Tag Archives: Vegan

Have a Cool, Cool Summer

Chilled Cucumber and Fennel Soup. A recipe for summer without the tyranny of measurements.
Chilled Out Soup Eaten Al Fresco

Things are hotting up globally. Most of the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing unprecedented heatwaves, and things weren’t much different for the Southern Hemisphere back in their summer. On days like these, no one wants to introduce more heat into the home by turning on the hob. On the hottest days, it’s even too hot to light the barbecue, or grill, if you prefer.

This recipe has been inspired by both the summer heat, and a recent trip to Madrid, where we had Gazpacho or Salmorejo with almost every meal. I also really like a good Ajo Blanco, but sadly this isn’t the Big Guy’s favourite, so we have this less often.

It’s also the height of the growing season, and my garden is straining with all of the cucumbers that one single vine is currently churning out. There is nothing better, or more tasty than a freshly picked cucumber that has been gently warmed by the sun. I need something to do with them that isn’t slicing them for sandwiches or chopping them into a salad. Of course, I’m romanticising this simple fruit. If the only cucumbers you can get hold of come straight from the chiller cabinet in the supermarket, that will also be perfectly acceptable.

Today, I’m bringing you a light and refreshing no-cook cold soup. This recipe is also a bit of a freecipe, since it will be delicious no matter how much of each ingredient you have. Hot days are not meant for the constraints of weights and measures.

I also want you to feel free to change up the ingredients to suit what you have, and what you like. I guess the main elements of cucumber, yoghurt and herbs are required, but use whatever yoghurt you like – dairy or plant-based. I suspect it will be rather good with a tangy yoghurt made from goat milk, if that’s your thing. If you don’t like fennel, leave it out. If you have mint and basil instead of the herbs listed here, also fine. The chilling time can be substituted by a 10-minute blast in the freezer, by adding ice cubes to the soup, or a combination of both. It’s hot; just do what you like.

Freecipe: Chilled Cucumber and Fennel Soup

Serves: The amount I use here serves 4 as a light lunch or 6 as a starter. If you use fewer ingredients, your servings may vary
Prep Time: 10 minutes, plus as much chilling time as you have

Ingredients

A couple of large (English) cucumbers
Half a bulb fennel, core removed
A small bunch of herbs. I used parsley, dill, and tarragon. Any herbs of your choice will be good here
A small shallot, or about a quarter of an onion, or some spring onions
A garlic clove
Citrus juice to taste. I used the juice of half a lemon. Limes or finger limes would also work well. I suspect yuzu might be interesting. Experiment with whatever citrus in whatever proportions you have
Sunflower seeds or soaked cashews (optional). I chose not to use them in the version photographed here
Natural yoghurt, quark or fromage frais of your choice. Plant-based or the dairy version is up to you. Whichever you use, use the thickest version available, such as Greek-style yoghurt.
A good glug of the tastiest extra virgin olive oil that you have. I used about 5 tbsp for this amount of vegetables.
Salt & pepper to taste.

Method

Slice each cucumber in half lengthways. Remove the seeds by pressing a teaspoon into the pulp and running it down the length of each cucumber half. I set the pulp aside, and ate it with a spoon, having first sprinkled over a little salt, whilst waiting for the soup to chill.

Chop the cucumber, fennel, herbs, shallot and garlic as roughly as your best blender will allow. I have a high-speed blender, but you can also use a stick blender. If using a stick, you’ll probably need to chop the veggies a bit finer to start with.

I personally loathe raw alliums in my food, so I took some of the sulphur compounds away by pouring hot water from a fairly recently boiled kettle over the chopped shallot and garlic. I find this is less important if I were to use spring onions, and honestly, shallots are also much less pungent than their oniony cousins. Skip this step altogether if the raw onion thing doesn’t bother you.

Pulse blend everything you’ve just chopped, the citrus juice and the olive oil to break it down a bit before you add the yoghurt. Once the chopped stuff is broken down, add as much yoghurt or alternative as you want and blend it until smooth. Obviously, the cucumber will provide a lot of water. If you want a thicker soup, add more yoghurt.

