Saturday, 29 January 2011

Vegan pizza... yes, it is possible!

So here's the thing... growing up I did actually like cheese quite a bit, but after a few days working with a cabal of crazed vegans at the Vegetarian Society in the early 90s, I'd knocked all dairy bits and bobs on the head. The only thing that I was a little freaked about was the prospect of no pizza, which is pretty much as essential as oxygen as far as I'm concerned. It took bloody years for me to realise it was perfectly possible to make a vegan pizza by... wait for it... just taking the cheese off. In fact the final moment of realisation came as I was travelling through Italy, and came across some pizza joints selling slices without gloopey cheese included.

Ingredients: pizza base

250g white organic bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp quick action dried yeast
140 ml hand hot water
Tbsp olive oil

Ingredients: pizza sauce and topping

1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Tbsp tomato puree
Tsp salt
Tbsp Rosemary
Tbsp basil
3 large mushrooms

1 large leek - tossed in olive oil
Garlic pepper


First of all get the base ready. Mix the dried ingredients first, the flour, salt, sugar and yeast, and then add the water. Mix up and then add the olive oil. Then knead for a few minutes and set to one side. If you have time, let the dough rise for a few hours. Roll the dough out, and lay out on an oiled baking tray or pizza dish if you have one.

Next cook the pizza sauce. In a small pan, fry the onion in the olive oil until it softens and goes translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Then add the rosemary, basil, salt and tomato puree and, after a minute or so, the chopped tomatoes. Let the sauce simmer, as long as you can but for at least 15 minutes.

When the sauce is done, spread it across the pizza base and then add the mushrooms and the leeks. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade and then serve with a generous dose of garlic pepper.

Broccoli and pak choi in garlic sauce

Total winner this one - dead easy and really quick. Tonight I put it together with some basmati rice but there's no reason why it couldn't feature with yummy noodles. Oh, and of course, it wouldn't hurt to hurl some tofu in if you were so inclined. Can never go wrong hurling a bit of tofu into the mix. The thing I like about this garlic sauce is that it tastes really authentic... almost as good as the one they serve up at our favourite restaurant, the Laughing Buddha in Didsbury.


3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
Tbsp cornstarch
Tbsp soya sauce
Tbsp light brown sugar
Tsp sesame oil
100 ml vegetable stock
Three florets broccoli
One head of pak choi
Tbsp vegetable oil


Mix the garlic, cornstarch, soya sauce, sugar and sesame oil in a bowl well, and then add the vegetable stock. Put this to one side as you'll need it in a mo. Wash and chop the broccoli and pak choi. Heat up the vegetable oil in a wok and add the broccoli, and stir fry for five minute or so. Add the pak choi and continue to cook for a further five or ten minutes until the pak choi has wilted. Then add the garlic sauce and stir continuously until the cornstarch has thickened up, should take five minutes at the most. Then you're done.

To serve:

This is great on basmati rice and if you're looking to impress, sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Rosemary breadsticks. Sort of cheesy.

Yep. Couldn't help it. I roasted some leeks to go with them.

Been a bit busy in the kitchen tonight so there are a few recipes ready to get uploaded. These breadsticks are an offshoot of the pizza that will feature shortly, as it shares the same bread dough, but pimped up to include a few 'extras' to allow these proud batons of loveliness to stand their own. Good for munching on. Happiest when dunked in houmous. Not bad with a small dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


250g flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp quick action dried yeast
140 ml hand hot waterTbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or very finely chopped
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp vegan parmesan
Olive oil


You start off by mixing the dried ingredients together - the flour, salt, sugar and yeast - and then mix in the water. When there's an emerging dough in the bowl (still a bit crumbly) add the olive oil and need really well for a good five minutes or so. Then leave the kneaded dough, covered, to rise in a warm place for an hour or so. Next fold in the garlic, rosemary and vegan parmesan (if you want it) and knead through well. Next roll out into skinny batons, brush with olive oil, and bake in a 200 degree centigrade oven for 15 minutes or so.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Roasted leeks with tofu & mustard mashed potatoes

Right, if you do nothing else in the next week, roast some leeks in olive oil until they're crispy, sweet and delicious. Tonight's dinner was a bit of a triumph, mainly because of the playful, crunchy, delicate strands of roasted leek that played across the plate. Total winner. Also a great 'new best friend' for our roasted cubes of tofu. Roasting tofu is fabulously easy, low fat, and results in lovely, crispy bits of yumminess that are miles away from the mush that some people may have suffered.

