Saturday, 11 August 2012

Food Diary: 10th August

Breakfast: Mango and berry smoothie

Lunch: Half a wholewheat pitta spread with homemade guacamole, raw spinach salad with olives.

Dinner: Cauliflower pesto soup with toasted pinenuts
Chickpea Piccata with wild rice, rocket and salty agave (the recipe called for maple, but I used agave) roast carrots.

My mum came round and demanded some 'delicious vegan food', and she's also trying to slim down so I did my best and, if I say so myself, the meal was pretty fantastic. I didn't feel quite so smug about how healthy and slimming the meal was when the last of three bottles of wine had been polished off. On the upside, I somehow managed to agree to start at my mum's running club next week.

Both recipes (and the roast carrots) are from Isa Chandra Moscowitz's Appetite for Reduction. It's my new favourite cookbook. The vast majority of recipes are either under 200 or 400 calories, and all that I've tried have been delicious. I'd definitely recommend the chickpea piccata.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Recipe Review: Beetballs

Yesterday my organic vegbox arrived, and inside it was a bunch of beetroots. Now, I have a confession to make; I only ever eaten pickled beetroot. Being a bit wary of the 'real' taste, I decided I'd ease us in to the land of beetroot and made Fat Free Vegan Kitchen's Beetballs

Well, they were an absolute hit. They were filling and had a wonderful depth of flavour but best of all was the texture - I have vowed to tweak this recipe to make burgers.



Anyway, here's what I did:
I blitzed the following in my Kenwood CH180 Mini Chopper, 300 Watt (I seriously could not be without this little piece of kit. It's lasted me about three years, is easy to clean and takes up next to no counter space) :
1/2 a medium white onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 peeled and cubed raw beetroot
1/2 cup of almonds (that's about 50-60g)
1 cup of white button mushrooms, sliced and fried in water (measured before slicing)
1 cup of cooked chickpeas

I then mixed the above with:
2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs (or italian herbs)
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
Salt and pepper - to taste
Chilli flakes - to taste
1 tsp hot chilli powder
2 tbsp ground flax seeds (or you can grind whole ones. These are a great veggie source of Omega 3 and can be found in Holland & Barrett)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (find in specialist health food shops or here: Engevita Yeast Flakes 125 g (Pack of 6))

Form into 12-16 balls (if the mixture is a bit dry, add a touch more water) and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake for 180C/350F for 30-35 minutes, turning once during cooking.


Needless to say we are beetroot converts. We still have two left and I've seen a few interesting recipes, so will report back!







Saturday, 14 April 2012

Blogs I love!

Vegan Dad

I appreciate that he isn't a militant vegan food purist and posts recipes my family (more specifically my very fussy four year old) recognise as food. From doughnuts and vegan hotdogs to hot wings and tacos, VD never fails to get me salivating over my keyboard! Whilst we do try to eat healthily, and keep processed food to the minimum, everyone needs a treat now and then.

Healthy Happy Life

For the gorgeous food photography and the innovative uses of various fruit and veg (though, sadly, many of which appear to be unavailable in London). I must admit I haven't actually made anything from here yet - though I have started incorporating orange segments into my vegan 'club' sandwiches!

Epicurean Vegan

 Best faux cheese sauce. Ever. My wife was a mac and cheese addict BV (before veganism) and she LOVES the sauce I found here. Enough said.

Friday, 13 April 2012

(Almost) Nanny's Colcannon

One of the things I remember most about my yearly trips to see my grandmother in Kilkenny, Ireland is sitting at her battered kitchen table and being served artery clogging portions of steamy hot stodgy food. Stews, meatloafs, roasts, bacon sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, biscuits ladened with salty butter...I don't think animal product-free really features on my grandma's repertoire.

She used to serve her buttery colcannon with salty boiled ham (a thought that is less than appetizing, now). This is a vegan variation on that dish, which I like to serve with my vegan Sausage and Bean Stew. Many recipes call for spring onions/scallions, but I use coarsely chopped white onion...just like grandma made it! She used cabbage, but I like kale for it's slightly more robust taste and texture.

Ingredients

1-3 heaped tablespoons of vegan “butter”
250ml (1 cup )of unsweetened soya milk, or other non-dairy milk
1 onion
200g kale (usually what one of the large bags sold in UK supermarkets weighs)
4 large floury potatoes
Optional: 1 heaped tablespoon of nutritional yeast*



Method
  • 1.       Bring a large pan of water to boil.

  • 2.       Peel your potatoes and cut into large chunks, and drop into the hot water for about 20 minutes, or until tender (I prod mine constantly!)

