Cookbook of the Month: A Vegan Taste of Greece

A Vegan Taste of Greece is the third book I’ve tried from Linda Majzlik’s series, and I have to be honest and say that I’m not sure I’ve given it a very fair trial.  I started a new job in September and have been quite busy with that and getting into my new routine, so I haven’t had quite as much time as usual for poring over my recipe books. Still, I managed eleven new dishes this month, and here they are!


The aubergine and orzo soup was really simple and tasty.  I used a tin of tomatoes and cut down on the stock a little, making it a bit thicker and stew-like, which is always a good thing in my opinion!  It was a nice, but unremarkably-flavoured soup.

The fassolada had a lot more going on!  Butter beans, potatoes, vegetables, olives:  quite the party. I made this just as the weather was turning autumnal, and it really hit the spot.

Of course I had to try the moussaka.  I used a tin of tomatoes rather than fresh ones, and used feto cheese on top, but otherwise followed the recipe.  The dish was really flavoursome and the aubergine cooked beautifully. Alas, the potato slices were a touch too hard – I always find it difficult to balance the thinness with the appropriate cooking time, they always end up either mushy or underdone.  Still, I’d recommend it.

I made an obvious change to the spaghetti with sun-dried tomato and vegetable sauce: no spaghetti!  You can’t go wrong with sun-dried tomatoes, they really brought the flavour to this dish.

The aubergine baked pasta was lovely. It had a good hit of fennel seeds,which made it quite different from the other dishes we’d been eating.  I added more pasta to fill us up, and I blitzed nooch and pecans to make a parmesan crumb to throw on top, which I’d highly recommend!

The lemon-flavoured lentil stew was one of my favourites. I added a little extra stock to make it a bit more soupy, and used tinned rather than dried lentils, but kept everything else the same. I loved the little bits of broccoli, and the delicious lemony background.  I’ll have this again!

I was a little underwhelmed by the pea and orzo salad – until I added my precious feto and it got extra tasty!  I ditched the cucumber, but I don’t think that had a detrimental effect on the appearance as there was already some green in there. It was unspectacular.

The bulgar, bean and walnut salad looked a little light, so I added some smoked tofu and olives to give it some more flavour.  Even without the additional treats, it was really delicious and had much more taste than the other salad.  A very good choice!

I was a little nervous about trying the sesame cookies, but I had all the ingredients in so I thought it made sense to give them a whirl. I worried they’d be a bit savoury, and truthfully they could do with just a touch more sugar, but they were really lovely!  The texture was great too.  I’m not sure this was the shaping I was meant to achieve, but who really cares?!

The almond cakes were actually cookies – like all of Linda’s cookies, they weren’t too sweet and had the perfect texture.  I didn’t have any cognac in, of course, so I just used vanilla essence. I was very happy with the result.

I made the yoghurt and almond cake in cupcake form, for ease of popping them in lunch boxes.  This recipe was a big hit!  The sponge was light and nutty, and I liked the sweet syrup gluing the almonds on top.

And that’s it!  I will definitely turn again to the bulgar salad, lemon stew and yoghurt cake, and hopefully one day I’ll have time to explore the book a little more fully.

My usual complaints about this series stand (no pictures, no chat, not as user-friendly as most modern cookbooks), but I continue to find them very reliable for a quick and flavoursome meal.  I managed to pick up two more from the series second-hand recently, so there’ll be more from Linda in the near future!

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Vegan in Prague: Five Sweet Finds in/around Vinohrady

Last week I introduced you to my top vegan sweet treats in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. This week I’m shining the spotlight on my adopted city, Prague!  Unfortunately, this time I haven’t got a short and snappy name for the area I’m covering:  technically, these places are not all in Vinohrady, but they’re all approximately a five minute walk from Jiřího z Poděbrad Metro station.  This area is generally very good indeed for vegan food, but I’m just focusing on the most important food group: dessert.