Alongside the Leek + Tofu super combo we did a 'pimp my mashed' tonight round our gaff with mashed potatoes combined with steamed kale and dijon mustard. Quite lovely.

And we had some mushy peas. We're not ashamed. We like them. A lot.


Roasted leeks with tofu

450g tofu
One large leek
2 tbsp olive oil
Garlic salt or mixed herbs
Black pepper

The mustard mash

750g potatoes
130g kale
Tbsp marg
1/2 cup soya milk
2 tsp Dijon


One tin of mushy peas
Malt vinegar


Coat a baking tray with half the olive oil, and pre heat the oven to 175 degrees centigrade. Cube the tofu into 2-3 cm cubes and arrange on the baking tray, then sprinkle with garlic salt and black pepper. Pop into the oven and set the timer to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile slice the leeks lengthways into quarters, and then half the long strands of leek so they don't become to unwieldy once on the plate. Wash thoroughly - there's always a lot of muck in a leek - and then toss in the other half of the olive oil.

When the tofu's gone for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle the strands of leek across the tofu, mixing it in a little. Return to the oven and let roast for a further 15 minutes or until the leeks and tofu are looking golden and crispy.

While all that roasting is going on get the mustard mash ready. Peel the potatoes, and then boil them until soft. If you've got a steamer like mine, boil 'em at the bottom, and use the upper tier for the kale. Steam the kale, only for ten minutes or so, and set aside. When the potatoes are softened, drain and pound with a potato masher. Still using the masher, introduce the margarine and then the soya milk. Finally mix through the mustard. You're done.

To serve:

The kale, mash and mustard mix and the leek and tofu roast work great together but we threw in a tin of mushy peas... Beautifully green and silly amidst the lightness of the tofu and leeks. We also dashed a little malt vinegar over said peas. Well you have to, don't you?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Making a bit of a meze

Here's tonight's dinner... Have managed to dodge the tofu tonight and go all 'club med' with a bit of a meze based around a nutty aubergine couscous and some dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). There's also some of the houmous I made yesterday and a green salad drizzled with olive oil, lemon and some balsamic syrup.

Now, aubergines. I've managed to win over my beloved to the joys of aubergine, principally by slooooooowwwwwww cooking. It's practically the only vegetable that likes to be overcooked. Take a while with it, and then take a little longer.

Anyway, here's how to make the couscous.


Two medium sized aubergines
One courgette
One small onion
Three cloves garlic
70g mixed chopped nuts
Tbsp crushed, dried chives
250g couscous
4 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt
Boiling water

Plus, to serve:

Fresh green salad


Chop the aubergine into chunky, quarter slices and then coat them in sea salt and let sit for ten minutes in a colander. This draws out some of their moisture and takes out any natural bitterness. After ten minutes rinse them with some boiling water then leave to dry.

Meanwhile, chop the courgette into similar chunky slices, crush the garlic and slice the onion. Heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade and prep a good sized roasting dish - NOT aluminium by the way, as that would mess up the flavour of the aubergines.

When oven's ready, roast the aubergines, courgette, onion and garlic in the olive oil for 20 minutes.

While the veg are roasting, Make the couscous. I do this by boiling some water in a small or medium pan, then add some sea salt and olive oil and then the couscous. Leave a couple of centimetres of water above the level of the couscous, cover and leave to stand for a good ten minutes or so.

After the veg have been roasting for 20 minutes remove from the oven, mix through and then toss in the chives and mixed nuts. Mix through again and then put back in oven for another 15 minutes or so. Mix through a couple times more. Basically it's done when the nuts and aubergine are nice and browned.

In a mixing bowl, fork the couscous out of the pan, this fluffs it up and separates it. Now add the vegetables from the roasting pan and mix through. If it needs it, add a little more olive oil.

