, all we know was it was an overwhelming success.

We put it together in a couple of months. Our small team, spearheaded by Kim Coley, of Soul Happy Well Being Centre in the city, booked the stalls, organised the workshops, the venue, the layout, the rules and regulations and managed to really put veganism on the map in our little UK city.

Kim hosts and I help with Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s monthly foodshare, it was this group which was the catalyst for the event. The Thrive Tribe formed with the sole aim of bringing a vegan Christmas fair to life. Peterborough had never held a vegan event. Smaller towns and cities like Boston, Louth and Lincoln had, so we wanted to get in on the action, and boy did we succeed!

We couldn’t have done it without a lovely band of volunteers, who manned the door, filled the goodie bags, served tea and coffee, helped at the video booth, manned the kids’ room and so much more.

Yes, there were issues, mainly because the event was so much more successful than we could ever have dreamed. There were animal rights groups, vegan food, vegan clothes, vegan chocolate, vegan cakes, vegan cheese, vegan cosmetics – you name it, we had it.

The workshops covered everything from vegan motherhood to making curry via Cath Kendall and John Curtin. And, yes it was heaving, busy, packed, a joy to behold for those of us who had worked so hard at pulling it off.

But it was also rewarding beyond belief. I wrote the terms and conditions, designed the receipts and checked people’s public liability insurance. I kept people up to date via email and also worked on some of the PR for the event. Informing the local press and radio and getting the message spread across social media helped enormously. We also conjured up the hashtag #thriveveganfestival in advance of the event to help people get the word out.

The help the people at the venue gave us on the day and in advance was invaluable – we actually called them because the toilets had run out of loo roll! We also had a minor issue with one of the electric points tripping – which was very annoying for the two food vendors affected. Luckily, it was sorted out and both stalls enjoyed a bumper trading day. Sadly, one outside food vendor didn’t make it due to breaking down on the way.

One of the best things for me about attending such events is actually talking to people. I get so inspired by other activists and vegans, it’s always brilliant to hear different perspectives and ideas, and there was plenty of that on Sunday. It’s also great to see the vegan community pull together to make things like this happen.

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It’s also amazing to see how many vegan small businesses there are now. There are many of these events up, down and around the UK now and there are different independent companies at each and every one! Isn’t it fantastic to see so many entrepreneurs putting ethics at the heart of their working lives?

Every event I go to adds new vegan delights to my kitchen cupboards. This time I was over the moon to buy vegan BBQ sauces from Callowfit (www.musclefinesse.com) – they have a brilliant range of dressings and sauces and they are based in Peterborough  too!

 

 

Peterborough’s Vegan Christmas Fair

Thrive pic

If writing a blog isn’t self-indulgent enough, I am now going to blog about something I’m helping to organise – the ultimate in self-indulgent blogging – and I’m not sorry.

Peterborough (UK) has a thriving vegan scene and, come November, it’s going to have a thriving Vegan Christmas Festival. Not only is this the city’s first Christmas Vegan Festival, but it’s also the city’s first vegan Festival or fair full stop.

In short, this is the biggest vegan event in Peterborough so far – and I’m helping to organise it – so, of course, I’m going to shout about it.

It will be held at the Fleet – a community centre in Fletton, one of Peterborough’s townships – on Sunday, November 25, 2018, from 10am until 5pm and, hopefully thereafter.

There will be stalls – lots of stalls, from independent traders to larger, more established vegan companies, workshops and speakers. You can register to book a stall by emailing Peterboroughvegans@gmail.com with the subject line Vegan Fair Stalls detailing the type of business (independent, a sole trader, or an established firm), what you will sell and a contact name and phone number.

The idea was put together by Kim Coley, who runs the city’s Soul Happy Wellness Centre (soulhappy.org.uk) which hosts the Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s (https://www.facebook.com/PeterboroughVeg) monthly Food share (despite the name, all the food is vegan) – Kim and I run the group – or help to run it, all the members have a say in what we do and how we do it.

We decided that towns much smaller than our (albeit baby) city were hosting vegan events, so we should too. After all, Peterborough is very central, has fantastic transport links and the venue itself has a large car park.

