Monday, 14 February 2011

Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese

Valentine's night tonight... so this recipe feeds TWO and not FOUR. Sorry. There are loads of recipes for vegan spaghetti bolognese, but this one is quite fab. Suggest you give it a go.


Tbsp vegetarian bouillon or stock mix
300 ml boiling water
200g textured vegetable protein - chunky!
Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large carrot, finely chopped
Around 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Tsp salt
Tbsp chopped fresh basil
Tsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 glasses red wine (yippee)
Tbsp plain flour
Cold water


First of all add the bouillon or stock mix to the boiling water, stir well and then in a good-sized mixing bowl, pour the stock over the TVP, mix through and leave to sit for at least 20 minutes as the stock is absorbed. When it's been well absorbed, drain well and leave to drain further for a few minutes.

Heat the oil in a large wok. When it's hot, add in the drained TVP and cook until it starts to brown. After this add the carrot and broccoli and continue cooking; then add the garlic, cook for a couple of minutes, and then add in the tomatoes, salt, herbs and two glasses of the red wine. Drink the third as, in the words of L'Oreal, you're worth it...

Let the Bolognese cook well and simmer for around 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, make a paste with the tablespoon of flour and a little cold water. Keep adding the water, slowly, until you have 50-100 mls of the four and water paste.

Add the past to the Bolognese, gradually, until it thickens up nicely. Serve over spaghetti with some crusty bed and some vegan parmesan, if you've got it... my gang aren't that keen!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Apple Brown Betty Pie

This one's from my mother-in-law in the States and is a slightly upmarket apple crumble that in our house disappears faster than a Lib Dem coalition leader's credibility. Oops. Politics creeping into a food blog. Not good. Anyway make this and you'll feel happy.


4 cups or more sliced, peeled apples
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup vegan margarine


Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees C. Take a medium-sized pie dish and give it a rub with some margarine, and then pile in the apples to make a good mound - use more if the dish looks a little empty. Next, sprinkle over the orange juice. In a separate bowl combine the sugar, flour, spices and a dash of salt. Cut in the margarine and mix until you've got a nice crumbly mixture, then sprinkle over the apples. Bake in the pre-heated over for around 45 minutes or until the pie looks golden and crisp. Serve up straight away, preferably with some vegan ice cream like to eternally delightful Swedish Glace.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Vegan chocolate cake

There's a fabulous Punch cartoon from the Victorian era that labels the nascent vegetarian movement of the day to be an inglorious collection of 'pudding eaters'; it was deemed that to a man (and woman) they had an incurably sweet tooth. This blog however, has been stuck in savoury mode for two weeks now and so it's high time some desserts made it in.

The thing about vegan desserts is that they do seem to many to be an impossibility. Other than a fruit salad, most chefs seem stumped, and can't imagine that it is possible to come up with anything that isn't a fusion of eggs, cream and dollops of other dairy products. They're wrong of course, as this super simple vegan chocolate cake - originally from my mother in law in New Jersey - amply proves. Get stuck in!


1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Tsp basking soda
1 cup pain sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp corn oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Tbsp cider vinegar
Icing sugar to sprinkle


Pre heat the over to 180 degrees centigrade. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the corn oil, vinegar and vanilla with 1 cup of cold water. Whisk this mix into the dry ingredients and keep on going until the mixture is completely fee of lumpy bits. Pour the mix into a greased 9" cake tin (or you could make cupcakes with this mixture) and bake for 35 minutes or so - basically until the top springs back to the touch; the other way to check if the cake is done is to stick a toothpick or knife into the centre and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. Let the cake cool for a while in its tin before removing, and dust with icing sugar to serve.

Jerusalem artichoke soup

Ok. Let's get this one out of the way. Yes, if cooked incorrectly and if you happen to be susceptible, jerusalem artichokes can make you, well, a bit trumpy. If you're vegan, this is already a supposed constant state of being so it's tricky to know how you could ramp things up still further with a portion of toot-inducing tubers. Frankly, it's never happened to me, so I'd give this a try as they are very yummy and a totally different kind of smokey, sweet, nutty taste. They can be mashed up, roasted, and here, I've made soup.


600g peeled and chopped Jerusalem artichokes
Two medium leeks, washed well and chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 apple, peeled, cores and chopped
Tbsp dried parsley
Tbsp dried chives
Tbsp vegetable oil
800ml vegetable bouillon
300ml Soya milk


In a large saucepan on a medium heat, turn the jerusalem artichokes, leeks, garlic, apple and herbs through in the vegetable oil for around five minutes. Then add the bouillon and simmer on a low heat for a good hour or so, until everything is really tender and well cooked through. One quick note on the bouillon – I've used that here rather than vegetable stock and it's always a bit salty, which is whey there's no added salt in this dish. If you're using stock, you might want to add a teaspoon of salt.

