The Economical Vegan


September Salad Days . . . and Soup

It is always the greatest irony, that a wet August will give way to glorious sunshine in September, when the schools go back. Working in education means September is a very busy month for me, but it’s also a month when I feel energised and able to rise to new challenges. I love the crisp mornings, the scent of autumn in the air, the kiss of the sun, the light dancing through leaves. This is the opportunity for me to bring back my habit that dominates most of the year, of making soup to take to work for lunch. But it is also balanced with lovely salads.

Today’s salad is a much-loved favourite of mine. You can vary it with different things, such as different flavours of hummous, or different kinds of olives, different dressings and different veggies, but for me, in its simplest form, this salad is filling, delicious and incredibly satisfying. Serve it with wraps or flatbread and you can’t go wrong. Try to stick to organic veggies where you can.


4 leaves of romaine lettuce

a large handful of spinach or baby spinach

2 spring onions

3 small sweet peppers or one large sweet pepper.

1 carrot, grated

fresh herbs



smoked tofu

sweet tomato chutney or something similar

pumpkin seeds

To make the salad:

First, get a frying pan hot and toast the pumpkin seeds, then set aside.

Wash the leaves and shred with your hands into your salad bowl.

Sprinkle on the carrots and chopped peppers and spring onion.

Blob on some nice big spoonfuls of hummous

Toss in the olives

Blob on a few teaspoons of your chutney

Sprinkle on pumpkin seeds

Finely chop about half a block of smoked tofu and sprinkle that over the top.

Finely chop some fresh basil, parsley or coriander, if you have any.


I love this salad. It’s crunchy, sweet, salty, creamy, tangy and piquant, all at the same time. And it’s filling. It’s a great balance of textures and flavours with plenty of protein to keep your energy up and keep you feeling full.

And now . . .  soup

If you are a regular reader, you will know I love soup. I like to vary it as well, as it makes for an interesting life. Having something warm and delicious in my soup flask for lunch helps keep me going but also allows me to slow down and enjoy my lunchtimes during the working day.

This soup is an oriental-inspired spicy soup full of fresh veggies. Rather than use expensive and exotic ingredients however, I use things I keep in my store cupboard, and I recommend you keep them in as well as it means quick and easy meals are only a few minutes away.

This soup CAN be made with noodles, but the version below uses spiralised carrots and courgettes instead. You can get a spiraliser for under £20 and they are fun!. Enjoy


1 carrot, spiralised

1 courgette, spiralised

Fresh corn, off the cob

1 sweet pepper

4 spring onions

Finely shredded spinach, cabbage and/or Kale.

1 small white onion

A 1 inch cube of fresh ginger

3 garlic cloves

Vegetable stock cube or powder

Coconut milk or coconut milk powder (the powder is great to keep in the cupboard and is much cheaper than buying the tins)

1 lemon or 1 lime

1 tablespoon Miso (optional – I keep miso in the fridge but if you don’t have it, don’t worry).

Coconut oil

Toasted sesame oil

Soy sauce

Fresh coriander

Arrowroot to thicken (optional)

Chopped fresh chillies (to your own preference – I like my soup very spicy so I use a lot)

To make the soup:

In a large pan, heat the coconut oil. Peel, crush and chop the garlic, chillies and ginger and toss into the oil.

Chop the white onion finely, and add to the oil, stirring well.

Boil the kettle, and while it is boiling, toss in the green veggies, the pepper (finely sliced) and the sweetcorn, and give them a good stir. Then, add boiling water to the desired level, and add the spiralised carrot and courgette. Simmer for about five minutes, then add some lemon/lime zest and the juice of the fruit. Stir in the miso, vegetable stock and add the coconut milk or powder and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Taste, and if necessary add soy sauce to your preference. If you want a thicker soup, add a little arrowroot or cornflour. Simmer for about 10  minutes.  Finally, just before serving, sprinkle on some fresh coriander and finely chopped spring onions.

Other options: you could add tofu, seitan or even some of the mock duck you can get in a tin, finely chopped, to give more body to your soup if you wish.

It’s a lovely, warming soup and so tasty and delicious. You can make it as mild or as spicy as you wish. I often take the soup AND a salad for lunch during September, and I am not afraid to admit that I often have them for breakfast as well as lunch. There’s nothing better. These amounts should make 2-4 servings, but you can make more volume and freeze the soup if you wish.

And finally . . . . a quick reminder of my quick, easy and very heartening soup for those with not enough time or resources to make such a complicated soup. A quick lentil and tomato soup is perfect and is done in 30 minutes.

