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.

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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.

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Very filling filling.

Review: Wulf & Lamb (London)

After the confusion over eggs at breakfast, it was a relief to have a fully vegan place on the itinerary for lunch. We had spent the morning in The Science Museum where they have three (!) vegan options in their cafe. Unfortunately we had already been tempted by Wulf & Lamb’s menu, and besides we wanted to see if the positive or negative reviews had it right.

Wulfandlamb

We arrived at the middle of lunch on a Saturday. It was busy, but not slammed. You make your order at the counter and sit down with a number. When your food is ready it’s brought over to you. Simple. The staff were friendly and on-hand to explain anything to you. When you sit down you have lovely table that is properly set with actual cutlery (this will become important when Kate reviews By Chloe in a couple of days).

wulfandlambburger

Just before you order your food you walk past a temptation counter of all the doughnuts, cakes, wraps, and sandwiches. I managed to resist and ordered myself what I’d decided on before I’d even left Devon: the Wulf Burger. It is by far the best looking burger I’ve ever had with bonus points for that lovely glossy bun. It is by far the meatiest burger I’ve had since going vegan. The dish is completed with wedges (huge wedges!) of tender potato and sweet potato and a small, very welcome dish of sauerkraut.

wulfpie

Kate opted for the Wulf pie. It’s not overly clear from the menu but it’s a take on shepherd’s pie with a filling of lentils and jackfruit. From the second that it arrived on the table with its adorably piped mashed potato I could see that Kate was in love. That she practically cleaned the generously-sized bowl confirmed it. Between the pie and the burger we’d had the best meal of our trip.

macandcheese

There was, however, one misstep. We couldn’t resist sharing a portion of the mac and cheese. This is the one point where we have to agree with Grace Dent’s review. She says it was ‘dry and welded to its bowl’; I would like to add that it was tasteless, bizarrely grainy and just bloody awful. I’ve made better vegan mac from a powdered mix. That sounds harsh but it’s true. And it’s disappointing. It’s the best vegan burger, it’s an amazing lentil shepherd’s pie, the hot chocolate was great, the juice was perfect and then… disappointment.

But that can’t be the last word in this review. It can’t be. The rest of the food was too good for that. So we’d recommenced that you go and enjoy the food. Just stay away from that mac.

Review: Brunch at The Gate (London)

The Gate is the best vegetarian restaurant in London. It says so on the website. So as we woke up on Saturday we knew we had to go. Also the Marylebone location was close to our hotel and serves a brunch menu from nine on Saturday. With convenience like that who can argue?

the gate outside

We had the entire beautifully decorated, not-a-hair-out-of-place restaurant to ourselves which kind of makes what happens next really embarrassing. I ordered the shakshuka (or rather Kate ordered it because my lisp won’t let me say that many ‘sh’ sounds in a row). Its description in the menu begins with ‘scrambled tofu seasoned with turmeric’ and ends with ‘replace tofu with poached organic egg – not vegan’ in parentheses.

no egg

You can tell what happened right? I thought that the dish made with tofu was standard, the waiter thought the dish made with egg was standard and so I ended up with poached eggs. I apologised, he took it back, and eventually a second, tofu topped dish appeared. It was delicious, if somewhat ruined by awkwardness.

pancakes

Kate, meanwhile, was enjoying a lovely stack of banana and berry pancakes. Which probably had enough fruit to count as one of her five a day (right?). Kate liked her pancakes but she loved her almond hot chocolate. She took one sip and basically swooned. It was rich, thick, creamy, and decadently dessert-like.

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Do we recommend going to The Gate for brunch? Well it is pretty poor that my order got messed up when we were the only ones in there but mistakes happen and they did correct it. The food was good, the hot chocolate great and it was still cheaper than the (not remotely vegan) continental breakfast at our hotel. So yeah, why not?