GO GO GO TO GO Falafel!

I can’t remember how I came across Go Falafel recently but its existence certainly wasn’t news to me. When the branch on the ‘Curry Mile’ opened I was student and I’d see it every day through the steamed up, rainy, Magic Bus window. Although it intrigued me a little at this point – what vegetarian isn’t drawn in by falafel?! – I already had a favourite Middle Eastern takeaway joint just a few doors down (namely Falafel – this is going to get confusing). Like I say my falafel needs were already catered for and the fancy exterior and offer of fresh juices and smoothies seemed gimmicky and more suited to the student population (I, of course, was different to them – only interested in legit Arabic snacks)

That was until I decided I was going to go vegan and began doing my research…..where could I eat out easily as a vegan?

I knew plenty of places in and around Fallowfield, Withington and Didsbury (Fuel, Greens and The Hub to name a few) but now I’d moved to town I was out of my depth….oh the struggles of a young vegan in a big city!!

Anyway Go Falafel cropped up somewhere along my internet search and I was surprised to read that everything sold in there is 100% vegan. I was excited to test it out and decided to treat myself last Friday lunchtime.

The menu is pretty straightforward; the main options are falafel wraps, a falafel lunch box or a salad box. I opted for the falafel lunch box – it was lunchtime and given it was the most expensive thing on the menu (£5.50) I guessed I’d get a big portion. I also ordered a smoothie – mango, passionfruit and peach.

The lunch box consisted of a selection of delicious and imaginative salads. I can’t remember them all but there was a grated carrot salad with a lemony dressing, a pasta salad coated in a herby pesto, tabouleh, mixed roasted veg and spinach with red onion. I love when salad isn’t just lettuce, tomato and cucumber and Go Falafel really excelled here. In the centre of the salads was a pot of houmous – an essential with falafel! This was drizzled with some olive oil and paprika which was a nice touch. Then to finish off, 4 freshly fried falafel and a warmed flatbread. I hurried back to the office in the rain with my salad and smoothie and tucked in. I wasn’t disappointed and the wonderful variety with each component kept my interest until the end. The smoothie was also great; tropical and sweet as you would expect.

Go Falafel is a great place to grab a bite to eat – vegan or not – and they’re open late too (Piccadilly: 10am – 10pm and Rusholme (Curry Mile): 10am – 2am) so could provide some hangover-reducing sustenance after post-work drinks.

The only downside I can think of is that they are only takeaway – there are no tables or chairs inside and so not a great option if you want somewhere to go and have lunch with friends – then again you could buy your falafel and sit in Piccadilly Gardens (if it isn’t raining!). Overall I was very impressed and I’m looking forward to going back and trying the rest of the menu!  And like I said GO GO GO TO GO Falafel!  5/5  gofalafel.co.uk

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6 days into veganism; so far so easy

Ok so granted I haven’t exactly pushed the boundaries of vegan cooking over the last 5 days but I really thought I’d be finding it much harder than I am.  I have loads to say already but I will just pick out a few of the main things I have experienced so far….

I spent 2 of the first five days hungover and mainly stuffing my face with bagels, peanut butter and crisps but I have constructed some meals and most importantly not felt like I was missing out!

I’d say the hardest moment so far was Sunday evening, usually I’d order a big cheesy pizza to try and dull the realisation that the weekend is over. After sulking for approximately 3 minutes I decided I would have to find a similarly stodgy vegan alternative. Instead, I stuffed my face with a bagel, Pom Bears dipped in houmous and Metcalfe’s Sweet ‘n Salt Popcorn…I felt pretty satisfied with that and better for not spending money on takeaway and consuming a disgusting amount of calories/fat.

Yesterday I popped into Holland & Barrett (I can barely walk past there without heading inside these days) and perused the vegan fridge/freezer section. I think my favourite part of this challenge is discovering new foods that I haven’t eaten before. I came out with VegiDeli’s Gourmet Meat-free Meatballs and Meatless Feast Pizza, Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean and Vegetable Enchilada and Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Country Pies. I had no need for any of them but felt like having some quick and easy meals in my fridge/freezer would be a good idea for the days where I can’t be bothered to think about what I want to eat. I justified the expense by saying to myself ‘it’s better to bulk buy at the start of the month when I still have some money left than wait until the week before pay day’.  Plus I’m not buying the usual cheese and eggs which cost money! I haven’t tried any of them yet (although my mum did used to buy the country pies when I was growing up and they’re delicious) but I’m hoping I will find a new favourite! Reviews to follow….

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I also popped into Tesco – mainly to see what they have to offer a new vegan and partly because I’ve heard so much about Violife Dairy-free Cheese on the vegan-grapevine and supposedly Tesco is the place to find it. There was no sign of the Violife L and I didn’t come across anything that particularly excited me. I might not have been looking hard enough. I have a Sainsburys close to my flat and to my work and have really been impressed with their vegan labelling of own brand products. Tesco don’t do this which makes everything 10x harder! I did however buy a couple of Glorious! SkinnyLicious Soups (2 for £3.50) I got ‘Starry Thai Sky’ flavour which apparently is a pumpkin and coconut cream soup with carrot, coriander, ginger and less than 1% fat! They were marked vegan and this fact alone probably encouraged me to pick them up – take note food companies!

