Veganuary Day 9: An Easy Day

Warming Vegan Leek and Potato Soup with Thickly Sliced Buttered Bread
A Recipe From My Student Days

Yesterday, we made ourselves another overnight oats. This time with grated and stewed apple, a teaspoon of cinammon, half a teaspoon of ground cardamom, and quick grate of nutmeg. Another light, but sustaining breakfast for us this morning.

Lunch was yet another soup I’ve been making since I was a student – leek and potato. I peeled and diced a mix of waxy and floury potatoes into fairly small chunks, so they’d cook faster. All potatoes are good in this soup. I washed and sliced up a leek. They went into the pot with a tablesooon or two of olive oil, where I stirred the to coat the vegetables before sweating while a full kettle boiled.

This soup needs a punchy herb. The evergreen rosemary is what I have at this time of year, so that’s what went in: a small, finely chopped sprig. I love to use tarragon when I have it, instead. Once the kettle had boiled, I poured its contents over the vegetables, until they were covered by a centimetre or two. I habitually use a stock cube here, crumbled over the bubbling liquid and stirred in to melt it. Of course, you can use a home made stock instead of the water, but this is muscle memory for me now.

Once the potato was cooked, I mashed the dice a little to thicken the soup, but not enough to remove all of the texture. We ate it piping hot, just as it came.

I was excited by a Chickpea and Orzo Stew with Mustard Greens (NB, this is a New York Times recipe, which is behind a soft paywall), so we made a big batch. I didn’t have any mustard greens, so we substituted spinach. This was fine, but I really think that the mustard greens would be even better. I could use foraged or grown mustards, since they’re such great ground cover for winter. The Big Guy enjoyed this stew, so I’ve got high hopes he’ll like the mustard greens in it better. I will be testing it soon, as the first Jack by the Hedge (Alliaria petiolata) comes back in the early spring.

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Veganuary Day 8: Herbs and Spice

A simple tomato pasta sauce on farfalle pasta, liberally topped with nutritional yeast and dill
Simply Delicious

Monday started a bit late for us both, and we hadn’t prepped any breakfast the night before. The tofu scramble was the quickest thing we made last week, so that’s what we made again, with the very last of the tarragon I’d dried from the garden. I’m only grumpy that now I’ll have to buy it. Today, we substituted kale for the spinach. I missed the silken texture the spinach lends it, which is something to remember the next time I put it on the meal plan.

I was craving carbs at lunch time, so we turned to a quick pasta. The sauce was made with softened onion, garlic, tomato paste and a tin of tomatoes. Once it was stirred through the pasta, I topped it with nutritional yeast and a generous helping of finely chopped dill. I used the stalks too. They have plenty of flavour and added some texture to the meal. I like to cook my pasta briefly, so it’s slightly past crunchy. I find it helps prevent the mid afternoon slump.

Dinner was another portion of the aubergine dhal. It was even better than the day it was cooked. I celebrate dishes like these, where you make a huge batch, and they just keep getting better. I do find this dhal will last 4 days in the fridge, but after that will get ‘fizzy’ and spoil pretty quickly. But it freezes well, so the rest will provide a ready meal on a few cold nights sometime in the future.

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Veganuary: The First Week

Another helping of the pumpkin and chickpea hash was the perfect start to an active day. Between rain showers the dog and I had a long walk, then I got to a load of jobs in the garden. Although it was very warm for the season, having roasted vegetables, pulses and the healthy fats from the avocado really set me up for some pretty physical garden work digging and lugging compost and grit around.

The Big Guy was responsible for the lunch. He made a quick lunch of mushrooms in a soya cream sauce, topped generously with nutritional yeast in place of parmesan. We had shopped for the week in our local Asian supermarket, so we had a huge variety of mushrooms in this dish as well as the common button mushrooms. We had enoki, oysters, fresh shiitake, and a couple I don’t actually kow the name of. He topped the finished dish with some enoki that had been fried quite hard in oil, until they’re crispy and then tossed in smoked paprika. Such a great textural and flavourful addition.

