Review: VonShef Soup Maker: Update

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.

red-pepper-soup

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
900ml stock
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper

  1. Put all the ingredients in the soup maker.
  2. Whack the soup maker on the side to bring it to life.
  3. Press all the buttons until it starts to do something.
  4. At the end, turn it back on and turn the dial and blend the soup.
  5. Contact Domu and tell them to come and take back their stupid machine.
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Review: VonShef Soup Maker

I mentioned before how excited I was about getting a VonShef Soup Maker from Domu. It arrived just a couple of days after placing my order and I thought the onion, tomato and chickpea soup recipe in the free book 200 Super Soups that came with the soup maker would go well with the olive, cheese, sundried tomato and jalapeno bread I’d made.

vonshef-soup-maker

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.

tomato-and-chickpea-soup

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.




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The Gentle Chef Vegan Maryland Crab’less Cakes

vegan-fishcakes

After seeing someone posting this on one of the vegan Facebook groups I’m a member of, I really wanted to make them. There’s quite a lot to it – it’s not something you’re going to whip up in a couple of minutes – but it’s mostly seasonings and the method isn’t difficult at all.

I don’t think we can get Old Bay Seasoning here in the UK, so I found this recipe on the internet which can be made up and used in its place:

Old Bay Seasoning

2.5 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp thyme

I halved the recipe for the crab’less cakes, cooked two of them, and froze the rest. The nori sheets give it the ‘fishy’ taste and they make a great alternative to the usual ‘meaty’ stuff.

You can find the recipe for the Gentle Chef Maryland Crab’less Cakes on his website.




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The Gentle Chef Cookbook: Pepperoni

gentle-chef-vegan-pepperoni

I’d spent a long time pondering over whether to buy The Gentle Chef Cookbook, mostly because it’s self-published and I’m a still a bit snobby in that respect. I needn’t have worried though as the book is amazing. It’s beautifully laid out and produced and just as professional as any traditionally published cookbook. There aren’t any photographs but (and this is what swung it for me in the end) you can see plenty of photographs of the recipes on The Gentle Chef website. For even greater flexibility, if you do want the photos and the recipes combined, there’s a pdf version available to purchase.

The 235 pages are split into chapters:

  • Seitan, with information on preparing it and recipes for lots of different types, e.g. meatballs, pepperoni, corned beaf, chick’n, bacun, roasts, ribz, etc., along with recipes in which to use them.
  • Soy Proteins (tofu, tempeh, TVP),
  • Udderly Un-Dairy (vegan butter, cream, cheese, etc.)
  • Breakfast and Brunch
  • Appetizers, Dips and Spreads
  • Salads and Dressings (including vegan mayonnaise and mock tuna salad)
  • Soups, Broths and Stews
  • Entrees and Accompaniments
  • Classic Americana
  • British Fare
  • South of the Border Cuisine
  • Italian Cuisine
  • German Fare
  • Indian Cuisine
  • Thai Cuisine
  • Japanese and Pacific Cuisine
  • Chinese Cuisine
  • Sauces and Gravies
  • Sweets and Treats
    Doesn’t this book sound amazing?

vegan-pepperoni

The extensive number of seitan recipes was another factor in my decision to buy the book and the day it arrived in the post, I flicked through it and decided to make the pepperoni. Unfortunately, in my eagerness, I forgot about my over-zealous fan oven and slightly overcooked the pepperoni, as the outside was a bit tough and chewy. This hasn’t stopped me snacking on it all morning though, as it’s deliciously warm and spicy, containing chilli flakes, paprika and fennel seeds, along with other herbs and spices. I can’t share the recipe with you here as – quite rightly – Skye Michael Conroy (The Gentle Chef) doesn’t like his recipes being shared and would prefer you to buy the book and find the recipes for yourselves.

sliced-vegan-pepperoni

At the time of writing, The print version of The Gentle Chef Cookbook is only £10.67 with free delivery on Amazon. Or you can buy the print version or the pdf version direct from The Gentle Chef Website.

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Win Tickets to Vegfest London 2014!

vegfest-london-poster

When I went to Vegfest London last year, my bag was nowhere near big enough to cram full with all the veggie stuff I wanted to buy – although I gave it a good go – so this year I’m going to be prepared and take a rucksack with me.

