Creamy Squash & Spinach Curry

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When it comes to curries, I don’t feel like there should be any set rules with regards to quantities of herbs and spices. Part of the fun should just be playing around with ingredients until you have it tasting just the way you want, which is exactly what I did with this flavoursome curry. I added Alpro soya cream to give it this creamy texture.

Ingredients (4 portions)
•1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
•1 tbsp ground cumin
•1 tsp ground coriander
• 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (plus more to garnish)
•1/2 tsp tumeric
•1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
•1 tsp ground black pepper
•Juice of 1/2 a lemon
•A pinch of chilli flakes
•1 tbsp veg oil
•800g butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into chunks
•1 can of chopped tomatoes
•1 cup of water
•1 tsp sugar
•250g spinach
•200ml soya cream (more to garnish)

Method
1) Place the first 11 ingredients in a blender and blitz until a paste is formed.
2) Add to the pan and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add the squash and stir so that the paste covers all the chunks. Cook gently for a further 10 minutes.
3) Stir in the tomatoes and add the water bit by bit. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
4) Add the sugar and sample the sauce of the curry. Add more water and seasoning if necessary, before adding the spinach. Stir in the cream and leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

To serve, add a drizzle more of cream and the chopped coriander. For a healthy touch, serve alongside wholegrain rice.

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Enjoy!

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Roasted Red Pepper & Lentil Soup

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I love a hearty bowl of soup for lunch during the week and there’s nothing more satisfying than making your own, free from the high levels of salt, sugar and preservatives that the shop-bought varieties contain.

I made a massive batch of this delicious soup on Sunday afternoon and it has provided me with lunch for the entire working week.

Several red peppers are required in order to bring out the flavour in the soup but I can guarantee it’s worth it. I used a mixture of bell peppers and sweet pointed peppers.

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Roasting them for an extended period with thyme brings out immensely sweet flavours and the added red lentils give that hearty feel to it.

INGREDIENTS (4-5 portions)
•4 red bell peppers
•4 sweet pointed peppers
•4 tomatoes, halved
•3 cloves of garlic, crushed
•The leaves of 7 sprigs of thyme
•1 tsp black pepper
• Pinch of salt
•1tbsp olive oil
•700ml veg stock
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
•200g red lentils

METHOD
1) Pre-heat the oven at 180c. De-seed and roughly chop the peppers, placing in a large oven-proof dish along with the tomatoes. Sprinkle on the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, drizzling over the oil.

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2) Place in the oven and roast for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, rinse and boil the lentils, drain and set aside.
3) When removing the peppers from the oven, leave to stand and cool significantly. Add the majority of the stock and blitz with a hand-held blender. Examine the consistency and add more stock if necessary. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, lentils and serve.

I drizzled a dash of soya cream on mine and served with a sprig of thyme. The rest of the soup was then dished out in tuppeware boxes, ready for the week ahead!

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Mushroom & Red Onion Jam Filo Parcels

Served as part of our Sunday roast dinner.

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Last Sunday, I felt like spending the afternoon cooking up a tasty roast, something I hadn’t done since the start of the year! As much as I love a good nut roast, I thought I’d veer away from the predictable veggie centre piece this time and try something new instead. I was craving mushrooms and realised I hadn’t played around with pastry for a long time. I’d love to say I whipped up my own filo pastry…but that would be a lie! The ‘Jus Rol’ ready made pastry is super convenient and a valuable time saver. As mushrooms in pastry would have been rather bland, I decided to experiment with a red onion jam to compliment the saltiness of the mushrooms. My boyfriend grabbed these giant red onions from Chapel Market in Angel.

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INGREDIENTS (4 parcels and 3 jars of jam!)
•2 cloves of garlic
•2 tbsp olive oil
•4 portobello mushrooms
•2 knobs of vegan butter
•4 large red onions, roughly chopped
•A pinch of salt
•4 tbsps brown sugar
•100ml red wine vinegar
•2 sheets of filo pastry

Method
1) Pre-heat the oven to 200c. Heat the oil and garlic in a frying pan and lightly sizzle the mushrooms on each side until they begin to soften. Set aside on kitchen roll to absorb the moisture.
2) In another pan, heat 1 knob of butter and sauté the onions and salt on a high heat, stirring regularly. Once they have reduced and softened significantly, add the sugar and continue stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
3) Add the vinegar and cook for 20 minutes, gradually reducing the heat.

