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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Mushroom scraps, stalks or ones that got too sweaty in the box
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.
Spinach stalks and ends
Swiss Chard stalks, if I haven’t eaten them as a side dish
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).
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.
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.
Well, it’s been a good while since I last wrote here. A lot of life has happened, some things have changed, a few things have changed a lot, and many things have remained the same. How have you been? You look fantastic!
I took a rather long sabbatical, but I’ve been drawn back to writing about my food adventures for you all here. You’re very welcome to get comfy, make yourself a nice cup of tea – or whatever you fancy, and spend a while. I hope that you’ll find some interesting recipes to try, and you’ll let me know when you do.
In the spirit of New Years and new beginnings, I’ve decided to participate in Veganuary this year. I want to get back to a much more plant-focused diet for both health and environmental reasons. I need a bit of a reset, having relied on meat tray bakes for much of the pandemic, because it was easy. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
I’ve also decided that I’m going to blog about it here everyday, as a way to get back into the habit of blogging, and as a record of the things I cooked. Don’t worry, I have no intention of writing huge swathes of text each day; neither do I have time if I’m completely honest. I intend it to be a few short notes each day, more in the style of Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries. Of course, there will be recipes and foodie experiments throughout the month. After this month, I’ll settle into a much less frequent, but more regular posting schedule, so I won’t be clogging up your feeds all the time.
I’ll be starting slowly. I haven’t cooked much with milk and cream substitutes, so I’ll be drawing on expertise from around the internet. I’m also not going to start officially until Monday. We have so many leftovers from our Christmas and New Year’s celebrations (all within the current lockdown rules in the Netherlands, of course) that contain butter, or meat stock and so on. My attitudes to food waste have not changed, and my freezer is fit to burst already.
In the longer term, I have quite a few plans for a blog redesign. I’ll be going through all of the old recipes to retest, and maybe tweak them (I’ll make it clear if I do!). I’m working on this, but I thought it important not to let that get in the way of me beginning to publish new posts regularly.
So, here I am with my resolution to bring you all kinds of recipes, ideas to use your food waste, new and unusual ferments, as well as my updated take on some old favourites. Please let me know if there are any you’d like to see me tackle, or what you’d like to see from my blog. Feel free to share your favourite vegan recipes, and any tips that you might have for the month ahead. I’d really love to hear from you.