  • 3.       While the potatoes are boiling, heat a large tablespoon of vegan spread in a large frying pan or wok.
  • 4.       Chop your onion and fry until tender.
Who said we don't eat anything with a face?

  • 5.       Add the kale and half a cup of water. Turn up the heat and ‘stir fry’ the kale until coated with onions and liquid from the spread and water.
  • 6.       Cover the pan and reduce the heat, simmer until kale wilts (about 5 minutes) 

  • 7.       When the potatoes are boiled, mash them well with the soya milk and remaining vegan spread.

  • 8.       Stir in the nutritional yeast (if using), kale and onions and season to taste.


You can alter the amount of soya milk and spread to your taste, depending on whether you’re feeling decadent or doughy.

 ...because vegans most definitely don't just eat 'rabbit food'!

*nutritional yeast flakes is a yummy vitamin packed ingredient which features in many vegan recipes I've come across. I order mine from Amazon....

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

"What do vegans eat, anyway?" ..."Nandos!"

Ok, Nando's isn't the most vegan friendly restaurant from an ethical point of view. Don't go in if the mere sight of meat offends you as you'll be surrounded by omnivores gobbling down chicken cadavers at an extraordinary rate. On the up side, Nandos claims it's vegan options are cooked separately from the meat products and with separate utensils (and with their kitchens being open it wouldn't be hard to have a peek and check!) We have only been vegan for a short while and to preserve our non-judgemental, easy-going vegan image we accepted an invitation to eat at Nando's with a friend before catching a film.

Before accepting the invitation I did my research and found we had the following options:

Starters ("Appeteasers")

Yes, it's a chicken restaurant but all of the appetisers are vegan! We just got the olives, thank goodness, as the main was so filling!


  • Hummous with peri peri drizzle and warm pitta - this is gorgeous!
  • Red pepper dip with warm pitta - we have yet to try this
  • Spicy mixed olives
  • Peri peri nuts
  • Or a combination of all four to share (or not!)
Mains
  • The soya veggie burger (either in a burger bun, wrap or pitta) - make sure to specify no mayo!

  • A flat mushroom, also in a wrap, bun or pitta (on the menu with halloumi, so ask for without)
  • Cous cous salad. This is the only salad that looks substantial enough to have as a standalone vegan main.
  • Mixed salad - basically just a plain salad.
  • Mediterranean salad without feta
Sides
  • Chips/Peri Peri Chips
  • Spicy Rice
  • Corn on the cob, without butter. We actually brought along a tiny tupperware pot of Vitalite, a vegan spread (can you tell I was a girl guide?)

  • Macho Peas
  • Ratatouille - though I tried this and found it watery and bland. Veganism turns you into a veg connoisseur!
  • Mixed leaf salad (though their dressing isn't vegan they provide olive oil and balsamic at the sauce stations so we just drizzled that on and seasoned)
  • The luso beans appear to be vegan. I haven't ordered them so didn't check.
Desserts

  • Mango sorbet
  • Chilly Billy Lolly
...pretty uninspiring!

Drinks - I researched the drinks on their menus and the following can be found at other retailers and are marked as veg*n friendly. Unfortunately for many the information just wasn't available! The white wines are marked as vegetarian, and the rest are vegan. I mostly used Barnivore.com or leading UK supermarket product info.

White Wines
  •  Tagus Creek Chardonnay / Fernao Pires (Portugal)
  • Spier Sauvignon Blanc (S.Africa) 
Rose
  • Pink Elephant Rosé (Portugal)
Beers
  • Sagres 
  • Brahma
  • Superbock 
Cider
  • Savanna

Our meal...

We shared some olives to start , then we each had a veggie burger (without mayo). It was massive and well garnished. The soy burgers themselves are very spicy. I ordered mine with the extra hot marinade and it nearly blew the roof of my mouth off - which is just how I like it! It was big and very filling. We really struggled to finish them along with all our sides

We both had a corn on the cob each and shared a mixed leaf salad - which is huge - and a portion of peri peri chips. If you do want the corn, I'd recommend bringing your own spread as it would have been quite dry without. 

Nando's isn't somewhere I'd choose to eat, but I could tell our omnivore friend was a teeny bit impressed at all the different things we could eat!

"Is it hard...being, you know, Vee-gan?"

Today, whilst roaming the streets of the bustling metropolis of High Wycombe (ha...) our vegan tummies started to growl. Panic set it...where to eat in this town barren of vegetarian eateries and health food shops!?

Yo Sushi, that's where.

Yo Sushi! is a chain sushi restaurant. Plates are coloured according to their pricing, and you can take them straight off of the conveyor belt or order from the menu.

