It’s been a few years since I put one of these together, but I thought it would be a great way to thank so many of the people that made everything Guac & Roll achieved in 2015 possible. I feel like I’ll be learning from those 12 months for a long time to come.
Okay, I’m gonna get on with it.
February is birthday month around these parts. I filled our living room with helium balloons, met Tsouni from @yesitsallvegan for the first time and mished up to Manchester to see the Generic Greeting crew and start working on our zine. While up there I managed to get my brother, Bill, and Rich, both from GG, to take us to Pancho's, where they do amazing vegan burritos and Jarrito's Mexican cola.
We also swung by Unicorn, aka Land of Dreams aka the best place to spend any remaining birthday money.
After responding to a call for caterers from my good friend Tersha of Terrible Movement, I found myself charged with the task of feeding 16 people for an entire day, without any experience at all. I ordered business cards, took a scarily-big delivery from Ocado, baked way into the night, tracked down fold-up tables, coffee makers and a lot of recyclable packaging, and somehow managed to pull it off. I wrote about it here, but for the TL;DR version, we had a huge buffet of salads, which are still the main players in the catering jobs I’m planning this year- I just love all of that rainbow food. Above you can see kale, butternut squash, lentil and pomegranate salad, tenderstem broccoli, mangetout, chilli, sesame and tofu salad, tomatoes and pesto, roasted vegetables and orzo, beetroot hummus and cauliflower, almonds, vegan mayonnaise and parsley salad.
Thank you Terrible Movement for taking a chance on an unknown kid. It was as scary as it was fun and I was so pleased to have completed my first catering job as Guac Kitchen. Best meal of the year? The next day, when Tsouni came over with agua frescas to help me eat some of the leftovers.
Two weeks later I also catered for Village Underground’s tequila tasting night. If you’ve ever wondered how a staff tequila night pans out, I will say this much: it’s messy, dummy. I cooked smoked chilli and bourbon shredded mushroom tacos, homemade pickled pink onions, sweet potato and tempeh empanadas, cauliflower, pomegranate and butternut squash tacos, fresher than fresh guacamole, my best friend's a mango salsa, courgette, sweetcorn, pea and mint no-quesa-dillas and chimichurri daydream salsa . If that sounds like there were some all-nighters pulled around here then that's about right.
Oh, and Stevie came for lunch, and I made mango lassis and chana masala, and we talked so much the few hours she was here for needed minutes and follow-up emails. The best kind.
April was hard. After a lot of consideration, I decided to resign from my job of four years and become a freelance writer. That week I also found myself having the worst kind of conversation you can have with a vet, my rabbit sat in the middle of us, suffering from increased neurological problems. Aubrey was blind, increasingly frail, and I guess elderly, although I never wanted to see that. I had to decide to put her down. So there was some great food in April, and there were also a lot of tears. Village Underground held its first roof-top barbeque of the year, so I made a little unofficial vegan corner for all my pals wanting the Taifun sausages.
Tsouni made me the most incredible seitan chicken, homemade biscuits and wild garlic gravy. Charlotte whisked me off to Portugal to spend a week with her sister and my good friend Madeleine on her amazing farm in the Serra da Estrela.
For our final night’s meal we had wild fennel leaves and lettuce from Madeleine and her husband Nick's vegetable patch and lemon balm. We ate them with patatas bravas, the leftover caponata, beans and Portuguese bread. The whole week was incredible- my Mum is fond of saying 'a change is as good as a rest' but those early morning coffees sat facing the sun rising out of the Serra were something else.
In May we decided to have All. The Fun. Maybe it was the election results and the sum total of everything from April, but it was time for some day drinking. So we went to Primavera Sound in Barcelona, stayed up, slept in and had ridiculously good balcony aperitifs. As featured above. I made it my personal mission to try every vegan offering at the festival, which took a lot of dedication, but you know, nice work if you can get it.
We fell into Moaz falafel for the first time, we made a lot of hilarious whiskey pre-drinks, took lots of selfies in the street and worked out how to *actually* catch a taxi back into the city from the festival site. It was the best.
In June we added Buddy to the family. It already felt like our flat had been too long without a non-human house mate, and we fell in < 3 immediately. He’s a *very* different rabbit to Aubrey, which I’ve been grateful for. Buddy likes to spend his time rolling around on his back, eating kale and losing his shit running around the living room. In an effort to continue May’s fun time theme, we went to see Patti Smith for the second time in a fortnight, drank piña coladas by Amelie at 10am and paired them up with my first attempt at an Ital breakfast.