Dinner was courtesy of my lovely friend and fellow British immigrant. We started with light snacks of crackers and tapenade. There were also digestive biscuits, which I was delighted to discover are vegan. I thought that they’d have been made with butter, but I guess that it’s a cost thing. Digestive biscuits are available here, but they’re not widely eaten. We eat quite a lot in the UK, often with cheese or as a cheesecake base. I like them just as they are. Then we had a delicious Mexican feast, containing sweet potato, corn, beans, onion, and much more. Alll served with a tortilla and a vibrant and quite spicy kind of coriander ‘chutney’ that she put together. A great evening was had by all.

Lessons from Week One

We’ve done a full week of veganuary now. Neither the Big Guy nor I have missed anything in particular, nor felt that we were missing out in any way. Overall, we’ve been happy with the meals we’ve eaten this week. I was never too worried about eating veggies, since we eat quite a few vegetables in our normal diet in any case, but I have been very reliant on dairy products. I thought it might be interesting to go over some of the things I’ve learned this week.

  • Not all plant-based dairy replacements are created equal. Some of the cheese replacements have been revolting, though other brands seem to do a slightly better job. Oat milk, especially the barista style, is great in your tea and coffee So good, I’d happily stick with it in the long term. The most widely available almond milk in my area is fortified with Vitamins B12, and D and with calcium, which is the things that are absent or tend to be lower in a vegan diet. I will never be drinking it in my tea after the first time I tried it, but I prefer it in dishes that call for milk. I haven’t bought any sweetened products, but some, especially the yoghurts are sweeter than you think. The result of all of this is we are buying several different kinds of products to go in different dishes and drinks.
  • Having a meal plan is key at this point in the month because otherwise we would fall back on old non-vegan staples, importantly because we know how much time each will take. This will get easier as we broaden our vegan recipe vocabulary.
  • Meal prep is also key – having veggies ready-chopped veggies on hand for a sandwich or a snack makes this a lot quicker, making not reaching for the cheese and crackers a lot more viable.
  • I’ve found getting protein easy enough, I already eat a lot of protein-rich pulses and other plant-based protein as a regular part of my diet anyway. I have been surprised to find that I need more fat to help me feel full faster. Otherwise, my attention span runs out long before I’m full, and I get really bored with the act of eating. I eat slowly anyway, and always have. I was finding bigger plates tricky to get through.

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Veganuary Day 6: Look East

Roasted Pumpkin And Chickpea Vegan Hash with avocado and tahini dressing

Saturday mornings are always a little slower in the Ediblethings house. Sure, the dog will still wake us up sometime before seven, demanding her breakfast, and will still need a walk fairly soon thereafter, but we can fit in some laziness and languish over our breakfast around that. She’s also a total princess, and hates going out in the rain, so only wanted a short walk in this morning’s miserable weather. This gave us plenty of time for a pumpkin and chickpea hash. It was based on this recipe from the Simple Veganista. I don’t buy sweet potato all that often, but I did have half a butternut squash that needed to be used. The substitution is a fine one. This recipe was delicious, and the sauce and avocado made it totally satisfying. You can easily prep this in advance, and warm it through when you need to eat it. We chopped it before our dog walk, and put it on to roast while we dragged her around a short walk. We even had time to make the best coffee I’ve had in a while, due to our early return. I’m really enjoying oatmilk with a nice French-pressed coffee.

Despite the slow start, Saturday was a busy day. Lunch was a simple salad and hummus wrap, using up the hummus from the market.

We had another veganised old favourite for dinner. I first saw this recipe back in 2020 and have cooked it at least once a month since then. In fact, this is from another YouTube gem I found that I cannot recommend highly enough. The channel is (rather brilliantly) called Middle Eats, run by presenter and cook Obi and his wife, Salma, who mostly does the recipe development for the channel. As the name suggests, they cook dishes from around the Middle East. Many of the dishes featured are vegetarian anyway, and Obi will often make suggestions for vegan substitutes.

