A Vegan Christmas 2017: Pre-Christmas in Prague

It’s only one week till Christmas, and I’m definitely feeling the festive spirit already!  This year has been better than ever for getting into the Christmas spirit in Prague, largely thanks to Puro offering a spectacular festive brunch every weekend in December.  I’ve long been baffled by the traditional Czech Christmas dinner of fish and potato salad – who wants cold potato salad in the middle of a European winter?  So I was pleased to find that, veganised, it’s an absolute feast!

Czech people love an open sandwich, and this one was slathered with a fishy spread.  Any spread that’s full of nori is a winner for me, and this was packed with flavour.

For the main course, the “fish” was tofu wrapped in nori and battered to crispy perfection.  The potato salad had various vegetables and some mock meat chunks, and was much more exciting than I expected.  Maybe the Czechs haven’t got Christmas quite so wrong after all?

We rounded out the meal with a festive biscuit that didn’t have an English translation, but was kind of like a florentine.  And of course, we had one of Puro’s legendary hot chocolates that has to be eaten with a spoon.  Excellent Christmassing, Puro!  They also had some traditional Czech Christmas cookies, known as cukrovi – last year I got some there, but this year I branched out…

At the annual Christmas vegan fair, we picked up a huge box of cukrovi from Nebeské dortíčky, a lovely vegan baker who always does the rounds at vegan fairs.  We’ve had boxes of cukrovi from various sources over the last three years, but this was the best one.

All six varieties were delicious, and there were some very exciting shapes and decorations!  Some of the biscuits had a lovely hint of coconut, and the chocolate ones were really decadent.  They were all really uniform and adorable, and would definitely be my recommendation for anyone looking for vegan cukrovi in the future.

As usual, Dr HH has provided me with a special homemade advent calendar.  This year, as well as some exciting chocolates, I’ve been receiving some cardboard shapes that I will need to construct at some point.  What’s it going to be?!

Like last year, I managed to pick up a tub of chocolate Christmas tree decorations from the World Vegan shop.  These remain the only vegan tree chocolates I’ve ever seen – does anyone else have a source for them?

And as a rare non-edible festive treat, we picked up these exciting tree decorations from the Christmas market at Namesti Miru – we saw the crocodile one last year and instantly nicknamed it the crocodile grenade for it’s shape.  All year I regretted not buying it, so this year I had to snaffle it, and some friends as well. I do love that deep sea diver bearing a gift – what could be more festive than that?!

Of course I still think the UK does Christmas much better than the Czech Republic, so stay tuned for my UK Christmas round up next week!  I hope your holiday plans are coming together beautifully – any great treats thus far?  Let me know what I’m missing out on!

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Vegan in Prague: Coffee Room

This is the perfect spot for millenials who would like to squander their pennies (or crowns) on avo toast rather than saving for a deposit on a house.

The Coffee Room is a charming and popular little cafe in one of the most vegan-friendly areas of Prague. They serve breakfast until 12pm, and there are plenty of vegan (and veganisable) options.  You can have a smoothie bowl or granola, or a choice of three avocado dishes.  One of them, a bowl of avo, sweet potato, quinoa and chickpeas, had sold out when we turned up at 11:55am, so we went for the other two options.

I had the sliced avocado on sourdough toast with rocket, sundried tomatoes and sesame seeds.  It’s listed with cream cheese, but can be served vegan – I assumed I’d get a vegan cheese on there, but rather disappointingly they just skipped the cheese completely, but kept it at full price.  That’s a bit cheeky, in my opinion (especially when they charge extra for soy and almond milk in hot drinks as well).  Still, the toast was fantastic, and there isn’t enough avocado in my life, so it was still a good dish.  I just felt a little cheated.

Dr HH had the straight-up vegan option, smashed avo on toast.  It was flavoured with lemon and chilli, and came on the same delicious bread.  Lovely!  I would say this was the better option, not least because it didn’t involve the vegan surcharge.

There were two vegan baked goods, so we were compelled to test them out for research purposes.  The front one is an oat bar, which had a lovely crunchy base and a delicious chocolate cream on top.  The other is chocolate bundt cake, which featured peanuts and coconut and was really nice too.  Both winners!

This place was a little overpriced for Prague, but it’s also the only place we eat at that really features avocado, so that may be why.  We won’t be there every weekend, but it’s a nice one to pop back to and would probably be a crowdpleaser amongst non-vegans too. Everyone loves avocado, after all!

