Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 17/I Bought a Book: Keep It Vegan

Rules are made to be broken. It turns out they are especially made to be broken when they are rules about buying cookbooks. I had said to myself that I would buy no more general, basic, 'this is what a vegan is' cookbooks.

Well unless it was written by someone awsome, or it had a really good recommendation from people I trust, or lists things in the ingredients like '400g can of...'

And it was that last one that lead to me buying this because as much as I love my American cookbooks it's amazing to read something where the author shops in the same units of measurement that you do.

Aside from the metric there is plenty of shelf appeal. This is a bright, cheerful, relaxed book full of lovely pictures. The recipes a simple but yummy looking. And yes there was one mention of detox but I just pulled a face and moved on to the recipes...

Yep, that's my lunch from last week. And in there is Sweet Potato and Spinach Sushi. Pretty yummy, I didn't opt to do any inside out rolls because I could barely get a right side in roll working that morning. Made a nice lunch dish.

Then I went for the Breakfast Brownie with a Strawberry Bottom. I'm afraid I didn't like this one. wasn't really sugary enough, the portion was huge, it was dry. In the tip bubble it says you can top with more almond milk or agave. I think you really, really need to.

But I didn't let that put me off breakfast. I turned instead to the Breakfast Burrito which turned into a breakfast taco because I only had small corn tortillas rather than the giant ones I like for a well stuffed Burrito. They were delicious though. And I have leftovers. How dangerous.

I'd recommend giving this one a flip through, especially if you are in the UK. There are some good, simple recipes in here, see if anything makes your mouth water.

Keep it Vegan: 100 simple, healthy & delicious dishes

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Vegan MoFo Day 16: Supper on The Beach

It's coming to my attention that summer is nearly over. IT's getting harder and harder to chuck myself into the sea for my weekly swim. Sometimes I find myself closing windows or putting on a jacket. The tourists are mostly gone. The kids are back at school. It's getting dark at eight! I wanted to do something summery before it was too late so I bought myself a packet of these:

Taifun sausages just taste like summer and nostalgia to me. We also had lemonade, rolls, barbeque sauce and crisps. It was a hastily put together picnic and I threw it all in my bag and went to pick Stephen up from work. We found a spot on the steps by the beach and lit up the gas.

Stephen was worried because barbeques aren't allowed on this beach but I maintain that this is not a barbeque, it's a gas cooker. And I'm happy to repeat that line to any members of the constabulary that come knocking.

What is there left to do after your thrown together supper, cooked on the beach? Well if you look carefully you can see that dot in the sea there is actually me.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 15/ I Bought A Book: Salad Samurai

Terry Hope Romero's latest book was released back in June but please don't take my silence on it so far to be a lack of enthusiasm. Truth is that I was sold on this one sight unseen but as I'm still lacking that unlimited budget it had to wait until now. But haply it was worth it.

I'm not in general a salad person. Most salads I get served are sad, pathetic, wilting afterthoughts served with a side of no imagination. I like big flavours, big portions, big protein hits. All the things that the salads in my life have been lacking. Until I opened this book.

And bless Terry Hope Romero because vegan salads needed some rehabilitation and someone awsome running their PR campaign. And they've got it. This is a stunningly designed book with fabulous pictures and - above all - incredible recipes.

So, what have I made?

This one had it's sneak preview at Lunchbox School on Friday. It's the Smokehouse Chickpea 'n' Greens Salad. That's a spinach base with carrot and avocado add ins (I've taken some stuff out due to personal taste/availability from the two salads I made from recipes here) with a topping of delicious smoky barbeque chickpeas. In a moment of weakness I doubted this recipe. After I took the chickpeas out of the pan I had a tased and thought they could do with a shot of hot sauce. I resisted and I'm glad I did because the heat from the dressing was fierce and when it was draped over the salad everything came together perfectly.

Next up was the Almond Falafel Crunch Bowl. Stephen wanted to see if he'd like the almond falafel and as a result he got the plate without greens. His verdict was that there were too many new flavours at once but he's happy to try this one again. My verdict was not to be hard over furious chewing. I already knew I was a big falafel fan but turns out I'm a big sumac fan too.

The last recipe I wanted to try for this blog was the Red-Hot Saucy Tofu. I served it on a bed of little gem, with some of those dried crispy onion things and the lemon tahini dressing from the falafel salad to cool it all down. It was bliss. Red-Hot Saucy Bliss.

There is nothing in this book that I don't want to try. I'm considering seaweed. Excitedly. The salads in here are perfect for eating at home or packing in my beloved lunchboxes. There are tips on what is good cold, how to pack things in a jar. One even has bento in the name.

I'm excited by everything I've made and the things I've yet to make. I feel that this book revolutionise salad like 'Vegan Sandwiches...' revolutionised the Sandwich or 'Vegan Cupcakes...' revolutionised the cupcake. I need this on my shelf and I think you should check it out.

Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don't Have to Be Vegan to Love

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 14: Battle of the Truffles!

Shopping in Totnes yesterday we found some lovely vegan treats and we had a small debate over which we should buy. Stephen likes white chocolate and almonds, my favorite is dark chocolate and hazelnuts (and I hate white chocolate) We chose a pack of truffles each and this is what we thought. Other than mmmm chocolate that is.


We spotted these vegan chocolate balls in Sacks Wholefoods at the top of Totnes High Street. They're made by Le Paradis Du Chocolat, who are based just north of Totnes in the village of Dartington. The owners, Zeljko and Ana Bozic, are from Belgium and Switzerland. 

 Like all of the company’s products, these white chocolate almond balls are raw, vegan, and organic, and use coconut sugar rather than cane or beet sugar (which may be healthier). As with true white chocolate they use just cocoa butter and no cocoa mass. The dominant flavour is the almond, and they taste much like a raw almond spread, with a pleasantly sweet aftertaste.


I went for Booja-Booja truffles which are probably the most well known vegan chocolate truffles in the UK so I don't get obscurity points and they are made in Norfolk so I don't get local points either. But they are delicious and decadent. Beautifully dark with a sophisticated cocoa powdered edge and a middle of chocolate and hazelnut that is just bliss.

In Conclusion

The only moral to this story is that you should eat vegan truffles.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 13: Fat Lemons Cafe

It's the weekend and asthma exists so I'm going easy on myself today and letting someone else do the cooking. Other than Stephen I mean.

We went out to Totnes (a must for the middle of MoFo as it's practically wall to wall health food shops) and had lunch at Fat Lemons Cafe a cute vegetarian cafe with a mediterranean bent.

The cafe, on the adorably named Ticklemore Street, is small but the space is used so cleverly. The seating is over two floors with one of the most gorgeous outside areas I've ever seen. Everything is bright, clean and just a little bit quirky.

I had one of the specials, the falafel, which is often token vegan option but this is a mediterranean place so no complaints from me. The falafel came with a delicious fresh salad with baby greens, sprouts, tomatoes and cucumbers. Remarkably well put together for something that other cafes often write off as a garnish. The falafel is served alongside pita and hummus, incredibly delicious, and a small tub of olives. The only let down on the plate was the sauce which could have done with a bit more flavour. But that's really nit picking.

It was a lovely lunch and really reminded me why Fat Lemons is in my regular Totnes lunch rotation.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 12: Lunchbox School Part 2

Welcome to our second session of Lunchbox School. In our metaphorical school day we've just had morning break and we're waiting eagerly for lunch. Of course when we get to lunch our choice is between packed lunch and school dinners.

The benefits of the packed lunch are huge. It saves us money (most of the time), we can make sure we get a full balanced meal that fits with our dietary requirements. Oh yeah. No more cobbled together meals in the staff canteen of 2 poppadoms, a spoonful of rice and mango chutney.

Admittedly though lunch made by someone else can be exciting, tasty, hot, and - my favorite - cooked by someone else. Which is why I like to pack pretty boxes. Because I have been know to pack lunch, leave it in my back and eat something other than my sad leftovers in a boring box.

Lesson 2: Looking Good

Bento boxes are our friends here. We can pack them up so that we're excited to eat them rather than disappointed that we have to. So how do we make a lunch that looks so good that we're excited to open the box? And how do we keep it looking good until lunch?

Pack It Full

Was that one for the main tips in the least lesson? Yes. Totally. It's an important one. This week we're packing our lunch boxes full because it makes them look vibrant and awsome and fit to burst. A box full of food makes you want to eat it. A box full of air makes you feel deprived.

Packing full, both to the sides of the box and the top, also helps you to keep everything in place and looking perfect come lunchtime. Lean from my mistakes. See how the lunch box above wasn't packed right to the top? Well by lunch I had broccoli bits on my grapes. I picked them out but I got a bit grumpy doing it.

Use All Your Colours

In posh Japanese cooking there's the idea of putting all of the five colours - red, black, green, yellow and white - on a plate. I'm not doing Japanese haute cuisine here but I like to keep that principle. It doesn't happen in every box. I construct them a little after six after all If you look above I have white in the rice, green in the avocado, veg and grapes, black in the grapes and nori, and red carrots and sweet potato. It makes things look considered and delicious.

Extra Touches

I'm not into constructing elaborate scenes or putting cute faces on things. Well I am but again 6am. I'm not really away until 10:30, I just have my eyes open. I do like to make things look good though. Edible embellishments like these flower are fabulous. If you don't grow edible flowers think about herbs, a final grind of pepper, some sesame seeds.

