Cookbook of the Month: Oh She Glows (Part Two)

Baked Apple Oatmeal (6)

I had not quite finished with Oh She Glows when I wrote about it two weeks ago:  I continued my cooking for the rest of February and although the month is over, let me share what I tried:

Baked Apple Oatmeal (7)

Pictured up top, fresh from the oven, is the maple-cinnamon apple baked oatmeal, which I made with blackberries instead of pear.  This dish combines some of the ultimate comforting flavours (and aromas), and closely resembled apple crumble, so you can imagine how much I enjoyed it.  You could just as easily eat it with custard or ice cream and call it pudding.

OSG Granola (12)

Sticking with the breakfast theme, the Ultimate Granola Clusters were really tasty and easy to make.  All granola recipes I’ve tried in the past have said to bake for 40 minutes, but they were blackened and burning after 10 – this was the only accurate recipe I’ve found, where it did indeed take about 35 minutes for it all to come together.  This didn’t last long, but it was beautiful with coconut yoghurt.

OSG Scramble Breakfast Plate (5)

The sunrise scramble was another tasty breakfast.  My fellow is the king of the breakfast scramble, but even he conceded that this was a pretty good second best- largely because I sprinkled in some chilli flakes, whereas when he cooks I expressly forbid him from adding extra fieriness.  It was a nice twist on a big cooked breakfast – a little bit healthier, and filling enough without the added heaviness of the sausages and whatnot.  It was also my first time having avocado on toast, and I’ll definitely be back for more.

Gym Rat Smoothie

I mentioned a couple of the smoothies last time:  another favourite is the gym rat, which is really sticky and sweet from the dates, substantial from the oats and delicious from the peanut butter.  It always puts me in mind of a Snickers bar, which is no bad thing.

OSG Fruit Smoothie

This morning glory strawberry smoothie is more obviously virtuous, and very tasty and refreshing too.  The recipe calls for coconut water, but we just throw in a little tap water and coconut milk together.

OSG Party Nibbles (5) I think there is no occasion fancier than a party tea, so I tried a few of the nibbles that could easily be served to a crowd.  These pretty little bites are taco fiesta potato crisps:  roasted potato slices, topped with cashew sour cream (delightfully easy to make), walnut taco ‘meat’ (spicy and meaty), and salsa (homemade by my rugged and manly assistant).  I’ll definitely be making these again – lots of different textures and complementary flavours mingling happily.

Life Affirming Nacho Dip (6)Life Affirming Nacho Dip (9)

We also sampled the life-affirming warm nacho dip.  I thought the title a rather bold claim, especially because I associate nacho dip with the disgusting, plastic-looking smelly cheese that people have on their nachos in the cinema (food that smelly surely shouldn’t be allowed?).  But it was very good.  It combines a cheese sauce with a tomato one, and I hadn’t expected much from the cheese part, but it was really tasty.  We devoured this in no time at all, it was lovely and creamy, and certainly best served warm.

OSG Potato Salad

Switching to salads, I’ve made the creamy avocado-potato salad a couple of times for packed lunches and find it very satisfying – roasting the potatoes may not be particularly healthy, but it pays off tastewise, and there’s some greenery right there to balance it out.  This is going to be even better in summer, I can just tell!

OSG 10 spice soup (1)

The 10 spice vegetable soup was another good packed lunch.  It contained a lot of the same vegetable ingredients as the African peanut stew, which I think it just breathtakingly good, so it suffered a wee bit in comparison.  But it was fiery and healthy, and inspired some staffroom envy too.

OSG Enchiladas (2)

And finally, a look at the main meals:  the sweet potato and black bean enchiladas were tasty and quick to make, but I’ll add more spices next time to really give it a kick.  The recipe includes a creamy avocado sauce, but we drizzled it with some leftover cashew sour cream we had.  I bulked out the recipe by doubling the amount of beans, and had to switch from black beans to kidney due to a slight error on the shopping list.  Still delicious.

