Tag Archives: chilli

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.

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Chilli con seitan

16 Oct

Awesome tasty chilli with beans and seitan #vegan

A post shared by Mrs Veg (@mrs_veg) on

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.

 

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.

 

Spicy roasted squash and chickpea soup

10 Nov

It’s Sunday, it’s cold outside, yes… I’ve been making soup again. I could probably fill my entire blog with soup recipes and never run out of ideas or get bored. Here. squash is roasted to bring out the full depth of the flavour. Chickpeas add texture and balance the sweetness and richness of the squash. My two favourite spices, cumin and chilli, make it lovely and warming for a chilly autumnal day.

I used one of my Mum’s home-grown butternut squash for this, but any squash or pumpkin will do. You could roast the squash when you happen to have the oven on for something else, and then keep it in the fridge for when it’s time to make soup. The soup itself is very quick to put together.

Recipe (serves 4)

  • About 500g squash, roasted (about half an hour at 200ºC should do it)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Half a tin of chickpeas, about 120g
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Fry the onion with the lid on, for about five minutes. Add the garlic, chilli and cumin and fry for a couple more minutes, still covered.

Add the rest of the ingredients and then blend until smooth. Heat through, check for seasoning, and serve.

Come back nut roast, all is forgiven!

2 Oct

Nut roast. It’s one of those dishes that vegetarians and vegans dread. Usually the domain of unimaginative chefs (see my stuffed pepper post for the full rant) or boring old hippies that only eat bland, brown food and probably crochet their own underwear (let’s face it, we all know at least one). I’ve decided to reclaim nut roast for the mainstream. Nuts are tasty and nutritionally dense, it’s a travesty to waste them on something boring. Here they are in a delicious, colourful roast. Rich chestnuts are paired with crunchy walnuts and seeds, and jazzed up with herbs and a hint of spice. As well as forming the centrepiece of a traditional Sunday roast, alongside a mound of roast potatoes and a gallon of gravy, it can be used to stuff vegetables (I think squash would be amazing), or cold as a sandwich filling.

Before...

Before…

... and after

… and after

Recipe (serves 6-8)

  • 1 tablespoon oil, plus extra for oiling the tin
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped (a food processor will do a fine job of this, seeing as you’ll be using it anyway)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed then chopped
  • 200g cooked chestnuts
  • 50g walnuts
  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs or ground crackers
  • 50g mixed seeds
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • a big handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used parsley and thyme on this occasion)
  • half a teaspoon of hot chilli powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly oil a small loaf tin.

Fry the onion in the oil over a medium heat for about five minutes, until softened and starting to brown. Add the garlic and carrots, and cook for a further five minutes or so.

Put the chestnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Tip into a large bowl, then repeat with the walnuts. It’s easier to control the consistency if you blend the two different kinds of nuts separately.

Add the fried vegetables and the rest of the ingredients to the nuts in the bowl. Mix well, and check the seasoning. Press this mixture into the loaf tin. Bake for around 30 minutes until nicely browned. Enjoy hot or cold.

Chilli and corn stuffed peppers

29 Aug

There are many things a vegetarian might see on a restaurant menu that will make their heart sink. Dishes that can be satisfying and delicious, but when made by a begrudging meat-eating chef in a busy kitchen will invariably be a stodgy, tasteless disappointment. Common failures include risotto, vegetable lasagne, and mushroom stroganoff.

I was reminded of this recently when watching an episode of Celebrity Masterchef. The contestants were asked to produce food for a college canteen. One of the vegetarian options they made was stuffed peppers, which consisted of peppers stuffed with plain cous cous and vegetables. Nothing else. I love vegetables more than anything, but if I was presented with that for my lunch I would feel really let down. It shows real lack of imagination. Most vegetarians I know have as healthy an appetite as anyone else and they like their food to taste of something. We’re not ill, we’re not on a diet, and most of all we love good food!

So in response to the Masterchef non-recipe, here are my own stuffed peppers, using the classic combination of chillies and corn. It’s tasty, it’s filling, and most of all it’s not disappointing. You could add a bit of grated cheese if that floats your boat, but I choose not to.

Recipe (makes four half peppers)

  • 2 bell peppers
  • 75g polenta
  • 1 hot chilli
  • a sprig of thyme
  • 150g sweetcorn
  • half a teaspoon of salt

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Cut the peppers in half, and remove the seeds. Try and keep the stalk attached, it helps the pepper halves keep their shape and stops the filling from spilling all over the place. Put the peppers in a roasting tin.

Bring 350ml water to boil in a non-stick saucepan. Slowly pour the polenta into the boiling water, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and keep stirring for two minutes. When the polenta is thick and fairly smooth (kinda like mashed potato), add the finely chopped chilli, thyme, sweetcorn, and salt. Stir well.

Divide the filling between the peppers. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pepper is cooked and the stuffing is starting to brown.

Note: if there is any filling left over, let it set, cut it into cubes and fry it up. Or just eat it.

Two-soup Sunday, part one – any veg minestrone

18 Aug

I love soup. It’s healthy, filling, usually cheap, easy to make, requires minimal thought and co-ordination, and best of all, you can put pretty much anything in it. Making soup is a lovely calm activity for a gentle Sunday morning, and if you make a massive batch you’ll have a couple of days worth of packed lunch for work too.

Minestrone is the King of versatility. It surprises me that most recipes give a set list of vegetables with precise quantities. Surely it’s more fun and more practical to just throw in whatever seasonal vegetables you have to hand?! It does make my recipe look a bit strange, but that’s just how I like to do things. The point is, if you open the fridge and feel a bit baffled by the random selection of veggies inside, minestrone is a quick and tasty solution.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (completely optional, but almost obligatory in the Veg house)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or any other herb that works well with what you’ve got)
  • diced fresh veggies – a dinner plate piled fairly high is about the right amount (or 2 carrots, 2 courgettes, 1 red pepper, and a handful of broad beans if you want to follow a list)
  • 120g small pasta or broken spaghetti
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 tin any kind of white beans (235g drained weight)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan with the lid on, sweat the onion in the oil over a medium-low heat for up to 10 minutes, without colouring.

Add the garlic, chilli, herbs, and vegetables, and sweat with the lid on for another 5-10 minutes, again without colouring.

Add the pasta, tomatoes, drained beans, stock, and tomato puree, and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes, until the pasta and vegetables are tender.

Check the seasoning and serve. Top with croutons, cheese, toasted pine nuts, or pesto, or enjoy it naked.

This keeps well in the fridge for a few days but be warned – the pasta will gradually soak up the liquid and it will become less soupy over time, but still utterly delicious!

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