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.
My cheese consumption has gone down massively recently but when The Meat Eater said he was going back to the old chippy for our usual Friday night chippy chips, I thought I’d give their battered halloumi another go. This was the second time I’d tried battered halloumi from the chippy and the first time, I wasn’t keen, despite me usually loving halloumi. I don’t know whether it just seemed a bit odd getting it from the chippy, along with chips that’d been chucked in a huge vat of oil, or maybe I thought it was trying to fool me into thinking it was fish but, whatever it was, the first time just didn’t do it for me.
This time, however, I loved it and remembered how much I love halloumi (to be honest, I hadn’t forgotten. How could anyone forget how delicious it is?) and so when I saw a link to this recipe for vegan tofu halloumi on the Little Vegan Kitchen Facebook group, I knew I had to give it a go, slightly adapting the recipe to my own taste and preference.
I wasn’t expecting it to be much of a convincing replica for halloumi but, I’ve got to say, although it doesn’t have the ‘squeak’ of dairy halloumi, it’s a salty and tangy, perfectly acceptable alternative. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’ve been having it for lunch stuffed in pitta bread with hummus and salad for the last three days.
I used my George Foreman to get it crispy but I would imagine it’d also be great fried in a little olive oil.
This is such a quick, easy and tasty lunch. Simply cut a chunk of tofu off the block, squeeze it in some kitchen roll to get rid of the excess water, cut it into cubes, coat in pesto and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the outside gets crispy. See, told you it was easy! I had mine in some pitta bread with spinach, olives, sundried tomato, cucumber, spring onion and vegan mayo (Tiger Tiger, which you can find in Asda, or you can make your own). If you want vegan pesto (which is what I used here and doesn’t taste any different to regular pesto), Sacla do one and you can find it in the ‘Free From’ section in Tesco (I don’t know where other supermarkets keep it, but probably somewhere similar).
A lot of people don’t know what to do with tofu. I’d have included myself in this group of people until just a few months ago, but now it’s rare for me not to have a packet of tofu in the fridge or freezer (tip: tofu is firmer if you freeze it first, then defrost it). I’ve even started to have it for lunch on an almost daily basis, usually marinated and grilled on my George Foreman grill, as it’s just so easy and tasty.
Tofu is bland by itself, so it’s best when as much water as possible has been squeezed out of it (just wrap it in kitchen towel and squeeze, or press between two plates with something heavy on top) and marinated for a few hours.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been marinating tofu in the gorgeous lime and chilli dressing from Scarlett & Mustard a friend sent to me but you can use whatever you’ve got handy – in the past I’ve used BBQ sauce, Peri Peri sauce, liquid smoke and sriracha, and even a combination of all of them.
Just cut a chunk of tofu off the block, squeeze the water out, generously coat in your marinade and leave the tofu to soak up the flavours for a few hours. Bake, grill or put in a George Foreman grill for about 10-15 minutes until the outside has crisped up a bit. I put my tofu on top of a toasted pitta bread stuffed with rocket, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and loads of homemade hummus.
Alternatively, prepare the tofu the same way, but chop it up and have it in a wrap instead.
Despite this soup being the easiest soup in the world to make, it wasn’t the easiest soup to guess in my Guess The Soup game. I didn’t think it would be so difficult; it’s just one vegetable, after all, and a seasonal vegetable at that (I’m assuming it’s seasonal – it came in last week’s veg box, anyway).
Maybe the stock discoloured it. I don’t know what goes into most ready-made stock powder and cubes (I should probably be ashamed of this) but this stock was a home-made one, made from The Gentle Chef’s Instant Chicken’less Bouillon Powder, which is easy to make and much nicer than anything you’ll find in the shops. Just make a batch up and store it in a jar until you need it.
These instructions are for a Von Chef Soup Maker. Your settings might be different. If you want to make it on the hob, just simmer all ingredients for about 20 minutes then blend at the end and add the soya milk.
Author: Planet Veggie
1 cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp home made or store bought bouillon powder
3 cups water
salt and pepper
50ml soya milk (optional)
Put all ingredients except the soya milk into the soup machine
I’ve reinstated my Riverford Veg Box delivery and last week I received a box containing – amongst other vegetables – kale and parsnips. Parsnips are usually something I only ever eat when they’re forced on me but they do make a delicious soup, especially when spiced up with a bit of chilli. This soup was a great way to use up some of the kale, too. I felt approximately three-hundred-and-thirty-six times healthier after eating it (until I had some hot chocolate and a couple of biscuits immediately after, that is).
I made this in my soup maker. If you’re making it on the hob, fry the onion and garlic in oil for a few minutes first, then add the rest of the ingredients, simmer for about 20 minutes or so until the parsnip is tender, then blend at the end.
