Cookbook of the Month: Vegan Richa’s Everyday Kitchen (Part One)

As soon as I flicked through Vegan Richa’s Everyday Kitchen on Christmas morning, I spotted lots of recipes I wanted to try. We celebrate two special occasions in January (Dr HH’s birthday and our anniversary), and I immediately identified the dishes I wanted to cook for our fancy meals. And then…January turned into a bit of a culinary failure.

For one thing, our oven broke halfway through the month, scuppering all my plans for birthday cake and pizza night. And for another, I just lost a bit of my enthusiasm for meal-planning and cooking. Work has been sapping my energy, and the last thing I want to do is spend my free time hurrying to the supermarket and slaving away in the kitchen.  So about two weeks into January, I gave up – we’ve been living off some quick and easy staples, but not experimenting with anything further from this book.

This is absolutely no reflection on the book, which I’ve loved so far. I will definitely be returning to it for Part Two of this review, once we’ve got a functioning oven and a bit more enthusiasm again!

In the meantime, here’s what we’ve tried so far.

The book contains recipes for a number of aptly-titled awesome sauces, which can be used in several different dishes.  I love this approach! I used the tikka masala sauce to make the tikka masala chickpeas, which were very easy to throw together (or so Dr HH tells me – I can’t claim credit for this one!).  It was a really creamy dish, with a nice bite to the chickpeas. There were lots of delicious spices, but on the heat front it was quite mild – exactly as I like it! I’d happily have this again!

I used some tinga sauce to make the tinga black bean soup, using kidney instead of black beans.  Dr HH found it a bit too sweet, while I thought the spiciness was positively fiery!  Still, we agreed it was filling and tasty – there was plenty of sweetcorn, peppers and beans, making it good and substantial too.

The winter mushroom soup with spinach and chickpeas was a flavour explosion!  There was quite the range of textures and flavours, as it was kind of spicy and kind of sweet. It had a really good kick to it, and was perfect for wintry packed lunches.  It’s a shame there aren’t more soups in the book, because these were were really impressive.

Dr HH made the baked vegetable pakoras, and found them lacking in seasoning. He increased the seasoning once the first batch were out of the oven, and that was an improvement. The texture was lovely – I wasn’t sure how well they would work baked rather than fried, but they were delicious.  He served them up with tart and sticky tamarind chutney.

I laboured over the berbere tofu bowl with couscous for packed lunches. Every stage of the recipe was easy, but there were various elements and numerous pots created.  I made the berbere paste, which worked really well, but was pretty potent – and that was after I’d halved the chilli powder/cayenne measurements!  The marinated tofu was crispy and delicious, and the couscous was a simple, light accompaniment.  I also added the recommended tahini garlic sauce, which was so delicious I was tempted to just drink it all up!

I whipped up a double batch of flavoursome samosa potatoes and used them in two different recipes.

I made these samosa sliders (served with tamarind chutney again).  As you can see, I used red quinoa,so they perhaps don’t look as attractive as the ones in the book.  The quinoa gave them a nice texture, and the burgers were delicious thanks to the potatoes.  The tamarind chutney was a great partner.  We were a little worried about what to serve alongside them – is it acceptable to serve potato wedges alongside potato burgers?  We threw caution to the wind and did it anyway!

I also used the potatoes to make the samosa-stuffed French toast, which proved quite challenging.  When I hollowed out the end pieces of the loaf and stuffed the potatoes in as you see here, it was quite delicious.  When I tried to stuff the potatoes into thick slices from the middle of the loaf, it was a no-go. With the leftovers, Dr HH thickened up the batter and made pancakes which we topped with the remaining potato – much more successful!

I also made the mint-cilantro herb sauce to serve with the French toast, and it was a nice refreshing accompaniment.

I’m a huge fan of mac and cheese, so I indulged in the smoky mac bake.  The smoky cheese sauce was incredible, but I think the paprika I used was a touch too spicy (Dr HH approved though).  The bake was really nice, but it would be easy enough to make this as regular, non-baked mac and cheese too in a hurry.

I also tried the vegetable lasagna, using the red pizza sauce and white garlic sauce, both of which were really easy to whip up.  I find making lasagna a bit stressful as there are always so many elements to work on (and, again, so much washing up generated), so I always expect a lot from the end result.  I found Richa’s assembly method a little crazy (all the mushrooms in one layer?!  So many layers of pasta?), so if I made it again I’d freestyle that.  No complaints about the flavour, though!  I crumbled in some smoked tempeh, because I do that to every lasagna I make.

