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 23

Sunday Lunch

So I intended to do much more for this post today but a number of factors means it isn’t quite as good I wanted. When I planned this post, I forgot my other half would be away and then yesterday I came down with a cold. This meant that I couldn’t really spend the time in the kitchen I would have liked. However, I was determined to do at least one of the elements I had planned. The most important one was the yorkshire puddings. I have never made a vegan yorkshire pudding. Heck, I never made them before I went vegan, I always bought the frozen ones as the fear of flat, soggy yorkshires was too great. But today, despite the cold I went for it. The result wasn’t bad.

Due to the constraints I was under, I had to find a recipe that had as few ingredients as possible and was straightforward. The one I went for was on the website of the supermarket Tesco oddly enough.  The recipe went as follows:

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 7/220C/425F. Put 225g self raising flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, pinch salt in a bowl and then whisk in 300ml unsweetened soya milk, 100ml warm water. Whisk until very smooth with no lumps. Leave to rest at room temperature for 10mins. I didn’t have quite enough self raising flour so had to add a bit of plain and this might account for why some of the puddings didn’t rise as well.

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In a 12 hole muffin tray, put 1 teaspoon oil in each hole and heat oven for 5mins. Pour batter evenly into each hole and return to oven for 25-30mins til risen and golden brown.

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They weren’t too bad. A little on the stodgy rather than the fluffy side but a decent attempt nevertheless. I would definitely try to make them again and would be tempted to try a different recipe. I have frozen the leftovers so it will be interesting to see if they reheat well.

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Enjoy xxxx

 

 

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 19

Leftovers Part Two

This is a very short post today! Just a quick one to show how we used the leftovers from yesterday’s bolognese sauce. The sauce lends itself very well to re-purposing. It could be basis for a chilli or filling for a moussaka with a bit of tweaking or even the filling for a shepherd’s pie if topped with mash. But I just kept it simple and made sloppy joes.

If you are unfamiliar with a sloppy joe, it is basically minced meat in a sauce served on a bun. The sloppy joe lends itself very well to being veganized. You could use some sort of pre-made veggie mince, shredded seitan or tempeh. Or like I did, use some sort of pulses in place of the meat. I added a dollop of tomato ketchup to leftover sauce to sweeten it slightly and served on toasted burger buns with plenty of mild, hotdog mustard.

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Enjoy xxxx

Vegan MoFo 2018 – Day 18

Leftovers Part One

Today is the first of a two parter. The first challenge is to make a dish and the second challenge for tomorrow is to use the leftovers to make another dish. So for part one, I made a bolognese style sauce that I served over pasta. In the spirit of this being budget week, this sauce is pretty economical to make. It can be scaled up or down as necessary and as I will show in tomorrow’s post, the leftovers can be used up the following day.

I used 250g dried brown lentils in my sauce and they needed to be soaked overnight. I used the brown lentils as they keep their shape when cooked and I wanted a sauce with more texture but red lentils could be used. Boil the lentils in fresh water for about 10mins and then turn down the heat to simmer for about another 15-20mins.

While the lentils cook, chop 1 medium onion and 250g mushrooms chopped into a small dice. Begin by frying the onion in a little oil (you could also use a little water or veg stock if you prefer to make this recipe oil free). Once it begins to soften, add a finely chopped garlic clove and two teaspoons dried oregano. Stir and add the mushrooms and fry til the mushrooms begin to cook down. You might want to keep stirring to prevent sticking. Add 500g of passata. You could also use tinned tomatoes, I just prefer the smoother, thicker texture of the passata for this sauce. Stir in the passata to cover all the veg and then add the cooked lentils, season with salt and pepper. Stir well again and then cover the pot and turn down the heat to simmer the sauce for another 20mins or so until the onion and mushrooms are cooked through. Make sure to keep checking and stirring in case it sticks.

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Enjoy xxxx

Vegan MoFo 2018 – Day 17

Cheap and Cheerful Sweet Treats

The theme of this whole week of the MoFo is making veganism affordable. This is such an important message. There is a perception that veganism has to be about expensive and hard to find ingredients. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today is all about making something cheap and sweet. I had some basic ingredients in the cupboard – flour, oats and spices. Plus I also had a load of blackberries left over from my other half’s foraging spree. So I decided to go with a fruit crumble and bought a couple of cooking apples to add into the mix.

For this size crumble, I used about 900g fruit in total. You can use apples, soft fruit such as berries, peaches, pears, rhubarb – whatever you fancy. The apples were peeled and cored and then sliced fairly thinly. This way they would just cook in the oven, rather than having to cook them first. Put the apples and blackberries in a baking dish and then sprinkle over 25g caster sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a tablespoon of cornflour – this helps to thicken the juice from the fruit into a lovely rich sauce. Mix these into the fruit so evenly distributed.

To make the crumble, sift 175g plain flour into a mixing bowl. Add 75g dairy free spread divided into small pieces and gently rub the spread into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in 50g porridge oats, 50g caster sugar and two teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Spoon the crumble mixture over the fruit, making sure it covers the fruit evenly. Sprinkle over 25g demerara sugar and bake at Gas Mark 6/200C/400F for about 45mins until the crumble is golden brown and fruit is cooked through.

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Enjoy xxxx