Tag Archives: vegan

Easy veggie sausage rolls, in honour of #ivjfd15

30 Aug

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Whenever I post a recipe for something less healthy, I usually feel the need to include a disclaimer about my diet normally involving vibrant, healthy, whole foods. Well not today! Yesterday was the second annual International Vegan Junk Food Day, an in its honour here is my unapologetically unhealthy sausage roll recipe.

Sausage rolls were the first thing I ever cooked for Mr Veg, so they hold a particularly special place in my heart. Delicious food and with no animals harmed, I think that’s a pretty good start to a new relationship.

It is entirely serendipitous that one sheet of puff pastry is exactly the right amount for one packet of sausage mix. It’s like the universe wants it to happen. If you wanted to make sausage rolls from other ingredients, roughly equal weights of pastry and filling would normally be a good place to start.

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Recipe (makes 16 small or 8 large sausage rolls):

  • 1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry (375g) – store-bought puff pastry is usually vegan, but please check the ingredients first
  • 1 packet of veggie sausage mix (150g dry weight)
  • Herbs and spices (optional)
  • A small amount of oil, for greasing the baking sheet
  • A small amount of non-dairy milk, for brushing
  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
  2. Make up the sausage mix according to the packet instructions. I like to jazz it up with extra herbs and spices, but this is optional.

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  1. Unroll the pastry sheet. Leaving it on the backing paper for now, and cut it in half lengthwise.

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  1. Spread half of the sausage mix lengthwise along the middle third of each pastry rectangle. This is the only slightly fiddly bit, I find it easiest to put small spoonfuls of the mixture along the pastry, and then spread it out with my fingers.

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  1. Brush a small amount of non-dairy milk along one of the edges of the pastry; this will help the pastry stick together.

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  1. Carefully take the edge of the pastry that you didn’t brush with milk, and fold it over the sausage mix.

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  1. Continue rolling, so the edge you rolled onto the sausage mix now goes onto the edge you brushed with milk. This double layer of pastry (the seam) should stay underneath.

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  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the rolls to your preferred size.

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  1. Keeping the seam underneath, transfer the sausage rolls from the backing paper to the greased baking sheet. Prick each sausage roll with a fork to allow any steam to escape.

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  1. To help the sausage rolls brown, brush each one lightly with more non-dairy milk.
  1. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is cooked through and golden. Enjoy hot or cold.

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10 not-so-stupid questions about veganism

23 Nov

One of the things vegans have to get used to is being asked an awful lot of questions. While all vegetarians and vegans have at least one story about an offensive or ill-informed conversation with an omnivore, I find that most people are genuinely interested and just want to know about the practicalities of what they see as an extreme or unusual lifestyle choice. The best advice I can give to new vegans is to be prepared for the sorts of questions that come up, and to answer questions calmly and honestly. Here are my responses to some of the questions I’ve been asked over the last few months.

  1. Is it difficult?

Logistically? I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but I do have to always plan ahead. If I’m going on a long journey I tend to research where I might be able to eat on the way. If I’m going to see friends for the weekend I take some almond milk and veggie sausages so I know I can have a cup of tea and some breakfast without causing them any problems. Wherever I go I always have healthy snacks in my bag. Are any of those things a problem? Of course not. I’ve always been obsessed with food anyway, so this isn’t much different from before. Even if it were an effort it would be a small price to pay, the benefits of being vegan outweigh the work that goes into it.

  1. Are there any foods that you miss?

When I first turned vegan I dreamed about oozy cheese every night, but got over it really quickly. I still miss eggs sometimes though, there are times that I get a real hankering for a boiled egg with soldiers, but I know I will get over it. When I first turned vegetarian at the age of 12, whenever I smelled bacon cooking I’d get a real longing for it, but after a few months the craving disappeared to the point that when I smell it cooking now it doesn’t even register as food.