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Vegan in Berlin: Veganz Haul

We didn’t spend all out time in Berlin eating brunch – we also did a bit of shopping so we could take some delicious food home with us!  Check out all this loot from Veganz in Berlin, the biggest and best vegan supermarket I’ve been to!

We first saw this Manner Muesli a couple of years ago in Vienna, and always regretted not buying it.  Fortunately, we managed to snaffle the last box in Veganz!  It costs a fortune, but it’s not like anyone would have this every day.  It was more of a granola than a muesli, with lots of little cubes of wafer in there, which was about as delicious as you’d imagine. This isn’t available here in Prague, but we feel like we could easily recreate it with one of our regular granola recipes and a chopped up packet of wafers, with the bonus that it would be much cheaper!

If tinned jackfruit exists in Prague, then I just don’t know where to find it. So how could I resist?  It’s only the second time ever that I’ve bought jackfruit, so I wasn’t too sure what to do with it.  I decided to whip up a good chilli, and the jackfruit added a wonderful meaty texture.  Imagine being the person who discovered that jackfruit was a good pulled pork substitute!

The only other savoury item I got was this chorizo which I wanted to use in a breakfast hash.  It is sometimes possible to find vegan chorizo slices in Prague, but this was what I was looking for!  It was a great addition to the hash, and I’d definitely recommend it – though I actually think it could have been a touch spicier, and it’s not often I say that!

I can’t remember which European country we were in when we were looking in a shop for an urgent snack bar and saw this.  “Spicy lime?  That’s disgusting!” I complained to Dr HH, who was eagerly picking it up.  It was the only option, so we had to get it – and it was insanely good!  Now whenever we stumble across one in another country we snatch it up.

I love Rapunzel chocolate, and I love chocolate with puffed rice, so I just had to try this! It was nice, but of course it would have been better with a milkier chocolate – this one was too dark for my tastes.

Sticking with Rapunzel, I was powerless to resist this festive gingerbread bar. Again, it’s dark chocolate, but this time it’s flavoured with some delicious spices.  Now that we’re in December, I believe it’s acceptable to snuggle up of an evening nibbling a square or two of this and planning my Christmas menu.

These Lindor-esque chocolates were also in the Christmas section. They weren’t necessarily festive in flavour, but they’re a wonderful treat and have a pleasant almond taste without being marzipan-flavoured – a definite plus in my book.

Being vegan isn’t only about food, of course.  Crazy Rumors make the best lip balms, in my humble opinion.  While I was living in the UK, my local Holland & Barrett used to stock about ten different flavours and I would have tried them all, had I not fallen madly in love with the gingerbread variety! They didn’t have gingerbread in Berlin, so I settled for my second favourite, and it’s delicious.

It was a fairly small haul, but a very exciting one!  I always love the rush of finding totally new vegan products, and I’m beginning to get excited already about seeing what new things have popped up in the UK in my absence.  It’s going to be a Christmas break full of exciting food!

Have you found any exciting new vegan products lately? Is there anything new I should be looking out for while I’m in the UK? Let me know!

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Cookbook of the Year: The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook (Part One)

Like any vegan cookbook enthusiast, I have a lot of love for Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  Her recipes are always flavoursome and well-seasoned, and even the more ambitious ones seem somehow achievable thanks to Isa’s no-nonsense approach.  Her latest book was published in back in 2016 and I got it as a gift last Christmas.  It’s a hefty tome, divided into sections based on different holidays throughout the year, and first glance told me there were far too many good recipes here to try to squeeze it in as a standard cookbook of the month.

So I decided to do a cook-along through 2017, hitting all the big celebrations.  Of course, I did cook some of the recipes at other times as well, but I made sure to make something here for every special occasion.  Here is what I’ve cooked from the first half of the book (roughly!), taking in all the holidays from New Year to Passover.

And I’ll get my main (only?) complaint with this book out of the way – why so few pictures?  I want more, dammit!

1.New Year

I’ve never really cared for New Year – staying up till midnight on 31st December is a challenge for me, and my family has never done anything special on 1st January.  We’ve started a new tradition of Dr HH cooking a huge Indian feast on 31st (and he’s attempting to make a ‘New Year, New Cage’ tradition where we watch a Nicholas Cage film to start every year – I’m putting up the expected resistance), but with no other food traditions to guide me I was happy to turn to Isa for some early January inspiration.

hoppin-john-bowl-1

Like most people I follow on Instagram, I made the hoppin’ John bowl for New Year’s Day.  I’d heard of eating lentils on 1st January because they resemble coins, but black eyed beans was a new one for me.  I find bowls quite stressful to make because they involve so many elements and so much washing up, but the end result is always so good that it’s probably worth it.  The highlight of this dish was the sauce which was absolutely delicious and I will definitely make again.

