Review: Fat Cow

When I got word that a burger place had opened up alongside the harbour I was excited. I bloody love a good burger. Fat Cow‘s menu promises burgers, rum and reggae. I don’t really do rum but it did deliver on the other two.

The menu is clearly marked for us vegans with a great selection of snacks, burgers and sides. For once in my life I didn’t over order and just got myself a coke and a burger. I got myself the vegan version of the Taj Ma Dahl. You get a delicious burger topped with goodies like avocado, pineapple and mango chow, and yes that is a whole onion bhaji at the top. It a huge burger, and you are not going to look delicate and lady-like eating it. It’s served in a basket which I don’t think is a great choice for a burger that falls apart as you eat it. I want to scoop up my fallen pickles. Basket aside this is one of the best, most creative burgers you are going to find in the bay. The pineapple and mango chow is a highlight.

I’m already trying to find an excuse to go back.

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Pizza Express

Kate and I have been together for ten years and as I was a) working that day and b) very tired this week we decided to stay in Torquay and find a menu we could both agree on. As has been the case for most of our marriage the only food we could agree on was that we both like eating pizza and in Torquay that means Pizza Express.

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As its a national chain there isn’t much of a surprise in the offerings. Having limited diets and anxiety problems they’ve saved us from hunger in many parts of the UK. The website brags that we can get a three course vegan meal. Lets be honest here though: Dough Balls without butter is just balls in oil. And tomatoes and olives don’t really count as a starter. So we went straight on to pizza. Kate went for a Margarita, with vegan cheese obviously, and I had the Vegan Giardiniera.

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I don’t really have much to say about the pizza. It’s not mind-blowing. Its good solid pizza, I wouldn’t say no to it. The vegan cheese is one of my favourites, and they don’t massively overdo it. It’s just good solid pizza. And I like it. I like that I can order one in most large towns in the UK without much fuss.

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Desert was sorbet, simple and rather typical but incredibly gorgeous. Vegans can choose from two whole flavours: coconut and raspberry. We took one of each and they were both lovely. Just sweet enough to stop your lips from puckering, smooth ice and tastes fab.

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Last year the idea of getting three whole courses at a non-vegan restaurant was impressive, as was vegan pizza at a chain place but since then I’ve got spoiled. I’m used to vegan menus, having choices, and not having to customise things to make it vegan. I liked what I had but, well, cake would be amazing.

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.

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.