The Economical Vegan


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The Breakfast of Champions

The Breakfast of Champions (the Vegan Way)

Well, it’s Saturday morning again, and once more I have had the luxury of a nice lie-in. There were some weird dreams to contend with, but at least it was a morning where I wasn’t rudely awakened by the alarm.

I like Saturdays. They give my brain more scope, more room to wander and reflect. This morning my family are at home, and my son is about to head off to a heavy metal gig. He’s going to be queuing all day. I woke hungry, and by 10.30 felt ready to make some breakfast. As usual, I was watching a cooking programme, and got some inspiration from that, so I headed out to make a vegan fried breakfast.

This couldn’t be simpler, but it does rely on having some key ingredients. This morning, I’m using a Tofu Rosso I bought yesterday, which is a well seasoned block of minced, flavoured tofu. But you can marinade your own. If you want to marinade plain, firm tofu, dry it well between two clean tea towels, and press between two plates with a couple of weights on top for a few hours. This will remove the moisture. Then rub the tofu with a mix of olive oil, minced chilli and garlic, salt and minced fresh herbs or dried herbs. I would use oregano and basil, but you can choose for yourself which herbs you would prefer. Obviously this takes more time than having pre-marinated tofu that you buy in, but either way works.

Slice the block of tofu thickly, so you have nice thick slabs. Heat a little rapeseed oil in a pan, and put the slices in on a low heat to start cooking.

Meanwhile, take some cooked potatoes. You can cook them quickly in the microwave, or parboil them. Leave the skins on. When they are around 70 percent cooked, let them cool a little. Heat some olive oil in a pan, and add finely chopped shallots and some finely chopped pickled garlic. Fry until the shallots start to brown, then chop the potatoes and add these. Sprinkle with some sea salt. Fry on a medium high heat, stirring from time to time. Now, just take some baked beans in a tin, and mix with another tin of drained beans of your preference – you could use borlotti beans, red kidney beans, butter beans. Put this in a saucepan and add a dash of sweet chilli sauce, ketchup and freshly ground black pepper, or whatever you prefer, then bring to a simmer.

Remember to turn the tofu slices as they fry, turning up the heat if necessary to brown the tofu nicely. Once the potatoes are starting to brown and crisp up, it should be ready to serve. You can, if you wish, add other veg to the hash – celeriac, carrots or swede, which you have grated, and cook until they start to brown. Whatever you like.

So then just serve up the breakfast – a good spoonful of potatoes, a ladleful of beans, and a few rich slices of tofu. If you are particularly hungry, you could have some toast with vegan spread as well. Serve this with a nice fresh fruit smoothie, and you probably won’t need to eat anything until much later in the evening!


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Day One – Like Climbing a Mountain

I found this blog today and it felt really inspirational.

fatlifechronicles

Day 1

Why is it that everyone starts diets in January? Not that I am dieting – I am totally opposed to diets. I don’t know why people think the darkest, coldest time of the year is a good time to stop eating the nice, comforting, warming foods our bodies crave? Who wants salad in Winter? I’ll never understand it.

So this is it, decision made, day one, it all starts here. Today I got up and made a fruit and vegetable smoothie – Kale, Orange, Apple, Mango, Carrot and Celery. It looks like bilge, but it tastes delicious. So if I just close my eyes while I’m drinking it, and let my nose and mouth tell me how good it is, I’ll be okay. I did get a few funny looks in the lift today as I carried it into work. Actually, they weren’t funny looks at all, they…

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Saturday Recipes

Saturday Recipes

Every Saturday I get up and watch a cooking programme on tv. I enjoy the programme, despite the fact that they don’t feature much vegan food, because I enjoy the enthusiasm of the chefs and I also love the challenge of trying to convert every recipe into a vegan one. But it also makes me hungry, so I spend much of my Saturday mornings fantasising about food before heading into the kitchen to make something delicious. Today’s recipes can be found below.

Vegan ‘Cheese’ Toasties

I love toasties, and toast in general. Pates and spreads bought from the shops can be very expensive, but here is a simple recipe that any vegan can make for a delicious, healthy snack.

Take two small shallots or one medium onion, peel, and finely chop or whizz in the mini chopper.

Grate around 250g of vegan cheese.

Grate half a courgette.

Mix all together in a bowl, and add some salt, pepper, a teaspoon of English mustard, and a tablespoon of vegan mayonnaise. If you don’t have the mayo, use a tablespoon of vinegar mixed with soya flour, gram flour or plain flour.

