Cookbook of the Month: Asian Vegan Kitchen

AVK Button Mushroom Curry (12)

The Asian Vegan Kitchen had been sitting on my bookshelf for several years, and only used twice.  That’s pretty poor, especially considering how much I love Asian food.  I’d always been deterred by the fact that the ingredients lists look so daunting, and there aren’t many pictures.  Choosing this as a cookbook of the month forced me to actually venture into some of the tempting recipes, and I was not disappointed.  As I already have a pretty good stock-pile of ingredients now, it turned out to be a fairly cheap and tasty month, though due to my holiday I didn’t have time to cook as many recipes as I would have liked.  The book is organised by country, and I seemed to stick to a few of them.

AVK Satay Skewers (8)

Starting with the Thai section, I made these satay skewers with their delicious chunks of deep-fried tofu, mushrooms, peppers and asparagus.  The recipe also called for chunks of baby corn, but I couldn’t get them onto the skewers – fortunately, they were delicious eaten straight from the marinade.  The marinade was tasty, but was  overpowered by the sweet peanut dipping sauce that is served alongside it – I think you really only need one or the other.  We also debated whether we’d put theses ingredients on skewers again.  It would be much easier to simply serve them with some rice and a dollop of sweet peanut sauce.  We’ll definitely be having it again in one form or another though.

AVK Tom Yam Soup (9)

The tom yam soup was nicely flavoured, but looks a bit unappetising due to the dark soy sauce I was using.  I’m now rather fed up with thin Asian broths – I’ll definitely be back to some chunky, thick soups in May!

AVK Drunkard's Noodles (2)

The amusingly titled drunkard’s noodles are so named because the author believes they are a good hangover cure.  I can’t confirm that, but I had them when I was full of cold post-holiday and they certainly cleared my sinuses!  They were good and spicy, and delicious hot or cold.

AVK Roasted Aubergine Salad

This roasted aubergine salad was a filling and spicy lunch – again, good for my sinuses.  It’s better fresh from the oven, but cold leftovers work too.  I loved the crunchy peanuts!

AVK Sticky Rice With Mango (1)

Unsurprisingly, desserts aren’t the main focus of this book.  The only one I made was the sticky coconut rice with mango, that Thai staple.  It was as good as I’d hoped, and I’ll definitely make it again!  The recipe calls for quite a lot of sugar, which I thought would be unnecessary in light of the coconut milk and cream.  However, I would recommend using the full amount as a mouthful without any mango was really lacking in sweetness.

AVK Navratna Korma (8)

I’d expected to use the Indian section a lot more, but it only got a couple of outings.  The navratna korma is actually one of the dishes I’d made before.  This time I tweaked the recipe, soaking a cup of cashews beforehand to provide a real creamy sauce for the curry.  Actually though it wasn’t particularly creamy, and turned out to be one of my least favourites.

AVK Button Mushroom Curry (11)

The mushroom and green pea curry from the Indian section was one of the more intriguing dishes I tried- it was unlike any curry recipe I’d used before.  It called for a sauce made from ground up blanched almonds, which I decided to replace with almond butter, which resulted in quite a thick and creamy sauce.  The poppy seeds were a pleasant but unusual addition.  All in all, it was a nice tasty curry.

AVK Lachedar Paretha

And I even made my own bread to serve with it!  I’m a famously bad breadmaker, so this lachedar paratha was quite the surprise – it did exactly what I wanted (except that it was meant to be round and came out rectangular).  Mr HH is an expert in Indian flatbreads, and even he seemed tolerably impressed with my efforts, so I’m calling this one a definite win.

AVK Pho (2)

Although I lived in Vietnam for two and a half years, I rarely cook Vietnamese food.  I only remember eating pho once when I lived there (I know.  My only defence is that I hadn’t even heard of Happy Cow back then and didn’t really know how to find meat free food.), and that was when a student took me out and failed to grasp the concept of vegetarianism – she ordered me the soup without the meat, but it was still meat broth and I could barely choke down a few polite mouthfuls.  This was much better!  There were lovely tofu and shiitake strips, some fiery red chillies, crunchy beansprouts and of course plenty of noodles which I slurped up like a true Vietnamese.

