I drank cactus liqueur in Gozo once. Actually, it was more than once because after the barman poured us our first shot, he kept the shots coming all night. I only mention this because that is the only time I’ve done anything with a cactus other than have it sitting spikily around the house while hoping remembering to water it once a year is enough to make it not die. Although, reading through Erbology’s info on nopal cactus, and how popular it is in Mexico, a vague recollection of eating a cactus quesadilla in a Mexican restaurant somewhere near Charing Cross is forming in my mind. Still, let’s just say my experience with eating or drinking cactus is limited.
If we were in Mexico, we could buy nopal cactus from old women carrying it rinsed and cut into pieces in plastic tubs on their heads and selling it door to door (which would be more welcome than Jehovah Witnesses trying to force copies of The Watchtower on me, so maybe JWs would have more luck if they carried tasty cactus-based snacks with them), or at the markets in nearly every Mexican town (although I’m willing to bet I could probably find cactus in Walthamstow Market), or pickled and canned on supermarket shelves. Alas, though, we aren’t in Mexico, but you can still get the benefits of nopal cactus – which include:
Erbology’s Nopal Cactus Energy Balls are made from all organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, no-refined-sugar ingredients, being:
and they’re sweet and tangy with apricot being the main flavour, contain 72 calories per ball and are an ideal snack at any time or before/during/after a workout. Like Noah’s animals, socks and Ant and Dec (when Ant’s not getting pissed and crashing into people), they come in pairs, which you can buy as a one-off or as an every-two-weeks or monthly subscription.
Erbology Tigernut Granola
Tigernuts are not actually:
b) nuts; or
c) Tigers’ nuts
No, this isn’t a multiple choice question, this is fact. Tigernut is a root vegetable grown in a field and harvested in a similar way to a potato. Personally, I think they should have gone with the name ‘Tigerpotato’ because a) it’s far more catchy; and b) much more likely to make me buy it in the supermarket.
Tigernuts have reached that esteemed ‘superfood’ status, being high in vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and fibre and you can read more about their health benefits here.
Erbology have created their Tigernut Granola containing:
Doesn’t that sound ridiculously healthy and just the thing to set you up for the day?
Siblings Irina and Victor Turcan found inspiration from their childhood memories of playing in the milk thistle fields and climbing their favourite black cherry trees in the old Bessarabian countryside while their babushka fed sunroot leaves and amaranth to the goats. Which sounds uncannily like my upbringing in east London. Not. Then again, I did climb up a lot of trees when I was younger, so maybe our childhoods aren’t that far apart after all.
Irina and Victor wanted to tap into the wholesome life they once enjoyed and to share it with the world and Erbology was born.
They don’t only sell cactus-based products – they have a huge range of snacks, juices, crackers, shots, oils, powders, flours, grains, nuts and berries, and you can find them all, along with further information and recipes, on the Erbology website.
Ah, gin. I’ve never been much of a gin-lover. In fact, I always hated gin. The first time I tried it was in a club in Liverpool (Planet X, to be specific) and I thought it smelt like paraffin. I’m not sure if I thought it also tasted like paraffin as I don’t remember getting as far as tasting it. Anyway, apart from it smelling like paraffin and therefore probably tasting like it too, I always thought gin was solely for drinking in scalding-hot baths in an effort to bring on a miscarriage to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy and not actually for, you know, drinking.
Nowadays though, judging by the gin-soaked ads, gin is the drink for women – especially mums – who want to spend most of their time drinking, but looking fashionable and on-trend and not like a pissed-up harpy incapable of looking after her children without a drink inside her. Mother’s ruin, indeed.
Alcohol-Free Gin and The Alcohol Free Co
If you don’t drink alcohol though, don’t worry – you too can be trendy and fashionable and enjoy gin and other spirits without the unfortunate side-effects of hangovers, liver disease and neglected children.
Tom Proctor, director at The Alcohol Free Co., gave up alcohol in 2012, after being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver brought on by alcoholism. After a few months’ stay at the Royal London Hospital, Tom was discharged and hasn’t looked back. Seven years on, he holds a good job in London in the construction industry and owns a house which he shares with his wife and four-month-old daughter.
