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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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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The Economical Vegan Dinner Party – Part 1

I don’t know how it is for most vegans, but when it comes to a dinner party, I often feel a little challenged. I live with a non-vegan and most of our friends who live close enough to come to dinner are not vegan, though we do have one or two veggies around. So I feel under even more pressure to perform when cooking for people who think vegans live on brown rice and kale sandwiches. I know they anticipate the worst. As I live with a non-vegan there are often elements to the meal that are not vegan, but I usually plan the menu as a vegan one, which can then have other stuff added by other people should they so wish. Such is the case today. I am cooking dinner for two friends and for my partner. It’s a thank you dinner to one friend as a reward for hanging the kitchen door for us. This is the menu

Starter
Quinoa salad with fresh herbs

Main Course
Stuffed flat mushrooms
Sautéed garlic potatoes
vegetable goulash with red beans.

Pudding
Chocolate torte.

And this is how I did it . . . .

First I stuffed the mushrooms. I took the stalks out of the middle of four flat mushrooms, and put them in the whizzy chopper with – two pieces of brown bread, 1 small onion, eight olives, eight pickled garlic cloves, some bouillon powder, and some nuts. I whizzed this up. Then I put a large dollop of soya cream cheese with garlic and herbs in the middle of each upturned mushroom, and packed the stuffing around and on top. These will bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180.

The potatoes are loved organic ones, so I will chop them into 1 inch cubes, with the skin on, and put in the Actifry and cook until starting to turn golden brown. At this point I will add about 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Before serving I will toss in some smoked sea salt.

The quinoa is cooked with water and a stock cube, until it achieves a nice consistency, then I chop the fresh herbs and mix half of them into the quinoa, before making quenellees. I finely slice peppers and layer them onto some salad leaves with some fresh basil, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The goulash is made as follows – chopped peppers, onion, mushrooms and celery, fried in oil with lots of chopped garlic and some fresh chopped basil. Add a carton of chopped tomatoes, water, red wine, paprika and some salt and pepper, and a tin of red kidney beans. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring well, and thicken if necessary with a little tomato puree or vegetable gravy granules.

The chocolate torte I made up today – thought its the evolution of another recipe.

Whizz up half a pack of vegan digestive biscuits in the chopper, with about 6 vegan bourbon biscuits. Take 2 thirds and mix with a little flour, a little oil, and water in a bowl, then press this mix into a silicone tart dish (like a pastry base). Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whizz up another 6 bourbon biscuits, add to the other biscuit crumb, and whizz up about 4 tablespoons dried mixed fruit. Mix well together with a tablespoon of golden syrup, and two tablespoons of cherry liqueur, then melt 2 bars of dark chocolate, and mix this in. Fill your tart with this mixture and press down firmly, allowing to cool. Serve with vegan soya cream OR with a mixed berry compote. I haven’t made the compote yet. There are some frozen mixed berries in the freezer so if I have enough time I will simply heat these, add sugar, spices and then bash them about it a bit. Lovely.

So. Dinner is at 7.30 and this time I will TRY to take some photos of the food. Look out for part two.


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An Economical Vegan Christmas

An Economical Vegan Christmas

Christmas – the festive season, Solstice, Hannuka, Midwinter – most of us celebrate it in one form or another. But for Vegans, it can be particularly challenging to create a superlative vegan festive menu. Very few places to eat out offer a really festive option for vegan meals, which means that, perhaps like many other vegans, I don’t tend to go for Christmas meals with colleagues at work, or with friends. So I miss out on a lot of social activities. Call me too economical, but I object to paying the same price for a bowl of soup, a few roasted veggies, and a fresh fruit salad, as my non-vegan colleagues do for much more expensive food. I have yet to find a menu that feels festive unless it is in my favourite restaurant which specialises in good vegan food.

So for me, the Christmas food marathon is all about the cooking. As I know, many vegans find the whole thing a little daunting. The ‘ready made’ festive food available is good, but it doesn’t really make up for a good, home cooked meal. And while I am busily compiling my recipe book, it won’t be ready for this Christmas, so I am sharing with you my recipes and planning for the festive season. I would like to be able to offer you some really useful recipes to make your festive season special, and to celebrate veganism as a positive food choice. In this blog post, I have included a number of recipes which you can use or adapt. I use ‘cups’ as a measurement because I don’t usually weigh anything. The main thing is to taste as you go along. I have also tried to avoid using too many ‘exotic’ ingredients, both to keep the cost down and to make it easier for the average vegan to manage the recipes. I hope that this will provide you with some tips about making your vegan Christmas a special time. I have included different recipes so you can pick and choose, and so you are not limited to only one festive meal. I would also welcome any comments and feedback.

