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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How to dispel the tofu myth

Apologies for the blogging silence that has fallen over the past week or so. My rather feeble excuse is that I’ve been seriously busy and not able to cram it in. Since the busyness looks set to continue, I may have to resign myself to just few posts per week but I’ll be blogging as much as I can. I don’t honestly think any of this has a major impact on anyone’s life but I wouldn’t want people to think I’d abandoned my blog (or indeed the animal-free diet!).

Breakfast

Wholegrain malties, banana, soya milk

A filling and nutritious start to the day. The wholegrain malties are from Sainsbury’s and are kept with the kiddies’ cereals.

Lunch

Celery, sultana and vegan mayo sandwich, plums, flapjacks

This is a really good sandwich option which works especially well with fresh wholemeal bread. To make the filling (as you may have guessed!) you just chop some celery, add some sultanas and mix in some vegan mayo. The filling seems to keep quite well in the fridge (I made a pot earlier in the week), so I’d say it’s worth making a bit extra. I tend to use the Plamil brand of vegan mayo, which you can buy in Holland and Barrett. The flapjacks were left over from a fabulous birthday batch that my Mum had made, but the Blackfriar’s brand does quite a few vegan flapjacks which are a good option if you don’t have time to make your own.

Dinner 

Tofu with sweet potato and pine nuts

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This is quite a good recipe to cook for anyone who objects to tofu on the grounds of its alleged tastelessness. It shows how well tofu absorbs flavours and adds a light but nutritious protein boost to any dish.

Ingredients for tofu with sweet potato and pine nuts (serves 2):

–  1 pack of tofu (e.g. Cauldron brand)

– 2 smallish sweet potatoes

– 1 veggie stock cube

– Olive oil

– 3 large cloves garlic (crushed)

– Mixed dried herbs

– Around 75g pine nuts (about 3/4 of a small pack)

– 1 smallish packet of spinach

– Soy sauce

Method:

1. Drain the liquid off the tofu and place it between two plates so even more moisture gets squeezed out.

2. Meanwhile, peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Place them in a pan and add a good splash of warm water, but not enough to cover them. Add the stock cube, cover and simmer until the potatoes are just tender (this should only take about 10 mins). Check regularly that the water isn’t disappearing and add more if needed.

3. While the potatoes cook, remove the tofu from the plates and cube. When the potatoes are ready, drain and set aside.

4. Heat a generous splash of oil in a different pan, then add the garlic and herbs. Sautee very gently for a few minutes, stirring constantly and taking care not to let it burn. Add the sweet potatoes, then the tofu and continue to sautee for a few more minutes,  trying not to mush up the tofu too much.

4. Stir in the pine nuts and spinach. You’ll probably need to add the spinach in batches though, waiting for one lot to wilt before adding the next lot.

5. Add a good splash of soy sauce to season and enjoy!

Dessert

Fruit and dark chocolate

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A tried and tested combination. The chocolate was a birthday present from Hotel Chocolat which now seems to do a good vegan range.

Vegan cookie discovery!

Breakfast

Toast with loganberry jam, fruit

This was the amazing loganberry jam made by my Nan which really brightens up any breakfast.

Lunch

Hummus and tomato wrap, fruit

This was one of the Warburton’s square wraps (wholemeal), which I find make great sandwiches. Sliced tomatoes are always a really good addition to a hummus sandwich as they add a nice burst of juiciness.

Dinner

Green lentils with pine nuts, spinach and kiwi

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This is a nice quick dish for a tasty protein boost. It works well served with pitta breads or tortilla wraps.

Ingredients for green lentils with pine nuts, spinach and kiwi (serves 2):

– 2 ripe kiwi fruits

– 2 medium shallots

– 2 cloves garlic (crushed)

– Olive oil

– 1 medium packet of spinach

– 1 tin of green lentils

– ½ packet pine nuts

Method:

1. Peel and chop the kiwi fruits, then set aside. Finely chop the shallots. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a pan and add the shallots and garlic. Sautee gently until the shallots are semi-transparent but not brown, stirring constantly.

