Thames River Cruise Lunch

Thames River Cruise Lunch

Recently we went on our second Thames cruise for lunch and a tour – always a bit of fun and a chance to see some of the best bits of London from the water. We opted for a full table of vegetarian meals, which was a bit of a rub from the beginning as they served us last after the entire rest of the boat had been served. read more

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Video: Lasagna Soup

This week’s video recipe is something a little bit different: lasagna soup. We love soup so much we decided to make a few recipes based on bringing our favourite dishes to soup form, so there are going to be plenty more where this came from.

This dish brings everything we enjoy about lasagna to a soup. It also brings along everything we enjoy about soup to a lasagne, which is pretty neat. We started with a tomato base and included plenty of the vegetables and herbs that you might want to use in your lasagna, which was a good start – but still just a vegetable soup. So how to make it more lasagna?

The first point was the inclusion of the mince. We love using Sainsbury’s mince for our lasagna and just about any other kind of mince-related situation. That’s not an ad, by the way – we genuinely have found it to be the best choice on the market so far. We cooked the mince separately and added it to the soup after it had been blitzed in the blender, so you still get the full texture and size of the mince pieces.

Finally, we had to deal with the fact that we needed lasagna sheets in the mix. Rather than going for the fatty, creamy white sauce, we opted for low-fat cheddar cheese as a topping, which we added directly onto the cooked lasagna sheets and then placed under the grill for a short time until it was melted. It’s important not to leave it for too long, as it won’t take kindly to the baking process.

Altogether, we think this makes a pretty good soup and a pretty good lasagna too. Depending on how al dente your lasagne sheets are, you may even be able to use them to scoop up small amounts of soup as you eat, which adds to the fun. If you’re more after function than appearance, you can cut them up after cooking into smaller pieces like croutons so that they are easier to eat along with spoonfuls of the soup.

Here’s the video of how we made them, and you’ll find the recipe right below. Let us know if you like them!

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Cafe SoVegan Mac Daddy and Fully Loaded Herby

Vegan mac no cheese

Last weekend at the Vegan Summer Fest Brighton we managed to pick up a couple of delectable vegan burgers from Cafe SoVegan. Out of all of the burger stalls on offer they looked the most appealing, so we dove right in!

I couldn’t choose between the Mac Daddy and the Fully Loaded Herby, but helpfully they had a few samples on hand for us to try. Unhelpfully, they were both absolutely delicious, which did not help my dilemma. In the end, J went for the Mac Daddy and I had the Fully Loaded Herby, with a side of Mac No Cheese to make up for it. Here’s a few descriptions from the stand:

Mac Daddy: Southern style chick’n burger, topped with salad, mac no cheese + crispy onions. £7

Fully Loaded Herby: Basil, oregano + thyme patty with cheese, bacon, salad and SoVegan sauce. £6

Mac No Cheese: Jumbo macaroni in creamy ‘cheese’ sauce topped w/ crispy onions. £4 read more

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Vine Recipe: Veggie Bacon Gnocchi

Gnocchi is back! We actually love making our own gnocchi and find it a really simple but delicious meal to make. This recipe is adapted from our simple gnocchi recipe to give it that little something extra special: bacon! Obviously, we aren’t including real bacon, but we’ve discovered the Quorn bacon lardons which are really delicious when cooked up properly.

It’s a simple change to the recipe, so follow the instructions in the link above with one little addition. Firstly, while you are making the gnocchi, you want to start by putting some of the lardons in a frying pan with some oil. Cook them until they are nicely browned, then set them aside and let them cool while you do the rest of the preparations.

Next, when you come to time to roll your gnocchi, take one or two pieces of veggie bacon per gnocchi. The square shape of this product is perfectly suited because it will fit inside the gnocchi so easily without poking out or affecting the final look. Fold your piece of dough to enclose the gnocchi and pinch the sides a little to quickly seal it in. Next you roll between your hands or fingers to get that rounder shape. Don’t be afraid to reshape it and roll it more if you feel it doesn’t look right – it’s very pliable and won’t suffer from being handled more.

That’s all you need to do – the gnocchi will cook just as normal with the bacon inside! It gives it a bit more of an interesting texture, as each piece has that little smokey surprise inside. You can also scatter leftover pieces over the top to finish the dish – our serving method of choice is to layer rocket and tomato sauce over the gnocchi as you fish them out of the pan. This really finishes it off nicely!

