I’ll admit that one thing that really struck me when my vegan (and gluten free of course) arrived at the table, was this dish was a lot smaller and a lot less greasy-looking than any burger I’d had before. I’m used to super greasy, Patty and Bun style. I won’t describe it, because this a vegan post and it wouldn’t be right. I was intrigued to see how a vegan burger (which included ‘coconut bacon’ may I add), was going to add up to the ‘burgers’ I knew.
A few weeks ago now I met the lovely Laura, also known as (to fellow food bloggers), The Whole Ingredient. Basically she’s the vegan wizard I have called upon often throughout Veganuary and she hasn’t let me down. When asking her where would be good for lunch and a natter about all things vegan, she suggested The Wild Food Café, with both excellent gluten free and vegan options.
For those who don’t know it, The Wild Food Café is nestled in the colourful Neal’s Yard and their menu boasts wonderful fresh dishes with a visible kitchen (which is fascinating to watch). A lot of their menu is also raw, part of the reason I enjoyed my ‘burger’ so much.
We both went for the Wild Winter Burger, a totally vegan and gluten free burger made from olives and shitake, with smoky babaganoush, salsa, wild sauce and served in a super seed bun with sweet potato wedges. Intrigued by the ‘coconut bacon’, we added a few rashers to our burgers which have a lovely smoky taste resembling a fleshy meat texture. I’m now on the hunt to find some I can add to dishes!
In answer to my question at the start, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed every single flavour in the burger. Usually with a typical burger, we’ll wolf it down in need of a greasy hit, and forget to really think about and enjoy the flavours. Every single element of this raw burger had it’s own thing going on, and by taking our time (we were in there for hours!), it was a real pleasure to think about each layer and why each ingredient had been used. Served with salad and sweet potato fries, we were surprisingly full for something I’d usually consider a smaller dish. It was totally different to any burger I’d had, but in a good way.
But of course, being food bloggers we just HAD to have some cake for dessert. I mean, when it’s vegan and gluten free, it would be wrong not to. For me it was a freshly baked slice of gf and vegan walnut cake, and the raw vegan chocolate tart for Laura.
After taking our time over our meal (we really did), it was time to have a chat with Laura about being a vegan and see if she had any handy hints and tips that would help be out during Veganuary. I knew that Laura had been a vegan for some time, but I was interested to find out more about the reasons behind her decision.
So here we go!
- Why did you first become vegan, Laura?
Throughout my teens and twenties, I was an on-again, off-again vegetarian; loving animals, but not really being honest with myself about where the food I was eating came from. But as I got older it was harder to ignore, so on a whim I decided to try out veganism as a self-styled ‘seven day trial’. I needed to make a change, and be proactive about who I wanted to be. And I never looked back!
- What was most challenging at the beginning? Any tips on how you overcame these?
Realising that just because something was vegan, didn’t mean I should eat it… There are a lot of unhealthy products out there that just happen to be vegan (I’m looking at you, Pringles), and it can be really easy to eat too many of them, just because you can. But I realised soon enough that as well as looking out for animals, I should be looking after myself, so I changed my focus to becoming a whole-food vegan. I also found it disheartening to have to field so many intrusive questions, most often from people who didn’t really know me! I try not to take it personally, but to see it as an opportunity to (briefly) respond with some facts – and a smile.
- Your blog is full of the most beautiful recipes! Where do you get your inspiration?
Thank you! It’s so nice to hear people’s reactions to the recipes, and to know they are in some way helpful. As the name of my blog suggests, I’m all about the ingredients. I often choose an ingredient I want to focus on, and then write list after list of flavour combinations and recipe ideas – I have an incredibly disorganised recipe journal, packed with ramblings about everything from lemon rind to the use of different fruits as egg substitutes! (You can find out more about this in my post ‘Essential Vegan Ingredients.’) I also love watching Masterchef and working out how I could adapt some of the recipe ideas into more simple, vegan versions. I love the flavours of the Mediterranean, so you’ll see a lot of influence there, too.
- If you put together a vegan dinner party for non-vegans, what would you serve?
This is a great question, Loriley!
To start, these Mini Kalamata Quiches are light and delicious, and a great way to show people what can be done with tofu.
After all of that, a Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake would make a lovely refreshing dessert.
- What’s your favourite vegan friendly spot in London for a spot of food?
Another great question! But it’s too hard to choose, so I’m going to cheat. For healthy, weekday lunches I can’t get enough of Planet Organic – there’s so much variety. The Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green is a weekend staple, with full English breakfasts and delicious pizzas; but for an evening out I love Rasa in Stoke Newington – their dosas are huge. This selection barely scratches the surface, you’ve inspired me to write another list!
A huge thank you to Laura for taking the time to be so helpful, especially over Veganuary. One of Laura’s suggestions was to check out Planet Organic, and since our chat, I’m in there at least once a week treating myself to vegan and gluten free essentials! If you’re thinking of giving some vegan dishes a go, definitely head over to her blog and have a flick through all her wonderful recipes. Funnily enough, as I type this, I have her ‘Greek Butter Bean Pie’ in the oven – and my God does it smell gorgeous!