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17 May 2017

Vegan in Slovenia: Ljubljana & Bled


Travelling as a vegan is certainly becoming easier and makes it that much more enjoyable to explore new places. Part of the joy of travelling to me is trying new foods, which is made easier by how vegan friendly both Ljubljana and Bled are! I'm going to do two posts about my week trip to Slovenia; one on food and one on all the amazing things we saw and did. I would highly recommend Ljubljana and Bled to anyone and I hope that some day I get to see more of this amazing country! What's best is almost everyone we encountered speaks English, which means you can ask for a cheese-less pizza etc if you wish, without worrying about misunderstandings, though there are plenty of places that serve vegan food so you shouldn't ever be stuck for options!

Ljubljana 



Barbarella Arkade Bistro

We visited this vegan bistro for breakfast on our third day in Ljubljana and were so impressed that we just had to go back for lunch. The restaurant is located along the river bank by the central market, it has a small inside seating area with more room for tables outside. The Barbarella Arkade Bistro was one of my favourite places in Ljubljana and possibly ever - the food was so fresh and it was clear that a great deal of thought and creativity has gone into the menu.



This was the Acai Bowl from the breakfast menu - blueberry and acai flavoured nice cream topped with banana, apple, raspberries, blueberries, shredded coconut and some of their homemade buckwheat granola. This smoothie bowl was truly incredible, made fresh to order and really made you feel..well...euphoric! The granola was a chewy and a little crunchy with caramel and cinnamon notes and sooooo delicious. They sell their granola in bags on the counter, but with only a soft hand luggage bag I had a feeling it may just be dust by the end of the trip, so had to pass on taking some home. I will definitely be having a go at making some in the future though. 


We also had an avocado and hummus sandwich along with the smoothie bowl - a fluffy roll filled with hummus, spinach, carrot and fresh avocado. This was pretty delicious and also made fresh to order, but if given the choice I would order the smoothie bowl in the future.


Having had a look at the lunch menu over breakfast and already deciding what we'd like to try, we went back in the afternoon. There is a printed menu, along with a changing daily specials board. 


It's not very often that I order salads at restaurants - this may have actually been the first time, but this dish sounded too good to pass up on. It was a lentil salad on a base of lettuce, with tomatoes, radishes, kalamata olives and spring onion. This came with a balsamic fig dressing and baguette half topped with a creamy lemon and chive spread. The whole dish tasted vibrant and fresh, complimented by the tangy-sweetness of the dressing. The baguette was also so delicious and I'm glad it was included as it made the salad a little more substantial, whilst also adding different textures and flavours too the dish. The toasted pine nuts also added a depth of flavour and crunch to the salad and I would love to eat this dish again!


We also ordered the BBQ Cheese Burger - a bean patty topped with vegan cheese, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato and creamy red slaw on a toasted sesame seed bun. The burger components in themselves were delicious - the patty was firm and held together well, complimented by the melty vegan cheese. The slaw was creamy and flavourful and added a needed crunch to the burger and the bun was firm enough to hold the burger but also soft and fluffy. My only criticism is that with so many components we found it a little hard to eat - though we saw other people eating them without any trouble, so maybe we hadn't quite mastered that skill yet! That said I would definitely order both the mains we had again!

Loving Hut 


For those of you not familiar with Loving Hut, they are a series of vegan restaurant chains world wide - with varying menus at each one. The one in Ljubljana, located across from the bus station sells burgers, hot dogs and wraps, along with a daily pay-by-weight buffet. We visited here twice in our visit, both times in the evening which meant that the buffet was winding down a bit- though I'm sure that if you arrived at 12pm you would be met with a vast array of fresh and delicious food! Pictured in front is the gyros wrap - seitan and soy pieces, with tzatziki, chips and fresh salad and behind is the Mexican - soy pieces, beans, sweetcorn and salad. These wraps were absolutely huge and super delicious, one portion of chips between us would have probably been enough, though for €5.50 for a wrap and chips, you really can't go wrong! 

Zaživ Vegan Bistro

This restaurant is the second location of this vegan bistro, originally located in Bled - it serves burgers, wraps salads, desserts and coffee too. The cafe itself is pretty big, has free wifi and this incredible display of books which are free to read during your visit.


We opted for the burgers- a vegetable patty in a corn bun with salad, mayo ketchup and a wild mushroom patty in a buckwheat bun with salad, vegan mayo and garlic. The burgers were delicious and the patties held together well - however the buns were much bigger than the patties so often it was more of a salad sandwich. I would have also of liked for it to be served on a plate, rather than the basket pictured, so you could catch all the salad falling out of the buns - we clearly haven't mastered the art of eating burgers! The burgers were really tasty though and I did enjoy the amount of fresh salad packed into the bun, I just feel that to improve them they could make the patties a little bigger - so I could enjoy it in every bite!



