A vegan journey to Grantham: review of The Recruiting Sergeant

I recently found myself with the OH and in-laws down south on a road trip. We were visiting a garage in Derbyshire and we stayed the night in nearby Grantham. The in-laws had travelled down this way before and had eaten at The Recruiting Sergeant and mentioned that the staff were very nice and when they phoned ahead to enquire, were very happy to accommodate a vegan. Continue reading “A vegan journey to Grantham: review of The Recruiting Sergeant”

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Homemade three-layer vegan berry cheesecake: the recipe

A lot of non-vegans are usually worried about missing out on foods they enjoy, “but what do you do about protein?”, “how do you eat enough to feel full?” and “I’ll miss the taste of (insert dish here)”. What non-vegans don’t realise is that not everyone was born vegan and there are a lot of dishes that we missed as well when we decided to make the switch.

This is something I can confidently say whenever I’m told non-vegans will miss out on this dish or that: being vegan and missing a non-vegan dish means that whatever you think you’ll be missing out on, another vegan will have also missed it and come up with a vegan version that tastes just the same, if not better.

So you think you’ll be missing out on cheesecake? There are plenty of great recipes out there that have long employed the use of our trusty friend to get you the right texture and flavour. I present to you, the cashew nut.

Soaked and blended, this nut is perfect to achieve that texture and flavour you miss from non-vegan cheeses. I’ve also previously shared another recipe that uses cashews to make a lovely herb and garlic vegan cheese (see here).

One of my favourite vegan chefs is The Buddhist Chef because he uses such simple methods to make the most amazing dishes. Maybe it’s also because fo the ‘Buddhist’ in the name of his blog that appeals to my inner self, but whatever the reason (whether it’s the Buddhist element or the veganism), it works for me. I’ve tried a few of Jean Phillipe’s recipes over time, but the recipe for his vegan cheesecake bites (see here) is a firm favourite.

Not only do I love cheesecake, it’s also so simple to make, but results in a beautiful presentation that is bound to impress vegans and non-vegans alike. Who doesn’t love cheesecake?

The recipe calls for graham crackers, but if you’re in the UK, you can get vegan digestive biscuits (I bought Tesco own brand Free From digestive biscuits that are suitable for vegans at the time of writing this). If you prefer to use vegan margarine, you can use this instead of the coconut oil needed in the base. The recipe also calls for strawberries, but I knew the guests I was making the cheesecake for would have preferred a mix of flavours, so I went with frozen mixed berries I already had in the freezer. For a professional touch, strain the berries so the top jelly layer is clear for the coulis. I’m not a big fan of creating too much food waste though and felt it gave it a more realistic touch. I was making two cheesecakes at the same time (multi-tasking at its finest! I just doubled the recipe and split the quantities between two tins), so I made one of them with the coulis strained and left the berries unstrained for the second cake.

Another tip I feel I should mention is that the cheesecake should remain in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. The reason I had to make 2 cheesecakes is because we had guests over for one and we were travelling with the other to visit family friends. Although we make sure to pack the chill bag with plenty of ice packs and chilled gel packs, it didn’t seem like it was enough and the coulis layer didn’t stay in jelly-form when we arrived at our destination. To make the coulis layer firm, add more agar agar powder to your jelly mix. The jar of agar agar I bought from Lakeland recommends 1g of agar agar powder to 100ml of liquid, so measure how much liquid you end up with once your coulis is cooked and add the correct amount of agar agar accordingly.

Now here’s the recipe for creating your own.

Vegan berry cheesecake

Ingredients
Serves 24 mini cheesecakes or one large cheesecake to serve 12

Biscuit base
150g Free From or vegan digestive biscuits
4 tbsp (60ml) coconut oil

Cheesecake layer
1 1/2 cup (375ml) cashews (soaked in 1L of hot water for an hour then drained)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
2 tsp corn flour
1 1/2 tsp agar agar powder
1 can (398ml) coconut milk
Lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)

Berry coulis
4 cups (600g) frozen berries
3 tbsp (45ml) water
3 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp agar agar powder

For the biscuit base:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (176˚C).

2. Lightly grease a 24 slot muffin tin, a non-stick muffin pan or grease and line a cake tin.

3. In a food processor or blender, pulse graham crackers until mixture has a fine texture. You can also crush graham crackers in a sealed plastic bag using a rolling pin. If you prefer a rougher texture (or want to have some fun with the manual effort of crushing it yourself with your hands), break up pieces of digestive biscuits by hand before using the side of a wooden spoon to crush it further.

4. Add coconut oil and mix well. Press the mixture together until you get a crumble-like mix.

5. Press the biscuit base mixture to the bottom of the pan. If you’re using a muffin tray, spoon 1/2 tablespoon into each muffin cup. Make sure to gently press down with fingers.

6. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the cheesecake layer:

7. In a blender or food processor, combine the soaked and drained cashews, coconut milk, salt, vanilla extract, syrup, corn flour, agar agar powder and lemon juice and blend until very smooth.


The mixture should be smooth as a milkshake for a creamy texture

8. Pour mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

9. If using a cake tin, pour the cheesecake mixture over the biscuit base. If using muffin tins, divide filling evenly among muffin tins, up until 1/8 in (1/2 cm) from the edge. To keep the top smooth, quickly smooth it out with the flat side of a spatula. If it starts sticking to the spatula, dip it in boiling hot water before smoothing the cheesecake layer.