The almond butter snickerdoodles didn’t taste particularly almond buttery, but they were fantastic snickerdoodles.  The texture was perfect, they smacked of cinnamon, and they were easy to make.

My nut butter blondies turned out a little browner than they should have, because I used brown sugar.  It was my first time making blondies, and I’m really glad I gave them a go.  You could definitely taste the nut butter. I took a slice to work for my lunchtime dessert and spent the whole morning looking at my watch wishing it was time to eat already just so I could sink my teeth in.

I actually made the gluten-free chocolate chip cookies with gluten in – half chickpea flour, half plain flour – and, as you may have spotted, some marshmallows for added fun!  The texture was perfect, but I had to add a lot of flour after the chilling stage to get it to resemble a cookie dough.  These cookies reminded me of Ms Cupcake’s recipe, and there is no higher praise from me on the cookie front.

At least the first couple of weeks of January were full of delicious, flavoursome dishes!  I already feel quite confident recommending this book, but I should have an even heartier endorsement next month when I’ve (hopefully) got my culinary groove back!

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Vegan in Birmingham: Not Dogs

Hot dogs are getting fancier and fancier these days.  From carrots instead of sausages (a bafflingly unnecessary substitution), to extravagant toppings, hot dogs have come a long way since I was a nipper and we used sausages from a can.  I was intrigued enough by the hot dog craze to try out Not Dogs, a fancy hot dog place in Birmingham – and I was won over!

Not Dogs is located in the Bullring, Birmingham’s famous, gigantic shopping centre.  We only got lost once trying to find it, which was quite the achievement.  It’s a meat-free establishment, as the name suggests, with vegan options available for all but one of the hot dogs (the chilli dog, which is what Dr HH got – I guess it’s made with non-vegan mince? It was extremely mild chilli anyway, according to Dr HH, so we’re in no way missing out).

That leaves six veganisable dogs, plus a couple of burgers and some ‘not pots’ – essentially a pot of the topping (chilli, tikka masala, hoisin duck), minus the sausage and bread (aka the best part).  I didn’t want anything with mustard and I worried the tikka masala would be too sloppy, so I went for the ‘what the duck dog’, with a side of waffle fries.  The topping was excellent – Dr HH said it was comfortably better than his.  It had shredded duck, lashings of hoisin sauce, spring onion and cucumber, and crumbled bits of rice cracker which gave it a great bit of crunch. I loved it!  It was a really filling meal too.  I’d expected that all the effort would go into the topping and the sausage would be a thin little vegan frankfurter, but it was actually a good hearty sausage!

Because Not Dogs seemed like a pretty slick fast food operation in a prime location, I assumed it was some big company, but the walls tell the story of its origins as a food truck run by two women (each now with a hot dog named after them on the menu).  A women-owned meat-free company definitely sounds like one worth supporting!

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New Products

I spend all year watching the UK vegan scene with great interest: seeing the new accidentally-vegan products identified, watching with glee as supermarkets increase their vegan lines, and looking out for new small companies specialising in vegan cheeses and chocolates.  And finally, when I’m home for Christmas, I try to get my hands on as many as these things as possible! Here are some of the things I tried out this time – not necessarily new to the market, but new to me.

1. Macsween Vegetarian Haggis

I’ve been dreaming of a return visit to Edinburgh and eyeing up menus there, some of which include vegan haggis, unsurprisingly. When I saw this haggis in Unicorn in Manchester, I had to buy it. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, so I mashed it up into a baked potato, and it was delicious!


2. Sacla Char-Grilled Aubergine Pesto

A non-vegan friend was raving about this in the summer, so I was delighted to see it pop up on an accidentally-vegan list.  The aubergine flavour was delightful, and it really livened up a bowl of pasta.  If only it were available in Prague.


3. Quinoa Puffs

If you’ve ever found yourself missing Wotsits, you need to get yourself a bag of these.  I’m a huge fan of this range of crisps, and I’m happy to see them branching out into different textures. These were jalapeno and cheddar flavour, and tasted delicious.  We saw these in Ms Cupcake in London and thought they must be a rare vegan find – then we spotted them in my local Tesco! Everyone can enjoy them!


4. Tyne Chease Creamed Cheases

For the second year in a row, the Tyne Chease selection box of ten mini-cheases was sold out long before Christmas. My mum ordered me these creamed cheeses instead.  The chilli flakes one was seriously spicy – I only managed a few crackers spread with this!  The smoked one was my favourite, it was just so delicious. The garlic one was equally tasty, and, in a desperate bid to use it up before flying back to Prague, I used it as the white sauce in a lasagna – highly recommended!