Last year’s Vegfest was a hugely popular event, being almost too busy as I couldn’t comfortably get to look at everything I wanted to. I’m sure the organisers and stallholders didn’t complain about the crowds though. We spent most of the day there, browsing the stalls, having a go on the tombola (I desperately wanted to win a bottle of Choc Shot but failed and ended up with a bottle of cardamom flavoured tomato ketchup instead) listening to a couple of talks and watching a bit of comedy. The only disappointment was the advertised licensed bar wasn’t there. Still, if there had been, I’d probably have spent even more money.

This year’s event takes place on Saturday 27 September 2014 and Sunday 28 September 2014 and tickets are on sale now with advance tickets at £10 for adults, £6 for concessions and free for kids under 16. These are available on buy one get one free until 23 August, and on buy one get one half price until 15 September, at www.london.vegfest.co.uk/ticket-info, or, if you’d like to get in for free, enter my giveaway below.

Win Tickets to Vegfest London 2014

I’ve got a pair of Sunday 28 September tickets for Vegfest London to give away and all you need to do to be in with a chance of winning them is leave a comment below and I’ll pick a winner at random shortly after the closing date of Sunday 31 August. The tickets will be sent by post in plenty of time before the festival. UK entries only please.

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Juice Master’s Super Chute Juice

Just reading the ingredients for this juice makes you feel healthier before you’ve even tasted it. Because it has so many vegetables in it, I was worried it would taste a bit ‘green’ (despite it being red in colour) but I needn’t have worried, it was just as fruity as a normal glass of juice.

juice-master-super-chute-juice

Okay, so here’s the bit where I tell you what I left out: 1/2 an inch of broccoli stem (because I didn’t want to buy a whole head of broccoli just to use a bit of stem and didn’t know if I’d be able to use the rest of it up in the next few days) and a small handful of alfalfa sprouts (because I have no sprouts at the moment).

Apart from that though, these are the ingredients as listed in Jason Vale’s 7lbs in 7 Days Super Juice Diet book.

2 Golden Delicious apples
a small chunk of carrot
1/2 stick celery
1 large handful of mixed greens – watercress, kale, parsley, spinach and whatever other green leafy veg are available (I used spinach and parsley)
1 inch slice cucumber
1/4 inch slice unpeeled raw beetroot
1/4 inch slice courgette
1 small piece of lemon
1/4 inch slice ginger

Juice all the ingredients and pour over ice.

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Back On The Juice With Jason Vale’s Super Juice

Jason Vale's Super Juice

I’d been doing well making my fresh juice every day, then I contracted shingles and, just when I needed fresh juice more than ever, I didn’t have the energy to make any. Or, more to the point, I didn’t have the energy to muster up the motivation to make juice and then clean up the juicer afterwards.

But, now I’m better, I’m back on the juice and this morning’s one was Jason Vale’s Super Juice, taken from his 7lbs in 7 Days Super Juice Diet book (not that I’ve done the 7 day thing; I just like the juice recipes in it).

jason-vale-super-juice

In Jason’s original recipe, he adds 1/4 ripe avocado, 10z of fresh wheatgrass, 1 level tsp of spirulina and 1 capsule of acidophilus bacteria powder and although I have spirulina, there’s no way I’m adding a teaspoon of it to anything as that would absolutely ming. ‘Ming’ is also the only word that comes to mind when I think of avocados so I left that out too and I’ve got to admit the wheatgrass and the acido-thingy doesn’t sound appetising either. Without these extras though, it’s delicious and surprisingly creamy and filling. Add the avocado if you like it though as they are super-healthy (and I’m aware I’m us avocado-haters are in the minority).

Jason Vale’s Super Juice

1/2 lime – peeled
2 Golden Delicious apples
1/4 pineapple
1/4 medium cucumber

Juice everything and pour over ice.

If you’re using the avocado, spirulina powder, etc., add these to the juice with the ice cubes, then blend.

