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.

sweetandsour

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.

naan

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.

jackfruitsab

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.

samosa

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.

chickpea

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?

nigri

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.

tofu

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.

tempeh

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.

squares

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.

Review: I Can Cook Vegan by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

15th August 2007. That’s when I bought my first vegan cookbook. It was the weird British edition of Vegan With A Vengeance, the first book of her’s that I ever bought. Over the years I’ve bought all the others and I Can Cook Vegan arrived on my door the day of release. In a way I wish it had been my first vegan cookbook. It’s geared for beginners with simple recipes that teach you how to handle yourself in the kitchen. What I was looking to get out of it was some simple, foolproof recipes. Here’s how it turned out.

udon

Curry and udon are two of my favourite things to pair together so I made this Curry Udon with Broccoli and Avocado on the first chance I got. Coconut milk in the broth isn’t something I’d usually go for but it adds a great deal of texture and taste. It was simple to pull together with a lot of flavour.

chickpeaalfredo

I’ll be honest I had low expectations of the Chickpea Alfredo. A lot of vegan alfredo recipes tend to be weak creamy sauces. This was the exact opposite it was a flavour bomb. Creamy with a hit of umami reminiscent of mature cheese. It’s also ridiculously quick to make.  It took me 3 minuted to boil up the fettuccine (if you follow me on Instagram you may have caught some of my adventures in home made pasta) and in that time I’d blended the sauce to a perfect consistency. The chickpeas were already cooked so I just had to toss everything together and warm through. This is for me the star recipe of the book. Worth the whole price just for this.

autumnsald

Not allowing supper time to have all the fun I made us some Autumn Seitan Salad Sandwiches for lunch. With seitan chunks (I used chickwheat) and cranberries it’s basically like all those Christmas Dinner sandwiches that are sold in the supermarkets at this time of year. And thus it is delicious.

lentilroast

I wanted to try a recipe that was a little more labour intensive so I went for the Sunday Night Lentil Roast. There’s a little more time involved but the steps are super simple, the instructions clear and the ingredients list has nothing out of the ordinary. It’s probably not the roast I’d make for Christmas Dinner, I prefer to go high stakes on the holidays but it is perfect for Sunday dinner.

fishless

As Kate is a little obsessed with fish(less) fingers I thought I’d make the Tofu Fish Sticks. There’s also a recipe for tartar sauce but Kate isn’t a fan so I skipped that. The taste is spot on, with sea vegetables adding the perfect fishy taste, and to my mind the best way to eat anything is breaded in panko. I cut mine a little wider for a more Captain Birdseye approved look.

walnut brownies

And couldn’t I finish this review without trying some of the sweet stuff. These are the beautiful Walnut Brownies. It hasn’t pushed my favourite brownie recipe off the top spot. That will always be the brownies in Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar. But I appreciate that apple sauce stands in for egg here making the recipe way more accessible if your supermarket doesn’t stock silken tofu for some reason.

After cooking though some of the recipes I come back to the same thought. I wish this was my first vegan cookbook. My shelves are full of basic vegan recipes at this point. Although I would, without hesitation, recommend this book to anyone new to vegan cooking, what about those of us who are old hands? Well I think it’s still worth it. The recipes in here are simple and streamlined. Perfect for those days when you just want something plain, simple, and still satisfying. Perfect when you want a recipe that you know is going to turn out first time.

Reveiw: An Opinionated Guide to Vegan London

We go to London a couple of times a year and we’ve never been short of places to eat when we get there. I’ve been know to make detailed maps showing the best routes between eateries, shops and our other appointments. And by ‘known too’ I mean each time, even if our visit is four hours long. Point is that I’ve never felt the need for a guide book before. But two things sold this book to me, sight unseen: the first is its title and the second is the author. It’s written by Sara Kiyo Popowa who wrote the brilliant Bento Power.

I was really excited when it came. Hoxton Mini Press wrapped it in the cutest paper and sent a little thank you card for ordering them straight from them. I recommend it. It’s a stunning little book filled with 53 restaurant recommendations, each one with at least one stunning photo. It’s almost pornographic.

As for the recommendations: well, I’m looking forward to trying a bunch of them on our upcoming trip. Some of them I’ve had on my radar for a while – I’m still bitter that La Fauxmagerie opened two days after our last visit – and some completely new to me. I couldn’t resist a little sneaky visit to one place though. I had an hour and a half’s wait between two trains coming back from Paris and I took the opportunity to jump on the underground and pick up some Crosstown Doughnuts.

I recommend both the doughnuts and the book. You can order Vegan London directly from Hoxton Mini Press.