Soup Machine Parsnip and Kale Soup (serves 3-4)
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
3 large handfuls of chopped kale (minus the thick middle stalks)
1 green chilli, chopped
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1L vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Chuck it all in the soup machine and let your soup machine do its thing.
Domu sent me a replacement soup maker, so I’m still trying to make friends with it. At least the new one doesn’t require whacking on the side to make it start up, I suppose, and I have just about figured out how to use it, hooray.
Years ago, when I swapped sandwiches for soup, I used to buy soup every day from a place near work and one of my favourites from there was their cream of sweetcorn. Although it was one of my favourites, I’ve never actually made it myself, so yesterday I gave it a go.
After filling up the soup maker with the veg and the milk, I remembered that when milk reaches boiling point, it bubbles up and boils over unless you take it off the heat and, considering I’d filled the soup maker way above the maximum limit (and I mean way above), I thought I was about to decorate the kitchen in boiling soya milk. Oops.
I changed the programme on the soup maker from high to low and hoped for the best. My ‘hoping for the best’ technique worked as it didn’t boil over and I ended up with thick and creamy cream of sweetcorn soup.
Please note, if you’re making this in a soup maker, you should probably halve the ingredients and make half the amount.
Soup Maker Cream of Sweetcorn Soup (serves 4-6) (adapted from 200 Super Soups)
1 onion, chopped
300g sweet potato, diced
2 x 325g cans sweetcorn, drained
6 tbsp double cream
salt and pepper
Vegetarian bacon flavour bits to garnish
If your soup machine has a ‘fry’ function, melt the butter and fry the onion for a couple of minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the cream and cook on low power for 45 minutes.
Add the double cream.
If your machine doesn’t blend automatically, blend until smooth.
Pour into bowls and sprinkle the vegetarian bacon bits on top.
I said yesterday I’d give the VonShef Soup Maker another go, so I used it today to make a batch of red pepper soup.
Just like last time, when I plugged it in, it was lifeless and could only be revived by giving it a whack on its side. And again, it only started doing something after I’d randomly pressed all the buttons, except this time it decided my soup needed 35 minutes instead of 30. I left it alone during the 35 minutes and let it do its thing, especially as I wanted to know if it would automatically blend the soup at the end. It didn’t. It switched itself onto standby and only blended when I turned it back on again and rotated the dial a bit. The only positive thing I can say about the soup maker is that it blends ridiculously quickly.
I’m going to tell Domu to come and take their almost useless machine back.
Soup Maker Red Pepper Soup (serves 4)
3 red peppers, deseeded and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
Put all the ingredients in the soup maker.
Whack the soup maker on the side to bring it to life.
Press all the buttons until it starts to do something.
At the end, turn it back on and turn the dial and blend the soup.
Contact Domu and tell them to come and take back their stupid machine.
I plugged in the soup maker and nothing happened. The instructions, which appear to have been translated from Martian into some weird form of English spoken by no one ever said the display should light up and go on stand by. Well, it didn’t. Not until I’d whacked it on the side, dodgy-80s-television stylee, anyway, then it lit up. But how to make the soup? As I said, the instructions are unfathomable, the display doesn’t help much and I had no clue how to use the machine. Apparently you can add a bit of oil to the bottom of the jug and fry onion and garlic before adding the rest of the ingredients and I thought the instructions said you do this by pressing the ‘stir’ button but that just blended it. The time and temperature are set by default to 30 minutes and 100C respectively and I think it starts to heat up as soon as you switch the machine off standby. It started to heat up after I’d pressed all the buttons about a billion times and was on the verge of throwing it out the window in frustration and making some toast instead, anyway.
I added the rest of the ingredients and waited around for a bit to see what it did and the timer started to count down so I assumed it was cooking. After a couple of minutes it started bubbling rapidly (see video below – it’s the right way up when you click it) and I wondered if it was blending but I think it was just boiling as when I turned the temperature down, it stopped. I couldn’t get it to simmer like my hob-made soups do, and I didn’t know at which temperature soup is supposed to simmer (100C sounded too hot to me but what do I know?), so I just kept turning the temperature up and down during the cooking. I thought it was supposed to blend the soup without me doing anything but when it got to the end, I stuck my spoon in and the tomatoes were still lumpy, so I pressed the ‘stir’ button until it was smooth, then I added the chickpeas.
Despite the machine needing whacking on the side to start (and if it happens next time I want to use it, it’ll be returned to Domu) and me not having a clue how to use it, it did make gorgeous soup. But if all it does is heat it up and then require you to press the button to blend it, it’s not really any better than a saucepan and a blender. It also takes up a lot of room – this is a big machine.
Still, I’ll give it another go. Now I’ve worked out how to use it (I think), I may grow to love it. I will report back.