What to do if your watercress wilts

Breakfast

French bread with jam

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This was the second of the Sainsbury’s Basics par-bake baguettes that I’d bought at the weekend. The picture is a little misleading as I actually left the banana and went for the rest of the baguette instead. My vague reasoning was that the banana would keep better than the bread. It made a nice breakfast time treat, although it probably wouldn’t be the healthiest way to start every day.

Lunch

Rye bread with banana, crisps, apple, dried mango

This was a repeat of my lunch the other day as I needed to finish up the lovely sunflower seed rye bread that my grandparents had brought when they came for Sunday lunch. The bread goes really well topped with  some sliced banana, and it’s a packed lunch you don’t even have to prepare- you can just bring along the bread, a banana and a knife.

Dinner

Apple and watercress dhal, salad

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Apple and raisin dhal is one of my favourite recipes, but tonight I did a slight variation and I’d say that this version is even nicer. This new version was prompted by the presence a packet of watercress  that didn’t quite look salad-grade. It hadn’t gone yellow, but it just didn’t look as fresh and perky as it should have done. I didn’t really want to throw it away though, as it’s such a nutritious and tasty variety of greenery. I couldn’t see any reason not to treat it like spinach and stir it into a savoury dish, and this ended up working really well. In fairness though, I don’t think that the lovely flavour of the dhal was really the result of any watercress related innovation. My grandparents had brought me a box of fresh herbs from their garden, and I think it was these that really made the dish. I used a little sage, rosemary and thyme, and they really made it into something special. If you don’t have access to garden grown herbs (my own attempts have been enjoyed by many snails but few humans), then I’d go for sage and/or rosemary in the supermarket as I think these were the key herbs to include.

Ingredients for apple and watercress dhal (serves 3):

– 250g red  lentils

– 1 litre veggie stock (2 stock cubes)

– 1 onion

– 2 large cloves of garlic

– A small handful of sage leaves and a little fresh rosemary

– 3 apples (Coxes are ideal)

– Olive oil

– 1 smallish packet of watercress

– A good splash of soya cream

– (Optional) a few seeds to sprinkle over the top

Method:

1.  Rinse the lentils, add to a pan along with the stock and simmer until tender (around 15 mins)?

2. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, apple and herbs. Crush the garlic cloves.

3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Sautee on a low heat, stirring constantly until the onion softens and turns transparent. Then add the apple and herbs, and continue to saute for a few minutes. Next, add the  watercress and soya cream, and stir until the watercress has wilted fully.

4. When the lentils are ready, stir into the apple mixture. It’s best to leave the dhal to cool a little before serving, otherwise it’s just too hot to appreciate all the flavours. Sprinkle each serving with a few seeds if you’re using them.

I just served this with some salad, topped with a little Bombay mix, plus the last of the mini ryvita crackers. If you’re feeling in need of a more substantial meal  though, you could always serve it with pitta bread.

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Dessert

Chocolate and strawberry dessert, a few squares of chocolate

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I had a little Alpro soya dessert left over from the Sunday lunch effort and had managed to find some strawberries in the Co-op for 50p. I literally just chopped the strawberries, put them in  a plastic wine glass and topped with the remaining soya dessert, plus a few chopped hazlenuts sprinkled over the top. It certainly doesn’t taste like the low-budget dessert that it really is!

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Snacks

Mixed nuts

I think nuts are the ultimate energy snack as they’re really effective at keeping you going in between meals, and quite healthy too.

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A zero preparation lunch

Breakfast

Peach and apricot balance, soya milk, chopped kiwi fruit

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I think I’ve said before but this is basically just Sainsbury’s own version of Special K which is much cheaper (and just as nice in my opinion). The kiwi fruits are finally starting to ripen, and it was really nice to have one chopped up on cereal. I usually have the ‘light’ version of the Alpro soya milk, but this morning I had the ‘original’ and I noticed it was much ‘creamier’. For this reason, I’d say it’s a more advisable choice for people who are making the transition from dairy milk.

Lunch

Rye bread with banana, pretzels, dried mango

This is a great packed lunch that never really has to be prepared. Just bring a few slices of rye bread, a banana and a knife. When it comes to lunchtime, just chop the banana, put the banana slices on the rye bread and enjoy. The sweet banana and strong grainy rye taste go really well together. This worked especially well with the lovely sunflower seed rye bread that my grandparents bought  me, but I think any rye bread would be fine.

In amongst the crisps, you can usually find mini pretzels, which make a nice change and feel at least slightly healthier, even if they do have grains of rock salt  on them. In fact, the ones I had today weren’t that mini at all but were still light enough to enjoy with some bread. The dried mango was fair trade (another item in the amazing goody bag from my grandparents) and makes a really delicious dessert or snack.

Dinner

‘Creamy’ rice with marinated tofu, salad

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I have to admit that this is still a recipe under construction. It made a very tasty and satisfying meal, but I need to tweak the finer points. Whilst I love marinated tofu (it’s absolutely delicious with salad in a wrap or pitta bread), I think a plainer tofu would have worked better in this particular dish. I felt that the marinated tofu trampled over my carefully concocted blend of flavours, whereas a plainer variety would have been more respectful. Here’s the recipe so far, and I’d recommend giving it a go but sticking to a plainer tofu.

