A dish that benefits from a night in the fridge

Breakfast

Toast with jam, pineapple

Lunch

‘Creamy’ courgette and cumin (as a cold salad), mini pitta breads, apple, vegan chocolate

This dish was even better cold than hot, as the flavours had developed in the fridge overnight. Eaten with a couple more mini pitta breads, it made a really satisfying lunch. This is obviously one of those survivor dishes that tastes even better the next day, unlike Monday’s beetroot risotto which definitely wasn’t quite the same after spending the night in a fridge that is very efficient (and maybe even slightly over enthusiastic). I would suggest getting the salad out of  the fridge a little while before you eat it though, otherwise the taste may be dulled by the cold.

Dinner

Watercress, beetroot and sultana salad, mini pitta breads with home made gungo pea hummus

Dessert: raspberries with brown sugar, biscuits

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This was the same salad I made the other day. It’s hopefully packed full of goodness as I think beetroot and watercress both get labelled as ‘superfoods’ in Tesco (whatever that actually means)! You basically just need a bowl full of watercress, a smallish beetroot chopped up and good handfuls of nuts and sultanas or cranberries. It’s nice to drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

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I seem to have been bitten by the home made spreads bug. At the beginning of the week I tried out Sarah’s delicious home made hummus recipe, but today I thought I’d try it with a different type of tinned pulse. My local Sainsbury’s has an impressively large world food section and the gungo peas caught my eye on the Caribbean shelf. I used the same recipe as before, but I think that you may want to use less tahini with the gungo beans (for some reason). Being a bit of a raw garlic wimp, I left this out and substituted it for some parsley.

Ingredients:

– 1 tin of gungo peas, drained

– Juice of 1/2 a lemon

– 1-2 tbsp of tahini

– 3 tbsp of olive oil (though you may want to adjust this depending on how thick you want it)

– 3 cloves of garlic, crushed

– Pinch of salt

Method:

Blend the ingredients together until smooth (or mash with a fork/potato masher and stir with a spoon)

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I was really excited to find some raspberries being sold for £1 on a street stall. I merrily purchased a punnet, gloating over my great find. Unfortunately though, I think they were cheap with good reason as they had a decidedly odd twang. I have to admit that I ate them anyway, but wouldn’t give them to anyone else and probably wouldn’t make the stall a regular destination. At least they look good in the photo though- you’d never know about their strange taste.

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A fail safe way to serve courgettes

Breakfast

Toast with strawberry jam, vegan yogurt with mandarin slices

I had some yogurt that was at risk of going past its prime so I thought I’d better finish up some of it for breakfast. It definitely helped morning sugar levels!

Lunch

Chive and onion bagel, hummus

This is yet another member of the great New York Bagel family which seems to be expanding all the time. It goes really well dipped in hummus.

Dinner

‘Creamy’ courgette with cumin, mini pitta breads with tomato and hummus/tahini

Dessert: pineapple and dark chocolate

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The presence of some soya cream left over from yesterday resulted in another ‘creamy’ dish. This really is a great way to be confident that you will be serving courgettes with a great flavour which is slightly spicy without being hot. The basic idea comes from a vegetarian recipe book, but I’ve veganized it and added a few of my own ingredients. It’s great with pitta bread, but you can also add rice for a more substantial meal.

Ingredients for creamy courgette with cumin (serves 2):

– 1 onion

– A splash of olive oil

– 1-2 tsp cumin seeds

(Optional but nice) a few fennel seeds

– 2 garlic cloves (crushed)

– 2 courgettes

– A good handful of sultanas

– A good handful of nuts (e.g. pistachios)

– 1 pack of soya cream

Method:

1. Chop the courgettes and onion and set aside.

2. Heat the oil and add the onion. Sautee until it goes semi-transparent, stirring constantly. Add the garlic, cumin seeds and a small pinch of the fennel seeds (these have a strong flavour) and stir over a low heat very briefly as the seeds will burn easily.

3.  Add the courgette and continue to sauté until it goes tender (around 10 mins).

4. Add the soya cream, sultanas and nuts and simmer for another 5 mins. Serve straight away.

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For 22p in Sainsbury’s, the mini pitta breads were a great help with dispelling the myth about vegan food being expensive. The last of the home made hummus was great in the pitta with some tomato slices, but I thought that the tahini was a little intense as a filling on its own despite being a great ingredient for sauces and home made spreads.

