Cookbook of the Month: Appetite for Reduction Part One

Appetite for Reduction was one of the first vegan cookbooks I bought, so why on earth has it taken me this long to review?! I used it quite a lot when I first went vegan, and decided to revisit it in May and see what I could get out of it.

It’s essentially a healthy eating book, ideal for anyone trying to lose a bit of weight. It’s Isa though, so she’s not making any sacrifices on the flavour front. Every recipe gives you a full break down of calories, proteins, fat, sugar, etc, so if you’re tracking any of those things it will definitely make life easier for you.

It wouldn’t be a healthy eating book without a salad section, would it? I started with the first recipe in the book: the everyday chickpea-quinoa salad, which also contains the balsamic vinaigrette and basic baked tofu. As you may have spotted, I used red quinoa, as we had a bit left in the cupboard, and it never hurts to prevent a dish from being totally beige! It wasn’t the most exciting of salads- the vinaigrette wasn’t that exciting, and we were really relying on the tofu to bring some fun and flavour to it.

The trattoria pasta salad with white beans was very much my kind of salad. The sun-dried tomato walnut dressing was just spectacular – so flavoursome. We used spinach instead of rocket, because rocket is the leaf of the devil.

And the goddess nicoise was even better. It was my first ever nicoise salad, so I’m not entirely sure what I was aiming for. Despite the instructions to keep all the components separate and the green goddess garlic dressing on the side, I just mixed everything up – it was in our lunch boxes, so it was getting mixed up either way. It was so delicious, though the dressing was very potent and may not have made me too popular in the office. The chickpea/tuna concoction was especially flavoursome.

I swear by Isa’s mac and cheese sauce from Superfun Times, so I had high hopes for her mac & trees recipe, which uses the easy breezy cheezy sauce. It was the most yellow cheese sauce I have ever seen, but it wasn’t quite as flavoursome as I’d hoped. It was nice, but it won’t challenge my existing favourite mac and cheese recipe (from Superfun Times, also by Isa).

On a fancier pasta note,I tried the lasagna with roasted cauliflower ricotta and spinach…only without the spinach, as our supermarket was out of all green leaves. Instead, I added mushrooms and smoked tempeh to beef it up a bit. The roasted cauliflower ricotta was nice and easy to make – I blitzed all the ingredients together (Isa recommends mashing the cauliflower into the tofu ricotta with a potato masher, but I thought a nice smooth mixture would be preferable). The sauce isn’t pre-cooked, so there’s not too much more prep to do – though I fried the mushrooms, of course. And it makes an extremely delicious lasagna. This is perhaps my favourite lasagna recipe – it was that good.

I’ve made the Arabian lentil and rice soup before, and it was just as good as I remembered! It’s very easy to make, and the rice makes it quite a filling lunch. I liked the simple seasoning, but Dr HH found it a bit boring. He’s wrong, obviously, but I’ve included his foolish feedback here anyway.

I’m a big fan of a good broccoli soup, but I’d never order one when eating out, so the name of this bistro broccoli chowder was a bit baffling to me. The parsnip is a fun addition, and this was a really thick soup – perfect for a hearty lunch!

I don’t usually make too many curries, due to Dr HH’s incredibly high standards. But I couldn’t resist the eggplant-chickpea curry, even though aubergine curry is his speciality. The recipe cooks the aubergine to perfection, that sweet spot where it’s just melting away in your mouth. And the addition of chickpeas elevates everything, so this one is definitely a winner.

 

He got into the kitchen himself to make this lentil and eggplant chilli mole, which I found very well seasoned, but he found a little mild. He was a bit sceptical about essentially boiling the aubergine rather than frying it first, but was won over by the texture in the end.

Regular readers may have picked up on the fact that I’m crazy about tempeh. Most Czech supermarkets sell smoked tempeh, so I chucked some of that in this smoky tempeh and greens stew. It’s a classic stew – hearty, flavoursome, perfect for tucking into on an autumnal evening, but still good during summer in Prague.

This book is absolutely jam-packed with recipes, and, though it wasn’t my original intention, I’ve decided to continue using it for another month. There are a lot of one-pot recipes, which is very much my kind of cooking. And even though most of my recipe tweaks make the final dish somewhat less healthy than the original recipe, I still like to think it’s been a month of healthy eating, and more to come!

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Vegan in Manchester: Zad’s

Since Zad’s opened in Chorlton last summer, it has been the talk of Manchester’s vegan community. It’s one of those rare places that seems to be universally loved and not suffer any backlash (sometimes a vegan crowd can be a little hard to please). And it has truly earned its great reputation.

