Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Ocado: Vegetarian Grocery Shopping Online - A Review

 Ocado
This year, Ocado won the award for Best Online Retailer for Vegetarians and have since launched their brand new Vegetarian Shop, based on feedback from customers. As I do most of my food shopping online, I was eager to test this out, as one of my pet peeves is that a search for vegetarian or vegan will often bring up the most obvious foods (like Quorn and dairy-free milk), not the necessarily ones you're looking for.

The new Ocado vegetarian shop categorises products by eating occasion and food type, making it easy to browse for meat-free alternatives, filled pasta and deli products, plus of course cheeses, store cupboard ingredients and even raw foods. There's also a wine category, which is useful, as animal by-products in wines are often something that people forget about, especially when entertaining vegetarian and vegan guests. As well as the dedicated veggie shop, each product is clearly labelled with a v for vegetarian...including toiletries. An extra symbol for vegans would be great, but it's quite easy to search for vegan products, as there's also a vegan check box in the search menu.

I recently tried out the new vegetarian categories and was amazed to find the wide range of products available, which I might not have found if I just shopped through my favourites list and special offers, as I normally do. In the meat substitute section, there were 30 different types of veggie sausage and 25 varieties of burger alone...that's far more choice than most supermarkets can offer in store. My only real criticism is that if you don't know where to find the vegetarian shop section, as it's not that easy to locate (you need to click on World Foods & Free From first and then select Vegetarian.)

By using some of the many special offers available and selecting Ocado's own brand products, my weekly shop cost almost exactly the same as it would from the other major online supermarkets, so that dispels the myth that Ocado are much more pricey than their competitors. 

Of course, the after-sales emails and delivery were both up to their usual standard. I particularly liked the email telling me the name of my delivery driver and which van they'd be driving. Ocado also pack their bags well, which makes it so much quicker to put the shopping away, when all of the frozen and chilled products are packed together. Without wishing to sound snobby, Ocado delivery drivers are a cut above the rest, which is probably down to better training in customer service. 
When it comes to quality, all of my fruit, veg and chilled products were well within their use-by dates and of a good quality. I would definitely recommend Ocado to my fellow veggies, as it makes online shopping so much more simple.

Integrity Statement
I received a complimentary shop with Ocado for the purpose of this review. All views expressed are genuine.

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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Asparagus & Goat's Cheese Quiche: Yapp’s Drinks On Us Challenge

 Yapp Brothers Wines
I'm not usually one to take up bloggers' challenges, but as this one involved wine, it was hard to resist! Yapp Brothers (the wine merchants) were kind enough to send out a bottle of wine and an individually tailored handwritten note to some of their favourite food bloggers in order for us to blog a suitable recipe which would pair well with our carefully-selected wine.

My chosen wine was an organically-produced Bergerac Sec: Domaine de l'Ancienne Cure 2014, which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes and described as being "Very pale and clear with appealing spring blossom scents and a zesty, citrus-edged palate with a whistle-clean finish."

I did a bit of research to see what sort of flavours and ingredients would go with this wine. Amongst the vegetarian ingredients I found listed were: asparagus, young goat's cheeses, salads and herbs, so an idea hatched to make a cheesy quiche and serve it with sautéed new potatoes and a salad for a delicious, summer meal. 

So, was this a good wine pairing? I found that the acidity and citrus flavours of the wine, stood up well to the rich, cheesy taste of quiche, cutting through the creaminess after each mouthful. 

  • 1 pack of ready-made shortcrust pastry (or make your own if you have the time!)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (approx 250g/8oz before trimming), trimmed and cut into 5-6cm pieces
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 180ml/6 fl oz double cream
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 125g/5oz soft goat's cheese, chopped into small chunks
  • 25g/1oz hard/mature goat's cheese or vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, grated 
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • grated nutmeg and black pepper to season  

Pre-heat the oven to 190 C/180 C Fan/ Gas 5/375 F
Grease a 9-10"/25cm loose-bottom flan, or sandwich cake tin. 

Roll out the pastry to around 0.5cm thick, so that it's about 3cm larger than the circumference of your tin. Cut out a large circle, using the base of the tin as a guide, with a sharp knife.
Line the tin with the pastry, pressing down gently to fit the bottom and sides of the tin. Trim off the excess pastry with a sharp knife.
Prick the base of the pastry case with a fork and bake blind (using baking beans or dried beans) for 12-15 minutes or until it's just starting to colour. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 170 C/160 C Fan/ Gas 3/325 F

Empty the baking beans out gently.

Meanwhile, gently fry the onions in a drop of vegetable oil, until softened. 
Add the asparagus to the pan and place on a low heat for 5-7 minutes, or until tender, with the lid on - the moisture will steam the asparagus. Remove from the heat and take the pan lid off to let any excess moisture evaporate.

Mix the eggs and cream together and stir in the cheeses, herbs and seasoning.
Scatter the cooked asparagus and onions over the base of the flan case.
Pour the custard mixture over, ensuring that the vegetables are covered.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard has set in the centre and turned golden brown.

Allow to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes before removing.
Serve with sautéed or boiled new potatoes and a herby salad.

Integrity Statement
I received a complimentary bottle of wine for recipe development. All views expressed are my own.

