Six vegan chocolate brands that taste better than dairy ones

Coco Caravan date bar

If you can’t consume dairy products, it’s hard to get a chocolate fix when you need it. Thank goodness for these six artisans of vegan chocolate! Each different in their own way and easy to find, they are supplying the demand for quality, delicious vegan chocolate one bar of rich cocoa at a time. Read on to discover your next best friend.

Divine

Divine Dark Selection

This fair-trade company is owned by chocolate farmers all over the globe, so both you and the farmers get a good deal with every bite. Divine chocolate, available in bars, eggs and cute novelty shapes, is divine by name and divine by nature. A personal favourite is the 70% dark chocolate with raspberries; the cocoa flavour is robust and creamy, while the tartness of the fruit pieces pokes through.

Booja-Booja

Booja Booja Hazelnut crunch truffle

As a vegan, you tend to lose hope of receiving a scrumptious box of choccies on a special occasion. If this sounds familiar, point your friends and family in the direction of Booja-Booja, makers of rich, indulgent vegan truffles. They literally melt in your mouth (I thought this was merely a turn of phrase until I tried these), plus they’re dairy, gluten and soya free with a leaning towards organic ingredients.

Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat Fruit and Nut frenzy slab

Unlike a lot of chain chocolatiers, Hotel Chocolat have gone to really good lengths to accommodate vegans. The vegan chocolates have much more cocoa and less sugar than their milky counterparts and have won awards for their quality. The fruit and nut frenzy (pictured above) is a heavenly slab of crunchiness, chewiness and sumptuous meltiness.  Yes, it’s so good I made up descriptive words.

Moo Free

Moo Free mini moos

One of the most commonly available vegan chocolate brands (try Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Holland and Barrett), Moo Free makes fun everyday treats that are affordable and satisfy a chocolate craving. They make mini bars, big bars, buttons, advent calendars and eggs. In other words, with their rice milk based goods, they make sure vegans can join in with occasions like everybody else.

Coco Caravan

Coco Caravan

This start-up’s chocolate is so pure it’s almost unbelievable: no additives, no preservatives, no dairy, no gluten, no soy and no refined sweeteners. With just two key ingredients – ethically sourced raw cacao and unrefined raw Coconut Blossom Nectar – Coco Caravan makes and package everything by hand in Cardiff. The bars and sweet treats come in exciting flavours and varieties, making vegan chocolate fun.

Montezuma’s

Montezuma truffle grand collection

Family owned British company Montezuma’s pushes the mould when it comes to vegan chocolate. They specialise in making perfect matches between different spices, herbs, essential oils and cocoa strengths. It’s not just bars here – they have moreish truffles, chocolate engulfed fruits and luxury drinking chocolate, all of which are an absolute joy worth savouring.

Know any other vegan chocolate companies? Share your favourites below or tweet us @Creative_Hacks and we’ll spread the word (and have a nibble).

Amy sig

Where to eat in Bath: The Green Rocket, Yak Yeti Yak, Chapel Arts Café

Bath_eatsWhen it came to choosing places to eat while visiting Bath, we were spoiled for choice. Well known for being a foodie destination, the city attracts restaurants serving up just about every cuisine you can think of.  Our limited time meant we had to be selective about the places we ate, so we ended up choosing places that we felt offered something unique – and weren’t disappointed.

We made a beeline for our first lunch stop as soon as we stepped off the train; Chapel Arts Café was conveniently located halfway between the station and our hotel. Although it’s right in the centre of town, you’d be forgiven for skipping past this quaint little vegetarian joint, which is hidden away in the basement of St James’s Memorial Hall on Lower Borough Walls.

delicious-the-farmerVenturing in from the stone steps outside, the space is a hip and cosy combo of mismatched tables and chairs, gig posters, chalkboard menus and artsy knick-knacks. The café’s signature is its wood fired flatbreads, so naturally we both opted for one. Mine was was topped with a perfect balance of goats cheese, caramelised onion and roasted veg, while Amy’s was a spicy concoction of houmous, harissa, salsa and tabbouleh. Both were delicious, and combined with a coffee and a cuppa came to £20 – not bad for a wholesome lunch in one of England’s poshest cities.

This filled us up nicely until our evening meal at the hotel (I could write many more paragraphs on how incredible that was, but you should probably just check out the review I wrote here).

