Wednesday, 20 August 2014

It's been a little bit longer between posts than normal due to the reappearance of study-based fun. My first set of exam results came through last week and, while they weren't as good as I'd hoped across the board, there was lots to be pleased with and I'm still on track for what I need to do. (All very cryptic, but rest assured, I'll let you know as soon as I can what the masterplan is!)

Any way, after banging on how about much I love homemade stuff now, I got all excited when I saw some vegan convenience food. Forgive me, friends, but you know what it's like, you're at your local healthfood store, you see a tin of tempeh curry and you think, 'wow, cool, I bet that tastes grim, but I'll give it a go in case'.

Can you guess what it tasted like? Yeah, it was a bit grim. I mean, for tinned stuff, it wasn't half bad - there was a lot of nice Thai flavours in there, but you know that weird whiff that you get off tempeh if you don't boil the living bejebus out of it first? There was a lot of that.

To get around the problem, I poured Sriacha onto it until I couldn't taste that dusty tang. To be honest, I poured it on until I couldn't feel my lips, but the effect was the same - I could finish the whole lot. I can't say I enjoyed it though.

Here's how it looked, peppers and okra model's own:

Slightly more successful was a cucumber and tomato salad based on a recipe from Sally Butcher's excellent Veggiestan (there's a full review here, but the short summary is: this is great, I wish it was vegan not just veggie).

I grant you cucumber and tomato salad doesn't sound really exciting - in fact it sounds like the worst kind of English salad, popular up to the 1990s and used to come with feeble, sagging iceberg lettuce. Luckily, as it's a Veggiestan salad, it's far more lively, and there's all sorts of bright tastes in there - coriander and chilli among them.

I served it up with some quesadillas, which was in no way authentic or appropriate, but darn tasty. Incidentally, what's the vegan for quesadillas? Cashewdillas?

I recently signed up to vegan box scheme, The Vegan Kind, and I got my first box the other week. It kind of surprised me - I was expecting basically a big box of all sorts of sweets, but there was all manner of cool stuff in there, including the surprising addition of washing powder. (Not surprising that people would make vegan washing powder, surprising that it would be in the box.)

A similarly interesting inclusion was this bag of Nothing But, a vegetable based snack of freeze dried pepper strips and mange tout. The freeze-drying not only makes it nice and crisp, so it counters my deep and abiding craving for deep-fried maize-based foodstuffs, it also concentrates the flavours, so it's the most peppery pepper and the most mange touty mange tout out there.

Given the theme of this post is turning into the unexpected, here's another random dish that found its way to my table: hearts of palm pies.

I discovered the recipe, torn out of a magazine, in my kitchen recipe stash and decided to bite the bullet. Alas, I can't remember where the recipe came from originally, so I can't point you to it but if you google 'torta de palmito' you should find some similar recipes.

As the name up there hints, it's a Brazilian recipe - hearts of palm, fried onions, and tomatoes (fresh and dried in my case) wrapped up white sauce and encased in some puff pastry.

I made little mini versions in cupcake cases, but I bet a great big pie would be a winner too.

Man, those little pies were good. There weren't any fancy-dan flavours in there, but the gentle, creamy filling meant the pies were a great comforting snack or light lunch with a load of salad on the side.

Here's a quick peek inside, though it doesn't really do it justice:

My last unexpected vegan treat came from my other half, who'd just returned from Berlin. I've not been there for a long time, but it's meant to be one of the most vegan friendly cities in Europe.

During Mr Flicking the Vs soujourn, I asked him to stop by all-vegan supermarket Veganz and have a nosey around. He reported being a bit underwhelmed, saying you get more interesting vegan stuff in a Trader Joe's. He may be right, but I can't help but feeling there's something quite pleasing about going into a supermarket that sells nothing but plant-based wonder. There have been rumours for some time that a Veganz is coming to London, so fingers crossed I can go check it out for myself!

In the meantime, Mr Flicking the Vs brought me back some treats from Veganz - two packets of fruit leather and some Earl Grey rooibos tea. I've never really gone overboard for fruit leather, but the strawberry and raspberry version were really good, and I love the brand name, which translates as something like 'Devil's Work and Angel's Task'.