  1. Are you ever tempted to say “oh sod it” and just have some cake?

Honestly? Not in the slightest. My reasons for being vegan are stronger than my desire to eat something animal products. When I do crave an egg, for instance, I just ask myself what happens to the chickens when they’ve stopped being useful, and that’s enough to kill the craving.

  1. But you can’t eat cake!

I don’t know if it’s because I hang around with particularly cake-obsessed individuals, but this is by far the most common thing people say when they find out I’m vegan. I can’t buy cake from a shop, and if someone brings cake to work I have to turn it down, but don’t worry because I can definitely eat cake. My favourite method of vegan advocacy is to bring them some delicious cake and surprise them afterwards by telling them it was vegan.

  1. I’ve been reading all about vegans on the internet, and I’ll let you do it as long as you promise me you’re getting enough vitamin B12.

Thanks Mum! I’m 32, I’ve got an important job, I’m married, but I’m still my Mum’s baby and she will never stop worrying about me. B12 is a vitamin we normally get from animal sources, but it’s actually made by bacteria rather than the animals themselves, so it is possible to get vegan sources of it. Loads of things are fortified with it, like breakfast cereals, non-dairy milks and yogurts, marmite, and nooch.

  1. Is your partner vegan?

He’s vegetarian but not vegan. Mr Veg is a very ethically-minded person, I know and trust that he doesn’t make any decision lightly, so while I don’t agree with his reasons for eating eggs and dairy, I do respect his choice. Does it cause any problems? All of the meals we make together at home will be vegan, if that bothered him he would be welcome to make himself something different, but it doesn’t. The only issue, and it’s really trivial, is that he feels uncomfortable eating certain things when I’m there, he thinks it bothers me an awful lot more than it does.

  1. How do you cope going on holiday?

This is really two questions in one. Firstly, in terms of accommodation then either self-catering or a vegetarian bed and breakfast will be easiest, but most hotels will have a breakfast buffet with at least some vegan choice (e.g. beans on toast or some fruit) so it’s not really an issue. Secondly, they might be asking about eating out. My answer to this is that I’ve learned what sort of places I can get easily a vegan meal in, and how not to be shy to ask questions or ask for tweaks to things on the menu. I sometimes get funny looks asking for things without the cheese, but when it’s a choice between getting a funny look and going hungry, I’d much rather put up with being the weird customer who wanted the goats’ cheese salad without the goats’ cheese.

  1. Do you find you have enough energy?

This surprises some people, but I actually feel physically a lot better now than before I was vegan. I have more energy, my acne is a lot better, my hair is less greasy, my nails are stronger, and I suffer a lot less with bloating. I transitioned to veganism gradually, and for a few months I was vegan in the week and just vegetarian at the weekends, until I realised that every Monday and Tuesday I felt bloated and grumpy. That was enough to give me the final push!

  1. Do you want some cake or are you still doing that vegan thing?

I have to admit, this does wind me up a bit. It’s not the offer of cake, they’re just being polite after all. What really does bother me is that people assume it’s a phase or a fad diet, or that I’m vegan most of the time unless it’s someone’s birthday. I’m not on the 5:2 diet or WeightWatchers, I made a permanent lifestyle change due to an ethical choice. Thank you very much for the offer but, in the same way a vegetarian would turn down a bacon butty, I’ll politely decline.

  1. You’ve lost weight, is it your [whispers like there’s something shameful about it] vegan diet?

I did lose a few pounds when I turned vegan, it’s quite common but not guaranteed. I was at the upper limit of a healthy weight for my height before, and now I’m comfortably below that line but definitely nowhere near underweight. I had to work very hard with this particular person to demonstrate that my diet is vibrant and healthy and varied and definitely not something to be worried about, and I think I won her round.

I’d be really interested to know what questions others have been asked, or what answers you’ve given to some of the questions above. Please leave your comments below.

In my veg box this week – brassicas, brassicas, brassicas!

