My Vegan Diary ~ Fairfields Farm Crisps Heat & Eat

Item received for review purposes

There have been some exciting developments around these parts; I’ve gone vegan! It’s been a long time coming, to be honest; working as I do for a vegan company, in the industry that I do, I could and should have done it before now. But Veganuary 2018 was my starting point, and now here I am, over six weeks vegan, and I feel great!

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Now, I’m not the sort of vegan who is going to start preaching to you about why you should go vegan. I’m also not going to turn into a ‘vegan blogger.’ But I am planning to continue to eat far too much food, and when I find something delicious that is suitable for vegans, I plan to tell you all about it.

So when the opportunity to try some Fairfields Farm Crisps came up, I jumped at the chance. I love crisps – I know that I eat far too many, and being a vegan hasn’t changed that in the slightest – so many crisps out there are suitable for those on a vegan diet.

Fairfields Farm is a brand that I’m already familiar with, as they are extremely local to me – they are based 20 minutes down the road from where I live! I always see their crisps in my local East of England Co-Op, who have a Sourced Locally initiative that brings lots of local produce into the stores.

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But up until now, I hadn’t tried their Heat & Eat crisps. I received a box of crisps with two different flavours; Sea Salted with a Tomato Salsa Dip, and Cheese & Chive with a Caramelised Onion Dip. Sadly the Cheese & Chive flavour isn’t suitable for vegans, so I passed them on to a friend who confirmed that they taste great. (Whilst it’s incredibly common to find bacon flavoured crisps that are suitable for vegans, cheesy crisps remain mostly out of reach for now.)

The sea salted ones made a perfect Sunday afternoon snack for when my friend Hannah and I sat down to continue with our Friends rewatch (we’re up to series four). The dip comes in the bag, so you just rip it open, take the dip out, and put the bag in the microwave for thirty seconds. The crisps are tasty enough as they come; they are thick cut and full of flavour, but heating them up really adds another level to them!

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It’s also good to know that Fairfields Farm is an entirely energy-efficient business, meaning that these crisps are powered solely by renewable energy. It’s nice to have a tasty treat knowing that their production isn’t adversely affecting the environment too much.

If you’re vegan, tell me your favourite crisps!

Item received for review purposes. 

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Now Cook It with Co-op

 

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I recently came home from work to discover a box full of ingredients on my doorstep. Intriguing, right? Further investigation revealed that it was from Co-op, who had sent me everything I needed to make a Roasted Vegetable Couscous. I have to say, though I like eating (a lot), I don’t do an awful lot of cooking. I’m really lazy, though I am trying harder lately, and this came just at the right time to give me a kick up the bum!

Co-op have teamed up with SORTEDfood to create #nowcookit, an online cooking course that is looking to ‘tackle the cooking skills gap’ that they identified among millennials. Now I totally count as a millennial, even though I’m a little older than the 16-24 year olds mentioned in the research. I have an interest in learning to cook, I just never seem to find the time. #nowcookit is designed to show that you don’t need loads of time, or loads of fancy equipment, and the Roasted Vegetable Couscous showed me that tasty, healthy food isn’t that hard! Something I should have learned before now, I know.

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As well as being available in a full text version, the recipes are also available as videos, from the team at SORTEDfood. This is a fun and engaging video, though it would be entirely possible for the whole thing to come across as cheesy, it doesn’t, and having watched it, I was eager to try my hand at the cooking!

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Anyone who regularly cooks would think that this was a walk in the park – it was literally just chopping up some veg and throwing it into a roasting dish, and then adding the lemon and garlic to give the whole thing some flavour. Cooking the couscous was easy too, and then it all just gets thrown together. The recipe calls for adding some cucumber, tomatoes and Greek yoghurt as an additional salad, but I went without that and just took the whole thing to work the next day for my lunch.

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In all honesty, courgette is not my favourite vegetable. In fact, I have issues with all cooked vegetables (I will eat all vegetables raw but am picky when they are cooked!). But this was so flavoursome that I got over my initial misgivings and enjoyed it very much! The lemon and garlic add so much depth to the vegetables that it was really tasty, and it was so easy.

You can find the Now Cook It course here; there are tips for cooking skills and techniques, and if you sign up for the course, you can earn status and awards. It’s a great source of inspiration, and there are loads of recipes to choose from. Even if you’re a little more adventurous in the kitchen than me!

