Vegan Wines Online

Grape vine

Grape vine

Sitting down with a nice glass of wine at the end of a long, hard day can be an excellent way to unwind, but unfortunately, trying to find a wine that is suitable for vegetarians can be a difficult and stressful experience.

Luckily, new company Vegan Wines Online aims to make the whole process much easier. The site is dedicated to stocking wines that are free from animal products, and also aims to provide useful information for vegetarian and vegan wine consumers.

Nigel Oldham said he was shocked by the lack of vegan wines available. “We were inspired to set up the site when we realised just how poorly the vegan community is served,” he said.

He added many vegans did not realise wine contained animal products. “Most people think wine is fermented grape juice and they are horrified when they realise the majority of bottles contain ingredients such as gelatin, fish guts and egg whites,” he said.

The site stocks about 100 wines, which are vegan, organic and low in sulphur. For more information, visit Vegan Wines Online or follow @VeganWines.

Related posts: Vegetarian wines, Vegetarian ciders.

Photo: tribp

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Kale chips

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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

Riverside Community Market Association

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Riverside market has, for many, become an integral part of Cardiff life. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than enjoying a leisurely coffee on the Fitzhamon Embankment?

But with recent reports that fruit and vegetable consumption by low-income families has fallen by 30 per cent, how is the Riverside Community Market Association (RCMA) coping with current financial and commercial pressures?

Preconceptions

Gareth Simpson, Enterprise Development Manager for the RCMA, said: “People have a lot of preconceptions about our markets. Many think it’s beyond their means, but actually, buying fresh produce directly from the traders can be cheaper than going to a supermarket.”

He added: “It’s never been about trying to get people to do their weekly shop at the market, but if more people thought about buying some of their fruit and vegetables from our stall holders on a regular basis, it would make a whole world of difference.”

Social enterprise

Although Gareth has only been working for the RCMA since last May, the social enterprise has been running since 1998, when the Riverside Real Food Market was first launched. Since then, the project has expanded, and now runs farmers’ markets in Llandaff North, Rhiwbina and Roath, as well as co-ordinating the Riverside community allotment and a variety of outreach projects.

Gareth said: “The aim is to bring the countryside to the city. Many people have never had the chance to grow their own vegetables and we are trying to spread the message of growing in a fun way. The community allotment allows people to get their hands in the mud and really get involved.”

Weather dependent

However, as with all outdoor events, the markets are highly weather dependent.  Gareth said: “Footfall suffers in the driving rain.” At present, there is little shelter at the market, but he is hoping to introduce a covered area for live music.

“I always try to create a buzz at the markets,” he said. “It’s not about just filling your shopping bag, it’s very much a social event.” Recently, Gareth created a buskers’ corner at Riverside Market, which gives local musicians the chance to show off their talent and entertain the crowd.

Innovative

The RCMA also tries to bring a wide variety of products to the markets. Gareth said: “We avoid putting similar stalls together, so new products have to be quite innovative. We don’t like to turn people away, but sometime we have to. A little competition can be a good thing.”

Two new stalls have recently joined the Riverside market. Greens of Glastonbury is a traditional farmhouse cheesemaker, while cnwd is based near Carmarthen and produces patés and terrines.

For more information, visit the RCMA website.

One Love Veggie Foodival

Valentine's cupcake

Valentine's cupcakes

Calling all Cardiff veggies! Don’t miss out on Milgi Lounge’s One Love Veggie Foodival this week, which will be celebrating all things vegetarian, vegan and organic.

The shenanigans will be kicking off tonight with a Valentine’s Day French bistro (ohh la la!) followed by a 100% vegan and raw food evening tomorrow. Then on Thursday, we can look forward to a special “feast from the east” supper club, ahead of Friday’s spicy Reggaetarian Jamaican Thali.

And don’t forget to leave some room for Saturday’s seasonal pizzas and Sunday dinner, which will be accompanied by acoustic sessions in the yurt. We can’t wait!

Milgi Lounge is located on City Road in Cathays, Cardiff. For more information, visit the Milgi website.

Photo: smittenkitten

Riverside Community Garden

The Riverside Community Garden Project has been running for six years and proves that growing and cooking your own vegetables is much more fun than anything you might pick up in a supermarket. I went along to meet Jenny Howell, who runs the project.

After cycling through the rain, I finally arrived at the garden, looking rather muddy and bedraggled. I was met by a hardy bunch, who were certainly not put off by the weather.

The garden is located at the northern end of Pontcanna Fields, about half an hour’s walk from the city centre. Jenny gave me a tour of the site, which consists of two poly tunnels, a pond and wildlife area, a social space, containing a number of weird and wonderful bread ovens, and even the odd gnome.

Riverside Community Garden sign

Riverside Community Garden sign

The project allows local people to get together and grow their own food. Regular gardener, Lewis Mottram, said: “I was looking for somewhere to volunteer and heard about this project at the Riverside market. I live nearby and I love coming to the garden.”

