Urban Zen leading Swansea food revolution

It’s been a month since Swansea’s first vegan cafe and yoga studio opened its doors. Urban Zen, on Little Gam Street, has been causing some serious ripples in the Swansea food scene!

What no cow’s milk? What no bacon sandwiches? That’s right. And I’m very proud to be the head cook at this revolutionary new business in the city centre. Since August I have been worked closely with the owner, Emily Cole, to develop a unique and innovative wholefood menu that aims to fill people with nothing but delicious and extremely healthy food. We’re had a fantastic first month, welcoming hundreds of people through the doors to what is only Wales’ second 100% vegan eatery.

We offer an extensive breakfast and lunch menu, alongside cakes and a large selection of juices, smoothies, teas and coffees. You can read more by visiting www.urbanzenyogacafe.com or finding us on Facebook, where we are very proud of receiving no less than forty five 5* reviews already!

The cafe at Urban Zen was created out of a passion for nourishing people with delicious whole foods.

“Our aim was to create an exciting menu and environment that supports health and sustainability for both our community and the planet.

Our plant based menu is prepared with love and changes regularly to reflect the seasons, we source locally and organic where possible. We promise to never serve you anything from the “dirty dozen” (the Environmental Working Group’s list of foods with the highest levels of chemicals and pesticides present) unless it’s organic, regardless of the cost or difficulty in sourcing.

We invite you to visit our unique space and enjoy being someone that chooses to love your food, respect your body and have fun whilst being nourished.”


Here are some highlights in pictures! The first image is of owner, Emily Cole, enjoying the first Full Vegan Breakfast on opening day.

New Yoga Studio and Vegan Cafe for Swansea

After three years of running Lots of Nice Things and being involved in many different vegan food projects and events and after much hard work, I am delighted to tell you all that I am going to be starting work as Head Cook in a new vegan cafe and yoga studio in Swansea.

Urban Zen Yoga Studio & Cafe will offer a wide variety of Yoga classes and health treatments alongside its wholefood cafe in the heart of Swansea city centre and I am currently working hard producing its first menu!

My heart tells me it is time to bring Lots of Nice Things to a close. I’d like to thank you all for your interest and support over the last few years and I hope you’ll continue to follow my work and recipes through Urban Zen Cafe. Our website, which currently under construction, will feature a blog where you’ll be able to see exactly what we’ve been up to. You can also follow on Facebook.

If you happen to be in Wales, please come down and say hello.

With love,

Annapurna (Helen)

Catering for a Yoga Retreat

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of going to work as a private chef on a Yoga Retreat in Worcestershire. The brief was to produce three meals a day for ten women, using as many organic ingredients as possible. All the food was of course vegan. I had a wonderful time in the kitchen and the event gave me the opportunity to showcase some of the dishes I’ve been working on over the last few months.

It was also amazing to practice some yoga with the inspirational Leela Miller, of Tri Yoga, London.

Many thanks to The Organic Fresh Food Company of Lampeter in Wales for their assistance in my very large order of organic produce (all of which was fantastic!).

Kale and Walnut Pesto or Dip

Kale is such an amazing food. I’ve recently been eating lots more of it, after my friend Ruth told me about ‘massaging’ it with olive oil. If you haven’t tried this, do give it a go! Here is a link to an article about it from the Huffington Post. Kale is so fabulous – containing vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals like copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. A cup of fresh kale has only about 40 calories but packs almost three grams of protein.
So I thought I’d try making a pesto or dip with raw kale, as another way to enjoy this super-green. Enjoy stirred through warm pasta, or spread onto some lovely wholemeal bread.

Kale and Walnut Pesto 2Kale and Walnut Pesto or Dip
Makes one medium pot

2 handfuls of chopped kale
4 tbsp walnut pieces
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes or 6 medium tomatoes, chopped

Place all ingredients together in a high-speed blender, like a Nutribullet and blend until smooth or a consistency you like is reached. Taste and add more seasoning if you need. If the pesto/dip is too thick, add more oil, or a splash of plant milk if you prefer. Enjoy!

The best ever Vegan Chocolate Cake

Introducing what I believe is the very finest vegan chocolate cake. It will turn heads, make people close their eyes and smile as they eat it..

It’s called the Affinities Cake. It’s not my recipe, I wish it was! No, it is taken from a feature in The Telegraph and was given to my mother-in-law when she was hunting for the perfect recipe to use for our wedding cake. The original recipe is by Chantal Coady, the only difference here is that I make a vegan ganache by melting chocolate into hot almond milk. I decorate mine with raspberries, rose petals, marigold flowers and cocoa nibs.