The problem with tinned fruit is its drab, unphotogenic appearance. Fresh pineapple would have looked great with the dark chocolate but the pro-prepared version is rather pricy and it takes dedication to prepare a whole one. Tinned seemed like a good compromise and tasted lovely. In any case, there are few in instant desserts that don’t look good in a glass!

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How to tempt a mushroom hater

Breakfast

Blueberry wheats, soya milk, apple

Different breakfast promised for tomorrow!

Lunch

Hummus and tomato roll, fruit, nuts, vegan chocolate buttons

Yesterday’s home made hummus (recipe provided by Sarah) was so good that I couldn’t help using it for today’s sandwich too. It still tasted great so obviously does well in the fridge. The vegan chocolate buttons were the ones you can buy in Tesco. They give a sugar boost for the afternoon and are nice and light to carry around.

Dinner

‘Creamy’ mushroom pasta, watercress, beetroot and sultana salad. Dessert: mandarins with Alpro soya chocolate dessert

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Although I wouldn’t say I ‘hated’ any vegetable, I have to admit that mushrooms are often in the lower realms of the list. I really like them in this dish though, as their own mushroomy flavour goes well with Italian tastes like garlic, lemon and parsley. This is also the pasta recipe that I always turn to when I have no time to cook or don’t feel like waiting for dinner. I find it’s always useful to keep a carton of soya cream in the cupboard for emergency pasta sauces, and even mini supermarkets can usually provide a packet of mushrooms. Hopefully some of the other ingredients are likely to be in your store cupboard anyway, but if not then they’re pretty standard and easy to get hold of too.

Ingredients for ‘creamy’ mushroom pasta (serves 2):

– 150 g pasta

– Olive oil

– 1 large onion

– 1 pack of mushrooms

– 2 cloves of garlic

– A good handful of parsley

– Zest of 2-3 lemons

– A carton of soya cream

Method:

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil (or cheat and use a kettle). Meanwhile chop the onion and mushrooms and set aside.

2. Add the pasta to the boiling water with a little oil and simmer until tender (about 10 mins).

3. Meanwhile, heat a good splash of oil in a pan and add the onion. Saute, stirring constantly, until it turns semi transparent.

4. Add the mushrooms, along with the garlic and parsley. Continue  to simmer, stirring very frequently, until the mushrooms begin to exude some liquid. Stir in the lemon zest.

5.  When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the mushrooms. Stir in the soya cream and simmer until it’s thoroughly heated. Serve while still piping hot.

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The salad was another case of store cupboard/fridge ingredients but turned out well. For one person, all you need is a bowl full of watercress, one small beetroot (chopped) and generous handfuls of sultanas/dried cranberries and pistachio nuts. The bitter/sweet/salty flavours work really well together.

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Dessert was an  instant concoction but tasted good. I used tinned mandarins, topped with one of the lovely Alpro soya desserts. You can generally find these in the free from section of supermarkets (with all the gluten-free products), and they come in vanilla, ‘milk’ chocolate and dark chocolate form. They taste amazing and the only thing that gives away their animal-free identity is their lightness.

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The perfect solution to your hummus problems

Breakfast

Blueberry wheats with fruit, soya milk

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Same as yesterday but it does make a good start to the morning!

Lunch

Hummus and tomato roll, almonds, apple, peanut brittle type bar

Hummus is a delicious thing and a reliable vegan sandwich filling but the shop bought variety is not without its minor drawbacks. If you’re the main hummus-eater in your household, it can be hard to get through the large tubs without them going off and the mini tubs often have at least one flavour you’ll be less fond of. There is a solution though, as home made hummus is quick and easy to make, as well as much cheaper. On one of my previous posts featuring shop bought hummus, a reader called Sarah posted a recipe for a home made version in the comments section. I tried this out in today’s sandwich and it really is delicious. I’ve shared it below, although she does warn that it’s not for the garlic-faint-hearted. I’d probably put myself in this category, so I left out the garlic altogether and it still tasted great. I don’t have a food processor either, but vigorous fork mashing and spoon stirring did the job well, even if the end result was slightly chunkier. Thank you Sarah!

