Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Vegan Odyssey Part 2: Warsaw

This is the second in a two part series covering my mum's birthday trip to Berlin and Warsaw. Part 1 covered the first leg of our journey, from London to Berlin.

We arrived in Warsaw after dark, so it was lucky that we'd already decided where to go for dinner: a popular vegan burger bar not far from the railway station. Even with the help of the Happy Cow app, it took us quite a while to track down the tiny Krowarzywa, not least because the frontage was covered in scaffolding.

Still, when we did find it, I was very happy with my burger, complete with yummy garlic mayo and a frankly excessive quantity of beansprouts. We were intrigued by the basil lemonade that was on offer, but after a single sip I handed it over to my mum (who, thankfully, loved it) and reverted back to a very British ginger beer.

Vegan burger

Then it was time to find our hotel and settle in for the night. I'd actually managed to find a small apartment that was, for some reason, cheaper than a regular hotel room. Although the hotel was very central, it was set back in a small courtyard, so it felt quite private.

The view from our apartment

The next morning dawned grey and damp, but we'd already identified a plausible spot for breakfast, so we put on our raincoats and walked around the corner to Organitheka. They'd only just started opening in time for breakfast -- we were the first to try their porridge, served with a healthy scoop of stewed apple and cinnamon. The coffee was good, too. My mum had an almond milk cappuccino, which is a form of cappuccino even I can get behind!

Porridge for breakfast

Then, because it was still decidedly gloomy outside, we went to admire the lovely glass ceiling of this shopping centre that I remembered from my previous visit to Warsaw.

Warsaw shopping centre

Once the rain let up a bit, we went out to admire the architecture of the city. Warsaw is a pleasing mixture of pretty European squares...


...towering Soviet landmarks like the Palace of Culture...

Warsaw Palace of Culture

...and the medieval castle, which (along with much of the old town) has been painstakingly reconstructed brick by brick after it was destroyed in the war.

Warsaw castle

For lunch, we had soup that came with a garnish of raspberry puree and popcorn, and huge glasses of vegan hot chocolate to warm ourselves up.


We continued our walk around the city in the afternoon. I took hundreds of photos and I won't share them all, but I did think Copernicus looked particularly striking in silhouette against the gloomy skies.

Copernicus statue in Warsaw

In the evening, we went to Lokal Bistro, which gets some of the best ratings on Happy Cow. They're known for creating vegan equivalents of traditional Polish dishes, which stands out a bit against the burger-heavy vegan scene. We were hoping to make the most of this, but several things had sold out (although we went quite early!). Combined with some language issues, we basically ended up ordering random food, but it was still good.

Lokal bistro in Warsaw

I particularly loved this tempeh salad, with fresh spinach, various chopped veggies, and a decent quantity of olives.

Tempeh salad

For dessert, we had blueberry and almond cake, which was one of my favourite cakes of the trip.

Blueberry & almond cake

The next morning we got coffee from Caffe Nero, which was just a few steps from our hotel. Even chain stores are different when you're overseas -- in this case, there was an interesting range of baked goods, and I enjoyed a cardamom and almond bun for my breakfast.

Cardamom bun for breakfast

The weather was a little better on the second day, so we set out for a long walk through Łazienki Królewskie park.

Łazienki Królewskie

Flowers in the park


Lazienki Park, Warsaw

I've always loved red squirrels, and these ones were completely fearless, coming to see if we had any snacks to share. I was just a bit sorry that I didn't have anything in my pocket!

Red squirrel

Next on our foodie agenda was Chwast Food, another spot that specialises in vegan burgers. I had a mushroom burger with horseradish sauce, which was a great combination, and the multiseed buns were also some of the best I've ever had. We were totally won over by this place, and got some cakes to take away with us (ready for breakfast the next day, as it was Sunday, and we were afraid we wouldn't find anywhere open).

Chwast Burger

After some more walking, we dropped into a little cafe called Legal Cakes for afternoon tea. We'd hoped that somewhere dedicated entirely to cake, which advertised its vegan credentials, would be a great place to indulge, but sadly it was all a bit disappointing. There wasn't as much choice as we'd hoped, and everything was trying a bit too hard to be virtuous at the expense of flavour and texture.

Cake from Legal Cakes

Legal Cakes

That evening, I was determined to find some pierogi. We tried a vegan cafe that was supposed to have good ones, but they'd completely sold out, so we ended up at a tourist trap with kitschy decor. It didn't look promising, but they had loads of different veggie options, and the prices actually weren't bad. And a glass of Polish beer to wash it down certainly didn't hurt!


The next morning we had cake for breakfast, courtesy of Chwast -- a rich carrot cake, and cheesecake with a thick layer of fresh berries. The cheesecake base was a little weird, as it appeared to be made out of cornflakes, but the carrot cake was amazing.

Cakes from Chwast Burger

This was our last day in Warsaw, so of course we wanted to explore the city a bit more before we headed home.

Warsaw street scene

We managed to fit in one last burger from Chwast before leaving -- our first visit had been just so good that we decided to go back there rather than further expanding our horizons. This time I had the famous beetroot burger (which had been sold out the day before), and my mum was even persuaded to try it, despite generally hating beetroot. Again, a total success. To be honest, I'd probably come back to Warsaw just to eat these burgers.

Beetroot burger

And that's about it, really. We returned to England via the overnight train from Warsaw to Köln (Cologne), then on to Amsterdam, and back to the ferry. Unfortunately, by that stage I'd walked so far that I could barely manage a few steps, so we spent quite a lot of time in railway station cafes while we changed trains. All in all, we had a really lovely trip, and it was exciting to see the developing vegan scene in Warsaw. Given the rate that new places were opening up, it's probably completely different by now!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Vegan Raspberry Lemon Drizzle Cake

I've been meaning to create a vegan version of my favourite lemon drizzle cake for a while, now, and I finally got around to actually making it for a party recently.

While I was in the kitchen, though, I had a moment of inspiration. What's better than lemon drizzle cake? Lemon drizzle cake with raspberries. There's just something so obviously right about this combination that, once I'd thought of it, I couldn't believe I hadn't done it earlier. I had enough lemons for two cakes, so I decided to do an impromptu experiment.

I used dried raspberries, but I'm sure fresh would be even better, when they're in season. Friends have also recommended blueberries as an alternative that works well, so I'm looking forward to trying that out next time.

Vegan Raspberry Lemon Drizzle Cake
Makes 1 cake

2 lemons
350g (2 cups) plain flour
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
120ml (½ cup) sunflower oil
25g (⅔ cup) freeze dried raspberries
50g icing sugar
1tsp granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F), and line a medium loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Zest and juice the lemons, discarding any pips from the juice.
  3. Measure out half the juice, and top up to 240ml (1 cup) with cold water.
  4. Sift together the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the sunflower oil, lemon juice and water. Stir to make a batter, taking care to fold in all the dry ingredients.
  6. Put a layer of plain cake mixture into the loaf tin.
  7. Mix the raspberries and most of the lemon zest (reserving a little for the topping) into the remaining batter, and pour into the tin.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a knife comes out clean.
  9. With a few minutes' baking time remaining, heat the remaining lemon juice with the icing sugar in a small pan, and simmer to form a light syrup.
  10. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and prick the surface with a fork in several places.
  11. Carefully spoon the lemon syrup over the cake, while the cake is still hot.
  12. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the top of the cake, and arrange the remaining strands of lemon zest to decorate.

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