1 tin tomatoes

A heaped handful of red lentils

1 onion

1 carrot

Veg stock cube.

Chop the onion and carrot roughly, and put in your soup pan with the other ingredients. Add water (fill your tomato tin once or twice), bring to the boil and simmer. After 20 minutes, blend with a stick blender, simmer a little more, and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. You can serve this with a drizzle of chilli oil if you like a spicy soup. And it doesn’t get much simpler than that!


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A Special Dinner

A Special Dinner

So it has been a very busy weekend, particularly after I discovered that the restaurant I had booked for Valentine’s day wanted to charge £45 for a taster menu. I don’t know about other vegans, but I am not prepared to pay that much for vegetables, however well they are cooked. I could buy enough veggies for a month with that. So it was plan B for the big night. I told my partner I would rather stay in and cook a nice meal instead.

It didn’t even take too much planning, to tell the truth. I knew I had most of the ingredients in for a lovely meal and with a bit of extra effort I could make a lovely, romantic meal. To begin with, I set the table with a nice cloth, candles, champagne flutes, napkins etc. I brought the MP3 player dock in for the music, and set up ‘our song’ ready for when my partner came in.


Beer battered smoked tofu with sesame seeds, served with chopped coriander, olive tapenade and baby tomatoes.

I made a batter from half and half Gram flour and Self Raising flour, adding one teaspoon of baking powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder, and added sesame seeds. Then I took some organic beer and whisked it in until I had a good batter with a thick texture. I heated organic rapeseed oil in a small, deep pan and took some good firm smoked tofu and cut it into chunks. Then I tossed the chunks in seasoned flour and dipped them into the batter before tossing into the hot oil. I cooked two at a time and left them on kitchen paper, then put them in a hot oven until it was time to serve. I dressed two square plates with chopped coriander, halved baby tomatoes, and a quenelle of tapenade made by whizzing up green and black olives, pickled garlic and sundried tomatoes. I drizzled a patchwork of sweet chilli sauce on the plate then placed the tofu on top.

I have to say that this was utterly delicious, although next time I would add even more sesame seeds!


Main Course: Stuffed Mushrooms with Chips, Salad and Onion Rings.

I took two very large, flat mushrooms and took out the stalks, placed them in a roasting dish and drizzled on a little extra virgin olive oil. I made wholemeal breadcrumbs and added finely chopped garlic and plenty of finely chopped fresh basil, then mixed in salt and olive oil. I stuffed this firmly into the mushrooms and put them in the oven at 180 degrees to roast.

I made another batter, but this time without the garlic, chilli or sesame seeds, and thinly sliced an onion, then dipped this in the batter and fried the slices a few at a time. I put these in the oven to keep crisp. I made chips from sliced organic potatoes with the skins still on, and cooked them in my low-fat chip fryer, adding some freshly chopped garlic five minutes before the end of cooking.

The salad was leaves of organic lettuce, filled with home made coleslaw and thinly sliced fresh tomatoes. The coleslaw was finely chopped onion, cabbage and celery with grated carrot, olive oil, vinegar and English mustard, and a little lemon juice.

I assembled the dish carefully and served it with everything hot, the mushroom was browned on top and soft underneath, really melt in the mouth. The crispy onion rings were light and delicious, and the salad was fresh and delicious.

Dessert: Sticky Fig Pudding with Chocolate Mousse

I boiled dried figs with vegan red wine, sugar and water for about 15 minutes, then added a teaspoon of baking powder and whizzed into a syrup. To this I added self raising flour and a little vegan spread, and mixed well, then turned into silicone muffin trays (small ones) and put straight into the oven at 170 degrees. I then made the syrup, using sugar, vegan spread and molasses, simmering and then adding some soya milk to make a thick, pourable syrup.

To make the mousse, I melted four large squares of dark chocolate, and put this with the flesh of one avocado, sweet syrup and cocoa powder into the mini chopper, whizzing until smooth. I put this in the fridge until time to serve.

Once the sponges were ready, I sliced them in half and put into bowls, then drizzled on the hot syrup, serving with vegan squirty cream and a quenelle of the chocolate mousse.

The cake was AMAZING! The figs gave the sponge a great texture, the flavour was amazing, and it was a real sugar hit!


And that was the Special Dinner. We had a lovely meal, and that was the most successful vegan sponge I have made to date!

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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.


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.



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.


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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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.


  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.


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


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.


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.


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


3 cups pitted olives

2 cups sundried tomatoes

4 pickled garlic cloves

Olive Oil

Wholemeal bread mix


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.


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.


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


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!!