Cookbook of the Month: BOSH! (Part One)

I didn’t know too much about this book before I received it for Christmas, but as soon as I began flicking through it I knew it would be a great addition to my bookshelf. I immediately marked almost every recipe to try – everything sounded both delicious and logistically possible without taking hours out of my day or breaking the bank with extravagant ingredients.

Unsurprisingly, then, I’ve decided that this book definitely warrants two months of attention. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface so far, but here’s what I’ve made from each section (the Cocktail section is the only one as yet unexplored).

Quick Eats

I love recipes like this creamy carbonara, where there’s a really simple sauce to blitz and that’s basically the hard work done. The first night when we had this, we found the sauce far too bland – basically, the mushrooms were doing all the work, flavourwise. So on the second night we added some extra nooch, garlic, and salt to the sauce, along with the leftover mushroom marinade, and this time everything was properly delicious.

Dr HH and I got some stylish metal lunch boxes for Christmas, so we’ve been branching out from our usual lunch time soups to try to get the most out of them. This guacaroni was an obvious choice: pasta in a cool, creamy avocado sauce. Dr HH was a little underwhelmed by it, but I loved it and think it will become a packed lunch staple.

The first observation we both had about the easy peasy pasta was that there was far too much oil. It was absolutely swimming in it! Besides the excessive oil, this is pretty much a bog standard pasta and veg dish, nothing to write home about.

Big Eats

I was never a fan of those potato-topped fish pies when I was a meat eater, but I was very excited about this creamy seaside pie. I could only get regular button mushrooms rather than the recommended Asian selection, so I didn’t get that nice texture and deeper taste that would have been preferable, but this was still good. There was plenty of nori to give it a taste of the sea, and I chucked some dill in as well for good measure.

I very rarely cook Indian food, because Dr HH believes nobody makes it better than his mother and I don’t relish criticism. But we had a load of leftover spinach, so I thought I should give this saag aloo a go – and I’m glad I did! It really packed a flavour punch, plus it was very vibrant too. Even Dr HH gave it the seal of approval!

No, your eyes do not deceive you – that is indeed a second Indian dish! I was worried the rogan Bosh would be too sweet from the coconut yoghurt, but it turned out very well-balanced and tasty.

Showpieces

The Showpieces section of the book was crucial to my plans for celebrating my fifth anniversary with Dr HH, and I eventually settled on the world’s best pesto lasagne. I’ve come to really enjoy spending a few hours at the weekend labouring over the various components of a lasagne and bringing it all together into a slap-up Sunday dinner, with leftovers to carry us through to midweek. This one was certainly worth the effort, and my only complaint was that I’d have liked double the amount of pesto! I’ll certainly make this again.

Greens & Bosh Bowls

Our lunch boxes got another outing for this falafel bowl. I actually found the falafel quite dry and heavy, but that was possibly due to some clumsy work and I’d like to give them another go. They had it going on in the flavour stakes, and I enjoyed the Greek salad on the side. While I took care of those two elements, Dr HH handled the hummus…

He made both the roasted garlic hummus and sun-dried tomato hummus. The latter needed thinning out, and the flavour might have shone through more with a plain bread accompaniment rather than the competing falafel – for this particular dish, the roasted garlic version was the definite winner. All in all, this was a majestic lunch.

Small Plates & Sharers

For another exciting packed lunch, I made us two kinds of sushi! The guaca maki rolls were mega tasty (and I followed the ultimate guacamole recipe too), but a little bit heavy and sloppy from the guac.

The satay maki rolls (made with the rich satay sauce) were somehow even tastier, and one of the more exciting kinds of sushi I’ve tried. The sauce was just  delicious.

Desserts

From the Desserts section, my chocolate chip cookies didn’t look much like the ones in the book, but they tasted sublime! My colleagues absolutely loved them – including the person who had initially scoffed at the very notion of vegan cookies (can’t wait to tell him about Oreos…) and then swiftly demanded my baking tips.