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We made these orange pecan sticky buns for breakfast on 2nd January.  It was a real team effort, as I’m terrible at making bread.  Dr HH did all the kneading, while I mixed the dough, made the topping and filling and managed the kitchen (a role I excel in, incidentally).  I was somewhat concerned about inverting the dish after cooking, but fortunately they just dropped straight out. These are the best cinnamon rolls we’ve ever made:  the dough was perfect, and the topping was deliciously sticky and sweet.  The orange and cinnamon flavours are perfect for Christmas as well as New Year.

Who could resist tempeh sausage-stuffed mushrooms?  Not Dr HH and me, that’s for sure!  Dr HH flew solo on this one and, as usual, did a splendid job.  There was so much flavour in the tempeh mix, it was incredible.  Salting the baking tray was a good idea from Isa, as it gave the mushroom a good kick of seasoning too.  These would be delicious little party nibbles – or you could eat a whole plate of them for dinner, like we did.

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“Take out your stovetop smoker and smoke the tomato” go the instructions for the ‘nox’ element of these bagels and nox with wild mushroom caviar. Perhaps I’m a bad vegan, because I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a stovetop smoker.  As such, I replaced the smoked tomato slices with some smoked tempeh, and this was a delicious breakfast. I was worried about the cream cheese, which was made from beans rather than cashews, but of course, I should have trusted Isa:  it was delicious.  The mushroom caviar was also sublime.

2.Super Bowl

If you are aware of the time difference between the USA and Europe, you will not be surprised to learn that I did not make lots of party snacks for watching the big game.  But there were lots of good recipes in this section, and I’d say the sports connection is optional.

I simplified the buffalo chickpea pitas by ditching the dollop of ranch dressing on top, which made them very quick and easy to whip up.  Well, easy except for the fact that chickpeas are pretty difficult to mash, in my experience.  Anyway, they made for a good spicy, creamy bite.

buffalo-cauliflower-5

Sticking with the buffalo theme, I made the buffalo cauliflower on the day of the Super Bowl itself, but we ate it while watching the ‘big game’ from the UK:  Manchester United vs Leicester City.  The food was delicious (and Dr HH was delighted with the result), and perfectly suited for pecking on at a party or gathering.  It seemed a bit of a shame to me to go to all the trouble of breadcrumbing the cauliflower and baking it till crispy, then get it all soggy from the sauce, but I’m just assuming this is the American way.  I’d make it again regardless.

I’m considering the warm artichoke dip for our Christmas Eve Party Tea, so I decided to give it a test drive.  As usual, I was hindered by having just the one huge oven-safe dish, so it was an extremely thin layer of dip, but it was absolutely delicious!  It had a slightly fishy flavour to it which I really liked, and was very enjoyable indeed. I’m thinking about making a half portion and cooking it in little ramekins for Christmas.

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I toned down the spiciness of the chipotle mac and cheese with roasted Brussels sprouts, just using chilli flakes for personal preference.  The cheesy sauce was perhaps the best I’ve ever made (I think the miso is the key ingredient), and the roasted sprouts provided a nice colour and texture contrast. It was delicious!  I’ve made this at least once a month since its debut in January.

The half-time meatball sliders were adapted into a more regular dinner!  I used the same meatballs and marinara sauce from the recipe and served them with pasta and store-bought pesto.  The meatballs were really good (though I’d forgotten to get an onion in), and I liked how they held together.  Tempeh meatballs are the best meatballs, in my opinion.

cincinnati-spaghetti-1

I made the Cincinnati spaghetti on the day of the Super Bowl itself.  It was really easy to make and the chilli was delicious – but it seemed a bit weird eating it with spaghetti!  Truthfully, I think next time I would just serve it with rice, unless I was trying to confuse someone.

The Philly cheesesteak casserole was really tasty!  It has a creamy cheese filling with lots of sliced up seitan, and is topped with bread crumbs and lined with sliced bread on the bottom. I won’t put the slices on the bottom again though – it was a nice idea to recreate a sandwich, but it made cutting it up a bit of a faff!

