Holland-ish Sauce Vegan Hollandaise recipe for eggs benedict and eggs royale

I’m having serious cafe withdrawals at the moment. I miss going out to cafes and ordering food that I can’t make at home. So today I decided to do what I used to do in China when I felt like this. I decided to bring the cafe to me.

I was craving eggs royale, which is the salmon version of eggs benedict. It requires a bread bun, cut in half, on which a poached egg and a piece of salmon are arranged, and they’re drizzled with Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise sauce is notoriously hard to make, and I don’t know how to poach an egg without a poacher, and I have to avoid dairy, but I decided not to let any of that stop me from achieving my dream.

First, I found out that Emma Bridgewater mugs are REALLY well made. You can put one in a pan on direct full heat on a stovetop and it poaches an egg. It does take a few minutes but it gets the job done. That was my second attempt at poaching an egg (my first attempt was a complete disaster and resulted in an egg-splosion because I tried to do a “proper” poached egg where you basically whisk boiling water into a vortex then drop an egg into it. I do NOT have the skills for that, apparently).

Then there was the problem of the Hollandaise sauce. Here’s the recipe I adapted:

1 packet of silken tofu (300g or about 9 oz)

1/8 cup of lemon juice

1/8 cup nutritional yeast

1/8 cup dairy free butter

1/2 tsp turmeric (for colour)

1/2 tsp oregano (flavour)

a good pinch of garlic (flavour)

a good pinch of pepper (flavour)

Blend the tofu until it’s a smooth liquid. Then put it in a pan with the other ingredients and heat on a medium heat until the butter is melted and the sauce starts to turn a bright yellow. Serve over eggs benedict or eggs royale.

This recipe is so much easier than making the complicated emulsion for proper hollandaise sauce. If you want something with a more traditional flavour, ditch the oregano.

The main point to note with this recipe is absolutely don’t use the firm spongy kind of tofu. It won’t blend into a liquid, it will turn into a scrambly mess. The sauce itself is vegan but I obviously poured it over things which were non-vegan.

IMG_0590b

Lastly, the taste test. I thought it was really nice when it was cooked for long enough, but when I tasted it during cooking, it kept tasting excessively lemony, so definitely simmer it for at least 5 minutes to draw out the other flavours in this sauce.

Which Easter Eggs are Vegan 2016

UPDATED: CLICK HERE FOR 2017 Easter Eggs in the UK!

As promised, the 2016 edition of Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan (UK and USA):  I went to all the supermarkets in my town to see which ones carried dairy-free vegan easter eggs, and which eggs were actually dairy free and vegan, then I checked out Amazon.com to help out my American Vegan and Dairy Free readers too, so there should be something here for most dairy-free people.

Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s had an excellent selection of vegan Easter eggs for 2016:

The Moo Free Egg is 100% vegan and available in Sainsbury’s:

The moo free vegan egg is available in Sainsbury's
The Moo Free vegan Egg

This interesting new addition to the range of dairy free vegan eggs is by a brand called Celtic (did they do Scheese??) and is also available in Sainsbury’s:

Dairy free vegan Easter egg Celtic Sainsburys
I haven’t seen this Celtic vegan egg before 2016.

Longtime entry Caramel Choices Easter Egg by Choices is a very sweet, very tasty dairy free and vegan egg that’s a favourite with children. It tastes like Thornton’s Special Toffee Egg (but vegan) although the chocolate is a little softer. Available at Sainsbury’s.  I have three of these ready for Easter, it’s my favourite!

Choices vegan Easter egg
Caramel Choices vegan Easter egg

The Choices dairy free vegan chocolate Easter bunny, at £1 each, comes in “milk” chocolate flavour or white chocolate flavour, but is still dairy free and vegan.  Available at Sainsbury’s and Tesco:

Choices vegan Easter egg bunny
The Choices chocolate vegan Easter bunnies.

Sainsbury’s have done their own dairy free and vegan eggs again this year.  This one is fantastic (I had one last year) – it’s a vegan white chocolate egg that’s dairy and wheat and gluten free and vegan so it covers all bases.  I love white chocolate eggs and there’s so few vegan ones on the market, so this is one of my favourites:

Sainsburys vegan Easter egg
Sainsbury’s white choc vegan egg.

This is the larger of Sainsbury’s two dairy free, gluten free and vegan eggs on offer this year: This one is dark chocolate flavour and comes with little chocolate discs.  If you’re a vegan dark chocolate fan this one’s for you.

One of Sainsbury's two dairy free, gluten free and vegan eggs on offer this year: This one is
Sainsbury’s dairy free Vegan gluten free Easter egg.

Tesco:

Moving on to Tesco, who had a very good selection last year, we also have the following dairy free and vegan Easter eggs:

The Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Egg (the one that looks exactly like this with the gold on it) is dairy free and vegan. This egg is quite luxurious and would make an excellent gift for a dairy free or vegan adult who likes dark chocolate, but a child would probably want something a little sweeter:

Tesco finest 74 Ecuadorian Easter egg vegan dairy free
The Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Egg is vegan.
Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Easter egg
The ingredients for the Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Easter egg. That’s “cocoa butter” not “butter” (despite some companies getting these confused when they label food for some reason).

