Cookbook of the Month: Oh She Glows Every Day

Whenever I’m asked for advice on going vegan, the Oh She Glows book is one of my first recommendations.  I absolutely love it, and still turn to it for a number of the soups, breakfasts, and that life-affirming dip.  It was the book that inspired me to start my cookbook of the month posts, and I used it so much that it actually required two separate posts (here and here).  So it’s safe to say I had high expectations for the follow up, Oh She Glows Every Day.  And I can’t quite put my finger on the reason, but it didn’t quite live up to its predecessor.

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I fell in love with the shakes in the original book, and used to make one each for Dr HH and I every day.  When we moved abroad I stopped doing that, but maybe I should restart.  The salted chocolate hemp shake for two instantly jumped out at me, and I’ll definitely make it again: it was so easy to drink, and had a lovely salty, chocolatey taste.

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Surprisingly, I wasn’t that inspired by the breakfast section, and I only made the one morning dish.  My roasted hazelnut almond granola clusters didn’t necessarily turn out as clusters, but they were tasty.  Roasting the nuts first gave them a lovely flavour.

Now that spring has sprung, I’m willing to introduce a few salads to the packed lunch rotation.  This protein power rainbow quinoa salad was tasty, though not particularly rainbow-y.   The dressing was a little too sharp for me, so I’d scale back the red wine vinegar a bit, but otherwise this was quick, easy and tasty.  I liked anything that brings chickpeas into my life.

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Onto the soups!  I made the creamy Thai carrot sweet potato soup with the last of my precious supply of vegan red curry paste. It was simple and tasty, and I loved the creaminess from the almond butter.  This is my kind of soup.

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Trying to get all six vegetables for the six vegetable and cheese soup was no mean feat, considering I live next to the worst supermarket in the world. They have now added broccoli to the list of basic ingredients they don’t sell, and they’ve never stocked sweet potatoes either, so that’s two of the six that required a trip further afield.  It was worth a little effort: it was a thick, hearty and flavoursome soup.

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The metabolism-revving spicy cabbage soup was a strange choice for my first recipe from the book, because cabbage soup has quite the bad reputation.  Actually though, it was delicious!  There was plenty of flavour from the nine spice mix, and some good texture thanks to the lentils and potato chunks. Dr HH and I both thoroughly enjoyed it.

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The golden French lentil stew was a big hit!  There was a nice variety of vegetables, and the cashews added a good nutty taste.  We’ve already had this a couple of times.

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These days I’m eating more pasta at home, so I gave the fusilli lentil mushroom bolognese a go.  It was delicious!  I have a go-to bolognese recipe, but this one might replace it.  The flavours were great and the big mushroom slices added a lovely earthy quality.

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I’m a big fan of shepherd’s pie,and this recipe did not let me down.  I loved all the mushrooms and lentils, and will certainly make this again – possibly with a sweet potato topping.

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The sweet potato, chickpea and spinach coconut curry was very quick and easy to make, and is a good one to throw together in an emergency (unless, like me, you live near a supermarket that does not stock spinach). It turned out a touch too sweet for our tastes, but generally it was good.  I’d make it again, but tweak the seasoning somewhat.

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I made the comforting red lentil and chickpea curry with tom yam paste rather than red curry paste, because that’s the only vegan one I had access to at the time.  It was delicious! Again, it’s easy, filling food.

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The sun dried tomato pasta was extremely easy, though of course I had to make it without spinach because, in case I haven’t mentioned it enough, my local supermarket is rubbish.  The creamy sauce is just blended cashews, garlic and sun dried tomatoes, which makes it extremely easy to throw together. Simple, familiar flavours.

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I really enjoyed the cookies I made from the first book, so I decided to give these flourless peanut butter cookies a go too.  I would strongly urge you to do the same:  they were quick and easy, and really delicious!  They were oaty, coconutty, peanutty and chocolatey. Those are some of my favourite adjectives.

There wasn’t a bad recipe in the ones I tried, and there are certainly things I’m adding to my regular rotation.  However, I wasn’t as inspired by the book as last time – I wasn’t really motivated to make any of the other dishes.  This is at least partly because it’s not always easy for me to get hold of the necessary ingredients here in Prague, so I had to rule some things out right from the start. I would still recommend this book, but it will always be in the shadow of the original for me.

