The Pelican in her Piety

The Pelican in her Piety

The Pelican in her Piety

Location

The Pelican is a traditional country pub, which is well off the beaten track. The pub is nestled below a wood on a rolling hillside, five minutes away from the beach, in a picturesque spot overlooking Ogmore Castle.

Guests can sit on chunky wooden benches in the garden and patio area, while sipping a cool beer and admiring stunning views over the estuary.

Atmosphere

Located about half an hour west of Cardiff, the seaside location and friendly atmosphere attract a lot of families, especially at weekends. The romantic setting also draws couples, who visit to enjoy an intimate dinner after a romantic stroll along the beach.

The Pelican is every inch the traditional country pub. The grey stone walls are complemented by pastel yellow window frames and window boxes full of vibrant flowers. Inside, the bar and restaurant are cosy and welcoming .

Food & drink

The pub is equally good for a beer and a bar snack or a full three-course meal. A wide range of specials are displayed on chalk boards, with several vegetarian options available. The food is hearty and the portions are extremely generous.

There is also a wide selection of real ales for the discerning beer drinker. Some might find the food a tad on the expensive-side, but the portion sizes make it worthwhile. Staff are friendly and accommodating.

Festival food

I remember when I used to go to festivals as a teenager and festival food was more or less synonymous with warm beer, greasy chips and overpriced burgers. But fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

I went to Green Man Festival at Glanusk Park in the Black Mountains last weekend and was overwhelmed by choice. There were dozens of food and drink stalls, offering freshly cooked dishes, as well as local ciders and ales.

Thali Cafe

Thali Cafe is based in Bristol, but has been catering at events for more than 11 years. As I walked past the stall, it was impossible to resist the fragrant herbs and spices, although it was difficult to decide what to order!

I finally went for a butternut squash and red pepper curry with seasoned basmati rice, which was delicious. The portions were hearty and at £5.50, it was good value for money. What’s more, all the packaging was recyclable and biodegradable.

Green Man Festival

Green Man Festival

Pieminister

I first came across Pieminister at the Bath Food Festival and have been looking out for them ever since. They serve some delicious vegetarian pies, including a wild mushroom and asparagus variety and my personal favourite, the heidi pie.

The heidi pie is filled with goats cheese, sweet potato, spinach and red onion. You can opt to have the pie on its own (£5) or with mash, peas and vegetarian gravy (£7). The veggie gravy is tasty, but slightly tricky to eat from a takeaway box.

Shepherds

Shepherds is based at Cwm Farm in Herefordshire and specialises in ice cream made from sheep’s milk. During the summer, they run stalls at agricultural shows, music festivals and other outdoor events.

The stall offered 16 different flavours of ice cream, including chocolate, ginger and banana toffee crunch. Sheep’s milk contains more minerals and less fat than cow’s milk, so you don’t even have to feel guilty about indulging..!

Video: Sue Gibson

Vegetarian restaurants in Cardiff

I’ve been living in Cardiff for nearly a year now and after reviewing plenty of vegetarian restaurants, bars and cafés, I thought it would be helpful to compile a map of the best places for veggies and vegans to eat out in the Welsh capital.

Chapter Arts Centre

Lovely light and airy café-bar, with a sunny courtyard for summer evenings. Wide range of veggie and vegan dishes available, all made with fresh and local produce. They do a particularly tasty vegetarian breakfast.

Madhav

Cosy Indian café and takeaway located five minutes away from Millennium Stadium. All dishes are vegetarian and can be adapted for vegans. They do a good selection of freshly-made Indian sweets.

Milgi

Quirky kitchen, lounge and gallery in Cathays, complete with its own yurt in the garden. All dishes are vegetarian, by popular demand. Most dishes can also be adapted for vegans. Don’t miss out on the vegetarian Sunday lunch.

Riverside Market

An integral part of Cardiff life, the Riverside Market takes place on the banks of the Taff every Sunday morning, from 10am until 2pm. There are plenty of vegetarian stalls, including Frantastic Crepes and the Parsnipship.

Vegetarian Food Studio

Vegetarian heaven! Small and cosy vegetarian café, which offers an almost overwhelming selection of Indian and Oriental dishes. Vegetarian Food Studio has won many awards, including Vegetarian Society Best Restaurant and the Guardian Food Award.

For comprehensive listings, visit the Eat Out Vegan Wales site.

