Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Figgy Choc Shot Peanut Butter Bars

This is one of my favourite, favourite snacks: fig, peanut butter, cinnamon, and choc shot. Yum. YUM.

Trouble is, its also a tad messy, which is all very well if you're up at midnight eating straight out of the cupboard when nobody can see you. However, if its a friend's birthday and you want to share this delectable flavour combination, a box of dribbly gooey (if delicious) dried fruit with toppings is not the way to go.

I had to repackage this into bar form somehow so it was more convenient and presentable. Only trouble was, I really didn't want to add anything else into it. The flavours were perfect, and they had to remain separate and distinct to recreate the decadence that is this snack. But I couldn't literally pour those ingredients on top of one another and hope they'd magically turn into a bar. I needed flour of some kind. Oat flour was my initial thought, but my friend is very sensitive to grains, so that wasn't really an option. Almond flour was my next thought, but I figured it would still take a bit of the flavour away from the essential ingredient list.

Then I realised what a moron I'd been.

Peanut flour.


These bars are still VERY gooey, you'll need a spoon, and don't expect the choc shot to set in any way, but its well worth it for the pure perfection that is this desert.

Choc Shot PB Fig Bars

by Shonalika Tilak
Ingredients (12-15 squares)
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 8 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (or more!)
  • 1 1/2 cups figs, soaked
  • Salt
  • Choc shot syrup*
1. Whir peanuts in a food processor until a flour-like texture is achieved. Mix in a bowl with peanut butter and cinnamon (and salt, dependent on whether your PB is salted. I used salted PB and added 1/4 tsp salt).
2. Press mixture into a lined tray. Really press hard! I used the bottom of a glass.
3. Blend figs with 1/4 tsp salt, and soaking water until a smooth, spreadable puree is achieved.
4. Spread mixture over base and bake in pre-heated oven at 180C for 10-12 minutes, until browned slightly.
5. You can then apply the choc shot immediately, as I did - the heat will melt it immediately and help it spread. Get a nice layer across them, then bung in the freezer.

*If you don't have access to choc shot, another fruit-based chocolate syrup might work, or you could try making your own! Regular melted chocolate won't have the same flavour, so I'd definitely recommend getting hold of this stuff if you can:)
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Monday, 18 May 2015

Black Grape Smoothie

There's something special about black grapes. They have a certain deep intensity of flavour and a level of sophistication. The blacker the better - the kind you get from Tesco are so good they're practically alcoholic. Once you're hooked on these other grapes just taste watery by comparison.

And they're amazing in smoothies. This one can be done with either fresh or frozen grapes: fresh yields a refreshing, smooth, zingy beverage, whereas frozen lends itself to a texture thats almost like ice-cream. This one is very filling considering its not got that much in it - perfect for a small breakfast or snack.

Go forth and enjoy!

Black Grape Smoothie

by Shonalika Tilak
Cook Time: 5 mins
Ingredients (Serves 1)
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ cup grapes
  • 1 tbsp avocado
  • 1 cup (or less) amond milk,
  • Pinch salt
  • Optional sweetener to taste
1. Blitz ingredients in a food processor or blender.
2. Serve and gulp!
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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Vegan Pizza Night: Morelli Zorelli

Morelli Zorelli are a relatively new pizza place. Situated on Brighton's Western Road, they took over from what used to be called the Gourmet Pizza Club, which was well-known amongst vegans for catering properly to them. The story is that when the new business took over, they found themselves inundated with indignant vegans wanting to know where the pizza they used to get here had gone.

Rather than simply saying "We don't do vegan" (which admittedly would be new business suicide in Brighton, but nonetheless) they sent out an online survey, asking their vegan clients which options they would like to see added to the menu. How good is that? Especially as I like filling in forms and surveys. No really, I find it quite enjoyable. Especially when you get to rate things one to ten and tick boxes. Anyone else understand this? I get a weird sense of satisfaction from it.

