Although I’ve been a fan of Masterchef since Loyd Grossman presented the show in its primary-coloured-cornered olden days, it’s rare for me to remember any of the contestants. Jackie Kearney, however, is one I remember because, as far as I was aware at the time, she was the first vegetarian cook to be on Masterchef and, not only that, she was the first vegetarian chef to get to the finals in the show. (I also remember Jackie because, despite being vegetarian, she cooked meat on the show, which I thought was a shame but I suppose she couldn’t just sit out the rounds where they had to cook badgers’ eyeballs with prawn brain jus or whatever weirdo things they make them cook on there).
Back in 2010, I entered a competition to win the title of ‘UK’s Tastiest Meat-Free Dish‘ where the winner’s recipe would be included in the range of Linda McCartney products. Fellow food blogger Kate Ford – who blogs at The Veg Space – won with her mushroom and ale pie. I reckon Kate either bribed or slept with the judges because why the flipping flop would they choose a pie over my cheese-covered aubergine, eh? I mean, come on, look – it’s a masterpiece!
The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen cookbook has only one thing about it that annoys me – Veronica Lavenia uses a few cheeses that are NEVER vegetarian and not once does she suggest a vegetarian alternative*. I don’t know what will happen when/if we leave the EU and whether we can happily sod their laws and make our own cheese and call it what we want but, at the moment, as any self-respecting vegetarian can (and will) tell you, Parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano is an EU Protected Designation of Origin product and has to be made using calf rennet, therefore making it unsuitable for vegetarians. And if you don’t believe me, you can read The Vegetarian Society’s cheese fact sheet which also points out that Gorgonzola (also used in the book) is never vegetarian either.
[*The author, Veronica Lavenia, has seen this post and here’s her reply:
I bought The Meat Eater a copy of Booze for Free a few years ago. Not because he’s a big drinker but because I thought he’d like to make wine and stuff from things in the garden, and then I’d have a load of booze for free. So far he’s made elderberry wine (disgusting and got poured down the sink). cider (a disaster and got thrown away before it had finished fermenting or whatever it is it does), plum wine (lovely) and blackberry wine (even lovelier).
Although I’ve drunk everything he’s made (and I mean everything – he doesn’t like wine), I haven’t made anything myself because it involves buckets and demijohns and funnels and tablets and a whole bunch of other things that look complicated. So, when Emily Han’s publishers asked me if I’d like a copy of Emily’s book – Wild Drinks and Cocktails – my first thought was, ‘god no, I can’t be doing with all that faff’.
However, the drinks and cocktails in this book are faff-free and use only a few ingredients which you’ll either find in your garden, on a foraging expedition, local market or supermarket. For example, the only ingredients you need for the Rosemary Wine recipe are rosemary and wine and you can’t get much more simple than that.
The book isn’t just about alcohol though – there are plenty of syrups and cordials too. I had planned to make Cranberry Mors (cranberries, water, honey, lemon juice) but I don’t have a cranberry bush in the garden, and then I found out Tesco don’t sell fresh cranberries, so I scrapped that idea and made Strawberry Squash instead.
Rather inconveniently, strawberries don’t generally grow in UK gardens in November, so I bought some from Tesco (and although I said strawberries don’t generally grow in UK gardens in November, they grow somewhere in the UK in November as the strawberries I bought were British).
Strawberry Squash recipe (makes about 470ml)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup (235ml) water
1 cup (200g) sugar
3/4 pound (340g) strawberries, hulled and quartered
Combine the lemon juice, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the strawberries. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, gently pressing on the strawberries to extract the liquid without forcing the pulp through the strainer. Discard the solids. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
The squash was delicious and, with it being Saturday evening, I made a Cava cocktail with it.
The next day, I diluted the squash with water, which made a light, refreshing drink. I imagine it would be great with lemonade, too.
I love this book. There are so many drinks I want to try, such as Dandelion and Chicory Chai (water, ginger, dandelion root, chicory root, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, clove, cinnamon, milk and honey), Apple and Mint syrup (mint, apples, sugar, water), Figs and Vanilla Rum (figs, vanilla bean, rum) and Apple and Sage Wine (apple, sage, honey, vodka, wine).
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of drinks here and Wild Drinks and Cocktails will definitely appeal to foragers, but if foraging’s not your thing, you should be able to find the ingredients easily enough in the shops.