Kale chips

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve tried all kinds of weird and wonderful crisps in my time. I’m certainly a fan of the colourful and earthy beetroot, parsnip and carrot variety, but I must admit, when I was sent some raw kale chips to review, I was slightly perplexed.

Kale is a form of cabbage, no? You can’t make crisps from cabbage! Well, apparently you can and it turns out they’re pretty tasty. I was sent four different flavours: cheese and purple corn, wasabi wheatgrass, baobab and onion and raw cacao and cinnamon.

At first glance, they didn’t look hugely appetising. They were very dark green in colour and if you’re the kind of person who is put off a meal by the sight of a mound of spinach, then these may not be for you…

Organic

In fairness, it’s difficult to judge any food in its packaging and I can imagine these would look very appealing served alongside a sandwich or a nice salad with some fresh, crusty bread.

While we’re discussing looks, the chips were well packaged in brightly coloured and fully recyclable eco-packing, which clearly states that the product is suitable for a whole range special of dietary requirements, as it does not contain any dairy, wheat, soya or sugar.

Looks aside, the cheese and purple corn chips (which won the 2012 Free From Food Awards) smelt delicious. They did not have the usual greasy and oily texture of crisps, but instead, were light, delicate and crispy, with a strong taste of mature cheese.

Healthy

Instead of being fried, the chips are dried and dehydrated, which means they’re much healthier than normal crisps. The manufacturer also prides itself on steering clear of all additives, preservatives, MSG and GM ingredients, instead favouring organic alternatives.

The unusual wasabi wheatgrass flavour was nutty and peppery, with a spicy aftertaste, while the equally curious baobab and onion flavour had a pungent, salty aroma and a rich, earthy flavour.

The raw cacao and cinnamon flavour was more of an acquired taste, as my taste buds were confused by the sweet, sugary taste of what otherwise appeared to be a savoury product.

Light and crispy

Overall, I wouldn’t view kale chips as an alternative to traditional crisps, I would see them as something distinct and different. If you took a packet along to a house party, you might get some funny looks, but they are definitely worth a try and I will certainly be popping into the inSpiral café next time I’m in Camden.

A 35g pack of kale chips costs £3.45, while a large 80g pack is priced at £5.95. For more information, visit the inSpiral Visionary Products website.

Photos: InSpiral

Turkish delight

Falafel

Falafel

Thegreenveggie took a trip to Bristol this weekend and had the chance to sample some authentic Turkish cooking at Ezo Turkish Restaurant, which is located on the bohemian Gloucester Road in St Andrews.

After being chided for not booking a table (the waiter was half-joking, but he did give us a stern lecture!) we were seated at a table right in front of the open kitchen, where we could watch the two chefs hard at work over the grill.

Turkish cuisine is probably best known for its grilled meats, but the menu presented an impressive array of vegetarian options. In fact, with dishes like red lentil soup, feta and spinach filo parcels and grilled halloumi, deciding on a starter (or meze) proved tricky.

Falafel

Having seen the size of the main courses, my guest and I decided to share a plate of falafel (fritters made from chick peas, beans and spices). These were carefully presented on a bed of fresh salad and were accompanied by delicate swirls of homous.

The falafel were perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with subtle hints of coriander and cumin really enhancing the flavours. This was complemented well by the mild garlic tones of the homous.

The menu provided less choice for the main course, with all of the dishes from the barbecue strictly ruled out for vegetarians. However, there were three suitable oven-baked dishes, including vegetable turlu (a kind of stew) and mixed roast vegetables.

Musakka

I decided to try the musakka, which was made from potatoes and aubergines in white sauce, topped with feta cheese. From our vantage point, I could see the chef produce a steaming ceramic dish from the oven, and the waiter immediately brought it to our table.

There was slightly too much cheese for my liking, which made the top greasy, but the roasted aubergine, which can so often be tough and chewy, was beautifully tender and infused with rich flavours of garlic, black pepper and olive oil.

We didn’t try a dessert, but the baklava (layers of filo pastry with syrup and chopped nuts) looked delicious. Definitely a reason to go back! The meal was good value for money, with most starters priced at £3.95, mains at £9.95 and desserts at £3.80.

Photo: Kudu Momo

Vegetarian blogs

When I first started thegreenveggie, I was slightly overwhelmed by just how many vegetarian blogs there are out there. Yet they’re all so different and distinct. Here are a few of my favourites…

Herbivoracious

herbivoracious

herbivoracious

Herbivoracious is a brilliant and very widely read veggie blog, with more than 92,000 subscribers. The aim of the blog is to reinvigorate vegetarian cuisine by promoting modern techniques and bold, authentic flavours.