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Vegan in Prague: Pastva

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The most famous sight in Prague is probably the Charles Bridge, the magnificent stone thoroughfare over the Vltava, marked with statues and constantly swarming with tourists.  Crossing that bridge always brings out conflicting emotions in me:  frustration at how slowly people walk, and delight at the ridiculous poses people strike for their selfies.  Perhaps because of that, I tend to think of crossing the river at all as stressful – even on public transport over one of the many other bridges.

That is the only possible reason that it took me over one year to finally get around to visiting Pastva, one of Prague’s multitude of all-vegan restaurants.  I’ve seen it recommended dozens of times, but on a Friday night Dr HH and I always struggle to motivate ourselves to venture across the river – even if it is only about 5 minutes longer than the trip into the city centre.

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But we finally made it there, and I’m glad we did!  It’s a bright, breezy place with fast service and an English menu (hurray!).  Also, rather endearingly, there were several doggie bowls of water on the floor for furry friends (Czechs love taking their dogs everywhere with them, and it took me a while to get used to seeing them in restaurants.  Now I quite enjoy seeing them, as long as they keep their distance and don’t give me puppy-dog-eyes while I’m trying to enjoy some cake).

The menu changes quite regularly, and the online version didn’t quite match the one when we arrived.  There were so many good options, it was really tricky to narrow it down!  Eventually Dr HH and I both ordered burgers.  His was a Thai burger with peanut sauce dripping down it.  The patty was made of sweet potato and chickpea, and it was tasty but not really spicy, as you might expect from the “Thai” aspect.

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Mine was this Latin burger, made with kidney beans, mushrooms and coriander.  The patty was really hearty and flavoursome, and the salsa on top was very tasty too.  Both burgers had really good buns, but were too huge and/or sloppy to lift up – yes, it was a knife-and-fork affair.  I was ashamed.  The sweet potato fries were ok, but as with all sweet potato fries, they just weren’t crispy.  Dr HH’s potato slices were better.

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Even though the burgers were very substantial, we decided that in the name of research we simply must press on and have some cake!  There were four or five to choose from in the display counter, and Dr HH opted for this strawberry and coconut one.  There was a layer of strawberry slices hiding in there, and it was a good sponge too.  He really enjoyed it.

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Mine wins though, if only on size!  The chocolate sponge was nice and not remotely dry, as some chocolate cakes can be.  The layer of chocolate cream and banana was fantastic, and my only complaint is that I wanted more of the nutty caramel on top!

I went back to Pastva with my mum during her visit in October to try out the lunchtime menu.  Like most Czech establishments, they have a set menu for lunch:  soup as an optional starter, and a choice of 2-3 main dishes, changing on a daily basis.  I find these things can be a bit hit and miss, but it really depends on whether or not you’re a picky eater.  Pastva was absolutely heaving when we visited, but we squeezed in and chose from the three mains.

pastva-beet-bourguinon

My mum really enjoyed the beet bourguinon.  She doesn’t like ‘meaty’ protein sources like tempeh and tofu, so this was a good option for her.  The flavours were good and earthy, she was delighted with the pickled onions on top, and it was a lovely autumnal dish.

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I love tofu, so I chose the ginger squash and smoked tofu with jasmine rice and peanuts.  The smoked tofu was nice, but otherwise it was quite bland, unfortunately – I was expecting a bit of a kick to it, but it was in desperate need of some seasoning.  I wish I had also ordered the bourguinon.

When we went back again in January, I had the same burger again while Dr HH tried a new addition to the menu:  the quinoa and kimchi burger.  It was unusual, but he really enjoyed it.  We both got regular chips on the side this time, which was an obvious improvement:  everybody favours a good old fashioned chip, surely?

I was instantly impressed with Pastva and am adding it to our regular rotation of restaurants – even if it is all the way across the river!

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MiniMoFo: The Pasta Factory, Manchester

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March’s MiniMoFo prompt is for filled or stuffed food.  It seems like the ideal time to share a meal that consisted of both sweet and savoury ravioli!

I don’t know about you, but for me the name The Pasta Factory conjures up a fast food place:  cheap, cheerful pasta dishes.  In reality though, it’s a lovely restaurant just outside the Northern Quarter in Manchester, with fresh, delicious Italian food and a very respectable vegan menu.  It’s also a bit pricey, so be aware of that before you go.  Also note that not all the dishes from the online menu are available on the day, so don’t pin your hopes too much on one specific dish in advance.

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There were vegan options on both the lunch menu (cheaper, but less exciting dishes – things like arrabbiata) and the main menu, which had three good options, and a veganisable starter platter.  I only had a main this time, and this mushroom ravioli jumped off the page.  It was absolute perfection:  earthy mushroom flavour, perfectly cooked pasta, truffle and oil for taste.