Mix all ingredients together well.

Lightly toast some bread, and drizzle with a little olive oil, then spread the mixture evenly on the bread, and put under a hot grill until the mixture starts to brown on top.

Eat

Delicious!

You could also stuff baked potatoes with this mix and twice bake them.

Easy Spring Rolls

Finely slice onions, celery, Chinese leaf, kale, cabbage, chillis and fresh coriander. Crush and chop some garlic. Mix well in a bowl with a little sesame oil, soya sauce and sweet chilli sauce, and then mix in some arrowroot to thicken. You can also add some chopped tofu if you wish.

Take some ready made filo pastry, and brush lightly with olive oil. Cut large rectangles and place some of the vegetable mix in the centre, then fold the ends in and roll over into spring rolls. Place on a greased baking tray and drizzle with some oil, and bake about 180 degrees until crispy and brown. Serve with some sweet chilli dip.

Quick Spicy Noodle Soup

Thinly slice onion, garlic, ginger, fresh chillis and any vegetables you have in the fridge. Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan, and toss the vegetables in, stir frying until they start to soften. Meanwhile, boil the kettle. Add boiling water, soya sauce, vegetable stock, and some instant noodles and boil rapidly until the noodles are soft. Finely chop fresh coriander and some more fresh garlic, and toss in just before serving. Season to taste, and serve.

‘Leftovers’ Sausages

A friend of mine called this ‘brickettes’ because they came out irregular and very large when I cooked them at a camp I attended last year. They make a great brunch or lunch dish, and can be frozen and then rewarmed as required.

Leftover cooked rice.

Leftover cooked vegetables.

1 small pack of instant sage and onion stuffing mix

Leftover cooked lentils

Vegetable stock powder

Gram flour and wholemeal flour

Salt and pepper

Tomato ketchup

Smoked paprika

Make up the sage and onion stuffing mix according to the instructions. Mix well with the lentils, vegetables and rice, and add a little stock powder, salt and pepper, smoked paprika and a good tablespoon of tomato ketchup. Mix well with some added gram and wholemeal flour to bind the whole mix together. Form into sausage shapes, and fry in a pan, or put on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, and bake until golden and crispy. This is a great, cheap recipe that uses up leftovers and provides a really tasty dish. The key is adjusting the seasoning to your own taste. You don’t have to include the stuffing mix but you may need more gram flour to bind. They are great in a roll with some chutney, or with some beans on toast, or even with chips.

Enjoy!

I love Saturdays!


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A Post-Christmas Vegan Cook-Off

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Today is the last day before my new veg box delivery, and tomorrow is the first day back in work after the holidays. I’ve had an indulgent, relaxing time for the last two weeks, and watched a lot of cooking programmes on the television. I love watching cooking programmes, especially when I can adapt the recipes. Today, to use up the veggies left in the fridge, and to make tomorrow a little easier, I had a little mini cook-off.
First, I made Vegan ‘Chorizo’ Stew with Chickpeas. I put a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan, and sautéed chopped onion, shallot, garlic and carrots with a pack of vegan ‘chorizo’ style chunks. I added ground cumin and coriander, and some freshly grated nutmeg, bouillon powder and a large chopped green chilli. About two cups of soaked, cooked chickpeas were added. Then I added about five cups of water, brought to the boil and simmered for about 40 minutes. Halfway through I added torn up fresh basil and a tablespoon of tomato puree. I simmered until the liquid had reduced by almost a half, and the sauce had thickened. This was served with roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips, and a cous cous. It was delicious. There is another portion ready for the freezer as well – a good economical dish.
Once this first dish was simmering, I made a Rich Country Stew with Sage Dumplings. I chopped swede, carrots, parsnips, leeks, onions, celery and shallots, and put in a pan with plenty of water, and about a cup of red lentils. I added a stock cube, salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, some dried mixed herbs, a teaspoon of yeast extract, and some sea salt. To this I added two cups of chickpeas.
While this was coming to the boil, I made dumplings by mixing self-raising flour, salt, vegetable suet and finely chopped fresh sage, with a little water to bind. I formed the mix into small balls, about 4cm across – they double in size whilst cooking. They also help to thicken and season the sauce. Once the stew was boiling I added the dumplings, put the lid on, and turned the heat down to a brisk simmer. This continued for about 40 minutes.
Whilst the stews were cooking, I made a quick coleslaw which I can take to work for lunch – an easy way to eat a healthy lunch with raw veggies. I simply used my mini-chopper and finely chopped cabbage, carrot, onion, celery and fresh coriander stalks, and mixed with a tablespoon of vegan mayonnaise and about a tablespoon of lemon juice. A quick sprinkle of sea salt finishes it. I mixed it well and simply put into a container to take to work.
The stew is now finished and ready for tomorrow’s dinner. I find stews and curries often taste better the second day anyway and at least I know I won’t have to cook when I get in tomorrow night. I also know I will spend much of tomorrow looking forward to it!
I’ve realised that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I am either cooking, cleaning, washing up, drying up, doing laundry, or putting food away and sorting cupboards. I also make a lot of cups of tea and coffee. I often feel most comfortable in the kitchen in any house, and I am blessed that the house I live in has a decent sized kitchen with a rangemaster stove which makes cooking easier. I’ve also been blessed to inherit a food processor from my mother (now around 20 years old and still going strong) and to have other very useful gadgets. When people ask me how on earth I can manage to be vegan, I smile. If you like to cook, then being vegan is not so difficult. It does take effort and planning, time and commitment, but it is well worth it.


