Cookbook of the Month: Salad Samurai

Salad Samurai Asparagus Pad Thai Salad (1)

This month I’m cheating a bit:  these are all recipes I’ve made, but I haven’t made them all in August.  Who has time to work through a cookbook when they’re moving to Prague?!  It’s been a very busy month, and getting the kitchen fully-stocked is a work in progress, so while I get my act together, here are some tasty treats from Salad Samurai.  I never thought I’d purchase a salad cookbook, but this isn’t a book full of boring, leafy salads.  These are tasty, hearty meals, and I really recommend the book to anyone looking for something a bit different.  It’s organised by season, and I’ve been trying to stick to summer and spring lately.  And breakfasts!

Salad Samurai Overnight Oats with Mexican Chocolate Cream (3)

Surprisingly, there is a breakfast section in the book.  I know.  Initially I was wondering what kind of monster would even contemplate a salad for breakfast, but fear not:  it’s basically just porridge and granola.  The first breakfast recipe I tried was this one for overnight oats with Mexican chocolate cream.  It was very easy to make, and the chocolate cream was really delicious, with a lovely kick of cayenne pepper.  Best of all, the recipe makes enough cream for two days in a row.  I make this all the time now, and have already made some in Prague too.

Granola (9)

I’ve made the guts’n’glory granola a few times now, and it’s really good (though watch the cooking time – mine started to burn well before the time was up).  I had it simply with coconut yoghurt…

Salad Samurai Smoothie Bowl (2)

…and also as part of the smoothie bowl:  a smoothie topped with granola and an assortment of delicious things, in this case dried apricots, cocoa nibs and coconut.  It was extremely filling, and I loved the crunch of the cocoa nibs, but I think I might have preferred the usual co-yo topping with a smoothie on the side.  Some people just don’t like mixing that much.

Salad Samurai Apple Quinoa Bowl

I also tried the apple quinoa a la mode, which was just like apple pie (albeit without the best bit:  PASTRY).  It was a really filling breakfast, with plump raisins, refreshing dried apple, and lovely cinnamon notes.  The vanilla cream didn’t go as thick as I would have liked, but it tasted nice, and with some walnuts scattered on top, it had it all.

Salad Samurai Coconut Carrot Cake Salad

I didn’t find the coconut carrot cake salad quite as delicious as the other breakfasts.  It was fine, but it was a bit more salady than treaty, with its quinoa and carrot.  It was nice and easy, and was a healthy summer breakfast, chilled overnight and eaten straight from the fridge.

Salad Samurai - Green Curry Lentil Quinoa Salad

Moving on to more traditional salads, this was the green curry lentil quinoa salad.  This was the salad that best matched the ingredients I had in, so I decided to give it a whirl despite feeling apprehensive about the inclusion of pineapple chunks – I’m not usually in favour of mixing sweet and savoury.  I’m glad I tried it though – the sweetness was not too overpowering, and was a nice balance to the fiery green curry dressing.  I used spinach rather than kale, and increased the amount of tomato, and it made a lovely substantial packed lunch.

Polish Summer Soba Salad

The Polish summer soba salad was a safer bet (soba noodles, roasted beetroot, cucumber, dill and beans), and it was absolutely lovely.  It was so quick and easy to make, I’ll definitely whip this one out again.

Salad Samurai Blueberry Tamari Greens Bowl

The blueberry tamari greens bowl was another one that was a bit of a gamble.  I firmly believe that blueberries are only worth eating if they are embedded in a muffin – and even then, they’re my last resort muffin.  But they worked a treat in this salad amongst the savoury taste of all the tamari and sesame.  The spicy nuts and tofu were delicious, and provide a ready made response to the famous “But where do you get your protein?” question.

Salad Samurai Coconut Samosa Potato Salad 002

The coconut samosa potato salad was a real treat, and it was easy to make after work.  I was worried that it wouldn’t be filling enough, but far from it:  there was plenty to be had, and it was full of flavour.  Good textures again, from the crunchy papadum to the chunky chickpeas and the tender potato.  And it did resemble a samosa!

Salad Samurai Strawberry Spinach Salad

Another packed lunch was the strawberry spinach salad with orange poppy seed dressing.  This looked so tempting and colourful, but again, I was somewhat daunted by the combinations.  The fruitiness wasn’t too sweet at all, everything was juicy and refreshing (perfect as I ate this on one of the hottest days of the year in Manchester).  Of course though, the highlights were the spicy nuts and the baked tofu.

Salad Samurai Asparagus Pad Thai Salad (1)

I’d had my eye on the asparagus pad Thai for ages, and I’m glad I finally got round to making it.  Mr HH was especially delighted with it, making joyful exclamations about how the flavours, textures and colours were all spot on.  There was plenty of it:  noodles, asparagus (I just chopped mine, rather than attempting to peel it into ribbons and no doubt savaging my fingers in the process), lemongrass tofu, a delicious sweet and spicy dressing, plenty of fresh herbs, crunchy bean sprouts, and salty peanuts sprinkled on top.  I think it’s cheating to call it a salad really.

