Sunday, 15 July 2018

Cookbook review - Bosh!

It's not often that a vegan cookbook gets genuine hype in the mainstream. 

I was on a book-buying ban when I first started hearing about this (doesn't this always happen? It was the same thing with The Roasting Tin last year which ended up being my cookbook of the year). My friend Sophie had made a few recipes from it and posted about them on Instagram and told me I'd love the book, and then it was the book of May at Cookbookamonth. I don't watch videos online much, so I'd never heard of the "Bosh boys", but I started to noticed their names popping up more and more, and hearing about the popularity of this book and their recipes.

So, one day after work, after finding out it was on offer in Waterstones, I caved.

First Impressions

This book gives a brilliant first impression. It makes vegan food so accessible and easy and importantly, fun. While I have no problem ordering nutritional yeast or vital wheat gluten online, I like that it doesn't include a lot of "obscure" ingredients which can put people off, and instead focuses on plants, pulses, nuts and the occasional bit of tofu.

I don't think if this is the intention or how it's marketed, but I feel as though it's a book for meat-eaters intrigued to try vegan food. It makes everything seem quite easy and it's not preachy at all about the benefits of vegan food of a vegan diet. It also, thankfully, doesn't preach a "clean" agenda, but there are a few comments about "healthy" (which I personally dislike only because it's so subjective). However one recipe shout about how it's "healthier" than a takeaway, yet includes half a bottle of sweet chilli sauce. BUT I would rather it be this way - desserts and chocolate and pizza and burgers - with no "healthy" or "clean" agenda.

From an initial flick through there are a lot of the standard fayre you expect from a vegan book - a veggie chilli, curries, tofu scramble, stir fry, salads, veggie burgers, lasagne - but there are a lot of interesting twists on these recipes (more on this below).

Finally, if you haven't been able to tell from the exclamation mark in the title, the language is a bit Jamie-Oliver-circa-2004/Joe Wicks in terms of over-the-top enthusiasm. I've learned to ignore it because it's pretty grating but you do get used to it.

Recipes I tried

I tried 7 recipes from this book. I usually like to try 10, but I ran out of time with going on holiday. However there are still loads of recipes I want to try, so maybe I'll do an update in a few months. It's also not helped that it's been roasting while I've been using this book, so Mushroom Wellington and Rich and Creamy Lasagne were not the kinds of things I wanted to be eating! I still have about another 20 recipes I was intrigued by.

edit: As I've mentioned in previous posts, I haven't been as active on Instagram over the past few months, so as a result I don't have photos on all the recipes I made. Apologies for that.

Sticky Shiitake Mushrooms

I shop at Aldi so I couldn't get shiitake mushrooms, so I just used portabellos, but next time I'd probably use regular mushrooms, as Phil later dropped the bombshell that he doesn't like "big mushrooms".

This was super quick and easy and so so delicious that I kept saying "do you like it? Do you like it? I love it - what do you think?". Also a great storecupboard recipe - all I needed was the mushrooms.

Recipe here.

Veggie kebabs with spicy shashlik marinade

As a veggie in the summer, you eat a lot of veggie skewers (and grilled halloumi, but I will never complain about that. Keep bringing the grilled halloumi!). I love a veggie skewer, but I especially love the different marinade options the book provides (side note: are these marinades if they don't marinate? They just kind of get tossed in and then cooked - do you need some rest time to be a true marinade? Anyway....)

I found the instructions here didn't make loads of sense (covering the veg in the sauce first then threading sounded messy to me), so I threaded them first then poured the marinade over them, but oh my god the marinade. There are a lot of ingredients in this (18!), but they all get thrown into a blender and whizzed up to make the most divine spicy, yoghurt-y sauce (oh confession, I used regular greek yoghurt).

This made A LOT. I used a few fewer tomatoes and still ended up with 13 skewers. I was eating this for days, which was fine. 