For extra protein, and a thicker consistency you can also add neutral-flavoured nuts or seeds, such as soaked cashews or sunflower seeds. If you decide to use these, add them at the same time as the veggies and pulse alongside the rest.

Once everything is smooth, season well with salt and pepper. If you want to be fancy, use white pepper, so you don’t have black specks in your finished soup. Otherwise freshly ground black pepper will be just fine. Remember that the colder the soup is upon serving, the more seasoning you will need.

Chill for as much time as you have. Overnight is best to allow the flavour to develop, but if you haven’t been that organised, as I wasn’t today when I made the soup, make it when you decide you want it; it will be fine. Today I gave it four hours in the fridge. If you only decide that all you want to eat for the meal that’s pending right now is this soup, then give it a quick blast in your freezer, and/or lob a few ice cubes in at either the blending stage or into the finished dish, depending on whether or not your blender can cruch ice. You will need to compensate for the additional liquid with more herbs, citrus and yoghurt.

Serving Suggestion

How you serve this soup depends entirely on your context. For me today, it was a quick and cooling lunch when I was too warm to do much. I had it with some lovely crusty bread, some extra finely chopped cucumber and fennel and a few fronds of dill.

I always recommend an extra drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil that you used before. You could top it with another dollop of yoghurt, croutons baked with the same herbs that you used in the soup, and many other things. If serving for a particularly posh occasion, some edible flowers will be a pretty addition. Maybe you want to add a little chopped boiled egg. The beauty of a freecipe is that you can also garnish with whatever you feel is appropriate.

The only compulsory serving suggestion is that this dish is best served on a sunny day, having had the freedom of not needing to turn on any equipment that will add to the heat of the moment.

Storage

This cucumber and fennel soup will store well in the fridge for 3-4 days, so you can make it in advance if you keep an eye on the weather forecast.

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We’re Going on a Bear Garlic Hunt

Allium ursinum or wild garlic, ransoms or bear garlic carpeting the forest floor
We’ll Have to Go Through It!

Allium ursinum goes by many names; Ramsons in North America, wild garlic, in some places, bear garlic in many others – which is derived from its Latin name. In the Netherlands, we call it daslook. It’s native to temperate parts of Europe and Asia and naturalised in many other temperate regions of the world. It grows in deciduous woodland, where it prefers damp conditions, so you can often find it along banks of rivers and streams.

Right now, it’s high season, and wild garlic is abundant and verdant. It’s also in flower, so there is no longer any risk of mistaking it for anything else.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon yesterday with a good friend in the forest where we were looking for a bunch of wild garlic. We didn’t have to look that far, to be honest. When searching for wild garlic, I can often smell it before I see it, but this time, I didn’t need to engage my nose at all. The forest was carpeted in green, with a cloud of white flowers gently bobbing in the breeze above it.

Of course, if you’re going foraging yourself please operate on a safety-first basis. As well as being guided by your senses, it’s best to follow these simple rules.

Allium ursinum, bear garlic, wild garlic with it's typical globes of white stellate flowers. Covered in spring debris.. All parts of this spring plant are edible.
Starry Lights!

Wild garlic is such a lovely treat. It’s far less pungent than its more bulbous cousin and is better on the breath. I love the stuff and make a lot of recipes using it, including this delightful recipe for a wild garlic tart which is great for a picnic or late spring party. You can also make herb butter or cream cheese with the leaves. The flowers are great as a pretty garnish in salads or other light dishes, and the flower stalks can be used anywhere you might find chives.

And knowing a spot means that I don’t have to let them take over my own garden, because they are absolutely prolific. They’re also a great entry point for beginner foragers – just remember if you don’t smell garlic, then don’t eat them.

Wild garlic loves to grow under trees. As such, at this time of year, it’s often covered in pollen and the scales that previously covered the buds of the newly-emerged leaves. This kind of debris is evident on the leaves. Don’t let that put you off. It’s completely normal and rinses off easily. If you pick from the centre of the patch, you won’t need to worry about dog urine that much, but do avoid leaves with bird poo on them.

Today, I’m sharing a pesto recipe that I’ve veganised.

I really recommend giving wild garlic a go. Subtlely flavoured, easy to find and to pick, and if nothing else you get a couple of hours of forest bathing in. What’s not to love?

