Ready Steady Cook 3: Shakshuka

Ready Steady Cook Viral Antidote 3 is for Sheila Horner.  Oh Sheila, how we wish we were sitting on your terrace staring at the Sierra de la Contraviesa!!  I’ve cooked this – and variations of it – many times in your kitchen.

Sheila asked what can she do with a tin of tuna, a tin of chick peas and tomato puree.  Well you live in Spain girl, the answer is in your kitchen!

Shakshuka is a smoky mix of onions, red pepper and eggs.  Today I am adding tuna and chick peas.

In a wide shallow pan,  gently fry onions and chopped garlic in lots of olive oil.  When soft, add 2 sliced red peppers, a good heaped teaspoon of hot smoked paprika, four large or six small fresh tomatoes, a tin of chick peas with its liquid, a generous tablespoon of tomato puree. Mix it all together an add another 150ml water, salt, black pepper. Clamp on the lid and simmer away for 10 minutes then remove the lid, stir and simmer for 20 more.  The aim is to reduce the liquid by half but still leave juice in the pan. Now chop a generous handful of parsley and some fresh coriander add a desert spoon of brown sugar and stir the sugar and the herbs into the pan.  Check the seasoning. It should be deeply tomatoey, slightly sweet and thick but not runny. Drain the tuna and dot the chunks over the surface, pushing them down slightly.  Now make four indentations in the mixture and drop an egg into each indentation.  Lightly sprinkle the eggs with hot smoked paprika. Put the lid on again and cook gently for about 10 minutes. If you want your eggs runny cook it for about 5 minutes. Always with the lid on.  Take off the heat, remove the lid and leave for 5 minutes.  Serve with crispy bread and salad.

Best eaten on Sheila and Jack’s terrace about 21.30 with a bottle of rough musto from Pampaniera! I dare you not to finish it.

Long day, cold night, hot pilau

So let me tell you about my day….. up early and do a 100 mile round trip to mother’s, counsellling myself to be good, not get cross and to be kind. I did all those things, we had a good natter, I checked through the ‘falls alarm’ details fitted last week, at last we agreed it would be a good idea if I did a supermarket order for her once a month we agreed a timetable for me reminding her to check the falls alarm and at the same time do the Waitrose order. I made her two latte’s, went to the Co-op, mended the phone and reminded her how to turn up the heating thermostat.  We agreed the rules (hers) for her 90th birthday party in May so nothing will be a surprise. Only as I had one foot in the van  did she hit me with her plan to get a mobility scooter. She’s subtle player, my mum.

Home in bright sunshine but by the time the tyres hit the drive it was snowing.  I inspected the crocuses and the #snowdrops, the white camelia buds about to get frost damage and smelled the heavenly scent of the Daphne Odora. And the hellebores were out.  Then I tackled two collapsed panels of side fence –  wind injured last week whilst we were gallivanting in blizzards at Seahouses.  Looking forward to a couple of hours with Jonathan Raban and the wood burner, I collapsed like a frozen thing into the kitchen.

But instead of Jonathan Raban I was sidetracked by Nigel Slater in Turkey on iPlayer and images of vegetable pilau kept floating around in my head.

Last night’s dinner was a good old standby and we had some left over.  Pilau would bulk it out.  Last night we had

Chick peas with coconut, chilli and tomato

This is so ridiculously easy and easily adaptable without fuss.  Pulse two onions, three fat cloves of garlic, a thumb of fresh ginger and a medium sized red chilli in the food processor. Then add two big carrots and pulse again but only so the carrot is chopped not puree’d. Heat some oil sufficient to cover the bottom of a medium sized saucepan or large terracotta dish, throw in the onion mixture, turn around in the oil. Add a cinnamon stick. Sweat for ten minutes.  Add a tin of chick peas and the juice, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, half a tin full of cold water, half a tin of creamed coconut, a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (or brown sugar).  Mix together, clamp on the lid, bring to a slow simmer and then leave it for three hours. Then remove the lid, add some salt to taste. Take off the heat and just before serving add chopped fresh coriander.

Anyway, half that was left over from last night. Now for the


use a small Le Cruset for this, purchased in alimoges in 1982. It gets very hot on its little bottom and it gives the right amount of ‘crunch’ at the base of the pilau. Essential, I think.  On the hob, add oil and butter to the pan then add sufficient chopped vegetables (whatever you like) – I used cauliflower, onion, loads of garlic, carrot, aubergine, tomato.  Cook on a high heat, then add 1 tsp each of cumin and coriander powder, three ground black cardamom (or green, there is nothing precise here), three ground cloves, one teaspoon turmeric, a teaspoon of fennel seed and about a teaspoon of salt.  Mix well into the vegetables, then add two handfuls of brown Basmati rice, then a layer of spinach, then one handful of rice.  Pour in 500ml stock and put a lid on it and put in the oven.  The idea is to cook the rice with the lid on and crisp up the base.  Leave it for 45 minutes then check it. It should be done. Take off the lid, and dot with butter and a little home made garam masala (use ‘search’ on this site).


You can serve this with some of my chutney and pickle recipes, or just with yogurt.

I have been writing this whilst it is cooking and I can smell it is nearly done..  Himself has kindly poured me a glass of red and I am looking forward to settling down in the depths of the sofa for an hour (with or without Jonathan Raban) before a conversation with a couple about their wedding plans latter in the year (see my alter-ego if you are planning getting hitched) and hopefully you will find I am jus the same on that site too – loving life, loving food, loving new things, loving couples in love)!

New Year Reflections, gremolata and aquafaba!

I was talking with Bruce and Peter this afternoon – something along the lines of  ‘not everything that’s important can be counted, and not everything that is counted, counts’. I think it’s an Einstein quote.

New Year, for me, is always a time for reflection…. what have I done, what will I do this year?  On my list are the following:

– only do work that is of value

– spend more time with people who are kind

– walk daily!

– write more

– try hard to desist from attempting stupid things like standing on cupboards and falling off, being reckless with sharp kitchen knives

– spend more time on the beach

– increase wedding and funeral bookings

I have been thinking about this whilst meditatively (a-la Nigella) making gremolata this afternoon. 

I have also pondered on making small themed books for Will and Anna – family food, family recipes.  For years I have talked about publishing a cook book and it is all there in skeleton form.  But have I left it too late and maybe I should be more picky about where I put my energy? I am undecided. Answers on a postcard please.

Many people have said to me that they see me as someone with loads of energy. And it is true – mostly I have. But sometimes I don’t. Being perceived as someone with boundless energy is great however there are other parts of me to discover! Go on, give it a try! Invite me to do something with you that is something known to you but new to me.

I have a low boredom threshold and it drives my energy bank, of that I am certain. In using energy I create momentum, change, challenge and I like those qualities to be present and tangible in my life.

But in true Erickson terms, the stages of life are evident and although creative, I am also a realist. So I am rethinking that drive, recalibrating it; making it work for me in my mid 60s in ways that will still bring me joy, adventures, new experiences. For the past few years I know I have been drawing on my 40 year old energy bank.

Life remains an adventure. I want to have adventures. Having had a good go at leaving this mortal coil a few years ago, you could say I am living on borrowed time.  I prefer to think of it not as borrowed time but as a gift and the best gift of all.  So sticking around a bit longer, always being up for having fun, always cooking and getting a dozen people around the table will remain key driver for me.  Of that, too, I am certain.

So this weekend has been a time of deep reflection -reading my two new cookbooks – Two Kitchens by Rachel Roddy and The Modern Kitchen by Anna Jones – pootlong  about collecting rosemary from various people (for which, thanks to Bruce and Peter, Anna and Karen) and thinking about friends who have struggled this year. You know who you are. You should know that you inspire me.

I have also been doing further experiments with aquafaba and made the best toad in the hole to date.  I said I would update the lovely Rachel and Dean – this is the next instalment and I think I’ve cracked it – use two tablespoons of chick pea water for every egg you would have used.  I used four tbsp chick pea water in lieu of two eggs.  Whisk  till light and fluffy.  Four tablespoons of plain flour with a little salt, whisk into 200ml milk (any kind), fold in the whipped aquafaba.  I used chestnut and tofu sausages (click here).  Cook toads  as normal.

And so, I wish you a peaceful, healthy and happy 2018.  You deserve it! We all deserve it!



Veganuary Day 31 Chocolate and Chestnut Celebration Cake

img_8105What an auspicious day to finish my veganuary culinary adventure. It is my son Will’s 39th birthday today.  How on earth did that happen? Surely I cannot be that old? #pausesforaminute Oh! Yes. I am!

To celebrate the birthday of such a lovely man is a pleasure. That he is my son is my privilege.  And I shall see him at the week end  and we are eating at Patricias which The Guardian described as ‘a little belter’. We shall see. And so can you in my new ‘review’ section on this blog.