1.Moment Cafe (Slezská 62)

Moment Choc Orange Strawberry Vanilla (2)

This is my go-to place for cake in Prague (as regular readers may remember).  When we first arrived, it was one of the few places we knew of that had baked cakes – Prague has a multitude of raw restaurants, but sponge cakes can be few and far between.  Even now that we have more options, this is still our first choice, always.  Moment has at least 6 options every day, usually a combination of layer cakes, cheesecakes and brownies.  You will be spoiled for choice!  The cafe is 100% vegan, and does a good range of hot drinks too – the hot chocolate is excellent.

2.Donut Shop (nám. J. z Poděbrad 1658/11)

When we returned to Prague in August after our summer holiday, we were delighted to find that a vegan-friendly donut shop had just opened in our neighbourhood.  They have three or four fluffy vegan donuts every day (clearly labelled, and the staff know their stuff), both ring and filled varieties, and they’ve got plant milk for hot drinks too.  We’ve already been more times than I should probably admit. That lavender donut has me hooked!

3.Coffee Room (Korunní 1208/74)

Coffee Room is another one that I only discovered after the summer holiday, so we have some catching up to do!  As well as a variety of vegan-friendly, avocado-based breakfasts, they also serve up 3-4 vegan cakes daily. It’s a really pleasant place to relax and nurse a hot drink and slice of cake, though unfortunately the outdoor seating looks out onto quite a busy road.

4.Puro (Vinohradská 2030/44)

I’ve mentioned Puro once or twice before – they have hot chocolate so thick you can eat it with a spoon, and always a tempting display case of baked and raw desserts.  If you need any more reason to visit, they also sell chocolate bars, biscuits and ice cream so you can continue indulging your sweet tooth in the comfort of your own home/hotel room.

5.Mamacoffee (nám. J. z Poděbrad 12)

Mama Coffee (1)

There are several branches of Mamacoffee dotted around the city, including this tiny one in the square at JzP.  It has  both indoor and outdoor seating, and at least one vegan cake every day, such as these little chocolate bundt cakes or cinnamon rolls. They also have soy milk for hot drinks.  The main branch in Prague 1 (reviewed here) has multiple vegan cakes on offer, if you’re venturing further afield.

 

Which of these sweet spots would be top of your list in Prague?

 

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Vegan in Manchester: Five Sweet Finds in the Northern Quarter

Teacup

It’s no secret that I love Manchester, my home base whenever I’m back in the UK.  I especially love how easy it is to find vegan desserts there! In the hip and trendy Northern Quarter it becomes especially easy to find a little cruelty-free treat, so today I’m sharing five of my favourite spots in that one little corner of the city.  (Please note there are many more than just these five options, but these are my personal top choices.)

1.Foundation Coffee House (Sevendale House, Lever Street)

Foundation Manchester

The first time I went to Foundation they had three different vegan cakes in, much to my delight.  (The second time it was their first day opening after Christmas and they only had one cake in the whole place and seemed confused as to whether it was vegan or gluten-free, but I understand that in normal circumstances they are well-stocked and well-labelled.)  This chocolate almond cake in particular is definitely a winner.  The cafe is really huge and light, but the acoustics can be a bit of a nightmare.

2.Oak Street Cafe (17 Oak Street)

Oak St Cafe

This little cafe inside the Manchester Craft and Design Centre is a great find.  They have vegan soups on the menu, and there’s always at least one vegan cake to be found.  This was the biggest slice of tiffin I have ever seen, and I struggled to get through it.  I did it though, somehow.  After you’ve eaten, it’s worth having a little potter around the shops as well – it’s a really lovely little shopping centre full of independent art galleries and jewellery makers, and more.

3. Fig & Sparrow (20 Oldham Street)

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Fig & Sparrow is a lovely little cafe and gift shop in the Northern Quarter that always has a vegan cake on offer, along with a selection of non-dairy milks for their hot drinks and a few breakfast and light meal options.  If you’re lucky, they’ll have a vegan pecan brownie:  probably the best brownie I’ve ever had.

