Review: Black Girl Baking

Black Girl Baking isn’t an entirely vegan cookbook (although quite a few of the recipes are either vegan or have vegan variations), but I was tempted by the pictures I’d seen on Instagram so into my Amazon basket it went. And I wasn’t disappointed. Breaking away from traditional baking the recipes use a variety of flours, sweeteners, and even aquafaba to create a fantastic collection of baked treats.


I started with a chocolate cake. (Not an) Easy Bake Cake With Raspberry Glaze. It’s really easy to throw together the sponge. It’s made with whole wheat flour which makes me feel good about myself and it’s egg-free as-is and dairy-free with a simple substitution. The real star of the show is the glaze though. Made with real raspberries, it packs a very flavourful punch. I always say pink food tastes the best and it’s especially true when flavoured with real fruit.


For a savoury treat I made the Everything Chickpea Turmeric Crackers, which have the flour profile of a pakora mixed with an everything bagel. I like both of those things but even after eating a full batch of those crackers I couldn’t tell you if they work together. I kept thinking I’d made my mind up but then I’d take another bite.


These little guys are Kate’s favourite: Sticky Maple Mini Cakes. They’re made with with all the fanciest ingredients; dates, maple syrup, coconut milk, coconut oil. Basically it’s all the most expensive things in my cupboard. The texture is a little grainy but not in a bad way. The flavour though is incredible. Rich, caramely, and nutty. All of Kate’s favourite flavours.


That might be Kate’s favourite but the recipe that’s been added to our regular rotation is a little less sweet. Blistered Tomato Sheet Pizza is super simple. Just a good pizza crust and some beautiful blistered baby tomatoes. It transforms the meh cherry tomatoes of winter into a rich caramelised sauce and is now our favourite thing to do when we have cherry tomatoes hanging about.

I recommend you give this one a look. It might not be for you but between the pizza and the chocolate cake the price is justified for me.

Reveiw: Leon Fast Vegan

When Leon brought out a vegan cookbook I ordered it straight away. I’ve been living with it for the past few months and it’s been in rotation ever since. The title implies that it’s all fast food but really it has a recipe for just about anything you could ask for. There are breakfast, desserts, 15-minute meals and ones that take hours. It’s an encyclopaedia of vegan food. And it’s pretty cool.

We’ll start with one of the quicker recipes. This Artichoke, Basil and Spinach Pasta. It’s a quick pesto recipe that has all the umami you could ever need coming from that artichoke. The recipes are more than just a token vegan option, they’re well-thought-out to give a full range of flavours.

Jackfruit Tikka Masala is one of the the recipes that puts the name fast vegan to shame, clocking in at just under 2 hours. However you will not regret a second of those two hours. This is the best vegan tikka masala you’ll ever have. And it’s a genuine tikka masala, you marinate and cook your jackfruit before tossing it in the curry sauce which just makes everything perfect.

One of the few misses we’ve had is this Spiced Moroccan Tofu. Overall it was just a little dry and the Moroccan flavours didn’t really work with tofu.

But let’s end on a happy, positive, chocolate-filled note. These chocolate brownie cakes are amazing! Really dense and they have chocolate and rich and they have chocolate.

There are some amazing recipes in this huge tome. And although I’ve become adept at translating recipes from American English into UK English it’s always great to have recipes written in my own culinary language. I would suggest you go out and buy this straight away and make the tikka masala because it’s amazing.

Review: Bento Power by Sara Kiyo Popowa

My bento-making career stalled slightly when I started working in a vegan cafe. I don’t have many opportunities to pack a lunch any more but the opportunities I do have I like to make the most of. That’s why I got myself a copy of Bento Power by Sara Kiyo Popowa. Apart from a couple of egg recipes it’s all plant-based so it’s perfect for vegan bento makers.

As it’s whole foods focused there are lots of great ideas for getting more nutrients in your box. One that I was keen to try, and one that I’m going to keep using again and again, is the idea of throwing whole grains in your sushi rice. It brings nutrients, it brings taste, it brings texture. So good in the Onigirazu.

When it comes to books about bento I’m often reading them in a panic at the last minute. I imagine most people are too. So the most useful part of the book for me are the guides and the little tips. Honestly the tip on how to reheat rice in a steamer is probably the most useful thing I’ve ever read. That might make me sound a bit sad but I’m sticking with it. I used the Onigiri guide to make these cute rice balls out of leftovers.