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peanut-butter-brownies-5

When we moved abroad we resolved to spend as little as possible on kitchen utensils and equipment because we already have loads of kitchenware in storage in the UK. As such, we only have one dish that we use for everything baked or roasted, and it was far too big to hold the batter for these peanut butter brownies:  you can see how the mixture doesn’t even spread to the edges, making it oddly misshapen.  They turned out very flat, but really delicious, and I will make them again one day when I have a full array of tins to choose from.

3.Chinese New Year

When I lived in Asia, I loved celebrating Chinese New Year.  This was mostly because it meant a holiday from work, but also due to the impressive fireworks, lion dances and general mirth.  I haven’t celebrated it since leaving Hong Kong, and I almost never cook Chinese food, so it was nice to experiment with this section.  I hadn’t expected to enjoy the recipes quite so much!

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Hot and sour soup was a completely new dish for me, and I’m not sure how I felt about it.  The white pepper was perhaps a bit too hot for my tastes, and it was difficult to eat a full portion, so it might be nice for a small starter as part of a Chinese feast, rather than a lunch.  It was nice, but a bit weird.

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Another entirely new dish for me was General Tso’s seitan:  deep-fried seitan chunks in a spicy sauce.  Perhaps mine was saucier than it should have been, as I used a full portion of sauce with a half portion of seitan, but I enjoyed that ratio.  The seitan had a lovely crispness around the edges, and the sauce was lovely, if a bit spicy.  The recipe called for chilli flakes on top of the sriracha, but I wisely decided that one dose of heat would be enough.  It was a great dish.

mu-shu-pancakes-2

We ate the mu shu pancakes on Chinese New Year itself, and they were time consuming (it does tell you how long each recipe takes, but somehow I didn’t quite believe it would be a two hour affair).  Forming the pancakes was a wee bit fiddly, but everything else was quite straight forward. I followed Isa’s suggestion of adding some seitan to beef it up into a main course, and the final result was lovely.  I’d never had mu shu pancakes before, so I wasn’t really sure what I was aiming for, and I’d describe them as burritos with Asian flavours.  The dough was really dry at the start and needed a good kneading, but it turned out fine.  I would definitely make these again.

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Dr HH’s face lit up when he saw the tofu short ribs with gingery root veg mash, so I had to make this over the Chinese New Year period in January. I wasn’t sure how well the mash would work with the ribs, but actually it was a good combo (I’ll still probably just serve them with rice next time, for ease).  The sauce on the ribs was the real highlight, it was sweet and sticky and wonderful.

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I served the Peking portobellos alongside the ribs, and found them a very good match.  The mushrooms were so good, and they soaked up the flavour from the sauce very well.  We don’t have a grill, so I just roasted them instead, and I don’t think they suffered.

 

4.Valentine’s Day

Dr HH and I are not romantic people in the hearts and flowers sense, but we certainly use food to show our devotion to each other and to celebrate our special events.  As such, I really enjoyed trying the recipes in this section.

almond-crusted-french-toast-5

The almond-crusted French toast was semi-successful. The first slice I fried was golden brown, crisp and perfectly cooked. All the subsequent slices were slightly blackened and also underdone.  Isa warns in the instructions not to burn the nuts, but I don’t understand how to achieve this. Cook them at a lower heat and sacrifice the texture of the toast?  Once I’d pulled off a lot of the blackened nuts, it was delicious.  I’d like to eat it again, but need to refine my technique, clearly.

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The broccoli strata was my choice for our anniversary breakfast.  I fried the veg and made the custard the night before, and assembled it in the morning.  Unfortunately, I think the custard thickened a bit overnight, so there wasn’t quite as much liquid as I would have liked.  But it was delicious nonetheless!  There were some nice crispy bits of bread on top, and the softer, almost omelettey bottom contrasted wonderfully.  For fairly minimal effort, it was a fancy and impressive breakfast.  Usually my special-occasion-breakfasts are sweet, so Dr HH was pleasantly surprised.

sweet-potato-soup-2

I was a little anxious about making the sweet potato soup, as I feared the addition of vanilla would make it nauseatingly sweet.  This is yet another example of the importance of always having faith in Isa:  the lime juice and generous helping of chilli flakes maintained the perfect balance.

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I made the green lasagna rolls for our anniversary meal in January.  I liked the fact that there were lots of little tasks I could do throughout the day, rather than one huge chaotic cooking session in the evening:  I made the white sauce nice and early, did some shopping, made the pesto, had a lunch break, made the ricotta…it was a pleasant way to cook.