The Affinities Cake

The Affinities Cake
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 mins

200g (7oz) plain flour
75g (2¾oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
100g (3½oz) ground almonds
A small pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
400ml (14fl oz) prune juice
Fresh pink rose petals, to decorate
For the ganache
170g (6oz) good-quality dark chocolate
150ml (5fl oz) almond milk

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Grease the insides of a deep 20cm (8in) round cake tin, or loose-bottomed 20cm (8in) cake tin, with olive oil and line the bottom of the tin with greaseproof paper. If you are using a loose-bottomed tin, double-line it with greaseproof paper (line the base, the sides, then line the base again to seal the lining), to prevent the mixture leaking out.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, then add the sugar, ground almonds and salt. Make three holes in the dry mixture with a spoon. Put the vanilla in one hole, the vinegar in the second, and the oil into the third. Pour in the prune juice and mix well. Bubbles will start to rise to the surface. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake from the tin and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

To make the ganache icing, blitz the chocolate into crumbs in a food processor. Place the crumbs in a heat-proof glass bowl. Heat the milk to boiling point in a heavy-based saucepan, then pour the milk over the chocolate. Gently mix the chocolate with the milk, working from the centre of the bowl outwards with a rubber spatula, until you have a smooth and glossy emulsion. Let it cool to room temperature, then spread it on top of the cooled cake.

NB this cake usually takes about 1 hour 15 mins to cook! Keep testing it, but don’t take it out of the oven to do so, otherwise it may sink.

Mediterranean Vegetable Filo Puffs

Filo pastry really is a handy ingredient to have in the fridge, to team with some vegetables and create something quick, delicious and impressive looking.

These Mediterranean Vegetable Filo Puffs tick all the boxes; the pastry is light and crispy and the filling nutritious and full of flavour. The star ingredients are Violife Mozzarella style vegan cheese and some juicy Semi-Dried Tomatoes, from Cooks and Co, both available from Suma Wholefoods.

Serve with seasonal salad and new potatoes.

Mediterranean Vegetable Filo Puffs
Serves 4

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 red pepper, finely chopped
1/4 courgette, finely chopped
1 tsp capers, chopped,
4 cherry tomatoes, chopped
6 Cooks and Co Semi-Dried Tomatoes, finely chopped (available from Suma)
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs

2 cm block of Violife Mozzarella finely chopped
6 large sheets of filo pastry
Salt and pepper

1. Pre heat your oven to 200C or Gas Mark 6. Grease 4 small metal pie pots or ramekins (I used a pastry brush with oil).
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and cook the garlic and onion for a minute, before adding the pepper, courgette, capers and tomatoes.
3. Fry on a medium heat until all the veg are soft. Season with the herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Stuff one sheet of filo pastry roughly inside each metal pie tin or ramekin, making a well in the middle for the vegetables, but with some pastry coming up the sides to form a case.
5. Spoon the filling equally between the 4 pie tins, then sprinkle the vegan cheese on the top. Press it all down a little.
6. Crumple up half a piece of filo pastry on the top on each pie to create a broken pastry top. Drizzle with a little more oil.
7. Place on an oven tray and bake for 20 mins, until golden and crispy.
8. Allow to cool slightly, before turning out onto plates with the help of a pallet knife.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Rose Petals

Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache and Rose Petals

Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache and Rose Petals

These little shiny cupcakes are based on brilliant fail-safe recipe I have used many times, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (with a few personal amendments). After a trip out to a local cafe, who had sold out of vegan cakes… Iolo asked if we could make our own! Instead of getting messy with a piping bag and buttercream, I opted to glaze them with a lovely ganache instead and a few pretty rose petals. They were soft and delicious and didn’t last long in our house.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Rose Petals
Makes 10 large or 12 medium cupcakes

1 cup almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup caster or granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable or rapeseed oil
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup almond milk
100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp agave syrup
2 tbsp Rose petals

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and line a cupcake tin with 10 or 12 liners. If you use a muffin tray, the mix will only make 10.
2. Whisk together all the wet ingredients with the sugar in a jug and set aside.
3. Sieve all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
4. Gently stir the liquid into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, adding gradually and stirring until no large lumps remain.
5. Spoon the cake mixture into the liners, distributing it evenly amongst them all.
6. Bake for 18-20 mins. They are cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
7. Place the cupcakes on a rack to cool completely while you prepare the ganache.
8. Bring the milk to a boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and agave with a wooden spoon, so it melts.
9. Pour the ganache over the cupcakes and then top with petals.