My favourite cookbooks: Deliciously Ella

Deliciously Ella cookbook

Here’s the first post of a new series – looking at my favourite cookbooks! I love getting inspired by veggie recipes and even converting meat-based recipes for my use, and the Deliciously Ella book is one of those which really inspires my cooking every day. It just had to be my first choice for a feature!

Deliciously Ella cookbook
Deliciously Ella cookbook

My copy of the book is now very well-thumbed and more than a few of the pages have crumbs inside them or dodgy-looking stains from some unidentifiable ingredient that spilt. You will have noticed some of my own recipes with adaptation credits from the book as well! 

My favourite thing about this cookbook is that everything is fine for me to eat, so I don’t even have to think about substitutes or thumb past irrelevant entries. We’ve tried probably half of the recipes now and definitely enjoyed almost all of them, and there are still plenty more to go next time we get bored.

My favourite recipes taken from the book would make a great dinner party plan. Here are my top picks!

Starter: Stuffed chestnut mushrooms 

Main course: Mexican quinoa bowl

Dessert: Banoffee pie

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as anyone who is interested in the magic of healthy food. How do you make cheese from brazil nuts? How can you make a cheesecake base from nuts? It’s all in there, and the experimentation of it is probably 90% of the fun! 

What’s your favourite cookbook? Comment below and I might just give it a try!

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Vine Recipe: Chicken and Mushroom Skillet

Chicken and mushroom skillet

This recipe is so rich, you won’t want to stop eating it. We decided to try out a chicken and mushroom skillet because it’s the kind of recipe that normally you can really only do with real meat. How would it work with a meat substitute? We decided to give it a try, treating the Quorn chicken as if it was real chicken.

Chicken and mushroom skillet
Chicken and mushroom skillet

Actually, the answer is that it’s pretty delicious. These fillets end up getting really juicy and taking in a lot of the flavour from the mushroom sauce. One of the best things about this recipe is that it’s also pretty low calorie – mostly because of a few little substitutions from what you would normally put in a sauce like this.

We do tend to disagree on the amount of mustard this recipe requires – J always wants more and I could do with a lot less – but it’s tasty either way. Here’s the recipe as we make it, and you can scroll down to view the Vine!

Chicken and Mushroom Skillet
Serves 2
A vegetarian take on the chicken and mushroom skillet
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pack Quorn chicken fillets*
  2. 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  3. 1 red onion, chopped
  4. 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  5. 1 teaspoon dry thyme
  6. 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  7. 1/2 cup vegetable stock (second use)
  8. 1/2 cup plain zero fat Greek yoghurt
  9. 2 tablespoons mustard
  10. 1/2 cup vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat
  2. Add the chicken fillets and cook according to packet directions
  3. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside
  4. Add mushrooms and onion to pan and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and then it has evaporated
  5. Mix in the garlic and thyme and cook for about 30 seconds
  6. Add the first serving of stock and deglaze the pan if necessary
  7. Add the rest of the stock, Greek yoghurt and mustards, and add the chicken back to the pan.
  8. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Note: the yoghurt may separate slightly, in which case just cook until it is a little less watery.
  9. Mix in the cheese and let it melt.
  10. Serve immediately!
Notes
  1. *The chicken fillets used to come in packs of 6 but since trying this recipe now seem to come in packs of 4 only. I recommend 6 fillets, or you can use the 4 plus some Quorn sliced chicken pieces.
Adapted from VegBurge
Adapted from VegBurge
VegBurge http://vegburge.com/
It’s Vine time: 

Let us know if you give this recipe a try – and how much mustard you put in!

The Hop Pickers Mushroom Burger

Mushroom burger with chips and salad

We don’t usually head out to Ashford, but recently managed to meet my parents there while they were on the way to France. Next to the  hotel where they were staying is a conveniently located pub with a rustic atmosphere, The Hop Pickers. The menu is fairly limited, so it’s a good job they had one thing that appealed instantly: a mushroom burger.

The Hop Pickers
The Hop Pickers

It’s listed as a portobello mushroom burger, but that is in no way the case – yes, there are large mushrooms, but they are far too small to be portobellos. It is normally served with stilton, which J ordered, but I’m not a fan and so decided to go for the option of swapping it for mozzarella. It’s a decision I was very happy with, but he maintains his choice was the right one.