After discovering a range of Spanish drinks – Whissin (whiskey), Ginsin (gin), and Ronsin (rum) – (‘sin’ means ‘without’ in Spanish), Tom had a few bottles shipped over, tried them and liked them so much he set up an online business alongside his day job to bring them to a wider audience. His vision for the future is to be the go-to place for non-alcoholic spirits.
Caleño Alcohol-Free Gin
Okay, so you might be thinking, ‘What’s the point of alcohol-free gin? Why don’t I just drink lemonade? It’d be a lot flipping cheaper!’ And yes, it would be a lot flipping cheaper but lemonade is sweet and sugary and alcohol-free gin is bitter and botanical and far more satisfying than something that’s usually given to five-year-olds. Caleño contains juniper, inca berries, coriander and cardamom and is perfect with your favourite mixer.
Nirvana Brewery – Alcohol-Free Craft Beer
The Alcohol Free Co doesn’t just sell alcohol-free spirits; they also have a wide range of wine and beer, including craft beer from the Nirvana Brewery – the UK’s only craft brewery dedicated to brewing alcohol-free beer. If you’re a lager fan, these probably won’t be for you but if ale’s your thing, then their range of pale ale, stout and IPA will have something for you.
Caleño Alcohol-Free Gin and 4 bottles of Nirvana Craft Beer Giveaway & Reader Offer!
The Alcohol Free Co have kindly allowed me to give away one 70cl bottle of Caleño and 4 x 330ml bottles of Nirvana craft beer. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck!
Planet Veggie readers can also get 10% discount until the end of 2019 using the code Planet10 at the checkout at The Alcohol Free Co.
I eat out a lot and, although the food, service and everything else might be great, there’s usually something that could have made the experience more enjoyable. Here’s a list in no particular order of importance of what would make for me the ideal dining experience.
An important part of eating out is of course the food and you probably think in my ideal situation, the menu would be fully vegetarian/vegan. But, ha! No! I’d include one or two dishes for the meat eaters – say a lasagne or another equally uninspiring pasta dish – just so they get to feel the disappointment vegetarians feel upon looking at most restaurant menus. (To be fair, it’s got a lot better in recent times, especially in small local independent restaurants. The chains are still a bit shit though.)
About twenty years ago, a vegan restaurant in Knightsbridge called Veg existed. It was a fantastic high-end vegan Chinese restaurant with the greatest mock meat dishes I’ve ever had such as vegan chilli beef and vegan squid and it was worth the trek to the other side of London and the bank loan one needed to eat there to dine there. There have been dozens of Chinese mock meat buffets over the years but none that have matched the quality of Veg. I love mock meat and so my ideal restaurant would have plenty of it but also lots of non-mock meat dishes for people like my friend Tracey who finds it too close to the real thing. Also, my ideal restaurant would have vegan cheese that tasted like cheese but that’s probably taking the fantasy restaurant thing a bit too far.
Since I stopped drinking, I have taken an interest in what drinks other than alcohol are offered in pubs and restaurants. I’m not really fussed in cafes/when I’m out for lunch and a Coke is fine but when I’m out in the evening I don’t want to drink Coke or orange juice (in fact, I never want to drink orange juice) and so I would like a selection of alcohol-free lager and wine and a wider variety of soft drinks, juices and cordials.
Something other than listing Parmesan as an ingredient on a so-called vegetarian dish that is guaranteed to wind me up in a restaurant is the atmosphere. And when I say atmosphere, I mostly mean other people. Especially people who have brought children with them who clearly don’t want to be there, meaning the children aren’t enjoying themselves, the parents aren’t enjoying themselves and the other diners most certainly aren’t enjoying themselves either. Therefore, my fantasy restaurant would either have a no-children policy or a separate floor for them, safely out of the way of people who want to enjoy their meal in peace.
The use of mobile phones would also be banned and the tables wouldn’t be too close to each other and there wouldn’t be any tables shoehorned into spaces where tables shouldn’t be shoehorned into – e.g. next to the toilet, in a corridor, next to the kitchen or next to the till – in other words, not in a space that is going to be noisy or people-traffic-heavy.
