Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Vegusto Review - "Chorizo" Enchiladas

A while back, I won a competition to get a free box of Vegusto cheese and blog about it as part of Vegan Mofo (mentioned here). However, my parcel didn't arrive during Vegan Mofo (September) and I've not got around to using it - until now.

I've used two Vegusto products in tonight's dinner so that I can tell you about them both in one go! So tonight we're looking at the Farmhouse Style Sausage and the No Moo Melty. Now, I have tried both of these products before. I'm not a fan of the taste uncooked - which I think is what put me off last time. However, cook them and they are completely different!

"Chorizo" Enchiladas

Chop the sausage and fry it with some non-dairy margarine and mild chilli powder to make it a bit like chorizo - yummy!

Then throw in some vegetables that need eating up (this was a bit of a leftovers tea - inspired by the fact that I found some wraps I'd forgotten about that needed using! - in this case, we had baby leeks, green beans, and a red pepper). Once the veggies are softened, stir in some passata (leftovers again - about 2/3 of a box), some spices (cumin, coriander, a little sage), tomato puree (about 1 tbsp), a stock cube with a little water, a small can of black eyed beans, and some Tabasco sauce (to taste). You can leave it to cool a little before moving on to the next step - this should help it to thicken up and means you won't burn yourself while rolling up your wraps!

Next it's time to assemble everything. Place a wrap on a plate, shovel on some filling (trying to keep it in an even line in the centre), roll wrap up and put in a casserole dish (before adding your wraps to the dish, coat the bottom in 1-2 tbsp salsa to stop the wraps sticking).

Cover the enchiladas in a layer of salsa (leftovers again!), then sprinkle with grated No Moo Melty - don't worry if it clumps up a bit. Pop in the oven (190C/175C fan) for about half an hour - or until the cheese looks melty and the enchiladas are hot all the way through.

I had mine with a dollop of vegan mayo to cool it down! (As you can see, some of the filling fell out...)


Farmhouse Style Sausage - It fried up nicely and had a good texture that held up well in the sauce. Had a nice taste and texture once cooked but I don't think I'd use it straight out of the fridge.

No Moo Melty - This had a good taste when cooked and was soft and squidgy but it didn't melt like dairy cheese does - you can see from the photos below that the cheese stayed in the same place rather than spreading over the whole enchilada, but other than that it was good. As with the sausage, I don't think I'd use it cold but it's good for replacing melty cheese on things like pizza - so long as you don't mind it not spreading. (This seems to be a common issue for non-dairy cheese though, not just for Vegusto!)

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Another week full of baking

Last week I decided to bake something every day whilst not at work. I've tried to do it again this week - just failing on one day where I had appointments all day and no time at home!

Monday - Bread Rolls
I was making bean burgers for tea so I made some bread rolls / burger buns to go with them. I usually find that my bread rolls are all different sizes so I actually weighed out the dough for a change and they all came out the same size! Magic! (Also known as maths...)

Tuesday - Creamy Leek and Mushroom Pasties
I like pasties, as does Mr Hatter, but I've not made them for a while. I usually go for a Cornish-style pasty but with veggie mince, but there seems to be a huge shortage of veggie mince available in the shops at the moment! Apparently this is due to there being some sort of problem with one of the ingredients from the main veggie mince suppliers in England so it all had to be investigated... But hopefully it should be back on the shelves next month! So without any veggie mince, I went for a creamy leek & mushroom pasty instead. They had a wholemeal pastry case and a creamy sauce made using soya milk and nutritional yeast to make it thick and tasty.

Wednesday - Toffee Apple Cupcakes
This is a recipe that I've attempted a few times. I tried it around this time last year and got a good toffee cupcake but not much apple flavour. This time I tried an apple cupcake with toffee icing. The icing turned out well but the cupcake wasn't very appley so I think next time I will have to use more apples in the cake - maybe if I use puréed / stewed apples it will make the taste more pronounced?? They tasted nice anyway and after taking them to a meeting with my theatre group, there was only one left to bring home! (I thought I'd taken a photo of these but can't seem to find it...)

Thursday - Seitan
Again, not quite baking but it uses flour so it sort of counts!

Friday - Nothing!!
On Friday I had no time to bake. I had a meeting with the job centre (urgh) in the morning, followed by two job interviews in the afternoon. Fun times.

Saturday - Order Time & Naan Bread
I had an order to bake on Saturday! Just a couple of loaf cakes and some focaccia but it kept me busy!

I also had my first attempt at Naan Bread, based on a recipe by Paul Hollywood. I love naan bread but I've not been able to have it for ages, as it always seems to have milk, ghee, or yoghurt in. Tesco used to offer an accidentally vegan version but they updated the recipe and it now contains milk. Gah! BUT, now I can make it, woohoo! I made curried mango & sultana naan for myself and plain savoury naan for my husband (as he doesn't do sweet and savoury together). We paired our naans with a chickpea curry topped with smoked tofu that had been dry-fried in some spices to take the place of paneer. (Although I never had paneer so I'll just have to accept Mr Hatter's judgement that it was a decent replacement.) Yum!