There are also, of course, recipes for boxes full of food. I thought I’d delve into 15-Minute Bento section for my lunch today. I went for the Pasta Surprise Bento with kale, pine nuts, chickpeas and a really delicious dressing. This book has everything you need to pack amazing lunches and I 100% recommend it. If you’ve never packed a bento box before it will walk you through it, and if you have you’ll find plenty of cool new tricks in here.

Inspiring Book: Street Vegan (Vegan Mofo 2018)

I have a lot of cookbooks. My book shelf devoted to cookbooks already has an annex and is still bursting at the seams. I have cookbooks that get weekly use, cookbooks where recipes never go wrong, cookbooks that are simple, cookbooks that are involved and cookbooks that fill me with nostalgia. Each one is a little inspiring and the collection as a whole I find very inspiring. But the one I’m talking about today is Street Vegan.


It’s a beauty of a book: well designed, lovely pictures, and the design is quirky without being distracting. Looking through it makes me reconsider vegan food and think about taking things beyond the simple everyday, and beyond the substitutes. There are some solid recipes. The Cinnamon Snails are my go-to cinnamon roll recipe. The lemonades are wonderful. The other recipes have been sadly neglected though. I’ve been looking at the pictures more than cooking.


I started my day by making the Maple Mustard Breakfast Strips. These chewy, fried strips of seitan are glazed with a gorgeous maple and mustard mix. They came together unexpectedly quickly. It’s probably one of the least fussy seitan recipes I’ve ever made. the frying crisps up the outside but leaves the insides tender and there is no ‘gluten’ taste. It made a really decadent wrap filling.


Then I made the raw brownies. Though technically, as they take 12 hours in the dehydrator I started them first. But then there was topping to make and… you know what, I’ve just lost all track of time. At some point I made raw chocolate brownies and spent a lot of time and money on them (agave, cashews, coconut; oh my!) but Oh My God they are glorious.


Like most of the recipes in Street Vegan they are a little bit different, they need you to put in the effort but the results are off the charts. That’s why this book is my number one when it comes to inspiration. And why I promise to cook from it more often.

Review: Bosh! (the book)

When the Bosh! book came out back in April the vegan world was pretty excited. At least the ones who were fans of their recipe videos. Me, not so much. I can’t really cook from videos. I like things written down. Excited or not, I couldn’t resist when I saw it half price.

I struggled a little to find what recipe to make first. A lot of the recipes call for ingredients that aren’t Kate-approved: lots of courgettes, aubergine, and sweet potato in various bakes and sauces. Jane’s Pan Con Tomate seemed like a safe bet. I thought it was delicious at least. The seasoning worked really well.

Kate agreed with me on the Patatas Bravas though: we both thought it was delicious. As a bonus it was easy to make. All these recipes are. That’s kind of the point of it really. Simple, flavourful recipes, all vegan. It’s a great book to have around for weeknight suppers.

In the few short months I’ve had this book the Special Fried Rice has worked its way into our rotation. And it’s a great example of what I said above. It’s simple, the flavours are great, it’s got your carbs, veggies and protein all in one bowl. But then it also highlights one of my main problems with the book. What’s the deal with all the salt? I’m not anti-salt, I don’t have a heart problem, I’m not big into healthy eating. But this is too much to taste good. This fried rice serves 2, it has three tablespoons of soy and then has you add salt at the end. However, with the salt taken out and the soy sauce halved it’s now a regular. We like to switch up the veggies. Here there is edamame instead of peas and no pepper. Kate doesn’t like pepper.

Another recipe that’s great with a serious salt reduction is the Quick Puttanesca Spaghetti. It has capers, olives, brine and salt. Again if you cut the salt you get a wonderful meal. The addition of the broccoli really makes it.

Last up is the Southwest Bosh! Bowl. Because I’m so bloody hot right now that I’ve stopped cooking. It was actually my least favourite of the recipes. This time I used all of the seasoning but it came out kinda bland. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

At the end of the day this isn’t a groundbreaking book, or a perfect one, and aside from the salt issue the recipes can also get a little repetitive. But if you are after simple recipes, quick ideas, and fuss-free cooking then check it out.