5.Nutcrafter Creamery – The Ancient

I also spotted a Nutcrafter Creamery cheese in Unicorn and had to have it – I fell in love with their cheeses last Christmas.  This was quite a soft cheese, but still for slicing rather than spreading.  The outer coating was especially flavoursome.  These cheeses cost a  pretty penny (this was about £8), but they are really worth it for an annual treat.  Although I do wish I indulged in fancy cheese suppers all year round.


6. M&S Gold Creme Brulee Liqueur

And what fancy evening would be complete without an extravagant tipple?  This is the M&S drink that vegans went crazy about in 2016.  2017 was all about their vegan-labelled chocolate and coconut Baileys-esque booze.  Unfortunately, the vegans of Manchester had swooped all the bottles up long before I got there, so I was “stuck” with this one.  There’s a lot to be said for a bottle with a warning on the back to upend before serving, so as to distribute the glitter better. Yes, it was a glittery, golden, caramelly, sweet drink.  I have a sweet tooth so I enjoyed it, but a little went a long way!

Tell me, what new prodcuts have you found or been on the lookout for? And was the chocolate coconut drink as good as I’d heard?



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Vegan in Manchester: The Allotment (Christmas Edition)

There are few things I love more than a good slap-up meal, and that’s exactly what I got at The Allotment over Christmas!  I first visited last January (more here), since when they have won Best Vegetarian Offering and Chef of the Year for Matthew Nutter at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards.  And after my second visit I can reaffirm that the accolades are truly deserved, as we were once again given a top notch dining experience, from atmosphere and service to the masterpieces on the plates.

They were offering a seven course Christmas menu for £40 per person, or a ten course extravaganza for £55.  Mama HH very generously treated us to the latter, and we will be eternally grateful because it was just amazing.  I will say right away that the lighting is not conducive to great photography, so apologies for the gloomy pictures – but at least they’ll give you some idea of the treats we devoured.

The amuse bouche was described to us as golden beetroot with pickled beetroot: a delicate, deep-fried slice with a soft puree.  This tasted like pickled onion Monster Munch, which is to say that it was delicious.

The soup of the day was mushroom and celeriac with caper aioli. I was a little worried about this as I hate the taste of celeriac, but it was pleasantly balanced by the earthy mushrooms and the insanely flavoursome, savoury aioli.

The smoked root starter promised baked celeriac (not again!), smoked onion, pickled cabbage and merlot vinegar. It was a tasty little pate, served with gram flour bread which was almost scone-like.  The smokiness  of this pate was wonderful, and this was a real highlight of the meal.

Ah, the cauliflower course!  Why don’t more restaurants offer this? The sesame-fried cauliflower was incredible – really crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and the sesame seeds in the batter were a wonderful touch.  It was served with pistachio and lemongrass custard, pickled chilli candy beetroot, and a kale crisp, which I guess is the big twisty thing?  Everything tasted so good.

Next up was this rosemary and buckwheat scone with roasted garlic and butterbean cream and fig jam. Truthfully, I thought there was too much jam on this and I couldn’t even taste the garlic, which is a shame as that cream sounds amazing.  It was still lovely, but tipping the scales more towards the garlic would change everything for me!

I was already pretty full by the time we got to the main course! (Let the record show that Dr HH was not.)  There was confit aubergine, which was incredibly soft, and a delicious gravy.  There was also some mash, cavolo nero, and oyster mushrooms.  Dr HH declared this his favourite course, and I agree that it was delicious – but for me, the best was yet to come!

Pre-dessert is such a great idea, and this one was wonderful: raspberry sorbet on top of chopped caramelised hazelnuts. The sorbet was really refreshing, and the hazelnuts almost elevated it to actual dessert standard!

But here is the dessert itself.  Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that this was my favourite course. There was an orange sorbet that wasn’t bitter at all (it can be a fine line with orange, in my experience).  There were two little cylinders of chocolate truffle, and I’m going to say something unexpected here: one would have been enough for me. On top of all that was some honeycomb and a little nougatty cube.  This dessert was very rich and decadent, and I loved the festive chocolate orange flavour.  Sublime!

