The key to stress-free flan making


Soya yogurt topped with crunchy cereal and grapes


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.


Aubergine, pomegranate and pine nut flan, roasted sweet potatoes with orange and pecans


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)


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)


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.


‘Pudology’ dessert


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.


Falafel sandwich, nuts, mini carrots and hummus


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.


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.


Some unseasonal breakfast inspiration


Wheat biscuits with cranberries and apple, soya milk


I know this may seem a little on the christmassy side, but it does make a really lovely breakfast, especially with the sweetness added by the cranberries. These were dried cranberries which are readily available in supermarkets/health food shops and are great for cooking, baking and sprinkling in general. The wheat biscuits were from the Co-op and helpfully labelled as vegan.


Ciabatta with cannellini bean hummus, tortilla chips, blueberries


The ciabatta was from the Co-op and is labelled as vegan. Even when it’s freshly bought, I find that it’s best toasted as this guarantees a crispy outside and soft middle.  It’s then pretty adaptable in terms of toppings but I went for cannellini bean hummus with the usual drizzle of olive oil. It’s basically a variation on home made chickpea hummus, although the absence of chickpeas, tahini and garlic did make me think that calling it hummus might be stretching the definition a little. I just rinsed and drained a tin of cannellini beans then added the zest of a couple of lemons and a good handful of chopped parsley. It would probably work quite well in a food processor, but I just added a few splashes of water and mashed it with a fork. You basically just need to add enough water for it to form a convincing paste-like consistency. It tasted great, although I think it looked prettier before the mashing stage.



Red Cabbage and Almond Noodles


This is a really quick dinner to prepare, as well as being really unusual (in a good way)! Please click here for the recipe.


Dark chocolate, blueberries

The blueberries were left over from the ones I had at lunch time. They were reduced in Sainsbury’s but still really nice, even if some of the other packets looked decidedly past their prime!

An unexpectedly vegan-friendly shop


Toasted sandwich with jam, apricots

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This seedy bread makes a very good toasted sandwich, even if it does need a little more attention at the toasting stage. In a normal toaster, I find you have to toast the bottom half, turn it round and then do the rest. Judging by the paleness of the toast in the picture, it looks as though it was warmed rather than properly toasted, but I was in a bit of a rush. Just to clarify, vegans don’t have to eat oddly shaped bread! I’d say that most sliced loaves tend to be vegan, unless they’re specifically advertised as e.g. milk loaves.


Pitta breads with hummus, crisps, apricots, a few pieces of crystallised ginger

Corner shops may not strike you as particularly vegan-friendly establishments, but my one certainly has some useful animal-free ingredients. As well as tinned pulses and veg, it also sells pitta breads, nuts and various other animal-friendly items. It provided me with some nice pitta breads (which only cost £1), and they’re lovely toasted and spread with soya margarine and/or hummus. The apricots have got to the stage of suddenly needing eating, so I seem to be squeezing them in with every meal. You can buy the ginger pieces in Holland and Barrett, and they make a nice fiery snack. They’re also nice finely chopped as part of a dessert, but they’re very hot so come with a bit of a warning tag.


Gnocchi with Sweet Tomato and Ginger Sauce, salad


This lovely pasta dish was prepared by my mum, and tasted great as usual. The tomato and ginger sauce is very warming, and we had an amazing array of salad items to go with it (pea shoots, lettuce, mini peppers, mini beetroots, peanuts). The mini peppers are really lovely- sweet and juicy with minimum preparation required.



Strawberries with chocolate dip


The chocolate dip was actually just a spoonful of vegan chocolate spread. I bought it in Ms Cupcake, an amazing vegan bakery in London, but you can also order it on Plamil’s website (along with vegan mayonnaise and various other irresistible goodies).


Wholemeal crackers

These vegan crackers are amazingly available in Aldi and make a really good light snack.


How to branch out at breakfast


Wholemeal pitta breads with jam, strawberries, pomegranate seeds

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This slightly unusual breakfast resulted from a lack of shopping yesterday evening. It was actually quite a discovery though, as toasted pitta breads with jam make a really nice start to the day, combining healthy wholemeal with a sweet filling. The pomegranate and strawberries needed eating and were a nice refreshing addition.


Falafel and hummus wrap, crisps, banana, flapjacks

The lack of shopping also resulted in restricted packed lunch resources, so I opted for a shop sandwich. Tesco’s hummus and falafel wrap is one of my favourite animal-free sandwich options and always makes for a filling but not excessively heavy lunch.

The flapjacks had been made by my Nan, a legendary baker who finds it easy to turn her hand to animal-free goodies. The flapjacks were amazing, with a great treacly taste and moist texture. My only criticism would be how difficult it is to stop eating them, but fortunately they were cut into bite size pieces which makes it a little easier to stop before the whole box disappears!


