January is traditionally the time for people to give their bodies a rest from Christmas excess and whether you call it a ‘new year, new you’ thing, a cleanse, a fast or a detox, they all basically boil down to the same thing: ‘I’m a fat, hungover bloater and I need to step away from the cheese and chocolate and put something healthy inside me’.
A steakhouse isn’t a vegetarian’s natural environment and I usually also steer well clear of ‘family friendly’ restaurants but, when the Malta Inn in Maidstone asked me to review their newly-refurbished Beefeater restaurant, I thought, ‘Well, I’m sure I won’t starve, so why not?’ It would also give me a chance to see what a Beefeater is like now as I hadn’t been to one in about thirty years.
A spiralizer has been the must-have gadget for a while now and supermarkets have cottoned on to this trend by selling their own ready-spiralized vegetables for three times the price the veggie noodles would be if you made them yourself. I can see the attraction of the ready-spiralized veg though – no getting any gadgets out, no cleaning up afterwards and if you’ve got arthritis or something else that means your grip’s not great, then it’s the only option available (on the assumption you’re not rich enough to pay someone solely to come around and spiralize a couple of carrots for you while you doss about watching Loose Women on the telly).
A big, black, shiny beast came to stay. No, not a black labrador (my cat would pack her bags) but the new Optimum P200 Dehydrator from Froothie. I’ve been happily using my old dehydrator for the last year but that’s a round one and although it did its job, I’d heard square ones were better for the following reasons:
- The heat in a square dehydrator is evenly distributed – top to bottom and front to back – so you don’t have to keep switching the trays around while whatever’s inside is drying. Round dehydrators are heated from the bottom, so the bottom gets most of the heat, so you have to keep switching the trays around.
- Round dehydrators have a hole in the middle of each tray which a) means it takes longer to dehydrate the food; and b) means you’re losing space on each tray and makes it more difficult to make things like fruit leathers/roll-ups/crackers, etc.
- With a square dehydrator, you can take all the trays out and prove bread and make yoghurt inside the machine (no, I have no idea how; I just know you can). If you took all the trays off a round dehydrator, you’d just be left with the base.
So, when Froothie said, ‘Miss Ambassador Cathy, would you like one of our new dehydrators?’, although part of me thought, ‘I already have a dehydrator. I know how big they are. If I get any more kitchen gadgets – let alone big ones – The Meat Eater is going to go nuts’, the other, much bigger, gadget-loving part of me thought, ‘HELL YEAH’. Besides, I thought I’d be able to sell my old one on one of those Facebook local selling pages. ‘Thought’ being the operative word as, although I’ve sold a slow cooker on there recently, no one wants my old juicer and I reckon if I want to tempt someone to buy my old dehydrator I’ll have to put in the description that it can make chips. I just won’t tell them I meant kale chips.
The Optimum P200 dehydrator comes with a user guide with the usual operating instructions and do’s and don’ts. One of the ‘don’ts’ is ‘do not use with an extension lead’, and although it’s not even just a ‘don’t’ but a ‘warning’, I happily used it for a few days plugged into an extension lead because it was too big and noisy to live in the kitchen and so I moved it to the conservatory where there was nowhere near a wall socket into which to plug it. It was only yesterday when The Meat Eater complained about the noise of it (he does weights in the conservatory) that I mentioned it shouldn’t be plugged into an extension cable and did he know why. He did know why. He said ‘because too much power will go through and it’ll catch on fire’. Oops. It’s now unplugged and I’m going to rearrange the conservatory and find it a nice safe wall socket to plug it into.
Also in the user guide is some advice on how to prepare your fruit and veg before putting it in the dehydrator, and also how long to dry it for. As you can see in the above photo, there’s also a little guide on the top of the dehydrator, along with the temperature dial and 40-hour digital timer.
The dehydrator also comes with 2 x non-stick reusable meshes for placing on top or underneath the fruit and veg being dried, and 2 x non-stick reusable plastic sheets for fruit leathers/roll-ups, cookies and crackers, etc., along with a brush to clean the meshes and sheets with.
Since receiving my dehydrator, I’ve made tofu jerky and mushroom jerky in it, which have both been amazing and only take a few hours. I especially love the tofu jerky, which is simply tofu sliced and marinated in a combination of sriracha, vegan Worcestershire Sauce and liquid smoke, then dehydrated at 60C for about 4 hours (it’ll take less or more time depending on how thick you slice the tofu).
The mushroom jerky (mushrooms sliced and marinated in Reggae Reggae Sauce and dehydrated at 60C for about 6 hours) is great in wraps and stuffed in pitta bread with salad. With summer coming (we’ll forget it snowed today, yeah?), that means long walks and bike rides in the countryside and I’ve got it in mind to make some fruit roll-ups to take with me for an energy boost.