So I thought I would share this lovely cake with you as the final Veganuary ‘passing out parade’.  It is one of Pippa Kendrick’s recipes.  Not only does she live in Norwich and used to live next to Marion, she also writes brilliant books about food for people who have sensitivities to certain ingredients. For myself – I have few, but her recipes and particularly her cakes are simply delicious. This is one of my favourites. By the way, the photo is not of the chocolate and chestnut cake (although it was a layer therein) but of Marion and Andrew’s wedding cake.

To the cake:

You need to heat your oven to 170C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

Blend 4tbsp ground flaxseed with a quarter of a teaspoon of baking powder and 6 tablespoons of water.  This is a totally effective replacement for eggs in cake.  Set it aside for a few minutes and the flax will swell up. You will be left with a thick paste.

Now put 110g sunflower mararine in a bowl with 150g sweetened chestnut puree.  Mix it until it is pale, light and luffy then add the egg replacement paste a little at a time, whisk as you go until it is fully incorporated into the puree.  Sift in 110g plain flour (gluten free if you are intolerant of flour) with two tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and a pinch of salt and incorporate it all using a metal spoon.  Now add 6tbsp almond, soy or rice milk.

Spoon it into the tin and bake for 35 minutes until it has risen and springy.  Remove from the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes then remove from the tin onto a wire rack.

Break 75g dairy free chocolate into a bowl and melt it in a bowl placed over simmering water.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chestnut puree.

When the cake has cooled, spread the ganache over the cake, cut into slices and serve.  Believe me. It is gorgeous. My mouth is watering.

Veganuary Day 30 Roti Canai

roti-canaiThis is an extremely easy dish. And extremely yummy.  The only new trick you  might need to learn is tempering – no, not as in ‘keeping your temper’ but cooking spices in very hot oil and adding them at to the dish at the last moment.  See? Not difficult.

Put about 150ml yellow split peas in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil then add 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric and half a teaspoon of ground ginger.  Boil away for about 10 minutes and remove the scum that forms on the top.  Now add one aubergine chopped into 1cm chunks, one chopped onion, five chopped tomatoes, one chopped carrot, a medium sized chopped potato and a medium sized green chilli (chopped). So far so easy.  Add about 500ml of boiling water and then simmer until the vegetables are soft and the whole lots looks a bit like porridge.  If it gets too stiff, add more water bit by bit.  Remember that you are then going to stir in 200ml full fat coconut milk,  so don’t make it too runny before you do this, add some salt to taste and about a tablespoon of tamarind paste.  Actually, add two. It adds a wonderful sourness. Stir it all around.

Now put a couple of tablespoons of oil into a small pan, fry a chopped onion and four or five sliced garlic cloves 1 teaspoon mustard seed, 1 teaspoon cumin seed, 1 chopped green chilli and a little turmeric powder at the end of the frying.  Fry for a couple of minutes then pour it over the dal and stir.  Check your seasoning – you will probably need to add more salt.

For the roti, either use the recipe for flatbread on this blogsite (just ‘search’ flatbread).  Or make flaky roti using 450g plain flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of sugar – mix the dry ingredients with about 300ml water then knead it (or make in a mixer with a dough hook) and cover and leave to rise in a warm place for at least a couple of hours.  Then grease the work surface with oil and oil your rolling pin.  Take a nugget of dough about the size of a satsuma and roll it out, then continue to stretch it with your hands, rubbing oil into it as you fold over the layers. What I mean by this is as you stretch it out, fold the edges to the middle as you go round.  Then roll and stretch it all out again without folding, making  sure the dough is rolled and stretched into a strip, not a circle, then ‘pleat’ each strip (ie one flatbread) into a much thinner strip (remember I said pleat not plait!).  Then roll this strip into a circle, like a Catherine Wheel,  and finally roll it out agin to form an average sized flatbread.  It sounds a bit complicated but it isnt. You are simply making the dough, letting it prove, breaking off a piece, rolling it out then stretching it into a strip that is longer than it is wide.  Then pleat it so the length has four or five layers and then roll it round from the centre, finally rolling it out into a flatbread shape again.  Cook on a medium heat on a skillet.  You will end up with a fluffy bread that flakes as you eat it.

Veganuary Day 29 Almost there (Eat your heart out Andy Williams)

Andy Williams. Thanks to

I always wanted to be the girl Andy Williams picked out of the audience, and danced with real close, at the end of his show.  Which is showing my age of course.  Listen to this if you need a reminder.  No clips of the closing sequence, but some of you will remember how it went.  Oh how I wanted to be that girl in the black and white polka dot dress with the circular skirt and the can-can petticoat.

And then – I wanted to be taller, thinner, more clever, always the one who got the handsome man.

And now – I just want to be me.  So I remain short, not thin, averagely clever but I really do think I got the handsomest man.  He is not Andy Williams. He is far better.  So I win!!

And so – this Veganuary month is almost finished and what have I learned?

  • I do not have to eat meat, I choose not to eat meat 99% of the time
  • It is not difficult or time consuming to prepare and eat plant based meals
  • I like soya milk, especially when I make it myself
  • Making soya milk is easy
  • Shops that call themselves ‘vegan’ in general have a very limited stock of ‘real’ food
  • People who come for dinner can eat for the whole evening and not notice that they are eating plants (not animals)
  • the arguments about balancing ecosystems and ‘positive’ stuff  that relates to meat production, employment and countryside management can be countered by arguments  that are just as valid about GM production, methane production, animal welfare and agri-business
  • Generally, you will eat more vegetables, roughage and whole grains in a good and well balanced vegan diet, than eating  a meat based diet
  • I feel much better for it, I really do

Today has been a busy day. Those of you who know me, will know that I cram a lot into a day. Those who know me well, know the reason for that.  However eating vegan has not affected my energy levels nor my stamina – Today I started at 8. I’ve had a tricky phone conference setting up a new piece of work, which took an hour; done two hours work at the computer, been for a march round the block, driven to Norwich and had my eyes tested, had coffee with my good friend and fellow-traveller, driven home, drafted out a report, marched round the block, sorted out the lovely man who is replacing our fence, taken delivery of a Raleigh Shopper for David’s bicycle renovation projects, ordered two dial-phones for my mum, driven back to Norwich, done a one hour radio interview, come home, lay on the sofa, checked out the child care requirements for tomorrow, written this blog.

I have not starved during this vegan way of eating, and neither has food preparation has taken hours and hours.

Today I have consumed:

Oaty porridge with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds and figs with half a pint of soya milk

Two apples, two pears and an orange

A chilli and bean burrito stuffed with salad from the vegan stall on Norwich market

A slice of wholemeal toast with tofu cream cheese, tomato, bean and alfalfa sprouts with walnuts

About 2l of water

I am about to take a mug of hot almond milk infused with maca powder and coco nibs to bed with me.  Me and Julian Barnes have a date and I don’t want to miss it.

Ordinary life – as lived by a temporary vegan  who is considering indefinite leave to remain.

Veganuary Day 28 Different ways with vegetables


img_0871Little Gem lettuce with peas

Does your fridge suddenly ‘grow’ lettuces?  Mine does

Because it does, this little gem (sic.) came to pass. It is adapted from a Little Gem, pea, avocado and mint salad I make in the summer.

But this is winter. Take two little gem lettuce and slice lengthways into eight. Snick the bitter end off (but not too much). Chop a small bunch of spring onions including the green bits. Add a little olive oil to a shallow pan on a medium heat. Add the onions then the lettuce then two cups of frozen peas, 50ml water and a squeeze of juicy garlic. Turn the heat up high. Clamp on the lid and when it is steaming, give it 3 minutes. Then remove from the heat and stir in two tablespoons of coriander chutney (seebelow). Swirl around a bit.

It is divine.

Green coriander chutney

Take one bunch of fresh green coriander.  Two cloves of garlic.  Half a green chilli.  A teaspoon of sugar.  A squeeze of lemon juice. The thick residue of a tin of coconut milk (just drain the fluid from the tin, you should have a good half tin of coconut if not dilute it slightly with the fluid you’ve just drained).

Put the garlic, chilli and coriander in a small food processor or Nutribullet.  when finely chopped add the sugar, lemon juice and the coconut.  Whizz madly.  Check to see if it needs salt.  Pour about half of it onto your Little Gem with peas.  Keep the other half for when you have a curry tomorrow!

Stir fried sprouts

Slice your sprouts into 1cm thick slices.  Chop some onion and a clove of garlic.  Grate the rind from half a washed lemon.  Heat some oil in a wok or wide pan until it is smoking.  Add the onion first, swirl around for about 30 seconds. Then add the sprouts.  Add the garlic last. Stir around for no more than a minute. Then add the lemon rind, seasalt and lots of black pepper.  Take off the heat. Add a little more olive oil.  Serve.