The Green and Black’s Dark 70% chocolate egg is vegan and dairy free in 2016. Green and Black’s can be very inconsistent with whether they put milk in their food or not. One minute their chocolate is reasonably vegan, then the next minute it’s full of horrible milk, as I’m sure we all know, so don’t rely on this for checking if they’re still vegan in 2017!

Green and Blacks chocolate Easter egg vegan
The Green and Black’s Dark 70% chocolate egg is vegan in 2016.
The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black's 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg.
The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black’s 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg.

The Green and Black’s mint chocolate egg is also dairy free and vegan this year.  All the Green and Black’s say “not suitable for milk allergy” but I have an allergy and my only problem is that their chocolate doesn’t taste very nice, it’s never made me ill though:

The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black's 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg mint.
The Green and Black’s mint chocolate egg.

The Lindt DARK chocolate bunny with the brown ribbon is vegan 2 years in a row!  I am most excited about this positive move by Lindt to enable those of us who are dairy free to enjoy their chocolate.  Their chocolate is so nice!

Lindt Bunny Vegan
The Lindt DARK chocolate bunny is vegan.

The ingredients for the Lindt dark chocolate Easter gold bunny are here:

Lindt Bunny Vegan Ingredients
The ingredients.

My local Tesco’s Free From section surprised me two holiday seasons in a row – they didn’t have dairy free and vegan chocolate Advent calendars before Christmas and now they don’t have any Free From dairy free chocolate Easter eggs to choose from, good thing they make up for it with all their vegan dark chocolate egg offerings, but the only vegan Easter chocolate that Tesco sell that children would enjoy is the Lindt gold bunny and the little Choices bunnies, so if you’re shopping for vegan children or children with a milk allergy, Sainsbury’s is far and away the best place to get some proper Free From eggs.  Tesco’s selection is better for adults who like dark chocolate, so do check the preferences of your vegan or milk allergy sufferer before assuming they will like something just because it’s dairy free.  I think the vegan Kinnerton dairy free egg has been withdrawn this year because nowhere has it on sale and it used to be the most popular one for shops to stock (I’m sort of glad, I’m sick to death of getting that flipping egg from everyone year after year).  Morrisons were the most disappointing, for the fifth year in a row, they had absolutely nothing in the vegan or dairy free Easter egg department, not even the Green and Blacks or Lindt ones, and while they’ve expanded their dairy free area of the Free From section recently to move with the times and nearly catch up with… um… every other supermarket in Britain… they still have a long way to go before I can confidently get rid of my car and just use the local Morrisons for my dairy free and vegan shopping.

The Supermarket Shelf Hall Of Shame:  NOT VEGAN OR DAIRY FREE:

To follow are a list of eggs that looked like they might be dairy free or vegan but definitely aren’t.  Please don’t buy these for someone who doesn’t have milk or milk products:

After Eight Easter Egg not vegan
NOT VEGAN The After Eight Easter Egg contains milk.
The Lindt Excellence dark chocolate 70% cocoa egg contains milk.
NOT VEGAN: The Lindt Excellence dark chocolate 70% cocoa Easter egg contains milk.
Nestle Black Magic Easter egg NOT VEGAN 2016
NOT VEGAN: Did anyone really expect Nestle to come up with a dairy free egg for 2016? Well they didn’t. Again. But it looks like it might be vegan, so I included it in the hall of shame. I think Nestle might be the only chocolate company I know of who have never even tried to make a dairy free chocolate bar (even Cadbury’s trialled it with Bournville).

Cadbury’s also have nothing vegan or dairy free again this year, but I don’t mind too much because I can’t stand their chocolate. The vegan After Eight mint chocolate bunnies we saw last year (that I bought about 5 of at £1 each) also seem to have disappeared this year which is a shame because they were fabulous. If you see them please let me know where in the comments!

Dairy Free And Vegan Eggs on Amazon:

For my American readers, I’ve taken a look through Amazon and come up with a list of the best dairy free vegan Easter eggs available in 2016.  There are a couple I excluded because they were too expensive to be even vaguely reasonable for what they were.  I was surprised that there wasn’t the vast selection I was expecting:

Moo Free Cheeky Orange Vegan Easter Egg This one is $17.00 (plus $5.99 shipping) so comes in a little on the expensive side but I included it because it’s the only orange flavoured one.  This one is dairy free and suitable for vegans.

Moo Free Bunnycomb Free From Vegan Easter Egg At $13.00 (plus $5.99 shipping) it’s a little cheaper, but the cost of shipping is quite high again.  As the name implies, it’s dairy free and suitable for vegans.

Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Eggs in a Gift Boxes 36 Blue Foil Wrapped Eggs (Pack of 2) These are $21 but they do qualify for free shipping AND you get a two pack for the $21 (which is a total of 36 foil wrapped eggs).  They are organic dark chocolate and suitable for vegans.

Cream Veggs Milk Free, Nut Free Vegan Easter Cream Filled Eggs These are $16.95 plus $6 shipping, but you do get 6 eggs so if you’re getting something for a family of vegans, dairy and nut allergy sufferers, or if you want all the kids to have the same as each other, this is a pretty good choice and since they’re cream-filled (I’m assuming dairy free cream, otherwise this is a really stupid item with misleading labelling), it’s something a little different to the usual hollow eggs.

Montezumas Chocolate Dark Choc Bunnies 90g This is a $17.82 (plus $5.99 shipping) 90g pack of 8 mini chocolate bunnies that are dairy free, organic and vegan. Interestingly the description says these are made in West Sussex (UK) but I’ve never heard of them so I don’t think they’re a very big company – perhaps one day these will find their way onto English supermarket shelves too!