Here’s the Vine so you can see how that extra step works:

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Vine Post: Super Simple Gnocchi

This is possibly the simplest recipe in the world, and I have no idea why it took me this long to try it. I always thought that it must be really difficult to make gnocchi – surely? But as it turns out, it’s so simple you can make it a regular meal staple. It’s delicious to do and you can cut down a lot of time with one simple cheat: buying frozen mash instead of mashing the potatoes yourself.

Sure, it sounds lazy, but it turns a long recipe into something you can do after a day at work with no problem. And that’s definitely a good thing. We have some plans to bring you some new gnocchi variations in future recipes, so definitely give this one a try – you will be amazed at how easy it is. With the extra time that you save from the mashed potato, you can make up a batch of simple green pesto to go with it, too.

Here’s the vine:

And the recipe:

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Vine Recipe: Sweet Potato Macaroni Cheese Bake

One of the latest additions to our cookbook shelf is Simply Nigella, which J received for Christmas, so we’ve been trying out a few of the recipes from it and playing around with them. As soon as I read about this sweet potato version of macaroni cheese, I knew I had to give it a try. As you’ll see below (especially if you have the book to compare to), we did change a few things around and put our own spin on it. Here’s what we came up with!

This was so delicious that we served out half the dish, then came back for seconds. There’s just something magical about sweet potato, cheese, and pasta that I never would have thought of before. I did cheat a little bit: I had some cheese sauce left over from making a lasagne in the week, and since the recipe calls for lots of butter, I decided to skip that part and use my sauce as a base. You can find your own healthy cheese sauce recipe if you wish! Vegan cheese in particular has come on leaps and bounds, so be sure to give it a try if you want a version that is lower calorie and doesn’t require butter or milk.

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Vine Post: Hello Fresh Vegetable Mac ‘n Cheese

Hello Fresh Mac n Cheese

First things first, a lesson. If you try out a subscription service one time and put it on hold so you can see whether you liked it or not before you carry on, remember to cancel it before it comes off hold. Otherwise you end up paying for the next box by accident and getting a load of stuff you didn’t really want.

That said, we’ve recently had our second Hello Fresh box and of course decided to share the Vine posts with you once more. This week it’s the “No Fuss Vegetable Mac ‘n Cheese” recipe, which did not sit well with me at all. First off, who puts vegetables in mac and cheese? Secondly, we’re in the UK, which means it’s actually called macaroni cheese, thanks. And thirdly, the blurb that came with the recipe describes this as a healthy version of macaroni cheese – which is kind of crazy considering the 551 calories per portion.

Well, anyway, we gave it a try. You can see the Vine at the end of the post, but first, let me tell you what we thought. The sauce was watery and definitely needed a lot more cheese in it, or at least cheese flavour. One tiny block of cheddar and a sachet of parmesan was not enough to make this taste like mac ‘n cheese. The green beans could also have been left out, or cooked for longer, as they were just too outlandish compared to the rest of the flavours and textures. I used less than half the butter recommended by the recipe because I just refuse to use that much, and it turned out fine at that stage of the cooking, so it certainly was not necessary to put so much in. The breadcrumbs turned out quite well, making a nice layer on the top.

One thing that consistently annoys me about Hello Fresh is that, while they claim to allow people with no experience to cook because everything is provided, they also assume that you have all of the equipment under the sun. Here you needed a frying pan which was sturdy enough to hold the entire mixture and go under the grill (a grill which we don’t have – leaving us to make do with the oven, of course). The other two recipes for this week, as you will see, required a variety of large pans – where most people with starter sets may only have one pan, or several of diminishing sizes. When cooking is simple, it should be just that – simple. This mac ‘n cheese doesn’t fit the bill in my opinion.

Anyway, here’s the Vine:

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Vine Post: Hello Fresh Strolling Rigatoni

Hello Fresh Strolling Rigatoni

Our second Hello Fresh meal was rigatoni with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, which was surely going to be an interesting one. For starters, we never eat pasta unless it’s in a sauce, and we also usually go for a healthy version rather than just the normal “white” pasta. Secondly, we never eat white onions, always red. And thirdly, I don’t like olives. Basically, this recipe had a lot of work to do to win us over!