But the star was that tea. I drink a lot of tea, and had to switch to rooibos to cut back on caffeine. Giving it an Earl Grey spin meant that I got all the flavour of a good brew, but didn't have to worry about the sleep patterns. Result! Now I just have to work out where to get it in England...

Friday, 8 August 2014

Recently, I've been feeling like I'm in an episode of Little House on the Prairie or something - I've suddenly discovered the joy of making all the things I might once have bought.

Back in the pregan days, I tended to purchase far more convenience food - ready-made meals, jars, packets, and all that sort of thing. I was never a convenience queen, but still, I pre-prepared food made far more of an appearance on my shopping list back then compared to today.

So, now I'm a herbivore, I've gone homemade with a vengeance. If it sits still long enough, I'll pickle it, preserve it, can it or compote it.

It's a mania that tends to hit pretty bad in the summer, when there's so many fabulous fruits, vegetables, and herbs in season, they're appearing faster than you can eat them.

Last Christmas, my brother gave me an indoor greenhouse. It's so cool, about one foot by two feet - just big enough to grow some herbs in. It sits next to a sunny windowsill in my kitchen, and the basil I planted inside it grew like topsy.

Alas, after a while, spider mites set on my basil-zilla plant. Eek! I had to harvest what was left, and quick. After that rescue operation, I found myself with a huge bunch of basil - more than I could use in a week.
What I could do with it all? Make pesto, naturally!

I've bought pesto in both my vegan and pregan days, but this was one of the first times I decided to make it myself.

It's not true pesto - I used cashew nuts instead of pine nuts, and obviously there's no dairy in there. It has way more flavour and colour than the ready-packed stuff and, as you can see from the half eaten jar up there, it doesn't last long because it's so darned tasty and versatile. I've used it on roast potatoes, pasta, and soupe au pistou.

Soupe au pistou starts off as pretty much just vegetable soup - onions, courgettes, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, all that sort of good stuff - which hails from the South of France.  Depending on the recipe you see, there's usually beans or pasta in there too.

What turns it from vegetable soup to soupe au pistou is a big mound of a basil puree daubed liberally right in the middle of the bowl.

Sure, it's a bit messy, but I couldn't be harassed to tidy it up, because I just wanted to get it down my throat as soon as I humanly could. Sorry about that. We're still friends, right? Good.

Next from Homemade World is a dish that may be familiar to you, but it's something of a novelty to me and my countrymen: watermelon rind pickles.

Seriously, these do not exist in England. Anywhere. You can't buy them, and I've never seen them served anywhere - I think I only learned they existed through Vegan Soul Kitchen. I don't know why, but I was seized with an overwhelming desire to make them last weekend.

I checked out a couple of recipes, and apart from the initial brining, none of them really seemed to agree with how best to pickle your watermelon rinds. And I had no idea how to go about it, what with never having laid eyes on them before!

I just guessed how to make them based on other pickles I've made - brined them overnight, mixed up some sugar, vinegar, water, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, juniper berries and boiled it all up with the watermelon rinds for 10 or 15 minutes, then left it to cool.

Did I get it anywhere near right?! Given my pickling guide was wallys, I guess not - but in that case, I may have just invented the first Cockney-Southern American fusion dish! Behold its wonder:

Seriously, why didn't you guys tell us how amazing these are before? Why did you keep their beauty to yourselves? I'm going to forgive you this once, but if you've got any other secret pickles of joy you're hiding, you better share them right now!

You know what these pickles go really well with? Cheese!

That's another great thing I've been making at home, using recipes from the wonderful Artisan Vegan Cheese. I've made a few recipes from the book before, and they've always been pretty good, but when making my most recent batch, I put in less nooch than the recipe called for, and it blew all other versions out of the water.

I think dialling down the cheesy nooch taste allowed the fermented cashews to come out more, and gave it a more complex flavour overall. Since discovering this tiny trick, I've been making batch after batch, and they've all been fab!

Here's one pot of cashew mix fermenting its way to cheesy glory:

My favourite thing to do with homemade cheese right now is spread it on oatcakes with mango chutney. Heaven!

You know what else I like on oatcakes? Or, for that matter, bread? Or just a spoon, straight into my mouth? Chanterelle rillettes!

