A summer version of a winter classic

Breakfast

Porridge with golden syrup and summer berries

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Although this is a bit of a winter breakfast, I had some blueberries and strawberries that needed using up and thought that a bowl of porridge would be ideal for this. To make it for one person, I just put 40g of porridge oats into a pan, added 280ml of soya milk/water (mainly soya milk but a bit of water), then simmered for about 3 mins, stirring constantly. I left it to cool for a while, then added a little golden syrup and a generous handful of chopped berries. It made a really nice breakfast and was filling without being overwhelming.

Lunch

Bagel, hummus, celery, crisps, salad

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A toasted sesame seed bagel always makes a great lunch. Hummus and chopped celery make a tasty filling, and if you want to extend your lunch you can always dip some celery sticks in the hummus. The crisps were just good old Walkers salt and vinegar,  and I thought some  olives and tomatoes would be a nice extra.

Dessert

Fruit, dark chocolate

Strawberries and a nectarine. It’s nice to enjoy a bit of seasonal fruit, although ripening nectarines is not a task for anyone in a hurry!

Dinner

Polenta with sweet tomato and ginger sauce, salad, oatcakes with hummus

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This was another great meal prepared by my Mum. Polenta is so delicious and I do think it’s a much underrated Italian staple. For this dish, you need the blocks of polenta (not the bags of p0lenta grains), which can hopefully be found next to the dried pasta in supermarkets.

Ingredients for polenta with sweet tomato and ginger sauce (serves 4):

– 2 packets of polenta

– 2 tins of tomatoes

– 1tbsp grated  root ginger

– 2 tbsp brown sugar

– A little mixed spice

– Fresh basil

Method:

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

2. Brush the polenta with a little oil (on both sides) and spread out on a baking tray. Roast for around 30 mins (this is a bit of an estimate) turning once.

3. When the  polenta only has about 10 mins left, pour the tomatoes into a pan and add the root ginger, sugar and a sprinkle of mixed spice. Simmer gently until the polenta is ready and stir in a handful of fresh basil leaves at the last minute.

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Dessert

Coconut and apricot pots, small slice of  vegan shortbread

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My mum created this lovely dessert from a few spare ingredients and the end result was really delicious. You just build up layers of soya custard, desiccated coconut and fruit, then top with some finely chopped vegan chocolate (we happened to have some vegan chocolate raisins).

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A delicious source of protein for under 50p

Breakfast

Fruit and oat bagel with strawberry jam, apple, dried apricots

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The fruit and oat New York bagels were reduced in Sainsbury’s and they’re one of my favourites from the range. They give you a great morning boost, especially if  you add jam.

Lunch

Olive ciabatta with homemade hummus, crisps, apple, dried apricots

You’ll be glad to know that I won’t be talking about the olive ciabatta for much longer as the loaf is nearly finished! It has been a nice feature of lunches this week though. This morning I quickly threw together a home made hummus from some blackeye beans. The tin cost well under 50p, which just shows how cheap it is to get some animal free protein. I drained the beans, added a good squeeze of lemon juice, about 1tbsp of tahini and 2 tbsp of olive oil. I also stirred in a goodly amount of lemon thyme, but I think parsley would work really well too. For cheap  (and very nice) tinned pulses, I find it’s always worth heading over to the World Foods section of supermarkets. These economical sources of protein are lovely for making hummus, but also work really well in salads, curries and casseroles.

Dinner

Roasted polenta with broccoli and almond, tomato salad

Dessert: Strawberries and soya cream

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I had half a packet of polenta left so thought I’d do another sauce to go with it. The broccoli makes a much better sauce when it’s blended, but I didn’t have access to a blender tonight and it still tasted nice in a slightly less liquid form. I think I said quite enough about polenta in yesterday’s post, but the two key points are that it tastes delicious and you can find it next to the dried pasta. I always find that roasting nuts really transforms them and almonds are no exception.

Ingredients for roasted polenta with broccoli and almonds (serves 2):

– 1 packet of polenta (the kind that looks like a block of cheese)

– A little olive oil

– 1 large broccoli

– A jug of veggie stock

– 1 small pack of almonds

– A splash of soya cream

Method:

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

2. Brush the polenta with a little oil and spread out on a baking tray. Roast for around 30 mins (this is a bit of an estimate) turning once.

3. Meanwhile, chop up the broccoli and make the stock. Place the broccoli in a saucepan and add enough stock to create a fair amount of liquid in  the base of the pan, but nowhere near enough to cover the broccoli (it develops a nice flavour like this). Cover and simmer for about 10 mins, stirring regularly and adding more water if necessary. When the broccoli is tender, add a spash of soya cream and blend so it becomes a rough sauce but not a soup. Set aside for now.

