Veggie Pub Grub Pop Up!

There’s certainly a foodie vibe going on around Cambridge the moment, as demonstrated by the number of supperclubs and food-related events happening locally and new eateries opening across the City. Many different tastes and cuisines are catered for, and now there’s a new pop up in town – the Veggie Pub Grub Pop Up!

Veggie Pub Grub Pop UpThis new venture is the brainchild of Sam Dyer and Jennie Debenham, both known locally for their love of vegan food. Starting Monday 24th February, the pop up will run for six weeks at the Alexandra Arms on Gwydir Street, on Monday and Tuesday evenings from 6-9pm. The menu promises a whole host of vegetarian and vegan food delights, as well as gluten-free options.  Sam and Jennie are trying to source their food locally, including having their bread created for them by Bread On A Bike. You can just turn up on the night, but word is already spreading fast so it’s advisable to book in advance – just call The Alex on (01223) 324448.

Famed locally for her delicious vegan cupcakes, Sam is no stranger to the local food scene – she has run her own catering business, Mouth Music, as well as the kitchen at Arjuna on Mill Road, she has supplied food to hungry hordes of volunteers over the years at events such as Strawberry Fair and has also been part of the team behind the Wild Thyme Community Cafe. Jennie is also known for her food exploits and created the Liberated Feast – a vegan banquet that sources food from surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste (look out for the next one on 6th April!).

More information about Sam and Jennie’s menu will be revealed on their facebook page later this week, but I was lucky enough to hear a sneak preview yesterday and can tell you that it is going to be delicious – I’m not even a veggie, but my mouth was watering when I heard about the dishes planned for the menu! Right, I’m off to book a table… .

Sam & Jennie’s Veggie Pub Grub Pop Up
Monday & Tuesday evenings, 6-9pm (runs Mon 24th February – Tuesday 25th March)
The Alexandra Arms, 22-24 Gwydir Street CB1 2LL. Tel: (01223) 324448

To veg or not to veg…

Following on from my recent post mentioning the UN’s revelation that we all need to move towards meat free and dairy free diets if we are to save the planet (gulp!), I’ve been thinking about how easy it would be to become vegetarian or vegan…

PaellaIt can certainly seem like a big challenge – for a start you’re giving up something that probably appears in most if not all of your meals, and of course there’s the task of making your food taste delicious too. I’m not vegetarian at the moment, but I was a ‘veggie’ for a good few years. I had wondered at first if I would miss the meat element of my diet, but I was surprised by just how quickly I began to feel healthier by cutting it out. I started creating my own sauces (rather than opting for shop bought ones) such as pesto and I found that a lot of other sauces were pretty easy to make once I’d perfected the art of the roux. I also re-discovered some ingredients that I had previously dismissed – such as olives, capers and sundried tomatoes – and also began to season/flavour my food more with herbs and spices (paprika became a firm favourite around this time). My friend Mike, who lives in the Mill Road area, recently took on the challenge of becoming vegetarian for a month (or Veguary as it was known) and the photo above is of one of his delicious creations, vegetarian paella.

Butternut SquashIf you’re thinking of going vegetarian and considering using meat substitutes to help you ease into it, I would highly recommend paying a visit to Al Amin. They have an extensive frozen section at the back of the shop with all manner of pies, sausages, chicken and beef substitutes. If you’d prefer not to use meat substitutes then I’d suggest making friends with the butternut squash (and indeed other squashes), they are delicious and great for adding texture to curries, stews and casseroles.

There are a number of shops and eateries on Mill Road that are good to know if you’re planning on becoming vegetarian (or vegan), and with National Vegetarian Week coming up in a few weeks time (20th – 26th May) I’ll be returning to this subject soon with some more of my tips for making it that little bit easier.

Food for thought…

With the recent horsemeat scandal and a number of other stories in the press casting doubt on where our food comes from and what it actually is, it’s not surprising that a number of people are now considering vegetarian and even vegan diets as the way forward. Some of my friends have been doing this for a while, but the longest serving vegetarian/vegan I know has to be my friend Joan Court – who became vegetarian as a teenager some 77 years ago, and is also a confirmed vegan.

Global FruitLocal author Joan explains that the United Nations have said a global shift towards a meat-free and dairy-free diet is necessary if we want to be able to eat sustainably in the future and reduce the impact of climate change; and a look at some of the UN figures that have been published in recent times also suggest that over a third of the food produced globally goes to waste – which sounds bad enough in itself, but even more worrying when you consider that food production accounts for 70% of our freshwater consumption, 80% of deforestation and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Joan CourtMahatma Gandhi – who Joan worked alongside in the 1940’s – suggested that vegan diets are beneficial for our own health:
It is very significant that some of the most thoughtful and cultured men are partisans of a pure vegetable diet
…and vegetarian and particularly vegan diets are, of course, kinder to animals – something Joan is all too keenly aware of. After moving to Cambridge in the late 1970’s to study social anthropology, she co-founded Animal Rights Cambridge – the longest serving animal rights group in the UK. They hold regular monthly meetings in the Mill Road area and have been involved in a number of local and national animal welfare campaigns – from persuading the Michelin starred Midsummer House restaurant to remove foie gras from its menu, to campaigning against live animal exports.

Animals BetrayedJoan’s latest book, Animals Betrayed, features interviews with a number of animal rights activists across the UK. It gives an insight into many of the issues faced by those campaigning for animal welfare and also sheds some light on why some of them first chose to become vegetarian/vegan. Some of those interviewed also talk about animal consciousness – a topic that has been the subject of much research and debate in recent years, including at the 2012 University of Cambridge conference ‘Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals‘.

Joan will be signing copies of her book at the RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road on Saturday – 30th March – between 2 and 5pm. If you can’t make Saturday but would still like a copy of the book (published by Selene Press and priced £12.50) it’s available via Amazon or by phoning (01223) 311828. Joan will be happy to talk about a host of animal welfare issues on Saturday, so it’s a great opportunity to find out more …and she might even share her tips on the best Mill Road places to do a vegan food shop!

Book signing: ‘Animals Betrayed’ by Joan Court 
Saturday 30th March, 2-5pm – at the RSPCA Bookshop, 188 Mill Road CB1 3LP