How to make vegan pesto out of anything*

3 May

(*almost)

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I can’t claim that there’s anything groundbreaking about my pesto recipe. It’s just the list of ingredients that I have stuck to my fridge that I tweaked a few times until I was happy with it. I’ve wanted to post the recipe for quite a while now to show how versatile it can be if you mix it up a little bit. Fresh herbs can be quite expensive unless you grow your own or find them in the reduced section, as can pine nuts. It’s really easy to switch out the ingredients for other things to suit your meal or your budget.

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In case you can’t read my writing, here’s the recipe (makes a generous amount for two):

  • One clove of garlic, mashed to a fine paste with a pinch of salt (don’t rely on your food processor to do this for you, pesto is best a bit chunky, and chunky raw garlic is not particularly pleasant)
  • 40g leaves
  • 20g nuts/seeds/legumes
  • Half a tablespoon lemon juice
  • Another pinch of salt and plenty of pepper
  • Two tablespoons of oil
  • One tablespoon (or more) of nooch

First, put just the nuts (or whatever you’re using) in the food processor on their own and pulse a couple of times to get them started.

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Then add the rest of the ingredients…

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… and pulse a few more times until it’s just blended (i.e. not a purée).

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Here are a few examples. First, the pea-sto mark 2 – peas, a 50:50 mix of mint and basil, and olive oil:

 

The super-vegan – pumpkin seeds, kale, and hemp oil:

Pasta with kale pesto and more kale #vegan

A photo posted by Mrs Veg (@mrs_veg) on

 

The classic – toasted pine nuts, basil, and olive oil:

Pesto pasta with roast cauli, peppers, white beans and broad beans.

A photo posted by Mrs Veg (@mrs_veg) on

 

The English – podded and cooked broad beans, watercress, and cold-pressed rapeseed oil (here it’s mixed in to some risotto and served with more watercress):

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VegfestUK Brighton 2015

5 Apr

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On Saturday 28 March I took my favourite vegetarian boots to Brighton for the latest VegfestUK event. I love the sea, even on cold, wet, windy March days, so I had to take a little detour via the beach. After getting my fill of salty air I headed over the road to the Brighton Centre.

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I was really excited to browse the 160 stalls, particularly the foodie ones. I tried a lot of products, and of course bought quite a few as well. Some of these were things I already know and love, like Hoots multigrain snacks and Ombar raw chocolate. My top discovery of the day was the crumbly vanilla fudge from Scoff – as I gushingly told the woman on the stall I’ve been craving fudge pretty much constantly since I went vegan, and this really hit the spot.

After my first visit to the stalls I had a good sit down in the cinema and watched a couple of short films from Animal Aid, one about animal testing and another about intensively-reared chickens. They were both interesting, if a little hard-hitting, and served as a good reminder of why we were all there.

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After a second trip around the main exhibition and a bit more shopping, it was time to go to the food village for a spot of lunch. I’m so SO bad at deciding what to eat when I’m given a choice, and here I was with an overwhelming amount of choice that vegans aren’t normally used to. I think I changed my mind no fewer than six times before I went for some pad thai with vegetables and tofu, which was delicious.

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Then it was time to head upstairs to the UK’s first ever Vegan Comedy Festival. For me, stand-up comedy and beer go hand-in-hand, so I got a pint of bitter from Pitfield Brewery. The comedy was brilliant. The comedians didn’t talk exclusively about being vegan, but I think a comedian who shares your interests and values is bound to be funnier than one you have nothing in common with. My favourite was Jake Yapp, who talked about the different types of vegans (apparently I’m a level 4 because I love tempeh), sang a song that made me cry, and did a live version of this:

 

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I had just enough time after this to head back down and pick up a couple of refrigerated items before the stalls closed at 5pm. I was limited by the size of my cool bag, but I bought some Dee’s sausages (gorgeous, but not the easiest to cook), and some vegan coleslaw and egg mayo from Badger’s.

I had a fantastic time, as I knew I would. I’m moving house this week, so I only really had time to go for the day. I wish I had been able to go for the whole weekend; I don’t feel I got to do everything I wanted and I would have loved to have seen more of the comedy festival. Also, I’d never been to Brighton before, and I’d like to see and experience it properly. Next time I’m definitely going to make a long weekend of it.

http://brighton.vegfest.co.uk/ – VegfestUK Brighton.

