So this is my first day out in a while. When lockdown was eased I wasn’t going anywhere. In July I had to do a strict two week shielding for a hysterectomy mid-August. While the post-operative shielding lasted only one week I’ve been too sore and grumpy to go anywhere since then. Until last week when we decided to go to Exeter and pop into How On Earth. The Fried Chicken is still excellent.
They stock some stuff from amazing indie producers like Food by Sumear who makes some of the best Vegan Cheeses, Bath Culture House and Nutcessity as well as their own delicious meats. As well as the chicken we tried some of the doner meat. The doner meat is amazing. Bar none the best doner I’ve had since giving up meat. It’s got the taste, it’s got the texture, it’s just beautiful. I went for a full on kebab theme for lunch: pittas with salad, Leon aioli and then half squeaky bean tikka (bought on sale and needing to be used up) and half perfect How On Earth doner.
I really can’t wait to go back to How On Earth to try more of their meats. But getting to Exeter isn’t the easiest right now so I’ll just look at the pictures I took of the doner and cry.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.