It goes without saying that no jazz would be played.
Just use them, okay? I want my dinner on a plate. Not on a lump of wood or in a boot or on a spade. I don’t want my chips in a mini shopping trolley. In fact, I want my chips on the same plate as the rest of the food, not in a little bowl because, otherwise, where am I supposed to put the tomato sauce/mayo/condiment of my choice? Everyone hates food that’s not on a plate so why are restaurants still doing this? Aarrgghh.
And that is my ideal dining experience. Blimey, I sound grumpy, don’t I? Maybe I should just stay away from restaurants and stay in and order pizza instead.
This post is in collaboration with Square Meal. For more information about how they can help you find your ideal dining experience, click here.
I used to be a Cadbury’s Whole Nut kind of girl. In my younger, thinner days, I’d think nothing of eating a massive bar of it over an evening because health and weight didn’t really feature in my life back then, with my diet being based on cigarettes, alcohol and delivery pizza. Now that I’m a *cough* glowing beacon of health and vitality *cough* and can’t remember the last time I had any kind of Cadbury’s – Whole Nut or otherwise – eschewing those purple-packaged products and their ilk for something more refined (i.e. not full of shit). These days I much prefer a satisfying couple of squares of good quality vegan dark chocolate as opposed to a massive bar of sugary milky stuff. Which is just as well, as I am no longer in my younger, thinner days and can no longer eat an unholy amount of crap without any repercussions.
But, it’s all very well and good trying to avoid chocolate containing crap but, there is only so long you want to stand in the supermarket with your glasses halfway down your nose while you squint at labels trying to find a bar of chocolate that contains mostly, um, chocolate and not a load of other stuff you most certainly do not want.
Pacari Premium Organic Chocolate
Pacari knows this and they’ve made chocolate suitable for just about everyone (I can’t actually think who it’s not suitable for but there’s bound to be someone. People allergic to vegans, perhaps.) Pacari’s chocolate is:
If you’re looking at this list thinking, ‘Hmm, what about sugar-free and/or raw?’, don’t worry, you’ll also find those on their website. And if you’re looking for more reasons to buy Pacari chocolate, take a look at this:
They’ve won over 250 international chocolate awards.
Their chocolate is made from ‘tree to bar’ in Ecuador, meaning 50% of the wealth stays in the country of origin and contributes to its development. With ‘bean to bar’ chocolate (where cacao beans are imported from developing countries with the rest of the production taking place in the UK or other non-cacao growing countries) only around 7% stays in the country.
They support local communities by:
working directly with local farmers, not via middle men, and pay them above market prices; and
creating job opportunities such as technicians, designers, chocolatiers, and sales and shop staff.
They’re environmentally-friendly, using only 100% organic ingredients and their packaging is 100% recyclable with their chocolate bars wrapped in recyclable aluminium foil and cardboard.
They’re chocolate is healthy containing important vitamins and minerals including magnesium, flavanoids with antioxidant properties, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B9 and E, essential fats, protein and fibre.
Phew. That’s quite a list of reasons why Pacari are a brand you should be buying. What about the taste though? It’s no good being this worthy if their chocolate tastes like cack, is it? Well, I can confirm their chocolate doesn’t taste like cack – it is divine. It’s not thin and crispy a la Lindt or Green and Blacks but, despite it being a thicker bar (although if it’s thin you want, check out their minibars), it doesn’t have that thick, cloying texture that some vegan chocolate bars suffer from. I kept mine in the fridge and, although that made it hard to bite into, it had a satisfying crunch to it.
Win 5 bars of Pacari chocolate
You can see the whole range of Pacari chocolate, chocolate covered fruit, and drinking chocolate on their website along with a list of stockists. You can also be in with a chance of winning
3 x 50g bars
2 x 10g minibars
(flavours may vary)
by entering my giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck!