For dessert I had a piece of strawberry and cherry cake - with a coconut cream and strawberry frosting - the cake was good, if not a little dense and I'd probably opt for the chocolate cake in the future!

Ajdovo Zrno

Ajdovo Zrno is a little cafe/restaurant in a little courtyard to the left of the street. It's pretty easy to miss the turning, so watch out for the sign. The restaurant only has a few options daily and puts these together in a meal deal - soup, main and salad and a dessert for €8 and this is definitely the most cost effective option.


We only went in for a light lunch so opted for the main of lentils and kidney beans in a home made spelt wrap which was €4. This was super flavourful and cannot be faulted, however had we known that for a small side of salad it would be €3.50 extra, we probably would have gone for the full deal, in terms of value for money. If we'd of had more time I would have liked to go back for the meal deal and seen what other sorts of main meals they do. 


Zvezda Kavarna Bistro/Deli

Zvezda cafe is located in Congress Square, with a take-away deli around the corner. It has a few vegan dessert options, including this chocolate cake a strawberry ice cream (100% fruit).


The chocolate cake was filled with layers of banana and fruit - it was moist, flavourful and delicious with the strawberry ice cream. They also have soy milk for coffee. It's certainly not the cheapest place, but is very popular with the locals and was fantastic to be able to get vegan cake in such a main stream location. 


Cacao

On first arrival we walked past Cacao - located by the triple bridge and filled with locals, where ice cream on a Sunday morning seems to be a thing.



Later on we walked past again and noticed some clearly marked vegan options on the menu - including the wild strawberry and mojito flavours pictured here. I really enjoyed this ice cream and it made me realise how vegan friendly Ljubljana was going to be!


Zrno do zrna 



This specialised food shop is located near the triple bridge, just up one of the side roads, it has many vegan speciality products including cheese, mayo, plant milks and even a deli counter with a few ready made vegan options. So if you're doing a bit more self-catering in Ljubljana - this shop is the place to head to!

Bled




Bled was surprisingly vegan friendly, with an all vegan restaurant and a pizza place which has vegan cheese. As we did a little more exploring in bled we only ate out in the evenings and prepared some food in our AirBnB with what we could find in the supermarket. 


Public Bar and Vegan Kitchen was developed through the help of the owners of Zaživ, previously located in Bled - that means that the menu is similar, though there are some differences when it comes to dessert options! They also have a vegan version of the famous Bled Cream Cake on weekends!


We stopped in for an afternoon snack and ordered a piece of chocolate cake and a waffle. The chocolate cake was was moist and topped with a gooey chocolate sauce, with a drizzle of berry compote. This cake was amazing and my mum said it was her second favourite ever, next to the chocolate hazelnut fudge cake I made for her birthday last year (thanks mum!). 



I think this was the first time I've ordered a waffle in a restaurant and I kind of wish I had another one before I left - it was slightly crisp but also fluffy and chewy on the inside, topped with fresh fruit, a berry drizzle and icing sugar. This really hit the mark of a good waffle and they're a great addition to the menu!



For dinner I ordered the 'spring burger' - a wild garlic, nettle, millet and potato patty, in a spelt bun with their special sauce, a mix of mayo, mustard, ketchup and relish. I also ordered a side of wedges which came with two different dipping sauces. The burger had plenty of salad including pickles and the bun was pretty good too, the patty was incredible (I love wild garlic!) and I only wish it was again, the size of the bun so it was in every bite!



My mum had the chickpea fritters on a bed of salad, which I tried and they were pretty flavourful! These were off the snacks menu and are great if you're not feeling a whole burger or anything too heavy!


When we first entered the bar we asked about the cream cake and were told it was only made for weekends - which as our flight was on Saturday morning meant we would miss the chance to try the veganised version of this famous dessert. The wonderful staff though informed us it would be ready on Friday night, ready to sell on Saturday and were kind enough to let us have a piece early. In comparison to the regular cream cake, it has more cream than 'custard' and I assume this is due to keeping the structure of the cake. The cake was pretty sweet, topped with crisp puff pastry and icing sugar and I have to say I really did enjoy it! The cream didn't taste vegan and I'm sure you could feed it to any non-vegan and they would enjoy it just as much. So thank you to the kind people at Public Bar, who allowed us to try this local delicacy whilst in Bled!


