Vegetarians and travelling – a match made in hell?

I love to travel but always have in the back of my mind one question that often determines my choice of destination.

How easy will it be to find vegetarian food?

It is all too easy to be put off travelling abroad if you think every day is going to be a struggle to find some decent veggie food. However, I have found that is you invest some time before you go doing your research, the results can make your trip away well worth it!

Top veggie destinations

I have travelled around the world twice and visited many countries. Some countries that are vegetarian friendly have often surprised me. My top destinations for veggies are:

  1. Thailand
  2. Malaysia
  3. Portugal
  4. California

Portugal for vegetarians

Porto in Portugal

Porto in Portugal

I recently visited Porto in Portugal and was pleasantly surprised by the range and quality of food I had. I had been wary of going but in fact had some great culinary experiences. I visited Casa Da Horta which is a vegetarian food coop. Basic but welcoming I sampled some traditional Portuguese food at really low prices.

I also visited Essencia which was a wonderful example of how to cook innovative veggie food. I had a caramelised walnut and goats cheese salad to start, then a seitan curry for main and a delicious raspberry sorbet with fresh kiwi fruit for dessert. They also have a fantastic range of cocktails.

Raspberry sorbet with fresh kiwi

Raspberry sorbet with fresh kiwi

Very different restaurants but equally as good.

I would definitely recommend Portugal if you are veggie as from what I have seen, vegetarianism is a growing movement in Portugal and with their love of fresh vegetables and fruit, the Portuguese are very open to the idea.

Vegetarian travel tips

I would encourage any vegetarians to embrace the idea of travel, even if it is to a country that you might think you would struggle in. Paris for instance challenged my preconceptions that France is a veggie nightmare and I visited some great places to eat. The key message is – Do Your Research!

There are always cafes and restaurants out there that are veggie or veggie-friendly. You’ve just got to know where to look….

Google is always a good place to start. There is also a website called happycow.net which is very useful. Happy veggie surfing!

V is for Vegetarian

I often wonder what criteria food manufacturers and supermarkets use when applying the ‘V’ symbol to vegetarian products.

I was searching for some balsamic vinegar on the Sainsburys website yesterday and the one I wanted did not have the V symbol on it. Is this because it is truly not vegetarian or is it because they simply did not use the symbol on it?

The vegetarian symbol

The vegetarian symbol

There is a degree of trust implied when you see the symbol that you trust the manufacturer agress with what your definition of a vegatariaqn is.

My definition of a vegetarian

My definition of a vegetarian food is something that contains no meat, fish or poultry and no  ingredients of the animal slaughter industry. This includes:

  • Gelatine
  • Animal fat
  • Artificial ingredients derived from animals, such as cochineal.

Veggie approved products

If you are looking for vegetarian foods, I suggest you always double check the ingredients do not have any animal ingredients. A good place to start when looking for veggie foods in the Vegetarian Socity website list of approved products.

When you then learn to know what constitutes a veggie-friendly ingredient you’ll be better informed when looking at ingredients lists.

The ‘V’ sysmbol is a great way of knowing what is veggie but my advice is to always look beyond it for 100% certainty.

I am a vegetarian

Up til now my blog has been a little bit faceless. I recently realised I had not really given too much away about who I am!

Well my name is Ben and I live in Brighton & Hove. I became vegetarian twenty years ago when I was 18 years old.

I’d just started university. I had been thinking about becoming veggie for quite a few years but since I was going to be fending for myself in the kitchen, I thought it was time to put my vegetarian cooking skills to the test!

Twenty years later I am passionate about living a meat and cruelty free life as ever. Since vegetarianism is my passion I decided that would be a good subject to blog about.

I am a member of the Vegetarian Society, subscribe to Cook Vegetarian magazine, love to try out and support new veggie restaurants and cafes wherever I go and am always up for convincing meat eaters why veggie is the way forward.

And this is me…

Ben Hills-Jones

Waitrose love vegetarians!

I just wanted to highlight how Waitrose are really catering for and thinking about vegetarians and meat free cuisine.

I picked up their in store magazine today and it came with a Winter harvest magazine.

Packed full of recipes, I was pleasantly surprised to discover so many of them are vegetarian! I wish other food retailers would follow Waitrose’s lead.

Waitrose

Vegetarian recipes

Some of the tasty looking recipes include:

  • Crispy tofu pancakes
  • Soy-braised aubergine
  • Vegetable fried rice
  • Chinese mushroom broth
  • Ribbon stir fry with noodles
  • Steamed pak choi with crispy garlic, chilli and ginger
  • Curried celeriac and parsnip soup
  • Cauliflower, bean and coconut casserole
  • Mixed vegetable parcels…

and I could go on!