Wild Garlic or bear garlic pasto, ready to use.
I’ve Got A Jam Jar Full of Pretty Green

Recipe: Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto

Makes a jar of pesto
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus the time well spent wandering about in the woods

Ingredients

The amounts given below are for one jar of pesto. If you’ve picked more or less garlic, you can adjust the ratio of the other ingredients accordingly for a balanced pesto.

200g wild garlic leaves
Salt and pepper
100 g whole almonds
Zest of one lemon, reserving the juice for when you serve, where appropriate.
120 ml of extra virgin olive oil, plus more to cover

Method

Rinse the wild garlic thoroughly in cold water. You can leave it to soak for a while in the sink if you like.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to a boil.

When the wild garlic is clean, chop the leaves into three or four pieces across the width of the leaf. This is just to make it easier to blend them later. You can skip this step if you’re in a pinch.

Put the wild garlic into the boiling water and bring it back to a boil, along with any other herbs you’re going to use. You want to blanch the leaves for a few seconds. The leaves will brighten, and the midrib will become floppy. You may need to blanch the leaves in batches, depending on how much pesto you’re making.

Blanching helps the pesto to keep its verdant green colour. Unblanched leaves will tend to brown a little over time. They’re fine to eat, but look much less appealing.

Once you see the subtle colour change, remove the leaves from the water with a slotted spoon, and put them in a sieve. Rinse briefly with cold water to stop the leaves from cooking further. Set aside to cool.

In the same pan that you blanched the wild garlic in, lightly cook the almonds. Add the almonds to the water and return to the boil for 4-5 minutes. Drain them and set aside to cool slightly.

If the almonds that you’re using had their skins on, they are easily removed at this stage. The nuts will pop out of their skins readily if you apply a little pressure to the base once they’re cool enough to handle. If you’re using pre-skinned almonds, then just leave them to cool for 10 minutes or so.

Once cooled, add the nuts to your blender. I find the mini processor attachment that came with my stick blender to be the best size for this amount of pesto, but any blender will do. Blitz the nuts a little. At this stage, they need to be in smallish bits.

Squeeze the wild garlic leaves to remove as much of the water as possible. Too much water will dilute the subtle flavour of the garlic too much and will affect how well it will store.

Add the wild garlic to the blender and pulse a couple of times to combine with the nuts. Add the lemon zest and about half the oil and blitz until the pesto is an even green colour. Stir through the rest of the olive oil and taste for seasoning. You will definitely need freshly ground black pepper, and you’ll probably need to add a bit of salt at this stage.

Slowly add the remaining oil, whilst blitzing a bit more, until the pesto is about as thick as yoghurt. You may not need to use all of the oil I’ve recommended here, it depends on how oily your nuts are too.

Put the pesto into a sterilised jam jar. Cover the top with a little bit more olive oil to form a seal to the air, to help the pesto keep longer.

Serving Suggestions and Substitutions

Of course, you can make wild garlic pesto with parmesan or another finely grated cheese if you like, but I’m trying to be a lot more plant-based these days.

You could also choose to use different nuts. Lightly-toasted pine nuts would be fine, for a more traditional Genoese-style sauce. Hazelnuts could be an interesting addition. Use the whole nut, gently roasted in the oven until the aroma fills the air. Then rub the brown skins off as best you can with an old, dry, clean tea towel. I say use an old towel because the skins can stain the cloth a bit. You’ll also probably not get all the skins off entirely, so don’t bother striving for perfection. There is no need to blanch either type of nut in this case.

If you like, you can also add other herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, or basil. They’ll need blanching in a similar way to the wild garlic, and squeezing out before adding it to the blender.

This pesto is perfect over pasta. You can add it to soups and salad dressings, or even to brighten up a sandwich. If you eat meat, you can use it to coat a little fish or chicken breast before you grill or bake it, or you could use it as a marinade before frying your fish. It’s especially excellent with salmon or other oily fish.

Stir a little lemon juice through the pesto before serving. The amount of lemon juice that you’ll need will vary with the application – you’ll need a little to season it if you’re smearing it in a sandwich, perhaps 1/2 tsp or so. Over pasta, you’ll need the juice of at least half a lemon. Adjust it to your own taste.