Bonnie the Milkless Bunny Rabbit, Milk Free, Nut Free Vegan Candy Okay this one’s not an egg, it’s an Easter bunny, but it’s so freaking adorable and at $14.95 it’s one of the cheaper options to feed your vegan tasty dairy free chocolate at Easter!

And finally:

If you’re new to veganism or recently been diagnosed with a milk allergy (or recently met someone you’re buying for) you should be aware that these eggs will sell out fast!  I have already (time of writing is February 2016) got my Lindt dark chocolate bunny, and am getting my Sainsbury’s eggs this week so I don’t miss out, because Easter is a very special time of year for me and my bunnies, and I totally missed out on Christmas due to being critically ill so I’m looking forward to opening my tasty eggs on Easter day which means getting them early.  Please store them in a cool, dry place so they don’t go bad or melt, dairy free chocolate is still chocolate and it will melt in warm temperatures/direct sunlight!

I am an Amazon associate. This article contains affiliate links, which means if you buy from Amazon I get some of their profits. This helps me have time to do the painstaking research that goes into producing this content.

While these eggs are suitable for lactose intolerance, A1 casein intolerance and milk allergy sufferers, as well as most people living a milk-free life, not all of these eggs are suitable for all people whose medical conditions mean they avoid milk, not because they contain milk (they absolutely are 100% vegan except the three clearly labelled in the hall of shame) – but some people also have to avoid all of a specific type of sugar as well e.g. with a disaccharide intolerance. If you want to know more about the seven different types of milk-related allergies and intolerances, see my article here.

I’m not vegan anymore (but I still eat vegan food).

I haven’t talked about food for a good long while, and there’s a reason for that:

I’m not vegan any more.  And I haven’t been for a while.

You may remember my New Year’s resolution was to get back to veganism again.

It didn’t really work out.  Between the 9 month mixed state I’ve been in until August and the fact that I had to avoid all sugar (not just “added” but fruit sugar and some sweeteners too, as I had no mood stabilizers and was in a mixed state), I’ve had to put whatever I can into my face.  And I’ve been gravitating towards specific things.

Most vegans gain a sort of sense of what their body needs.  Mine’s been taking me away from veganism.

The truth is, the more I learn about food, the more I believe that a paleo type diet is actually more helpful.  I’ve been eating solid pieces of meat (such as chicken, lamb and beef), along with two to three servings of vegetable, and a small amount of carbohydrate.  I don’t know what type of diet that is but it’s been my best configuration.

I still avoid milk but I have now found out where I stand on the allergy/intolerance spectrum (I outlined the types of allergy/intolerance here and updated it today to add A1 casein intolerance): I have an A1 casein protein intolerance as well as lactose intolerance.  This means I can tolerate something called A2 milk (available in supermarkets) without getting milk allergy symptoms, which means I can try small amounts of milk without the fear of dying or going blind (which happens if you have galactosemia and you keep having milk).  When the symptoms were similar, I was not going to take the risk.

I call my current way of eating a “real food” diet – if someone from a thousand years ago (date picked at random) looked at my plate, would they recognize everything on it as actual food?  Independent of food inventions and discoveries, but just going with what they know about things that can be eaten, what would their opinion be?

For example:  chips are not real food.  Baked potatoes are.  Pasta isn’t real food.  Whole boiled or steamed or raw vegetables are.  Meat is (but not processed meat such as bacon).

I didn’t get this from a recipe book or diet guru, I just started eating like this.  It was what my body was crying out for.  And I’ve felt a lot better since I’ve been doing it.  I do still eat meals that are completely vegan, but I feel that I’ve found a different way of eating that is more beneficial to myself.  I have nothing bad to say about veganism and the vegan community in general, and I do believe the underlying philosophy to be more valid and worthy than that of people who have never questioned.  I have simply found a different nutritional path.

I’m not sure right now where it’s taking me, but I will keep you posted.  And possibly share any recipes if I have any.

Meat Free Monday: Lentil Moong Dal

The first time I had dal (or dhal, never sure how to spell it) I hated it!  I was at a fancy restaurant where they served up mushy, flavourless stuff that was like yellow mash potato!

The second time I had it, I was at a Nepalese restaurant (the Yak and Yeti Gurkha Restaurant, York, loads of vegan options and very good value for money) and it was wonderful.

Tasty dhal at the Yak and Yeti Gurkha restaurant, York.
Tasty dhal at the Yak and Yeti Gurkha restaurant, York.

I went home and did a few experiments before landing on my own lentil dhal recipe, something delicate but tasty:

1. Yellow mung dhal (moong daal) lentils.  I buy the ones that don’t need to be soaked.

2. Fresh (chopped) or dried coriander (aka cilantro) (2 tsp)

3. Bhuna or balti paste (a tablespoon is ample), or if you can’t find the paste, use a quarter of a jar of the sauce instead.  Patak’s do a nice one.

Get a fine meshed sieve and wash your mung dhal lentils until they are clumping together – this removes some of the starch.

Pop them into a saucepan and cover with boiling water.  Add a teaspoon of coriander (cilantro).  Simmer for about 30-50 minutes, depending on how mushy you want it.