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Oh, and vegan parmesan as well!

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Good news on the dessert front:  there is a chocolate ravioli dish on the main menu which is vegan, and always a vegan sorbet on the board (it was coffee and amaretto when we visited).  You can never have too much ravioli, I always say, so I got this as well.  The chocolate pasta was nice, and there was a nice fig filling and coconut chips, but honestly all the flavours could have been stronger.  Still, this is a small complaint:  it was lovely.

I very rarely order pasta when I eat out, so a pasta restaurant was an unusual choice for me.  I think it’s hard to be bowled over by pasta, but this place really did the trick.  It was very impressive.

Even more impressive:  all the wine and beer was vegan.  Cheers to that!

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Top 5 UK Vegan Products

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Living abroad has many perks, but of course there’s a downside too.  Quite often my students in Prague ask me what I miss most about the UK.  Next time someone asks, I shall refer them to this post! Here are the top 5 products I really wish I could get in the Czech Republic, and always have waiting for me when I pop back home.

1. Brothers Toffee Apple Cider

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I’m not a big cider drinker, but this one is so sweet and delicious I just love it.  It may permanently be on offer in the supermarket as well, which doesn’t hurt.

2. Superdrug Coconut Conditioner

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In the UK, Superdrug shops are everywhere and most (all?) of their own toiletries are labelled vegan and are reasonably-priced.  I don’t know anything similar in Prague, where I’ve only found vegan toiletries in vegan grocery shops and they cost an absolute fortune – so much so that I can’t really justify buying conditioner.  So it’s nice to get home and use this affordable and effective conditioner and have lovely hair again for a couple of weeks.

3.  Morrisons Garlic Pizza Bread

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I don’t think I ever truly appreciated how wonderful garlic pizza bread is until I went vegan and realised that they all contain butter.  And then this accidentally vegan version appeared!  It’s such a great accompaniment to an Italian dish – or, as we discovered during a fit of summer idleness, an accompaniment to oven chips.

4.  Lazy Days Ginger Tiffin

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It’s impossible to overstate how good these are.  The Lazy Days range includes rocky road and millionaire’s shortbread, amongst others, but these ginger ones are my favourite.

5. Jus-rol 

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Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of fancy breakfasts, and always rustle up something exciting at weekends.  When I’m in the UK, these Jus-rol chocolate croissants and cinnamon swirls make that much easier for me.  They are not time consuming at all, and the results are, unsurprisingly, absolutely spot on.

 

What vegan products do you just hate to be without?

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Cookbook of the Month: Vegan Brunch

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Much like Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, I am a big fan of breakfast food.  As such, a month of  Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Brunch recipes sounded pretty exciting, but I actually made recipes from this over the course of two months, so as not to spend thirty days eating pancakes and tofu scramble.  It was a very enjoyable two months, I can tell you!  Here’s what I made:

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These are the perfect pancakes.  Perhaps you can spot that they’re not so perfect, but it’s definitely not the fault of the recipe.  I bounced out of bed bright and early, ready to get these pancakes on the go.  When I flipped the first one, I saw that it was covered in black marks from the coating of the pan chipping away.  Not to worry, because we have a spare frying pan.  Alas, it was not non-stick, and the first pancake ended up more like a scramble from where I was scraping it off the bottom in my attempted flip.  So, eventually, the mixture ended up in the oven and made like a tray bake.  It looked weird, but it was delicious, which I suppose is the main thing.

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The next week I picked up a fancy new non-stick frying pan and tested it out on these peanut butter waffles, made as pancakes.  The batter seemed a little thick for pancakes, so I thinned it out with a little more milk.  They cooked really quickly and easily (possibly thanks to the pan, which was a definite upgrade), and the peanut flavour was just perfect.  A real breakfast treat.

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Dr HH gave the pancake treatment to the gingerbread waffles, and they were also good.  He wasn’t very happy with how he cooked them – the dark colour of the batter makes it a bit more difficult to judge the cooking – but the result was pleasing.  The molasses gave it a slightly harsh taste, but the spices were lovely and it was another excellent breakfast.  This time the batter seemed too thin initially, so he added quite a bit more flour to give it a good pancake texture.

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I don’t really know much about purchasing vegan beer in Prague, so I made the chocolate and beer waffles as pancakes with extra milk, rather than beer.  They turned out really thick and delicious – almost like eating actual cake for breakfast.  I’m going to keep this as my decadent breakfast choice.

