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 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!

A revolutionary way to cook spaghetti?

Breakfast

Wheat biscuits with cranberries and cinnamon, soya milk

I was running a little low on fresh fruit, so opted for this slightly christmassy combination. It worked well though!

Lunch

Braised tofu, tomato and vegan mayo sandwich, fruit

This is a great combination that tastes similar to tuna. For a full explanation, please see the sandwich ideas page and scroll down to braised tofu.

Dinner

Spaghetti with cannellini beans and homemade tomato sauce, salad

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This great recipe comes courtesy of a friend of my Nan’s and is really simple and delicious. I’ve modified it slightly due to lack of time and because I never seem able to follow a recipe without changing it slightly! It includes a nice way to cook spaghetti which saves on washing up and makes it really flavoursome.

Ingredients (serves 2):

– 4 smallish  shallots

– 3 cloves of garlic

– 8-10 tomatoes (vine ripened are a little pricier but much nicer)

– Olive oil

– Mixed dried herbs

– 1 tin cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)

– 100g spaghetti

– 1 Veggie stock cube

Method:

1. Chop the shallots and press the garlic. Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

2. Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a pan and add the shallots, garlic and a good sprinkle of dried herbs. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the shallots go semi-transparent (but not brown).

3. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and simmer for about 5 mins, until they begin to form a sauce, stirring occasionally. Next, stir in the spaghetti and cannellini beans, then add a generous splash of water and crumble the stock cube into the pan. Cover and simmer until the spaghetti is cooked, adding more water as needed and stirring fairly frequently. This should take about 10 mins or so. It looks nice served in a bowl and garnished with basil (or a watercress leaf if, like me, you’re running low on fresh herbs)!

Dessert

Blackberries, chocolate chip cookies

I live near a railway bridge where there’s an abundance of blackberry bushes. The fruits vary in quality but probably no more than the ones you buy, so I thought I’d pick my own dessert. They were pretty nice, especially combined with some chocolate chip hobnobs. Confusingly, not all chocolate chip hobnobs are vegan, so do check the packet (the allergy advice section is probably the quickest point of reference) to be sure.

Vegan cookie discovery!

Breakfast

Toast with loganberry jam, fruit

This was the amazing loganberry jam made by my Nan which really brightens up any breakfast.

Lunch

Hummus and tomato wrap, fruit

This was one of the Warburton’s square wraps (wholemeal), which I find make great sandwiches. Sliced tomatoes are always a really good addition to a hummus sandwich as they add a nice burst of juiciness.

Dinner

Green lentils with pine nuts, spinach and kiwi

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This is a nice quick dish for a tasty protein boost. It works well served with pitta breads or tortilla wraps.

Ingredients for green lentils with pine nuts, spinach and kiwi (serves 2):

– 2 ripe kiwi fruits

– 2 medium shallots

– 2 cloves garlic (crushed)

– Olive oil

– 1 medium packet of spinach

– 1 tin of green lentils

– ½ packet pine nuts

Method:

1. Peel and chop the kiwi fruits, then set aside. Finely chop the shallots. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a pan and add the shallots and garlic. Sautee gently until the shallots are semi-transparent but not brown, stirring constantly.

2. Stir in the lentils and spinach, plus a splash of water. You may need to add the spinach in batches, waiting for one lot to wilt before you add in the next lot.

3. Stir in the pine nuts and continue to simmer for another 5 mins or so, stirring frequently. You may like to add a little more olive oil before serving. Once it’s been served, top artistically with the chopped kiwi fruits!

Dessert

Apple, chocolate chip cookies

To my great excitement, I’ve managed to find some animal-free chocolate chip cookies. They’re hobnobs, and have dark chocolate chips. They ‘may contain traces of milk’ but I tend to ignore this (my reasoning being that buying such products does not give funding to the dairy industry). They’re extremely nice, as you can imagine!

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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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.