For the berry coulis layer:

10. Place frozen strawberries in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

11. Pour mixture into a colander and gently extract juice by pressing down on strawberries with a spatula. For a smooth gelatinous layer, you can discard strawberries. For a more fruity textured top layer, skip this step.

12. In a bowl, combine water, maple syrup, lemon juice and agar-agar.

13. Pour into a saucepan, adding strawberry juice. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1 minute. Cool down for 2 to 3 minutes. (do not let the mixture set).

14. Garnish mini cakes with strawberry jelly (or add the mixture to the top of your cheesecake layer) and refrigerate for an hour until filling has set.

15. Using a blunt knife, gently pry edges to loosen the mini cakes. They should pop right out! Otherwise, remove the cake from the cake tin and the baking paper when you’re ready to serve.


Voila!

How did your cheesecake turn out? Did you enjoy your cheesecake? Is there any adjustments you had to make to your own recipe? Have you tried the recipe with other fruits in the coulis? Let me know in the comments below!

A vegan surprise: review of Indigo Yard

My best advice for anyone who’s thinking about going vegan and is wondering where the best place to eat is to phone the restaurant you’re planning to visit. Sure, you can do your research and look online, there are plenty of resources available online that it’s now so easy to find which restaurants offer vegan options. Sites like my own blog or a good friend of mine, Vegan Edinburgh, review plenty of vegan options in Edinburgh and I’m certain that this will also be available around the world too. But sometimes you get a lovely surprise when you do phone up to ask what options they have available, like our visit to Indigo Yard on Charlotte Lane.


Continue reading “A vegan surprise: review of Indigo Yard”

Review: Nando’s new vegan burgers!

Nando’s is one of the most well known chain fast food restaurant in the UK. They first opened their doors in South Africa back in ’87 and the decor and music in each Nando’s restaurant reflects the influence of the culture on the atmosphere, the decorated walls and the beat of the music. The quirky font style is also inspired by South African sign writing and Nando’s has asked talented sign writer and artist Marks Salimu to help.

Incorporating South African, Portuguese and Nando’s own touches, you can’t help but feel a bit transported to another world when you step into the world of Nando’s when you step through their doors.


Continue reading “Review: Nando’s new vegan burgers!”

Japanese fine dining: review of Tang’s gohan in Edinburgh

Japanese cuisine is well-known for their sushi, but if you’ve ever been to Japan or are a fan of Japanese food, you’ll know that soba noodles, miso soup, bento boxes, salt and edamame beans and so much more are also on the menu. Since I first arrived in Edinburgh in 2008, I used to pass by Tang’s and my friends would joke it was my family’s restaurant given the same maiden name before I got married.


Continue reading “Japanese fine dining: review of Tang’s gohan in Edinburgh”

Angry Vegan? Not me! Review of Bread Meats Bread, Edinburgh

Burgers, one of those things that bring to mind a beef burger patty sandwiched between salad leaves and two halves of a bun. When I first became vegan, there were a lot of favourite dishes that I thought I had to give up for good, but little did I know that burgers were one of the easiest and most readily available vegan dishes when you’re eating out. Continue reading “Angry Vegan? Not me! Review of Bread Meats Bread, Edinburgh”

Review of Akva Edinburgh: vegan options with a Swedish twist

There are still a lot of different cuisines from various countries (especially Europe) that I haven’t explored the vegan options for. With not travelling around the world as much as I did when I was younger, the world is my oyster and I can’t wait to explore it one day. In the meantime, I was delighted to attend a sewing/dressmaking meet up with other fashionable ladies handy with a sewing machine, needle and thread at Akva at Fountainbridge for Edinburgh Frocktails.


Continue reading “Review of Akva Edinburgh: vegan options with a Swedish twist”

Sampling Wagamama’s new vegan menu: review of the St Andrew’s Square branch

When a new vegan product is launched, you can expect that vegans everywhere will catch wind of it and if it’s something we’ve been waiting on for a while, everyone will be rushing to try it out for themselves to see whether it lives up to expectation. Chain restaurant Wagamama recently teased the vegan community by announcing they were trialling their new vegan menu in just a few of their branches before releasing it to all of them nationwide. Before you know it, the new vegetarian and vegan menu was available everywhere and to no one’s surprise, many vegans made it their mission to go and try it, including myself. Continue reading “Sampling Wagamama’s new vegan menu: review of the St Andrew’s Square branch”

Vegan Night #2: review of Bread Street Brasserie

I’d previously gone to Bread Street Brasserie for Vegan Night with Lucie from Call Me Dumpling (see my previous review here) and while the food was quite lovely, I was a bit disappointed by the apple crumble (you can read all about this in my blog post).

The OH wanted to go out for dinner recently, and I thought it might be a good time to give their Vegan Night another try, especially since the menu sounded more appealing (more as a result of personal tastes than poor menu choices) so we went for round 2.


Continue reading “Vegan Night #2: review of Bread Street Brasserie”

Vegan street food: review of vegan options at Las Iguanas

The OH and I were meeting some friends for dinner and we decided to go to South American street food restaurant, Las Iguanas, on George Street. I’m not against chain restaurants, especially when you’re travelling and you’re not sure what vegan options are available, familiar dishes can make ordering a whole lot easier. Continue reading “Vegan street food: review of vegan options at Las Iguanas”