And here’s the cheeseboard, which we were really looking forward to.  We got a little pot of apple chutney, a stack of crackers (which was replenished as needed), and two cheeses:  one of them turmeric, the other coconut.  I thought the coconut one was delicious, though Dr HH favoured turmeric.  They were really similar textures, which was a little disappointing – I’ve seen the excellent variety they produce on Instagram, and I was hoping we’d get a couple of really different things.

The tenth course was a peppermint espresso martini, but I don’t drink coffee and Dr HH doesn’t drink booze, so we skipped that in favour of good old tea and coffee instead – the chai blend was very good indeed, but I was too full to manage the whole pot, which was a shame.  I will register my disappointment that I wasn’t offered a dessert wine instead – that was included with the cheeseboard on the seven course menu, but not the ten course, which didn’t make too much sense to me.  This is only the smallest of grievances though, and I certainly didn’t need any more food or drink as I journeyed home clutching my belly.

So there you have it – what a magnificent feast!  I know it’s hard to justify spending this much money on a meal, but if you have the resources to treat yourself once a year (or more often, of course), you have to go to The Allotment. And although I’ve learned that ten courses are too many for me, I regret absolutely nothing about this meal!

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2017 Hits & Misses

2017 was a tremendous year for vegan food.  I ate gelato every day of my two week holiday in Italy and had two afternoon teas in Greater Manchester which didn’t even make it into my top five spots – it’s been that good!   As always, here’s a little roundup of my favourite five eateries of the year, along with five I’m not keen to return to for various reasons, including misuse of the word “pie”.

Hit #1:  The Allotment, Manchester

Ever since I visited this place back in January, I’ve been calculating how to afford and squeeze in a return trip.  It’s Manchester’s fanciest and most creative vegan eatery, and I wish I could go back for every seasonal menu change (I’ve just been for the Christmas menu and it was spectacular – review coming soon!). Relive my first visit here.

Miss #1:  Trattoria Alessi, Desenzano

This wasn’t a bad plate of food, but it certainly wasn’t the “tomato pie with tofu cheese” that I was promised.  You can’t just throw the word “pie”around like that.  Feelings get hurt. If you’re not too traumatised at the thought of being denied a pie, you can read more in this review.

Hit #2:  La Tigella Verona, Verona

This was our favourite feast in Italy, a country where we were very well-fed indeed.  It was a huge spread, a local speciality, and absolutely delicious, so it ticks all the boxes.  Fried gnoccho, a plate of mock meat, cheese and grilled veg, loads of bread and ten little dips: we truly had it all! You can revisit Dr HH’s wonderful write-up here.

Miss #2: Al Vecio Canton, Venice

Another tofu mishap: this is my pizza with “tofu cheese”.  Yes, that’s just crumbled, unseasoned tofu on top of a vegetable pizza.  This isn’t a vegan place (obviously), and they really need to start running their dishes by a vegan before committing them to the menu.

Hit #3:  Gratitude, Munich

We almost didn’t go to Gratitude because the name reminds me of lifestyle bloggers and humblebraggers on social media.  I’m glad I pulled myself together and tried it, because I was served one of the most creative and delicious dishes I’ve ever tried – more here. #blessed

Miss #3:  Radicetonda, Milan

Radicetonda wasn’t terrible by any means (see here), but it’s not a place I would recommend or revisit in Milan.  The food was pretty average, but prices were really high. €13 for this?  Never again!

Hit #4: playing with eels, Berlin

We had two sensational all-you-can-eat brunches in Berlin, but this one just edged it for me (I think Dr HH is leaning more towards Viasko though – both are reviewed here).  The desserts section was just incredible. Rice pudding and Bounty pudding are the ultimate brunch dishes!

Miss #4: Radici, Bologna

I had one night of five star food at Radici, and one night of two star food (see this pesto-less pasta).  That kind of inconsistency earns them a place on this list, because who knows which one is the anomaly?  You can read my full review here.

Hit #5: vgOloso, Venice

This small, friendly place in Mestre was one of the highlights of our trip to Italy, thanks to its low prices and fantastic flavours. The pasta dishes were delicious, and the dessert was even better.  Relive the magic here!

Miss #5: Plevel, Prague

I feel a little guilty about including Plevel here, because their food remains as good as ever (just look at my glowing previous review).  Service has deteriorated though.  The Czech Republic isn’t generally known for its customer service, but I find that the vegan establishments are much better than other places (must be our natural compassion shining through!). Plevel used to be fine, but on my last two visits the staff have on one occasion argued with me and accused me of lying about my payment method, and on the other taken over twenty minutes to bring drinks, despite the place being almost empty and not even serving food yet. On the plus side, bad service is a much easier fix than bad or overpriced food, so I’m sure they’ll be back on track soon – maybe I’ve just been unlucky.