At the farmer's market the other day, I bought some mushrooms I've never tried before, the wonderfully named trompettes de la mort (that's trumpets of death to you and me), also known equally wonderfully as horns of plenty. What gave them such a good name? Their stunning colour - they're jet black.

Having bought a load of them in their inky marvellousness, what should I make with them? After reading up on the horns of plenty, I found out they were a relative of the chanterelle, I thought I should try this recipe for chanterelle rillettes.

The recipe there's not vegan, but to veganise it, the only change you need to make is to swap butter for your favourite plant-based equivalent. I'd also recommend cutting down the amount of butter too thought - there's two sticks in there! I mean TWO STICKS!

So, yeah, don't do that. But do make it, because it's great. It's a really simple pate - just chanterelles (or your trompettes de la mort) and a few things you probably have knocking around your store cupboard (that's assuming you have madeira in your store cupboard - if you don't, marsala, sherry or white wine would work, I reckon).

Just blend some garlic, lemon rind, tomato puree, and a bit of parsley, and job's a good 'un. There's not much in the way of cooking, but the results won't betray that. Plus, you can tell your friends you're chowing down on death's trumpets - what's not to love?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

If I had to pick my favourite season, I'd probably say autumn. There's something about walking through the air with that first nip of cold in it, kicking the fallen leaves as the nights draw in - it makes me a very happy bunny indeed.

But if you asked me what season I like for food, it would be summer all the way. It starts with asparagus, then stone fruit and berries come along, and it's wondrous. As summer progresses, exciting English fruit and veg start cropping up with abundance. And because they're English and in season, that means they're both local and cheap, and that makes them big winners for me.

Which brings me to chard. Lovely, lovely chard.  Like all leafy greens, it's awesome, but weirdly you just can't seem to buy it in supermarkets over here. So when it starts rearing its lovely leafy head in farmers' markets, I start stocking up.

Here's something chardy I made the other week, and completely forgot to post, which is a shame, as it's pretty nice.

After buying a big chardy bunch at the market, I took it home and pondered what to do with it. After much culinary chin stroking, I went for chard and white bean bruschetta in the end.

It's just chard fried off with garlic, with butter bean mash on top. I like butter beans, but I find they can be a bit bland. To try and pep them up a bit, I just put in as much as lemon and olive oil as the beans could take. (Butter bean fans, send me your tips on how to do more with them, they're one of the beans I don't use so often and that feels like a bit of a shame!)

Another vegetable that screams out 'summer!' to me is sweetcorn. Its season is sadly brief, so I have to get as many cobs down my neck as I can before autumn turns up to ruin all my fun.

At the moment, I've been craving Mexican-style corn: corn slathered in mayonnaise that's been mixed with chipotle, lime juice and garlic salt, with some nooch on top.

The next thing that I've been cooking of late is in no way summery, but it's pretty darn good nonetheless.

I'm not quite sure how I arrived at this recipe, but I'm loving it right now: it's doenjang-jigae. It's a great big hotpot flavoured with dashi and Korean fermented soy bean paste, doenjang. Apparently, the original dish has seafood in it, but no. Just no. Why do that to a perfectly nice recipe? If you want a bit of a taste of the sea, use a bit of kombu and everyone's a winner.

Here's the hotpot in action (I think I based it on this recipe.)

It might look underwhelming, but it's one of those gifted dishes that requires almost no human intervention, not many ingredients but still tastes great. And yep, that's more lentils and rice there. Still not got bored of that yet. Today's rice and lentil combo: green lentils and sushi rice. 

Next up, a fruit definitely not in season, but still in my kitchen. In my defence, every few days, my workplace puts out huge bowls of fruit for staff, and we all load up on our fruit. You end up walking away with loads of stuff you don't even like. I got a load of rock hard pears, and took one home for later. 

Only instead of waiting for it to ripen, I had a much better idea. Make jelly.

Yeah, you read that right, jelly. It's not something I make often, as noone seems to be able to agree how much agar agar powder you need for how much liquid. 

I've been thinking about veganising this saffron and pear jelly recipe (jello to you Stateside folks) by Yotam Ottolenghi for a while, and when serendipity gave me a large glass of wine and a hard pear in my fridge, I knew what I had to do.

I made up a one-half recipe using 250mls of wine and a whole pear. I forgot to add the saffron in, but it was still really, really good.

