Monday, 15 December 2014

Freedom Mallows

If you've spent much time with me (either online or in real life) then you probably already know how much I love marshmallows. When I was a teenager I used to stick them on the end of a nail file and toast them over a candle whilst obsessively re-watching Clueless and wishing I had Cher's life. I'm different now, classier, I have skewers. I'm also switched on to what gelatine actually is these days so vegan mallows are the only way to go.

Freedom Mallows have been a favourite of mine since they first appeared in stores and I was stoked when they agreed to send me their new repackaged and rebranded marshmallows to try and review. 

I've always been a bit of a mallow purist picking up the white Vanilla Mallows every time. When something's this good it's hard to break away from it. These are perfectly sweet and pillowy and I love them. They aren't as puffy as Dandies, which aren't available in the UK yet, and they remind me a little of flumps, remember those? I loved those.

Next I tried the yellow coloured Vanilla Mallows which, if I'm totally honest I don't quite understand. I've always been unsure about purchasing these in the past assuming they must taste strange but they taste exactly the same as the white version. Do people have childhood memories of yellow marshmallows that I've missed? I have puffy pink mallow memories but nothing's ringing a bell with yellow. Do the people at Freedom Mallows just think yellow's a fun colour? I don't know, I do know that it didn't stop me eating them.

The Strawberry Mallows turned out to be a total revelation. Whilst I had fond teenage memories of eating pink marshmallows I had no recollection of them tasting like strawberry. In fact I found the idea a little odd at first but after my first taste I realised I'd been so, so wrong. I ate the whole bag in one go, they're so freaking good.

I was ridiculously excited to try the mini mallows but I wanted to hold out for an occasion, mini mallows aren't just for shoving into your mouth in handfuls y'know... Okay, okay, I totally did that but only with half of them.

I took the mini vanilla marshmallows along to my favourite local hot chocolate spot, Chocaffinitea. They do spanish style single origin hot chocolate which is always hot, always vegan and always and ready to go. It's pretty great as is but the marshmallows make it extra special. I kept adding more and more.

I had something special in mind for the mini pink & white vanilla marshmallows too, Krispie Cakes. I hadn't made Krispie Cakes for a long time, probably ever since Kellogs screwed up all of the vitamin D in their cereals and made them non-vegan, and I'd never had them with mallows. Randi and Sal were coming to sleep over so I veganised this recipe but with added mallows and chocolate krispies so I think I've changed it enough to feature it below.

Double Chocolate Marshmallow Krispie Cakes

  • 90g Doves Farm Cocoa Rice Cereal
  • 100g Dark Chocolate (try to find something hovering around the 50% cocoa mark)
  • 60g Margarine cut into small pieces
  • 3TBS Golden Syrup
  • 1/2 bag Freedom Mallows (divided)
Melt the chocolate in a bain marie stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add the margarine and stir until melted. Add the golden syrup and stir in. Gently fold in the cocoa rice cereal and just under half of the bag of mini marshmallows. Spoon into 12 cupcake cases and top with the remaining marshmallows. Leave in the fridge to cool for around an hour and then eat. 

The finished product! Nick, Sal, Randi and I devoured these pretty fast. They were most excellent.

Freedom Mallows are available from Infinity Foods in Brighton, The Health Store in Nottingham and Edinburgh's Real Foods as well as UK wide at Holland and Barrett, Whole Foods UK locations and many other independent retailers. Online stockists include Vegan Store and the Viva! Shop and if you're in Aus you're in luck because Freedom Mallows can be purchased online from both Vegan Perfection and Green Edge. Freedom Mallows have recently made it to Sweden too, you can pick up a bag from Astrid Och Aporna or some ICA and Coop supermarkets, hopefully the rest of Europe won't be far behind. 

If all of this marshmallow talk has your craving a s'more or yearning to whip up a batch of my marshmallow krispie cakes then I have good news for you. I'm giving three people the chance to win two bags of mallows (white and strawberry) and a promotional Cedric the Sloth shopping bag. Yay!

To enter just leave a comment telling me what you'd do with your marshmallows. Winners will be picked at random. The giveaway closes on December 19th at 12pm GMT. This competition is open to residents of the UK and Sweden only. Please be sure to leave your contact details, e-mail, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog profile work for me! 

