Vegan pizza at the Crate Brewery

As far as hard sells go, the Crate Brewery isn't one. Sat bang on the edge of the canal and billed as Hackney Wick's first craft brewery and pizzeria, you wont want for much once you've tracked this place down.

I cycled from Islington along the canal in blistering 30C+ heat last week, and was still able to grab a bench by the water for a bottle of Kernal beer before stone-baked pizza. Veganised, this meant a generous helping of finely chopped mint, pine nuts, red onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, courgettes and shredded white onions, a mix I never would have put together myself and yet it made for one of the tastiest and pseudo-refreshing pizzas I've had this summer. What was especially great was that it wasn't just a topping minus cheese or meat, but flavours that worked pretty nicely just by themselves, sort of exactly like what Guac & Roll tries to do.

Ordering was easy, no fuss from the vegan front and everything tasted great (apparently the salami-topped pizza was 'molten goodness'!) All in all, pretty mint!

The Clapton Hart does a mean bean vegan burger

I try not to start too many sentences with the words "As a vegan...", however I'm willing to use up my monthly quota for this one: as a vegan it's sooooooo great when you discover a great pub also does great vegan food. The Clapton Hart is this pub. They do vegan roasts now and then on a Sunday (call ahead to check) and this week added a new 3-Bean Vegan burger to their menu. So obviously there was only one place I was headed when the snow settled on Saturday.

Aside from the burger, which was great, it was the tobacco onions which stole the show for me- I had no clue what these were before this weekend but I've decided pretty much any meal could be improved with these blighters, so called because after they are cooked they look like shredded tobacco. All I'm saying is no packet of Amber Leaf ever tasted this good.

Bye-bye trying to construct chip buttys at Wetherspoons Steak Club every Tuesday. If you need me, follow the tobacco onion trail to the Lea Bridge Roundabout.

Congratulations Growing Communities!

I was so happy to find out on Sunday that Growing Communities won the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2012 for Best Independent Local Retailer. I cannot think of any company more deserving, or one that has changed my entire attitude to food any more. I feel like I talk about their vegetable box scheme all the time, but if that's true, it's because it's so damn good!!

As if to add to such good news, my walk down to collect the vegetable box was scattered with autumn leaves and the prize of a pumpkin at the end of it- the first one this season, to be found in our vegetable bag...

Safe to say it's now very much at home on my desk!

If you live in Hackney or near any of Growing Communities' schemes in the UK, there really is no reason not to give it a trial month. It costs me and my boyfriend each a pound per day to have all the fruit and vegetables we could want every week, they're seasonal, you know exactly where they've come from and the farmers that grew them, and they taste SO much better than anything you can find in a supermarket.

Well done Growing Communities! Such a deserved award!

Growing Communities Veg Boxes

One week's fruit and veg bag from Growing Communities in Hackney

Within two days of becoming vegan, I realised that I was going to have to make some major changes to how I shopped for food. It wasn't just that I was suddenly spending much more money on fresh food in the supermarket, but without the added flavour of things like grated cheese, roux sauces or mayonnaise, I realised the produce I was buying tasted bland, watered down and sort of a lost in translation version of how I expected them to taste. 

I'm ashamed to admit it was only after switching to a vegetable box scheme that I realised potatoes have distinct different flavours depending on variety, or that salad leaves actually HAVE a flavour, that changes from leaf to leaf, taking command over a sandwich when before I just used them as filler.

If I am totally honest, my vegetable box order has completly changed how I eat in every way. There's the obvious things: it's all seasonal, it's as local as possible, and it means a lot fewer trips to the supermarket. But the changes I didn't expect have been the best. 

Washing the mud off all your carrots until you can see the first signs of orange, or red for beetroot, or pink for potatoes, and you're reminded that everything you're dealing with came from the ground, not stackable plastic supermarket palettes. I know I sound mad here but when you take away the distractions, vegetables are bloody brilliant. 

Using supermarkets less means you waste a whole lot less food. There's no BOGOFs or weird impulse buys when most of what you're getting through arrives once a week. This also means we've had to become much more careful with how much food we cook each night. I used to stick in a whole bag of potatoes for mash and think nothing of it. Now I know the six potatoes we get have to last three meals- and any leftovers go for lunch. And there's always leftovers. 

Most of the fruit and vegetables featured on Guac and Roll will be from the Growing Communities vegetable and fruit bags. The variety and warts-and-all produce is down to them, and I can't thank them enough for completely changing how I think about the food I eat each day.