When it has softened enough, drain and add the bhuna paste or sauce (or balti), and stir it into the dhal, stirring in the rest of the coriander (cilantro).  Leave on a very low heat for at least 10 minutes so the flavour penetrates the lentils.  Stir regularly so it doesn’t burn the bottom of the pan.

Serve in a bowl, either on its own or with rice.

Nutrition: Gluten free, dairy free, 80g of moong dal lentils are one of your five a day (and a separate one to regular lentils because they come from different species of plant), 30g of protein per 100g of uncooked moong dal lentils and 45g of carbohydrate per 100g of uncooked moong dal lentils.

Rome in A Day (and pushchair, wheelchair accessibility)

So, unless you believe it was beamed here by aliens, most people can agree that Rome wasn’t built in a day, yada yada yada.

However, it can be visited in a day (although you will miss out on loads).  Here’s the 5 things to see/do if you only have one day in Rome, I’ve included accessibility information for wheelchairs and pushchairs because I know a few people who have been put off going to Rome due to a perceived lack of accessibility:

5. The Spanish Steps – I really liked them, and I used a network of back alleys to get to the top, just as it was going dark, then climbed down, because it was actually less touristy to do it that way around and we only got harassed by two flower sellers at the top, not the zillion or so at the bottom, because I realized I couldn’t get a good shot from the bottom so I bought a postcard instead.

Spanish Steps Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

It’s a monumental staircase.  The back way isn’t totally wheelchair friendly, if you’re a solo wheelchair traveller you would be disappointed, but it’s one flight of stairs after a bit of a hill (see my first picture, that’s the back way not the actual Spanish steps, which are much less accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, particularly due to size and shape of the steps, as well as crowds), so if you’ve got a carer with you, you might be able to possibly get to the top (depending on your circumstances).  Personally, I would have flagged down a strong person to help me lift the wheelchair to get my mum up these steps if I’d taken her (if she’d wanted to see the top, and obviously at a time when I was still caring for her), but obviously it depends on how comfortable you are with doing that.  No way in hell I would have got an electric wheelchair up these steps or a scooter, unless it was a child’s.  This is also the way up that I’d recommend if you’ve got a pushchair, pram or buggy.  If you look at a map of Rome, just trace back from the top of the Spanish steps down some alleys (alleys are a bit hilly) to see how to get up here.

The back entrance to the Spanish Steps.
The back entrance to the Spanish Steps.  Note these aren’t the actual Spanish steps, this is a MUCH shorter, shallower staircase.
The only VAGUELY in focus picture of the view from the top of the Spanish Steps.  My camera does NOT cope with low lighting very well.
The only VAGUELY in focus picture of the view from the top of the Spanish Steps. My camera does NOT cope with low lighting very well.

4.  The Trevi Fountain would usually come here, but due to current renovations it’s actually empty and covered with scaffolding at the moment.

The Trevi Fountain restoration work September 2014
The Trevi Fountain restoration work September 2014

Instead, I’m going to bump up The Pantheon, which has had all its repairs completed and is fully open.  I first saw the Pantheon in 2007, when it was covered in indoor scaffolding, and I was very pleasantly surprised this time that it was restored to its stunning former glory with nary a builder in sight.  It’s well worth a visit and when you do, look up at the ceiling as well.

The Pantheon is completely wheelchair accessible.  Entry is free.
The Pantheon is completely wheelchair accessible. Entry is free.

Trevi Fountain Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

It’s all flat ground to get to the Trevi Fountain, but you can’t actually get to it, usually at Easter and Summer there are huge crowds, so I’m not sure how you would get to the front to see anything, also the actual sides of the Trevi Fountain are quite high to stop people falling in, so you might need to either stand up (if you are able) or get someone to lift you to see all of it.  It’s 100% pushchair accessible, though.  With the current glass floor, if your wheelchair isn’t too wide, you could get to see the current renovations up close before they restore it to its former anarchic glory.

Pantheon Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

The Pantheon is totally accessible by wheelchair and inside is nice shiny flat floorage and wide thoroughfares.

3.  Eat At A Pavement Cafe – one of my most memorable experiences each time I go to Rome is the food.  Yeah, it’s somewhat overpriced, and yes, it’s just pasta/pizza at most eateries.  But when it’s 9pm, the heat of the day is still in the air, the twinkling fairy lights are on above you, and some guy with an accordion is busking up and down the street, eating a pizza at a pavement cafe, either with someone you care about or solo, is one of the finest eating experiences of my life.  “But you have a milk allergy!” I hear you declare (or if you know me less well, “but you’re vegan!” which has only been since January)  I found this awesome place where the owner was really helpful and did me a dairy free pizza with no cheese, and the base was dairy free anyway, so that was fantastic.  I was very excited to have a vegetable pizza.  Mine cost 7 Euros, my drink (Sprite) was 4 Euros.

This place was at the bottom of the Spanish Steps round a corner, and were happy to oblige me with a dairy free pizza.  They didn't overcharge us, either.
This place was at the bottom of the Spanish Steps round a corner, and were happy to oblige me with a dairy free pizza. They didn’t overcharge us, either.

Pavement Cafe Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility: 

Pretty much every pavement cafe is wheelchair accessible, you can just roll up and they’ll pull the chair away from the table if you don’t want it, and they will bring everything to you, like they do for everyone else, although there’s often a step or three to get inside and toilets (where they have one) are rarely wide enough for a wheelchair, baby changing stations are also non-existent.