The texture wasn't exactly the same as gelatine-set jello - it was more creamy and less hard-set, but still amazing. And if you're wondering, I used one generous teaspoon of agar agar powder for the 250mls of wine and it worked pretty nicely. Result.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

With my studying having got a bit quieter, I've been able to get back into my kitchen again and start cooking something a little bit more interesting for me.

Like I mentioned last week, I've taken to adding lentils into my rice to give things more fibre and more flavour - brown rice and green lentils are my favourite combination at the moment. There's something that goes off in my brain when the lentils and rice go together, saying 'yeah, this is great!'. Not so long ago, I saw a recipe idea on Green Gourmet Giraffe and knew immediately it was what my belly had been crying out for: teriyaki tofu, rice and kale.

GGG's recipe looked fab, but I had to put some lentils in for good measure. Because, you know, lentils. And mushrooms, because, well, because I didn't know what else to do with them. Johanna of GGG roasted her tofu, which is a much better plan as it does wonderful things to the texture of the tofu, but I was feeling too lazy to wait for the oven to heat up, so I stove-topped the lot.

Can you see the little green bits in the rice that aren't the lentils? That's radish greens, in both their fresh and dehydrated form. I only discovered them recently, and I'm totally in love with them right now. I always used to top and tail my radishes and ditch the greens - what a waste!

I used the furikake recipe from Just Bento for the fresh radish leaves, and to make the dehydrated version, I just tossed some radish greens, soy sauce and a bit of chilli sauce together and then put them in the dehydrator for a few hours until they were sort of leathery.

Sounds disgusting, but tastes amazing. It's great on top of rice, or just generally for spicing up grains that need a bit of pep.

As the weather's been really hot recently (the mercury's been north of 30C at the weekend - yowza!) so there's been a few salads over here.

The first one was a semi-successful attempt to get to grips with chicory. I think the only way I actually like eating that stuff is when it's been braised slowly in stock and served as part of a Sunday roast, when all that bitterness gets caramelised into sweetness.

To try and turn chicory from also-ran to all-star, I thought I'd try making something a bit Thai-style, using chopped chicory, peppers, carrot and spring onion. There's a bit of coriander in there - the culinary equivalent of a fig leaf - but otherwise the salad's naked in the picture.

I did put a dressing on it honest, but I didn't take picture of the dressed version because it looked sort of wrong. It was mix of soy, lime juice, chilli, and peanut butter. It was pretty nice tasting though. I mean, you couldn't really taste the chicory, so in that sense it was both a success and a failure!

Another salad stopover was called for after a particularly vigorous fry-up. Yep, I managed to cook up a breakfast so big and heart-stoppingly bad for me, I couldn't manage lunch. By the time dinner came around, all I wanted to eat was a salad. I had a bag of avocados with no particular home to go to, so I thought I should introduce them to some broccoli and see if they couldn't make a go of it.

Turns out they were a perfect match - broccoli, cherry toms, marcona almonds and basil, all wrapped up in a big avocado dressing (yeah, it's guacamole, but let's pretend its something fancier).

I ate two big bowls of this, it was that good. I'm totally patenting it and selling it to Whole Foods for £5 a tub under the brand name Brocc and Guac.

My favourite way to eat broccoli I think is to roast it. There's something about the way the smokey edge it brings to the broccoli just makes everything better. I thought I'd apply the same logic to other veggies.

Have you ever tried roasting radishes? If not, give it a go. Just put on some oil, some salt and pepper and roast til the skins go a little wrinkly and then enjoy. The taste is totally different to the raw version - the sharp crisp flavor mellows - and it becomes a really nice side dish.

I thought I'd try the same trick with one of the veggies that's always been a bit of a black spot for me. I mean, I've tried to love artichokes, but I just can't. Granted, in the weird light I took this photo in, it looks like they've crawled out of a swamp, but that's not the reason for my lack of artichoke love.

I think it's the effort to taste ratio. I mean, I spent 10 or 15 minutes getting three tiny artichokes ready for the oven, peeling the leaves, chopping the tops off, putting them in lemon water so they didn't decolour, all that jazz. And then, for what? It's a decent vegetable, for sure, but for that work and knife skills, I want wonderful and superb!

