MiniMoFo: Signature Dish

moment-bagel-bagel

Are you ready for Vegan MoFo?  It’s in November this year, but I’m so excited that I’m joining in with the warm-up exercises of MiniMoFo.  The first prompt is: what’s your signature dish?  (The deadline is 27th September, if any blogging friends are going to give it a go!)  As this isn’t a recipe-sharing blog any more, my signature dish is not something I cook at home but something I have when I eat out.  In fact, I order it almost every week from Moment Cafe.

moment-seitan-cheese-bagel

Moment is a lovely little vegan cafe not far from where I live in Prague.  Even though we discovered it immediately when we arrived last August, it wasn’t until January that we realised this seitan and cheese bagel was the best thing on the menu, and possibly in the world.  Now we go almost every weekend for brunch, and this is still the first choice.

The seitan comes in gigantic slabs, really succulent and meaty.  The cheese is thick and gooey, just melting.  There is some spicy mayo on the bun.  Nowadays it doesn’t come with the carrot and beetroot in the picture, but standard lettuce and tomato, along with some fried potato slices.  Oh, it’s good.

moment-bagel-with-robi

Sometimes, alas, they don’t have all the ingredients.  This can result in robi instead of seitan (see above), which is an acceptable substitution.  It can also result in a burger bun instead of a bagel, which somehow throws the whole thing off balance and it’s not nearly as good as usual.  Once, they didn’t have any cheese, and give me tempeh instead.  Seitan and tempeh.  It was a good day.

So there it is, the signature dish that I order when I go to Moment, and hopefully their signature dish too – it seems like they get a lot of orders for it.  If you’re in Prague, make sure you give it a go!

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Vegan in Manchester: Pie & Ale

Pie and Ale Manchester

Last weekend may have been the best of my life for one very simple reason:  the temperature dropped below 20C.  Finally!  After months of coming home from work sweaty and uncomfortable, this was all I wanted.  When I was complaining about the persistent heat last week, some of my students teased me that I wanted British weather.  And in fact, the mild weather is one of the things I miss the most about the UK.

Another thing I miss, of course, is pie.  When Dr HH and I popped home during the summer, Pie & Ale was high on our priority list of eateries to visit in Manchester.  And as usual, it didn’t disappoint.  It may not be to every vegan’s taste:  not only does it also have meat pies, but it has daily specials that tend to celebrate  ‘exotic’ meats.  This time, for instance, crocodile pie was on offer.  But it does have one vegetarian and three vegan savoury pies, plus one vegan offering for dessert.  This is an improvement on when I first visited in 2014 and there was one each of vegetarian and vegan.

Pie 1

Back in 2014, this was the only vegan pie.  I believe it had a Moroccan flavour, which didn’t sit brilliantly with the very British mash and gravy, but it was tasty enough.

Pie 2

And that summer they offered a lighter vegan dishes, though whether something this huge could be considered ‘light’ is debatable.  It had filo pastry and nice big chunks of tofu and a scattering of pine nuts.  It was delicious, of course.

Pie and Ale Manchester

Back to summer 2016, and the three vegan options are:  leek and wild mushroom; tarka dahl; and white bean, butternut squash and kale.  I went for the mushrooms, but was a little underwhelmed by the filling, which was heavier on leeks than funghi.  Still, the pastry is consistently delicious, and there are few things I love more than pastry.  Comparing the photos, it looks like the mashed potato portion has increased over the years – I couldn’t even finish it this time!

After spending time in Europe, it always disappoints me that there are so few all-vegan establishments in a thriving city like Manchester.  But I take heart from the fact that more and more places are adding plant-based options, and, in the case of Pie&Ale, actually developing their menus to be increasingly vegan-friendly.  Maybe next time I’m home (huddling up against the cold-but-not-freezing winter – again, much better than the extremes in Prague!), there’ll be a 50% vegan menu!

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Vegan in Prague: Incruenti

Incruenti (3)

Four or five years ago, I went through a brief phase of thinking how great it would be to run my own cafe.  I was mentally picking out my crockery and decor, and which cakes I would make.  Then I read a book about starting your own eatery, and it pointed out that if you like having weekends and evenings at leisure, then this probably isn’t the plan for you.  That was the end of my short-lived dream, but the beginning of increased respect for anyone trying to make a go of it in the restaurant industry.  Starting a new restaurant is clearly a lot of work and involves a lot of sacrifice.