Lunch at Thermae Bath Spa’s Springs Café the next day took relaxed dining to a new level. Straight from the steam rooms and into the light, airy eatery, we sat eating serrano ham sandwiches and an olive salad in our robes and slippers, surrounded by similarly dressed down guests. The salted caramel and chocolate cheesecake at the end of the meal was undoubtedly the highlight – an extra slice of indulgence that I couldn’t resist in the midst of a seriously decadent day.

yakyetiyakBy dinnertime we were feeling adventurous, so decided to mix things up with a cuisine neither of us had tried before: Nepalese, courtesy of Yak Yeti Yak. Similar to Indian food but switching the blistering heat of traditional curry houses with subtle and smoky spice combinations, it was exciting to visit a restaurant where veggie food received equal billing to the meaty choices. Our mains consisted of Chyauko Tarkari (stir-fried mushrooms with earthy spices and tomato) and Pork Sag Aloo (slow cooked with potato, spinach and coriander). Both, however, were outshined by their irresistible accompaniment, Musurko Dal (mildly spiced orange lentils and garlic infused vegan ghee). It was so moreish that we had to order an extra portion.

We probably saved the best for last by squeezing in a visit to award winning café The Green Rocket before catching our train back to Cardiff. This vegetarian and vegan wonderland serves up an unpretentious array of fresh, healthy and original recipes, from satisfying mains to tempting home baked cakes.

IMG_7564IMG_7542 IMG_7545Everything on the lunchtime menu sounded good, but our individual choices really stood out to our respective tastebuds. Amy’s mezze offered a refreshingly different variety of light bites, from the mild and smooth baba ghanoush to the warm and soft dukkah flatbread. It looked incredible, but nothing could distract me from my awesome mushroom, sundried tomato and basil rice burger. Combined with halloumi and a cool green salad, even the stubbornest hamburger purists couldn’t have turned down this animal-free winner.

There were so many highly rated restaurants in Bath that we couldn’t possibly visit them all, and we’re already hungry for our next trip back to this flavoursome city. We’d love to hear about your foodie recommendations in a comment or a tweet @Creative_Hacks.

Matt

Where to stay in Bath: The Queensberry Hotel

mirrorshot
We adults have it pretty tough at this time of year – short days, miserable weather and no half term to look forward to. For those reasons, taking a couple of days off last week for a short but sweet visit to one of our favourite UK cities was much needed.

Bath is barely an hour away from Cardiff on the train, but stepping out of the station and onto its iconic brown stone streets reminded us why tourists flock from all over the world to see it. Because the entire city is a World Heritage Site, its striking mix of Roman and Georgian architecture has been preserved beautifully. We probably could have spent the whole trip strolling up and down the streets marveling at the impressive buildings, but drizzly weather convinced us to seek refuge in one of Bath’s equally alluring boutique hotels.

entrance
We couldn’t have picked a better base than The Queensberry Hotel on Russel Street. Converted from four terraced Georgian townhouses, the hotel is a tastefully curated clash of old and new – period furnishings are mixed up with touches of contemporary luxury and the owners’ love of classic English wit.

After being welcomed by a smiley member of the concierge team, we were led to our luxurious room. With a mighty king sized bed taking pride of place, we couldn’t resist faceplanting gleefully on to its cushty mattress as soon as the door was closed. You haven’t known comfort until you’ve spent ten minutes lying on one of these beds while Classic FM blares triumphantly from the bedside digital radio; nibbling complimentary chocolates as you allow your eyes to roam around one of these incredible bedrooms.

bedroom
chocs
pugs
It was the small touches that made this room really special, from a stately trio of winged pugs soaring up the wall to an indulgent (and free) overnight shoe cleaning service. This was much needed after our soggy roaming around the city; waking up to find two pairs of spotlessly polished boots next to our complimentary newspaper made both of the mornings we were there feel like Christmas.

The generosity continued downstairs in a cosy drawing room, where Teapigs tea and fresh coffee is freely available from 8am until 8pm every day. We made a habit of spending at least an hour in here each day, sipping our hot drinks in front of the fire while collaborating on a crossword. Old fashioned, perhaps, but timelessly satisfying.

drawingroom
For us, the jewel in the crown of The Queensberry had to be its restaurant, The Olive Tree. We had the pleasure of meeting head chef Chris Cleghorn, whose résumé includes time with Michelin Star chefs including Heston Blumenthal and Michael Caines. Chris told us that his menu was all about treating the diner to bold and well-matched flavour combinations, without leaving anyone bloated or overfed. After three sublime courses, this was exactly how we both felt.

crablasagne
duck
choc-fondant
The kitchen aptly accommodated for our resident vegan, from the creamy butternut squash soup starter to an intensely savoury salt baked celeriac main and three scoops of sweet sorbet – blackcurrant, chocolate and mandarin – for dessert. Having been faced with countless humdrum veggie options at other restaurants, Amy really appreciated being able to choose from a range of original and thoughtful vegan dishes.

As for me, I purposely went for food that I’ve not had the chance to try before – a melt-in-your-mouth crab lasagne, an exquisitely British take on duck à l’orange and, finally, a super indulgent chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream. It took a shot of espresso to rouse me from my flavour-induced stupor to truly appreciate what I’d just eaten – an absolute sensation, matched with impeccable service that made the evening unforgettable.