It serves pizzas, side dishes, and cupcakes, and has a few indoor and outdoor seats along with a delivery option if you’re fairly local. The pizza options are more exciting than just vegetables – this is definitely a menu created by and for vegans.

The Pig Save pizza is essentially a meat feast (smoky maple strips, hot dog, pepperoni,and smoked seitan), with some of the proceeds going to the Manchester Pig Save activist group. It is an astonishingly good pizza. The faux pepperoni slices and little hot dog chunks are really savoury and satisfying, and there’s no skimping on the cheese.

The hench herbivore comes with an extremely generous helping of veg, and plenty of olives for flavour. My mum doesn’t rate olives as a pizza topping and isn’t crazy about vegan cheese, yet she claims this is the best pizza she’s had this year.

This vegangains pizza is slightly less pleasing – the mushrooms and spinach are nice, but the tofu is a bit too bland. Some of the meatier, better seasoned toppings might jazz this up a bit.

The cheesy garlic bread is something else. It’s so cheesy. It’s so garlicky it will certainly keep the vampires at bay. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

The food at Zad’s is incredible, and it’s actually one of the few all-vegan establishments in Manchester. It’s not cheap, at £10 for a 12 inch pizza, but I definitely think it’s worth a splurge. And I can also confirm that cold leftovers the next day are still delicious, so go ahead and over-order.

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Vegan in Dublin: The Rolling Donut

Newsflash: I love donuts! I used to plan my holidays around where to find a good vegan croissant, but now I’m all about donuts. There’s so much scope for exciting flavours and toppings. As soon as I googled “vegan donuts Dublin”, I decided that we’d pop along to Rolling Donut for breakfast all three mornings we were in the city. As it turned out, one morning I was too ill to eat so we didn’t hit our target of trying all the vegan options, but we did pretty well.

There are two branches in the city centre, with about 8 daily vegan options – there were some slight variations the two mornings we visited, but they were largely the same. The branch we visited was right by the river, and was quite busy on our visits (unsurprisingly, as the window display is extremely tempting, and there’s quite a steady stream of tourists passing by). There are just a few stools at the bar inside, and four chairs out on the street, so you might have to grab something to go if you’re unlucky. They also have non-dairy milk for hot drinks, so you can make a proper breakfast of it too.

Dr HH and I both agreed that this coconut chocolate one was a winner – the chocolate coating was delightful, and they were very generous indeed with the coconut sprinkling.

Yes, there is a donut under all those toasted flaked almonds! This was the almond and vanilla, which was very sweet and delicious, with great texture and crunch from the nuts. This was Dr HH’s favourite.

I’m a big fan of a good lemon and poppy seed dessert, and this was no exception. The sharp lemony hit was nicely balanced by the sticky sweet vanilla icing.

We suspect that the same vanilla icing is used for most of the vegan donuts and topped with various different things – and as such, this pistachio and vanilla one was also a treat! Everybody loves a flash of green pistachio on their baked goods.

And the basic chocolate one, while less exciting without its coconut topping, was still really enjoyable, and perhaps a bit less messy to eat, which can be a good thing when you’re eating in a prime tourist spot.

There was a coffee and walnut donut we didn’t get round to trying, along with a raspberry jam one and at least one more that we can’t remember. Their non-vegan flavours were quite a bit more exciting (custard-filled, cream-filled, various exciting toppings), so it would be good to see them go a bit bolder with the vegan options too. But for now, these will do very nicely indeed!

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Truffle Pig Easter Box

As a child, I never received an Easter egg from my parents. They thought them a waste of money, and instead bought me a generous bar every year (and a book, just because). I firmly believe that this has (a) caused lasting trauma, and (b) made me extremely susceptible to buying myself ridiculous Easter treats to make up for my earlier neglect. Enter the Truffle Pig Easter box!

I have already mentioned my deep love of Truffle Pig, and I think I’ve converted my family into fans as well, after buying them treats for Christmas/Mother’s Day too. I love supporting independent businesses, and I know that these chocolates are great quality. My birthday coincided with Easter this year, so I asked my mum to treat me to this box of goodies (apparently indulgent treats are fine when they’re for my birthday rather than Easter). (Also, this is not a sponsored post, I just want to rave about how good it was.)

I’ve already mentioned the creme egg, which was also sold separately, and was really delicious. But what other delicacies were included?

Hot cross bun tiffin! It’s hard to improve on tiffin anyway – chocolate with crunchy bits of biscuit is already a winner. But the hot cross bun spices and the festive cross on top made this even better.

The truffles were also a hit, so rich and indulgent. They came in a variety of flavours, including peanut butter, coffee, and definitely some fruity ones. I may have been too busy scoffing them to properly pay attention. I’ve given my mum boxes of these truffles for both Christmas and Mother’s Day, and she has given them a glowing recommendation too!