While I don’t want to give up my weekends to run a food business, I’m more than happy to spend my free time supporting them.  Yet another all-vegan restaurant has popped up in Prague over the summer, and I’ve been along twice while they’re getting off the ground.  Prague has such a thriving vegan scene that it must be a little difficult for a new restaurant to stand out and find its niche, but I think Incruenti will do well.

Located near Flora mall, it’s not in the touristy city centre, but it’s easily accessible.  And it’s very nice!  The inside has exposed brick wall and big windows letting the light in, and there’s an outdoor terrace too.  It’s a big, welcoming place.

As well as a fixed menu for the evenings, there’s a two course lunch time special for about 130kr each.  And that is exactly what we got on our first visit back in August.  There were two options for each course.

Incruenti (1)

This spinach soup had slices of carrot hiding below the green surface, which was quite the surprise!  It was well-seasoned and not too thin, and a very promising start.

Incruenti (3)

We split the main course options for research purposes.  This tagliatelle was also well-seasoned and had some nice chunks of mushroom.  Dr HH found it a little dry and would have liked more sauce, but I really enjoyed it.

Incruenti (4)

And the other option was also good.  I would describe it (there was no English menu) as a lentil loaf with chutney and chunks of potato.  The chutney was a touch too sweet for me, but the loaf and potatoes were both perfect.

incruenti-evening-001

With a lunch menu this good, we were eager to return and try the evening menu.  By early September, they had English menus available and things seemed to be coming together perfectly.  The menu is quite small (always a good thing!), and has a few tempting starters and mains, including  two kinds of risotto (porcini and pumpkin) and tortillas.  Dr HH ordered this hearty burger:  the patty had mushrooms, seeds, carrots and made a good faux-meaty texture.  He loved it!  There was some mustard and caramelised onions in the bun, which added even more flavour.  The wedges were fine, but could have been crisper.

incruenti-evening-002

I couldn’t resist the homemade ravioli.  There were three different kinds of pasta, three different kinds of filling, and three different sauces on top.  I enjoyed that variety, and there were some really good flavours.  The ‘normal’ pasta-coloured ones were the best:  the sauce was good and garlicky, and the filling had a bit of a kick to it.  They were all delicious though!

incruenti-evening-004

Dr HH was absolutely stuffed after his burger, but I still comfortably had room for dessert, so we ploughed on.  When we went for lunch, I’d been too full for the baked fig dessert, and Dr HH had barely stopped fantasising about it since.  So he was devastated when they revealed they’d run out for the evening.  We both ordered the alternative, an oat, chocolate and banana cake.  The cake was sitting on a kind of porridgey mixture, with lots of banana and nuts.  The cake was the real highlight, with melting chunks of chocolate and the perfect texture – a bit like a banana bread.  It was intriguing and nice!

I am adding Incruenti to the list of places I would strongly recommend for visitors to Prague.  There seems to be a tendency to stick to the city centre restaurants like Maitrea and Lehka Hlava, but venturing further afield can be very rewarding – especially when it’s such a short, easy journey as this one.  Definitely put Incruenti on your Prague itinerary!

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Cookbook of the Month: Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking (Part Two)

Chilli (3)

[I’m having another week off blogging:  here’s Dr HH telling you more about the food he cooked from Minimalist Baker!]

Minimalist Baker Masala Chickpea Curry (1)

This week I’ll start with the main dishes.  I started out with the relatively simple looking Masala Chickpea Curry.   The recipe looked a bit light so I doubled up on a lot of the ingredients.  It was a good tasty curry, but it was a bit too sweet.  Again, I felt that the maple syrup in the recipe was probably unnecessary with coconut milk already in the dish.  The book calls for the addition of maple syrup to a lot of the savoury dishes.  This curry was one of the first things I made and it made me wary of adding maple syrup to other savoury dishes in the book.  This recipe was rather bizarrely  tagged as “30 minutes or less” even though it calls to simmer the curry for 20 – 30 minutes.  I served the curry with Cauliflower Rice.  This is a great alternative to regular rice and was really easy to make.  I really liked getting some of the slightly bigger chunks of cauliflower that survived the grater.