Fatteh is so tasty, with relatively few ingredients. I tend to crisp up my Pita breads in the airfryer with a little oil, rather than deep frying them, as they do here. It doesn’t suffer any for this substitution. We made the tahini sauce with oat yoghurt. The soy yoghurt brands available to me are much too sweet to work well in this dish. It is a lot thicker than the cow’s youghurt. It seems to seize somewhat when you add in the lemon juice. It did thin when I added oat milk, but it needed quite a bit of it.

Aubergine fatteh with crispy pita croutons and a tahini yoghurt sauce.

We also added some black olives to the sauce and served some wilted spinach over the aubergine layer. They both needed using up – in the case of the spinach it had to be today. I think they were noble additions to this satisfying meal. The only problem I have is the recipe serves two, so there’s no leftovers for another day.

I want to explore a lot more Middle Eastern food this month. There’s a lot of vegan dishes that people think are every day foods across the region. I’ve always wanted to try to make ful medames, an Egyptian breakfast classic. I used to order it a lot in London, but I’ve never made it myself. Obi has other fatteh variations, and a tonne of other delicious meals to try. I’m sure there are a good few Ottolenghi recipes I can make. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it.

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Veganuary Day 5: Musings on Mayonnaise

Pumpkin Chili Burrito - today''s vegan lunch that we spilt
Going Halfies

There was a lot of dishes that we’d made earlier in the fridge. Today, we mostly used these up. We did have a freshly cooked meal this evening, but that was to use up some aubergine we’d got knocking around in there.

Breakfast was the remainder of yesterday’s tofu scramble. Other tofu scrambles are available, but I enjoy this recipe very much. It has a lot to do with the tarragon. It’s a pretty quick recipe too, so great for those busy mornings when you haven’t done your prep.

Lunch was a mixed bag. We had one portion of the Harrisa Soup and one burrito left. We heated them both up, and had half each. Not quite sure what this fusion should be called. It was filling and warming, which is what we needed today.

I was thinking about even more toppings for the soup as I ate. In her book Plenty, Diana Henry has a great vegetarian recipe for a Niçoise Vegetable Stew with a Rouille. It has three or four ingredients, yet it is so flavourful. However, the rouille is made the traditional way, with eggs. I found what I hope is some pretty good vegan mayonnaise, and I intend to experiment with aquafaba. I hope one of these ways will make a good rouille, that will behave similarly to the the egg version in the warmth of the soup.

I had long forgotten the recipe for tonight’s dinner. We used to eat this a lot back when we lived in London. I don’t know why we stopped, but I’m glad that I rediscovered this smoky aubergine dhal. This recipe makes plenty, these make-it-once-eat-it-lots kind of recipes are great to fall back on for weeknight meals. I didn’t have black lentils to hand, but it’s just as good with yellow spilt peas. We will have another three dinners from this batch.

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Veganuary Day 4: A Speedy Soup

Harissa and Chickpea soup, served with sourdough toast and hummus plus a wedge of lemon for the soup.
Old School Soup

It seems if you’re a vegan that prefers savoury breakfasts, the usual staple is a tofu scramble. There are as many variations of this as there are overnight oats. Maybe. I haven’t actually counted them or anything. We started our exploration with this tofu scramble with dijon. The piquancy of mustard and dijon was always going to be a winner for me, the addition of tarragon is a welcome bonus. It’s a pretty good substitute for scrambled eggs, and almost as quick. I like my eggs on the softer side, the silken tofu isn’t as soft, but it’s a good breakfast in its own right.

I have several soups in rotation that I’ve been making since I was a student. I was not such a good cook back then, and needed to rely on easy and cheap recipes. Today I dragged harissa and chickpea soup from the memory banks for lunch. Like my Smoky Winter Root Soup, I know I got this from a recipe somewhere, but like that soup the details are hazy. It might have been from a newspaper. I don’t know. I’ve probably made it mine in subtle ways in the intervening years. I share what I do with you below.