What were your hits and misses of 2017?  Any cafes and restaurants I need to add to my list to try? Let me know!

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A Vegan Christmas 2017: Christmas in Manchester

Greetings from the weird Christmas-New Year slump where nobody even knows what day it is anymore!  I hope you all had a wonderful festive time – it was certainly a magnificent Christmas at HH HQ!  As always, the food has been spectacular and the company even better.  Here’s a little look at some of the things I devoured and received this yuletide.

I spent much of Christmas Eve constructing the advent calendar Dr HH gave me (see my previous Christmas post).  This was the final work of art! The tree is pretty shoddy, but Santa and Rudolph look grand.  How’s Dr HH going to trump this next year?!

When I got back to Manchester I also had this advent calendar waiting for me: 24 chocolates from Truffle Pig.  The chocolate was nice – there was a mixture of milk, dark and white piggies, and some of them had an additional flavour or chunks of nuts/puffed rice inside.  Truthfully though I’d hoped they be a wee bit more flavoursome and exciting – I think just buying a big box of their decadent proper truffles and rationing out one a day is a nice idea for the future.

Dr HH spent Christmas with my family for the first time and helped me put together this Christmas Eve Party Tea.  He made buffalo cauliflower and blue cheese dip from But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan and tempeh stuffed mushrooms from The Superfun Times Vegan Holidays Cookbook, and I made the artichoke dip from the same book, plus some seasonally spiced nuts and roasted gnocchi nibbles.  The dip and cauliflower were particularly well received and all-in-all it was a lovely spread.

The two of us also worked together on Christmas breakfast:  these orange pecan sticky buns!  They were a huge success, really festive and delicious.  It was lovely to pull the buns apart, warm from the oven.

For our Christmas dinner, I prepared an all-vegan feast for five people, three of whom eat meat.  I’d say it was also a success, though it’s possible that nobody else enjoyed it quite as much as I did!  It was a double pie day (the best kind of day, in my opinion): the main dish was the pot pie from Superfun Times, and I also made the chocolate pecan pie from the same book.

On the present front, I got some excellent vegan loot!  I got two bars of my favourite Solkiki chocolate – exactly the same as I got for my birthday, because I love them too much to try anything else.  They’re just so good, and entirely cruelty-free, as they’re approved by the Food Empowerment Project.

I also got some nice bath bombs from The Dirty Vegans – the Christmas pud and snowman were very attractive gifts, and I treated myself to the toasted marshmallow one after ordering a few as stocking fillers.  I prefer this place to Lush because they’re all vegan and you can buy online without the staff following you around trying to sell you things. Hurrah!

As always, I was treated to a new cookbook for Christmas.  I’m super excited about getting stuck into this in January, I’ve already spotted about a million things I want to try!

And that was my fourth vegan Christmas in a nutshell! It was especially wonderful to have a totally cruelty-free dinner table, with nobody lamenting the lack of meat and dairy.  It can be very difficult to break with meal traditions, especially at special occasions, so I feel extra lucky that my family were on board with trying something completely new.

It’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s feast – give me some inspiration by letting me know what you made for Christmas dinner.  Did you get any fantastic vegan gifts?

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

Back in November I showcased what I’d made from the first half of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s latest tome, The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook.  And here’s what I made from the second half!


10.Cinco de Mayo

Unsurprisingly, this is another celebration we don’t really have in the UK.  Still, it was a fantastic chapter in the book – everything looked delicious, and I made a fair few of the dishes.

I knew as soon as I saw the picture that I had to make the burrito potato salad, and it certainly didn’t let me down!  I made a couple of changes:  kidney beans instead of black ones, because that’s what’s available here, and crushed Pom Bears instead of tortilla chips on top because I forgot to put the latter on my shopping list.  It was a great salad – we had it for lunch rather than as a side.  The dressing was fantastic, with the creamy avocado and zingy lime and coriander.  Definitely recommended!

The tomatillo posole with pintos and avocado was also heavily adapted.  Tomatillos aren’t really a thing here, nor is hominy, so I used regular tomatoes and chickpeas instead.  And the less said about pinto beans, the better.  My finished product may not have had much in common with Isa’s vision, but it was a nice spicy, hearty soup I’d have again.