I have another couple of recipes that I’ll be using it in over the next few days, which I’ll be sharing with you soon. I’d love to hear where you would use this pesto in the comments.

How to Store

The pesto keeps well in the fridge. If you don’t use all of the pesto at once, then make sure to add a little more olive oil to create an air seal over the pesto. This will help you to keep it for up to two weeks.

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Veganuary Day 14: A Proper Sunday Dinner

A proper vegan Sunday lunch of Root Vegetable amd Ale Pie, roast potatoes, tenderstem broccoli and peas, covered in a rich vegan onion gravy.
Sunday Lunch with all the Trimmings

Today was a great day. We were able to have guests for the second time in two years (the first being this New Year’s Eve). The Big Guy decided upon a pretty quick breakfast of protein pancakes served with oatmeal yoghurt and maple syrup for speed. I’ve mentioned that I don’t often like sweet breakfasts, but these felt like a treat.

Our guests arrived in time for a hearty Sunday lunch. We would have a roast dinner every Sunday when I lived with mum and dad. My parents still have a roast every week, although I haven’t really kept up with the tradition. When I decided on the menu for today, I was feeling a little nostalgic, so decided that I’d do a vegan version of a Sunday lunch. Though this time with a pie as the centrepiece, instead of a roasted joint of meat. I share the pie recipe below.

We served the pie with all of the trimmings – steamed tenderstem broccoli, peas cooked briefly in boiling water, roast potatoes, and a home made onion gravy. I didn’t really get photos of the gravy process, but I will share that in another post when I have chance to remake it.

I’d also invited our guests to stay for an evening meal. I’d seen an article about a vegan pizza with a white bean dip instead of a tomato sauce, topped with roasted butternut, thinly sliced apple and caramelised onions. I also wanted to experiment with pizza in our Ninja Foodi. Pizza always goes down well with kids, so what better excuse than to give my version a go for the occasion? I made a batch of Dan Lepard’s Pizza Dough and proofed it in the fridge, so it would be ready for this evening’s adventures.

Recipe: Root Veg and Ale Pie

Serves 4-6 people
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 1 hour

This hearty pie is great as part of a Sunday lunch, and would fit as well as a weeknight meal, served with chips, or mashed potatoes.

I made this as a pot pie, using shop-bought puff pastry. It would be as good made into a fully-enclosed pie, but if you’re going to do that, I recommend blind baking the base, because it will go soggy otherwise.

If you’re making your own, either a shortcrust pastry or a rough puff pastry, using vegan margarine will serve it well.

Ingredients

1/2 medium celariac root, peeled and diced into 1cm cube
Oil for frying
15 pearl onions (also called silver onions), peeled but kept whole
4 medium carrots, cut into 2 cm chunks
3 celery ribs, cut into 1cm slices
1 leek both the white and green parts, halved and washed, then cut into 1cm slices
6-8 garlic cloves, papery skins removed but otherwise kept whole (optional)
1 bay leaf
Sprig of thyme
2 tbsp plain/all purpose flour
1 tbsp tomato purée
350 ml any dark ale or stout. I used Old Speckled Hen for this pie
Good quality vegetable stock to cover the vegetables. I used about 300ml of my tomato-based sumptuous stock from scraps
1-2 tsp Marmite or Vegemite
Salt & pepper to taste
1 portion vegan pastry – you can use shop-bought puff pastry, or home-made shortcrust or rough puff pastry
A little plant milk for brushing the pastry

Method

Once you’ve chopped the celeriac, put it in a large bowl and cover with cold water and a couple of drops of lemon juice or vinegar.

In a large dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pan, heat some oil over a medium-low heat.

When the oil is shimmering, add the pearl onions. Cover the pan and cook until brown and caramelised on all sides. Stir occassionaly, to achieve the all round colour. Once the maillard reaction has happened, and you have pretty even colour, remove to a separate large dish with a slotted spoon.

At this point, you might need to add a little more oil. Add the carrots to the pan, and sweat them off, again not disturbing them too much. Cook the carrots until they’ve started to brown a little on the outside. Remove to the same bowl as the onions.