2.  The Coliseum – Being an archaeology graduate, Rome means Ancient Rome to me.  Getting to see the Coliseum (some nations spell it Colloseum, or Coloseo) and actually stand where thousands of people stood, watching the games that used to go on, wondering what they thought and how they responded when they saw such spectacles… that’s just tremendous for me.  While here, I bought a 7 Euro guidebook for the Forum and Palatine, because you get a combined ticket (which is easier to obtain from the forum with less queueing, but I did the coliseum first).

The Coliseum from the bottom end; the wooden platform is where the floor level would have been after (I think it was Caligula) renovated from the original dirt floor.
The Coliseum from the bottom end; the wooden platform is where the floor level would have been after Domitian (the original builder Vespasian’s son) renovated from the original dirt floor and added the top layer of seating, doing both in wood, which was later fire damaged around AD217.

Coliseum Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

There is a lift to get to the top stone floor where you can look at the actual arena, and the exhibition area, although once you’re up there, I don’t think the actual monument has wide enough walkways for a standard wheelchair plus hand clearance, so you’d have to go back to the lift to get back down again.  I’m not sure I’d pay full price for this, and I don’t know how wheelchair friendly the lower levels are, where only the guided tours are allowed, because I didn’t want to pay for a tour guide.  There were plenty of people with pushchairs at all levels of the coliseum.

1. The Roman Forum and palatine – There’s no decorum in the forum!  Depending which path you take from the entrance, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is just a big hill with not a lot of interesting stuff on it, without any plaques etc to tell you what’s going on.  Go back to the entrance and either go right or straight on, rather than left, and you go round the hill to it’s foot, where you will see the most awesome remains, such as these, which made me wonder if I’d wandered onto the set of Xena, Warrior Princess:

I wish my house looked like this.
I wish my house looked like this.
This copper door is still keeping this building's contents safe, two thousand years after it was all built.  I wonder whether anyone still has a key to get inside...
This copper door is still keeping this building’s contents safe, two thousand years after it was all built. I wonder whether anyone still has a key to get inside…
And the verdant plant life is another reason the Roman Forum is my number 1 favourite part of Rome.  This area was reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli anime.
And the verdant plant life is another reason the Roman Forum is my number 1 favourite part of Rome. This area was reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli anime.

Roman Forum and Palatine Wheelchair and Pushchair Accessibility:

The Forum’s accessibility is surprisingly good.  Another reason why it’s scored quite highly on this list.  There is a separate entrance for wheelchairs and pushchairs, with a lift to get to the correct level.  You can’t get to the Palatine at all as far as I can see but the Forum’s where all the best stuff is (all the above photos are of the Forum) and you can get around most of it that’s all on the same level.  If I was in a wheelchair or planning a trip for someone in a wheelchair, I’d have no worries about the Roman Forum.

Hat Tip:

And I also strongly recommend that you take a hat and plenty of water.  I had water (and there’s a hosepipe in the coliseum where you can refill although the water quality is not quite British tap water quality, something I gladly pay my water bills for back home) but I had no hat, and I still got heat exhaustion after 24 hours in Rome using factor 50 suncream because my head just got too hot during the heat of the day, from visiting so many outdoor monuments without ample breaks.

Toilet Tip:

The biggest issue facing disabled tourists in Rome will be the toilets, or lack of toilets.  I strongly recommend you find the McDonalds restaurants which are all over Rome because they have a standard design in Europe, which means EVERY McDonalds in Europe must have a ground level accessible disabled toilet.  They’re usually pretty easy to spot as well.  How do I know this?  I worked at McDonalds all over the UK for 2 years, full-time, and I always make use of their facilities when I’m on the road.  I am very conscientious and always buy something (cup of tea, large fries or even a garden salad if I’m not overly hungry, it’s part of my 5-a-day if nothing else), because some stores get really sick of tourists literally pooping on their facilities and not even buying anything, which means these people have no respect for the person who cleans those toilets (hi!), and I don’t want to see stores charging people to use the toilets or otherwise restricting access.  KFC and Burger King may also have accessible toilets, but I can’t personally recommend them since I’ve only ever had overcharged, bad food experiences at Burger King, and KFC’s food is excellent (love love LOVE their corn on the cob, fries and BBQ sauce) but I rarely use their toilets because their Drive Thrus tend to have short opening hours and they don’t have as many city locations.

Note on the Vatican:

You’ll notice that I didn’t include il Vaticano on this list.  The Vatican City is really a completely stunning experience, and very accessible, BUT you really need a full day, or at the very least, an entire half a day, to soak up everything.  I also recommend you getting an ISIC card (the European Student card) if you are possibly able to (I get mine from the amount of language courses I’m studying at my Uni – you don’t need to be a full time student to get one, just studying at a university that participates in NUS/ISIC) because it slashes prices for you at all the major sites, including the Vatican, and I wish I’d had it when I went to Italy last year because it’s accepted pretty much everywhere in Rome.

The Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge

So I wanted to know if there was a quicker way to do lasagne than this.  That’s how, on Saturday, I set myself the Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge.

Using just the ingredients I had in the kitchen, I had to make a vegan lasagna in 20 minutes or less (prep time).  I had no dairy free cheese and no tomatoes, passata, puree or even pasta sauce, so I was winging it to the highest level.  To time me, my husband put on an episode of American Dad, and I had to be back in the living room before the end credits were rolling.

