A comfort food classic with a healthy twist

Macaroni 'cheese' with kale and sage Macaroni ‘cheese’ has to be one of the world’s best comfort foods, but this recipe contains plenty of goodness besides the comforting carbs. As you would hope, it’s quick and easy to make, but the taste is really special. Any brand of vegan cheese should work fine in this, but if you are able to get hold of some Vegusto or Violife, that will help to make this really special. You can order Vegusto online, or get it from some independent health food shops. The same applies to Violife, although I think it’s now stocked in some of the larger Tesco stores too. You’ll notice the deliberate mistake in the definite absence of macaroni, but I found fusili worked just as well.

Ingredients for macaroni ‘cheese’ with sage and kale (serves 2):

  •  150 g pasta
  • A splash of cooking oil
  • 100g kale
  • 100g courgette
  • 4 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 800 ml soya milk
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 2 tsp yeast extract
  • Vegan cheese to taste (this will depend completely on the strength of the cheese you’re using)


  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then add the pasta, along with a splash of oil. Cook until tender (around 10-15 mins).
  2. Meanwhile, grate the courgette, and if using whole kale leaves (rather than pre-chopped ones) pull the leaves off the stems and tear into medium-sized pieces.
  3.  Gently melt the margarine in a largeish pan, then add the kale and sautee for a few minutes. Add the flour and stir until a paste forms, then cook for a minute or so, 011stirring constantly.
  4. Gradually add the soya milk, stirring constantly and bringing to the boil until the sauce reaches a nice thick consistency. If you find it becomes too thick, you can add some more milk, and more flour if it’s not quite thick enough.
  5. Stir in the sage, yeast extract, courgette and cheese, and simmer until the cheese is melted (if you’re using a brand that melts) and the pasta is ready.
  6. When the pasta is cooked, drain and stir into the sauce. Serve with some nice crusty bread for the full comfort food experience!


A tasty but unphotogenic soup

This is a quick, easy soup with a nice autumnal combination of flavours. Sadly though, its beige colour makes it decidedly unphotogenic, so I’ve declined to include an unflattering photo!

Ingredients for parsnip, apple and peanut soup (serves 2):

  •  2 smallish onions
  • 2 medium apples
  • 2 medium parsnips
  • A good splash of olive or sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 4 tablespoons of peanut butter


  1. Peel and chop the onion and parsnips, and peel, core and chop the apple (the beauty of soups is that the ingredients can be as messily chopped as you like!).
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan for a minute or so, then add the onion. Sautee gently, stirring frequently until the onion has softened (but before it goes brown). Add the apples, parsnips and sage, and continue to sautee for a few more minutes.
  3. Add the stock and peanut butter, bring to the boil, then simmer until the parsnips are tender (around 10-15 minutes).
  4. Blend until smooth, adding more water if you prefer a slightly thinner consistency. Serve with some crusty bread.



Calling all would-be vegans!

Apologies for the complete absence of posts over the last few months. It’s not a very original excuse but it’s been a hectically busy time and blogging just hasn’t quite fitted in. I’m currently experimenting with new recipes and will soon be boring you with soups, stews and other winter warmers, but in the meantime I wanted to bring an unmissable event to your attention.

November is Vegan Month and Animal Aid’s Great Vegan Challenge is back! If you’ve ever been tempted to take the animal-free plunge but worried about exactly what you’d eat or whether you could keep it up, then this could be exactly what you need. The Great Vegan Challenge gives you a chance to try an animal-free diet for a month, and you will receive all the support and information you need, absolutely free! It takes just minutes to sign up, and you will receive:

  • Advice on nutrition and vegan products
  • Recipes and motivational tips sent regularly
  • Access to an internet forum for swapping tips and stories
  • A telephone hotline for any burning questions
  • Information on exclusive events, offers and product give-aways

If you live in the UK, you’ll also be invited to a day out at the Retreat, a wonderful farmed animal sanctuary in Kent.

To find out more about the Great Vegan Challenge and sign up to take part, please visit http://www.govegan.org.uk. If you have any other questions, you can contact Ben at Animal Aid via veganchallenge@animalaid.co.uk or by calling 01732 364546 ext 227.

