“Cheesy” Meals

If you caught my Lentil and Sausage Stew recipe post last week you’ll know that during Vegan MoFo I won a bunch of Vegusto meat and cheese “alternatives”. Until recently they haven’t been too widely available in shops, and this, along with actually never being a cheese fan pre-vegan, meant that I hadn’t bothered to seek them out. I’ve kept hearing more and more about them though and they seem to be taking the European vegan market by storm, so winning the giveaway I was actually pretty excited to try their stuff out for myself.

I thought I’d share my thoughts on the products and what I made with them today.

Vegusto Meat & Cheese Alternatives

Pictured above is the selection of products I won. They’re not too attractive in their packaging, but is uncooked meat and packaged cheese really particularly nice to look at?

-Farmhouse Sausage
-Mushroom & No-Moo Burgers
-No-Moo Melty
-No-Moo, Mild-Aromatic
-No-Moo, Piquant

Vegusto Mushroom & No-Moo Burger

I was really impressed with these burgers. I haven’t had many meat alternatives before so don’t have a lot to compare them with in that regard, but they certainly have a very meaty texture and flavour, as the sausage did. There are little flecks of cheese in the patty itself which makes them extra juicy. I ate them on homemade spelt/rye buns with rocket, avocado and salsa, and a side of carrot sticks Smile

Vegusto Mushroom & No-Moo Burger

Next up was the No-Moo Melty. This is the Vegusto product I’d heard most about so had high hopes. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and it melted like a dream. Tomato soup and cheese on toast are classic comfort foods so on a dreary day here I thought I’d have them together! I whipped up a quick tomato soup, grilled some nice seedy bread in the oven, then popped it back in with the cheese on top to melt.

Tomato Soup,Vegusto No Moo Melty Cheese on Toast

After my first melting success I had to make a cheesy pizza. I haven’t had a cheese pizza in a very long time. I do occasionally add cashew cheese or tofu ricotta to my pizzas but usually go completely cheese-less and just let the vegetables shine or sometimes add a different sauce like the pesto and romesco pizzas I made this summer.

Southwestern-style BBQ Pizza (with Vegusto No-Moo Melty)

I didn’t stick to classic cheese and tomato with this one either (you’ve probably realized by now that I can’t resist trying new things!). I opted instead for a “Southwestern” style pizza with a homemade wholewheat crust, BBQ sauce (I use Isa’s recipe which isn’t too cloyingly sweet like the commercial ones typically are), No-Moo Melty, peppers, red onion and creamy avocado. I really loved this and am not sure I will be able to stop myself adding avocado to all my pizzas in the future!

I didn’t go overboard on the cheese, and honestly don’t think I would have missed it here, but maybe should have given it a whirl on a more simple pizza.

Southwestern-style BBQ Pizza (with Vegusto No-Moo Melty)

The Vegusto website described the No-Moo Mild-Aromatic as a “Cheddar alternative” so I had a think about how I remembered cheddar being used in the past. It’s a very English cheese so I decided it had to be a very English recipe! Afternoon tea is perhaps what England is know best for in food terms, so with this in mind I came up with cheesy scones, more than fit for a fancy afternoon spread!

Vegan Cheese Scones (with Vegusto No-Moo Mild-Aromatic)

Bath, the city  where I’m now living, has dozens of tearooms, and cheese scones seem to feature on most of their menus. They were very easy to veganize using oil instead of butter, flax instead of eggs and Vegusto instead of dairy-cheese. Despite the changes they turned out beautifully. Lovely and flaky with a prominent cheese flavour.

Vegan Cheese Scones (with Vegusto No-Moo Mild-Aromatic)

I like the sweet/savoury combination and served mine fresh from the oven with raspberry jam, but they’d be lovely all on their own just with a cup of tea.

I also liked them as an addition to a little brunch I put together- along with sautéed balsamic mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach.

Vegan Cheese Scones (with Vegusto No-Moo Mild-Aromatic)

I don’t really remember the taste of cheddar but the smell of this was exactly the same! Although I was never a cheese-eater, my Dad (and dog!) loved the stuff. When I opened the Vegusto packet it took me right back to childhood lunches and the moment the lid was lifted off the cheese box!

Vegan Cheese Scones (with Vegusto No-Moo Mild-Aromatic)

I’ve only tried the No-Moo Piquant on oatcakes so far but surprised myself in enjoying it just like that! The flavour has been compared to a French Gruyère so I’m thinking it would be nice in a simple tart or for a kick of flavour in a potato gratin…

Other than the products I tried there are lots more- a Blue cheese, a Herb cheese and a Walnut cheese (maybe nice for a cheeseboard?), various other sausage and burger flavours, sandwich slices, steaks, schnitzels and mince, as well as roasts, dips and sauces!