So, it’s quite a lean month of cooking, but I’m going to get back on it in September.  I have a lovely new kitchen which is beginning to get some good use, and I’m building up my supply of kitchen staples again.  And with Vegan Mofo just around the corner, I’m getting ready for a lot of blogging too!

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Vegan Afternoon Tea: Tea Parlour, Liverpool

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When I think about afternoon tea, I imagine it in a setting just like Tea Parlour in Liverpool:  vintage decor and crockery, and a very old-fashioned air to the place.  There was even a guide to afternoon tea etiquette (whatever you do, don’t let your spoon touch the side of the cup when you’re stirring your tea!).  And the food was as good as the setting!

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The sandwiches were quite slow to arrive – about 25 minutes after we’d been seated, even though we’d pre-ordered our one vegan and one classic afternoon tea.  (Service was really friendly, but it was quite slow as there were a couple of large parties in there.)  The menu said there would be five different fillings, but as they were out of vegan cream cheese, the cucumber and cream cheese was off.  I assumed they would double up on another of the fillings, but instead they reduced the number of sandwiches to four, which is a bit disappointing.  Still, the fillings were really tasty and I do love some variety – and some brown bread!  From left to right, I had avocado and tomato; watercress and tofu egg; hummus and roasted red pepper; and coronation chickpea salad.  As you can see, they were all bursting with their filling, which is exactly what I want – too many times I’ve had hummus and red pepper sandwiches with merely one piece of pepper in there.

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The full cake stand arrived next, with the vegan goods on top and non-vegan on the bottom for my friend.  Let’s just say from the start that she got a lot more than me, which may have made me a little bitter/jealous.  If I hadn’t seen her treats, I would have been absolutely delighted with mine!

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There were two scones, one fruit and one plain.  They came with whipped coconut cream, which is the best thing ever, and some strawberry jam.  The scones were really nice, and coconut cream just elevates everything to greatness.  No complaints about the scones!

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The menu doesn’t specify which cakes you will get, it leaves it nicely open.  I like that, as it meant I could be pleasantly surprised and not pin my hopes on one particular treat.  I had a lemon curd tart, that was very zingy and fresh, and a banoffee tart which was amazing – shortcrust pastry filled with caramel sauce, topped with a slice of banana, whipped coconut cream and a sprinkle of dark chocolate:  I need to experiment with making these myself.

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And yet, that wasn’t even the best thing on the plate!  That prize went to a chocolate cake which I can best describe as a beautifully soft brownie sitting on a biscuit base and topped by white icing that was basically like a cloud.  And fortunately Tea Parlour also encourages leftovers to be taken home, so I returned to Manchester with this lemon cake.  It was so moist and refreshing, it was really lovely – and I’m not even that crazy about lemon cakes!

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It was £20 for everything, which was pretty good.  My impression was that the vegan version rivalled the classic in terms of taste, but I’d like it to rival it in size as well.  Regardless, I will definitely go back to Tea Parlour.  It’s the kind of place that offers not only the food but also the real afternoon tea experience:  it’s elegant and classy, but not snobby.

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Vegan in Cornwall (Part Two)

Day Five St Ives (7)

Our final day in Cornwall was cursed with rain, of course, but we were undeterred and ventured down to St Ives and first, Penzance.  The weather was horrendous there, and we couldn’t really find anything free and indoors to entertain us, so we merely stopped at Archie Brown’s before heading off to pastures new.  It was quite a mixed bag, actually:  it was a nice little cafe, above a well-stocked veggie shop, with lovely fake clouds on the ceiling creating a nice, laidback style.  However, the place itself just wasn’t laidback.  The service was quite fraught and confused, it took a long time to get our drinks and there were mistakes with our cake order.  Maybe it was just a bad day as it was early in the summer holidays.

Day Five Penzance (4)

Anyway, it was a vegan friendly place, with soya milk available and a few vegan options on the menu and cakes as well.  We were tempted by the raw cheesecakes, which were all vegan, and split the chocolate and avocado one and the peanut better and chocolate.  The chocolate avocado was a real winner – that’s such a beautiful combination that you can’t really go wrong.  The peanut butter one didn’t taste quite as good as it looked, because it was sugar-free and was really lacking a touch of sweetness.  These tiny pieces of cake were £3 each, which was very steep.  All in all, this place was decent, but I wouldn’t hurry back to it.

Day Five St Ives (3)

We had better luck in nearby St Ives, in terms of both weather and food.  We used the park and ride option and got to enjoy the view from the train (top tip:  sit on the right hand side), but were still mightily impressed by the little town when we got there.