Here’s how it turned out:

20 minutes to prepare, 100% vegan 100% tasty lasagne.
20 minutes to prepare, 100% vegan 100% tasty lasagna (lasagne).

And here’s what I did:

1. Pre soaked 2 lasagna sheets in the bottom of the Pyrex lasagna dish.

lasagne 93

2. Taking a big bowl of spinach, I tore it up into tiny pieces, pulling out any obvious stems but not going overboard.  I covered the bottom sheet with the spinach.

This is how much spinach I used and how much I tore it up.
This is how much spinach I used and how much I tore it up.
This is what it looked like once it was all in the dish
This is what it looked like once it was all in the dish

3. I had no tomatoes, so covered the spinach in 1/2 a jar of Spanish Chicken sauce!!  Turns out, it’s basically tomato sauce (and it’s vegan if you don’t pour it over any chicken, obv, otherwise it would not be in my kitchen).

4. Next, I soaked 2 more lasagna / lasagne sheets in boiling water from the kettle, holding them carefully over the sink and rotating them to get the bit I was holding, until they started to flex.  These went over the spinach/spanish sauce.

If you want this to be even quicker, go straight to step 8 after this and just pour on top of this sheet.

lasagne vegan

5. Next, I poured a whole tin of sweetcorn (drained) over the middle layer of lasagna.  That’s right, this is going to be a three layer lasagna.

vegan lasagne sweetcorn lasagna

6. I covered the sweetcorn in the rest of the Spanish sauce.

vegan lasagne lasagna sweetcorn

7. I soaked 2 more lasagna sheets using the same method as step 4, then put them over the sweetcorn/sauce combo.

8. I made some vegan white sauce (bechamel sauce), as follows: 1 dollop of vegan butter, sieve in some flower and mix until it goes golden yellow. Then add the soya milk very gradually, keep stirring!  Once the white sauce has thickened, it’s done.

vegan white sauce bechamel sauce

I poured it over the top of the most recent lasagna sheets

lasagne lasagna vegan uncooked fresh

I put my whole lasagna in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes.

Before...
Before…
And after!
And after!

The bottom most lasagna sheets were not quite as soaked as they could have been, but otherwise it was a great result.

This proves that you neither need vegan cheese nor vegan cheese sauce to make a tasty lasagna.  Serves 3 meals or 6 as an accompaniment with some other stuff on the side.  If you’re super hungry, it would probably only do 2 meals.

Nutrition: There is no protein in this.  Have some peanuts with it or something.  It’s worth 2 of your 5 a day per 1/3 of the whole thing.  I used gluteny lasagna sheets because I’m broke but you can buy gluten free ones and make the white sauce with gluten free flour (Dove Farm do a nice one) to make this totally gluten free.

What do you think?  Would you take up the Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge?  Let me know in the comments or link to your article if  you’ve got a faster lasagna recipe!

Meat Free Monday: Vegan Lasagna

Dairy Free Vegan Lasagna (In England, we spell it lasagne, but I’ve used the American spelling as I know most of my readers are American/Canadian):

This post contains an affiliate link.  This recipe takes some time (I take just over an hour) so do it on a weekend day!

What better way to celebrate rabbit awareness week than to start it off with a meat free, animal free lasagna?

You will need:
A box of lasagna/lasagne sheets,
A block of dairy free hard cheese that can be grated/melted,

The “béchamel” sauce (method here):
Flour (or gluten free)
Soya milk (or alternative of your choice)
Vegan butter
Grated vegan cheese (optional depending on whether you prefer traditional or cheese béchamel sauce)

Alternative béchamel (if you are in a hurry):

Some cream cheese,
Cornflour,
A tablespoon or two of soya milk,

The “innards” of the lasagna:
1.5 cups Vegan mince or TVP,
1 Onion (or 1 cup frozen onions),
1/2 carton Tomato passata,
1/2 tsp of vegemite or yeast extract,
Herbs: a sprinkling of basil (OBT),

You will also need a square glass dish. You may need to change your measurements to fit your glass dish, mine is medium sized and serves 4-5. If you don’t have one, this lasagna dish set looks perfect.

Make the innards first:
1. Soak the TVP in some boiling water and mix in the Vegemite to add flavour.
2. Fry the onions and add the (drained if necessary) TVP, herbs, and the passata, mix well and set aside.

Then start to work with the lasagna sheets:
1. Follow the pre-soaking guidelines for the lasagna sheets. I usually pre-boil mine before using them so they’re not too hard.
2. Line the bottom of the glass dish with a layer of lasagna sheets, tearing and overlapping where necessary.

Then pour the innards over the first layer of lasagna sheets to totally cover it.

Next, put more lasagna sheets over the top of the innards.

Make the béchamel sauce next:
Here is the recipe you will use for the traditional béchamel sauce. If you’ve got all the ingredients, this one is the best one to make because it’s by far the most realistic. It’s your choice whether to include the grated cheese.
Alternative béchamel sauce using vegan cream cheese:
Put 1/3 of a tub of cream cheese in a pan, and heat it to soften. Mix in the soya milk and stir well. Add about 1 teaspoon of cornflour (sieve with a fine-mesh sieve to ensure no lumps, or just bung it in and live with the lumps) and mix well with a fork. Add more cornflour to thicken if needed.
Once the mixture is thick enough, pour over the top layer of lasagna sheets to completely cover them. You may need more sauce than this, depending on your dish size.

