After recently being deported to London from Kent while waiting for my house sale to go through, I’ve been living on Tesco Meal Deals for lunch (much better value than the Sainsbury’s one, in case you were wondering) and pizza for dinner. I’ve had the new vegan Giardiniera from Pizza Express (not as nice as the vegan pizzas in Zizzi, in my opinion), a tandoori paneer pizza at Mr Singh’s (an all-vegetarian pizza place that will also sub dairy cheese for vegan cheese but, trust me, it seriously mings. I’d just go without cheese if you’re vegan) but mostly I’ve been heating up frozen pizza and especially ones from Dr Oetker, such as their Spinaci Pizza which has made a comeback after originally being a limited edition pizza back in 2013.
I have a confession to make. I like – nay, love – those pizza subs you get in the supermarket for £1. Although the ones I buy in Tesco only have ‘normal’ ingredients that you’d find in a pizza you’d make yourself from scratch (wheat flour, tomato purée, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, water, yeast, salt, rapeseed oil, sugar, dried herbs, dried garlic and spices), I can’t help thinking that something in a packet that costs so little can’t be the healthiest of choices. So, I decided to make my own pizza subs but on a panini instead of a baguette and with fresh homemade vegan mozzarella adapted from the moxarella recipe at Vedged Out.
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.
Vegetarian – let alone vegan – food is difficult to find abroad and now I’m back from my short break in El Medano in Tenerife, I wanted to let you know how I got on finding vegan food there. I’m going to say now though that I hadn’t planned on being vegan throughout the holiday but would choose a vegan option if available.
Let’s start with the airport. Tracey – my friend and travelling companion – had booked us into the No. 1 Lounge at Gatwick Airport where she said we could get unlimited food and drink (including alcohol, yay). There was a printed menu listing the food on offer but it was only about 11am and I didn’t fancy anything big to eat so I got a couple of vegan-looking salads from the table (the ingredients were listed so I avoided the salad that contained honey). Tracey said a day or so later that most pasta has eggs but when I got home and investigated, it seems that that’s mostly fresh pasta, not dried, so I’m going to assume Gatwick used dried pasta and my salad was vegan. (I should probably confess here that yes, I did choose vegan food but got myself a hot chocolate from the machine, which probably wasn’t vegan.) It’s a good thing the food is unlimited, as Gatwick must have borrowed the plates from Weight Watchers, they were so tiny and you’d definitely need to go back for more.
Tracey ordered beans on toast and I thought, ‘oh, I could have that without butter, then it’d be vegan’. Her beans on toast arrived in a tiny ramekin and was more toast on beans, than beans on toast. She later on ordered two more – one for me and one for her. In the meantime, we took advantage of the unlimited alcohol (which was only a couple of drinks as the queue was massive. You can always rely on free alcohol to create a large queue).
We arrived in Tenerife at about 6:30 and, after dropping our bags at Tracey’s brother’s apartment (lucky sod lives there all winter with his fiancée, Jo), we went straight to a bar/restaurant where I ordered a pizza without cheese. Go me.
Damn, this pizza was shit. It wasn’t even the worst pizza I’ve eaten – it was the worst anything I’ve eaten. The base was cracker-like, topped with a watery sauce that was an insult to a tomato and some embarrassed-looking undercooked vegetables had been scattered on top. I was pleased I dodged the cheese because NOTHING would have improved this thing. It soaked up some of the beer though, I suppose.
The next day, I thought I was being clever when I ordered a teacake and only spread it with the jam, not the butter. It was only while getting the photos ready for this post that I thought, ‘Are teacakes vegan? They might be made with butter.’ And guess what? Yep, they’re usually made with butter and/or eggs. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts, right? (In case you’re wondering, yes, I did have a non-vegan hot chocolate to go with it. We did ask if they had soya milk though but, alas, they didn’t.)
I’m not sure if it was later on this day or the next day that I had a salad baguette. It was called ‘Special Vegetarian’ on the menu and if Tenerifians, or whatever they’re called, think warm (the baguette was toasted) lettuce is special, then they’re thinking of the wrong kind of special. I can’t find a photo of it so just imagine a toasted tomato and lettuce sandwich.