The blog is run by Michael Natkin from Seattle. Michael worked as a software engineer for 25 years, before deciding his true passion lay in the kitchen. Since then, he interned in a kitchen, published a recipe book and now he’s planning to open a small restaurant.

Michael said: “I’ve been a vegetarian since 1984. Here’s why. I’m passionate about bringing big flavors and good culinary technique to vegetarian cooking. Not to say I don’t also love a big plate of waffle house hash browns.”

This blog is bursting with original and inspiring recipes, which are neatly archived and easy to find. It’s nicely laid out, with lovely big images, plus video and audio clips, which make the recipes really easy to follow. Definitely worth a read.

Veggie Belly

Veggie Belly

Veggie Belly

Veggie Belly is another excellent vegetarian recipe blog, with more than 5,000 fans on Facebook. The blog is run by Sala Kannan, who was born in India and grew up with fiery, bold flavours, which influenced her cooking.

Sala is one well-travelled lady and her blog combines insightful travel writing with stunning photography and unusual recipes from every corner of the globe. She describes herself as a software services entrepreneur by day and a hobby cook and food blogger by night.

Sala said: “I was raised a vegetarian and have been vegetarian for most of my life. I love it and will never change it. But you won’t see me preaching vegetarianism. I respect people’s eating choices. I have a husband who eats meat and I have no problem with it.”

Veggie Belly’s greatest strength is its beautiful photography, which makes the recipes irresistible to try and easy to follow. And with pages on home, garden and travel, this is more than just a food blog, Sala talks about vegetarianism in all aspects of life.

Vegansaurus

vegansaurus

vegansaurus

Vegansaurus is a popular vegan lifestyle blog, covering food, politics and news related to veganism. Based in San Francisco, the site was set up in late 2008 and gets over 100,000 page views every month.

The best thing about vegansaurus is its light-hearted, banterous tone, which makes it accessible and fun to read. It also has a wide range of contributors, whose distinctive voices make this site wonderfully varied and diverse.

The site is updated very regularly and has a huge amount of content, making this one of the best sites around for product reviews and recipes. This is a fun, friendly and frank blog. Definitely worth a look.

Persian Cuisine

Thegreenveggie has been out and about in Shropshire this week and stumbled across a real hidden gem, called Dorrington Old Hall Persian Cuisine. Persian (or Iranian) cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and the best news is, it’s great for veggies.

It turns out tv chef Jamie Oliver is also an admirer. In the recent series Jamie’s Great Britain, he said: “Iranian cuisine is sometimes called Persian, and there’s a real buzz about these sets of flavours and ideas among chefs, right now.”

Dorrington Old Hall was the first Persian restaurant to open in Shropshire and the traditionally British black and white timber-framed building, which dates from the 13th century, contrasts with the Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Indian culinary influences.

Freshly prepared

The restaurant’s owner and chef Ijlal Haider recognises that many people have never tried Persian food before, so he provides an extensive buffet, where diners can try a diverse range of freshly prepared dishes.

A starter was quickly brought to our table by a friendly waitress, who was eager to explain all the different mazeh, or appetizers. These consisted of fresh black and green olives, naan-e-barbair (Persian flat breads) and a selection of dips.

The naan-e-barbair, which are the most common style of bread baked in Iran, were still warm and tasted as if they had come straight out of the oven. They had been lightly brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.

Homous and flat bread

Homous and flat bread

Homous

They were accompanied by mast-o-bademjan (a dip made of roasted aubergines and onions in yoghurt), salad shirazi (tomato, cucumber and onion with mint, lemon juice and olive oil) and homous (creamed chick peas with garlic and lemon juice).

All of the dips had rich, complex flavours. The homous was thick and had a strong, garlic taste, but this was perfectly balanced by the refreshing hints of lemon and complemented the cucumber, tomato and mint in the salad.

A “culinary selection” buffet of main courses is available most nights and offers a selection of 12 different dishes, about half of which are suitable for vegetarians. My favourite of these was Ghormeh Sabzi, which is considered by many to be the Iranian national dish.

National dish

Made from rose coco beans, spinach, onions and parsley, it is a rich and mildly spicy stew, which was served with steamed basmati rice. The Khoresht-e-Gheimeh, or split-pea stew, which contained yellow split-peas, lentils and garlic, was also delicious.