Artichoke lovers, help me out here - what am I missing? Show me the path of artichoke righteousness!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

When I was raiding my camera for snaps of what I've been eating recently, I was somewhat confused to find that I couldn't remember what had passed my lips in the past days.

So join with me as I take a tour of all the meals I've forgotten recently, as we play Guess the Meal!

Take this fella for a start. What exactly is it? I couldn't tell you. All suggestions on a postcard. I think there's sweet potato in there, and maybe tofu too, but flavoured with what? Who knows? A shiny mystery sauce of wonder, I can only hope. A shiny mystery sauce of wonder so glorious no fragment of its joy can be retained by the human memory, perhaps.

It looks like one of the early victims to my current favourite trend of adding lentils to the rice as it's cooking to bring some extra flavour and texture to the finished result. Looks like a mixture of brown rice and green lentils to me, what do you reckon?

This next meal looks like a more straightforward proposition - burritos or Mexican wraps of some kind? If only the filling weren't so hidden, perhaps I could have a better guess as to what they contained.

There some pickled radishes, it looks like, some guacamole, grated carrot and peppers, but what lies beneath them, hidden in their vegetable cloak? If I had to guess, I'd say tofu scramble and black beans. I mean, I don't know if that's right, but that's what I'd want it to be if I was eating it again right now.

The one thing I do recall about this meal was it was inspired by the discovery of mini wraps in the supermarket - more dainty saucer-sized ones, rather than the usual dinner plate-sized wraps you get normally. I was pleased by them, as it sparked the realisation I could either cut down my wrap consumption by weight (eat two small wraps instead of two large ones), or just eat the more wraps and get the same volume of wrappage overall (eat three small wraps, instead of two large ones.) That's a wrap win-win, right there.

Though I can't remember which of the two options I chose, lets pretend it was the former, so I can bathe in my restraint.

Next up in my memory fail-based post is this wrap, which I found in a nearby supermarket and was marked as vegan. You know, with the word vegan and everything (I bought it in Tesco, which doesn't really put vegan labelling on anything, including most things that couldn't be anything but vegan.)
I meant to make a note of the maker to say it wasn't half bad for something you put in the microwave when you've not got any proper food on hand - a great big filling of squidy curried potato filling and a light greasy in a good way Indian roti around it. If you're in Tesco, and you find it in the freezer, let me know what it is. 

I think it had been in my freezer for six months before I ate it though, so the it may have been discontinued. At least I got to enjoy it while excavating the further reaches of the ice box, and it didn't seem to have been harmed any by its stay in the deep freeze. 

And from cold to hot, and one thing I do remember making recently - baked peaches!

Man, these were tasty. Little donut peaches are so good right now - so full of flavour and reminiscent of how amazing peaches used to taste before they were bred for weight rather than taste.

There's not much to this one - cut the peaches in half, sprinkle on some sugar or sweetener of your choice, tiny bit of dairy-free butter, stick in the oven, and wait til the delicious smell of roasting fruit fruit means you can't wait any longer and have to grab them and gobble them all up.

Note to self: next week, remember to write down what you're eating when you're eating it...

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

I'll be honest, the term 'fine dining' normally makes me want to stick pins in my eyes. I've been to some fancy-dan restaurants before in the course of my work, and normally I just find the atmosphere so stuck-up I'd rather be anywhere else. The food may be delicious, but if it's stuffy, I'd still rather have a bag of chips instead.

So when I saw the "aspirational fine dining" club Asparagasm was going to be running a pop-up in Brixton, I'll admit it wasn't the first place I wanted to check out.

Still, I'm a greedy so-and-so, so I thought I'd haul my arse down there anyway and see if they could serve me up a dinner tasty enough to make me change my opinion on fine dining.

Luckily enough, Asparagasm decided to take the ambition of fine dining places, and leave their oppressive atmosphere. No overbearing sommeliers here, just a hardworking cocktail guy, and the starched tablecloths have been ditched in favour of paper ones. Think casual rather than ceremonious.

The pop-up is in Vozars (normally a gluten free cafe) in Brixton market. It's just a matter of a few tables outdoors, which you get to share with other diners when things get busy. The menu's rather tiny too - just three mains, three starters and three desserts to choose from (the booze menu is far longer, and if you ask to look at the cocktail list, some poor waitress has to hoik a great big sandwich board almost as big as she is over to your table.)