On our last night as we drifted about looking at menus in windows, I was spectacularly excited to see a dish labelled ‘vegan’ not only once, but twice. Get in! When it said ‘vegetable pasta’, I thought it meant vegetables and pasta but no, this was spiralised courgette and carrot. The tofu bolognese was tasty – I would have preferred normal pasta but vegans can’t be choosers on holiday and I’m just moaning for the sake of it as it really was fine. Plus, thinking about it now, the restaurant probably makes its own pasta which means it probably would have had egg in it which means there would have been nothing vegan on the menu so I should definitely not be moaning about it.
Tracey (a vegetarian) had the ravioli with spinach with mushrooms but without the Gorgonzola, as Gorgonzola is never vegetarian, and the waitress checked with the chef to make sure the Gorgonzola wasn’t inside the ravioli.
And that was the last thing I ate in Tenerife. I’m going to ruin everything now by saying, as I didn’t eat before getting on the plane at 2pm the next day, I got mega-hungry and in the absence of anything vegan on Monarch Airline’s menu except salt and vinegar crisps, I had a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich.
It wasn’t a bad vegan effort on the whole on my part though. Especially given how much I drank and how big the drinks were.
Saturday nights are perfect for pizzas and, although Papa John’s original crust pizza bases are vegan and I could order one without cheese, why bother when I can make my own vegan pizza at home and save about £15? And especially why spend all that money when I loved the vegan tortilla pizza and vegan garlic bread I made last Saturday so much.
A tortilla pizza is perfect for when you don’t want to mess around making dough or if you fancy something lighter.
- For the tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- A few basil leaves, torn
- salt and pepper
- For the pizza
- 2 tortilla wraps
- Toppings of your choice
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, then add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil leaves and season with salt and pepper
- Simmer for a few minutes, then either blend it, or leave chunky
- Spread the tomato sauce on to the tortilla bases and add your toppings. Mine were:[br]olives[br]jalapenos[br]yellow pepper[br]mushrooms[br]spinach[br]chilli flakes[br]Violife vegan cheese
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180C
- 1 part-baked baguette, sliced
- 6 large cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
- 75g dairy-free spread (I used Vitalite)
- In a small bowl or ramekin, mix together thoroughly the garlic and dairy-free spread
- Spread each side of each slice of the the baguette with the garlic ‘butter’ and press the slices together (to re-form the baguette shape)
- Wrap in foil and bake in the oven at 180C for about 15 minutes, unwrapping the foil for the last 5 minutes, so the baguette gets crispy
And, yes, I did have a Nutriblast/smoothie for breakfast and lunch. Here’s what I filled my Nutribullet up with at lunchtime.
That’s spinach, banana, blueberries, strawberries (yes, I leave the stalks on – the Nutribullet will take care of them) and kiwi fruit, blitzed up with soya milk and water (I find it’s too thick if I use just soya milk, so I add some water to thin it down a bit). It’s not as pretty when it’s all mixed together as the spinach turns it a murky sludge-like colour but trust me, it’s delicious.
It’s currently Sunday and The Meat Eater makes dinner on a Sunday. I asked him what vegan food he was going to make for me tonight and he said, ‘Dust’. Then he said, ‘Oh no, dust is made of human skin, so you can’t eat that’.
I’m by no means a seasoned traveller. I’ve only ventured out of the UK about ten times, and most of those were to Amsterdam (and in case you’re wondering, I’m neither a prostitute nor a dopehead – I just love it there.)
Although I’ve never starved abroad, I can’t say I’ve been spoilt for choice of vegetarian options and usually live on pizza, telling myself it’s probably vegetarian cheese, even though I know it’s bound to be almost definitely probably not.
What I’ve been meaning to do for years is buy a copy of the Vegan Passport. This is a multilingual vegan phrasebook that includes the languages of over 95% of the world’s population so, as well as pointing to something on the menu that looks veggie-friendly, I could simultaneously point to something in the phrasebook and increase my chances of being served something that doesn’t contain meat.
There are vegetarian and vegan restaurants in most cities now but, as I’ve never been abroad with a vegetarian, I haven’t looked for any vegetarian restaurants, relying on the probability I wouldn’t starve when I got there. Anyway, everywhere serves chips and pizza. And if you go to Italy, you can get chips on pizza (and, incidentally, at Mondragone in Walthamstow).