Check to see if there’s enough oil in the pan, and cook off the celery in a similar fashion. Once again, you’re looking to soften and slightly colour the celery, before removing to the vegetable dish.

You may need to cook the celeraic in batches, because if the pan is too crowded you won’t get them to brown nicely. Drain well before use. Check the pan for oil, and add the celeriac cubes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover the pan and allow the celeriac to brown, stirring occassionally. They’re done when they’re fairly evenly browned on all sides. Remove to the bowl with the other vegetables, and continue to cook the batches until they’re all done.

Check the pan for oil for the final time, and lower the heat a little. Sweat off the leek and the garlic cloves, if you’re using them. Add the bay leaf, thyme and season with a little salt and pepper.

When the leek is soft and silky, and the green parts have become a bright chartreuse, add the flour. Cook out whilst stirring for one or two minutes, until the flour has toasted and turned a light brown colour.

Add the tomato purée and cook this out for about a minute, until the purée has darkened slightly

Whilst stirring or whisking constantly, add the beer slowly. Whisk out any lumps of flour. Then stir in 1 tsp of Marmite. Cook for a few minutes on a medium heat.

Return all of the vegetables to the pan and add enough vegetable stock so the liquid reaches the bottom of the top layer of vegetables. give everything a good stir, and taste to see if you need to adjust the Marmite.

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/350°F.

Cover the pan, and cook the vegetables in this broth for 20 mins.

Remove the lid and look at the gravy. You want the gravy to be slightly thicker than the gravy you pour on your sunday lunch. The same consistency as unwhipped double cream. If the gravy is too liquid, you can turn up the heat and reduce it down a bit with the vegetables in, or you can thicken it with about a tablespoon of cornflour slaked in cold water.

Once the gravy is the right consistency, taste and adjust for seasoning, and remove from the heat. Remember to remove the bay leaf and any remains of the thyme stalks.

Roll out your pastry and cut to the size of your pie dish. If you want to make a fully encased pie, roll out the bottom layer, and blind bake it for 10 minutes, then roll out the lid.

Fill the pie dish with the vegetable filling. Cover the pie with your pastry layer. For the fully enclosed pie, brush the cooked bottom rim with a little plant milk, before covering, then crimp the top pastry layer shut over the top of the filling.

Use the offcuts of the pastry to decorate your pie lid, if you wish. Get the two layers of pastry to stick to each other by brushing the base of the decoration with a little bit of plant milk before placing it on the lid.

Brush the top of the pie lid with plant milk to help it get a nice even brown all over. Pierce two or three slits into the pastry to allow steam to vent during cooking.

Bake in your preheated oven until the pastry is nice and brown and crisp all over. If you’re using warm filling, this takes 15 minutes in an air fryer, or half an hour in a normal oven. If you’re using chilled filling, bake at 160°C/320°F, which will take 15 minutes longer for either cooking method.

Serving Suggestions and Substitutions

You can really use any vegetables you like in this pie. I think mushrooms would be a really welcome addition. I didn’t use them today, because one of my guests doesn’t like them. Parsnips, salsify, roasted pumpkin, fennel or sweet potatoes would also go really well in this pie. Whatever vegetables you use, take the time to get some colour on them, because it really makes a big difference to the flavour.

How to Store

This versatile pie can be made up to four days in advance. Cook up the pie filling, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Make some pastry and store in a bag, or tightly wrapped in the fridge. Store both elements separately.

The pie will freeze really well. You can freeze the filling and the pastry separately, you can pre-make the pie and freeze the whole thing before cooking at 180°C/350°F from frozen for an hour.

The cooked pie or the cooked pie filling will keep in the fridge for at least a week. If you just store the pie filling, you can make more pies for a really easy weeknight dinner.




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Veganuary Day 12: Textural Pleasures

Vegan Swedish Meatballs in a creamy sauce with papardelle and lingonberry jam. Can you believe these are made with tinned beans?
Authentic Swedish Dinner

Another day, another tofu scramble, this time with pops of cherry tomato to brighten up the meal. It was brightly flavoured, and the tomato added bursts of flavour and a different texture.