Day Five St Ives (10)

Day Five St Ives (11)

We walked right past Pengenna Pasties on our way to the sea front, so we had to make a quick stop.  The vegan pasty is marked on the menu, and I’d read online that the scones were also vegan (the staff confirmed this with a quick look at their list), so we got a couple of those as well.  I think the pasty was probably a bit better than the one from King’s Pipe:  again it was very big and tasty, crammed with onion, carrot, potato, sweetcorn and beans.  It was good and warming eaten by the sea.

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We didn’t have the scones until we were back in Manchester two days later, but they were still delicious.  We had the plain ones (the raisin ones are also vegan), and they were nice and sweet, and very generously sized.  And you can get a bonus glimpse of the exciting new crockery I bought in Polgooth the day before.  The set on the left is from the 1880s!

Day Five St Ives (58)

Our main eating for the day was done in Spinacio’s, which is right on the harbour front and on the first floor, so ask for a window seat and you’ll enjoy some stunning views.  It was a pretty, calm, friendly place with good relaxed service, and I really loved it.  The websites only had sample menus, so you don’t get to see the real one until you’re in and looking at the big menu board.  For my main course I had black eyed bean pancakes with a creamy kale and coconut sauce – there was a nice amount of spice in there, and the creaminess worked really well with it.  There was a zingy, refreshing carrot and lime salad on the plate as well as another salad, which was nicely dressed but perhaps a bit too big.

Day Five St Ives (62)

For pudding, I had the chocolate prune cake, which came with not one but two scoops of ice cream.  Hurray!  The cake was really flavoursome and moist – it was my first chocolate prune cake, but I’m planning on making my own as it was so impressive.

Day Five St Ives (30)

That was a fine end to our Cornish dining.  I’d been a little worried about it, as Happy Cow isn’t exactly overflowing with options, but we actually ate really well.  Wildebeest remained the highlight for me, and also for Mr HH (he had non-vegan dishes in Spinacio’s, but preferred Wildebeest overall).  And Cornwall is just so beautiful!  It felt almost like Europe as it was so beautiful – even when the weather was bad in St Ives, the sea was still the most gorgeous colour.  I hope it won’t be 14 years until my next trip to the beautiful south!

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Vegan in Cornwall (Part One)

Day Three Falmouth (29)

Ever since my aunt and uncle moved away from the north east to the far away land of Cornwall, I have yearned to visit.  Just about all of my other relatives have made their way there for a holiday and shared beautiful pictures, but it’s taken 14 years for me to make the journey.  My fellow and I decided that, before we flee this beautiful country, we should try to see a few more places in it, so we hatched the long awaited Cornish plot.

Day One Stonehenge (15)

On the way down south we stopped at Stonehenge, where a previously bright and boiling day instantly descended into an intense downpour.  How typically British.  It was expensive and full of people, but worth seeing.

Day One Avebury (38)

More impressive, in my opinion, was the nearby Avebury Stone Circle, which was free, not roped off, and scarcely signposted, so that you’d have to know about it to find it.  We were in a hurry as we’d pre-booked our Stonehenge timeslot and the M6 had been most unobliging, but it would be an ideal place to take a picnic and idle away an afternoon.

Day Two Eden Project (86)

Day Two Eden Project (36)

Our first stop in Cornwall was at the Eden Project, which was quite a last minute addition to our itinerary as I’d heard mixed reviews, but was worth it for the rainforest biome alone.  It was hot, humid and full of wonders.  Standing in the spray from the waterfall was welcome relief!

Day Two Eden Project (50)

After that heat, we rewarded ourselves with ice cream:  I had this strawberry sorbet, which is such a lovely natural colour that I was very impressed.  It was refreshing and tasty!  We did finally make it to my relatives’ home in Newquay, but after an initial stroll, didn’t do any more exploration there.

Day Three Falmouth (11)

I’d expected Cornwall to be a vegan haven, as I imagined it to have quite a laid-back, hippyish reputation that would go hand in hand with veganism.  However, I only found one 100% vegan establishment there, so Wildebeest in Falmouth was our first destination, and a welcome opportunity for a reunion with a friend.  It definitely didn’t disappoint!

Day Three Falmouth (31)

My friend, having her first ever vegan meal (or knowingly vegan anyway – I’m sure everyone’s had an accidentally vegan falafel meal at some point), really got into the spirit and ordered the raw pad thai.  The noodles were made of raw courgette, and she said the dish was tasty and filling.  It certainly looked fresh and inviting.

Day Three Falmouth (33)

My fellow ordered this rather exciting-looking concoction of polenta with glazed beetroot, roasted celeriac and broadbeans.  His verdict was that everything was good, especially the polenta and the sharp mustard mayo.  However, the menu listed a wasabi foam as one of the components (we were on a Celebrity Masterchef catch-up at the time, and he thought himself quite the fine diner when he saw it on the menu), but as you can see, it was more of a cream, and he said it was not as strong as he would have liked.

