Why being vegan doesn’t stop you eating pizza

Breakfast

Wholegrain malties, soya milk

A repeat of yesterday, I know, but this cereal does make a nice light start to the day. It’s labellled as vegan and available in Sainsbury’s.

Lunch

Salad, pitta breads, fruit, vegan chocolate

These salad pots from the Co-op only cost £1 and make quite a nice lunch if you add some olive oil and have something a bit more filling on the side (i.e. some sort of bread). The vegan chocolate was the Plamil brand which is one of my favourites and can be bought in Holland and Barrett.

Dinner 

Animal-free pizza, salad

You might think that going out for a pizza was something that vegans couldn’t really do, but you’ll be relieved to know that this definitely isn’t the case. Pizza Express have said that their pizza bases are animal-free and they always seem happy to leave the cheese off. It seems that some other pizza restaurants might be equally willing to offer animal-friendly options, and this was certainly the case at Pizza Luxe in Stratford, London. The waitress confirmed that their pizza bases were egg and dairy free and they left the cheese off.  It was a great pizza too- lovely and moist with a spicy tomato passata and lots of veg on top. In fact, a pizza restaurant in Oxford (Pizzeria Trattoria Mario), has a pizza that’s actually advertised as vegan so maybe awareness is growing. I guess the next step would be restaurants adding vegan cheese to pizza, but it’s still pretty nice just with tomato and a veg topping!

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The usefulness of leaves

Breakfast

Maple and pecan crisp

Tomorrow I will move on from starting the day in this extremely sugary way!

Lunch

Hummus and spinach sandwich, crisps, fruit, biscuits

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I find that spinach is always a really nice salad item to put in sandwiches. The biscuits were the Nairn’s brand (which has evidently branched out from oat cakes to oat biscuits). They’re conveniently (if not very greenly) wrapped in individual packets, and I managed to find a vegan multipack although it’s a case of checking the label as not all Nairn’s biscuits are animal-free. If they’re vegan it says so, which does mean that checking only takes a few seconds.

Dinner

Tomato and spinach salad, granary toast

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I arrived back in London a bit too late to be cooking anything so settled for a salad and some granary toast. The salad was just spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes and mixed seeds (with a drizzle of olive oil), but it actually made a fairly good meal. Just to clarify, vegans (even hurried ones) do not have to live on leaves, but salad is a nice quick option if you manage to miss dinner and actually not a bad choice if you’re struggling in the heat!

Dessert

Apple and some biscuits

Not highly creative I know but it was rather late by that point!

Turkish food: putting the herb into herbivorous

Breakfast

Peach and apricot balance, chopped kiwi fruit, soya milk

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A repeat of yesterday, but I had a final kiwi that needed eating and thought it went well with this type of cereal (lucky really, as that was the only kind I had in the cupboard).

Lunch

Cranberry and watercress salad, french bread, vegan chocolate

Sainsbury’s seem to sell a nice par-bake bread that’s labelled as vegan. It’s the Basics range, but the packet boasts that it uses real French flour. Last night I’d thrown together a quick salad, and this morning I gave the par-bake loaf 10 mins in the oven. I had to pack it into my bag while still warm, but I don’t think it did any harm (and made my bag smell really nice). The salad was just watercress, cucumber, dried raisins/cranberries and a few stray pine nuts that were left over from a batch that I’d previously roasted. It made a filling but quite refreshing lunch, although some olive oil would definitely have benefited both the salad and the bread. I tend to avoid adding oil to packed lunches though, knowing my track record for spillages.

Dinner

My parents were up in London for the day so very kindly offered to take me out to dinner. I opted for Tas (a London chain of Turkish restaurants) as I’d been impressed by the vegan-friendliness of the menu when I went there for a drink a few months ago. It definitely lived up to my expectations, and the great food starts before you even order your meal. The pre-order appetisers include some lovely marinated olives, and after informing me that the bread contained milk, the waitress came straight back with a lovely plant based alternative in the form of hummus and cucumber/carrot batons. They had a great selection of vegetarian dishes, and were happy to omit the side serving of yogurt, as well as checking that there was no dairy in the veg dish I’d set my sights on. It was really delicious and included so many lovely herbs, as well as being piping hot and looking amazingly colorful. I’ve included the melon juice in the pictures as it looked so pretty.

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Dessert

Cherries, (later) some dark chocolate

I’d expected the ‘preserved cherries’ to be more like the glace variety, but these had stones and were probably closer to (but much nicer than) the ones you can get in a tin. They tasted great and made a really lovely dessert that was light and refreshing. There was no need for any chocolate after such a great meal, but I tend to be drawn to it when I open the kitchen cupboard.

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Snacks

Vegan chocolate

This was the other half of the bar I had at lunch. It was the Sainsbury’s free from brand, which includes lovely vegan chocolate made with rice milk, available in both bar and button form.

A reunion with marshmallows

Breakfast

Fruit and oat bagel with strawberry jam, mango pieces

This was a really lovely start to a Saturday morning. Bagels are definitely at their best while still hot from the toaster so the soya spread melts and soaks in satisfyingly.

