I was back in the kitchen this month after taking the summer off. Dr HH did all of the cooking in August, and I was quite keen to get back into the kitchen (and put everything back in its rightful place – he had some funny ideas about where to store the mixing bowls and chopping boards).
In September I cooked from Vegan Bowl Attack, another book based on a blog. I think the ‘bowl’ concept has truly reached Europe now, but I still find it a bit too much hard work, as someone who likes to minimise worknight cooking time (not to mention washing up). So how did I cope with a whole month of bowls? Well, for a start, I did a lot of tweaking!
There is a breakfast section, happily. The first recipe in the book is for Chai waffle stick dippers, which is another way of saying ‘waffles chopped into strips’. As always, I made the waffle recipe as pancakes instead, and left the pancakes intact. I was a little worried that the batter was too strongly chai-flavoured, but they were so delicious and did indeed taste like a good chai latte. Success! This was such a nice weekend breakfast.
I was also somewhat concerned about the sesame apricot granola. I like hummus as much as the next vegan, but I wasn’t sure about adding tahini to my sweet, crunchy granola. When I nibbled a little fresh from the oven, my worst fears were confirmed: it tasted quite strongly of sesame. But the next morning with the usual dollop of fruity yoghurt, it was mild and delightful! I wonder if there’s a mistake with the cooking time – it says just 10 minutes in the oven, which wasn’t long enough for it to go crispy. Otherwise, worth a gamble!
The peanut butter pretzel oatmeal sounded very exciting – however, the excitement largely comes from an American product (peanut butter pretzels) that are added to the porridge. Unsurprisingly, they are not available in the Czech Republic. We decided that chocolate would make a suitably indulgent replacement. It was a really tasty breakfast bowl – a bit like eating a Snickers for breakfast, which is no bad thing.
The loaded potato breakfast bowl was the latest in my fairly frustrating adventures with American hash recipes. American friends, help me out: do you parboil the potatoes first? Do you chop the potatoes into the teeniest, tiniest pieces? I don’t understand how a recipe can tell me to just fry chunks of potato in oil and expect them to be properly cooked in under thirty minutes. Every time, I give it a try as the recipe commands, and every time I’m flummoxed. I added a tin of chopped tomatoes to try to add some liquid to the cooking process, but still the potatoes ended up a bit hard.
Dr HH really enjoyed this dish, but I found the coconut milk in the mushroom gravy a little overpowering. I would make it again, but use rice milk instead.
I only made one dish from the snacks section, and it was these tikka cauliflower chunks. They were quite easy to make, and the yoghurt coating was really delicious. My only complaint is that they were quite dry, so a dipping sauce would be good – Dr HH enjoyed them with some hot sauce.
Onto the salads and soups section. As soon as I saw this title, I was excited: banh mi panzanella salad. A deconstructed sandwich! What’s not to love?! It was every bit as good as I’d hoped, and worth the effort of pickling the veg, toasting the bread, coating and baking the mushrooms, etc. Sometimes I’m a little too lazy for dishes with lots of separate elements and lots of washing up, but this was definitely worth it. Just before we tucked in, Dr HH said, “I’m not sure if I like kale.” Fortunately, it turns out that he is a fan! This is highly recommended, and has been added to my regular rotation.
I made the roasted pumpkin quinoa salad using butternut squash instead of pumpkin and spinach instead of chard. It was nice, but not spectacular – I think it needed more seasoning, more of a wow factor. It was easy to make, and we took it with us to watch the canoe slalom world championship by the Vltava in Prague. Good picnic food!
The roasted cauliflower tomato soup was so good! There was a lot of chunky produce in there, so it was more of a stew than a soup, which is perfect for me. Roasting the cauliflower first really made it extra delicious. I’ll have this again!
The cheezy potato soup was also very good indeed! I added too much tomato paste, hence it looks a bit orange, but the flavours were still as they should be. The temeph bacon was the real highlight. I kept a few strips for garnish, and chopped the rest and added it to the soup, which made some nice little flavour explosions. Delightful!
The white bean garlic bisque was very garlicky, and very delicious! I wish it had been a bit thicker though – stumbling across a bean that had survived the blitzing was the real highlight, so a thicker broth with a few beany chunks would make this perfect.
I made the smoky corn chowder bread bowl without the bread bowl, because it was for a packed lunch. I thought it was a pretty average chowder, but Dr HH absolutely raved about it, so it must have had something going for it!
The sweet potato eggplant curry was also in the soup section, though we had it as a main. I cooked the rice separately, rather than chucking it in with the curry as suggested, so I didn’t add the full requirement of stock. I used some red curry paste because it needed using, and smoked tofu, because that is all my local supermarket stocks (not that I’m complaining). It made really generous portions, I approved of the heartiness: plenty of sweet potato and aubergine in there, lots of flavour, really delicious.
And the tempeh stout chilli was in the soup section as well. I didn’t crumble the tempeh, but cut it into gigantic chunks, as you can see. It was excellent! Actually, the chilli itself wasn’t the most exciting, but the tempeh was such a good addition.
Onto the mains! I’m a bit late with the mac’n’cheese love. I avoided all such recipes for years, but in the last few months I’ve discovered that it is truly a thing of beauty. As such, I was really looking forward to the buffalo chickpea mac’n’cheeze, and it didn’t disappoint.
Truthfully, I ditched various elements. I roasted the chickpeas in hot sauce, not buffalo sauce (the recipe calls for “your favourite vegan buffalo sauce” which is a baffling sentence to me). I didn’t serve it with lettuce, because the thought of cold, soggy lettuce with this was unappealing. And I didn’t make any ranch dressing for drizzling. Just good old-fashioned macaroni cheese with spicy roasted chickpeas on top. The cheese sauce was really good and creamy, and the chickpeas, while a bit too spicy for me, were a good touch. A fun take on a classic.
The recipe for the seitan satay bowl with peanut sauce was a little daunting because there were so many elements. It turned out not so tricky though, and I would recommend it. We don’t have a grill, so I baked the seitan in the marinade and it was fine. I considered leaving out the peanut sauce, because peanuts upon peanuts can be a bit much, but it was really zingy and actually a nice addition. I would leave out the cucumbers next time though – they were a bit unnecessary, and the garlicky kale was a much better addition. Also, I hate cucumbers.
I love a good shepherd’s pie, but I was a little wary of this upside down shepherd’s pie, possibly because by serving the mash at the bottom it completely takes away the “pie” element. I know it’s completely illogical to say that it would have been better the right way up, but that’s genuinely how I feel. It was fine, and the mushrooms were a good addition, but “veg on mashed potato” will never be as exciting as pie.
Overall, I liked the results from this book, but the style of the recipes isn’t exactly suitable for me. I don’t usually have time to cook after work, so multi-component dishes aren’t ideal in our household. Most of the main dishes were off-putting for me because I knew I would struggle to make them after work when I was tired and hot after a day on the go.
The soups section was much better – it was easy to make them in advance, and they kept well. But the recipes themselves, with the exception of the non-pie, were solid, and if you can spend a bit more time in the kitchen working on the different components, then you’ll definitely enjoy this book.