Chilli (2)

The Super-Thick Three-Bean Chilli had a lot going on.    Three types of beans, sweet potatoes, courgettes, sweetcorn and there was supposed to be some carrot but the local supermarket was out of loose carrots and I wasn’t going to buy a 1 kg bag.  This made a gigantic pot of chilli with great flavours.  It was perhaps a wee bit mild for my liking but just right for Ms HH.  I will of course grumble about a chilli recipe not including any fresh chilli but it’s probably a good thing if you want to keep things a bit milder.  Served with baked tortillas and avocado, this chilli made for good hearty meals.

Minimalist Baker Hearty Cocoa Black Bean Burgers (2)

The Hearty Cocoa Black Bean Burgers were the first burgers I have ever made.  I remember about 10 years ago I bought a rather exotic ingredient I’d never heard of before: tahini.  I was supposed to use it to make some bean burgers, but the jar remained unopened and the burgers never materialised.  10 years down the line, I know what tahini is now and I actually had a crack at making burgers.  

These were delicious! I decided against adding any maple syrup to this recipe and was slightly worried when I tasted the mix and it was quite bitter.  After baking them I didn’t notice the bitter taste and instead enjoyed a great nutty flavour from the walnuts and the combination of quinoa and black beans made for a hearty burger.  They didn’t hold together as well as I would have liked, maybe I needed to bake them longer or try and make my patty more compact.  The minimalist gimmick irks me again here, the recipe is tagged as “30 minutes or less” but one of the ingredients is cooked quinoa and the time to cook the quinoa is not included in the overall cooking time.  What irritated me even more was that there’s no guide to how much raw quinoa I need to get the desired mass of cooked quinoa.  Having to use other resources to complete the recipe seems to defy the point of having a cookbook.

I made the Easy Vegan BBQ Sauce to go with the burgers, I didn’t have the heart to go looking for organic naturally sweetened ketchup so just used the reduced sugar Heinz that was in the cupboard.  The sauce was fine but it just tasted like a flavoured ketchup rather than BBQ sauce.  

Smoky BBQ burger

Riding the wave of euphoria after my first burger success, I decided it was time to make another.  The Smoky BBQ Veggie Burgers were made from a mixture of chickpeas and quinoa for all your protein needs.  The quinoa added some really good bite and I topped the burger with bread crumbs before frying for some added crunch.  Again, I struggled with the structural integrity of the burgers but it didn’t detract from the taste.  I served these burgers as sloppy joes using the Super-Thick Three-Bean Chilli

Minimalist Baker Quinoa Meatballs (3)

There was a recipe for a Thai Peanut Burger that had caught my eye but then I also saw a recipe for Thai Quinoa Meatballs. They both looked quite similar and I went for the meatballs.  These were fantastic! Little balls of savoury, crunchy, nutty goodness with a good kick of soy.  I just served them with the suggested peanut sauce and it was more of the same flavours, I felt like a different sauce would probably have been better.

Minimalist Baker Sweet Pots (2)

Sticking with the Thai theme, next up are the Thai Baked Sweet Potatoes.  Sweet potatoes have been a little tricky to get a hold of in Prague.  Marks and Spencer has been the only place with a regular supply so imagine my joy when I stumbled into our local supermarket and found sweet potatoes.  Not just any old sweet potatoes, but sweet potatoes the size of a small moon! This from a supermarket that is usually chock full of all the veg you don’t want with most of it looking past its best.  The fried chickpeas had some good flavours in them, but the whole dish was lifted by the zingy ginger tahini sauce. It was bursting with great flavour from the soy, lime and of course ginger.  It all tasted very exotic even though it looked a bit beige.

Minimalist Baker Stir Fry (1)

The Spicy Tofu Vegetable Stir-Fry was cooked with a bit of a delay.  I hadn’t quite read the recipe through, so failed to notice that the tofu needed to be marinated for at least 2 hours, whoops.  2 days of marinating later and it was all worth the wait.  The tofu was delicious but due to my chronic lack of patience I didn’t fry it enough, so it wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked.  The tofu marinade also served as the sauce for the stir-fry and it made for a good dish where the tofu was definitely the highlight.

