Vegan review: Cranston Pickles

With the prospect of a winter lockdown feeling pretty bleak, treating ourselves to a regular Friday night takeaway once again seemed almost obligatory. It certainly helps keep the spirits up to have a little something to look forward to. More importantly, there are so many small businesses in the hospitality and food industry that are being crippled by the incompetence and lack of leadership shown by our government during the pandemic. I want to see these local independents survive and thrive. That’s my excuse for ordering a feast every Friday, anyway.

close up of pot of pickled carrot, cabbage, and smacked cucumber

The lovely Fiona of Cranston Pickles set up her venture inspired by a love of her own grandparents’ pickles (something I can relate to actually!) fused with a love for Japan. Fiona had gifted me a few jars of her delicious seasonal pickles and chutney earlier in the year, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I was pleased to see our house was in the delivery zone for her Friday night ‘Pickled Takeout’. I placed my order earlier in the week and eagerly awaited the delivery. On the day I received an email to confirm a half an hour slot our food would arrive in – conveniently shortly after my live workout class finished.

From what I can see the small menu stays broadly the same each week, with a tweak here and there, with at least one vegan main and side, which are very reasonably priced at £8 and £5 respectively. All the dishes are made from scratch using seasonal veggies and dropped off at your door in a Covid-secure way. On the week I ordered, there were two vegan mains available, so we had to try both!

cardboard pot filled with dark brown broth, vegetable and cabbage chunks, sliced spring onion and topped with black and white sesame seeds

First, the kimchi jjigae (stew), which I requested without egg yolk in the notes when ordering to make vegan. This stew was SPICY! Not for the faint hearted, and although I love spicy food I was definitely preparing myself for heartburn with ample chilli in every spoonful. Through the heat, the broth was packed with flavour, and along with the sticky rice topped with sesame seeds, it made for a properly hearty, warming bowl. The stew was packed with chunks of soft veggies, all nicely cooked and contributing to a range of textures. Then came the pickled red onion tempura on top, and the deliciously crisp batter finished the dish off perfectly.

crispy coated cauliflower bites with pile of rice topped with black sesame seeds

Next up we tried Cranston Pickles’ cauliflower karaage, a vegan take on popcorn chicken. This cauliflower was definitely my favourite part of the meal, I think I could’ve eaten boxes and boxes of it. I would probably start to get a bit dehydrated as each bite was salty and tangy (in the best way) with an almost crunchy coating. The whole dish didn’t quite feel like it came together, with the karaage served with more rice and a ‘pickle pot’ of smacked cucumbers and pickled coleslaw, but all of the elements on their own were very tasty. Give me that popcorn cauliflower or some of the strong vinegary pickled veg to snack on for the duration of a movie and I’d be very happy. Also, there was a very generous amount of food here, so in terms of value for money I’d say all of this was a bargain!

bowl of cauliflower, some chargrilled bits. kale poking through the gaps, all topped with black sesame seeds.

As I wasn’t sure what the portion sides would be like, I ordered the roast cauliflower and kale salad as a side too. I tend to steer away from salads but these were all ingredients that I love so I thought, why not. The kale was just soft enough to be an enjoyable eating experience, massaged with an interesting miso tahini pickled lemon dressing. The cauliflower here was softer, with an almost smoky chargrilled flavour from being roasted. Then scattered throughout the box were ample zingy pickled red onions which really brought all of the flavours together. Altogether the food hit all of those key flavour profiles that make for a satisfying meal – a hint of sweetness, salt, sour, bitter and spice.

The pickled takeout is running on Fridays within a three mile radius of Cranston Pickles HQ, so check whether you’re in the zone and get ordering. The good news is that even if you can’t get the takeaway delivered to your door on Fridays, the pickle shop is open for business with a range of awesome sounding jams, chutneys and pickled vegetables. Presented in jars with the coolest artwork, they’d make for great Christmas gifts – whether that be for someone else, or yourself 😉

Have you ordered from Cranston Pickles before? Don’t forget to tag me on Instagram if you give them a go!

Author: Heather Grace

Eating my way through all the vegan food, one restaurant at a time.

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