Diversity

The project brings together people from many different backgrounds. Jenny said: “We have individuals with learning difficulties, unemployed people, students, and sometimes groups of school children. You don’t need any experience. We welcome everyone.”

The project has a core of eight dedicated members, who work in the garden come rain or shine. During the summer months, up to 20 members take part in growing, building and cooking activities.

View of Riverside allotments

Riverside Community Garden Project

Organic

The aim of the garden is to provide a place where people can learn how to grow food in a friendly and supportive setting. The wide range of organic fruits, vegetables and flowers  reflects the diversity of the project’s members.

Jenny said: “We’re working on several new projects at the moment. We’re in the process of refurbishing some sheds, using salvaged materials.” The volunteers are also working on a new forest garden, which will provide a different growing environment.

Riverside chillies

Chillies grown at the Riverside Community Garden

The volunteers meet on Wednesday and Fridays between 10am and 4pm. If you fancy getting involved, take a look at the Riverside Community Garden Project’s facebook page.

Riverside Real Food Market

Vegetable stall at Riverside Real Food Market

I won’t lie, I wasn’t entirely keen to get up early on a miserable, grey Sunday morning. And neither was I feeling too enthusiastic about the mile-long walk through the drizzle. My friend, who was nursing a rather nasty hangover, was even less enthusiastic than me.

However, I’d heard such good things about the Riverside Real Food Market, I was determined to go and find out what it could offer a hungry vegetarian.

Riverside Community Market Association

Riverside Real Food Market

The market nestles on the western bank of the River Taff, in the shadow of Cardiff’s imposing Millennium Stadium. It runs from 10am until 2pm every Sunday and offers around 30 stalls.

The market is run by the Riverside Community Market Association and was started in 1998 by a group of local food enthusiasts. Since then, it has continued to expand, attracting both locals and visitors. A recent survey showed that more than 1600 people attend the market on a typical Sunday.

Suzanne Olsen, Site Manager, said: “Visitor numbers took a dive during the recession, but they are recovering now. People are realising that fresh and organic food is not as expensive as they thought.”

The first thing we noticed was the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the market. The stall holders are passionate about their work and will take the time to explain exactly where they source their ingredients and how they make their products.

The Parsnipship

The Parsnipship

When it came to vegetarian stalls, we were spoilt for choice. We started by wandering over to the The Parsnipship, a co-operative that prides itself on offering 21st century vegetarian cuisine. The collective was founded by Ben Moss in 2009 and recruits and trains vegetarian cooks to run their own businesses, by cooking and selling locally sourced, seasonal food at farmers’ markets.

Ben said: “Our aim is to change the perception of vegetarian and vegan cooking in this country.” He added: “80% of our customers are not vegetarian or vegan, but they are changing their eating habits from carnivore at least a couple of times a week.”

I tried a spinach and potato cake, which was absolutely delicious. It was beautifully browned on top and the spinach was very tender and fresh. The care of presentation and the combination of herbs made a very simple recipe into something really special.

The Cardiff Herb Company

Cardiff Herb Company

Next, we headed to the Cardiff Herb Company, which sells a range of organic herbs and herbal teas.The company grows all of its fresh-cut herbs and herb plants in both Cardiff and St Hilary, South Wales, and donates 10% of its profits to the Canton Community Garden.

Victoria Welles, who runs the company, said: “I love my job. I get to spend my days planting and picking herbs. It’s very physical work, but it’s a great lifestyle.”

I tried a sample of rose tea, which contained rose petals, vanilla pods and rosehips. The tea had a delicate, fragrant scent and a light and subtle flavour. Elena bought a pack of “Awake” tea, which contains elderflower, lime and peppermint and is designed to be energising, fresh and clean. Maybe this will help us through our 9 o’ clock lectures…

All-vegan

Frantastic Crepes

With our palettes cleansed, we couldn’t resist the alluring smell of veggie burgers and made our way over to the all-vegan Frantastic Crepes. The stall is run by a wonderfully bubbly woman called Fran Munro, who makes a mean veggie burger! All of her products are locally sourced and freshly made. I tried a black-eyed bean burger, which had a delicious combination of spices and was served with a tangy homemade chutney.

As if that wasn’t enough to entice you to the stall, Fran has made us a kind offer and says anyone who quotes thegreenveggie when they buy a bean burger will be given a free Welsh cake (which I can thoroughly recommend!)

Fresh and healthy

Riverside market stall

After my early morning reluctance to get out of bed, I left the market feeling contented with life, and Elena’s hangover had been miraculously cured. I would entirely recommend a trip to the Riverside Real Food Market. It will give you that warm, fuzzy glow inside, knowing that you’re buying fresh, healthy food and supporting the local economy, but most importantly, it’s just plain tasty!