Spinach & Lentil Harissa Burgers

Served with rosemary-infused sweet potato chips.

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I had my best friend round for dinner last night and gave her some options as to what we could eat. She chose the burger and chips option so I took the opportunity to throw together a new recipe (any excuse)!

When I’ve made nut roasts before, I’ve found that blending lentils has always created a moist roast that naturally binds itself together so decided to to use lentils as the main component of the burgers. The spinach adds another level of texture and colour, whilst the harissa packs a punch of flavour.

As I’d never made these burgers before and was completely improvising, I did endure a near cooking catastrophe. I’d envisioned shallow frying the burgers but once added to the oil, they just formed a gloopy mess! Luckily, this happened with only a small sample of the burger mixture. I ended up cooking them in the oven instead and all was fine and dandy.

INGREDIENTS (8 burgers approx)
•300g red lentils, boiled and drained
•1 tbsp oil
•1 onion, finely chopped
•3 cloves of garlic, crushed
•100g fresh spinach
•3tsps ground cumin
•1/2 tsp tumeric
•1 tbsp harissa paste
•juice of 1/2 a lemon
•A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
•Salt and pepper to season
•A small cup of plain flour

METHOD
1) Heat the oven to 180c. Heat the oil and gently sauté the onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Add the boiled lentils, followed by the spinach, stirring until it begins to wilt.
2) Add the cumin, tumeric, harissa paste, lemon juice and coriander, mixing until it resembles a very thick paste. Remove from the heat and season.
3) Stir in the flour and use your hands to mould the mix into burger shapes, adding more flour if necessary. Place on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes on each side. Leave to stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

For the chips, I peeled and chopped sweet potatoes into chunks and very lightly coated in olive oil. I then spread the chips out on a baking tray and sprinkled on generous portions of salt and black pepper, as well as a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.

I cooked in the oven for 15 minutes, turned and cooked for a further 10 minutes, removing the rosemary before serving.

I placed the burgers in buns, added some vegan mayo and enjoyed! My meat-eating friend praised the burgers as well so I highly recommend these for a comforting weekend treat!

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What’s in the bag…?

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Since making the transition to veganism, Holland & Barrett has become my new favourite shop. I’ve popped into their stores sporadically for vitamins and various herbal remedies in the past but I don’t know why I’ve only just noticed their refrigerated and frozen section! I visited the Moorgate store yesterday and picked up a few treats…

•cereal bars
•vegan flapjack
•Provamel soya yogurts
•vegan sunflower spread
•Cheezly Edam- style cheese

And best of all…

•Booja-Booja hunky punky chocolate ‘ice-cream’!

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Made from just 4 ingredients (water, cocoa powder, agave syrup and cashew nuts), this organic concoction tastes unbelievably sweet and creamy. I don’t think anyone would be able to tell that this isn’t the real thing.

And I just loved the back of the carrier bag, almost as much as the contents inside…!

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Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

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Come autumn, I’m usually longing for some hot comfort foods for the chillier evenings. Although temperatures are above average for this time of year, I was still determined to make this hearty shepherd’s pie.

It has taken me years to overcome the childhood memories of shepherd’s pies filled with stodgy mince and salty gravy. I therefore decided to pack mine out with delicious veggies and added tomatoes to contrast with the sweetness of the potatoes.

INGREDIENTS (4-5 portions)
•6 sweet potatoes, peeled
•A knob of vegan butter
•100ml soya cream (I use Alpro, available in most large supermarkets)
•1 tsp vegan mayonnaise (I got mine from the ‘Free From’ section in Sainsbury’s)
•1 tbsp olive oil
•1 carrot, peeled and chopped into small cubes
•100g red lentils
•1 onion finely chopped
•3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
•1 tsp black pepper
•The leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
•1 red pepper, finely chopped
•200g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
•1 portobello mushroom, sliced
•1/2 can of kidney beans, drained
•1 can chopped tomatoes
•200ml veg stock
•1tsp balsamic vinegar
•A dash of red wine
•3 tbsps breadcrumbs
•A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Method
1) Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes until soft. Drain and return to to the pan. Roughly mash, before stirring in the cream, butter and mayonnaise. Mix with a blender until you have a smooth, lump-free consistency. Set aside.
2) Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Boil the carrots and lentils for 10 minutes until they begin to soften. Heat the oil in the pan and sauté the garlic, onion, thyme and black pepper for 2 minutes. Add the red pepper and stir for another 5 minutes.
3) Add the mushrooms in batches and cook until softened. Stir in the beans, carrots, lentils and tomatoes, shortly followed by the stock, wine and balsamic vinegar. Keep on a low heat for a further 10 minutes before pouring into an oven proof Pyrex dish.
4) Spoon the mashed potatoes on top, flattening down with the back of a spoon. Use a fork to create a criss-cross pattern on top. Cover with the breadcrumbs and add a few sprigs of rosemary on top.