Giveaway: Win a copy of Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han
If you’d like a copy of Emily’s book, just enter below via Rafflecopter. Good luck!
Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han is published by Fair Winds Press with a cover price of £14.99.
Thanks go to Fair Winds Press for my copy of the book and also for providing one to give away.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan and have been to London, you’ve probably heard of Mildreds. In fact, even if you’re vegetarian or vegan but have never been to London, you’ve probably heard of Mildreds.
But, just in case you haven’t heard of Mildreds, Mildreds is a popular vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Soho, London that has been around since 1988. It’s so popular, I’ve personally only been a couple of times because it gets mega-packed and me and mega-packed don’t get on too well. They don’t take bookings either, so if they’re full (which they usually are), you have the option of either a) having a drink while you wait in their bar; or b) go away and come back later when they’re hopefully less busy.
The first time I went (one evening a few years ago), I went for option a and I’ve got to say, this wasn’t such a pleasant experience. The bar is more of a waiting area than a comfy place to wait (if you see what I mean) and the staff were aloof, acting as if they were doing us a favour by allowing us to wait. I can’t remember what I ate but I remember being less than impressed but I probably had a grump on by then because of the wait and the snooty staff.
However, the second time I went (lunchtime/mid-afternoon, a few years ago but not as many years as ago as the first time), friendly staff showed us immediately to a table and although, again, I can’t remember what I ate, I remember enjoying it and happy to make a return visit.
Mildreds: The Cookbook
If you’re one of the many thousands of Mildreds fans and have hankered after recreating your favourite dishes at home, you’re going to love this cookbook. And for those of you who are yet to visit Mildreds, now you can find out what all the fuss is about.
Mildreds: The Cookbook is set out in chapters and sub-chapters containing:
- Dips, Sauces & Dressings
- Gluten-free menu ideas
- Vegan menu ideas
with each recipe clearly labelled if it’s suitable for vegans and/or gluten-free.
The first recipe I made from the cookbook was a gorgeous feta, chilli & mint-filled aubergine escalope. Although the escalope was delicious, it wasn’t very photogenic, so I’m going to share instead the spanakopita I also made. I usually make spanakopita in one large strudel or in pie-form (you can see others I’ve made here and here) but this time, I put a bit more effort in and made individual ones.
As you can see, I omitted the sesame seeds. I also left out the caster sugar, didn’t caramelize the onions, and didn’t add any nutmeg or pine nuts either. Despite me leaving out most of the ingredients, these spanakopita were still delicious. They froze well, too, and were great cold for lunch the next day. I’m going to post below the recipe as it is in the cookbook and not the slapdash way I did it.
- 1 x 400g packet filo pastry, thawed if frozen
- 125g butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- Olive oil
- 2 large onions, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 500g spinach, rinsed and drained
- 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- 120g feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 bunch of dill leaves, chopped
- 25g pine nuts, lightly toasted
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Pinch of black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas mark 5. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. For the filling, heat a splash of olive oil in a pan, add the onions, sugar and salt and cook over a medium heat; stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Cook the spinach leaves in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute until tender. Strain and leave to cool, then squeeze out any excess liquid with your hands. Roughly chop the spinach and place in a mixing bowl with the caramelized onion and the rest of the filling ingredients. Mix together well.
- Cut the filo pastry sheets lengthways into 4 even strips about 7cm wide. Brush an individual strip with melted butter, place a small spoonful of the mix towards one end of the strip and fold the corner of the pastry over itself at right angles, making sure you brush it with more melted butter once more before you make the last fold to ensure it sticks together well. Place the triangle seam-side down on to the prepared baking tray. Repeat with the remaining strips.
- Brush the tops of the prepared spanakopita with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.
Visit the Mildreds website
Review: The Part-Time Vegetarian by Nicola Graimes
Nicola Graimes wrote one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks – Veggienomics. This is definitely one of my ‘go to’ cookbooks and you can see some of the recipes I’ve tried from it here, here and (my favourite) here.
In Nicola’s latest cookbook – The Part-Time Vegetarian – she confesses that, after almost thirty years of being vegetarian, she now occasionally eats meat and fish. While Nicola doesn’t go into detail about why she chose to start eating meat again, part of me dearly hopes one of the reasons is ‘got drunk and bought a kebab on the way back from the pub’ but my guess is that probably wasn’t a contributing factor and, after thirty years, deciding to re-introduce meat and fish into her diet probably wasn’t something she did lightly.