Please tell me I'm not alone in the world.

I don't believe I said anything interesting or helpful in my survey. The only thing I absolutely require on a pizza is jalapenos, plus fresh tomato added afterwards, though I don't know if I even remembered that whilst contentedly form-filling.

My favourite pizza of the evening: Smoked Tofu and Artichoke.

A couple of weeks ago, I was randomly emailed tickets to go to a free vegan pizza tasting night. Needless to say I was quite pleased about this. My form-filling fetish actually came in useful for once!

It was a funny arrangement. We all got plunked in the downstairs dining area, seated at tables like we were going to eat there, while for the next fifteen minutes the staff tried to get rid of the last group of pizza-eaters lingering upstairs. Then we all trooped up ourselves.

They'd said it would be "buffet-style" so I was initially hoping that we'd be able to grab the slices we wanted, then smuggle our plates back downstairs. Instead, they brought out one type of pizza at a time as demonstrated in the picture below - three plates being plenty enough for everyone to try each flavour.

This actually turned out to be a lot more fun as everyone got drunk (though they need to get a vegan wine on the menu to match the new pizzas!) and the standing-around-eating-on-your-feet-like-at-a-party thing was far more conducive to mingling and chatting to everyone else there than being at tables would have been.

This is Matt, who kept running home every five minutes to deliver slices to his ill and absent wife, and deserves some sort of medal. 

I'm sure you want to goggle at the pizzas more than you want to read my description of the event, so here they are:

(Photos kindly provided by Justine Turner, who was in the group after me. I didn't get to try all of these, boo shame - look at the ham and pineapple!!) 

Here are the TWELVE new dishes that will now be permanently on the menu. 

They served about 5 of these varieties to my group: Chicken and Pesto, Courgette Aubergine and Mushroom, Smoked Tofu and Artichoke,  BBQ Chicken, and Pesto Mushroom and Asparagus. They were using two brands of vegan cheese and two types of base, one of which was gluten-free. 

I loved the gluten-free base - it was quite firm and had a bit of bite to it, which I actually prefer to the slippy sloppy slithery standard pizza base. On the other hand, I wasn't overly enthused by either of the cheeses (one was Violife, I've forgotten the other), finding them both to be bland and tasteless. However, I'm really not a fan of pre-packaged vegan cheeses on the whole. I think they'd do much better to make some of their own cheese - perhaps cashew-based - and use it as a type of specific topping rather than slather all the pizzas with any packaged stuff. 

That aside, I did really enjoy the Smoked Tofu and Artichoke. The BBQ chicken was pretty good too. The general consensus amongst the assembled was that anything smoked = good. Truth right there. Also, I've not used onions in cooking for so long that I'd come to view them as unnecessary, but this pizza reintroduced me to the joy that is onions that have been caramelised. 

I didn't love most of the pizzas, but this was partly because of the cheese, and partly because they weren't my favourite flavours - however I think anyone reading should bear in mind that being a healthy health healther who didn't grow up eating much pizza, I'm not that fussed about pizza, I don't have pizza on a regular basis and I'm very particular about my toppings on the rare occasions I do eat a pizza. My own particular fussiness didn't matter anyway; this was a great fun evening socialising with all the other vegans and general food lovers who showed up. Also


I'm really impressed with this place's enthusiasm to cater to its vegan customers. It was a well-executed event and the staff seemed to be enjoying themselves as well as the guests. A very nifty marketing ploy too, of course: since I always always prefer my food spicy, the Veggie Hot was the flavour I wanted to try, and the Duck and Smokey Joe sound really interesting too. Both my non-vegan friend and I agreed we'd definitely go back! 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Review: Nakd Nibbles

Today the Pulse reviews Nakd's latest concoction. Teensy tiny mouse-sized pieces, in no less than SIX new flavours.

As a big nakd bar fan you can imagine I was quite inclined to eat all of them at once, but I managed to restrain myself and make them span out a couple of weeks.

