Five steps for a fuss-free risotto

Breakfast

Maple sunrise cereal, soya milk, kiwi/strawberries

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I’m very happy to discover yet another maple syrup orientated cereal in animal-free form. It wasn’t marked as vegan and a couple of the ingredients looked a bit uncertain, but the company (Nature’s Path) confirmed that it was 100% plant. It’s gluten-free and a great cereal for anyone with a sweet tooth, although I’d suggest combining it with unsweetened soya milk! Suggestion for animal-friendly usage of egg cup included below.

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Lunch

Animal-free sausage sandwich, crisps, fruit, cocoa Nakd bar

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I’d cooked one too many sausages the day before, so thought a sausage sandwich might be called for. I used a par-bake baguette, then sliced the sausage and combined it with some cucumber, rocket salad and vegan mayonnaise. The Plamil brand of vegan mayo is one of my favourite substitute products- it really does taste identical to the egg version. You can buy it from health food shops, or on Goodness Direct.

Dinner

Roasted courgette and tomato risotto, salad

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Risottos don’t take all that long, but cooking them generally involves a certain amount of standing over the stove stirring earnestly. To cheat and get great results, you can just leave some veg to roast in the oven, cook some rice and put the two together.  Some friends of mine are currently overwhelmed with a vast crop of courgettes, and this is great news for roasted veg lovers. Cherry tomatoes may not be the vegetable that springs to mind when you think of roasting, but they’re a great addition and you don’t even have to chop them.

I must admit, this recipe is the product of a lot of guesswork (I consistently fail to remember what time I put things in the oven, and was aiming to roast extra courgettes for future use in sandwiches). There’s really nothing that can go wrong though.

Ingredients for roasted courgette and tomato risotto (serves 2):

– 3-4 medium courgettes

– A generous handful of cherry tomatoes

– Olive oil

– 150g long grain rice

– Veggie stock

–  1-2 small cartons of soya cream

– A generous handful of parsley.

Method:

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

2. Slice the courgettes into rectangles and place on a baking tray along with the cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with some olive oil and mix in well (ideally with your hands).

3. Roast until tender, turning once. This takes around 30-40 mins.

4. When the courgettes have about 20 mins left, place the rice in a pan and cover with the veggie stock. Put the lid on and simmer until tender. Stir occasionally and add more stock if it looks in danger of drying out. Meanwhile, roughly chop the parsley.

5. When the veg is ready, stir it into the rice (draining first if there’s still a lot of liquid left), then add the parsley and soya cream. Simmer gently for a few minutes, stirring constantly until the dish is hot through.

The side salad was just a leafy rocket salad, brightened up with some sultanas and Brazil nuts, plus the usual drizzle of olive oil.

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Dessert

Fruit salad (kiwi and apricot), dark chocolate

You can’t beat a fresh fruit salad, and the kiwi/apricot combination is a really great one. Unfortunately though, when ripe kiwis are mixed with other fruits, they seem to leave an offputting trail of green which isn’t particularly photogenic.

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How to make a great side dish from three ingredients

Breakfast

Toast and jam, blueberries

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I find that berries are always good for a morning sugar boost.

Lunch

Sandwich (butternut squash dip and tomato), apple, flapjack

The butternut squash dip can be bought from Sainsbury’s and is quite a nice option for an instant sandwich filling. I used the Warburtons sandwich thins again which are good for lightish lunch.

Dinner

Bean, banana and cashew salad, potato salad, red cabbage and fig

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I’m trying to finish up the contents of the fridge before going away so decided to opt for a bit of everything type dinner. The potato salad was left over from the other day and you can find the recipe here (please scroll down to dinner). The salad was just a mix of leaves, bean shoots, banana and salted cashews, drizzled with some olive oil. It might seem like an unlikely combination but it worked really well.  The cabbage dish only uses three ingredients but tastes really delicious.

Ingredients for red cabbage and fig (serves 2):

– !/2 red cabbage

– 1 cube veggie stock (I like the Kallo cubes)

– A good handful of figs

Method:

1. Chop the cabbage and figs.

2. Place the cabbage in a pan, add a good splash of water (but not enough to cover it) and crumble a stock cube over the top.

3. Add the figs, cover and simmer until the cabbage is tender. Stir every now and again, adding more water if needed.

Dessert

Berries, chocolate

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Still a few blueberries left over from this morning, plus some strawberries and a little dark chocolate. Next week I will be branching out with desserts.

Store cupboard ingredients + 20 mins = delicious meal

Breakfast

Wheat biscuits, raspberries, soya milk

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The raspberries were slightly on the sharp side, so perfect with some sweetened soya milk. I always find that wheat biscuits and berries are a great breakfast combination.