For our starter, me and Mr Flicking the Vs decided to try the papa arrugadas with mojo rojo - I picked it over the callaloo fritters or avocado, black bean and corn ceviche (the other two options on offer) as I didn't know what it was, and really wanted to find out!

If you're feeling equally curious as to what papas arrugadas is, let me put you out of your misery:

Yep, papas is potatoes (I should know that really, right?) but I had to google arrugadas when I got home, and found out that it meant 'wrinkled'. I guess that's a nod to the look of the dish. I also googled what papas arrugadas should involve: it's a Canary Island recipe of new potatoes, first boiled than baked. I'm not sure whether the papas were baked here, but the texture was a little suboptimal - a bit on the claggy side.

Luckily, the sauce that came with it was absolutely delicious - rich, creamy and devilishly moreish. The dodgy spuds were happily lost in their velvety covering.

Things stepped a notch when the mains arrived - tofu with root veg and asparagus for me, a lentil parcel for Mr Flicking the Vs. In this particular contest, my main totally won. I mean, his was nice and smoky- puy lentils, ratatouille and a bit of salsa verde on the side - but mine was pure comfort food heaven.

The tofu was lightly herbed, cooked til thin and crispy, the asparagus was deep fried til the middle practically melted, but the crushed root veggies were something else. How exciting can mash be, you might think? Very, I'd tell you. I think if Asparagasm's was the only mash I could eat for the rest of my life, I'd not be hard done by!

If I had a complaint about the dish, then it would be the portions were a bit on the small side (and not just because the mash was so good!) - a little more on the plate wouldn't go amiss. Other than that, it was glorious.

Of the three desserts, the berry bocker glory with chocolate tiffin and chocolate ice convinced me it should be the one to see the inside of my stomach, and I didn't want to disappoint.

There was a smooth, sharp raspberry sauce poured over a couple of chunks of tiffin and the sort of ice cream that makes you proud to be vegan. Oh yeah, there were some berries there too, but I was kind of lost in the ice cream by that point.

I could well be wrong, but I think the ice cream might have come from Ms Cupcake and the tiffin from Lazy Day, so there was more assembling than cooking when it came to pudding, but I can't say I didn't enjoy it nonetheless.

If you want to check out Asparagasm yourself, head down to Vozars. It's not fine dining - and I mean that as a high compliment. If you want to get yourself to Brixton for a good feed and cocktails (and I recommend you do!) you've got til Saturday. This pop-up isn't here for long, more's the pity.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Hey, I'm back! I've missed you guys. Did anything happen while I was away?

I've been in Dubrovnik, Croatia for a short holiday. It's a lovely city and the weather was amazing. But you don't want to hear about that, right? You want to hear about whether it's a good place for the herbivores, I reckon.

Let me get on with it then! Before I went away, I did a bit of research about vegan options in the city, and found out that it's not the most exciting place for veg*ns. Because it was a cheaper (and in most cases, nicer and more convenient) option, we stayed in apartments in the city, so we cooked for ourselves a few times. We also stayed on Korcula, an island that had even less interesting food options for vegans than Dubrovnik. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we didn't eat out in Korcula, unlike in Dubrovnik, where we had some decent feeds. But more on that later…

One of our apartments in Dubrovnik was just down the road from Bio and Bio, a health food store that had a pretty decent selection of veggie and vegan options, including non-dairy milks, mock meats, raw bars, and all that sort of fun stuff. We picked up a few sweet treats, hot dogs and seitan slices for our trip to Korcula, as we knew we'd not find much there - it seemed like all the restaurants were fish places or touristy pizza joints.

That doesn't mean Korcula wasn't a great place to visit, though, so don't let me put you off - just don't expect to get a load of great meals out! (There's some lovely views and great places to drink, and the locally-available brews Ožujsko and Karlovačko are vegan friendly).

And while the restaurants aren't overly loaded with vegan options, Croatia's local supermarket chain Konzum has a fair few vegan items - vegan chocolate, crisps, non-dairy milk etc as well as all the usual fresh and store cupboard essentials.

There are also vegan pate type things - including this one I picked up at Konzum...