1. Starters

If you are having multiple courses in your meal, it is useful to be able to offer some good starters. Whilst soup is a favourite, I have not limited myself to soup here as I feel that it is too often the only option for a vegan.

Garlic Mushrooms (serves 2-4)

4 cups mushrooms 4 cloves garlic 1/2 teaspoon [tsp] powdered garlic 1 tablespoon [tbsp] olive oil Salt Pepper Plain flour 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsely). 1-2 tbsp white wine [optional] 1 tbsp brandy [optional]

First, choose a wide, deep frying pan. Put this on a low heat and add the oil. Peel, crush and mince the garlic and add to the pan, stirring, then quarter the mushrooms and add to the pan, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Season with salt and pepper, and then turn the heat up a little, and add a sprinkle of flour. Stir in the white wine and brandy, and simmer to reduce the sauce. Sprinkle in the dried garlic, then sprinkle on the parsley and stir well.

Taste and check the texture, and add water if the sauce is thick. Serve immediately. Don’t cook the mushrooms for too long or they will shrink.

Serve with some fresh crusty bread, or toast triangles, or in a bread basket.

Quick Bread Basket

Use this for salads, garlic mushrooms, or the tequila vegetables described below.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees

Take a slice of bread (reasonably thin) making sure you use very fresh bread. Trim off the crusts and save for breadcrumbs. Using a rolling pin, roll the bread flat and thin. Brush with a little oil on each side, and then press into a muffin tin or patty pan, allowing the sides to fold in to make a wiggly shape. Bake for about 10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. TIP: reheat just before serving by putting in the oven for a few minutes, but only add the filling just before you serve, as they may go soggy.

 

Tequila Vegetables (serves 2-4)

1 red onion 8 asparagus spears [if in season or available] 3 carrots 2 red peppers 1 tbsp veg oil 2 tbsp tequila 1 tsp veg boillon or veg gravy granules 1/2 tsp smoked paprika 1/2 tsp chilli powder

Heat the oil in a frying pan, whilst peeling the carrots and cutting them first in half widthways, and then into batons about 1/2 cm thick and about 7 cm long. Add to the pan. Make similar sized batons of the pepper and add to the pan five minutes after the carrots. Stir occasionally. Just before serving, cut the asparagus to a similar length and add this, cooking for a further 2 minutes. Add the spices, then cook for 1 minute, then add the tequila and the veg granules. Cook the tequila down until it is almost completely evaporated. Serve immediately.

 

Pumpkin and Cashew Nut Soup (serves 4-6)

Six cups of pumpkin 1 carrot 2 onions 1 clove of garlic 2 vegetable stock cubes 1 cup raw cashew nuts 1 tsp English mustard Salt and Pepper 1/2 tsp turmeric.

For the dressing: 2 tbsp Veg oil 1 red chilli, deseeded. 1 tsp chilli powder.

Place the vegetables, chopped, into a large saucepan, and cover with plenty of water. Bring to the boil and simmer, adding the cashew nuts after five minutes, along with all the other ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan, and finely chop the chilli, sauteeing it in the oil. Turn off the heat, and add the chilli powder to the oil, stirring well.

Once the soup is cooked, blend with a hand blender or a jug blender, and return to a low heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with fresh crusty bread. When serving, ladle the soup into bowls, then drizzle on a little of the dressing oil in a swirl. Alternatively, prior to serving, leave the oil in the pan and toss in squares of bread to make croutons.

Mushroom Pate

This recipe is something I used to serve in the restaurant where I worked, twenty years ago. It was not originally a vegan recipe, but I have adapted it to be vegan because it is so good. It DOES require either tofu or some vegan soya cream ‘cheese’ which makes it more expensive, but it can easily be frozen in portions for future use.