Peterborough already has Resist Vegan Kitchen (https://www.facebook.com/resistvegankitchen/) serving vegan street food from its base at the Ostrich Pub (https://www.facebook.com/ostrichinn/) a very vegan-friendly bar. Resist also cater at many events in the area. I’ve blogged about them before (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/10/29/vegan-pop-up-kitchen-with-punk-ethics/ )

There is also a new jazz bar/vegan restaurant in the city ( https://www.facebook.com/WhenPollyMetFergie/ ) and a new stall providing vegan street food is heading for the city market ( https://www.facebook.com/bekindkitchenvegan/ ) and let’s not forget Backyard Food (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough/ ) a small shop at the Green Backyard community garden selling eco-friendly stuff for the house, body and belly. I bought vegan cookies from there today.

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Cookies and crisps from Backyard Food

Anyway, a small group of us from the vegan group is helping to organise this vegan extravaganza and as we put it together we will be on the lookout for volunteers, suggestions and any help in publicising the event.

Jodie has already designed the awesome event poster/banner.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Iceland’s vegan gamechanger

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Iceland has launched its extended range of vegan products in the UK.

What’s more, most of them are a pocket-friendly £2 a pack. Couple this with the chains pledge to eliminate plastic packaging from all its own products (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/15/iceland-vows-to-eliminate-plastic-on-all-own-branded-products) and Iceland is probably the most vegan of all the supermarket chains right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I personally still champion independent shops over big chains – Backyard food in Peterborough (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough) and Holbeach Wholefoods (https://www.facebook.com/Holbeach-Wholefoods-129572517136021/) being the two which spring to mind for me – but many vegans still like convenience and use supermarkets – and I’d be lying if I said I was supermarket-free. Plus, actually, these new products excite my taste buds in wonderful and exciting ways.

 

Yes, vegans are everywhere, the big brands are taking notice – the rest of you might as well give in and join us.

In fact, the new range is so extensive I couldn’t buy everything in one go – so, if you wish to review any of the missing products, feel free to comment below.

I reviewed the original No Bull Burgers when they were introduced (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/04/09/no-bull-its-a-bloody-vegan-burger/) – and they have become more popular than cat pictures on Facebook.

So, what does Iceland have to offer?

No Bull Tofu Burgers (£2)

No Porkies Sausages (£2)

No Bull Asian Burgers (£2)

No Chick Fillets (£2)

No Bull ‘Meat’ Balls (£2)

No Porkies Chorizo Slices (£2)

Not reviewed here:

No Chick Vegan Paella (£2)

No Bull Vegan Mince (£3.50)

No Bull Jalapeno Burgers (£2)

No Bull Green Vegetable Balls (£2)

No Bull Vegan Chilli and Rice (£2)

No Chick Vegan Strips (£3.50)

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Wow – that’s some choice, right?

Of those I’ve bought, the sausages and meatballs are both wheat-free and all can be pan-fried in less than 10 minutes – so they’re brilliant for a quick meal. You can oven cook any of them as a healthier alternative – but I didn’t become vegan for my health.

So, what do they taste like?

The No Porkies Chorizo Slices have a nice texture, they crisp up very quickly in the frying pan and have a pleasant taste and texture – they’re a little crunchy if you fry them well! The taste is very distinctive, but not overly spicy – they don’t pack a strong punch, more of a child-like jab – but that means the aftertaste is surprisingly pleasant too. I think they work well cold as a sandwich filling too – especially with Vegenaise. The spicy kick is actually more prevalent when they’re eaten cold and Vegenaise counters that perfectly. They would also work perfectly as a vegan pizza topping.

Onto the bangers, No Porkies Sausages are smaller than many vegan sausages, but they cook more quickly and do taste better than many brands. Taste-wise, they’re not a million miles away from Linda McCartney’s classic sausages. They’re mildly spiced and don’t leave an aftertaste. Linda McCartney’s sausages are often seen as the go-to vegan product, so the fact these are in the same ballpark is no mean feat.

The No Bull ‘Meat’ Balls are divine! Yes, they are smaller than some other balls, but size isn’t everything! Like the little sausages, they cook very quickly and these have a very meaty taste to them, again they are not over spiced and so have no strong aftertaste. They are very moreish and their size means they’d work perfectly in pasta sauce with spaghetti.