The giveaway  is now closed, congrat's Imogen & Loz.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Itadaki Zen, London

Life's been super hectic recently and I've been neglecting everything that isn't packing, fixing my house, talking to estate agents, franticly eBaying all of the things I've realised that I no longer need, tying up loose ends and spending every spare second with the friends I'm going to miss once I'm no longer on this island. I have been managing to eat though so you don't need to worry about me. I always have time for food! 

Yesterday saw me heading to London early to get my My Little Pony tattoo touched up by the artist who did it for me at the Brighton Tattoo Convention back in February (see what I mean about tying up loose ends?!) and meeting my oldest friend for a much needed catch up - I last saw her at my wedding which was almost five years ago now but thankfully when you've known someone since you were three picking up exactly where you left off is easy. 

In-between all of that I managed to catch the one and a half hour lunch window (12:30 - 2) at Itadaki Zen which, as I'm missing Japanese food always, I was stupid excited about. I almost skipped there despite the tattoo pain!

The lunch menu is small but despite that I still had trouble choosing between udon dishes and donburi and I eventually settled upon the Tempura Bento set which came with miso. They were super accommodating about my allergies and were able to leave the peppers out of this dish for me.

The miso was warming and didn't scrimp on the tofu and the bento itself came with light crisp tempura vegetables, a fantastic spring roll (one of the best ever), rice with vegetables which included the teeniest little mushrooms, sesame green beans, a salad which had the most perfect soy based dressing and sesame tofu which I could eat for every meal and be happy. 

Everything about the meal was wonderful, it was really light but filling and it transported me back to Japan at first bite. I ate at Itadaki Zen once a long time ago, maybe six years, maybe more, and I don't remember loving it anywhere near this much. Now I'm wishing that I lived in the Kings Cross / Caledonian Road area so that I could eat every meal there. If you haven't been yet I would highly recommend it. It's also not far from Cookies & Scream either which is where I headed for dessert, their warm cookies are amazing on a cold day. Or a warm day. Any day really!

As well as packing, eating and running around to see friends I've been finding the time to get pretty festive! This might be the last Christmas Nick and I spend in our cute little house for a while so we've been making the most of it. The tree is up, the mince pies have been eaten and the non-alcoholic punch has been mulling away on the stove. We won't be exchanging presents this year but we will be taking part in all of our favourite traditions: visiting the beach on Christmas morning, eating an excessive amount of roast potatoes and watching as many christmassy movies as possible, Love Actually, Elf, The Holiday and Miracle on 34th Street are my favourites what are yours?

I have a great competition coming up next Tuesday so watch out for that and I've been diligently eating chocolate so that I can give you the lowdown on some great new products before I leave. Not long now!

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Great Moshimo Vegan Challenge

Last Thursday saw Brighton's Moshimo hosting an event that's always a highlight on my foodie calendar, The Great Moshimo Vegan Challenge. Once a year Moshimo go vegan for an evening and chefs from all over the city compete to create the most inventive, beautiful and delicious small dishes. The event was thought up by owners Karl and Nicholas as they pondered what would happen to Moshimo if fish socks did run out. Obviously my vegan perspective on this is that they should stop using fish altogether to help save the oceans and to cease contributing to any animal cruelty but I do appreciate that they were one of the first places to remove blue fin tuna from their menu, to add vegan options and to focus on sustainable methods of fishing. Steps in the right direction for sure and it's a great spot to eat at with non vegan friends an family who aren't so open to a vegan meal.

The opinions expressed here are a mix of mine and my dining companions as due to my chilli allergy I had to skip or eat a modified version of some of the dishes.

The first dish out of the kitchen was a sample platter of three dishes from the vegan bento box that will be appearing on the winter menu shortly. I was excited by this strong start to the evening as my only real criticism of last years event was regarding the lack of Moshimo's own regular vegan menu items. In 2011 and 2012 there were plenty of their own small plates available for sampling, from edamame to dumplings via their inventive maki, but last year there was none of that which everyone at my table thought was a shame. I'm glad they responded to feedback and sent their own dishes out again this year.

The seaweed and inari tofu salad, sweet potato croquettes with ume and steamed pumpkin were all excellent. I've never been happier to have a pumpkin hating diner sitting next to me! This actually turned out to be one of my favourite dishes and I can't wait to go and get myself a bento box as soon as it appears on the menu.

The first competition entrant was Terre à Terre with their pickled lotus and kimchee dish with bean sprouts, lychee and coriander.

