France Diary: Vegetarian Montpellier

France, even more so than many places, isn’t blessed with the best veg-friendly reputation. Fortunately, I am pleased to report that on my recent trip I found it far from impossible to eat well. Being vegetarian in France did of course require a little pre-planning but many French people currently have a strong taste for “bio” (organic) restaurants, most of which feature plentiful vegetarian and often vegan options.Being Vegetarian in France

I travelled to Montpellier in October and can safely say the food was up there as one of the trip’s highlights. It does seem that the diet in the south of France is more accommodating than further north so I am going to focus specifically on sharing some fantastic places to dine in this city and its surrounding areas. However, if you are visiting elsewhere in France, then hopefully it can still provide a good starting point for your research on vegetarian travel.

Je Suis Vegetarienne – Tips for Being Veggie in France

  • More so than in many countries, the word ‘vegetarienne’ does seem to be understood by quite a few people – or at least is worth using as a starting point. An understanding of the term doesn’t always mean that you will be offered a vegetarian option, of course
  • It is always worth asking if a vegetarian option is available. Many places are willing to accommodate even if it is not listed on the menu and other establishments seem to be willing but require advance notice
  • As mentioned earlier, “bio” restaurants are both popular and serve vegetarian and vegan food. This website seems to be a directory of bio restaurants in France; though only in French, there is a clickable map broken up into provinces so you can search for where you are visiting
  • If you have trouble finding vegan options in the area you are staying, opt to for accommodation with a kitchen as you won’t be disappointed by the fresh, high quality produce available.

Vegetarian Montpellier

Le Bourgeon, 6 rue Jules Latreilhe, MontpellierLe Bourgeon, MontpellierLocated on a quiet street in the historical centre of the city, Le Bourgeon serves up organic burgers with many variations on offer. You can also choose between three different sizes and sides of salad and/or chips. The outdoor seating is constructed from wooden pallets with a strawberry plant on each table. The food was fresh with nice touches such as the herb salad that is served on top of the burgers and the side salad being presented in a jar. Great for a filling lunch.

 

Playfood, 16 bvd Louis Blanc, MontpellierPlayfood, MontpellierA creative experience, Playfood offers its dishes in shotglass-sized portions. This imaginative approach allows you to sample all kinds of treats during your visit; the set menu includes twelve mini main courses and six desserts between two people. Six of the twelve main courses are vegetarian (some are vegan but I’m not sure exactly how many) so between two people you could have six veggie ones each or, as Pete and I did, have veggie for one person and a mix of veg and meat choices for the other. Highlights included the key lime pie, salted caramel tiramisu and friendly, helpful staff. Great for a unique evening meal.

 

L’Alchimiste, Rue du Roucher, MontpellierL'Alchemiste, MontpellierL’Alchimiste offers a lavish three course evening meal which, unlike many of its neighbours, includes a vegetarian option for each of these. Rich delicious flavours and an unusual amuse bouche that incorporates popcorn (it just about works) make it ideal for splashing out. The cheesecake is best avoided though. Great for an indulgent evening meal.

 

La Part des Agnes, 1 quai Leopold Suquet, SeteLa Part Des Agnes, SeteIn the town of Sete, located on the Mediterranean coast just twenty minutes by train away from Montpellier, La part des Agnes specialises in organic food and drinks. Their menu of the day always offers a vegetarian option; on the day I visited it was a tart, available plain or with a choice of three different local cheeses. The outdoor seating extends to the opposite side of the road where the tables line the edge of the canal. Perfect for a laid back lunch.

You can find more tips on vegetarian travel here. Have you visited France as a veggie? How was your experience?

Fudgy Beetroot Brownies | Vegan

Rich, gooey and devilishly chocoately, these brownies are both a sinful dessert and one of your five-a-day! Fresh beetroot and coffee add an unparalleled depth to the flavour whilst keeping the texture moist and fudgy. Here they are topped with a smooth dark chocolate topping for extra indulgence.Vegan Fudgy Beetroot Brownies

Beetroot in sweet cakes and brownies has been on my radar for a while, having been featured on many a food blog. I’d been itching to try it but not so much to blog about it; there doesn’t always seem the need to add another recipe into the mix. However, since I had some fresh beetroot in my fridge with no real plans for it the time was nigh to at least give it a taste.Vegan Fudgy Beetroot Brownies