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How to liven up a stir fry

This is an ideal recipe for those times when you are too hungry/tired/busy to even wait for pasta to cook. It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, but is tasty and nutritious, with the tofu and vegetables providing a generous dose of goodness. Golden syrup may not seem like a natural stir fry ingredient, but it adds a nice sweetness to the sauce and is a more economical alternative to maple syrup. Marinated tofu is fairly widely available in supermarkets, although I’ve only ever seen the Cauldron brand. It’s actually really versatile, can be eaten straight from the packet and works really well in salads and sandwiches (especially combined with tomatoes and vegan mayonnaise).

001Ingredients for marinated tofu stir fry (serves 2):

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A small piece of root ginger
  • Oil for stir frying
  • 1 packet of marinated tofu
  • 1 packet of stir fry vegetables
  • (Optional) 1/2 small packet pumpkin seeds
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • Juice of one orange
  • 2 tsp golden syrup
  • 2-4 tortilla wraps (4 mini or 2 standard size)


  1. Peel and crush the garlic cloves, then peel and grate the ginger. Heat a generous splash of oil in a frying pan (or wok). Preheat the oven to gas 4 (180).
  2. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and sautee gently for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly and taking care not to let them burn.
  3. Add the tofu and stir fry for a few minutes, then add the veg  and seeds. Stir fry for around five minutes. Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, golden syrup and orange juice together. Warm the tortillas for a few minutes in the oven, but take care not to leave them in for too long as they become impossible to roll if they get to the crispy stage.
  4. Add the sauce to the stir fry and warm through for a few more minutes. Divide the stir fry between the tortillas, roll up and serve. As you will have guessed, the photos show them at the pre-rolled stage (rolled up tortillas are decidedly un-photogenic!)




Three steps to a budget-friendly feast


Refreshing veg and tomato chutney are good sides

I think people often imagine vegans as wealthy individuals who can afford to spend large sums of money on expensive items found only in health food stores, before devoting several hours to coaxing their purchases into something that looks and tastes vaguely appetising.

In reality of course, people who choose animal-free diets are as diverse as any other group, with different budgets, tastes and styles of cooking. That said, many of us are pretty bargain-focused, and take great pleasure in the fact that Poundland sells cruelty-free cleaning products, while soya milk has been spotted in Lidl. In fact, animal-free food is ideal for saving money, as many of the staples can be bought at rock-bottom prices, and even fruit and veg can be good value if you look for what’s in season. Above all, key sources of protein like beans and lentils are much cheaper than meat or fish, and – as well as being cruelty-free – lack the saturated fat and other undesirables found in animal products.

A simple vegetable curry is a great way to get some nutritious protein in a quick, cheap and tasty format. If given undivided attention, I think this could be ready in under twenty minutes, as you can do all the preparation (‘all’ being mainly chopping an onion and sauteeing it) while the potatoes cook.  If you don’t already have a well-stocked cupboard then the spices will slightly undermine the saving factor, but they’re a good investment for tasty cooking, don’t cost all that much and last for a long while.

Ingredients for chickpea and potato curry (serves 2):

  • 2 small baking potatoes
  • A jug of veggie stock
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2  cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp dried coriander
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp tikka curry powder
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained
  • 1 carton of soya cream


  1. Peel and chop the potatoes, cutting them into fairly large chunks. Place them in a saucepan, cover them with the stock and bring it to the boil. Simmer until tender, then drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion and crush the garlic. Heat a generous splash of oil in a saucepan, then add the onions and garlic, sauteeing until the onion is tender. Turn the heat down slightly, add the spices, and sautee for another few minutes, stirring constantly and taking care not to let the spices burn.
  3. Stir in the potatoes, beans and chickpeas, then add the soya cream and simmer for a few more minutes until it’s hot through.


If anyone is interested in seriously cheap and nutritious recipes, Animal Aid produces a booklet called Meat Free Feed Four for Under a Fiver, which you can download here (or order a free copy by emailing info@animalaid.org.uk).

Sunday lunch: make it fail-safe and fuss-free

I always think animal-free cooking is a lot less likely to result in culinary disasters, and Sunday lunch is no exception. Instead of struggling to synchronise the roasting of a large chunk of meat with the preparation of time-sensitive side dishes, you can potter about the kitchen preparing things and putting them aside as you feel like it, safe in the knowledge that nothing can go seriously wrong and everything can be re-heated or even served cold.