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VEGAN CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!

A Very Vegan Christmas – Part One.

Well, here I am at my third vegan Christmas, and I am pleased to say that I have learned very many lessons about food, cooking, sharing and about veganism along the way. So this post is a comprehensive account of how to make Christmas a wonderful time, for all vegans and non-vegans alike.

I believe in Christmas – not because I am a Christian, but because I come from a family that made Christmas special. The whole experience was one of anticipation and enjoyment, and the food in particular made Christmas a real pleasure. We were not a rich family, and Christmas was the only time when I could eat as much as I liked, and take pleasure in the abundance of food offered. As I moved into adulthood, I always returned home for Christmas because my mother made it feel so special. So I have tried to do the same, always, for my family. This can seem like a challenge to vegans, however, because the traditional foods are dominated by meat and dairy products. It can also be a challenge if you are the only vegan in the family/household, as non-vegans think your food is not as good as theirs, and you can often be left with expensive meal components that you have bought and which are, sadly, disappointing.

So, here again is a recipe for an awesome vegan Christmas. It takes a little planning and preparation but is well worth it. It will make your house smell like Christmas, fill your belly and provide you with a lot of goodies to snack on over the festive period. This post focuses on the main event – Christmas dinner. More posts to follow will look at party food and other goodies.

Enjoy!

  1. Vegan Starters

The starter course for vegans is often quite boring – as it is usually soup. Now, I love soup, but I want something festive, not just a vegetable soup. And I don’t always want soup! So here are a few ideas for you.

Mushroom Pate

This can be made in advance, sliced, and frozen in slices, or can be made one or two days before and chilled. It is also a useful party food. Serve with thick fresh bread or toast, or with oatcakes or crackers.

Ingredients

1 kg fresh mushrooms

6 cloves garlic

Two onions

½ kg fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs

Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Two to three tablespoons vegetable margarine OR Coconut oil (I prefer the latter)

Two tablespoons of vegan cream cheese or silken tofu.

Dash of brandy or other vegan liqueur

Method

Chop the onion and garlic and sautee until soft (use a LARGE pan)

Roughly chop the mushrooms and sautee, adding the brandy, salt and pepper at the same time. The liquid should start to come out – simmer until half the liquid is gone. Remove from the heat, and mix with the breadcrumbs and vegan cream cheese. Mix well, taste, and season if necessary. Whizz in a blender or mini chopper. Turn out immediately into a greased loaf tin or mould, cover and chill until the pate firms up. Serve in slices.

Spiced Parsnip and Coconut Soup

This is based on a Goan recipe and gives a lovely festive heat. It’s also quick and quite simple.

Ingredients

Teaspoon cinnamon, crushed and ground.

2 onions

1 garlic clove

1 tsp garam masala

Generous grating of fresh nutmeg.

1 tsp curry powder.

1 tablespoon coconut oil.

2 inch square of creamed coconut (the kind that comes in a bar).

Six large parsnips

1 potato

1 vegetable stock cube

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Fresh coriander to serve.