If you’re tempted to get a dehydrator but not sure you’d get much use out of one, you can try the Optimum P200 Dehydrator for 30 days and if you don’t like it, Froothie are offering a money back guarantee – including return postage costs – so why not give it a go?
*Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for Froothie and any links to their products in this post are affiliate links which, if you purchase a product through, won’t cost you any more but will earn me a small commission. I only endorse products I am happy with and I have not been paid for this post.
‘Would you like to be our Ambassador?’ Froothie asked me. ‘We’ll give you a blender that’s more powerful than a Vitamix – it can turn a paving stone into dust in seconds.’ Yeah, right, I thought, but it’s true – it really can, look at this video.
Obviously you (probably) don’t take into account paving-stone-pulverising abilities when deciding which blender to buy, so what’s so special about the Froothie Optimum G2.1 high speed blender? As I’ve already mentioned, it’s more powerful than a Vitamix, but not only that – it’s better than a Vitamix in other ways, as you can see from the comparison chart below.
The Froothie Optimum G2.1 blender is beautiful. It’s sleek and shiny and has a touchscreen with six pre-set programmes for fruit, grinding nuts and seeds, soup, nut milk, sorbet and sauces. Wait! Did I say soup? It makes soup? Yes, it does make soup but it’s not a soup maker in the traditional sense as it doesn’t have any heating elements inside it; rather it creates heat by the friction of the blades. I haven’t tried it myself yet to make soup, but I’ve used it to blend soup made on the hob (recipes here and here) and it’s resulted in the smoothest soup I’ve ever tasted. I thought my soup maker did a good job at blending soup but after using the Froothie blender, I can see why people rave about high powered blenders – the difference is striking. Another plus the Froothie machine has over my soup maker is the lid. The soup machine’s lid is really difficult to get off but the Froothie lid glides on and off, while still perfectly sealing the jug. And speaking of the jug – because it’s made from plastic, it’s a lot lighter than the glass soup maker jug, which makes it easier to lift off the base and to rinse. Don’t worry about the jug being flimsy though, it’s not – it’s unbreakable, as you can see from the video below (I’m glad it’s strong, as I’ve already dropped it on to my kitchen floor and the jug remained unscathed).
I hate cleaning my soup maker. As mentioned, the soup maker’s jug is made from thick glass, which makes it REALLY heavy and, because you can’t immerse it in water, it makes it really difficult to clean. The Froothie blender is easy to clean – just add a drop of detergent into the jug with some warm water and switch on for a few seconds, then rinse under the tap (which with the jug being plastic and light isn’t cumbersome at all) – job done! And when I say a ‘drop’ of detergent, I mean a drop – I used too much one day and had a jug full of what looked like whipped cream. Which was fun but not really what I was after.
What’s in the box
So, apart from soup, what else have I used it for? I’ve used it for hummus, smoothies (it even completely blended the dates, which my Nutribullet doesn’t do), vegan cheese (from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook), chocolate nice cream (cacao powder blended with coconut milk and coconut flower nectar, then frozen for a few hours) and lemonade; all with stunning results. I’m looking forward to making almond milk in it and, handily enough, the blender comes with a nut bag along with a tamper tool, user guide and 104-page recipe booklet.
I’ve wanted a high powered blender for years and, now I’ve got one, I couldn’t be happier with it. If you’re in the market for a high speed blender, then I’d definitely recommend one of these.
For more information on the Froothie Optimum G2.1 Platinum Series Vortex Blender, see what other Froothie products are available, watch video demos and check out some amazing recipes, visit the Froothie website.
Forget Kim Kardashian and her oversized bum, Zizzi almost broke the internet a few weeks ago when they revealed their new vegan menu. Vegans are used to visiting chain restaurants and adapting items already on the menu and asking the staff to omit cheese from their orders but Zizzi is the first (as far as I’m aware) to offer a vegan cheese on their pizzas. The vegan cheese is MozzaRisella, which is made from germinated whole rice made without milk and lactose, making it suitable for vegans and those who are allergic to dairy, gluten and soya.
I’m neither vegan nor suffer from any allergies and although I make a conscious effort to eat fewer animal products, when it comes to eating out in restaurants, ‘without cheese please’ just doesn’t manage to leave my mouth when the waiter comes to take my order. So, when I heard about Zizzi’s new vegan pizza, I had to give it a go.