But, the No Bull Asian Burgers are glorious. The chewy texture, the spicy – but not too hot taste and the not too evasive aftertaste all combine to make these utterly delightful. There isn’t much more I can say really – just try them, they will make your taste buds thank you.

Just as delicious are the No Chick Fillets. These totally wowed me and I wasn’t prepared for how nice they are. I believe they do taste like chicken – although I can’t actually remember what chicken tastes like. Again, they have a taste all of their own – and what a wonderful taste it is. Unlike the Asian burgers, they are not spicy, but the crunchy coating works brilliantly with the delectable, chewy body of the fillet.

No Bull’s Tofu Burgers are, like all of the burgers in that range, bulky and filling. However, tofu can be a bit bland, and these are no exception, despite the presence of a few vegetables. The exterior tastes nice and means all is not lost. They are not horrible, they are just not as memorable as the other offerings from Iceland.
They don’t fall apart like some tofu products, but they are still my least favourite of the products reviewed.

One thing to note is that, as with the original No Bull Burgers, it’s advisable to cook them for the maximum time mentioned – at least.

https://groceries.iceland.co.uk/frozen/vegetarian/c/FRZVGT?q=:relevance

 

Wagamama’s new vegan dishes reviewed

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Wagamama’s vegatsu curry has been making waves in vegan circles – so I was excited to try it when I was invited to the Peterborough branch on behalf of the Peterborough Vegan Group.

My partner in vegan admin crime and I actually tried the whole vegan menu – but I’ve reviewed the kare burosu, yasai steamed gyoza and dessert in a previous blog – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/11/26/a-vegan-meal-out-at-wagamama-food-review/

It must also be said that the yasai katsu curry is newly vegan on the menu – originally, the salad dressing meant it wasn’t – that has been replaced with seasoning.

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The harusame glass noodle salad is also new to the menu – don’t worry, the noodles aren’t made of real glass.

It must be said that Wagamama has the Vegan Society accreditation – this is only possible through having a separate vegan fryer in the kitchen. When dishes are ordered they actually flash up white, green for veggie or orange for vegan on the kitchen’s order screen.

I love how the vegatsu and the mixed mushroom and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns are marked with a “vegan hero” symbol – both actually tasted heroic -although, I do wish they would use capital letters on the menu – as a former sub-editor, this offends me greatly (even if the food still rocks).

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I actually fell madly and passionately in love with the, now vegan, the mixed mushroom and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns (£5.50) as a starter. As a huge mushroom fiend (I love them – I’m not a monster with a fungi head), these were always going to appeal to me – but the buns are so soft that they just melt in one’s mouth. They are stunning.

The edamame beans (£4.50) and wok-fried greens (£4.50) are also fine – but not as fine as mushrooms or dumplings (previous blog again).

We washed these down with the new nix and kix (£2.75) drinks – the cucumber and mint tasted predominantly of cucumber and the mango and ginger of mango – so, I preferred the latter. Both contain cayenne pepper to boost the metabolism – you couldn’t taste this though. All 163 Wagamama branches now use paper straws, incidentally, so there’s no damage to the environment here.

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So, how was the vegasu (£10.75)? Pretty damn fine actually. I sold my soul to seitan a while ago and the devilish wedding between the gluten steaks and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) works well here. The diner is served up a satisfying crunch before they taste the tender delights of seitan. The mound of sticky rice and mild curry (think chip shop curry sauce with class) and accompanying salad (a pleasant light vinegar hit) complete this dish.

A dish not to be upstaged? I thought so until I tried the yasai katsu curry (£9.75). The dish is a replica of the vegasu, except, instead of seitan, you get sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash dressed in a coat of golden panko. And it works a treat.

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The soft veg compliments the panko gloriously, again working with the rest of the flavours on the plate to serve up a divine dish.

A mixture of flour, water and oil is used to coat the veg or seitan in order to make the panko stick, incidentally, thus veganising the dish.

 

The other new dish, harusame glass noodle salad (£9.50) comes with nice firm tofu, light noodles and a delicate vinegar hit. Again, this works well, especially in the summer months (what we get of them in the UK), and it’s nice to try tofu that actually has some flavour to it.