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5) Place in the oven for 40 minutes, until it’s all bubbling and golden and leave to stand.

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I served this up with broccoli and curly kale, making the entire meal packed with vitamins and goodness. I just reheated a portion for dinner tonight and it was even better the next day; the flavours and juices had set perfectly. This is definitely one of my proudest recipes!

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Vegetarianism to Veganism: The Switch

Yes, it’s official. After nearly 16 years of vegetarianism, I’ve finally done what I should have done years ago and ventured into a cruelty-free lifestyle. By being vegetarian, I thought that I was doing enough to relieve myself of the guilt of the torture and suffering caused to countless innocent creatures. If I’m entirely honest with myself, my love of cheese and desire for an easy life shrouded the deep-down knowledge I had that egg and dairy farming are inflicting just as much suffering on animals as the act of slaughter itself.

For years I was of the misguided belief that veganism was a highly extreme and near enough impossible way of life. It was only last year when I started up this blog and began linking up with inspirational vegan bloggers that I realised that this is not the case. Whilst the basis of many of my recipes involved cheese or dairy, I started experimenting with vegan ingredients, feeling a lot more creative in the process.

Last year, I made a conscious decision to reduce my dairy intake by cutting out eggs in their pure form, limiting the amount of cheese I ate and switching to soya milk. When I used to consume milk in large quantities (such as a venti latte), I would often become plagued with feelings of bloatedness and indigestion. Soya milk soon put a stop to this. My decision was further cemented upon reading the book ‘PopCo’ by Scarlett Thomas which further raised the ethical issues surrounding the consumption of animals and their by-products.

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I managed a few vegan weeks at the start of the year for the Veganuary pledge but found myself falling short once again. However the knowledge of what is inflicted on cows to produce dairy weighed heavily on my mind and I started to lose any enjoyment in it.

It was the ‘Horizons: Should I Eat Meat?’ documentaries that finally clarified what I already knew. Seeing images of chicks on conveyor belts in factories and a farmer with his arm inside a cow’s digestive system made me realise that this is an inhumane, greedy and exploitive industry that I do not want to be a part of in any way, shape or form. When scrutinising what milk is, the fluid from inside a cow filled with hormones, antibiotics and who knows what else, the transition has been an incredibly easy one!

Now nearly a month in, I’m feeling better than ever before, as if a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve still got a lot to learn in terms of which products are vegan but I know I’m going to enjoy exploring new ingredients. I’ve already ventured into a spot of vegan bakery and thoroughly loved these heavenly brownies served with soya cream.

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There are many reasons to go vegan, from health to environmental and ethical ones. People who claim that it’s difficult and unhealthy clearly need to do their research. And if you haven’t already seen the Horizons documentaries then I strongly recommend you do. I challenge even the most cold-hearted of people to not be affected.http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04fhbrt

Further Reading
The Vegan Society

Environmental impact of the meat industry

Veganism linked to lower cancer rates

http://veggiesoup4thesoul.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

Red Pepper & Butter Bean Sausages

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Making my own veggie sausages is something that I’d been meaning to do for a very long time. The shop variety tend to be heavily processed and often contain high levels of salt. These creations did take me a while and were rather messy to make, but worth the graft in the end!

INGREDIENTS (7 sausages)
•1 red pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped
•1 clove of garlic, crushed
•2 shallots, peeled and chopped
•A handful of fresh spinach
•1 tbsp olive oil
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 can of butter beans, drained
•A tsp of dried oregano
•A few drops of soya milk
•A small cup of plain flour
•A small cup of breadcrumbs

Method
1) Place the first 6 ingredients on a baking tree and place in a pre-heated oven (180c), lightly roasting for 20 minutes (keep the oven on for the sausages).

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2) Mix the cooked ingredients with the butter beans, oregano and a drop of soya milk (to bind). Using a food processor or hand-held blender, blitz until a thick, dough-like mixture is formed.
3) Add some of the flour to the mixture, placing more on the work surface so that the mixture doesn’t stick!
4) Now time for the messy part; take a handful of the mixture, sprinkle on some of the breadcrumbs and roll into a sausage shape. This took me several attempts but I think I more- or-less perfected it by the seventh sausage! If they start to look a little dry, brush some of the soya milk over them.

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5) Cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

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I served these with toast, tomatoes and a portobello mushroom for a perfectly vegan breakfast!

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