Zizzi, Charlotte Street, London
A friend and I visited Zizzi in Charlotte Street, London and I’m hoping the smiley-but-slow service isn’t indicative of all their branches. The friendly waitress seated us immediately, handed us a couple of Zizzi’s usual menus but rushed off before I had a chance to ask for the vegan one. A long time passed until she came back for our drinks order, which gave me the chance to ask for the vegan menu which she immediately brought to me, but then we had a long wait for our wine to arrive (by the way, most of the wines are vegan and the ones that aren’t are listed on the menu).
To be fair to the waitress(es) though, there did only seem to be two of them but, even so, the restaurant was empty and even the chefs were standing around in the kitchen not doing anything, so I’m not sure why the service was so slow. Slow service is one of my bugbears and the reason I no longer go into my local Pizza Express (I gave them four chances but the service never got any better).
Starter – Vegan Garlic Bread
Still, we eventually managed to order and our shared starter of garlic bread arrived. Despite – as you can see – the bread being covered in lumps of garlic, it wasn’t particularly garlicky and it was also a bit dry. I did like the green ‘vegan’ sticker stuck to the plate though (that’s as in ‘liked Zizzi thought of doing it’, not ‘mmm, yummy sticker’).
Main Course – Zizzi Vegan Pizza with MozzaRisella Cheese
But I didn’t go to Zizzi for their garlic bread, I went for the vegan cheese I’d heard so much about. Zizzi offer a vegan Margherita (including a gluten-free option), onto which you can add your own toppings. Unfortunately, my pizza was a bit burnt and I considered sending it back as I hate burnt food even more than I hate slow service but given how long my pizza had taken to arrive, I kept it. Luckily, only a part of it was burnt and the rest of it was fine and I soon cheered up and enjoyed the rest of my pizza. The vegan ‘cheese’ was more of a sauce and not the stretchy mozzarella pizza lovers have come to expect on their pizza but there are no complaints from me as it was tasty, cheesy and not artificial tasting at all (unlike a lot of vegan cheese). As someone who loves sauces and hates dry food, a sauce-like cheese on top of my pizza is fine with me.
My vegan Margherita cost £7.95 and I chose toppings of olives, green chillies and mushrooms so, with toppings being 80p each, this meant my pizza came to £10.35 which is excellent value in my opinion, especially when a lot of pizza restaurants charge around £12 for a pizza and extra toppings at £1.50 a pop. Unfortunately, I can’t gush about the garlic bread and, at £4.50, I won’t be getting it again.
I’d definitely go back for the vegan pizza though and hopefully more Italian/pizza restaurants and chains will follow Zizzi’s example and start offering vegan cheese on the menu.
For more information about Zizzi, view their whole menu, find your nearest branch and book a table, visit the Zizzi website.
If you’ve been to Zizzi to try their vegan pizza, I’d love to know what you thought about it.
Gousto recipe boxes are different to the Riverford recipe boxes you might have seen me review here and here. They’re different because not only do you get to choose which recipes out of a changing choice of ten (not all vegetarian) you want to cook that week instead of having them chosen for you, but you can also choose whether to have two, three or four recipes a week, and whether you’d like them to serve two or four people.
Gousto asked me if I’d like to review a box and, well, you know me – I never say no to free food, so here’s my thoughts on what I received.
It took me a while to choose two out of the four vegetarian options; I almost went for a creamy mushroom pasta dish, but then I remembered that although the Meat Eater loves cream, mushrooms and pasta, he hates creamy mushroom pasta dishes, so that was off the menu. I can’t remember what the other dish I discounted was but I was happy with my choices of melty mushroom burger and the spinach and veggie mince lasagne.
My box of food turned up on schedule, with the products that needed to be in a fridge, wrapped up in a wool bag. I don’t know why, but these wool cool bags make me as squeamish as I would be if my food arrived inside an actual sheep and not just its coat.
As is usual with recipe boxes, the food is accompanied by a recipe card, with a list of ingredients, step-by-step instructions and a photo of how it should turn out, if you don’t mess it up too much. All the ingredients are measured out for you and clearly labelled so you don’t get your basil mixed up with your spinach. One of the good things about having everything separate is then you can leave out what you or someone you’re cooking for dislikes – in my case, I left out the olives as the Meat Eater doesn’t like them.
Gousto recipe box melty mushroom burger
We both enjoyed these melty mushroom burgers (portobello mushrooms, topped with mozzarella and served in a warmed ciabatta roll), accompanied with roasted potatoes and salsa for which the ingredients were also provided. The quantities provided were perfect for two people and this is a dish I’ll definitely be making again.
