Guest post: Sarah Philpott introduces us to ‘The Seasonal Vegan’

Today, we publish Sarah Philpott’s much-anticipated new book The Seasonal Vegan, and who better to introduce it than the author herself.

The Seasonal Vegan by Sarah Philpott is a kitchen diary of seasonal recipes with a delicious mixture of fine food writing and beautiful photography. This guide to eating with the seasons takes a realistic approach to shopping cheaply and sustainably and proves that the vegan lifestyle is anything but expensive. As well as tasting good, these dishes look beautiful thanks to the wonderful photography of Manon Houston.


Season’s Eatings

I can’t think of more apt time to write about seasonal eating. With food security at risk more than ever thanks to the Covid outbreak and Brexit (it’s still happening, in case you’d forgotten), it might be time to think about what we’re eating and where it comes from.

I started writing The Seasonal Vegan over a year ago when things were very different. I always try to eat seasonally, mainly because it tastes better, and I wanted to create recipes inspired by the different seasons.

For a while now, campaigners, food writers and chefs have advocated seasonal eating because it can have a positive impact on the environment and local communities. Now, in these unprecedented times, access to imported foods might become more difficult, and so seasonal eating is more important than ever.

You can still buy pretty much anything you want at the supermarket all year round – and fruit and vegetables tend to be ignored by panic buyers – but there are some very good reasons to eat with the seasons.

Buying seasonal produce is generally better for the environment because it requires lower levels of heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers than at other times of the year. Eating fruit and vegetables that have been grown in the UK reduces the energy needed to transport them from other countries – 26 per cent of all carbon emissions come from food production – so eating British asparagus in May uses less food mileage than buying what’s flown in from South America – ­and, of course, it’s tastier.

Because food in season is usually in abundance and has less distance to travel, it’s also cheaper. It costs less for farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to the supermarket or greengrocer, which means that a British tomato bought in peak harvest season in August will cost less than one bought in January. And it’s not only cheaper at the big supermarkets – if you can, shopping at your local greengrocer, or farm shop can be just as cost effective. And although farmer’s markets can be a little pricier, you’ll be supporting a local business and you really do get what you pay for in terms of freshness, taste and quality.

Now, I’m no gardener (the flat we live in doesn’t have a garden) and I’ve never grown my own vegetables – not yet, anyway – but I love nature and I notice the change in the air as the months go by. Wouldn’t it be dull if we ate the same all year round? Nothing beats a warm stew with squash or beetroot when it’s cold outside, and now, at the peak of summer, we can enjoy succulent strawberries, tomatoes, broad beans and peas.

Eating seasonally is sometimes seen as inaccessible or elitist, but it really doesn’t have to be – and it’s possible to cook and eat fruit and vegetables in a way that’s  easy, inexpensive and tasty. Studies show that only 31 per cent of adults in the UK eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – with just 18 per cent of children doing the same – and that’s something we need to address.

The Seasonal Vegan isn’t about being perfect, puritanical or prescriptive about eating what’s in season, but it does celebrate a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and all their health benefits – and it might inspire you to eat and cook a bit differently.


Recipe: Cucumber Gazpacho

Photograph by Manon Houston


15 minutes, plus 2 hours in the fridge

Serves 4-6



2-3 cucumbers, cut into chunks

1 onion, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 slice of white bread, roughly torn

350ml hot vegetable stock

4 tsp rice vinegar

1-2 tsp tabasco sauce

1 tbsp sugar

Fresh basil

Flaked almonds



1. Blend the cucumber, onion, garlic and bread using a food processor or a hand held blender. You should end up with a fairly smooth mixture. Tip into a large bowl and pour over the hot stock and the other ingredients and stir. Leave to cool, then when at room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours

2. Serve with toasted flaked almonds and torn basil leaves.


The Seasonal Vegan is available on the Seren website: £12.99

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Friday Poem – ‘here we come’ by Zoë Skoulding

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘here we come’ by Zoë Skoulding which is part of the longer, multi-part poem ‘Heft’. ‘Heft’ makes up the middle part of Zoë latest collection Footnotes to Water which has just been shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2020.

In Footnotes to Water Zoë Skoulding follows two forgotten rivers, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris, and tracks the literary hoofprints of sheep through Welsh mountains. In these journeys she reveals urban and rural locales as sites of lively interconnection, exploring different senses of community, and the ways in which place shapes and is shaped by language.


