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.

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How to liven up a hummus sandwich

Breakfast

Wholegrain malties, banana, soya milk

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Always an energising way to start the day.

Lunch

Wholemeal rolls with hummus and sundried tomatoes, apple, soya yogurt

This is a really great sandwich combination that I’ve recently discovered (although I’m sure it’s not entirely original). As you’ve probably guessed, you literally just spread the bread/rolls with vegan margarine and hummus, then add some sundried tomatoes from a jar. If, like me, you don’t have time to rinse and dry the tomatoes, it’s probably worth using a roll or some crusty bread as flimsier varieties may be subject to sogginess!

Dinner

Broccoli, pumpkin seed  and olive spaghetti, hummus and veg

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This is a super-quick dish that tastes great. Traditional tapenade seems to contain anchovies but Sainsbury’s do a version that’s marked as vegan so is evidently fish-free. It also works well spread on toast (in my opinion at least). Hummus and veg sticks are always a great combination and make a nice alternative to leaf-based side salads.

Ingredients for broccoli, pumpkin seed and olive spaghetti (serves 2):

– 1 red onion

– 1 largish broccoli

– 150g spaghetti

– Olive oil

– 2 garlic cloves (crushed)

– 1 veggie stock cube

– 1 pack of pumpkin seeds

– 2 generous tablespoons of olive tapenade

Method:

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, chop the onion and broccoli (keeping them separate).

2. When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti along with a splash of olive oil. Simmer until tender (about 10 mins), stirring occasionally.

3. While the spaghetti cooks, heat a good splash of oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Sautee gently for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft but not brown. Then add the broccoli, stock cube and a generous splash of water. Cover and simmer until the broccoli is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed. This should only take about 10 minutes.

4. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and set aside, then when the broccoli is tender, combine the two. If the broccoli has a lot of liquid left, you may need to drain some of it off.

5. Finally, stir in the pumpkin seeds and tapenade, heating the whole thing through gently and stirring constantly.

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Dessert

Fruit, biscuits

The biscuits were the accidentally vegan chocolate chip hobnobs. They confusingly seem to do both vegan and non-vegan versions of the same biscuit, so I’d suggest just checking the allergy advice section to see whether there’s any dairy (I don’t think they often have egg in).

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.

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.

Why you can never roast too much veg

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, soya milk, fruit

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I’ve eaten this cereal a few too many times lately, but it is seriously addictive.

Lunch

Roasted veg and hummus baguette, crisps, fruit, Nakd bar

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Hummus and roasted veg is a seriously delicious option for an animal-free sandwich. I always think it’s worth roasting some extra veg, then you’ll have a great sandwich filling ready and waiting in the fridge. I used a par-bake baguette, which is a really nice (if not wildly healthy) choice of sandwich bread. The vegetables were courgettes and cherry tomatoes, but aubergines and peppers also work well.

Dinner

Beetroot, sweetcorn and cucumber salad, toasted bagel

Lunch wasn’t eaten at a very conventional time (finished circa 4pm), so a cooked meal wasn’t really needed in the evening. The salad was just a combination of iceberg lettuce, chopped beetroot, sweetcorn and cucumber. I drizzled some vegan mayonnaise on top and added a sprinkling of garlic and herb type croutons. This is a really tasty salad which only takes about 5 mins to prepare. Unfortunately I’m still without a camera and my phone seems unreasonably prejudiced against vegan food. It tends to add a kind of dull hue to all my pictures which makes everything look decidedly insipid. Its representation of the vibrantly coloured salad was particularly harsh in my opinion!

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Dessert

Soya yogurt pot with crunchy topping

Despite eating more than enough sugary cereal at breakfast time, I thought my latest discovery would lend itself quite well to a yogurt based dessert. I just put a few spoonfuls of plain soya yogurt in a dessert pot, then added a sprinkle of maple sunrise cereal, followed by a little more yogurt, then more cereal. It worked well, although I think some very moist fruit (e.g. tinned pineapple) would have added the finishing touch.

Another surprising sandwich

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, cherries

A refreshing portion of summer fruit to start the day alongside some sugary (but very nice) cereal.

Lunch

Hummus and beetroot sandwiches, veg chips, Nakd bar, fruit

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Beetroot may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you go to make a sandwich but it combines extremely well with hummus. If you just thinly slice a cooked beetroot and add it  to a hummus sandwich, the result will definitely be a good one. The veg chips were the Tyrrells brand which are a little on the expensive side but definitely worth splashing out on every now and again.

Dinner

Spinach and fig noodles, pea shoot salad, Bombay mix

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Tonight’s dinner was again expertly prepared by my Mum with very delicious results. This recipe is basically a variation on  red cabbage and almond noodles although it’s perhaps a slightly less filling version. Pea shoots always make a nice side salad and they seem to have drastically come down in price this summer.

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Dessert

Apple and yogurt pot

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To create this I just built up layers of chopped apple and Sojade soya yogurt (apricot flavour), but I think it would work well with any vegan yogurt. As you may have guessed, the glass comes from Prague where they seem to have a wide range of irresistible cat merchandise (or at least they did when I went a few years ago).

Snacks

Grapes, oatcakes

Fruit and oatcakes are definitely a great option for an afternoon energy boost.

Change of schedule

Eating dinner late can sometimes mean that I’m writing up the day’s meals at an unsociable hour. For this reason, I’ve decided that each post will feature the previous day’s food, meaning that it can be written up any time of the day. I don’t think this will have a huge impact on anyone’s life but I feel as though I should mention it 🙂

A dinner that cooks itself

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp cereal, soya milk

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Definitely the best cereal for a serious dose of morning energy.

Lunch

Hummus and salad sandwich, crisps, fruit, Nakd bar

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My Mum very kindly made me a sandwich today (I’m at home for a few days) which explains the nice presentation! It was a very nice sandwich too, and hummus is always a really good vegan option.

Dinner

Jacket potatoes and salad

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Jacket potatoes are so convenient if you’re busy at home, as you can literally just put them in the oven and they cook themselves. I find that they’re really good with vegan margarine, hummus and a creative salad (tonight’s included olives, beetroots, roasted peppers and chickpeas). Bombay mix always makes a good salad topping.

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Dessert

Tinned pears with apricot soya yogurt, dark chocolate

Tinned fruit and soya yogurt are another good instant dessert. I really like the Sojade brand of yogurts as they come in a really wide range of fruity flavours. You can generally only get them in health food shops though, so I’d suggest the Alpro fruity and creamy range as a better everyday option.

Snacks

Cherries, brazil nuts, oatcakes

Oatcakes and nuts are both really good for keeping you going in between meals (or just nibbling while at the computer).