OSG Burgers (8) OSG Burgers (12)

The favourite veggie burgers were quite easy to make and froze really nicely.  The mixture was quite sticky and required more oats to hold it together, and then the cooked burger was a wee bit dry.  I froze the burgers to save them for a rainy day, and cooked them from frozen.  They crumbled a bit on cooking, but were generally able to be scooped up onto the waiting buns.  I’d feared they’d be a bit dry, but was pleasantly surprised – they had a lovely texture and taste.  I think they need a bit more experimenting to get them to retain their shape while they cook, but I’m definitely going to make them again.

Creamy Vegetable Curry (5)

And finally, the creamy vegetable curry.  Again, the simple beauty of soaked cashew nuts brought wonderful creaminess to the dish.  I tweaked the recipe slightly by throwing in a tin of chopped tomatoes and adding a cauliflower as well, and it’s just as well I did, otherwise there never would have been enough to feed us.  (In fact, I think my only criticism of the book is that some of the portion sizes are quite small.)

Creamy Vegetable Curry (6)

This month I’m turning my focus to Isa Does It.  Here’s to more delicious meals!

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Vegan Afternoon Tea: The Hideaway, Urmston

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I’ve decided to make 2015 the year of the vegan afternoon tea.  I want to have one per month, and I kicked things off with a trip to The Hideaway in Urmston, Manchester.  It’s an omni-cafe which does a regular afternoon tea, but with a bit of notice they are happy to veganise it for you.  It’s a bright and airy little place with really friendly staff, and as a bonus they were playing endless 90s R’n’B that I’d forgotten all about:  an afternoon tea accompanied by Eternal and Brandi can only be a good thing.  It was an excellent spread of food for £12.95 each.  It’s not often I feel so full I almost turn down cake – it was a sign of how tempting the ginger cake was that I ploughed on to the end!

Starting with the sandwiches, I was very pleased with the array.  Last time I went for vegan afternoon tea in London we only had cucumber sandwiches – this time they were accompanied by hummus with pepper and tomato with salami.  Vegan salami is one of my greatest hates, so I was a touch apprehensive about it.  And yet, I loved it!  The tomato added a necessary light juiciness to it, and it was really a winning combination.  I rated it as the best sandwich of the bunch.  Hummus and pepper is a real classic, though we found them a little light on the pepper.  Cucumber sandwiches are fine, but a bit unremarkable.  All in all, a solid sandwich plate, though I’d have liked a bit of brown bread rather than all white.

No complaints whatsoever about the scone plate.  Two weighty scones each, with your own little pot of spread and jam so you don’t have to scowl bitterly if your companion takes more than their share.  I always struggle to make good vegan scones, so I was very envious of these beautifully baked ones, and I think I’d go so far as to call them the highlight of the event.

A generous cake plate is the essence of an afternoon tea, and this one was extremely well-stocked:  two slender slices each of lemon and poppyseed, chocolate and date and sticky ginger cake.  We were tipped off by the friendly waitress that the ginger was the best, so we saved that till last.  The lemon and poppyseed cake was quite disappointing, unfortunately:  quite powdery and dry, though it had that fresh zingy taste.  The chocolate cake was better, with delicious thick icing.  But it truly was the ginger that was best, all sticky and full of flavour.  We could barely move at the end of it all, but were extremely happy with our full bellies!

Besides one sub-standard cake and a bit of skimping on the sandwich filling, we loved this afternoon tea and were mightily impressed with The Hideaway.  A strong showing for our first afternoon tea in Manchester!  At the end of March we’re having afternoon tea in Brighton.  Will it surpass this one?!

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Cookbook of the Month: Oh She Glows

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In a break from tradition, I’m going to tell you about my favourite cookbook rather than just a particular recipe.  I’ve been using one book substantially more than any other, and in fact I’d go so far as to say the Oh She Glows cookbook may be the greatest Christmas present I have ever received.  It is just packed full of delicious food, and I have wasted no time getting to grips with it.