As soon as we finished this milk chocolate caramel bar, we looked at the online shop to check they weren’t just an Easter box exclusive. I’m relieved to say they all in general stock, and they are sublime! This is in fact one of the best chocolate bars I’ve ever had.

These caramel eggs were small and generously filled with very runny caramel. You can see it just oozing out in the second picture! They were lovely.

The milk chocolate coated cinder toffee was always going to be a winner – I got Dr HH and my brother a bag of this each for Christmas, and they were both impressed. It was indeed like little (or not so little) bits of Crunchie bars.

And some hot chocolate mix! I’m a keen drinker of hot chocolate, and I mixed this up with some Oatly Barista (my absolutely favourite milk). It’s the best chocolate mix I’ve had, probably because it’s not very dark, and therefore quite sweet.

I think it’s probably just as well I don’t live in the UK, because Truffle Pig has just started a monthly subscription box and I’m not sure I’d be able to resist it! If you’ve got a sweet tooth, or want to convince some of your non-vegan friends that vegan chocolate is amazing, you need to check out the shop!

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Cookbook of the Month: Vegan Comfort Food

This month’s cookbook review is embarrassingly light. Between a holiday and entertaining visitors, I didn’t spend that much time in the kitchen, and the book I’d chosen, Vegan Comfort Food, wasn’t the most inspiring. I only managed six recipes from this book. Yes, go ahead and shame me. I deserve to be pelted with rotten tomatoes. But you might as well read this extremely brief review anyway while you’re here.

I had actually never heard of this book, but it was only a couple of pounds for the e-book, so I thought I might as well give it a whirl. But perhaps there’s a reason it was being sold so cheaply. This is quite a confusing book. There is a recipe in it for burgers, and the ingredients list calls for shop-bought chicken patties, mayo, and bacon bits, plus hot sauce, burger buns, tomato and lettuce. Who needs a recipe for assembling a frozen burger?! Yet there are also recipes for homemade seitan, so I’m not entirely sure who the book is aimed at.

Here is the handful of recipes I tried.

The first recipe I tried was for these easy breakfast biscuits, which remained very pale, flat, and a bit doughy. I’m no biscuit expert, but I think something definitely wrong. The taste was fine, but I was expecting something better in terms of appearance and texture.

I’m slowly coming round to the idea of biscuits and gravy, so I also made the sage gravy to accompany them. This was a total success – really easy, and really delicious. I’d happily make the gravy again, though I might stick to a tried and tested biscuit recipe instead.

While I am still a bit suspicious of biscuits and gravy, I have no such qualms when it comes to tofu scramble – I’m willing to try any recipe! I was impressed by the paprika, nooch, and turmeric in this one, but it needed a bit more. I livened it up by adding some smoked tofu to the mix, and using sun-dried tomatoes instead of regular ones. It was a solid base recipe though, and easily tinkered with.

The coconut corn chowder didn’t look particularly photogenic, and it didn’t have any herbs or spices, which seemed like an oversight. Again, it was a good base recipe, and easily livened up with some chilli flakes. I think it was necessary to have  something a bit more fierce to balance out the sweetness of the coconut milk. The recipe includes some sun-dried tomatoes, and I heartily approve of their inclusion.

I made the creamy black bean soup using kidney beans instead of black ones due to availability, but no other changes this time. It was a very quick and easy soup, and a pretty tasty one too – it won’t go down in history as one of the great soups, but it was a solid lunch.

In the end I only made one recipe from the mains section. There’s a recipe for fettucine alfredo two ways – I made sauce one, which is a simple blitzing of a handful of ingredients. This is a great emergency meal option. The sauce really packed a punch when it was freshly blitzed, but when it was warmed through with the pasta it lost a bit of its magic, so I’d probably increase the seasoning a bit next time. I’ll happily have this again.

And that is the sum of my efforts in April. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book, because I’m just not sure who the intended audience is. There were some appetising sounding recipes, but some needed specialised ingredients and others were just a matter of assembling shop-bought products. If you’ve had more luck with this book, I’d love to hear about it!

And I solemnly swear I will post a more thorough review of next month’s book!

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Vegan in Dublin: Sova Food Vegan Butcher

Usually I plan my holidays based on the vegan options, but my Easter trip to Dublin was a rare occasion when there was a different main attraction: it was the only Arcade Fire date that fit with Dr HH’s school holidays. (Of course, they announced a show in Prague several months later, but at least we got a good holiday out of it.) The  second attraction, of course, was Sova Food Vegan Butcher, whose dishes I had been enjoying on Instagram for quite some time.