Method

Chop the onion and garlic and sautee in the coconut oil until transparent, then add the spices and sautee briefly. Peel and chop the parsnips and potato, and add these along with the stock cube, stir well then add about two pints of boiling water. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the creamed coconut, simmer and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from the heat, blend with a stick blender, then taste, and season if necessary. Finely chop the coriander and sprinkle this over the soup before serving.

Olive and Sundried Tomato Medley

Ingredients

3 cups pitted olives

2 cups sundried tomatoes

4 pickled garlic cloves

Olive Oil

Wholemeal bread mix

Method

First, make a standard wholemeal bread dough. Just before the final few minutes of kneading, add 1 cup of chopped sundried tomatoes (the kind that come in a jar with oil) and 1 cup of whole olives. Leave to rise, and then bake as normal.

Put the rest of the olives, tomatoes and the garlic cloves in a mini chopper and whizz to a course consistency. Add a little olive oil if necessary. Turn into a nice small ramekins or make quenelles. When the bread is done, cut thin slices and serve with the tapenade. You can also add a fresh tomato salsa to this dish, or a roasted tomato and basil dip.

  1. Main Courses

So everyone wants a good centrepiece to the Christmas dinner, and I would suggest that you put a little effort into this, because it pays off. Last year I made the raised nut roast and pie with cranberries, which you can find elsewhere in this blog – it was amazing! Myself and my stepson had it, and we couldn’t get enough. It really was the best nut roast, and the best vegan roast centrepiece, I ever ate. I froze half of it and we had it a month later and it was delicious even then! This year, I am making my filling for my main course in advance so all I have to do is construct it the night before.

Here are a few potential dishes for your main course. I hope you enjoy them.

Chestnut and Cranberry Wellington

You don’t have to add the cranberries if you don’t want to, but I think they give a nice colour and a lovely flavour.

Ingredients

1 pack of ready made frozen puff pastry – many supermarkets have vegan versions of this.

2 cups of cooked chestnuts

2 cups of dried mixed nuts

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 cup mushrooms

1 tablespoon vegan red wine

2 teaspoons bouillon powder.

Freshly ground black pepper

Chopped fresh parsley, thyme, rosemary and basil.

2 tablespoons wholemeal flour

2 tablespoons gram flour

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

½ cup dried cranberries that have been soaked, or fresh cranberries.

A good amount of fresh spinach leaves

1 teaspoon vegetable oil OR vegetable suet

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

First, blanch the spinach leaves briefly so that they are just soft, and leave to cool and drain on a clean towel.

Then, make the filling. Whizz the nuts, onion, garlic, herbs and mushrooms in the mini chopper, or finely chop them yourself. If you want to go the extra mile, finely whizz or chop the mixed nuts the day before, put into a saucepan with about a pint of water, add a stock cube, and simmer for about 40 minutes, then leave the nuts soaking in the pan overnight. Drain the stock the next day and save for your veggie gravy!

Turn into a mixing bowl, and add all the other ingredients (except the pastry and the spinach). Mix well, taste, and if necessary, season. It should have a firm texture; if it feels wet or sloppy, add more flour and breadcrumbs. Now roll out the defrosted pastry to the size you need, and brush lightly with some vegetable oil. Layer on the spinach leaves, covering the whole of the pastry. Now, make a sausage shape of the filling along the middle of the pastry, and fold or roll up in the pastry to make a long, fat, deep sausage. Pinch or fold over each end (I tuck them underneath) to make a good seal. Bake on a greased tray at about 160 degrees until the pastry turns a lovely golden colour and is fully cooked. This can take up to an hour. Serve in thick slices with plenty of gravy.

(My mouth is watering as I write this. This is what we are having this year!)

Roasted Stuffed Cauliflower

If you want to make vegetables the centre of your meal (though I think they dominate my dinner anyway, I make so many) this is a quick-roasting, easy dish that is a great centrepiece.

Ingredients

1 or 2 large whole cauliflowers

1 onion

1 clove garlic

½ tspoon dried mixed herbs

1 tablespoon cooked chickpeas

1 tablespoon peanut butter or finely chopped mixed nuts

1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh coriander

Squeeze of fresh lime juice

Coconut oil

Spice rub made of paprika, sea salt, turmeric and fresh coriander mixed with coconut oil

Method

Take the cauliflowers and remove all the leaves. Remove the stalk to make a hollow in the centre, but do not allow the florets to separate.