4. When the polenta has about 15 mins left in the oven, put the almonds on the spaces in the baking tray and roast, checking regularly that they are not beginning to burn. You usually get some warning before your expensive purchase turns into a blackened mess, since the nuts on the outer areas of the tray turn suspiciously dark and you have a chance to turn down the heat/remove them from the oven before a full scale disaster strikes.

5. About 5 mins before the polenta  is ready, reheat the sauce.

6. When the polenta is ready, remove from the oven, transfer to plates and top with the broccoli sauce and almonds.

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The tomato salad was just some tomatoes sprinkled with lemon thyme and drizzled with oilve oil. It tasted good, but I used the cheap salad tomatoes (which had also spent far too long being chilled through in the fridge). For optimum results, I would suggest splashing out on some better tomatoes and maybe not from the basics/value range that I always seem to be drawn to.

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The strawberries had been reduced, and made a lovely dessert tonight although I suspect that they would have passed their edible phase by the morning. This English classic doesn’t take much effort to veganize, you just use soya cream (I’d go for the chilled Alpro one) and I think you’d have a job detecting that it was animal free.

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Snacks

Morning: Tea and a couple of biscuits

Afternoon: Coconut peanuts, apple.

Tea and coffee are great with animal free milks, but it’s worth bearing in mind whether you normally take sugar. If you do, I’d go for Alpro original/light or a supermarket brand ‘sweetened soya drink’. You may even find you need less sugar. If you prefer a non sweet drink though, be sure to go for unsweetened soya milk or one of the other non-dairy milks such as oat or coconut.

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When not to do what it says on the packet

Breakfast

Weetabix type cereal, grapes, soya milk

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The weetabix type cereal was the Sainsbury’s economy version. Although they’re very nice, they’re also tiny and I found that you needed about three for a decent breakfast! The great thing about using sweetened soya milk is that you don’t need to add sugar to this kind of cereal (which at least feels healthier).

Lunch

Salad, ciabatta bread, peanuts, apple

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The salad was the same as the one I made yesterday- just leaves, a tomato and some cucumber, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and drizzled with olive oil. This went really well with the olive ciabatta from yesterday and I couldn’t resist a few coconut peanuts either.

Dinner

Roasted polenta with aubergine, salad

Dessert: apple, cranberry and cinnamon pot

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This is a really delicious meal that only takes a minimal amount of effort to prepare (although it takes a while to cook itself in the oven).  Polenta is another fabulous Italian food that doesn’t get as much publicity as pizza and pasta. For this recipe you need the kind of polenta that looks like a block of cheese, not the one that looks like a packet of flour. It can (hopefully) be found near the dried pasta in supermarkets.

Ingredients for roasted polenta with aubergine (serves 2):

– 2 medium aubergines

– A packet of polenta

– A little olive oil

– Zest of 2 lemons

– A little lemon thyme

– A good splash of soya cream

Method:

I’ve included the aubergine cooking method (and pictures) from the Aubergine Roulade with Lemon and Tarragon Sauce which is inspired by Ottolenghi but simplified a bit. Today I did it in a different oven and found that the aubergines took longer and I had to finish them off in a saucepan. To be fair though, I did start off cooking them on gas 6 rather than 7 and this particular oven is rather idiosyncratic with the flames at the bottom and not the back.

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 only have about half an hour left, slice the polenta, brush with a little olive oil and place on a baking tray on a lower rung of the oven. You’ll probably want to turn them once. When I made this meal I was only cooking one aubergine so put the polenta slices alongside it on the baking tray. They should cook fine on a lower rung though and you could always temporarily swap rungs with the aubergines if you felt they needed an extra boost of crispiness.

4. 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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5. Place the aubergine flesh in a pan and add the lemon zest, lemon thyme and a good splash of soya cream. This is where we rebel against the packet, as the one enclosing Sainsbury’s lemon thyme says it’s ‘perfect with poultry fabulous with fish’. I can think of some much kinder ways to use it though, including this one. Heat gently for around five minutes until piping hot, stirring constantly.

6. Remove the polenta from the oven, arrange the slices on plates and top with the aubergines.

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The dessert was really lovely, although it did feel a little to Christmassy to be eating in a warm (or at least not freezing) garden. To make it for one person, you just need an apple (chopped), a good handful of dried cranberries (or sultanas) and a good sprinkle of cinnamon and brown sugar.

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Snacks

Morning: A couple of oaty biscuits

Evening: Diet coke and an apple

As promised, the new inclusion of snacks.