If you’re a My Waitrose, John Lewis or Waitrose card member it is free, otherwise it is £1.20. Definitely worth picking up a copy if you can.

Wagamama veggie fail!

Just been served chicken in Wagamama! I always thought of Wagamama’s as being quite good for veggies. But obviously their standards of checking things are strictly vegetarian are not as good as I had imagined!

waga

This is a ongoing problem for vegetarians. Whenever you eat at a non-veggie restaurant there is always a degree of implied trust that you are getting what you ordered. The manager was very apologetic and luckily I had not eaten any of the chicken, but I would have kicked off big style if I had, believe me!

Might have to think twice about going there again if their standards of veggie cooking are that lax!!

Why do TV chefs make so few vegetarian recipes?

I love to watch cooking shows on TV. It is a great way of picking up new recipes, new techniques and opening up your mind to different cuisines. But why is it always so meaty?

I was watching Jamie Oliver the other day, and I had to turn it off. Partly because I find him annoying! But mainly because his shows in particular are so meat obsessed!

Jamie Oliver

Vegetarian chefs

Are there any vegetarian chefs cooking on TV? Not that I am aware of. Nigel Slater does some nice recipes that are meat-free, as does Hugh Fearnley-Whittigstall.

But generally vegetarian ideas are sadly lacking!

Why cook vegetarian recipes?

I think chefs on TV should be cooking more veggie dishes because:

  • They can be made be a wider number of people
  • They are generally healthier
  • They are more environmentally friendly
  • They’re generally cheaper to make.

Until then, I might find myself switching off more than I like to be.

Vegetarians in the UK and the Vegetarian Society

The Vegetarian Society is one of the oldest vegetarian societies in the world. It is based in Manchester in England and was formed in 1847.

The Vegetarian Society is an educational charity working to support, represent and increase the number of vegetarians in the UK. It’s a great organisation which I am proud to be a member of.

Why join the Vegetarian Society?

I joined the Vegetarian Society because I am passionate about vegetarianism. I want to support an organisation that helps people become vegetarian and support the lives of vegetarians in the UK and is an advocate for vegetarian issues.

Vegsoc

What services do the Vegetarian Society offer?

National Vegetarian Week

They also run National Vegetarian Week. This will be from 20 to 26 May 2013 in the UK.

What is a Vegetarian Approved Product?

If you have ever wondered how you can find out what products you buy are REALLY veggie, then the society also produce a list of approved products.

Become a VegSoc Member

Why not become a Vegetarian Society member? It is a great charity to join and you’ll receive regular magazines, and access to some great veggie discounts too!

Just in case you are wondering, I am not on commission from the VegSoc, I am simply a passionate advocate of the work that they do!

Vegetarians and gelatine

There are many myths about what vegetarians can eat, and do eat. People are often surprised when I tell them the lengths I go to make sure I stay true to my vegetarian principles.

What do vegetarian’s eat?

My definition of a vegetarian is someone who does not eat animals, including meat and fish, and also including by-products of the slaughter industry. This includes gelatine.

What is gelatine?

Gelatine is made from animal bones and is used in the food industry as a setting agent. It may surprise to know the wide range of foods that it contained in. Gelatine is often found in:

  • Yoghurt
  • Sweets or candies
  • Jelly
  • Marshmallows
  • Cakes

Do all vegetarians avoid gelatine?

No. Not all vegetarians avoid gelatine. Friends of mine do not have a problem eating it. I personally cannot justify eating something knowing it has animal bones in it. I also avoid eating anything with animal fat and animal rennet in it but I’ll save that debate for another blog post.

Vegetarian-friendly non-gelatine products

There are companies out there who do understand the need to cater for people who do not wish to eat gelatine. They include:

Many supermarkets will sell yoghurts that do not contain gelatine, just make sure you always check the ingredients first before you buy.

A Vegetarian Christmas

Christmas can be a vegetarian’s worst nightmare. Lashings of turkey? Honey glazed ham? Pheasant? Duck? Yuck!

I grew up, as most people do, associating Christmas with festive meaty fare. Since I turned veggie at aged 18, I have never really looked forward to the so-called best culinary day of the year.

Vegetarian websites

But in the last few years, with some research, I have discovered the delights a truly tasty vegetarian Christmas dinner. There are loads of great veggie and veggie-friendly websites out there offering different variations for what to cook for Christmas.

Souffle

Vegetarian magazines

There are also some great veggie magazines out there in the UK that at this time of year concentrate what to cook for a veggie Christmas.

The main two are ‘Cook Vegetarian‘ and ‘Vegetarian Living‘.

Happy Christmas feasting!