Vegan Mofo 2019: Spring Salad / Review: Show Up For Salad by Terry Hope Romero

I’m actually really bad at salads. I’m not great at improvising. That’s not true. Actually I’m great at improvising. Only I need clear guidelines and a structure to work with. Very clear, detailed guidelines, recipes almost. Only recipes aren’t great for salads are they? Because you want to use the freshest stuff, not just what’s on a list. I know, I’m going in circles right?

Show Up For Salad is the perfect middle ground. In fact it’s split pretty evenly down the middle between general advice guidance and mix and match recipes to help you put together your own salad combos, and more traditional salad recipes. For this review I thought I’d try one of each: a recipe, and throwing my own thing together.

spring

The Bright And Spicy Spring Asparagus salad was the first one to try. You have the choice of five salad dressings to make this one with and I went for the Tahini French Dressing. I also substituted the mix of greens suggested for the organic salad bag I’d got that week in my Riverford box because it was there and it was fresh. I enjoyed the salad although I did wish I’d made a dressing with more heat.

sidesalad

Tonight I made myself a side salad. For the leafy bit I mixed some bitter leaves with cos lettuce. I dressed it with Sunflower Ranch Dressing which is creamy and perfect and topped with Root Bacon. Yeah. Root Bacon. Bacon made from a bunch of carrots. It’s lush. And then I popped some seeds on top for crunch.

I can’t wait to explore more salads. I’ve got a row of beetroot in the garden destined for beet prosciutto. I’d honestly advise anyone to go out and buy a copy of Show Up For Salad.

Vegan Mofo 2019: Cake / Veganising The Nordic Baking Book

I’ve only explored a couple of the recipes from the cake chapters. I’m still a little bit confused by the whole concept of coating the baking pan with breadcrumbs. But I put my fears behind me for a couple of simple bakes.

Kardemummakaka – Cardamon Cake

Veganised by replacing the butter with Naturli block, removing the egg and replacing the sour cream with Alpro yogurt (the extra liquid that the yogurt contains works to replace the egg as well as the sour cream).

cardamon

Who can resist cardamon cake? Soft beautiful sponge with the beautiful fresh taste of cardamon and sprinkled with pearl sugar.

Mannagrynskaka – Semolina Sponge Cake

Veganised by swapping out the yogurt with Alpro and the butter with Naturli block.

rasberry

Just looking at this picture makes me smile. It’s a beautiful summer cake with a brilliant texture from the semolina and the bright burst of raspberries. I think this one is going to go into my regular rotation.

That’s all from cakes, for now. Tomorrow is pastry!

Vegan Mofo 2019: Biscuits / Veganising The Nordic Baking Book

I first saw The Nordic Baking book in real life in Portree in a shop called ÒR. I couldn’t actually afford it at the time because I was busy buying about five other books (and the rest of the stock — everything in there is gorgeous!) but the Nordic Baking Book played on my mind. I ended up buying it full price in Waterstones in town as soon as I got paid — I couldn’t wait for our next trip to the Hebrides.

The Nordic Baking Book is a collection of baking recipes from around the Nordic Region. Obviously. It’s a documentary book so all the recipes are in their traditional form. You know, not vegan. But I can work with that. I’m trying to veganise one recipe a week out of there. Both this week of Mofo theme and my experiments started with biscuits.

Blondkakor – Peasant Shortbread Cookies

Veganised by replacing the butter with 1/3 vegetable fat (Trex) and 2/3 margarine (Vitalite)

Buttery shortbread studded with whole almonds. Leaving the skin on is something I wouldn’t think of doing for a cookie but it really brings the almond flavour. The only issue is they don’t keep. Turns out that isn’t a problem though.

Chokladsnittar – Chocolate Cuts

Veganised by replacing the butter with Naturli Block

choccuts

Chocolate shortbread studded with pearl sugar. These babies didn’t last very long either. So delicious. They aren’t strongly chocolatey, just light and sweet and perfect with a hot drink.

Mandelskopor – Almond Rusks

Veganised by using Naturli block instead of butter, and eggs replaced with 4 teaspoons of flax, 6 tablespoons of oat milk and an extra 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder.

almond rusks

I needed another almond hit. The idea leaving the skin on the almonds is something I haven’t come across in my usual Anglo-American baking. It’s the best thing ever though. I worried if the skins would add a funny texture but you don’t notice it. All you notice is the incredible almond taste. So I had to try these Almond Rusks, and they did not disappoint.

I’m afraid that’s all of my biscuit experiments for now but I’m having so much fun here that I doubt they’ll be the last.