This evening’s dinner was really lazy. We both managed to work really late and were too hungry to think about cooking, despite having done an interesting meal plan. Luckily, the Big Guy had panic-bought a vegan bolognaise sauce, which we had with spaghetti. And a lot of extra chili flakes, to make it taste of something. In general, I want to avoid this kind of food. It had lentils in, but also a vegan mince/ ground beef replacement. We don’t eat food that processed normally, and I don’t want to start now. However, it has really got me thinking about my own version of a bolognaise sauce in which care is taken to layer similar flavour profiles as a meat bolognaise, without using facon or vegan ‘mince’. More on that soon.

Recipe: Harissa and Chickpea Soup

Serves 3 as a main or 4 as a starter
Prep 10 minutes
Cooking 10 minutes

The best harissa I can find

This soup could not be easier or faster, especially if you use tinned chickpeas. The harissa is the flavour in this dish, so get the best harissa you can find. I get mine from grocers that serve the Moroccan community, so I hope it’s authentic. It’s certainly complex: spicy, fruity and it has umami. You can also get rose harissa, which is further flavoured with rose petals and/or rosewater. You can also use rose harissa in this soup.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. I don’t usually cook with EV, but this will never get hot enough to reach smoking point, and it adds extra richness
1-2 onions, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped into roughly chickpea-sized dice
1 stick celery, diced
Salt to taste
Several cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced. I like garlic, so I used half a bulb (about 8 cloves) you can between 6-12, to taste. It should be quite garlic-forward
1-2 tbsp good quality harissa. You can use more, if you like
2 400g tins of chickpeas or 400g dry weight of chickpeas, cooked. In either case, you’re going to use the aquafaba/ liquid
Juice of about half a lemon

Method

Warm the extra virgin olive oil a medium saucepan on a gentle heat.

Add the onion, carrots and celery to the pan with a good pinch of salt. Sweat slowly until the onion is barely transluscent before adding the garlic and cooking for another couple of minutes. You want the garlic to permeate the olive oil, but not to brown.

Add the harissa paste. Try and slightly go over the amount you’re comfortable with because it is going to be needed in the final dish. However, it will depend on your tolerance for spice. Stir the paste into the mirepoix, and cook for a minute until the fragrance hits you.

Put the chickpeas and the liquid into the pan. The liquid, or aquafaba, acts as the stock in this case. I prefer to cook my own beans, and do a no-soak method in the pressure cooker, to which I can add aromats, which also helps.

Cover the pan, and cook on a medium heat until the chickpeas are warmed through. Add the juice of half a lemon. Taste for seasoning, you may want to add more lemon juice or a bit of salt, depening on whether the chickpeas were already salted when cooking.

Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions

This soup is great with toppings. At various times I’ve served this with:

  • Lemon wedges for squeezing into the soup
  • Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill, mint, oregano
  • Green olives
  • Croutons
  • Hot sauce
  • Herb oils
  • Garlic bread – made by baking some bread in the oven , with olive oil and salt. When the bread is nicely toasted, rub a cut clove of garlic all over the face of the bread.

How to Store

This harissa and chickpea soup will store without toppings in the fridge for up to a week.
You could also freeze this soup, for up to three months. I have had the chickpeas break down a bit from the freezer, but not to a mush, there’s still plenty of texture.

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Veganuary, Day 3: The Perils of Shopping When Hungry

The Big Guy currently does most of the shopping, for which I’m very grateful. I can always tell when he went to the shop hungry. Our shopping is suddenly spiked with treats and snacks, not all of which are the healthiest options. Of course, he’s definitely not alone in doing this when he’s hungry.

