My vegan week
My sister’s house has been home this week while my boat has some work done in the marina. To say thanks I’ve cooked dinner each night. For a sister and brother-in-law who are both meat-eaters, my vegan cooking has been something of a change for them. They’ve really loved it – James said the roast on Sunday was the best part of his week!
Here’s what I’ve been cooking, with approximated recipes (I’m less of a recipe girl and more of a make-it-up-as-you-go-along girl). Most of it has been made with the contents of the veg bag that I pick up from Growing Communities in Hackney.
Contents of bag:
sweetcorn on the cob
Sunday: mushroom and kidney bean pasties roast
Roasted vegetables are always delicious, and a Sunday is not a Sunday without them. I’ll often just have roast veg but this time I made a Wellington-style pasty as the centrepiece. Mushrooms and kidney beans are pretty meaty when mushed together. The leftovers were delicious eaten for lunch the next day with hummous.
potatoes, cut into wedges
carrots, halved and quartered lengthways
several cloves garlic, whole
corn on the cob
handful mushrooms, chopped
can kidney beans, drained and mashed
fresh herbs, chopped
pastry – I used Just Roll puff pastry
For roasted vegetables:
Heat oil in roasting tin in the oven. Around 170º C is about right. Add potato wedges, carrot sticks and garlic, and toss in the oil. Add salt and perhaps rosemary. Vegetables will take about half an hour to roast, depending on size of wedges. I like the potatoes to go a little broken at the edge – this makes that delicious crunchy roasted texture.
For boiled vegetables:
Place corn on the cob in a pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Broccoli takes around six minutes – I usually put a tiny amount of water in the pan and place the head of the broccoli in whole (no stalk), so the majority of it steams. Serve with vegan spread or olive oil and salt and pepper.
For the pasties:
Heat oil in frying pan. Fry mushrooms and onions until soft. Remove from heat. Mix together with kidney beans and herbs. Season to taste.
Roll out pastry in an oblong shape. Place the mushroom mixture on the pastry lengthways and roll into a sausage roll shape, sealing the ends and the seam by gathering and rubbing with water. Cook on a baking tray on a high heat until nicely browned. At 190ºC in a fan oven it takes about 20 minutes.
Serve the whole thing with gravy and plenty of salt and pepper.
Monday: pasta bolognese
I love lentils. They are so versatile, and can be surprisingly meaty in texture and flavour. Brown lentils are great when making a bolognese or chilli, or anything that would otherwise have mincemeat e.g. lasagne. They keep their shape when cooked. Buy in health food shops or local shops that sell ethnic cuisine – it’s rare you’ll find them in a supermarket. They are the whole version of the more popular red lentil. This pasta bolognese is rich, flavoursome and stuffed full of protein. A really easy comfort dinner.
handful mushrooms, chopped
one onion, sliced
garlic, chopped/crushed (I usually chop as it means less washing up)
cup dried brown lentils
tin aduki beans, with liquid
flavouring e.g. herbs, paprika, vege oxo cubes, vegan bullion, salt and pepper
pasta of choice
Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the mushrooms and fry until cooked. Add the lentils, aduki beans, tomatoes, flavourings and enough water to cover the lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer until the lentils are cooked – this takes around 30 minutes. Check the pan every so often and add more water if needed – the lentils will absorb the water as they cook.
Add pasta to a pan of cold water (I use two handfuls per person), bring to the boil, then remove from heat. I tend not to leave it boiling – the pasta will cook just as well in the residual heat of the water. It takes about as long as it would if you were to boil it, but saves energy! (I discovered this when I ran out of gas halfway through cooking my dinner one night. By the time I’d switched the gas bottle over the pasta was done.) Drain and serve with lashings of olive oil, salt and pepper, and top with the Bolognese sauce.
Tuesday: Thai curry
Thai curry is super easy to make and is a great way of using up any leftover vegetables you might have.
a good dollop of Thai curry paste (check instructions on jar. A few tablespoons is about right).
one onion, sliced
half aubergine, sliced
mange tout and baby sweetcorn, or any green crunchy vegetable – broccoli, green beans and okra all work well
can coconut milk (get the full fat stuff – coconut milk ‘light’ is always a disappointment)
Fry the onion and garlic briefly in the oil. Add curry paste and fry until it smells toasty. Add the coconut milk and vegetables, and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Serve with boiled rice.