Spicy Coconut Vegetable Soup (8) The spicy coconut vegetable soup from the Vietnamese section doesn’t look too appetising, thanks again to the strong colouring from the dark soy sauce I used.  But it’s all about taste, and that was spot on – it didn’t lie about the “spicy” part.

AVK Fresh Spring Rolls (3)

Spring rolls were probably my favourite Vietnamese food, and while I’d usually go for the crispy, deep-fried variety, this time I made some healthy fresh ones.  They were simple and tasty and I’ll definitely make them again – they made for a nice light meal and were nice simply dipped in soy sauce.  As always, the presentation needs improving, but the taste was an immediate hit.

AVK Gyoza

China was quite under-represented in my endeavours, and the only dish I tried was this one.  I was extremely nervous and excited about making gyoza for the first time – and astonished at how easy they were!  The filling was really simple but tasty, and construction was easy.  We popped a few in the freezer as well, so we have some more to look forward to.

AVK Tofu and Vegetable Soup (4)

The Japanese section was one of my favourites:  I’m crazy about Japanese food at the moment.  The tofu and vegetable soup was simple, but really tasty.  It included burdock, a mysterious ingredient that I’d planned to simply omit until I spotted some in the Chinese supermarket and thought I’d give it a go.  I suppose I’d expected it to taste like dandelion and burdock, but in actual fact it didn’t seem to lend a particularly distinct flavour to the soup.  Still, it was an exciting purchase, and the soup was really nice- the best of the ones I made.

AVK Vegetable Pancake (1)

I was a little anxious about making this vegetable pancake because I don’t usually excel at flipping pancakes.  But this one turned out pretty nicely, as you can see.  The recipe said it would serve four, but (gluttony alert) the pancake above consists of half the batter.  That looks the perfect size for a main course, in my opinion, so I don’t feel too guilty about it.  It was nice and crispy, and really delicious with the tomato-based sauce from the recipe.  I made it again with asaparagus rather than shiitake mushrooms, and it was just as good – they added a nice bit of bite to it.

AVK Tofu Teriyaki Steak (10)

The tofu teriyaki steak was one of the dishes I was most excited about trying.  I simplified the recipe somewhat, frying the mushrooms and asparagus in the same pan as the steak to save on washing up.  I know a lot of people complain about tofu being bland (that’s the point, it’s a flavour sponge!), but this had some good flavour from the sauce.  I might marinate it in the sauce next time to really let it soak it all up.

AVK Black Sesame (4)

I served the steak with black sesame asparagus – I didn’t grind the seeds as recommended, and I really liked the texture as it was.  The taste was good too, and it accompanied the steak nicely.

I felt like I hadn’t done that well with my challenge this month, but looking back I think sixteen recipes is pretty good in a month with a long holiday.  And the challenge worked for me in the sense that I finally overcame my fear of this book and no longer feel so daunted by it – it’s one that I’ll happily dip in and out of again in the future.  Despite the lack of pictures, the recipes are easy to follow and are quite easily adaptable if you want to replace expensive/hard to source ingredients with those you can pick up easily at the supermarket.

Next month I’m turning my attention to Afro Vegan, a book I got for my birthday this month.  The recipes look quite involved, but hopefully I’ll have enough time to dedicate to them.

Posted in Cookbooks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Afternoon Tea: Koffie ende Koeck, Amsterdam

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (3)

While on our recent European holiday, we managed to find ourselves a nice spot for afternoon tea at Koffie ende Koeck, a vegan cafe in Amsterdam.  And oh my goodness, it was amazing!  I suspected nobody would do an afternoon tea quite like the English, but how wrong I was.

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (1)

While the staff were putting the finishing touches to the main event, they brought us over a little appetiser in the form of this pineapple smoothie with a gingery kick – this was part of their breakfast menu which, considering our pretty dismal breakfasts elsewhere in Amsterdam, I wish we’d sampled as well.

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (2)

They brought over a pot of rose tea with a little coconut biscuit on the side.  My fellow wished it had been standard English breakfast tea, but I thought this was delightful and complemented the sweet treats very well.  Free top ups were included, which is always a bonus.