Sunday - Plaited Loaf & Ginger Slice
When I bake bread, it's usually just a simple shape. But today I thought I'd do something a little fancier - I had a go at plaiting it. This is a light rye bread (i.e. rye flour mixed with white so it's not too heavy), and it held the plaiting better than expected - although it did come a little undone at the end while baking.

I also had a bit of a play with a recipe out of a book I've had for donkey's years. It's an old kids cookbook, and the recipe in there is for "Cherry Almond Fingers". But we didn't have any cherries so I used ginger instead and swapped a few things around to veganise it, and it ended up turning into something different! The picture in the book looked quite cakey but my slice was lovely and gooey on top of a crisp pastry base - just the thing for cold Autumn nights!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

National Baking Week

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before but I was made redundant a few weeks ago. Which means I've had A LOT more spare time on my hands. Which is weird. Yes it's good in a way but I'd be able to enjoy it a lot more if I had a job lined up. That said, I've decided to at least try to be productive and bake something every (week)day while I'm off. This week was the first week of baking every day, which happened to coincide with National Baking Week!

So here's a quick run down of my baking week:

Monday - Banana Bread
Just my standard 'Nana Bread as we needed to use up some old bananas.

Tuesday - Pumpkin, Hemp & Sundried Tomato Muffins
It's autumn and there are pumpkins everywhere! I wanted to make some savoury muffins using some of the hemp flour I received in last month's vegan package swap. They tasted nice (although I could've done with more tomatoes) but they were way too gritty - I must have added too much hemp flour. Will try harder next time!

Wednesday - Seitan 
Now I know this isn't technically baking but this was the first time I've made it. I've never even bought Seitan so I had no idea what to expect! (It's a meat substitute made from wheat.) I was very pleased with it. Hubby likes it too, so much so that he's asked me to make some more for this week!

Thursday - Chocolate Brownie Box Mix
I got my October vegan package swap on Monday. It was full of fabulous treats (see below), and a very detailed explanation so I knew what it all was. My partner this month is from Finland and of course, I don't speak Finnish!

I think this is the first boxed cake mix I've ever used; I don't even remember using one when I was little. The brownies turned out fine and tasted beautiful! Surprisingly, they were both vegan and gluten free which is apparently very rare over there - and I imagine it is over here too!

Friday - Lemon Drizzle Cake Samples
I was invited to bring some cake samples to the Calderdale Vegan Approach that took place in Todmorden on Saturday. I decided to take some mini lemon drizzle cupcakes, as that recipe generally gives me good results. I only stayed for the morning, as we had a vet's appointment in the afternoon, but the parts of the day I was there for were really good. This was the second meeting of the group. The idea of the vegan approach was to offer support for people who wanted to try being vegan for the month of October, and Saturday's event was their meeting to end the month and see how everyone got on. It seems they had a lot of interest!

I didn't bake anything on Saturday (I don't think I even cooked anything as food was provided at the vegan event and we went out for tea...) but I did bake bread AND scones today so I guess that sort of counts?

This was my monthly package swap for October from a lovely lady in Finland:

I got:
- Viljahyva - traditional Finnish dessert
- Luomu Brownie Kit
- Sisu Horna (the red packet) - candy with sweet and salty liquorice flavour
- Panda Smoothie - chocolate covered raisins
- Kaulintamassa - cotton candy flavour cake fondant (so excited to try this!!)
- Jenkki Spearmint - chewing gum
- Wilhelmiina - cookies
- Rainbow, Dipmix Garlic - flavour mix for garlic yogurt dip
- Vihreat Kuulat - sweeties that are a popular gift at Christmas

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Iron Cupcake - October 2013 - Death by Chocolate

This month's Iron Cupcake competition was mental. It was so so busy - there were around 60 judges! There were more bakers than the last couple of months as well, so competition was fierce.

As a vegan, I found this month's theme a little tough! I made beetroot-chocolate cupcakes with a ganache centre, which were upside down on a splat of tempered chocolate.

I was pleased with the actual cake but the ganache set way too hard (for some reason I used a different brand of chocolate to what I had tested...) and of course with the chocolate being dark due to no dairy, it was quite bitter - which isn't to everyone's taste! So I didn't win anything this time but you can't win all the time!

There were some fabulous cakes there though - take a look at the Iron Cupcake page and see for yourself. Next month's theme is about american flavours so I'll have to get my thinking cap on...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

VegFest London 2013

We spent this past weekend in London (which was great!). We planned the trip to watch "Danny Elfman's Music From the Films of Tim Burton" at the Royal Albert Hall. It was awesome. And as fortune would have it, the weekend we were going down happened to be the same weekend as VegFest! (Which we ended up winning two sets of tickets to that we had to give back as we had already bought tickets on the BOGOF offer!).

