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!

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A vegetable that deserves the lead role

Breakfast

Muesli, soya milk

Always a good breakfast for generating maximum morning energy.

Lunch

Bagel with avocado, cucumber and vegan mayo, nuts, sesame snaps, fruit

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Although traditionally more of a sandwich component than a filling in its own right, chopped avocado can work really well as the main focus. I just toasted a sesame seed bagel, spread it with soya margarine, then topped it with avocado, cucumber and egg-free mayo, plus a good sprinkling of black pepper (essential in my opinion). If you’re a regular reader, you’re probably sick of hearing about where to get egg-free mayo (I use it rather a lot), but you can buy it in health food shops (including Holland and Barrett), or on Goodness Direct. This is a great option for a substantial sandwich, although you’ll probably need a knife and fork to eat it with. Just a word of warning though- I don’t think it would travel well as avocados turn offputtingly brown at an alarming rate!

Dinner

Aubergine and lemon pasta, salad

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This is a really delicious dish that only needs a minimal amount of effort. It’s pretty much just a case of of putting an aubergine in the oven, cooking some pasta and throwing together a quick sauce. For the full recipe please click here.

Dessert

Neapolitan ice cream

This exciting variety of vegan ice cream is made by Swedish Glace and sold in large Sainsbury’s stores as well as health food shops. It’s much lighter than dairy ice cream (so you may find yourself getting through large quantities!).

When to think before you bin

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, soya milk, tinned cherries

This is the usual sugary cereal that I indulge in at the weekend. We had some tinned cherries in the fridge which made a nice addition, even if the stones were a bit of a surprise.

Lunch

Banana baguette, crisps, watermelon, flapjacks

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I had a nice par-bake baguette to put in the oven, and thought I’d come up with a creative sandwich filling to go in it. I liked the idea of carrot and tahini, and thought that chopped carrot, 1 tbsp tahini and a good splash of water would be something that the blender could transform into a nice sandwich filling. Unfortunately though, I think it prefers slightly softer, cooked vegetables, and after repeated attempts I was left with small chunks of carrot floating in a tahini coloured solution. Not one of my best inventions. Luckily though, animal-free sandwich options are easy to come by, and I went for chopped banana instead. I think a banana baguette must be the ultimate energy sandwich.

There are still a few of my Nan’s delicious flapjacks left, and I thought that a couple of these might go well after lunch with some healthy watermelon just to vaguely balance things out.

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Dinner

Aubergine and lemon pasta, salad (with tortilla chips)

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This is another dinner that virtually cooks itself. It’s true that the aubergines take a while in the oven, but they can essentially be left to their own devices so this is a good recipe if you’re trying to get things done around the house, in the garden or at the computer. The three aubergines that I used were fairly small so I ended up with some extra pasta (I didn’t want to risk adding too much to the sauce and making it dry). To create a second helping, I just combined the extra pasta with the aubergine skins, some more soya cream and half a veggie stock cube crumbled in. It may seem surprising, but roasted aubergine skins are a really lovely ingredient in their own right and also taste delicious spread with hummus. Before binning them, it’s definitely worth considering their potential! The aubergine cooking method is the same as for aubergine roulade with lemon and tarragon sauce, and it’s roughly based on Ottolenghi’s method but simplified a bit.

Ingredients  for aubergine and lemon pasta (serves 3):

– 3 largeish aubergines

– 225 g pasta (I found that wholegrain worked well here)

– Olive oil

– 1-2 small cartons of soya cream

– Zest of 3-4 lemons

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

– (Optional) A good handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped

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. When the aubergines are ready, remove from the oven, cut 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 may want to cut up some of the larger pieces (kitchen scissors are useful for this).

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4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the pasta, along with a splash of olive oil. Simmer for about 10 mins or until tender, stirring occasionally.

5. Meanwhile, place the cooked aubergine in a separate pan, along with the soya cream, lemon zest and basil. Crumble the stock cube over the top and stir in (this just helps to make the flavour even better). Simmer very gently until hot through, stirring  almost constantly to prevent sticking.

6. When the pasta is ready, drain and stir into the aubergine sauce. Serve in a dish with a lid to help it stay hot for longer.

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Dessert

Raspberry sorbet, strawberries, vegan chocolate

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This raspberry sorbet is from Tesco and, unlike many of their products, actually admits to being vegan on the packaging. It has a lovely sweet, refreshing taste, and went well with some strawberries (despite the colour clash).

Snacks

Apple, nuts

An energy filled snack that was relatively healthy too.

A frozen food that makes a warming meal

Breakfast

Weetabix type cereal, soya milk, strawberries

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A nice energising combination which I’d definitely recommend.

Lunch

Wholemeal rolls with guacamole and watercress, crisps, apple, peanut bar

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I generally try to be positive about anything animal-free, but I have to admit I’m not a big fan of this Sainsbury’s ‘be good to yourself’ guacamole.  It’s certainly not the only vegan sandwich filling available (there’s no shortage of animal-free sandwich ideas) but I’d never noticed it before so thought I should give it a go.  You can buy the peanut bars (if you dare) from the World Food section of supermarkets, but they’re extremely sugary and highly addictive. They can also be found at AMT coffee stalls.