We had a hearty breakfast with the last portion of the kale and mushroom gratin before the Big Guy had to go out to do some chores. On the way home, he was passing some shops that might stock some of the grains, specific dried chilis and some other things I thought would be helpful in our new diet. It was almost lunch time when he got to look for the supplies, and he came home with two vegan saucijnbroodjes, which are Dutch sausage rolls. We wouldn’t buy them when it isn’t Veganuary, so I knew he’d felt tempted by his hunger.

Credit where it’s due; they did look good. Crispy pastry covered in poppy seeds. I actually thought they’d be an interesting foil to the dull celariac soup from yesterday, so I could get away with not having to jazz it up. You know we weren’t going to throw it out.

I was wrong. The pastry was filled with a paste filling that was vaguely tomato-flavoured, which had some scant sticks of tempeh in it. it didn’t distract from the soup. Instead, we added a lot of freshly chopped parsley. I guess a good lesson to remember is that if we don’t like the standard version of a thing, we’re not going to like the vegan version of that thing. And eat before you go shopping!

Dinner was a second helping of the enchiladas from last night. The opposite of lunch: hearty, flavourful and satisfying. It’s always good to end the day on a high.

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Veganuary Day 2: Veganising the Familiar

Enough Energy for a Workout

Tuesday is a workout day. I have a familiar routine to help me keep up with the habit. A light breakfast with protein, but no egg, walk the dog, then start my exercise regimen. It’s one of the few days I’ll have a sweet breakfast; I’m not normally a fan. Perhaps granola with yoghurt and fruit, or higher protein porridge. None of these are normally vegan.

Today, or rather yesterday, I went with overnight oats. We love this easy, versatile recipe – you can pretty much take your pick of fruit and pairings to make it flavourful. This one is chocolate and peanut butter. I veganised it by using soy yoghurt and almond milk. I was surprised at how sweet soy yoghurt is. My brand wasn’t sweetened, yet tasted like it had honey stirred through it. I’ve shared our tried and true recipe below. It’s very adaptable, so you can use whatever kind of dairy or non dairy you like.

Lunch was a simple (and if I’m honest, a little dull) celariac soup. I sweated some onion, leek, quite a lot of garlic and the celariac, before adding some of my sumptuous scrap stock. When the celariac was soft, we blitzed it smooth with my immersion blender. I served it with some chopped parsley and drizzles of a really good olive oil. It relied a bit too much on the peppery olive oil for interest. And there’s leftovers. Can’t wait!

Also over lunch, I decided to sign up to the Veganuary daily newsletter for the month. It’s actually a fantastic resource, with cookbooks, recipe ideas, meal plans, going vegan on a budget, and that’s just in the first couple of emails. I recommend giving it a shot, especially if you’re new to a vegan diet.

Our meal this evening was enchiladas – a pumpkin chili stuffed in a tortilla, wrapped and cooked in a hot enchilada sauce. I was introduced to enchiladas by an American friend. Her preferred way to cook these is as a casserole – layering the dish with the chili and the the tortillas like a TexMex lasagne. We currently don’t have an oven, so we’re cooking everything in our Ninja Foodi Max (this is not an affiliate link). Just for space reasons, we’re sticking with traditional enchiladas. I make this often, and serve it with lots of cheese and sour cream. Of course, now that’s not possible. Instead, it was topped with some oat milk yoghurt and a home made guacamole. The chili was from the freezer. No doubt, I’ll make it again soon and share the recipe with you all.

Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Overnight Oats

Serves: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Soaking Time: minimum of 4 hours, but overnight is best

This recipe for overnight oats is so versatile, and is put together really quickly. Once you have the basic ratio of oats, liquid and yoghurt, you can change up the flavours with fresh, frozen or stewed fruit. You can change You can use your favourite kind of dairy, whether that be animal or plant-based. You could probably use ready-flavoured yoghurts too. I haven’t personally tried this, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t work.