Put the onion, garlic, chickpeas and nuts into the mini chopper and whiz up until fine. Mix well in a bowl with all the other ingredients except for the spice rub. Stuff the cauliflower centre with the stuffing mix, and use one cauliflower leave to keep it in place, then upend the cauliflower and place in a roasting dish. Rub all over the cauli with the spice rub, and dab in some extra coconut oil. Bake in a medium hot oven until the cauliflower is soft and starting to really brown.

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs and a delicious gravy.

Vegetable Terrine

I made this for my wedding. You can make it in advance and serve hot or serve cold slices with pickles etc. It is a layered vegetable dish and takes a little time as you have to get all the layers right, and some need cooking before layering.

Choose a nice, large, deep loaf tin for this, and grease it well with vegetable oil or coconut oil.

Gently blanch a large bunch of fresh spinach and lay on some kitchen roll to drain. Thinly slice some onion (very thinly). Put some sliced onion in the bottom of the tin, then a layer of spinach leaves, making sure you overlap well and make a nice thick layer. This will form the top of the terrine. Season with some crushed sea salt.

Make up a pack of vegeburger mix first – the kind that requires water and leaving to soak for about 15 minutes. Add some chopped fresh parsley and freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Add this in about a 3cm depth and press into the tin, making sure to leave an even surface.

Next, take around 4 cups grated carrot, and mix well with vegetable bouillon, organic white flour, and some ground cinnamon and nutmeg, mixing in a little lemon juice. Spread this and pack firmly as your next layer.

Now make another layer of spinach, making sure to season with salt.

Next, a layer of mushrooms. Finely mince onion, garlic and mushrooms, add seasoning and some finely chopped fresh oregano or some dried oregano. Mix in a little breadcrumbs, and press again firmly. Finally, make up some vegan sage and onion stuffing mix, and pack this in as your final layer.

Heat the oven to around 170 degrees. In a larger roasting tin, put about 2 inches of water, then place the loaf tin into this. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Take out and leave to rest for around 10 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate, and serve in slices.

  1. Accompaniments

We always have a lot of veggies with a festive dinner. We have steamed cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, peas, green beans and potatoes. And of course, sprouts. We might also have kale and mashed sweet potatoes.

For perfect roast potatoes, set the oven to 190, and scrub the potatoes but don’t peel them. Cut them in long diagonals. Drizzle with vegetable oil and season with sea salt, and roast until crispy and golden, turning a couple of times. Do the same with large pieces of peeled parsnip.

Red cabbage and cranberries: slice red cabbage and simmer for 20 minutes in water, then drain, and add two tablespoons of red wine, half a stock cube, and a cub of cranberries, along with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook well and stir regularly, until the liquid starts to reduce.

I am going to copy in my blog post from last year here in relation to making stuffing. I can’t add much so here it is.