And these two I found in another supermarket that I've forgotten the name of. The top one had a sort of sweet orangey flavour which kind of made me gag when I first tried it, but by the end of the holiday I kind of liked it on toast with a load of tomato and lamb's lettuce on top. Maybe it was a sort of culinary Stockholm syndrome?!

If you want something better to dip your bread in than sweet orange pate, may I suggest ajvar?

Ajvar is sold in almost all the supermarkets in big jars, and it's a vegan spread/dip type thing, also known as "vegetable caviar", apparently. It's really good stuff, and it ended up doing double duty during our trip as a pasta sauce later on that week.

But what about eating out?

Our first dinner was at the Lapad Beach bar, one of a few bars around the Lapad area, a bit away from the old city. It's a really touristy part of town with loads of excursion and restaurant touts, which kind of put me off a bit. Anyway, when we found the bar, I was pretty happy to see a number of vegan options on the menu and a pretty nice view, which my phone didn't really do a great job of capturing. Here it is:

While the vegan options weren't overly exciting - soups, sarnies, pasta - I was still looking forward to trying my first vegan dinner in Dubrovnik. I ordered the vegan platter and crossed my fingers. Here's what arrived on my table:

The vegan platter was double the price of the rest of the vegan dishes so I was expecting something a bit special, and this wasn't it. It was OK - some salad, fried veggies, tofu and (I think) bacony seitan. Everything was swimming in oil, and the tofu was entirely plain. The seitan was bizarrely pretty tasty, but that must have been an oversight on the kitchen's part! The service was friendly but hapless - we weren't given any cutlery, and couldn't find any waiting staff to get them from for a good while.

If you're looking for a decent vegan meal in Dubrovnik, I wouldn't say you'll find it here, but if you were desperate and in the vicinity, at least you wouldn't starve to death. I was going to say the view's pretty nice so go for a drink and skip the food, but after we left, I discovered we'd been overcharged for the drinks we'd had, so maybe give the whole place a miss and head to Nishta instead.

Nista is a little veggie place in Dubrovnik's old city, down one of the side streets with a few tables indoors and outdoors. It's always packed, so when we turned up one balmy night, we were pretty lucky to get a tiny table inside. Alas, it was boiling and a little cramped, but we persevered.

Our starter was some lentil pancakes with curry filling and fruit and mint chutneys on the site. The pancakes had a few touches of burn on them, but not really the worse for that.

For a main, I went for the bar-bea-burger - a great thick patty in a homemade flatbread, sweet potato fries and a curry type sauce on the side. The sweet potato fries were a bit on the greasy side, and given the size of the burger, would probably have been better swapped for salad. The burger itself was hugely  flavoursome - a mix of seitan, barley, and beans with a rich smokey flavour. I ate it all.

It was all pretty good, but I spent the whole meal sweltering from the heat in the restaurant, and I was put out that Mr Flicking the Vs' vegan option turned up unvegan so I couldn't get to try it (he's not vegan, so he didn't mind himself, and was spared from me stealing his tea!). Luckily, Mr Flicking the Vs came up with the great idea of booking an outside table for the last night of our holiday so we could come back and enjoy another meal at a temperature that couldn't cause humans to melt.

I'm glad we went back. While the food was decent on our first visit, what we ate on the second visit was really great. We shared a starter of veggie tartare, which looked like this:

Don't let that unassuming appearance fool you - this was really a winner. There was tofu in there, and tomato, capers, and who know what else? Fairy dust maybe? I've been dreaming about recreating this one at home since I've eaten it.

Next up was Kokofino, a rich mix of curried vegetables and millet, with marinated and coconut-coated tofu sticks. This was a solid gold winner, and has converted me to the cause of eating millet.

Despite the fact I'd long since stopped being hungry (Nishta doesn't stint on its main courses), we decided to go for a dessert to share. Nishta has a fair amount of raw food on its menu and while I'm not raw foodist, I like a good raw pudding, and chose the appropriately named Rawnie.

It was a solid, chocolatey puck of a dessert, but not heavy to eat, and the forest fruits sorbet helped cut through the dense date sweetness. We sent back another clean plate to the Nishta kitchen.

  Dubrovnik may not be vegans' idea of culinary heaven, but it's a great place, and Nishta more than makes up for its dining shortcomings!