Mac and cheese (1)

I was interested to see how the Butternut Squash Garlic Mac ’n’ Cheese  would work out. I’d not seen this idea of using squash as the main element of a creamy sauce.  I dived into the recipe in typical Dr HH fashion and was happily blending everything up but it was all too thick.  A closer look at the recipe and I saw that it called for 280g of squash, I had just thrown in all of the squash and when I looked at the sticker it estimated the mass as around 700g.  At this point, I went and did what I do best, freewheeled! I threw in various amounts of extra milk, nooch, salt and pepper until I thought I’d put together something that resembled a sauce and tasted kind of cheesy.  It was a roaring success!  The dish was creamy, hearty and full of flavour.  An excellent bowl of comfort food.

Minimalist Baker Lasagne (2)

Minimalist Baker Lasagne (4)

The last dish from the mains section is the Classic Vegan Lasagne.  I do enjoy making a lasagne, despite the fact that it takes forever and generates lots of mess.  There’s something incredibly satisfying about turning out a tray full of delicious layered pasta goodness.  The recipe was pretty easy to follow and it made a good hearty and tasty lasagne, I used the Tomato + Lentil Ragu for the saucy element.  This is another recipe that I feels suffers from the minimalist gimmick.  The suggested recipe for this to just use tomato sauce, that way it can fit into “10 ingredients or less”.  There’s also a suggestion to use the aforementioned ragu but without the lentils.  I like a good hearty lasagne with big vegetable chunks so I find the idea of removing the hearty filling from the sauce utterly baffling.

We’ve arrived at the final section of the book that I used: desserts! I do believe that it has been mentioned in the past that I’m not much of a dessert maker – baking isn’t really something I’ve ever really tried my hand at.  For this book I was willing to fish out some packets of flour and baking trays and get my hands dirty.

Minimalist Baker Cookies Take 2

First up are the 1-Bowl Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies, which actually required the use of two bowls.  There is a disclaimer about this in the book but I wasn’t impressed by the title.  On the plus side I was more impressed with the outcome of my first ever batch of cookies.  They were nice and crispy at the edges and soft in the middle with plenty of chocolate chunks in there.  I did make a slight error and use dark chocolate that had some lactose in it which meant that this batch of cookies was just for me.  I made a second batch with vegan-friendly chocolate and I can happily confirm that they too were delicious.  They were quite different though.  They came out a bit softer and cakier, perhaps it was because I didn’t bake them for as long as the previous batch.  On both occasions I forgot to add a sprinkling of salt on top of the cookies, so I guess I’ll just have to make another batch one day.

peanut butter cookie (1)

Sticking with the cookie theme, next up are the Chocolate-Dunked Peanut Butter Cookies.

I will start with a gripe.  This is listed as a one bowl recipe but for it to be a one bowl recipe you need to clean your bowl half way through once you’re done with the cookie dough and then melt your chocolate in it.  That to me is still a two bowl recipe.  These cookies were easy to make and quite similar to the previous cookies. These would probably work excellently with chocolate chips in them rather than the dipping.  The cookies were excellent, not quite as sweet as the previous ones probably due to some saltiness from the peanut butter. I was a bit concerned after dipping them and not being able to get them off the parchment paper so I popped them in the freezer and they came away fine after that.  

peanut butter bars (4)

peanut butter bars (6)

The Peanut Butter Cup Puffed Rice Bars was another of the recipes I had eyed up early on.  The recipe calls for you to try and mash chopped dates with a fork into a mix of melted peanut butter and maple syrup.  Do you know what you get when you try to mash chopped dates with a fork into a mix of melted peanut butter and maple syrup?  You get a mix of melted peanut butter and maple syrup with chunks of dates in there.  I quickly abandoned that idea and took a hand blender to it and this resulted in a glorious thick, sticky, sweet, peanutty, datey caramel.  I almost wanted to stop and just eat it from the bowl.  I settled for just licking the blender clean at the end (don’t worry I kept my tongue away from the blades!).  The bars were great, but I would prefer them with something a bit crunchier in there to provide some bite.  Maybe some more sunflower seeds or some crushed peanuts.