I didn’t think I had a particularly sweet tooth. Not until I stopped drinking alcohol, anyway, and now my diet consists mostly of ice cream and chocolate. Then The Vegan Candy Co sent me half a kilo of their vegan pick ‘n’ mix and now my diet consists mostly of ice cream, chocolate and vegan pick ‘n’ mix. I thought 500g of sweets would last me until Christmas, at least. I’m not sure it even lasted until the weekend and I didn’t even get it until the previous Thursday. It was soooooooooooo good, I kept grabbing handfuls of it and happily chewed and sucked in front of the telly all night. Sorry teeth.
Because I loved it so much, I wanted to share the happiness and joy with you and to help spread the word about The Vegan Candy Co.
About The Vegan Candy Co.
Joanna and Lorraine founded The Vegan Candy Co because they wanted to supply affordable vegan sweets while also supporting animal rescue charities and 5% of their profits go to Brook Farm Animal Sanctuary. Brook Farm Animal Sanctuary mainly rescues farmed animals, although it takes in any animal of any species in need of help. Their boxes are 100% recyclable, compostable and reusable, as is the paper filling. They even print with plant-based ink.
If pick ‘n’ mix isn’t your thing, you’ll also find marshmallows, chocolate buttons and gluten-free rocky road bars. If pick ‘n’ mix is your thing though, you can go for a 500g selection, a kilo selection, a gluten-free kilo selection, a plastic-free kilo selection, or a monthly subscription. If you choose a selection, you’ll receive a bag brimming with a variety of 30+ sweets as a random assortment such as jellies, cola bottles, hard-boiled sweets, chews, lollies, chocolates, pineapple cubes and flying saucers.
Win a kilo of vegan pick ‘n’ mix from The Vegan Candy Co!
I mentioned above I wanted to share the happiness and joy I found (and am still finding – they’ve managed to last more than two days this time; yes, you may bow down to my restraint) in these vegan sweets and so The Vegan Candy Co have allowed me to host a giveaway of 1kg of their Mega Mix. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck!
I’ve been making these energy balls/energy bites/bliss balls/whatever you want to call them for a few years now, so I don’t know why I’m only blogging them now. Still, here we are. Or, rather, here they are.
I first started making them when, as I ate a Nakd Bar one day, I read the label and saw they’re made with just two or three ingredients; namely, cashews, dates and whatever flavouring was required. Well, I thought, if that’s all there is to them, then I’m going to make my own because how difficult can it be to smoosh up some cashew and dates and make them into a homemade Nakd Bar, saving me lots of money (those Nakd Bars aren’t cheap!)?
I’ll tell you how easy it was – it was as easy as it sounds – just chuck some cashews, dates and something else into a food processor, press go and let it do its thing until it forms a lump. So there you go – make these energy balls and not only can you save yourself some money, you can customise them with whatever flavours you like. These ones are lemon and coconut but I’ve also made chocolate and salted caramel flavour, and strawberry flavour. I would have made more flavours but my local supermarket only had salted caramel, and strawberry flavour extract along with the lemon extract I’ve used in this recipe. I’ve even coated energy balls in chocolate which made them amazing (man, I was tempted then to write ‘amazeballs’ because, they are balls after all, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it, sigh) but obviously coating anything in chocolate – no matter how amazing it makes them, makes them much higher in calories, if you care about that sort of thing.
These energy balls are healthy, chewy, fudgy and quick to make. You must make them. I insist. You don’t even have to make them into balls – you can make them into bars instead. Or anything, really. Rabbits, maybe. With big sticky-up ears, or is that hares? I think that’s hares. Anyway, you know what I mean. Be creative and embrace your inner homemade Nakd Bar-er and mould them into shapes of your choice – down with rectangles!
One thing I will say is (although this might only apply to me and my cheapy food processor) it takes a few minutes for the cashew/date mixture to process in your food processor – mine takes about five minutes. You need to leave it going until the mixture has come away from the sides and has formed a lump and the blades no longer turn. If you’re scared your food processor will overheat and blow up, you can stop it a couple of times to give it a rest. Eventually though, you’ll get a big lump of energy ball to make into smaller ones (or just eat it as it is, taking bites out of it like an apple, over the course of the day or hour, depending on how hungry/greedy you are).
