Three vegetarian, vegan and organic food companies in Essex | Great British Life

Heralded by the New Year, many of us will be interested in eating a healthier diet. If you’re resolute in trying Veganuary, or opting for organic produce, then these local foodies can help you in your quest… 

Great British Life: Sarah GreenSarah Green (Image: Stuart Townshend)Sarah Green’s Organics 

Based in Tillingham, Sarah Green’s Organics not only grow organic vegetables but they operate an organic vegetable box scheme plus an online order service for the local area.  

You don’t even have to order a box every week, as Sarah explains. ‘We grow a wide range of seasonal organic vegetables with deliveries in the south east of Essex. We offer vegetable boxes where you get a great selection of veg, which you can choose to have weekly, fortnightly or as and when. We also have an online farm shop, where you choose the vegetables you would like, and you choose when you’d like the delivery. So, you’re not committed to a weekly or fortnightly vegetable box.  

‘This is a more flexible service than when we first began. We picked up more customers during the lockdowns and some of those people are still with us, which is lovely. It highlighted for people how good it is to buy direct from the farmer or producer.  

‘During the pandemic, we didn’t run out of produce; we carried on supplying our customers with their weekly veg boxes as usual. For us, it’s a small journey from field to customer.’ 

Sarah doesn’t have to worry about national supply chains being broken. Going forward into the new year, this could well prove to be a bonus again with all of the uncertainty in the current climate.  

Sarah says, ‘National supply chains were fractured, whereas the smaller suppliers and farmers were able to carry on as usual. It just goes to show, it’s the right way to go with food production when you are looking at the future and sustainability.’ 

Great British Life: Homemade vegetable soups are perfect in winterHomemade vegetable soups are perfect in winter (Image: Getty)

For this month, Sarah says, ‘We are right in the thick of winter roots and greens. Our customers are cooking roasts, casseroles, curries and homemade soups, and the vegetables really lend themselves to those kinds of recipes. New season purple sprouting broccoli will be on offer. They are the tender side shoots of the plant and hardly need any cooking.  

‘We’ll also have kalettes, which is a relatively new vegetable that we started to grow a few years ago. They are a cross between brussel sprouts and kale; they grow up a stalk just like a brussel sprout. We’ll have plenty of those in the new year. They have a lovely flavour and are really easy to cook. Simply steam them or pop them into your stir fries.’  

But what does Sarah cook at home? ‘At this time of year, I love to cook homemade soups. One of my favourites is one I cook in the slow cooker. I make it with roasted squash, ginger, garlic and a few fennel seeds and blitz it with some stock. When I come in from working in the garden and smell its delicious aroma… it’s just a perfect lunch or supper for a chilly day.’ 

Great British Life: Billy ReeveBilly Reeve (Image: Lee Smyth)Stoked Vegan BBQ 

Before he opened Stoked Vegan BBQ, Billy Reeve toured the world playing in bands for 10 years. He explains, ‘To open this business, I surrounded myself with some great chefs so I could learn from my peers.  

‘It all came about in 2018, I took my girlfriend Lauren Thurlow to the southern part of America and realised I couldn’t eat any of their famous barbecue food. I remember thinking “Man, I really miss that, being vegan. I would really like to have some barbecued food, not just a frozen veggie sausage thrown on the barbecue.” I came back home to the UK, did some research and I realised that there were no barbecue vegan places in England.’ 

Great British Life: This is all vegan!This is all vegan! (Image: Lee Smyth)

Two years later, Billy had opened his own bijou, and rather cool, vegan barbecue restaurant. ‘I was at my local tap room, which is owned by Will Wearing. Every month he would have a different food trader in the garden, but it was very meat-heavy. I asked him one day where was the vegan option? So, he said “Well you do it.” I went out and purchased an American smoker, started putting vegetables in it and it snowballed from there.’ 

Now, Billy and his team have a small but hugely popular premises in Westcliff-on-Sea. Billy has been vegan for the past eight years. ‘I found I had to make all of my own vegan food, but now there are plenty of options to choose from both in restaurants and in your local shops.’ 

I asked him for some tips if you want to try Veganuary. ‘There are plenty of plant-based swaps; butter is an easy one as there are plant-based spreads available in most stores now.  

‘Mince you can swap for lentils – or chopped mushrooms work really well. So, if you are making a bolognaise, you can swap out the mince and it tastes great still.  

