Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cooking for someone special…

It is no surprise that my social media feeds this week have been full of gorgeous looking food (So. Much. Chocolate) in preparation for Valentine’s Day.  Whilst there is something so satisfying about making food for those you love (and I am most definitely a feeder!) in all honesty I am not that big a fan of the big V day. The hype rarely lives up to the reality. So this year I have taken a slightly different approach – to make a lovely meal for yourself when dining solo. This post is about food as self care, rather than romance.

I think for a lot of us, the idea of putting lots of effort in to cook when on our own is a bit over the top. I am someone who hasn’t always had the easiest relationships with food or haven’t always looked after myself as much as I should. However, I truly believe that making food that is good for body and soul is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. This isn’t meant to be taken as a prescriptive, diet manifesto or the like. Food that might make you feel good can come in many different dishes. What is important for me is the act of cooking the food in the first place, not necessarily what I am actually cooking. That I feel I am worth the effort.

Now this is often easier said than done. If I am on my own for dinner in the evening, having done the bath and story time routines alone, head still throbbing from the noise of the soft play centre, sometimes the only thing I can manage to do is open a family size bag of kettle chips and a packet of biscuits. However, I am not suggesting making eight course gourmet taster menus. What I have tried to do over the years is have a few quick, go to dinners planned for when I am alone. These include hummus stirred into hot pasta with baby spinach leaves; jacket spud with baked beans; pasta and vegan pesto; rice or quinoa with hummus and salad or cooked veggies. I keep packs of microwaveable rice and other grains in the cupboard, bags of ready chopped salad in the fridge. I sometimes plan leftovers to use later in the week if needed.

For my solo dinner this week I had a ‘loaded’ jacket potato, an idea courtesy of plant based foodie Lindsay Nixon aka Happy Herbivore. In one of her books she has these recipes for baked potatoes with loads of yummy things like chilli, salsa, veggies, etc piled on top. So I did my own version with some leftover cooked veg and chopped salad. Yes, there is a potato under there somewhere!

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As it is Valentine’s Day, I also included some chocolate, in the form of a microwave brownie in a mug. This is so easy and delicious. There are lots of recipes for these on the internet. This is my take on it. In a large mug put 3 tablespoons of self raising flour, 1-2 tablespoons of sugar (depending on how sweet you like your brownie), 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons vegan chocolate chips and stir to together. Then add 3 tablespoons milk, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and either 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil or melted vegan spread or unsweetened fruit pureé. Stir until all ingredients are combined into a batter:

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Add a couple more chips on top. Microwave on high for about 90 seconds, although microwave timings may vary depending on your particular oven.

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I turned mine out into a bowl to serve but you can just eat it out of the mug!

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Pudding in under 10 minutes – can’t argue with that. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. Enjoy xxxx

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Happy Halloween!

Vegan HaHa is finally back! After a couple of weeks break, Vegan HaHa has returned. As today is Halloween, in this post I’ve got two simple but delicious recipes for a grown-up  dinner inspired by some of the elements of Halloween. As it isn’t a full-on frightfest, these recipes would be great anytime this autumn. The main course is a pumpkin curry flavoured with red Thai curry paste, served with black rice and for dessert a blood orange sorbet. Both recipes serve 4.

Red Thai Pumpkin Curry

In this dish, the pumpkin is roasted first. This helps to intensify the flavour and then once in the sauce, the pumpkin breaks down and acts as way of thickening the curry.

1 medium pumpkin – the one I used was weighed about 1.3kg before peeling and seeding

1 medium onion

1 red or yellow pepper

400g can of chickpeas

50g Red Thai curry paste – check that it is suitable for vegans as some brands have fish sauce in them

400ml coconut milk – you can use light coconut milk but I find this sometimes splits if heated too high. It’ll still taste okay, a little less creamy though but it wont look as nice.

200g kale or other shredded greens

Handful of fresh coriander, a finely chopped red chilli and some finely chopped roasted peanuts for garnish.

  1. Heat the oven to gas mark 7/220C/425F. De-seed, peel and cut the pumpkin into 2cm cubes. Put on a lined baking tray and roast on the oven for about 30mins until the pumpkin is cooked through. This step can be done a day in advance if necessary.
  2. Whist the pumpkin roasts, chop the onion and gently fry in a little oil. If you prefer you could use cooking spray or even a little water. Just be careful not to let it burn.
  3. De-seed and chop the pepper and add to the onion along with the cooked pumpkin. Cook the veg until they begin to soften.
  4. Add the chickpeas and curry paste and stir well to coat the veggies in the paste.
  5. Add the coconut milk and the greens. Cook until the greens have begun to wilt and the pumpkin has broken down into the sauce. Top with the garnishes once plated.