Vegusto definitely place an emphasis on quality ingredients, something which is important to me. All their cheeses are made with a base of organic nut butter and for salts and oils they only use rock salt, and cold pressed oils, including coconut, sunflower and rapeseed oil in their products, unlike most dairy cheese alternatives which rely on soya and palm oil.

I would definitely recommend these products and think they’d be especially useful for those transitioning to a vegan diet and looking for more familiar foods. I enjoyed trying them and can see myself buying them on occasion, even if they’re not going to be new staples for me.

Do you like any meat or cheese alternatives? How would you use the Vegusto products?

Disclaimer: I won these products in a giveaway but was not required to write a review. All opinions are my own.

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Z is for…


Za'atar spice blend

There are certainly some bona fide foodies amongst my readers, since many of you guessed correctly what I would choose for “Z” !

I’ve posted a recipe using Za’atar before on the blog, my Wheatberry, Chickpea & Za’atar Salad and talked a little about it then. I’m sure there are many of you who aren’t familiar with this ingredient though so here’s some info: Za’atar is a herb and spice blend widely-used in the Middle-East.  Its specifics vary according to region but it usually includes toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme and sumac, a tangy, lemony spice.

Both Sumac and Za’atar have become much more widely known in recent years, due, almost exclusively, to the world-renowned chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, as it’s an ingredient that features in many of the recipes in his popular cookbooks. It’s used as a seasoning for grilled vegetables, salads, sprinkled on top of hummus and the traditional recipe I just made, Manakish Za’atar , which are traditional Lebanese flatbreads spread with a topping made from Za’atar combined with olive oil.

Manakish Za'atar- Lebanese Flatbreads

I basically followed this recipe from The Kitchn, making only a small batch (something I definitely regretted as they were soooo delicious) and using light spelt fLour instead of all-purpose.

The flatbreads kind of reminded me of a crispy focaccia, with the olive oil in the dough and the salt in the topping, but this is even better with its bright herbs, spices and toasted sesame seeds.

Baba Ghanoush

I had planned to make my usual hummus recipe to serve with it but remembered the meal we enjoyed at Al Shami a few weeks ago and that amazing Moutabel/Baba Ghanoush. Since then, I’ve been wanting to replicate it at home and this felt like the perfect opportunity!

Like hummus, baba ghanoush is a spread which includes tahini, garlic and lemon, but instead of chickpeas, blackened aubergine is used instead.

Grilling the aubergine until nicely charred lends a deep, smoky flavour to the dip which is divine. There are a million variations on this dish but this is the ratio of ingredients I like best:

Baba Ghanoush with Lebanese Flatbreads (Manakish Za'atar)

Baba Ghanoush (Moutabel):

2 Medium aubergines, to yield 1 heaping cup cooked flesh when drained of excess liquid
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/4C Lemon juice
1/4C Tahini
3/4t Salt
Dash of smoked paprika
Fresh chopped parsley and more paprika to serve

To cook the aubergine, prick all over with a fork, place on a baking sheet and cook under the grill/broiler for 20-30 minutes until collapsed and blackened.

Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Cut aubergines lengthwise down the middle and scrape out as much of the flesh as you can, leaving behind the skin (a few little flecks of skin are ok). Squeeze the flesh to remove liquid or drain in a colander for 15 minutes.

In a food processor combine all the ingredients and process until smooth.

Garnish with more paprika and chopped parsley.

Serve with Manakish, pita and crudités or other meze.


Baba Ghanoush with Lebanese Flabreads (Manakish Za'atar)

And so we’ve reached the end! A-Z complete!

Thank you to everyone who’s stuck with me this month and especially to those who’ve commented or even made one of my recipes.  As much as I love recipe creating and blogging, you lovely readers make it all the more worthwhile!

I’ll be back tomorrow for a little Vegan MoFo round-up, featuring some of my favourites from Coconut and Berries this month, as well my top picks from elsewhere, sharing lessons learnt and what the future holds for the blog.


Book Review: Let Them Eat Vegan

I’d been doing so well on resisting buying any more cookbooks. I seem to have amassed a rather large number over the recent years since I’ve developed an interest in cooking, and as much as I love to have them, I don’t use them nearly enough, tending to get my inspiration from other blogs or restaurant menus.

All the same, I’ve been following Dreena’s blog, Plant-Powered Kitchen, where she’s been sharing recipes from her book “Let Them Eat Vegan”,  and reading write-ups elsewhere, and knew I couldn’t resist. I don’t feel one bit guilty about this purchase either, I only wish I’d got it sooner (it was published over a year ago in May 2012) as I know it’s going to be a book I come back to time and time again. There are a whopping 200 recipes to work through as well!

