Chilli con seitan

16 Oct

Chilli was one of the first proper dishes I learned to cook. When I became vegetarian in my early teens I started helping my mum out in the kitchen by making the vegetarian version of whatever she was doing for the rest of the family. Chilli con carne is part of her regular repertoire, and I have particularly fond memories of her giving me a bit of onion, half a tin of beans, half a tin of tomatoes, and letting me be creative with my dinner while we sang along to the radio together and chatted about our day. Over the years I’ve been making it I’ve learned three important things:

  1. While you can knock up a half-decent chilli in 10 minutes or so, if you simmer it for a lot longer the flavours will develop.
  2. Use more herbs and spices than just chilli powder for a greater depth of flavour. I like to use both fresh and dried chilli, together with cumin, oregano, and cocoa powder.
  3. It’s seemingly impossible to take a photo of it that will do it justice.

This is the perfect way to try seitan if you’ve never had it before, for me this shows it at its best. It’s chewy, meaty, satisfying, and stands up well to the complex flavours without either dominating the dish or getting lost in there. It’s a good way to satisfy any meat cravings you have, and it’s crammed full of protein – the seitan and beans alone give you about 30g.

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Recipe (makes two generous portions):

  • 1 tablespoon or more vegetable oil
  • 200g seitan, cut into approx. 1cm cubes
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin half moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
  • 1 x 400g tin of kidney beans, drained (240g drained weight)

In a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, fry the seitan in the oil until browned on most sides, about five minutes. Transfer the browned seitan to a bowl and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add more oil if needed. Fry the onion for about five minutes, until it is softened and starting to brown round the edges. Add the garlic and fresh chilli and fry for a further 30 seconds or so. Add the cumin and chilli powder and cook for another 30 seconds. Then add the rest of the ingredients including the browned seitan. Simmer over a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve over rice, quinoa, or a baked potato.

 

In my veg box this week – onions, broccoli, satsumas

15 Oct

The battery in my camera ran out just as I was lining up the shot of my vegetable box this week. Some days that would be enough of an excuse to give up and not bother with the post, but I’ve had a good day and I’m in the mood to write. Luckily I just worked out recently how to embed Instagram photos in my posts, so my phone came to the rescue. On the subject of Instagram, if you’re on there and interested in pictures of my dinner, my pets, and my knitting (all fascinating obviously) you can find me at instagram.com/mrs_veg.

You might notice that the beetroot in this picture look particularly dark. It’s not the lighting nor the variety of beets, it’s actually proof that they’re local. The soil in East Anglia is black, giving both the scenery and the root vegetables an ominous hue.

This week we have:

Onions
How have I been writing about my vegetable boxes for this long without mentioning onions? I get quite a big bag of onions most weeks, about 500g. I put onions in most savoury dishes, they’re an obvious starting point for soup, stew, curry, pasta sauce. They’re also great baked, just chop them in half round the equator but don’t peel them, drizzle with a tiny bit of oil and bake for about 30 minutes.

Broccoli
Another thing I can’t believe I’ve never written about! Humble broccoli is a long-time favourite in the Veg household. Not only is it green, crunchy, and versatile but, like its friend cauliflower, it has a high surface area so it’s glorious with sauce. One of my favourite ways to cook it is to boil it with pasta (just for the last minute or two of the pasta cooking time or it will turn to mush) then serve it with any pasta sauce. It also goes particularly well with miso soup, they complement each other with their natural umami-ness.

Satsumas
I know it’s still a couple of months away, but nothing says Christmas to me quite like satsumas. The closer you get to Christmas the softer, sweeter, juicier, and more plentiful they become. By mid-December I will be eating several of these a day. For the moment, the first couple are a tantalising little hint that winter is coming, and that maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Also received this week: potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, a green pepper, spinach, apples, a tiny little slug, oranges, yet more plums, a lemon.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

In my veg box this week – cauliflower, plums

4 Oct

 

It has been a long summer, the warm weather has just about managed to last into October. Autumn is quite late coming this year, but the signs are there. I may not yet be hunkering down in a big jumper eating stew and dumplings, but the evenings are getting darker and summer cropping plants are slowing down. During the transition between the two seasons I don’t know what to expect in my veg box. Will it be the last of the summer beans, aubergines, and tomatoes, or will it be the first of the autumn squash and cabbages? This week I’ll look at one of each.