Dr Haider is clearly passionate about his food. After working as a surgeon for many years, he  swapped his doctor’s coat for a chef’s apron to share his love of his native cuisine. He was on hand throughout the evening to talk to the diners and explain the dishes.

He is clearly a talented chef and reached the finals of both the South Asian Chef award and the Shropshire Curry Chef of the Year award in 2011. Overall, it was a delicious meal in a friendly and intimate setting, and it was very refreshing to try something new.

For more information, or to book a table, call 01743 719100.

Photo: Andy

Vegetarian Sunday lunch

Vegetarian Sunday lunch

Vegetarian Sunday lunch

Traditional Sunday lunches do not always provide ideal vegetarian fare. I always associate a Sunday roast with my grandma’s epic portions of roast beef and enough sausages to sink a small ship.

But with crispy nut roasts, traditional Glamorgan sausages and fresh vegetables, vegetarian roasts can be just as tasty as their meaty counterparts. Thegreenveggie seeks out the best vegetarian-friendly Sunday lunches in Cardiff…

Y Mochyn Du

Y Mochyn Du

Y Mochyn Du

Y Mochyn Du, meaning the black pig, is a light and airy pub, right next to Bute Park in the heart of Cardiff. This popular drinking hole is the main meeting place for Welsh speakers in the area and you will often hear a male voice choir practicing their repertoire in the conservatory on a Saturday evening.

This pub was nominated Pub of the Year in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and their slogan “for all reasons and all seasons,” aptly sums up the pleasant setting. There’s a lovely sunny beer garden, complete with patio umbrellas for glorious summer days, as well as a cosy fire and comfy sofas for chilly winter evenings.

The vegetarian option was Glamorgan sausages, which was priced at £7.75. The sausages were delicious and were clearly handmade, using local Caerphilly cheese. These traditional Welsh sausages were thick, flavoursome and coated in crispy breadcrumbs.

The sausages were served with a generous portion of Yorkshire pudding, fresh vegetables and golden roast potatoes. The bar also had a wide range of local ales on tap, most of which were suitable for vegetarians and vegans. A great place to meet up with friends or family.

The Robin Hood

The Robin Hood

The Robin Hood

The Robin Hood is a friendly, bustling pub, tucked away in the leafy heart of Pontcanna. The shady awning and pretty window boxes give the pub a European feel and the front patio provides some excellent people watching opportunities.

The Sunday lunch menu did not offer much choice, with only three or four options available and only one vegetarian dish. However, the quality of the food more than made up for the lack of choice.

The vegetarian option was a generous slice of nut roast, served with a small silver jug of vegetarian gravy. The nut roast was crispy and packed full of different herb flavours. A large bowl of fresh vegetables was brought to the table for us to share. This included carrots, broccoli, parsnips and roast potatoes, which were all cooked to perfection.

The pub also offers a free bottle of wine if you book a table in advance, making Sunday lunch at the Robin Hood excellent value for money. A great place to take the parents.

Woods Brasserie

Woods Brasserie

Woods Brasserie

This contemporary restaurant, situated in the pilotage building in Cardiff Bay, had a very modern feel. The glass roof and minimalist decor provided a pleasant setting, which was just as well, because the service was incredibly slow.

The menu at Woods Brasserie was slightly pretentious, offering the sort of dishes where you either need a foreign phrase book, or are obliged to ask the waiter to interpret the unnecessarily elaborate and over-fussy descriptions.

On the plus side, there were several vegetarian dishes to choose from. For a starter, I tried fregola with ewe’s cheese, artichokes, pine nuts and lemon. Just in case you’re wondering (I certainly was) fregola is a type of pasta, made up of small, round beads, with a  couscous-like texture.

Although I appreciated the originality and presentation of the dish, the execution was disappointing. The fregola and artichokes were poorly cooked, with some chewy, raw pieces spoiling the otherwise light and delicate flavours.

The main course was carrot and cumin fritters with smoked baba ganoush, basil and shallot. The classic combination of carrot and cumin worked well, but the fritters were overwhelmingly oily, which made them heavy and soggy.

I had never tried baba ganoush (which is made from mashed aubergine and olive oil) and based on this experience, I would not be inclined to try it again! Like the fritters, the texture was very oily, which did not help the wetness of the fritters, and overall, the main course was mushy, with a riot of conflicting flavours fighting for the attention of your taste buds.

