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.

streetvegan

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.

snails

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.

strips

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.

brownie

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.

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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.

Review: Vegan 100

Gaz Oakley’s Vegan 100 has been hanging around my kitchen for the past couple of weeks. And honestly I’m not sure what to make of it. We got off on the wrong foot I think. The first thing I tried to make was the Fancy Baked Doughnuts, that seduced me with their chocolate glaze. First I had to buy a doughnut pan. Then I had to make two other recipes from the book: vegan butter and egg replacement. I love a good cooking project, especially if I get to buy new equipment. Only then I made the doughnuts. And they did not work. The lovely delicate doughnuts fell apart. So. On the wrong foot.

Onwards to Valentine’s Day! I thought I’d treat Kate to some lovely home cooked food so I picked two of the recipes that attracted us in the bookshop. Tofu Tikka Kebabs and Carrot and Red Onion Bhajis. The bhajis are super easy to knock up and there are instructions for both baking and frying. I baked ours. And loved them. The bhajis got two thumbs up. The kebab… maybe half a thumb. I thought it needed a lot more in the way of seasoning.

Fortunately the next recipe I tried, the Moroccan Chickpea “Omelette”, was perfectly spiced and so very easy to make. It’s in the Breakfast and Brunch section but this works at any time of day. Finally we sampled the Potato and Leek Croquettes. Again there are instructions for both baking and frying. Again I’m still not trusted to deep fat fry. They were simple to make and they taste… okay. And I think that is the sentence that sums up the book. The recipes are clear, they’re easy, the concept is great but when I follow them the end product is just okay. If I didn’t have a shelf full of other cookbooks I’d be okay with that, especially with that omelette recipe in there. But I do have a shelf full of other cookbooks and that means I don’t know what to make of this one.

MiniMoFo: Creating Warmth

January’s MiniMoFo theme is Creating Warmth. Good timing for me because one of my new obsessions involves doing just that. It all starts with a flashback. Christmas morning and we were opening gifts. Kate had ordered my presents from Amazon, complete with gift wrap. One was book shaped and the other was big and rattled and I was convinced it was one of the board games on my wish list. It wasn’t.

Instead I got three of these jars with Sterikap lids. Perfect for fermenting. I was instantly filled with warm fuzzies. You see Kate hates ferments, she hates the smell of ferments, but here she was, buying me these jars so I could do it in style. With less of a smell. I think that was one of her main considerations. Immediately I started wondering what I could ferment. And then it hit me. If Kate wasn’t going to eat what I was fermenting anyway why not use something I know she hates: chillies. A copy of Fiery Ferments by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey was soon making its way towards me.

It’s a fabulous book. It’s friendly and approachable but still detailed and technical enough to give you good results. I really enjoyed the section ‘Hot and Spicy B.C. (Before Chillies)’ and the pre-chilli recipes. The discussion of all the different techniques humans have used to add heat to their food is both fascinating and mouthwatering. We’ll get back to that later. The first ferment I tried was the Basic Pico de Gallo Starter.

The idea here is that you ferment everything but the tomatoes. That way you have the base ready to go and only need to chop a few tomatoes to mix in when you need your salsa fix. Usually when I make Pico de Gallo it either goes off before I can eat it all myself or I end up with lots of odd half bunches of coriander and diced onions left in the fridge. Apart from a few tomatoes, everything is preserved in the ferment. So I can make my little single portion of salsa whenever I want.

I also made the green peppercorn mustard. I love mustard, especially the grainy kind and I was intrigued by the addition of green peppercorns. They really make it sing. It has a clear, fresh taste and a gentle heat that sits on the tongue. I think there will be sausages in my future, served on a baguette and draped with more mustard than is probably advisable.

As you can probably tell I’m having a lot of fun with my new jars and book. I have a dozen more recipes dog eared to try. Just need to find more chillies.

Review: Fat Gay Vegan, the book

I’ve followed Fat Gay Vegan for… well much longer than I’ve been vegan. I’ve always admired his commitment to creating an open, inclusive vegan community. One where everyone is welcome. As at tubby, bi, working class girl I can occasionally feel shut out, and I know others have it worse. I was excited to receive a copy of the book Fat Gay Vegan in January’s Vegan Kind box, and after two days of reading I can tell you I wasn’t disappointed.

Just a reminder: I only turned vegan myself back in May, so to me the first couple of chapters, ‘Why Vegan?’ and ‘Vegan 101’ were super useful. Not because I don’t know what a vegan is, or why I am one but because it’s always nice to hear these things from someone who is a bit better at the articulate thing then I am.

The book starts to delve deeper in the chapter ‘Vegan Means Vegan’. And I think any vegan, new or old, is going to love this bit. And learn from it. Life skills like how to politely, but firmly decline things that aren’t vegan (and why it’s not social suicide) lead us into the next chapter: ‘Ethical Vegan’.

This chapter stops you in your tracks, and points out areas you could be doing better. It asks if your veganism is respectful of humans as well as non-human animals. It’s a blueprint for an intersectional veganism that respects all life. But it’s not preaching, it’s not insulting, instead it gently invites you to do better. Encourages you to do better. And if you are wondering how the next chapter on ‘The Importance of Community’ might give you a few tips.

After that the book touches on travelling as a vegan and lays out a hopeful vision of the compassionate future we could create. And overall this book is hopeful, it’s positive. Yes, it’s about the necessary changes we need to make both in the world and the wider vegan community but I’m left feeling like we can make those changes. We can create a world where no animals suffer to feed us, and people aren’t exploited bringing crops to harvest. We can create a vegan community that welcomes all people, that doesn’t use othering to sell its point to a wider audience, that doesn’t exploit others trauma for cheap comparisons. Fat Gay Vegan isn’t a step-by-step guide as to how we’ll manage all that but it gives you a good starting point.

Fat Gay Vegan by Sean O’Callaghan is published by Nourish Books