2. Stir in the lentils and spinach, plus a splash of water. You may need to add the spinach in batches, waiting for one lot to wilt before you add in the next lot.

3. Stir in the pine nuts and continue to simmer for another 5 mins or so, stirring frequently. You may like to add a little more olive oil before serving. Once it’s been served, top artistically with the chopped kiwi fruits!

Dessert

Apple, chocolate chip cookies

To my great excitement, I’ve managed to find some animal-free chocolate chip cookies. They’re hobnobs, and have dark chocolate chips. They ‘may contain traces of milk’ but I tend to ignore this (my reasoning being that buying such products does not give funding to the dairy industry). They’re extremely nice, as you can imagine!

How to pretend you’re on holiday

Breakfast

Muesli, blackberries, soya milk

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This is normally a really great combination but the blackberries were unbelievably bitter! I was suspicious when I saw that they had little purple patches but decided to be optimistic and give them a go. My optimism was not rewarded.

Lunch

Hummus sandwich, fruit and nut mix, strawberries

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This was a really nice light lunch, and the fruit and nut mix made quite a healthy crisp alternative.

Dinner

Spaghetti with herbs, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes. Salad (with dried cranberries and more pine nuts)

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I’m lucky enough to have some amazing ingredients at the moment as my parents have recently been on holiday to Italy and brought me some fabulous edible presents. The spaghetti, herbs and olive oil were all Italian and really did taste special. Even if your ingredients are from the UK (as mine usually are), this is a bit like the Italian spaghetti with oil and garlic dish so you might just be able to pretend you’re on holiday!

Ingredients for spaghetti with herbs, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes (serves 2):

– 150g dried spaghetti

– Olive oil

– 3 cloves of garlic (crushed)

– A generous sprinkle of dried herbs (e.g. oregano)

– Pine nuts

– Cherry tomatoes

– Rocket

1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the spaghetti, along with a splash of olive oil. I always find it easiest to break up the spaghetti (although this is probably very un-Italian). Simmer for around 10 mins until tender, stirring occasionally.

2. When the spaghetti has about 5 minutes left, heat a good splash of olive oil in a separate pan and add the garlic and herbs. Sautee very gently over a low heat without allowing the garlic to  go brown. After a minute or two, add the pine nuts, rocket and tomatoes.

3. When the spaghetti is tender, stir into the sauce and enjoy.

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Dessert

Time for another blogging confession I’m afraid. I’m running a few days behind and can’t remember what I had for dessert! Fruit and dairy-free chocolate is probably the most likely option and I’ll be catching up on myself at the weekend.

A sandwich that should never work

 Breakfast

Porridge with soya milk, golden syrup and blueberries

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An irresistible breakfast choice that might actually be quite healthy if it wasn’t for the golden syrup!

Lunch

Hummus and beetroot sandwich, nuts, fruit, Nakd bar

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This is another surprising sandwich filling that sounds odd but actually works really well. You literally just make a hummus sandwich and add slices of cooked beetroot (i.e. the vacuum packed kind). Without subjecting you to a dull flavour analysis, I’d imagine it’s the slightly sweet taste of the beetroot that goes nicely with the savoury hummus. Just to balance out the healthiness, I also had some salt and vinegar peanuts (available in Sainsbury’s).

Dinner

Chickpea salad, crusty bread

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I was in the slightly ridiculous situation of finishing lunch at about 4pm again, so opted for a late and fairly light dinner. To make the salad, I just put some watercress in a bowl, then added a few spoonfuls of chickpeas (from a tin), cherry tomatoes and a handful of raisin and nut mix, plus a drizzle of olive oil. It worked really well, especially with a par-bake baguette.

