The Economical Vegan

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Tasty Leek and Cauliflower Soup and a High Protein salad

Tasty Leek and Cauliflower Soup and a High Protein salad

When the weather is varying between freezing cold and brief periods of warmth and sunshine, it can often be hard to choose between the warming soups of winter and the longing for raw salads that bring the taste, crunch and colours of spring. There is nothing I like better than to combine the two, to eat a soup and a salad at the same time (or one after the other). Here are a couple of recipes you might enjoy at this time of year. The soup is the kind you can put in a mug and sip as you crunch your way through the crisp refreshing salad with its multiple textures, sweet vegetable juices, the creamy taste of hummus and the bitter-salt tang and yielding texture of olives.

To begin with, start the stoup. I came up with this recipe today as I was given two cauliflowers that needed to be cooked ASAP. Being the economical vegan that I am, I immediately thought of soup. And having a surfeit of leeks from my veg boxes (again!), knowing the creamy texture that lots of leek adds to a soup, I decided to make a simple soup with plenty of flavour and a delicious smooth feel in the mouth.

Wash three good-sized leeks by chopping off the green heads just below the beginning of the white stalk, splitting the heads lengthwise, and soaking in some warm water for ten minutes. Then wash well, separating the leaves. Put a deep soup pan on to boil and add a little vegetable oil. Chop the stalks of the leeks, and toss into the oil. Rinse and drain the green tops of the leeks, slice and add to the pan, leaving a few for the salad, stirring to sautee, extracting all the flavour that you can.

Meanwhile, fill the kettle and bring it to the boil.

Remove the leaves and the bottom of the stalk from the 2 cauliflowers, then roughly chop them(stalks and all, and add to the pan. Add 3 cloves of garlic, and a 3cm cube of ginger, both roughly chopped. Stir briskly for a few minutes as the vegetables fry, then add the boiling water to cover the vegetables. Add plenty of black pepper, and 2 vegetable stock cubes or the same amount of vegetable bouillon. Simmer for 20 minutes, then take off the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of savoury yeast flakes if you wish, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce. Blend with a hand blender, then taste. If the soup tastes a little bitter, add a dash more sweet chilli sauce and stir well.


The salad is very easy. Five leaves of little gem lettuce, washed and then torn up, half a yellow pepper, diced, a few shredded bits of leek. A tomato, chopped, and a chopped half of avocado. Blob on about four tablespoons of hummous, and sprinkle on some marinated olives and some sunflower seeds. Drizzle with some lemon juice and a basic vinaigrette dressing. And you are done!

The soup and the salad are packed with flavour, and are really nutritious. They combine various textures and every mouthful is slightly different. I hope you will try these recipes and will enjoy them.


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A Very Vegan Christmas

Well, it’s that time of year again, and even though in previous years I have gone into vast detail about how to make a good vegan Christmas meal, this year, I thought I’d focus on Christmas for the solitary vegan. Most of my recipes tend to be for at least 3-4 people. So today I am focusing on the solitary vegan. There are a lot of us about, living in families of non-vegans, living alone, working with non-vegans….. and it can be hard, this time of year, to get a properly festive meal. Most standard restaurants and hotels really don’t get the idea that vegans like it festive too!

So here are some recipes on a smaller scale, to liven up your Vegan Christmas.

First, the centrepiece of the Christmas Dinner:


Yes, people say, its the boring old nut roast. Well, there is nothing boring about this. I recommend either encasing this in a little ready-made shortcrust pastry or baking in deep muffin tins to make handy small portions. There is enough here for 2 portions, one for dinner, one to have with leftovers.

100g macademia nuts

50 g dried cranberries

50g mixed seeds.

100g fresh breadcrumbs

50 g vegetable suet

2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon powder

1 tablespoon vegan red wine.

2 tablespoons wholemeal flour

1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped or minced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Coconut oil

Chopped fresh herbs


First, finely chop the nuts, cranberries and seeds in your whizzy chopper, or put the nuts and seeds in a plastic bag, wrap in a tea towel, and beat them with a rolling pin!

Put the nuts, seeds and cranberries in a small pan, add the stock and enough water to just cover by about an inch, and the wine. Slowly heat and then simmer for about 15 minutes, then leave to cool.

In a frying pan, melt a little coconut oil, and add the garlic, onions and mushrooms. Sweat these down until they reduce to a soft, brown, delicious-smelling pulp. Leave to cool.