Lunch was a buddha bowl. Today made with nutty bulgur kernels, soft fried mushrooms, an array of crunchy fresh vegetables; carrots, mange touts and red cabbage and yielding steamed tenderstem broccoli. All topped off with the umami richness of a creamy tahini and miso dressing. An absolute riot of tastes and textures.

I saw this recipe for Vegan Swedish Meatballs in The Guardian just before New Year, and knew we were going to have to try a version. They are really excellent; crunchy on the outside, and soft and pillowy on the inside. I think I prefer them to actual meatballs. We can’t find canned borlotti beans here, so we substituted cannellini beans. I imagine borlotti would have even more flavour. We also left out the marmite, and the balls did not suffer any for it.

Swedes serve köttbullar (meatballs) on either mashed potato or pasta. We chose to serve ours with slippery papardelle. The lingonsylt (lingonberry jam) is compulsory.

I realised today that texture is what I’d been craving. I’ve grown tired of stodgy food, especially after three days of the same stew, which wasn’t all that exciting on the first day. Even the Big Guy had grown bored of the chickpea & orzo stew, and he often says he’d be happy eating the same dish every day. I will be mindful how important the textures are as I plan and prep the meals for next week, and I’ll try not to eat the same thing three days in a row.

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Veganuary Day 11: A Superb Sandwich

A vegan Tofu, lettuce & tomato sandwich. All the better for an addition of avocado and caramelised onions
A lovely lunch!

I saw this sandwich as a delightful replacement for a BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato). I didn’t really eat that many BLT sandwiches before Veganuary, but I occasionally enjoyed the salty-sweet, crunchy-soft contrast that such a sandwich offers. Similarly, this Toasted Avocado Tofu (TAT) sandwich is a wonderful collusion of contrasting textures and flavours. It’s easy to assemble, and it goes down a treat.

I ate the leftovers from the leek and potato soupd from last week for a welcome warm bowl before a long cycle. Just the ticket!

Because I was out all afternoon and it needed using, we ate the remainder of the chickpea stew with orzo and spinach. I am glad to see the back of it. It’s definitely only interesting for one meal. Three in a row was too far. If I do try this recipe again for the mustard greens, I will only be making enough for two portions.

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Veganuary Day 10: Around the World

My Favourite Sandwich

The old British classic baked beans on toast was in order today. Heinz beans are available in the supermarkets here. I actually find Branston’s a superior bean, and also less sweet. But it’s difficult to get back to the UK at the moment for global travel reasons, and then to get stuff back through customs for ridiculous political ones. So I have to take what I can get. Served over any kind of bread, it’s a quintessential vegan dish that everyone enjoys.

The Big Guy and I appreciate a good sandwich. There are few as satisfying, and vibrant in both colour and flavour as a Banh Mi. Mostly, they’ll contain pulled pork or shredded chicken. They come conveniently wrapped in a crisp baguette, so there’s no waste. Great for lunch on the go.

A block of tempeh

Banh mi require a bit of texture in the main filling, so a vegan version has to be about tempeh. The fermented beans are not Vietnamese, but I think give the sandwich more heft than would be possible with tofu. You can decide differently; the marinade I give below would work just as well for tofu.

At the start of the month, I’d done what I thought was suitable prep – I’d made sure to shop for vegan essentials, like quinoa, nutritional yeast, chia seeds and so on. I’d made sure to get some stock made. The one thing I overlooked was what could I replace fish sauce with? In hindsight, I feel a bit foolish, since I knew this month would feature a lot of South East Asian food, and most cuisines use some version of fish sauce to provide piquancy and umami in many dishes.

Tempeh in a vegan Vietnamese-style marinade
Six in a bed of marinade

More prepared vegans than I would already have bought some coconut aminos, or maybe a kecup manis or a mushroom soy sauce. But lunch time was fast approaching, I wanted to marinate my tempeh, and I didn’t have any of these things. So I substituted with what I did have – kombu. I rinsed it under cold water until it was pliable, making it easier to slice really thinly. The seaweeds will all lend umami and a different kind of salty quality than the soy sauce, which I also used. It turned out to be an excellent marinade. This will feature on regular rotation in our house, long after veganuary is over.