I went back to York for a little while and cooked up two of my fave dinners of the year for my parents: one Mexican themed and one Indian-themed (way up top) as a practise for my trip to Berlin the following month.
Later that month I spent the day foraging with Tommy Banks for Munchies, with photography by Iona Crawford Topp. I could have easily written another 1,000 words on everything the three of us chatted through over a few hours as we searched for jelly ear mushrooms and meadow sweet in the Yorkshire countryside. Thank you so much Tommy and Iona for such an inspiring day and a gorgeous vegetable box full of produce to go home with.
While I was North, I managed to catch a train over to Manchester to throw a zine launch party for the GG crew, celebrating the release of Cooking Vegan For People Who Don’t. The ace Will Berry illustrated the entire thing, it was pulled together by Rich James, Joey Frances and Bill Szajna-Hopgood, and I got to edit the issue. It was stocked in Manchester’s Soup Kitchen, The Burger Shop in Hereford and London’s oldest radical bookshop, Housmans.
The party was obvs a lot of Wednesday night fun on a roof with a load of food. I cooked a huge mac and no cheese with basil and chilli flakes, a chimichurri, sweet potato chilli and avocado hummus, all served alongside my brother’s amazing hot sauce.
Still with me? Cool. In July I went to Berlin to help throw the first Poppadom Preach supper club with Heather, Liv and Zenib. Aka, how to make four curry lovers sick of curry! It was 40° C on the streets, but we had bhajis to fry and beet soup to perfect. I still don’t know how we pulled it off, apart from sheer determination to just *make this thing work*, and I think a lot of faith in each other, if not in our own personal abilities. Heather’s spicy beet soup and chickpea croutons turned into Liv’s seed-toasted tofu, pickled cucumber and mint and coriander yoghurt in the space of an hour.
We decided to break for a long enough time for everyone to take a breather outside, before veering headlong into the next course of Zenib’s naan with my dahl and mejadra. The night finished on Liv’s roasted banana ice cream with salted caramel and pistachios before the storm hit. We managed to make a five course meal for a huge crowd, and I’m still well chuffed with us.
At the very start of August I went on an actual proper, no-emails holiday to Tuscany. I know. I’ve never been away this much, but it was how the timings fell and without a job and holiday requests to put in, my first and only reaction was ‘YES’. There were ten of us, in a huge crumbling house set into a hillside, for one week. We cooked the same meals, shopped for them at the local, tiny shop further up the dirt track, and steadily made our way through bottles and bottles of €3.90 prosecco. I’ll remember tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines the local shop’s owner grew in her own garden, and the figs and gnocchi each family turned into gargantuan meals from 5pm each night.
When I got back to London, and true to Parks & Recreation form, my BFF and colleague Amelie asked me to cater for the Village Underground staff picnic (in Victoria Park, of course). I made roasted vegetable and seitan kebabs, watermelon and bulgar wheat salad, mange tout, tofu and chilli salad, potato and dill salad, white bean dip, smashed peas and pickled cucumbers. Funnily enough I don’t remember *much* from that night, but I will say a huge thanks to Village Underground for once again choosing me to cater an entirely vegan event for them and helping me get some much-needed experience.
And why did I need experience? Well, in August I also happened to cater for my very first wedding job. Tsouni and Jack asked me to make a meal for their immediate family to follow straight after their ceremony, and I said yes without thinking twice. And I’m so pleased I didn’t, because it was so hard and so rewarding, and after everyone had had a plateful, so much fun. My boyfriend Keelan became my sous chef for the weekend, and I couldn’t have done it without him. Seriously. There were a lot of dishes. I think he’s a little scared I’ve discovered he’s great at taking orders, but whatever.
After lunch, Club Mexicana arrived and served up their amazing nachos and tacos from the garden, and suddenly it was time to get the train home back to London. As I’m typing this I’m still not sure how we pulled it off, but I am so pleased Tsouni and Jack asked us to be part of their day, it really meant a whole lot.
After promising myself a few days off in September, the opposite happened. With the help of some great pals and a couple of brill companies, we managed to throw a last-minute fundraiser for Save the Children's Child Refugee Crisis Appeal.
