Brighton Vegfest, March 2012

So this year was my second year at Vegfest. I went on the Sunday with my buddy Charlie, who’d never been before. This way we could catch Ms Cupcakes (love of my life) and the good weather with the intention of going al fresco with all our diabetes-inducing shit on Hove beach (it rained loads on Saturday).

If you’ve never been/heard of veg fest before, this is what this glorious day means to me:
Vegfest, n. A day in which vegetarians and vegans congregate to sample loads of free clothing/cruelty-free products without spending all your dough, learning about new products, getting stuff cheaper direct from the supplier (many have one-off prices for the weekend) and generally getting fat in the name of excellent food.

There was such a diverse range of companies there, which is always pretty good to see.

As a massive sugar junkie, I was pretty chuffed to see Goody Good Stuff who do all natural, gelatine free Haribo-like sweets make a reappearance. I know you can get Halal/Vegetarian Haribo from Holland and Barrett thesedays, but their Sour Summer Peaches are a-m-a-zing. They have that sugary taste with a great deal of flavour and juiciness from natural sources.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed Good Life products popping up in supermarkets. Not sure if they were at Vegfest last year, but sampling some more of their meat-alternative cutlets and things for free proved insightful for future purchases. This company is great if you don’t like eating copy-cat “meats” like Tofurky, Sosages, etc. Most if not all of their products are just vegetables left to their own, with a bit of saucing up.

A few months ago on a trip to Brighton, I picked up some Vegusto No-Moo Classic cheese from Infinity Foods. This tasted pretty terrible, I’m not guna lie, plain with a vague mushroomy aftertaste. I gave them a second go at Vegfest, and out of all their products, their ‘Mild-aromatic’ cheese was the best tasting replacement I’ve ever tried. Not sure how well it melts, but they do have a range of melting cheeses as well as hard ones.

Kara were there again this year. If you’re new to a dairy-free diet, I cannot recommend Kara freshly-pressed coconut milk enough. It’s great for cereal or to drink on it’s own, without having the sour taste of soy or watery sweet rice milk. They’ve started selling this in bigger Tesco stores as well now. If you’ve seen it in other supermarkets, let me know!

Amy’s had some new products I hadn’t seen before. Tried the single burritos they have in Holland & Barrett which were alright, and saw that they’ve recently started selling soup in Tesco. For £2 a can, it barely seems worth it when Tesco value vegetable soup is dairy-free anyway. We tried their mac & cheese – so so nice! But didn’t have any tins for sale available at the event, which was pretty lame.

Fry’s have launched some incredible new products lately, including their Popcorn Chicken and Louisiana Chicken Pieces. Charlie & I sampled both and they were lush, a good replacement if you were ever partial to a bit of KFC before realising how grim it was… They had steak pieces too, but had run out by the time we got there 😦 Knowing Fry’s, and based on our fake chicken findings, I bet they were divine.

Redwood were set up in the same place as last year. Had a hot dog from their stand and a cheeky California Sushi Roll from Titbits Catering, who are the best and most diverse caters around by far. The had so many little tasters to try that were £1 or so each, so you had a chance to try everything.

Veggie Vision were giving away free canvas bags with information on local charities and things inside for signing up, and free carrot cakes for donations.

My absolute favourite new company discovery has to be The Living Food Kitchen. We tried sample of their raw chocolate cheesecake which was well rich, and raw citrus cheesecake which I preferred (despite being a massive chocolate addict) because it tasted like Solero ice creams. Ahhh so good.

And last but not least, we rounded the day off with a lovely chat with none other than the fabulous Ms Cupcake herself. Charlie laughed at how much of a fangirl I am. No care evar. I was saving most of my money for the most decadent and great-tasting baked goods I have ever sampled, vegan or not. I couldn’t believe it when there were hand-made Vegan Cream Eggs for sale! Naturally, I bought three. And a peanut butter & jam cookie sandwich (ultimate favourite) and a double chocolate cookie sandwich with choco cream in the middle. Very happy fatty 🙂

Ms Cupcake UK

Overall, awesome day. Awesome weather. It’s a crime not to go to Brighton or Bristol Vegfest if you’re a vegan in the U.K. If you’ve got a long commute, the event spans over two entire weekends in two cities which have great train links, and beautiful surroundings for you to enjoy your treats and explore. Each day, stalls are open from 11am-4pm, leaving you with a decent amount of time to get there earlier in the day and enough time to leave at night. If you’re a small company, this is a great place to set up a stall for media coverage and to create a buzz for your services/products.

Bristol Vegfest takes place 25th-27th May 2012, and entry as usual, is free!

For more information please check out http://bristol.vegfest.co.uk/ or it’s Brighton equivalent next March.

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Easy, Thin & Saucy Cheeseless Vegan Pizza

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Makes 2 x 12 inch Pizzas.
Recipe for base adapted from Low-cholesterol-food.com.

Ingredients for the base:
2 1/2 Cups plain flour (& more for non-stick purposes when kneading)
1/4 Teaspoon/dash of salt
1/4 Packet of Fast-action yeast
1 Cup warm water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
For best results, use a pizza tray with holes in the bottom!

Ingredients for the sauce:
1 Tin of chopped tomatoes
8 Tablespoons tomato ketchup (or till it’s sweet enough for your tastes)
Italian/mixed Herbs, pepper, garlic to taste. (I used one clove)

Toppings I used:
Onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes (so much better than tinned/chopped ones), sweetcorn.

Toppings that I totally would have used if I had them in: Balsamic vinegar, Redwood facon & gherkins. Maybe even some Mozarella Cheezly, but the base is so flavoursome you barely miss the cream.

Instructions:
1. If you have active dry yeast instead of the fast-action stuff, before you add it to the mixture be sure to:
mix a little sugar into the warm water, sprinkle the yeast on top and wait for ten minutes or until it gets foamy.

2. Mix the flour, water (if you’re using fast action yeast & therefore haven’t already used it in step one), oil salt and yeast together in a bowl.

3. Knead on a floured surface for approximately 6-8 minutes so the dough is still a bit elasticy. Add more flour if needs be.

4. Separate into two balls, cover in cling film and leave out for 20-30 minutes to rest.

5. Preheat oven to 220° C or 180° if you have a fancy fan-assisted oven.

6. When the dough is ready, stretch it out over the tray so it’s thin but not transparent in any places. It needs to hold a helluva lot of sauce, so make sure you fold in a good crust too. I did each pizza separately as I am poor and only have one tray.

7. Pre-bake your base for 5-10 minutes. It needs to firm up enough to carry the motherload of sauce you’re about to make.

8. Add all the ingredients for the sauce together in a bowl. Sweeten up with ketchup and flavour with herbs to your satisfaction. When base is ready, cover with approx. half of mixture and top with vegetables/faux meats of your choice.

9. Bake for a further 10-20 minutes & serve. Note: if eating with hands, use of napkins/bibs is advised.

* TOP TIP * Roll a dough ball in a bit of olive oil, bag it and freeze it for a rainy day.

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