Veganuary‘s over and maybe you took part and maybe you didn’t. Maybe you thought, ‘Pah, I ain’t jumping on no bandwagon. Especially one that involves not eating cheese.’ Or maybe you did take part but struggled in the supermarket trying to decipher what was vegan and what wasn’t and would have quite happily lived on non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s for the month of January had it not cost five pound fucking fifty pee a tub.
It’s easy enough to find vegan recipes to cook for yourself at home as there are billions of vegan cookbooks to buy and billions of vegan food blogs to browse but what about the other vegany stuff? The ‘why should I be vegan’ stuff and the ‘eating out in restaurants and at friends’ houses’ stuff and the ‘what is B12 and why do I need it’ stuff? All this stuff is enough to make you say ‘stuff it’ (or at least it would if it were still the 70s and an age when people still said things like ‘stuff it’ instead of ‘bollocks to that’ or whatever the equivalent is in young-person speak).
This is where How to go Vegan comes in. It bridges that gap between wanting to go vegan and actually being vegan, because being vegan doesn’t just mean not eating animals or their bodily fluids, i.e. it’s not just a diet but a lifestyle. Of course, if you just want to be a dietary vegan, that’s fine too. I’m not any kind of vegan so you’ll find no judginess here. It’s not compulsory to wear a t-shirt proclaiming your vegan-ness or get a big V tattooed on you like some vegans do either (why they do this, I do not know and it’s unfortunately not covered in this book so you’ll have to ask a t-shirted, tattooed vegan – just go to any vegan festival and you’ll bump into dozens of them).
It’s a neat little compact hard-backed book that will sit well on your shelf with your vegan cookbooks (or any other books really).
I’ve just realised I’ve put ‘cookbooks’ in the title when, actually, only one is a cookbook (clue: it’s not the one that says ‘skincare’). But, as the skincare book uses vegetables and other edibles, when you’ve finished making stuff for your skin, you can eat the leftovers, so it’s kind of the same thing, yeah?
Anyway, now that I’ve mentioned the skincare book, I’m going to talk about that one first.
Vital Skincare by Laura Pardoe
This book includes over one hundred skincare recipes you can make yourself using hedgerow herbs. It’s not just a recipe book though, it gives you advice like ‘when to cleanse’, ‘when to moisturise’, and ‘when to exfoliate’ and, guess what? It’s not ‘when you can be bothered’, as I’ve always thought it was.
It’s full of balms, body butters and bars and things that don’t begin with B, such as eye cream that contains flowers and oil. Along with the recipes and advice on how and when to cleanse, tone and moisturise, it lets you know how and when to forage the herbs you’ll need to make your own skincare products.
There’s a quote on the back from Joanna Lumley that says ‘A fascinating and informative book with ravishing photographs and careful instructions; this is how the natural world can help us to look fabulous and be philosophical all at once’. So, if you see Ms Lumley poking around in hedges at the roadside, you’ll know she’s run out of face cream.
Leon Fast Vegan by Rebecca Seal, Chantal Symons & John Vincent
I’ve never heard of Leon but, according to the blurb on the back of Fast Vegan, it’s a healthy fast food chain and, according to the bit at the front of the book about Leon’s co-founder, John Vincent, it’s a chain of 55, so I obviously need to get out more.
Leon the restaurant isn’t even vegetarian, let alone vegan but, as you can probably tell from the title of the book, Leon Fast Vegan is a vegan cookbook although rather misleadingly, it’s not a cookbook of vegan fast food. Some of these recipes take time – the jackfruit tinga takes 20 mins prep and 45 minutes cooking but with a name like ‘tinga’, I would hope it’s worth the wait. (Obviously, you might not think just over an hour is a long time to make a meal but when you’re as slow a cook as me, if a recipe says it’ll take an hour, that means it’ll take me at least three.)
This is a big, colourful hardback book crammed with:
breakfast & brunch
salads & slaws
party food & small plates
on the side
puddings, cookies, cakes & bakes
drinks, sorbet & ices
As I type this, it’s almost dinnertime and flicking through this book is making me hungry. I’m currently looking at a recipe for sea-spiced aubergine and its accompanying photo is making me drool and wish I’d made this instead of defrosting some leftover vegan cottage pie to have for dinner tonight.