That is the end of my August cooking odyssey.  I enjoyed being able to spend some time in the kitchen this month and really enjoyed using the cookbook.  The recipes were pretty easy to follow and packed with flavour.  In every recipe there were regular prompts to season the food and often guidance was provided as to what effect adding the spices would have on the overall flavour of the dish.  I felt that was much better than the often used “season to taste”.

 My main problem with the book is the minimalist gimmick.  There are recipes where corners are cut or which just include lies.  Too many recipes claim a prep time of mere minutes when you’re actually faced with chopping a mountain of vegetables.  I have heard that is a problem that often comes up in 30 minute cookbooks.  These are ultimately minor grievances and I recommend this book to anybody, as long as you’re prepared to use a few more bowls and spend a bit more time on your cooking.  

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Cookbook of the Month: Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking (Part One)

Choco Pancakes (6)

(In August I made nothing more taxing in the kitchen than a cup of tea!  Dr HH took over the cooking – and now he is taking over the blog as well.  He put me to shame by cooking so much that we need two posts to cover it all, so the review will continue next week.)

Hello! Dr HH here. Have you missed me? Probably not, as Ms HH keeps the good stuff coming all year round, but this month she returned to work whilst I was still enjoying summer holidays.  This led to me being tasked with the cooking so I’ll be providing the cookbook of the month write up.

Ms HH chose Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking.  The Minimalist Baker started out (and continues) as a blog and has been so wildly successful that a cookbook has come from it.  Each of the recipes fits at least one of the three following criteria: 30 minutes or less, 10 ingredients or less (excuse the terrible grammar here, it is lifted directly from the book) or 1 bowl.  I guess Ms HH figured that the recipes shouldn’t be too taxing for simple old Dr HH.

The book is handily split into sections and I’ll talk you through them all as I go.  Where better to start than breakfast?

Choco Pancakes (3)

When starting with breakfast, who could look further than pancakes?  The Double Chocolate Gluten-Free Waffles Pancakes, to be precise. The recipe is for waffles, but I just used regular plain flour and thinned out the batter a little to made pancakes;  delicious, rich, decadent chocolate pancakes.  WIth cocoa powder and chopped chocolate in the batter, these pancakes were glorious.  They were a bit rich so it may have been a good idea to serve them with some fruit along with syrup.  The recipe called for me to curdle my almond milk before adding it to the batter but I have no idea why.  Answers on a postcard please.

Minimalist Baker Burrito (2)

The Vegan Breakfast Burrito is the kind of thing I love, lots of different little elements that can be combined as one sees fit.  There were beans, avocado ‘slaw, delicious little crunchy bits of potato, rice and some more avocado slices for good measure.  The book does suggest throwing some salsa into the mix too as an optional ingredient and I feel the burrito needs it.  On the first day, we had the burritos without salsa and the main flavour coming through was lime from the ‘slaw, there weren’t any really great deep Mexican flavours that I expect from my burrito.  The next day I fried up the remaining beans with some onion, garlic, chilli, tomato and spices and it gave the dish a much needed lift.  I feel this recipe suffers a bit trying to fit the minimalist gimmick, there’s the salsa shortcut rather than cooking the beans well like in Thug Kitchen.

Minimalist Baker Eggless Benedict (4)

The Savoury Eggless Benedict is essentially a fancy avocado on toast.  The recipe included a slice of fried tomato, but neither of us is particularly keen on big slices of tomato, raw or cooked, so I decided to just leave that out.  I have no idea what Hollandaise sauce is supposed to taste like so I can’t comment on how authentic it was but I can say that this faux sauce (Hollanain’t!) was delicious.  It was thick and creamy.  Tahini is suggested as an optional ingredient, but I think that the sesame flavour coming through was a real highlight of the sauce and would strongly recommend adding it.  

Minimalist Baker Mango Lassi Pop

The Mango Coconut Lassi is in as a breakfast, but I decided to freeze them into little ice pops and what a great idea that was.  The pops were lovely and creamy but perhaps would have been better if I’d left some mango chunks in there.  This was a great treat on a hot summer day.