This could have been great, it seemed to have a vegan creamy cheesy sauce thing going on in there (something I'd love to see appearing on Terre à Terre's own menu!) but unfortunately it wasn't great. One of my dining companions described it as "like that curry they serve on BA flights to the USA", not great praise I'm sure we can agree.

Edamame was next, not a part of the competition but always a favourite snack of mine.

Cashew Catering went next in the competition with a dish that was one of my favourites for sure. The mixed mushroom and edamame stuffed mochi scored well across the board gaining some of my highest scores for taste, innovation and presentation.

I've never had hot mochi before and deep frying it definitely changed the texture from gelatinous to soft and almost potato croquette like. It was excellent with the accompanying ume but even better dipped in soy sauce. I'm pleased to say that the other diners agreed with my high scores as Cashew Catering came third overall.

My favourite dumplings from Moshimo's menu were next, they're deep fried to perfect crispiness and they're incredibly delicious. I usually order a couple of portions every time I eat there.

Next up was a dish that could only have been made by VBites who were the overall winners of the challenge yet again. This sprouting maki was inspired by donburi one of my favourite Japanese dishes. Donburi pretty much translates to bowl and in an inventive twist VBites put the rice both inside maki and shaped into onigiri and topped them with teriyaki vegan chicken and wasabi caviar. Mine arrived sans caviar but you can see Randi's in the background and Moshimo owner Karl was lovely enough to drop a sample off at our table and later we found out that it was Caviart brand, something I'm already a fan of but I'd never have considered picking the wasabi flavour!

Whilst this scored highly for innovation and won the competition I'd have preferred a straight up teriyaki vegan chicken maki. The teriyaki chicken itself was a favourite across our whole table, it was definitely one of the best things I ate all evening and something I'd love to see added to either VBites or Moshimo's menu. If either of them added a donburi dish like this one from LOVE Pacific Cafe in Nagoya to their menus I'd be there quicker than they could say deep fry!

The next dish from Indian Summer was one I had to eat a modified version of but the consensus from everyone at my table was that it was kinda tasteless and unenjoyable texturally. In fact when Randi and I compared notes she's just written "weird, very weird" and I had written "very odd". We think that just about summed it up.

More dishes from the Moshimo menu came out next to bridge the gap between competition dishes. I love both the cucumber and avocado maki, especially on a Monday or Tuesday night when everything on the menu is half price to Moshimo Members card holders, then I super love them!

Dish numer five was a Japanese rice cracker dish with a gochujang and miso glaze and a cucumber and tigers milk salad. My table enjoyed this Korean and South American fusion twist from 64 Degrees and agreed that it had a nice level of spice. I found the texture of the rice crackers themselves really moorish. The texture was strange, chewy and almost gummy inside but I just couldn't stop eating them!

The flour tortilla used here made this one immediately stand out as La Choza's entry. It was stuffed with habanero chills, squash, avocado and it came atop a wasabi sauce. Apparently the heat overwhelmed the flavours. It also made Randi sneeze into her water glass twice which was kinda hilarious, bonus point?!

Dish seven stood out to us as a potential winner despite the excessive use of quinoa. I loved the nori cracker and we all thought that the tofu fish was really inventive. The yuzu ketchup was super tasty too. It was also fried. Yup. Always the sign of a winner! This dish came in second and could only have been better if they'd used less quinoa.

The last dish was, and I'm not going to pull any punches here, definitely the worst thing we ate that evening. It sounded promising, thinly sliced kohlrabi topped with shiitake mushrooms, mizuna, sesame dressing and toasted sesame seeds. Unfortunately this thing was swimming in oil (and you know I'm no oil phobic vegan) and topped with a truly excessive amount of sesame seeds. It was ridiculous. Blech.

Thankfully dessert was on it's way and Moshimo had veganised the chocolate mousse from their regular dessert menu. They did this once before and my feedback wasn't great (it was super bitter) so I'm super happy they listened and gave this a whirl again but this time with some sweetener in the form of agave. This was spot on and of course I suggested that they add it to their menu instead of the dairy filled version.

Overall we had an enjoyable evening but the quality of the entries was, if I'm completely honest, way down on previous years. There were still some good dishes but they were all surpassed by Moshimo's own creations and nothing stood out in the way that some of the dishes from 2011 or 2012's event did. I can't help but wonder if this is because everyone taking part is doing it out of their own pockets? This years event was for charity but if the companies involved are paying for both ingredients and covering staff costs it must be difficult to choose the pricier ingredients or more laborious prep methods year after year. Maybe a shake up of the entrants is in order?