Dinner

Moroccan couscous bakes with sweet tomato and ginger sauce, asparagus, salad

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When you try to picture the vegan section of a frozen foods aisle, you might either think that no such thing existed, or imagine a lone bean burger looking slightly pitiful. Fortunately though, this isn’t the case, and even Tesco has a really good range of animal-free foods that you can just put in the oven and eat. It’s obviously great to make things from scratch, but occasionally it’s nice to have a rest and fortunately that option is open to herbivores too.

These couscous bakes are just one of the vegan options, but there’s a wide variety of others (falafels, meatless burgers, nut cutlets, veggie grills etc.). In Tesco, some of these items are marked as vegan, and others not (including the couscous bakes). I can only assume it’s due to the factory they’re made in or something along those lines. The totally animal-free options are helpfully mixed in with vegetarian items that do contain eggs and/or dairy, but a quick glance at the allergy advice section of the packaging can usually clear up any uncertainty.

The couscous bakes were really tasty- not at all excessively salty or overpoweringly garlicy. Their spiciness meant that they were really warming too (and we still need warming here in the UK, even in June). The mini peppers were really sweet, and looked so pretty that they just had to be photographed separately!

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Dessert

Ginger Booja Booja ice cream

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This was also from the freezer, but I must admit it’s a bit of a luxury item that’s found in health shops rather than supermarkets. Fortunately though, most supermarkets stock the Swedish Glace brand of vegan ice cream (which tastes really good), so you don’t have to make a special trip to buy it. There’s always sorbet too, which is normally vegan and comes in various fruity flavours. For a real treat though (or for an impressive end to a dinner party) there’s no beating the delicious Booja Booja ice cream.

Snacks

Apples, almonds

The almonds were left over from a batch I roasted the other day and they do make a really great snack.

How to impress a guest with a shop dessert

Breakfast

Muesli with soya milk

Not a leisurely breakfast but a good, appetising dose of energy for the day.

Lunch

Falafel and hummus tortilla wrap, mini chilli crackers, fruit bar, apple

A good vegan lunch courtesy of Tesco. Apparently they also do a hummus sandwich but I think the combination of going to small Tesco stores and often arriving late has prevented me from experiencing this yet.

Although I often go for crisps, I should probably point out that there are endless healthier sandwich accompaniments which are all perfectly animal-free. Mini chilli crackers are one of my favourites, but you can also buy rice coated peanuts (slightly addictive), wasabi peas and an infinite variety of dried fruits and nuts.

Dinner

Gnocchi with sweet tomato and ginger sauce, summer vegetable salad, ginger ‘ice cream’

Gnocchi are an even quicker alternative to pasta. They’re essentially made from potatoes and flour, but they sometimes have egg in so it’s worth checking the packaging (the ‘allergy advice’ section gives you a clue). The ‘Trattoria Verdi’ brand in Tesco is definitely egg-free and I used a standard Italian sauce with an oriental twist.

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Ingredients for gnocchi with sweet tomato and ginger sauce (serves 3):

– 1 pack of  gnocchi

– A splash of oil (e.g. rapeseed)

– 2 tins of tomatoes

– 1tbsp grated  root ginger

– 2 tbsp brown sugar

– A little mixed spice

– Fresh basil

Method:

1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a splash of oil.

2. Gently simmer the tinned tomatoes in a separate pan. Add the root ginger, sugar and a sprinkle of mixed spice.

3. When the  water has boiled, add the gnocchi and wait until they rise to the surface (this only takes a few minutes).

4. Drain the gnocchi but add the sauce to them. You may not need all the sauce and it’s best to avoid drowning the gnocchi. Add some fresh basil to garnish.

The summer vegetable salad could also make the base for a nice lunch, especially if served with some crusty bread. The courgettes could just be sauteed in a pan if you don’t have time for roasting.

Ingredients for summer vegetable salad (serves 3):

– 450 g courgettes

– A little olive oil

– 250 g peas

– 1 tbsp finely chopped mint

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to gas 6 (200 C)

2. Slice the courgettes, place on a baking tray, brush with a little oil  and roast for about 15 mins on either side.

3. Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Add the peas, bring back to the boil and simmer the peas until tender (only a few minutes). Drain and set aside.

4.  When the courgettes are ready, mix with the peas and mint.

It’s generally true that vegan food is cheap and easy to get hold of. Even vegan ice cream (the Swedish Glace brand)  is sold in supermarkets  at a normal price. That doesn’t mean that luxury products aren’t available though, and these don’t always make it to the supermarket. Once such product is Booja-Booja ice cream, made by the same people who do the delicious truffles (also at the upper end of the vegan chocolate market). The ice cream costs between £7-8 per tub, but this easily serves four and when you think of the price of four indifferent restaurant puddings…

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The ginger flavour really is delicious; light, creamy and slightly firey. Not an everyday product but may be worth buying the occasional tub for impressing non-vegan dinner guests! You can buy it in some health food shops (not sure it’s a health food exactly) and on Ocado.

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