Carrots with caraway

Sweat half an onion in the bottom of the pan in olive oil (be generous).  After five minutes add carrots cut into chunks, a dessert spoon of caraway seeds, half a teaspoon of sugar and half a chopped preserved lemon.  Don’t add salt.  Pour in a cup of water and bring it all to the boil then put a ring of greasepeoof paper on top of the carrots (it’s called a cartouche) and then the lid.  Now turn the heat to barely on and cook for about an hour either on the ring or in the oven.  Don’t remove the lid or the cartouche until you are ready to serve.  The carrots will be meltingly soft and suffused with sweetness, countered by the bitterness of the lemon and warmed by the caraway.


I love cauliflower but this is one of my favourite ways of cooking it. (No, it is not cauliflower ‘rice’ although that has its place, to be sure).  This cauliflower is roasted.  Take a whole cauliflower and break it into large-ish florets.  Then cut each floret into slices about 1.5cm thick.  The idea is that you want to make them lay flat on the surface of a baking sheet.  Put the florets in a bowl and mix with the following:  5ml seasalt flakes, a good grind of black pepper, two teaspoons of cumin seed, one teaspoon of turmeric powder, one onion chopped (but not too fine), a few chilli flakes, 30ml olive oil or rapeseed oil. Mix well.  Put a sheet of greasproof paper on the baking tray and pre-heat in the oven set at 200C.  Then turn out the contents of the bowl onto the baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes.  Some of the florets should look a bit charred – this adds to the flavour in my opinion.  If you don’t like ‘a bit charred’ then take out of the oven a bit sooner.


We get through a lot of courgette but I don’t ever give them the star treatment.  They are a good workhorse in the kitchen. And sometimes they have to stand alone as a vegetable.  Chop courgettes into rough chunks.  Don’t make them into smooth circles, but alternate the direction of your chopping so you get irregular shapes. Try and make them a good 2cm at the thickest part.  Dredge with seasoned coarse semolina.  Put a little oil in a wide pan and heat it smoking.  Then add a small chopped onion, lots of chopped garlic, fresh thyme leaves. Have some chopped fresh parsley and chopped fresh basil ready.  Then throw in your courgettes and keep moving them around so they stir fry but never ‘catch’.  After four minutes or so, add cherry tomatoes that you’ve cut in half.  Toss these into the pan and leave for two minutes.  Then add seasalt and black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Take off the heat and then add the parsley and basil.


So many ways with celeriac.  One of my favourite and simplest ways is to make mash with equal amounts of potato and celeriac.  Or to slice it into 2cm thick slices, slather it with oil, chilli flakes and coriander powder then roast it till it is soft on the inside then slightly charred on the outside.  Eat it as a burger, slapped in a bun with red slaw and horseradish.


Veganuary Day 27. Burnt aubergine with black lentils

In my kitchen
In my kitchen

Sorry about the no-show on Day 26.  We went to our first djembe drumming lesson.  I came out totally confused but having had the best time!
Easypeasy supper thanks to Yotam. Roast an aubergine rubbed in oil either under the grill, on a gas ring or with a blow torch. Roast deep and hard till the skin is charred and the insides are soft. Put aubergine in a sealable sandwich bag. Yes, really!

Chop equal proportions of celery, onion and carrot. Sweat in rapeseed or olive oil till soft with half a chopped chilli plus seeds then squeeze on a clove of garlic and sprinkle on half a teaspoon of ground cumin. Pour 25ml red wine vinegar on the sautéed vegetables and boil till almost gone then add a packet if Merchant Gourmet black beluga lentils, chopped fresh parsley and 150 ml vegetable stock. Cook gently till most if the stock has been absorbed then season with a little salt and lots of black pepper. Keep warm.

Rub the aubergine around in the bag till the charred skin is loosened then remove from the bag and pick out most if the black bits. Put the squishy – and it must be squishy – aubergine in a bowl and mix till roughly puree’d. Season with black pepper, add a bit more oil, a little smoked paprika and some chopped almonds.

Pile the lentils into a dish, top with aubergine and dairy or soya yogurt sprinkled with chopped coriander and nigella seeds.

Yum yum with flatbread.

Veganuary Day 24. Lasagne

img_3817So you remember the tofu pasta?  Well half of it was languishing in the freezer. So here goes another experiment….. frozen pasta. In lasagne.

I decided after the first attempt that the pasta needed to be cooked before adding to the dish.  So I poached the sheets gently in simmering water for about 3 minutes then drained them on kitchen towel.

Before that I made a good batch of David’s tomato sauce and in a separate pan I sautee’d mushrooms with garlic and then some whole leaf spinach and left it to cool.

Then it was simply a matter of layering it up – sauce, pasta, spinach and mushroom, lookey-likey soya mozarella (yes, I know, but I thought I’d give it a go), pasta, sauce, pasta, sauce, lookey-likey cheese.

It has just come out of the oven (45 minutes at 190C) and I am leaving it to reduce from scorchio to tolerable before dishing up.  With an extremely healthy salad that includes my home spun sprouted seeds and a very garlicky dressing.  I’ll be crocheting macrame saucepan holders next!  If it looks good when I slice it I will post another picture.  If you don’t see one here, it didn’t hold together that well!

40 minutes later……..

So.Here it is. Held together nicely.  These are the lessons learned:

  • tofu pasta freezes well
  • the lasagne sheets benefit from ‘poaching’ before use
  • use plenty of sauce because it will be absorbed by the pasta
  • season everything really well because the pasta will ‘dull’ the seasoning
  • dont bother with the looked-likey tofu mozzarella – it didnt add anything
  • have at least four layers of pasta then it will hold its shape when you cut it.



Veganuary Day 23 Udon noodle supper

01efdaebb89cc7048904e1cc5986b0ddc9eed5c90aTo be honest, a bowl of udon noodles with mushrooms is not the prettiest dish on this planet.  So here’s a lovely bright photo of Spain instead, to cheer you up.

This supper, or a version of it (depending on what’s in the fridge), is a regular.  It’s quick, uncomplicated and very tasty. Although it is a bit brown. Hence the ‘cheer up’ picture.

To serve two, you will need onion, garlic, mushrooms (a variety would be good, but if you only have a few chestnut or button mushrooms kicking around in the bottom of the fridge, they will be just as good).  Plus onion, garlic, chilli flakes, cornflour, soya milk and/or soya cream, mushroom ketchup, fresh herbs, the other half of the jar of Seitan from the other night, pak choi.  I haven’t given precise weights of ingredients simply because this is so simple you should practice doing it by eye instead of weight! Call it the Rees method.  Approximate.

Chop the Seitan into smaller chunks and marinade in two tablespoons of soy sauce. Sweat the chopped onion with garlic and chilli flakes.  Then add chopped mushrooms and cook till just done. Add the Seitan and its marinade. a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes and a couple of tablespoons of mushroom ketchup.  Combine all the ingredients then take off the heat.  Sprinkle about a tablespoon of cornflour over the contents of the pan and add about 100ml of soya milk and about 50ml of soya cream. Combine and then stir till it thickens. Check the seasoning but remind yourself that the soy sauce and the mushroom ketchup is a seasoning in itself, so you probably won’t need any extra salt.  Add chopped fresh basil leaves.

Meanwhile, cook the Udon noodles as per instruction on the packet and simultaneously (steady now!) steam the pak choi that you’ve quartered.  It will only take three or four minutes.

As soon as the noodles are done, drain and put in individual bowls.  Pour the mushroom and Seitan sauce over them, and top with the pak choi.

It’s slurpy. It’s yummy. It’s quick (15 minutes start to finish). It’s easy. So what are you waiting for?

Veganuary Day 22 Green pie

Green pie

img_3809What a great evening!  Old friends.New friends.Good food.

Good food usually means lots of prep but I was going for scrumptious but simple.

So, for the green pie, be kind to yourself.  Take one pack of filo pastry.

Cook 500g of spinach and 500g of kale in separate pans and a scant amount of water in each. Take the spinach off the heat before it turns to mush. Drain into a colander lined with kitchen towel.  Cook the kale for a bit longer then drain in the same way and then strip the leaves from any chunky stems.  When cool, chop the kale and the spinach into smaller pieces and only then, season with sea salt.

Meanwhile, sweat two chopped onions in olive or rapeseed oil and when very soft, add two grated cloves of garlic and a grating of nutmeg.

Prepare a 21cm springform cake tin by greasing it and dusting liberally with coarse semolina.  Have a pot with oil and a pastry brush close to hand.

Clear as much work surface as you can. Ideally you would have a run of about 1200cm. Lay out sheets of filo in a strip, overlapping on the short side and brush the joins with oil – so you have one long line of filo.  Spread the onion and mixed greens in a line about 2cm wide along the length of the pastry, and about 1.5cm from the bottom edge. Chop a large handful each  of mint and basil and sprinkle over the greens. Then sprinkle with nutritional yeast flakes (in a non vegan version I would add crumbled feta cheese).  Then brush the remaining exposed pastry with a little oil and roll up from the bottom so you end up with a long sausage. Coil it tightly inside the tin and brush with more oil.  Cook in the oven at 180C for about 30 minutes till golden brown.