To serve, arrange the couscous, salad, dolmades and houmous together, and dress with some lemon zest, drizzly bits of balsamic, and anything else you have to hand. Lovely!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The chick pea mash-up

Time to blend up these bad boys...

Oh I know... it's a cliché of monstrous proportions but let's face it, I had to get houmous onto this blog good and early otherwise, quite rightly, my vegan credentials would have been roundly doubted. If you've never made it for yourself, it's bloody easy and ludicrously cheap if you soak your own chick peas. In fact, for price of a few tubs of the stuff from M&S you could make enough to fill a decent sized paddling pool. So get blending comrades!

If you're starting from dried chick peas, much respect, and don't forget to soak them overnight and simmer them for a good half hour or so before using. Otherwise it's out with the tin opener. The other essential ingredient is tahini, which is basically crushed sesame seeds, which are also good for making oriential-style salad dressings, amongst other vegan goodies.

You'll need a decent blender for this unless you like your houmous a little on the lumpy side; I remember trying it with a hand blender in my student days and finding the whole process thoroughly dispiriting. Decent blender or food processor... essential.

Houmous and pitta - proof that there is a higher being?


450g soaked and cooked chick peas
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Tsp sea salt
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp water


2tsp paprika
Handful of coriander leaves


Put the chick peas, lemon juice, garlic, tahini, olive oil and sea salt into your food processor and start blending. I've used the juice of two lemons here as I think really lemony houmous is a winner. You'll need to blend for a good minute or so and then make a judgement call about how much water needs to go in. When I was making this batch this afternoon, just one tablespoon did the job – add the water and continue to blend for a few minutes until really smooth. If the mixture looks a little thick, add tiny amounts of water at time to get it right. DON'T add too much, as watery houmous is the work of the devil and not to be tolerated.

Pimp my houmous:

That's the basic houmous done and the one we have at home as my lot have simple tastes. At this point though you could add paprika or coriander or even go really made and lob an avocado in there and make a kind of wacky houmous/guacamole fusion.


With pitta bread, obviously! Dreamy combo, never to be beaten. Or you could go for little carrot and cucumber batons if you're trying to kid the little ones into eating more veg.

Carrot, lentil and coriander soup

"Soup's not for dinner!" Is a refrain often heard in our house, when the awesome and fabulous Anne, my partner, suggests that it is in some way acceptable to serve soup as an evening meal. It is not. And attempting to 'pad things out' with the odd baked potato or maybe some garlic bread just serves to compound the situation. Terrible idea.

BUT... soup is obviously a top option for lunch, and you can freeze it and take it for work, etc. etc. So I make a fair few soups. Here's a good standby, the ever wonderful mix of carrots and coriander with red lentils thrown in to make it packed with iron and give it a little more umami. This dish can be swerved into a slightly more thai direction with a little lemongrass and substituting the soya milk for coconut milk.


One medium sized onion
230g carrots, chopped
Four cloves garlic
Tbsp vegetable oil
2 litres vegetable stock
Tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
200g red lentils
150ml soya milk
Black pepper to taste


In a large saucepan turn the carrots, onion and garlic through in the vegetable oil over a medium heat. This is apparently known as sweating them, rather unpleasantly.

After a couple of minutes add the vegetable stock and simmer for around ten minutes, add the salt and coriander and crack on with the simmer until the carrots are becoming tender. Then add the red lentils, bring back to a simmer, and leave to cook until the lentils are cooked, through - around 15-20 minutes or so - you'll known when it's happened as they start to break down wonderfully and take on a slight fluffiness.

Remove from the heat and in a dedicated blender or with a hand blender in the pan (my preference) blend the soup until totally smooth. Then add the soya milk and blend in.

Serve in posh bowls with some lovely bread, black pepper to taste and a little more fresh coriander.

Breakfast tofu

What? More tofu? Yep! If you are looking for the very definition of 'staple', the only thing that beats tofu in our house is houmous. Oh and margheritas. This is an unashamed 'bacon butty' replacement that I've been making for years now and which always goes down well, even with the odd meat eater. Sorry, that came out wrong. Meat eaters aren't odd. Well not that odd. Anyway onto the recipe.