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

Three quick and easy vegan pasta sauces

22 Mar

When I get back from work late, or tired, or both, it’s hard sometimes to motivate myself to cook something proper for dinner. I often find myself eating freezer junk or having a takeaway, when I’d much rather have something healthy. Here’s my solution. Pasta, whatever random ingredient I find in the fridge, and a quick and easy sauce. These three sauces take about a minute each to prepare, and can just be heated in the pan the pasta was cooked in, meaning no extra washing up. I can be slobbing in front of the TV in my tracky bottoms with some dinner within 20 minutes of getting home.

 

Garlic tahini sauce (serves 1):

  • 1 tablespoon each tahini, cold water, and nooch
  • 1 small clove of garlic, mashed to a fine paste with a generous pinch of salt

Mix all of the ingredients together in a little bowl or cup. Leave to stand for a few minutes while you cook some pasta and veggies. It might be a little lumpy at first but it will become smooth. Mix with the cooked pasta and veggies and serve.

 

Harissa and tomato sauce (serves 1):

  • 1 heaped teaspoon harissa paste
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered

Cook some pasta, and drain, reserving some of the liquid. Leave the pasta in the colander and put the pan back on the hob over a high heat. Throw in the cherry tomatoes, a splash of the pasta water, and the harissa paste. Let it bubble for a minute or so, until the tomatoes are beginning to break down and the harissa paste is mixed in with the water. Return the pasta and any other ingredients back to the pan, stir until everything is well coated with the sauce, and serve.

This recipe also works well with chipotle paste instead of harissa.

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Creamy mustard sauce (serves 1):

  • 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes
  • Half a tablespoon of plain flour
  • 75ml of cold water
  • A pinch of salt
  • Up to 1 tablespoon of grainy mustard

Before cooking the pasta, mix together the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl or cup. Leave to one side while you cook the pasta, so the flour can start absorbing the water. Cook some pasta, and drain. Leave the pasta in the colander and put the pan back on the hob over a high heat. Pour the sauce into the pan and stir it until it comes to the boil and thickens – this should take less than a minute. Return the pasta and any other ingredients back to the pan, stir until everything is well coated with the sauce, and serve.

Chickpea flour scramble

1 Mar
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Chickpea flour scramble with tomatoes, on noochy toast.

 

You would never guess that the stuff that makes Indian pakoras so cripsy and holds together felafel would also make a creamy and satisfying scrambled egg substitute. The secret is to let the batter sit for a few hours. Not only does that sort out any lumps, but the flour particles soak up the water giving it a smoother consistency and texture. In my pre-vegan days I used to like my scrambled eggs quite soft, preferably with some tasty veggies added. I think this recipe is very reminiscent of that, but without being heavy or greasy and, more importantly, without any animal involvement.

 

Recipe (serves 1)

  • Quarter of a cup (60ml) of chickpea (gram) flour
  • 100ml of cold water
  • 1ts oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: a bit of anything else you fancy, e.g. a chopped tomato, some courgette, or a couple of blocks of thawed frozen spinach.
  • Tea and toast, to serve.

Mix the chickpea flour and water together. Leave for at least two hours, preferably overnight. Don’t worry about any lumps, they will disappear on their own. The batter will probably end up quite thick, particularly at the bottom. Give it a quick stir before continuing.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. If using something that needs to be cooked, e.g. tomato or courgette, fry this quickly first. Otherwise, mix whatever veg you’re adding into the batter.

Pour the batter into the frying pan. As it sets underneath and around the edges, turn with a spatula, as you would making scrambled eggs. Continue until it reaches the desired consistency, this will only take a couple of minutes at the most. Serve on toast with a nice cup of tea.

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Roasted broccoli tofu quiche

15 Feb

 

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Poor old quiche doesn’t have the best reputation, people either think that (a) it’s a bit fiddly to make, or that (b) it belongs in the seventies along with vol-au-vents and cheese and pineapple on sticks. If either of these applies to you then please cast aside your doubts and give it a go! Vegan quiche is gorgeous, it’s a good balance of healthy (tofu and veggies!) and naughty (pastry!), and it works both hot or cold. Also, it’s not difficult or time-consuming to make at all. The most active part of the recipe is making the pastry, which takes, what… three minutes? You can do that, right?!

