The Economical Vegan


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Absolutely Fabulous Bean and Seed Patties

Faced with preparing dinner for my family for yet another day, yesterday I soaked some pinto beans and then boiled them today ready for dinner tonight. Had no idea what I was doing until I started cooking. I made boiled new potatoes with steamed veg, some braised red cabbage (yum!) and the patties. I put a cup of beans, a cup of cooked rice, one spring onion, two mushrooms, some vegetable bouillon, and a couple of tablespoons of the bean broth into the whizzy chopper and whizzed. I transferred this paste to a bowl and added milled flax seed and a good cup full of mixed seeds – pumpkin, sunflower and sesame. I mixed these together with a little wholegrain, stoneground flour, shaped them into patties, and fried them in a little oil, turning them a couple of times. They were utterly delicious with dinner. I made the gravy using the bean broth, stock, some of the braising liquid from the cabbage, and finished off with some instant gravy granules to thicken.
It was lovely!
Just wanted to share this delicious, high protein recipe.

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Burgers, Burgers, Burgers

Well, there has been a burger revolution in our house. Don’t get me wrong – I am a fan of the veggie burger, and have had my own recipe for quick, cheap bean burgers that I have used for over 20 years. But last week, my omnivore partner called me into the living room to watch a TV programme where a man was visiting a vegan restaurant in Canada where they make gourmet vegan burgers! It was fantastic, and very inspirational, and I realised that the humble burger could be a significant addition to my repertoire of economical meals. This realisation was partly fuelled by the fact that I have been going through a very busy period and therefore have had less time to cook and be inventive, and have even found myself running out of willpower and ideas once or twice!
Never again! Inspired, I first made some mushroom burgers. I chopped a large onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and three medium flat mushrooms that were starting to dry out in the fridge, and sautéed them in vegetable oil, until all were soft and well cooked, then added yeast extract, bouillon, leftover cooked rice, fresh herbs and some chickpea flour and breadcrumbs. I mixed this well and seasoned with some pepper, then drizzled oil onto two baking trays, and using two spoons, made balls of the mixture which were then flattened to form burgers. These were then drizzled with a little more oil and baked in the oven until crispy on the outside.

Two days later I was faced with some leftovers to use up – lentil dhal and root vegetable mash. I combined these in the mixer with some gram flour, soya flour, stoneground wholemeal flour, bouillon, gravy granules, and leftover potatoes ground up. Once mixed well I made the balls again, flattened them and baked them. Mmmmm!

Then last night I had a friend over. We took a walk up into a high valley near me, and came back very hungry. I had cooked the dinner beforehand knowing that we would come home starving. I made tofu and white bean burgers. I drained a tin of borlotti beans, and whizzed them in the chopper, then took half a pack of firm tofu, and whizzed it very briefly. These went into the mixing bowl with gram flour, bouillon, pepper, and some oats, one raw onion whizzed up and 4 cloves of garlic whizzed up. Same process – balls, oil, bake. They were absolutely delicious. We had them with baked potatoes and hummus and salad.

The beauty of all of these burgers is that they freeze very easily. This means that I have an instant snack or part of an easy dinner whenever I need it. They also transport well, and so far taste really good cold, making them ideal for lunches or being out and about. Having enjoyed browsing through my Indian cookbook this morning, I have discovered oodles of recipes for Indian ‘patties’ which follow similar principles. Safe to say there will be a lot of burgers consumed in our house in future!


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Wraps, Wraps, Wraps

I love soft flour or corn tortilla wraps. In fact, I love flatbreads in genera – chapattis, puris, pitta breads, anything I can stuff loads of goodies into and eat! One of my mainstay dishes has become vegan wraps, and I have a number of non-vegan friends who love my tofu wraps and will choose them over meat!
So, the key to the wraps, as with everything else, is to look at what you’ve got and what you can use. Key points relate to mixing flavour and texture. The mix of raw and cooked gives great texture and flavour combinations, particularly if you can include some fresh herbs. So here are a few recipes that have emerged ‘on the hoof’ from having wraps and from using whatever I have in the store cupboard and fridge.

Green Pepper and Spinach Wraps.
1 green pepper
3 large soft flour tortillas
Half a pack of baby spinach
A handful of chopped fresh coriander
Ground sea salt
Drizzle of sweet chilli sauce
Leftover bean chilli

Slice the pepper into slim lengthwise strips and share out over the three wraps, Add the spinach and coriander, and grind over a little sea salt. Add the bean chilli – about a tablespoon or two on each wrap, then drizzle on some sweet chilli sauce. Roll firmly into tight rolls, then cut on the diagonal before serving. These are really delicious.