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The banana rabanda (Brazilian French toast) sounded too exciting to pass by.  It was easy to make, though there was 20 minutes of soaking time to factor in (not active cooking time, but still – I don’t like waiting for breakfast!).  Dr HH was confused by the lack of bananas on display, but in fact they’re blended into the milky custard for soaking.  The flavour definitely comes through.  I’ll make this again – it was especially nice with the serving suggestion of cocoa/cinnamon dusting and a swirl of maple syrup.

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I combined the basic scrambled tempeh with the rosemary and paprika roast potatoes.  It amuses me that Americans think of roast potatoes as brunch food, whereas Brits think of them as Sunday dinner fare.  The roasties were good and crispy, and I like that there are lots of variations suggested in the book.  The tempeh was fantastic!  I steamed it first, because I find tempeh quite bitter otherwise.  I tried to crumble it a bit too, to get that scrambled texture.  It was flavoursome and good.

vegan-brunch-puttanesca-scramble

The puttanesca scramble was a nice variation on our usual tofu scramble.  The olives and capers brought some nice pockets of flavour, and it was nice and easy to throw together, even in a sleepy state.

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Mom’s morning casserole took a while to assemble, but was definitely worth the effort. It consisted of a layer of thinly sliced potato, creamy tofu, crumbled fennely tempeh and a good savoury cheese sauce.  I wasn’t really thrilled with the texture of the cheesy sauce (it could have been thicker), but I can’t complain about the taste – it was excellent!  The dish as a whole was extremely filling and really tasty.

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I would never think of risotto as brunch food, so we had this fennel risotto for dinner.  As Isa suggested, I topped it with smoky shiitakes, which really elevated it.  The risotto was lovely (I do like fennel seeds), and it was a really flavoursome dish.

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I followed Isa’s recommendation, of course, and served the samosa mashed potato pancakes and curried cauliflower frittata together.  They were both a little problematic.  Despite all the flour I added and the 24 hours to set in the fridge, the potato cakes were still a bit too sloppy.  They tasted delicious, but were a little oily.

The frittata was excellent, but the texture was a bit too crumbly, which is a problem I consistently have when following American recipes that call for extra firm tofu and want me to turn into something ricotta-like.  Maybe European tofu is too firm, because it’s just impossible to get a smooth, creamy texture.  I felt like silken tofu would have been more successful.  The taste was spot on though, and it held together reasonably well.

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I did a bit of baking too, though not for breakfast, alas.  The East Coast Coffee Cake is mercifully coffee-free:  it’s just meant to be an accompaniment to the hideous hot beverage.  There are a few varieties suggested in the book, and I went for chocolate chip, unsurprisingly.  We only had granulated sugar in, which made the crumble a bit too grainy, so definitely follow the sugar recommendation in the recipe.  Nevertheless, it was delicious.

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And some more baking, this time actually for breakfast.  I added hazelnuts to these chocolate chip scones, and they were very good indeed.  I had to put a bit more flour in to get the dough to resemble what a British person would consider a scone dough, but it still wasn’t suitable for rolling out, hence these wild shapes.  But they were hearty and especially delicious fresh from the oven on a gloomy autumn morning.

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As I am a terrible bread maker, I always call on Dr HH to tackle any recipes involving yeast and kneading.  He turned his hand to these cinnamon rolls, and they were, unsurprisingly, delicious.  He’s previously made the Minimalist Baker rolls, and said there wasn’t much difference between the two recipes in terms of ease and final result.

I absolutely loved this book, and it’s one that I’m likely to dip into again as I enjoy treating myself to a decadent breakfast at the weekend.  There are lots of recipes in there, and lots of simple variations which allow you to easily adapt things and make the dish a little bit different every time. Fellow breakfast fans, you definitely need to get your hands on a copy!

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Vegan in Prague: Etnosvet Bistro

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It’s entirely possible that I am never going to run out of vegan eateries to review in Prague:  there are so many of them!  Last year I told you about Etnosvet,  a fancy vegetarian restaurant.  Well, here’s it’s all-vegan spin-off, located just around the corner.  It’s open 8am-3pm and regularly has breakfast dishes (including chia pudding and open sandwiches), panini, soups, pizza by the slice, a baked good or two and four more substantial lunch options:  fried sushi, Asian noodle salad, bao bun and a burger.

