Review: Epic Vegan (part 2)

Hello again, last Friday I started reviewing the wonderful Epic Vegan by Dustin Harder but then I realised I’d made far too much food for it to fit in one post and split it into two. Let’s continue were we left off.

bite-sized pretzels

This is another recipe that can be combined in to some very epic dishes but we just nommed it on its own because we’re greedy like that. The Pretzel Dough recipe in the book can be made into bowls (for soup), classic shaped soft pretzels, or pretzel bites. I made the bites because I thought it would be easier to share that way. They probably would have been easier to share if I wasn’t capable of inhaling them. Great in the moment but now I have to drink a lot.

Spiral pizza rolls with a white mozzarella sauce swirled on top

To explain how deep my cravings have been for a good pizza roll I need to confess my pre-gan addiction to the ones they sell in the bakery section of Tesco. Which was the only thing open in Torquay when I used to start working at stupid early in the morning. It was my lifesaver if I skipped (okay, slept through) breakfast. This is the only recipe I’ve found that hits that craving. The dough is fluffy on the inside with just the right amount of bite to it. The tomato sauce is assertive without being overpowering and the Saucy Mozzarella brings that perfect layer of cheese.

The Saucy Mozzarella is one of the foundational recipes in the book so I’ll just talk about it briefly here. I think the taste of the Saucy Mozzarella is a little too assertive. I think mozzarella is much more subtle in its flavour. That’s not to say this cheese sauce is bad, just that I wouldn’t necessarily compare it to mozzarella. That said I think the stronger taste really works here in these rolls.

Rectangular pizza base with an even coating of mac and cheese dotted with sliced hot-dogs, mozzarella sauce and ketchup

This is the Franks ‘N’ Mac Pizza and I feel it’s unfair to talk about the pizza as a whole until I’ve talked about the recipes that make it up. First there is the base. The Pizza Dough recipe in this book is now my go-to recipe for a takeaway-style pizza. It’s great for times when you want to mimic the type of pizza that comes in a greasy box. Without so much grease. It goes really well with all these bold, over-the-top flavours. There’s also saucy mozzarella on here which I talked about above and then there is Easy Creamy Shells And Cheese.

I understand the point of the Easy Creamy Shells and Cheese was to create a mac and cheese that could be made from regular supermarket ingredients (or regular for the US, not necessarily for me) and so it’s made from cooked vegetables and starches instead of nuts and nooch. For us though it just tastes too much like it’s composite parts, especially the pepper. I’m sure some people will be reading this will think that’s sounds great but for me I prefer the taste of a good old cashew and nooch sauce. The more unusual vegan ingredients take just as much effort as finding squash in the supermarket in springtime here.

So we didn’t like the mac. That did put us off the pizza but if I was to make this again with the mac and cheese from The Homemade Vegan Pantry (for example; other Mac and Cheeses are available) it would be an absolute winner. The base is great, the topping combo is great. I just wish I liked that mac.

A more traditional round pizza with a turned over crust, bright red sauce a sprinkling of grated mozzarella, meatball halves and topped with Parmesan

The Stuffed-Crust Meatball Parm Pizza had to be tried. Again it took a few recipes to put it together. The Pizza Dough and Saucy Mozzarella we’ve already talked about. There’s also Beet Marinara, a vivid red tomato and beetroot sauce. It does taste of beetroot so that might encourage you or discourage you depending on how you feel about beetroot. The meatballs are a tempeh/mushroom/wheat gluten mix and they are fantastic but you can also use store-bought and I’ll probably be sticking to Linda’s in future because I can’t eat too many mushrooms. There’s also Quinoa Bacon Bits, saltly, sweet, smoky quinoa that add a perfect finishing touch to the pizza.

a large pie with a quarter taken out from the bottom, revealing a filling of spaghetti

While I was making meatballs for the pizza I thought why not make some for this pie. In fact this pie seems to be born out of the question ‘why not?’. This is Baked Spaghetti and Meatball pie. This time I opted for plain marinara instead of the beet version but I still got my home-made hit from those little bites of chewy, umami laden meatballs. The crust is a bit too crumbly for my liking but I’m from the north and have very firm opinions about shortcrust. It tastes nice, buttery, but I like my pies to be a bit more solid. I loved the overall effect of the pie though and I really want to make it for kids. I think they’d get a big hit out of cutting the pie open at the table and finding spaghetti and meatballs inside.