I really liked that you baked them, so you can have a BBQ without actually owning a BBQ (something we do at least once a fortnight and still call it BBQ cause there are things on sticks). 

So this was a hit, so much so that I made them again with a different marinade - see further down...

Creamy Korma


Okay it was a bit of a faff. Roasting the veg, toasting seeds, frying things off and then blending them up (you definitely need a blender for this book), and it takes about an hour, but oh my god so good!

I added chickpeas for some extra protein, and got 5 portions. Some of the serving sizes are a range (eg. 2-4) in this book which can be confusing, but saying that a lot of my books suggest child-sized portions so it was quite nice to not feel judged if your portions were towards the lower end of the number of people it suggests.

This was just amazing. The lime and salt really help cut through that creaminess and I would definitely make this again and experiment with different vegetables or pulses in the sauce.

Sweet and sour tofu
We love tofu in our house and I'm always trying to find new and exciting ways to cook it.

Sweet and sour prawns used to be my takeaway staple (I do still eat fish but very rarely these days), so I was really excited to make a vegan version.

It was quite hands-on and intense - if you've ever done a Jamie Oliver 15 Minute Meal you'll know what I mean. However I was making rice, cauliflower rice and warming spring rolls at the same time. It took about half an hour in total.

Bloody hell this was good. It tasted EXACTLY like my favourite takeaway prawns - so sweet and sticky and tangy - and the texture on the tofu was so crispy on the outside - exactly how I like it. I think this would be a great gateway for people who want to try tofu but don't know where to start.

Rogan Bosh
One thing I like about this book is it makes the idea of making your own curry pastes much less intimidating. The paste here is a blend of chillies, garlic, ginger, tomato puree and water, but along with the spice mix, both tastes and smells exactly like a jarred curry paste.

Like making a curry from a jarred paste, this is a really easy recipe once you've completed those initial steps.  It's another 15-minute-meal-esque speedy rampage, which meant I did misread a few steps and found myself confused at why I was frying the aubergine first when it wasn't going into the pan til the onions had cooked for 15 minutes. 

The sauce is quite dry, and it encourages you to add as much water as you need to get it to a "thick, gravy-like consistency", but my addition of spinach, and the water it needed to get it to wilt, along with the water it releases, ended up making the finished dish a little watery. Next time I would consider cooking the spinach separately or adding it in earlier, as it was a nice addition.

Considering the easy of the curry paste here, I'm really keen to give this another go with different vegetables, maybe with some tinned tomatoes for a more curry-like texture, but the flavours are completely spot on.

Recipe here.

Veggie kebabs with Asian BBQ marinade
As mentioned earlier, I decided to give the veggie kebabs another go with a different marinade, and settled for the Asian BBQ marinade, which was a mix of chillies, garlic, coriander, ginger, agave syrup, vinegar and soy sauce. 

I didn't agave syrup (though maple would, I'm sure, have been a fine substitute), so being a non-vegan I used honey.

Having already done the spicy shashlik marinade, I knew what I was doing a bit more here, so I used a lot less veg (eschewing the aubergine which had remained a bit spongey last time) and brushing the marinade on. This was really, really good and I loved how easy to was to make what felt like a completely different dish from just a different marinade.

I'm keen to try the rich satay sauce next and really feel as though my summer BBQ game has been upped thanks to these kebabs!

Ultimate chilli

On my original list of "recipes I want to cook from this book", this didn't make the cut.

I make vegetarian chilli at least once a month, maybe even once a fortnight, and I have a few favourite go-to recipes - Cookie and Kate's Butternut Squash chilli from Love Real Food and the Super-thick Three Bean Chilli from Minimalist Baker. Both of these are delicious, made of storecupboard ingredients and can be made in the slow cooker or in my Instant Pot.

So I'm not sure what made me revisit this, but upon another look I was intrigued by the unusual ingredients list - red wine and chocolate are fairly common in chilli, but also maple syrup, soy sauce and cinnamon? I was curious.