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I first went there in October when Mama HH was visiting.  My mum had the Asian noodle salad:  glass noodles with beansprouts, tofu strips, courgette, red cabbage, coriander and peanuts.  It was very tasty, though there was a bitter taste coming from something she couldn’t place.  Generally, it was light and refreshing.

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I had the bao buns with smoky tempeh, and they were delightful!  They were very messy to eat, but the dressing had a nice bit of spice and it was worth getting my hands dirty.  The tempeh was especially delicious, but isn’t it always?  Dr HH had these the next time we visited, and he was also a big fan.

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And I’ve also tried the burger, which was surprisingly hearty!  It’s the most expensive item on the menu, but I still wasn’t expecting it to be quite such a beast.  Actually, there was no burger patty, but the brioche-style bun was filled with delicious shiitake mushrooms and thinly sliced veg.  The dressing was quite similar to the ban bun, actually.  I was expecting a handful of chips on the side, but check out that gigantic bowl of French fries!  They were accompanied by bean sprouts, peanuts and sauce.  Personally, I’m a huge fan of the dry chip, but Dr HH helped me out and he certainly wasn’t complaining about the accompaniments.

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And just last week we finally tried the fried sushi.  We both absolutely love fried sushi, and the crispy texture here really didn’t disappoint.  The mayo and spicy sauce were great additions too, and there was also a pot of soy sauce.  We both enjoyed it, and my only complaint is that the filling was a little boring.  Avocado is always a winner, but the tomato was quite squishy and didn’t really add much flavour.  Some smoked tofu or shiitake would have packed a bit more of a punch.  That said, I would definitely have this again, and it’s my joint favourite with the bao bun.

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There’s always a little sweet treat in stock as well, and many moons ago Dr HH and I picked these up:  a little muffin and an apple rose pastry.  Both were really good.

I’m not the biggest fan of Etnosvet, because their menu is very limited for vegans (though I hear they have now added a vegan dessert, which is something).  But this vegan branch just around the corner is so fantastic.  It’s still a little pricey, but the food is good quality, it’s always warm in there (which is wonderful during the icy winters), and the staff are lovely.  Even if the main restaurant isn’t that helpful for vegans, the fact that they’d open up a second little branch just for us is really appreciated.  My next mission is to try them out for breakfast – if only they opened at the weekend!

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MiniMoFo: A Love Affair with Pizza

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February’s MiniMoFo prompt is the colour red, in keeping with the romantic mood this month.  I was racking my brains thinking of a red meal I’d had at a restaurant that I could review, when Dr HH pointed out the obvious:  pizza!  Not only is it red (at least partially), but I also love it, so it’s a good Valentine’s Day choice.  Here are some of my top vegan pizza choices.

dough

On our second date, Dr HH and I went to Dough in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.  It was my first ever vegan pizza, and it was delicious!  The restaurant also serves meat and dairy, but they make it clear which things can be veganised and have nice cheese options.  I usually go for the mushroom pizza, but one time I clearly went crazy and had lots of veg too.

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Also in Manchester, never overlook HOME, the independent cinema with its own restaurant.  There are two vegan pizza options on the menu, though I’ve only tried this one.  Pine nuts on a pizza are always classy.

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The Deaf Institute also has a vegan flatbread pizza on the menu, and Dr HH ordered it while we were home over Christmas.  It was really tasty, and he was a fan of the cashew cream on the side.

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In Prague, we usually get out pizza at Pizzeria Manna, which has a separate vegan build-your-own pizza menu.  They have the best cheese ever – read more in my full blog post over here.

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And I once had a cauliflower pizza at Puro (a great vegan cafe here in Prague – read all about it here). The base was cauliflower, rather than bread, and it was very good indeed.

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We’ve had a few pizzas on the road too, starting with this one at Trattoria Ponte Verde in Berlin.  As usual, I played it relatively safe with just mushrooms and olives.

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And I was absolutely giddy to try my first vegan calzone at O Mamma Mia in Stockholm back in summer 2014.  Cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes and ham:  never a bad combination.

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And at Christmas 2015 I had this amazing meat feast pizza at Napfenyes Etterem in Budapest – possibly the best pizza I’ve had!  (Read more here.)

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Last year I also discovered the joys of vegan frozen pizza.  I picked this up at the World Vegan shop in Prague, and it has become my treat if I’m having a night in alone.  The cheese is nice, but I’m all about the ham pieces:  delicious!

What’s your number one vegan pizza spot? Let me know if there’s somewhere I really need to try!

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