The next morning, The Olive Tree’s similarly delicious but more relaxed breakfast was chance to reflect on what an experience staying in The Queensberry had been. We can’t imagine anywhere else in Bath being more accommodating, comfortable or uniquely charming – a real treat for anyone seeking something special enough to rival the vibrant personality of the city.

We did manage to tear ourselves away from The Queensberry to experience some of Bath’s other attractions – look out for some of those in another blog post!

Matt

Café Pure: guilt-free indulgent food in Cardiff Bay

dumbell
If healthy eating summons up images of protein-guzzling hulks downing their powdery shakes during a relentless gym sesh, it’s time you paid Café Pure a visit. This Cardiff Bay eatery has a varied menu of super nutritious breakfasts and lunches, packing barrowloads of flavour into every portion.

Good health and good eating are combined here. Every meal on the menu is accompanied by a clear indication of its nutritional information, with a massive grid at the back indicating the presence of common allergens. If only all restaurants were this considerate.

paleo

This labeling system also means you won’t necessarily feel guilted into going for the salad after a particularly gluttonous Christmas period – more or less everything on the menu makes for a well-balanced treat. That said, salad was the first choice for both of us. I’m not usually one to go for leafy greens over a burger or pizza, but the Paleo Fuel option mixed up loads of my favourite things in one massive salad – topped with a tuna steak and served with a sweet teriyaki dressing on the side, it was seriously scrummy.

superfood
Amy’s Superfood salad with tofu and ‘Café Pure Sauce’ (a surprisingly nice blend of berries and balsamic vinegar) went down just as well – it’s always refreshing to eat somewhere with an abundance of choice for vegans, and she wasn’t disappointed here.

smoothies
Both our meals were washed down with vitamin packed drinks – the Berry Beauty smoothie and Tutti Fruitti juice jar were filled with anti-oxidants and meant we both had the majority of our five a day in a single delicious drink.


Feeling brave after such a wholesome lunch, we both decided to try one of Café Pure’s signatures before leaving: wheatgrass shots, squeezed from blades of the plant grown on-site and served with a juicy slice of orange to counteract the bitterness. Each shot contains the same nutritional clout of 2.5 pounds of dark green vegetables. It wasn’t the tastiest of tipples – Amy definitely wasn’t keen on the earthy tang or potency – but it did leave me feeling energised and ready to face the bracing Bay weather outside.

upstairs
A quote on the back wall of Café Pure reads “You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake.” A visit here means you can fill yourself up with a nutritionally balanced meal made from fresh ingredients, prepared with care and full of natural flavours.

Matt

How to make spicy root vegetable and lentil one-pot


January can be a bit of a miserable month. When it’s wet and windy outside and Christmas is just a memory, sometimes all you want after work is a warm home and some delicious food to cosy up with.

This is the perfect recipe for those nights – a warming one-pot casserole (or stew, depending on how runny you like it) with loads of spicy flavour and wholesome seasonal veg. The lentils bulk it out, add moreish taste and hearty texture. Matt loves his with a dollop of plain yoghurt sprinkled with paprika, but tomato ketchup or balsamic vinegar would also go well with this dish. One thing is a must – a good chunk of wholemeal bread for dipping and mopping up every last bit.

Ingredients

(makes four servings)
4 carrots
4 parsnips
1 swede
1 large brown onion
100g dried red lentils, rinsed
1 vegetable stock cube
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp dark soy sauce
3 bay leaves
3 tsp dried mixed herbs
3 tsp curry powder
Ground black pepper and salt
Plain flour

Method

choppedveg1. Peel and roughly chop all of the vegetables.

2. In a large saucepan or casserole pot, lightly fry the onion on a medium heat for four minutes or until brown. Toss in the chopped vegetables and garlic, stirring every 30 seconds to stop them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Keep this up for about four minutes.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, dissolve the stock cube in a pint jug of boiled water. Add the tomato puree, soy sauce, bay leaves, mixed herbs, curry powder, salt and pepper to the stock and stir.

4. Pour the stock mixture and lentils into the saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the stew to a boil then turn it down to a low to medium heat. Allow it to simmer for around 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

cooking5. After simmering, the vegetables and lentils will be soft and full of stocky flavour. If you want to make the consistency thicker, sieve a tablespoon of plain flour into the saucepan, stir and continue to simmer for three minutes. If it’s still not as thick as you’d like, just repeat this step. To thin down the stew, add a small amount of boiled water and allow to cook for three minutes. Serve in big bowls with warm bread for dipping. Don’t forget to fish out the bay leaves (they’re not edible!).

We hope you enjoy this winter warmer as much as we do, especially if you’re embarking on the Veganuary challenge! Let us know if you have any suggestions for other delicious wintery recipes – we’d love to try them out and share them here on the blog.

Amy sig