We attended the Sunday only, as we had lots of other things that we wanted to do whilst in London. If we lived a little closer I may have gone to both days (although I imagine hubby would only want to come to one), and would possibly have attended some of the talks/workshops rather than just the performances. I did want to go to a talk about marketing your vegan business but it turned out to be a workshop and I didn't feel I would have had much to contribute at the time so didn't attend - hopefully there will be another opportunity.

There was a wide range of stalls, and the layout was a lot better than the Manchester vegan fair which we attended earlier this year. In Manchester, everything was very crowded and there was not much space to move - it was also so popular that it was incredily warm! The London festival was held at Kensington Olympia, which was a lot more open and spacious. There were a lot of people but on the whole it didn't stop us from getting to anything we wanted to look at - although there were a few obnoxious people who just barged us out of the way if they wanted to get to the front of the stall. It seems you can't escape them these days! That said, they were relatively few and far between.

The Mighty Fork was the first place we visited (for breakfast), as I had heard rave reviews of their hot dogs and had heard that they sold out on the Saturday so didn't want to miss out. The sausages were good - I had the sauerkraut (topping) and hubby had the chilli dog (I forget the fancy names), although they were quite difficult to eat as they were so packed with topping - I'd probably opt for the "plain jane" next time. I liked them (although I probably wouldn't queue for longer than we did) but the other half wasn't too impressed. I guess being an omni he is harder to please in terms of meat substitutes! He very much enjoyed the sausage samples we tried at the Wheaty stand (as did I) - so much so that we are going to order some online when we get home! Win! (We did buy 6 of the little vaccuum packed sausages while we were there but sadly none have made it home with us...)

Another meat substitution we discovered (which he loved) was a new Italian brand called Muscolo di Grano, which is made from wheat and lentils. The samples we tried were just fried in a little oil and I must admit they were amazing. They had a great taste and texture, and seem like they could be very versatile. Most of the dishes that Mr Hatter cooks include some form of meat substitute, as that's what he is comfortable cooking. To add another couple of brands to the repertoire is great as it means we can try some new meals. (Meat substitutes are a good compromise for us both.)

There were stalls covering both floors, and upstairs we discovered a bakery stall selling doughnuts. Vegan doughnuts. Do you have any idea how long I've craved vegan doughnuts for?? We bought a couple of these bad boys (and yes they were huge - I should have added something for scale when I took the photo):

Unfortunately, due to icing that was about 1/4" thick, they were rather sickly. I was defeated after about 2/3 of it (even after picking off most of the sickly pinkness) - and anyone that knows me knows that I like to eat; especially cake. It is very rare that I declare something too sweet but I just couldn't manage this. At least the craving has gone (for now...) - I think I would have been much happier with a jam filled doughnut or some seaside style ones. But hey ho, it was only £2 I think so I guess I got my monies worth.

We did also have a good experience of vegan cake from Cat & The Cream. (I thought about going to Ms Cupcake but I went there at the Manchester event so thought I'd spread the love this time.) We chose the banana, cashew and peanut butter cupcake - which I forgot to take a photo of before we scoffed. It was yummy. The base was quite heavy for a cupcake (being more like a dense banana bread than a fluffy cupcake) but it tasted great and the frosting was perfect. I believe they are stocked in quite a few places so I think I would definitely try another if I got the chance.

There were a number of performers on stage throughout the day, a few of which we watched. My favourite was definitely the vegan metal comedian Andrew O'Neill. He had us both in stitches all the way though - one of the highlights was a piece about how singers get all the girls. Except metal singers. Because metal vocals aren't particularly romantic - as shown by his rendition of Hammer Smashed Face to a female audience member. (Apologies to any non-metalheads reading this as I'm sure you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

There was also a vegan escapologist / sword swallower / stunt performer called David Straitjacket, who performed things like sword swallowing, walking on broken glass and hammering a nail into his face. All rather cringeworthy but very entertaining. The most intense part of his set was where he asked two audience members to tie him up and was then tied into a large plastic bag before having to escape. I'm sure that showmanship led the build up to make it sound more dangerous than it was (due to him being a professional and all) but it was still incredibly tense as he passed the 90 second mark, then the 2 minute mark, and so on. But thankfully he escaped without injury, woop!

I would recommend going to see both of these guys if you get the chance.

And so, thoroughly entertained and full of free samples, we headed for home. I would definitely return if the opportunity presented itself and I can't wait for the vegan festival that's coming to Leeds next year.

This is the swag we took home (there would have been more if we hadn't eaten it there or if we'd had a fridge in the hotel room... The box of soy milk was free!)