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.

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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.)

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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

Method:

  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.

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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!

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Hotel Chocolat Tiddly Penguins

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

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Sticky chocolate brownies: 100% plant

Breakfast

Muesli, soya milk

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Always an energising start to the day!

Lunch

Couscous salad, apple

The couscous salad was from Marks & Spencer, which shows how easy it is to eat animal-free food on the move. This was the salad with wheatberries and butternut squash, but you can also get a couscous with roasted veg that seems to be vegan. M&S seems annoyingly fond of adding honey and yogurt to foods that would otherwise be animal-free, but nice vegan options are available, even at tiny branches. Rather an expensive lunch solution I know, but quite nice to splash out every now and again.

Dinner

Sweet potato and carrot crumble, cucumber, hummus

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This shows how a few simple, low budget ingredients can make a lovely dish with a delicious taste. I must admit that the chopping provides you with a bit of a workout, but after that it’s pretty easy going and mainly just a case of vaguely monitoring some veg while it simmers. Please click here for the recipe.

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Dessert

Chocolate and ginger brownie

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This recipe has been veganized from Blissful Brownies, a Marks & Spencer cookbook (excessive promotion of M&S an accidental feature of today’s post!) In fact though, I just needed to use vegan margarine instead of butter so I can’t really claim any great work of veganization. The results are satisfyingly rich and sticky, and you’d never know that they were 100% plant.

Ingredients:

– 4 pieces of stem ginger in syrup (I used the Opies brand, which you can hopefully find in the home baking section of supermarkets)

– 225g plain flour

– 1.5 tsp ground ginger

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– 0.25 tsp ground nutmeg

– 115g brown sugar

– 115g vegan margarine

– 115g golden syrup

– 100g dark chocolate

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to gas 2 (150 degrees). Grease a baking tin with some extra vegan margarine (I normally use a square tin for these).

2. Finely chop or grate the stem ginger. Sift the flour and spices into a bowl, then stir in the stem ginger, followed by the sugar.

3. Melt the margarine and golden syrup in a pan, then stir into the flour mixture.

4. Roughly dice the chocolate and stir that in too. Press the dough into a tin and cook for 30 mins.

Although this is fairly quick for a brownie recipe, it’s obviously not instant. If you don’t have time for baking, a good option might be the Vegan Cakery which has an incredible range and offers mail delivery. I’ve sadly never tried their cakes, but they certainly look delicious. Maybe I’ll have to make an order in the name of research!

Snacks

Rice coated peanuts, apple

You can buy the rice coated peanuts in Tesco and they’re seriously addictive. They’re also a nice crisp alternative to have with a sandwich.

How to tackle a marrow

Breakfast

Sandwich thins with peanut butter, grapes

I’d made myself a toasted sandwich this morning but the bread turned out to be mouldy so I had to improvise with these  Warburtons sandwich thins. They actually made quite a nice breakfast spread with some peanut butter, but they probably only needed a minute in the toaster as they came out rather charred. On balance, probably not the most successful breakfast of all time.

Lunch

Baguette with vegan cream cheese salad, crisps, fruit, biscuits

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These par-bake baguettes are really lovely for lunch, and generally seem to be animal-free (although you’ll need to check the label to be sure). You can’t go wrong with the Tofutti brand of vegan cream cheese combined with some salad. The biscuits were from Tesco and labelled as shortcake although they actually seem to be completely animal-free.

Dinner 

Marrow and cumin pilaff,  black sesame rice cakes

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I think marrows are often accused of being a dull vegetable but this dish proves that they really needn’t be. They have a delicate taste of their own but also absorb other flavours really well so they’re ideal for this type of dish. The rice cakes were the Clearspring brand and you can buy them in Holland and Barrett (click here to see). The teriyaki variety are also vegan and both types are really lovely but difficult to stop eating!

Ingredients for marrow and cumin pilaff (serves 4):

– 250g long grain rice

– 1 marrow

– 4 shallots

– Olive oil

– 2 tsp cumin seeds

– A pinch of fennel seeds

– Veggie stock

– 2 cartons of soya cream

– A good handful of sultanas

– A handful of mixed nuts

Method:

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the rice. Simmer until tender (around 20 mins).