6 cups mushrooms 2 tbsp vegetarian margerine 1 white onion 3 cloves garlic plenty of crushed black pepper and sea salt 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs 1/2 pack vegan cream ‘cheese’ OR 1 small pack silken tofu (if using tofu, drain well and season well with salt and some garlic powder).

Finely chop the onion, mushrooms and garlic, and then heat the pan, add the margerine, and then the chopped veg. Sautee until soft, and until the liquid starts to come out of the mushrooms. Season with black pepper and sea salt – season well as the flavour will be ‘diluted’ in the pate. Put into a blender or whizzy chopper, and blend the mixture. Place into a large bowl, and add the tofu/cream ‘cheese’, and breadcrumbs. Mix very well. If you can use an electric mixer or a hand blender do so. When the mix is finally an even colour, line a loaf tin with some greased cling film, and then press the pate into it. Chill in the fridge or freezer (it cuts easier when half frozen).  Turn out onto a flat plate, and then slice in portions. Either serve immediately with some brown toast or similar, or wrap each portion and place on a plate, then freeze.

Chestnut Soup

2 white onions 1 clove garlic four cups chestnuts (cooked and peeled) 1 large potato, cubed 1 vegetable stock cube Freshly ground black pepper 1/4 tsp fresh rosemary.

Sautee the onion and garlic in a little oil, then add 2 pints of water, and the rest of the ingredients, saving back about four chestnuts. Simmer for  30 minutes, then blend using a hand blender. Finely chop the last of the chestnuts and sprinkle onto the soup just before serving.

Spinach and Walnut Salad with Cranberries

Four cups fresh, washed spinach 1 carrot 1/2 an onion. 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 1 cup walnuts or walnut pieces 1 tsp vegetable oil 1 tbsp dried cranberries Sea Salt

Put the spinach in a large salad bowl. Peel the carrot, then use the peeler to shave the carrot into thin strips, and add these to the bowl. Finely chop the onion and put into a small bowl with the balsamic vinegar to marinate for a while. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and toss in the walnuts, toasting these until they are dark brown – but be careful not to burn them. Assemble the rest of the salad – sprinkle on the onions and then toss the salad, then sprinkle on the walnuts and the cranberries. Sprinkle with a little sea salt if you wish. Serve with the garlic pitta breads if you wish (see below).

Hummus with Garlic Pitta Bread

1 tin cooked chickpeas 6 cloves of garlic 1 tbsp tahini salt juice of two lemons veg oil

1 pack of wholemeal pitta bread 1 tbsp vegetable margerine

Put the chickpeas, tahini, and four of the garlic cloves into a blender or whizzy chopper with a little salt and the lemon juice. Whizz until smooth.  Taste and adjust the flavouring with more lemon or salt if needed. If the hummus is too thick, add a little veg oil and/or water and whizz again. Put into ramekins for serving.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Cut the pitta breads into strips widthways, about 3 cm thick. Crush and chope the remaining garlic, and mix with vegetable margerine, a little sea salt, and a little veg oil. Brush the strips with this mixture and place on a  baking tray. Bake until crispy and browning at the edges.

Serve the hummus in the ramekin with a couple of strips of the garlic pitta bread, and a lemon wedge.

 

CHRISTMAS DINNER

I will deal with the various elements of the Christmas dinner separately.

Vegetables

I usually have steamed vegetables and roasted vegetables. I also liked to have mashed veg as well For convenience and economy, I use a stove top steamer, wth whatever I want to mash in the bottom, and the rest of the veg (except the sprouts) in the upper tiers. I usually steam the broccoli, caulflower, carrots, peas and green beans.

Mashed Swede I boil swede for mash, then drain it and add black pepper and a little veg margerine, along with a teaspoon of English mustard.

Mashed potatoes

Chop scrubbed potatoes roughly, boil and then mash with a little salt and pepper and a splash of soya milk.

Sprouts

Trim the sprouts, and simmmer in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain well, then return to the pan with a little vegetable margerine and some whole chestnuts. Sautee gently, adding a little salt and pepper, and a splash of port.

Roasted Vegetables

Peel carrots, parsnip, swede, turnip, and butternut squash into equal sized pieces. Put into a large baking dish and drizzle with vegetable oil, then sprinkle with a little salt and garam masala or add some sprigs of rosemary. Roast in the oven on about 160 degrees until tender and crispy on the edges, turning once or twice to coat all the pieces with the oil.