This is actually my first of Dreena’s books, although she has written 3 previously- The Everyday Vegan, Vive le Vegan! and Eat Drink & Be Vegan, all of which have been big hits. If you don’t know Dreena’s recipes they’re creative and satisfying, vegan of course, and based on wholefoods (no processed ingredients).

I’ve only made a few recipes so far but was keen to share my thoughts and encourage anyone who doesn’t have the book to get it! Even if you’re not vegan or even vegetarian this is a good book for you as there’s tonnes of advice and tips on how to get started on a vegan diet and a good range of easy, everyday recipes and more complicated, time-consuming ones.

Mediterranean Bean Burgers (Let Them Eat Vegan) Mediterranean Bean Burgers

These were very tasty indeed. I’ve not had much luck with veg burgers in the past. They either seem to crumble to pieces when I cook them or else they’re mushy in the middle. These have the perfect texture, based on kidney beans and oats, and are packed with Mediterranean flavour- oregano, olives and red pepper.

Oh, and I was pretty proud of myself for making my own burger buns too. It seems impossible to buy buns or wraps which aren’t full of chemical preservatives around these parts. I used this recipe from Holy Cow Vegan and they turned out really well, nice and fluffy with a good rise. Now I’ve learnt how easy it is to make my own burger buns I’m sure I’ll soon be trying all Dreena’s other burger recipes- there’s a whole chapter devoted to them!

Raw Strawberry Pie (Let Them Eat Vegan)

Raw Strawberry Pie

In the interest of a comprehensive review….I of course had to delve into the dessert chapter. These pretty little tarts are a mini version of Dreena’s Raw Strawberry Pie. I just divided the recipe to make a smaller amount and used tartlet shells.

I’m very familiar with raw desserts already and this one’s very simple. It’s also delicious and a bit lighter than most which can use a lot of nuts in the filling.

Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing (Let Them Eat Vegan)

Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing

This salad had been getting rave reviews and after trying it I could definitely see why. With kale as the base ingredient you can really add any other vegetables you like, although the apples and raisins listed really added to this I thought. The sweet curried almond dressing is what makes this really special though- I cleaned out my blender as best I could so as not to waste any of it. I did change it a little bit just because maple syrup is very expensive here so I usually save it for on pancakes/waffles! Instead I used dates which I can buy very cheaply in the international stores near me.

Here is my version if you’re interested:

Curried Almond Date Dressing:

1/4C Dates
3/4C Water
1/2C Almonds, soaked
2 1/2T Apple cider vinegar
1t Fresh grated ginger
1 Small clove of garlic
1/2 (heaping) t Salt
1/4t Curry powder
Black pepper
First blend together the dates and water in a high-power blender, until smooth and creamy. Add in all the other ingredients and blend again until very smooth. You may prefer a thinner dressing, if so, add more water.

I didn’t need all this for my salad but loved the leftovers as a dip (yes again….) for raw veggies.

Apple Hemp Pancakes (Let Them Eat Vegan)

Apple Hemp Pancakes

I adore pancakes and these are very yummy. They are made from spelt flour and are packed with nutritious hemp seeds and diced apples so you can feel good about eating them too.  With my new morning routine I can see I’ll be working my way through the “Breakfast Bites and Smoothies” chapter.

I’m particularly excited to get stuck into the “Proud to be Saucy and Dippy” chapter. You know how much I love a good dip! And the main dishes, including warming soups and stews, casseroles, tarts, one-pots and pasta are all going to make the move towards colder weather that bit more welcome.

As I mentioned, Dreena writes the blog plant-powered kitchen where she generously shares some of the recipes from her cookbooks as well as an abundance of useful information and cooking, nutrition and vegan parenting advice.

Do you have a copy of “Let Them Eat Vegan” or any of Dreena’s other books?  Which are your favourite recipes?

Lemon Coconut Milk Scones (with Blackberry Chia Jam)

Lemon Coconut Milk Scones (with Blackberry Chia Jam)

I’m on “holiday mode” at the moment, and rightly so I suppose as it is the summer and I’m in between studies. But my laid-back attitude has stretched to my sleeping routine. I’m going to bed later and later and getting up later and later…There’s nothing wrong with this of course but I just feel so much better and more productive when I’m up and moving by 7am.

I miss my leisurely starts to the day so I’m making an effort to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, easing into it with 15 minutes earlier everyday as suggested by Leo at Zen Habits. Getting up later also means breakfasts have got rather dull. When I eventually get up I feel like I should be getting on with things and so have just been grabbing a quick bowl of Nature’s Path Cereal, porridge with fruit and almond milk or an uninspired smoothie, and leaving it at that.

