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!).

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Tropical porridge: surprising but delicious!

Breakfast

Porridge with mango and soya milk

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Mango might not be the most obvious porridge topping but this unexpected combination is actually really delicious. The other tip for great porridge is to use all soya milk rather than combining it with water. The result is much creamier and if you choose sweetened soya milk you won’t even need any sugar. That said, I find that a drizzle of golden syrup is never a bad thing!

Lunch

Avocado and tomato baguette, crisps, sesame snaps, apple

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Just two vegetables can actually make a really great sandwich filling. I just spread a par-bake baguette with some soya margarine, then added slices of cherry tomatoes and avocado, plus some vegan mayonnaise and black pepper. The result was really delicious and avocado is quite filling without being overwhelming. Vegan mayo is readily available from health food shops, or you can buy it on Goodness Direct. I really like the Plamil brand, which comes in a variety of exciting flavours (e.g. garlic and chilli).

Dinner

Couscous with roasted veg, salad (with beetroot and dried cranberries)

This dinner was technically a bit of a failure, but also a good illustration of how hard it is to end up with a vegan meal that isn’t quite nice, even if things go wrong.

I’m lucky enough to have plenty of courgettes from a friend’s garden at the moment, so thought I’d roast one and stuff it with couscous. Unfortunately though, its progress in the oven was painfully slow and when I finally lost patience and took it out, it still wasn’t quite as soft as it needed to be. My attempts to scoop out the flesh resulted in an unsightly mound of mangled veg. Amazingly though, it still made a tasty dinner. I just cut up the failed courgette, then added it to some couscous that I’d cooked in veggie stock and lemon juice. I also threw in some roasted cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn, peanuts and parsley.

Dessert

Strawberries, dark chocolate

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This is a great combination although the strawberries were a little sharp. More than enough sugar was provided by the chocolate though!

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.

The perfect alternative to meringue?

Breakfast

Peach and apricot balance, soya milk, strawberries, banana

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I’d almost reached the end of the packet of cereal, so had to bulk it out with some fruit but it was just as filling and probably much healthier.

Lunch

Pitta bread stuffed with marinated tofu and tomato salad,  pretzels, apple, dried mango

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I’d say that this is definitely one of the best sandwiches around. This morning I just briefly posted a wholemeal pitta bread in the toaster to warm it and make it easier to cut, then spread it with some soya margarine and added rocket salad, sliced cherry tomatoes and some marinated tofu pieces. The whole process only took around 5 mins, so it’s not the type of packed lunch you have to get up early to make. The marinated tofu peices are one of my favourite tofu products, and they’re great added to sandwiches and salads. This was the Cauldron brand, and I generally find that they’re available in the larger supermarkets (although some sort of tofu can generally be purchased in any supermarket). The pretzels are just a very addictive crisp  alternative, and dried mango is good for a sweet, but maybe slightly healthier, end to a meal.

Dinner

Thyme, seed and cherry tomato pasta, marinated tofu and cucumber salad

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When I made a roasted pepper pasta salad for Sunday lunch, I cooked slightly too much pasta. To avoid swamping the Mediterranean veg with excessive amounts of plain pasta, I stowed some of the surplus pasta in the fridge. During the week, I’ve considered taking it for lunch, but the thought of preparing a pasta salad before 8 am never really appealed. Its days were numbered, but it came into its own tonight when I wanted to save time by avoiding a shopping trip. I still had plenty of the lovely herbs that my grandparents had brought over from their garden, so I thought that these would do a pretty good job of perking up the pasta.

This turns out to be a great way to use up excess cooked pasta (which often results from the wise decision to gradually add  pasta to sauce and avoid the risk of dryness).  Keeping the pasta for nearly a week was probably pushing it though, and I wouldn’t suggest that anyone else does the same! I have an incredibly zealous fridge which is great for stopping things from going off (if slightly annoying when it produces icy strawberries etc.).  As well as saving time on supermarket trips, the whole thing was definitely ready in under 15 mins.

Ingredients for thyme, seed and cherry tomato pasta (serves 2):

– 150g dried pasta, cooked

– 1 onion

– 2 large garlic cloves

– A good handful of thyme

– Olive oil

– A generous sprinkle of seeds (e.g. pumpkin, sunflower)

– A good handful of cherry tomatoes

Method:

1. Chop the onion, crush the garlic and take the thyme leaves off the stalks.

2. Heat a good splash of oil in a pan and add  the onion, garlic and thyme. Sautee for around 5 mins, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the seeds and continue to sautee for a few more minutes.

3. Add a good splash of water, plus the cherry tomatoes (whole). Simmer for another 5 mins, stirring almost constantly. Add more water if necessary. It’s not to create a sauce, but just  to stop the mixture from burning.

4. Finally, add the  pasta and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until the pasta is hot through.

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I served this with some cucumber and marinated tofu pieces, as there wasn’t quite as much pasta as I would usually cook. If using more pasta though, a leafy salad would probably suffice.

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Dessert

Halva with strawberries and pomegranate seeds, a few pieces of dark chocolate (with ginger)

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The Cypressa brand of this traditional Greek dessert definitely seems to be animal-free. I’ve just been informed that some halva contains albumin though  (which comes from egg), so I guess it’s one of those cases where you have to do a quick scan of the ingredients to be sure.

I’d never tried it before, but thought it was really delicious. It’s made from crushed sesame seeds (and a lot of sugar), so it’s almost like a sweet version of tahini. The ‘serving suggestion’ shows it cut into neat cubes, but my block just crumbled when I tried to cut it. It still tasted great though, especially combined with fresh red fruit. It also strikes me as the perfect alternative to meringue, as it has the same sweet, fairly dry, crumbly texture. For this reason, I think it would have been even better with a moister topping (e.g. some tinned fruit or a fruit compote) and would also be a great ingredient for an animal-free Eton mess, combined with some whipped coconut cream.

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Snacks

Vegan chocolate

Not much explanation needed, but it’s not a snack you can go far wrong with!