Footnotes to Water is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Vote for your favourite book on the Wales Book of the Year shortlist to win the People’s Choice Award. Zoë’s collection has been shortlisted in the poetry category alongside Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones. Vote now

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Friday Poem – ’Jürgen Klopp‘ by Ben Wilkinson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Jürgen Klopp’ by Ben Wilkinson, a new poem written to celebrate Liverpool FC winning the Premier League for the first time in 30 years.

Way More Than Luck Ben WilkinsonWay More Than Luck is the vivid debut collection of well-known poet and critic Ben Wilkinson. At its heart is a series of poems inspired by a lifelong devotion to Liverpool Football Club. We meet former players, coaches and re-live moments of both stoic despair and wild joy, where vivid themes are adroitly enacted in poetic forms.

“…an absorbing read that we are way more than lucky to have.” – Ian Duhig

Way More Than Luck is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Help Poetry Wales fundraise for the Wales Young Poets Award

Poetry Wales are raising money to set up a new bilingual competition and anthology for young people aged 10-17 across Wales and the UK, but they need your help.

In order to run the Wales Young Poets Award, which will be free to enter and have a theme of empathy, they need to raise a minimum of £3000 which will go towards prizes, judging, translation and the cost of a print anthology.

However, they’d also like to create a set of new accessible online resources that will give all students, whether in school or learning from home during the pandemic, a fair chance. These new resources will include activity plans and video lessons on writing and performing poetry, and will be designed to compliment the new Welsh national curriculum, whilst also giving priority to freelance poets who have lost income due to Coronavirus. Your support up to £6000 would help make this possible.

Any additional funds over £6000, will be put towards subsidising free entries for low-income writers into the Wales Poetry Award which launched last year.

Their crowdfunder is running until 8.59am on Friday 10th July so please donate TODAY if you would like to support the campaign and don’t forget to share it with your friends and family. Help them support the next generation of poets.



What your support will fund

Your support up to £3000 will fund Wales Young Poets Award, including prizes, a print anthology sent to schools in Wales, judging and bilingual translation.

Your support up to £6000 will fund the creation of freely accessible poetry resources, including activity plans and video lessons for young poets. These are designed to complement the new Welsh national curriculum.

Support exceeding £6000 will be used to subsidise free entry to Wales Poetry Award for those from low-income backgrounds, ensuring fair access for all.



Why they need your help

Friday Poem – ‘Just About Now’ by Judy Brown

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Just About Now’ by Judy Brown from her collection Crowd Sensations.

Judy is joining us at virtual First Thursday next week to read alongside Katrina Naomi. Find the full details here.

Elterwater Rain Crowd Sensations Judy BrownCrowd Sensations, Judy Brown’s second collection, was shortlisted for the Ledbury Forte Prize. She is a poet of dazzling contrasts, of thoughtful paradox, intimate confidences and precise evocations. Her titles and first lines both draw you right into a poem and then quite often surprise you with a narrative that you hadn’t expected. Her work is fired as much by intelligence and philosophical speculation, as it is by the emotion stirred up by experience and relationships.

Crowd Sensations is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Short Story of the Month – ‘Sugarcane for My Sweetheart’ by Maggie Harris

Our new Short Story of the Month is ‘Sugarcane for My Sweetheart’ by Maggie Harris which features in her short story collection Writing on Water.

Writing on Water Maggie HarrisMaggie Harris’ short story collection Writing on Water  is informed by the Caribbean, where she was born, and Britain where she has lived as an adult, and through them, the wider world. Issues of belonging and migration feature, but alongside these are growing interests in voice, narrative, gardening and botany, music and family. There are both UK and Caribbean voices in these tales, told by children, migrants, mothers, grandparents.

This is an excerpt, read the full story for FREE on the Seren website here.