You can, of course, always but things. Bento picks, little sauce bottles, mini cases. If you can't find things sold specifically for bento then look at cupcake accessories. Silicone cups and pics are common in the cucupcakes world too.  And the little fish bottle that comes with sushi? Pocket it when you are done. Of course don't forget to check out things like tupperware and lunch boxes. The above salad box, with it's sauce bottle, was bought in Torquay. Not all the pretty things are imported from Japan. 

So we've gone over picking our box and ways to stuff it full of food to keep us full and happy. Now we've learned a little about making that food look good. Next Friday we're going to talk about keeping it all fresh. Until then MoFo continues as usual. If you're interested in the food in this week's boxes I'll be reviewing the recipe books I nabbed them from. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Vegan Mofo day 11: Chive Rolls

You could say that I'm a bit of a chive collector. I can't get rid of a chive plant, or say no to a free one. I've had one on the balcony since I've had a balcony and in the two years I've had an allotment I've managed to gain three onion chives (the regular kind) a garlic chive and a siberian chive. They're pictured from left to right up there. There is very little that chives can't improve but today we're going to make rolls with them. This recipe uses your everyday onion chive and makes just enough for two people but can be doubled quite easily.

Chive Rolls
(makes about eight)

175g of strong white bread flour
3.5g of dried yeast (that's roughly a teaspoon)
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoon of chopped onion chives. Feel free to heap those teaspoons.
1 tablespoon of olive oil
105ml water

Mix everything together in a big bowl. Knead, either by hand or by mixer, until the dough is lovely, elastic and happy.

Shape into a round and leave to rise, covered, for around an hour and a half or until doubled in size.

After the bread has risen pre-heat your oven to 190c and oil a tray for the rolls.

Gently knock back the dough and divide into eight pieces.

Roll those pieces into snakes, about 3cm thick, and tie in a knot. Leave to prove for 30 minutes or so.

When they are ready place them in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Enjoy hot or cold.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 10: Plum and Anise Pleather

Okay so this might be my third recipe for fruit leather (which I like to call pleather because I'm charming) that I've posted to the blog. I'm toying with the idea of  a fourth. I really love them, they are so fun to eat and make and there is so much fructose goodness.

My inspiration for this one was what if a fruit leather met a spare rib? Not that I've had one of those in a while but I remember that plum and anise are a flavor match from heaven. I didn't want to make it all savory though. Still sweet (or lip puckeringly sour, adjust sugar to your liking) with just a hint of something lovely and grown up in those spices.

Plum And Anise Pleather 

500g Plums
2 whole star anise
1/4 teaspoon of Chinese five spice
Sugar to taste

First take the plums and the whole anise and place them in a saucepan. heat on low-medium until all the juices come out and the fruit is reduced to pulp.

Add your five spice and give it a taste. How much sugar you'll want to add at this point depends on the sweetness of the plums you started with and how you like it. Taste as you go adding a teaspoon at a time until you like it. I just used one teaspoon with mine but I warn you that it is full of lip pucker.

At this point we need to set our oven up. The pleather needs to dehydrate for about 10 hours in the oven. Preheat the oven to 60C and put some baking paper down on a couple of trays.

Back to your pulpy stuff. Press it through a sieve until you have nothing left but the bits that won't go through. You should have a fairly thick juice.

Spread your juice out on the baking parchment, thin as you can get it and pop it in the oven. It will take anywhere between 10-14 hours to dry out into a leather. It's done when it can come off the paper cleanly and is slightly tacky but not sticky on top.

Peel off and cut into shapes or roll up, Whatever you want.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Vegan Mofo day 9: Bramble Jelly

Our bramble jelly story starts on sunday with me and Stephen picking blackberries off the bushes. This idyllic countryside pursuit left me with scratches where my boots finished. We got around 500g of berries without much fuss and we took a break to sit in a tea garden.

Of course the next step in the process is to jelly it up. First I had to grab an equal amount of apples and stew it all down into a fruity lovely mush.

Then everything goes into the jelly bag and drips overnight which brings us to today. My lovely fruity liquid went into the jam pan with plenty of sugar and got boiled half to death before this happened:

 With lids and labels we're good to go. And oh my god I love autumn.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 8: Chimichurri-pumpkin Bowl

Quick, I need something for supper! So once again I turn to Isa Does It home of almost all of my quick but very impressive supper recipes. Unfortunately this time I had no joy.

I made the Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl as it seemed to be a merging of some of my favorite things: pumpkin, chimichurri, noodles. But something went wrong somewhere because it just didn't work for me. I suspect the brand of vinegar I used because from the second I poured it in the sauce it just became a dish of vinegar and some other stuff you can't really taste. I salvaged what I could from under the sauce and enjoyed that. I just need to crack the sauce. Anyone had any luck with it?