Mushroom burger with chips and salad
Mushroom burger with chips and salad

It was served with your average pub chips as well as a half-hearted salad drizzled with that awful dressing you always seem to get in less upmarket pubs. In short, nothing special. The chips were pretty good though, because, come on, chips.

Mozzarella and mushrooms
Mozzarella and mushrooms

The mushrooms were very juicy and that for me was what matched them up very well with the mozzarella. The juices soaked into the bread, which was very soft, and I definitely enjoyed that combination. The bun was floury white bread, with just the right kind of texture for this burger. It was a good match, although I did notice that half the bun ended up sticking to my fingers – it was literally that soft (and probably defrosted, to be fair).

Mushroom burger with stilton
Mushroom burger with stilton

Under the burger was a total excess of tomato, I mean really far too much. There were several slices all layered up under there. I mean, one slice would have been too much for me, but this was an over-tomato by anyone’s standards. There was also a very small and unimpressive amount of salad in the bun, almost so little as to be totally incidental. Still, it was a fair enough burger. One thing I did notice is that it was a very quiet pub for most of the night, and that the furniture was not the cleanest or most comfortable (everything was sticky to the point that I actually thought I couldn’t move at one point). The burger was good, but the rest left a lot to be desired.

Hop Pickers burger
Hop Pickers burger

ON THE VEGBURGE SCALE, I GIVE THIS…

TASTE – 8/10

PRICE – 6/10

REST OF EXPERIENCE – 5/10

Vine Recipe: Sweetcorn Loaded Nachos with Cheese Sauce

Nachos with sweetcorn

As you know by now, we love Mexican food here at VegBurge! That’s why we just had to try making this dish, which contains fantastic flavours with home cooking to create a much healthier version of a traditional recipe.

Nachos with sweetcorn
Nachos with sweetcorn

You start off by making your own nachos, which is one of our favourite things to do anyway – it’s so much healthier than the real thing and takes very little time to do. You can add your own seasoning, whatever you like, though this time we chose to use corn tortillas and leave them plain. They are tasty enough as they are!

Cheesey sauce goodness
Cheesey sauce goodness

If you don’t want to use mayonnaise for this, try a low-fat sour cream or even a greek yoghurt. You can also use guacamole instead of just avocado, but for us this recipe was about taking down the calorie count as much as possible. Everything we used was low or no fat, and we avoided normal options like cream in favour of healthier alternatives.

Mexican nacho love!
Mexican nacho love!

Here’s the Vine so you can see how it was made – scroll down further to see the recipe!

Sweetcorn Loaded Nachos with Cheese Sauce
Serves 2
Homemade nachos topped with sweetcorn, guacamole, and cheese sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups sweetcorn, fresh or frozen
  2. 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  3. 1.5 tablespoons plain flour
  4. 1/2 cup oat milk
  5. 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  6. 3 small corn tortillas, made into nachos (https://vine.co/v/eu0uwVxdUEe)
  7. 1/4 feta, crumbled
  8. Sprinkle of cayenne to taste
  9. 1 guacamole, cubed
Instructions
  1. Put a small amount of oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat and add the sweetcorn
  2. When the sweetcorn starts to char or brown, let it sit a little longer and remove from the heat
  3. Mix the sweetcorn into the mayonnaise
  4. Mix the flour into the milk stirring constantly, bring just to a simmer, and reduce the heat
  5. Mix in the cheddar cheese until it melts.
  6. Place the nachos on a serving dish
  7. Pour on the cheese sauce and top with the corn, feta, guacamole, and cayenne
Notes
  1. How to make the nachos - https://vine.co/v/eu0uwVxdUEe
Adapted from Closet Cooking
Adapted from Closet Cooking
VegBurge http://vegburge.com/

Supermarket Siesta Event

Beautiful Biscuiteers biscuits

If you have been paying any attention to our Instagram stories lately, you might have seen my visit to the Supermarket Siesta event! I was invited along by Pet Shop UK to enjoy an afternoon of seeing all the things you can order direct from the companies involved, rather than going to the supermarket.

I posted a Vine on Monday about the event, which you will see at the bottom of this post, but for now here’s a few photos and what it was like to attend!

Farm Drop samples
Farm Drop samples

The first goodies I saw as I came through the door were these samples from farmdrop, which aims to bring produce fresh from the farm to your door in less than 24 hours. The bread, the oil, and the strawberries were fabulous!