Review: Sweet Potato Soul by Jenné Claiborne

The British exposure to Southern US cooking is basically KFC, mac and cheese and fancy varieties of BBQ sauce in Sainsbury’s where they charge an extra couple of quid to claim it’s from a specific state. My point is that I just don’t have much of a clue. So I bought myself a copy of Sweet Potato Soul for a bit of an education. Which, as it turns out, was a pretty good plan. Here is what we’ve been eating.

I started with breakfast, because it’s the most important meal of the day. I served up Sweet Potato Skillet Home Fries with Tempeh Bacon. The sweet potatoes browned up beautifully and the spices worked perfectly. The bacon leans a little sweet but it goes amazingly on top on the home fries. Or on it’s own. I can never say no to Tempeh Bacon.

Next up is the Peach-Date BBQ Jackfruit Sliders. This involved cooking up a batch of Peach-Date BBQ sauce. I thought it tasted a little flat but I think that had something to do with buying the only peaches I could find; it’s not a great time of year. It also involved a batch of Rainbow Root Slaw which I’ve basically been eating out of the bowl. Combined with Jackfruit and stuffed in a bun it was pretty good, though I think it would have been better with in-season fruit and hot sauce.

Bootylicious Gumbo is another recipe with a recipe inside. It calls for Creole Red Bean Sausages which are deliciously soft cooked in the gumbo. It’s silky, warming, spicy and perfect. And this is another recipe where I couldn’t help but go back for more.

Time to finish up where I started, in the breakfast section. This time with Chive & Cheddar Drop Biscuits. They came together incredibly quickly. Far too quickly to taste this good. It’s like alchemy. And I’m proud to say that I’ve so far resisted from eating a whole batch myself but that’s because I promised myself I’d finish this review first. So should you buy Sweet Potato Soul? Yes. Now.

Review: Modern Vegan Baking

It was this Instagram post that alerted me to the existence of a cookbook that I did not own. Thanks to Amazon Prime it was here the next day. Modern Vegan Baking by Gretchen Price is an encyclopaedia of vegan baked goods. There’s the sweet — cakes, cookies, meringues, tarts — the savoury — quiche, bread, crackers — and even a chapter for the miscellaneous.

There are a couple of issues I want to get out of the way first. First is that this book is aimed at an American audience. That might not be an issue for you — if you live in Boston it’s probably fairly convenient — but but a lot of the recipes call for Ener-g which I can’t get. I’ve been using Orgran but that required a little fudging of the hydration. Then the other, related, issue you might have is that a lot of the recipes call for commercial ‘replacers’, like the Ener-g and vegan butter. Though they are getting easier and easier to find. Still, I didn’t have anything special on hand when it first arrived so I went for one of the simpler recipes for my first try: Raspberry Corn Muffins. Savoury enough to make a good breakfast snack, lightened up by the burst of raspberry.

I went to the cookie section for my next bake. I made Snickerdoodle Biscotti to rave reviews. The texture was spot on, they were solid enough to hold together while dunking but soft enough to preserve your teeth. The cinnamon adds a lovely warmth. And did I mention the rave reviews? Everyone loved them.

At this point I felt confident enough to make a cake. I’m not a big cake baker. I’m not great at cake decorating. In fact I’m notoriously bad. I’m heavy-handed, clumsy and lack any design sense. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to give it a fair review unless I made a cake. I decided to make the cookie batter cake, a variation of the super-easy vanilla cake. It was, in fact, super easy to make.

What I found harder was the chocolate buttercream I used to top it. It’s made with aquafaba. My issue was following the instructions. Meringue, even aquafaba meringue, deflates when you add the sugar. The recipe says that after adding sugar the peaks will be stiff and glossy. I tried it twice before realising it wasn’t going to happen and carried on with the recipe. In the end I got a delicious buttercream.

I decided to finish up with something savoury. I turned to the yeasted bread section and baked a batch of Seeded and Salted Cracker Bread. It was quick and simple to make and infinitely customisable. Also: very yum.

Do you need a copy of Modern Vegan Baking? If you are into baking, want some fool-proof recipes and don’t mind taking your time to get your technique down then yes, you’ll probably like this one. If you can’t get hold of special ingredients you might want to skip it. It’s made a great addition to my bookshelves, even if I still can’t make a good cake.