A roasted vegetable croustade with a couple of easy side dishes is a good option for a stress-free Sunday lunch. This type of thing is also fine to serve cold, so ideal if you need to leave lunch on the table and go to meet/pick up your guests. The croustade is a veganized and slightly modified version of a Rose Elliot recipe, and the bean, orange and hazelnut salad is adapted from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cook books. If this type of menu leaves you feeling deprived of the traditional, you could always provide some roast potatoes to go on the side (I usually do).

  033Ingredients for roasted vegetable croustade (serves 4):

2 large courgettes (and olive oil)
4 medium peppers (any colour except green!)
100g white bread with the crusts removed
100g ground almonds
3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
100g vegan margarine
100g pine nuts
Basil or parsley to garnish

For the sauce:

1-2 small cartons of soya cream
A good sprinkle of dried tarragon, Juice of one lemon, zest of 2


  1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220). Slice the courgettes into rectangles, lay out on a baking tray and add a good drizzle of olive oil (mix in with your hands if possible). Cut the tops off the peppers, de-seed them and place them upside-down on another baking tray.
  2. Put the peppers on the top shelf of the oven and the courgettes underneath. Roast until the peppers’ skins are charred (around 30-40 mins), and the courgettes are tender. When the veg is ready, set it aside and turn the oven down to gas 6 (200).
  3.  Meanwhile, place the bread in a large mixing bowl and tear into small pieces. Add the almonds, garlic and margarine. Mix with a spoon/your hands to form a sticky dough, then mix in the pine nuts. It will feel implausibly buttery, but don’t worry- this is normal!
  4. Lightly grease a flan tin (medium size). Press the dough in so it’s fairly even and bake for around 20 mins until golden.
  5. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, you can peel off the skins. You may not be able to get all the skin off- just concentrate on the very charred parts. Cut the peppers into long strips.
  6.  To make the sauce, place the soya cream in a pan and add the other ingredients. About 5 mins before you are ready to use it, heat it up gently. You may want to warm the veg up in a pan too.
  7. When the croustade is ready, remove the side of the tin (don’t panic if it crumbles a little!) then top with the veg and garnish with the herbs. Serve with the sauce.


036Ingredients for bean, orange and hazelnut salad (serves 4)

1 packet of green beans
1 packet of mange tout
1/2 a broccoli
1 packet of hazelnuts
Zest of 1 orange
Parsley and olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220) and bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Simmer the veg until tender (about 5 mins) then drain and refresh under cold water.
  2. Meanwhile, spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and roast until golden (around 5 mins).
  3. Place the veg and hazelnuts in a large dish and add the orange zest and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil, and it’s ready to serve.

035The roast potatoes probably don’t need much explanation. Just place on a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive oil and roast on about gas 7 (220) or slightly higher, until they’re golden on the outside and tender on the inside. This will take somewhere between 30 and 60 mins, depending on the size of the potatoes and strength of the oven.

A change in direction

Apologies for the complete lack of posts over the last few months. You will be relieved to know that I have neither stopped eating nor abandoned the animal-free diet, but it has been a hectic period and I haven’t had time to log my breakfasts, lunches and dinners, complete with photographic evidence and detailed descriptions.

In reality, I can’t see myself having time to return to the daily diary, but the 100-plus posts in the archive should satisfy the curiosity of anyone who wonders what vegans really eat, and there are only so many times you can photograph a bowl of Weetabix or try to think of something original to eat before 8am.

That said, there are an infinite number of recipes to bore people with, so I have no intention of giving up the blog, and will still be posting as often as I can. On a more serious note, farmed animals need all the help they can get, and though a vegan blog may be a drop in the ocean, it can only help to spread the message about how quick, easy and delicious animal-free meals can be.

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This lovely pair of pigs live at FRIEND Farmed Animal Rescue in Kent, which provides a safe haven for around 150 animals

A few festive highlights

Having taken an awkwardly long break from blogging, I thought the best way back in might be a few festive highlights, some of which are hopefully still available in the shops if anyone feels in need of yet more food.