Since I am a fan of nakd bars and raw desserts in general, my opinion is perhaps not relevant to everybody. So I also shared some of each packet with a non-vegan two-sugars-in-my-tea human named Dan, to get a more balanced opinion. Both our ratings appear under the name of each item.

No freebies for me here, just doin' it for the laaaav. Enjoy!


The nibbles aren’t at all sticky, which was my one main reservation about the idea of “bitty,” nakd bars. I often like to snack on one while I’m doing work at the computer and the nice sanitary nature of a wrapped bar is convenient for that - happily, with these you can just shake bites out into your palm and chomp/type/whatever else it is you’re doing at the same time, as I’m doing right now.

They’re as filling as the regular nakd bars, which isn’t really surprising considering they’re basically the same thing, but for some reason I was expecting them to be less substantial. If anything, it feels like you get more per packet than you do per bar, a possible mental trick caused by eating "lots," of things instead of one. 

Onto the individual flavours!

Coconut Bliss: 
Distinct dried coconutty texture with clear flavours of chocolate and coconut - definitely one for lovers of the combination! Almost marshmallowy, and sweet enough for someone who isn’t as into nakd bars as I am. Finished the packet feeling satisfied and with a big smile on my face despite not being a fan of coconut in sweets. Yum.
Me - 4.5/5
Dan - 4/5

Fruit Salad:
REALLY a lot like eating sweets - something like Chewits, or even closer, those white powdery stick things in packs with cartoon characters like Tom and Jerry on them, does anyone know what they're called? Those things that you'd stick in your mouth as a kid and pretend you were smoking a cigarette to freak out adults?! Literally identical to those in taste but marshmallowy in texture. Possibly the most confusing raw snack I’ve ever eaten. I don’t know how they’ve accomplished this!?! Have to say, I’m not a “sweetie” fan any more and therefore didn’t like these - the flavour was absolutely convincing, and the texture, by extension, made the whole thing a bit jarring and offputting. I would have expected these to appeal to someone who does like sweets, but interestingly Dan wasn’t a fan either, stating that they had a “funny aftertaste”. Our least favourite of the lot, we couldn’t finish this pack:S
Me - 2/5
Dan - 1/5

Salted Caramel: 
These at least look more like the nakd bars I know and love. Flavour-wise they’re perhaps just a tad lacking - I would have preferred "Salted Caramel" to taste more decadent. I think these could have done with a higher cashew and salt content for more “chew,” and flavour. Nitpicking though, these are very enjoyable, especially if you eat like 4 at a time!
Me - 4/5 
Dan - 3/5

Strawberries and Cream: 
Taste like exactly what they say on the packet. These are not too sweet, but very “creamy,” tasting, quite mild in comparison to the other flavours, perfectly nice. 
Me - 3/5
Dan - 4/5

Tooty Fruity: 
Approached with slight trepidation, expecting it to be really weird like the Fruit Salad. Happily, it’s much nicer - simply fruity rather than “candy,” like. These are really quite nice, in my opinion. Dan pulled a face and said he didn’t like it - but then wanted another one…? 
Me: 3/5
Dan - 2.5/5

Toffee Treat: 
Delicious! To me they don’t taste that much like toffee, but they have a chewier “nakd,” consistency that makes them more satisfying, and they’re perfectly sweet. Dan was able to taste the toffee, though to me they have a certain depth of flavour that makes them more like a toffee liqueur. Again, big mouthfuls is the way forward. 
Me - 4/5
Dan - 3/5

Mint Humbug: 
Left these till last as I was expecting NOT to like these. Natural mint flavouring is hard to get exactly right. However, they're delicious. Sharp and minty with just the right balance between added and intrinsic flavour - couldn’t fault them. Dan rated them only at 3, but wanted more again, so make of that what you will... These also worked perfectly as “bits" - didn’t feel the need to eat a handful. 
Me - 5/5
Dan - 3/5