4. Ginger’s Comfort Emporium (Afflecks, Church Street)

We discovered the GCE ice cream van at Levy Market a few years ago, when their only vegan option combined two of my least favourite things:  watermelon and chilli. Dr HH tried their dairy ice cream, the famous Chorlton Crack (peanut butter and salted caramel). Since then he has raved about it on an almost daily basis, and he finally wore me down and convinced me to visit their regular establishment in Afflecks Palace and see if their vegan options were more to my liking.  And, lo:  they have veganised Chorlton Crack!  It is perhaps the most delicious ice cream you will ever try.  Cones aren’t vegan, but you don’t really need anything else with it.  If you can handle two scoops, you’re my hero.

5.BonBon Chocolate Boutique (9 John Street)

Not only is the hot chocolate vegan in this cute little cafe, but they’ve also really upped their baked vegan goods range in the last few years.  This salted peanut brownie was really rich, as you would expect from a place specialising in chocolate!  They also often have vegan skull cookies and plenty of truffles to choose from.

Which place would be top of your list for a vegan treat?

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MiniMoFo: Mowgli, Manchester

September’s MiniMoFo theme is literary inspirations. As usual, I cheated a bit:  rather than creating a dish inspired by a book, I went to a restaurant named after a character from The Jungle Book!

I tried to go to Mowgli in Liverpool once and failed.  As usual, Manchester performed better than its north-west rival.  Mowgli is located in the Corn Exchange in the city centre, alongside numerous other restaurants with vegan options (including Phở). There is a separate vegan menu, which is always inspiring. In summer I popped along with my family and we ended up with an all-veggie, mostly vegan selection.  Here are the vegan dishes we tried:

Dr HH had these tamarind treacle chips, which my mum and I both found a little too sweet.  Dr HH loved the flavour of the sauce, but would have preferred it on the side, as the potatoes got a little too soggy for his tastes.

I was very excited about trying the chip butty, because potato and bread are two of my favourite things.  The little potato chunks around the plate were delicious, but the sauce was pure fire!  I’m not sure I’d be able to handle this a second time, but I’d like to give it a whirl.

The temple dahl was much milder and easier to eat – very pleasant indeed!

The tea-steeped chickpeas on the right were probably the highlight:  packed with flavour, and you can’t beat a good chickpea.  And the picnic potatoes on the left were quite spicy, but also delicious.

mowgli-1

Here’s another combination of dishes from when I visited with friends on a separate occasion:  in the top left you can see the rather exciting green ginger and rhubarb dahl.  This was a bit too exciting to pass up on!  The flavour was great (the rhubarb wasn’t overpowering), and it was nice to try something completely different.  In the middle we had roti and rice, and the chickpeas and potatoes are there again. Everything was spicy in the sense of being flavoursome rather than fiery from chillies.  You could really taste all the flavours.

mowgli-2

I’ve now been to Mowgli with four non-vegans, all of whom have enjoyed their vegan or veggie options (though they do serve meat as well, if you’re companions require it).  Good food, fast and friendly service, and a lovely setting – what more could you ask for?

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Cookbook of the Month: But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan!

You’re in for an end of summer treat: Dr HH is here to review But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan!

Hello! It’s the summer again so that means I’ve been let loose to make a mess in the kitchen again.  After the great success of June’s cookbook I have been entrusted with Kirsty Turner’s follow-up, complete with equally enjoyable chapter titles.  How will the recipes here compare to those of her first cookbook?  Read on to find out…

My family demands bacon and eggs for breakfast

Who doesn’t like tofu for breakfast? Regular readers know that I am the king of the breakfast tofu scramble, but I’m always willing to try out other recipes.  The tofu rancheros consisted of a tortilla that had been baked to crispiness, spread with a layer of 15-minute refried beans, a generous scoop of tofu scramble was added before being topped of with my own pico de gallo (there are various toppings suggested in the book so go wild and top it however you see fit).  The beans were easy to make and added a nice spicy flavour to things.  The tofu was a good egg imitation with the use of turmeric and sulphurous black salt.  All in all, this was a great take on breakfast tofu, with the beans making it rather different to most others.  

