The key to stress-free flan making

Breakfast

Soya yogurt topped with crunchy cereal and grapes

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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.

Lunch

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

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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)

Method:

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)

Method:

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.

Dessert

‘Pudology’ dessert

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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.

Tea

Falafel sandwich, nuts, mini carrots and hummus

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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.

Dessert

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.

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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.

A revolutionary way to cook spaghetti?

Breakfast

Wheat biscuits with cranberries and cinnamon, soya milk

I was running a little low on fresh fruit, so opted for this slightly christmassy combination. It worked well though!

Lunch

Braised tofu, tomato and vegan mayo sandwich, fruit

This is a great combination that tastes similar to tuna. For a full explanation, please see the sandwich ideas page and scroll down to braised tofu.

Dinner

Spaghetti with cannellini beans and homemade tomato sauce, salad

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This great recipe comes courtesy of a friend of my Nan’s and is really simple and delicious. I’ve modified it slightly due to lack of time and because I never seem able to follow a recipe without changing it slightly! It includes a nice way to cook spaghetti which saves on washing up and makes it really flavoursome.

Ingredients (serves 2):

– 4 smallish  shallots

– 3 cloves of garlic

– 8-10 tomatoes (vine ripened are a little pricier but much nicer)

– Olive oil

– Mixed dried herbs

– 1 tin cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)

– 100g spaghetti

– 1 Veggie stock cube

Method:

1. Chop the shallots and press the garlic. Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

2. Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a pan and add the shallots, garlic and a good sprinkle of dried herbs. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the shallots go semi-transparent (but not brown).

3. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and simmer for about 5 mins, until they begin to form a sauce, stirring occasionally. Next, stir in the spaghetti and cannellini beans, then add a generous splash of water and crumble the stock cube into the pan. Cover and simmer until the spaghetti is cooked, adding more water as needed and stirring fairly frequently. This should take about 10 mins or so. It looks nice served in a bowl and garnished with basil (or a watercress leaf if, like me, you’re running low on fresh herbs)!

Dessert

Blackberries, chocolate chip cookies

I live near a railway bridge where there’s an abundance of blackberry bushes. The fruits vary in quality but probably no more than the ones you buy, so I thought I’d pick my own dessert. They were pretty nice, especially combined with some chocolate chip hobnobs. Confusingly, not all chocolate chip hobnobs are vegan, so do check the packet (the allergy advice section is probably the quickest point of reference) to be sure.

A dessert you could have for breakfast

Breakfast

Muesli, raspberries, soya milk

Toast, loganberry jam

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Two breakfasts in one, I know, but lunch wasn’t really going to fit in so I decided to adopt a camel type approach (even if toast and jam probably isn’t a desert animal’s preferred choice of food).

Dinner

Butternut squash and sultana couscous, salad

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This was a repeat dinner as I’d made double quantities the other day. The recipe is still under construction but it made quite a tasty dinner anyway.

Dessert

Soya yogurt with fruit and golden syrup

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This was an Alpro soya yogurt, topped with fresh fruit and golden syrup. It makes a great dessert that’s almost healthy and can double up as a light breakfast.

Snacks

Almonds, vegan chocolate cake/coconut ice

Oh dear! No lunch and all those sweets. Not ideal I admit, but it least it helps to dispel the myth about vegans existing on leaves (and it was a Sunday)! The reason for this slightly odd pattern was going to visit FRIEND, a farmed animal sanctuary in Kent (http://www.friendsanimalrescue.org.uk/about_new.htm). It’s a wonderful place, and it was lovely to see happy members of generally unfortunate species such as pigs, cows and hens.

The animal-free answer to tuna?

Breakfast

Wheat biscuits, soya milk, blueberries

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Berries are great for an early morning sugar boost and wheat biscuits are helpful for providing long-lasting energy.

Lunch

Braised tofu, tomato and vegan mayo sandwich, biscuits, blueberries

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Braised tofu has a texture and flavour that really reminds me of tuna. You can buy it in Holland and Barrett, but it’s with the other tinned products (not in the chilled section with the rest of the tofu). Once it’s rinsed and drained, you can break off slices, place them on bread and add whatever you feel like, although I think sliced tomatoes and vegan mayo work especially well. Vegan mayo can also be purchased in H&B, and it’s almost indistinguishable from the animal-based product.

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Dinner

Couscous with sultanas and butternut squash, salad

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This recipe is still under construction but will be appearing in the future! It made a perfectly good meal, but further work is needed for optimum results. Not all recipes transition smoothly from mind to plate and this one turned out to be a little on the bland side.

Dessert

Fruit and yogurt dessert

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Alpro seem to  have brought out some new flavours of soya yogurt, including the strawberry and banana one that I had tonight. I just topped it with some raspberries, added a drizzle of golden syrup and it made a great dessert.

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!

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!