Ingredients:

– 1 tin of chickpeas, drained

– Juice of 1/2 a lemon

– 3 tbsp of tahini

– 3 tbsp of olive oil (though you may want to adjust this depending on how thick you want it)

– 3 cloves of garlic, crushed

– Pinch of salt

Method:

Blend the ingredients together until smooth (or mash with a fork/potato masher and stir with a spoon)

Dinner

Beetroot and pistachio risotto, salad, bread and hummus. Dessert: instant animal-free ‘cheesecake’

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The risotto was just the rest of yesterday’s dinner revamped with a few more ingredients (e.g. more beetroot, nuts, soya cream). It still tasted great, but I don’t think the overnight stay in the fridge had been very beneficial to its texture and this aspect wasn’t quite as good as last night. Maybe this is a recipe that’s best eaten in its entirety rather than being partially saved for the next day.

The instant dessert really isn’t that sophisticated but can be made to look so if served nicely (and tastes great anyway). Just crush some digestive biscuits (1-2 per person depending on how thick you like the base) then distribute in some glasses and top with vegan yogurt and some grated (or thinly ‘shaved’) chocolate. It’s the same basic concept as cheesecake even if there are some fundamental differences! For a really great vegan cheesecake I’d recommend the Golden Harvest recipe book which you can order on Hillside Animal Sanctuary’s website: http://www.hillside.org.uk/acatalog/Books.html

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How to make a pink risotto

Breakfast

Blueberry wheats with fruit salad (from a tin!), soya milk

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Blueberry wheats are great with soya milk and tinned fruit is a good way to get some vitamins without spending too much money. It may look a little drab but it still tastes good.

Lunch

Chickpea, almond and sultana salad, apple, sesame snaps

I have to admit that the decision to have a salad resulted from a lack of vegan margarine rather than any kind of sudden anti-carbohydrate resolution. I didn’t have time to make a cooked meal and I always find that sandwiches are disappointingly dry without the unseen but crucial presence of margarine.

The salad was just a combination of some leaves and store cupboard ingredients but it actually tasted really great. To make it for one person, you just need generous handfuls of leafy salad and chickpeas, plus a good sprinkling of sultanas and salted nuts (e.g. almonds). I found that a little parsley and a good drizzle of olive oil made the taste even better.

 The photo is a little misleading- it wasn't just leaves!


The photo is a little misleading- it wasn’t just leaves!

Dinner

Beetroot risotto, leafy salad. Dessert: Blueberry soya yogurt, fruit, dark chcolate

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This is a really delicious risotto recipe that looks great too. Risottos tend to take a little longer than pasta dishes, but still don’t need all that long to make (35 mins max).

Ingredients for beetroot risotto (serves 3):

– 250g risotto rice

– A little olive oil

– About 1 litre of veggie stock

– A good handful of parsley

– 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

– 2 large cooked beetroots (but not in vinegar)

– A generous handful of sultanas or cranberries

– A generous handful of pistachios

– A little soya cream

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the rice. Brown gently for a few minutes, stirring constantly.

2. Gradually add the stock about a ladle full at a time, stirring very frequently. Wait until it’s almost absorbed before adding the next batch. Continue until the rice is cooked and most of the stock has been used up (this usually takes around 20 mins).

3. Meanwhile, roughly chop the parsley and add to the rice along with the garlic. You can also dice the beetroot and shell the pistachios but take care to keep stirring the rice as it’s very quick to stick to the pan.

3. When the rice is nearly cooked, add the beetroot, pistachios and sultanas. Stir in a good splash of soya cream and serve.

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Tonight’s blueberry soya yogurt was a brand I hadn’t bought for a while since it tends to be sold in health food shops rather than supermarkets. It was very good though- no watery liquid and a great taste. It’s the ‘Sojade’ brand and they do a wide range of fruity flavours. If you prefer not to visit specialist shops though, there’s no need to miss out on great soya yogurts. I really like the Tesco Free From raspberry and passion fruit soya yogurts, and the Alpro ‘fruity & creamy’ range is really nice too. A piece of dark chocolate is always a great way to end a meal even if it doesn’t add to its healthiness!