Sausage rolls 

These are incredibly easy to make, but you can also buy them ready to cook in Holland & Barrett. You only need two ingredients to make your own though- a pack of Jus’ Roll puff pastry (a sheet makes life even easier) and a  packet of vegan sausages. I really like the Vegetarians Choice brand (available predictably enough in Holland & Barrett), but it’s normally possible to find a vegan sausage option in the supermarket. Frozen sausages work fine for this- you just space them out on the pastry sheet, form them into rolls (more detailed description here) and bake them in the oven on gas 8 (230 C), for about 20-25 mins.


Cream-free cheese

Not strictly a festive item but great on crackers as part of a Christmas tea. My favourite is the Tofutti brand, which comes in plain or herb/garlic flavour, and can be bought in health food shops. Other great items for an animal-free Christmas tea include mini spring rolls, nuts (unsurprisingly), crisps and dates. You can also buy lots of different types of vegan cheese, the Vegusto range being the nicest in my opinion. (Nessie the cat likes to warm her ears under the lamp and didn’t see any reason to move just because food was on the table.)


Winter vegetable mash

This goes really well with a flan, pie or vegan sausages, and makes a nice change from mashed potato.

Ingredients (serves 3):

  • 4 shallots
  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 large parsnips
  • 2 potatoes
  • Cooking oil
  • Herbs e.g. parsley
  • Veggie stock


  1. Peel and dice the veg, keeping the shallots separate.
  2. Heat a good splash of oil in a large pan and add the shallots. Sautee gently until they go semi-transparent, stirring frequently, then add the veg and continue to sautee for a few more minutes.
  3. Add a generous splash of stock, plus the herbs.
  4. Simmer very gently, stirring frequently, until most of the stock has been absorbed and the veg forms a mash-like consistency. Add more stock if it starts to look dry at any point.
  5. When the veg is ready, mash as required and serve.


Vegan Christmas cake

The brand is Lazy Days, and it’s available in Holland & Barrett. The slices are very petite (you need a few for a decent cake fix), but they have a nice spicy taste and a satisfyingly thick layer of icing. Christmas decorations optional!


Hotel Chocolat Tiddly Penguins

Extremely cute and marked as suitable for vegans. Actually not so tiddly- the chocolate is nice and chunky.


The key to stress-free flan making


Soya yogurt topped with crunchy cereal and grapes


Knowing that lunch was going to be both early and a main meal, I opted for a reasonably light breakfast. The yogurt was the Alpro lemon and lime variety (not one I’d tried before) and the cereal was the satisfyingly sugary maple and pecan crisp. I find this is quite a good morning snack, but probably not the kind of thing that would sustain any kind of physical exercise.


Aubergine, pomegranate and pine nut flan, roasted sweet potatoes with orange and pecans


I wouldn’t normally make anything with quite so many ingredients but a family visit gave me the perfect excuse. Although this isn’t an everyday meal, it doesn’t require you to spend hours in the kitchen- you really just need to be around to put things in the oven and take them out again. The sweet potato recipe is a version of one by Yotam Ottolenghi, who can also be credited with the aubergine-pomegranate-pine nut combination (and the aubergine cooking method). Jus’ Roll puff pastry is one of those great accidentally vegan ingredients, and I find it takes any stress out of the pie/tart/flan/ making process.

If you’re making the flan and potatoes together, I would suggest:

  1. Roast the aubergines in advance
  2. Roast the potatoes
  3. Move the potatoes to a lower rung while the flan base cooks

Ingredients for aubergine, pomegranate and pine nut flan:

  • 3 medium aubergines
  • Vegan margarine (e.g. ‘Pure’)
  • 1 packet of Jus’ Roll puff pastry
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 carton soya cream
  • Dried herbs
  • Seeds of 1 pomegranate
  • 1 packet of pine nuts (roasted if possible)


1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220 C)

2. Top and tail the aubergines and place on a baking tray, whole.  Roast for about 45 mins-1 hour until the skins are really charred and the aubergines feel soft when a knife is inserted. You can turn  them once half way through cooking but this isn’t essential.

3. Meanwhile, lightly grease a flan tin with the vegan margarine, roll out the pastry and place it in the tin. If you let the pastry hang over the edges you’ll end up with a thicker crust for your flan. Put the flan case in the fridge.