Dessert

Neapolitan ice cream

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I’ve been eating this a bit too regularly but it is very good. It’s the Swedish Glace brand, and you can buy the Neapolitan flavour in large Sainsbury’s stores or health food shops. Even if you’re not in one of these places, ice cream loving vegans rarely have to miss out, as even small supermarkets tend to stock at least one flavour of Swedish Glace. Failing that, sorbets are normally dairy-free, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to go without a sugary frozen dessert!

How to veganize a traditional English side dish

Breakfast

Muesli, soya milk

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This is a great option if you’re in a hurry as it doesn’t even require any toasting. This time I added a sprinkle of Maple Sunrise cereal for added sugariness.

Lunch

Bagel with avocado, tomato and vegan mayo, nuts, blueberries, sesame snaps

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This is another variation on the avocado-based sandwich filling. Chopped cherry tomatoes are a good addition, as the juiciness goes nicely with the creamy avocado. Cucumber is another good choice for creating a similarly juicy result. Sesame snaps are definitely addictive and their lightness makes them a tempting way to satisfy your sugar cravings!

Dinner

Falafel, sweet potato mash, salad

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The plan was to bake the sweet potatoes, but decreased time and increased hungriness resulted in a definite shortcut. Any kind of mashed potato makes a great side dish, but sweet potatoes have an especially lovely flavour. Whether sweet or standard, mashed potato doesn’t need dairy to make it creamy as you can stir in vegan margarine and/or soya cream for delicious results. I cooked my sweet potatoes in veggie stock for added flavour but this isn’t crucial. I didn’t have any vegan sausages to make the traditional English classic, so opted for some falafel instead. Falafel is generally a pretty reliable vegan staple, although the Cauldron Moroccan Spiced Falafel Bites do have honey in. I used Tesco’s own brand of frozen falafel which is an ideal ingredient to stow away for emergency meals. The dips (essential for falafel) were hummus and Vegan mayonnaise (the Plamil brand).

Dessert

Chocolate soya dessert, blueberries

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I just put one of the Alpro soya desserts into a vaguely attractive pot and topped it with some fresh blueberries. The Alpro soya desserts are one of my favourite products and you can find them even in small supermarkets, next to the gluten-free products. Unfortunately the photo is rather dominated by the blueberries, but the chocolate dessert was very noticeable at the time of eating!

Tropical porridge: surprising but delicious!

Breakfast

Porridge with mango and soya milk

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Mango might not be the most obvious porridge topping but this unexpected combination is actually really delicious. The other tip for great porridge is to use all soya milk rather than combining it with water. The result is much creamier and if you choose sweetened soya milk you won’t even need any sugar. That said, I find that a drizzle of golden syrup is never a bad thing!

Lunch

Avocado and tomato baguette, crisps, sesame snaps, apple

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Just two vegetables can actually make a really great sandwich filling. I just spread a par-bake baguette with some soya margarine, then added slices of cherry tomatoes and avocado, plus some vegan mayonnaise and black pepper. The result was really delicious and avocado is quite filling without being overwhelming. Vegan mayo is readily available from health food shops, or you can buy it on Goodness Direct. I really like the Plamil brand, which comes in a variety of exciting flavours (e.g. garlic and chilli).

Dinner

Couscous with roasted veg, salad (with beetroot and dried cranberries)

This dinner was technically a bit of a failure, but also a good illustration of how hard it is to end up with a vegan meal that isn’t quite nice, even if things go wrong.

I’m lucky enough to have plenty of courgettes from a friend’s garden at the moment, so thought I’d roast one and stuff it with couscous. Unfortunately though, its progress in the oven was painfully slow and when I finally lost patience and took it out, it still wasn’t quite as soft as it needed to be. My attempts to scoop out the flesh resulted in an unsightly mound of mangled veg. Amazingly though, it still made a tasty dinner. I just cut up the failed courgette, then added it to some couscous that I’d cooked in veggie stock and lemon juice. I also threw in some roasted cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn, peanuts and parsley.

Dessert

Strawberries, dark chocolate

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This is a great combination although the strawberries were a little sharp. More than enough sugar was provided by the chocolate though!