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To start with something sweet, these are the almond chocolate cookies – from the picture in the book I had expected these to spread more, but instead they turned out as fat little blobs of delicious cookie, flavoured beautifully with almond butter.

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These glo bars are also a fantastic snack – full of seeds and oats, nicely salty from the almond butter, a really satisfying bite.  I usually take a Nakd bar to work for my mid-morning snack, but I might start taking these instead.  Bonus:  they’re freezer friendly.

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The creamy tomato soup has swiftly become my favourite tomato soup.  This was possibly my first time using soaked cashews for creaminess, and I found it a very simple but effective method.

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All my American cookbooks are full of “bowl” recipes – essentially a grain, roasted vegetable, bean and tasty, tasty dressing or sauce.  This englightened miso power bowl is a glorious example – flavoursome, colourful, balanced.

African Peanut Stew (10)

So far everyone I have fed this African peanut stew to has swiftly fallen in love with it, and it draws many an envious comment in the lunch hour.  It’s so good.

Savoury Oatmeal (8)

My new favourite breakfast:  savoury porridge.  Simple and effective, and unlike any breakfast I’ve made before.

Indian Lentil and Cauliflower Soup (11)

This Indian lentil and cauliflower soup looks spectacularly unattractive, but it tastes heavenly.  Nice big chunks of cauliflower and warming curry spices – another winning lunch.

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As part of our new year health regime, we’ve started having a daily fruit shake to ensure we get all our fruit and protein for the day.  The green monster is deceptively delicious, but the cheerful chocolate avocado smoothie is my favourite.

019 I hadn’t made muffins for ages before I tried this recipe for chocolate courgette muffins.  I definitely recommend adding chopped walnuts, they give them a beautiful crunch.  As with the other baked goods I’ve tried, they’re not too sweet and seem like as virtuous a treat as you can really get.

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This colourful tex mex casserole is a big hearty meal.  I love the crisps on top, and it was really easy to throw together.  My fellow complains that all chillies and curries I make are “mildy”, but I think even he couldn’t grumble too much about the heat in this one!

It’s quite rare for a book to capture my imagination quite as much as this one has, but I can’t seem to tear myself away from it – the pictures are all so tempting, and the ingredients are all so wholesome (the blog is amazing too, of course).  I’ve already got another ten recipes earmarked to make soon – it may end up being the first book that I cook my way through from start to finish!  As a bonus, while some of the ingredients have been a little expensive or not readily available in a supermarket (coconut sugar, for example), none of the recipes are fiddily or time consuming, nor do they need a lot of tweaking unless you want to be adventurous.  Anyone trying to eat more veg should definitely give it a go, vegan or not.  I don’t know that I’d describe myself as “glowing” now, but I certainly feel that I’m in better health than a month ago and am getting all of my five a day, and this is a book that certainly doesn’t hurt.

If you have any tips on which recipes to try next, please let me know!

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Savoury Porridge

Savoury Oatmeal (7)

It’s been a while since I shared a good breakfast recipe.  I’m a fan of sweet, indulgent breakfasts, and they have suffered the chop in the new year while I’m trying to be healthier.  So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this recipe in my new favourite cookbook.  I wasn’t too convinced that I’d like a savoury porridge, but an opportunity to have hummus for breakfast?  That’s not the kind of thing I can say no to.

And I’m glad I gave it a whirl, because it was delicious!  I’m also a fan of humongous breakfasts, so I was worried that these portions would be a little too small.  But that’s where the toppings come in, and they filled me up a treat.  Usually we limit ourselves to one special breakfast per weekend, but after making this on Saturday we simply had to have it again on Sunday.  Talk about getting the day off to a good start!