And for Dr HH’s birthday I made this beautiful beacon of decadence: the ultimate chocolate fudge cake. The cake was good, but the icing was something else altogether. I don’t think I’d ever made a chocolate fudge cake before, and this one was exactly as it  should be. We could only manage small slivers of this, because it was so intense.

Breakfasts

Dr HH whipped up the banana pancakes for me one morning, and don’t they look good? He found the batter a little thinner than his usual recipes, and therefore the pancakes themselves weren’t as pillowy, but it was still a lovely breakfast feast. This won’t become our go-to recipe, but no real complaints.

I like making cake in a loaf tin, because then I can call it bread or a loaf and imagine I’m being quite healthy. I  had to abandon that pretence when I made this banana bread because I only had half quantities of all the ingredients and didn’t really fancy a sad little loaf. So I made muffins instead, simply reducing the cooking time. These were really easy to make (just chuck it all in a bowl and mix, classic), and tasted very good indeed. I’ll certainly be revisiting this recipe.

 

So far, then, everything has been basically delicious and relatively easy to make, and I’m highly motivated to keep on cooking through February. One thing I love about this book is that there are plenty of pictures – a lot of books skimp on them, but this is gorgeous to flick through.

One thing I’m less keen on is that all ingredients are listed in their whole form in the list (eg. one onion), and the preparation of those ingredients are hidden away in the text of the method (eg. Next, chop the onion). Personally, I like to see all those preparatory steps separately so I can get them out of the way before I start. It’s no fun scanning the recipe trying to see if the onion was meant to be chopped or finely sliced when I’m already halfway through everything.

I will persevere though, because the end results are worth it! Have you already got your hands on this book? Which recipes should I definitely make in February?

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Vegan in Manchester: Boho Utopia

I love supporting all-vegan businesses, and I love supporting women-owned businesses, so when those two combine I am always extra delighted. Boho Utopia, therefore, is right up my alley. I visited in 2017 for the Christmas afternoon tea, and I watched with interest as they switched to an all-vegan menu at the start of 2018. Since then I’ve been eyeing up their massive breakfasts, delicious bakes, and extravagant freakshakes on Instagram, just waiting to get back and try them.

I finally got my opportunity when I was home in December. It’s a bit of a trek from my mum’s house to Withington, where the cafe is located, but it was worth it. It’s a really relaxing, friendly place, and perhaps my favourite thing about it is that you can choose your own mug from a very exciting array. I couldn’t resist this dinosaur mug, of course.

Equally irresistible was this mac and cheese toastie. I’m absolutely addicted to mac and  cheese, and surely sticking it between more carbs is the only way to improve it. This was delightful.

Perhaps Dr HH made the winning choice with the big breakfast. The hash browns were wonderfully crisp on the outside, and the bread for the toast was also very good. The mushrooms and cherry tomatoes were well-seasoned and well-cooked. The BBQ jackfruit sounded like an exciting addition, but he found it a little underwhelming taste-wise and not quite as tender as jackfruit usually is. But the homemade baked beans were extremely flavoursome, and the bacon was the surprise hit of the whole spread – it’s quite rare to get good fake bacon, but this was a triumph of both taste and texture. I’ll certainly be ordering this when we go back.

And we finished with this magnificent concoction. It has long been a goal of mine to try a freakshake (that’s a normal ambition to have, I assume), and there’s talk of them being banned in the UK for health reasons (which seems weird when cigarettes, alcohol, and meat are all still approved, and I’m guessing there are very few people who have a shake every day), so I had to try one while I still could. We shared the ‘Ain’t no Oreo back girl’, and I certainly couldn’t have tackled it solo. As you can see, there’s chocolate sauce around the glass, and the shake was presumably made from blitzed chocolate ice cream and milk. There were little Oreo chunks stuck around the top of the glass, and the shake was topped with a brownie and a mountain of cream.

We had to remove the brownie, which I’m hoping is the correct etiquette – I was very glad to have Dr HH on hand to discuss how best to approach this beast. It was such a treat, and worth both the mess and the wait! They have a few other shake options, plus some decadent hot chocolates, which might have been more appropriate for the season, but who cares?!