This week we have:

Plums
Plums last into autumn longer than any other stoned fruit. They ripen more slowly, which means they last a lot longer in the fruit bowl, and don’t do that annoying thing of looking fine one minute then mouldy the next. On top of this, they’re incredibly fragrant, lending themselves well to jams, cakes, and crumble.

Cauliflower
Poor cauliflower. It has such a poor reputation. Of course it does, people have been boiling it to death and smothering it with bland white sauce for years! With a bit more love and affection you can use its natural creaminess to your advantage without killing the flavour or destroying all of the nutrients. Make vegan ricotta by mashing cooked cauliflower with tofu, nooch and salt. Mix roasted cauliflower with pesto pasta to make it creamy without  being heavy or greasy. Or blend roasted cauliflower with stock and herbs to make a luxurious but healthy soup.

Also received this week: potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, kale, leek, corn on the cob, oranges, apples, grapes.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

 

VegfestUK London 2014

28 Sep

I’ve just got back from a brilliant day out at VegfestUK London at Kensington Olympia. According to their website, 10,000 people went through their doors today, to try and buy vegan products, do some clothes shopping, browse books and magazines, eat some amazing food, meet people from conservation organisations and welfare charities, and to watch talks and stand-up comedy. I could have easily spent the whole weekend there, especially because there were so many caterers selling different incredible-looking meals. Here are some of my photos.

My favourite thing about VegfestUK is that it’s a completely vegan festival. It’s kind of tiring going to an event as the vegan in the room, always having to check and ask what I can and can’t eat. It was exciting to be in a place where I’m normal, where everything I could see was edible. Here are some of the thing we bought. I’m particularly excited about the crazy amount of snack bars, my new favourite chocolate from Ombar, and the Round Up wagon wheels (I’ve had them before and they’re incredible). We also bought some Mr Nice Pie pies for tonight’s dinner from (not pictured), which I’m really looking forward to.

Ok, so despite there being so many caterers offering beautiful, colourful, healthy meals, as soon as we heard that Vegusto were selling hot dogs all good intentions went out the window. Here’s one of their delicious frankfurters with fried onions, ketchup and mustard. It was amazing, I regret nothing.

In true Mrs Veg style, as soon as I saw the bar I had to go for a vegan ale. Here’s me sampling a pint of Eco Warrior from an organic brewery called Pitfield’s.

VegfestUK is a brilliant day out for vegans, vegetarians, and the veg-curious. I’m already looking forward to going back next year.

http://london.vegfest.co.uk/ – VegfestUK London.

http://vegfest.co.uk/ – other VegfestUK events around the country.

Drying red chillies

27 Sep

I’ve been growing my own chillies at home for a few years now. If you look after the plants well, they can keep fruiting from spring all the way through to autumn and beyond. There’s always a bit of a glut around late summer though, and if you preserve that glut well you can have home-grown chillies all year round. They freeze fairly well, and you can use them to make things like sweet chilli sauce or chutney, but my favourite way to keep them is to dry them. You don’t need any special equipment, just a needle, thread, and somewhere cool and dry for them to hang out for a few months. Here’s how you do it:

Pick all of your red chillies. They should still have the stalk and be fairly firm, if there are any soft bits it won’t work. Cut a long length of cotton and thread the needle. Pick up a chilli and pass the needle through the fleshiest part of the stalk. Repeat with all of the chillies, spacing them a couple of centimetres apart. They shouldn’t slide down, but if you’re worried you could loop the thread around and put it though the same hole again.

Tie a loop in each end of the thread, and hang it up somewhere. Here are my chillies in my pantry:

Leave for a few months until the chillies are fully dried out. They should be fairly hard, and you shake them you should be able to hear the seeds rattling around inside.