Grate the hard cheese over the top of the béchamel sauce to completely cover it with a decent layer of cheese.

To cook:

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes on 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 6.

Remove from oven and cut into square slices to serve. I use a wide flat spatula to get it out of the lasagna dish and a spoon in the other hand to stop the filling falling out.

To serve:

If it’s just to serve one, let the rest cool and cover then put in the fridge. When you wish to reheat, remove the amount you want to eat, and either oven it or microwave, depending on what you prefer.

Nutrition:

Approximately 1 of your 5 a day per serving and about 1/3 of your daily protein. For more of your 5 a day (so more vitamins), add some salad on the side or serve with a baked sweet potato and some boiled carrots.

Tips for success:

1. Get used to making the béchamel before you attempt the whole lasagna.
2. To save time you could pre-cook the béchamel for a different recipe the day before and set some aside for today’s lasagna.
3. Stir the vegemite fully into the TVP so you don’t get any lumps of yeast extract in your finished lasagna.
4. You can apparently just put the lasagne sheets in dry but I’ve always pre-soaked them and find this to make them cook better in the oven, as vegan cheese sauce tends to be a little too dry to soften the sheets in the oven.

Notes:
With the exception of the actual pasta itself, none of my pasta recipes contain gluten, so if you’re gluten free, replace your pasta with gluten free pasta and follow the rest of the recipe as normal. Most shops stock gluten free lasagne or lasagna sheets.

Next week: Pizza!

Bene cena!

Recipes: Easy Vegan Wedding Food For 75 Guests

All the recipes I did for my wedding are below.  We got Lebanese, Caribbean and some store bought cakes.

vegan caterers wedding food picnic raw gluten free

As I said in my previous Wedding Wednesday post, we really struggled to find any single caterer in York who would cater to a vegan wedding.  I phoned some places, and I didn’t even get quotes because they just didn’t do vegan food.  I was suggested the supermarket sandwich platters, but not one single vegan option, let alone a whole platter.  They all did “the vegetarian option” which meant cheese sandwiches with that miserable commercial grated flavourless cheese.  Obviously this service cost close to £100.  I was convinced that I could find tastier, more nutritional and more satisfying food for less money.

I wasn’t really sure what to go with for food – as long as it was vegan and tasty – but as the day drew closer I decided I was definitely going to do everything myself.  I’d seen lots of doom and gloom posts warning about the potential for disaster here, especially because people labour under this bizarre idea that you either can cook or can’t cook, and that “being able to cook” is do do with being able to make very specific, Western-Centric dishes that are generally nutritionally void and full of dead animal, and if you’re putting people in those camps, then no, I can’t cook, but if you try to remember that the basic purpose of cooking is supposed to be to get nutrients, and then give me an Indian, Asian, Caribbean, South American or African recipe (you know, two thirds of the world) and I am in my element.  I was so confident that I could do better cheaper food than the sandwich platters, that I set myself a challenge: to cater my own wedding for under £50.  Then I started looking at what to feed people.

I chose a few Lebanese dishes and some Caribbean.  I spent a whole day in the kitchen cooking, the day before the wedding, and refridgerated everything.  For drinks, and a nice visible centrepiece, we did up a cheap big rocking horse (that we found on Ebay for £5) to make him look like Vash the Stampede (links to Youtube) and we added two bags for life to make saddlebags, which we filled with drinks. There was bottled water, and cans of lemonade, cream soda and mini juice boxes of fresh orange juice. We were a little worried about how an alcohol free and animal free banquet would go down, but in the end we decided we wouldn’t do it any other way.

Here is the full list of food I whipped up or bought for the wedding, including the details for all the recipes I made, grouping foods by location:

Caribbean:

Plantain Chips GF

Cassava Chips GF

Fruit Ginger Cake (store bought, not GF)

Cucumber Chow (Trinidad and Tobago): 2 peeled diced cucumbers; 3 cloves of chopped garlic; 6 coriander leaves (finely chopped); pinch salt. Put in bowl and mix. RAW VEGAN FRIENDLY, GF Add hot sauce for more authentic Caribbean taste – I chose not to as the day was already forecast to be roasting.

Lebanese:
Batata Kizbra: 4 lg potatoes (cubed); 1 bunch coriander (chopped finely); 5-8 crushed garlic cloves; 1 juiced lemon; 3 tbsps olive oil. Cook potatoes then fry the lot. GF
Malfouf: (cabbage rolls): 1 whole cabbage; 3/4 cup vegimince; 1 cup raw rice; 4 squeezed lemons; 1-2 tsp of Lebanese 7 spice; 3 tbsp olive oil. Cook the rice, prepare the mince, mix the two. Boil the cabbage leaves until they are supple and rolly. Roll the rice mix in the cabbage leaves. Put in pan. Pour lemon, spice, oil and garlic mix over. Simmer/marinade until tasty (or 40 mins if you’re unsure). Check your vegimince, the rest is GF.