I was really happy to finally achieve my freakshake dream, and just to return to this cafe a second time. Importantly, they were playing some of the greatest hits of the ’80s and ’90s while we ate, and we were enjoying the tunes so much we really didn’t want to leave – a good soundtrack is always important. I’m not sure life gets much better than sharing a freakshake with the person you love in a vegan cafe while listening to Spandau Ballet!

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MiniMoFo: Puro, Prague

After a bit of a break, MiniMoFo is back for 2019 and I’m really looking forward to getting on board with the monthly prompts. January’s theme is Beat the Blues (more info here if you also want to get involved).

Truthfully, I’m not really feeling the January blues. I’ve surprised myself – and no doubt all the people around me – by returning after the holidays feeling refreshed and energised, and I’ve actually really enjoyed getting back to work.

Usually we return after Christmas to find Prague covered in snow, which then turns to the  dreaded slush and ice, but so far this year the snowfall has been light and fleeting, so that’s not getting me down or keeping me locked indoors. Also, I got a great new pair of boots from Will’s Vegan Shoes that will give me a better hope of remaining upright on the ice, so I’m less concerned than usual.

Plus, I actually quite like January. It’s Dr HH’s birthday, as well as our anniversary, so I always have some fancy meals and celebrations to plan. January’s alright!

So I don’t really have any January blues to beat, but if I did, these waffles would probably do the trick! Puro is one of my favourite eateries in Prague (and they serve the best hot chocolate in the city, which doesn’t hurt either), and on Saturdays they offer a special brunch menu. Usually they keep the same menu up for two months, relating to whatever theme they’ve chosen (French, Japanese, Christmas, etc). Currently they’re offering Winter Brunch, which is a good fit for MiniMoFo: comforting seasonal dishes, warming the heart (and belly).

As always, the menu is divided into soups, snacks, and mains. I merely skimmed the soups section (I eat a lot of soup at home, I don’t need it when I eat out), but the snacks were very tempting, including quiche, pierogi, and the open-faced sandwiches so beloved in the Czech Republic. The mains section was the best, though, offering either an omelette or some waffles.

Obviously I got the waffles. They were delicious! They were sitting on a bed of sweet, soft, baked apple slices, covered in lashings of maple syrup, scattered with hazelnuts, and topped with generous clouds of whipped cream. Now that’s a brunch! It was tasty, comforting, and extremely filling – I really needed a good walk afterwards.

And if I had been suffering from the January blues, I’m sure these would have put a smile back on my face!

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2018 Hits and Misses

Happy New Year! I have high hopes for 2019, not least because I’ve got a three week trip to Japan to look forward to in the summer. 2018 was, as always, a great year to be vegan and Dr HH and I were lucky enough to visit a good few destinations and discover their culinary delights. Here are my top five eateries of the year, along with five that I think could do better.

Hit #1: Dall’Albero, Rome

It’s a vegan cheese lab. What more do I need to say? This is one of the best places I’ve been to in my whole life, nevermind 2018.

Miss #1: Lasagneria, Prague

Every day my tram takes me past this lasagne restaurant in Prague, and when I told Dr HH about it, he enthusiastically suggested that I enquire about vegan options. I thought there was no point, and set about scrolling through their Instagram posts in order to prove him wrong. But there it was: a mention of vegan lasagne! I sent them a message to confirm, and off we went. But we had to wait almost an hour for the vegan version to be cooked (while all the meat eaters were readily tucking into theirs, and even though we had booked in advance), and it was the most flavourless, gluey lasagne you can imagine. There was no tomato or ragu in there, just pasta, courgettes and peppers, a tiny hint of seasoning, and a disgustingly gloopy bechamel.  Never again.

Hit #2: Wani, Rome

Rome delivered yet again with this delightful all vegan bakery. We got a few different treats there, but it’s these chocolate bombs that Dr HH and I still reminisce about on an almost daily basis.