Savoury Porridge

Serves 2, slightly tweaked from Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

1/3 cup oats

1/3 cup red lentils

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 2/3 cups vegetable stock

Toppings:  avocado, hummus, olives, crackers

Method:

Savoury Oatmeal (1)

1.  Put all the porridge ingredients in a pan and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Savoury Oatmeal (3)

2.  And that’s it!  Season and get ready to serve.

Savoury Oatmeal (8)

3.  Pour the porridge into bowls and top with whatever you like.

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Vegan in London: A Tale of Two Buffets

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I felt like quite the glamorous high flyer last week when I headed to London for a training day.  I almost wished my neighbour on the train would strike up a conversation with me just so I could say words like “head office” and “going forward”.  Almost.  We all know there’s nothing worse than being trapped next to a talker for three hours (or as Virgin laughingly claim, 2 hours 9 minutes).

After a day of training, I had a bit of time to kill before my train back up north, but not really enough time to wait for table service.  In short, perfect conditions for a buffet!  There is a whole row of Indian restaurants with good vegan options on Drummond Street, right by Euston station (the gateway to the north west).  I’ve enjoyed the lunchtime buffet at Chutneys before, and you can see my plate in all its glory at the top of the page.  Almost everything on the table was vegan – in fact, as the staff informed me, it’s easier to list what’s not vegan than what is.  There were even some good crispy, deep-fried things thrown in too, which is the measure of any good meal.  And I even got chatting to some fellow vegans as well who were raving about the food and pointing me in the direction of the best stuff.

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However, that buffet is only in the early afternoon.  To find an evening option, I revisited another favourite, Tibits near Oxford Circus.  A lot of the options were the same as the last time I visited, and I piled my plate high with falafel, hummus, a delicious potato salad, tofu cubes, pasta salad, Thai aubergine curry, mushroom salad and some amazing crispy noodles.  You pay by weight in Tibits and there’s always plenty of choice, with vegan options clearly labelled.

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But the real reason I wanted to go was for dessert – Tibits is famous for keeping vegan sticky toffee pudding on the table at all times.  I went for, shall we say, a generous portion, accompanied by vanilla cream.  It was good.  On the train home, my belly was full and mercifully nobody tried to disturb my full-bellied dozing.  A very successful day.

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Vegan in Manchester: Jaipur Palace

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For months, every time our bus went past Jaipur Palace (a vegan/vegetarian Indian restaurant in Fallowfield) my fellow and I said:  “We must go there.”  Before we knew it, this had changed into:  “Why haven’t we been there yet?”  So at last, to celebrate his birthday last week, we booked ourselves a table and got ready for some serious feasting.  Indian starters are possibly better than the mains, so when I go to an Indian restaurant I like to do it properly and get plenty of dishes.

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So, we did.  To start with, we had some samosas, of course.  My beau is Indian and he finds the Indian staples a bit less exciting than I do, as this is essentially his mother’s home cooking, and what beats that?  But I love a good samosa, and these two, despite looking rather lonely on the plate, were good – the filling was not overwhelmingly spicy, and the pastry was good and thick.

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We also went for some pani puri.  This is exactly the kind of thing I would be scared to order without my expert on hand to show me how to eat them – I’d never eaten any until last year, yet now I always look out for them on a menu.  You spoon a little of each sauce into the crispy pod, and hastily eat it in one go – otherwise they make quite the mess.  I love anything crispy, so these are always a treat.

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And finally, we had something that was new even to my fellow:  amiri sev khaman.  It was essentially a torn up savoury sponge, with lots of herbs and spices, and some crispy yellow bits sprinkled on top.  It’s quite a difficult dish to describe, but I loved the spongy texture.  And check out the portion size – that would have suited me as a main!  I think the only downside is that it’s a bit dry and you’d really have to share it rather than just order a portion for one.  Sharing is always a downside for me.