Ms HH was in charge for the maple-peanut butter pancakes.  This was a good simple and easy to follow recipe that produced thick pancakes that were perhaps a little too sweet.

I had been eyeing up the savoury breakfast casserole from the first time I cracked this book open. This dish required a bit of forward preparation on my part.  I realised that roasting little chunks of potato (we don’t know where to buy ready-made hash browns here), making tempeh bacon crumbles and making the thick omelette-eseque batter all at the same time may have been a bit ambitious.  I dealt with the potatoes and bacon the night before and cracked on with the batter the next morning.  This casserole was fantastic, it was like a giant omelette tray bake filled with lots of tasty little bits and pieces.  I didn’t crisp the potatoes too much when baking them so they got a little lost in the casserole, I definitely recommend getting them good and crispy on the outside before throwing them in.

One of the last recipes I took on from this book was the daunting sounding vanilla French toast This was my ever first attempt at French toast and I imagined a laborious and fiddly process that might just be too much for me. I overcame my fears to tackle it and I can declare it a success!  The strawberry sauce had a nice hint of citrus which was a good complement to the sweetness of the dish.  By the end, I had come to the conclusion that French toast was far easier to make than pancakes.

 

My kids think vegan food is weird

I’ve eaten my way through quite a few mac’n’cheese recipes over the last year or so and have to say the hidden veggie mac’n’cheese sits pretty low on the list.  Maybe I didn’t get my vegetable ratio quite right so it all tasted a bit sweet.  On the second helping I livened it up with a scattering of tempeh bacon crumbles (an idea taken from her first book) on top and that was a fine addition.

The tempeh nuggets were another thing that caught my eye early on but ended up being the last thing I made this month, I just got it made and written about in time to make Ms HH’s strict publishing deadline.  The nuggets were lovely and tender on the inside with a lovely crunchy outer. The tahini coating gave them a really good savoury flavour and they were excellent with the blue cheese dip.

 

My teenagers just want to “fit in” with their friends when it comes to what they eat

We had already had quite a bready day when I decided to make  the tempeh sloppy Joe sliders so I served it with rice and topped with avocado rather than as a sandwich.  This was the first time I’d made a chilli using tempeh as my meat and I am amazed that I had never had this idea before, it was lovely and meaty with great flavour.  There was no actual chilli in the recipe and I decided to stick to that and just scattered some chilli flakes on my own portion.  

 

If forced to choose between chicken wings and me, my spouse would choose chicken wings

The cheese-stuffed meatballs made for an incredible meal. Mushroom meatballs filled with a gooey smoked gouda cheese sauce, served with a wonderful rich and flavour packed sun-dried tomato marinara sauce and spaghetti.  This dish was my first dabble with the cheese sauces in this book, the sauce was tasty and easy to make.  Overall, this dish took some time to put together but the moment I cut into one of the meatballs and the cheese oozed out, I knew it was worth it.

 

My brother thinks there’s no such thing as a “meatless sandwich

I do enjoy a good faux fish (fauxsh?) dish.  I often go for something fishy when go to Asian restaurants and it’s always hard to resist prawns when they’re on offer.  The fillet o’ chickpea sandwich with tartar sauce slaw was my first attempt at making my own mock fish and I declare it a success!  This combination of chickpeas, artichokes and nori (the recipe called for kelp granules?!?) produced a convincing taste of the sea.  The cheese sauce and tartar slaw were tasty accompaniments to go along with it but did lead to a messy lunch.  As with any patty I’ve ever tried to make, i couldn’t get them to hold together very well, so I decided to bake them rather than fry.  This did result in some exposed bits of rice in the patty becoming a bit too hard.