I hadn’t been planning on making the spinach-mushroom quesadillas, but the inviting picture lured me in and I couldn’t resist giving them a try.  The cheese sauce I made was a bit too solid, so it wasn’t oozing as temptingly as in Isa’s photo, but it was delicious – there were a lot of good flavours in this dish.

I had high hopes for the seitan de mayo carnitas, but it wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped.  It was quite reminiscent of some vegan kebabs I’ve had, but not quite as good as them, so perhaps it was just suffering in comparison.  It was nice, but not spectacular – the potato salad and quesadillas above were much better.

I played things a bit too safe with the spicy chocolate cupcakes with hot candied pecans – I didn’t put enough chilli/cayenne in to give it a good kick.  Still, they were delicious cakes.  At first I was worried that the glaze was too thin and runny, but it had such a great texture when set.  The candied pecans were excellent too, of course.


11.Mother’s & Father’s Day

The theme here didn’t work that well for me, because I don’t know what makes these dishes match these occasions, but there were a few things I was keen to try regardless.


I’m not crazy about sandwiches, but I wanted to try the pan bagnat.  I was too lazy to go and buy nice bread buns, but this wasn’t actually for a special occasion so I think I got away with it.  Dr HH really enjoyed it, and I liked it as much as it is possible for me to like a sloppy sandwich!

I didn’t have any truffle oil for the truffled almond alfredo with really garlicky broccoli, but even just with regular old olive oil it was really nice. The sauce was so good and creamy, and the excess of garlic really worked well with it.  It was really quick and easy to make too, so this definitely gets the thumbs up from me.

Bouillabaisse is fun to say and fun to eat!  It’s meant to be garnished with roasted half moons of yellow squash, but I just threw some roasted butternut squash chunks into the stew, and I was quite happy with that.  It’s an easy stew, though personally I’d tone down the grated orange zest – a little goes a very long way!  I found this to be pretty standard vegetable stew fare, not really special occasion-worthy.


I made the Elvis cupcakes for Dr HH’s birthday.  The banana sponge was easy to make, though I had to add extra milk to the peanut butter icing to get it spreadable.  The coconut bacon cooked in ten minutes, rather than the 25 suggested in the book, and it had already started to burn a little, so I almost chickened out of adding it to the cakes.  I’m so glad I stuck with it though – it was a great addition in terms of both taste and texture.  Although these seemed a little time consuming because there were various elements, I would definitely make them again.


12.Fourth of July

Most of the recipes in this chapter either didn’t appeal to me so much (so many chilled soups!) or were impossible to make as we don’t have a grill. But I made two things!

The bow tie and butter bean salad with fresh dill was surprisingly bland in my opinion.  It was an unremarkable pasta salad. I ditched the cucumber because I hate cucumber, but I wish I’d replaced it with something else green for a nice splash of colour.  You can’t win ’em all though!

The spicy tempeh-stuffed avocado was much more like it!  There was so much flavour packed in the tempeh:  sesame oil (the greatest oil of them all, surely), soy sauce, hot sauce…it was delicious.  And obviously heaping it into an avocado wasn’t a bad idea either.  We’ll certainly revisit this one.


13.Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

This is another section that was full of unfamiliar recipes for me.  But any celebration that involves fancy bread is alright by me!

I was really keen to try the challah, despite the fact that I’m the world’s worst breadmaker. Fortunately, Dr HH is an expert in this field, so we worked together and produced a masterpiece! I prepared the ingredients, Dr HH did all the kneading, and I plaited and glazed the finished loaves. They had a lovely sweet flavour from the banana, and while I usually hate the crusty parts this time they had some beautiful sweetness from the maple glaze.  I could eat one of these loaves every day – but apparently Dr HH found it a bit more exhausting than I did, so he’s not keen on making it quite so often.

Naturally, we also had to make the challah French toast.  Again, Dr HH was at the helm for this one, and as you can see by that delicious golden brown colour, he knows how to make French toast!  He was a little worried that there was no sweetener in the batter, but I reminded him that the bread was banana-based and we’d pour on some maple syrup, and all was right with the world!

Dr HH even surprised me with challah French toast stuffed with chocolate spread.  I feel like Isa would approve.