Wednesday: bubble and squeak with garlicky tomato sauce
This was Sarah’s top pick of the week. I took her plate next door to where she was babysitting, then received a text from her saying ‘This is AMAZING’. Let’s face it, anything fried tastes great. Bubble and squeak is often forgotten as a Boxing Day leftovers dish, but there’s no reason not to make it fresh. It’s oh. so. yummy. And not really that bad for you…
kale, stalks removed
vegan spread (I buy Pure sunflower, olive oil or soy spread. Available in most supermarkets. Vitalite is also vegan, and Flora does a dairy free spread)
can beans (I love aduki beans but any dark bean will do)
herbs and spices of choice
salt and pepper
For the bubble and squeak:
Peel/scrub the potatoes (depending on age and quality. Skin-on mash is always good if possible) and cut into chunks. Boil in a pan of water until nearly cooked (about 10 minutes). Add the kale leaves and boil for for a further few minutes until soft. Remove from heat, drain and mash with the vegan spread, salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry small cakes of the potato and kale mixture – make sure it is patted together well, or it will disintegrate in the pan. Add small amounts of oil throughout cooking. Serve immediately.
For the tomato sauce:
Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until starting to brown. Add the mushrooms and fry until cooked. Add whichever herbs and spices you require and stir into the onion and mushroom mixture. Add the tin of tomatoes one spoonful at a time, making sure all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next. This is time consuming as it requires constant stirring and attention, but it’s worth it for the rich tomato flavour, succulent onions/mushrooms and thickness of the sauce. Once the tomatoes have all been used, add the can of beans, including the liquid, using the same method. Serve the sauce on top of the finished bubble and squeak with plenty of salt and pepper (I use sea salt flakes rather than table salt – much better flavour and texture, and better for you!).
Thursday: Dhal with kale and cauliflower
This is almost my favourite dish ever. It’s so easy and quick to make, and really makes a superstar of the cauliflower and kale. The ginger and chilli make it deeply-flavoured but not overwhelming. We served it alongside onion bahjis and popadoms from the local Indian restaurant. Creamy, rich and wonderfully spicy. Truly delicious.
fresh ginger (about a one inch piece), chopped
fresh chilli, chopped
spices: fennel seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric (about a teaspoon each)
can coconut milk
vege stock cube
cup dried red lentils
cauliflower, broken into florets
kale, stalks removed
fresh coriander, chopped
salt and pepper
Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in the oil until soft. Add the spices and fry for a minute. Add the coconut milk, the lentils and some extra water if necessary. Crumble in the stock cube and stir. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, lid on, until the lentils are starting to cook. Add the cauliflower and kale and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want your cauliflower (I like it al dente). Stir in the chopped coriander, season with salt and pepper, and serve with rice or on its own.
Friday: Carrot soup
‘How is this so creamy?’ asks James of a dish that doesn’t have cow anywhere near it. Pureeing vegetables will automatically give a creamy texture and the lentils give the soup substance. It’s wholesome and warming – perfect for an autumn lunchtime.
carrots – as many as you have!
another root vegetable such as parsnip
leeks, sliced, outer leaves removed
vege oxo cube
dried red lentils, approx 1 cup
Fry the onion, garlic and leeks in the oil until starting to brown. Add the chopped carrots and parsnip. Cook for a few minutes. Add water, stock cube, red lentils and any other flavourings you fancy. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Remove from heat and liquidise. Serve with fresh herbs and plenty of salt and pepper.
Saturday: potato salad
This is not just a salad, it’s a super salad. Don’t be afraid to mix everything together – the more mushing together of the ingredients, the better. It’s a great mixture of warm, cooked ingredients and raw, crunchy ones. The dressing brings it all together.
salad leaves, washed and ripped
tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges, or cherry tomatoes, halved
puy lentils, cooked (allow roughly 1.5 oz per person)
any other salad ingredients: sliced radish, ribbons of courgette, olives etc
for the dressing:
loads of olive oil
teaspoon Dijon mustard
teaspoon wholegrain mustard
large dash lemon juice
large pinch salt
Boil the potatoes (halved, depending on size) until just soft. The lentils should take around 20-30 minutes to cook. Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Place dressing ingredients into a clean jar and shake into a creamy consistency. Pour over the salad and toss really really well. Serve immediately.