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4) Use 1/2 a filo sheet per 1 mushroom. Place the mushroom on the pastry and place a spoonful of jam on top. Hold the corners of the pastry and twist, pressing down in the middle.
5) With the remaining knob of butter, heat and brush onto the parcels, before placing on grease proof paper and putting in the oven.

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6) Cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

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I served these with thyme roasted carrots, swede and squash, spinach, sweet potato roasties, stuffing and porcini mushroom and red wine gravy.

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I’ve been left with ample amounts of the red onion jam and found it worked extremely well on top of one of my spinach and lentil harissa burgers.

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Great versatility!

Vegfest London 2014

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Last weekend saw the return of Vegfest to Kensington Olympia, a huge 2 day event for all things vegan and animal welfare related. As a vegan newbie, I was delighted to hear that such an event existed but wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I certainly didn’t imagine it to be so popular. I managed to drag my meat-eating boyfriend along; he’s fairly compliant when there’s any type of food involved!

Upon arrival, I was overwhelmed by the amount of stalls at the event, ranging from delicious smelling food to animal welfare campaigners and charities, I didn’t know where to start!

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It was incredibly inspiring to see so many groups of people coming together for the collective purpose of trying to make the world a better place, one way or another. The Vegan Society was there of course, offering support and advice to current vegans, as well as those contemplating a transition to a vegan lifestyle. Additionally, Greenpeace were at the event, continuing to raise awareness of climate change and global warming.

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Our advance tickets enabled us to pick up some freebies including granola, chia shots, yummy almond milk and not so yummy beetroot juice!

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After a few laps of the venue, it was time to make the all important decision of what food to eat. There was almost too much choice for me to handle. I really wanted the tofu tikka masala from Ruperts Street but they’d sold out!

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Whilst Tom opted for a Vietnamese baguette from The Hungry Gecko, I eventually chose some incredibly delicious Pad Thai from Bang Wok which left me ridiculously full!

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With the food part out of the way, it was time for me to treat myself. I picked up this handmade organic lemongrass and coconut body oil from Heavenly Organics which does, in fact, smell heavenly!

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I then came across the stall of a vegan hair salon, The Rabbit Hole, from west London. I purchased an organic hair treatment which seems to have worked wonders on my dyed hair.

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Knowing that I’ve always been somewhat of a cat obsessive, Tom treated me to this cute scarf from the Mayhew Animal Home.

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Before heading home, I grabbed a load of my beloved Nakd bars, as well as some vegan chocolate treats from Moo Free.

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Finally, Tom and I couldn’t resist the cookie sandwiches from Ms Cupcake but we were far too full to eat them then and there. However they proved to be a wonderful evening treat, washed down with a nice cup of tea!

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What a great, inspirational day it was which showed that veganism doesn’t have to be difficult at all and has such positive benefits to individual health, animals and the planet.

I’m looking forward to the next Vegfest event already!

vegfest.co.uk

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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Chana Masala with Coconut Rice

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A quick and easy week night meal and a great way of working with ingredients that you already have in the cupboard. I played around with the herbs and spices until my taste buds were satisfied!

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
•2tbsp veg oil
•1 onion, roughly chopped
•2 garlic cloves, crushed
•2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
•Pinch of chilli flakes
•1/2 tsp tumeric
•1 tsp ground coriander
•2 tsp ground cumin
•2 tsp garam masala
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•Juice of 1/4 lemon
•1 tbsp tomato purée
•1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
•A couple of large handfuls of chopped spinach
•1/2 cup of water
•A handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Coconut Rice
•1/2 cup of brown rice
•2 cups of water
•25g creamed coconut
•1 green cardamom pod, crushed to release the seeds

Method
1) Heat the oil and gently simmer the onion and garlic. After 2 minutes, add the ginger and chilli, shortly followed by the other herbs and spices, stirring frequently.
2) Mix in the lemon juice and tomato purée then add the chickpeas. Stir in the spinach until it begins to wilt. Add the water and mix well. Taste and adjust flavours or add more water if necessary.

Coconut Rice
1) Rinse the rice in cold water for 30 seconds before adding to the pan of boiling water. Stir in the creamed coconut and leave to boil on a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2) Drain and rinse for 10 seconds and then return to the pan, stir in the cardamom seeds, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
* Note that the above steps apply for wholegrain rice. Times and water quantities will need to be adjusted for white rice.

Serve the masala and rice together, sprinkling the fresh coriander on top. Perfect!