Minimalist Baker Cherry Pops

There are also the Cherry Chia Lassi Pops which are in the dessert section but I figured I’d throw them together with the previous recipes.  These weren’t quite as creamy but i did keep some giant cherry chunks in and they were great.

Granola Bars (4)

The Almond Butter + Jelly Granola Bars were wonderful sticky, sweet snacks.  I really enjoyed the extra flavour from roasting the oats and nuts rather than putting them in raw.  I used cranberries as my dried fruit of choice because cranberries are the king of dried fruit.

Granola from book (2)

Most of my breakfast efforts went into making granola.  My first attempt at granola was the Homemade Hippie Cereal.  This was one of the first things I made from this book and a toasted mixture of nuts and syrup is meant to be mixed with puffed rice to make a breakfast cereal.  I quickly scanned the recipe and saw a sentence that said it could be served as granola without the puffed rice.  It eventually dawned on me that a bowl of crunchy sweet nuts may not have stretched to too many breakfast portions so I had to do some freewheeling.  I added 3 cups of oats and various quantities of extra sticky ingredients and came out with something reasonably close to granola.  It didn’t stick together too much and tasted a bit too sweet.  The lesson here is that when freewheeling, perfect results are not guaranteed.

Minimalist Baker Choco Granola

There was one granola recipe in the book but now I had a taste for it, so I did a little digging into the blog and found a plethora of granola recipes to choose from.  The Almond Joy Granola was incredible! Admittedly it was slightly more walnut joy as I had just used most of my almonds in the above granola bar recipe.  The mix of coconut and chocolate with a saltiness from almond butter made a true breakfast delight.  I threw in half the chocolate whilst everything was still warm so it melted into the clusters.  I was starting to get the hang of this granola lark.

gingerbread granola (1)

The Gingerbread Granola had a really Christmassy feel to it.  The combination of molasses, ginger and cinnamon gave this a lovely warmth.  I managed to make giant oat clusters that would be worthy of presenting to the granola gods as breakfast.   The downside of using molasses was that everything was brown from the start so it was a little harder to tell if things were burnt or not.

Minimalist Baker Quinoa Granola

The Quinoa Granola was made up of really good crunchy nutty clusters.  The quinoa gave a bit of a different texture and I threw in a load of cranberries at the end to add a bit of a different texture to it.  This granola was a bit light on oats and I tend to prefer ones with more oats in them.

Cinnamon Snails

The Cinnamon Snails should have been pretty easy to make.  It turns out that even after spending more than 10 years as a practical chemist I still sometimes struggle to follow a recipe.  This recipe from the blog required 1 cup of almond milk but I had it in my head that I needed 2.  I was pretty puzzled when, after adding the required amount of flour, I still had a sticky mess in the bowl.  After checking the recipe again I saw the problem and managed to get back on course, and what a course it was!  These cinnamon snails were a gloriously sticky and sweet breakfast treat.  My error following the recipe may have left me flummoxed and led to an increase in the prep time, but it did also result in double the quantity of snails.

The second section of the book is appetizers + sides. I generally dipped into this section for lunches.  Regular readers know that Ms HH values good soups in a book, so I made sure to test out a few of the recipes.

Brocolli soup (1)

The Creamy Broccoli + “Cheddar” Soup was thick and flavoursome.  There was lots of nooch in here to give it that savoury cheesy flavour and there was a nice bit of sweetness coming from the butternut squash and maple syrup.  It was a really nice vibrant colour and I didn’t completely blitz it, so there was still some good chunks of broccoli and squash in there.

Minimalist Baker Coconut Red Curry Vegetable Soup (1)

The Coconut Red Curry Vegetable Soup was full of great flavours and had some good heat from the red curry paste.  The coconut milk provided some nice balance and I opted against adding any maple syrup as I figured the coconut milk would be sweet enough.  The soup was light on vegetables though, I added about 5 times the recommended number of mushrooms and double the carrots, but I still think it could have used more vegetables.  For the second serving I threw in lots of rice noodles and it unsurprisngly made a tasty noodle dish too.