Making the chocolate babka was quite the saga.  I’d never even heard of babka before, so I wasn’t really sure what I was aiming for.  As such, the assembly instructions made little sense, and I truly feel that the lack of images here was a mistake – a series of step-by-step pictures would have been very beneficial!  And for any Brits considering this recipe, please be aware that “chocolate wafer cookies” have absolutely nothing to do with wafers. At a bit of a loss, I got a packet of Oreos and scraped off the cream. I didn’t finely grind them either, and I think doing so would have definitely improved the texture of the filling. Honestly, there was so much filling and it was so runny, it just oozed out everywhere while we were trying to roll and slice. Again – photos would have helped! One other point on ingredients: the recipe calls for coconut oil at “room temperature”.  In Central Europe in December, room temperature coconut oil is solid and you can’t exactly knead it into a dough, so we had to melt it to make it workable.

Also a note on timing – this book is great for giving you the total recipe time, along with total active time.  However, this recipe timing misses out the two hours of the third and final prove, so bear that in mind if you try it – there’s a total of four hours proving time.

After all the time and effort we put into it, I would have cried if it turned out terribly – fortunately, it was delicious!  It doesn’t look too different from what I saw on Google Images, so I think we’ll call it a success.  And we actually made it again two weeks later, just using shop-bought chocolate spread for the filling.  This was much easier and cleaner, and is also recommended!



There were some really creative, visually appealing dishes in this section, but I just didn’t have time to make them.  I’ll revisit this section next Halloween, but for now I’m happy with the one I tried.

I couldn’t resist this monster mash shepherd’s pie!  It’s a pretty standard Isa shepherd’s pie, which is to say it’s delicious, but this time it’s topped with a coriandery mash.  I wasn’t convinced coriander would work with the more traditional filling ingredients, but it was a very exciting combination and definitely worth trying!  After serving these monster portions, I used the rest of the filling and mash to make a normal shepherd’s pie to be warmed in the oven, which was also delicious, if less fun visually.



As a Brit, this is another occasion that I don’t celebrate – I used this chapter as a practice run for Christmas.  It was one of my favourites from the book. I love the fact that a lot of the side dishes are completely alien to me, it was really fun to try some new things.

This cream of porcini mushroom soup was a huge hit!  The dried porcini were blitzed to a powder and blended with a cashew cream, which gives the soup both it’s wonderful texture and it’s incredible earthy flavour.  There were some sliced mushrooms in there too. It was so flavoursome and filling, and made me feel quite fancy.

Isa described this caramelised onion and cauliflower casserole as like a quiche but without the pastry, and this was definitely true.  I really loved it, and I think the tahini was a great addition, flavour-wise.  However, I’m not sure it’s a good side dish for a roast dinner. I’ll definitely have it again, but I’m not sure what it would go with – maybe just in quiche form then!

The super traditional stuffing was much better than expected, as I grew up absolutely hating the smell of Paxo boxed stuffing.  Appearance-wise, this doesn’t resemble any stuffing I’ve seen before, but it was packed with flavour.  This was one of the big hits of the book.

The fancy/not fancy mushroom gravy is so-called because you can choose which kind of mushrooms to use and they will determine the fanciness of the gravy.  I went for non-fancy, and I was very impressed.  I love a good, mushroomy gravy, so this was bound to be a success. If you’re not keen on slices of mushroom, I reckon straining or blitzing would work.

The creamy whipped potatoes were quite a bit more work (and washing up) than regular mash, and not really worth it in my opinion.  It was fun having super creamy mash for a change (there’s cashew cream in there!), but this approach didn’t really elevate the potatoes for me.  I’ll stick to smashed.

Green bean casserole isn’t really a thing in the UK, and Dr HH and I agreed that this would have been better without the green beans! The beans were fine, but the casserole was so creamy and the mushrooms were so delicious that the beans were basically an afterthought.  It was a really good dish, so thanks to everyone who posted a picture of it at Thanksgiving and inspired me to give it a try!

The stuffed Thanksgiving burgers were easy to make, and I froze them before cooking.  They cooked perfectly from frozen, and we both loved them. They had a really good, strong flavour from the mushrooms and held together very well.  We agreed that we would skip the cranberries next time – I’m not a fan of cranberry sauce, so I found the berries a slightly weird addition.

I was quite worried about the chocolate pecan pie, which I made for Christmas Day dessert.  When I was making it, the caramel hardened before I could blitz the silken tofu, so I had to call in backup to keep mixing it – I’d recommend getting the blitzed ingredients ready before the chocolate caramel. Then I was worried that the pie filling was going to be rock hard after setting.  We got it out of the fridge first thing on Christmas morning, so that by 4pm it was comfortably room temp, and really soft and delicious.  It was very decadent, and I heartily recommend trying it.  Ignore the gigantic pastry crust,the tin didn’t quite work out – also, I used shop-bought pastry for ease.