Elsewhere on the menu, the yasai pad thai (£9.95) is now vegan thanks to the use of rice noodles. The lime taste shines through here and I adore the fresh coriander leaves. This one uses silky tofu and has a nice sticky texture to it.

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The yasai yaki soba (£8.75) has a wonderful ginger hit – and the fried shallot garnish works a treat for me – I like onions almost as much as I like mushrooms! The substantial wheat noodles are a joy to devour too.

If you like things a little spicier, you could do worse than the yasai itame (£10.75). This contains a strong chilli kick and a lovely taste of coconut. The two work very well together to create a “wow factor”. This soup contains chunks of tofu and veg including bok choi – an underrated vegetable in my view.

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It would have been rude not to try the saki as they’re both vegan-friendly. The sho chiku bai (12%) is the cheaper option (£3.50)  and the mio (5%) is equally as nice, but more than twice as expensive (£7.25). Both a light and deceptively mild, although the former does have a strong alcoholic kick. The latter is a sparkling wine equivalent and is actually more refreshing and palatable than it’s more alcoholic sister.

I guess my only complaint is that I’d like to see more choice on the dessert front. While the two sorbets on offer are very nice, a more indulgent vegan offering wouldn’t go amiss.

But, in a city such as Peterborough, which lacks a fully vegan restaurant, the expanding range available at Wagamama is very welcome indeed. They also offer takeaway and delivery services.

https://www.wagamama.com/

 

A vegan meal out at Wagamama – food review

Wagamama’s new vegan menu has got the online plant-based community excited – so Peterborough’s Vegetarian and Vegan group decided to hold one of its social nights at the local branch to see what all the fuss is about. I thought it’d be rude not to review my meal for the lovely vegan community out there.

I went for the kare burosu for my main. At £10.95 it was actually a substantial and very filling dish (it actually came in a bowl). The mushrooms interacted with the vegetable broth to produce a strong, rustic taste – mushrooms are my favourite meat substitute, so this was a definite thumbs-up from me. The wooden ladle provided to eat it with added to the rustic feel too.

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The dish had a strong chilli kick – another plus in my book – which didn’t overpower the other flavours but complimented them perfectly. The soft tofu was delicious addition – and it was cooked just right. Tofu is a very hard ingredient to get right – Wagamama has succeeded here.

Wagamama didn’t skimp on the veg or the herbs in the meal either – and the udon noodles were divine – they are certainly my favourite noodles – thick and substantial. There was also plenty of fresh coriander to garnish the bowl.

I complimented my main with a side of yasai steamed gyoza – basically vegetable dumplings with a balsamic dip. They’re divine.

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I’ve always been a huge dumpling fan, and these hold a perfect selection of vegetables the balsamic sauce is just the perfect compliment. A hint of chilli finished it off perfectly.

I also tried the wok fried greens and the broccoli and bok choi were delicious – stir-fried in garlic and soy sauce – they had just the right amount of crunch. I like broccoli cooked in soy sauce anyway, and this just reinforced the opinion of my taste-buds.

The edamame with salt side dish also gets a thumbs-up – it certainly had a kick to it. The salt definitely enhanced the beans’ natural flavour.

I had to try a dessert to finish off the evening – it’s vegan law. We had a choice of two sorbets and I went for the pink guava with passion fruit one – very nice it was too. I love a strong fruit flavour and this definitely didn’t disappoint in that department.

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I chose a Kansho craft beer to wash down my food and I’m glad I did. The growth in the craft beer market is good news for vegans as we can actually drink a lot of them – and as most are made by independent breweries they score high on the ethical scale too.

This one had a pleasant zesty taste and looked like Irn Bru. It was light and, again, I enjoyed it very much.

You can check out Wagamama’s full vegan menu online – https://www.wagamama.com/our-menu/vegan

I have tried the yasai yaki soba before – I had that with rice noodles. I’m a mushroom fiend, so I pretty much go for anything with mushrooms and dish also impressed me. It’s not as substantial as the kare burosu but is a bit cheaper. It’s also less spicy – if you have a more delicate palate.

Wagamama must be commended for offering such a comprehensive vegan menu. The staff were also very friendly and helpful. The layout of the Peterborough restaurant is very welcoming. It’s well lit, unfussy and spacious. Wagamama also offers takeaway and delivery services.