Below I’ve summarised my experience of eating abroad as a vegetarian. Please bear in mind this is based on a couple of days in each place where I haven’t been too bothered about where I’ve eaten; rather, this is what I’ve ended up having instead of trying to find anywhere better.
Oh yeah, Amsterdam. I love Amsterdam. It’s a friendly, chilled out city and one in which I could imagine myself living. When I go to Amsterdam I live on chips and mayonnaise (if you’ve only ever had the stuff we have here, you’ve missed out) and pizza.
Like Amsterdam, Brussels is also the home of the chip-and-mayo combo. The first time I ever had a pizza in Brussels, the vegetables were raw and I don’t think I’ve had one there again. Brussels is the home of fruit beer though, so just drink a variety of those and you’ll be sorted.
‘Don’t go to France,’ they said. ‘You’ll starve,’ they said. Did I fuck. I had amazing food in Paris. I had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten, a wonderful crepe near the Notre-Dame Cathedral and, although before I left England I had looked for a vegetarian restaurant in which to have my birthday meal, our map let us down and we couldn’t find it. We did, however, accidentally stumble across another vegetarian restaurant that sold Indian/Chinese fusion food and that suited me just fine (i.e. it was licensed).
I know, I know – no one goes on holiday to Frankfurt, but my friend Tracey wanted to go there because we could get a flight for a penny (and now we know why). I can’t remember eating anything in Frankfurt except the peanuts the waitress brought us with each round of Apfelwein we ordered in the only open bar near our hotel.
Heston Blumenthal said on a television programme that Dal Presidente made the best pizzas in the world so I decided to go there for my 40th birthday. I have no idea if it is the best pizza in the world as, when we got there, it was no more than a take away place. We asked if there was somewhere to sit and the manager reluctantly showed us to a scruffy table in a back room. He flung a few menus at us, then started shouting and pointing at his watch. Doing our best Sherlock Holmes’ impressions, we deduced he wanted us to hurry the fuck up and piss off, so we left and went somewhere else. That somewhere else was great. Apart from the staff and one man reading a newspaper, we had the restaurant to ourselves. I explained to the friendly waiter I was vegetarian, and he brought over a selection of vegetarian pizza for me to try so I could choose my favourite.
So, that’s my experience of being a vegetarian abroad. Yes, I live on pizza and chips. Don’t be like me – do some research before you go and don’t just hope to stumble across something accidentally. And if you want to know the top travel destinations for vegetarians and vegans, have a look at this infographic.
I got a bit carried away while I was making tonight’s dinner. Originally, I’d planned to cook a simple aubergine melt (mozzarella melted on top of half a roasted aubergine) to use up the mozzarella that was in the fridge but, while I was taking out the mozzarella, I saw the spring onion that also needed to be used up, then I saw the mushrooms, then I thought it looked like I was heading towards making a pizza out of an aubergine, so I thought I might as well go all the way and give it a tomatoey base, too. The only pizza-y thing I held off from adding was chilli, but that was only because I thought a chilli, cabbage and potato combo would confuse The Meat Eater who doesn’t like his food to be too much of a ‘challenge’ (his word for anything that doesn’t involve potatoes).
I wouldn’t usually serve pizza with cabbage and new potatoes – I mean, why do you think garlic bread and onion rings were invented? – but it worked well. Obviously, you can choose your own toppings based on your own preference or whatever you have in your fridge that needs using up.
- 1 aubergine, sliced lengthways
- 1 spring onion, sliced
- 1 mushroom, sliced
- 1 tomato, sliced
- 1 average-sized pack of mozzarella, sliced
- 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Score a criss-cross pattern into the aubergine and brush with olive oil
- Bake in the oven at 180C for about 30 minutes, or until tender
- Brush the tomato ketchup onto the aubergine and layer with the spring onion, mushroom, mozzarella and top with the tomato slices
- Season with salt and pepper and put back in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted
The Complete Bread Machine Cookbook had been in my Amazon Wishlist for a few years but I never got around to buying it, probably because I don’t use my other bread machine cookbooks that much and didn’t see the point in buying another one just to not use that one much either. But when I saw it in a local charity shop a couple of weeks ago for just £1, I thought I might as well buy it.