Lunch

Purple nut roast, couple of oaty biscuits, pineapple

The nut roast was purchased at the V-delicious veggie/vegan food festival in London. Needless to say, my morning there was thoroughly enjoyable (minus the two hour journey as the London Underground had decided not to cooperate). Being there really helped you to get a feel for the diversity and scope of vegan food. It was also great to see Viva! (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals), providing some really good info booklets about both the health and ethical reasons to go animal free (available to buy for a tiny price at http://www.viva.org.uk/guides/index.htm).

Moving on to less serious matters, there was a huge range of vegan sweeties, including the wonderful Freedom Mallows. It had been many years since I’d eaten a marshmallow, as the presence of gelatine had put me off long before going completely animal free. To be fair, my local health food shop does sell vegan marshmallows, but I’ve always found the pricing a little outside my budget and the large slabs don’t seem to lend themselves to a hot chocolate topping. The Freedom Mallows only cost £1.99 per packet though, and they’re beautifully light and fluffy. They’re also a perfect size for hot chocolate and if you’re like me, you may also appreciate the cute bunny packaging. Fortunately they weren’t exclusive to the veggie event and you can buy them on Viva!’s website. Here’s a link that will (hopefully) take you straight to these revolutionary sweeties: http://www.vivashop.org.uk/catalog/viva/food/confectionery

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Dinner

Leek, potato and celery soup, bagel, pistachio nuts

Dessert: A vegan cupcake

This is a really nice version of the classic leek and potato soup as the celery adds an extra layer of flavour. It’s also seriously quick to prepare.

Ingredients for leek, potato and celery soup (serves 2):

– 2 large leeks

– 4 medium sticks of celery

– A little rapeseed oil

– 2 smallish potatoes

– Around 1 litre veggie stock

Method:

1. Chop the leeks and celery (I find it works best if you chop the leeks lengthways rather than in round slices). Peel and chop the potatoes.

2. Heat a good splash of rapeseed oil in the pan and add the leek and celery. Saute for around 5 mins, stirring almost constantly.

3. Add the potatoes and saute for another couple of minutes.

4. Add the stock, cover and simmer for around 15 mins or until the potatoes are soft.

5. Blend and reheat if needed before serving. Be sure not to let the soup boil though, or it will lose some of its flavour.

The cupcake was from Ms Cupcake’s beautiful stall at the veggie fest. I bought a box of  four cakes to share with my family (resisting the temptation to sample one on the way back to Oxford) and we opted for cutting them in half so we could try more than one flavour each. I went for half a strawberry and chocolate cupcake and half a plain chocolate one. They were every bit as delicious as they look and it’s surprisingly easy to get through the generous topping.

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An emergency couscous

Breakfast

Cereal (combination of maple & pecan crisp and muesli), soya milk, grapes

Different combinations of cereal can go really well together. Useful if you don’t have enough of one type to make up a decent bowl full!

Lunch

Bagel with peanut butter, grapes and celery, mini pretzels, apple, flapjack

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Peanut butter bagels are really nice topped with a little fruit and veg. The sweetness of grapes goes really well with the salty peanut butter, and the crunchy celery is a nice addition too. Mini pretzels are another nice crisp alternative (although I’m not sure they’re actually any healthier). Most of the Blackfriars flapjack range are vegan, and I’d say they’re the next best thing to home made.

Dinner

Vegetable couscous, salad

Dessert: Alpro soya dessert, grapes

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This is where the emergency couscous comes in. I came back to London fairly late (after a weekend back  home in Oxford) and knew my ingredients would be slightly limited. This was a bit of a case of just using up anything in the fridge, but it turned out quite well. It may just be my mushroom prejudices surfacing again but I’d be tempted to leave them out and replace with something like olives or peppers. To be honest though, the basic concept works with almost any veg. Just cook the couscous in this nice way and add whatever you feel like.

Ingredients (serves 2):

– 150g couscous

– Around 350 ml veggie stock

– Juice and zest of one lemon

– Olive oil

– 1 small onion

– 1 clove of garlic

(Optional but nice) a few fennel seeds

– One courgette

– Another vegetable of your choice e.g. a pepper or some oilves

– A good handful of nuts

Method:

1. Place the couscous in a saucepan and add the veggie stock along with the lemon zest and juice. Cover up and leave for around 10 mins, until the water has been absorbed. Meanwhile, chop the veg.

2. Heat a splash of oil in the saucepan and add the onion. Saute until semi-transparent, stirring almost constantly. Add the courgette (and pepper if using) along with the garlic and fennel seeds. Continue to brown, stirring very frequently for about another 10 mins. You may need to add the odd splash of water, just to help stop the veg from burning.

3. When the couscous is ready, fluff it up with a fork, then add the veg and nuts, along with a drizzle of olive oil if you like.

I seem to always photograph things out of their packet and then provide a detailed description of where to find them. For once I thought I’d just photograph this soya dessert in its packet, as this may be more informative if you’re trying to find them in a supermarket. They go very well with fruit, as does anything chocolaty I suppose.

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The brilliance of tins

Breakfast

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.

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Lunch

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.

Dinner

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)

Method:

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.

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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.

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