Miss #2: Whole Foods, London

I thought Whole Foods would be a good place to pick up a vegan doughnut or cake for breakfast while in London, and was really disappointed to find that all of the vegan options were in plastic containers…while the non-vegan doughnuts and cupcakes weren’t. It was weird. The only vegan, non-plastic options were some fairly unexciting banana and blueberry muffins. The tide seems to be turning regarding plastic in the UK, so hopefully this will improve.

Hit #3: Sova, Dublin

This was the place I was most looking forward to visiting in Dublin, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. It was one of the fanciest meals I ate this year (and the brunch was not too shabby either). The scallops will live on forever in my memory!

Miss #3: Lola’s Cupcakes, London

I picked up a cupcake for the ride to the airport last time I was in London, having heard good things about Lola’s. Alas, the icing was so heavy that when I picked the cake up from its wrapper, the sponge just collapsed under the weight. It was all a bit of a disaster. Maybe I just chose poorly…or maybe they should only ever be tackled with a utensil? Either way, eating this in public is certainly not recommended.

Hit #4: Midland Hotel, Manchester

I’ve had my share of vegan afternoon teas, and this one really stands out from the crowd. It was a really fancy affair, shared with my favourite people to celebrate my birthday, and everything was both delicious and classy. Now I’m always disappointed when I go for afternoon tea and they don’t have a scone warmer.

Miss #4: Jam, Liverpool

I feel bad for complaining about an afternoon tea, when I should be thankful that vegan versions are so readily available these days. But this was not a very classy affair, and we were misled on the menu – don’t promise a vegan macaron if there won’t be one!

Hit #5: Temple of Camden, London

I love mock chicken and I love mac and cheese, but it’s easy to get them both slightly wrong. Temple of Camden delivered on both counts, and I often find myself plotting how to get back to London to revisit this wonderful place.

Miss #5: The Green, Nuremberg

Overpriced places like this give veganism a reputation for being inaccessible. And the smoothie bowls weren’t even the right temperature!

What were your best and worst eateries of the year? Help me plan my future travels!

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A Vegan Christmas 2018

Christmas whizzed by so quickly this year, and despite my lack of preparation it was surprisingly successful. Here’s a little roundup of some of my festive highlights.

As always, we started our Christmas eating in Prague. Like last year, Puro was serving up traditional Czech Christmas dinner every Saturday in December, and we were happy to tuck into the traditional carp and potato salad, all veganised.

And as usual, we went to the vegan Christmas festival to pick up a box of Christmas cookies from Nebeske Dorticky, a Brno-based vegan baker extraordinaire. It was a really good selection this year – I especially loved the little round triple decker cookies.

Dr HH can always be relied on to provide an exciting advent calendar for me, and this year was no exception. This time, along with a daily sweet treat, he provided me a festive dot-to-dot to draw and then colour in. It was great fun!

Back in the UK, we became even more festive! We made a beeline for Morrison’s to try the accidentally vegan gingerbread doughnuts. They were good and creamy and flavoursome, and I think they should be a staple all year round, not just in December!

My mum treated us to a few treats from Truffle Pig, a vegan chocolatier from Sheffield whose sweet treats I absolutely love (and have mentioned several times before). She got us the Christmas box and the classic box, and I’d highly recommend both. The Christmas box included a festive tiffin, a gold-dusted chocolate orange, and a praline. The classic contained a peanut butter truffle, a caramel, and a regular chocolate truffle. Needless to say, everything was wonderful!

And for savoury snacks, I was powerless to resist these pigs and blankets crisps from Tesco – the ‘pigs’ were basically meaty Wotsits, and the ‘blankets’ were like Frazzles. They were extremely moreish!

On the drinks front, we were very excited to spot this ginger and orange drinking chocolate in Holland & Barrett. Rather than powder, it’s actually in dark chocolate discs that you stir into the hot milk. The ginger doesn’t come through much, but the orange is lovely.

And of course, I did some of my own cooking too. We started the day itself with the orange and pecan sticky buns from The Superfun Times Cookbook, which has become something of a tradition already. I love making these because it’s one of the rare occasions when Dr HH and I work together on a culinary project. And I also love eating them, because they’re sticky and sensational!