The rolling, however, was less pleasant.  It turns out that when you cook a load of sheets of lasagna, they all just stick together.  Fortunately I had enough supplies to start afresh.  Even the sheets that tore held up fine in the dish.  I popped the leftover pesto on the top for the last five minutes of cooking time.  It was a delicious dish! The pesto and the garlicky spinach were wonderful together.  This was one of those dishes where I really wish there’d been a picture as I had absolutely no idea what I was aiming for.

I only just got round to making the porcini-crusted tofu, and I wish I tried it sooner – it’s fantastic!  I’m currently wondering if I can persuade my family to try this for Christmas dinner.  The tofu is marinated first and then coated in ground porcini and breadcrumbs and fried to perfection. It is so flavoursome, I really couldn’t get enough of it!  The gravy was surprisingly bland, but there was enough flavour in the tofu to balance it out anyway.

arancini-2

I made the arancini for Dr HH’s birthday feast, and they were a huge hit.  I made arancini before in my non-vegan days, and they used to fall apart quite a bit, so I took some extra precautions to make these hold their shape.  I made the risotto bright and early in the morning, and left it to cool for hours, then formed the arancini an hour or two before cooking so they had plenty of time to hold their shape.  I was worried that they wouldn’t cook right the way through when frying as they were so hefty (the recipe alternately calls for 16 and 8 balls, and I ended up with 13), so I popped them straight into the oven after frying to keep them nice and warm.

And they were so delicious!  The crumb coating was lovely, the flavours were simple, the cheese didn’t really get gooey, but it was nicely cooked just the same.  Most importantly, Dr HH was very impressed.

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On February 15th, while Dr HH was on half-term holidays, he whipped up the cauliflower tikka masala and pistachio lentil biryani.  Tikka masala is famously a dish that was invented to placate British taste buds, and as such Dr HH had never actually tried it before (he has Indian roots, so he eats the real deal).  Even he really enjoyed it though!  It was very flavoursome and creamy, and the balance of spices was just right.  He also said it was very easy to make.  We’ll certainly be revisiting these two!

My bundt tin is buried somewhere in my mum’s loft, so I when I made this chocolate yoghurt bundt cake I made them in little cake cases, with the bonus that they were suitable for packed lunches. They were pretty rich cakes – there was a lot of cocoa and chocolate in there – and I found them a touch dry, but they were really tasty.  Probably not an everyday bake for me, given how decadent they were.

 

5.Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is Pancake Day to most people in the UK, so I was very disappointed to find no pancake recipes in this section.  All of these dishes were unfamiliar to me, as I had no real idea what people usually eat for Mardi Gras, but I enjoyed some fun flavours.

corn-fritters-with-tomato-jam-3

The recipe for the corn fritters with tomato jam claimed to produce 18 fritters.  I made six.  They didn’t seem particularly huge either, but I’m no fritter expert.  I was worried they would be a little bland as the fritters themselves are only seasoned with salt and pepper, but there was plenty of flavour from the tomato jam to keep them interesting.  I was definitely a fan of these.

biscuits-and-white-pepper-gravy-1

I love savoury scones, so I was excited about trying the biscuits and white pepper gravy.  As someone who favours dry food, I was worried that the gravy would make the scones sloppy or detract from their loveliness, but this was in fact a winning combo.

I had no idea what cauliflower and shiitake etoufee was meant to be, but hopefully it’s meant to look something like this!  It was a little spicy for my taste, so Dr HH was a bigger fan than I was, but generally we both found it to be a tasty stew with good textures.  There was no serving suggestion, so we just scoffed it with some bread.

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The andouille and cannellini jambalaya was really delicious and easy to make. I managed to get hold of some spicy Veganz sausages, but red rice is not really an option here so I used regular old long grain.  I’m sure red would have looked prettier, but this was still extremely tasty, so who cares?!

6.Oscars Party

I love the Oscars, even though most of the big contenders haven’t been released in the UK/Europe at the time of the ceremony.  Of course, I can never watch live with a table full of nibbles because of the time difference. This year, the ceremony was ending just as Dr HH and I were having breakfast and I was checking the live BBC updates on my phone.  “Ugh, La La Land won best film,” I told Dr HH as the latest update came in.  “Ugh!” he agreed, and I put my phone down. When I checked back ten minutes later, all hell had broken loose and I frantically tried to catch up on the chaos:  “Moonlight won!  The La La Land people were mid-speech and they had to stop and give the award to Moonlight! Yes!”  Oh, how we rejoiced. Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying that we haven’t tried much from this section yet.