The portobello Philly Reuben turned out to be more Philly cheese steak and less Reuben.  A baked mushroom seasoned with soy sauce and filled with cheese sauce was obviously great.  I have no real idea what Russian dressing is supposed to be like so I had a go at making some but found it a little too sweet for my liking.  The sandwich was also supposed to be topped with sauerkraut but I played it safe and didn’t add any.

 

My sister thinks vegan baking is something only hippies do

The peanut butter oatmeal cookies recipe says you can make 30 cookies, each using a generous tablespoon mixture.  I managed to make 12, perhaps my tablespoons were a little too generous.  The cookies were excellent, good and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  The nutmeg and cinnamon spicing gave them a nice warmth and I added in some chocolate chunks because all cookies are better with chocolate.

Ms HH was back in the kitchen for some baking and whipped up a batch of pumpkin chai scones.  These were actually apple flavoured as she used applesauce instead of pumpkin puree and it led to a bit of a sloppy dough.  This was remedied with the addition of lots more flour and we ended up with a tasty tray of Christmas flavoured scones.

 

Uncle John thinks his comfort food is better than mine…and won’t shut up about it

I was never a fan of cauliflower growing up and I’m glad I have learned to love this versatile vegetable.  The cauliflower parmigiana consisted of giant cauliflower steaks covered in a great breadcrumb mixture (nooch makes everything better) and baked to tender perfection.  It got a bit messy and lots of my cauliflower fell to pieces as I tried to cut it, but unsurprisingly little florets coated in breadcrumbs and baked were just as good.  This was served up with spaghetti, sun-dried tomato marinara sauce and basic cashew cheese sauce for a hearty plate of food.

 

What can I serve at the big game day party that won’t get pushed to the side

I was keen to try the buffalo cauliflower wings with blue cheese dip as I had made some cauliflower wings in the past which were a little hit and miss and wanted to try a different recipe. I got a good thick coating on the cauliflower and the hot sauce gave a good punch, though I halved the amount of hot sauce that went into the mix to make sure it wasn’t too spicy for a certain spice lightweight who shall remain anonymous.  Ideally, I needed to be more patient and bake them for longer to crisp them up but I was hungry.  The blue cheese dip was fantastic.  Creamy and rich with a little tang, I thought it was an excellent approximation of blue cheese.

The pizzadillas were made by layering half a tortilla with marinara sauce, adding some fried vegetables and topped with some cheese sauce.  The whole thing was folded over and fried to produce a tasty lunch time treat.  This recipe is easily adaptable to put in your regular favourite pizza toppings

 

How do I thank my family for welcoming my vegan diet?

After getting a taste for making granola over the last year I was happy to give the caramel cashew granola a whirl. It was fairly easy to make, but watch out for the 40 minutes of recommended baking time – I went for about 20 and that was plenty.  There was a really enjoyable caramel flavour and lots of nuts for a good crunch.  The buckwheat groats were very hard though and made it perilous for the teeth, maybe I needed to soak them first and soften them up a bit.

 

That is everything! I thoroughly enjoyed cooking from this book, the recipes were pretty easy to follow and everything tasted great.  The cheese sauces were incredible and so easy to make, and I can’t believe I had never thought to use sun-dried tomatoes in my tomato sauces for a richer flavour.  The book rather helpfully has measurements in both cups and grams and occasionally even in ounces and pounds.  Just like the first book, this is a huge tome with so many recipes that I would have loved to make if I had had more time.

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Vegan in Liberec: bistRAWveg

You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but it was the height of summer when we took a day trip to Liberec, just an hour away from Prague.  Our main reason for visiting was to go to the science museum, IQlandia, so fortunately the incessant rain and thunder didn’t spoil our plans too much.  The only outdoor activity we did was have a quick look at the town hall here on arrival, then we ducked into a nearby shopping centre where we found our chosen eatery:  bistRAWveg.

It’s completely open in the centre of the mall, with no walls or doors, so it’s not especially cosy, but it’s still really nice – there’s a row of plants separating the tables from the masses, so it’s not too bad.  It seems to have all-vegan food, but cow’s milk available for drinks.  We ordered up at the counter after Dr HH did some top notch translating (though another Happy Cow review suggests they do actually have an English menu too), and our dishes were brought out pretty quickly, along with a free glass of water each – almost unheard of in this country!