Nevermind, unless vegan cookbook thieves break in overnight and steal my copy of Leon Fast Vegan, I’ll be able to make it another time, followed by the banoffee pie recipe which, unlike a lot of vegan banoffee pie recipes I’ve seen, doesn’t have twenty-six million ingredients, most of which I’d have to order online.
Leon Fast Vegan is published by Octopus Books with a cover price of £25 but you can get it for less at Amazon.
Thanks go to Permanent Publications and Octopus Books for sending me the books to review. All opinions are my own.
I’ve had quite a few vegetarian and vegan cookbooks sent to me lately, so I thought I’d do a post introducing them all to you. Some names may be familiar to you (Meat Free Monday, Áine Carlin, and Simon Rimmer for example), some possibly less so and a couple of them are unlike any cookbooks I’ve seen before. In no particular order, here they are:
Cooking for the Senses by Jennifer Peace Rhind & Gregor Law
You know when I just said ‘… unlike any cookbooks I’ve seen before’? Here’s one. Under the title, it says ‘Vegan Neurogastronomy’, which is helpfully explained in the preface as being the science behind the senses, which helps us to understand our individual likes and dislikes. This book merges the science of taste and flavour with the art of cooking and helps you to understand how the senses (taste, touch, smell, sound and sight) can help you to get the most out of your cooking.
There’s info on understanding taste and flavours, ingredients and food preparation, but if you’re not interested in the sciencey stuff and/or basics, you can skip the first hundred pages and go straight to the dozens of straightforward vegan recipes (most accompanied by photos), such as Ratatouille with Black Garlic, Saffron and Rosemary Focaccia, and Limoncello and Lime Baked Rice Pudding.
The Vegan Cook & Gardener by Piers Warren & Ella Bee Glendining
This book is part ‘how to grow stuff’ and part ‘how to cook the stuff you’ve grown’ and, whenever I see one of these books I get all excited and think, ‘yay, I’m going to grow all the things, then I’m going to eat all the things’. Then, what actually happens is I flick through it, never get around to growing anything and trot off down to the Little Tesco for a £1.10 frozen pizza instead.
This isn’t entirely true because a) I GREW STUFF THIS YEAR*; and b) if I existed solely on £1.10 frozen pizza from the Little Tesco, there wouldn’t be much point in me having a food blog.
Anyway, a book that’s mostly a cookbook isn’t going to go into deep detail about growing your own food but it has a lot of info about what to grow, when to grow it and how to store your homegrown produce. The accompanying recipes are simple and divided into months so, for example, you may be tempted in December to make swede, sweet potato and bean goulash, or apple and oat cookie cakes made with swedes and apples from your own garden or veg plot.
*I really did grow things. I grew lots of bell peppers, hundreds of chilli peppers, a beetroot, a few tomatoes, and about two years’ worth of runner beans. If you don’t believe me, there is photographic evidence on Instagram.
Hummus where the heart is by Dunja Gulin
Despite my devil-may-care-wild-and-free-reckless-spirit demeanour, I’m pretty old-school when it comes to food and prefer most of it unadulterated such as plain bagels/not cinnamon and raisin or onion, and plain hummus/not caramelised onion or even my beloved chilli which I usually put in everything. The only exception to this that immediately springs to mind is ice cream and I will happily tuck into any ice cream flavour within reason you care to give me, even mince pie flavour which I had and enjoyed many years ago in Brighton.