I’m really glad I bought it, as it includes a recipe for the best pizza dough I’ve made in a bread machine.
According to the blurb at the front of the dough chapter, it says it may be necessary to leave the dough in the bucket to carry on rising, even after the programme has finished, until it reaches almost to the top and/or doubles in size. As I’d halved the original recipe (if you don’t want to halve it and haven’t got a lot of people to feed, you can freeze the other half of the dough), I didn’t know how much further it would rise, but I left it in the bucket for another twenty minutes or so after the programme has finished and I think it rose a bit more.
You’ll see in the instructions below (no. 6) that it says to roll the dough out and put in a tin, then spread with tomato puree or passata, then covering with oiled paper and putting in the fridge. I didn’t bother with this bit but just – after kneading the dough – covered it with some oiled baking paper and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then I rolled it out and covered it with tomato sauce (make your own with a tin of chopped tomatoes and herbs) and my favourite toppings of olives, mushrooms, red pepper, mozzarella, Cheddar and chilli flakes.
Bread Machine Pizza Dough (makes enough for 2 large pizzas)
(taken from The Complete Bread Machine Cookbook)
2 tbsp olive oil
450g strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
7g sachet instant or fast-acting yeast
- Pour the water into the breadmaker bucket, then add the oil and half the flour.
- Sprinkle with the salt and sugar.
- Cover with the remaining flour and mound the yeast into the centre.
- Fit the bucket into the breadmaker and set to the dough programme.
- When ready, remove the dough from the bucket and quickly knead on a floured surface.
- Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a round large enough to fit two 25-30 cm/10-12 in well-greased pizza tins, gently pulling and stretching the dough to fit. Pinch up the edges all round to make a lip, then spread with the tomato puree or passata.
- Cover with oiled paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Cover with your favourite toppings and bake for 20-25 minutes at 220C/gas mark 7 until the pizzas are well risen and the cheese is bubbling.
What are your favourite pizza toppings?
I’ve got an amazing prize to give away to one lucky reader – a hamper bursting with all the Amy’s Kitchen gluten-free goodies you can see in the photo above, namely:
- cheese pizza
- Thai red curry
- cheddar, rice and bean burrito
- vegetable lasagne
- chunky tomato soup
- lentil and vegetable soup
- Spanish rice and red bean soup
- dairy-free rice mac and cheeze
The soups I’ve tried and can vouch for their tastiness and if the dairy-free rice mac & cheeze is anything like the Amy’s Kitchen gluten-free dairy version I reviewed here, it will be delicious and just like the ‘real thing’.
I’ve got to admit I’m jealous of whoever wins this as they’ll be getting a pizza and I’ve never seen the pizza in the shops and we all know how much I love pizza.
Win the Amy’s Kitchen Gluten-Free Hamper
If you’d like to win the hamper, simply leave a comment below and I’ll draw a winner at random after the closing date of midnight, Saturday 31 May 2014.
UK entries only.
The Meat Eater’s away and I pondered what to have for dinner. I had planned to have a tortilla pizza but it rained all afternoon and I didn’t fancy cycling in the rain to the farm shop to buy mushrooms. That meant the toppings on my tortilla pizza would consist only of cheese and onion. Bit tame, really.
Then I remembered I had a pack of Macsween’s Microwaveable Haggis in the fridge. Result.
Despite the name, you don’t have to microwave the haggis (although if you want to microwave it, it only takes 60 seconds); you can grill it or fry it or stuff peppers or mushrooms (other vegetables are available to stuff) with it, or you can do what I did and make a pizza wrap with it. (You can also not do what I did and forget to add rocket and chilli flakes.)
Macsween’s Vegetarian Haggis is vegan, so if you want a vegan version, just leave out the cheese or use vegan cheese.
Vegetarian haggis pizza wrap (serves 1)
1 tortilla wrap
1 portion of Macsween’s Microwaveable Haggis, crumbled
3 tbsp tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 green chilli, sliced
30g cheese, grated
Spread the tortilla with the chopped tomatoes, layer on the rest of the ingredients, leaving the cheese until last.
Roll up into a wrap and bake in the oven at 180C for 10-15 minutes until hot and the wrap’s just turning golden.
Update: My friend Lynda has christened this the ‘Hapiwrap’ – how brilliant is that for a name!