Lunch

‘Cream cheese’ and salad sandwich, crisps, sharon fruit, flapjack

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This was the lovely Tofutti brand of vegan cream cheese and I’ve recently discovered the garlic and herb flavour. It’s really tasty without being overwhelmingly garlicy and works well with spinach and cucumber. I used the Warburtons sandwich thins (wholemeal version), which are definitely a useful lunchtime ingredient.

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Dinner

Homemade potato salad. Green lentils with spinach, cranberries and cashews.

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The homemade potato salad was left over from the day before and kept well in the fridge overnight. For the recipe, please click here and scroll down to dinner. I had some green lentils and spinach to finish, so made a super-quick dish to go with the potatoes. The result was really good, and I don’t honestly think it could take longer than 20 mins to throw together.

Ingredients for green lentils with spinach, cranberries and cashews (serves 2):

– 1 onion/two large shallots

– 2 cloves of garlic

– 1 tin of green lentils

– Olive oil

– 1 packet of spinach

– Generous handfuls of cranberries and cashews (salted are tastier, unsalted are healthier!)

Method:

1. Dice the shallots and press the garlic. Rinse the lentils, drain and set aside.

2. Heat a good splash of olive oil in the pan and add the onion and garlic. Sautee gently for about 5 mins, stirring constantly.

3. When the onion is soft and semi-transparent, stir in the other ingredients. You may need to add the spinach in batches- stirring one lot in until it has wilted, then adding the rest.

4. To serve, you may like to add some extra olive oil and seasoning. Pitta breads would be a good alternative to the potato salad.

Dessert

Greengages, dark chocolate

These are the greengages I bought from a local fruit seller which were definitely a good purchase.

How to make two great side dishes at the same time

Breakfast

Jam sandwich, nectarine, soya latte

If you’re feeling organised, making a sandwich in advance is quite a good way to guarantee a nice packed breakfast on an early morning journey. I would never have been that organised, but my Mum made this one for me! In terms of vegan breakfasts on the move, I see that Cafe Nero do porridge with soya milk, so this might be a good option. It’s also possible to buy vegan goodies from e.g. Sainsbury’s bakery (just ask an assistant to check whether your item of choice contains dairy or egg),  and freshly baked bagels are surprisingly good without any spread, although combining with a banana would be another good option. For a really virtuous vegan breakfast on the go, you could just buy a fruit salad. Maybe most importantly though, soya lattes (and other types of coffee) are available in almost every coffee shop, so you never have to go without!

Lunch

Pitta bread with garlic and herb ‘cream cheese’, nuts, greengages, flapjack

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Another vegan cheese discovery! I’ve been (unreasonably) excited to discover the Tofutti brand of vegan cream cheese, which is so great for sandwiches, bagels etc.. It turns out that the garlic and herb version is really lovely too and perfect in a pitta bread. I just added a few slices of cucumber and the effect was great. The nuts were salt and vinegar peanuts, which I couldn’t resist trying. They were nice, but I don’t think they actually beat salt and vinegar crisps (and probably aren’t any healthier). The greengages were from a local fruit stall and were really soft and juicy. I haven’t had one for years, but they definitely lived up to my expectations. The flapjack was one of the Blackfriars range, which do quite a few vegan options. They also come in really chunky bars, so you’ll probably find that half is often enough.

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Dinner

Homemade potato salad. Broccoli, lentil and pine nut salad

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Homemade potato salad is a seriously quick side dish that only uses four ingredients. The lentil salad is also really quick, tastes delicious and is probably pretty healthy. You can easily make these two dishes at the same time- just prepare the lentil salad while the potatoes are cooking. They both work well cold, so if one is ready before the other, you can just put it aside without worrying that it will spoil.

Ingredients for homemade potato salad (serves 3):

– 1 packet of new potatoes

– 1-2 small cartons of soya cream

– Zest of three lemons, juice of one

– A good handful of parsley, chopped

Method:

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes, roughly chop them and boil until tender.

2. When they are ready, drain, run under some cold water, then place in a mixing bowl.

3. Add enough soya cream to make a good sauce, then add the lemon, lemon zest and parsley. Mix together well. Black pepper is always  a good last minute addition.

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Ingredients for broccoli, lentil and pine nut salad (serves 2):

– One broccoli

– 1 cube of veggie stock

– 1 tin of green lentils

– 1 small packet of pine nuts (you may need less)

– A good handful of dried cranberries

– Olive oil

Method:

1. Chop the broccoli and place in a pan. Crumble the stock cube over the broccoli and add a good splash of water, but not enough to cover it. Simmer gently with the lid on until the broccoli is tender, stirring regularly. Add some more water if the broccoli seems to be drying out.

2. Meanwhile, rinse and drain the lentils, then place in a large mixing bowl.

3. When the broccoli is ready, drain and add to the lentils along with the other ingredients. Mix together, drizzle with some olive oil and enjoy.

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Dessert

Raspberries, dark chocolate

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An unbeatable combination!