Still, if you like messing about with hummus (or houmous, or any of the other myriad ways of spelling it), then this is the book for you. Some examples of its hummusy contents are: spinach hummus, caramelized carrot hummus, and millet and hummus porridge. And just as I was giving up on there being a hummus-flavour ice cream, right at the back is a recipe for ice-cream cups containing hummus.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Meat Free Monday Campaign, which was launched by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney in 2009. I’ve been having meat-free Mondays (and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) since 1992 but the recipes in this book aren’t just for Mondays, they’re for… actually, I must confess I am mightily confused by the layout of this book. The recipes are categorised by season, then by week, so at first I thought, ‘aha, there must be 52 days of meal plans in here – one a week for a year’ and went to the winter section where I was met by week 1. I have no idea when winter officially starts or started but let’s pretend this coming Monday (3 December for those of you reading this in the future – hello people from the future!) is the first Monday in winter and therefore, on the menu is: cinnamon crepes for breakfast; olive, chicory and orange salad for a packed lunch; ale and puff pastry pie for lunch (if I had a job that meant leaving the house, I’d take a sicky that day so I could have a pie for lunch instead of a flipping orange salad); a side of parsnip gratin; spelt risotto with butternut squash, spinach, chestnuts and goat’s cheese for dinner; and a dessert of chocolate marzipan dates.
There are recipes from Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, as well as from celebrity and chef supporters of the Meat Free Monday campaign such as Skye Gingell, Giorgio Locatelli, Theo Randall, Yotam Ottolengthi, Kevin Spacey and Vivienne Westwood.
Simon Rimmer’s other cookbook – The Seasoned Vegetarian – was responsible for one of the first posts on this blog when I made his rice and mushroom parcel. I also made his white bean chilli which didn’t make the blog (I don’t know why, as I remember enjoying it and making it again – maybe I was making my own recipes by then and not just badly photographing what I’d made for my dinner then blogging about it).
I’m not sure why a meat eater would write vegetarian cookbooks but I suppose it’s not as bizarre as a vegetarian writing meat books and he seems a personable enough chap on Sunday Brunch so maybe meat eaters will see it and buy it because it’s by ‘that personable chap on Sunday Brunch’ not realising it’s a vegetarian cookbook and that’s why it’s called The Accidental Vegetarian?
Deliciously Ella is a blogger and, boy, does it show in this book. There are pages and pages of her ramblings about her and her husband which should have stayed on her blog, if you ask me. Not that she did ask me, but hey ho. If you can get past the icky personal stuff (you know it’s going to be icky when she uses the word ‘journey’ to describe something other than train, road or air travel), there are 100 vegan recipes including smoky aubergine dip, giant peanut butter cups, and mushroom and chestnut sliders.
The recipes are accompanied by lots of photos of the dishes (and lots of arms, too – is it just me who doesn’t want to see limbs and/or hands in food photos? I just want to see the food, dammit!)
Whenever I go into The Works and have a look at the cookbook section, there are vegan cookbooks there by Áine Carlin. This is not a bad thing because a) her recipes are simple; b) she doesn’t bleat on about personal stuff throughout her book, using words and phrases like ‘journey’ and ’emotional roller coaster’; and c) books in The Works are cheap. These are all good things.
I made her rustic leek, potato and artichoke galette last week and very nice it was too and now I’m tempted by her red pepper and hummus muffins, and the curried chickpea and pine nut pasties.
Also, there are no photos of her or her husband’s hands or arms in the book. Yay for limbless photos.
This cookbook from The Australian Women’s Weekly is huge – it’s as big as Australia itself. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration but it is big and reminds me of the big hefty hardback cookbooks my mum used to have. Thinking back to then, now I’m wondering why – if my mum had big hefty hardback cookbooks – my diet as a child consisted mostly of Findus Crispy Pancakes and Bird’s Eye Cod in Parsley Sauce? Anyway, back to the Vegan Kitchen. As I said, this is a big book and contains over 130 ‘wholefood recipes for a plant-based diet’, such as Italian ‘cheesy’ moxballs (requiring you to make moxarella – a vegan substitute for mozarella), sumac roasted eggplant with orange turmeric yoghurt, and raw choc-peanut cake.
As this is an Australian book, along with the food pics, there are photos of smiley suntanned girls who look like they’ve stepped straight from the set of Neighbours or Home and Away. There are also pics of pineapples, bananas and palm trees to further push the ‘it’s always tropical and sunny here’ vibe, which does nothing to improve my mood while I sit here in a drizzly, windy British seaside town at the end of November counting down the days until the sun comes back or I die, whichever comes first.