Bulgar with walnuts (Kisir)

Put half a cup of water in a bowl with two cups of boiling water.  Cover with two cups of boiling water.  Chop or crush half a cup of walnut halves.  After 30 minutes the bulgar will have absorbed the water.  Mix with the walnuts, chopped spring onions, two tablespoons of tomato purée, chopped fresh dill and a good slug of pomegranate molasses.  The final ingredient is the most important in terms of flavour….. half a preserved lemon – removing the pulp and finely chopping the flesh.  Dont add more salt because the preserved lemon is salty.

Roast red peppers with black garlic

img_3810Slice three red peppers and remove the white pith.  Remove. 4 cloves of black garlic from its skin and chop into pieces. Roast in olive oil for about 20 mintes.  Allow to cool then put in a bowl with one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

Serve with a luscious salad of avocado with bitter leaves and a basket of flatbreads.

Veganuary Dawn 21. Aquafaba Blood Orange Cake

Blood orange cake
Blood orange cake

I am always on the look-out for blood oranges in January. Their season is relatively short and they are so juicy and the flesh and juice such a rich colour, that they are impossible to resist.  They look pretty innocuous in the farm shop – indeed there weren’t that many around as the harvest – particularly in Spain – has been affected by snow and frosts.  So I had the last half dozen in the farm shop and wasn’t tempted by the hybrid on offer.  I had a taste. But it wasnt the same and had a much thicker skin.  No. I like the thin-skinned originals.

There are eight for dinner tonight and I am cooking  Turkish.  Herb pie, flatbreads, duk-kah, roasted red pepper with black garlic, cucumber and fennel pickle salad, aubergines in pomegranate molasses.

What I am really looking forward to it the experiment with the ubiquitous clementine cake, which I have adapted using blood oranges and aquafaba, and which we are having for pudding.

Put four blood oranges (or six clemetines and a lemon) in a saucepan so they are a snug fit, cover with boiling water and boil away for a good hour.  Let them cool and then whizz to a pulp in the food processor.  Take five tablespoons of aquafaba (the water from tinned chickpeas – see previous posts – or search ‘aquafaba’) and a tablespoon of cider vinegar, and whisk until frothy not foamy – so it looks like well-whipped egg whites. The aquafaba takes the place of the eggs in the original recipe.

Put 200g ground almonds, a heaped teaspoon of baking powder, 30ml unflavoured oil and 175g soft brown sugar in the food processor with the blood orange pulp and combine at high speed, then pour into a clean mixing bowl.  Gently fold in the whipped aquafaba with a metal spoon then pour the batter into a 21cm round springform tin that you have oiled and dusted heavily with coarse semolina.  Put in the centre of the oven, pre-heated to 180C, to cook until firm in the middle.  Note that these proportions are smaller than the previous recipe so I would check it after 30  minutes and then lay a double thickness sheet of baking parchment over the top, then leave for 10 more minutes.  It should be done by then.

Remove from the oven and onto a cooling rack (still in the tin). After half an hour, run a round-edged knife round the tin and invert the cake onto a wide plate.

Whilst the cake is cooking, thinly slice two or three more blood oranges.  Put 100g soft brown sugar in a wide shallow pan with 150ml water.  Bring to the boil and reduce a bit then add the slices of orange and any juice that is on the cutting board.  Cook in the pan until the syrup is thick and the oranges are almost sticking to the pan but not quite. Remove from the heat.

When the cake is cool, arrange the oranges on top of the cake and pour the syrup over the top. Sometimes I add more syrup. There is often some in the fridge.  Earlier in the year it was quince and lime syrup. At the moment it is Seville orange syrup that I drained from a batch of Seville orange and quince marmalade that would not set.

This cake is a complete experiment on my part. I am eager to see how the aquafaba works.  The cake itself looks great at the moment.  But we’ve not eaten it yet! I will report in later!


Veganuary Day 20 Soya milk and Pesto

img_3806Yesterday’s ‘cold’ in my head and the achy joints that threatened to interfere with weekend plans, have receded a bit.  Probably helped by the kill-or-cure approach to finishing off the massive wood pile on our drive. We had a convoy (of two) barrows going from front to back, and with every circuit I managed to sort out in my head what needed to be done in the back garden in a few weeks time.  It’s the ‘garden’ equivalent to my ‘swimming pool’ meditation where similar issues get processed.

Anyway. In between barrows, helping out a neighbour, reading the paper and making a trek to Tesco to find some Mamade for my mum (more about marmalade another time) I made some soya milk, experimented a bit more with aquafaba in a cake that’s tomorrow’s Day 21 post sorted) , some pesto and some soup.

When I re-read what I have written on these blogs I often wonder why I rarely do one thing at a time.  I dont know the answer but I think its something to do with running things in parallel means you get more done. Rarely is there sequential activity going on.  It must be the project manager in me. I shall ponder more on that in the swimming pool.

Soya milk – making your own

The first lot of soya milk going through the muslin

First the soya milk.  I actually like it. Some people don’t and prefer nut milks. I am happy with both.  I haven’t made any tofu yet but I think Marion has a batch going at the moment so I will ask her to do a guest blog. I use organic and GM free soya beans from the wholefood shop.  If you want to read a bit more about the soya production/consumption debate you could google it of course, or you could start here.

Put 125g soya beans in a bowl and cover with 500ml boiling water.  Soak overnight.  If you

Squeezing it out!

are not that keen on the taste of soya beans in the milk then discard this water the next day, rinse the beans, then put in a large and powerful blender with 750ml water.  Blend on high for a good 30 seconds then lay some muslin in a colander (knew I kept those baby muslins for something 35 years ago) and pour in the contents of the blender.  Squeeze the liquid through the muslin and return the dry-ish residue to the blender with another 500ml water.  Blend again and go through the same sieving process.  Pour into bottles or containers that are scrupulously clean and have been scalded with boiling water.  Put the lid on that’s it.  About 1.25l of soya milk.  Some people add a little sugar. I don’t. Some people flavour it with vanilla. I don’t.

The final product

Walnut and basil pesto

This is, of course, an adaption of traditional pesto which contains lashings of parmesan.

Walnut and basil pesto

In a pestle and mortar, completely crush one fat clove of garlic with half a teaspoon of seasalt.  Then add half a dozen walnut halves and crush to a pulp.  Then add few large fresh basil leaves – probably about 10 and about 10ml of any oil. I used rapeseed.  Keep pounding it till it becomes a mush.  Plonk a teetering teaspoonful in the middle of a bowl of some home made leek and potato soup and tell me it’s not gorgeous.  Of course, other nuts are available, and other herbs. You could invent your own blend.


Veganuary Day 19 Pie, there must be pie!

Seitan pie before its lid is on

It is cold and I want to get warm. Me and three year old Otto have had a busy day.  Trampolining. Playing Octonauts.  And moving logs in our wheelbarrows.  Him one log at a time.  Me a barrowload at a time.  And we both have colds. So after the gym pick up for Monty (6), by the time I got home I was hungry as a hunter but achy in the back region and with a very dull head.  To be honest, I was tempted by temptation itself and called in at Asda (also looking for MaMade for my mum) where I was momentarily seduced by Linda McCartney pies.  They even morphed into my basket, as if by magic.  Then I read the label and muttered ‘No Dawn. Walk away from the pies’.  Such a wholesome image.  So many ‘safe’ additives.

So when I got home I was determined there would be pie. I needed pie. It had to be made.

Turn the oven on to 190C.

First the pastry.  Four tablespoons of plain wholemeal flour, one of plain white flour and two of fine oatmeal.  A little salt.  Rub in about 40g  mararine.  Dont shout! I know.  But it was avocado oil margarine. With no canola or palm oil.  Then add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Bring it together with a little water then leave it to rest while you do the rest. Why, you might ask, why the oatmeal.  I have done a lot of experiments with wholemeal flour in order to get the right ‘feel’.  As with so many things re vegan and vegetarian, you really have to adjust a lifetime of eating habits. And that includes tasting habits too.  The oatmeal gives the pastry a more open texture without adding more fat.  And in my opinion it solves the age-old wholemeal pastry problem which is that it tends to be hard as bullets unless you load it with fat. However, if you add about 10% oatmeal it will be softer.

img_3795Next, wash and quarter some average sized potatoes (unpeeled).  Put in a bowl with black pepper and two teaspoons of turmeric, a slug of oil and a tablespoon of coarse semolina. And a sprinkle of seasalt flakes before they go in the oven.

