The Economical Vegan


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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.

Starter:

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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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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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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Wraps, Wraps, Wraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Pasta is Faster

I don’t eat pasta very often, partly because when out and about it is often not vegan, and partly because for many years it was the ONLY thing I could eat when out and about as a vegetarian. I do, however, like a pasta dish occasionally. Living, as I do with two meat eaters, one of whom is a sulky, hard-to-please teenager, I often find myself eat different food to my family, but as often as I can, I make meals we can all eat. Pasta offers a good opportunity for this, and one of the easiest recipes is vegan Bolognese.

First, put some water on to boil, and get your wholemeal pasta ready. I love wholemeal – it has a lovely texture, particularly the spaghetti. Today, we had pasta spirals. Then, heat a little olive oil in a pan, and finely chop one onion, and 3-4 cloves of garlic. Yes – lots of garlic – it is a real flavour enhancer and a must in this dish. Sautee the garlic and onions, and while they are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water, and then finely mince two medium or one large mushroom, adding this to the pan. Finely grate half a carrot, and add this, frying until the onions are translucent. Then add the frozen vegan veggie mince. The key to the texture and flavour is to fry the mince for at least 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add some minced fresh basic and oregano, or dried, or dried mixed herbs, and when the mince is starting to brown, add a jar of passata, and a vegetable stock cube. Simmer and if necessary, thicken a little with some tomato puree. Drain the cooked pasta and return to the saucepan, then toss in the sauce and stir through the pasta. Serve with a crunchy salad  – tonight we had spinach, grated carrot, coriander, tomatoes, olives and a drizzle of the oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes. Obviously, teenager had a big bowl of grated cheese to stick on top of his, but I had some lovely smoked soya cheese with mine, which was delicious.

It was a very, very nice meal. I was very glad to share this with my family and not sit there wondering if their meal was as nice as mine. This time, I knew it was.


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A Mexican Feast

The Economical Vegan blog post 5-3-14

A Mexican Feast

Last night I decided to make Mexican. I love Mexican food because you can use a wide variety of veggies and combine different tastes and textures I had some lovely ripe avocados that were reduced at the supermarket, and I always buy wraps when they are reduced as well, and keep them in the freezer. I also had some salad leaves (reduced) and other veg.  So I made guacamole, chilli, brown rice, chips, refried beans,  and salad. Usually I would also make a salsa but we had enough on the plate. However, I will include a salsa recipe here for you.

Guacamole

I usually put lemon juice in my guacamole, to stop the avocados turning brown. However, I had no lemon juice, so I used two tablespoons of white pickle vinegar, 3 garlic cloves, three avocados, and some sea salt. I put the ingredients into the whizzy chopper with some soya cream, and whizzed it up. Done! (This was so delicious I couldn’t believe it! Would be lovely on it’s own with nachos, or on toast, and would make a great substitute for mayonnaise on a salad or when making coleslaw!)

Salsa

Usually I just whizz up two fresh tomatoes, 1 fresh chilli, some coriander, a red pepper, and half an onion, with some salt, and some tomato puree. You can add in chopped spring onions as well, and dried chilli or chilli sauce.

Salad

Mixed salad leaves, chopped red pepper, grated carrot, chopped coriander, chopped gerkins, drizzle of oil.

Refried Beans

Last night I had a tin of ready-made refried beans, but otherwise I would whizz up a tin of red kidney beans with some bouillon and tomato puree, and then cook in a pan until hot.

Chilli

There are 1001 ways to make chilli. Last night was a quick one. I simply fried some chopped onions, peppers and celery, added a carton of chopped tomatoes, one very hot chilli (I used a scotch bonnet), and a pack of vege Bolognese mix (the dried kind), along with some cooked mixed beans. You don’t need the vege mix but I didn’t have many beans and wanted to increase my protein ratio in the meal. I cooked this, stirring well, then seasoned it and added tomato puree until it tasted right. Normally I would just use plenty of chopped veg and about 3 or 4 different kinds of beans.

Rice

2 cups brown rice, 6 cups water, bring to the boil, simmer until all the water is absorbed.

 Chips

4 potatoes, cut into thick chips with skins still on, sautéed in a pan (or use the Actifry, which is my new best friend – just chuck them in and it does all the work for you). Season with sea salt and paprika before serving

Easy meal. It’s  lovely to combine the crunchy salad, with the refried beans, the very spicy chilli, and the guacamole in a wrap. The chips are an optional extra, frankly, but my 15 year old likes them which is why I cooked them. It was delicious, and very healthy.


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Inspirational Travels – and all things Hummous

After a weekend away where I sampled some awesome and some not-so awesome food, I thought I would put up some recipes inspired by my travels. Note to restaurant owners – charging 5.95 for a few strips of grilled pepper and a small bowl of sautéed potatoes is not acceptable, and I WILL complain, especially as it was advertised on the menu as having chickpeas, herbs, oil and lemon!

So, to the recipes.

Hummous

Hummous is a staple of the vegan diet, as far as I’m concerned. I eat it at least once a week – either bought, at a restaurant, or made myself. I love my home-made hummous as I can vary the texture and the flavour as much as I want.

Ingredients:

1 large tin chickpeas or 1 and a half cups dried chickpeas soaked, cooked and drained

3-5 cloves of garlic (three to five, not thirty five) – you can add less or more garlic as you like.

2 tablespoons tahini

juice of one lemon

olive oil

sea salt

So, this is simple. Peel the garlic and put into your whizzy chopper and whizz, or crush and chop it finely.

Add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt, and one tablespoon of olive oil to the whizzy chopper, or to your mixing bowl with the garlic. Whizz or mash to the desired consistency. If it is too thick, add a little more olive oil and if you like a very loose, smooth hummus, a little water. Taste, and add a little more salt if necessary.  Done.

I like to serve hummus in many different ways, so here are some ideas.

Hummus, olive and sundried tomato sandwiches. Take some thick wholemeal bread, spread one slice with hummus and then halve some pitted olives and dot them around, adding in some sundried tomatoes. Stick the other piece of bread on top. This is so delicious my mouth is watering at the thought of it as I write.

Hummus jacket potato. Simply bake some potatoes, split, and fill with hummus.

Hummous salad: rocket, watercress, lettuce and spinach leaves in a bowlith some finely shredded cabbage, carrot, celery and something tasty like grated celeriac or thin slices of radish. Top with hummus and pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of olive oil.

Hummous celery snacks. Wash and trim some celery sticks, and fill with hummous topped with sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and any other finely chopped fresh or dry veg or goodies. These are a delicious snack and also make a good party food if cut up a little smaller. You can also fill celery with peanut butter in a similar way.

Hummous varieties – you can vary your hummous flavour easily – try adding extra lemon and some fresh coriander, or garam masala, or fresh chillies, or curry powder, or some chopped olives.

Hummous with patatas gravas and peppers

Diced and sautee some nice potatoes, and in the last five minutes of cooking, add some salt, paprika and fresh chillies. In a separate pan, fry strips of pepper in a little oil, adding in some fresh coriander, lemon and a sprinkle of vegetable bouillon. Cook until the peppers are soft. Serve the potatoes topped with the peppers and then topped with the hummous. Yum yum yum.