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (7)

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (9)

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (10)

First we tackled the savoury plate, which included a smoked tofu and salad sandwich on delicious toasted bread, a savoury scone and a pot of yoghurt with crunchy granola.  The sandwich was fantastic, and the scone was a real surprise – it was nice and crisp outside, and the filling was a mixture of cream cheese, cucumber and avocado with a real spicy zing to it.  The granola was quite unorthodox, but I liked that, and it made a nice transition from the savoury to the sweet plates.

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (5)

On the middle plate we had a slice of upside down banana cake, which was surprisingly pink!  It was really tasty, but the sponge was a touch drier than usual, presumably because it was upside down.  At the front was the surprise winner, a gluten-free lemon cake.  I always expect gluten free cakes to be dry, but this was gloriously sticky and sweet, and full of lemony flavour.  Hiding at the back was a little bounty bar:  a layer of chocolatey puffed rice topped with creamy coconut and topped with dark chocolate.  The puffed rice had gone soft and didn’t lend that longed for crunch, but it was still really tasty – there are few flavours I enjoy more than coconut.

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (4)

And to finish off, gluten free brownies and the house speciality, rose petit fours.  Again, we’d feared the worst from the brownie as it looked quite dry, but fortunately, beneath that crust lurked a moist and dense cake.  It had a few chocolate chunks hiding in there as well.  The petit four had a really delicate rose flavouring (it’s easy to make it too over-powering) and lovely white chocolate icing:  no wonder they’re a favourite.

Koffie ende Koeck is such a gorgeous little place, I keep wishing it were my local cafe.  It’s situated just near Westerpark, so it’s perfect for a summery stroll as well.  The interior is really cosy and nice, and there’s outdoor seating as well for the nicer weather.  The waitresses were lovely, and provided an unhurried, relaxing service and made us feel very welcome.  We booked the afternoon tea via their Facebook page, and communication was all very easy.  Writing this up, I may have just persuaded myself to book another flight to Amsterdam!

Posted in Afternoon tea, Travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Vegan in Brussels

013

Brussels is the cheapest place you can fly to from Manchester, so it’s little wonder that I wasn’t even the only person from my school hopping over for the Easter holiday.  Like most people, I went away from In Bruges thinking ‘Wow, I really want to go there!’ and my fellow reliably informed me that Ghent was the vegan capital of Europe, so it seemed like the ideal break for us.  We flew into Brussels on a Thursday night and spent Good Friday exploring the city before boarding a train for Ghent.

012

Our accommodation was pretty central, and just down the road from the Jewish Museum of Belgium, where we stumbled upon armed soldiers for the first (but certainly not last) time in our stay in Europe.  When I say armed, I mean it:  they were carrying machine guns.  There was a terrorist attack there last year so I suppose more security was needed, but nothing about those machine guns make me feel safe.  Everytime I saw them in Belgium and France it made me extremely thankful that we don’t see guns on the streets in the UK.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed our wanderings and needed some fuel for our morning.  As it was Good Friday, what choice did we have but to eat some chocolate?

Brussels - Laurent Garbaud Chocolatier (2)

I had read on HappyCow that Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier stocked soy milk for their hot chocolate, and a polite enquiry (in English; fortunately their language skills surpassed ours) proved this to be the case.  It was €3.50 for a drink, and it was served with a complementary chocolate from the counter.  The staff showed us all of the vegan options (probably about a third of them) and recommended two.  The chocolates were delicious, and we’d been very much looking forward to sampling some real Belgian chocolate.  The hot chocolate was even better:  it was made by pouring hot soy milk onto chocolate solids, so it was thick and intense and delicious.  It was in a great location too, surrounded by some pretty buildings and photo-worthy spots.

Brussels Greenway (1)

Brussels Greenway (3)We ate at the Brussels Midi station, at a little meat-free fast food place called Greenway.  It’s merely a counter with some adjacent seating, but the food definitely elevates it above standard greasy fast food.  On Friday I had the Mexican smoked jalapeno burger – it wasn’t really spicy at all, but an excellent mock chicken burger in a lovely toasted bun.