I find making pesto quite stressful, due to our inadequate blender, but nevertheless I resolved to try the pesto chickpea salad bruschetta.  Actually, the pesto worked a treat – it blended easily, and had loads of flavour. The coriander was a really nice touch. Please note they were much greener in real life than in this photo!

The salted caramel corn with peanuts wasn’t especially successful – I scaled down the recipe to serve two, and the caramel did not scale down particularly well (probably due to careless measuring on my part).  Also, I didn’t scale down the cooking time well and the caramel was a wee bit burned. In the end the popcorn had that pleasant sweet and salty flavour, but there wasn’t enough of the caramel and there was that slightly bitter burnt taste.  Not a great hit, but I’ll have another crack at it one day.

7.St Patrick’s Day

It seems like St Patrick’s Day is an excuse to wear green and get drunk, neither of which I’m particularly keen on.  However, I liked this section of the book because it’s mostly hearty, comforting recipes, and I am very keen on them.

I was inspired to try colcannon for the first time, and I loved it!  Dr HH and I enjoyed this the day after St Patrick’s Day, in our pyjamas, watching The West Wing, which seems like a good way to enjoy such a comforting dish.  Truthfully, mashed is one of my least favourite forms of potato, but this was a nice simple dish and I probably would have it again as a side.

I used chorizo for the pepperoni potato soup with kale, so I’m not sure how Irish it ended up being (though how Irish is pepperoni, anyway?), but I am sure it was delicious!  Actually, it would have been great without the meat slices too – the soup was really thick and flavoursome, and I loved the little flashes of green kale and orange carrot in the yellow broth.  A great spring dish!

I loved the Irish stout stew, though I made it without the stout (finding vegan stout in Prague seemed like it would be a bit of a hassle, largely because I couldn’t even be bothered googling to see what stout even is).  The potato scones were the highlight, of course, though they seemed a little underdone to me even after 25 minutes in the oven – they looked perfect on top but were still a little doughy underneath.  Maybe this is normal for potato dumplings?  The stew itself was flavoursome, and this was a good filling dish.

I was a little disappointed by the shade of my shamrockin’ shakes – not nearly as vibrant as I’d hoped.  But taste-wise, I have no complaints!  Actually, I like my shakes a little sweeter than this usually, but I’d drink it again.  Possibly with more mint, just for the colour!

8.Easter

I don’t associate Easter with any food besides chocolate, so this wasn’t a chapter that particularly called to me on my initial flick through. In the end I did make some good food from this section though!

Making the eggplant caponata bruschetta was a spur of the moment decision, and I’m really glad I went for it.  It was really easy to make, though it took a while to roast the aubergine and let everything cool to room temperature at the end.  The flavours were simple but beautiful, and caramelising the onions was a wonderful touch. We didn’t have any fresh basil in, so I just chucked some dried into the pot – less visually pleasing, but still delicious.

I wasn’t too sure about trying the devilish potatoes, never having tried devilled eggs before.  I’m glad I gambled though, because they were delicious!  The potatoes are halved and roasted, then a spoonful is scooped out and mashed up with cashew cream, turmeric and black salt for a lovely eggy bite.  I could have eaten a million of these!

The glazed tofu ham looked spectacular, but I’m not convinced it was worth the effort.  It’s in such a huge block that the marinade doesn’t get very far.  Likewise the glaze on top doesn’t have that huge an impact on the overall flavour (and how are you meant to glaze something with cloves poking out, eh?!).  It was nice when I had a flavoursome end piece, but probably not something I’d make again just because of the long preparation time.

We wolfed down the so veggie pastitsio on Easter weekend.  I’d never so much as heard of this dish before, and I would describe it as a kind of baked bolognese dish. The lentil and vegetable sauce was really nice, though I’m not sure how Isa’s photograph had such a vivid red pool of sauce underneath.  The cheese on top should be made with pine nuts, but I’m not a millionaire so I just used cashews.  I also added some nooch to the cheese sauce, as it was a little bland.  I’d also recommend sprinkling some oregano and thyme on top to give it a good flavour boost.

I transformed another cake recipe by making it as cupcakes/muffins, in this case the classic carrot cake.  It was really easy to make, and as there was quite a lot of sugar in the batter I decided not to bother icing them.  This was a good call – they were sufficiently sweet, and a beautifully spiced and sticky cake.  I’ll certainly make these again!