Market Porter cheese
Market Porter cheese

Next up I tried some delicious goats’ cheese and cheddar from Market Porter, the best of which was undoubtedly the Westcombe cheddar shown above! The chaps at this stand were happy to give a thorough explanation of what makes each cheese special and how it is prepared, which made this mouse pretty happy.

Whittard teas
Whittard teas

I tried a sample of Whittard tea and actually it was alright – for a big non-tea drinker, that was a big thing! I wasn’t able to say the same at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, as unfortunately I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the coffee they were serving. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a coffee fan, perhaps it’s because their representative served it to me boiling hot and then expectantly watched while I took a drink, thus singing my tongue. We’ll never know.

Biscuiteers workshop
Biscuiteers workshop

What next? Over to the Biscuiteers workshop, where I had a go at creating a gingerbread person in my own image. I say had a go because you can see I really didn’t succeed. I also had to pick her up and run before she dried properly, so all the icing got smashed up, which was a shame! (spoiler alert: it tasted just as good anyway)

Huge salad bowl
Huge salad bowl
Potato salad and quiches
Potato salad and quiches

Next up was the feast! This was a huge amount of food laid on for us. The veggie selection include big bowls of salad as well as potato salad, some quiches, and beautiful seeded or white baguette slices. The potato salad was the biggest hit for me!

Fruit bowl
Fruit bowl
Beautiful Biscuiteers biscuits
Beautiful Biscuiteers biscuits
Biscuiteers cake
Biscuiteers cake

The last part of the feast was dessert, served in amazing style with Biscuiteers biscuits and cake. I can very first-hand that all of the above were absolutely delicious. I had such a sugar rush from the cake that I think I might have flown back to the tube!

It was a fantastic event and definitely a lot of fun to attend. All of the brands showed their offerings in such a great way, and the setting – at Hello Fresh HQ – was marvellous as well. 

Finally, here’s the Vine of how it all unfolded.

Veggie Living: Veggie FAQs

Veggie FAQ

Having been vegetarian for my whole life, I get asked a lot of questions. Often the same ones over and over again, and sometimes even by the same people. This is my (slightly tongue-in-cheek) response to those FAQs. Believe me, I’ve had enough practice. 

 

Why are you a vegetarian?

Short answer: Because my parents raised me that way. Long answer because I know there will be follow-up questions: Because my parents raised me that way and I love animals. I don’t want to eat them. I don’t see them as food. Actual answer: It’s a personal choice which does not require justification to you or anyone else.

Don’t you get tempted to eat meat?

No.

Yeah, you must get tempted.

Still no.

What you need is a good bacon butty, that’ll sort you out.

No thank you. I’m perfectly fine as I am.

How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it?

First off, I can smell it, and 90% of meat smells so awful it makes me feel ill. Secondly, I wouldn’t eat it even if I did like it.

You’re missing out. You should try it to see if you like it.

Again, no thanks. I don’t mind missing out if it means animals don’t have to die for me. (Also, I used to eat sweets that contained gelatine and I really like them. Then I found out what gelatine was and I stopped. I’m not tempted to go back even though I know they’re tasty).

Wait, there’s meat in sweets?

Yup. And in some yoghurts, too. And marshmallows. And sometimes crazy things like frosting or coffee. Who knows why.

So you can’t eat any of those things?

I can, but only when the manufacturers are sensible enough to replace it with pectin.

Cavemen weren’t vegetarians, you shouldn’t be either.

Cavemen didn’t have iPhones or skateboards or DSLRs or television shows. I like to believe in this thing called evolution. Besides, there were actually veggie cavemen, according to scientific evidence, they just happened to be in the minority.

Why do you eat meat substitutes if you don’t like meat?

1: Protein. 2: My partner likes it because he still eats meat outside of the house. 3: Why do you eat sweeteners if you don’t want sugar? 4: Some of the newer products are secretly quite tasty, and y’know, burgers are burger-shaped because that’s a sensible shape to fit in the bread. Not because they’re normally made of meat. So really, a veggie burger isn’t a meat substitute, it’s just a different filling, like the difference between a ham sandwich and a cheese one.

Vegetarianism stunts growth/intelligence/isn’t healthy/isn’t good for kids.