Ingredients for ‘creamy’ rice with marinated tofu (serves 2):

– 140 g rice

– 1 onion (or about 4 shallots)

– A small piece of lemon grass

– 2 garlic cloves

– A few coriander leaves

– Olive oil

– Some plain, firm tofu (maybe half a block)

– 1 small carton of soya cream

Method:

1. Rinse the rice, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and simmer until tender (I used wild rice so this took longer, but I’d imagine other rices would take around 15-20 minutes).

2. Meanwhile, chop the onion, peel and crush the garlic and finely chop the lemongrass. I’m not that familiar with lemongrass, but I treated it like a leek, going for the middle part and this seemed to work well. Chop the tofu and set aside.

3. Heat a good splash of oil in the saucepan and add the onion, garlic, lemongrass and coriander. Heat very, very gently (it will burn easily) until the onion is tender and transparent, but not brown.

4. Add the tofu and continue to stir fry for a minute or so. Add the cream, then drain the rice and add that in too. Simmer until the whole thing is hot through (about 5 mins) and serve.

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I just had a pea shoot salad on the side, topped with some Bombay mix as I thought something slightly spicy would go well. I also finished up a couple of ryvita mini crackers left over from yesterday.

Dessert:

Apple and cinnamon pot

A few days ago I recounted an unfortunate dessert ruined by ‘garlic mango’ resulting from the sloppy practice of using the same chopping board for everything. Whilst it’s something that vegans can do without danger of food poisoning, instances of unpleasantly savoury fruit become a very real possibility. My grandad (who happens to be a fantastic carpenter) read about the garlic mango and kindly made me a beautiful chopping board especially for fruit. It’s too nice to chop on really, but I will anyway!

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The apple I used was a little sharp (Sainsbury’s Basics range), but it made a refreshing dessert  when combined with some raisins, cinnamon, golden syrup and apple juice.  The outdoor background isn’t wholly truthful as I took a couple of pictures, sat down and then decided that I just couldn’t endure the cold. A typical summer evening in the UK.

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I don’t usually mention drinks (tea, coffee, diet coke, juice etc.) but I think the really lovely fair trade cocoa I had after dinner tonight should be an exception. This was yet another item from yesterday’s amazing goody  bag, and I had it with a few squares of dark chocolate (even if the necessity of eating chocolate with cocoa is slightly questionable). I didn’t have a saucepan for heating soya milk (I’m not yet very well equipped, as you’ve probably gathered), so just mixed 1-2 tsp of cocoa with a good splash of soya milk and 1tsp of sugar, then added hot water. The result was lovely- smooth and nice and strong.

Snacks

Spare piece of rye bread, pumpkin seeds

Just a piece of rye bread left over from lunch and some spare seeds. It sounds unbelievably healthy but it’s just what I happened to have in my bag.

When bravery in the kitchen pays off

Breakfast

Weetabix type cereal, strawberries, soya milk

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This never fails as a lovely filling breakfast for a summer morning. In reality though, the summery part has more to do with the availability of strawberries than with warm mornings.

Lunch

Watercress, fig and bean salad, wholemeal roll, grapes, peanut bar

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This refreshing salad was actually hearty enough for a main meal. If you want to transform a salad into a meal, I always find that adding ingredients like beans and seeds helps to make it really filling and nutritious. To make the salad for one person I just used a bowl of watercress, a generous handful of blackeye peas and pumkin seeds, some chopped figs and a couple of mini peppers, sliced. A soft wholemeal roll is great on the side, and I find that these go well even without being warmed or spread with soya margarine. I suspected that the salad may have been a little dry without the usual drizzle of olive oil but didn’t want to risk oiling the entire contents of my bag. In fact though, it wasn’t dry at all which may have been due to the nice moist peppers.

Tea

Rye bread with peanut butter and grapes, salad, crisps

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This is where the need for bravery comes in. Rye bread, peanut butter and grapes may not sound like an obvious combination, but if you give it a go I don’t think you’ll regret it. My vague theory is that the slightly sharp taste of the rye bread goes well with the mild, salty peanut butter, and the sweetness of the grapes adds a nice finishing touch as well as a refreshing burst of juice. I just toasted the  rye bread (one end at a time due to toaster dimension limitations), then spread it with some soya margarine and peanut butter. I arranged a few chopped grapes on top to finish it off, but these definitely need to be really sweet ones. The salad was just some watercress with a few of the wonderful mini peppers, but I added a bag of salt and vinegar kettle chips to balance out what seemed an excessively healthy meal.

Dessert

Strawberries and dark chocolate

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I had a nice punnet of strawberries that needed eating, but hadn’t been able to buy ingredients for a more creative dessert. I do find that this one is hard to beat though.

Snacks

Just almonds today. I bought these in Costcutters, assuming that this was a shrewd business decision, but on reflection I think they actually cost more than in the supermarket. Still, I felt more economical just for going into Costcutters, even if no costs were actually cut.