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.

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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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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.

A summer version of a winter classic

Breakfast

Porridge with golden syrup and summer berries

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Although this is a bit of a winter breakfast, I had some blueberries and strawberries that needed using up and thought that a bowl of porridge would be ideal for this. To make it for one person, I just put 40g of porridge oats into a pan, added 280ml of soya milk/water (mainly soya milk but a bit of water), then simmered for about 3 mins, stirring constantly. I left it to cool for a while, then added a little golden syrup and a generous handful of chopped berries. It made a really nice breakfast and was filling without being overwhelming.

Lunch

Bagel, hummus, celery, crisps, salad

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A toasted sesame seed bagel always makes a great lunch. Hummus and chopped celery make a tasty filling, and if you want to extend your lunch you can always dip some celery sticks in the hummus. The crisps were just good old Walkers salt and vinegar,  and I thought some  olives and tomatoes would be a nice extra.

Dessert

Fruit, dark chocolate

Strawberries and a nectarine. It’s nice to enjoy a bit of seasonal fruit, although ripening nectarines is not a task for anyone in a hurry!

Dinner

Polenta with sweet tomato and ginger sauce, salad, oatcakes with hummus

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This was another great meal prepared by my Mum. Polenta is so delicious and I do think it’s a much underrated Italian staple. For this dish, you need the blocks of polenta (not the bags of p0lenta grains), which can hopefully be found next to the dried pasta in supermarkets.

Ingredients for polenta with sweet tomato and ginger sauce (serves 4):

– 2 packets of polenta

– 2 tins of tomatoes

– 1tbsp grated  root ginger

– 2 tbsp brown sugar

– A little mixed spice

– Fresh basil

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to around gas 7 (220 C)

2. Brush the polenta with a little oil (on both sides) and spread out on a baking tray. Roast for around 30 mins (this is a bit of an estimate) turning once.

3. When the  polenta only has about 10 mins left, pour the tomatoes into a pan and add the root ginger, sugar and a sprinkle of mixed spice. Simmer gently until the polenta is ready and stir in a handful of fresh basil leaves at the last minute.

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Dessert

Coconut and apricot pots, small slice of  vegan shortbread

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My mum created this lovely dessert from a few spare ingredients and the end result was really delicious. You just build up layers of soya custard, desiccated coconut and fruit, then top with some finely chopped vegan chocolate (we happened to have some vegan chocolate raisins).

A tomato sauce that won’t let you down

Breakfast

Wholemeal toast, strawberry jam, watermelon

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Watermelon is a lovely refreshing way to start the day and makes you feel as though you’re on holiday in a hot country. It probably wouldn’t keep you going until lunchtime though, so I’d suggest teaming it up with something fairly filling e.g. wholemeal toast.

Lunch

Pitta breads with salad and roasted peppers, tortilla chips, watermelon

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In case you were wondering how I could find time to roast peppers at lunchtime, the answer is that I didn’t! These were the ready roasted variety that you can buy in a jar. In supermarkets, they’re sometimes kept by the olives, and sometimes in the Greek section of the World Foods aisle. They have a slightly sharper taste than home-roasted peppers, but they go well sliced and popped in a pitta bread with a handful of salad. You’ll probably find you need more than one pitta though, as this is a fairly light filling. I always lightly toast pitta breads first (I find it makes them much easier to slice), and spread with some soya margarine.

Dinner

Pasta with homemade tomato sauce, salad

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This sauce is so easy to do and makes the pasta taste genuinely lovely. It would also be great with spaghetti (which is generally egg-free unless it’s fresh).

Ingredients for pasta with homemade tomato sauce (serves 2):

– 1 onion

– 2-3 cloves of garlic

– Around 1 tbsp lemon thyme

– 150g pasta

– Olive oil

– 6 large tomatoes (ideally vine ripened, not the pallid salad kind)

– 1 veggie stock cube

– (Optional) seeds e.g. pumpkin seeds

Method:

1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, crush the garlic cloves and strip the leaves off the lemon thyme. Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside.