The restaurant was also more expensive than the previous two, with lunch costing £20 for three courses. However, after two disappointing courses and ridiculously slow service, we decided not to stay for a desert. A sunny walk around Cardiff Bay seemed more appealing!

Photos: Ewan Munro, Dom Stocqueler, John Dixon

Happy Gathering

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

Chinese cuisine is not always ideal for vegetarians. I’ve often ordered a vegetarian chow mein, only to discover a rogue prawn hidden beneath the noodles. But Cardiff’s Happy Gathering provided an extensive vegetarian menu.

Exceptional food

Situated in Canton, Happy Gathering was named “Cardiff’s finest Chinese restaurant,” by the Independent. From the outside, the shabby neon sign certainly didn’t distinguish this restaurant from the countless Chinese take-aways on Cowbridge Road East, but the food turned out to be exceptional.

The restaurant was bigger than it appeared from the outside and was traditionally decorated, with a dark red and black colour scheme and oriental prints and drapes. A grand piano dominated the room and live music added to the lively atmosphere.

Extensive vegetarian menu

My guests were all keen meat-eaters and were spoiled for choice with fish, duck and beef. I was expecting to have to settle for the only vegetarian option on the menu, but to my surprise, there were many vegetarian and vegan dishes available.

I opted for vegetable spring rolls as a starter. These were beautifully presented on a rectangular glass plate, with the salad artistically crafted into a flower. The spring rolls were filled with fresh vegetables and were deep fried, to give a light, crispy texture.

Traditional and authentic

The chop sticks added to the authenticity of the restaurant, but eating spring rolls in a socially acceptable manner with these awkward utensils proved a challenge. Fortunately, a few drinks made the whole thing much easier!

For the main course, I ordered fried bean curd in chilli and black bean sauce with egg fried rice. This dish gave new life to the tofu, which is so often dull and flavourless. It had been marinated in chilli and then lightly fried, making it spicy and succulent on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Ginger and chilli

The black bean and chilli sauce was delicious, with a mild spicy flavour and hints of ginger and garlic. It went well with the egg fried rice, which was cooked to perfection and served with peas to add to the colour and lift the presentation.

Although the rice was served in traditional small bowls, the portions were just right and we all left feeling satisfied. The meal was good value, with the starters priced at around £5 and the main courses priced between £10 and £15. A vegetarian set menu is available for two or more people to share, priced at £13 per person for a starter and main course.

Photo: Robyn Lee

Vegetarian ciders

Cider apples

Cider apples

Following thegreenveggie’s review of vegetarian wines, a lot of readers got in touch about beers and ciders. I’m a big fan of cider and was more than happy to take up the challenge of seeking out the best veggie tipples…

After chatting to a lot of cider and perry producers at the Bristol Winter Cider Festival last week, I was relieved to discover that most types are suitable for veggies and most are also clearly labelled.

I’ve reviewed some ciders made by Gwynt y Ddraig – the Welsh cider and perry company. Based in Pontypridd, they use apples from Welsh orchards and were the first Welsh cider producer to earn a CAMRA gold medal.

Black Dragon (6.5%)

Black Dragon has a beautiful, light copper hue. It is aromatic, with a sharp, but fruity fragrance. The apples are grown in traditional ageing orchards and the juice is fermented in oak barrels, giving the cider a distinctive rich and mature flavour. This is a lightly sparkling, medium dry cider.

Perry Vale (4.5%)

Perry Vale blends three varieties of pear that have been allowed to ferment slowly, but this perry will certainly not suit all tastes. The smell is sickly sweet and the bubbles overwhelm the flavour. The taste lingers on the palette, but the sugary flavour is overpowering.

Orchard Gold (4.9%)

Orchard Gold proves that Wales can make cider just as well as its Somerset neighbours. This cider has a bright, gilded tone and a sweet, fruity scent. This is a traditional, oak matured farmhouse cider with a smooth flavour. The fresh and honeyed notes make this a mellow and refreshing pint.

Dabinett (6%)

Dabinett is made from a single variety of apple, which thrives in Welsh orchards. The Dabinett apple is a small, yellow-green fruit, which is native to the UK. These apples produce a pungent cider with a bright, golden colour and a bittersweet perfume. This is a well-balanced, medium dry cider, with a sting in its tail. The flavour is full-bodied, complex and shifting. A must-try for any self-respecting cider connoisseur.

Photo: @Doug88888