Nakd have definitely attempted some wacky flavours here that branch far out from what you'd expect of raw snacks, by the addition of weird and wonderful flavours to the basic fruit+cashew mix, and on that front they've on the whole done really very well. The whole nibble thing works too - I do think, though, that they'd benefit from turning the Toffee, Caramel and Coconut flavours into bars, as the the first two are most enjoyable when you have a big chunk of them to chew on. They're naturally pre-dispositioned to be available in bar form. As for the coconut, that works just fine as "nibbles," but is so good that they ought to make a bar out of it too just for the bants.

Have you tried the new nibbles? What do you think of them?

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Magic Instant "Cheese," Toastie

Store-bought vegan cheese substitutes can be awful. And they can be great, apparently. I don't know, I rarely ever buy them. Home-make cheese substitutes are rarely awful. They're often great, I occasionally make them. 

However, the vast majority of the time I just can't be bothered. Making them involves remembering to soak the cashews the night before and food processors and cooking and cleaning and most worryingly of all, effort. So this leads us onto 

Problem 1: The lack of effortless, INSTANT melty vegan cheese. 

I've solved this problem for anyone who owns a toastie maker/panini press, along with a problem also frequently encountered by said toastie maker/panini press owners:

Problem 2: The inability to make a toastie without the filling going everywhere. 

This is really more of a simple technique than a recipe, so I've added photos to show you what to do, though the recipe I've included is delicious, and very customizable to your tastes! 

First, get yourself a messy worktop and a red kettle like this.

Place your tortilla in the toastie machine as shown. Spread and stack the fillings on the innermost triangles. Then fold it in half and fold the excess neatly up at the sides. Like this:

Slam the lid shut and leave it as long as you can possibly stand to wait. I'd recommend at least 5-10 minutes for a really cheese-like, properly cooked oozy goozy toastie.

Chop off that dodgy awkward unfolded bit of excess tortilla on the left. Saw that toastie in half, put it on a plate with a couple of tomatoes and try to make it look pretty.

Give up and eat it.

Magic Instant "Cheese," Toastie

by Shonalika Tilak
Cook Time: 10 mins
  • 1 wholemeal tortilla wrap
  • 1-2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 tomato, diced
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • Salt, if your PB is unsalted
  • Optional: Add-ins of choice, e.g spinach. 
1. Place the tortilla wrap into the toastie machine and spread the peanut butter evenly in the shape of the two innermost triangles.
2. Stack with tomatoes, yeast, spices and pepper.
3. Fold tortilla over, and fold edges up. Turn on and close toastie machine. Cook for 7-10 minutes.
4. Saw in half and enjoy with salad and mustard:D
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Monday, 6 April 2015

Marzipan "Simmel," Easter Brownies

OK so I'm late to the party, but since I wasn't originally planning to post at all for Easter, late is better than never right? Besides, this recipe is perfect for using up some of those pesky ingredients you may have bought in the process of making other Easter treats.

In our family, Easter never really was a thing. My sister and I celebrated Christmas like everyone else (except, much to our glee, without the requirements of attending church, or waiting till any time past 4 am to open our presents) but on the flip side of this, we found that round about this time of the year, all the other kids were getting to decorate eggs, participate in scavenger hunts, and eat a lot of chocolate, whilst in our house absolutely nothing out of the ordinary seemed to be happening. We complained, of course, the result of which being that our slightly perplexed mum started to buy us a single gold-wrapped rabbit each per year and giving them to us pretty much at random as soon as they appeared in the shops. We appreciated this, but gave up on the whole celebration thing after a point.