Still, whatever Nicola’s reasons, I’ve got to admit when her publisher asked me if I’d like a review copy, I was hesitant to accept. Although I’m pro-choice and, as far as I’m concerned, if people want to eat meat then that’s their prerogative, my collection of cookbooks is 100% vegetarian/vegan and I don’t want to see meat recipes while I’m flicking through a cookbook looking for something to make.
This isn’t a half-meat/half-vegetarian cookbook though – The Part-Time Vegetarian contains vegetarian recipes that can be adapted to include meat and fish. For example, it could be something as simple as sprinkling some crispy bacon on the finished dish, the addition of prawns, or a more substantial alteration such as spiced grilled lamb instead of roasted mushrooms served on a white bean mash.
So, if you’re one of the two out of three part-time ‘vegetarians’ who occasionally eat meat, chicken or fish*; you cook for a family that contains a vegetarian; or you just want to incorporate a few vegetarian meals to your weekly menu, then this book will be of interest to you. Nicola’s also included menu plans for a family vegetarian week, a part-time vegetarian week, a 7-day healthy week, part-time vegetarian meals for friends and menus for different occasions.
Recipe: Paneer, egg and potato gratin
I don’t know if it was my subconscious to blame, but the recipe I decided to try first from The Part-Time Vegetarian didn’t have a meaty alternative. I also don’t know if how it turned out was anything like it was supposed to, as there’s no photo for this recipe in the book (there are plenty of full-page photos to accompany other recipes though) and the finished result wasn’t how I’d pictured it in my head but, appearances aside, this was a tasty, filling meal, with the paneer and Indian spices giving an interesting twist to the potatoes and eggs.
[Please note: As usual, this is my simplified/altered to my preference version and not how it appears in the book.]
- 800g potatoes, halved if large - no need to peel
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 green peppers, deseeded and sliced
- 1 green chilli, deseeded and sliced
- 325ml vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
- 4 eggs
- 150g paneer, cubed
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6
- Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water with half the turmeric for 10-12 minutes, or until almost tender. Drain the potatoes and leave until cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the onions for 8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, cumin seeds, green peppers and chilli and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
- Slice the potatoes into 1cm slices and add to the pan, turning gently until combined, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes until the stock has reduced by three-quarters. Stir in half the coriander and transfer to a baking dish.
- Make four indentations in the potato mixture and break an egg into each one. Scatter the paneer over the top and drizzle with the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper, cover with foil, then bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Remove the foil and cook for a further 5-8 minutes.
- Scatter over the remaining coriander.
Giveaway: Win a copy of The Part-Time Vegetarian by Nicola Graimes
I’ve got a copy of The Part-Time Vegetarian to give away and if you’d like to win it, just leave a comment below and I’ll pick a winner at random after the closing date of Friday 2 October 2015.
UK entries only.
*Yes, I know there’s no such thing as a part-time vegetarian. Don’t shoot me.
I blogged about Violife vegan cheese a couple of years ago and, at the time, I was kind of, ‘Well, Violife’s okay, I suppose, but nothing special’. Since then, I’ve changed my mind and, while I’m not saying it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten, it’s definitely the best vegan cheese I’ve ever eaten.
Today I used some in a toasted vegan cheese and chorizo sandwich. As you can see in the above photo, Violife melts beautifully and it went really well with the vegan chorizo I made from The Gentle Chef‘s new book – Seitan and Beyond.
This chorizo is fab; juicy, spicy, delicious, easy to make and contains easy-to-find ingredients (the only ingredients you’re probably not going to find in the supermarket – at least not here in the UK – are vital wheat gluten and liquid smoke, but these are easy enough and cheap enough to buy online). I can’t share the recipe with you as The Gentle Chef doesn’t allow his recipes to be shared but if you love your mock meat products I recommend you buy Seitan and Beyond, either as a pdf (with photos) from his website, or as a hard copy (without photos) from Amazon.
I know you don’t need a recipe for how to make a sandwich, but here it is anyway.