I’m accustomed to making this with cow’s milk and yoghurt. This time I tried it with soy yoghurt and almond milk, which is why it’s also missing my usual toppings of toasted unsalted peanuts and chocolate shavings – I wanted to really parse down on any potential differences with the texture and flavour. You could also use all oat-based dairy, but I find I crash really badly, and without warning if my breakfast is only oats with no additional protein. You can get around this by adding a couple of scoops of your favopurite protein powder.

This is also one of the few recipes that I measure by volume. This is another recipe where the ratio of ingredients is more important than precision.

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened milk of your choice. You can use an actual tea cup or mug here if you like.
1/2 cup yoghurt of your choice
1 cup oats – I like the texture of rolled oats
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 – 1.5 tbsp maple syrup, to taste

Method

Mix together the milk and yoghurt, and stir until it’s all combined.

Stir through the oats, making sure they’re all coated with the wet ingredients

For this recipe, add the peanut butter and the cocoa powder and combine thoroughly.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

Serving Suggestion

Enjoy the next morning hot or cold.

You can substitute for any other nut butter you like. or omit it altogether

You can use fruit instead of the cocoa powder.

Toppings of chopped nuts, more peanut butter, raw or stewed fruit would be a great choice.

How to Store

Overnight oats can be made up to five days in advance as part of your meal prep for the week. Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge.

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Veganuary Day 1: Unfounded Concerns About Breakfast

A Lavosh wrap made with deluxe hummus and salad.
It’s a Wrap!

We started the day with a Kale and Mushroom Gratin, which I’d prepared last night. I sautéed the ingredients together, and set aside to bake this morning. The gratin really benefited from the resting period, and the soya cream really married with the other flavours. The perfect start to Veganuary, and a cold morning. Julie at The Simple Veganista suggests that this is a side dish, or main if you serve it over grains. I thought it was perfect as breakfast, served over a thick slice of sourdough toast. I didn’t miss the unctuouness of an egg yolk at all.

Lunch was a simple hummus and salad wrap. We’d scored some of the various flavours of the excellent hummus and flatbreads from the Lebanese stand in the local market. Very tasty, but not as substantial as I would need for an active day.

We ended the day with the remains of an excellent mushroom bourguinon that I made for New Year’s Eve guests. Served over slippery papardelle (dried, which don’t contain egg, where fresh papardelle might). This is an old favourite, so I’m going to feature this as a recipe post in its own right soon. On NYE, we served it over a bed of creamy mash. Either option is a great match.

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Seven Peas

Seven Pea Pods
Seven Pea Pods


There’s an old military adage, which is frequently shortened to the 7 Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance. I had a very busy day doing the seven Ps in the garden in preparation for the year ahead.

In the kitchen, I went a bit more for an S and six Ps: Some Planning and Preparation…etc. I meal planned for part of the week. The Big Guy  did the shopping for the next day, so that we had something prepared. We’re on another lockdown in the Netherlands. Only food shops and pharmacies are open, and they must close at 8pm.

This evening, I prepared breakfast for tomorrow – admittedly a bit reluctantly. I was tired, and not looking forward to not being able to fall back on the very easy option of scrambled eggs in the morning.

However, this morning I’d been very kind to myself, by setting us up with an essential flavour-builder. An umami-rich and sumptuous vegetable stock. Of course, one that is just from food waste. There’s no point in using whole vegetables, when you can get just as much flavour out of the scraps.

Since my previous post on making stock from scraps, my technique has evolved a bit. The original scrap stock still has a place in my repertoire, especially if what I’m using it in has a more delicate flavour. These days, I do a little more prep before the scraps hit the freezer, because I slice everything up as thinly as possible to increase the surface area available for dispersing more flavour. You can do this when the scraps are frozen too, but doing it before you bag and freeze the scraps saves you a lot of time and painful fingers later.

Keep the peels slice the rest as thinly as you can manage before freezing

In 2020, I watched a lot of YouTube. I’m delighted to say that one discovery was Glen and Friends Cooking. Glen’s an experienced cook after my own heart. He loves to cook the classics with his own twist, as well as cook things entirely from scratch to learn how they work. He’s so inspiring with all of the experimentation he does in the kitchen. I really hope you have a look at his fantastic content.