Sweat chopped onion, garlic, celery, celeriac and squash in a shallow wide pan in some rapeseed oil, or similar.  I only use a little oil, so keep an eye on it then add half a glass of water when it looks like its just beginning to stick. This saves  you using more oil than is necessary.  Season with sea salt, black pepper and thyme – fresh if you have it.  Cook for another five minutes with the lid on, till the vegetables are on the firm side of soft.

Seitan marinaded in light soy sauce

Meanwhile open a jar of Seitan.  Now I’ve talked  about this before in other posts – essentially it is the total protein of wheat grain and it comes in a jar in chunks. It looks disgusting and the last time I posted about it I couldn’t bear to expose it for public scrutiny! Or derision! I used about a third of a jar, sliced it into smaller chunks and marinaded it in light soy sauce and a grated clove of garlic for a few minutes.  Then I added the seitan and the marinade to the vegetables, stirred them round, put the lid on and started a quick and easy sauce.


The pie as it came out of the oven

Put one teaspoon mustard powder in a bowl with two teaspoons of tomato purée, half a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes and about 150ml water.  Mix it round then add to the veg and seitan in the pan.  Heat gently till it thickens. Take off the heat. Allow to cool with the lid off for about 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and adjust if you need to.  Then pour it into a dish and pop the little singing bird in the middle to stop the middle bit of the pastry dipping.  Top with the pastry and brush with oil. Put the pie in the oven on the bottom shelf and the potatoes on a hot baking tray on the top shelf.  Swap them over after 20 minutes and cook for a further 20.

Yummy.  Ready in 5 minutes starting from……… NOW!

A slice of pie anyone?




Veganuary Day 18. Aquafaba yorkshire puds

img_3776Day 17 explained what aquafaba is and told you how to make mayonnaise with water and no eggs.

Today we have further aquafaba antics in the form of Toad in the Hole. With no eggs.

Put six tablespoons of chick pea water in a bowl.  Gill tells me this is equivalent to two eggs.  Add 10ml cider vinegar.

Now let me introduce you to Elvis.  Elvis is my 25 year old electric hand mixer.  When we could still be bothered to put it back in its Elvis box it sat the top shelf.  Now the Elvis box is long gone.  However Elvis is still here.  Why Elvis?  The serial number on the box was ELV15.  When Anna saw it she called it Elvis. And Elvis it remains.

Anyway.  Whip up the bean water and vinegar until it looks like whipped egg white.  Then sift in 120g self raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder. Whizz it madly until combined, adding 175ml of soya milk as you go. Now you are required to make a judgement call.  Does the batter look thick/thin enough?  Compare it in your mind to other batters your have made.  If you think it is still too thick, add more soya milk – up to another 75ml.  This is the mistake I made this evening when I made it for the first time. I added the liquid all at once and it was too thin.  Bear that in mind.

Whilst I was gathering the batter ingredients together, I turned the oven on to warp factor 200C and quickly roasted the chestnut sausages straight front the freezer till they were just done.  When I took them out of the oven I turned up the oven to 220C, and added a slug of oil to each hole in a muffin tray.  I was insufficiently courageous to attempt my normal pagoda-style one-yorkie-in-a-single-roasting-pan version.  With good reason. I should have listened to my instinct.

When the muffin pans were smoking hot, I gave the batter one more riff with Elvis, twitched my hips a bit, snarled, then poured some into each of the muffin tin holes, dropped half a sausage in each and quickly returned them to the oven.  They were done in 15 minutes.

img_3774Now dont get me wrong.  They were actually really tasty.  And passed muster as a yorkshire pudding.  However, to be honest, the batter could have done with being thicker and so they didn’t rise as much as I would have liked.

And for those of you who think I can cook anything, well I probably can. But I don’t cook everything well. It is always trial and error. And sometimes I make mistakes.

However, next time…………. and there will be a next time……..  it will be different!

Veganuary Day 16 Sauces and gravy

P1020631“The problem with vegan and vegetarian food Dawn, is you can’t get a good gravy”.

I wish I had a quid for every time someone said this to me.  The fact is that it just isnt true.  However if you want gravy to taste like the gravy you would have with mile-high roast rib joint then obviously any non-meat gravy is just not going to!  In my adventures in vegan and vegetarian-land, however, I have learned a thing or two.  Here are some of them:

  • avoid processed food that wants to look like meat – it tastes nasty. So if you want to eat meat – then eat meat
  • If you want a vegetarian sauce that ‘tastes’ like beef or chicken gravy use gravy granules.  Read the labels….. they contain no meat but they do contain maltose, dextrose and all sorts of other rubbish
  • If you want a tasty vegetarian sauce or gravy made from scratch it is not difficult
  • A freezer is the eighth wonder of the world
  • Keep a good stock cupboard (arrgghh – I sound just like my gran).  The fact is of course that the more ingredients you have, the more options you have.


In my stock cupboard there live the following that assist the ‘gravy’ dilemma:

  • Nutritional yeast flakes that you can get in most wholefood stores and some supermarkets.  These add a lovely savoury flavour to many dishes, and to gravy.  Technicians call it ‘umami’. I call it lip smacking good.
  • Marmite (or similar) but not Bovril (obviously)
  • Soy sauce
  • Tomato puree
  • Burgess Mushroom Ketchup
  • Passata (tomato sauce in a box or a jar  – or a tin of chopped tomatoes put through the blender)
  • red lentils
  • cornflour
  • stock – either cubes or pots or home made
  • turmeric powder
  • smoked paprika
  • good old tomato ketchup and HP
  • mushroom ketchup
  • ground almonds
  • fresh herbs
  • spices
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Here are some regular attenders at the sauce and gravy table.

Cashew cream sauce

Put two cups of cashews in a bowl with 1.5 cups of water. Soak for two hours only, then blend with two cloves of garlic, a flat teaspoon of salt and 15ml olive oil.   That’s it.  Could it be simpler?  No.  It’s easier than making gravy.  You can then use this sauce as a base for other flavours, you could add pesto, harissa, chopped parsley or coriander.  If it feels a bit too thick, then loosen it with some almond milk.  You can serve it hot or cold, thick or thin.

David’s basic tomato sauce

I like to think I am a good cook – never a chef – but David makes a mean tomato sauce.  Here goes.  Gently fry one finely chopped onion and two cloves of garlic and add a sprinkling of chilli flakes.  Then add half a wineglass of red wine and reduce to practically nothing on a high heat.  Then turn the heat down and add a tin of chopped tomatoes, or passata, and some salt, black pepper and chopped capers.  Then let it simply burble away in the pan until it is thick and reduced, and the oil is splitting in the sauce. Yes splitting, not spitting!  This is the stage of ‘cooked-ness’ when the main ingredients of the sauce begin to very slightly separate from the oil.  This happens when the sauce is cooked slowly – about 30 minutes in the pan.  The key here is to use a wide shallow pan and not a saucepan.  You can add whatever fresh herbs you like at the end (never at the beginning) – such as basil, chopped rosemary, tarragon, parsley etc.

Coconut and lentil gravy

Cook a cup full of red lentils in two cups of water until they are ‘floury’ – about 15 minutes.  Fry a chopped onion and garlic in olive oil.  Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a teaspoon on ground cumin.  Add four chopped tomatoes or four juicy tinned tomatoes on a high heat and let them sizzle for five minutes, break them up with a wooden spoon then add half a tin of coconut milk and the coooked lentils.  Now cook again for 10 minutes without a lid, ensuring all the ingredients are combined.  Season with salt and black pepper then blend with a stick blender into a smooth sauce.  This is particularly good with dishes that combine brown rice and other vegetables because  nutritionally, the brown rice plus the lentils complete a protein chain and without that pairing your body will not extract the full nutritional value of either the rice or the lentils.  More about this another day.

Mushroom and onion gravy

This is the one for chestnut sausages or burgers or toad in the hole!  First, soak some (a couple of ounces) dried mushrooms in 200ml boiling water for at least half an hour.  Chop and gently fry one onion with two cloves of garlic (getting the message here?) in a shallow pan with the tip of a teaspoon of hot smoked paprika.  Then add peeled and finely chopped fresh mushrooms.  Keep stirring. Take off the heat and add three flat teaspoons of cornflour.  Now loosen the cornflour with the liquid from the soaked dried mushrooms. Then chop the soaked mushrooms and add to the pan plus a good tablespoon of Burgess’ Mushroom Ketchup (from most supermarkets, usually on the shelf with the Lea and Perrins). Bring almost to the boil, stirring all the time, then taste and season at the end.

Roast gravy

This is the one we use for dishes like nut roast, stuffed cabbage etc.  Roast onions, garlic, potato, carrot, celery in a roasting pan with a bay leaf or two, until the vegetables are well cooked but not charred.  Add 750ml boiling water to two vegetable stock pots (like Knorr).  Mash the vegetables down with a potato masher and then sprinkle on some nutritional yeast flakes – probably about a tablespoon and season with pepper. You probably won’t need salt.  Remove the bay leaves.  Now slowly add the  liquid stock to the vegetables and bring to the boil on the top of the stove, stirring all the time and breaking up any lumps.  When fully combined, let it cool a bit and pour it through a sieve if you must or just use a stick blender, to combine it all.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Now I don’t know about you, but I find this a right hassle so the best thing to do is when you have a spare hour, make a whole batch and then freeze it.  It tastes  lovely.