Dr HH got the tacos:  they were filled with really flavoursome creams, the tomato paste was very flavoursome, and the seeds gave everything a lovely crunch.  The tacos themselves were corn-based and were quite thick, which was very exciting!  He loved this dish.

I played it safe with a good old bowl of courgetti.  It was an absolutely massive portion, which always makes me happy.  It was quite nutty too, with lots of bits of cashew in there, and it was well-seasoned.  It’s hard to make courgetti new and exciting, but the tomato sauce and cashews were really flavoursome and I would recommend it.

And we fuelled up on cake before our afternoon at the science museum!  Dr HH’s apricot cake is in the background.  What a lovely colour! The base had a hint of chocolate in it which provided a nice contrast with the fruity mousse part.  My chocolate cake was really creamy and had such a good, firm base.

Generally, I only visit raw eateries as a last resort – and sure enough, there aren’t many other vegan options in Liberec.  We were quite impressed by this place though, so well done bistRAWveg!  Even more impressive was the science museum, which is definitely worth a trip if you’re in the area.

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Vegan in Manchester: The Deaf Institute

Manchester is such a great place for vegans, especially vegans who are friends with omnivores.  The Deaf Institute is yet another non-vegan establishment that is absolutely smashing it when it comes to plant-based options.  Thanks to their vegan chef (who is well worth a follow on Instagram) they have a strong array of vegan options on their regular menu, plus various specials.

There’s a vegan mac’n’cheese in the small plates menu, and despite hating the word “small” in relation to meals, I gave it a go.  The cashew cheese sauce was lovely and creamy, and the bacon added some good texture.  It was nice, but I think I’ve found more flavoursome recipes myself – so only order this for the novelty, or if you’re not an experienced mac’n’cheese maker yourself.

Dr HH agonised over his decision:  the seitan burger with aubergine bacon and cheese, or the veggie hot dog?  As you can see, he went for the burger, and was very pleased with his choice.  The patty was good and meaty and the burger as a whole had great integrity:  it held together and never became too sloppy to handle.  He enjoyed that there were a few different flavours going on, so every bite was a little different.  The cheese was nice, and the aubergine was good, though its texture was not as bacon-like as the menu suggested.  A winner!

And we split the chocolate brownie bowl for dessert:  a delicious warm, gooey brownie with tiny meringues for crunch and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  My only complaint was that there was a fruity compote at the bottom of the glass – I’d have prefered to keep it all chocolatey.  It was a really indulgent dessert, so I’m glad we shared.

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While the regular menu is packed with vegan options, it’s also worth popping along on a Sunday for their Vegan Hangover menu – four or so all-vegan options.  We gave this a whirl back in the Christmas holidays and were very impressed.

Dr HH had this jackfruit flatbread pizza.  The base was a little tougher than we’re used to from regular pizzas, but the topping was excellent:  good meaty jackfruit and mushrooms, and a pleasant kick from the jerk seasoning.  The creamy cashew dip was a nice addition.

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I went all-out and got this nut roast with all the trimmings, as it was the Sunday before Christmas.  The nut roast itself was really flavoursome and festive, I just loved it!  The kale and sprouts were delicious, and the roasties were cooked to perfection, though the carrots and parsnips could have done with a wee bit longer.  I haven’t had many Yorkshire puddings since going vegan, and these were beautiful – quite greasy, but I love that sort of thing.  Usually I like my food as dry as possible, but the gravy on this dish was absolutely sublime.  I could barely move at the end, and all thoughts of dessert were banished, but it was worth it.

All in all:  delicious!  And as a bonus, you can go on Wednesday and get two mains for the price of one.  The building is quite old and impressive, and the bar has a great atmosphere, though the music tends to be a bit too loud for an old lady like me. I’d put up with any music for food like this though!

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