- 2 slices of bread
- Violife cheese, sliced from the block
- 3 slices of vegan chorizo
- A few leaves of baby spinach
- 1 tomato, sliced
- Vegan salad cream (Asda's own brand light salad cream is vegan)
- Dairy-free spread (I used Pure)
- Spread the bread with the dairy-free spread
- Add the spinach leaves on to one of the slices of bread
- Add the Violife
- Add the chorizo
- Add the sliced tomato
- Squeeze the salad cream on
- Top with the remaining slice of bread
- Grill in a George Foreman grill or sandwich toaster for about 10 minutes
While I was thinking about what next to make in my dehydrator, I remembered I had a copy of Ani’s Raw Food Desserts and remembered that the reason I’ve never taken much notice of raw food ‘cook’books in the past was because a lot of the recipes needed a dehydrator. So I grabbed my copy off the shelf and flicked through and a couple of recipes immediately looked appealing.
Like this recipe for strawberry and coconut macaroons, for example. Ani’s recipe in the book says to dehydrate them for 3-6 hours but my macaroons were still too moist in the middle for my liking after that amount of time and also had a strange bitter taste, so I lowered the temperature and left the dehydrator running all night. In the morning, they were perfect.
I’m assuming my mix was so wet and took so long to dry because, when Ani stated in her recipe 1 cup of strawberries, I had no idea whether that meant whole strawberries (therefore leaving a lot of gaps/air), or to cut the strawberries up so they fit into a cup. I went for the latter method and ended up with a mix that was practically liquid. Still, even if I did go about things the wrong way, the end result was perfect, so that’s the recipe/method I’m going to post here.
I kept thinking these macaroons should be pink but then the logical part of my brain told me that this is natural food and the pink confection you see in the shops is pink because they’ve got food colouring added to them. If you like those biscuity kind of coconut macaroons you find in the shop, you’ll love these. And unlike those ones you find in the shop, these are healthy.
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- ⅓ cup pitted dates
- ⅓ cup agave nectar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups desiccated coconut
- Put the strawberries, dates, agave nectar and vanilla extract into a food processor and blitz until thoroughly mixed. It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth.
- Add the desiccated coconut and pulse until mixed in.
- Shape into 10 balls and place on a dehydrator tray.
- Dry for 12 hours on 40C.
The winner of a copy of The Great Vegan Protein Book by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes is:
Well done, Maxine! Please email me your address and I’ll arrange for your prize to be sent to you.
Unfortunately, this didn’t go down too well with The Meat Eater. I loved it – I especially loved the pastry because – round of applause, please – I made it all by myself. I don’t think I’ve ever made pastry before; I might have made some at school I suppose, but that would have been a *cough* few *cough* years ago now.
You’ve got to hand it to The Meat Eater though – he’d do well on Masterchef’s palette test. He said the pastry had an odd taste to it and as I thought back to what had gone into it, I remembered the coconut oil, so that was probably the ‘odd taste’ he was referring to. He did admit to liking ‘bits of it’ though.
Hopefully, the coconut oil hasn’t put you off, so I’m going to post the recipe below as I made it (which is pretty much as it appears in Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel, which I talked about a bit more in yesterday’s post – my version is only slightly simplified). The end result is a kind of quiche-like dish which I reckon would be just as nice cold, as hot.
Please don’t be put off by making your own pastry – this was about as simple as it gets and if I can be bothered to do it, so can you.
Although the recipe below states 240g tofu, I used a normal (normal for the UK, anyway) sized block of Cauldron tofu and pressed it (nothing fancy – just between two saucers), this left me with 275g tofu and I used all of it.
- 125g wholemeal flour
- 30g plain flour
- 60ml coconut oil
- 125ml iced water
- 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 whole garlic clove
- 125g spinach
- 240g firm tofu
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast
- salt and pepper
- Make the pastry. In a large bowl, mix together the flours and ½ tsp salt. Work the coconut oil into the flour, leaving small lumps. Add the water gradually and work until the dough comes together. Roll into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add the crushed garlic, mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms release their juices and the juices evaporate. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Meanwhile, steam the spinach until partially wilted, then leave to cool.
- Place the tofu, lemon juice, 1½ tsp olive oil, nutritional yeast and the whole garlic clove in a food processor and process until fairly smooth (you might need to add a bit more oil). Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the spinach and fold in by hand.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. On a piece of baking paper, roll out the pastry to a 30-cm (12") round. Transfer the pastry and baking paper onto a baking sheet and spread the spinach-tofu mixture over, leaving a 5cm (2") border. Top with the mushrooms and gently fold the extra pastry up and onto the toppings, pleating as you move around the outside.
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.