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Sunday, 7 June 2015

Indian Restaurant-Style Mint Sauce and Onion Salads

Indian Restaurant-Style Mint Sauce and Onion Salad
I've been trying to re-create the onion salad or chutney that we get with poppadoms in our local Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants. There are two types; one is quite plain with a bit of cucumber and tomato; the other has a sweet and spicy red sauce. The 'secret' ingredient in both recipes is chopped coriander, which complements the mint.

I've previously blogged my mint sauce dip, but thought I'd add it here too.

Each recipe serves 4-6 with poppadoms, bhajis or samosas. They also go well with vegetarian barbecued food.

Red, sweet onion salad
  • 2 medium white onions, diced into approx 1cm pieces
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp mango chutney (sweet or spicy depending on preference)
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée/paste
  • 1 tsp unsweetened mint sauce concentrate (Colemans)
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh or frozen coriander leaves
Chop the onions and separate the layers.
Mix all of the remaining ingredients together and then stir in the raw onions.
Allow to marinate for an hour or so, in the fridge, before serving.

Plain onion salad (Kachumber) 
  • 2 medium white onions, quartered and sliced finely
  • 2.5 cm/1" chunk of cucumber, de-seeded, quartered and sliced finely
  • 1 tomato, de-seeded, quartered and sliced finely
  • ½ tsp dried mint
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh or frozen coriander leaves
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • A little red chilli powder, to taste (optional)
Chop the onions and separate the layers.
Mix with all of the remaining ingredients.
Allow to marinate for an hour or so, in the fridge, before serving.

Mint sauce

This is my version of the thin, pourable mint sauce (not the thicker raita), which is normally green and served with poppadoms and onion bhajis. If you want to, you can add a few drops of green food colouring, or a pinch of turmeric to give it some colour, but I don't think it needs it! 
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt or dairy-free yogurt
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp unsweetened mint sauce concentrate (Colemans)
  • A few dashes of hot chilli sauce
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh or frozen coriander leaves (optional)
Mix all of the ingredients together. Chill until needed.

Top tip: If you can't find mint sauce concentrate, either use ½ tsp of dried mint or 2-3 tsp regular mint sauce, strained through a tea strainer to remove most of the vinegar. Adjust the amount of extra sugar added accordingly.

How to cook poppadoms in the microwave...

Traditionally poppadoms are deep fried in oil, but they taste nearly as good when cooked in the microwave and are much lower in fat. Look in the Asian section of your supermarket for brands of uncooked poppadoms, such as Ruby or Natco, as they are much cheaper and better than the big UK brands. 

 No Croutons RequiredYou can microwave them dry, for a fat-free snack, but they taste better and expand more, when wiped (use a sheet of kitchen towel) or sprayed on both sides with a little vegetable oil before cooking.

West Midland's BloggersMicrowave individually for 30-40 seconds on high (no need to turn).

For a main course try my paneer tikka kebabs with mushroom biryani.

I'm adding these salad recipes to this month's No Croutons Required challenge hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes and to the West Midland's Bloggers linky.
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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Mildreds: The Vegetarian Cookbook - A review & give-away

Mildreds Vegetarian Cookbook
A few years ago, I had a wonderful meal at Mildreds vegetarian restaurant in London's West End. There are no exclusively vegetarian restaurants where I live, so it's always a real treat to be able to choose anything from a menu, without scrutinising it for traces of chorizo or anchovy!

I recently found out that there's now a Mildreds cookbook, packed full of recipes for the sort of homely dishes served in the restaurant, including some of their classic starters, mains, mezze dishes and desserts. These are mainly a mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian-inspired recipes...just the sort of meals I love to both cook and eat.
"An exciting new cookery book from the popular vegetarian restaurant, Mildreds: The Vegetarian Cookbook has something for everyone. Whether you are a vegetarian, or are trying to cut down on your meat intake, the international influences in these recipes promise variety and flavour."

Once I'd had a quick browse, I was really excited to get cooking. First on the list was the vegan chocolate and peanut butter brownies, which tasted as good as they sounded. I then made the halloumi, courgette and mint fritters and the roast pepper and black olive lahmacuns (Turkish pizzas) which turned out really well, as you can see below.

I loved the book and it's one I'll definitely be returning to time and time again. The recipes are clearly laid out, easy to follow and use fresh and seasonal, mainstream ingredients, available from most supermarkets. They're marked with a V for vegan recipes and GF for gluten-free, but most recipes also include a vegan option if they contain eggs or dairy. Due to the unpretentious and fuss-free nature of the recipes, I would particularly recommend this book to new or young vegetarians, meat reducers and vegetarian families, who want to cook simple, quick and tasty, vegetarian food. 

For recipes and news from Mildreds, do pop over and take a look at their blog

Mildreds: The Vegetarian Cookbook by Mildreds, Photography by Jonathan Gregson, Published by Mitchell Beazley, £25, http://www.octopusbooks.co.uk/

I have a copy of this fabulous book to give away (UK ONLY). Just tell me your favourite vegetarian meal in a comment below and add your details to the Rafflecopter widget. Competition closes 12:00 am 16th June 2015.

Integrity Statement
I received a complimentary copy of the book to review and one to give-away. All views expressed are my own.



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