Brussels Greenway (4)

My fellow went for the Yakitori wrap, which was also vegan (vegan options are clearly marked on the board behind the counter – there are 3 wraps and 2 burgers to choose from for lunch).  He’d feared that my burger would outdo his meal, but the wrap was gigantic, and reportedly also delicious.  Again, the mock chicken warranted particular praise, but he also enjoyed the salad and was only disappointed that it was a little heavy on the dressing.

Brussels Greenway (7)

After spending a couple of days in Ghent, we stopped by Brussels once again on Easter Monday to catch a train to Paris and once again grabbed a quick bite at Greenway.  This time we split the kebab and falafel wraps so we could try everything.  It was my first ever vegan kebab – my first ever kebab at all, actually, it was never something that tempted me as a pre-teen meat-eater.  I am definitely in favour of it, as it was essentially just spicy mock meat with lots of salad.  That can only be a good thing!

Brussels Greenway (6)

We’d had reasonably high hopes for the falafel, but it was actually pretty disappointing, largely because we struggled to find any falafel hiding in amongst the salad.  It could more accurately be described as a salad wrap with a smidgen of falafel burrowed at the bottom.  Quite the disappointment.

Brussels Greenway (8)

While on the train to Paris, we split some takeaway cake (and I shall blame the poor photographs on the moving train).  The carrot cake was tiny, but it had a great texture and some nice crunchy seeds in there as well.  It could have done with a bit more spice, and, ideally, some icing too.

Brussels Greenway (10)

The chocolate brownie was much better (they serve both vegan and non-vegan brownies, so specify when you order) – a nice crust on top and a good gooey, chocolatey centre.

Greenway is reasonably priced – it was €7.95 for each burger or wrap, and they were generously sized (though alas, no chips on the side).  The only downside is that you have to pay by card.

Brussels Shops (10)

Brussels Shops (7)

Brussels Shops (8)

We also stocked up on a few things in Brussels, to ensure we had breakfasts (unfortunately my research had not revealed many promising vegan breakfasts in either Brussels or Ghent, though there are some options at good old Greenway in the station) and just in case most places were closed on Easter Sunday and Monday.  At Natural Choice we got some museli and apricot soy yoghurt – there was a much better selection of soy yoghurt flavours than I’m used to seeing in Manchester – along with a few treats.

Brussels Shops (4)

Brussels Shops (6)

We also stocked up in Origin’O at the station on these very filling biscuits and as yet unsampled speculoos chocolate.

Brussels Shops (1)

Brussels Shops (5)

On our wanders we also stumbled upon a little chocolatier with the word “vegan” on its blackboard, and we knew we had to go in.  They had some of their own vegan dark chocolate, in expensive seasonal Easter shapes.  They also sold Belvas chocolates, some of which are marked vegan, and which are pretty widely available in all three countries we visited.

All in all, Brussels wasn’t the vegan chasm I’d been fearing and I would have liked a couple more days to eat and explore there.  But as it’s so cheap to fly, I daresay I’ll be over there again before long, rooting out other possibilities!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vegan Afternoon Tea: Terre a Terre, Brighton

20150329_150158

Brighton will forever be one of my favourite places.  Last year when I went there for Vegfest it was not only my first time in Brighton, but my first holiday with Mr HH, and we had such a wonderful time exploring, eating and enjoying the sea air.  We had no choice but to return for Vegfest 2015 last weekend, and found ourselves revisiting the same cafes and restaurants (even ordering the same dishes occasionally) and having just as magical a time.  This year I am on the prowl for as many afternoon teas as possible, and the Terre a Terre special was too good to resist.  As Terre a Terre is a meat-free fine dining restaurant with a wonderfully inventive menu – it’s the fanciest vegan food I’ve eaten – it proved an excellent addition to the itinerary.