Day Three Falmouth (32)

Day Three Falmouth (34)

I was a bit of a maverick and ordered two starters for my main, mostly just because I really, really wanted the sushi.  The miso soup was good but unremarkable.  The seaweed was gorgeous!  And the sushi was amazing too, exactly what I’d hoped for.  The rolls were stuffed with quinoa, smoked tofu and avocado, and I don’t know what the miniscule red berries were, but they were really nice.

Day Three Falmouth (35)

Of course, we all had to have desserts as well.  Everyone was happy with their choice, but I definitely felt like the winner with this cherry and vanilla cheesecake.  Sometimes cherry-flavoured desserts are clearly artifically-flavoured, but this one was lovely and natural, both in colour and taste.  Everything tasted fruity and coconutty (the chocolate was especially coconutty, which was a nice twist), and the texture was perfectly creamy.

Day Three Falmouth (36)

I was extremely disappointed when Mr HH ordered the chocolate espresso torte, as I love sharing his desserts but hate coffee.  Fortunately (for me – he found it rather disappointing), the coffee flavour was extremely subtle and it was more of a chocolate torte.  Again, it was creamy and delicious, though for fans of coffee it might not quite meet your standards.

Day Three Falmouth (37)

And my friend chose the most tempting of the ice cream flavours:  peanut butter and chocolate fudge swirl ice cream.  From the little taster I had, it was decadent and delicious and tasted like a Snickers bar.  I can’t recommend this place highly enough, the food was beautiful and the service was great.  It’s quite a small place though, so booking is advisable.

Day Three Gyllyngvase Beach (1)

Day Three Falmouth (39)

As it was Cornwall, what choice did we have but to go for a pasty as well?  Happy Cow listed King’s Pipe Pasties as having vegan options, but I’d forgotten to write down the address.  Fortunately, it’s right by one of the little docks for boat trips and while we were scoping out the ferry to St Mawes we stumbled upon it.  On the menu board outside, the vegetarian and vegan options were clearly marked.  There was only one vegan pasty, so I took that and we kept it for later when we were reclining on the beach in the sun (and what a beach it was – I grew up a two minute walk from the North Sea, but this was something else altogether.  I didn’t even know clear water existed in the UK!), sheltering our food from the greedy seagulls.

Day Three Falmouth (41)

It was a good pasty:  the pastry was lovely, and the crimped edge was great (I’ve predominantly eaten Greggs pasties before – this was much better).  It was filled with onion, potato, carrot and pepper, and probably more veg that I didn’t identify in my greed.  It was really nice not to miss out on this Cornish staple.

Day Three Falmouth (43)

As we were by the sea, we also simply had to have some chips.  As we wandered past Harbour Lights, just round the corner from the pasty shop, we saw a sign saying that all their chips were fried in vegetable oil, so we decided to treat ourselves.  It was £3.10 for this large portion, which was a bit steep, especially as they weren’t well-seasoned enough for our liking.  Nevertheless, it was nice to sit in the sea air and eat some chips!

Day Four Fowey (4)

Day Four Mevagissey (5)

The next day my fellow took a break from driving and my aunt and uncle guided us around some of the smaller villages in Cornwall:  Mevagissey, Fowey and Padstow.  It really is easier to see Cornwall by car than public transport, which is a disappointment to me, but it was great to get to see so many places.

Day Four Polgooth Inn

We had lunch at one of my aunt and uncle’s favourite places, The Polgooth Inn.  Before the holiday I’d sent them a quick email to check if their falafel burger would be vegan without the blue cheese listed on the menu, and they confirmed this and said they would put on an extra vegan special for me if I let them know when we were visiting – what a lovely touch!  The special was a stir-fry, but I went for the burger anyway.  I don’t think the picture quite does justice to the sheer size of this monster:  it was HUGE!  The sweet potato fries and chilli jam were both good and flavoursome, but I couldn’t even finish them because the burger took it all out of me.  It was so crispy, and really nicely spiced – it was good pub grub, and it was ginormous.  There were a couple of sorbets on the dessert menu that I would have liked to have tried, but honestly, I couldn’t eat again for the rest of the day.  I would always prefer to give my money to 100% vegan establishments, but I love the fact that they were so accommodating.

Still to come:  another pasty!  A very good cake!  Pancakes!

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Cookbook of the Month: Vegan Secret Supper

Vegan Secret Supper Miso and Aubergine Gyoza (1)

For July I worked my way through Vegan Secret Supper, one of the fanciest cookbooks in my collection.  It was written by a woman who runs a supper club in New York, and as such the recipes are really designed to impress and have multiple components.  Not really one for a school night, then.  However, I thought I’d be able to make it work if I cut a few corners.

Vegan Secret Supper Peanut Butter Oat Pancakes (11)

Starting, as we must, with breakfast, I whipped up some peanut butter oat pancakes one happy morning.  These were taken from a recipe for waffles, served with white chocolate mousse and plum compote to form a twist on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I did not have time for such things, so I served them with strawberries and golden syrup, and they were delicious.  The pancakes were perhaps a touch dry, so the strawberries added some much-needed juice and worked really well with the chocolatey, nutty pancakes.  A great start to the day, and to my adventures with this book.

