Vegan Fakeaway intrigued me even though I don’t think home cooking can truly replace a takeaway. When I want a take away I don’t just want a specific dish I want someone else to do all of the thinking, planning, cooking, and cleaning. To give credit where it’s due the book gives some great practical tips on how to minimise the work but sometimes I don’t want to do anything. Anything. So what won me over? Well this book is written by someone in the UK so I was hoping that some of the dishes would hit the nostalgia spot. I love all my American cookbooks with their takes on Beef and Broccoli but I grew up with Chicken Chow Mein and Chinese Curry. Do other countries even have Chinese Curry? I’d hoped to find some authentic British Takeaway food within. The results were mixed.
The book starts with the American section where, inexplicably, we find the recipe for Beer-Battered Tofish and Chips. I do feel a lack of chip shop recipes in here. There’s no deep-fried option for the chips, no pies, no gravy, no battered sausage, or battered Mars bar. I know I’m being extremely Northern but I would kill for a chippy focused section. I thought I’d give the tofish a go though. The chips are oven baked, I’d call them wedges but they’re okay. The Tofish looks the part and is really tasty with a nice thick batter but I had issues with the recipe. This one is deep fried but there’s no indication of either the temperature to heat the oil to (why vegans need thermometers even if we’re not eating meat!) or an alternative way to test the temperature. I got called out on Instagram by someone who has never used a thermometer to deep fry but I taught myself deep frying last year, mostly from books, and if you’re new to it you need some way of knowing if the oil is hot enough. Unless you like burnt and greasy batter.
Moving on to the Italian Section then. I decided to try the Baked Gnocchi Caprese. You bake the gnocchi in a tomato and basil sauce and finish with dollops of cream cheese. It’s a one pot dish and it’s truly easy to make. You just throw everything in the pot and bake in the oven. The gnocchi end up cooked a little unevenly. It’s an okay dish, especially for the lack of effort it takes.
In the Indian section has these Candy-Stripe Onion Bhajis. The candy striping coming from a mix of red and white onions. Not that you can really tell after batter and deep frying. This time we’re told how to check the oil is hot enough by dropping a bit of the batter in. Generally I like a thicker batter but it’s a solid bhaji.
Korma was, as a pre-gan, Kate’s favourite curry. The book offers us a recipe for a butter bean version. It does make use of curry paste to get the flavour right though. I don’t think it’s cheating. Or if it is cheating I don’t really care as long as it gets the flavour right. But I now have the rest a jar of curry paste in my fridge, and planning around using it up takes away the convenience factor for me. The Tikka Cauliflower Skewers also use curry paste but I’ve never been convinced by cauliflower as a substitute for chicken so I’m not even going to go there. Back to the Korma though. It’s delicately flavoured and butter beans are fabulous in a curry.
Given my love for Chinese-style curry, Carrot and Cashew Chinese Curry, from the Chinese section, had to be tried. I was, however, not impressed. I didn’t think extra heat from the chilli flakes added anything. In fact it distracted from the curry, and the Chinese five spice. The flavours were just a little off-balance. It also seemed like there wasn’t much thought put into the contents of the curry. With sugar snaps and carrots and cashews and frozen peas and water chestnuts… it’s like a dish made up on the spot when a cook just puts everything vegan they have into a sauce. There’s no focus. I really wanted to like this one so I was a bit more disappointed with it than perhaps I should have been, but I just didn’t think it worked.
We head towards the Middle Eastern section for what was my favourite recipe. The one recipe in this book that I liked enough to put a smiley face sticker next to. Smiley face stickers, in case your household doesn’t have a smiley face sticker system, mark a recipe that we both love so that I can remember it when I want to make it again. It’s another one-pot dish, started on the hob and finished in the oven, but this time it’s flavourful and all the vegetables are cooked perfectly.
One-Pot Harissa Baked Falafel also earned a thumbs-up from me, but not Kate who doesn’t like olives. I used some truly awful sweet potato falafel from Asda in this as the recipe promised to transform even the worst supermarket falafel into something edible. It delivered.
But now we return to the disappointing. Jackfruit Doner Kebabs. Again it just didn’t work. Perhaps it was the lack of spices. A pinch each of cumin and cinnamon is nothing on 400g of jackfruit. And jackfruit at the best of times tends towards soggy and a little sweet. Nothing was done to mitigate that. It was just lightly flavoured jackfruit in a pita. And as jackfruit has significantly less flavour of its own than lamb it’s not at all appetising. I tipped the filling out and ate the pitta plain.
We come to the part of the review where I tell you if I think this book is worth buying. I think you’ve probably noticed that we’ve had more misses than hits. Other dishes just sounded a little off like the Dirty Nachos with mayo. I’m no purist but I can’t get my head around mayo on nachos. Not in the year of our lord 2021 when every supermarket in the UK is fighting over who has the best vegan cheese. I couldn’t suggest buying this book just because it has one good tagine recipe. If you want UK-style fast food dishes take a look at Leon’s Fast Vegan instead. Well, have a look at it when you’re allowed to look at books in person again.