The Economical Vegan

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Back on Track with Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup


Well, it’s been a while since I posted, but today a conversation with some new vegan friends reminded me how valuable it is to share easy, economical recipes and show people how living as a vegan does not have to be difficult. It has been a challenging year this year, including 2 months recovery from surgery and a literal cooker meltdown leaving me with no oven, and cooking in an electric paella pan and slow cookers and a single ring camping stove. But that hasn’t changed how lovely my food is. A new vegan café has opened near me, serving excellent food – Canteen 18 in Swansea, but I still cook a lot at home.

Today, after enjoying Sunday Lunch with the Swansea Vegans at Canteen 18, I cycled home against the wind with one thought in mind – to cook up a delicious, warming soup ready for the rest of the week. This is a quick and easy recipe and makes good use of butternut squash, but you could use sweet potato, pumpkin or any gourd or squash you like.

What’s in it –

One onion, chopped.

Four cloves of garlic, chopped. (I love garlic, put in less if you aren’t that into it)

One large chilli, chopped.

A teaspoon of coconut oil

A tablespoon of ‘soup mix’ or lentils.

Two teaspoons vegetable stock powder

Half a teaspoon of smoked paprika

A large wedge of creamed coconut (the solid kind that comes in a block).

How to do it – Put the onion and garlic and coconut oil in the bottom of the pan (or slow cooker on high) and let them sweat for a while to bring out the sweetness. Add two pints of boiling water and the rest of the ingredients except the coconut. Simmer for about 40 minutes on a low heat, then grate or chop the coconut block  and stir well, simmering for another 10 minutes. Then blend, and taste. Adjust the seasoning as you prefer.


It should make 4-5 servings, depending on how hungry you are!



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Cheesy Vegan Breakfast Casserole and Leek and Pumpkin Soup

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Serving suggestion

Cheesy Vegan Breakfast Casserole and Leek and Pumpkin Soup

Those of you who actually know me will know that I am a lover of unconventional breakfasts. Given half the chance, I will rant on for at least half an hour about the utter ridiculousness of eating carbohydrates with sugar on top for breakfast – just because it has been sold to us as the thing we are supposed to eat! Breakfast cereals were invented by a farmer who wanted to keep his workers docile and dampen their sexual drives . . . . and now they are simply big business. I don’t like sweet stuff in the morning, so I often opt for the next best thing – toast with marmite. Whilst I was in India last year I enjoyed an Indian breakfast every day, which included soup. It reinforced something I have practised for years, that of having real food for breakfast, with real nutrition. During the summer, when acting as ‘breakfast chef’ for a week long camp, I made savoury vegan sausages for everyone, trying to adhere to the conventions of a ‘fried breakfast’ that would suit everyone’s sensibilities. But really, if we all broke the habit of eating rubbish for breakfast (it has to be ‘fortified with vitamins’) then we might find that we stay fuller for longer, and have healthier lives.

So here is my recipe for what I had for breakfast today – a cheesy vegan breakfast casserole. It’s made using the ingredients from the organic veggie boxes I get each week. It’s great veg, but pushes me to find creative ways to use the seasonal vegetables. Lately I have had a LOT of leeks, so this morning, when I started getting hungry and contemplating breakfast, I decided to make something with them. This will make two generous portions or could feed four if you want to put it with some veggie sausages or tofu cakes and toast.

Cheesy Vegan Breakfast Casserole


2 large leeks

3 medium new potatoes

A double handful of black kale

A double handful of curly kale

1 teaspoon garlic powder (use a clove of fresh garlic if you have some)

1 tablespoon vegan cheese sauce powder

3 tablespoons vegan savoury yeast flakes

Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and hot chilli sauce to taste

1 tablespoon coconut oil



Heat a large casserole dish with a lid, and put in the coconut oil.

Slice the leeks, soak and wash them, drain, and roughly chop, then drop into the pan with the oil and sautee for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Strip the kale off the woodiest parts of the stalks, and shred/chop finely, then add to the pan and keep frying. Wash the potatoes and slice/chop into pieces around inch round and half an inch thick. Add to the pan, along with about a pint of water. Turn down the heat, put on the lid, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat while you add the cheese sauce powder, yeast flakes, salt and pepper, stirring well, then return to the heat, cover, and simmer for another five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. The sauce should thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning if you need to. If you like it hotter, add some hot chilli sauce.

Serve with some wholemeal toast or just as it is. In the pictures, you can see I served with toast and added some vegan Worcestershire sauce for extra flavour.

This is totally delicious and a lovely way to use leeks. Another way to use them is obviously in soup. Using lots of leeks in soup has two benefits. First, sautéed leeks give a delicious, sweetly savoury flavour to soups. Second, lots of leeks give soup a creamy texture when blended. The recipe below is a divergence from the traditional leek and potato soup to take advantage of another abundant seasonal ingredient at this time of year – pumpkin.


Leek and Pumpkin Soup


3 large leeks

1 small/medium pumpkin (or squash)

1 apple

Ground coriander

Fresh or dried chilli

1 garlic clove

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tsp tomato puree/tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon coconut oil


Slice and soak the leeks, washing them well and then draining them.