Pink pasta coated in a creamy sauce and topped with a sprinkle of quinoa

Once again the quinoa bacon bits make an appearance. They were very moreish. Here they top a carbonara and the sauce was good but those bacon bits are amazing. I should note that my version is looking a little pink there because I used home made beetroot pasta; before mixing them together the sauce looked more sedate.

Epic Vegan is a book of recipes for all those fab, mad, Instagramable creations. They’re going to taste as good as they look – there’s no need to worry about that – but they’re also going to take a lot of effort. There are some simple dishes in there, like the carbonara, and some, like the meatball pizza, you could assemble from store bought alternatives. It’s not all hard graft but it’s not a book of simple recipes or everyday recipes. I wouldn’t recommend this as anyone’s first vegan cookbook but I would recommend it if you want to show off and have some fun.

Review: Epic Vegan (part 1)

You know that I love insanely indulgent vegan fast food but I’m separated from awesome eateries, like Samphire in Plymouth or V Rev in Manchester, right now. I do love a good cooking project though so I got myself a copy of Dustin Harder’s Epic Vegan and got to work.

Golden brown baked potato wedges served with cheeseburgers, broccoli and aioli for dipping

The book starts with a chapter of basic recipes which are then added to and combined to make the more Epic dishes. Plenty of them stand well on their own though so if you’re in a pinch there are some simple ways to get the epic taste. One of our favourites is the Crispy Drive-Thru Potato Wedges. We had the baked version alongside some burgers for a simple meal (also we had broccoli; broccoli has vitamins)

Battered potato wedges alongside breaded ‘chicken’ and lightly wilted spinach.

The deep fried version is a little more work but the pay off is in how quick they are to cook and how delicious the batter is. Kate very quickly declared that in future all potatoes must be cooked this way. (A few days later she discovered Pesto Wedges and said the same thing about them.) That lightly spiced batter is absolutely perfect.

Puffy bread sticks topped with parmesan and served with a tomato sauce

The Cray Cray Bread is based on breadsticks you can get at chain pizza places in America. The book mentions Little Caesars but I’m sure I had some from Pizza Hut as a pre-gan teen. Anyway they’re not really a thing in the UK. They’re chewy, puffy bread sticks with garlic butter and parmesan (there’s a hemp parmesan recipe in the book but you’re also encouraged to use shop bought when you don’t fancy making everything from scratch) We had a plate between us for lunch with some tomato sauce and couldn’t help ourselves from eating the whole lot.

Golden drop biscuits on a baking tray, topped with parsley.

One of the more recent recipes we’ve tried is the Garlicky Cheddar Biscuits. These are American style biscuits and it’s suggested that you have them with sausage gravy. Now I’m not one of those English people who pretends to be shocked by the idea of biscuits with gravy but I do have texture issues and American style gravy is not something I’m able to eat. The biscuits can totally stand alone though. They’re bursting with butter, cheese and all the garlic you could want. Which, for the record, in my case is a lot.

Three glazed doughnut holes covered in glitter and a doughnut covered in glitter with blue and white snowflake sprinkles

With this doughnut I’m combining my love of junk food with my love of Disney. To celebrate Frozen 2 (a film we saw twice in the cinema) arriving on Disney+ I made a batch of the Crispy Cream Donuts and decorated them with silver glitter and snowflake sprinkles. This is the first time I’ve made traditional fried doughnuts and it was so easy. Seriously. Just follow the recipe and go from zero to doughnut master in around two hours. And most of that is waiting for the dough to rise.

A hot dog, on a bun topped with hash browns, scrambled tofu, red peppers and sriracha mayo

Based on a dish from Cycle Dogs in Seattle (I’m just going to put that on my places to visit list) this is a holy combination of breakfast and hot dogs. The eggs and hash brown recipes are from earlier in the book and both work well as a stand-alone (the hash browns especially: make an extra-large batch so you can stuff a bunch in the freezer; you won’t regret it) but if you combine brilliant sides and wrap them around a hot dog you’re going to be very happy.