Tomorrow I am going to have a go at cooking with Aquafaba (chick pea water) – it contains miraculous molecules and proteins that make it act like egg. I am going to have a go at making yorkshire pudding with it!


Veganuary Day 15 Roast squash with chillies and cashew cream

At the market in Carcassonne
At the market in Carcassonne

Today it is bright, clear, crisp, nose-tip pink cold.

I have been sitting in the office here all day, a slave to the keyboard. it is 16.00 and – having been eating what Nigella would call ‘temple food’ today, which is neither warming nor comforting –  I am in need of something earthy and colourful and satisfying.  Squash.  They look warm before you have even cooked them!

For four people, chop a medium sized squash – of whatever variety – into half then quarter it.  This makes it easier to deseed and then peel.  Then chop the squash flesh into large chunks.

Now you need a bowl or a plastic bag.

Throw in the squash, some peeled shallots or peeled onions cut into quarters or smaller depending on the size.  Then add half a dozen plump cloves of garlic. You could also add some potatoes if you wish.  And some celery chopped into chunks. Or some peeled carrots. Or some beetroot.  Then add half a dozen medium sized tomatoes.  Oh, and a chopped red chilli or some chilli flakes.  And some sea-salt flakes and black pepper. And a small shake of turmeric powder and smoked paprika.  Think that’s it.  You get the idea – throw in anything you like so long as it is good and c0lourful.

With all the vegetables in the bowl or in the bag, pour in 30ml of good olive oil or rapeseed oil and mix it all around and to increase the flavour let it sit there for a good hour.

Pre-heat the oven and a roasting pan to 190C then when it is up to temperature empty the contents of the bag or bowl onto the tray and roast for about 45 minutes. Don’t turn it or the vegetables will start to break up.  The idea is that the edges should char very slightly.  After 30 minutes mix together a tablespoon of tamarind sauce (mine from Asda) with soy sauce then pour over the hot vegetables, squashing down the tomatoes so that they release their juices.  Grate some lemon rind over the top and a sprinkle of finely chopped fresh rosemary (please don’t use the dried stuff).

When it’s ready it should smell divine – hot, smoky, paprika-ey.   Turn into a bowl and serve with brown rice, or jacket potatoes or just with a good slice of bread.

In non-vegan land I frequently add chopped feta about 15 minutes before the end.  In vegan land I also serve it with a cashew cream (see Day 16 – sauces).

Go on treat yourself. You probably have most of these ingredients in stock.  If you prepare it now you can put it in the oven when The Archers comes on!

#Veganuary Day 14. Okora burgers

img_3710I have some soy experiments running at the moment. Soy milk and tofu production, with lots of help and advice from the fount of all knowledge and all round good mate Marion.  We have undertaken many mass catering projects over the years.

Anyway……. a bi-product of skqueezing (oh, that was a typo but I rather like its onomatapoeic resonance so I will leave it there) soaked soya beans to extract the ‘milk’, is all the solids that remain. Called Okora. (The automatic spell check made Okora into Korea, but that wouldn’t be right at all!).  There are a thousand and one recipes for how to use the okora on many Vegan websites.  I will offer just one at this stage for fear of boring you.

I soaked and drained 250g soya beans and when I had pulped them and extracted the milk from the solids I had about 400g of solids remaining.  These solids are highly nutritious and there is no way I was going to discard them.  I had a little think and made something up.  So this is the recipe for okora burgers.

Put your bean pulp in a bowl.  Add one large onion that you have pulsed in the food processor, and grate in two cloves of garlic.  Add one flat teaspoon of cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper, plus two flat teaspoons of ground cumin and half an average sized bunch (how on earth do you measure that I wonder?) of finely chopped fresh coriander. You could also add a tablespoon of unsweetened desiccated coconut if you wish.  Mix it all together.  It will look fairly dry if you have squeezed most of the fluid out beforehand.  In non-vegan land, at this stage, I would probably add an egg.  But in vegan land, I added a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes (adds an umami savouryness) and a good dash of dark soy sauce.

Okora burgers before they go into the freezerWith clean wet hands, form into burger shapes and make sure they are not too thick. Best more like quarter-pounders than Big Macs’.  Coat in coarse semolina. Now lay them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and put them in the freezer for half an hour to firm up.

Shallow fry in a flavourless oil that you’ve heated in a shallow pan on a medium heat.  They are a bit friable, but they are delicious, so I recommend that you don’t put too many in the pan at once so you can turn them carefully after five minutes without knocking the edges off the sides as you do so.

I have tried eating them straight away, but I think they are better frozen when cooled, then cooked in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so, on Formed okora burgerstop of a couple of slices of tomato seasoned with salt, chopped rosemary and a little lemon zest.

Tonight we are having them with yellow potatoes, lots of dark green and a rich mushroom and onion gravy enhanced with Watkins mushroom ketchup, surely one of the best condiments ever invented?


#Veganuary Day 10. Pomegranate Molasses

img_3729The best pomegranate molasses I ever tasted was that which smothered the fried aubergine in El Viejo Molino.  Deep, syrupy, smoky and actually more savoury than sweet.

Yesterday I was in Argos – no,no,no – thank you David, it was Asda (Asda, Aldi,Argos…. what is it about four letter words starting with A?) anyway… I was in Asda, rifling through the discounted fruit and veg and what did I spy but 12 pomegranate for a quid. Yes!
Back home, having having halved the golden beauties with their perky little topknots, and tapped them on the backside to release their jewels I ended up with half a bowl of juicy ruby red seeds. They went  straight into the blender then I squashed all the juice I could get out of them – about 750ml.  Then the juice went into to a wide shallow pan with the juice of half a lemon. That’s it.  Brought to the boil then simmered for about an hour, whilst reading my book and occasionally, laconically stirring. When reduced by half it should coat the back of a spoon and feel sticky.  Decant into a sterilised bottle.

img_3744TBH it is probably cheaper to buy it in a bottle when the pomegranates are full price. But at 12 for a quid it was worth the experiment.

#Veganuary Day 9. Spinach and mushroom Lasagne

img_3728Q. What do you get when you cross a food blogger with a computer?

A. Sticky keys!


Tonight’s dinner is quick and simple. And it is a test to see if the pasta I made yesterday (the other half that is in the fridge) is still usable today.  The answer is yes, but with a couple of caveats.  1. Double wrap the pasta in clingfilm if you are using it the following day. Bring it back to room temperature before you roll it – take it out of the fridge a good couple of hours before you want to use it.

Then  either roll by hand or use the magic machine, and cut the rolled strips into rectangles about 110 cm X 90 cm.

Sweat half a pack of washed spinach in a shallow pan with a lid on and no water.  This will take about 2 minutes on a high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and remove the lid.  Sauté chopped mushrooms in olive oil and garlic and season well.  I am not giving proportions here, use your own judgement depending on how img_3725 img_3726big is the dish you are using.

Put some of last night’s tomato sauce on the base of the dish. Then a layer of pasta. Then a layer of spinach and mushroom (squeeze the spinach a bit of it looks too wet). More pasta. More tomato sauce. Then top with the walnut ‘Parmesan’ left over from last night and a few more breadcrumbs mixed in and about 20ml olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes tops at about 180C. Just check that the top isn’t scorching and if it looks a bit too brown before the sauce is bubbling, cover loosely with a lid of tin foil.

You could serve this with a salad, but we are having a hot salad of seasoned butternut squash, onion, garlic, red pepper, roasted in a pan till crisp and very slightly ‘caught’ then a squeeze of lemon juice at the end, with a freekah (cooked green wheat) and sunflower seed topping. Serve at room temperature.

If you only read the recipes on this blog and not the front page, you might wonder why sometimes my recipes are a bit ‘approximate’ that’s because in my world, cooking is about following your instinct once you know your ingredients.  Pierre Pepin caught the essence of what I mean when he said “a recipe is a teaching tool, a guide, a point of departure, but never a hard rule”. I concur.


#Veganuary Day 8 No-egg pasta!

img_3708I didn’t believe it, but it’s true. You can make pasta without eggs. I know because I’ve just made some. And , as it says in one of my favourite vegan cookery books Crossroadsit is impossible to tell the difference!

The incentive, I have to admit, was anticipating the virgin outing for my Kenwood pasta rolling attachment.