Minimalist Baker Tomato Soup (1)

I liked how easy the recipe for the Creamy Tomato + Herb Bisque was. It was pretty much a case of chuck stuff in the pot, blend it and then let it simmer.  No time consuming chopping or frying to be seen.  I was a little wary about throwing coconut milk into my tomato soup but it was fine, adding creaminess without adding a coconutty taste.  I let it simmer for more than an hour (20 minutes was the minimum recommended time) and I ended up with a thick, creamy soup that was packed full of flavour from dill and chilli.  

Sconnies (1)

We had this soup with Garlic “Cheddar” Herb Biscuits and they were incredible!  They were like little savoury scones that were very easy to make and packed full of great savoury flavours from the chives and nooch.

carrot + lentil soup (2)

The Simple Curried Carrot + Lentil Soup is actually from the mains section but everybody knows that soups are for lunch.  The recipe recommends using green curry paste but I just used the red curry paste that I already had.  I definitely recommend partially blending the soup as it all seemed a bit watery before that.  It was a really flavoursome soup, most of it comes from the curry so make sure you like your curry paste.

Beetroot and Orange salad (3)

I threw together the Beet, Orange + Walnut Salad with Lemon  Tahini dressing for a lunch one day.  I was mildly concerned when I tried the dressing on it’s own and it seemed a little bitter but it was fine when combined with the sweetness of the beetroot and orange.  There was a bit too much orange in the salad.  The recipe has an equal amount of beetroot and orange and it would probably be better with less orange.  The walnuts added some nice crunch and it was worth making for the visual experience.

Minimalist Baker Cheesy Potatoes (1)

I had spied the Garlic Scalloped Potatoes within moments of looking at this cookbook and knew I had to make them.  I was struggling to figure out what to pair them with and was wondering if I could justify just eating a tray of cheesy potatoes for tea.  I ended up serving them with a Linda McCartney pie and some broccoli. The potatoes were fantastic, it was a great creamy sauce that was bursting with cheesy flavour from all the nooch.  I baked them for about an hour and they were a bit underdone for my liking so I’d recommend baking them for longer.

stuffed peppers (2)
I made this Easy Vegan Fried Rice from the blog and used it as the filling in some stuffed peppers.  I did things a little differently: the book and the blog both suggest baking the tofu without adding any oil or seasoning to it and then tossing it in a marinade.  I didn’t want to take any chances with my tofu not being sufficiently flavoursome so I marinated mine before baking.  Little bits of the marinade charred as the tofu baked and I thought it added great depth to the flavour.

That’s all of the breakfasts and lighter meal – come back next week for some mains and desserts!

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Vegan in Manchester: Kosmonaut

Kosmonaut (1)

Sunday roast for only £9?!  Yes please!

There are a few places in Manchester that offer a veganised traditional Sunday dinner, but this one in the Northern Quarter is the only one I’ve tried.  And it’s a good ‘un!

The main attraction is, of course, the stuffed aubergine, which was visually appealing as well as delicious.  The three falafel balls were tasty, but a bit out of place – I had to eat them before pouring the gravy on.  The potato and carrots were really good as well, and as a whole I thought this was good value for money, and a very tempting plate which didn’t look like a poor substitute for the meaty version.  Actually, Kosmonaut is the perfect venue if you’re in a mixed group as it caters for omnivores, vegetarians and vegans.

Kosmonaut (2)

And there was even a vegan dessert just sitting on the bar waiting for me!  They had three different kinds of baked goods, and one of them was this vegan brownie with Biscoff swirl.  I’ve made something similar myself before, and it’s such a good combination.  It was lovely!  (It looks a bit lost on that big plate, though.  Maybe I should have had two?)

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Vegan in Barcelona (Part Two)

Barcelona Gaudi Parc Guell (1)

Continuing our adventures in Barcelona:  after paying some rather steep prices for tapas, we finally got some good value for money at Vegetart.

Barcelona Vegetart (1)

It’s a nice little takeaway deli place.  When we visited, they were stocked up with burgers, hummus, lentil dishes and cakes.  I had read somewhere that they do excellent tortilla, but they didn’t have any mid-afternoon when we visited.

Barcelona Vegetart (2)

Barcelona Vegetart (3)

We got a little picnic to take to Parc Guell later that day (top tip:  book your tickets for the Parc.  We saw lots of people turn up thinking they could just pop straight in and being disappointed to find that they had to wait a few hours for entry to the monumental park).  The mushroom and leek quiche was almost perfect:  creamy filling, delicious pastry, but just short a touch of seasoning.  We will also got a little pot of pasta which was packed with flavour from the tomato sauce, olives and capers.