I’m going to leave it there for now. There’s another six dishes from this book I want to talk about but it’s probably best to have a little break to digest. I’ll have the second half of the post up on Wednesday 8th. See you then.

Review: Sgaia’s Vegan BBQ Bumper Pack

To demonstrate how behind I am with blogging I bought the BBQ Bumper Pack so I could eat the last of it for my birthday. My birthday that was in May. Lockdown hasn’t left me in a great head space. Though it has protected my lungs and I’m thankful for that. Anyway Sgaia Bacon has long been our favourite vegan bacon but I wanted to branch out a little so I ordered us one of their BBQ Bumper Packs so I could try the steak and burgers and still enjoy a bit of that bacon.

Aromatico Mheat Burger

With herbs and sundried tomatoes, the Aromatico Burger has a distinctly Italian taste to it. It’s the reason I invented the Focaccish and Pesto Wedges and I really love the flavours. The texture is just spot-on burger. There’s something to get your teeth into but they aren’t going to get stuck there or anything. I actually love this burger. Kate, as it turns out, does not. All this time I didn’t know this about her but she is a burger purist. She wants her burgers to taste of beef and nothing else (unless it’s a chicken burger, I assume), but she does concede that the flavours would make for a good meatball.

burgerbacon

Streaky Mheat Rashers

These are, without a doubt, the best vegan rashers in existence. No contest. If you’re only looking to buy one Mheat product go for these. The work on a burger, in mac and cheese and – shockingly – in your breakfast.

Smoked Mheat Steak

I had this one for my birthday alongside hassleback potatoes from I Can Cook Vegan. I didn’t ever really enjoy the non-vegan version of steak so I’m not sure why I wanted to try this so much for the first time on my birthday, but I was not disappointed. It’s got a deep, umami rich flavour and a lovely finish of smoke. I really want to try it in a stir fry  but for the first time, for my birthday, I had to have a decadent slab of it on my plate.

steak

If you’re interested in trying all three of the Mheats then the BBQ Bumper Pack is a great deal. It’s £25 and you get two steaks, two pack of burgers (four total), and two packs of bacon. That saw the two of us through four meals: bacon cheeseburgers, bacon butties, Italian style burgers and birthday steak. But at the very least buy yourself some of that bacon. A steal at £4 a pack. And for reference we find one pack enough for two of the best vegan bacon butties.

Recipe: Focaccish Burger Buns and How To Build an Italian Inspired Burger

I love a nice focaccia with a fluffy middle and a slightly crisp edge. It’s a bread made with a decadent amount of salt, oil and rosemary. When translating it into a burger bun though I wanted it to be slightly lighter, after all it’s going to be wrapped around a big juicy burger and a slab of cheese, so here it’s only made with the lightest spritz of oil on the outside and without the traditional salt sprinkle on top.

done

I devised the Focaccish Buns to compliment the Italian inspired flavours of the Aromatico Burger from Sagaia Meat but I’ve also had them with the Beyond Burger. Either way you can top the burger with mozzarella style cheese slices (Violife brand) and spread the bun with vegan pesto (we love the Tesco own brand) and work some veggies in there in the form of rocket or bitter salad leaves. Then serve with Kate’s current favourite potato: Pesto Wedges.

afer oven

Focaccish Buns (makes 2) 

125g strong white bread flour
75ml warm water
1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, chopped small for sprinkling
Olive oil spray

Mix the flour, water, yeast, salt and olive oil into a dough and knead for two to three minutes until you get a nice, strong ball of dough.

Leave to rise for one hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 220° and spray a baking sheet with olive oil.

Divide the ball of dough into two balls and flatten, until they are the width of a burger. They’re not going to be as tall as a regular bun so don’t worry about them looking a bit disc-like.

Place them on the baking tray, leave to prove for 30 minutes.

before oven

After proving make dimples in the top of the bread by poking your finger 3/4 of the way down through the dough. Spray the tops with olive oil, sprinkle over the rosemary and lightly pat down.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden on top and starting to brown along the sides.