Launched at the beginning of summer, Pizza Express's Vegan Giardiniera pizza has been eaten over 200,000 times and has won the title of 'Best Vegan Pizza' in PETA's 2017 Vegan Food Awards. To celebrate this, and World Vegan Day, I was one of the lucky bloggers invited to Pizza Express' first ever Vegan Pizza party! Not only did we get some delicious starters and desserts, we also got to create our own pizzas with the dairy-free mozzarella alternative.
We began with olives, marinated with garlic cloves and pink peppercorns, and slow roasted tomatoes, marinated in garlic and oregano. I'm not a fan of olives but the tomatoes were some of the loveliest that I've ever tasted. They had the richness of sun-dried tomatoes but the garlic marinade and slow roasting brought out a light and fresh taste. Of course, we also had Pizza Express' famous (and very well loved) dough balls. Rather than the usual garlic butter, which is unsuitable for vegans, we had olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and pestorissa (a harissa spiced tomato dip). As I was driving, I stuck to soft drinks, but my mum had an organic white wine - Organic Verdicchio - which I had a cheeky sip of and was very jealous!
After a quick getting to know each other, we were taken over to our pizza making area and presented with our dough and trays. We watched in awe at how easy the pro-chef made it look... It was not easy! After a good giggle attempting to throw our pizzas in the air to stretch out the dough, we then popped them in the trays and made our crusts. At this point, I was feeling pretty good about my dough. However, when it came to putting the sauce on, things started to go a little pear shaped.
We were taught to use the authentic Italian method, where you shake the pizza to move the sauce around, rather than using a utensil. Unfortunately, I shook a little too hard and my dough went from pizza to calzone! (Oops!) Luckily, it was salvageable and I quickly covered my unevenly spread tomato sauce with onion, spinach, a little garlic oil, and a variety of peppers: red, yellow, peppadew and roquito. We finished the pizzas off with 2 portions of the vegan cheese (which is pre-portioned and frozen to ensure freshness and prevent contamination with meat based products) and eagerly awaited for them to be cooked.
I was really surprised by the vegan cheese, and would happily make the swap to it. Yes, it doesn't have the flavour of strong cheeses (which I do love) but it works perfectly on top of a pizza. There are so many people who can't eat dairy products, whether due to allergies, intolerances, or their own personal beliefs - and I'm so happy to see well known restaurants caring about this and making it really easy for them! (The vegan cheese alternative can even be added to any pizza in replace of mozzarella!)
We finished off the meal with sorbet. Mum went for raspberry whilst I chose coconut - they were both delicious, and something I'm definitely going to order in the future if I'm after a lighter pud!
Have you tried vegan cheese before? Would you? Let me know your thoughts!
*This post is sponsored by Pizza Express. All opinions are my own.