Once completely dried, you can remove them from the thread and put them in a jar, ready to be crumbled into your favourite spicy dishes. Alternatively, you could make your own chilli flakes by quickly pulsing the dried chillies in a blender or pounding them in a pestle and mortar. Either way, they will last for months.

 

In my veg box this week – mushrooms, kale, corn

24 Sep

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I last wrote about my veg box. I’ve not been slacking, we had to cancel a few weeks of deliveries, at first because I had so much home-grown produce from my Mum’s allotment, and then because Mr Veg and I went on holiday to Italy. We had such a fab time in Italy, and of course ate some gorgeous food, but I’ll tell you all about that another day.

This week we have:

Mushrooms
We get a bag of mushrooms most weeks. It’s a bit strange, they’re really good mushrooms but we only get a really tiny amount of them – about 100g. It’s not really enough to make them the star of a dish. What will I do with them? This might sound a bit odd, but it depends on whether or not Mr Veg likes mushrooms at the moment or not (he has a bit of a love/hate thing for fungi). If he does like them then great, I’ll use them to enhance an unadventurous dish like spaghetti bolognese, stir-fry, or a vegetable pilaf. Otherwise, I might just be having mushrooms on toast tomorrow, one of my favourite breakfasts.

Kale
I was really really hoping to get some kale this week, so I was thrilled that it was the first thing I saw when I opened the box. The butternut squash my Mum gave me a few weeks ago is almost ripe now, I’ve thought of two ideas of what to do with it and both involve kale. I like the idea of combining sweet, rich, soft squash with green, earthy, crunchy kale. Whichever idea I go with will probably end up on the blog, so keep an eye out.

Corn on the cobs
Wow, these are the first (possibly only) fresh corn I’ve had all summer. I’m definitely having them tonight – sweetcorn is one of those vegetables that gradually gets less sweet, so time is of the essence. I’m not going to do anything fancy, just boil them and slather them with a bit of hot sauce.

Also received this week: bananas, plums, apples, grapes, a lemon, a red pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

No need for a veg box this week – home grown goodies from Mum

27 Aug

Wednesday is normally my veg box day, but I went to see my parents at the weekend and came home with this gorgeous back of fresh veggies! Going to visit my Mum’s allotment was one of the highlights of my weekend, she puts an awful lot of work into it but gets so much back in return. It’s not just the veg (although as I’ve said before about a million times that you can’t beat home grown), but the community and the satisfaction of putting love and effort into something and being rewarded. I don’t have a garden but don’t have the time for an allotment either, I am more than a little envious.

Anyway, my Mum said “lets just pop over to the allotment and pick a couple of bits for you to take back with you” and I ended up with all of this. We picked:

A massive bundle of beans. I think it’s going to be beans with everything for the foreseeable future.

Three different sorts of courgette – yellow, green, and round. The round courgette was more like a ball of marrow than a courgette. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, stuffed it with felafel mix, and baked it.

A butternut squash. It’s still very under-ripe, but after a few weeks of sitting on a window ledge (sunny, but not in direct sunlight) it will be ready to go. I love squashes and I’m really looking forward to them being in season. My Mum is also growing massive pumpkins, so hopefully I’ll have one of those soon as well.

Some long peppers. She broke one of the “rules” of vegetable gardening and planted some seeds out of a supermarket pepper. It’s a bit risky because the seeds might not be fertile, or might produce peppers completely different from the parent plant, but luckily it did work and they’re absolutely beautiful, really fruity and with a much more interesting flavour than peppers from a shop.

A box of tomatoes. As you can probably see, they got a bit squashed in transit (I’m a public transport girl), but it didn’t matter because I decided on the journey to turn them into a bit batch of tomato sauce, after I spotted this recipe from JB at frugalfinefreshfood.com. The sauce was delicious, somehow both fresh and rich at the same time. We had some over the felafel-stuffed courgette, and I’m about to reheat the rest to serve with some pasta, veg, and tofu.

She also gave me a couple of bulbs of garlic, not freshly picked but definitely home grown.

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