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I tweaked this recipe a bit.  First, as you can see, I made the glazed blueberry and meyer lemon scones using raspberries, because I hate blueberries.  And second, I made big misshapen scones rather than the nice neat triangular ones, because I was making them for breakfast and I didn’t want to waste time shaping any dough.  They were delicious!  They baked really well, and the icing was a real nice addition – the lemon juice in there really packed a punch!  I regularly use this basic recipe now to make chocolate and hazelnut scones, which I would also heartily recommend.

9.Passover

I also don’t know very much about what people eat at Passover, and I don’t really know what matzoh is or where to buy it, so that ruled out a lot of recipes here.  But I did try one!

I love both tempeh and shepherd’s pie, so the tempeh shepherd’s pie with whipped sweet potatoes was a must!  I sprinkled cheese and thyme on top before popping it in the oven and I’m glad I did, as I found the topping a bit too sweet. Maybe I’d use half sweet and half regular potatoes next time.  The filling was spot on though!  You can’t go wrong with tempeh!

 

Not a bad start, eh?  At the end of December I’ll post part two – there are still numerous Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes I need to try!  It’s been a promising start though, and hopefully you’ve already got the impression that I loved this book.  The Super Bowl section alone is worth the money. If you haven’t got your copy yet, there’s still time to stick it on your Christmas list!

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Vegan in Berlin: Brammibal’s Donuts

Vegan donuts have started popping up in Prague at last, but really, I think we have to thank Brammibal’s Donuts in Berlin for blazing that trail.  We went about a year and a half ago when they had first opened, and we were impressed.  Now, they’ve really taken off:  there were twelve varieties of donuts when we visited again recently, and a steady stream of customers even on a Monday morning.

First things first though: we were looking to spend a leisurely few hours there while waiting for our bus home, and decided to go for a savoury start to the day.  There were a few toasted sandwiches on the menu, and we both got the grilled cheese, because it’s not something we see too often.  The bread was a little sweet, but the cheese was really good, and it’s definitely worth getting in the unlikely event that you’re not coming just to fill up on donuts.

Fortunately we were hungry enough that we still had plenty of room for dessert!  After much agonising, we got two rings (salted caramel hazelnut and peanut choc sea salt) and two filled (chai custard and coconut custard ganache).  Of the rings, the peanutty one was better, just hitting the perfect balance of flavours.  The coconut custard one was the better of the filled, with very rich ganache and lovely custard oozing out. Divine!

We’re fortunate to have a donut place mere minutes from our front door in Prague that does three vegan options every day.  But Brammibal’s made me realise just how much better life could be!

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MiniMoFo: A Tale of Two Berlin Brunches

Following a month of intense cooking and blogging, November’s MiniMoFo theme of lazy is more than welcome!  I’m not sure how well this post really matches the theme – a long, leisurely brunch feels lazy and indulgent, but at the same time, someone is doing a lot of work!

For MiniMoFo, I’m taking you to Berlin.  There are many great things about Berlin:  the museums, the street art, the history. But more importantly:  the all-you-can-eat vegan brunches.  Oh yes, that’s brunches, plural.  There are a number of them available at weekends, and they’re exceedingly popular.  Last year we went to Kopps (boo!) and Alaska (woo!), and this year we tried two different ones:  playing with eels and Viasko.

playing with eels is predominantly a catering company – they only serve food from their cafe on a Saturday when brunch starts at 11am.  It’s a nice cafe with mismatched furniture and fun art work, and when we were there every table was booked, so make sure you get a reservation – I did so via their website.

We arrived at 11am on the dot, and were the first people to the buffet.  But don’t worry, we didn’t eat it all!  It was such as incredible spread – various kinds of bread, numerous dips,and a whole host of vegetable and grain concoctions.

Apparently I was too excited to take a steady picture of any of our plates – this is the only passable one, though you can be sure we had more than just the one helping!  We loved all the different spreads we tried (including a couple of butters that were wonderfully rich and creamy), and the pasta dishes were nice too. There were some aubergine slices, along with an aubergine and lentil dish, which were both beautiful. Dr HH was particularly taken with some spicy, peanut buttery dish he stumbled upon, and kept trying to force me to try some as well!

There was so much choice, and some really creative dishes – there was nothing here that I looked at and thought, ‘Meh, I could have that any old time.’  Clearly a lot of effort went into it.  Our only complaint was that everything was cold, even the dishes that would have been better warm, but as you can see from the picture of the full table, it was quite the spread, so it would be difficult to keep everything hot.