The menu has big hearty dishes, along with some more fine dining elements, like these scallops. As a keen Masterchef viewer, I’m always on the lookout for a vegan version of scallops, but this was only the second time I’d found them.

They were good! The scallop itself was a good juicy bit of mushroom, sitting on a potato cake and topped with kelp caviar. The black pudding was delicious (I’m crazy about vegan black pudding), and the little bits of pickled cauliflower were a real treat. Everything was so well seasoned, I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

Dr HH had to admit that my starter comfortably won: his was these polenta and chickpea balls in a creamy sauce, accompanied by a sourdough crostini.  He felt that the balls were less exciting and flavoursome than falafel would have been.

We both felt like we won the main courses though, which is always a good sign. There were a lot of great choices, but Dr HH eventually narrowed it down to the chicken dish. The seitan chicken was rolled up with a delicious herby stuffing, and he loved the overall meatiness of it. The accompaniments (sweet potato puree, gravy, asparagus, broccoli, and rocket salad) were all solid but not mind-blowing: the chicken itself was really the star of the show.

 

I ordered the soy schnitzel, and this was not what I expected it to look like!Goodness me! There were four pieces of the schnitzel, which was a really tender meat in a light, herby batter – just like Dr HH, I found the meat to be the star of the show, which seems apt for a place with”butcher” in the title. The spiral of potato is apparently called duchess potatoes, and it was the most fun way I’ve ever been served spuds. There were various mushrooms and broad beans underneath the schnitzel, which were nice, but I only had eyes for the meat and potatoes! And there was also a pot of tartare sauce, which is probably necessary for such a dry dish – personally, I can’t stand the stuff though.

We were pretty well fed by this point, but we thought we might as well have a pud. There were only two options, and we both thought the strawberry cheesecake sounded a bit dull, so we got the alternative, which was a coconut shortbread which a quenelle (more Masterchef points) of chocolate avocado mousse, adorned with orange jelly, a tart raspberry coulis, and candied walnuts. It was indulgent without being too heavy, and we both loved it. It was €25 each for three courses, which we felt was pretty decent value for money. We left feeling pleasantly full, and really enjoyed the creative, ambitious menu and well-seasoned dishes.

I had also been looking forward to returning a couple of days later for Saturday brunch, but I felt so ill I almost didn’t make it. A short sit in the fresh air at nearby St Stephen’s Green restored me a bit, but I couldn’t really make the most of the menu.

I’d planned on trying something more exciting, but could only manage the mac and cheese in the end. Besides that hideous pile of rocket on top, it was lovely, and was perfect comfort food. Smooth, creamy, and medicinal – what higher praise could there be?

So, should you go to Dublin just to visit this place? Quite frankly, yes!

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Vegan in Liverpool: Afternoon Tea at Jam

Imagine you’re going for afternoon tea. You’ve been promised a vegan macaron. You’re envisioning a classy affair.

You open the door to find ‘Africa’ by Toto playing full blast, hazy purple lighting, a hen do in full swing, and not a macaron in sight. It’s safe to say my trip to Jam was not exactly what I was expecting, but it did manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

I heard about Jam in this article about vegan afternoon tea options in Liverpool. I couldn’t find the word ‘vegan’ anywhere on their website, but when I emailed an enquiry I was sent a vegan afternoon tea menu which featured several kinds of sandwiches, a scone each, and a cake plate of chocolate tart, Victoria sponge, chocolate flapjack, and macaron. I was sold.

But even though I booked over a week in advance, it was not even close to what we were served.

We had two kinds of sandwiches: avocado and veg, and hummus and veg. The hummus was really good, and it made a pleasant change to have the sandwiches served on baguette rather than sliced bread – these two factors elevated these from fairly run-of-the-mill vegan afternoon tea fare.

As for the scones…no, there’s no mistaking these for scones. They were clearly lemon drizzle cakes. The texture was a little spoiled by too much moisture, but they were certainly lemony enough.

And as for the cakes, we could be generous and call this a slight twist on the Victoria sponge: a light cake with raspberries and a vanilla icing on top. It was a little dry, but otherwise nice. The highlight of the whole tea was the hazelnut sponge with chocolate topping. The topping was still sticky and gooey (they might have been freshly made for us), and the sponge was really light and delicious. I could have eaten ten more of these!

Quite a mixed bag, in general – we were a little disheartened on arrival to find it was not a classy restaurant and there were no macarons, but the hummus, bread,and chocolate cake went quite some way to salvaging it. At £17 a head, I’d say this was quite steep for what we got and it wouldn’t be my first choice in Liverpool (hello, Tea Parlour) – but if you’re being dragged along on a hen do, take heart that you’ll be well looked after. Alternatively, if you like purple lighting and listening to full-blast bangers while you eat, book your table right away!

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