20150329_150137

It is, of course, no ordinary afternoon tea.  The savoury plate comprises various elements from the normal menu – not a cucumber sandwich in sight!  At the front of the picture you can see pickled lotus root slices, sandwiching some delicious chunks of sesame hoisin tofu – a lovely crunchy layer of seeds, and some quite sweet flavours mingling throughout.  This was the highlight of the plate for me.  In the back right are the arepas (Venezuelan corn cakes, which in this case are chip-shaped, deep-fried and a wee bit spicy).  They’re served with a lovely avocado hash.  Usually I feel like you should be able to eat an afternoon tea with your fingers, but here we had about eight different pieces of cutlery.  While we didn’t use most of them, it was nice to be able to scoop up any lingering traces of avocado with a spoon.  It would be a sin to waste it!  Finally, in the back left, you should be able to glimpse the tapioca cracker, which was lovely and crisp, with some pickled vegetables, including lovely vibrant beetroot.

Not only was it a tasty plate, it was also a nicely colourful one, with the yellow lotus root, green avocado and purple beetroot.  And, somewhat untraditionally, each person receives their own plate of savouries – presumably as some of them are a little too delicate to move!

20150329_150146

The sweet plate also looked very enticing.  It deviated from the menu slightly, but we had no grounds for complaint.  First we tried the chocolate cake at the fore of the picture, and to be honest, it was a little disappointing.  The sponge was quite dry and it was all a bit heavy.  I wouldn’t have wanted a much bigger slice, let’s say.  Next we had the small cake to the left of it:  a polenta cake with a fruity bit of sauce on top.  I’d never had polenta cake before and now I wonder why – it was glorious!   The outside was almost biscuit-like in its crumbliness, but when you bit into it it was really soft and moist, and everything the chocolate cake wasn’t.  I definitely wouldn’t have complained about a bigger piece of that!

Behind the polenta cake is half each of a mini banana cupcake.  Well, that is rather a simplified version:  it is in fact a hot banana almond spice cake.  It was nice and moist as well, and served with a pineapple chunk, but it wasn’t as flavoursome as I’d hoped, and wasn’t as good as the polenta cake.  We finished on a high with the mini churros.  Ah, churros.  They are the best dessert on the main menu, and these mini ones left me wanting more.  They were nice and warm, coated in cinnamon sugar and served with little pots of vodka cherries (meh) and melted chocolate (yum!).  Delicious!

20150329_150151

And finally, the scones.  The texture was good, but they were quite small and I actually preferred the ones from February’s afternoon tea at The Hideaway.  But the home-made jam was a lovely touch, and the oat cream was a really welcome addition – far superior to a bit of spread.  And basically I could eat scones all day every day:  they were really nice.

Afternoon tea is £18.95 per person at Terre a Terre, so it’s not cheap but it really is value for money.  It’s extravagant, ideal for a special occasion, and a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds!  Service was fast and friendly, and it’s nice to have a vegan option that’s as creative and tempting as it’s “normal” counterpart.  I usually judge vegan food in restaurants by asking myself:  “Would they serve this to omnivores as well?”, and while sometimes I’ve found the vegan options to be disappointingly bland or simple, here it was a resounding “YES!”  And for all my claims that I could have eaten more, I was actually extremely full at the end and had to waddle up the hill to the train station.  It’s probably just as well I was sitting down for the next few hours on the train home!

Posted in Afternoon tea, Travel | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Cookbook of the Month: Isa Does It (Part Two)

007

Continuing with the cookbook of the month, here are some more of the recipes I’ve tried in March from Isa Does It.

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup (9)

Creamy leek and potato soup is such a classic, it’s hard to go wrong.  The picture here is terrible, but the soup is really simple and tasty.  I used a hand blender to blitz about half of the soup, meaning the broth had a bit of thickness to it but there were still some nice little chunks of potato.

Chunky Miso Vegetable Soup (10)

The chunky miso vegetable soup was not quite as good – the chunkiness of the title refers to the vegetables, rather than to the broth itself, which is very watery.  It needs a partial blitz as well, I think, to thicken it up a bit.  And I’d probably double the amount of miso to really pack a flavour punch.

Cheddary Broccoli Soup (7)

The cheddary broccoli soup was more enjoyable:  it really does taste like a broccoli soup with cheese in it, almost unsettlingly so.  The texture is unsurprisingly smooth and creamy, and broccoli soup remains one of my all time favourites.

Wild Rice Soup (12)

The wild rice soup with browned seitan was quite meaty (though meat-eaters might disagree), and really packed with flavour.  This is one that I’ll definitely make again, not least because I will take any opportunity to say “I love seitan.”  I didn’t use wild rice, because I am not made of money – simple brown rice, with a courgette thrown in for colour.