This is essentially the deep-fried section, which is no bad thing!  There were a few delicious-sounding latkes that I wanted to try but just didn’t get around to.  Still, I tried a few things and enjoyed them.

The superyum baked potato pancakes were really good!  After mashing the potato I popped it in the fridge for a few hours, because I have a bad track record when it comes to this kind of dish completely falling apart.  They held together perfectly. They were really simple (just potato, spring onion, breadcrumbs, oil and seasoning), and I liked the fact that they were baked rather than fried.  I was worried that the crumbs weren’t going to hold on the outside, but they were terrific!

Dr HH is a big believer that falafel should be full of herby green flecks, so I had to try the green falafel.  I wasn’t very satisfied with the texture, as I had to use an immersion blender which doesn’t really give you much of a pulsing option – some bits were pureed, some still had huge chickpea chunks.  No complaints about the flavour though, all that green was definitely a good addition!

The cholent was a nice, easy one-pot dish – something that’s in short supply in this book, unsurpisingly.  It was pleasant but unremarkable, for me.



Christmas is my favourite holiday, and I was really excited about trying some of the dishes from this section.  There were plenty of sweet things, which is always good, and some quite impressive-looking dishes.  I would have liked a great roast potato recipe, because every Brit has roasties at Christmas, but I’ll forgive the American slant!

I think Dr HH had already made these gingerbread waffles, assuming it’s the same recipe from Vegan Brunch.  This time I made them, and of course I made them in pancake form – no adjustments to the ingredients were required.   As with all Isa panacake/waffle recipes, they were easy to make, thick and delicious!  The flavours were great, you can’t go wrong with gingerbread.

I added seitan to the bean bourguignon because I feel like I’ve had that before and love it.  It certainly didn’t hurt!  This was comfortably the best of the one-pot dishes I tried here (bouillabaisse and cholent being the others) – lovely flavours, and super comforting.

I made the sorta classic pot pie for Christmas dinner, and it was a great hit!  I used a mixture of seitan and smoked tempeh for the meat, rather than just seitan as suggested, and I used a vegan chicken stock cube, which had a lovely flavour.  And I used shop-bought, accidentally vegan puff pastry.  It was easy to make and suitably impressive.

I had to defer to Dr HH when it came to this epic eggplant lasagna, because lasagna is a Christmas staple in his family.  They don’t celebrate this holiday, but the closest thing they have to a festive tradition is devouring his homemade vegetable lasagna.  As usual, he did a fantastic job.  Next time we would double the seasoning in every element of it, but it was still tasty.  The aubergine slices were especially good, and I liked the white sauce on top too.

Obviously I didn’t make the gingerbread people at Christmas – I’m sure Superfun Times Vol. II will have a chapter on Star Wars Day!  I’ve been using Isa’s gingerbread recipe since before I went vegan, so I knew it was going to work a treat.  I bought Dr HH some Star Wars cookie cutters for Christmas 2014, surprised him with a batch of cookies on May 4th 2016, and this year he was expecting another batch.  He did the cutting and stamping this year and had a whale of a time!


Isa described the big, soft chocolate chip cookies as the kind you see in a kid’s cartoon thought bubble.  A picture really would have been useful here, as these did not look at all like I was expecting.  They tasted just right though!   I think I prefer Ms Cupcake’s flatter, perfectly chewy cookies, but I certainly wouldn’t say no to these.


The peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were delicious!  I made them with normal spread instead of coconut oil, because that was all I had in when I got the cookie craving, so they may be even more delicious if you use the correct ingredients.  The texture was great too.

I couldn’t find any candy canes for these candy cane fudge cookies, so they look a little barren – but thanks to the mint chocolate bar I used, they still have that festive taste! They were really good soft cookies, and I loved the minty taste.

The first time I made these cranberry spice oatmeal cookies they oozed and burned around the edges.  The second time they turned out much better, but still didn’t really resemble the picture in the book.  I wonder if there’s a mistake in the recipe, or if I just keep doing something wrong?  Anyway, the flavours are festive and comforting, and that’s what really matters.


So, there we have it.  This book is an absolute masterpiece!  Besides my complaint about lack of pictures (or smarter choices about which recipes require pictures), there’s nothing I’d change about this book.  Although I generally prefer my books organised by meal type, I found the chapters here really fun.

What recipes have you tried and loved?  Which dish would most likely convince you to buy this book?

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