In my veg box this week – purple sprouting broccoli, parsley, fava beans

9 Apr

This week we have:

Purple sprouting broccoli
It’s broccoli! It’s purple! What’s not to love? We grew both purple and white sprouting broccoli a few years ago, and for a couple of months we had a never ending supply of home grown broccoli. You would think we’d be sick of it but no, it was glorious.

A big bag of parsley
From time to time I get a surprise herb in the veg box. If it’s something I use a lot or can use a lot of in one go (like basil) that’s great, but parsley… Seriously? I use it but I can’t recall a time when I’ve ever needed 50g of it. I’ll either use the whole lot to make parsley pesto, which I’ve never tried before but like the sound of, or this week it will be parsley in everything.

Fava beans
The veg box company are trying to promote fava beans at the moment. Apparently farmers (especially organic ones) grow them between crops to improve the soil, but because nobody in this country eats them they have to export the beans to the middle east. I’m a huge fan of beans and lentils so I am very happy to try them. They look like large lentils, similar to yellow split peas or chana dal, and that’s exactly how I’m going to cook them. I’m going to make a lovely lentil curry and serve it poured all over some rice and the broccoli. Lush.

Also received this week: onions, carrots, potatoes, two tiny red cabbages, a slightly moudly swede (yes, I have complained), mixed salad leaves, oranges, pears, bananas.

Vegan quiche with spinach, leeks and pine nuts

6 Apr

WordPress has just reminded me that today is my blog’s first anniversary. I started the blog one Saturday afternoon, when I decided that the pea pesto recipe I’d invented a couple of days before was so good that it deserved sharing with the world. Armed with a name I plucked out of nowhere, and a slightly blurry photo of some basil, I got started. I only really expected a couple of people to look at it, that maybe I’d put one or two more recipes online, and that basically it wouldn’t really go anywhere. Over the next few weeks I did post a few more times, and I read a lot of other people’s blogs, and I got hooked. One year later, with 38 posts, 149 comments, 123 WordPress followers, I feel like I’ve become part of a community. I’ve made contact with people all over the world, stayed up late because I was having an interesting conversation with strangers on Twitter, and annoyed my husband on many an occasion by spending ages taking photos of our dinner. Other bloggers and Twitter-folk have given me the inspiration and support to go from sort-of-cutting-back-on-dairy to 99% vegan (I’m almost there), and I’m grateful to each and every one of you for that. To thank you, I’m sharing a new recipe, my first ever attempt at a vegan quiche.

Quiche is one of my favourite things to make. It does require a fair bit of multitasking, but it’s really versatile and over the years I’ve come up several different combinations, usually involving a vegetable and a cheese. Making something eggy and cheesy without eggs or cheese sounds impossible, but as firm tofu can act as a good sub for both vegan quiche is actually easier to make than the real thing. It’s not strongly cheesy – think ricotta rather than feta – but I am certain that I could feed this to omnivores and they wouldn’t realise it was vegan.

Recipe notes:

  • The filling from this recipe would also work well wrapped in puff pastry, à la my non-vegan spanokopitta sausage rolls.
  • I use frozen for spinach-heavy recipes like this. It’s better value for money by a long long way, you’d need a sack full of fresh spinach leaves to get the same amount, plus you’d still have to wash and cook it. Unless you’re growing your own and have a glut of it, just buy whole leaf frozen spinach.
  • If there is any filling left, you could use it to stuff a couple of tomatoes and bake them at the same time as the quiche.

Recipe (serves 4)

For the pastry:

  • 50g margarine (check it is suitable for pastry)
  • 100g flour (white or wholemeal, I use a mix of both)
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 1 ts margarine or oil
  • 1 leek, white and green parts, sliced into thin half-moons, thoroughly washed
  • 50ml your preferred non-dairy milk
  • 400g frozen whole leaf spinach, thawed
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted then very roughly chopped
  • A 396g block of firm tofu, drained but not pressed
  • ¼ ts grated nutmeg
  • Plenty of ground black pepper
  • 1 ts salt
  • 1 ts cider vinegar
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 2 tb nutritional yeast flakes

For the pastry, rub the margarine into the flour and salt. Continue mixing with your hands, adding some cold water a splash at a time until it comes together in a ball. Put it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

Lightly grease a 20cm / 8 inch quiche dish. Roll out the pastry and use it to line the dish. Trim the edges but not too much, be aware that the pastry will shrink a little bit when you cook it. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, then blind bake it for 10 minutes at 200˚C. You want the pastry to be starting to go dry and golden, but not brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a small saucepan over a medium heat, melt the margarine or heat the oil, then add the leek and fry for two minutes until it starts to cook down. Add the milk and cook for a further five or so minutes, until the leeks have completely cooked down and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Tip the spinach into a sieve or a muslin-lined bowl. Squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as you can.