Red cabbage and almond noodles, salad (nuts and Bombay mix as toppings)


These certainly aren’t the type of ingredients you’d expect to find with noodles, but they work really well  and the dish has a lovely savoury-sweet flavour. Tonight’s version was expertly prepared by my parents when I arrived back in Oxford for the weekend and tasted great.

Ingredients for red cabbage and almond noodles (serves 3):

– 1/2 packet flaked almonds

– 1/2  red cabbage

– A generous handful of figs

– 3 leeks

– Rapeseed/olive oil

– A jug of veggie stock (500 ml plus extra)

– 1 packet of spinach

– 1 tbsp brown sugar

– Nutmeg

– 2 packets of egg-free straight to wok noodles


1. Place the almonds on a baking tray and roast in the oven on gas 6 (200 C) for 5-10 minutes until golden.Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, chop the cabbage and figs. Slice the leeks lengthways.

3. Heat a good splash of oil in a pan and add the leeks. Sautee gently for about 5 mins, stirring constantly, until they begin to soften. Add the cabbage and sautee for a few more minutes.

4. Add about 500 ml stock, plus the figs, spinach, sugar and a good sprinkle of nutmeg. You may need to add the spinach in several batches, stirring one  in until it wilts then adding the next. Simmer for around 10 mins, stirring very regularly.

5. Add the noodles and simmer until hot through, stirring regularly. You may need to add a little more stock at this point.




Watermelon, flapjacks, a few squares of vegan chocolate


I thought I should probably share the amazing flapjacks with the rest of my family, and everyone agreed on how delicious they were. The syrupy texture went really well with some watermelon.


Nuts, vegan marshmallows

Freedom Mallows are a really irresistible brand of animal-free marshmallow. They’re not a filling snack, but definitely a very delicious one.

The brilliance of tins


Blueberry bagel with banana filling, pomegranate seeds

I’ll be branching out into different breakfast ideas tomorrow, but I was keen to finish a packet of bagels before they passed their prime. Today I just lightly toasted the bagel, added some soya spread and used half a sliced banana as a filling.



Falafel and hummus pitta, salt and vinegar crisps, satsuma, fruit bar

Having run out of bread this morning, I opted for Costcutters at lunchtime to minimise the financial impact of the dreaded shop-bought sandwich. In London, the Costcutters shops do a nice falafel and hummus pitta, although I must admit it’s not as good as the Tesco falafel wrap. It still makes a pretty satisfying lunch though, and I was heartened by the vegan-friendliness that seems to be emerging in Costcutters. As well as several vegan sandwich options, there was some vegan chocolate on show and even some sesame snaps. In fact, it’s not the only place that seems to be increasing its plant-based options. When I last looked, even the newsagent’s at Plumstead station was selling some Alpro soya milkshakes (highly addictive) and Plumstead isn’t exactly the capital’s animal-free hotspot.


Fragrant bean casserole, teriyaki rice crackers. Dessert: Rhubarb and soya custard

This is a quick and tasty casserole that can be turned into an exotic version of shepherd’s pie by being topped with mashed or sliced sweet potato. I know the ingredients list looks long, but the items are generally cheap and it’s quick to prepare.

Ingredients for fragrant bean casserole (serves 4):

– 1 onion

– A little vegetable oil

– 2 tins of chopped tomatoes

– A tin of chickpeas

– A tin of beans (e.g. kidney  or haricot beans)

– 2 carrots

– A generous handful of sultanas

– A generous handful of dried figs and dried apricots (chopped)

– 1 garlic clove (crushed)

-1 small piece of ginger (peeled and grated)

-A few cardamom pods (around 6)

-A small sprinkle of cinnamon (1/4 tsp)


1. Chop the onion and set aside. Peel and chop the carrots. To prepare the cardamom pods, crush them, extract the seeds and crush these. A rolling pin works well for this if you don’t have a pestle and mortar.

2. Rinse the pulses and place in a bowl along with all the other ingredients except the onions and oil.

3. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Sautee until it begins to go transparent.

4. Add the other ingredients and simmer until ready to serve, stirring regularly. It will need to simmer for at least 20 mins, but can be simmered for longer. This recipe also works really well in the slow cooker; just add all the ingredients in together and look forward to a kitchen filled with  lovely smells when you come home.


Dessert was also based around a tin (or a tin and two packets to be precise). Vegan rhubarb and custard couldn’t really be simpler but can be made to look like a traditional dessert. I generally find that a large tin of rhubarb is plenty for 3-4 people, and one carton of Alpro soya custard is more than enough. The chocolate buttons are an optional decoration, but they come from the Sainsbury’s free from range and are really rich and full of chocolaty flavour 🙂 For the optimum rhubarb and custard experience, I would suggest using Alpro soya custard rather than the Provamel version as it has a much better flavour. Soya custard is much lighter than the dairy version and will leave you feeling bouncy rather than bloated.