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.

How to make a great breakfast without bread or milk

Breakfast

Muesli with soya yogurt, fruit and golden syrup

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This was a bit of an improvised breakfast as I’d completely forgotten to get any soya milk or bread (no idea how!) and didn’t have any obvious breakfast items to hand. This makeshift solution worked really well though and I’d definitely recommend it. I basically just mixed some muesli with soya yogurt, then added chopped fruit (plums and a kiwi) plus a drizzle of golden syrup.

Lunch

Vegan cream cheese and salad sandwich, fruit

Once you’ve opened a packet of vegan cream cheese it’s quite hard not to use it repeatedly in sandwiches as it makes such a quick and easy filling. It’s great combined with tomatoes or leafy salad. I use the Tofutti brand, which you can buy in Holland and Barrett (in plain, garlic and herb or herb and chive flavour).

Dinner

Mushroom pasta, salad

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I had some mushrooms to use up from the previous day’s Bolognese and this is a great recipe for a quick and tasty dinner. You can see the recipe here, although I didn’t use the spinach this time.

How not to miss meat

Breakfast

Wheat biscuits, blackberries, soya milk

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The blackberries were left over from the previous day’s attempt to be resourceful and pick my own dessert. The combination worked really well.

Lunch

Vegan cream cheese and tomato sandwich, fruit

This is a reliable option for a great animal-free sandwich. I really like the Tofutti brand of vegan cream cheese, which comes in plain or garlic and herb flavour and can be bought in Holland and Barrett.

Dinner

Veggie Bolognese, tortilla wrap, salad

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This is a really nice recipe that’s ideal for introducing people to the great taste of faux meats. You can buy the soya protein in Holland and Barrett and I think it has a pretty realistic mince-like flavour and texture. This is probably a good point to mention the excellent range of faux meats available in health food shops, which are ideal if you’re missing the taste of the real thing. You probably won’t find that they taste identical to real meats, but they’re pretty similar and opting for a small change in taste has a huge impact on animals!

To get back to the soya protein, you’re apparently supposed to soak it before use but I didn’t bother and was very happy with the result. The Bolognese would go well with spaghetti although I just had a tortilla wrap on the side. The salad was just some lettuce, celery and Thai flavour rice coated peanuts (or something like that). They’re from the Co-op, come in a pinkish packet and are marked as vegan.

Ingredients for veggie Bolognese (serves 2-3):

– 4 medium shallots

– 3 cloves of garlic (crushed)

– 8-10 tomatoes (on the vine ones are ideal)

– A generous handful of button mushrooms

– 2 red peppers

– 2 large sticks of celery

– Olive oil

– 80g dried soya protein

– 1 veggie stock cube

Method:

1. Chop the shallots and set aside.  Roughly chop the tomatoes and put them somewhere else. Chop the rest of the veg and put in a third location (the 3 groups of veg need to go into the pan at a different time).

2. Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic, then sautee gently, stirring constantly, until the shallots turn semi-transparent but not brown (this only takes a few mins).

3. Add the rest of the veg minus the tomatoes and continue to sautee for a few more minutes, stirring constantly. Next, add the tomatoes, cover and simmer for another 5 mins or so, stirring occasionally. Once they’ve begun to form a sauce, add the soya protein, a good splash of water and the stock cube. Cover and simmer for as long as you like, 10 mins probably being the minimum. Stir occasionally and check regularly that it’s not getting too dry, adding more water as needed. Season to serve.

Dessert

Fruit and biscuits (I think!)

I’m running a bit behind on the blog so can’t honestly remember how accurate this is. I’m in the process of catching up!

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.

What vegans don’t have to eat

Breakfast

Muesli, soya milk

Always an energising way to start the day.

Lunch

Lentil, spinach and tomato salad

I had some lentils left over from the night before so decided to make a healthy salad for lunch. It was nice, but not especially filling and I wouldn’t recommend it without some supplementary bread (or some other source of carbs). Just to clarify, vegans are most definitely not restricted to leaf-based lunches that leave them feeling hungry during the afternoon! You may like to take a look at my sandwich ideas for additional evidence of this 🙂

Dinner

Peanut and broccoli noodles, salad

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I still had some ingredients for this, so opted for a repeat of the other day’s dinner. It’s the type of dish you never get tired of though, as it’s so tasty and quick to prepare. Please click here for the recipe.

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Dessert

Chocolate chip cookies, fruit

The novelty of discovering these animal-free chocolate chip cookies still hasn’t worn off. For anyone who hasn’t seen the overexcited post on this, they’re chocolate chip hobnobs (and I’d imagine they’re pretty widely available in all supermarkets).