A seriously simple spaghetti dish

Breakfast

Toast and marmalade, grapes

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The marmalade was (like the jam), made by my Nan and was really lovely. It had a much more orangey flavour than the shop-bought variety.

Lunch

Pitta with cannellini bean hummus and tomatoes, crisps, apple, biscuits

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You’ll be glad to know that this was the last of the cannellini bean hummus- people must be getting sick of hearing about it! Maybe next time I’ll buy a smaller tin of cannellini beans and bore people less. If you’ve yet to be bored, you can see the recipe here (just scroll down to lunch). The pitta breads were from Sainsbury’s and labelled as ‘Aegean tomato and basil’ (as well as vegan). Despite the slightly pretentious sounding title, they were really nice toasted and spread with some soya margarine and (last mention) the cannellini bean hummus.

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Dinner

Lemon Spaghetti, red cabbage and pine nut salad

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This is a great dish that only uses four ingredients (or five if you’re strict enough to count the oil used for cooking the spaghetti). It has a great flavour and you’d never know it was so simple to prepare. I find that wholemeal spaghetti works really well for this as it’s such a nice light sauce.

I seem to have a huge amount of cabbage left over from the noodle dish I cooked the other day so tried having it chopped up as a side salad with some pine nuts and olive oil. It was pretty nice, although I think red cabbage probably works better as part of a salad than as the sole component.

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Dessert

Sharon fruit, dark chocolate

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I’ve only recently discovered sharon fruits, but they really are lovely. They look really pretty when sliced, and have a very sweet taste with a texture that’s maybe half way between an apple and a pear. These were on offer in Sainsbury’s (3 for £1), so seemed a good dessert  option.

Snacks

Apple, dried figs

The figs were another ingredient left over from the noodle dish I made the other day. I find they make a great snack, although it’s quite hard to stop eating them once you start!

 

Purple noodles revisited

Breakfast

Ciabatta bread with loganberry jam, grapes

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At the moment I’m lucky enough to have some jam made by my Nan (jam making is definitely not the right thing to embark on if you’re always in a hurry!) It’s really lovely and tastes so different to shop-bought jam. Fortunately though, I’m yet to find a jam that isn’t vegan (unless you include lemon curd which normally contains egg).

Lunch

Cannelini bean hummus sandwich, crisps, apple, licorice

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This was the hummus I made the other day (just a tin of cannellini beans, a handful of chopped parsley and the zest of two lemons, mashed together roughly with a splash of water). It keeps really well in the fridge and makes a great chunky sandwich spread.  Most shop-bought hummus is also vegan though, so there’s no need to make your own unless you want to! The licorice was the Panda brand (raspberry flavour), which I seem to be slightly addicted to at the moment.

Dinner

Red Cabbage and Almond Noodles, Watercress

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A repeat of a dish I’d made the the day before, but it keeps really well in the fridge and can then just be heated up when you need it. The watercress made a nice side salad, although I do find you need a drizzle of olive oil to tame the pepperiness!

Dessert

Pineapple with Dark Chocolate Shards

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This is another one of those desserts that only takes a few minutes to make but looks quite sophisticated if served in the right way. The earthenware bowl, whilst lovely for pasta and cereal, probably wasn’t the best choice, but the recent house move means I’m a little short on serving equipment!

Some unseasonal breakfast inspiration

Breakfast

Wheat biscuits with cranberries and apple, soya milk

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I know this may seem a little on the christmassy side, but it does make a really lovely breakfast, especially with the sweetness added by the cranberries. These were dried cranberries which are readily available in supermarkets/health food shops and are great for cooking, baking and sprinkling in general. The wheat biscuits were from the Co-op and helpfully labelled as vegan.

Lunch

Ciabatta with cannellini bean hummus, tortilla chips, blueberries

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The ciabatta was from the Co-op and is labelled as vegan. Even when it’s freshly bought, I find that it’s best toasted as this guarantees a crispy outside and soft middle.  It’s then pretty adaptable in terms of toppings but I went for cannellini bean hummus with the usual drizzle of olive oil. It’s basically a variation on home made chickpea hummus, although the absence of chickpeas, tahini and garlic did make me think that calling it hummus might be stretching the definition a little. I just rinsed and drained a tin of cannellini beans then added the zest of a couple of lemons and a good handful of chopped parsley. It would probably work quite well in a food processor, but I just added a few splashes of water and mashed it with a fork. You basically just need to add enough water for it to form a convincing paste-like consistency. It tasted great, although I think it looked prettier before the mashing stage.

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Dinner

Red Cabbage and Almond Noodles

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This is a really quick dinner to prepare, as well as being really unusual (in a good way)! Please click here for the recipe.

Dessert

Dark chocolate, blueberries

The blueberries were left over from the ones I had at lunch time. They were reduced in Sainsbury’s but still really nice, even if some of the other packets looked decidedly past their prime!