Put 300g of 00 grade flour, 300g semolina flour, half a teaspoon of salt, into your food processor and mix thoroughly.  Then add 175g of firm tofu (drained) – mine came fresh from Tofurei in Norwich, two tablespoons of olive oil and three tablespoons of cold water. Pulse in the food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs then turn the processor on full till it combines into what looks like a ball of pastry.  Mine didn’t combine that well, but as I was using fresh tofu from Tofurei, which wasn’t very wet, I added another tablespoon of oil and another of water.  Then I tipped it out onto a floured surface and gave it a good knead.

Now, I am by no means an expert pasta maker. In fact this is only my second attempt. But I am told that for pasta, it is all in the ‘feel’.  And it felt OK – so I wrapped it in cling film and put it in the fridge for an hour to rest. What this does is, combined with the kneading you did earlier, the gluten in the wheat will become more elastic and gives the pasta its ‘stretch’.  I have to say I felt a little uncertain, and still wondered whether it was slightly too dry.

However an hour later I was relieved to find, when I removed it from the fridge, that it had ‘relaxed’. Unlike its maker! I cut the dough in half, wrapping the second half in clingfilm and returning to the fridge. Then I cut the other half in half again and covered its twin with a damp cloth. Then I fed the first quarter through the pasta machine as per the instruction manual –  and with more than a little help from David. I have to admit that got a bit excitable as it turned from a very slightly crumbly dough into a silken smooth sheet after nine turns through the roller!  Sadly – being Norfolk – our idiosyncratic wifi is failing to load the videos, so at some point I will tag onto someone’s super high speed wifi in Norwich. Until then………

Being a bit tight, I didn’t purchase the Kenwood pasta cutter, so I laid the strips out on a table and cut them by hand and then hung them on the back of the kitchen chair (see impending video). It was a hugely satisfying and rewarding hour in the kitchen.

img_3706I made a simple tomato sauce laced with chopped capers and then set to making the vegan ‘parmesan’ recipe, also in Crossroads.  Simply, using a very sharp knife, shave slivers of walnuts into a bowl and mix with a little chopped fresh rosemary, a little sea salt flakes and some nutritional yeast flakes to give it that umami edge.

The pasta takes no more than two minutes to cook in boiling salted water. Drain. Put 25ml olive oil in the bottom of the pan, add one chopped garlic clove and a good grind of black pepper, then return he pasta to the pan (now off the heat) and swirl in the garlicky oil.

If you don’t have a pasta maker, you can roll out the pasta by hand, folding it in half width ways and length ways  as you go.  it’s easier to work on a quarter of the dough at a time, and use lots of flour whilst you are rolling.

#Veganuary Day 5 Ten lessons learned about a stir fry

img_7305A Curate’s egg sort of a day, that included further considerations about  a tender submission, breakfast with David going over legal documents, some impromptu and unexpected advice from the accountant prior to seeing the solicitor about Important Grown Up Things like Wills, Power of Attorney and Advance Declarations (Living Wills). Then a long drive for my professional supervision session in Kings Lynn followed by a wonderful sunset on  the quay. Then driving home I witnessed a horrible RTA involving the frail old man I had seen in the garage 5 minutes earlier, who had driven away with his lights switched off. Stayed with him till the police came then drove home. No food since breakfast and subsequently very hungry.

But the gods were not with me. They never are when I cook in the wrong frame of mind.  I marinaded the fresh tofu I bought in Tofurei in light soy sauce, grated ginger and garlic, lemon grass and sesame seeds. Made a flat omelette with spring onion, one egg and sprinkled with sesame seeds. When it was cool I rolled it then sliced it (this is the non-vegan version, just leave this bit out if you like).img_3673

We live in the sticks and don’t have new fangled luxuries such as mains gas. So I use a camping stove to stir fry. First lesson. In the winter, don’t leave the gas canisters out in the cold utility room. Gas pressure was rubbish for stir frying but I carried on regardless. Second lesson. Don’t forget to buy soba noodles. I had, so had to use vermicelli noodles instead which I hate as they always stick together no matter how hard I try and how many times I throw them in cold water as soon as they are done. Fourth lesson. Don’t forget to remove the tofu from the marinade when you fry it. I was in such a hurry I threw it all in the pan which meant it didn’t crisp up. Sixth lesson. Stir fry the vegetables (sliced leek, pepper, spring onion, mushroom, garlic, ginger) swiftly.img_3668 I couldn’t because the gas pressure was too low. Seventh lesson.  Check you have all the ingredients you need. I didn’t so we didn’t have any rice wine and had to raid the Fino sherry bottle instead. Eighth lesson. Don’t break the no drinking rule you set for yourself. I did. When I swigged some dry sherry from the bottle. Ninth lesson. When mixing cornflour with some light soy sauce, get the proportions right or you will end up with a claggy sauce. I did (have a claggy sauce). Tenth lesson. Don’t transfer the wok to the hot plate in a vain attempt to get more heat, when you already know the wok doesn’t conduct the heat properly on the halogen hob. It will only make you more cross. It did.

We ate it. I was grumpy. The egg strips were scattered on the non vegan dish. The flavour was delicious. It looked like a dogs dinner. We shoukd’ve had a takeaway, and the kitchen looks like  bomb has hit it!

And all the time, I couldn’t stop thinking about the poor old boy in the car who looked so frail and alone in his ripped up car, and wondered if  he had family to care for him.  Dinner didn’t matter but he does.




#VeguanaryDay3 Kale for Cathie

IMG_6819Oh for goodness sake. Don’t you just want to dive under the covers on the first working day of the new year?  The house is quiet, there are still stray baubles under the sofa. That red wine stain on the carpet is still there. It is an attention seeking stain. The bins are overflowing outside and the bin man isn’t coming till tomorrow. And there is a bag of kale on the shelf that needs to be used.

The first deceit of the day  was to pretend I was getting up, I wandered sleepily round the house whilst David got ready for work; I skulked until the coast was clear, then I dived back into bed with avocado on toast and a sprinkle of toasted oats and pumpkin seeds. So far, so virtuous (I). Then I spent the next hour repeating the mind-games of yesterday …. I will just read that Elena Ferranti book until she mentions Nino ………  I will just read it to the end of the  page….. I will just read it to the end of  the next section. Then I will get up. Ha!  Well I did! So there!

Then the mad flurry. Straight into the office (which is next to the kitchen), reconnect the printer and dive straight into the database of research I am compiling for a client.  Five hours hard graft. So far, so virtuous (II), with an on-off internet signal. Then the signal disappeared completely.

Swearing, I left the office. Into the kitchen. Peered into the fridge. As we were pitifully low on stocks of tofu, soya milk and Tartuffi and with a strong desire to visit The Little Shop of Vegans – a new shop opened in Magdalen Street, and Tofurei  – Norwich’s first shop-based micro dairy – meant a drive into Norwich, and a quick meet up with Cathie to hand over fundraising cheques.  Kale, she said. What can I do with kale?  Her question loitered in my brain and met its friend the bag of kale sitting on the shelf at home.

Finally there was a quick run into Rainbow for grains and yeast flakes, where I scooped up a bag of soya beans with a vague notion of trying to make soya milk myself (I’ve signed up to Tofurei’s tofu making course in the spring, so watch this space!)

Anyway. To kale or not to kale, that is the question?  In our house it’s a yes. We love the stuff. Quickly steamed, drizzled with tahini; mixed with spinach and feta (vegan’s avert your eyes!) in a filo pie; chopped up in garlicky mashed potatoes and seasoned with white pepper instead of black; toasted lightly in olive oil then steamed and returned to the pan with chopped toasted hazelnuts. Or just plain old bubble and squeak with leftover potatoes.

Tonight’s beauty is to use it as a salad by mixing cooked and finely shredded kale with equal quantities (by volume, not weight) of cooked brown rice and cooked red quinoa and then smothering in a rich dressing.  Shred the cooked kale and remove the stalks. Combine with the grains. Add a little chopped red onion, a shake of caraway seed and a tablespoon of chopped fresh dill. Mix it all up. Then pour over as much dressing as you like – enough to make it glisten.

For the dressing take one empty but clean 350g size jam jar. Grate two cloves of garlic into it. Add half a teaspoon of salt, two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and two teaspoons of agave syrup.  Then fill the jar one quarter full with lemon juice or white wine vinegar and top up with a good quality olive oil, rapeseed oil or groundnut oil.  Put on the lid. Shake vigorously and spoon as much as you need over your salad and mix it all together.   You should have dressing left over – keep it in the jar and use it tomorrow. It’s lovely if you add chopped fresh basil leaf to it, or chervil.


#VeganuaryDay2 Jackets

img_3658Elemental would cover it, I think. Mist, fog, sun, rain, hail, snow. And pounding seas. We threw some provisions in the campervan (yesterday’s soup, rolls from the freezer, hummus, tea bags) and trundled off to West Runton fired-up and optimistic, and with the sound track of Springsteen’s new album.