The rice can be put onto cook whilst you make the curry. Just follow the instructions on the pack. It should take about 25mins.

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Sorbet is one of those things that I feel I should know how to make but never have so this was good opportunity to experiment. I wanted to make one with blood oranges, partly because it sounded a bit spooky but mainly because blood oranges are delicious. They are slightly more bitter than a normal orange and the colour of the flesh and juice is an intense ruby red. This makes them ideal sorbet material.

The recipe for this is not my own as I wasn’t sure of the quantities of sugar involved to make one up, so to be on the safe side, I followed someone else’s. My local supermarkets didn’t have any fresh blood oranges so I to use ready squeezed juice. The sorbet is best made a day or even several in advance to give it time to freeze properly. My freezer is pretty full at the moment so my sorbet took a little longer to freeze than the original recipe suggests. I had to leave it another whole day in the freezer before it set properly. Despite that, it turned out to be delicious. It would be great as lighter dessert alternative for Christmas given the colour and the wintery, seasonal nature of the blood orange.

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The link to the original can be found here:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2016/feb/25/how-to-make-the-perfect-blood-orange-sorbet

I also found a fabulous blood orange flavoured vodka so we had a glass of that topped up with tonic.

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Happy Halloween!!! xxx

 

 

Vegan MoFo 2018 – Day 21

Bargain Basement Cooking!

Today’s challenge has been to make a meal with food found in the clearance sections at the supermarket. I didn’t have the time to go out and do the foraging myself so I sent my other half on a bargain hunting mission at one of our local supermarkets. And this is what he returned with…

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There was a pack of stir fry veg, some extra mange tout, some fresh chillies and a tub of pineapple chunks. Well stir fry was obviously the way to go. I had a pack of ready cooked rice in the cupboard and few mushrooms that were on their way to the compost if I didn’t use them up so I threw them into the mix too. I normally would have some sort of tofu dish with stir fry but as there wasn’t any in the fridge, I used a can of chickpeas instead.

To get some flavour into the chickpeas, I tossed them in a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce and then put them on a lined baking tray and baked them in the oven for about 15mins. Whilst they cooked, I fried a thinly sliced onion and one of the chillies finely chopped in a teaspoon of sesame oil. Once they began to cook, I added some pieces of the pineapple cut into small cubes and stirred for a few minutes, then added the cooked rice and finally the chickpeas.

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In another pan, I stir fried the veggies with some Chinese five spice powder.

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And ta-da! Bargain basement dinner done. In less than 30 minutes too!

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Enjoy xxxx

 

 

Vegan MoFo 2018 – Day 20

Four For £4

I got lucky when I was deciding to what to make for today’s challenge. My parents gave us some marrow that a neighbour had grown which was substantial enough to feed at least four people. Marrow might not seem like the most exciting vegetable but I think it does have potential. I particularly like stuffed marrow and worked out I could do this dish quite cheaply.  As marrow can be quite bland, I decided to go for a stuffing with plenty of spice. I have made marrow stuffed with couscous before and thought this would be ideal. I had some ingredients already in the cupboard, such as veggie stock and spices so didn’t need to buy in those. I did buy a pack of couscous for £0.65,  tin of chickpeas for £0.55, a red bell pepper for £0.55 and a pack of onions for £0.60. Whilst looking for the spices I found a pack of raisins and thought they might go well in the stuffing.

Begin by preparing the marrow: Cut the marrow into large chunks, halve the pieces and then scrape out the seeds.

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Put the pieces in a large pot and cover with plenty of salted water. Bring the water to the boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for about 10mins or until the marrow is soft but still retains shape. Put the pieces cut side up in a baking dish.

To make the stuffing, prepare 125g couscous according to the packet instructions. I always soak the couscous in vegetable stock rather than just water as I find it adds more flavour. Finely slice the onion and dice the pepper. Fry in a little oil or cooking spray (you can use water if you prefer to cook oil free) with a couple of finely minced garlic cloves, a teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin, half a teaspoon tumeric and teaspoon chilli flakes. Add a couple of tablespoons of raisins and the tin of chickpeas and cook until the veggies are softened. Season with salt and pepper and also season the pieces of marrow. Spoon the mixture into the hollowed out marrow pieces and then cover the dish with foil. Bake for 20mins at Gas Mark 5/190C/375F.

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If you were not limited to £4 you could always add some sort of sauce, in the past I have made a spicy tomato sauce to pour over the top. You could also serve with a salad of some sort. Enjoy xxxx