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Roasting the broccoli in this recipe was a last-minute brainwave. I was planning to microwave it, then I read an inspiring article written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz where she said roasting makes everything taste delicious (you can read the full article here for this and five other pearls of wisdom). I’m so glad I did, roasting the broccoli deepens the flavour and contributes to the slight cheesiness. Ground almonds add a little extra firmness to the filling, and increase the cheesy quality of the flavour profile.

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Recipe (serves 4)

For the pastry:

  • 50g margarine (check it is suitable for pastry)
  • 100g flour (white or wholemeal, this time I used half wholemeal spelt and half plain flour)
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 200g broccoli, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tb vegetable oil
  • A 396g block of firm tofu, drained but not pressed
  • Quarter of a cup (or 4 tb) nutritional yeast flakes
  • Quarter of a cup ground almonds
  • One clove of garlic, mashed to a fine paste
  • 1 ts salt
  • Plenty of black pepper

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 15 minutes at 200˚C. You want the pastry to be starting to go dry and golden, but not brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Put the chopped broccoli in a small roasting tin with the oil and roast for about 15 minutes, until softened and starting to brown round the edges. Crumble the tofu into a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and mix well with a fork.

When the broccoli is cooked, remove it from the oven. Chop about half of it even more finely, then add all of the broccoli to the tofu mixture. Carefully tip this into the pastry case, pressing it into the corners and smoothing out the top. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes, until it is heated through and golden brown on top. 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.

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GIVEAWAY – Vegfest UK Brighton tickets

18 Jan

VegfestBrighton

Update: this giveaway has now ended, and the lucky winner is Nic F – congratulations! – 22nd February 2015

Anyone who read my post from September 2014 about Vegfest UK London will know how much I love their events, so I’m thrilled to announce that I’m giving away two free tickets to Vegfest UK Brighton, on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th March 2015. I’ll be going myself of course, and I’m particularly looking forward trying and buying new vegan products and watching some stand up comedy. Do you want to watch a cookery demonstration and eat some delicious vegan food? Would you like to learn more about nutrition, politics, or how to support wildlife and the environment? Maybe you’re interested in meeting other like-minded people. Whether you’re just thinking about making the transition to vegetarianism, or a long-term vegan, this is the event for you!

I have two weekend tickets for Vegfest Brighton UK to give away to one lucky winner. The festival is on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th March 2015, at the Brighton Centre, BN1 2GR, UK. Travel and accommodation are not included. Entries close on Sunday 22nd February 2015 at 12am. Please do not enter this giveaway if you’re one of my family, friends, or colleagues – sorry! For more information on Vegfest UK Brighton please see brighton.vegfest.co.uk.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS OF HOW TO ENTER
(it takes less than a minute to enter; external site, powered by Rafflecopter)

Watercress soup – healthy, sexy, green

11 Jan

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This soup is a bit of a treat, as it takes one whole bag of watercress to make just one bowl. It tastes fresh and peppery and is full of vitamins and minerals, so it will make you feel incredible. I’m not exaggerating, it’s been over an hour since I ate the bowl of soup in the photo above and I’m still on a bit of a high. Either make it as an indulgent lunch for one, or serve it in little teacups as a starter for someone you’re trying to woo.

Notes:

  • The same quantities and method work for other green soups. Just replace the watercress with spinach or kale for a more everyday soup.
  • A small onion/potato/carrot is one you can fit in the palm of your hand and close your fist around.
  • Don’t bother peeling the potato and carrot unless they’re really muddy or have been nibbled by bugs. Just give them a good scrub.

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Recipe (serves one as a meal, or two as a starter):

  • One teaspoon oil
  • One small onion, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One small potato, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One small carrot, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One clove of garlic, smashed, peeled, then roughly chopped
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 75g fresh watercress
  • Salt and pepper to taste (you shouldn’t need very much of either)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the onion, potato, carrot, and garlic. Cover and leave to sweat for 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. A little bit of colour is fine, but you don’t really want the veggies to brown.

Add the stock and simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes. Add the watercress a handful at a time until it has all wilted into the broth – this should only take a minute or two. Blend, check for seasoning, and serve.

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