The Economical Vegan


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Autumn Leaves and Vegetable Inventions

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

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

Alys’s Beetroot Pickle Slaw

Half a cabbage, finely shredded

one leaf of black kale, finely shredded

1 onion, halved and then thinly sliced

two tablespoons of beetroot pickle

1 tablespoon vegan mayo (optional)

juice of one lemon

sprinkle of sea salt.

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

Broccoli Soup with Yeast Flakes

Two large handfuls of purple sprouting broccoli, including stalks

1 small onion, roughly chopped

3 of the outer leaves of cabbage, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves

3 tablespoons Engevita yeast flakes

2 vegetable stock cubes

3 pints water

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

Freshly ground black pepper

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


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The Breakfast of Champions

The Breakfast of Champions (the Vegan Way)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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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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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High Protein Breakfast

I don’t know what it is about Sunday mornings, but they always make me want scrambled tofu for breakfast. The beauty of this dish is that it can change every time. As an economical vegan, it is my mission to use what’s available – and what’s in the fridge – rather than going out all the time to buy specific ingredients for special dishes. This week, I had a lot of herbs reduced in the supermarket, and lots of spinach was also reduced, along with some grated carrot. I found some lovely smoked tofu in Glastonbury last Sunday (there’s a veggie supermarket there) and had about a third of the pack left over from another meal. So I had smoked tofu scramble. This is so easy!
First I chopped spring onion tops and some pickled garlic, and added them to a frying pan with a little drizzle of oil. A pile of grated carrot went in, some garam masala, chopped chives, and some washed spinach. Then I chopped the tofu and added that, along with a good pile of spinach. I cooked this down until the spinach had shrunk right down, and added just a sprinkle of low salt bouillon powder. I had a loaf of sourdough bread that I had defrosted the night before, so I cut come thin slices. When the scrambled tofu was just about done, I scraped it into a pile on one side of the pan, and put the pieces of bread into the pan to toast through. I then put this on the plate and spread it with some hummus from the fridge (also reduced and previously frozen). Put the scrambled tofu on the side, and eat with whatever condiments you like (I like sweet chilli sauce). This high protein Sunday breakfast/brunch makes me feel really good, because it’s full of iron-rich spinach, fibre, and is utterly delicious.
It’s important to remember that you can put whatever you like with your scrambled tofu. It’s good to have something oniony, but you can use finely chopped onions, peppers, courgette – anything really. Just finely chop it so it cooks quickly. Using a flavoured or marinated tofu is also a good idea. This smoked tofu is quite dry and firm, making it particularly nice, but you could approximate this by pressing some firm tofu between two plates for a few hours, then marinating, and dessicating in a very low oven for a few hours. Alternatively, if you like your tofu drier, marinate it, then cook it in a non-stick pan (finely chopped) on a low heat for a longer period of time before adding the other ingredients. The heat removes the liquid from the tofu and can improve the texture.
Before I became vegan I would eat tofu, but wasn’t fond of it. Now I find myself eating it very regularly and have realised it is a highly versatile protein source if you know how to work it!


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The Economical Vegan does Goa!

Well, I’ve just got back from 15 glorious days in Goa. What an experience! To begin with, the flight was over 9 hours out, and eleven hours back – a long time to be stuck in a metal tube with no means of escape! I was pleasantly surprised to find that my request for a vegan meal had been granted. The dinner was curry and rice, with fruit for pudding, and water biscuits and a small pot of marmite instead of cheese. It was ok. I had packed a load of vegan tofu jerky and similar snacks just in case, but didn’t need to call on these during the flight. There was no soya milk for my tea, but I had packed the Whitey vegan coffee whitener which is ok (though it does make the tea tast of vanilla). It was an overnight flight, and strangely, four hours after they served dinner, we switched to Goan time, and had breakfast. This was less inspiring. I had bread, fruit, and jam, with an orange juice. And more tea. But I didn’t mind – I felt absurdly happy that there was food at all!

We arrived at our hotel just after 9 am, dropped our bags in the room, and went for breakfast. This was when I learned about Indian breakfast – there is a curry soup called Sambha which is served every day – it’s spicy and hot and very tasty, and I had it most mornings. Different breads were served each day, and idli (some kind of rice dumpling) and they also had Dosas – which had egg in. So I didn’t eat that. But there was also the ‘welness’ breakfast – sliced tomatoes, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, and sprouted beans, with lots of fresh fruit. So I usually had a mixture of indian bread (eg poori) with the soup and the raw stuff, and sometimes their version of baked beans, or the potato cakes. Garlic mushrooms appeared frequently as well. So that first day, and every day after, I breakfasted well. The tea was good as well, and plenty of it, but every single day the waiters offered me milk with it.
The food overall was fantastic. We were only staying bed and breakfast, so we ate out most of the time. We could get a delicious curry at a beach shack for less than £2. I had dahl fry – delicious – and tadka dahl – and every place was slightly different. It was a successful holiday by vegan standards, as I found out on the first day that in Goa they use coconut oil or vegetable oil rather than ghee, and if you order a chapatti or other kind of bread, they will only put butter on if you ask for it. A few days soon had me realised what could be ordered and what couldn’t. There was a vast array of choice on every menu – including a huge variety of vegetarian food. However, I did learn to be cautious, because unless I specified otherwise, many curries came with cheese in. I figured this out and was able to specify what I wanted.
Obviously, they were all made with fresh spices, and tasted like no Indian food I have eaten in the UK. I had spicy vegetable kadai, and a local dish called Xacutti which has over 25 spices in it. THe curries were rich and thick and full of vegetables, and utterly delicious. We would have a bowl of curry and some bread at lunchtime at a beach shack, then eat at a different shack or a restaurant each evening. It was the most relaxed I have been since becoming vegan, as I knew that no matter where I went, there was ample choice. I sampled samosas the size of my fist, crispy and fluffy on the outside, and filled with tasty delicious vegetables. I ate chutneys and jeera rice and garlic parathas and more curries than I can name, and felt utterly happy.
Goa was an amazing experience – mangoes hanging on the trees next to cocunut palms, and other trees with huge, low-hanging jack-fruit. I sampled the local liquor – Caju Fenny – made from the fruit of the cashew tree. It tastes like a mixture between really strong vodka and cleaning fluid – but it packs a punch and is great in a margarita!
We visited Mapusa market and were overwhelmed by the traders with the veg and fruit and strange new items, and all the spices. I have never smelled spices like it. I bought many different fresh spices, and each one I sampled before buying – cinammon, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, and garam masala like I have never smelled. I can’t find words to describe the colours and smells of that market, and the heat driving us to find shade whenever possible. But it was lovely.
It was a wonderful holiday, made all the more wonderful by the food. And it was cheap – really cheap. As a vegan, I would recommend it.


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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.