3. Heath a generous splash of oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic and lemon thyme. Sautee for around 5 mins or a little longer, until the onion is really soft but not brown. Stir almost constantly to prevent burning and disaster!

4. Add the tomatoes and crumble the stock cub over the top. Stir for a few minutes until the liquid from the  tomatoes forms a sauce. Cover and simmer gently for around 10 mins, stirring occasionally.

5. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water, along with a good splash of oil. Simmer for around 10 mins, until soft. Drain the pasta, then stir into the sauce. Stir in a few handfuls of seeds and serve.

I just had a crunchy salad on the side with a drizzle of olive oil and some Bombay mix for added spiciness. It made a really lovely, almost Italian type meal.

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Dessert

Strawberries, biscuits, a few squares of dark chocolate

The strawberries were really lovely and sweet, and went well with a couple of the Co-op’s Morning Coffee Biscuits (marked as vegan).

Snacks

Cocoa Nakd bar, satsumas

I probably shouldn’t be eating Christmas fruits in July, but they still taste nice!

A vegetable that roasts itself

Breakfast

Weetabix type cereal, soya milk, apple

Another very simple but satisfying breakfast.

Lunch

Fruit and oat bagel with peanut butter, almonds, banana, dried apricots

I find that these bagels with dried fruit in go really well with peanut butter. I guess it’s basically the peanut butter and jam effect. Almonds and bananas are both nice and filling to keep you going during the afternoon.

Dinner

Roasted pepper pasta salad, tomato salad

Dessert: Chocolate and mango pot

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This is such a simple recipe to make and it tastes really delicious. It’s also extremely colourful and great for an outdoor dinner. Peppers actually roast really well completely on their own without even being chopped up or brushed with oil.

Ingredients for roasted pepper pasta salad (serves 2):

– 4 peppers (not green as they taste different)

– 150g pasta

– A splash of olive oil

– 1 small packet of pumpkin seeds

– 1 small pot of pitted olives (e.g. one of the small ones from the Sainsbury’s Basics range)

Optional: Fresh herbs e.g. parsley, basil, or lemon thyme

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220 C).

2. Chop the stalks off the peppers, pull out the white seedy part and tap out excess seeds. Place them whole on the baking tray, the bottom of them facing upwards. A brief warning, you may want to line your baking tray with grease proof paper as peppers roasted in this way can create a terrible mess on a baking tray! Roast for around 40 mins, turning once. Ideally, the skins want to be turning very brown by the time you remove them from the oven.

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3. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the pasta and a little olive oil and simmer for around 10 mins, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is cooked, rinse, drain and set aside.

4. When the peppers only have about 5 mins left, scatter the pumpkin seeds on the tray around them and roast briefly, checking regularly that they’re not burning.

5. When the peppers are ready, remove the whole tray from the oven and run the peppers under some cold water. You can try to slip off the skins by inserting your finger under a puffy area of skin, but this isn’t too crucial.

6. Slice the peppers and add to the pasta along with the olives and seeds. You can add the herbs at this stage too if you’re using them. You may like to add a little olive oil although I found that the juiciness of the peppers made it moist enough.

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Today I followed my own advice and bought some tomatoes on the vine rather than the fairly bland salad tomatoes I used yesterday. The extra 30p or so paid off, and today’s tomato salad was really delicious. I just chopped the tomatoes and topped with some olive oil and lemon thyme. I had been planning to toast the last of the olive ciabatta to make some mini bruschette but the fatal error of forgetting I’d put them in the toaster resulted in two inedible pieces of carbonized bread.

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The mangoes were amongst today’s reduced items in Sainsburys, and I have to say they’re probably my favourite fruit of all time. They went really well combined with one of those lovely Alpro Soya Desserts.

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Snacks

Almonds, dried apricots

Basically just what was left over from lunch time and still in my bag!