The lure of fun breakfasts is definitely helping my early-rising quest though! While at university I would regularly wake up early and head to the kitchen for a spot of baking in my pyjamas, enjoying the silent corridors and having the kitchen all to myself Smile before heading off to lectures or getting down to work. The only disturbance was the occasional rower returning from their (super) early-morning training sessions on the river, bursting in on my pancake-making to heat up some instant oats in the microwave.

Lemon Coconut Milk Scones (with Blackberry Chia Jam)

These scones were made before starting my new plan to get up early so they were baked later than I’d have liked, inducing a little bit of guilt about wasting my morning. But finding time to nourish the mind and the body shouldn’t be frowned upon and baked goods don’t have to be unhealthy.

These scones incorporate wholegrain flour, are ever so slightly sweetened, and have a touch of lemony flavour and a soft crumb. Served warm from the oven topped with coconut butter and my quick blackberry chia jam they made for a lovely breakfast, and a very welcome change from cereal and milk!

Lemon Coconut Milk Scones with Blackberry Chia Jam:

Raw Blackberry Chia Jam:

1C Blackberries
1T Agave nectar
1T Chia Seeds

Briefly whizz blackberries in a blender, leaving slightly chunky. Stir in agave nectar and chia seeds, pour into a jar and leave to thicken in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.

Keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Lemon Coconut Milk Scones:

The coconut milk doesn’t make these coconutty if that’s a concern, but the richness of the milk adds a buttery taste without the need for any added fat.

2C Flour (I used 1/2 white spelt and 1/2 whole spelt)
1/4C Coconut Sugar (use 1/3C if you’d like a touch more sweetness)
1T Baking powder
1/2t Salt
1 1/4C Coconut Milk, chilled (NOT light)
Zest of 1 large lemon
1-3t Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (Optional)

Preheat oven to 220C/425F, lightly grease a large baking sheet.

In a large bowl, stir together all your dry ingredients. Whisk the lemon zest into the coconut milk and pour into the dry ingredients. Gently mix until just combined. The dough should be thick.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and shape your dough into a large disc, approx 3/4” thick. Carefully transfer the disc onto the prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp knife cut into 8 triangles.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until very lightly golden.

Brush with a touch of non-dairy milk and sprinkle with Demerara sugar, if using. Leave to cool slightly and gently separate the scones. Serve warm with coconut butter and blackberry chia jam if desired. (Or how about fresh strawberries and whipped coconut cream for a healthy strawberry shortcake?)

Makes 8

Lemon Coconut Milk Scones (with Blackberry Chia Jam)

Are you an early-riser? Or a baker?

Picnic + Pimm’s

The weather was beautiful all of last week in England and I seized the opportunity for some outdoor eating. It’s not often it’s warm enough (or not raining!). I had a group of uni friends around to celebrate the summer with vegan food and Pimm’s.

I don’t know how well-known Pimm’s is outside of the UK since it really is the quintessential English summer drink. I’m not a big drinker at all but I would never turn down a glass of Pimm’s.

It’s a gin-based liqueur which is mixed with lemonade, fresh fruit and mint. You can add whatever you like but I’m partial to strawberries, oranges, apples + cucumber.

Along with several jugs of  Pimm’s throughout the afternoon there was plenty to eat. It was fun introducing my friends to the delights of animal-free food, since none of them are even vegetarians. We were having too much fun so I forgot to take pictures of the spread but did snap a couple- here’s my first plate of food Smile

First Picnic Plate

And here’s the menu:

Chickpea Flour Veggie Quiche (Soy-free)

Rosemary Focaccia (Veganomicon)

Falafel (Vegan with a Vengeance) + Mediterranean Cashew Cucumber Dip (Veganomicon)

Crudités + Homemade Hummus

Green Salad

Chickpea, Tomato + Basil Salad (See below)

New Potato Salad with Mustard Dill Dressing [unpictured]


Here’s my lovely focaccia- I was really pleased with how well it turned out- great flavour and texture.

Oh…and there was dessert of course- Strawberries, Vanilla Ice Cream + Chocolate Brownies! (I would have loved to have made raw brownies but wanted to keep everything fairly simple and familiar for the omnivores)

The Chickpea, Tomato, Basil Salad was so simple but incredibly delicious and something I’ll definitely make throughout the summer when the tomatoes and basil in the garden get going properly.

Chickpea Tomato Basil Salad:

3 C Cooked Chickpeas (or 2 cans)

4 C Cherry Tomatoes, halved

3 Cloves Garlic

2T Apple Cider Vinegar

2 T Red Wine Vinegar

1T Maple Syrup or Agave Nectar

1T Olive Oil

As much Basil as you like, julienned

Good pinch Sea salt + Plenty of Black Pepper

Have you been dining al fresco at all this year? Any good picnic recipes to share?