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: Zaika, Vegan Recipes from India by Romy Gill

Zaika is a rare thing in our household. It’s a cookbook bought by Kate. She was after more ideas for dishes she could cook and we found this one while browsing the Waterstones by Exeter Cathedral. The vibrant illustration of the cover drew us in, the elegant photos of simple-looking food convinced us. So Zaika came home with us.


Kate made the first recipe: we loved Sweet and Sour Tofu, which she pairs with the Jeera Rice. It’s one of a handful of recipes in the book for Chinese food by way of Bengal. An amazing fusion of flavours and the tofu here absorbs all the best of them. This has become a firm favourite although Kate adds more ketchup to make it a little saucier. We’ve only stopped eating it so much recently because it’s hard to get hold of the good tofu.


I meanwhile went towards the bread section and tried out these Nigella Seed Naans. I adore Naan bread. These ones are especially lovely with the generous amount of Nigella in them. We’ve eaten them alongside curry, used them for sandwiches. They’re lovely.


As we got further into the lockdown two things happened: I ran out of flour, and I wanted to combine the cans I had sitting in the cupboard with the fresh vegetables I did have to make something filling, different, and exciting. So one night I served up a tin of jackfruit, some tomatoes and some pre-made roti as Jackfruit Sabzi. The whole thing is cooked quickly on a high heat so in no more than twenty minutes you get an intensely flavoured dish. It’s also really hot which is only a problem in that the description for this one is ‘mild’. Other dishes described as hot we’ve found to be mild. If that has the potential to ruin a meal for you you’ll need to use your own judgement.


When flour finally came back into our lives I wanted to make something elaborate but first I had to make Potato and Pea Samosas. Okay so they look a bit of a state but that’s my fault. My cooking skills have always been a bit lacking in the presentation department. You’ll have to trust me however that the taste was perfect. From the pea and potato stuffing to the ajwain in the pastry.


Then I had to make the spicy chickpeas. These turned out to be the runaway hit out of all the fabulous things we’ve made. They take six minutes to make out of nothing but pantry ingredients and the taste is mind-blowing. They’re the best chickpeas either of us have ever had and they cook in six minutes.

samosa chatt

The reason I had to make the samosas and the chickpeas was that they’re both component parts of that elaborate dish I wanted to make, combined with two chutneys, vegan yogurt, pomegranate seeds, aloo bhujia and some coriander for fun. It was a lot of effort but worth it for the fabulous combination of flavours and textures. It’s an amazing dish.

I wholeheartedly recommend you get yourself a copy of Zaika. It’s the perfect cookbook for any vegan who wants to work more Indian food into their repertoire. If you’re like me and have more than a few Indian cookbooks this one is still worth a buy. Its focus on fresh ingredients, the fact that it’s entirely vegan and that chickpea recipe make it stand out from the crowd.


Book Review: Sushi Modoki

I’ve bought a few Japanese cookbooks recently. I’ve been making udon, tofu, and a lot of curry. Sushi Modoki is the only 100% vegan book in the pile of acquisitions and the only sushi book, so I knew I was going to have fun with it. Sushi Modoki is plant-based sushi that mimics the look and flavour of traditional sushi. There are three different ways to mimic tuna. It’s all very exciting but do they taste as good as they look?


My nigiri making skills are still in their infancy so I figured I’d start there to get some practice in. I made the Marinated Tuna Modoki Nigiri and the Salmon Modoki Nigiri. The salmon was nice — you can’t really go wrong with carrot — but the marinated ‘tuna’ was fabulous. The marinade made the red pepper slice taste amazing and the texture had that perfect touch of fattiness.


I moved quickly onto the inari chapter. Inari might just be my favourite food. I opted to make the Open Inari with egg modoki and pickled cucumber. As plain inari is already my favourite food I didn’t expect there would be much room for improvement. Thankfully I was wrong.  I’m pretty sure the Japanese invented scrambled tofu for eggs, so that’s just perfect, and the pickled cucumber stuffing in this has quickly become one of my favourite quick pickles. The condiment section at the back of the book is worth the price of the whole thing alone.


I then turned my attention to the rolls. I started with some circular ones to get my confidence up and made the a batch of Veggie Tempura Roll. I’ve been making tempura quite a bit recently in an attempt to eat more vegetables by deep frying them first. This is my new favourite batter. In there are green beans and corn. It is deeply satisfying.

There is also a recipe for mock shrimp, but I can’t get konnyaku locally. It will have to wait until my next visit to Japan Centre. It is written by a Japanese author living in Japan and thus uses ingredients that aren’t necessarily available in supermarkets in the South West of England (and if they are they’re often of inferior quality). I hunt down the more hard-to-find stuff online.


Then I may have got a bit overconfident. I thought It would be just as easy to  roll a square as a circle. It was not. But once dipped in soy sauce who really cares about a few wonky edges. Other than Instagram.

Sushi Modoki is more than a gimmick. iina has created recipes that taste and look amazing with enough extra tips and hints in here to keep you full and happy for a long time. Any vegan with an interest in sushi or Japanese cooking will enjoy having this on their shelves.