Yes, as evidenced by the fact that I died of rickets at age 8. Obviously. Just to state facts, I’ve made it long enough to get a university degree and a mortgage (and no, I’ve never been anemic either).

Do you eat fish?

No, you blithering idiot. Vegetarians don’t eat the flesh of any animal. A person who eats fish but no other meat is a pescetarian. A person who eats fish and calls themselves vegetarian is a liar.

What do you eat then?

Imagine what you eat, then take meat off it. Pizza without the pepperoni. Pasta without the meatballs. Burgers made from vegetables. I actually eat exactly what you eat most of the time. Vegetarian food doesn’t have to be “weird”, it’s just that you aren’t thinking of it as vegetarian when it’s “normal”. 

Aren’t all vegetarians super skinny?

Er, no, and it’s kind of rude for you to ask that whilst looking pointedly at my stomach. Anyway, as I said, I eat the same as you. Pizza, burger and chips, ice cream, and cheesecake are some of my top weaknesses.

You’re killing plants!!!

I’m killing the minimum of organisms that I need to stay alive. Not to mention that most plants can regrow fruits or leaves, while most sheep are incapable of growing back legs. Thank you for reminding me of the fact that I can’t save all living things, it does bother me, but there you have it. I’m doing what I can.

Why don’t you eat meat but yet you wear leather?

Firstly, since I’m not telling you to be vegetarian, I’m not being hypocritical if I choose to wear leather. Wearing leather and eating meat are different activities done for different reasons. Secondly, this is actually pleather. Thanks for checking first.

Why don’t you go vegan?

I’m constantly disappointed in myself that I haven’t gone full vegan. I do try to eat vegan where possible and share vegan recipes too. Right now I struggle with my calcium intake when I go off dairy, so that’s my main area to work on. I console myself with the knowledge that I am at least saving the meat stock that would be slaughtered for my consumption if I wasn’t already vegetarian. Plus, I like cheese and eggs. Sorry, chickens and cows/sheep/goats. (Seriously, I am sorry)

Is there anything you dislike about being vegetarian?

Honestly? Yes. Knowing that many restaurants and pubs don’t serve vegetarian food, even in this day and age. Not being able to take some medicines because they are made from animals (or even stupider, because the manufacturers use gelatine to make the pills easier to swallow). Being asked constant questions and having to stand up for my dietary choices, even though it’s my right to eat whatever I like, and even though I consciously don’t preach to others. The fact that other people seem to have a serious problem with it to the point of being aggressive. Oh, and childish anti-veggie jokes, which are on about the equivalent un-PC and old-fashioned level as sexist or racist jokes to me.

What do you like about being vegetarian?

Literally everything else. Although it’s sort of a weird question, because I’ve never been anything else to compare it to.

Is it okay to eat this meat in front of you?

Since you asked me nicely, I’m going to say yes. Go ahead. But honestly? No, it’s gross. It’s like when a smoker stands next to a non-smoker and blows smoke in their face. I don’t want to smell that. But I’m not a giant douchebag, so I won’t dictate your diet if you’re respectful of mine, and yes, you can eat that meat in front of me.

Vine post: Loaded Mexican Muffins

This little recipe is so amazing, and I can’t tell you how much we loved eating it. We LOVE Mexican food anyway, so these Mexican muffins were definitely an idea we wanted to pursue. We had them for lunch, but you could easily make this a breakfast item or even serve it as part of a bigger meal at dinner.

It’s very simple to make them. You start with an English muffin, cut in half and toasted. Then you spread mole on both sides (we bought a tin of mole, but you could also make your own). You top this with hot refried beans, and then add guacamole and sour cream. You could also just smash up an avocado with lemon juice if you don’t have any guacamole on hand!

Finally, you fry an egg and put it on top of one half. Put the other half on top to make a huge stack which is as satisfying as it is crazy. When you bite in, the yolk runs down and combines with all of the different flavours. They’re very rich and filling, and just totally packed with flavour.

If you’re worried about calories, you can ditch the muffins in favour of a flatbread, or serve the whole mix up as a cold hash. It’s a pretty versatile combo, but the Mexican muffins have to be the winner for me. I can see these featuring on a whole lot of relaxed Sundays to come!

Granose Falafel Mix

Houmous bowl with falafels

Recently we found some falafel mix that looked fairly easy to make, and decided to give it a try. After all, what could be better than almost-instant falafels? The chance to quickly create a delicious veggie burger alternative seems like a dream, and it could be used over and over again for different meals. In fact, you could even use the mix to make a bigger falafel burger rather than separating it into the balls.

