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.

How to veganize a risotto

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, soya milk

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My usual sugary weekend breakfast. It always tastes great though, and ice cold soya milk is a nice way to start a (rare) sunny day.

Lunch

Sesame seed bagel with cucumber and strawberries, crisps, grapes, Nakd fruit bar

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I thought a fruit based filling might be refreshing in a bagel. It was, although for this purpose I think the strawberries needed to be a little sweeter.

Dinner

Pea risotto, tangerine, sultana and cucumber salad

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This is one of my favourite summer dishes and tonight’s version was expertly prepared by my dad. It’s  really nutritious and has a great Italian flavour. It’s also a really good example of how meat and dairy recipes can easily be veganized. This one was supposed to include bacon and butter, but it’s really easy just to use soya spread (or olive/vegetable/sunflower/rapeseed oil), then either omit the bacon (I do), or use one of the many animal-free options. Although happily meat-free, Quorn products do contain egg and dairy. The Redwood range is vegan though and can easily be bought in Holland and Barrett or ordered here. If you had any concerns that going animal-free would mean crossing convenience foods off  the menu, a quick visit to this website should put your mind at rest! I haven’t tried Redwood’s ‘bacon’, but I’ve found their ‘ham’ really good for pasta dishes, so I’d probably recommend that for this dish.

I guess stock cubes are the other essential ingredient for a risotto, and my favourites are the Kallo veggie cubes. I tend to stock up when I go into Holland and Barrett, but they’re also on Sainsbury’s online so presumably you can buy them in store too. If you want to add a final ‘creamy’ touch to your risotto, Aplro soya cream is the perfect solution. It’s easy to find in medium sized supermarkets, and tends to be sold in small long-life cartons, either by the long-life  soya milk or in the ‘free from’ section.

Ingredients for pea risotto (serves 4):

– 1 onion

– A good handful of parsley

– Olive oil

– 315g peas

– 1 litre stock

– 250g risotto rice

Optional: soya cream

Method:

1. Chop the onion and roughly chop the parsley.

2. Heat a good splash of oil in a saucepan and sautee the onion and parsley for a few mins, stirring constantly.

3. Add about a quarter of the stock and the peas. When the stock is boiling, simmer for about 5 mins.

4. Add the rest of the stock and the risotto rice and simmer until the stock has been absorbed (about 20-25 mins). Stir regularly to prevent sticking.

5. Stir in a splash of soya cream and serve.

The salad included some cucumbers that were a kind present from a friend’s allotment. Home grown veg is always extra special, but unfortunately not very compatible with a hurried (and predominantly city based) lifestyle. The satsuma, cucumber and sultana salad is very refreshing and just involves adding the ingredients together. The quantities aren’t all that important but I’d generally aim for a goodly amount of everything.

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Dessert

Strawberries, dark chocolate

I can’t seem to stop eating strawberries, but they’re so nice at the moment and seem like the perfect summer pudding.

Britain’s best traditional food?

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, soya milk, strawberries

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This was my usual weekend breakfast cereal, combined with some strawberries that were left over from last night’s dessert. A sweet but very nice start to a Saturday morning.

Lunch

Peanut butter and grape bagel, crisps, fruit (extra grapes and strawberries), cocoa and orange bar

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This is rather an unusual sandwich filling but it’s definitely one of my favourites. I especially love sesame seed bagels, and you can’t go wrong with some crisps and a bit of fruit. The cocoa and orange bar was from the Nakd range. They’re great for energy and it’s amazing to think that they’re essentially just made out of dried fruit.

Dinner

Pea risotto, grape and pea shoot salad

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My Dad kindly made this for me and it was really delicious. It’s also a great store cupboard dish, as the ingredients are all things that you’re likely to have in your cupboard (or freezer) anyway. I featured the pea risotto recipe last week, but I can’t really claim credit for it as it’s one that I veganised (and simplified) from a fairly ancient recipe book.

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The pea shoots in the salad tasted so different to the peas in the risotto that you’d never guess the link. Pea shoots seem to have dramatically dropped in price lately and cost a similar amount to any another packet of salad. For salad toppings, we had some rice coated peanuts and Bombay mix, both of which also make great animal-free snacks.

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Dessert

Watermelon, strawberries, Bourbon biscuit

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My third serving of strawberries I know, but they are hard to beat and being a fruit I’m sure that they’re at least vaguely good for you. You may not think of traditional British food as being particularly animal-friendly, but strawberries couldn’t be more of a summertime tradition and they’re definitely vegan! The watermelon cubes were really sweet too, and always make a refreshing dessert.

Snacks

Banana, pumpkin seeds

Bananas make a really great energy-packed snack, and pumpkin seeds are surprisingly good for keeping you going in between meals.

A revolutionary vegan cheese

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, soya milk

This is my usual weekend favourite and can be bought in either Tesco or Sainsbury’s.

Lunch

Vegan cheese and tomato bagel, crisps, satsuma, fruit bar

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I have to say that this is the best vegan cheese I’ve tasted. I’d sampled it at the V Delicious veggie food festival last week, so my expectations were pretty high but I was yet to try it in any significant quantity. It was certainly very cheddar-like and tasted great in a  bagel combined with cherry tomatoes. Unfortunately it’s not yet available in supermarkets but you can buy it online (http://www.vegusto.co.uk/shop/) and in some health food shops. It’s rather pricey but nice for a treat every now and again and it’s fairly strong so you don’t have to use too much of it. It’s the Vegusto brand and it’s  encouragingly made in Switzerland. I look forward to trying a macaroni ‘cheese’ next week.

Dinner

Pea risotto, salad, peanuts

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This is a tasty and nutritious dish that’s kind to the wallet too. It’s actually a veganised (and slightly simplified) version of a recipe in Risotto and Rice Recipes Made Easy by Sabine Salzer (although I’m not sure you can still buy the book). Tonight’s version was cooked to an excellent standard by my Dad and went really well with a glass of vegan wine from the Co-op. Apologies for the slightly fuzzy photo- the camera lense didn’t appreciate the steam!

Ingredients for pea risotto (serves 4):

– 1 onion

– A good handful of parsley

– Olive oil

– 315g peas

– 1 litre stock

– 250g risotto rice

Optional: soya cream

Method:

1. Chop the onion and roughly chop the parsley.

2. Heat a good splash of oil in a saucepan and sautee the onion and parsley for a few mins, stirring constantly.

3. Add about a quarter of the stock and the peas. When the stock is boiling, simmer for about 5 mins.

4. Add the rest of the stock and the risotto rice and simmer until the stock has been absorbed (about 20-25 mins). Stir regularly to prevent sticking.

5. Stir in a splash of soya cream and serve.

Dessert

Vegan cupcake, strawberries

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The cupcakes were bought for (early) Father’s Day from the wonderful Ms Cupcake bakery in Brixton (totally animal-free). I sampled pieces of the tiramisu and triple chocolate ones, and I think tiramisu is my favourite flavour yet.

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Snacks

Banana, piece of peanut bar

Bananas do make a great self-wrapped snack, and there’s nothing better than a piece of peanut brittle  for an urgent sugar boost.