How to pretend you’re on holiday

Breakfast

Muesli, blackberries, soya milk

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This is normally a really great combination but the blackberries were unbelievably bitter! I was suspicious when I saw that they had little purple patches but decided to be optimistic and give them a go. My optimism was not rewarded.

Lunch

Hummus sandwich, fruit and nut mix, strawberries

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This was a really nice light lunch, and the fruit and nut mix made quite a healthy crisp alternative.

Dinner

Spaghetti with herbs, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes. Salad (with dried cranberries and more pine nuts)

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I’m lucky enough to have some amazing ingredients at the moment as my parents have recently been on holiday to Italy and brought me some fabulous edible presents. The spaghetti, herbs and olive oil were all Italian and really did taste special. Even if your ingredients are from the UK (as mine usually are), this is a bit like the Italian spaghetti with oil and garlic dish so you might just be able to pretend you’re on holiday!

Ingredients for spaghetti with herbs, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes (serves 2):

– 150g dried spaghetti

– Olive oil

– 3 cloves of garlic (crushed)

– A generous sprinkle of dried herbs (e.g. oregano)

– Pine nuts

– Cherry tomatoes

– Rocket

1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the spaghetti, along with a splash of olive oil. I always find it easiest to break up the spaghetti (although this is probably very un-Italian). Simmer for around 10 mins until tender, stirring occasionally.

2. When the spaghetti has about 5 minutes left, heat a good splash of olive oil in a separate pan and add the garlic and herbs. Sautee very gently over a low heat without allowing the garlic to  go brown. After a minute or two, add the pine nuts, rocket and tomatoes.

3. When the spaghetti is tender, stir into the sauce and enjoy.

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Dessert

Time for another blogging confession I’m afraid. I’m running a few days behind and can’t remember what I had for dessert! Fruit and dairy-free chocolate is probably the most likely option and I’ll be catching up on myself at the weekend.

How to create an addictive salad

Breakfast

Muesli, soya milk, grapes

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Not all that creative but reasonably nutritious and very nice. Apologies for the slightly excessive amount of soya milk which rather ruins the picture!

Lunch

Hummus and cucumber sandwich, nuts, fruit, Nakd bar

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A bit more conventional than the previous day’s hummus and beetroot sandwich but it worked well. The green nuts are wasabi peanuts, which are seriously hot but very nice.

Dinner

Courgette and tomato croustade. Pear, watercress and walnut salad

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If you want to prepare a special meal with a minimal amount of effort then a croustade is a good choice. Despite the offputtingly fancy name, it’s actually reasonably fuss-free. The croustade base is essentially a veganized version of a Rose Elliot recipe (with a few extra changes), although the sauce is my own recipe (all three ingredients!) and I’ve used roasted veg to replace the asparagus topping in the original. The salad is seriously quick and pretty addictive (probably something to do with the very sweet walnuts).

I must admit, this isn’t a particularly cheap meal, although I’d imagine it’s much cheaper than e.g. creating a roast dinner for 4 people. Most of the options in this blog are pretty low-cost, but this is more of a special occasion type meal.

Ingredients for courgette and tomato croustade (serves 4):

– 4 large courgettes

– Olive oil

-100g white bread with the crusts removed

-100g ground almonds

– 3 cloves of garlic (crushed)

-100g vegan margarine

-100g pine nuts

– A generous handful of cherry tomatoes

For the lemon and tarragon 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). Roast until tender (around 30-40 mins), turning once and adding the cherry tomatoes about 10 mins before the end. When the veg is ready, remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to gas 6 (200).

2. 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!

3. Lightly grease a flan tin (smallish size). Press the dough in so it’s fairly even and bake for around 20 mins until golden.

4. Meanwhile, 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.

5. When the croustade is ready, remove the side of the tin (don’t panic if it crumbles a little!) then top with the veg. Serve with the sauce.

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Ingredients for pear, watercress and walnut salad (serves 4):

– 1 medium sized pack of walnuts

– Maple syrup (agave syrup is a cheaper option which you can buy in the supermarket)

– 1 packet of watercress

– 1 tin of pears/ 3 ripe pears

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220). Lay the walnuts out on a baking tray and drizzle some syrup over the top. Mix in with  your hands. Roast for about 5-10 minutes, keeping a very close eye on them to avoid a burnt walnut disaster (never fails to cause extreme annoyance!). Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. Place the watercress in a bowl, then add the pears and walnuts.

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