After perusing recipe after recipe I came to realise how much diversity there was out there and just how many ways there are to make brownies. I also came to realise that the ingredients in my house didn’t match up to any exact recipes. Never one to follow a recipe anyway, I took a gamble (it really is a gamble making up a sweet recipe!), kept my fingers crossed, and started putting together my own combination of ingredients that I imagined would result in brownies.Traidcraft Ethiopian Coffee

To add a deeper flavour to complement the chocolate, I also added fresh coffee. You could use instant coffee for a hassle-free option but as I was brewing up fresh coffee anyway with this Ethiopian Sidama coffee kindly sent to me by Traidcraft, I made sure there was a little extra left for the brownies.

I knew that I wanted to make a vegan version so in place of eggs I mixed up some flax “eggs” with ground flax seeds and water – this recipe could be made with any egg replacer or, if you use them, then real eggs would of course be fine.

Vegan Fudgy Beetroot Brownies  Vegan Fudgy Beetroot Brownies Fudgy Beetroot Brownies | The Tofu Diaries  Fudgy Beetroot Brownies

Fortunately, my experimentation paid off resulting in both a delicious stash of fudgy, chocolately brownies and a recipe to share. The brownies aren’t very sweet as I wanted to keep the sugar content to a minimum but more can be added according to your taste.

I did add some stevia syrup to the frosting to prevent it being too bitter; again, this can be adjusted to your preference. The frosting also contains coconut oil to make it smoother and fudge-like but it could simply be topped with plain chocolate. Overall, the recipe is quite flexible so don’t be afraid to play around!

Fudgy Beetroot Brownies

Makes 8 brownies

Ingredients:

For the brownies:

4 fresh beetroot, peeled, chopped, boiled until softened (retain a small amount of the liquid from cooking), and puréed in a food processor

100g plain flour

50g dairy-free margarine

50g brown sugar

3 flax “eggs” (1tbsp ground flax meal + 3tbsp water per “egg”, whisked for five minutes)

125g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

3tbsp cocoa powder (I used Green & Black’s organic cocoa)

2tsp baking powder

For the topping:

50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

2tsp coconut oil

1tbsp water from the beetroot

1/4tsp stevia syrup (optional)

Small amount of desiccated coconut or grated dark chocolate to sprinkle on top (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large mixing bowl, cream the margarine and sugar. Once mixed, stir in the flax eggs followed by the beetroot purée.

2. In another bowl, add the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Using a sieve to remove any lumps, slowly add the flour mix to the beetroot mix, a small amount at a time. As you go, gently fold in the flour, avoiding stirring too much.

3. Grease a deep tin or oven-proof dish (glass or ceramic are fine) and pour the mixture in, spreading evenly. Place in the oven and bake for around 45 minutes; the exact cooking time will depend on your oven. For fudgy brownies, you can tell they are cooked when the edges begin to pull away from the container and putting a cocktail stick in doesn’t bring out any lumps (it won’t come out clean for fudgy ones even when they are cooked).

4. Once the brownies are cooked, remove from the oven. Leave for around five minutes to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack or kitchen paper. Allow them to cool completely before adding the topping.

4. Whilst the brownies are cooling, bring a small amount of water to the boil in a large pan. Place a large heat-proof mixing bowl over the pan and add the chocolate, coconut oil and beetroot water into the bowl. Stir constantly until the ingredients have melted and formed a smooth, glossy paste. Mix in the stevia syrup, if using.

5. Spread the topping evenly over each brownie and sprinkle with either desiccated coconut or grated chocolate. Serve as warm or cold!Vegan Fudgy Beetroot Brownies | The Tofu DiariesWhat do you think about adding vegetables into sweet recipes? Have you ever tried any?

P.S. Did you know The Tofu Diaries is now on Instagram? Follow me here!

Cruelty-free Spotlight: beefayre

I had a thought as I began writing this blog post, and can’t say it is one I have had before; what do bees do in winter? There’s a chance I started thinking about this because I have been watching a lot of David Attenborough’s 3D series at the moment (highly recommend doing the same if you haven’t yet!), but anyway, I was quite delighted to find out that honey bees survive in a similar way to penguins.

Honey bees keep warm by huddling in the hive and taking it in turns to snuggle in the heated middle and to do their time on the edges keeping the cold out. Using the energy they get from their honey stores, the bees also shiver to generate further heat. Pretty cool, right?