The rigatoni is cooked separately to the rest of the meal, which is a mixture of cherry tomatoes, onion, yellow pepper, basil, olives, and mozzarella. It is then combined at the end and tossed together for an even spread. There were some things that I definitely liked about this recipe – the mozzarella and cherry tomatoes go nicely together, and for once the olives weren’t utterly horrible. Perhaps simply because there were so few of them that I was able to disguise them with tomatoes and pretend they weren’t there!

However, there are a few changes I would have made. It was just far too dry, and could have done with more of a sauce element. Perhaps a larger quantity of tomatoes would have helped to create the right kind of sauce, especially if they were blended together rather than just being cooked in the pan. I also would have seriously preferred either having red onion, or just doing without. There’s just something so bland about “white” onion when it has been cooked in this way that I hugely dislike. A better blending of the basil throughout the dish would also have improved it.

So that’s what we thought of meal number two – and with the leftovers from this added to the leftovers from last week’s post, we ended up making some Italian and Mexican themed wraps on the third day! Here’s the Vine of this meal being made so you can see it in action.

 

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Mildred’s Burger of the Day

Mildred's Burger of the Day

This was something really exciting for me, because I’ve never been to a full vegetarian restaurant before. Mildred‘s serves vegetarian and vegan choices, and is quite busy normally as you can’t book a table in advance. It’s a little cramped inside, but we managed to get a table to ourselves, and the food was absolutely worth it. We were told to try turning up a little later as that would reduce the wait, and we did not queue for long. Looking at the menu was ridiculous. This is the first time I’ve been able to choose anything I want from a whole menu! I could barely decide. But, since I knew it would be something I could talk about here, I eventually went for the burger of the day. As it was a special occasion, I also started out with tortelloni as an appetiser.

This was described on the menu as, “fresh tortelloni filled with pumpkin and ricotta, with chestnut mushroom, white wine cream sauce, drizzled with truffle oil”. It was irresistible, and in fact I was quite tempted to get it as a main. There was altogether too much sauce to be satisfying, as I ended up with half of it left behind on the plate. However, the pasta itself was delicious. The filling was soft and tasty, and melted in the mouth. The mushrooms were prepared perfectly. I definitely would recommend this one, although it is very filling for an appetiser.

As for the burger, this was selected from the daily specials. There is a different burger available each day, though I would assume that they do rotate some of the same recipes around a bit. This one was described as, “puy lentil, black olive, roast pepper, smoked tofu”. It’s served “in sour dough bun with relish, red onion, rocket and tomato with fries and basil mayo”. This came in at £9.35, with an extra £1.50 charge for sweet potato fries to be swapped for the normal fries.

I don’t really like olives, so I was a tiny bit worried about that part. However, even though the olive taste was strong, it was also really good. It took away the texture which I hate and just retained a salty, smoky flavour. The burger itself was actually really tasty. It also came with the sweet, smoky, and spicy relish, which I could eat on its own from a jar. Seriously, that is good relish. Not only that, but the other dip – the delicious basil mayo – was also just sublime. I was pretty happy with those, enough that I could have forgiven faults with the burger itself. The fact that there were none just improved the experience all the more! The sweet potato fries were all crispy but soft and juicy in the middle, to the point where I didn’t even want to put them in the mayo because I wanted to taste that full flavour on its own. The burger was filled with a good amount of rocket and red onion,  but not too much that it would overpower the rest of the flavours.
 
 
One criticism was that the tomato was far too big for the bun, but of course you know by now that I just have a thing about raw tomato. I don’t understand why it still has a place in burgers of any kind, particularly so when you are at a more progressive restaurant such as this one. The sourdough bun was a little too tough for chewing or cutting, which did cause me a few problems. The burger was very large but hard to cut also, so it was tough to eat at times. I managed to do it without a knife and fork, but I think this is one area that they could improve.
 
 
Overall, I loved the experience. It was so amazing to be able to choose anything that I was almost overwhelmed. The service was friendly and there was a good atmosphere too. This is one place I’ll be visiting again for certain.

On the VegBurge scale, I give this…
 
Taste – 8/10
Price – 6/10
Rest of experience – 9/10

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