22 Oct

If the colder weather wasn’t enough of a sign that autumn is here, the sudden abundance of brassicas should be enough to convince you. Vegans are recommended to eat green leafy vegetables every day, because they’re a great source of both iron and calcium. Having three different brassicas in one veg box looks pretty extreme, but we should be eating that much in a week anyway. What am I going to do with them? Let’s see…

Cauliflower
It’s quite a small one, it will only feed the two of us for one meal. We’ll save the green outer leaves and feed them to our pet lizards and snails. I think I’ll fry the florets with Indian spices and serve then with dal and rice.

Broccoli
I don’t know yet what I’ll be doing with this broccoli, but last time I volunteered for FoodCycle we made some fab green soup, using onions, potatoes, stock, tonnes of broccoli, and some kale (you can see a photo on Twitter). It was way more delicious than I expected, so fresh and light but satisfying at the same time.

Cabbage
It’s been a few months at least since I last had cabbage. A lot of people don’t like it, but as long as you don’t overcook it it’s lovely and so versatile. I think we’ll have some of it with bangers and mash and gravy (it is October, after all), and the rest will go in a spicy stir fry.

Also received this week: a leek, potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, bananas, apples, oranges, even more plums.

“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.

Mrs Veg is back

15 Jul

I’m finally back after my annual hiatus! I work as an administrator at a university and around exam time I’m so drained that I can’t quite articulate myself as well as normal, and I have to have a little break from blogging. I’ve not been sitting at home doing nothing though, I’ve been doing all of the usual Mrs Veg things (growing, cooking, and eating vegetables). Here are some of the things I’ve been up to over the last couple of months:

Our gardening so far this summer has been a bit hit and miss. The pigeons damaged our garlic and broad beans which was really frustrating, but I’ve replaced both with courgette plants which have now started producing. Courgettes are one of the things that are definitely worth trying at home – they’re easy to grow and they taste about a million times better than anything you can buy in the shop. Our strawberry plants are taking a while to get established, but we got our best ever crop this year – about seven of the little beauties in total. As with courgettes you just can’t beat home-grown ones.

In June I went to a vegan food event at my local yoga centre. I could tell that most of the people I told about it were a bit baffled by the idea (after all, vegans just eat plain tofu, brown rice, and kale don’t they? What else is there to know?) It was really interesting and I had such a lovely time. We had a really helpful talk on nutrition, which might have been a bit too scientific for some but as I’m a bit of a geek I found it fascinating. After the talk we had a beautiful meal including ful medame (made of fava beans – my new favourite), a vibrant green tabbouleh, courgette rolls, and a few different salads and dressings. The other people there ranged from veg-curious all the way to long-term vegans. I really enjoyed sharing a meal with new people who I had a common interest with, and the the nutritional information that I learned is really sticking with me and guiding my food choices.

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One of the people I met at the yoga centre seemed to be as interested in experimenting with food as I am, and told me about his adventures making his own tempeh. I had eaten and enjoyed tempeh a couple of times before but it never occurred to me that I might be able to make it at home. I bought some tempeh starter and some whole, dried soya beans and tried it myself. Mr Veg helped me make a makeshift incubator using a wire cooling rack set over a terrarium heat mat (pictured above). It was very extremely time-consuming but totally worth it. If you ignore the labour costs of the hours I spent sat in front of the tv dehulling the beans, it works out much more cost-effective than the tempeh you can buy in the shops, and it’s tastier too. I will definitely make it again, but with hulled beans next time. I will take pictures when I do and I will write more about it.

Last week I went to the V Delicious show at Olympia in London. I’ve never been to a vegetarian food exhibition before and I’m so glad I did because I had a whale of a time trying (and buying) different veggie foods. As soon as I decided to go I developed a really strong craving for jelly sweets, which I’ve not eaten for a long time because of the gelatin. When I found the Goody Good Stuff stall I was thrilled, and as embarrassing as this is to admit, when I tried a cola bottle sweet I actually felt a bit emotional, and of course had to buy several bags of them.