Vegan Secret Supper Double Chocolate Pancakes 012

I did the same thing with the double chocolate pancakes, transforming them from waffles to pancakes and ditching the extra components.  The recipe calls for a banana, but I didn’t have any in, so I used some coconut yoghurt instead (which I always have in, because it is amazing) – I hoped it might lend a hint of the flavour, but it contributed to texture alone in the end.  The pancakes were really good, in terms of both texture and taste.  The chunks of melted dark chocolate were the highlight, all gooey and delicious.  I layered the pancakes with raspberries, and served them with golden syrup, as always, but some cream would have been nice too.

Vegan Secret Supper Portobello Fennel Soup (8)

The fennel portobello soup was a great introduction to the soup section.  The recipe didn’t need to be simplified at all this time, though I didn’t serve it with the smoke-infused olive oil as recommended.  It was my first time cooking with fennel, but I didn’t pick up the flavour too much when I was eating because there was so much other good stuff in there:  tamari, chilli flakes, sage, rosemary and lovely, earthy mushrooms.  This is also a standard, simple soup recipe, and I’ll make it again frequently, despite its appearance in such a fancy book.

Vegan Secret Supper Caramelised Onion Bisque (9)

The caramelised onion bisque packed more flavour than the French onion soup I made last month.  It had some good herbs in there, and cooking the onions in balsamic vinegar added a really lovely depth of flavour.  This will now be my default French onion soup recipe.

Vegan Secret Supper Carrot Ginger Soup (2)

The carrot ginger soup was such a beautiful, vivid colour!  And I’m happy to say it tasted as good as it looked:  really zingy, with a great contrast between sweet and spicy.  It was really thick and filling too, a winner all round, and I’ll be making this a lot in the winter.

Vegan Secret Supper Spicy Peanut and Yam Soup

And the spiced peanut and yam soup was wonderfully tasty and sweet.  I used sweet potatoes and almond butter, and it turned out quite thick – ideal for winter, but it needed thinning out a bit for summer.  It was flavoursome and rich.

Vegan Secret Supper Apple Beet Salad

Another packed lunch option was the apple beet salad with lemon tamari vinaigrette, baked hazelnut cheese and sesame mustard.  And this time I actually made all components!  The apple was a bit overwhelmed by the flavour of the beetroot and the dressing, but it was all really tasty, especially the hazelnut cheese.  It wasn’t really cheesy, but it was lovely and tangy and moreish.

Vegan Secret Supper Mustard Roasted Nugget Potatoes

I attempted to make the mustard roasted nugget potatoes (made without the crispy fennel and smoky portobello mushrooms, as it was a packed lunch) into more of a potato salad, with the addition of some roasted asparagus.  It was delicious, but really more of a side dish.  I used baby new potatoes, which worked a treat – though I still increased the roasting time to get them thoroughly cooked.

Vegan Secret Supper Crispy Oyster Mushroom Tempura With Ginger Miso Sauce and Sesame Sweet Rice (1)

The crispy oyster mushroom tempura with ginger miso sauce and sweet sesame rice was really tasty too.  I ditched the sweet potato and squash blossom tempura because of (a) laziness and (b) where do you even buy squash blossom?  But just the sweet rice with the deep-fried mushrooms and the zingy ginger sauce was lovely.

Vegan Secret Supper Porcini Pecan Nori Rolls 007

I was excited about trying the porcini pecan nori rolls, as I’ve been developing my sushi-making skills this year.  The recipe also calls for ginger pear paper, but I don’t have dehydrating equipment and didn’t really have time.  I’d thought about cooking some sushi rice to go in the rolls, but again, decided to save time and not bother.  I would definitely do this next time though, because, while every element was really tasty, there wasn’t enough substance to the rolls and they squished and oozed when I tried to slice them.  A layer of rice would make it more of a meal as well – I suspect the recipe in the book did without because it’s listed as a starter.  The porcini pecan pate would be good just served with bread, and the miso tahini sauce is beautiful and I will definitely make that again.

Vegan Secret Supper Miso and Aubergine Gyoza (1)

I simplified the Miso and Japanese Eggplant Pierogies by turning them into gyoza, using up some of the dumpling wrappers in my freezer.  If you have time to make your own pierogi pastry, then by all means, go for it, but if you’re busy, then I’d recommend doing it my way.  The filling was quick to make and really tasty, and assembly is very quick with defrosted gyoza pastry.  I had a bit of extra filling, and dolloped it on the side of the plate as a bonus.  The book suggests various homemade accompaniments, but we dunked them in soy sauce and were as happy as can be.

Vegan Secret Supper Leek and Oyster Mushroom Risotto Cakes (2)

I’m not generally a fan of risotto, after living in Hong Kong where mushroom risotto was the default vegetarian option in every western restaurant.  But, like most things, it improves in fried form.  My leek and oyster mushroom risotto cakes didn’t hold together as well as I’d hoped, but they were a winner on the taste front.  A couple of these would make quite an elegant starter.

