The Economical Vegan


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Bread

I love making bread, Its one of the most fun things to do in the kitchen. But I also believe that sometimes you have to cut corners. So – here’s a few quick things to do with bread to make life easier.
First, use the dried bread yeast. It means you know exactly how much to put in with the flour etc. That’s all I measure – the flour. Ish. I usually mix white/and stoneground wholemeal, and then add whatever I like. This can include: seeds, waluts, ground mixed nuts, fresh herbs, and my personal favourite – sundried tomatoes and olives. I add a little salt, a teaspoon of sugar, a drizzle of oil, and mix, adding warm water gradually until the dough is the right consistency. Then I knead (or let the mixer do the kneading) for about 20 minutes. This is then put into a pan or onto a tray – often I will make rolls which are easier to freeze than a whole loaf.
For an interesting twist, roll some dough out thinly, then cover with sliced onion, tomato, fresh herbs and a little salt, then drizzle with a little olive oil. then fold this over on itself a few times and bake. It’s delicious. Let the bread rise for about an hour, in a warm place, then bake in a medium hot oven until it sounds hollow when you tap the base of the loaf. Cool on a baking rack so the base doesn’t go soggy.


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Nut Cutlets Anyone?

I don’t know how many of my readers remember the good old days of vegetarianism, when only specialist shops sold ‘vegetarian meals’ and most restaurants were limited in what they could offer. I remember it well, as a young teenager, pawing through the available foods in the local health food shop, and counting my pennies to see if I could afford a pack of burgamix. Back then, one of the available packet or chilled foods (and there weren’t many) was the famous Nut Cutlet. This came in a variety of manifestations, but was essentially a nut burger. You could buy packets of mix to make your own, and sometimes restaurants would offer this as an alternative on their Sunday roast dinner menu. I remember them as being rather tasteless and dry.

Well, yesterday, I went all retro and revived the Nut Cutlet for my own use. This is how I made my nut cutlets – dead easy and totally delicious. I used my whizzy chopper to finely chop some peanuts and chestnuts (these were what I had to hand in my cupboard). The peanuts were a half bag leftover from a snacking episode, but now sadly gone a bit stale, and the chestnuts were from a recent shopping spree where boxes of vacuum packed nuts were reduced from 2.00 a pack to 50 p. I tipped the chopped nuts into a mixing bowl, and then whizzed up one onion until it was finely chopped, and added then. Next, I drained a tin of red kidney beans, and whizzed that, and threw it into the bowl. I added some veggie stock paste (half price, courtesy of my lovely partner), a tablespoon of tomato ketchup, and a generous sprinkle of Gram flour, and then turned the mixer on and mixed well. I checked the consistency and then added a tablespoon of peanut butter and some more gram flour. I mixed again, and checked the consistency, and it seemed just right. Then I got a large pan nice and hot, and added a little oil, then shaped my cutlets like long, flat oval burgers, keeping them quite thin so they would cook all the way through. I fried on both sides until a nice toasty smell of nuts filled the kitchen, and the cutlets were nicely browned all the way through.

I served them with mixed root vegetable wedges (done in an Actifry – hardly any oil) and salad, with a little chutney to go with the cutlets. You could serve them with gravy and vegetables, or in a bun with some pickle, or any way you like. They were very tasty and very high protein. 

You could vary the flavours too by adding chilli, garlic, curry powder, fresh herbs etc . . . I just fancied something nutty!


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A timely Mexican vegan dinner . . . and economical too

Yesterday I made dinner after going shopping. The dinner was defined by what I picked up at the shop. Mangoes were reduced, so I got three, and aubergines and butternut squash were half price. Before I knew it, a Mexican-style dinner came to mind. I also picked up some reduced chives, and I knew there were a couple of limes hanging around at home that needed using, so . . .
First I quartered the squash, lengthwise, and took out the seeds, then laid it on a baking tray and drizzled a little oil. I added some mixed spice and a little sea salt, and put in in the oven at 180 degrees. I then quartered an aubergine lengthwise and did the same, but without the mixed spice. I had some baby courgettes hanging around (reduced the week before) so I added those to the roasting aubergine and popped that in the oven.
I put a packet of vegan burger mix into a bowl, added water, stirred, and left to soak.
I peeled and chopped a mango into smallish dice, and put it in a bowl with some chopped chives, a little chopped onion, and one chopped spring onion. I squeezed on the juice of two limes, and added some chilli paste and some sea salt. I stirred well and left this to marinate. Then I put some rice on, and then made the vegan meat balls by rolling the burger mix into firm round spheres. These I put into a pan with a little oil and fried over a medium heat, moving the pan frequently to roll the balls around and get them well toasted.
Then I chopped up a small onion, and put this and a chopped garlic glove in a pan with a little oil. I sautéed these until translucent, and threw in a tin of tomatoes. I added half a stock cube, some chilli paste, and stirred well, then added a tablespoon of red wine. I left this to simmer, stirring frequently.
When the rice was ready, I added a square of dark chocolate to the tomato sauce and stirred it in well. It had reduced by that point and was a nice, thick, fragrant chilli sauce.
Then I constructed the meal.
I put some spinach in a little pile, topped with some baby tomatoes and a little yellow pepper, and drizzled this with some mild curry oil. Only a little. I put a large spoonful of the mango, lime and chilli salsa on the side.
I piled the vegan balls in a pyramid of sorts, and topped them with the sauce. Then I laid the roasted vegetables alongside, and added a neat spoonful of rice.
Voila, one delicious meal.
I’m sure I saw the salsa on one of those cooking programmes like Masterchef or something – and guess what? It was the highlight of the meal. It was really, really tasty and totally exciting.
No one can ever tell me vegan food is boring!


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A couple of vegan goodies . . .

Today I am lucky enough to be enjoying some vegan cupcakes made by a graduating student. I am pleased, no, delighted that she was so thoughtful. They are very tasty, light and fluffy. They were her first attempt at vegan cakes of any kind. I am pleased for her that they turned out so well.
Yesterday I made some lovely tapas-style food for myself and my non-vegan partner. I made some grilled vegetables with chilli sauce, patatas bravas, and a tomato and olive salad, accompanied by home made garlic bread.
I grilled mushrooms and courgette, and then stirred in some smokey chipotle chili paste. I boiled some new potatoes, then drained, added chopped fresh tomatoes, paprika and salt, stirring and cooking for a few minutes. I took a part baked baguette, cut it lengthways and then in half sideways, so there were four pieces, I put chopped garlic and smoked garlic in a bowl with some vegan spread and salt and a little oil, and mixed it well, then spread it on the bread and baked it for about 15 minutes. And I made a salad of lettuce leaves, baby plum tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and olive oil. I also had a little pot of lentil salad I had bought for lunch, so I added some of that.
Very simple, very tasty. And very filling. I am always amazed at how simple ingredients can taste so good.