Another thing I was particularly interested in trying at the show was vegan cheese. As a former cheese fiend I find the idea of pretend cheese more than a little bit horrifying, but at the same time I’ve been curious to find out what it’s actually like. I tried several of the cheeses made by Vegusto, the texture was a bit too soft and homogeneous, but a couple of them tasted kind of nice. It was interesting to try but I don’t think I’d ever buy it, I’d rather replace dairy with more naturally creamy foods like avocado, tahini, hummus, or cashew cream.

Amongst other things I bought an awful lot of snacks (mostly Nakd bars, which are my absolute favourite), a couple of good books, kombucha (which I’m now thinking about making at home), aloe vera juice, delicious veggie sushi, Round Ups vegan wagon-wheel-style biscuits), tea, crackers, and some habas fritas. It was a great day out and I’d definitely go back or to a similar event again in the future.

Now the hungry gap is well and truly over my vegetable box deliveries are finally interesting again, and the “In my veg box this week…” series will resume this week.

I’m really looking forward to getting back into writing again, and to catching up with people. I’ve got a few recipes and other things to write about and I can’t wait to share them with you.

A very veggie Christmas

21 Dec

“So, what do you eat for Christmas dinner?”

It’s the one question all meat-eaters want to ask vegetarians and vegans at this time of year. It’s no surprise they’re curious, food seems like one of the most important aspects of Christmas, and for many people the idea of Christmas day without a massive dead bird in the oven seems a bit weird. To answer their question, and to make a few suggestions, here are a few things I’ve had for my veggie Christmases over the years.

Nothing

I don’t mean nothing at all. What I mean is nothing extra. Pile your plate high with roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, stuffing balls, Yorkshire puddings, and drown the whole lot in some lovely vegetarian gravy. I’ve read comments from other vegetarians complaining about being forgotten at Christmas meals and being given a plate of side dishes, but when the side dishes make the meal you don’t really need anything else!

Nut roast

The mainstay of the office Christmas lunch has a terrible reputation, but when it’s done right it’s a fab choice. It’s tasty, satisfying and super healthy, and it’s brilliant for leftovers. Don’t go for a dull, brown packet-mix. Instead, scour the internet for a festive recipe that has things you like in it. To name just a few:

Pie

I’m the only vegetarian in my immediate family, so when I spend Christmas day with them I tend to make my own meat alternative, usually a pie of some sort. Making something different for just one person does sound kind of lonely, but I see it as a real treat, a chance to have whatever I want. Unfortunately I am a creature of habit and tend to always want the same thing – a brie and mushroom parcel. I’ve recently cut out dairy completely, so next time I’m with my parents for Christmas I’ll probably make a mushroom and something else parcel (pine nuts would be lovely). As a rough guide, 100g of puff pastry to 100g of filling makes a generous pie or pasty for one person.

Speaking of mushrooms, one of the nicest meals I ever had was a beautiful mushroom strudel. It was probably nothing more than wild mushrooms cooked with garlic, wrapped in filo pastry, but despite its simplicity it was so special.

Fake meat

I don’t eat an awful lot of fake meat. It’s high in protein but nutritionally it doesn’t have a lot else going for it. I prefer whole foods. However, it is a fun option if you fancy a nostalgic treat, and you can use it to make a very traditional-looking Christmas dinner. A fake meat extravaganza is the usual choice for Christmas dinner in the Veg household, where the vegetarians (me, Mr Veg and his little bro) outnumber the one meat eater (my mother-in-law, AKA Southern Mum). There are several brands of vegetarian chicken-style roasts now, we normally have a couple of these so there will be plenty of leftovers.

I love making veggie pigs in blankets to go with it. Just brush some vegetarian bacon slices with a little oil, and wrap around your favourite vegetarian sausages, hold together with cocktail sticks and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

A slightly unusual alternative to this that I’ve tried very recently is a shiitake and leek stuffed seitan roast from Isa Chandra Moskowitz: http://www.theppk.com/2011/11/seitan-roast-stuffed-with-shiitakes-and-leeks/. It’s dense and chewy and really tasty, and the best thing is you can adapt the stuffing and other flavourings to suit you.