When we went in, we asked for the nutritional booklet which can be downloaded from their website. All products containing dairy, seafood, meat, eggs and gluten were clearly marked. After identifying our options we placed our order.

The waitress thought the noodles and gyoza might have egg in them (even though they weren't marked as so in the nutritional booklet) so went to check with the chefs, but they were both ok.

We had the following between us:

Miso Soup - they refill for free and it's full of yummy tofu and sea vegetables



The Kaiso Salad - this was lovely; flavourful, crunchy and fresh.
Cucumber Maki  - one of the two actual sushi items vegans can order. A little bland but that's what wasabi is for!
Vegetable Gyoza  - yum, yum, yum. You get three per plate...I wished we're ordered two plates so I didn't have to share!



Vegetable Tempura (though the restaurants nutritional booklet said the only allergens were soybeans and gluten, on the website it is marked as containing crustacea. I can only assume this is due to the same utensils/oil being used. Personally, we aren't too fussed about that)  - this was lovely, but very oily. We actually blotted them with our napkins but I wouldn't hesitate to order them again. The half eaten one was pumpkin, and it was delicious. I tucked in before remembering to take a photo!



Vegetable Yakisoba - light, tasty noodles with crunchy veg.
 Fresh Fruit

 It was all really filling and came close to what I'd describe as ambrosian vegan fare; I didn't feel like we were forced into ordering certain things for lack of options.

As far as I can tell we could have also ordered the following:
Vegetable Firecracker Rice
Kaiso (Su-miso marinated kaiso (Japanese seaweed) and nori.)
Marinated Aubergine - this looked fantastic, but we were stuffed by the time we noticed it!
Crunchy tofu salad
And for dessert... Either fresh fruit or mochi (little Japanese rice cake balls with gooey fruit centers. The chocolate filled ones have dairy though, so watch out!)

Many of the sushi dishes contain Japanese mayonaise so aren't suitable for vegans. Seeing as you can order as well as take things straight from the belt, I wonder if you can order any of them without the mayo. If that is the case, there would be quite a few more options available.

All in all, we were very satisfied. I like being able to order things just as they are without having to ask for things "without". As we paid the bill, the waitress asked if it was hard being vegan. She obviously hadn't been paying attention to our big stack of empty dishes!

Mummy's Yummy Vegan Beany Sausage Thingymabob

So, the British weather has done it again. Our picnic basket, flip flops and bikes - having been dug out of hiding in excitement upon seeing the weather take a turn for the better - are now cast aside. The heating is on and we're holed up inside again.

What better time for some protein packed, warm, tomatoey comfort food?

When rummaging about in my fridge and freezer - refusing to venture out into the depressing outdoors for more supplies - I noticed not one, but two half cans of baked beans (I hope mine isn't the only family who does this!) And so I present to you mummy's yummy vegan beany sausage thingy mabob. It's not gourmet, or delicate and we certainly won't be serving it to the discerning omni dinner guest but it was filling, delicious, cruelty free and my four year old ate it!

This recipe is very versatile. Chunks of squash or sweet potato wouldn't go amiss, and - if it's just for adults, or your four year old has a more mature palate than mine - for a chorizo-like taste, smoked paprika is lovely (fry with veg at the beginning) or curry powder is interesting too. Basically, chuck in whatever you have!

Ingredients:

Olive oil (optional)
One medium onion,diced
One leek, sliced
Two carrots, diced
One red pepper, diced
1 400g cans of baked beans (or two half cans, if you like!)
2 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
80g (half a cup) red split lentils
6 Linda McCartney sausages, cooked per packet instructions - or other vegan sausages of your choice.
1 tablespoon of dried mixed herbs (mine contained Thyme, Majorijam, Parsley, Oregano, Sage and Basil...substitute for whatever you fancy)
1 vegan, organic vegetable stock cube
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven and chuck in your sausages, or fry them if that is what the packet suggests. Remember to set a timer so when they are done you can take them out and set them aside. 
  2. Preheat oil (or a little water, if you prefer) in a big pot on the stove.
  3. Chop your onion, leek, carrots and pepper and add to the pot. Add the mixed herbs. Fry/sauté them for 5-10 minutes or until soft.
  4. Add the beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, split lentils, stock cube and 1 cup of water (250ml) to the pot.
  5. Bring to bubble and simmer for 15-20 mins, or until the lentils are done. 
  6. Chop up sausages into rings, stir in and heat through.
  7. Season liberally.





Notes:
  • If you like, the veg could be chopped into fat chunks. I diced mine to appease my sporadically veg-phobic four year old.
  • This would be gorgeous served with kale colcannon!