Roasted cauliflower and broccoli: slice into slices about 2 cm thick, and drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Roast potatoes.

Blanch potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain well. Place in a roasting dish with plenty of vegetable oil and some whole garlic cloves, and roast at 200 degrees until crispy golden brown, turning at least twice. Sprinkle lightly with a little sea salt to taste when serving (if you wish).

Gravy

There are lots of ways to make gravy, but I will provide you with two here that I use all the time.

Gravy 1:

Heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan, and then whisk in about a tablespoon of flour (white or wholemeal).  Stirring briskly, slowly add water and bring to a simmer, adding water until you reach the right consistency. Add a teaspoon of English mustard, a vegetable stock cube, half a teaspoon of yeast extract, and some black pepper. Add a tablespoon of wine if you wish. Simmer and taste – adjust the seasoning. If you find it is a little  bitter, add a teaspoon of tomato puree or tomato ketchup. Add gravy browning if you want a darker colour.

 

Gravy 2: Festive Special

Cut up 2 onions, two carrots, and two sticks of celery, along with one parsnip and one deseeded pepper (any colour). Peel a garlic clove and put this, with all the other veg, in a roasting dish. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano) and roast until the vegetables are very soft and caramelised.  Take out of the oven and stir in some boiling water and a splash of brandy, then add everything to a blender and blend well. Pass through a sieve and put the liquid into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and then taste. Add some bouillon powder if necessary to taste.

Stuffing

For me, Christmas was always about having a wider variety of tastes than we had during daily life, and one source of this variety, for my mother cooking for a large family on a budget, was stuffing. Here I give you some easy and economical recipes for spicing up your festive dinner plate. I do use ‘instant’ stuffing packs but only those that are vegan. Luckily, quite often the very cheap versions are.

Traditional Sage and Onion

This couldn’t be simpler. Melt some vegetable margerine in a pan, and add two finely chopped onions. Add about a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh sage, and salt and pepper. Mix well with about cups of fresh breadcrumbs, shape into balls, and bake in an oven at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Chestnut Stuffing 1

This is so simple!  Make up 2 packs of sage and onion stuffing mix, and leave to cool. Take a tin of chestnut puree, and mix in with the stuffing using your hands. Shape into balls or put into a baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes.

Chestnut Stuffing 2

Make up as for chestnut stuffing 1, but with only 1 pack of stuffing mix. Make up a standard pack of sosmix, and mix that into the stuffing mix, with about two cups of extra breadcrumbs.

Apple, Thyme and Ginger Stuffing

Four apples 1 large onion 1 bunch of Thyme 1 inch square of fresh, peeled ginger Salt 4 cups wholemeal breadcrumbs 1 cup cashew nuts Vegetable oil

Grate the apples, and finely chop the ginger, thyme and nuts. Chop the onion and sautee in a little oil, then mix all of the ingredients together. Use to stuff the centre of a nut roast or nut roulade or form into cakes and fry gentle before serving.

Cranberry, Orange and Spice stuffing

1 cup dried cranberries 1 cup fresh cranberries 1 red onion 1 orange 1 tsp mixed spice 1 tsp cinnamon Vegetable oil. 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs Salt and pepper

As with the other recipes – finely chop and sautee the onion, then combine with all the other ingredients.

 

Port, Mushroom and Chestnut Stuffing

This one is a favourite of mine.

Four cups mushrooms 1 large onion 2 cloves garlic 2 cups cooked, peeled chestnuts 2 tbsp port 1/2 a veg stock cube 1/2 tsp mixed spice Freshly ground black pepper 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs Vegetable oil

Finely chop and sautee the onion and the mushrooms with the garlic, then roughly chop the chestnuts and add these. Ad the port and the stock cube, and mix well, still over the heat. Add the spices, then transfer to a bowl and add the breadcrumbs. Mix well.

Rough Cut American Style Stuffig

2 apples 2 celery sticks 1 large onion 1 cup walnuts 3 cups wholemeal breadcrumbs Veg oil 1 tbsp chopped thyme, parsley and rosemary Salt and pepper

Core the apples and chop into chunks about 3 cm square. Do the same for the celery and onion. Heat the oil and briefly sautee the vegetables before transferring to the bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well.