Sugarcane for My Sweetheart

Maya is dreaming of kitchens. New kitchens. Not open to the air, wood-smoke kitchens; not kerosene stoves or coalpot kitchens. New kitchens. Kitchens of pine and oak and beech. Kitchens with solid wood doors and MDF shelves, kitchens with laminate and chrome, Mediterranean tiles, Victorian pulleys, cork and slate floors, quarry tiles.
In her dreams she enters those kitchens as she has taken to entering all those showrooms on lunchtime Sundays: with the slow excited steps of a traveller arriving. Eyes stray past customs, the loitering salesman, the swing doors past Immigration. Gleaming glass-fronted doors hold her gaze like shimmering tarmac. They draw her in like mirrors, framing the new arrival. Excitement is mixed with fear and longing, slowed by the shuffling progress of the queue.
Her kitchen measurements are clutched tight in her hands like a passport; over and over she checks them: the permit, the invitation letter, traveller’s cheques crisp and new in their plastic sleeve.
She has reason to feel afraid. On her return from the island the eyes of the officer had scalded Maya. They highlighted her like a spotlight, running her up and down as if they could see right through her. A chorus had risen from the queue like the tide, washing over her with a high Atlantic wave. In this dream her mother is by her side, her spirit hands even more frantic in death, fluttering a British passport that only Maya could see, tickets and boarding passes scattering on the desk like the plucked feathers of a broiling bird.
In her dream the showrooms stretch: long corridors of gleaming perfection. Miles and miles of shining flooring glide her on its conveyor belt, kitchen after kitchen smiling like models, preening their leaded light and bubble-glassed doors, their plaited cornices like wooden pigtails, their panels in Bermuda Blue, Nevada Blond, Pine Forest. Her dreams have kept up with fashion, solid pine and farmhouse oak that had once beamed their rustic Englishness, Middle England Agas nestling securely like the Cotswold Hills, no longer feature. Now chrome and beech and Shaker kitchens lure her, will her to run her fingers on their smooth fine grain, their granite and Corian worktops combining style and utilitarian twenty-first century designs.
The salesman disappears. Other dreamers have re-commissioned him; they sit in the conservatory-style office with their dream kitchen coming alive on a computer screen, Mr and Mrs Doggy nodding, car-window heads beaming. Their Cheshire smiles fill Maya’s vision and suddenly she is horizontal, being whisked along white corridors with ceilings of ceramic hobs, their halogen spotlights steaming her face like Granny’s Vicks. Perspiration is running down her cheeks, the small of her back. The steward has opened the aircraft door and Maya is descending. Heat washes over her like invisible rain. Tarmac ripples in the haze. The redcap boys run with their luggage trolleys. Water runs down her back. She is a dog in the shadows, turning over and over in the liquid heat, an insistent voice riding over the surf.
‘Maya! Maya!’
Denver is nuzzling his face into her neck. His hand rests on her hip. Her eyes flutter into a still-dark morning. She senses his body wakening. He is not yet, fully. In a minute he will be, and remember. He’ll turn away then, face his own wall, summon the energy to rise, get ready for work.
Beneath her the towel is damp and hard. Many washes in this limescaled water has wrung any softness out. She thinks of the towels in Uncle Danny’s bathroom, the white fleshy softness, her body cosseted, white tiles reflecting her face. There was no limescale back there. How she loved to hang the washing out then! Hook them on the line, watch them dance like kites in the wild wind, sing in a soft breeze. She had washed everything in sight, tea cloths, Uncle Danny’s clothes, her own. Just to smell them, feel them, watch them dry face up to the sun, unaccustomed in cold dank London.
The first thing they tell you when you return is to tek it easy, you back home now. So fill your eyes with the coconut trees, the endless beach, the boats turning out to sea. Lone fishermen pushed their bikes across the sand, their dogs nosing alongside. And the sky, the sky! That brilliant cobalt blue, stretching a panorama between memory and reality. Tourists didn’t make it this far. Here it was too rough to swim, the waves still angry at history, guarding the wrecks viciously. Their anger had moved from scuttles to schooners and jet skis, to slippery fishing boats with secret cargoes. And you try and take it easy. Borrow that inherent ambiance, live one day at a time. But soon you realise that what you’re doing is waiting. Waiting for time to stand still. Time has stood still for Maya in this particular place.
Waiting. Watching the shifting blues, the white haze, the fisherman becoming a dot. The clothes on the line have dried, her swimsuit a kitten at play, relishing this now-time, this brief sojourn before being folded into a drawer, nestling in the dark like a hyacinth bulb.

Finish reading ‘Sugarcane for My Sweetheart’ on the Seren website here.

Writing on Water is available on the Seren website: £8.99

Celebrating Independent Bookshop Week

As bookshops in Wales and England begin to reopen, we wanted to remind you of how you can support your local indie bookshop this Independent Bookshop Week.

  1. Buy a book

Many indie bookshops are working harder than ever to get books out to customers during lockdown and are continuing to sell online, over the phone or via social media as they begin to open up. Find your local indie and check how they’re selling here

  1. Support them on social media

Spread the word about the indie bookshops you love, and those you’ve supported during lockdown by tagging your favourite ones on social media. Don’t forget to tag @booksaremybag, #IndieBookshopWeek and your friends.

  1. Get involved with online events

As well as working hard to get books to you, lots of Indies are also busy organising fantastic online events with all your favourite authors. Check with your local shop to see what they have going on. You should also take a look at what At Home With 4 Indies have coming up.