These can be either baked in a tray or loaf tin and sliced, or rolled into stuffing balls and roasted, or used as a stuffing for vegetables. The first obviously is sage and onion. Now, this is an economical vegan blog, so this is all about the best possible taste for the best possible price. There are two ways to make your sage and onion stuffing cheaply. The first is to buy the very cheap supermarket smartprice stuffing mix. I do buy these. At 15 pence each, they provide a really good basis for making other stuffings and with a little extra love, work perfectly well on their own. So if you do use this cheap option, always add some extra flavour in the form of a heaped teaspoon of vegetable margarine, and some extra sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The other option, one I also use, is to visit the supermarkets at the point when they are discounting the fresh fruit and vegetables. This is the time you will find discounted fresh herbs. You can do this at any time of the year. So pick up the reduced sage (I got a pack the other day for 10p), bring it home, finely chop and toss into some melted margarine in a frying pan. Cook very briefly then put into a small container and freeze ready for making your stuffing. The next thing is the breadcrumb component. Again, in the weeks leading up to the festive season, save any stale bread you might have, and freeze it. When you defrost it, either whizz it into breadcrumbs or use a grater to make your fresh breadcrumbs. Again, reduced bread at the supermarket can be used for this – I got a pack of wholemeal rolls the other day for 10p. You can always make the breadcrumbs first and then freeze in bags – which means you have them ready for your Christmas stuffings. The last component is plenty of onion. Very finely chopped onion goes into most of my Christmas stuffing recipes. Use a food processer to chop them finely and keep in a covered container until ready to add to the recipe. So: fresh sage and onion stuffing. Sautee finely chopped onions in some vegetable oil with a little salt. Add fresh sage, finely chopped, about two tablespoons to about 2 onions, and a teaspoon of dried sage. Stir well whilst still frying, then add some freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add breadcrumbs, stirring well. Add a little hot vegetable stock to moisten the mixture and stir vigorously. Add a little self raising flour and again, stir vigorously, which helps bind the mixture. Press into a baking tray or loaf tin, stuff whatever you want. The next recipe is one I developed myself one year and which has proved a firm favourite. This is a mushroom, chestnut and port stuffing. Sautee chopped onions or shallots, and a couple of cloves of garlic (also chopped), in a tablespoon of vegetable oil, until the onions are translucent. Add some roughly chopped mushrooms, and fry until these start to soften, then add some freshly cooked or vacuum packed chestnuts, roughly chopped, and a little nutmeg and about a quarter of a teaspoon of garam masala. Fry for about five minutes then add two tablespoons of port and a vegetable stock cube. Stir well and simmer for about fifteen minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and add in as many breadcrumbs as needed to make a good mix, alongside a tablespoon of plain flour, and mix well. Taste, and then season if necessary. This one can be packed into large flat mushrooms for roasting if you wish. Another favourite of mine is apple, thyme and pine nut stuffing. This uses freshly chopped apples fried with the onions, fresh and dried thyme, and toasted pine nuts with the breadcrumbs and a little mixed spice. Add some cranberries or other red berries for colour. The other classic Christmas stuffing which I ALWAYS make is the sausagemeat and chestnut stuffing. I can’t do Christmas without it. This is my cheating way. One pack of vegan sausage mix made up ready for cooking, one pack of cheap sage and onion stuffing mix, a tin of chestnut puree, and some extra breadcrumbs and flour. Simply make up the stuffing mix, mix all ingredients together, and if the stuffing is too loose, add extra breadcrumbs/flour to the required consistency. Yum yum yum. One final tip – you can make a nice range of stuffings just by varying the ingredients you use with your breadcrumbs and onions. Try, for example, apple and ginger, cranberry and orange, almond and apricot (mmmm!), sundried tomato and basil – it’s all good! Be inventive. The most I have ever made at one Christmas meal is nine different types.

I have just been informed by my son that he would be happy with a plate of different stuffings and maybe a roast potato or two, so I’d better get preparing. One other thing – you can make these in advance and freeze them – which is what I will be doing over the next week or so.

  1. Gravy

Today’s post will be about gravy! I know that some people dismiss gravy as inconsequential, and indeed there is nothing wrong with not liking gravy, but for me it is essential to a Christmas dinner. A good, rich, taste-bud teasing gravy really makes a meal special. I like mine thick and full of deep flavours. So I am going to share my gravy recipes with you, and hopefully one of them will suit your style and time frame. The first recipe is my two day Christmas gravy. This is a rich sauce that goes with almost any dish. Start the day before you want it, and give yourself plenty of time. First, peel 3 carrots, 3 parsnips and two onions, and chop into large, rough chunks. Add a couple of stalks of celery, and a couple of leeks roughly chunked as well. Spread in a roasting tin and liberally douse with vegetable oil. Add some whole garlic cloves in their skins, some fresh or dried rosemary, and if you have it, a bay leaf and some dried mixed herbs. Season well with plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in a medium to hot oven for about an hour, until the vegetables start to caramelise. Then remove and put over a medium heat. Add about two pints of boiling water and a vegetable stock cube, and simmer and stir, along with about a cup of red wine and a cup of sherry or port. Add half a teaspoon of yeast extractIf you prefer a lighter sauce, use white wine instead. Simmer and stir, making sure you stir in all the sticky juices from the roasting pan. Once the liquid has reduced by about a third, take off the heat and allow to cool a little. Pass through a sieve, collecting the stock in a large jug or bowl, and squashing the soft vegetables as much as possible. Set the veg pulp aside to be used in your nut loaf or one of your Christmas stuffings, or add it to a rich vegetable soup. Put the stock in the fridge once cool, covered in some clingfilm, or in a jar with a lid. That’s the first day done. Next day, bring the stock to the boil and add the water from any vegetables you have boiled or steamed. Make a roux of plain flour and vegetable oil, and gradually whisk this in, briskly, simmering, until you have the consistency you require. Add some gravy browning to the required colour, and then taste the gravy and add more seasoning if necessary. Serve piping hot. Now, I know not everyone will want to spend two days making gravy. It is, after all, quite an effort. Another alternative is to simply fry off finely chopped onions and celery with some vegetable oil, add a roux, pepper and a veg stock cube, pour on boiling water and whisk well. Blend with a hand blender before serving. You can add other things to spice up your gravy, such as fresh herbs, dried herbs, or a teaspoon of mustard. If you want to bail out and use instant gravy granules, then fry some onions, add boiling water, and stir in some mustard before adding your gravy granules, or add a teaspoon of port while you simmer your gravy. Alcohol always makes gravy better! If you are serving veggy sausages with your dinner, fry some chopped apple with the onions for your gravy, and add some mustard to offset the sweetness. Other flavourings you can add to your gravy to make it taste rich include: mushroom ketchup; tomato puree; garam masala; wholegrain mustard. Experiment. But most of all, don’t be afraid to indulge in making your gravy awesome to complement the beautiful vegetables on your festive dinner plate. Enjoy!