Pizzeria Gallus



The pizza place is located on the same level of the shopping 'centre' as Public Bar, it has a traditional wood-fired oven and a vegan option on the menu - though you can ask for vegan cheese on any veggie pizza. This is the vegan pizza, with mushrooms instead of red peppers and minced garlic on one half (guess who's half!). The cheese tastes like violife cheese for pizza (which I love), which is oozy and gooey, though it can be a little sticky too. The first pizza we had as take away and the second, on our final night we ate in the restaurant; it's a very quaint and authentic looking pizzeria and the pizza crust itself was really delicious - a little chewy and crisp and not at all burnt like you can sometimes get from a wood-fired oven! I love that so many more pizzerias these days are embracing vegan cheese, it just makes it so much easier to eat vegan whilst out and makes you feel accepted into a place when there's clearly marked menu options!

Supermarket Mercator

The main supermarkets around bled are Mercator, the one by the restaurants had soy, oat and rice milk in a small 'free from' section, though another we visited had about 4 different types of tofu in the fridge. Not many of the labels are in English, so it might be worth jotting down the names of the main allergens (these will be in bold) as well as things like honey and quickly skimming through the labels. We found a few vegan sauces/dips of roasted red/green pepper and salsa, which can be mashed with a can of chickpeas for a quick sandwich filling - hummus was something we didn't find. Though, the vegan restaurant sells hummus, if you do need a fix! There's also crisps, nuts, Oreos, fresh fruit and veg and my personal favourite holiday drink - ice tea! So, you may have to get a little resourceful, but prepping a picnic is entirely possible from what you'll find in the supermarket!


Would I recommend?

Absolutely, I'll touch on what we did and saw in my next post, but from the incredible sights, the amazing people and great vegan food, I would highly recommend Ljubljana and Bled as a holiday destination! We were told the best time to visit Bled is September/October time, where the weather is a little cooler but stable and the summer crowds have died down a little. But whenever you visit this little gem, you will come away with fond memories, full bellies and a longing to come back!


1 May 2017

Pani Puri


This next dish is my take on a Indian street food called Pani Puri - pani is the spiced 'water' and puri are the crisp shells, which I filled with spiced chickpeas, potatoes and red onion. This dish varies from region to region and goes by several names including Phuchhka, Golgappa, GupChup and of course Pani Puri, the fillings and flavours also vary, but this is my take on this delightful snack!




I first tried Pani Puri last summer when I was at home after returning from Budapest - we were in a Indian Street Food restaurant in reading and this was certainly a memorable dish! We had them with chickpeas, onion and potato with a very spicy coriander water and a tangy chutney. For the water in this dish I toned down the spice and made it a little sweet and tangy with the addition of tamarind paste and a medjool date - combing both the dressings that we first experienced. Since then, I've been back to the restaurant once again and I enjoyed it just as much the second time around - although I knew to go easy on the coriander water this time! 

22 April 2017

Tagliatelle with Roasted Vine Tomatoes & Olive Tapenade


Whilst most of my recipes are original, every so often I come across a dish that's just so amazing I have to recreate it. This next recipe is one of them and based off a dish from the new vegan menu at Ask Italian - tagliatelle with pan fried courgettes, spinach, garlic and a hint of chili, with home-made olive tapenade and the sweetest, most incredible, roasted vine tomatoes.


Last weekend I was at home for Easter and tried some of the new menu items, including this dish, the aubergine pasta, the rosemary sea salt bread and their new chocolate orange tart for dessert. Ask have definitely hit the spot with this menu and I just couldn't wait to eat this next dish again. There's quite a lot of components for this dish, but you get 4 incredible servings of tagliatelle at the end, for the same price one would cost you at a restaurant. This would be the perfect dish to make if inviting some friends over, it's sophisticated and so delicious, yet all the steps are really quite simple! Plus - it goes really well with wine! 

16 April 2017

Beans & Greens with Za'atar Pita Chips


Sometimes you need a meal that’s just as nutritious and easy as it is hearty and delicious – this next recipe checks all those boxes and it can be made in less than 30 minutes. Here I combined white beans and kale with softened onions, garlic and seasonings, which I paired with some home-made pita chips, all golden, crisp and coated in Za'atar spice. 


Za'atar is a middle eastern spice mix, predominantly consisting of sumac, sesame seeds, oregano and salt – however it varies from region to region. It’s tangy, fragrant and always so delicious. I used the za'atar in this recipe to coat the pita chips and in the beans and greens – which adds such depth of flavour to the dish in relatively little time.

9 April 2017

Vegan Easter Chocolate Cups


When it comes to vegan treats for Easter, despite most of the supermarkets having upped their game with the 'free from' eggs this year, they still seem to be lacking the excitement of the regular chocolate egg market - not to mention the price for such a little amount of chocolate. So, I thought I'd create some fun and super delicious Easter treats that you can make at home, whilst also getting more for your money!


Whilst you can make these chocolates into an egg shape, chocolate cups are not only easier, but require a standard cupcake tin and paper cases, that everyone probably already has on hand. These chocolates are also slightly healthier than shop bought treats, as they are stuffed with whole food ingredients, so you know exactly what you're eating.