THE MAIN EVENT

Everyone wants something spectacular for the main course of their festive dinner, but too often the options are somewhat limited.  I offer you a few potential dishes which could make you the envy of those around you! 

Nut Roast

I know that nut roast is generally out of fashion, but this recipe is a real staple and gives you a moist, nutty and delicious centrepiece. You can use it on its own, or as the filling for Nut Wellington (below).

3 cups nuts (walnts, cashew nuts, peanuts – whatever you have) 1 cup cooked, peeled chestnuts 2 cups breadcrumbs 2 tbsp flour 1 onion 1 cup mushrooms 1 tsp vegetable bouillon 1 tbsp vegetable oil 1 tbsp fresh herbs (eg oregano, rosemwary, thyme, parsley) 1 tsp yeast extract 1 tbsp peanut butter

Whizz the nuts, onion and mushrooms in your whizzy chopper (or finely chop them by hand). Transfer to a mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients, mixing very well. Turn into a greased loaf tin or into individual muffin tins (this makes an attractive single-sized portion and is easier to freeze). Bake for about 40 minutes on 180 degrees.

 

Nut Wellington.

1 pack frozen puff pastry (defrosted) 4 cups mushrooms 2 cloves garlic 3 cups fresh spinach salt and pepper Vegetable oil 1 tbsp red or white wine 1 nut roast mix (aee above)

Finely chop the mushrooms and garlic, and sautee in the oil until the mushrooms start to sweat. Add the salt and pepper and the wine, and cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated. Set aside to cool. In another pan, put a little water and then quick blanch your spinach until just soft. Dry on clean tea towels. Take your defrosted pastry and roll out to the required size. Line the pastry with the spinach, then spread your mushroom mix evenly over the top. Now make a ‘log’ shape out of your nut mix and place in the centre of the pastry. Bring up the pastry around the nut roast carefully, sealing it along the edges. Score the top lightly in diagonal lines with a sharp knife and cut a couple of small holes as well. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees until the pastry is a dark golden brown. Serve in slices. Slices can also be frozen individually.

Chestnut and Mushroom Pie

1 pack frozen shortcrust pastry 4 cups mushrooms 2 cups cooked, peeled chestnuts 2 tbsp red wine or port 1 tsp brandy 3 garlic cloves 1 onion 1 tbsp flour 1 vegetable stock cube Freshly ground black pepper 1 clove garlic

Finely chop the onion and garlic and sautee in the vegetable oil. Quarter the mushrooms and chestnuts, and add to the pan, then stir in the flour and the veg stock cube. Add the wine and stir well, adding water to achieve the right consistency. Season with black pepper and leave to cool a little. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease a pie tin or individual muffin tray and roll out your pastry. If you are using white shortcrust pastry, roll it out with wholemeal flour as this adds to texture and flavour. Line your tin(s) with about 2/3 of the pastry making sure it is even, and then fill with the pie filling. Roll out more pastry and cut your pie lids to fit. Crimp along the edges to seal the pastry, and bake in the oven until golden brown.

Raised Nut and Cranberry Pie

1 pack frozen shortcrust pastry 4 cups nuts 2 cups cooked pearl barley OR bulgur wheat OR brown rice 2 onions 1 clove garlic 1 vegetable stock cube nutmeg Fresh herbs 1 tbsp brandy 1 pack dried cranberries 2 cups frozen/fresh cranberries Veg oil Wholemeal flour 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

 

Finely chop the onions and garlic and sautee in the oil. Finely chop the nuts. Mix these together with the cooked barley/wheat/rice. Dissovle the stock cube in about 1/2 cup boiling water and add to this mix. Finely chop the herbs and add these with the nutmeg to the mix, along with the yeast flakes and a little wholemeal flour. Mix well. Roll out the pastry quite thickly (use 2 packs if necessary) and line a deep cake tin or loaf tin, leaving about 3 cm above the edges. Fill with the nut mix until about halfway, flatten out the mix, then sprinkle in the dried cranberries. Add the rest of the mix, then top with a pie lid, crimping the edges together to form a raised edge about 1 cm deep. Put the fresh/frozen cranberries on top. Bake in the oven at 160 degrees for about 45 minutes. Remove from the greased tin and serve in slices or wedges.