2. Meanwhile, peel the marrow and scoop out the seedy part (a spoon works quite well for this). Dice and set aside, then peel and chop the shallots.

3. Heat a good splash of olive oil in the saucepan and add the shallots and spices. Sautee gently for a few minutes, stirring constantly as spices are very good at burning.

4. Add the marrow and sautee for a few more minutes. Add a splash of stock to keep it moist, followed by the nuts, sultanas and soya cream. Continue to simmer for another 5-10 mins, adding more stock if needed.  When the rice is cooked, drain, stir in and simmer until heated through.

Dessert

Fruit salad, apple cake

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This was the last of the Mrs Crimble’s Dutch apple cake and my Mum made a lovely fruit salad to go with it. Ideal for a really warm evening.

Snacks

The new system of writing up meals from the day before means that I sometimes have to strain my memory to remember the snacks. I have to admit that I can’t honestly remember what I had for a snack yesterday, but I think it was some fruit, probably a banana!

A cow-friendly bagel

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, soya milk, strawberries

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The strawberries were left over from a dessert and made a really nice addition to some sugary cereal.

Lunch

‘Cream cheese’ bagel, crisps, fruit, vegan coconut ice

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This lovely Tofutti ‘cream cheese’ goes really well on a bagel. I added quite a generous spreading along with some basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Unfortunately my choice of plate wasn’t very photogenic and I ended up with a bit of a camouflage effect that didn’t exactly show off my lunch at its best. The taste definitely made up for it though. You can buy vegan coconut ice in Animal Aid’s ethical shop, although this pack was actually from Tesco.

Dinner

Roast vegetable tortillas, lime and ginger dip, vegan guacamole, salad

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The veggie tortillas were beautifully cooked by my Mum and used peppers and courgettes rather than aubergines. She also made a lovely lime and ginger dip, which was perfect for adding to the tortillas. It’s seriously easy to make- you just add about 2 tsp of lime juice to around 100g vegan mayonnaise along with around 1 tsp of finely grated  root ginger. It’s satisfyingly tangy and refreshing. You can buy vegan mayonnaise from various health food stores or from Goodness Direct. Guacamole often has cream in, but you can always just mash an  avocado and add a squeeze of lemon for a lovely animal-free version.

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Dessert

Apple cake, summer fruit

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This is the Mrs Crimble’s Dutch apple cake, which is another sugary treat that you can buy in health food shops or (again) on Goodness Direct. It’s satisfyingly sticky and you’d never know that it’s vegan.

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Snacks

Just a banana today as it was too hot for serious snacking!

A revolutionary vegan cheese

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, soya milk

This is my usual weekend favourite and can be bought in either Tesco or Sainsbury’s.

Lunch

Vegan cheese and tomato bagel, crisps, satsuma, fruit bar

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I have to say that this is the best vegan cheese I’ve tasted. I’d sampled it at the V Delicious veggie food festival last week, so my expectations were pretty high but I was yet to try it in any significant quantity. It was certainly very cheddar-like and tasted great in a  bagel combined with cherry tomatoes. Unfortunately it’s not yet available in supermarkets but you can buy it online (http://www.vegusto.co.uk/shop/) and in some health food shops. It’s rather pricey but nice for a treat every now and again and it’s fairly strong so you don’t have to use too much of it. It’s the Vegusto brand and it’s  encouragingly made in Switzerland. I look forward to trying a macaroni ‘cheese’ next week.

Dinner

Pea risotto, salad, peanuts

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This is a tasty and nutritious dish that’s kind to the wallet too. It’s actually a veganised (and slightly simplified) version of a recipe in Risotto and Rice Recipes Made Easy by Sabine Salzer (although I’m not sure you can still buy the book). Tonight’s version was cooked to an excellent standard by my Dad and went really well with a glass of vegan wine from the Co-op. Apologies for the slightly fuzzy photo- the camera lense didn’t appreciate the steam!