Gousto recipe box spinach and veggie mince lasagne
I thought the next dish – spinach and veggie mince lasagne – was a bit of an odd choice for a company that prides itself on fresh, organic produce. Veggie mince is usually regarded as a processed food so it’s not something I’d expect to be included but there’s nothing to complain about this tasty dish, and it’s definitely the first time I’ve had Henderson’s relish and baharat in a lasagne. In fact, it’s the first time ever I’ve had Henderson’s relish and baharat (a spice mixture used in Middle Eastern cuisine). Gousto didn’t provide the flour, butter or milk for this and I wasn’t sure why this was. Considering other chilled ingredients came in a cool bag, couldn’t the butter and milk be provided too? That’s just a slight quibble and, again, this made a perfect amount for two people and would even serve three or four if you served it with vegetables and garlic bread.
Gousto recipe box subscription service
Gousto recipe boxes work on a weekly subscription basis – you place your order three days before your preferred delivery date each week but you’re not committed to receiving a box each week, so if you want to skip a week for whatever reason or you want to cancel your subscription altogether, you can do this at any time. Gousto boxes cost:
- 2 recipes for 2 people – £27.49 per week
- 2 recipes for 4 people – £41.99 per week
- 3 recipes for 2 people – £34.99 per week
- 3 recipes for 4 people – £51.99 per week
- 4 recipes for 2 people – £41.99 per week
- 4 recipes for 4 people – £59.99 per week
but when you take into account their convenience and how much you’d spend on ingredients just to use a bit and have the rest languish in a cupboard (although I said I’ve never had Henderson’s relish before, I’m assuming you can’t just buy 1 tbsp of it) they’re not bad value, in my opinion.
For more information on Gousto’s recipe boxes, visit the Gousto website.
Gousto provided me with a recipe box to review. All opinions are my own.
Back in November, I reviewed Riverford’s vegetarian recipe box. The meals were tasty, quick to prepare and didn’t create much washing up, so when Riverford asked if I’d like to try another recipe box, I wasn’t about to turn it down.
Along with Riverford’s usual recipe boxes are boxes created by guest chefs. The latest chefs to be featured are twins David and Stephen Flynn, who own The Happy Pear shop, cafe and restaurant in Co. Wicklow, and it was this recipe box Riverford sent me to review.
As with all Riverford recipe boxes, everything you need is sent to you in one big box – all the fresh, organic, seasonal vegetables, tinned goods (tomatoes, beans, coconut milk, etc.), with all the herbs and spices pre-measured. Recipe cards with preparation and cooking time and step-by-step instructions are included. You really can’t go wrong with a recipe box.
The first recipe I made was a Mexican leek and black bean chilli. The recipe card said it would take me 25 minutes to prepare and cook and as I had a cold and really couldn’t be bothered to cook anything, it sounded perfect.
This vegetarian (it had honey in it, otherwise it would have been vegan) chilli was definitely a good choice for a lazy day as it didn’t require much more than a bit of chopping then chucking everything in a pan and letting it simmer for a bit. It made far more than two servings – I served the chilli on top of jacket potatoes and there was enough left over for another two servings.
I must have been feeling livelier the next day as according to the recipe card, this vegetarian (easily veganised by leaving out the honey and cheese) Spanish chickpea and potato bake with sundried tomato pesto would take 70 minutes to prepare and cook. Given how slow a cook I am, I took this to mean two hours, so I started it early.
Again, the recipe card said it served two but it was huge and could easily serve four. I thought the Happy Pear guys must be the size of the Two Fat Ladies or The Hairy Bikers but, nope, there’s not an ounce of fat on either of them.
This chickpea and potato bake came with a beetroot and pumpkin seed salad but I had it with my own vegetables instead.
Unfortunately, the last recipe of puy lentil coconut dahl was a bit of a disaster. In the instructions, it says to add more water if the dahl is becoming too thick but it should be reasonably dry. I could have left this to simmer for a year and it still wouldn’t have reduced down to ‘reasonably dry’; it was swimming in liquid.
I’d like to say that despite the wateryness of it, the vegetables and lentils were tasty enough but I’d be lying. To be fair, the potatoes were okay but the lentils didn’t do anything for me.
Still, two meals enjoyed out of the three isn’t bad (and because the portions were so large, I’ve got enough leftovers to heat up and have again another day) and on the whole I’d definitely recommend the Riverford recipe boxes. They’re tasty, healthy and easy to make.
The Happy Pear recipe boxes were for a limited time only and are now no longer available. However, the usual Riverford recipe boxes are available in:
For current prices and more information, visit the Riverford Recipe Box page on their website.
Win a Riverford Recipe Box
If you’d like to win a Riverford recipe box of your choice, enter my giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!