That’s all for now – I will deal with puddings and party foods in the next post. HAVE FUN!!


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Halloween Recipes

Vegan Halloween Recipes

It’s that time of year again, and my pumpkins are sitting on the window sill waiting to be hollowed out and carved. And as always, I find myself mourning the waste and loss of good nutritious food that happens every year, when people carve their pumpkins without first removing the delicious flesh for cooking. It amazes me how many people will do this, and fail to use the pumpkin. Or how many people will simply restrict themselves to pumpkin pie. Here are some delicious, nutritious pumpkin recipes for your Halloween feast.

Pumpkin Bread

1 kg wholemeal bread flour

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 packet of instant bread yeast

1/3 teaspoon of salt

1/3 teaspoon of sugar

1 cup of fresh pumpkin, finely chopped or whizzed, or grated.

Warm water.

Put all the dry ingredients, including the pumpkin, into a mixing bowl. Add the oil, and then the warm water gradually to make a nice soft bread dough. Knead for 20 minutes, and leave covered with a damp towel in a warm place to rise. Knock back once risen, and knead for another 20 minutes, then shape and turn out into a loaf tin or shape into balls and put onto a greased baking tray. Bake in a medium hot oven until the bread or rolls are crispy and browning, and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. This bread will have a speckled orange colour when you cut into it. Serve whilst still a little warm – either with olives and olive oil and balsamic vinegar as an appetiser, or with a nice soup or stew, such as the pumpkin soup below.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Roughly chop about 2 kg pumpkin and put onto a baking tray, and drizzle with a little oil. Sprinkle with sea salt, and toss in six cloves of garlic (peeled). Roast for around 30 minutes in a hot oven. Ten minutes before the end of roasting, add a cup of fresh cashew nuts. Put everything into a large saucepan, and add a litre of water, stock cubes, salt, pepper, and a little turmeric and some mustard powder. Bring to the boil, and simmer for around 20 minutes, then blend with a hand blender or in jug blender. Taste, and season as necessary.

Heat a frying pan and add a drizzle of oil, then toss in a cup of pumpkin seeds and toss until well toasted. Serve the soup hot with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds. You can also fry some chopped chilli as a topping if you like things spicy. Serve with freshly baked bread or some croutons. For extra effect, save a hollowed out pumpkin and bake this and its lid for around 30 minutes in a medium oven, then serve the soup IN the pumpkin!

Pumpkin Muffins

Mix equal amounts of wholemeal and self-raising flour, with a teaspoon of baking powder. Add a natural sweetener or fruit syrup, and two cups of grated pumpkin, along with a two teaspoons of cinnamon, and a generous handful of fresh pumpkin seeds. Mix well with some oat, soya or coconut milk, and turn into greased muffin tins. Bake in a medium hot oven for around 30 minutes. Turn out, cool, and serve either hot with some soya custard or cold.

Pumpkin Pie

Take some ready made pastry (vegan of course) and roll out into a shallow pie tin, saving half for the top. Slice fresh pumpkin and fill the pan, making sure you layer it up high because it will shrink a lot, and sprinkle with sugar, fruit syrup or a similar sweetner, or dot with jam or marmalade. Sprinkle on chopped dried fruits (apricots are best) and a generous amount of cinnamon. Add a little five spice. Put the pastry lid on and bake at around 180 degrees until the pastry turns a deep golden brown, and the pie smells like heaven!