Ingredients for pea risotto (serves 4):

– 1 onion

– A good handful of parsley

– Olive oil

– 315g peas

– 1 litre stock

– 250g risotto rice

Optional: soya cream

Method:

1. Chop the onion and roughly chop the parsley.

2. Heat a good splash of oil in a saucepan and sautee the onion and parsley for a few mins, stirring constantly.

3. Add about a quarter of the stock and the peas. When the stock is boiling, simmer for about 5 mins.

4. Add the rest of the stock and the risotto rice and simmer until the stock has been absorbed (about 20-25 mins). Stir regularly to prevent sticking.

5. Stir in a splash of soya cream and serve.

Dessert

Vegan cupcake, strawberries

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The cupcakes were bought for (early) Father’s Day from the wonderful Ms Cupcake bakery in Brixton (totally animal-free). I sampled pieces of the tiramisu and triple chocolate ones, and I think tiramisu is my favourite flavour yet.

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Snacks

Banana, piece of peanut bar

Bananas do make a great self-wrapped snack, and there’s nothing better than a piece of peanut brittle  for an urgent sugar boost.

A reunion with marshmallows

Breakfast

Fruit and oat bagel with strawberry jam, mango pieces

This was a really lovely start to a Saturday morning. Bagels are definitely at their best while still hot from the toaster so the soya spread melts and soaks in satisfyingly.

Lunch

Purple nut roast, couple of oaty biscuits, pineapple

The nut roast was purchased at the V-delicious veggie/vegan food festival in London. Needless to say, my morning there was thoroughly enjoyable (minus the two hour journey as the London Underground had decided not to cooperate). Being there really helped you to get a feel for the diversity and scope of vegan food. It was also great to see Viva! (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals), providing some really good info booklets about both the health and ethical reasons to go animal free (available to buy for a tiny price at http://www.viva.org.uk/guides/index.htm).

Moving on to less serious matters, there was a huge range of vegan sweeties, including the wonderful Freedom Mallows. It had been many years since I’d eaten a marshmallow, as the presence of gelatine had put me off long before going completely animal free. To be fair, my local health food shop does sell vegan marshmallows, but I’ve always found the pricing a little outside my budget and the large slabs don’t seem to lend themselves to a hot chocolate topping. The Freedom Mallows only cost £1.99 per packet though, and they’re beautifully light and fluffy. They’re also a perfect size for hot chocolate and if you’re like me, you may also appreciate the cute bunny packaging. Fortunately they weren’t exclusive to the veggie event and you can buy them on Viva!’s website. Here’s a link that will (hopefully) take you straight to these revolutionary sweeties: http://www.vivashop.org.uk/catalog/viva/food/confectionery

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Dinner

Leek, potato and celery soup, bagel, pistachio nuts

Dessert: A vegan cupcake

This is a really nice version of the classic leek and potato soup as the celery adds an extra layer of flavour. It’s also seriously quick to prepare.

Ingredients for leek, potato and celery soup (serves 2):

– 2 large leeks

– 4 medium sticks of celery

– A little rapeseed oil

– 2 smallish potatoes

– Around 1 litre veggie stock

Method:

1. Chop the leeks and celery (I find it works best if you chop the leeks lengthways rather than in round slices). Peel and chop the potatoes.

2. Heat a good splash of rapeseed oil in the pan and add the leek and celery. Saute for around 5 mins, stirring almost constantly.

3. Add the potatoes and saute for another couple of minutes.

4. Add the stock, cover and simmer for around 15 mins or until the potatoes are soft.

5. Blend and reheat if needed before serving. Be sure not to let the soup boil though, or it will lose some of its flavour.

The cupcake was from Ms Cupcake’s beautiful stall at the veggie fest. I bought a box of  four cakes to share with my family (resisting the temptation to sample one on the way back to Oxford) and we opted for cutting them in half so we could try more than one flavour each. I went for half a strawberry and chocolate cupcake and half a plain chocolate one. They were every bit as delicious as they look and it’s surprisingly easy to get through the generous topping.

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