*Co-op sent me the ingredients for this dish but as always, all views and opinions are my own.

Ultimate Comforts at Pizza Express

January isn’t traditionally the best of months, so popping along to Pizza Express to try out their new Ultimate Comforts menu was a welcome bright spot in a bleak month! The range of comforting and warming dishes has been launched to help us all get through the winter months with a treat.

I headed along to Pizza Express in Colchester; I took advantage of a day off after a long weekend of working hard, and took Hannah along with me (she had spent all weekend working hard too!). The new menu actually features dishes that have all previously appeared on the main menu, but are making a comeback due to customer demand.

Ultimate Comforts Pizza ExpressThe only starter on the Ultimate Comforts menu is Pennette Formaggi, a Pizza Express take on Mac & Cheese. As delicious as this looked, for me, it’s a little too much for a starter, so I opted for the old favourite of Dough Balls. You can also order the pasta starter as a  main, but when I go to Pizza Express, I want pizza!

 

I chose the Barbacoa Pizza – pulled Barbacoa beef, spicy chipotle salsa, garlic oil, mozzarella and tomato. It was quite spicy, but really tasty. it was huge though – I couldn’t manage it all!

Barbacoa Pizza - Pizza Express

As a vegan, unfortunately there wasn’t anything on the special menu for Hannah to have, so she went for her tried and trusted Pizza Express pizza – the Pianta. It’s a cheeseless pizza, and comes with spinach, mushrooms, artichoke, rocket and pine kernels.

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Despite vague intentions to participate in Dry January (and maybe dry 2017), I ended up ordering an alcoholic drink, because I couldn’t resist the lure of Sloe Prosecco.

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The dessert option on the Ultimate Comforts menu is a delicious Chocolate Fondant. Three courses might seem a bit decadent, but when the food is this good, it’s necessary! Again, there wasn’t a vegan option on the dessert menu for Hannah, so unfortunately she had to sit and watch me eat.

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Now that we’ve finally made it to January payday, if you’re still feeling that post-Christmas slump, get yourself to Pizza Express!

This meal at Pizza Express was provided free of charge. This does not affect the integrity of my review, all opinions are my own. 

 

Burger Club – Love Thy Burger

A little while ago, my friend Lucy and I decided to go out for a burger. It was one of those ‘Let’s do that’ type of plans that didn’t happen for ages, but when it did, we wanted to try and find the best burger we could. The ruminations on this, which came to include our friend Laura, turned into a desire to find the best burger in Colchester, which is near to where we all live.

Our Burger Club plan is hitting a major stumbling block in the next couple of weeks, as Lucy is leaving us to head to university in Kent, and so our club meetings will have to be during holiday times when she comes back to see us. But it’s hopefully going to be something of an ongoing thing, so I hope this is just the first of many posts about burgers!

Not really knowing where to start, I put out a tweet asking for advice, and got a couple of suggestions. In the end, we decided to try Love Thy Burger, a small restaurant on Colchester High Street. It’s nothing fancy, and you wouldn’t plan to spend an awful lot of time in there, but it was a nice place to sit for an hour and eat and chat. The decor is deliberately industrial, it’s clean, and the staff were friendly and helpful. It’s a place where you go and order at the counter, which gives you an idea as to the type of place this is.

 ~ The Burger of Liberty. Forgive the less than amazing photography skills! ~

We all had something different from the menu. Lucy had the Scorchio, with chilli jam, Monterey Jack Cheese, smoky streaked bacon, jalapeno and lime mayonnaise, and LTB’s own spicy sauce. She liked it, but declared that it was probably a little hot for her. Perfect, I should imagine, if you like your food spicy!

Laura had the Cheesy Lee, with red onion marmalade, Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and ketchup. She liked hers a lot!

I had the Burger of Liberty with red onion marmalade, pastrami, gherkin, American mustard, Monterey Jack cheese, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise. I think I liked my burger the most out of the three of us; it was the pastrami that really gave it the edge! It tasted like America, which I think has a lot to do with the aforementioned pastrami, and I really liked it.

We got all three sides that are available; rosemary fries, onion rings and coleslaw. The fries are great – the rosemary really adds something different!

Ultimately, Love thy Burger is a really nice place to grab a quick bite. It feels nice to sit in there and eat and chat, and the staff were friendly. I’ll definitely be going back; it’s the perfect place to grab something quick and the burgers taste great.