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Vimto Squeezy Water Enhancers

Vimto Squeezy

squeezy-vimto

I thought I could remember when Vimto first burst into the playground, but apparently it was invented in 1908 and I’m not quite *that* old. Still, as my dad worked for Coca Cola, it was the law in our house to only drink that and I still feel I’m betraying my dad if I drink Pepsi in establishments that don’t serve Coke (why would they only sell Pepsi though? Why, dammit? I don’t know anyone who prefers Pepsi to Coke).

Anyway, so, yeah, Vimto has been around a long time and now it’s available in teeny tiny squirty bottles around three inches high (that’s 50ml in liquid language). Because they’re teeny tiny bottles, this makes them ideal to carry around with you on days out or in your lunchbox to liven up plain water. Just a couple of squirts is all you need and each bottle contains around 25 servings.

Originally, I thought they’d give water a slight hint of flavour but, no, because it’s concentrated, you get a full-on taste just like you would out of a regular large bottle of cordial.

Vimto Squeezy is available in three flavours – Original, Cherry or Strawberry, RRP is £2.49 and you can find it in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Co-op.

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Gold Kiwi Fruit

Gold Kiwi Fruit from Chingford Fruit

I’ve eaten the regular green kiwi fruit many times, but I’d never heard of gold kiwi fruit until Kent-based Chingford Fruit (yes, it is a confusing name, isn’t it? Maybe they started the company in Chingford or something, I don’t know) asked me if I’d like to try some.

Well, of course I did, so they sent me some gold kiwi fruit in a cute little box, tied up with a beautiful purple ribbon (sorry, I’d taken the ribbon off before getting a photo).

gold-kiwi-fruit

They came with a little leaflet outlining the benefits of kiwi fruit. And what a lot of benefits there are:

  • Research shows eating two gold kiwi fruit a day can significantly improve your mood and give you extra energy.
  • Kiwi fruit relieves the pain of poor digestion by breaking down stubborn proteins effectively and efficiently.
  • There is twice as much vitamin C in kiwi fruit than there is in an orange.
  • One serving of kiwi fruit contains more potassium than a banana and more fibre than a bowl of cereal.
  • Kiwi fruit is really low in calories – only 57kcal per 100g.

There you go then, lots of reasons to get more kiwi fruit in your diet. It’s so easy to eat too – just cut the top off and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, or add it to a fruit salad, layer it on top of a fresh fruit tart, use kiwi fruit chunks as an ice cream topping, or do what I did and make it into a smoothie with strawberries, blueberries and soya milk.

kiwi-fruit-smoothie

Gold kiwi fruit is in season from the end of May through to the end of August in the UK (from New Zealand).

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Cashew Butter and Spirulina Powder

The people from My Vitamins and My Protein asked me if I wanted to try some of their products. Not being particularly into supplements which I assumed is all they sold, I wasn’t expecting there to be anything I fancied but thought I’d have a look anyway and on the My Protein website I saw a tub of cashew butter. I’ve seen other butters aside from peanut in Holland & Barrett but have never tried any, partly because of their price and partly because I’ve always been happy with peanut butter.

On the My Vitamins website, I saw a packet of Spirulina, which is also something I’ve never tried before but have seen mentioned lots of times as being some kind of superfood.

cashew-butter-spirulina

The cashew butter comes in a massive 1kg tub. I say ‘tub’, but ‘bucket’ would be nearer the truth.

my-protein-cashew-butter

Don’t be put off by the clinical packaging  – there’s no additives or chemicals in it, it’s purely roasted cashew nuts (96%) and organic sunflower oil. If you’ve never had cashew butter before, it’s similar to peanut butter but has a milder taste. I’ve been eating it on rice cakes.

cashew-butter-rice-cakes

On to spirulina. I don’t care how many benefits to your health, spirulina has, it stinks. According to the packaging: ‘spirulina is a nutrient dense algae that grows abundantly in fresh water’. If you swap ‘fresh water’ for ‘a swamp’ that sums up exactly how it smells. Still, no one’s asking you to eat it straight from the packet so I’ve been hiding it in smoothies where I can’t taste it.

For more information and to have a look at their other products (the ones suitable for vegetarians are all clearly labelled), visit the My Protein and My Vitamin websites.

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