Bees at Harewood House

There was of course a reason I had bees on my mind and that’s because I want to share a lovely brand with you today as part of my new series on cruelty-free shopping and ethical companies.

beefayre are a small UK-based company dedicated to creating handmade, high quality, mostly organic items that are free from petroleum by-products and beautifully packaged with designs illustrated by the company’s own founder, Sharon Jervis. The natural ingredients beefayre use include quality essential oils; they never contain sulphates or parabens. They are also PETA certified cruelty-free, with strictly no animal testing of beefayre’s ingredients or end products.

Not only that but beefayre are so passionate about sustainability and dedicated to helping bee populations that they donate 3% of their profits to bee conservation. Given that bee numbers have been in sharp decline over recent years, this support is essential to ensure that bees are protected and also that their vital role in our ecosystem isn’t lost.

Beefayre 1 Beefayre 2 Beefayre 3 Beefayre 4

beefayre kindly sent me some of their range to try out and I have been thoroughly impressed with the deliciously scented moisturising lip balms (I’m not easily impressed when it come to lip balms). This relaxing bluebell & wood anemone candle that has found a home in my bathroom and barely any wax has disappeared yet after burning through a couple of long baths so I expect it to be going strong for quite some time. Though I would always prefer to choose a plant-based wax over unsustainable paraffin wax, I actually only learnt recently how toxic those candles can be in your home so I will certainly be picking up more plant wax candles from beefayre in the future.

Do you look for brands that have a sustainable outlook? Share your favourites in the comments!

Insta-lately #1

Trying to keep a blogging schedule is a funny thing. It feels so satisfying to publish all the posts you had planned for a week yet it can feel surprisingly stressful if you don’t quite manage it. For me, whilst any schedules or deadlines are entirely self-imposed (or self-inflicted as it can sometimes seem), my ‘to blog’ list never ends. Having too many ideas, too many things to write about, and wanting to share them all is only a positive thing, but actually covering each and every one is fairly impossible because there simply isn’t enough time.

As I (finally) created a personal Instagram last week, I thought that both that platform and a round-up post on here now and then could be a nice way to share the little in-between bits (that there isn’t quite time to dedicate a whole post to) alongside my usual blog posts, as well as some previews of features that are on the way. So here is my first slice of Instagram to share – I’d love to hear your thoughts on roundups like this and if you’d like to see it as a regular feature.

Petals amongst fallen autumn leaves Hazlewood Castle, Yorkshire Woodland mushroom

Country walks: Petals amongst fallen autumn leaves / Hazlewood Castle, North Yorkshire / A woodland mushroom

Tick Tock Unlock, Leeds Lunch at Mill Kitchen, Farsley Light installation in Leeds

Out & about: Escaping from Tick Tock Unlock for Pete’s birthday  / Blogger lunch at Mill Kitchen, Farsley / Light installation in Leeds

Moroccan Tiles Seagull in Essaouira Handpainted Moroccan Bowls

Flashbacks from Morocco: Zellige tiles / Seagull in Essaouira / Handpainted bowls

Montezuma's Vegan Chocolate  Golden Siberian Cat Forest fruits & soy yogurt

Little treats: Montezuma’s vegan chocolate with coffee / Cuddles with Tarmigan / Forest fruits & soy yogurt

Share your Instagram profile links in the comments below so I can follow you or find me over there!

Morocco Diary: Patterns of Morocco

Lining doorways, covering floors and adorning fountains, mosques, and ancient tombs, Morocco is a country of patterns and colour. I spotted them at almost every turn and couldn’t resist capturing them.

Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries

‘Zellige’ tiles, truly an art form requiring skilled workmanship, are created by cutting, paining and assembling tiny fragments of enamel into a geometric pattern before setting them in plaster on a terracotta base. The designs are rooted in Islamic tradition as a way to express beauty through shapes rather than by depicting living beings which would be forbidden.

Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries

I actually brought four painted tiles back home, added a felt backing and now have them as a beautiful set of coasters on my coffee table (my cat just loves to use them as a pillow). Naturally I also picked up a couple of gorgeous bowls for my kitchen – you might have spotted one of them housing my Vegan Mushroom Bourguignon!

Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu DiariesPatterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries Patterns of Morocco | The Tofu Diaries

Where is the most colourful place you have visited?