The only bad Christmas meal I ever had

I’ve written more than once about chefs who don’t have a clue about what to cook for vegetarians and this is probably the worst experience I’ve had in that respect. The vegetarian option for the office Christmas lunch a few years ago was described only as a vegetarian suet pudding. It could have been lovely, but sadly it was suet pastry wrapped around unseasoned, mealy lentils. It probably would have been ok if there was some gravy or other sauce but sadly there wasn’t. It was dry and bland and a real disappointment.

I’d love to hear what other vegetarians and vegans have for Christmas dinner, please let me know your best and worst experiences.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas and New Year!

Lab-grown meat and vegetarianism

7 Aug

Laboratory-grown meat has been in the news again lately. With headlines such as Could vegetarians eat a ‘test tube’ burger? (BBC) and Meat without Murder (Vegetarian Times), at first glance it looks like it could be great news for vegetarians. However, a recent online poll by the Vegetarian Society has shown that less that 7% of vegetarians would be happy to eat lab-grown meat.

Why, when offered a chance to eat meat from a source that didn’t involve killing an animal, do the majority of vegetarians say no? Is it because they (as they are often accused) like being faddy eaters? Or because they want to be different or special? Of course not. To answer that question you need to look at some of the most common reasons for being a vegetarian.

Animal cruelty and modern farming methods. In theory, you could eat lab-grown beef while the cow it came from is still alive. With the potential for one animal to produce much more than its own body weight in meat, it’s possible for far fewer animals to be kept for the meat industry while still producing the same amount of food. But note that I said fewer animals, not none. Livestock would still need to be kept in order to provide the stem cells needed to “grow” the meat, and if they’re kept in the same horrendous conditions they are now then it’s not much of an improvement. It still supports an industry that many vegetarians are not comfortable with.

Environment. Research has shown (BBC again) that lab-grown meat has less of an environmental impact than regular farmed meat. But until it can be proved that it has less of an environmental impact than a healthy plant-based diet, those vegetarians who cite environmental concerns are unlikely to be convinced to eat it.

Health, Religion and Dislike. Three pretty obvious reasons that probably don’t need any elaboration.

People who infer that lab-grown meat is intended for vegetarians have misunderstood the intention of creating it. The planet isn’t big enough to support 7 billion (and counting) omnivores. The current method of meat production is inefficient and this research is being carried out as a possible substitute for people who currently eat meat. Maybe if they can create meat that tastes as good as the real thing, is cheaper, and is proven to be safe it might catch on. Of course a much simpler solution would be to encourage people to eat less meat or become completely vegetarian, but is that realistic? Only time will tell.

Vegetarian fun with a slow cooker

27 May

I have a real weakness for kitchen gadgets. I think I might be addicted to them, I really need a bigger kitchen so I can fit them all in. I’ve always been a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen, and I think having a lot of equipment really helps me play the part. One of my favourite kitchen gadgets is my slow cooker. Pretty much any recipe for stew, casserole, soup, curry or chilli can be adapted for the slow cooker. It’s an economical way of cooking, and with a bit of planning you can put your dinner on in the morning and spend the rest of the day feeling smug about not having to cook in the evening (I fully accept that this is slightly flawed logic, but there are some days when this can be an advantage).

When I first bought my slow cooker, I found a forum thread about them, and excitedly asked if anyone had any vegetarian ideas. I was very quickly shot down by some very condescending folk saying there was no point, slow cookers are made to soften up tough meat, and vegetables cook quite quickly anyway. Well, if you tell me I shouldn’t do something it only makes me want to do it more, so I set out to prove them wrong. Slow cookers are great for vegetarian food, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Here are a few things you should know about vegetarian slow cooking.