He also inspired this new and improved stock from scraps. He makes an amazing stock, in which he thinly slices a wide array of whole vegetables using a mandoline, then roasts them hard before adding kombu, miso and tomato puree. If you’ve got the time and inclination, give this luxurious stock a go.

The kombu and the miso make so much difference in the flavour, lending essential umami, and a depth you won’t believe.

However, I’m  usually far too miserly to add whole vegetables, and too easily distracted to spend a day making stock. So I’ve developed a faster version you can make with scraps, still with such deep flavour, but with a quarter of the prep time, especially if the person you are today thinks about the person you’ll be when it comes time to make the stock, and pre-slices the big scraps as thinly as you can manage.

A rich and flavourful stock made from scraps and offcuts.
Tomato-based stock

Recipe: A Quick, Sumptuous Vegetable Stock from Scraps

I suppose this is more of a Freecipe than a recipe, strictly speaking, as the amounts are not exact. As Glen says in his video, it’s the ratio that’s important.

Ingredients

Over time fill a bag with vegetable scraps. If you’ve peeled them from the vegetable, there’s no need to cut them further. If it’s things you’ve topped and tailed, such as onion or carrot ‘ends’ or if it’s something that desperately needs using before it goes over then slice these bits as thinly as you can before freezing them. The contents will depend on what you’re eating. Because I frequently use a mirepoix in dishes, my bag always contains carrot and onion, often the odd celery end. Although there is usually an imbalance in the celery, since it has the least wastage naturally as you use it as an ingredient. So I do find myself thinly slicing a fresh rib or two before it goes in the pot. This is the only time I use the fresh, whole vegetable (but the whole head of celery never goes in).

Items that I don’t use

  • Potato Peel – the starch lends an odd texture to the finished stock
  • Cabbage – it’s too bitter in this application
  • Avocado

Essential Items

  • Onion ends and skins
  • Carrot peel and tops. You can include the greens, but make sure you’ve rinsed them extremely well
  • Leek tops – really, this gives it the most sumptuous mouth feel. Again, make sure they’re washed really well.
  • Celery
  • Mushroom scraps, stalks or ones that got too sweaty in the box
  • Kombu
  • Miso Paste
  • Bay leaf
  • Peppercorns
  • Dried Mushrooms – I’m lucky enough to usually have dried foraged mushrooms like chanterelles and porcini. You can also use dried shiitake or any other edible mushroom. You can often find a wide variety of dried mushrooms in Asian supermarkets
  • Tomato Puree/tomato paste- although I sometimes make a stock without, depending on my intentions for the stock. See method for more detail.

Other Scraps I use

Depending on the season and what I’m cooking

  • Almost any vegetable that is on the turn, especially if I don’t want it for soup. Not any part that is rotting or mouldy, of course
  • Very well scrubbed celariac nubs, leaves and skin
  • Squash and pumpkin ends, and the stringy stuff in between the seeds
  • Bell pepper offcuts – though never the seeds, or the part they come attached to
  • Beetroot ends – although a word of caution. I prefer chioggia and golden beets. You can use red beetroot for sure, but be aware that this will colour the stock, especially in large quantity. Fine if you’re eating a tomato based dish, less so in a white bean one, for example
  • Garlic that got a bit dessicated in the cupboard
  • Tomatoes – or when a recipe calls for deseeded tomatoes, you can add what’s left
  • Trimmings from topped and tailed French beans
  • The occassional pea pod, though I prefer to freeze these separately and use them for wine.
  • Sometimes apple peels and core make their way in, but this is the only sweet fruit that will be OK, and never in huge proportions of the scrap mix.
  • Aubergine ends – with the green calyx removed
  • Radishes that got long overlooked
  • Corn cobs and silk. Since these already have a pretty substantial surface area, and they’re really hard to chop, I usually chop corn cobs into three or four pieces, and not thin slices.
  • Herb stalks
  • Spinach stalks and ends
  • Swiss Chard stalks, if I haven’t eaten them as a side dish
  • Ginger peel
  • Spring onion scraps
  • The outer leaves and tough core of fennel
  • Reserved liquid from cooking beans – i.e aquafaba. I tend not to use aquafaba from cooking black beans, simply because it keeps some of the colour, and then it will make a black stock, and thus black food. You could also use the aquafaba from tinned beans just as readily.