  1. Encourage others to buy from Indies too

Share your love of indies with your friends and family and encourage them to buy from independent bookshops too.


Indie Updates

We are proud to work with a number great independent bookshops in Wales and across the UK. Here is an update from some of them about how they’re currently operating.


The Wellfield Bookshop, Cardiff

“We are continuing to post out orders, and in view of the Welsh Government’s announcement last Friday we are hoping to open the shop later this week. We’d like to say a huge thank you for the continued support The Wellfield Bookshop has received during these uncertain times. Hopefully, see you soon!”

The Wellfield Bookshop are taking orders over the phone 029 2036 0777 or via Facebook.


Book-ish, Crickhowell

Book-ish has officially re-opened today with strict social distancing guidelines in place. They are posting regular updates on their Twitter page @Bookishcrick and also offer a great online service at

Book-ish are also one of the shops running regular online events through At Home With 4 Indies. Check out what events they have coming up on Facebook.


Griffin Books, Penarth

“We’re pleased to announce that we will reopen the shop on Wednesday 1 July. Please keep an eye on our website and social media channels for details of new opening times and the social distancing measures that will be in place.

We will continue to offer an online ordering and home delivery service beyond Wednesday 1 July. If you would like to place an order, or have an enquiry about any of our services, please email us on: You can also contact us via our social media channels: Twitter @GriffinBooksUK, Facebook @griffinbookspenarth, and Instagram @griffinbooksuk.

DELIVERY: We are offering a FREE home delivery service within the Penarth area (excludes Sully, Dinas Powys and Llandough) and posting to customers further afield (£3.00 postal charge applies). A FREE click and collect service will be in operation from Wednesday 1 July.”

They are also running a fab series of online events to celebrate Indie Bookshop Week this week. See what they have coming up and book tickets on their website


Browsers Bookshop, Portmadog

“Following the Welsh Government’s recent announcement, Ben and I would like to advise you of Browsers intentions.

It is NOT our intention to open the building for public admittance on Monday 22nd June. We will review the situation over the coming weeks/months.

We will continue to provide online, telephone, mail and doorstep orders/collections as we have done throughout lockdown.

We would like to thank each and every one of you who has supported us and other local independent businesses in any way during lockdown and ask you to respect our decision.

Thank you, Ben and Sian Cowper.”

Get in touch with them on 01766 512066 or via Facebook @browsersbookshopporthmadog. You can also browse on their brand new website


Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop, Machynlleth

“Gardners Books wholesalers to the independent book trade, our postman, Clive, our UPS delivery man, Rob, Books Council Wales and The Booksellers’ Association have provided wonderful support. We also continue to offer Gardners Home Delivery service. Either way, you can still browse Gardners website, order your book through us and we will instruct Gardners (very nicely) to dispatch direct to you, or to a friend, via Royal Mail. We are still dealing direct with major publishers and our good allies, Y Lolfa and Atebol, the Independent Alliance and Yale University List representative – order away!”

The bookshop is closed to visitors, but you can order books via this form or by emailing You can also call them on 01654 700559 (10am – 12noon weekdays only).


Cover to Cover, Swansea

“We’ve opened the doors, and it’s been great to see your friendly faces this morning. Offers all week with Dylan’s Mobile Bookstore (@Dylanthomasguy)!

You can also order via email, phone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and we’ll deliver with social distancing for free within 10 miles, and post further afield.”


Palas Print, Caernarfon

“Thank you for your continued support during these testing times, and for your patience as we sort and deliver your orders. We understand how books are a comfort, a means of escape and a way of making teaching at home fun in these difficult times. Thank you for staying at home, staying safe, protecting our communities and NHS Wales. For the time being, please continue to take care and stay at home!

If you need a book or two, or advice about books, we are happy to accept and deliver orders, being mindful of the need to do this in a safe way. You’re welcome to order online from the shop section of the website at any time. Or, email your query and we’ll reply as soon as we can.

You can phone the shop 01286 674631 between 10am and 2pm Monday – Friday, or contact us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We will respond as soon as we can, but please be patient as we may take up to 24 hours to get back to you. Once your parcel is ready, we will deliver or post it to you. The service provided by the Post Office in Caernarfon has been excellent throughout.”

Order online –, over the phone 01286674631, or by e-mail

Palas Print are also running a number of free online events this Indie Bookshop Week, register by emailing


Workers Gallery, Porth

“Our focus has been to create book bundles that included artist cards and locally handmade chocolates so people could support us and 3 other small and independent businesses with one purchase. We provide a free gift wrapping and messaging service – which most orders used as they were bundles sent as gifts. We imagined the recipient opening the handwritten card, unwrapping the bundle to later be reading a fabulous book while chomping on a lovely chocolate treat! Feedback has been really good. We’ve even had recipients of The Occassional Vegan bundle (sent with vegan chocs) sending us photographs of the food they made from the recipes! We’re going to continue offering the book bundles online.”