Sweet Potato Red Curry Soup (6)

I was worried the sweet potato and red curry soup might have a bit too much going on:  red curry paste, rice, sweet potato, kale, coconut milk.  Fortunately, it’s a really well-balanced dish and a soup that’s definitely going to be on regular rotation in our house.  It’s filling (unsurprising, with the rice), and just full of exotic Thai flavours, but it’s really simple and comforting at the same time.

Glam Chowder (11)

This is the king of the soups:  new England glam chowder.  It’s thick and tasty, and the crumbled nori sheets (never, ever try to chop nori.  It’s a fool’s errand) lend a taste of the sea.  The shiitake mushrooms have such a great texture and meatiness, and there are chunks of carrot and potato in there too.  It’s a substantial meal, and every part of it is delicious.  I want to eat it every day.

Dragon Noodle Salad (6)

I far prefer soups to salads, but I did give the dragon noodle salad a go.  It’s very fast to prepare, and the sauce is so tasty, combining nut butter and sriracha beautifully.  It even managed to make the abominable cucumber more bearable!  Next time I think I’ll add some tofu to really make it into a well-balanced meal.

Tofu Porcini Burgers (17)

The porcini tofu burgers may be the best tasting burgers I’ve made:  they’re formed by blitzing some dried porcini and mashing the crumbs with tofu, panko, and various other delicious things.  There are lots of powerful savoury flavours in there.  However, the texture didn’t quite work out for me, they were too soft on the inside and crumbled quite easily in cooking.  I’m going to play around with them a bit more, because they are simply too good to be forgotten.

Shiitake Banh Mi (10)

I hate sandwiches, and even I enjoyed this shiitake banh mi.  I felt a bit fearful when I was pickling the radishes and cucumber (eating anything pickled is quite adventurous for me) and when I blitzed the almond butter and sriracha for the spread.  But when those two elements came together with the meaty shiitakes, the fresh baguette and the fresh herbs, it was a beautiful combination and a lovely light meal.  I used the same fillings with seeded brown bread for an exciting addition to my afternoon tea table as well – it was unconventional, but a hit with everyone.

Red Lentil Thai Chilli (7)

I had high hopes for the red lentil thai chilli, and it didn’t disappoint.  It has red curry paste and coconut milk to lend a taste of South East Asia, but also kidney beans and red lentils in a nod to the usual Mexican chilli ingredients:  a very happy combination!

007

The Omaha yakisoba was really easy to make, even on a work night.  It didn’t take long to throw together, and it was a really tasty and satisfying mix of udon noodles, sweetcorn, shiitakes, red cabbage, broccoli and Asian seasoning.  It’s easily adaptable as well to whatever veg you’ve got in – I made it again the next night with asparagus and chestnut mushrooms.

Hash (10)

As I said in Part One, this book is famous (in my home, at least) for its breakfasts, and while I’ve already tried out quite a few there were still some more to explore.  Behold the chipotle sausage hash.  The dressing (miso tahini, my new favourite combination) was heavenly, and the potatoes and sausages are obviously a delight.  The recipe suggested just two sausages to serve four people.  I don’t know what kind of people this is meant to feed, but we had two sausages each and called it a proper meal.  It was delicious!  The only possible complaint is that it looks so very brown – a handful of wilted spinach leaves next time will sort that out.

Scrambled Chickpeas (8)

Less sensational, but still tasty, was the scrambled chickpeas.  Again, I don’t feel like there was enough to serve four people – you really did need the tomatoes and avocadoes to fill you up.  Fortunately, they were a good tasty addition, though I think I might chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan for a few minutes next time.

What a fine month it’s been!  The recipes are all easy to follow and the results have been uniformly good – the only problem has been the seasoning and spiciness, which I feel need to be significantly increased.  Those are the kind of tweaks that are easily made, though, and I think this book is a great addition to the bookshelf.  It’s not surprising that Isa is one of the most famous vegan cookbook authors in the world – she presents dishes that are by turns colourful, exotic, comforting and flavoursome, and she makes veganism very accessible.  When people ask me in horror, “But what do you eat?” I want to hand them a copy of this book so they can see that my diet is in no way dull and repetitive.