Barcelona Vegetart (4)

It would be rude not to have a cake, surely?  This carrot cake was moist and flavoursome, and the icing was perfect.  I would definitely recommend this place for your visit to Barcelona.

Barcelona Uay Balam (2)

And while you’re picking up your picnic, you should stop in at Uay Balam just down the road.  We saw its sign proclaiming some vegan treats in this gelateria and dessert shop, so we made a little detour to investigate.  There were five flavours of vegan gelato (chocolate, strawberry, peach, watermelon and grapefruit), and we were given a free spoonful of each to help us decide.  The cones weren’t vegan, so we enjoyed a little cup piled high with rich chocolate and refreshing strawberry gelato.  It was fantastic!

Barcelona Dos Trece (3)

Our time in Spain was relatively light on breakfasts, but we enjoyed brunch at Dos Trece.  It has four or five vegan brunch items and is a bright, spacious place with fast service.  I had the French toast, which was a wee bit too blackened on the bottom for my liking.  Still, it was delicious with the fruit and maple syrup.

Barcelona Dos Trece (1)

Dr HH enjoyed his nachos, and as you can see it was a gigantic portion.  It featured guacamole, beans, salsa and tofu – the tofu was a bit bland (he reckons it was just crumbled, unseasoned tofu from a packet), but otherwise it was a rather exciting start to the day.

Barcelona Cat Bar (1)

In Cat Bar we had some very impressive burgers.  It’s one of the few places in Barcelona (and possibly in the whole of Spain) which serves food continuously in the afternoon, allowing hungry Brits to eat at a respectable hour like 6pm, rather than battling on till some ridiculous time around 9pm when we should all be tucked up in bed.  Yes, I liked Cat Bar.  There were about 7 burgers on the menu, and you order on a little form that you take to the bar.  This is Dr HH’s Mexican Red, which he said was pleasantly spicy and had good structural integrity, which is very important – nobody likes a burger that collapses in your hands.

Barcelona Cat Bar (2)

I loved my Crazy Burger, which had a patty full of nuts and seeds.  Combined with the pesto in the bun, it was very tasty.  We both ordered patatas on the side.  They were a little too big to be bite-sized, and could have been crisper, but we were happy.

Barcelona Rasoterra

And finally, we ate at one of the few non-vegan places of our trip:  Rasoterra.  It was quite fancy, and they only just squeezed us in without a reservation, so I would recommend making one if you want to go.  It definitely wouldn’t be my top recommendation though.  After two weeks of all-vegan eating, it was a little disappointing to be back on a reduced menu.  The vegan tapas dishes were not plentiful, and there was only one vegan wine available by the glass (fortunately I am not at all particular).  We got all three vegan tapas:  the tomato bread was basically what you would expect, the veg and tofu gyoza were lovely, and the patatas bravas were like mini jacket potatoes:  crispy and delicious, and very different from the other potato dishes we’d tried.  It was all fine, but generally unremarkable.  All in all, I found the tapas scene in Barcelona a bit underwhelming, either unexceptional or too expensive.

Barcelona Gaudi Casa Batllo (1)

Barcelona itself was great.  We spent most of our time on Gaudi-inspired pursuits.  The Casa Batllo was expensive and crowded, but getting up onto the roof made it worthwhile.

Barcelona Gaudi Sagrada Familia (7)

We didn’t pay to go in the Sagrada Familia, but it was still fascinating to walk around it and try to catch all the details.

Barcelona Gaudi Parc Guell (8)

Parc Guell is worth a visit, especially if you are a fan of tiles.

Barcelona Street Art

And sticking with an arty theme, we also took a street art tour, which was very interesting.  It didn’t yield any single, huge impressive pieces like other cities have before, but there were lots of little bits and pieces and we found out a lot about local artists and techniques, so it’s definitely worth a few hours of your time.

The big three cities in Spain are definitely vegan friendly, and have plenty to keep you entertained too.  We really enjoyed our time there – if only the restaurants opened at more reasonable hours!

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