Vegan Secret Supper Butternut Squash Gnocchi (4)

It had been a while since I’d had a cooking disaster, so I was probably due one, and it arrived when I attempted the butternut squash and almond gnocchi sauteed with sage garlic butter.  The dough for the gnocchi was flavoured with squash and almond butter, and should have been packed with flavour.  Alas, it was too sticky to even attempt to knead.  I added so much flour it lost its taste, and was still too sticky to handle.  I popped it in the freezer for a while, then managed to shape it into the traditional bite size pieces.  I returned these to the freezer and defrosted them a few days later.  Then I came home from work to this sight:

Vegan Secret Supper Butternut Squash Gnocchi (1)

But I’d put so much time, energy and flour into them that I was determined to push on regardless.  So, I dolloped spoonfuls of the dough into a pan of boiling water and cooked them, then sauteed them in the delicious sage butter.

Vegan Secret Supper Butternut Squash Gnocchi (3)

The final result, while far from elegant, was really tasty.  I don’t know if I could bear to make them again, but I’d happily be served them.

Vegan Secret Supper Lentil Walnut Tourtiere (2)

Vegan Secret Supper Lentil Walnut Tourtiere (4)

The lentil walnut tourtiere was a real treat, and again, simpler to make than expected.  There is so much flavour in the filling from the spice and herb combinations, and the walnuts lend a nice crunch to everything.  It’s a great idea to brush the pastry with a tamari concoction as well.  The book suggests serving this with a homemade chutney and balsamic reduction:  I served it with new potatoes and steamed veg.

Vegan Secret Supper - Coconut Fettucine Alfredo

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of pasta dishes, but the coconut fettucine alfredo was so good I might just change my mind!  My gigantic local Tesco Superstore had neither fettucine nor sprouts, so I used tagliatelle and only cherry tomatoes for the veg, but the dish really is crying out for some greenery.  It was still delicious anyway, as the real magic was in the sauce.  I’m rarely wowed by pasta, but seriously.  There was coconut milk, tamari, tahini, chilli flakes, nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes…all these good flavours mingling happily.  And it was easy to throw together after work (minus points for requiring three different pans, though).

Vegan Secret Supper Brown Rice Risotto (2)

And yes, I made a second risotto in July, and this one wasn’t even fried!  Despite my misgivings about the dish in general, I thought I would give the brown rice risotto with kidney beans a go, and I’m glad I did: it didn’t take too long to make, and it was really tasty.  The sweet potato chunks were really good, the sunflower seeds on top added some nice texture, and the spices made it rather curry-esque.  An unexpected treat.

Vegan Secret Supper Dark Chocolate Cake (6)

Vegan Secret Supper Dark Chocolate Cake (8)

The dessert section looks spectacular:  really, really tempting.  However, I only got round to trying one of them, and the dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache glaze didn’t exactly go according to plan.  The batter turned out a bit lumpy, so I’d recommend sifting the flour first.  The ganache also had a few cocoa powder lumps.  I’m going to put it down to the heat outside, as I don’t usually have a problem with that.  Despite the lumpiness, the cake was really tasty.  It wasn’t as exciting as the spiced chocolate from Afro-Vegan I made in May, but for a plain chocolate cake it was very good.

I’m so glad I took the plunge with this book, after being somewhat daunted by it for so long.  Even the fanciest recipes can be simplified for a working week, and it was nice to get back to some more exciting flavours (I think every dish included tamari and chilli flakes) after the familiar flavours of last month’s book.  And I’m looking forward to trying some of the really impressive dishes for a special occasion.

Next month is going to be a busy one as I’m making the move to Prague, but I’m going to try to make some special salads nevertheless.  There’s always time for salad.

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Vegan Afternoon Tea: Crosby Tea Rooms, Liverpool

Crosby Tea Rooms (2)

A half-empty cake stand isn’t the most inspiring start, is it?  Afternoon tea at the Crosby Tea Rooms in Liverpool was quite a mixed bag:  the food was really good, but as a whole it didn’t quite come together.  Part of the afternoon tea experience is the wow factor when a cake stand of treats is set before you on the table.  Don’t worry, there was cake this time – it just arrived later, after we’d finished this part of the feast.

Crosby Tea Rooms (1)

Luxury afternoon tea at the Crosby Tea Rooms involves a choice of a sandwich from the menu:  there are two vegan fillings, or a club sandwich combining both of them between thick slices of toasted bread.  Obviously that’s the one we all chose, which may have been an error.  The sandwich was delicious (though it could have done with something to counteract the sweetness of the sweet potato, of which there was a lot), and the accompanying salad and vegan coleslaw were good too.  But we had a full club sandwich each, two of the halves shown above, and that is a lot of food when you consider it has to be followed by a scone and two full size slices of cake.  There’s a reason afternoon tea usually features finger food, after all.  Fortunately, we were asked if we’d like to take the leftovers home, so we duly accepted.