So you can see broadly what I put in. You can use what you make scraps from. There are few hard and fast rules (apart from the three things I’ve listed above).

Method

Once your scrap bag is full, or you know you’re running out of stock, check the contents for balance. If the bag is light on celery, or you feel you’d like an additional element, slice some up thinly, to restore the balance. Also thinly slice any large lumps of scraps that past you didn’t get to.

Weigh the bag. You’ll need to calculate the weight of liquid to use. If I’m starting with aquafaba, I’ll often measure that, and make sure I have the right amount of scraps, or I’ll top up with water for the amount of scraps I already have.

The ratio needs to be 2:3 vegetable scraps to liquid. I’ve summarised this in two equations:


Liquid weight = 3 x (vegetable scraps /2)
Vegetable scraps = 2 x (liquid weight/3)

Heat about a tablespoon of any vegetable oil in a large saucepan.

In batches, add your scraps and sweat them off until they brown. You can do this from frozen. You can choose to add the whole bag at once, but I find you need to stir them more to prevent them catching on the bottom. In turn, this takes the browning process whole lot longer.

Once each batch has a good colour, remove to a separate bowl. You need to get a fairly deep caramel colour, particularly in the onion scraps.

Return all of the browned scraps to the pan. If you intend the stock to be used in tomato dishes, or ones where the colour of the finished dish will be deep, add 1-2 tbsp of tomato puree. Mix throuroughly into the scraps, then cook through on a medium heat, stirring well. The colour of the puree will darken slightly when it’s ready, and will take a minute or two. Omit this step if you want to use the stock in a lighter coloured dish; such as for a white soup, or a velouté sauce.

Pour in the cold liquid. Slowly bring to a vigorous simmer, but not to boiling point.

As it’s coming to temperature, add a strip of kombu, 1-2 tbsp miso paste, the dried mushrooms, 1-2 bay leaves, any other herbs you wish to add, and about a tbsp black peppercorns. Stir to make sure the miso has dissolved.

I never salt stock of any kind. You don’t know how much you’ll need to reduce the stock in the finished dish, or even to prepare it for freezing. You probably also don’t know what ingredients you’ll be using in your finished dish. Salting at this stage risks your dishes being over salted.

Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, then leave to putter away for about an hour or so.

When the liquid has taken on a deep colour, and you’re happy with the taste, drain the stock into a separate bowl. You may find that some types of scraps, especially lots of dried mushrooms, will absorb a fair bit of liquid. Feel free to press the scraps against the seive to get the scraps to release more liquid.

Discard the scraps, they’ve finally worked as hard for you as they can.

You can put this stock straight into a dish. Otherwise, allow it to cool before you store it in the fridge or prepare to freeze it.

Serving Suggestion

This wonderful, rich stock is great in soups, stews, gravies, to cook rice and grains in.
Use it wherever a recipe calls for stock, boullion, broth or even a stock cube.
Can also be used in lieu of a meat stock in many dishes.

How to Store

The stock will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days if you use aquafaba, or up to a week if you only used water. It freezes well as it is. I have a lot of competition for freezer space, so I often simmer the liquid after the scraps have been removed, to reduce it by half, then I freeze it in ice cube trays. Once the trays are frozen, I can remove the ‘stock cubes’ to a bag to store longer term.
This stock can be frozen for up to six months, although mine never lasts that long.

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