When the soup has simmered for a good long while, remove from the heat and blend well, then add the soya milk and continue to blend. Serve with fresh chives if you have 'em.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sugar snap peas with soya chunks

Terrible name, great product... Textured Vegetable Protein or TVP makes me feel like I've just picked up my dinner from Pets R Us. It needs a rebrand desperately and I'll be more than happy to help if the manufacturers fancy giving me a call.

When I first went veggie at 17, the market for meat free goods hadn't moved on that much from the days when tins of wheat gluten and 'nut meats' were given out as part of post-war vegetarian rations; it was all pretty bleak to be honest. One of the products that I tried, and misused terribly, was the appallingly named 'Textured Vegetable Protein'. The forerunner of Quorn and vegemince, these chunks of compressed soya flour appeared dry, tasteless and tantamount to punishment for those who had decided animals weren't on the menu.

Of course – like other meat 'analogues' - I just wasn't cooking it properly. Hurling dusty TVP into an insipid tomato sauce is guaranteed to disappoint, and there is a much better way. So tonight's dinner is, to my mind, how you do it and come up with something fabulous. Yes, it is 'pretending' to be meat, but as I've said before, unless you went veggie because of some strange aesthetic objection to the mouthfeel of meat, I don't see why this is a problem.

So tonight's dinner is TVP chunks with sugar snap peas and kale in a rich bouillon, served with basmati rice. A yummy, quick and filling tea.


200g large chunks TVP
4 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
400 ml boiling water
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
100g sugar snap peas, chopped
100g curly kale, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp soy sauce
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to serve


Make up half the vegetable bouillon (2 tbsp) with 200ml of boiling water and then soak the TVP in the vegetable bouillon (or you can use vegetable stock) for a good half hour or so. This for me is critical and makes the whole dish work. We'll drain the chunks later. In a wok, fry the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil until the onion becomes transparent. Drain the TVP, and then add to the wok and toss until it starts to brown. Then add the sugar snap peas and kale and cook for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through.

In a mixing jug, add the other 2 tbsp of vegetable bouillon to the cornflour and the soy sauce and mix through, then add 200ml of boiling water to make a rich sauce, add this to the TVP mix in the wok, and you're read to go.

To serve:

This mix - super savoury - is great with mashed potatoes but tonight I served it up with some basmati ice, pressed into a ramekin so that it made a cool little mound on the plate; gives a bit of height and structure to the dish. Add sea salt or black pepper to taste.

Watch out, it's the tahini mousse!

It's the accidental discoveries that make pottering in the kitchen a sight more rewarding than feeling your synapses slowly dissolve as you watch another episode of Strictly Come Boredom. Here's my latest incidental dish - tahini mousse. What began as an asian salad dressing morphed, through a slight misjudging of measures, into the fluffy, delicate and playful cousin of that vegan staple, houmous. It was served up last night with a similarly asian-inspired chick pea salad, a green salad and some crusty bread.

Tahini mousse ingredients:

2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tahini
Juice of a lemon
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp water
Dash of soya sauce
Dash of mirin or tsp of sugar


First of all crush and then finely chopped the garlic. Top tip on garlic that I learned from a tutor at the Vegetarian Society cookery school called Ursula Ferrigno, is that it likes to get crushed first, chopped later. Then lightly fry the garlic in half the olive oil, which I find takes the edge off and sweetens it a little. Then add this, plus all the other ingredients barring the water, into a small food blender. Blend it for a minute or so, and then start adding the water, bit by bit, until the mixture in the blender is light and comes up to a fluffy little point if you stick your finger into it. Not hugely hygienic that last bit, but if you're cooking for family and haven't just changed a nappy, I reckon it's ok.

Slightly asian chick pea salad ingredients:

2 peeled carrots
Tin chick peas
Juice two limes
Tbsp fresh coriander
Tbsp sesame oil
Cup of soy-toasted sunflower seeds

First of all toast the sunflower seeds. To do this put a good couple of handfuls of them into a frying pan, without oil, and then start to toast them on a low to medium heat. As they start to brown, hurl in a few dashes of soya sauce, preferably tamari if you have it, and continue to toast, stirring steadily to mix the soya sauce through. Continue for a couple of minutes and then leave to one side. As they cool down, they'll crisp up, and make a really good snack with beer, if you're not about to mix them into another dish.

Peel and finely chop the carrots, rinse the chick peas, and then turn through in a bowl with the lime juice,  coriander and sesame oil. Then at the last minute introduce the seeds, this stops the salad dressing taking a bit of their crunchy edge off.

To serve:

Last night we had the mousse above and the chick pea salad with a mixture of watercress, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cucumber all from those lovely people at Riverford, who leave a box of veggie goodies on our doorstep every week. Yum.