Crosby Tea Rooms (3)

The scones had a mixed reception.  I absolutely loved mine and ate it without any jam because it was packed with raspberries and had a lovely coconut flavour.  My companions found it too dry, though they agreed about the great flavours.  I could have happily taken a load of these home with me too, but there were no leftovers.

Crosby Tea Rooms (4)

After we’d finished the sandwiches and scones, the cakes arrived.  First was this tower of chocolatey goodness, sandwiched with coconut cream and dotted with the occasional raspberry.  The topping was lovely and gooey, but the cream and sponge were a little cold – it felt like it had just been taken out of the fridge.  Still, it was totally delicious.  And, much like the sandwich, this was the normal, full-size offering from the main menu, so it was quite the battle on top of the food we’d already eaten.  The best kind of battle, though.

Crosby Tea Rooms (5)

We had to take the last slice of cake away with us:  a raw peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake.  It pains me to admit it when I can’t finish a meal, but it would have taken a pretty serious eater to get through all of this.  Full size cake slices, I remind you!  As it was, we didn’t eat again for the rest of the day.  We devoured this cake the next day, when we were ready for food once more, and it was good:  the chocolate layer at the top was really rich, and as a whole it had the perfect cheesecake texture.  I would have like a bit more peanut butter, but other than that it was spot on.

In conclusion, I can only praise the food we had.  There were some excellent vegan treats to be had, and there was a very tempting-sounding vegan breakfast on the menu, if you’re ever in that neck of the woods.  The staff were really lovely, and there’s a vegan baker there, so you can rest assured that they have a good understanding of veganism and aren’t making any mistakes behind the scenes.  But I’m not convinced that the food really comprised an afternoon tea:  there was no finger food, no little bites.  The more food the merrier, but it’s easier to feel like a glutton if you devour a gigantic sandwich and three full-sized baked goods.  Perhaps I enjoy the deception of the delicate nibbles – it just feels less piggish to work your way through them!  I would definitely recommend Crosby Tea Rooms for a meal or a cake, but only for afternoon tea, if you don’t eat for 24 hours beforehand.

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Vegan in Prague

Prague 065

In May, Mr HH and I made a quick dash across to Prague to scope it out…before we move there in August!  We are extremely excited (and also terrified of how much packing awaits us).  When I returned to the UK from 2.5 years in Hong Kong, I thought I was hanging up my travelling cloak.  But of course, my feet began to itch again.  I’m delighted to be on the move again, but it’s a million times better to be going with my funny and fearless best friend, intrepid adventurer that he is.  It’s going to be his first time living abroad, and his giddiness at his first taste of life outside the UK is positively contagious.

Prague 003

And I’m pleased to say that Prague looks like a good place for a vegan!  During our short stay I managed to visit a few vegan eateries, and fit in an impressive amount of cake (I was alone, my feet hurt, I had a good book, those things all point to sitting down with some cake).

Moment (1)

Moment (4)

My favourite place was Moment, a small, 100% vegan cafe not too far from the city centre. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (or, to allow my northerness out:  breakfast, dinner and tea)…and also for cake.  The breakfasts are pretty special:  I had the pancakes, and my fellow had the omelette.  Look how much cream there is with those perfect little chocolate chip pancakes!  Surely I’ll be justified in having them every weekend?  The omelette was also tasty.  The menu said there would be spinach, but instead it was full of potato, mushroom and aubergine.  Not a bad substitution, eh?

Moment (2)

There was also one of the most tempting cake counters I’ve ever seen (second only to Oh La La in Berlin, I think).  It was difficult to choose, but I went for this peanut butter chocolate chip beauty.  It was delicious sponge, the icing was just sweet enough, and the chocolate chips were densely packed and lovely.  But there were some sneaky raisins hiding in there too!  I don’t mind a raisin in a carrot cake, but with peanut butter and chocolate chips?  It didn’t quite fit together.

Veg Teg

Another place to visit for cake is Veg Teg, which is not so central, but isn’t far from the river or the Botanical Gardens.  It’s a teeny tiny place, with just a couple of stools for eating in, so it’s perfect to pick up a cake and wander to a more scenic setting.  When I went in there were three different kinds of cake and a tempeh wrap, everything vegan, along with hot drinks.  I had the chocolate orange cheesecake, which was really tasty.  My only niggle is that the base was soft rather than crunchy, but still – it was a lovely place, and while I ate the woman who worked there chatted with me about all the great vegan places in the city.

Plevel (2)

Plevel (3)

In fact, she recommended Plevel, which has two locations, one about ten minutes away from the famous clock at the heart of the city.  We went there for an evening feast, and decided to go the whole hog and have a three course meal.  The menu is really tempting (again, it’s an all-vegan establishment), and we struggled to narrow down our choices.  My beau chose the portobello rolls.  Can you see them in the picture above?  The rolls themselves were miniscule, and the plate largely consisted of salad, so he was a little disappointed.  I went for the raw spring rolls, which turned out to be gigantic and better suited to a main course.  Of course, I nobly struggled on, and they were delicious.