Check how much liquid is left in the nut mix bowl. The nuts and seeds and cranberries will have soaked up the liquid but if there is more than about a tablespoon of stock, drain some off, and keep it to use in your Christmas gravy.

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, and mix well, checking the texture. Add more flour if necessary but not too much, you don’t want it to be too heavy.

Turn into greased muffin tins, dividing it equally between the sections (you might fill 2 or as many as four, depending on your tins) (OR line the muffin tins with some shortcrust pastry first, pop on a pastry lid) and bake in a medium oven for about 30-4o minutes, or until the top is brown and crispy and the roasts come away from the sides of the tin. I use silicone muffin tins, it’s easier.

This will give you a delicious, moist and very, very tasty nut roast, festive and delicious and a good centrepiece for your dinner.


Okay, this is a cheat. I really love making super-duper gravy at Christmas, which takes two days, the recipe for which is elsewhere in this blog. But we are not all gifted with the resources, time or space in the kitchen to do this. So here is the cheating way of doing it.

Finely chop onions, celery, carrots and parsnip. Sautee in a pan with a little coconut oil, over a medium heat, until all the veggies start to caramelise. At this point, finely chop some herbs (parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary) and toss them into the mix. Add a pint of water, and simmer for 20 mins, then strain through a sieve, retaining the liquid. Put the liquid into a saucepan, and add a teaspoon of English mustard, half a teaspoon of yeast extract, and bring to the boil, adding a tablespoon of vegan red wine or two tablespoons of vegan beer. Add instant vegan gravy granules until you reach the required consistency and taste. Taste it! Adjust the seasoning if necessary. This is an awesome veggie gravy with plenty of flavour but which takes a fraction of the time.

I served this gravy to a table full of non-vegans and they didn’t realise they were having the veggie gravy!!!


The worst part of Christmas for vegans is the lack of dessert. Again, unless you go to a vegan restaurant, you just get offered fruit salad. Not very festive. But we are not all pastry chefs AND again, time can be an issue. So I wanted to give you a quick, festive pudding that will make the non-vegans jealous.

Line a small tart tin with ready-prepared vegan shortcrust pastry, and blind bake in the oven.

Soak dried cranberries in mulled wine in a saucepan, simmering for about 20 minutes. Drain the cranberries and keep the liquid.

Melt a bar of vegan chocolate in a bain marie (a bowl over a pan of boiling water) and mix in coconut oil, stirring well, and smooth almond butter (about 2 tablespoons), along with a tablespoon of fine wholemeal breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons golden syrup. At the last minute, add the cranberries.

Pour into the cooled, baked pastry case and set in the fridge for a couple of hours. Serve with some vanilla vegan icecream.

An alternative filling would be to melt the chocolate, add the cranberries, and two tablespoons of ‘mincemeat’ (mince pie filling) along with the nut butter.



It’s party season, apparently. And that means party food. Again, vegans are likely to end up with a few nuts and some salt and vinegar crisps, so here are a couple of things to liven up your festive spread.


Make a batter of gram flour, self raising flour, extra baking powder, and soya milk with a little salt, and, using a little coconut oil, fry in a non stick pan in small circles to make little blini-style pancakes. Use these with different toppings, such as some vegan cream cheese topped with pickled chillis, peppers or sundried tomatoes, or with olives.

Mini crispy cases

Using small patty pans (like muffin pans, but the smallest you can find), grease with a little coconut oil. Take some standard sliced bread, roll flat and cut with a pastry cutter into appropriately sized circles. Press into the pans, and brush the insides with melted coconut oil. Bake until crispy and brown. Just before serving, fill with different fillings, such as finely chopped garlic mushrooms, olive tapenade and chopped tomatoes, spiced scrambled tofu, or grated chocolate and dried cranberries. Or anything else you can think of.









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Cheesy Vegan Breakfast Casserole and Leek and Pumpkin Soup

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Serving suggestion

Cheesy Vegan Breakfast Casserole and Leek and Pumpkin Soup

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

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

Cheesy Vegan Breakfast Casserole


2 large leeks

3 medium new potatoes

A double handful of black kale

A double handful of curly kale

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

1 tablespoon vegan cheese sauce powder

3 tablespoons vegan savoury yeast flakes

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

1 tablespoon coconut oil



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

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

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

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

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


Leek and Pumpkin Soup


3 large leeks

1 small/medium pumpkin (or squash)

1 apple

Ground coriander

Fresh or dried chilli

1 garlic clove

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tsp tomato puree/tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon coconut oil


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

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

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

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Autumn Leaves and Vegetable Inventions

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

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

Alys’s Beetroot Pickle Slaw

Half a cabbage, finely shredded

one leaf of black kale, finely shredded

1 onion, halved and then thinly sliced

two tablespoons of beetroot pickle

1 tablespoon vegan mayo (optional)

juice of one lemon

sprinkle of sea salt.