Crumble the tofu into a large bowl with your hands. You could use a fork or masher, but doing it by hand is much more efficient.

Add the nutmeg, pepper, salt, vinegar, oil, and nooch to the tofu and mix well. You could continue mixing it by hand, but it’s less messy from now on to use a spoon or spatula. Add the cooked leeks, pine nuts, and drained spinach, and mix until well combined. Tip the filling into the blind-baked pastry, and return it to the oven for around half an hour, until the top is firm and golden. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, it will be much easier to get out of the dish. Serve hot or cold.

Veganizing a Mrs Veg classic – breakfast muffins

6 Apr

One of the most popular posts on my blog to date is the veggie bacon and egg muffins from August 2013. It does bother me a little that on a mostly healthy, mostly plant-powered blog, the thing I’m most recognised for is neither of those things. The vegan version is still junk food, still delicious, but just a little healthier. Here’s how I veganized it:

  • The English muffin can obviously stay, just check the ingredients as some contain milk.
  • You can get vegan cheese singles, but I’d much rather use a lovely thick layer of guacamole. Vegan cheese just sounds wrong, I can’t bring myself to try it. The healthy fat from the avocado satisfies my cheese craving, but unlike vegan cheese you can actually see what it’s made out of when you look at it.
  • The fried egg is replaced by fried or grilled tofu. On this occasion I used Cauldron smoked tofu, but plain tofu marinated overnight would work just as well.
  • A rasher or two of veggie bacon. In the original I think I used Quorn Bacon Style Rashers, which contain egg. I’ve now switched to Cheatin’ Rashers, which don’t. Tempeh bacon would also be an excellent choice.

The next stage is to make it classier, but that’s a post for another day.

Puttanesca tabbouleh

4 Apr

This recipe is pretty low-key, but I just wanted to demonstrate the weird and wonderful dishes you can come up with when you just throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and see what happens. A good number of my recipes were invented on the hoof, my particular favourite being lentil curry with noodles AKA noo-dal. When I invented this salad, I needed an all-in-one carby veggie side dish to go with a quiche I was making (the recipe for which will follow in a couple of days). I came up with this and was really happy with the result. It’s tasty and tangy without dominating the plate.

A quick note on the recipe: It’s not a typo, I really do measure grains by volume in a measuring jug rather than by weighing it out, it’s so much easier.

Recipe (serves 2-3 as a side dish):

  • 100ml quinoa
  • 100ml bulgur wheat
  • 300ml boiling water
  • ½ ts salt
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • Approx. 12 black olives, sliced
  • 1 tb capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tb lemon juice
  • 1 tb basil, finely chopped

Put the quinoa and bulgur wheat in a small saucepan over a hot heat. Allow to toast for a few seconds. Add the boiling water and salt, stir, bring to the boil and stir again. Boil for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat right down and cover the pan. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. The grains should be tender, and tiny white spirals will have started to pop out of the quinoa. Leave to cool.

Tip the cooled grains into a big bowl and fluff with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well with a spoon or spatula and serve.

In my veg box this week – first courgettes and peppers of the year, pak choi

26 Mar

Even though I’ve been getting a veg box for a couple of years now, it’s still really exciting every week when I get home and find it on my doorstep. Some weeks, the mystery and anticipation of bringing it in and unpacking it makes it feel like Christmas morning. Today when I picked up the bunch of bananas and found my first courgette of the year underneath it, I actually squealed with joy. I know I’ll be sick of courgettes by September (especially as I grow my own), but the first few every year are always a real treat. Numerous gluts over the years have resulted in hundreds of ideas for courgettes, but I think my absolute favourite is to add them to scrambled tofu. Yes, courgette for breakfast, I’m a real vegetable addict.