First of all tofu. Or compressed soya beans if you'd like a more straightforward definition. A lot of people have had bad tofu moments. Mostly this is because of poor recipes and the terrible brand of tofu that dominates all the main supermarket chains. The best tofu can be had from health food stores or, even better, from Chinese supermarkets. If you have to buy the brand in the supermarket whose brand name brings to mind the witches of Macbeth, go for the smoked option as it stays together better. The tofu I've used for this recipe is Clear Spot. Just as good is Pauls. I've used plain tofu, but opt for smoked if you want to really emulate bacon.


450g block of firm plain or smoked tofu
Tbsp vegetable oil
Sprinkle of salt
Tbsp of sesame oil
Soya sauce
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds

To serve:

Toasted pitta bread
Ketchup, Piri piri or pepper sauce


Slice the tofu lengthways into slices 3cm wide by 1cm thick. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and then begin to cook the tofu on a low to medium heat. You may be at this some time, as tofu really repays a bit of patience when you're cooking. Try to rush things and it could fall apart. This morning I took 30 or 40 minutes with this dish, just leaving it to gently cook whilst mucking around with the kids.

While the tofu is cooking, sprinkle over the salt, the sesame oil and, gently, the soya sauce. Let this seep into the tofu for a good 10 minutes or so, and then turn the tofu over. Leave cooking for another ten minutes or so. When the tofu is looking pretty good and brown, tip a tablespoon or so of mixed seeds into the pan, which add extra crunch. Continue to cook until everything is browned nicely.

To serve, toast the pitta, slice it open and then pop the tofu and seed mixture in. Finish the whole thing off with ketchup, or in my case a hot pepper sauce. Breakfast sorted.

Am aiming for the next recipe to be less tofu-centric, promise! May also include a slightly differentiated colour palette as I've noticed this blog is looking a bit muted for my liking. But then it is January...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Tofu & Pak Choi Noodle Soup

The level of domestic craziness was pretty high tonight as I cooked this, so it's all from memory and the weights are guessed. At least I remembered to take photo. So - noodle soup - spectacularly easy dinner to do, dead popular with the kiddies, practically makes itself. You'll note there are no chillies in the recipe, this is because my loved ones, unlike me, aren't up for a bit of firey fun so if you decide to make this ADD CHILLIES! Yum.


One small onion
100g carrots, sliced into thin, 5cm batons
200g shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
150g cubed, deep fried tofu
200g pak choi
300g wheat noodles
750cl vegetable stock
One can coconut milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp coriander
3 cloves garlic
3 tsp fresh root ginger
3 tsp soya sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Juice of one lime
2 tsp sugar or mirin
1 tsp rice wine vinegar


Right, once you've started cooking this it goes like the clappers, so try and prep all the ingredients beforehand if you can. First of all, I'd soften up the noodles in boiling water for three minutes and then rinse and let to stand in COLD water while the rest gets done.

If you've got a blender, it works well if you blend the coriander, garlic, root ginger, soya sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, mirin (or sugar) and rice wine vinegar beforehand too. If you've no blender don't worry - just finely chop or mince them all, mix in a bowl and retain to add at the right moment.

So with noodles softened and the sauce mix prepared, start off by frying the onions, in a large wok, in the vegetable oil. Once they've gone translucent and are on the edge of browning, add the carrot batons. When the carrots are softening, add the tofu and then, after a minute or so, the mushrooms. Let the mix cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the sauce mix, and cook for a further five minutes.

Now add the vegetable stock and coconut milk, and bring to a gentle simmer. At this point add the softened noodles and stir through well. All done.

To serve: 

Some more fresh coriander is dead nice now, and if you're feeling dead posh, some sesame seeds sprinkled over the top looks rather swanky. Have some soya sauce to hand in case you want some more and, don't forget - add some chillies!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Tempeh, Quinoa & Kale

Right, this one is a superfood showdown. Admittedly, for anyone who isn't a veggie, tripping merrily through the aisles of their local wholefood co-operative, some of the ingredients below might look a little left field but, trust me, once you've got used to chopping up tempeh and splashing mirin around, it'll be a doddle. By the way, if you're in Manchester  this all available, pretty much, at Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton.

