Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review - Considerit Chocolates

Apparently there's a Saturday market on Grassmarket!  I had no idea.  On one hand, I love that there are so many markets springing up all over Edinburgh - there also seems to be one just off Princes Street nearly every Saturday (I can't remember the name of the street, but it's next to the HSBC branch), and every once in a while one pops up at New Kirk Gate Centre (down at the bottom of Leith Walk).  On the other hand, they almost never have anything vegan, apart from things like marinated olives.

I'm in a local vegan Facebook group, and, Claire, the proprietor of Considerit Chocolates, posted that she'd be selling there this weekend, so I went along after buying nearly all of the tofu from The Engine Shed at the farmers market.  Pro tip - If you go right to the back of the farmers market, there's a stair that leads onto the bottom of the Grassmarket.

Claire had two tables loaded with a huge variety of truffles, truffle bars, and Halloween chocolates, all of which was vegan and gluten free.  I went with the deal she was doing for 5 truffles and a truffle bar for £7 - quite a bargain as it would cost about £8.50 for a similar purchase from The Chocolate Tree, and they don't have nearly the same selection of vegan options.

The truffles, from left to right, are salted caramel (x2), amaretto, cinnamon, and vanilla.  The skull is a plain chocolate truffle, and the bar is a mint truffle bar.  Plus bonus Zebby nose - he was more curious about what I had on that plate than when I brought out my lunch of VBites fish-style steaks.

The truffles were amazing - I really wish I'd bought more, because I ate them all (except the skull) in about 5 minutes.  The salted caramel was a liquid centre, but the rest were ganache.  The flavours worked really well and weren't too subtle as to be overwhelmed by the bitterness of the chocolate.  Claire does a great job of balancing the flavours (they're obvious without being a punch in the face or feeling like the flavour comes just from extracts), and she clearly knows from chocolate.  I honestly couldn't even tell you which was my favourite as they were all delicious in their own way.

I think I'm gonna have to make at least a monthly if not bi-weekly trip to the Grassmarket to get a box of truffles.  If you can't make it to the Grassmarket, or want truffles sooner than next Saturday, you can order from the website (linked above).  I'm so pleased that this wee business exists and wish Claire all the best of luck so that she keeps making these delicious chocolates.

Review - Zen Zen vanilla ice cream

Image from the Zen Zen website

I'm always willing to try new ice creams (as long as they aren't made from ingredients that will hospitalise me), so when I saw that Real Foods had Zen Zen ice cream, I grabbed a wee 125ml container of vanilla.  I never get to buy the wee containers because the only ones they usually sell are dairy ice creams or Booja Booja (made with cashews = hospitalisation).  They're so cute, with their little flat spoon/scraper things right in the lid.  Fun times.

Anyway, I love the concept of a non-dairy but also non-nut based ice cream that was slightly healthier than my beloved Swedish Glace.  I'm hard to please with vanilla because I almost never eat it straight up (without any toppings), and the only one I've ever been happy to do that with was Swedish Glace.

The Zen Zen ice cream just isn't the one for me.  The coconut flavour was really pronounced and overwhelmed the vanilla.  I think a coconut milk base is just too much for a vanilla dessert.  I'd love to try the chocolate (the only other flavour Real Foods had was the nut one) because I think chocolate is a strong enough flavour to power through the coconut.  But vanilla is just too subtle for it.  And considering that the 125ml tub was the same price as a 700ml tub of Swedish Glace - still undefeated as my favourite vanilla ice cream - I think I'll stick with the stuff I like, even if it is full of chemicals and gums and precious sugar.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Cookin' through Cookin' Crunk: sweet potato bread

I have to be honest, I was sure I wouldn't like this one.  I try so hard to like banana breads (which, despite the title, this is) but never do.  But I was determined to at least try this, with the assumption that I wouldn't like it and would take the rest of it in for my work potluck/bake sale.

The recipe calls for a ripe banana.  My banana was so ripe, it smelled like it might be about to start fermenting.  It was still good (as good as bananas can be), just really, really ripe.  So I was certain that the banana flavour would be so pronounced that I wouldn't be able to taste anything else.

Well.  I actually really like it.  I can still taste the banana, but the sweet potato and spices outshine the flavour.  I ate it with some margarine and cinnamon sugar.  Mike and I both liked it.  I don't know that I'd make it again, but we're gonna finish it ourselves!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Cookin' through Cookin' Crunk - creole steamed sausages

I spent about half of the weekend making these sausages.  Or so it seemed.

I started them Saturday evening.  I went through the tedious process of mashing beans by hand, threw everything together, mixed it up, and then realised that I didn't have any aluminum foil.  So I put the dough in the fridge.