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Eating plants at a restaurant is easier than you think

Breakfast

Maple & pecan crisp cereal, soya milk

A healthier cereal has been purchased for tomorrow morning!

Lunch

Animal free pizza, salad. Dessert: fruit

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Today I ended up at Pizza Express for the second Sunday lunch in a row, but they do a very good vegan pizza so it certainly wasn’t a hardship. Their pizza bases don’t contain any dairy so you just have to ask for the cheese to be left off along with any other animal ingredients. You might think that a cheeseless pizza was rather dry but this really isn’t the case as there’s a good spread of tomato passata and the dough itself is nice and moist. Today’s choice had red onion, sultanas, olives, capers and pine nuts which was a great combination. In fact, it sounds like an inspiring idea for a pasta sauce- watch this space…

I think one of the things that puts people off making the animal free leap is the idea that meals out will become embarrassingly impossible. This really isn’t the case though, as menus often have naturally vegan options and if not then it’s easy to create your own by asking for an animal ingredient to be left out. I’ve found that restaurant staff are generally very happy to help so you’re not left feeling awkward. It’s also worth remembering that many people are allergic to dairy so this increases the pressure on restaurants to be friendly to plant eaters!

Tea

Wholemeal roll with jam, salted almonds, dried fruit, apple, dark chocolate

Despite the great Sunday lunch, I did find a bit of a gap for some tea later on. Dried fruit and nuts make a great accompaniment to a sandwich if you’re feeling virtuous and going for a crisp-free day. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned salted almonds and they’re certainly not cheap  but they really are worth it. They’re next to the salted peanuts in Tesco. Soft rolls are great with strawberry jam, although they do need quite a bit to make it a worthwhile experience!

How to turn a cooking disaster into a triumph

Breakfast

Maple & pecan crisp cereal, soya milk, apple

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Lunch

Celery and sultana bagel, crisps, fruit, peanut bar

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Celery and sultana is a great filling for a sesame bagel. I doubt it would travel that well, but it’s great for a home lunch with a toasted bagel. The peanut bars can be bought from AMT coffee and are basically just bars of peanut brittle. It’s great to know you can get something animal free and satisfyingly sticky to go with your coffee.

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Dinner

Sweet potato and carrot crumble with lemon and basil sauce, asparagus salad, nuts. Dessert: watermelon and biscuits

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The plan for tonight was to do a parsnip flan. Tesco slightly spoiled this idea though by failing to provide any parsnips. Having decided that sweet potatoes and carrots would do much the same job, I put the base of the flan in the oven and prepared the topping. When I removed the base from the oven though, reality dawned and I realised that it would simply crumble when I tried to cut it. If that was the case, I thought it may as well get on with it and turned the dish into a crumble. This new version was actually a great success, so I’ve included the recipe below. It goes really well with lemon and basil sauce, so the recipe’s there for that too.

Ingredients for sweet potato and carrot crumble (serves 3):

– 3 packs of oatcakes (i.e. 3 of the individually wrapped packets)

– 2 tbsp sunflower oil

– 3 medium sweet potatoes

– 4 large carrots

– 400 ml veggie stock

– A good handful of parsley

– 1tbsp brown sugar

Ingredients for lemon and basil sauce:

– 1 small carton of soya cream

– A good handful of basil

– Zest of 3 lemons

Method:

1.Crush the oatcakes (put them in a bowl and use a rolling pin) then stir in 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp water. Set aside.

2. Peel and slice the veg. Place in a pan with the water, stock and parsley. The veg won’t be covered, but it cooks nicely like this and develops a great flavour.

3. Simmer the veg until tender (about 20 mins) with the lid on. Stir regularly.

4. Meanwhile, spread the oatcake mixture out in a dish and bake on gas 6 (200 C)  for about 15 mins.

6. If preparing the sauce, pour the soya cream into a pan. Add a good handful of chopped basil along with the lemon zest, but don’t heat it up yet.

5. When the veg is nearly ready, stir in the sugar and put the sauce on to simmer for about 5 mins.

6. When the veg is cooked, place in a dish and top with the oaty crumble. Garnish with some parsley.

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Digestive biscuits don’t seem like the most natural partner for watermelon but they go surprisingly well together. Just take care not to get the biscuit too near the melon or it will turn offputtingly soggy!

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