Review: vegan fudge from Roly’s

Before we went vegan I loved fudge. Not the sickly sweet, strangely smooth substance made by Cadbury and the other confectionery giants, but the crumbly stuff the Scots call tablet. I learnt how to make it one summer, and treated my workmates to a different flavour each week. I’ve experimented with different oils to try to make vegan fudge: coconut oil fudge was too brittle and greasy, while cocoa butter fudge showed promise but needs works. Fortunately you don’t have to wait for me to perfect the recipe: Roly’s Fudge have beaten me to it.

fudge

As they describe on their blog, it’s made from coconut oil, soy milk, and cashew butter, and comes in two flavours: maple and cashew, and salted maple and pecan. The pecan one has pieces of pecan in it, while the cashew one is just fudge. They have same crumbly texture I remember from their non-vegan fudge, and the price is the same too. Clare picked up a bag of each in Dartmouth, and as she doesn’t like fudge I had the whole lot to myself; they lasted almost a day, as I alternated between them trying to work out which was more delicious. I think I might need another couple of bags before deciding. If there’s a Roly’s near you then pop in for some (tip: they also do vegan ice cream), and if not you can order online.

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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.

Review: Vegan Deluxe Set Menu at Bombay Express

When it comes to curry house classics we’re always recommending Bombay Express and we were excited to see their new Vegan Deluxe Set Menu for April. It expands upon the successful Veganuary menu with some special new treats.

After the customary poppadom course we tried the new vegan starter. Billed as Dal soup we were served a flavourful, thin dal. Perfectly spiced and livened up with a wedge of lemon the soup was delicious. Plus it came in a super cute pan thing.

For the main course we each ordered one of the new dishes to split between us. Both came with rice, channa massala (rich, slightly smokey, and always a favourite) and nann. We paid extra for one of the nann to come with vegan cheese on top. Cheese topped nann in an old school guilty pleasure of ours. The cheese on top tastes like a coconut one which I’m not usually a fan of but works quite well with Indian food.

When using the cheesy nann to scoop up the Vegetable Massala (apparently the first vegan massala in Devon!) I was transported back to my teens. And just like I remember from being a spice shy teenager it was creamy, comforting, goodness.

We also ordered the sagg paneer which was good but not quite as fab as the Veg Massala. The cheese was a little overwhelming in the curry. We finished, once again, with the delicious coconut tart and left happy.

Review: Curious Kitchen (Brixham)

The Curious Kitchen is a bit of a big deal in Vegan Torbay but as it’s the other side of the bay I haven’t had chance to go before. Famous for its good coffee and innovative menu I took the excuse to pop in on my way back from a visit. I thought just before lunch was a good time to go in. I was in a bit of a rush and thought it wouldn’t be too busy. I was wrong. The place was packed but I managed to squeeze in. And it was a squeeze. The tables where so packed together that I was back to back with the table behind me. The staff had to ask us to move to get through to the second row of tables and a very large dog kept nudging at my elbow for food.

I ordered Corn and Chilli fritters, delicious though I couldn’t taste much chilli. The radish, capers and cucumbers really lightened things up. I washed it down with a fresh green smoothie and ran out of the door. The cafe is located just across from my bus stop and the bus was about to leave. Whoops. Next time I’m going to leave myself a bit more time.

Recipe: Coronation Chickpeas

Okay so this recipe leans so heavily on the chickpea salad recipe from Vegan For Everybody that it’s practically the same thing. But it’s not. Their curried variation just has some extra curry powder and some raisins. Not enough for me. My variation is a bit more like the cheap coronation chicken sandwich filling of my youth. If you’re feeling fancy pants you can always use dried cranberries rather than raisins. They brighten things up a bit.

Ingredients

2 cups cooked chickpeas

1/2 cup vegan mayo

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon curry powder

2 teaspoon mango chutney

2 tablespoon raisins or cranberries

Pepper

In a blender combine 3/4 cup of chickpeas with the mayo, water, curry powder and mango chutney. Blend until mostly smooth.

Mostly.

Add in the rest of the chickpeas and pulse two or three times, leaving the chickpeas in fairly large chunks.

Poor mix into a bowl and stir in the dried fruit and a pinch or two of pepper. You are ready to make a sandwich. Or wrap. Enjoy.

Vegan Pasties at The Eden Project

This weekend I supervised a trip to the Eden project and while I had packed a lunch I’d also set out pretty early and was in dire need of a snack. Thankfully the Eden Project provides. Eden Kitchen has a couple of dishes that can be made without dairy but I snuck round the corner and went for a pasty instead.

vegan pasty
V is for Vegan 

Hello Vegan Pasty. It’s chock full of vegetable and lentils, surrounded by a lovely, crisp, flaky pastry. All in all a rather decent offering for a tourist attraction. Though Eden has always been a step above with these things. To drink I went for some freshly pressed apple, orange and sweet potato juice. Well that was after I’d started the day off with a free tasting of Pukka Teas. I got to try Three Fennel and Three Cinnamon. The Three Cinnamon came home with me. The Eden Project saw me coming.

DSC_2459
Very filling filling.

Review: By Chloe (London)

We like Chloe Coscarelli’s recipes — just an hour ago Clare served us pasta with pink sauce from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen — so we had to visit By Chloe during our trip to London. (We’ve since learned that Chloe is no longer associated with By Chloe, following an acrimonious legal battle.)

After a long walk through Hyde Park (home of ring-necked parakeets) and past Buckingham Palace (smaller than I had expected), Big Ben (entirely encased in scaffolding), and the Ministry Of Defence (suitable fascistic), we were ready for breakfast, and found By Chloe on Russell Street around the back of the Theatre Royal.

by-chloe

Inside it was modern and clean, with a choice between normal seating and hanging chairs. It was also surprisingly noisy; not from the customers, as it wasn’t busy, but from the music. This led to communication problems: our receipt shows they thought Clare was called Cleer, while the table next to us had their order messed up not once but twice.

The menu seemed expensive, even by London standards, but a big breakfast is worth paying for. Unfortunately what we received was not a big breakfast. Remember the beautifully presented almond butter and banana on toast from Good Vibes? Here’s what By Chloe managed for £6.60:

toast

That’s a single slice of toast, messily smeared with almond butter and scattered with unevenly sliced banana. I manage better presentation at 6:30am without even trying.

Clare ordered the sunrise burrito and quinoa hash browns. The ‘s’ on the end of ‘hash browns’ might lead you to expect a small plateful. English grammar would lead you to expect at least two. You know where this is going:

hash-brown-burrito

Despite the small portions the food was good, with Clare particularly enjoying the seitan chorizo. The drinks were another matter. Clare had the cuckoo’s nest smoothie, which she describes as “just awful”, with the balance of flavours all wrong and the beetroot overwhelming the other ingredients. I asked for the Jade Tips tea, and was told they didn’t have that but did have green tea, which when it arrived turned out to be Jade Tips after all, in the form of a teabag in a paper cup of boiling water.

There’s something depressing about tea in a paper cup. It’s what you might get at a conference, where they have to provide refreshments but don’t really care. It’s not what you expect from a venue that describes itself as a restaurant. This sense of cheapness was reinforced by the flimsy plastic cutlery. If I had to describe By Chloe in a single phrase, I would say: imagine a vegan McDonald’s.

The great thing about London is that when it comes to vegan food you have so much choice. Do yourself a favour, and choose somewhere else.