Please note: Although Riverford deliver to lots of locations around the UK, they don’t deliver everywhere, so you might want to check they deliver to you before entering the giveaway to avoid any disappointment, as there is no cash alternative.
A few years ago, I made chilli vodka with the chillies harvested in the summer. It was as simple as simply bunging some chillies into a bottle of vodka, then waiting six weeks for it to do its chilli-infusing thing.
Had I’d known about 31dover.com back then, I could have saved myself the six week wait, put the chillies on a pizza instead and ordered a bottle of 31Dover’s Naga Chilli Vodka, which would have arrived with me the next day.
However, I didn’t know about 31Dover back then and, after reading the blurb about their Naga Chilli Vodka (‘… a ridiculously hot vodka straight from the bowels of hell’), I’m not sure I’d have been brave enough to try it anyway.
What I did fancy trying though was their Two Birds Christmas Spiced Vodka, which is what I chose after 31Dover got in touch to ask me if I’d like to review something from their website. Well, I wasn’t going to say no to free alcohol, was I?
A matte-black gift box turned up the next day, where nestled inside lay a beautiful bottle. I’ve never seen such a pretty bottle of vodka.
Apparently, Two Birds Christmas Spiced Vodka is like a ‘mince pie in a glass’. I say ‘apparently’ because, unfortunately, I’ve had the lurgy since receiving it and haven’t tried any yet. Part of me did think ‘alcohol kills germs, get it down ya’, but the sensible part of me thought ‘you have no stop button and you will drink the whole bottle in one go and die’ and I don’t fancy dying, even for the good of this blog. Not before my birthday, anyway (which is on Tuesday 22 December, by the way).
So, although I can’t tell you if the Two Birds Christmas Spiced Vodka really is like a mince pie in a glass, I can tell you a bit more about 31Dover.
The business was created by the founders of Vanquish Wine – central London’s leading drinks distributor to the trade, who supply London’s top restaurants, bars, hotels and nightclubs with Champagne, wine and spirits. In 2010, Vanquish won the Drinks Business of the Year Award, which set them apart from their competition, enabling 31Dover.com to offer next-day delivery and online pricing backed by a price match guarantee.
You won’t find thousands of wines, beers and spirits on their website, as each bottle is personally recommended by their wine experts and personally tested by everyone on the 31Dover.com team (yes, I want a job there too).
However, you’re sure to find something you want – whether that’s chilli vodka or a case of craft beer – and you can order as little as one bottle or enough for a whole party. Next day delivery is standard and free for orders over £100.
Discount code for Planet Veggie readers
If you’d like to avoid the alcohol aisle in your local supermarket this Christmas and have your drinks delivered to your door instead (yes, I know supermarkets deliver alcohol but do they sell such things as vodka that tastes like mince pies, huh?), you can use the code 31DCATHY (this is not my bra size by the way) at the checkout until 20 December to get 10% off your order.
After months of watching Nutribullet demos on the Ideal World TV shopping channel, I finally *ahem* bit the bullet and bought one. I’d put off buying one because I thought the Nutribullet was just an expensive blender – no matter how much they advertised it as a ‘nutrition extractor’ or whatever it is they call it – and I already had a blender to make my smoothies in.
Although the Nutribullet is just basically a blender (whether it’s expensive or not is relative; it is, after all, about £400 cheaper than a Vitamix), it’s a flipping good blender and it doesn’t seem to matter what combination of fruit and veg you put in it, the resulting smoothie is always delicious, unlike when you put a random combination of fruit and veg into a juicer and the output is akin to swamp juice.
I’m sure you all know the basic premise behind a Nutribullet: Fill half the cup with leafy greens, the other half with fruit, top with nuts and/or seeds and – if you really hate yourself – a ‘superfood supplement’ such as spirulina, then top up with liquid such as water, milk or coconut water.
Unlike a juicer, you’ll have to peel some fruit such as oranges and lemons first (although I left the skin on a kiwi fruit and the Nutribullet didn’t mind at all) but its 600 watt motor will pulverise most things you chuck at it, including nuts and seeds, leaving a smooth, creamy smoothie. The only thing I’ve found it doesn’t break down is strawberry seeds.
When you’ve bought your Nutribullet and opened the box, inside you’ll find the power base, a tall cup, two smaller cups, a lip ring, a handled lip ring, two lids, an extractor blade, a milling blade (for grinding nuts, making breadcrumbs, etc.), a user manual/recipe book and a pocket nutritionist.
I’m now a total Nutribullet fangirl convert and below is a slideshow of a few of my concoctions.
For more information on the Nutribullet, visit the Nutribullet UK website. The 12-piece set is currently £99 on there, but I bought mine from Curry’s for around £80, so it’s worth shopping around.