Sustainability is hot. Many brands are launching ‘sustainable product ranges’ and we seem increasingly willing to buy the eco-edition of our favourite item. We diligently recycle our waste and turn off the lights when we leave a room. The hippies under us might even say goodbye to meat and sell their cars in favour their shank’s pony. But how do we know when we are doing enough?View Post
Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of my boyfriend and I. To mark the occasion, we decided to have a meal out at the vegan fine dining restaurant ‘The Allotment’ in Stockport. Funilly enough, my boyfriend and I have bonded over our love of fine dining during our relationship. What started out as a crazy idea to visit a vegetarian Michelin Start restaurant during a trip to Milan, turned into an incredible experience for both of us and a shared love for haute cuisine. The Allotment had been on my list of places to eat at for a while and our anniversary was the perfect excuse to make the splurge.
The Allotment is situated in the heart of Stockport, a charming medieval town just outside of Manchester. The restaurant recently changed their opening times from evening to afternoon, which makes it easier to visit from further away as a day out. The interior is fresh and clean and the open kitchen gives you a glance into the marvelous work that chef Matthew Nutter and his team are doing. The large windows give you a lovely view onto the cobbled street outside and simultaneously fill the restaurant with light. The menu contains a seven and ten-course tasting menu that changes seasonally. Each week the chef also offers a changing three-course menu for those with smaller wallets and stomachs. We opted for the seven-course tasting menu and were not disappointed.
The first course in our tasting menu was a white gazpacho, made from grapes, peas, and almonds. It was almost 30 °C on the day we visited, so this soup was a refreshing start to our meal. I never thought grapes and garlic would have made a good combo, but this course definitely proved me wrong.
The next course was my boyfriend’s favourite and consisted of fried courgette, an avocado cream and a little side salad consisting of fennel, pea, and cucumber. This course tasted of summer and was packed with fresh flavours that reminded me of a summer garden party.
Course number three consisted of celeriac spaghetti with parsley sauce and fried capers. Unlike zoodles (zucchini noodles), I thought the celeriac spaghetti tasted very similar to normal pasta. The parsley and fried capers gave the dish a zinginess that made it another perfect summer dish.
The next dish was my absolute favourite one and consisted of a shitake mushroom pâté with raw crackers on the side. The dish was flavoursome, rich and decadent and I could not believe it was made of mushrooms! Before I became a vegetarian at the age of eleven, I loved eating pâté. When I realised it was made of liver, my fondness quickly waned. But eating the mushroom pâté at The Allotment reminded me of my childhood pâté sandwiches and made me question why these mushroom pâtés are not sold in shops instead of the ones containing animal intestines.
For the ‘main course’, we were served an oyster mushroom stir fry with pomme dauphine (crispy potato puffs), a cream cheese stuffed roasted red pepper and a spicy carrot side salad. I absolutely loved the oyster mushrooms and the stuffed red pepper. The pomme dauphine and carrots were tasty pallet cleansers but in comparison to all the other wonderful flavours on my plate, they were a little underwhelming. Overall a lovely dish though that I would gladly have served again.
Next up were the deserts that started with an orange and coconut milk sorbet that was sprinkled with a generous dusting of cacao powder. It was another very fresh dish and the coconut milk added an icecream-like creaminess that is hard to find in most sorbets.
The last dish of the meal was a visually impressive platter of goodness. The plate included some hibiscus ice cream, dehydrated beetroot, vegan merengue, blobs of jelly and a lovely nutty cream. All the flavours were so creative and different from your standard dessert. I was really impressed with the vegan merengue. Knowing that these are made of chickpea water (Aquafaba) still blows my mind and I cannot wait to attempt making my own merengues soon.
The great thing about The Allotment is that their menu changes periodically, so in a few months they will have a completely different set of dishes that I can try out. Their current menu is clearly inspired by summer, as all the dishes are fresh and light. I have eaten tasting menu’s before that left my belly very uncomfortable, but at The Allotment I left the restaurant satisfied, yet not overly full. My carnivorous boyfriend loved the food just as much as I did, so this is definitely not a vegan-only type of restaurant. If you have a special occasion to celebrate or if you are just a foodie who wants to treat themselves to an amazing meal, I highly recommend giving The Allotment a go.
And every day the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “this is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” and every day it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “no, this is important.”
Living the dream
One morning in November of 2016 I woke up and realised I was living the life I had always dreamed of. I was studying for an MSc on a topic I felt passionate about, I was in a relationship with the most wonderful man and I had just started working part-time alongside my degree. This meant I could save up to visit all my lovely friends, who were scattered around the European continent. Everything had finally fallen into place and I pinched myself sometimes, as I couldn’t believe my own luck. One month later, the worst year of my life began.
I had been so busy living my life and grabbing every opportunity that had come my way with both hands, that I hadn’t realised how busy I actually was. My body was keeping count however and just after Christmas of 2016, I collapsed. I fell ill with a fever and a terrible shingles infection (chickenpox for grownups), which was very uncomfortable to say the least. At first, I thought it was just a case of staying in bed for a week and then getting back into the swing of things. I could not have been more wrong.
That period of illness was the start of a steady decline in my health and well-being. Within a matter of months, I had developed severe insomnia, anxiety, tinnitus and inexplicable and often crippling back pain. Most days became a living hell full of physical pain and mental exhaustion, as I kept on pushing through to retain the beautiful life I had created for myself.
On a particularly bad day in early April, I went to my local GP, determined to find out what was wrong with me. After hearing all my symptoms, the doctor agreed it would be good to do some blood tests. When I came back for the results a few days later, the doctor told me all my blood work was perfect. Upon hearing the good news, I broke down in tears. I was so desperate to feel better and now the doctor was telling me there was nothing she could do to help me. Seeing how distressed I was, the doctor asked me if I was busy. ‘Very’, I muttered in a shaky voice. Compassionately she told me I should slow down a bit and make rest more of a priority in my life. Although I thought that was the most useless piece of advice at the time, that doctor’s visit was the beginning of a powerful transformational period.
In the following months, I went on a quest to heal myself and regain back my energy. Instead of focusing on just one aspect of health and looking for a quick fix, I took a holistic approach to my well-being. Firstly, I changed my diet from high-carb to a higher fat vegan diet, as simple sugars can act as a stressor on an already worn-out body. I also started supplementing with nutrients that are essential during periods of stress. Next, I created routines and habits that were healing and nurturing. I accepted that, as a highly sensitive person, the crazy busy lifestyle I had been living, was not beneficial nor sustainable for me. So, I rested. First only a little and then more and more, until rest and energy management were vital components of my everyday life.
Slowly (VERY slowly), I got a bit better. I regained some strength and many symptoms faded away. Some of them went away completely (goodbye back pain!), some things temporarily retreated (such as the anxiety and insomnia) and some things I have learned to accept as my new reality (welcome tinnitus). Now it is almost a year and a half later and although my energy levels still go up and down dramatically, I can see light at the end of the tunnel again.
In a kismetic manner, I can now look back on this health crisis and see how much it has taught me about myself and my path in life. With a renewed zest for living, I have become passionate about holistic nutrition, Traditional Chinese Medicine, wholesome wellness practices and self-care7. As I continue this journey of health and wellness, I would like to take you with me, sharing my stories, tips, trials, and tribulations on my little corner of the internet. It will act as a means to keep myself accountable and hopefully will help a few others to find comfort or inspiration in my posts. And because life should above all else be a grand celebration of the good and the bad, I will also share tales of my travels, personal rambles and anything else I might find worth sharing.