Vegetable Terrine

1 pack veggie burger mix 3 cups fresh spinach 2 carrots (peeled) 2 oinions 1 orange 1/2 tsp mixed spice 4 parsnips (peeled) 1 large potato. Salt and pepper A little flour. 1 cup pine nuts. Vegetable margerine.

Make up the veggie burger mix, adding the mixed spice, and leave to set. Line a large loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Thinly slice the orange through the middle, making the thinnest slices possible and place three in the bottom of the dish. Then put in the veggie burger mix and press down firmly. Add a layer of spinach, seasoning this with a little sea salt. Boil the parsnips until soft, season with salt and pepper, and mash well. Once cooled, spread this on top of the spinach. Finely grate the carrot and mix with salt, pepper and a little flour, then layer this on top of the parsnip mix. Top with pine nuts. Then slice the potato very thinly, and layer this on top of everything, dotting it with vegetable margerine. Cover with foil.  Take a baking tray/roasting dish, and put in about 2 inches of water. Put the terrine tin into this and put into an oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Take off the foil and return to the oven to brown the top for about 10 minutes. Either serve hot, or cool, turn out and serve in slices.

 

Bean and Nut Cutlets

This is a very easy, very quick recipe. I use the basic beanburger mix all the time as a quickie meal, but this is a festive version. Ideal if you don’t want to spend much time cooking. You can add other seasonings and flavourings to this mix to your preference.

1 tin cooked red kidney beans, drained 1 cup nuts, finely chopped or whizzed 1 tbsp tomato puree or ketchup 1 tbsp veg bouillon 1 tsp yeast extract Flour Vegetable Oil

Put the beans into a bowl, and mash up using clean hands, until they become a purple, mush, sticky mess. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the flour and oil, and mix well, then add enough flour to create a more sticky consistency. Heat the veg oil in a large pan, and form the mix into cutlet shapes, frying until golden brown on both sides. Drain on kitchen towel and serve. EASY!

 

PUDDINGS

I don’t make a lot of puddings, as I find it is not something I miss, but here are a few easy recipes for the festive period. One good thing is that many Christmas puddings you can buy are vegan (as they don’t use egg) so this makes life a lot easier if you want a traditional Chrismtas pud. Also, I usually invest in some ready-made mince pie filling as most of these are also vegan.

‘Cheese’ Cake

This is as simple as it can be.

1 pack digestive biscuits 1 tbsp veg margerine 1 pack vegan jelly crystals Soya milk

Crush the digestive biscuits. Melt the margerine and mix with the biscuit crumb, then line a greased tart tin with this mix. Make up the jelly to half volume with soya milk instead of water, and pour over the crumb, and chill. Done.

Strawberry ‘Cheese’ Cake

1 pack silken tofu 2 cups strawberries Icing sugar 1 pack digestive biscuits 1 tbsp veg margerine

Make the base as above. In a blender, whizz up the strawberries and silken tofu together, then add the icing sugar until the mix thickens to the right consistency. Spread over the biscuit base and chill. Top with sliced strawberries

Chocolate Chestnut Roulade

1 pack frozen puff pastry 1 jar vegan chocolate spread 1/2 tin chestnut puree 1 cup pecan nuts 1 cup chopped dates 1 tbsp veg margerine

Defrost the pastry and roll out gently. Spread the chocolate spread over the pastry, and then spread on the chestnut puree. Heat the margerine in a frying pan, and add the nuts, toasting them gently. Sprinkle these and the dates over the filling, then roll up lengthwise into a fat roll. Bake for about 20 minutes at about 180 degrees until the pastry is golden and crispy on top.  For extra festive cheer, drizzle with your chosen liqueur before serving.

Apple and Walnut Strudel

1 pack frozen puff pastry Four large apples 1 cup dried mixed fruit 1 cup chopped walnuts 1 cup brown sugar 1 tsp cinnamon sprinkle of mixed spice 1 tbsp brandy

Spread out the defrosted pastry. Core the apples and dice into 1 cm cubes. Sprinkle the apple, fruit and nuts evenly over the pastry, then sprinkle on the spices, sugar and the brandy. Roll up and bake at 160 degrees until golden brown.

Well, that’s all for now, but look out for more recipe ideas in future blog posts – and I will be bloggin my own Christmas meal (with photos). Happy Festivities!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 


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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!