‘Cauliflower steak is really easy to make. Keep it whole and slice it into thick slices.  Marinate it first and then pop it into the oven to roast – that’s delicious. It will give you the rich and deep flavour you might miss from a steak. Going vegan for me was all about making simple swaps. My advice? Don’t make anything too complicated.’ 

Great British Life: You won't be missing meat with this burgerYou won’t be missing meat with this burger (Image: Lee Smyth) 

The restaurant’s menu changes regularly. This month, you could try something from the Greatest Hits Menu – two items are super popular. ‘I would recommend the original BBQ Plate. We use cherry, oak and hickory wood and we smoke tempeh (less processed tofu), which is a fermented food so its super healthy for your gut. It’s the most incredible distinct taste, which you cannot get anywhere else. It’s what we serve as our rib replacement. It’s rubbed, grilled and marinated with our house BBQ sauce. It comes with a side of mac and cheese, slow-cooked beans and fresh apple slaw. That dish is my favourite, and it’s the very first dish I ever made.  

I can also recommend the Bajar Fish Tacos. We use banana blossom, which is very flaky, and it’s marinated in a brine of capers, miso, kombu, nuri, hot sauce and sea salt. It’s all pushed together and battered, then served with pea purée and gherkin mayo on a taco. It’s like fish and chips but a vegan version on a taco – again, hugely popular with our customers.  

Stoked make all of their own sauces and marinades in-house. Here Billy shares his recipe for his classic house BBQ marinade… 

½ cup of tomato sauce 

1 tablespoon of tomato purée   

1 garlic clove (crushed) 

2 tablespoons of cider vinegar 

A pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper 

1½ tablespoons of dark brown sugar 

½ teaspoon of cumin 

½ tsp of paprika  

½ tsp of olive oil 

Whisk all the ingredients until combined over a low heat. Billy says, ‘That will be better than any barbecue sauce you can buy!’ 

Great British Life: Colourful Syrian foodColourful Syrian food (Image: The Olive Branch)The Olive Branch  

Dr Fatema Kawaf helped her husband Abdul Kattan realise his dream, setting up The Olive Branch Cafe in Wivenhoe, an eatery employing refugees who were fleeing from their Syrian homeland. The café was launched in 2016, and since then it has introduced its new neighbours to a host of delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes.  

Fatema explains, ‘We’re 100 per cent vegetarian and mostly vegan as a couple of our dishes do have cheeses in them. We serve Syrian food and some British sweets and desserts. Syrian people don’t call themselves vegetarian or vegan – to us, it’s just food. 

‘As we’ve evolved, we’ve found the business is going really well, especially after a couple of years of Covid and lockdowns. One of the main changes for us is that we’ve purchased a new coffee machine and we now serve Monmouth Coffee – so now we are offering cappuccinos and espressos. Many people in Wivenhoe are from London or commute to London and they love this coffee; it’s nostalgic for them.  

Food-wise, the couple have noticed more of an appetite for vegetarian and vegan dishes. Fatema says, ‘There is of course more intense competition now. For us, we are naturally vegan, so it’s easier for us to come up with changes to our dishes. Abdul is always inventing new dishes. People love our platters and wraps, and we have a specials menu that changes regularly.  

Great British Life: The Olive Branch serve all vegetarian or vegan dishesThe Olive Branch serve all vegetarian or vegan dishes (Image: The Olive Branch)

‘We like to experiment a lot and customers are sometimes upset that our specials aren’t always on the menu. A bit of a secret is to just come along and ask Abdul to make your favourite dish and he will. He doesn’t know how to say no to anyone! I’ve seen him a few times making special dishes for customers, which aren’t on our current menu.’ 

Always popular is their man’ousheh – or flatbread. You can have it topped with olive oil with za’atar (a mix of dried thyme, sesame seeds and sumac), served with garnished mixed olives. Or muhammara – a dip of Syrian sweet red pepper, nigella seed, onion and cheese.  

There’s also the ever-popular Falafel Wrap, served with warm falafel, hummus, fresh salad, pickles and tahini. You can’t leave without sampling some of the syrupy baklava with pistachios or homemade chocolate brownies. There’s also a selection of freshly baked croissants, tea cakes and pastries. 

Get the taste 

Sarah Green’s Organics 
01621 778 844 


This content was originally published here.

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