Fancy soup

A highlight of the week so far has been my first vegan chocolate bar! I’m not what you would describe a chocoholic but when I closed a deal at work I was upset to think I wouldn’t get to have my earned dip in the ‘deal bucket’ (literally a bucket filled with chocolate and sweets). I thought I’d have a look anyway….pretty much everything had milk or gelatine EXCEPT a Fry’s Chocolate Cream bar. I’d always thought it was an old-fashioned sort of bar and given it was launched in 1866 I guess it is! Nevertheless I was impressed by my first chocolate experience as a vegan. The dark chocolate had a lovely snap to it and the centre was a bit like a solid Crème Egg filling.

Old Man Chocolate

Like I said I’ve not been hugely inventive with my meals so far. I accidently bought a second pot of houmous when I already had some in the fridge and coupled with falafel, pitta breads, cous cous, olives and salad it has made a number of tasty meals. I’ve had a couple of Innocent Veg Pots and porridge made with almond milk and dried cranberries for breakfast every day.

A few of my meals have looked like this..

A few of my meals have looked like this..

Next week I hope to be a little bit more productive and maybe follow a few recipes…..watch this space

Preparations for Vegan November

Again a slight diversion from the initial intended use for this blog…After introducing myself as a vegetarian only yesterday, I am now preparing to go vegan for the month of November and therefore this blog will follow suit…

I can’t really remember what made me decide to try veganism. For years now I’ve understand why people choose to be vegan and fully admired them for doing so but the thought of giving up cheese and butter just seemed too hard! More and more over the past year or so I’ve thought about it though and I must have been Googling something vegan to come across Animal Aid’s ‘Go Vegan’ website (http://www.govegan.org.uk/). I absent-mindedly signed up to the ‘Great Vegan Challenge’ and (half)committed to give up eggs and dairy for the month of November to tie in with World Vegan Month (if that’s actually a thing).

I say half-committed because I was dubious I’d be able to do it, I imagined it would be costly and complicated and I didn’t know if I had the will-power or drive to actually stick it out. Anyway, a few days later I received an unexpected package in the post….a little welcome pack with lots of info, help and recipes from Animal Aid.  By this point I had mentioned that I might be going vegan to a few people at work and was talking myself more and more into the idea. The more people recoiled in horror or told me it was a bad idea the more I wanted to do it. So here I am, tomorrow is my last day of dairy and eggs(and the rest) before I start my vegan adventure on Saturday.

I don’t want to ramble on about veganism but I think I will quickly outline some of my main motivating factors.

Animal Welfare: This might shock some of you but I’m not exactly an animal lover. I mean I don’t mind animals but I’m not one for giving £100s to the donkey sanctuary – obviously they do a good job but I prefer to put people first. However, industrial farming is disgusting and seeing the way animals are reared and kept would put Ronald McDonald off his Big Mac. But it’s not only the meat industry that contributes to awful animal welfare – countless male calves are killed because the dairy industry has no need for them and similarly male chicks are killed at just a day old because they don’t lay eggs. If I can opt out of this industry, even if it’s for my own peace of mind then I will do.

Environment: The food industry as a whole is out of control. Farming so many animals for meat, eggs and dairy puts huge pressure on the environment; from growing crops to feed the animals to the methane produced from all the cattle we rear, to transporting all of these animal products around the world. This is a hard one because in some ways I think we’re already fucked but I don’t think I’d be a very good human to just give up on the world.

Health: I don’t really know what’s going to happen with my health during this month but I do know that the majority of the saturated fat I have consumed throughout my life has been through cheese! I’m planning on not using too many cheese/milk/yoghurt alternatives and really cutting back to pulses, beans, vegetables and nuts….surely that’s got to be good for you! And if I’m really honest I’d love to lose a bit of weight during this month.

So preparations so far have included purchasing this lovely looking recipe book; ‘Keep it Vegan’ by Áine Carlin. I’ve flicked through it and some of the recipes sound delicious. I also really enjoyed reading about Áine’s conversion to veganism. She has such a positive outlook on veganism and reassured me that going from a full-blown omnivore to a vegan really wasn’t that hard. So hard can it be for me? As and when I get round to trying her recipes I will let you know….

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In addition I went shopping tonight. This weekend is busy….I’m out straight after work with friends tomorrow evening then have to get up Saturday morning and jump on a train to Reading for a Halloween party. I will no doubt be hungover and in need of immediate food Saturday morning and didn’t want to fail on 1st November so I have been and got a few easy to grab bits and pieces which should keep me going until I’m ready to start cooking lentils and what-not.

vegan provisions

vegan provisions

Overall I’m excited! I love food and I’m seeing this as a new challenge. I’m interested to find out how easy/hard I’ll find it and what meals I will come back to  (the blog won’t be very interesting if I have peanut butter on toast everyday). I don’t know how I’m going to feel when November is over but regardless of whether or not I remain vegan I hope to take something away from it.

For more info on veganism see http://www.vegansociety.com/