Another thing I loved was the idea of making "mushroom mince". This isn't a new idea - I've seen Jack Monroe do it months ago, but I'd never done it myself. 

Like my previous comment, the order of instructions was odd - mincing the mushrooms is the first step although you don't add them til the last 10 minutes, although doing them first does mean you only need one pan (edit: The recipe does say you need two pans though so maybe not?)

Anyway, this was super super super delicious. For a house that eats veggie chilli often, Phil declared this his favourite chilli, and I really loved it too. The only downside, for me, is with the red wine needing to be cooked off, it's not really an option for the slow cooker (however I wonder if I could make it in my Instant Pot? One to look into), and it's a good 45 minutes from start to finish, and even then I would have preferred a longer simmer.

Recipe here.


In conclusion, I absolutely loved this book. There are still loads of things I haven't gotten around to making yet - giant burrito cake, Thai red curry paste, homemade naan, onion fried rice, vegan sticky toffee pudding, hash browns, so I know this is a book I'll keep going back to.

For me, the sweet and sour tofu and korma recipes were as close as I've ever tasted to takeaway and a complete revelation, and the marinades for the skewers were so simple, but have really given me great ideas for my next BBQ.

I think this is the perfect introduction to vegan food for those transitioning into eating less meat, or curious carnivores. It makes vegan food fun and exciting and interesting, and not just salads and meat substitutes (although I do love both of these things!). 

It's vegan without too much of a health agenda, and it's not preachy or judgemental. I love the emphasis at the start of the book on how well-tested all the recipes are, and there's a great section about learning to cook and how to continuously improve which is really inspiring and helpful. 

The whole thing is very positive and inspirational, without being unattainable, and I really like how easy and accessible they make vegan cooking - they talk about opportunities to try new things and develop new skills, not about anything being missing from their lives without meat or dairy.

I'm excited to see more from Henry and Ian and I'm sure another Bosh book won't be far away, and if it's a good as this one, I'll be sure to buy it!

Charlotte x

Thursday, 5 July 2018

June Life Lately

And somehow, it's July! June was a brilliant month - here's what I've been up to..

What I've been doing

At the start of the year, I had only driven a car twice since 2011. I just wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to take our car out when I was on my own, or get myself from A to B. I've spent the last few months driving a lot more, forcing myself to drive to my parents or BMF or to parkrun even when I really, really didn't want to. And this month I drove on my own for the second time and I finally don't feel nervous at all about driving anywhere and I finally feel confident driving on my own. At the moment I've only driven to my parents and back on my own, but now I'm over the initial oh-my-god-I-have-to-make-all-my-own-decisions I feel totally fine about driving on my own, which is huge for me!

Wedding-wise, it's seems to come in bursts, and after a few months of being pretty chill and not crossing things off (except my dress!) I suddenly panicked so we ticked a few things off this month! We've booked our florist, booked the amazing Amy for our photography, got an outfit for my Mum (and a hat!) and started to look at suits for Phil (though we were laughed out of the shop and told to come back in January!). There are a few more things I want to tick off over the next few months but we've still got plenty of time so I'm trying to take each task one thing at a time!