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan, and toss in the leeks, sauteeing them until soft. Finely chop the garlic and add to the leeks with around a teaspoon of dried ground coriander and some fresh or dried chilli (you decide how much you want). Core and chop the apple and add this. Deseed and peel the pumpkin, and chop roughly, also adding this to the pan to sautee for at least 10 minutes, stirring really frequently. Add around 2-3 pints of water (add gradually and check, you want the veggies covered) and the stock cube, then cover simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the tomato puree, stir well, then blend the soup using a hand blender. Return a low heat, taste, and then season accordingly. If too bitter, add some more tomato puree. If too sweet, add a little salt.

Serve with chunky fresh bread, and garnish with some freshly chopped coriander or some toasted pumpkin seeds. This is a real winter warmer and is great for lunch or dinner. Continue reading

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Autumn Leaves and Vegetable Inventions

At last I have my new organic veg box delivery sorted, and this week, I had some lovely black kale, cabbage and onions, amongst many other things. I also had some purple sprouting broccoli and cabbage leftover from my last shop. Having enjoyed an amazing visit, where I marvelled at the glorious red-gold tree in front of the castle, and the intense colour of the Virginia creeper, I was keen to keep going with making some delicious autumn foods.

The first dish was inspired by the lovely slaw I had at the Tomatito Tapas Bar in Hay on Wye (, which was a lovely place for a vegan to eat, with amazing patatas bravas, olives and a celeriac, parsnip and beetroot slaw, I made my own version. Being an economical vegan, I wanted to use up things I had in that needed consuming, so I did my usual thing of inventing my own delicious recipes around what was in the fridge and cupboards.

Alys’s Beetroot Pickle Slaw

Half a cabbage, finely shredded

one leaf of black kale, finely shredded

1 onion, halved and then thinly sliced

two tablespoons of beetroot pickle

1 tablespoon vegan mayo (optional)

juice of one lemon

sprinkle of sea salt.

To make: just mix well together, check the taste and season well. Makes a lovely, reddish-pink slaw and tastes amazing.

Broccoli Soup with Yeast Flakes

Two large handfuls of purple sprouting broccoli, including stalks

1 small onion, roughly chopped

3 of the outer leaves of cabbage, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves

3 tablespoons Engevita yeast flakes

2 vegetable stock cubes

3 pints water

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

Freshly ground black pepper

This is so easy to make. Throw the veggies and water into the pan, boil for 20 minutes. Remove from the boil, blend with a stick blender, then add the yeast flakes and blend again. Add the ketchup and the black pepper to taste, blend again. Check your seasoning. If it tastes a little bitter, add a drop more ketchup. A lovely creamy, leafy soup with loads of goodness in it. Serve with toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds sprinkled on top and a drizzle of chilli oil. Yum!!!  I’ll be having this soup for lunch at work this week, and I can’t wait.

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All things pumpkin

Well, this year was the first time I grew pumpkins. Three of them survived the elements, the destruction of the greenhouse, and the death of everything else I grew. One of them was so huge, it weighed 3 stone! So far I have scooped out two of them, on Halloween, for carving and food. I have added photos to this blog for the first time, showing you my carving skills! I started with the giant pumpkin. First I scooped out the stringy flesh and seeds, and deposited them in one bowl. Then I used a sharp carving knife to score and cut out as much of the flesh I could, then used a large metal spoon to scrape out the rest. I used my largest pan and repeated this on the smallest pumpkin. Then I carved them for Halloween. I was left with a huge amount of pumpkin flesh to cook and eat. It amazes me how many people say to me that they didn’t realise they could eat the flesh from the pumpkin!
So, these are the things I made.
First, I shredded some of the fresh pumpkin and added it to bread dough whilst making bread, along with some pumpkin seeds. The bread was a straightforward wholemeal bread mix with instant bread yeast. Once it was in the mixer kneading, I made two types of pumpkin soup. The first was a simple soup – sautéed onion, pumpkin, and an organic potato with veg stock. The second was a thick soup, onion, pumpkin, red lentils, chick peas, one carrot, a potato, veg stock, a couple of cloves of garlic, some fresh chillies, dried chilli, and some turmeric, and some cashew nuts. I simmered this a long time before whizzing it and the other soup.
I made a pumpkin pie, using frozen pastry (vegan of course), some mixed dried fruit, mixed spices, plenty of cinnamon, and sugar.
I made a pumpkin curry, with onion, curry powder, veg stock, garam masala, chilli powder, garlic, and put this in the freezer. I also stewed some pumpkin and froze that.
A couple of days later I made mashed pumpkin to go with our Sunday nut roast dinner. I steamed the pumpkin flesh, then mashed it with a little potato (for texture) some vegan spread and salt and pepper and a little mustard.
I also made veggie burgers with rice, onion, shredded pumpkin, gram flour and seasoning, and pumpkin and potato cakes made from curry powder, veg stock, mixed mashed pumpkin and self raising flour, made into patties and fried. I froze most of these for later use. Today, I am using the last of the pumpkin in a pumpkin and swede mash.
I saved the seeds and dried them in the oven, then ground them up to make a pumpkin seed flour for baking.
We still have the medium sized pumpkin to use. It is still fresh and orange and ready for use. But not for a while yet!