On to the dessert section, which was rather spectacular. There was some granola, yoghurt and chocolate cream, plus fruit salad (yawn – we kept things as unhealthy as possible with just granola and chocolate cream!).  There were some little chocolate brownie squares and a fruity streusel square, both of which were nice.

Best of all was the rice pudding, which was so comforting and beautifully spiced – even though it wasn’t warm, it felt extremely warming!  And finally, the Bounty pudding:  chocolate sponge, a creamy coconut layer and dark chocolate on top. I wish I’d had room for more helpings of this.  In fact, maybe I’d go back and just eat my money’s worth of rice pudding and Bounty pudding!

It was €13 all-you-can-eat, and everything was just wonderful.  We didn’t really need to eat again for the rest of the day! I loved the atmosphere and decor too, and it seemed like a very friendly and relaxing place to while away a few lazy Saturday hours.

The next day we went to Viasko – again, we had a reservation and it was pretty busy, so I don’t think it would hurt to do the same.  Also they have a sign on the door warning that people in fur and other animal products won’t be welcome (or even just materials that resemble fur), so be careful if you’re wearing a fake fur or fake leather coat!    We ended up sitting in a kind of cavern downstairs from the buffet, so the light wasn’t great.  The buffet table itself was far too crowded for pictures, more’s the pity, so you’ll just have to see what we ate.

The best thing about this buffet was the deep-fried stuff!  As well as battered veg, there was also a crispy spring roll and two breadcrumbed meaty chunks.  We also had some lovely marinated mushrooms, a pretty bland little vegetable wrap, and some gnocchi which was actually the most flavoursome dish on offer!

For round two, we focussed more on the meat and bread side of things. Here we have a little Caprese salad, some tasty olives and antipasti, one of several dips on offer, and a nice slab of seitan. Alongside the regular crusty bread roll is a salty pretzel roll, and I probably don’t need to tell you that it was a real highlight.

Dr HH is an unstoppable eating machine, so he also went for a third plate with some baked beans and sausages, tofu scramble (both of these were warm), more mushrooms, ground seitan and some tempeh.  He was very happy with the seasoning and temperature of everything here!

Eventually we were ready for the sweets, which were less exciting than the day before.  We had a little chocolate cake and another fruity streusel square, both of which were nice but unremarkable.  The real highlight was the pancake though!  It was good and pillowy, and cut into manageable pieces.

Viasko was a wee bit more expensive at €14, and it lacked the relaxing atmosphere as we were in a little cavern -it was quite dark and loud.  The savouries were delicious though.

As you can see, we were extremely well-served by these two vegan brunches and would happily return to both! Ultimately I think we both agreed that the choice at playing with eels was better and much more inventive, but the food was kept warmer at Viasko.  For anyone with a sweet tooth, proceed straight to playing with eels and dive into those puddings!

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Vegan in Manchester: Trof NQ

The Northern Quarter is one of my favourite parts of Manchester.  It has it all:  independent shops, ever-changing street art, and plenty of vegan options!  Trof NQ is just one of the omni places that is happily catering to vegans, so we decided to check it out over the summer holiday.

Dr HH had the full vegan breakfast, and had one obvious complaint:  that tomato you see was stone cold.  Not even grilled!  (Actually, there was also a second complaint:  no spread on the toast.)  Besides that, he was very impressed. Under the hash brown you can see a breadcrumbed avocado, which was just sensational!  Everything else was good too, though a touch under-seasoned for his taste.  Even though there were no meat substitutes, he was very full and satisfied.

I got the hash, which combined sweet potato, mushrooms, spinach and cashews (you can add vegan black pudding for an extra £2).  It was perfectly seasoned, with a healthy dose of chilli and some fresh herbs too.  It was also good and filling.

There are also four lunch/dinner options:  a vegan burger, sweet potato falafel, a balti and a superfood salad. Of course, I got the burger – excuse the terrible photo, clearly I was too excited.  The patty was made with beetroot, white beans and cashews.  Not only was it really hearty and flavoursome, it was also a beautiful bright pink on the inside!  There was plenty of guacamole and some spicy sauce on the top bun, making it extra delicious.  And the portion of chips was huge!  This is highly recommended, and not even just as a back-up for when you’re with meat eaters/vegetarians – even a group of vegans (what is the collective noun for us?) would be perfectly satisfied.

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