The subtitle on this book is ‘seasonal plant based recipes for meals, drinks, crafts, body & home care’ which gives you the hint it’s not a bog-standard book of recipes. There are plenty of photo-accompanied recipes such as Persian rhubarb stew, leek and czar bean savoury crumble, and sun-dried tomato and bean pâté, along with instructions for making flavoured salts, herb-infused sugars, foraged herbal teas and even a section on crafts such as herbal fizzy toilet bombs, hairbrush cleaning kit, and beetroot lip gloss. There are also face masks and body scrubs and all kinds of things to keep the home crafter happy. Sod the food, I’m going to give making my own herbal bath bombs a go.
This book is neat, compact and has illustrations of ingredients, rather than full-colour professionally-styled poncy photos but that doesn’t mean it looks cheap – far from it. According to the blurb on the back, it’s aimed at the youth – college students, young adults leaving home, or just teenagers in general.
Along with recipes such as pea and potato masala, spicy kidney bean soup, and peanut butter cookies, is a section at the back entitled ‘Setting the Table’ which explains how to – um – set a table with plates and knives and forks and glasses and bowls and napkins and a bread basket. Either things have changed for young people since my day when we ate straight out of the saucepan and didn’t bother with plates, or this book is aimed at young people at Eton. Hmm, now there’s an idea for a student cookbook – ‘Eating at Eton’. Remember where you heard it first.
Hungry Soul is published by Matador and is available from Amazon.
Vegan Mock Meat Revolution by Jackie Kearney
Another book from as-seen-on-TV’s-Masterchef Jackie Kearney – this time one that’s all about faux fish and mock meat, which I luuuuuuuuurve and to hell with the naysayers. The recipes use a variety of ingredients such as seitan (homemade and shop bought), tofu and hearts of palm and, I’m not going to lie, these recipes are long and involved but I made the fish fingers and they were fab, although I’ll stick to using the Vivera Fish Goujons or Fish Burgers (which are flipping goddamn amazing and don’t involve dicking around with aquafaba and hearts of palm) in the future because I’m lazy. I will be trying more of her recipes though when I get around to buying some more vital wheat gluten and the more mock meat cookbooks the better, I say.
How are your knife skills? If they’re anything like mine, they’re absolute bobbins. Although I have a cool 5-knife set in the shape of a man being stabbed five times, I only use one of the knives on a regular basis – the utility knife. I like this knife because it’s not scarily big like two of the others in the set and it’s not too small like one of the others. The remaining knife in the set – the bread knife – does get used now and then on bread because even I prefer to actually neatly slice bread with a knife with a serrated edge and not just drag a blunt butter knife into the bread, forming two misshapen lumps.
My knife skills fall into two categories:
1. Things I can use a knife for
spreading spreadable things like butter, jam and pickle
puncturing the tops of tomato sauce bottles
opening paint cans
dismantling the cordless Dyson to clean the roller brush
2. Things I am hopeless using a knife for
I am in awe of these cooks and chefs you see on the telly chopping, dicing and slicing with the speed and skill of an orchestra pianist, while keeping their fingers and other sticky-out-bits intact. I have all the dexterity, speed and skill of a toddler with a tambourine and the only reasons I don’t buy the ready-sliced, diced and chopped fruit and veg in the supermarket are because of a) price; b) freshness; and c) the erroneous assumption that it’s for lazy bastards.
I used to be among those who thought the ready-sliced, diced and chopped fruit and veg was purely for lazy bastards who couldn’t be bothered to chop an onion until someone pointed out it’s great for people with arthritis or other mobility/dexterity issues and, so although I don’t personally buy it, I no longer walk smugly past it thinking, ‘ha, I’m not a lazy bastard – I can (badly) chop an onion myself, thank you very much’.
If you’re like me and have no knife skills, you need this infographic by Daniel Scott Kitchens. I especially love the tips for the cherry tomatoes, and the butternut squash (spoiler: put the squash in the microwave first. I usually put it in the oven for about half an hour to make it choppable. Putting it in the microwave will be so much quicker and cheaper).