Even if you’ve never tried a recipe box, I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Boxes of ingredients delivered to your door containing everything you need for two or more dishes, along with step-by-step instructions simple enough for even the most novice cook to follow. On the face of it, these boxes can seem like an extravagance or an unnecessary luxury but, when you think about it, if you had to buy all the ingredients you needed for a meal, you wouldn’t use in that one dish everything you bought – one tsp of a spice out of a whole jar/a handful of spinach out of a whole bag, for example – and, as everything’s pre-weighed for you (if a dish needs one tsp of a spice, one tsp of spice will be in the box) as well as there being no waste, there’s also no messing about with scales and measuring spoons or cups. I’ve tried a few recipe boxes in the past and have been impressed each time (especially as the portion sizes have been generous and usually stretched to double the quantities they say they serve).
When I make this mushroom soup, I eat at least two servings of it, it’s that good. Despite mushrooms being filling and substantial, there are only about 20 calories in 100g of them and although they don’t have the vibrancy you usually associate with healthy eating they:
I went to London VegFest the other week and for once, I actually came out looking forward to the next year’s event. On the previous years I’ve been, it’s been cramped, overcrowded and I hadn’t been able to get anywhere near the stalls, let alone try anything or buy anything. This year, although it was in the same space and I’m going to assume they weren’t turning stallholders or customers away, there was plenty of room to walk around and to see and sample everything, and sample things I certainly did.
The first time I had a massaman curry was in a Thai restaurant in Ashford. I was happily tucking away, thinking how gorgeous it was, when I saw a massive lump of beef sticking out of it. Obviously, I stopped eating it and told the staff, who apologised and offered to make me another – meat free – one but, unsurprisingly, I’d gone off the idea of eating. That wasn’t the first time I’d found meat in a meal:
What do you do when you’ve got half a block of puff pastry and half a vegetarian haggis in the freezer, a leftover field mushroom in the fridge and a cabbage in your veg box delivery? Make vegetarian haggis, mushroom and cabbage pasties of course! I love finding leftover pastry in the freezer as I haven’t found anything that isn’t improved by being wrapped in pastry. Well, ice cream might be a bit rubbish, I suppose, but the combination of vegetables and pastry is always a winner.
Move on if you’re allergic to mushrooms or nuts – this vegan pâté is made with copious amounts of both.
My experience of pâté is limited to chicken liver pâté sandwiches as a child in the 70s (so you can imagine what that was like) and, more recently, to the mushroom pâté in the red tubes sold in Holland & Barrett (which, if you’ve never tried, is very nice indeed). I’m doubtful whether either of these are representative of ‘real’ pâté as, whenever I see it being made on Come Dine With Me or its ilk, it’s always served as a hard lump that can be cut with a knife and not the spreadable mush I’m used to.
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.
Home alone means YAY I GET TO BE REALLY VEGAN and by ‘really vegan’ I mean I get to try things I haven’t made before like a vegan omelette made with silken tofu, such as this one I based on the one at the brilliant Post Punk Kitchen.
This vegan omelette was so good. It was quick and easy and although you’re not going to fool egg-eaters with it, this soft, tasty omelette was lovely stuffed with mushrooms, spring onions and spinach, and as the batter made enough for four omelettes and will keep well in the fridge or freezer, I had one cold the next day for lunch, used as a wrap with pesto, spinach, tomato and cucumber.
Like a lot of vegan ‘eggy’ dishes, this silken tofu omelette contained black salt (or kala namak as it’s also known) to give it an eggy taste. Black salt is cheap on Amazon but you can leave it out if you’re not that bothered about an eggy flavour.
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 349g pack silken tofu
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp fine black salt
- ½ cup chickpea flour
- 1 tbsp potato starch
- Prepare your chosen fillings before you start making the omelette and leave to one side
- Blend the garlic, tofu, nutritional yeast, olive oil, turmeric and black salt until smooth
- Add the chickpea flour and potato starch and blend until it's all combined
- Heat a lightly oiled large frying pan and pour in ½ cup of the batter
- Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter out to make a thin circle
- Let it cook for about 3-5 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom
- Flip the omelette over and cook for another minute or so
- Spread your prepared fillings evenly over half the omelette and fold over the other side
- Repeat with the rest of the batter
Veganuary Day 19
I’ve been slacking off my breakfast Nutriblasts recently and the 19th of Veganuary was no exception. A side effect of slacking off breakfast means hunger kicks in mid-morning and today when the munchies kicked in, my healthy choices got pushed aside in favour of the vegan cake that’s on the kitchen worktop.
Even I don’t have cake for lunch though, which was a Warburtons Thin filled with spinach, cucumber, olives, tomatoes and sundried tomato paste.