I went out Sunday to buy foil, then came home and made the sausages.  Well, as I was trying to form the sausages, little (and not so little) bits of bean kept falling out, and they didn't really want to take shape.  I think I'm blaming the beans - I forgot that great northern beans are haricot beans here, not cannellini, so I got the wrong ones, and they were a bit tough.  But I finally got them into the foil, wrapped and steaming.

They turned out alright.  But here's the thing - they contain my herbal arch nemesis, thyme.  And because of the bean thing and the thyme, they kinda annoy me, texturally.  But they taste good!

They're seen here over rice in a sauce of garlic, shallots, red peppers, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, and paprika (I think).  This was a spur-of-the-moment, throw in what works type of sauce.  The tomato sauce was left over, the red pepper needed to be used, and I used the dregs of the frozen shallots and garlic.  And it turned out really good, so, hey.

So far, this has been probably my least favourite recipe because of the texture issues.  So I'll make these again with the right beans and maybe try to find a way around the thyme and report back, since I don't want to dismiss them because of what might have been my fault.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Cookin' through Cookin' Crunk - fried green tomatoes and cauliflower creole

Those of you who know me know that my journey to veganism was a lot faster than my journey to liking vegetables and fruit.  The potential reasons for this are plentiful - possible childhood trauma (the only veg we had at home was boiled-to-death canned or frozen stuff), being a supertaster (I'm one of those people who can taste cucumber), personal preference/texture issues, who knows.

But I've always had a problem with tomatoes.  I started out not being able to eat anything other than ketchup (catsup?), then progressed to being able to eat completely smooth tomato products.  I've now reached the point that I can have small diced tomatoes, but only cooked.  I can't eat raw tomatoes.

So, as you can imagine, the Fried Green Tomatoes recipe was kinda daunting for me.  A thick slice of tomato - brrr.  But I bought those green tomatoes at the farmers market (lookit that wee one!  it's so tiny!), put on my big girl pants, and made some fried green tomatoes.

I have to say, they were alright, but I probably wouldn't make them again unless they were for someone else who really loves them.
I made the Fried Green Tomato and Tofu Sandwich with them, and that was pretty good, but it was more the tofu than the tomatoes that I was interested in.  The coating on the tomatoes gave it a nice crunch, though.  This used the Sweet & Spicy Marinated Tofu, which was really easy to make and was very, very tasty.  I can see it going into regular rotation.

Dinner tonight was Cauliflower Creole.  I did it in stages, so it probably took longer than it would have if I'd made it as written.  This was fantastic.  I don't think it really mimicked shrimp creole all that well (at least texture-wise - I've never had shrimp creole to compare the taste), but whatever, it was tasty as hell.  I served it with the remaining tofu and some brown rice.  I would definitely make this again.

My shrooms went off, so I didn't get to make the cream of mushroom soup.  I'll buy more shrooms and make that this week since I cubed the tofu chicken to use in a recipe that also requires the cream of mushroom soup.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Cookin' through Cookin' Crunk - curried sweet tater fries

Oh man, I'm so used to only blogging during VeganMoFo that I almost went to find a MoFo banner to top my post!  Unfortunately I no longer have that to fall back on.

So, yeah, as most people who know me are aware, I usually only post during VeganMoFo.  But one of my 40 Before 40 goals is to cook through Bianca Phillips's book, Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South (to give it its full title).  One reason is because I've never cooked every recipe in a cookbook before.  Another reason, which I may have mentioned already, is that it's like it was written for me - a book full of recipes for classic Southern dishes.

Today I made the Curried Sweet Tater Fries.  I bought one giant sweet potato instead of 2 normal-sized taters.  I baked instead of frying, which took a lot longer than I expected (about 90 minutes, I think).  I think I might not have had the heat up high enough.  We ate them with some Sainsbury's LoveVeg Indian spinach and lentil burgers and the tahini sauce in the book.

They came out a bit floppy, but Mike and I really liked them.  The sauce was the perfect accompaniment.  I left out the cayenne because I've become a bit of a spice wuss, but they could've used a touch of spice.  I should've thrown in a bit of chipotle powder.  Regardless, they were super tasty, and I could definitely see myself making them again.

I went to the farmers market today and bought green tomatoes, spaghetti squash, and loads of tofu.  I've already started marinating two blocks of tofu - one for Tofu Chicken and the other for Sweet and Spicy Tofu.  I'll fry the tomatoes and use them and the S&S tofu in the Fried Green Tomato sandwiches for my lunch tomorrow.  I'll use the spaghetti squash later in the week - it's a big bastard so I can probably get two dinners out of it.