Next month I’m being bolder and going for one of the cookbooks I rarely use.  In fact, it has only had two outings in about 4 years.  Fingers crossed I will discover some hidden gems in Asian Vegan Kitchen!

Posted in Cookbooks | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cookbook of the Month: Isa Does It (Part One)

Chimichurri Bowl (15)

March’s cookbook of the month is the brilliant Isa Does It.  I’ve tried a number of recipes since I got it last year, particularly from the breakfast section, but I challenged myself to try new recipes this month.  It was very easy to choose my dishes, as there are numerous tasty options, and the photographs are all extremely tempting.  Yes, it’s been another month of stupendous food.

Roasty Soba Bowl (7)

The Bowl section of the book has been a revelation!  It’s essentially just a combination of some kind of grain (rice/quinoa), a vegetable (usually roasted), some beans or lentils, and a sauce packed with flavour to tie it all together.  This means there’s a lot going on in the kitchen, but each element is quite simple to make, so it’s only a matter of timing.  We started off with the Roasty Soba Bowl, which unites noodles, roasted cauliflower, green lentils and a dressing, and the combination of miso and tahini in the sauce made my heart sing.  This is my new favourite thing.

Chimichurri Bowl (15)

The chimichurri bowl was just as good, packed full of flavour from the herbs in the parsley and coriander sauce.  This was a really pretty bowl, with the vivid orange butternut squash slices, green noodles and sauce and the darkness of the black beans.  It tasted as good as it looked.

Pizza Bowl (4)

And the pizza bowl in no way resembled a pizza, but it was tasty:  sausages, kale, olives and rice united in a delicious tomato sauce.  Again, the sauce was the real highlight.

Spinach and Black Bean Burrito Bowl

This spinach and black bean burrito bowl looks so healthy and appetising:  quinoa, spinach, tomato, black beans, homemade guacamole.  However, it was surprisingly bland and needs some serious seasoning.  All the other bowls I’ve made from this book have instant hits, and this is the only one requiring any real tweaking.  It has definite potential – next time I plan to double the amount of cumin and add some chilli flakes, and probably throw some salsa together for serving too.

Curried Peanut Tofu Bowl (3)

The curried peanut sauce bowl was more of a hit, tastewise.  The sauce was a great balance of the salty peanut butter, spicy curry powder and sweet agave nectar.  The tofu cubes were wonderful (how anyone doesn’t like tofu just baffles me – it’s glorious!), and the steamed kale was a nice healthy touch.  However, there were a lot of different pots and pans on the go which always stresses me out a bit and deters me from making it regularly.  I’ll definitely make it again, but I don’t think I could throw it together on a work night, even though it’s fast.

Dilly Stew (21)

Moving on from the bowls, this dilly stew is raved about in the vegan community, so I had no choice but to try it.  I found it a little bland at first and had to add some serious seasoning, but it was a really tasty dish.  The dumplings are wonderful and it’s a very comforting meal.

Okra Gumbo (10)

The okra gumbo was nice, though again it didn’t pack quite the flavour punch I’d been expecting and generous lashings of hot sauce were required to give it some fire.  I’d never seen okra in the shops until I moved to my new place, and now it’s available in our local Tesco (that’s the bonus of your local being a Tesco Superstore) and the local grocery shop.  I was eager for another opportunity to use it, which leads us nicely to…

Bhindi Masala (9)

…the bhindi masala.  First tasting, as it cooked, revealed quite a bland taste, which was not entirely surprising as the recipe included curry powder but no chillies.  My Indian fellow would be outraged if I served him a curry with no chillies (as he is when I serve him anything that doesn’t pack a spicy punch).  I added some green chillies and doubled the amount of curry powder, and it was finally strong enough to serve.  It was tasty!

Marbled Banana Bread (10)

Marbled Banana Bread (14)

The marbled banana bread looks pretty spectacular, no?  Yet somehow, some of the slices turned out all brown!  I have no idea how I managed to achieve that.  I suppose it’s all about taste though, and this was very good indeed:  the bananas come through strongly, and the cocoa and vanilla mingle happily.  And it’s a lovely moist cake, as you’d expect from banana bread.