Mujardara (rice lentils): 2 tins of green lentils, 1.25 cups of uncooked rice; 4 medium onions; olive oil. Cook rice and lentils together until the rice is done. Chop and fry onions in the oil, mix about half of the onions in with the rice and lentils and garnish top with rest. Serve with plain yoghurt as a side dish (I served with Alpro plain soya yoghurt). GF

Loubieh bi Zait (beans in olive oil): 3lbs green beans; 3 medium onions; 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 2 tsp of Lebanese 7 Spice; 1/2 tsp salt. Chop the beans and onions, saute onions until they start going pinkish. Add the beans, salt and 1/2 the spices. Mix well to ensure the beans are covered in stuff. Cover and simmer for 45-55 mins. Stir every 5 mins. Once beans have turned a dark olive colour, add rest of spice, mix well and serve. We served cold with pita, julienned bell peppers, and spring onions, but can also be served hot if you’re not feeding 75 in a public park miles from home. GF

Extra Nibbles:

I bought some tiffin (dairy free vegan), in chocolate and chocolate orange flavours, available from the Free From section of Sainsbury’s or many other supermarkets.  I went for 4 packets as there was a 4 for the price of 3 offer on at the time, and I cut each slice into 4 little slices (so we got 80 little slices from 4 packs of tiffin), and we had about half of the tiffin left over after the wedding).

There were also store bought apple and strawberry pastries (£2 for 18-20 from Brompton House bakery brand who make cheap pastries for ASDA and Home Bargains), a few packets of cassava chips (crisps made from Cassava, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), a few packets of plantain chips (crisps made from plantain, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), and a lot of packs of pitta bread to eat the Loubieh bi Zait.

bunny bowls wedding bowls easter

We got these cute bowls for 10p for a pack of 10 from ASDA and okay, they say Happy Easter on them, but they are bowls, you put food in them, and they have bunnies on them. If the words were in Chinese, nobody would even know what they said so I figured, meh, letters, people can get over it. Anyway, it’s never too late to wish people a Happy Easter. When I’m faced with a choice between something expensive with no bunnies on it, and something cheap which has bunnies on it, I am always going to choose the bunnies, it’s a complete no brainer. Since the wedding was filled with little touches of randomness, everyone thought we were being ironic and found it funny.

My main worry was whether this would feed enough people, since we had about 75 guests who actually turned up from 100 invited, but I needn’t have worried.  The actual problem was that there weren’t enough drinks for everyone.  On one of the hottest days of the year, we ran out of drinks which was very stressful.  I could’ve done without that.  It was fine though, because we moved the cake-cutting forward (apparently there’s a social cue that cutting the cake means the wedding party is over.  I accidentally cut the cake too soon, wanting to share it with my friends, and didn’t know why everyone left so suddenly) and we went home to where we had a stockpile of more drinks and a cupboard full of cups, and sat around with the last 20 guests playing video games.  The 3lbs of beans and the extensive amount of cucumber chow (I doubled the recipe) meant that everyone who wanted to eat something had something to eat.

I will do a separate post for my wedding cake, which was made inside the £50 wedding food budget.  Spoiler alert: It was made of cornflakes.

vegan wedding picnic food

Meat Free Monday: More Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipes

Given how well my first two cheese sauce recipes went down last week, here’s two more.  They’re a bit more complicated but I’ve made pasta and cheese in all of these methods and can vouch for the fact that it will scratch an itch, even if it’s not remotely nutritious (more advice on making this meal more nutritious at the bottom).  Some of these are more realistic than others, as a general rule of thumb, the harder it is to make, the more realistic it comes out, so it’s up to you how much effort to expend in making vegan cheese sauce.  I oscillate – sometimes I don’t care enough to take any time and other times I’m spending half an hour on that perfect vegan cheese sauce recipe and smoothing out lumps with my hand blender (that’s a pro-tip, btw).  It all depends on how hungry or rushed I am vs how much I miss cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce 3. Using vegan cream cheese, method C:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 2 tablespoons of cream cheese per person (you may need more)

About 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person (also works with rice milk, not sure about others).

About 1 tablespoon of cornflour.

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. In a small non-stick pan (ideally), on a medium heat, spoon your required amount of cream cheese into the pan and add about 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person to start with.

Stir it together while it’s heating until it’s all warm and sauce like.

3. Add the cornflour (sieving it into the pan with a fine mesh sieve is the best way to avoid lumps, but work with what you’ve got) and combine well with a fork.

4. Once the sauce has reached the right consistency, serve it all up – put the pasta in bowls and pour the sauce over the top.

Cheese sauce 4. Using vegan cheese slices, vegan cheese sauce method D:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 3-4 dairy free cheese slices per person (Tofutti or Violife are the UK brand leaders),

Method:

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. Put the pasta back into the pan. Tear the cheese slices up and drop them into the pan.

3. On a medium heat, stir the cheese slices into the pasta. Need it cheesier? Add more cheese!

4. Serve it in the right number of bowls and eat it.

Nutrition: To make these more nutritious, use cauliflower or broccoli (or some of both) instead of pasta.  I like to also throw in a serving of frozen or fresh peas to ensure there’s some colour on my plate.  A handful of peanuts will help you achieve your day’s protein goals.  I strongly recommend you don’t use lentils – they don’t work well in this sauce.

You can make any of my recipes gluten-free by subbing the pasta for GF pasta.

Stay tuned for next Monday when I will put up the all-singing all-dancing Oven Baked Vegan Mac-N-Cheese Recipe that you will want to get your hands on.