For Christmas dinner, I hadn’t had much time to experiment so we largely stuck to the classics. I made the same vegetable pot pie from The Superfun Times Cookbook that we enjoyed last year, and my mum prepared all the usual sides. I added the cauliflower cheese from Vegan Christmas, and we allowed Dr HH to bring some chilli flakes to the table this year: he made some delicious spicy Brussels sprouts. It was a proper feast!

And from the same book, and the same as last year, I whipped up a pecan pie for dessert. It’s a good choice because (a)it’s really delicious, and (b)you can make it a day ahead. Win-win!

Of course, I got some solid vegan gifts as well. The Rosejam bubble bar is my favourite thing from Lush. I asked for one, so of course my mum got me four. I’ll have a very fragrant bag on the journey back to Prague, at least.

I’m making the move away from plastic goods as much as possible, so my mum helped out with a nice deodorant and lip balms in metal tins. Excellent!

Back to Truffle Pig, we got these hot chocolate spoons – very chocolatey, with mini marshmallows as well. They made for very delicious hot chocolates!

I think there are few things more exciting than getting a new lunch box! This one is metal, leak-proof, has a divider, and has a fork strapped on. This will serve me well on my lunch breaks.

And of course, I got a cookbook, as is tradition. I’ve seen this one mentioned a lot over the year, but didn’t know much about it. At first glance, I want to cook pretty much everything, so I have very high hopes for it! I’ll keep you all posted in January!

So that’s it for another vegan Christmas at HH HQ. I hope you’ve all eaten all the good food and received some top notch gifts, or just enjoyed putting your feet up and reading some books!

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Vegan in Manchester: The Allotment (Again)

Alas, I have turned into one of those people who is totally unprepared for Christmas and can’t believe how it has snuck up on us. I had great plans for exciting presents and holiday activities, trial menus and indulgent baked goods. But I’ve been swept up in busy-ness and none of my plans have come to fruition. Fortunately, the traditional Christmas meal at The Allotment was one thing I still managed to work out.

Since our visit last December, Manchester’s fanciest vegan eatery has relocated from Stockport to the city centre, a move that is extremely convenient for me and also means they’re in much bigger premises. Great news all round!

This time Dr HH and I were joined by the first-timers and meat eaters in my family, who were dazzled by the food. We all went for the Christmas menu, which was not cheap at £45 each but was very much worth it.

The starter was teeny tiny, but packed with flavour. It was a cranberry and red wine parfait with lots of beetroot, some walnuts, and a sweet potato crisp. The little quenelle of pate was just sublime.

We all had fairly low expectations for the cinnamon-spiced carrot soup, and were pleasantly surprised – again it was very flavoursome, and the beignet was a delightful addition.

On to the main – brined cauliflower with all the trimmings. Everything was perfectly proportioned and really well cooked. The cauliflower was delicious, and was sitting atop a parsnip puree. There was some accompanying kale, aubergine, and carrot, along with a potato cake. It was basically a plate of really well prepared vegetables, and I’d happily eat it every day.

I don’t know if this was the dessert or the palate cleanser, but it was both sweet and refreshing: juicy apple with a whiskey granita (that was pleasantly non-boozy tasting) and gingerbread crumb. The gingerbread was especially good, but the whole thing worked beautifully together as a sweet and spiced dish.

Then came the cheeseboard, which I’d been really looking forward to. There were some raw crackers (two each), grapes, onion chutney, and three cheeses: almond feta, and two creamy cashew based ones (chilli and garlic). They were all pleasant, but the feta was the standout. Interestingly, the non-vegans were more impressed with it than Dr HH and I were – I think we are more used to an exciting array of cheese options and have quite high expectations now. It was pleasant, but not amazing.

And finally! We were expecting chocolate truffles, so were quite surprised to get these little glasses. But there was the truffle in the bottom of the glass, topped with a light, milky froth. It was a very happy combination – the truffle was extremely decadent, and the foam lightened it up a treat.

At the end of this, we were all comfortably full – everything was well paced and appropriately sized, as well as delicious.