Vegan Haggis Stuffed Pepper Recipe
For dinner, I made a vegan haggis stuffed red pepper. I’ve made these a couple of times before, although I can’t find any blog posts about them so the photos must have been bad – even for me.
I mixed the vegan haggis up with mushrooms and spinach but you can use whatever you fancy, e.g. leeks, tomatoes, onions, etc. I don’t add any spices or seasonings to Macsween’s haggis, as it’s tasty enough on its own.
I’ve seen on various vegan and vegetarian Facebook groups people saying they’ve bought Macsween vegetarian haggis in Sainsbury’s and Tesco. I haven’t seen it in either of those two supermarkets but I did find some before Christmas in Waitrose (it was by the cheese for some reason). My Facebook friend Cath tried making her own from this recipe in the Guardian but she said it was ‘horrible’, ‘impossible to eat’ and ‘cost me more in ingredients than if I’d just bought a Macsween veg haggis’.
- Olive oil spray
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 250g Macsween vegetarian haggis, chopped
- 50g mushrooms, chopped
- 2 red peppers, destalked and deseeded
- 2 large handfuls of spinach
- Lightly spray the peppers with the olive oil spray and put in an ovenproof dish and bake for about 20 minutes at 180C
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms for about 2 minutes
- Add the vegetarian haggis and fry for another 3 minutes
- Add the spinach and stir until wilted
- Stuff the peppers with the haggis/mushroom/spinach mixture and return to the oven, covered, for 20 minutes, uncovering for the last 10
Veganuary Day 20
As I was off on a walk this morning and there are rarely toilets at the start of the walks I go on, I didn’t want to fill myself full of liquid, so I didn’t have any breakfast (yes, I know there are other things than smoothies/Nutriblasts to have for breakfast but I can’t face solid food first thing). As it turned out, there were toilets at the start of the walk so I could have had a Nutriblast before leaving the house but I’d brought two Tribe Bars with me and had one of those on my arrival (I’d cycled 4.5 miles and been in a car for 35 minutes by then, so I was up to eating something).
After the 6.5 mile walk round Shorne Wood Country Park, a friend and I went into the cafe for a drink and something to eat. I studied the menu and wondered if the veggie sausages were vegan, before deciding I wasn’t hungry enough for a sausage sandwich anyway and diverting my attention to the flapjacky type things on the counter. As I picked up each one and studied the labels for dairy and eggs, I had an insight to how vegans must feel each time they go out to eat. I settled for an apple crumble slice type thing which stated clearly it was dairy-free and I couldn’t see eggs on the label (unlike on the other products they sold) and couldn’t think of anything else I should be looking out for and asked the girl at the counter if she had any soya milk. She didn’t, so I had to go without hot chocolate and have a fruit tea instead. What do hot chocolate drinking vegans do? Take a flask of vegan hot chocolate with them everywhere they go? I don’t drink tea or coffee. I drink hot chocolate. The cranberry and raspberry tea I had was very nice but I WANT HOT CHOCOLATE, DAMMIT.
Still, I never run out of hot chocolate at home (although since doing Veganuary, I’m buying about ten times the amount of soya milk I used to as the instant hot chocolate powder I usually use contains milk) and that’s what I had when I got in, along with the last of my vegan cake (Jacqui, if you’re reading this – thank you again for sending me the gorgeous vegan cake).
Fry’s Meat Free Crispy Prawns
I had planned to make a vegan aubergine and chickpea pasta dish for dinner but I was feeling lazy after the walk so I heated up the Fry’s Vegan Prawns I’d bought from Holland & Barrett a couple of weeks ago.
Part of me had wanted to try these meat free crispy prawns for ages, especially since Linda McCartney stopped making their fish-free prawns and scampi (sob) but, because 99% of the times I’d seen them mentioned on Facebook groups, people had said they’re more like chicken and nothing like prawns, the other part of me didn’t want to try them a) because they’re not cheap (they’re £3.99 in Holland & Barrett) and b) that’s a lot of money to pay just to be disappointed.
Now I’ve tried them I can tell you that no, they’re nothing like prawns and are definitely more chicken-like in texture but there is a slight prawn-like taste so, to put it succinctly – they’re like a prawny-tasting chicken. I’m not disappointed with them and if they were cheaper, I’d buy them. I certainly wouldn’t pay £3.99 for them but if you’ve got a money-off voucher for them like I did, they’re worth trying.
If you haven’t got a Holland & Barrett loyalty card, they’re worth getting. I thought I didn’t go into H&B very often but I keep getting discount vouchers sent to me, so I must spend more in there than I thought I did.