Chai Snickerdoodles (9)

I tried to make the chai spice snickerdoodles on a day that I didn’t have any ground cardamom or cloves, so they turned into normal, cinnamon snickerdoodles.  They were tasty, and the texture is absolutely perfect – crisp on the outside, soft on the inside.  Just check your spice rack before you start!

Kofta (18)

And to finish on the highest of highs, the Chandra Malay Kofta is probably the tastiest thing I’ve made from the book.  The picture doesn’t really do it justice:  the kofta balls are made of courgette, chickpeas and panko breadcrumbs, and the sauce is creamy and spicy and wonderful.  It was such a satisfying combination of flavours and textures.  Delicious!

Stay tuned for more delicious meals from this book, including some very special soups.

Posted in Cookbooks | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Brownie Coco-Nut Butter Cups

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (9)

It was Mothers’ Day yesterday, but we celebrated one week early with a delightful homemade afternoon tea.  This combined two of my favourite things:  eating cake, and spending time with my ma, though it seems that she doesn’t believe the last one is possible.  I like to see her every week for a catch-up, but this is made difficult by the fact that she never invites me anywhere, and indeed seems loath to actually accept my invitations either.  A typical attempt at inviting her out goes something like this:

Me:  Do you want to come to the cinema with us next weekend?

Mother:  Oh no, I couldn’t intrude.

Me:  It’s the opposite of an intrusion.  It’s an invitation.

Mother:  But you don’t want me there!

Me:  Then why am I inviting you?

Mother:  I know, but…

Me:  Right, it’s decided, you’re coming with us.  I’m booking a table for dinner afterwards as well.

Mother:  No, absolutely not.  That’s your time together, I’m not coming.

Me:  But we just invited you!  If we didn’t want you to come along, we just wouldn’t have told you!

Mother:  No.  I can come to the cinema, but not for dinner.

015

Is she not insane?  Despite being faced with similar conversations every time I invite her for a brew, I do manage to force into seeing me most weeks.  Perhaps it’s some ploy on her part to avoid spending time with me, and she absolutely hates our catch-ups, but I at least thoroughly enjoy them.  Especially when they involve cake, as they so often do.

017

This is one of the cakes I made for the afternoon tea.  The recipe comes from Vegan Finger Foods, but I picked it up in Vegan Life magazine.  As the name of the book suggests, they’re meant to be bite-size, mini-cupcakes.  Alas, I don’t have the right tin, so we made big ones and I fear I increased the baking time a bit too much as they were a wee bit dry.  They were still delicious though!  I decided to switch from light brown to coconut sugar to really enhance the flavour from the coconut oil, and it complemented the almond butter in the filling beautifully.  It might be nice to sprinkle a bit of dessicated coconut on the top as well and really emphasise the coconutiness.

Brownie Coco-Nut Butter Cups

Tweaked from Vegan Finger Foods, makes 34

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray

115g dark chocolate, chopped

40g coconut oil

120g plain soy yoghurt

200g coconut sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

150g plain flour

For the filling:

190g almond butter

3 tbsp icing sugar

pinch salt

60g dark chocolate, chopped

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C and lightly coat the cups of two mini-muffin tins with the cooking spray.

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (1)

2.  Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a bowl and melt in the microwave, in 30-second bursts, stirring in between.  It will smell extremely tempting!

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (2)

3.  In a large bowl mix together the melted chocolate with the yoghurt, sugar, salt and vanilla.

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (3)

4.  Sift the flour on top and stir until it’s all combined.

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (4)

5.  Fill each cup two-thirds full.

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (5)

6.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (6)

7.  Leave to cool on a wire rack, creating an indent in the top with the back of a teaspoon or your finger.  When they have cooled, pop them out of the trays.

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (7)

8.  To make the filling, mix together all the ingredients except the chopped chocolate.   Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling into the indent of each one.

Brownie Peanut Butter cups (8)

9.  Scatter some chopped chocolate on top, and serve!

Posted in Treats | Tagged , , | 3 Comments