Hummus and Avocado wraps
Two soft flour tortillas or chapattis
1 ripe avocado
Hummus
Fresh spinach
Freshly chopped chives
Chopped spring onion
Grated carrot
Lemon or lime juice
Chilli sauce (optional)

Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and twist to separate the two halves. Using a large knife, slap the blade into the seed and then twist to remove the seed. Use a spoon and separate the flesh from the skin, then slice the avocados on the diagonal. Share out between the two wraps. Add the other ingredients, spreading them out along the length of the filling. Fold the ends over, roll tightly and then cut in the middle on the diagonal to serve. If not serving immediately, leave as whole wraps. If storing for a few hours, wrap tightly in clingfilm or foil.

Alys’s Classic Tofu Wraps
These are just too nice for words, and are very popular.
Four Soft flour wraps
1 pack tofu
3 chopped spring onions
Plenty of Salad leaves or baby spinach
Fresh coriander, parsley and basil (or whatever of these you have)
3 Sliced red and yellow peppers
Garam masala
Garlic powder
Bouillion powder
Chilli powder
Vegan mayonnaise
Grated vegan hard cheese (optional)

First, slice the tofu and put in a frying pan on a medium heat, with a little oil, adding the garlic powder, chilli powder and garam masala immediately. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring regularly. Then add the bouillon powder, stir again and leave on a low heat. Combine all the other ingredients in the wraps, then share the tofu out evenly between the wraps. Fold over the ends, roll tightly, and serve. This is great for barbecues, buffets or picnics. You can vary the heat and spiciness depending on how much chilli powder you put in. You can also add fresh chillies or pickled jalapeno peppers if you like it hot!

So – there are three examples of wraps for you. But you can combine many more ingredients. Try some salad, veg fried with garam masala, fresh mint and onion bahjis in a wrap with some vegan mayo, or maybe some vegan sausages with onions, salad and mustard! Or keep your wraps entirely raw and combine different veg and herbs for different tastes.


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High Protein Breakfast

I don’t know what it is about Sunday mornings, but they always make me want scrambled tofu for breakfast. The beauty of this dish is that it can change every time. As an economical vegan, it is my mission to use what’s available – and what’s in the fridge – rather than going out all the time to buy specific ingredients for special dishes. This week, I had a lot of herbs reduced in the supermarket, and lots of spinach was also reduced, along with some grated carrot. I found some lovely smoked tofu in Glastonbury last Sunday (there’s a veggie supermarket there) and had about a third of the pack left over from another meal. So I had smoked tofu scramble. This is so easy!
First I chopped spring onion tops and some pickled garlic, and added them to a frying pan with a little drizzle of oil. A pile of grated carrot went in, some garam masala, chopped chives, and some washed spinach. Then I chopped the tofu and added that, along with a good pile of spinach. I cooked this down until the spinach had shrunk right down, and added just a sprinkle of low salt bouillon powder. I had a loaf of sourdough bread that I had defrosted the night before, so I cut come thin slices. When the scrambled tofu was just about done, I scraped it into a pile on one side of the pan, and put the pieces of bread into the pan to toast through. I then put this on the plate and spread it with some hummus from the fridge (also reduced and previously frozen). Put the scrambled tofu on the side, and eat with whatever condiments you like (I like sweet chilli sauce). This high protein Sunday breakfast/brunch makes me feel really good, because it’s full of iron-rich spinach, fibre, and is utterly delicious.
It’s important to remember that you can put whatever you like with your scrambled tofu. It’s good to have something oniony, but you can use finely chopped onions, peppers, courgette – anything really. Just finely chop it so it cooks quickly. Using a flavoured or marinated tofu is also a good idea. This smoked tofu is quite dry and firm, making it particularly nice, but you could approximate this by pressing some firm tofu between two plates for a few hours, then marinating, and dessicating in a very low oven for a few hours. Alternatively, if you like your tofu drier, marinate it, then cook it in a non-stick pan (finely chopped) on a low heat for a longer period of time before adding the other ingredients. The heat removes the liquid from the tofu and can improve the texture.
Before I became vegan I would eat tofu, but wasn’t fond of it. Now I find myself eating it very regularly and have realised it is a highly versatile protein source if you know how to work it!