View their full range of gift bundles one their website or get in touch with them via Twitter.


The Hours, Brecon

“We unfortunately remain closed but are pleased that after the initial shock and panic, sleepless nights and stress-filled days, we found our feet and have managed to use the time well and wisely. We’ve had some small improvement works completed that needed to be done internally at the shop; upgraded and improved our website and made (half-whispered, hopeful) plans for later in the trading year. We’re now in the process of having customer and staff safeguarding work done at the shop including safety screens etc, and are looking forward to reopening when it is safe to do so.

We have been impressed by the First Minister and Welsh Government’s cautious but measured and mature approach to the handling of the pandemic. It has been a stressful, frightening and unsettling time for businesses everywhere (indeed everyone, everywhere) and no doubt we will all see devastating repercussions for some time yet with the Arts, Hospitality and Tourism being especially badly hit it would seem. We can only trust that the right decisions have been made at the right times here in Wales and do our very best to recover and resume trading. I would stress that that cannot happen without continued financial and other support from all the relevant bodies and sectors, should any businesses still require it – they will.

Everyone navigating the ‘new normal’ demands lots of joined up thinking, empathy and support. Pulling the plug now and just hoping things fall into place isn’t optional and we urge Welsh Government to be there now, for everyone, at this pivotal point for the Welsh economy.”

We look forward to further updates on their re-opening soon.


Inigo Jones Slate Works, Caernarfon

“We have not opened our shop yet but we are accepting online orders at We hope to open soon but this will depend on certain restrictions being lifted.”


Don’t forget you can find your local independent bookshop using the Independent Bookshop Week bookshop search

We’d love to hear what Independent Bookshops you’ve been shopping with during lockdown and what books you’ve been buying. Tag us on social media @SerenBooks.  

Friday Poem – ‘Isolation Blessing’ by Polly Atkin

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Isolation Blessing’ by Polly Atkin, author of Basic Nest Architecture. This poem was first published for Manchester Writing School’s Write Where We Are Now project which invites poets to write directly about the Coronavirus pandemic or about the personal situation they find themselves in right now.

Polly Atkin’s debut poetry collection, Basic Nest Architecture, is complex, vivid and moving. It opens with poems inspired by her home in the Lake District, and the landscape and famous Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Keats, who have walked there and written about the fells and lakes. Nature is a guiding presence, but the author’s personal story, of enduring a little-known and sometimes debilitating illness, is also the backdrop to this striking poetry. Formally, this work is more akin to the metaphysical poets in its fervent use of metaphor, in its multiple layers of meaning and in its quest for answers to the most pressing questions of mortality.
















Basic Nest Architecture is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Last Walk at Lydstep’ by Tony Curtis

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Last Walk at Lydstep’ by Tony Curtis which he has written during lockdown. Tony is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently From The Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems.

From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems, Tony Curtis From the Fortunate Isles features poems from ten of Tony’s published collections, as well as a substantial number of new poems. This is a poet whose themes and variations remain consistent: a deep affection for his roots in West Wales, tender attachments to family, a profound interest in the wars of the last century, and an abiding fascination for all art forms, particularly painting and poetry.



























From the Fortunate Isles is available via the Seren website: £12.99

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Recipe: Summer Berry & Coconut Milk Ice Lollies

Get a sneak peak of what’s to come in Sarah Philpott’s new book with this delicious recipe for Summer Berry & Coconut Milk Ice Lollies from The Seasonal Vegan.

A kitchen diary of seasonal recipes with a delicious mixture of fine food writing and beautiful photography. This guide to eating with the seasons takes a realistic approach to shopping cheaply and sustainably, and proves that the vegan lifestyle is anything but expensive. Features recipes for all seasons, a section on dishes that can be enjoyed all year round, and menu ideas for special occasions.


Summer Berry & Coconut Milk Ice Lollies

10 minutes, plus freezing time

Makes 4 lollies


1 x 400ml can full fat coconut milk

1 punnet strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 punnet raspberries

1 handful fresh mint, chopped, stalks removed


In a large bowl, stir together all the ingredients and spoon into ice lolly moulds. Place in the freezer and when frozen, remove from the moulds and enjoy.


Photograph: Manon Houston

The Seasonal Vegan is available to pre-order on the Seren website: £12.99

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