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After the starters we were already feeling rather full, but there’s always room for more in an Indian restaurant!  I went for the classic, aloo gobi.  It was beautifully spiced and I will never complain about a dish filled with potato chunks and cauliflower florets.  Delicious!  My beau was more adventurous, again eschewing the traditional dishes that make up his normal meals at home.  He went for ringna no oro, a grilled aubergine dish.  He really enjoyed it, though I felt that the ‘grilled’ aspect seemed more ‘burnt’, so I feel like I comfortably won that round.  And oh, the bread.  One of the hardest things about being vegan is the dearth of dairy-free naan.  But when I tasted the paratha, I no longer felt like I was missing out:  it was sensational.

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Completely unnecessarily, we also ordered some vada sambhar:  savoury doughnuts, which were delicious, with a fiery vegetable sauce that I was less keen on.

We ate like kings, but paid mere pennies (well, not quite, but it was amazing value for money).  It’s a lovely restaurant too – nice and roomy and bright inside, and pretty quiet on a Friday night.  I have mixed feelings about that:  a quiet restaurant means better service, but it also makes me worry that (a) there’s something wrong with the restaurant, or (b) it will soon be out of business.  I’m sure that (a) is not true, and hopefully it was just a quiet night and there is not danger of it closing, because I am already looking forward to another visit.  It’s also exceptionally vegan friendly, with all suitable items clearly marked on the menu.

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Despite being so full that we left clutching our bellies, we also managed to find room for a little slice of birthday cake:  the lemon and coconut bundt cake from Veganomicon.  A fine cake for a fine fellow!

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Harvest Bowl Salad

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Healthy January continues to go well in Herbivores’ Heaven HQ.  I’m exploring a couple of new cookbooks and making plenty of comforting soups and hearty stews, perfect for gloomy lunch hours and dark evenings.  And of course, I’m tucking into some satisfying salads as well.  When I was young I hated salads, and I’m still loathe to order one in a restaurant, even knowing that it will be substantial and tasty.  But at least now I think they make for a cracking packed lunch, and with Salad Samurai on my bookshelf I have a lot of good options to choose from.  It’s one of those cookbooks that is organised by season – thanks to globalisation I rarely think about availability of veg as dependent on season, but it’s nice to have a whole chapter of warming and robust winter and autumn dishes, while flicking dreamily through the summer pages and imagining what it’s like to actually go outside during daylight.

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This salad is very filling and very tasty.  Initially I was a little daunted by the ingredients list and fearful that there would be too many different elements competing for the limelight.  But in fact everything works together beautifully, and the cranberries and sprouts give it a nice festive feel which always brightens things up.  The recipe doesn’t need much tweaking, except for cooking the sprouts first – otherwise they’re pretty tough on the jaw!

I hope everyone is having a happy and healthy start to 2015!

Harvest Bowl Salad

Serves 2, generously, slightly adapted from Salad Samurai

Ingredients:

1+1/4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup pearl barley

Mushrooms:

2 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed and discarded

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup white win/vegetable stock

2 tbsp tamari

pinch dried oregano

Dressing:

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Salad:

1/2 pound Brussel sprouts, boiled/steamed and shredded

4 spring onions, chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Method:

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1.  In a pan, bring the stock to the boil and add the barley.  Boil for two minutes, then turn down the heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes.

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2.  When the liquid has all been absorbed and the grains are tender, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the salad.

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3.  Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add the mushrooms, gill-side down.  Sear for two minutes, then flip and sear for one more minute on the other side.

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4.  Flip the mushrooms back to gill-side down and add the wine, tamari and oregano to the pan.  Bring to the boil, partially cover the pan and reduce the heat.  Cook until the liquid has been absorbed – keep an eye on it, it won’t take long!

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5.  In a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

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6.  Add the cooked, shredded sprouts, the spring onions, cranberries and walnuts.  Stir to coat them in the dressing.

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7.  Stir in the warm barley.

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8.  Slice the mushrooms into thick slices.

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9.  Spoon the barley into bowls and top with the mushroom slices, a sprinkling of chives and a good grinding of black pepper.

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