A tasty but unphotogenic soup

This is a quick, easy soup with a nice autumnal combination of flavours. Sadly though, its beige colour makes it decidedly unphotogenic, so I’ve declined to include an unflattering photo!

Ingredients for parsnip, apple and peanut soup (serves 2):

  •  2 smallish onions
  • 2 medium apples
  • 2 medium parsnips
  • A good splash of olive or sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 4 tablespoons of peanut butter

Method: 

  1. Peel and chop the onion and parsnips, and peel, core and chop the apple (the beauty of soups is that the ingredients can be as messily chopped as you like!).
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan for a minute or so, then add the onion. Sautee gently, stirring frequently until the onion has softened (but before it goes brown). Add the apples, parsnips and sage, and continue to sautee for a few more minutes.
  3. Add the stock and peanut butter, bring to the boil, then simmer until the parsnips are tender (around 10-15 minutes).
  4. Blend until smooth, adding more water if you prefer a slightly thinner consistency. Serve with some crusty bread.

 

 

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Sunday lunch: make it fail-safe and fuss-free

I always think animal-free cooking is a lot less likely to result in culinary disasters, and Sunday lunch is no exception. Instead of struggling to synchronise the roasting of a large chunk of meat with the preparation of time-sensitive side dishes, you can potter about the kitchen preparing things and putting them aside as you feel like it, safe in the knowledge that nothing can go seriously wrong and everything can be re-heated or even served cold.

A roasted vegetable croustade with a couple of easy side dishes is a good option for a stress-free Sunday lunch. This type of thing is also fine to serve cold, so ideal if you need to leave lunch on the table and go to meet/pick up your guests. The croustade is a veganized and slightly modified version of a Rose Elliot recipe, and the bean, orange and hazelnut salad is adapted from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cook books. If this type of menu leaves you feeling deprived of the traditional, you could always provide some roast potatoes to go on the side (I usually do).

  033Ingredients for roasted vegetable croustade (serves 4):

2 large courgettes (and olive oil)
4 medium peppers (any colour except green!)
100g white bread with the crusts removed
100g ground almonds
3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
100g vegan margarine
100g pine nuts
Basil or parsley to garnish

For the sauce:

1-2 small cartons of soya cream
A good sprinkle of dried tarragon, Juice of one lemon, zest of 2

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220). Slice the courgettes into rectangles, lay out on a baking tray and add a good drizzle of olive oil (mix in with your hands if possible). Cut the tops off the peppers, de-seed them and place them upside-down on another baking tray.
  2. Put the peppers on the top shelf of the oven and the courgettes underneath. Roast until the peppers’ skins are charred (around 30-40 mins), and the courgettes are tender. When the veg is ready, set it aside and turn the oven down to gas 6 (200).
  3.  Meanwhile, place the bread in a large mixing bowl and tear into small pieces. Add the almonds, garlic and margarine. Mix with a spoon/your hands to form a sticky dough, then mix in the pine nuts. It will feel implausibly buttery, but don’t worry- this is normal!
  4. Lightly grease a flan tin (medium size). Press the dough in so it’s fairly even and bake for around 20 mins until golden.
  5. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, you can peel off the skins. You may not be able to get all the skin off- just concentrate on the very charred parts. Cut the peppers into long strips.
  6.  To make the sauce, place the soya cream in a pan and add the other ingredients. About 5 mins before you are ready to use it, heat it up gently. You may want to warm the veg up in a pan too.
  7. When the croustade is ready, remove the side of the tin (don’t panic if it crumbles a little!) then top with the veg and garnish with the herbs. Serve with the sauce.

 

036Ingredients for bean, orange and hazelnut salad (serves 4)

1 packet of green beans
1 packet of mange tout
1/2 a broccoli
1 packet of hazelnuts
Zest of 1 orange
Parsley and olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220) and bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Simmer the veg until tender (about 5 mins) then drain and refresh under cold water.
  2. Meanwhile, spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and roast until golden (around 5 mins).
  3. Place the veg and hazelnuts in a large dish and add the orange zest and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil, and it’s ready to serve.

035The roast potatoes probably don’t need much explanation. Just place on a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive oil and roast on about gas 7 (220) or slightly higher, until they’re golden on the outside and tender on the inside. This will take somewhere between 30 and 60 mins, depending on the size of the potatoes and strength of the oven.

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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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.

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!

Why afternoon tea can be animal-free

Breakfast

Maple & pecan crisp cereal, soya milk, strawberries

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This is an irresistibly sugary breakfast option which is useful if you have a cycle to work or something that requires a bit of early morning energy.

Skipping lunch is something I rarely do (I find it leaves me grinding miserably to a sugarless halt half way through the afternoon), but it was one of those times when a midday meal just wasn’t possible. When I finally arrived home at about 4pm, I decided to opt for some afternoon tea (almost as rare as skipping lunch). There were some Tesco ‘light choices’ hot cross buns in the bread bin which seemed to be animal-free and came close enough to a tea cake. Unfortunately the toasting phase wasn’t particularly successful and resulted in a charred top that had to be partially removed (you can understand why the photograph is absent!). Even so, the quasi-teacake tasted great with some vegan margarine and raspberry jam, plus some strawberries and kiwi for an urgently required sugar boost.

Actually though, there’s no need for vegans to make do with substandard afternoon teas and even a cream tea is completely possible. Believe it or not, you can actually buy vegan clotted cream: http://www.klottedkream.co.uk/. It looks delicious and the company supports a different animal charity every month. Most supermarket scones seem to contain milk and/or egg, but you can buy an animal-free version at: http://bluelotuscakes.co.uk/vegan-egg-free-dairy-free-scones-p-665.html and they look really good. The strawberry jam should be easy to source in animal-free form (I’m yet to find one that isn’t vegan).

Dinner

Vegan sausages, roasted carrots, salad

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I don’t know whether anyone has noticed, but there’s been a definite absence of oven-cooked food over the past few weeks. This wasn’t due to a sudden burst of healthiness, but rather a lack of working oven at the flat I’ve moved into. It was apparently working the day before I moved in (and it’s new), but it cut out within a few minutes of me switching it on and hasn’t been in action since. It’s been good to show that you don’t even need an oven to make vegan meals, but I’m quite glad to have oven access during my week of animal-sitting at my parents’ house. I thought I’d celebrate by having a zero effort dinner that cooked itself, in the oven. I roasted pack of small carrots until they were soft (about 40 mins on gas 7/220 with bit of olive oil drizzled over and mixed in), and this left me plenty for future usage. The veggie sausages were the Vegetarians Choice brand, which you can buy in the frozen section of Holland and Barrett and are really light and lovely. Some veggie sausages include dairy and egg ingredients, but these are marked as vegan.

Dessert

Strawberry and chocolate pot

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This is a seriously easy dessert that looks great too (so ideal for guests). Please click here for the recipe.

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.