Other treats this week include:

Pointy peppers
Another exciting first of the year. These long red peppers look like giant chillies, but are sweet and fruity rather than hot. They’re another great addition to scrambled tofu, but I think this week they’ll be going into a salad or pasta dish.

Pak choi
Pak choi is a glorious green! The stems are sweet and juicy, the leafy part is similar to spinach. It’s lovely steamed, and incredible stir-fried.

Also received this week: cauliflower, yet more beetroot, onions, pears, kiwis, oranges, bananas.


In my veg box this week – spinach vs. kale, and coping with bananas

19 Mar

Spring is on its way and we’re finally starting to get more variety again. This week we have:

Double greens!
A massive bag of spinach and an equally huge bunch of Tuscan kale, AKA cavolo nero. I’m so excited to get two big bunches of greens because I absolutely love both. Greens are great for iron, calcium, and tonnes of vitamins, although apparently these are more bioavailable in kale than spinach. Kale is really versatile and goes really well with chilli and other spices (always a plus in my book), and has a much more satisfying bite to it. Spinach works better cooked down, squeezed out, then chopped and put in a pasta sauce, or curry, or pie filling (like a spinach quiche). I’m thinking in this case of making either spinach and tofu-ricotta pasta, or a bright green soup. Which do I prefer out of kale and spinach? For me, thanks to the texture and health advantages, kale wins (but only just).

I love bananas, they’re my favourite portable snack, are full of potassium and fibre, and are one of the best hangover cures I know. I know I’m not alone in being a bit squeamish about overripe bananas, though. Luckily, one of the advantages of volunteering for FoodCycle is that it is curing me of this through exposure therapy. We tend to get a lot of bananas at varying stages of ripeness, from perfectly edible to black and mushy. Last Saturday I was given two bowls of frozen then partially thawed bananas to turn into ice cream. It is an awful lot of work if you don’t have a blender, but frozen bananas mashed with yoghurt and syrup make brilliant, healthy yet decadent ice cream.

Also received this week: satsumas, apples, pears, beetroot, sweet potato, carrots, onions, potatoes, mushrooms.

In my veg box this week – winter purslane, celeriac, red cabbage

19 Feb

I’ve not managed to write about my veg boxes for the past couple of weeks. As much as I’ve wanted to, the last few weeks have been a little bit repetitive so I’ve not had anything new to write about. As we head into the hungry gap (the part of early spring when almost nothing is in season) I might have less interesting vegetables to write about. I’m really excited and impatient for it to be summer, when every week’s delivery is diverse and exciting and colourful!

This week we have:

Winter purslane:
Sometimes this is labelled winter purslane, other times they call it claytonia, but as far as I can tell they’re both the same thing. Whatever you call it, it’s a soft and mild small-leafed salad green. At this time of year, after months of living off root vegetables and cabbage, I find it so exciting to start getting salad.

I love celeriac so much, it’s always a joy to get one. It can be a bit of a pain to prepare, you need a really good vegetable peeler (I’d recommend a ceramic peeler rather than metal) or failing that a really sharp paring knife. It’s worth it though, it’s warm, spicy, earthy, and totally unique. You can use it to make some pretty damn fine soup (like my celeriac and cider soup). I also particularly enjoy making alternative chips or wedges, by roasting it with curry powder, or chilli flakes, or just a bit of salt and pepper. Gorgeous!

Red cabbage:
OK, this wasn’t actually in my veg box, it is a home-grown gift from my mum (who you might notice commenting on my posts as tuthersue). Mum has a lovely, well-kept allotment, and grows tonnes of fruit and vegetables, so whenever I see my parents I always get a bag of home-grown vegetables. My brother lives much closer to home and occasionally gets home from work to find a surprise marrow on his doorstep. Anyway… red cabbage. I’ve got two favourite recipes for red cabbage, and while they have similar ingredients they’re completely different. The traditional way of cooking it is to braise it for an hour with a cup of vegetable stock, a knob of margarine, three-quarters of a cup of vinegar, and a tablespoon of sugar. To get a more intense flavour, or if you’re in a hurry, you should try Valentine Warner’s recipe for (in his words) red cabbage done properly. He’s got a really entertaining way with words, it’s worth reading his recipes even if you’re not planning to make them.

Also received this week: two different kinds of oranges, apples, bananas, carrots, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, two cute squashes that will almost certainly end up being stuffed and baked, cauliflower.


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