For the retreat’s first birthday Ruby and Kim organised a bumper weekend in our new, bigger location with loads of guests, treats and surprises. To celebrate, I invited along Guac’s part time assistant, Hannah Yaroslaw, to help me. Hannah got in touch with me last year asking if she could join the team, so it was awesome to be able to finally have her along for work this year. Hannah now works at Club Mexicana too and is the best. For the retreat's birthday weekend I got Hannah on donut duty for the day of the party, and the bad boys pictured above went down a TREEAT.
Straight after the retreat I caught the train over to Manchester for the annual Generic Greeting x Guac and Roll summer cook-out, which was one of my favourite days of the year. Loads of people pitched in to help cook this time, so we ended up with about six courses in the end, as well as the profits going to Manchester Central Foodbank. It was so much fun to cook a huge table of bright vegan food for a mix of friends and strangers, you can read about it here, and we’re planning something even bigger for this year…
In August my Mum asked me if I wanted to go with her to Poland to travel around Poznan and Krakow and see our family there. Naturally I said YES PLAS and ended up on a week-long jaunt with Wanda having the best time ever. We found loads of amazing places to eat in Krakow, but the one I’ll never forget was discovering a vegan-friendly restaurant right next door to our flat in Poznan, in a disused tram station and these incredible split pea vegan burgers. Here's a guide to everything vegan-friendly we found during our trip.
At the end of summer I had a wedding to cook for. At the start of 2016, Kelly and Thom asked me to cater for 80 people for their wedding in August, so it now feels like a kind of wonderful thread running through the whole year, of intermittent coffees with Kelly to discuss the menu, trial meals with them both, and then the final ordering and prepping of everything with Hannah along to help me too. Hannah was such a great help (she has a habit of bringing her team mates food when she knows they haven’t eaten properly in a while) and making such a huge table of vegan delights for Kelly and Thom and their beautiful wedding was an absolute pleasure.
In September we still managed to fit in one of the best parts of summer in a city- rooftop barbeques. The Shins played one Friday night at Village Underground and I invited Nina so we could sing along to every word. I made Hot For Food’s watermelon and peach salsa which felt like a great final meal for summer. Amelie also made a barbeque of dreams for VU's summer party.
Also in September, Fry’s sent me an amazing haul of vegan products to cook with, including the chicken-style strips that I soon became addicted to and started adding to EVERYTHING. I’ve now worked my way through almost all of their product range and I have to say I’m so impressed with everything I’ve cooked with- it’s all such high quality and tastes so good. If you’re lucky enough to have room in your freezer to stock up, get yourself down to a Holland & Barrett or do an Ocado order and treat yo self.
Over in October my boyfriend and I decided to go on a city break to Valencia. Tsouni has always said it’s one of her favourite places to go for vegan food so we had to try it. I lovedddd the Russafa burger from Restaurante Copenhagen, as well as Almalibre Acai Bar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s also a beautiful city to explore if you’re looking for a different angle to Spain from Barcelona or Madrid. I just loved getting some sleep, going to the local market every day and staying somewhere that’s so small your nearest bar is a three minute walk away.
One of my favourite things from 2016 is that I got to make a lot of new vegan friends, and along with Tsouni, Hannah and Jen also run their own vegan blogs, so we always have a lotttt to catch up on. On a Sunday night in October we all headed over to Mildred’s for cocktails, burgers and basil mayo and TBQFH I could have stayed all week.
By November I’d moved up to the Hawker House site of Club Mexicana, with a new team and new special menu items made by the Club Mexicana chefs that I couldn’t get enough of. At the end of October and the start of November we served THIS incredible concoction of pulled jackfruit mole with chipotle pumpkin salsa, sweetcorn eloté, red cabbage and pumpkin and sesame seeds. Total taco highlight of 2016.
Back up in York, my Mum made another fave meal of the year- mejadra from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem, aka the meal that leaves omnivores speechless. I don’t have many other words for it.
I worked with Cook Vegan and Vegan Life magazine a lot in 2016 and in December I had two features out with them- a vegan Christmas dinner in Cook Vegan and 20 recipes for Vegan Life’s Festive Food supplement. It was *so* great to finally be able to share the recipes and photography I’d worked on throughout October, and see so many people trying out the creations for themselves online. This tear and share chocolate and hazelnut snowflake tart was one of the maddest and most fun recipes to make and shoot.
And, obviously, it wouldn’t be December without a Christmas dinner! My Dad cooked this year, and made a Nigel Slater vegetable and seed loaf that he adapted to be vegan by adding an egg replacer. Then the best roast potatoes ever, ras el hanout cauliflower, leeks, chestnut gravy, stuffing and personal cabbages (Brussels but once a year).
And that’s it! Thank you once again to everyone that’s helped me out this year or just given me a lift somewhere. Just looking at all the places I ended up each month has made me realise how much I managed to achieve in just 365, and I’m hoping to do a whole lot more in 2017.
And thank you, everyone that reads Guac, for swinging by and catching up. I love hearing how you’ve gotten on with a new vegan discovery or a new place to try that I might not have been, as well as how your Guac recipes go and new vegan pals you’ve made by sharing food. It means the world to me to be part of a movement that’s beginning to get through to the mainstream.
Have a brilliant 2017- full of days off, early morning sunshine, late night chats with people that really get you, and adventures to places you didn't think you'd ever get to see.