The cost. Using a slow cooker is one of the most energy-efficient modes of cooking. Running a slow cooker for eight hours uses less than half the electricity of running an electric stove for one hour. Great if you’re on a budget.

Timing. So, there was a nugget of truth in what the rude forum people said, vegetables don’t take as long to cook as meat. You could cook a vegetable stew in 4-6 hours, if you include dried beans (see below) it will take at least a couple of hours longer. You can get things started a bit quicker by adding hot ingredients, by using boiling water instead of cold, for instance. Don’t do what Mr Veg and I did on the day we bought ours. We arrived home from buying it at about 5pm and were too excited to wait until the next day to try it. We put in frozen veggie sausages, green lentils, raw onion and cold stock. It was obviously a massive failure and we ended up eating slightly crunchy lentils at 10 o’clock at night.

Beans. Dried beans are a lot cheaper than tinned ones, and they work really well in a slow cooker. They absorb flavours a lot better than tinned ones too. As always with dried beans, you must soak the beans in water overnight before cooking them, and then boil them for at least 10 minutes before putting them in the slow cooker. The slow cooker is too, well, slow to destroy the toxins found in the dried beans, so you must soak and parboil them first.

Fake meat. You can cook fake meat in a slow cooker (think vegetarian “chicken” stew or sausage casserole), but I find the result a bit strange. It does take on a lot flavour, but also absorbs an awful lot of water and ends up soft and squishy.

Rice. A slow cooker also works well as a rice cooker, so if you have trouble getting rice right you could try it this way. Put equal volumes of rice and boiling water into the slow cooker, along with any flavours you want to add, cook for a couple of hours and voila! Perfect fluffy rice. I’ve made some pretty mean Jamaican rice and peas this way.

Salt. When cooking in a slow cooker, you should always always check for seasoning and add salt at the end of the cooking time rather than the beginning, for two important reasons. Firstly, if you are cooking dried beans you shouldn’t cook them in salted water as it can toughen the skin (yuck). Secondly, during cooking the amount of water with reduce (through evaporation and absorption), and the flavour will get more concentrated. What tastes right at the start could end up horribly salty later on.

Herbs, spices and other seasonings. Some flavours go a bit flat after eight hours in a slow cooker. It takes a bit of trial and error to work this out. I’d say as a general rule, aromatic or warm seasonings, such as dried herbs or ground spices are best added at the start of cooking. Fresh or zingy flavours, such as fresh herbs, green leafy veg, ginger, citrus and chilli are best added towards the end of cooking.

Dumplings. For me, a stew wouldn’t be a stew without a few dumplings. For eight dumplings (a generous amount for two people), about 45 minutes before you want to eat mix 50g of dry fat (e.g. grated cheese, vegetarian suet, margarine) with 100g self-raising flour, any herbs or spices you like, and enough water to bring it together into a soft dough. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces, roll into balls, and pop on top of the stew. Put the lid back on and leave them to puff up in the steam from the stew. Lovely.

Adapting recipes. It’s easy to adapt favourite recipes to the slow cooker. There are three basic rules and trust me, they are very basic:

  1. the simmering part will take a lot longer than standard cooking;
  2. if the recipe says you should fry something (e.g. onions, spices), then fry them before adding them to the slow cooker;
  3. repeatedly removing the lid of the slow cooker lets all the precious heat out and slows down cooking, so try and add as many of the ingredients at once, rather than in stages.

Here’s an example. I recently made Hottie Black-Eyed Peas and Greens, one of the many excellent recipes from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (you can also find the recipe on the PPK website at: http://www.theppk.com/2011/12/hottie-black-eyed-peas-with-ginger-sweet-potatoes-apples/). Soak the beans overnight, them parboil them for 10 minutes. Fry the onions and garlic as described in the recipe. Put the fried onions and garlic in the slow cooker, along with the drained beans, water, tomato sauce and broth. Cook for around 8 hours. When cooked, add the greens, hot sauce and liquid smoke, and check for seasoning. Leave for a few more minutes until the greens are cooked.

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