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

Broccoli Soup with Yeast Flakes

Two large handfuls of purple sprouting broccoli, including stalks

1 small onion, roughly chopped

3 of the outer leaves of cabbage, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves

3 tablespoons Engevita yeast flakes

2 vegetable stock cubes

3 pints water

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

Freshly ground black pepper

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

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A Special Dinner

A Special Dinner

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Dessert: Sticky Fig Pudding with Chocolate Mousse

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

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

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

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


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

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The Breakfast of Champions

The Breakfast of Champions (the Vegan Way)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday Recipes

Saturday Recipes

Every Saturday I get up and watch a cooking programme on tv. I enjoy the programme, despite the fact that they don’t feature much vegan food, because I enjoy the enthusiasm of the chefs and I also love the challenge of trying to convert every recipe into a vegan one. But it also makes me hungry, so I spend much of my Saturday mornings fantasising about food before heading into the kitchen to make something delicious. Today’s recipes can be found below.

Vegan ‘Cheese’ Toasties

I love toasties, and toast in general. Pates and spreads bought from the shops can be very expensive, but here is a simple recipe that any vegan can make for a delicious, healthy snack.

Take two small shallots or one medium onion, peel, and finely chop or whizz in the mini chopper.

Grate around 250g of vegan cheese.

Grate half a courgette.

Mix all together in a bowl, and add some salt, pepper, a teaspoon of English mustard, and a tablespoon of vegan mayonnaise. If you don’t have the mayo, use a tablespoon of vinegar mixed with soya flour, gram flour or plain flour.

Mix all ingredients together well.

Lightly toast some bread, and drizzle with a little olive oil, then spread the mixture evenly on the bread, and put under a hot grill until the mixture starts to brown on top.



You could also stuff baked potatoes with this mix and twice bake them.

Easy Spring Rolls

Finely slice onions, celery, Chinese leaf, kale, cabbage, chillis and fresh coriander. Crush and chop some garlic. Mix well in a bowl with a little sesame oil, soya sauce and sweet chilli sauce, and then mix in some arrowroot to thicken. You can also add some chopped tofu if you wish.

Take some ready made filo pastry, and brush lightly with olive oil. Cut large rectangles and place some of the vegetable mix in the centre, then fold the ends in and roll over into spring rolls. Place on a greased baking tray and drizzle with some oil, and bake about 180 degrees until crispy and brown. Serve with some sweet chilli dip.

Quick Spicy Noodle Soup

Thinly slice onion, garlic, ginger, fresh chillis and any vegetables you have in the fridge. Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan, and toss the vegetables in, stir frying until they start to soften. Meanwhile, boil the kettle. Add boiling water, soya sauce, vegetable stock, and some instant noodles and boil rapidly until the noodles are soft. Finely chop fresh coriander and some more fresh garlic, and toss in just before serving. Season to taste, and serve.

‘Leftovers’ Sausages

A friend of mine called this ‘brickettes’ because they came out irregular and very large when I cooked them at a camp I attended last year. They make a great brunch or lunch dish, and can be frozen and then rewarmed as required.

Leftover cooked rice.

Leftover cooked vegetables.

1 small pack of instant sage and onion stuffing mix

Leftover cooked lentils

Vegetable stock powder

Gram flour and wholemeal flour

Salt and pepper

Tomato ketchup

Smoked paprika

Make up the sage and onion stuffing mix according to the instructions. Mix well with the lentils, vegetables and rice, and add a little stock powder, salt and pepper, smoked paprika and a good tablespoon of tomato ketchup. Mix well with some added gram and wholemeal flour to bind the whole mix together. Form into sausage shapes, and fry in a pan, or put on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, and bake until golden and crispy. This is a great, cheap recipe that uses up leftovers and provides a really tasty dish. The key is adjusting the seasoning to your own taste. You don’t have to include the stuffing mix but you may need more gram flour to bind. They are great in a roll with some chutney, or with some beans on toast, or even with chips.


I love Saturdays!