But back to the superfood thing. The tempeh alone is pretty amazing with a big dollop of amino acids and protein, oodles of Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Manganese and B6. The quinoa is silly good for you, with a high level of protein and all the essential amino acids. The seeds and the kale follow up close behind... the good news though is that it tastes great and doesn't come across like some kind of punishment doled out by Gillian McKeith. The dish is great on its own with pitta or similar, could be used as a side dish, and you can even let it cool down to use with a couple of other salads.


150g tempeh, chopped into 2cm cubes
100g quinoa
150g roughly chopped curly kale
80g mushrooms, sliced
100g mixed sunflower & pumpkin seeds
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 tbsp veg oil
Tsp salt
Tsp sesame oil
Tsp mirin
Tbsp soy sauce
Tsp rice vinegar


Start off by cooking the quinoa and laying to one side. It's just like rice in terms of timing and method, so should all be fine. I actually pop a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan first, then add the quinoa and stir through over a high heat, then add boiling water and cook. Using the oil first gives the quinoa a little extra nuttiness.

While all that's going on, pop the tempeh and sliced onion, with the vegetable oil, into a wok and cook until the start to brown. Then, add the seeds and garlic and continue to cook until the seeds start to brown too. All of that should take 15-20 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and salt, and cook until the mushrooms brown.

At this point tip in the kale... I'd use two spoons or spatulas here to toss the mix through, one in each hand, and then the kale will quickly reduce down, like spinach, to become more manageable. At this point add all the lovely oriental liquids: the sesame oil, the mirin, the rice vinegar and the soy sauce. Cook for 10 minutes or so, no more (have no idea why people think you should overcook kale) and then when it's all reduced nicely, turn through with the quinoa. Don't mix in completely - you want the quinoa in relatively fluffy 'clumps' to offset the tempeh and seeds. Yum.

To serve:

The above is a two person recipe as a main meal, four people as one dish amongst many. If it's making its own way in the world, then the simplest thing is serving up with a few slices of pitta bread.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Lebanese Lentils

Photo by me.

When I was at college I lived for a couple of years with a brilliant bloke called Tarek who was mad as a box of frogs. Inbetween the rather intense performance poetry sessions I'd occasionally come home to, he introduced me to an early version of this dish, which I've tweaked and played with over the years. It's a bit of winner in our house.


One cup of puy lentils
One cup of basmati rice
3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
A medium sized onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
100g chopped chestnut mushrooms
Zest of a lemon
Two tablespoons of finely chopped coriander (fresh if poss)
One tablespoon of sugar
Two teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste


Cook the puy lentils (25 min or so) and the basmati rice (10 min or so) separately, rinse in cold water, and set to one side. I used to try and cook them together in a classic student 'one pot' approach, but it discolours the rice, so definitely keep them apart until you're ready.

Next take the onion and start frying it, preferably in a wok, in the olive oil. Give it a minute or so, until it's softened and is translucent, then add the garlic. After a couple of minutes, as the mixture starts to brown, add the sugar, to let the onions caramelise a little. When the onions and garlic are golden brown, add the mushrooms, lemon zest, salt and coriander. Continue cooking until the mushrooms brown lightly and start to release their juice.

Next tip in the rice and lentils, and mix through thoroughly. Add the lemon juice, stir through, and then season with some pepper. And if you've got any fresh coriander left hanging around, use it as a garnish.

Last night I served it with a green salad and the rescued baked spuds I've included below. Also works brilliantly with pitta bread.

The Great Baked Potato Rescue

"Eyes bigger than your belly" was a common accusation levelled at me growing up, so with a crushing inevitability I always make to much food. This includes baked potatoes. Last night I coupled up some Lebanese Lentils with a baked potato that had been languishing in the fridge for a few days. It was a hit - and dead simple.


One cooked baked potato
Rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper


Carefully slice the potato into 5-10 mm wide slices (try not to let them fall apart)
Fry in the oil on a low or medium heat - take your time as this works better if cooked slowly
Season on each side with salt and pepper as you cook


As I did, with some light and lemony like a salad or similar... Unless you've got a hangover in which case this would be bob on with vegan sausages, mushrooms, beans etc etc etc...