4. When the aubergines are ready, remove from the oven and set aside. Place the flan in the oven and bake until it’s golden and puffy (around 25 mins). The sides will collapse and it will rise to look like a pie but don’t panic- this is supposed to happen!

5.  While the pastry case is cooking, cut the aubergines open lengthways and scoop out the flesh. It may help to steady the aubergine with a fork and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. You might want to cut up some of the larger pieces (kitchen scissors are useful for this).

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6. Place the aubergine flesh in a saucepan, along with a splash of soya cream, a sprinkle of dried herbs and the zest of a lemon. You can make a sauce for the flan by placing the rest of the soya cream in a separate pan, along with the zest of the other two lemons and some more dried herbs. About 5 mins before the pastry is ready to come out of the oven, gently heat the aubergine mixture (and the sauce if you’re making it).

7. When the pastry is golden and puffy, remove from the oven, deflate the centre (run a knife around it) and fill it with the aubergine mixture. Top with the pine nuts and pomegranates, then serve.

Ingredients for roasted sweet potatoes with orange and pecans (serves 4):

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 orange
  • Olive oil
  • Maple syrup
  • A generous handful of sultanas
  • 1/2 packet pecan nuts (roasted if possible)


1. Peel and cube the potatoes. Preheat the oven to gas 6 (200 C).

2. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, mix this in and roast until tender (around 30 mins).

3. Meanwhile, cut the orange and squeeze the juice into a bowl, then add a splash of olive oil and maple syrup. Mix well with a whisk or spoon.

4. When the potatoes are ready, remove from the oven and stir in the sauce, along with the pecans and sultanas.


‘Pudology’ dessert


If you want to splash out on a high quality instant dessert, you might want to consider the Pudology range which you can buy from some Waitrose or Sainsbury’s stores (list of stockists available here).  They come in tiny tubs, but they’re also extremely rich and generally very delicious.


Falafel sandwich, nuts, mini carrots and hummus


Falafel is a good hearty sandwich filling, although I don’t find it travels very well in packed lunches as it has a bit of a tendency to fall out of the bread. I also think it works best to add some chutney or vegan mayo (which I didn’t tonight) and this helps to ensure a nice moist filling.


Pomegranate seeds, chocolate square

The chocolate square was one of the Lazy Days range which you can buy in the free-from section of Sainsbury’s (next to all the gluten-free products). They come in a variety of flavours (ginger, tiffin, caramel etc.) and are great for a sugar boost.

Calling all would-be vegans!

Have you ever been tempted to go animal-free but wondered exactly what you’d eat or worried that you might not be able to keep it up? Well, Animal Aid’s Great Vegan Challenge could be just the thing for you. To take part, you pledge to go vegan throughout the month of November and you will receive a whole package of support, 100% free, including:

  •  Advice on nutrition and vegan products
  • Recipes and motivational tips sent regularly
  • Access to an internet forum for swapping tips and stories
  • A telephone hotline for any burning questions
  • Information on exclusive events, offers and product give-aways

It’s open to anyone, anywhere in the world and last year almost 800 people took part from 17 different countries. This year, Animal Aid has teamed up with other organisations from around the world, so it really is an international event:

If you need any more persuasion, you might like to hear what some of last year’s vegan challengers said:

‘So glad I gave the Great Vegan Challenge a go! It’s been fantastic and made a big change in my lifestyle for the better! Everyone should try it!’ – Katrina Powis

‘Fantastic! I didn’t realise it would be as easy as it was to transition from veggie to vegan. I will certainly be staying vegan… no going back now!’ – Shaune Mather

‘The Vegan Challenge gave me invaluable knowledge, as well as the support and ease to continue on this path in future.’ – Nadya Booyse

If you’re already vegan, why not take part in the Vegan +1 initiative by convincing a friend or family member to sign up for the challenge?

To find out more about the Great Vegan Challenge and sign up to take part, please visit www.govegan.org.uk. If you have any other questions, you can contact Ben Martin via veganchallenge@animalaid.co.uk or by calling 01732 364546 ext 227.


Make November a great month for animals, the planet and your own health!