Plevel (5)

I actually preferred them to my main course, the beetroot burger.  It was problematic from the start, because I couldn’t physically take a bite without unhinging my jaw.  After watching me struggle for a while, Mr HH advised just to eat it with a knife and fork like a loser.  So I tried.  And I failed:  the bread was too dense to cut through.  So I discarded the top bun and ate the burger and bottom bun with a knife and fork and I felt like a failure.  Cutlery for a burger?!  On the plus side, the menu said it came with a baked potato, which had me a little perplexed.  This turned out to be delicious wedges, and I managed to eat those in the traditional manner.

Plevel (4)

My fellow definitely came up trumps in the mains though, with his Czech speciality of mixed nut ragout, creamy sauce and semolina gnocchi. He found the gnocchi a bit too doughy, but the nutty dumplings and smoky sauce were really delicious.  I’ll definitely try this one when we go back.

Plevel (7)

Usually we try to get two different desserts to share, unless there’s a clear winner on the menu.  That was the case in Plevel, where we each ordered a banana caramel cake.  It was probably the best cake of the holiday:  sticky and sweet, with a lovely coconutty base.  Highly recommended!  The staff at Plevel were absolutely great, and they do a good range of vegan alcohol too.  The central branch is located in a little shopping centre, but it retains a nice atmosphere and is somewhere I’m looking forward to going back to.

Maitrea

Another eatery near the Old Town Square was Maitrea.  This gets great reviews on HappyCow, but I was less than impressed with it.  Our experience was worsened by the fact that we were seated downstairs in extremely close proximity to a group of three which included the loudest man in the world.  Really.  He was bellowing away in Italian to his two companions, and we could scarcely hear each other.  Fortunately, after sharing a nacho plate, he left the ladies to it and they audibly breathed a sigh of relief along with us, and we all got back to normal conversations.  But even without him I would have been somewhat underwhelmed by it.  The decor is so lovely, and the prices are pretty high, but the quality and creativity of the dishes just didn’t quite match the implied fanciness.  The vegan dishes in particular seemed a little uninspired.  I had the udon noodles with duck and vegetables – the mock meat was lovely, the noodles were beautifully thick and the seasoning was perfect…but noodles, protein and veg?  I felt like I could have made something equally tasty at home for at least half the price.  (Mr HH had his only cheese of the holiday at this meal, so no pictures of his, but he shared my general sentiment.)

Loving Hut

A much better place in terms of value for money was my old friend, Loving Hut.  I first encountered Loving Hut in Hong Kong, where I used to enjoy cheap, tasty food while watching propaganda videos of the Supreme Master, alongside poems from the perspective of a pig about to be slaughtered.  It’s basically run by a cult leader…but the food is good!  I went for the pay-by-weight lunch buffet, and coughed up 148kr for this plate of treats:  the biggest piece of deep-fried cauliflower I’ve ever seen, a spring roll, tofu omelette, chicken and veg and the most tender, delicious aubergine imaginable.  There are quite a few branches dotted around the city, all with a lunch buffet, so whatever my feelings on the Supreme Master, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be back.

LoVeg (1)

LoVeg (2)

Finally, over the bridge and high up the hill towards the castle, we found another fancy three course experience in LoVeg.  Not only do you have to climb up the hill, you also have to toil up a few flights of stairs.  It’s worth it, though:  it’s a warm, cosy restaurant with great service and even better food.  I started off with the bruschetta, which had wonderful flavours and a tasty cashew cheese.  My fellow tried the avocado tartar and reported that it was good, albeit extremely garlicky.

LoVeg (3)

We both chose the same main course, because we were keen to try a veganised version of the Czech national dish, svíčková.  I didn’t really enjoy it, but that’s because of the original dish, rather than how it was cooked here.  It’s just not my kind of thing, but I’m glad I tried it.  The dumplings are sliced like baguette, and are very doughy.  The meat is smoky and delicious, and the root veg and cream sauce is quite rich.  The cranberry sauce on top is simply not for me.  It was such a strange combination of flavours, and was extremely heavy.

LoVeg (5)

LoVeg (6)

Which is not to say we couldn’t fit in dessert, of course!  I tried the carrot cake, which was nice, but I really should have been bold enough to stick with the dumpling theme:  they were sweet and delicious, with their red fruit sauce and sticky icing sugar.  We were really delighted to have the opportunity to try both sweet and savoury Czech specialities.

After so much good eating, I wish we could afford to eat out every night when we live there!  But even when we settle in to normal life and a daily routine, it will be comforting to know that there is a thriving vegan scene out there, and plenty more to explore.  There are only a few weeks left until we make the move, and we’ll definitely be celebrating our arrival with more vegan cake.

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