And so now the next big meal will be Christmas dinner, which I’m marginally prepared for. I’m sure we’ll all muddle through somehow! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, friends  – I hope you have some wonderful company and fantastic food, and the perfect day for you!

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Vegan in London: La Suite West (Festive Edition)

There’s nothing I love more than having an afternoon tea when I return to England for a holiday. It’s always an extremely classy and civilised affair (or almost always…), and it’s just such a lovely occasion. I don’t think I ever savour a meal as much as I do an afternoon tea, when I linger over  every little morsel. On Saturday morning, Dr HH and I flew home for Christmas at the crack of dawn and hung around in London for the festive afternoon tea  at La Suite West. We’d had a very elegant afternoon tea there a few summers ago, and were very excited about seeing how they put a Christmas twist on it.

First of all, it came with a glass of non-alcoholic fizz, which was quite a pleasant addition. And last time we were served the food on slates, whereas now we finally had the coveted cake stand. Presentation-wise, this definitely had the wow factor!

Of course, we started with the sandwiches. The small, white triangle just contained hummus and cucumber; if that weren’t disappointing enough, there were two of them! I expect better from a festive menu.

The other three sandwiches did go some way to making up for it, at least. We had chipotle cheese with caramelised onion chutney and rocket on rye bread, which was very good indeed, chiefly due to the deliciousness of the chutney. Then there was the BLT: the bacon was some really delicious aubgerine, which was a big hit. And the star of the show, unsurprisingly, was the brioche bun filled with cream cheese and smoked carrot ‘salmon’. I have never eaten anything quite so smoky – and now I can’t stop thinking about it! Perhaps my New Year’s Resolution will be to eat more smoked food…

And then on to the scone plate. It’s never the most exciting part of an afternoon tea, but La Suite West tried to make it a bit fancier by serving some vegan honey alongside the coconut cream and jam. I did not actually try the honey because I’m extremely traditional and am not sure about honey with scones. Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that Dr HH was all over it though, and he reported that it was very close to honey in both taste and texture. The cream was nice, but there was nowhere near enough of it for the four scones. The jam was really good – thick and fruity. We got two fruit and two plain scones, but only ate the fruity ones because it seems foolish to fill up on scones when there are more exciting dessert options awaiting (and I was already starting to feel full). The scones were solid, then, but were never going to be the highlight.

Speaking of which…here’s the dessert plate. My mouth was watering as soon as I saw it!

Usually I save the best till last, but I feared that philosophy would not serve me well here, given how much there was to eat. So we started with the peanut butter and chocolate cake. It was excellent! The sponge was a little dry, but it was encased in chocolate and peanuts and topped with cream and caramel, and that really elevated it. Essentially, it was a fancy Snickers bar, and I would happily eat one of these every day.

Doesn’t this Christmas bauble look amazing?! It was a great idea: sponge, a chocolatey centre, mandarin jelly, all coated in white chocolate. It was slightly let down in the execution, though – the chocolate was so hard it was impossible to cut through it, meaning that it wasn’t possible to eat all the different elements together. The jelly was a little too sharp without the sweetness of the chocolate to balance it out, so it didn’t quite fit together as it should, but it was still a very ambitious and exciting dessert.

At this point, I gave up: I just didn’t have room for another bite. Dr HH pressed on though, and tried the last two desserts. The Christmas tree cake looked lovely, but he was quite underwhelmed by it – it tasted quite strongly of marzipan, and the sponge was once again a little dry. He also tried the apple and pear pie, which looked like a little pasty – alas, the pastry lacked any degree of crispness, and there was barely any filling in it.

The restaurant actually prides itself on being a vegan patisserie (possibly the only one in London), so we had quite high expectations for the dessert plate and were a little disappointed. Even the spectacular Snickers cake featured a dry sponge. Truthfully, I thought the desserts at Manchester’s Midland Hotel were higher quality, and equally attractive – these ones were a wee bit style over substance.

At £35 per person this was not cheap, and the quality could have been better. But it was a beautiful occasion, and the service couldn’t have been better. And how lucky are we to live in the days of festive vegan afternoon teas?!

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