An extremely pleasant evening.

 

Vegan pop-up kitchen with punk ethics

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BBQ Sticky Ribs from Resist!

Resist! Vegan Kitchen feeds street food to hungry gig-goers and those attending special events in the UK.

Based in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and run by Gareth, the kitchen makes everything from scratch – including the seitan – which forms the basis for many of the dishes. I love the idea of pop-ups and independent vegan businesses – especially ones that adhere to the DIY ethic of punk – something that has come to mean a lot to me over the years. But I also love the fact that people are spreading the vegan message by showing others how great the food does taste. So, I took the opportunity to ask Gareth to tell us more about Resist:

“Resist! started after I left The Scary Clown Presents (a punk collective based in Peterborough which promotes local gigs), we’d done Seitan’s Garden vegan barbecues at some of the SCP gigs and served food for all the charity events we organised with that. After leaving, I wanted to continue doing food and music in some form but leave Seitan’s Garden behind as that was SCP. I came up with Resist! Vegan Kitchen, where we’d do vegan food alongside really good intimate gigs with incredible touring artists. We want to support independent venues and collectives in Peterborough. We’re anti-fascist, pro-feminist, animal friendly, and want to promote that. That’s very important to us. We’re for the animals. Currently we are a pop-up kitchen doing takeovers across Peterborough, but also available for events, functions or gigs.

“At the moment we’re doing outside winter barbecues for the Battle Lines art events at The Ostrich pub, in Peterborough, this is more street food orientated I guess, so we’re doing donner kebabs, sticky BBQ ribs, slow pulled Jackfruit, burgers and that kind of thing. We’re hoping to do a sit-down menu event soon to showcase the full range of what we do. We love challenges, and if there is something people ‘miss’ since going vegan, or that helps them to go vegan they can let us know. If we can create something that tastes and looks similar and nothing died in the process then we’re winning.

“Battle Lines at The Ostrich is a brilliant event. The first event had a very ‘omni’ crowd, so we created a menu that was for everyone and would work there. It sold out within an hour. The latest Battle Lines had more vegans show up (and vegan discussions going on), which was a really great thing to see, it’s one of the best nights in Peterborough at the moment: Independent, creative, and with vegan grub to boot.”

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Pulled Jackfruit from Resist!

Resist! food reviewed

I went along to the latest Battle Lines event and tried what Resist! had on offer. Here’s my short review:

The donner kebabs were so packed with good stuff, they were hard to get my big mouth around them.

Being vegan, I totally enjoyed the abundance of salad – and I’ve always been a huge fan of onion anyway. Adding the available mint sauce and a splash of chilli sauce certainly brought out the flavours.

Seitan – when prepared correctly – is a great “meat” of choice for a vegan kebab. Resist! Kitchen slice the “meat” thinly and it has a chewy, but not too soft texture. It’s great at working with the other flavours in the salad and, in particular, the sauce.

It is also telling that the naan bread used to wrap it didn’t dominate on the flavour front, but added enough bulk to fill your belly during a night out.

The Sticky Ribs are certainly very sticky. Time has obviously been spent on the texture of the seitan, which is pretty much perfect. They are chewy, but not overly so, and they’re not too soft. The sticky, barbecue-style sauce is sweet, but not too sweet with a spicy hit that doesn’t overpower the sweetness – but is enough to keep it in the realms of an overtly savoury offering. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a sticky barbecue dish.

I’ve tried Gareth’s Pulled Jackfruit before, and it’s a dish that delights every time – in fact, I make pulled jackfruit at home, but it’s never quite up to the standards set by Resist! Vegan Kitchen. Jackfruit absorbs flavours and takes in all the spices used in its preparation. I have no clue what pulled pork tastes like, but I’m told that pulled jackfruit is indistinguishable from it – just 100 per cent natural and cruelty-free.

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Meringue from Resist!

Shirts for sale

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Dan from the band Ducking Punches (vegan artist) has designed the T-shirts for Gareth, and these are for sale at Resist! events.

 

You can contact Gareth at https://www.facebook.com/resistvegankitchen/

Email: Resistvegankitchen@gmail.com

Instagram: @resistvegankitchen

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