Granose Falafel mix packaging
Granose Falafel mix packaging

Such was our thought process, at least, when we picked up this packet. So we followed the instructions and created it as directed… and, well. Tried to eat it. 

I can’t really mince my words here – this mix was disgusting. It tasted absolutely foul. It reminded me of the time when my mother accidentally used sour milk to make the bread sauce for Sunday lunch. There was a horrible tang to it that just wouldn’t go away, and I barely managed to eat my portion without spitting it all back out. Which is a shame, because we crafted some beautiful little houmous bowls inspired by our trip to the Houmous Bar in Budapest.

Houmous bowl with falafels
Houmous bowl with falafels

In short: avoid, avoid, avoid. If you value your own tastebuds and don’t want to feel the urge to scrape off your own tongue, don’t bother buying this mix. Or if you do buy it, only serve it to people you actually secretly hate. I think it may be one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. Utterly unpalatable. Even the memory is making me shudder. Ugh.

Quorn Pulled Pork Burgers

Cooked pulled pork

I don’t even know where to begin with these new pulled pork burgers from Quorn. I honestly don’t.

Quorn pulled pork
Quorn pulled pork

So we picked these up in the supermarket, innocently enough. I’m always game to try a new product, especially if it’s in burger form. These looked pretty interesting, too, because I’ve obviously never eaten pulled pork. J has, and that’s an important thing to remember in a minute. So we grabbed them, put them in the oven, and waited to see how they would come out.

The answer to that is amazingly. First off, they were very juicy, leaving juice behind on the paper after cooking them. They also ooze a little when you cut into them, but not so much that it gets too messy. This makes them really super-succulent, much better than the dry, dusty Quorn of old.

Cooked pulled pork
Cooked pulled pork

The texture is also pretty amazing. They’ve been gradually developing some really interesting textures with products like the beef strips, and these are magical. They really do feel like strips of chewy meat all compressed together for that burger shape, and it’s pretty convincing. 

As for the taste, I don’t even know how to describe it. I literally have no reference point for this. J tells me that they taste almost exactly like pulled pork, which is really impressive. Since he should know. 

Pulled pork frozen burgers
Pulled pork frozen burgers

I’m trying to decide how I feel about that. On one hand, it’s pretty exciting for me to find out what pulled pork tastes like. That’s something I never would have known by myself, and it’s great to have a reference point when people describe a meal now. On the other hand, I’m a little bit disappointed. Yes, they are delicious and I will definitely have them again. But when people say they can’t give up meat because it tastes so good, it makes you think the flavour must be something spectacular. I probably wouldn’t be too upset if I never ate these again. I definitely wouldn’t kill an animal just to be able to taste them. If this is what all the fuss has been about, then colour me unimpressed. 

Pulled pork with rice and beans
Pulled pork with rice and beans

Also, if we’re getting that good at replicating flavours, it seems like carnivores aren’t going to have that excuse for much longer. Which is most definitely a good thing.

ON THE VEGBURGE SCALE, I GIVE THIS…

TASTE – 10/10

PRICE – 7/10

REST OF EXPERIENCE – 8/10

Vine Post: Banoffee Pie Jars

Beautiful banoffee pie

This week we have a sinfully good Vine to share with you. These banoffee pie jars were based on a Deliciously Ella recipe (that I won’t be reposting here), and they are SO GOOD. It’s hard to believe that such a small handful of ingredients can create this amazing taste, with a structure more akin to a cheesecake than a pie, all presented beautifully in a jar for good measure.

I couldn’t get enough of this recipe, although the quantity we made here was far too much to eat in one sitting. The flavours are so rich that by about halfway through the pot we both started to feel a bit sick – and that’s with some leftovers that didn’t fit in the jars too.

Beautiful banoffee pie
Beautiful banoffee pie

If I make this again, which I probably will, I’m going to make one key adjustment. I’m going to skip the base. I could hardly believe my eyes when I worked out how many calories were in each jar as a whole, and the base is the main culprit. Honestly, you could probably crumble up shortbread and still have a lower calorie option. It was ridiculous. Just be very cautious of that if you are trying to eat healthy.

Here’s our Vine so you can see these delicious banoffee pie jars in action!