VU super kindly let us use one of their converted shipping containers to hold the meal in, and as it was a gorgeous late summer evening we served inside, while everyone else could sit outside and eat. The Whole Leaf Co. donated recycled palm leaf plates that held all the curry, rice, bhajis and rotis Amelie and I made, and Joe and Becca manned the door, served food and donated all the money we'd made the next morning. Club Mexicana lent me their induction hob to heat the curry on, Naomi and Mark lent us the rice cooker and another hob, and Keelan, Ania and Radek helped with everything else behind the scenes. Less than a week after that lunch break, we cooked for 50 people on the roof of Village Underground and made over £320 in cash for Save the Children's appeal (along with all the txt donations you all made from near and far!).
I was blown away by the support we received for this night. So much generosity and so little apathy meant we could help a charity continue to do amazing work for child refugees and orphans at a time when there have never been more forcibly displaced people (by war, conflict or persecution) around the world. Thank you.
At the end of September I packed up half my kitchen and got on the train once more to Manchester for Good + Full, a seasonal supper club night with grand pal Jenny Oakenfull. We had some awesome help from Idle Hands (who let us take over their coffee shop for the night) and Grub Manchester, and managed to fill out our tables with both friends, family, mates from afar and some lovely people we’d never met before. Jenny made an incredible chocolate espresso hazelnut cheesecake which we served alongside butternut squash and chestnut cannelloni and roasted corn and chilli chowder. Manchester’s vegan scene is honestly one of a kind and it was such a special night seeing *so* many people all in one place. Thank you to everyone who came and supported us, it was surreal and great having you all there.
In October Rupa treated me to a day out of exploring Ealing Road in Wembley. We filled a table at Sakonis with Gujarati snack food, Rupa explaining why casava chips are great with ketchup, tofu’s growing appeal in Indian cooking as a paneer alternative (like the amazing chilli tofu we tried, above) and the best recipes for pani puri.
Just in time for Halloween, I managed to finesse my vegan banoffee pie, brownie and pecan pie recipe, meaning Club Mexicana were never short of a sugar high for the next two months.
To celebrate the onslaught of *ALL THE GREAT WINTER FOOD* and Thanksgiving, I decided to host two in one week. Who doesn’t want to add blended Ritz crackers to everything, I ask you. Tsouni brought a phenomenal green bean casserole, while the Club Mexicana supplied a whole lot of drinks. I made panko and herb-breaded seitan, biscuits, braised red cabbage, sweet potato casserole (enter: Ritz crackers), kale, roast parsnips and carrots and white mushroom gravy, followed by a pumpkin pie with whipped coconut cream and crumbled Oreos.
We kept the roasts coming, that’s for sure. At the end of November I mished up to York to cook for Frank & Olive’s crochet retreat. It was three days of comfort food craziness, constant spiced mulled wine, and Buffy on in the background to keep me calm when it felt like an impossible number of dishes to get through, but I did!
The highlight was roast dinner for 16 on Sunday, with homemade toad in the hole (Yorkshire represent!), carrots, savoy cabbage, kale, mushroom gravy, swede, sweet potato and pumpkin mash, roast potatoes, braised red cabbage and apricot, parsley and pine nut stuffing balls. The other highlight was getting up at 6am, making loadsa pastries and then watching the sunrise, but it doesn’t sound so mega.
According to my Instagram feed, it looks like I spent most of December baking for the awesome Club Mexicana, eating Club Mexicana burritos, carrying last night’s falafels around with me and going to Cook Daily and Cook Daily's Home at every opportunity. When I got home my parents cooked some gorgeous pre-Christmas vegan food (it's always the best food, isn't it, Christmas Eve?) and our close fam friends made yet another amazing Boxing Day extravaganza- as below. Doesn’t sound like a half-bad way to end the year really.
Thank you to everyone who’s given me a chance, done me a favour or looked out for me this year. You don’t know what it’s meant to have your support. And in totally equal measure, it’s so great to see more and more of you drop by this site - I hope there’s plenty more where all this came from in 2016.
p.s. I can’t believe anyone made it down this far, you are a brave, brave soul.
In loving memory of
Aubrey Agatha Outrage Cecelia Dana Beaton-Beardsley-Corleone II
Stay fluffy babe.