Where I've been
Ooh I've done some lovely things this month! For my Birthday my Auntie bought Phil and I a voucher for Afternoon Tea at the Radisson Blu and we decided to do this while we were suit shopping for Phil. We went for the Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea and they did a great job of making everything vegetarian for me, and it was a gorgeous hotel and a brilliant experience I'd definitely recommend!
Last month brought Phil's Dad's 60th Birthday, and as a surprise, Phil booked for us all to do the Crystal Maze Experience. Phil's Dad had no idea, and when Phil's Mum brought him into Manchester on a Friday afternoon he thought he was just going shopping - til he walked into Debenhams to find Phil, his two siblings and me waiting for him! He was completely shocked but excited - he'd applied to go on the tv show back in the 90s so it was the perfect  gift. I don't want to say too much because honestly, it's one of the best things I've ever done in my entire life, and I cannot recommend it more. It's exactly like being on TV, and I loved every minute. A must-do for any fans of the TV show!
June also brought the wedding of one of Phil's oldest friends, which was the most beautiful day. Mike and Hannah got married at the most beautiful little church in the most gorgeous village, with an incredible reception at the bride's parents' house. Everything about it was absolutely beautiful, and I had the best time dancing along to the amazing band with great company, great food and a few glasses of fizz! 
And this week I just got back from the best weekend away in Center Parcs with Phil's family for further 60th Birthday celebrations for his dad. I'd never been before but absolutely loved it! I did yoga and pilates, played badminton, we had two BBQs, watched every World Cup match, played board games and just had so much fun. Oh and of course Phil and I found a parkrun to tick off our list! What we didn't realise at the time was it was over an hour's walk away, and we totally misjudged it and ended up having to run the last 15 minutes and arrived at 8.58am! It was one of the most beautiful parkruns we'd been to, though, and well worth the walk!

What I've bought
I got a great stack of books from a charity bookshop, although a few weeks ago while scanning my Goodreads realised I'd already read The Shaking Woman! I read A Little Life a few years ago and it's one of my favourite books, so I had to it in paperback as I read it on Kindle.

I also bought the Bosh! book which I'll be reviewing at some point in the next few weeks! It's a really great intro to vegan cooking and everything I've made so far has been amazing so watch this space for that!

I treated myself to some gorgeous dresses from Warehouse this month too which unfortunately I don't have any photos of, and a couple of swimming costumes for my holiday this month (including this one from Sainsburys with toucans on!)
Oh and Phil bought me these pyjamas after I found them in Primark - Aladdin is both mine and Phil's favourite Disney film so I had to have them.

Finally, not bought, but a gift - this month I finally got an Instant Pot! I asked for it for Christmas and for my Birthday but it's been out of stock since October, and this month it finally came! I've joined a few Facebook groups which motivated me to give it a try from day one so it didn't stay in the box for months, and so far I've done the water test, made boiled eggs (the shells literally slipped off! Gamechanger!), adapted my favourite chilli recipe for it, made butter chickpeas (with dried chickpeas in 45 minutes!) and made a pasta dish. Next stop is egg bites and yoghurt. It's taking a bit of getting used to but I really love it - I'll write a full post once I've had a bit more practice!

What I've been reading
Five books this month, as I didn't realise The Crimson Petal and the White was 900 pages long! I absolutely loved it though and devoured it in a few days. I also read When I hit you for the What Page Are You On? bookclub and fell head over heels with Maggie O Farrell when I read After You'd Gone - I cannot wait to read more of hers!

I also read The Little Stranger ahead of the film coming out, and I just finished Based on a True Story which I absolutely loved and was definitely my favourite book of the month.

What I've been watching
Football, football and football. God I LOVE THE WORLD CUP. I've watched every game possible, listened to many while at work, read dozens of articles, oh and this was where I watched England's opening game (I found myself knocked onto my back lying on the floor when the winning goal went in).

We also managed two cinema trips for Solo and squeezed in during one game we weren't as interested in, Hereditary, which I absolutely loved for it's callbacks to some of my favourite horror films (Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, anyone?). A lot of people in my cinema were not into it and it was ruined a bit by laughing at the end, but as someone who doesn't like jump-scare horror, I thought it was excellent.

What I've been reading online
Guardian - How do you make friends as an adult?
The Pool - On anxiety and saying yes
What Olivia Did - Lessons I learned at 24
Guardian - The processed food debate is a class war
Miss Pond - Some things I learned in my twenties

What I'm excited for
We're off to Spain this month for our annual trip with my parents and I've got 17 books ready for an 8 day trip. I'm also into London for some training courses for work which I'm really looking forward to, and obviously, more football! 

Hope your June was great!

Charlotte x