Serve with vegan icecream or cream.

Witches Brew/Halloween Punch.

This is an alcoholic version but for an alcohol free one, use red grape juice. Take two bottles of red wine, and put in a pan with some cinnamon, mixed spice, dried fruit, diced fresh apples and diced pumpkin. Add a little fruit syrup, vegan sugar or sweetner. Bring to a low heat slowly, but do not boil, then just before serving, add some port or sherry, or a dash of brandy.

Italian Pumpkin Bread

Make a bread dough as described above, but after kneading, roll out onto a pastry board. Take sliced pumpkin, sliced onion, sliced tomatoes and fresh garlic, and cover the surface of the dough, sprinkling on basil and oregano, along with some sea salt. Fold the bread over on itself, first in half, then half again, to make a long roll. Bake until golden brown and serve hot in slices as a delicious snack or meal accompaniment.

And finally . . .

For those who do engage in trick or treating, here, again, is my no bake chocolate cake recipe. Make this up the day before, chill it, and cut it into 2 inch squares, then put these into baking paper twists instead of candy.

No Bake Chocolate Cake

2/3 pack of vegan Digestive biscuits

4-6 packs dark chocolate

4 cups dried mixed fruit

250 g crunchy peanut butter

Melt 3-4 packs of dark chocolate in a water bath. Meanwhile roughly crush the digestive biscuits, and put them with all the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix well, then spread in a broad, flat dish that has been greased. Melt the rest of the chocolate and mix in a tablespoon of vegan margarine if you wish. Spread this as a topping over the cake, then cover with cling film and chill for about 4 hours. This can then be sliced to your preferred size. This is a delicious snack or confectionary and everyone I have ever given it to loves it.

Note – the cheaper versions of digestive biscuits (such as supermarket own brands) are often vegan. If you want to make this recipe gluten free, simply use gluten free digestives.


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Simple Foods are the Best

Hi to all the fellow vegans and interested people who are reading this. I’ve spent a lot of time watching various television programmes and recipe shows, and I have spent many years perfecting recipes that are both non-vegan and vegan. The last three and a half years, as a vegan, have been a quest for a varied diet and good nutrition. But I’ve come to realise that the best foods are the simplest, and so I have come full circle in my vegan recipes. Don’t get me wrong – I love good food, and I especially love complex, high-class dishes that taste divine. But taste, substance and nutrition don’t have to be complicated. Today, I was feeling somewhat less than enthusiastic about dinner (especially given that I was making dinner for meat eaters as well as for my lonely vegan self). So I opted for a simple pasta dish, which turned out to be so delicious, and so filling, that I simply had to share it with everyone.

Vegetable Pesto Pasta

1 onion

1 small aubergine or half a large one

4 large mushrooms

3 cloves of garlic

2 handfuls of fresh spinach

1 cup of button tomatoes or fresh chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (hulled)

1 tablespoon hemp protein

1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon vegan pesto

Any cooked pasta.

(you can use any veg you like but this is what I used)

Roughly chop all the veg except the tomatoes and spinach, and crush and chop the garlic. Melt the coconut oil in a frying pan, and add the veg (but not the spinach). Stir fry the veg for around ten minutes, then add the spinach and tomatoes, and fry for a further five minutes, then add the rest of he ingredients, and cook for a further two minutes, stirring well. Mix in strained, cooked pasta and cook for a few more minutes. Serve with freshly ground black pepper.

I had this tonight and it was delicious, and very filling . The amount I made was enough for two average sized portions, so I’ll be having it for lunch tomorrow at work.

Other simple foods that I love are all about plenty of veg cooked well. Roasted vegetable bake is another favourite of mine, and has been for over twenty years. It simply means putting a large amount of vegetables cut up into roughly one inch squares into a roasting pan, along with a couple of diced onions and plenty of diced garlic, and some olive oil and sea salt. Roast for around 20 minutes, then add chopped tomatoes, oregano and a little bouillon, and a dash of red wine, and stir well. Make a crumble topping with oats, mixed seeds and seasoning, and sprinkle this on top, then bake for another 30 minutes. You can use a range of vegetables, including carrots, parsnip, cauliflower, broccoli, mushroom, peppers, aubergine, courgette, celeriac. This bake is a delicious winter meal and can be served with fresh bread or a nice raw salad.