Dinner tonight was a reapeat of the Chickpea and Spinach Stew with Orzo from yesterday. This is one stew that isn’t improved the next day. I’d recommend eating this fresh, if you’re going to make it.

A mixed, jewel-coloured vegetable speedy pickle with red cabbag, cucmber, red onion,and carrot
Jewel-Coloured Pickle Mix

Recipe: Vegan Banh Mi

Makes 4 Sandwiches
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time 5 minutes plus marination time

Ingredients

75g Tempeh

For the Marinade

2 tbsp of a neutral oil, such as sunflower, canola, groundnut
Juice of half a lime
2 stalks of lemongrass, tough outer parts removed and finely sliced
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
1 strip of kombu of approx 2cm x 5cm, finely sliced (or 1tsp fish sauce)
2 tsp light brown muscovado sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
2 tbsp soy sauce

For the Pickled Vegetables

Most hard, crunchy vegetables will work here, as long as the pieces are really small
I used:
1 carrot, grated
A quarter of a red onion, sliced as thinly as I could get it
A quarter of a cucumber, deseeded and cut into small matchsticks
Red cabbage, passed 3-5 times over a mandoline on the thinnest setting
Other things that would be good:
Kohl rabi
White cabbage
Radishes
Apple
Spring onion
Raw celariac, grated
Red bell pepper
For the amount of vegetables give, you will also need:
1-2 tsp salt
2 tsp light muscovado sugar, or palm sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
Scale up or down if you use more or less vegetables for your pickle

To Make the Sandwich:

1 tbsp of a neutral oil to cook the tempeh
A baguette, cut into four and then cut in half lengthways
Fresh mint & coriander leaves
Sriracha sauce (optional)
Vegan mayonnaise (optional)

Method

Slice the tempeh widthways. You’ll need about 1cm thick slices.

In an airtight container, mix together all of the marinade ingredients.

Put the tempeh slices into the marinade, turning to make sure each side is covered. Seal the container and set aside. It can marinate for a minimum of one hour, but longer is better if you can.

Make a really quick pickle with the vegetables. The smaller the pieces, the faster it will pickle. Place these small pieces of whatever vegetable you’re using in a mixing bowl.

Sprinkle over both the salt and the sugar. Massage them into the vegetables by scrunching it all together in your hand. You’ll find that the veggies will quickly moisten, as the salt and sugar starts to draw out their moisture. Add the vinegar, give it a good stir and set aside.

Banh Mi are best served on fresh baguette. But you can refresh a day old one if you need to by splashing a little water on the crust, and rubbing it in with your hand. Warm it in hot oven, or use the air fryer on grill mode at 200°C for five minutes. Your bread will be lovely and crusty all over again.

Whether or not you need to heat your baguette, heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan. You want the pan to be pretty warm. Add a tbsp of your neutral oil and turn the heat down to medium – low.

Remove any lemongrass or kombu clinging to the tempeh slices. Cook in batches, turning frequently. Do not press the tempeh to the pan. The tempeh is done when it’s crispy on the outside, but not burnt. Be careful – the sugar in the marinade will burn quickly, so don’t walk away. Drain on kitchen towel before putting in your sandwich.

If you want to use a vegan mayonnaise, then spread generously on both the cut sides of the bread. On the bottom, put a heaping layer of the pickled vegetables, then the cooked tempeh, then the fresh mint and coriander leaves. Add sriracha to your taste, or leave it off altogether if you don’t like hot and spicy.

Serving Suggestions

You can pickle any crunchy vegetables that you like. In season and fresh is best where possible.
If you don’t like fresh coriander, you can substitute for any soft herb you like. I particularly like thai basil, sweet basil and parsley instead. If you can get hold of perilla (sometimes called shiso) that would be good, Or you could just stick with mint if you like.

How to Store

The tempeh will be fine in the marinade for a week in the fridge. This would be perfect to meal prep at the start of the week for quick lunches.
The pickles can be made the evening before, as long as you drain off the liquid before storing. Otherwise you risk them getting too soggy. Store in an airtight jar.
Banh mi should always be assembled fresh after cooking the tempeh.

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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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