Even after moving out, I still could never really be bothered with Easter, but recently my partner's mum, who very much celebrates Easter, gifted both of us with a tradition Simmel cake, which intrigued me. I've no idea whether or not it was vegan but will confess so scoffing almost half of it anyway - generally if I can't taste the non-vegan elements in a thing, it won't affect me psychologically, which means I can eat (and enjoy!) stuff that needs eating rather than let it go to waste. This cake was practically more fruit and nuts than cake, which may have been part of why I liked it, as I'm not really a cake person - but also, it re-introduced me to a long-forgotten favourite food of mine - marzipan!

I used to love this stuff as a child, and delighted in saving the cake topping now to scoff later. Once the cake was gone I decided I had to do something else with the delicious confectionary - whilst eating the cake, I thought (predictably) the only thing that could make it better, apart from making it vegan obviously, was to make it, you know, chocolate.

I had a couple of bananas that needed using so nosed around and basing the recipe on a combination of these brownies by Marfigs and MyInspiration, created my own highly untraditional take on Simmel Cake.

Happy Easter everyone.

Marzipan "Simmel," Brownies

by Shonalika Tilak
Cook Time: 30-35 mins
    For Marzipan:
    • 50g almond flour
    • 3 tbsp maple syrup
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    For Brownies
    • 1 cup spelt flour
    • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ginger
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 small bananas, mashed
    • 1/2  packed cup pitted dates (soaked)
    • 3/4 cup nondairy milk (I used unsweetened soya)
    • 3 tbsp golden sultanas
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
    • 8 walnut halves, chopped
    1. If making your own marzipan, simply combine ingredients in a bowl and squish with your hands! Set aside until needed.
    2. Blend dates with bananas + 1/3 cup soaking water until smooth.
    3. Combine wet ingredients in a bowl.
    4. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
    5. Add wet to dry and mix in add-ins - add marzipan LAST as it is the softest ingredient, especially if you made it yourself, so you can fold it in gently.
    6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, pour in mixture, smooth and bake in pre-heated oven until a knife inserted into the centre comes out dry (or just 20 or so minutes for squishy brownies!)
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    Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Courgette Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

    There are sometimes days when I just crave vegetables. There doesn't seem to be a clear pattern to this of any sort, given that it can occur just as strongly whether I've been eating fruit+vegfully for days or eating through a pack of Choices caramel chocolate (mmm). Suddenly I feel the urge to just chomp my way through a pile of greenery with no sauces or dressings or cooking or anything. No frills (no skills), just cold plain raw vegetables. Chomp.

    You'll be pleased to know that this recipe does not just consist of vegetables and nothing else - to accompany meals such as the above, I've devised a very quick far Eastern-inspired sauce, which is insanely delicious - the spice kind of counteracts the "coldness," of the salad, too, which I love. Contrast and that.

    As anyone who eats anything raw knows, this meal is pretty hefty chompwork. It will leave you feeling full and sated (if you're of a similar size and weight to me) but doesn't actually contain many calories, so don't be surprised if you need to snack soon after - or if you're well-accustomed to eating raw, increase the portion as required;)

    Things are mega busy right now so this may be the last post from me for a while! Got a tonne of recipes to share though, and perhaps a certain upcoming event to promote too:D Stay tuned ~

    Courgette Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

    by Shonalika Tilak
    Cook Time: 15-20 mins
      For Salad
      • 1 courgette/zucchini
      • 1 tomato
      • 1 cooked beetroot
      • 1 spring onion/scallion
      For Sauce
      • 1 tbsp peanut butter
      • 1 tbsp soy sauce
      • 3 tbsp milk (for thicker sauce, use soy - other milks tend to be thinner, so adjust other ingredients accordingly)
      • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
      • 1/2 tsp chili powder
      1. Mix sauce ingredients with a fork. (You can use a blender, but its not necessary.)
      2. Use a vegetable peeler/spiralizer on the courgette/zucchini, chop other veg and mix together.
      3. Use the sauce for pouring or dipping. Enjoy!


      You can vary up the veg quite a bit - another one of my favourite pairings with this sauce is to use carrot ribbons and chopped silken tofu in place of the beetroot and onion. Mmmhmm.

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