There followed a headlong-into-the-elements walk up the beach to Sheringhm and back, picking out some fossils as we trudged at 45degrees top-of-the-head-leading, three layers, hats, gloves, the lot. Marvellous.

Lunch was a bit of a steam-up in the van and then we fell into the comfortable conversation mode that always emerges when we are sitting knee to knee in the van. The best conversations happen in that van – what we want to do this year, priorities, family visits, work deadlines, holiday dreams.

Now we are home. It is freezing. The gritter lorries are out. I don’t want to spend ages cooking – I am completely hooked on Elena Ferranti’s Neapolitan novels – so tonight’s vegan dinner is a simple but comforting one.

img_3663Jacket potatoes all crisp on the outside and fluffy on the in. And a ratattoule hastily thrown into the pan,  chopped onion, courgette, red pepper, aubergine, garlic sweated in oil and a little bit of water. Then a scattering of smoked paprika, black pepper and half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. And in go a tin of any beans (today it’s cannellini) including the juice.  And green beans left over from Saturday. Stir round then cook with the lid on for 10 minUtes then add a tin of chopped tomatoes and an equal amount of cold water.Add a good dash of white wine vinegar and a squirt of agave syrup (or a dessert spoon of brown sugar).  Bring slowly up to a simmer then cook with the lid off for about an hour and a half. Or two. The longer you cook it the more unctuous it becomes. Add salt at the end rather than at the beginning because otherwise the bean skins go a bit tough. When it is done I shall add the 50g or so of tofu I have left over from yesterday, broken up then stirred in. And a good handful of chopped fresh basil or fresh coriander just before serving.

To be honest with you, if you cook it long and slow it will go thick and treacly. When it gets to that stage it is simply wonderful for breakfast on toasted sourdough.

img_3663I am off to the sofa now, woodburner is blazing. 2 hours with my book before dinner pausing only to put the jackets in the oven an hour before we want to eat.

#VeganuaryDay1 Chestnut sausages

Brown rice, chestnut and tofu sausages
Spiced chestnut sausages

I posted these sausages in the summer when I started trying out the new sausage-making attachment on the Kenwood.  They were lovely, and like most first-time recipes, needed just a little tweak  – so if you are re-reading this recipe, I left out the red pepper and the spring onions.. Today is January 1st and the first day of my annual vegan-and-alcohol-free month. Himself is still welding something in the garage and, according to rumour, is also trying out his new biscuit jointer (don’t ask!) Instead of walking on the beach in the damp grey drizzle with thousands of others, we stayed at home. Pottering.  My pottering is nearly always in the kitchen.

Last time I made these sausages, I realised that if you go through the faff of making sausages, you might as well freeze a load. So the ingredients here will do about 24 sausages. They are very easy to make and this time I have not used the sausage machine (one task too many for a relaxing new years’ day) but simply formed them into sausage shapes instead.

In the food processor, whizz one onion to very fine dice then put in a big bowl.  Grate in one clove of garlic. Whizz three 180g vacuum packs of chestnuts in the food processor leaving some little chunks, but mostly to look like coarse breadcrumbs. Empty into the bowl.  Add a mug full of fine wholemeal breadcrumbs (I happened to have some left over bulgar so I added some of that too). Mix together with your hands.  Add about 300g  of firm tofu (don’t go yuk – you can’t taste it and it acts as the binder). Make sure your hands are really clean then dive into the bowl to squidge it all together so the ingredients are evenly distributed..

Now add a good tablespoon of finely chopped fresh sage and some thyme leaves, one flat teaspoon of paprika and one of allspice (not mixed spice – that’s different!) two teaspoons of ground cumin, a shake of fennel seed, about one tablespoon of miso, a good grind of black pepper and 25ml light soy sauce. Squidge away again. Taste a little to check the seasoning. Don’t use dried herbs here, they will taste bitter. Just make sure that the fresh herbs are finely chopped.

Lightly grease a baking tray. Fill a bowl with cold water.  Wet your hands then form sausages from the mixture and lay on the baking tray. When all the mixture has gone, put the tray with the sausages in the freezer until they are frozen then transfer to a bag and keep till needed.  They cook better straight from frozen, so don’t defrost.

Last time I added cooked brown rice as a filler and that was lovely too and gave a lovely texture to the sausage. These sausages are smoother and with a herby flavour.

Now – think roaring fire, mashed potato, lots of dark greens and onion gravy!

Seitan pot pie

I am not going to post a picture because quite frankly, Seitan looks disgusting. But in the spirit of enquiry I steeled myself to make this. The recipe is adapted from one in Veganomican which has become my bible this month. I’ve learned a lot in the process.

So. Seitan? It is wheat gluten – obviously no good for wheat intolerants – separated from the rest of the wheat. You can make it yourself and I haven’t tried that yet, Instead I bought some ready-made in a jar from Rainbow Wholefoods. It looks distressingly faecal. Sorry!

Drain the liquid and marinaded the seitan chunks in dark soy sauce, a squeeze of agave nectar, a crushed clove of garlic and a little cayenne for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, sauté a cup of finely diced onion, another of carrot, another of celery and celeriac, plus some garlic, in about 75ml olive or rapeseed oil till soft and then add 3 tablespoons of gram (chickpea) flour which is really soft and a beautiful creamy yellow. Turn the heat down and keep stirring, you are aiming for the colour to deepen. After 4-5 minutes, add 1 teaspoon of mustard powder and gently pour in 100ml white wine, stirring all the time till the sauce thickens. Then add the seitan and its marinade, about 100ml vegetable stock and some frozen peas. Because i have become obsessed with Freekah this month, I also added a tablespoon of that too. Cook it gently for about 15 minutes till all the flavours have combined and the vegetables are soft.

When I tasted it I was so surprised, and delighted, to find the flavour deeply savoury and with no need for further seasoning. Pour into a deep pie dish (cute little porcelain blackbird in the middle) and let it cool.

Meanwhile make pastry! 50g wholewheat flour, 50g plain flour and 50g gram flour, a spoon-end of baking powder with some salt and 75g margarine (yes, in the old days, it would have been butter!) roughly rubbed in and bound with unsweetened almond milk till it comes together in the bowl. Cover and leave till you are ready and the seitan and vegetables are cooled. Then roll out the pastry between two sheets if parchment paper, make a little running strip of pastry around the edge of the dish, moisten the top and then lay on the pastry lid and crimp up the edges. Make a milk wash by mixing one teaspoon of mustard powder with 25ml almond milk and brush it all over the top and the edges of the pastry. Place in the centre of the oven at 190c for about 30 minutes or until the juices are bubbling up around the blackbird and the pastry is golden.

Served with peppery potato and leek mash let down with olive oil, and dark savoy cabbage it makes a hearty supper. I cannot tell a lie. So long as you do not have to look at seitan, in this dish it tasted delicious! I would be interested to hear from you if you use seitan regularly- tell me what you cook!

Veganuary Day 27 black lentils with burnt aubergine


Easypeasy supper thanks to Yotam. Roast an aubergine rubbed in oil either under the grill, on a gas ring or with a blow torch. Roast deep and hard till the skin is charred and the insides are soft. Put aubergine in a sealable sandwich bag. Yes, really!

Chop equal proportions of celery, onion and carrot. Sweat in rapeseed or olive oil till soft with half a chopped chilli plus seeds then squeeze on a clove of garlic and sprinkle on half a teaspoon of ground cumin. Pour 25ml red wine vinegar on the sautéed vegetables and boil till almost gone then add a packet if Merchant Gourmet black beluga lentils, chopped fresh parsley and 150 ml vegetable stock. Cook gently till most if the stock has been absorbed then season with a little salt and lots of black pepper. Keep warm.

Rub the aubergine around in the bag till the charred skin is loosened then remove from the bag and pick out most if the black bits. Put the squishy – and it must be squishy – aubergine in a bowl and mix till roughly puree’d. Season with black pepper, add a bit more oil, a little smoked paprika and some chopped almonds.

Pile the lentils into a dish, top with aubergine and dairy or soya yogurt sprinkled with chopped coriander and nigella seeds.

Yum yum with flatbread.

#Veganuary Day 7 Freekeh with pumpkin and Collejas

1-photo (15)

This is a quick and easy one.  After a busy day (reading, gardening) I just want something quick and easy.  Freekeh, like quinoa, is stacked with protein and doesn’t need to be combined with legumes to complete the protein chain (unlike, for example, brown rice).  Simply boil it in a little stock or water. It only takes 10 minutes.  I combined mine with chunks of roasted pumpkin and shallot and the sweetest, smokiest black garlic sent by Fran from the Isle of Wight. For which many thanks. My own experiment with black garlic has yet to produce anything remotely like the Isle of Wight black garlic.

Now to the main act.  Collejas.  Greens with almonds to you! It’s one of David’s favourite dishes and he is in charge of cooking it in case you think I’ve had a sex change.

Chop any sort of greens (David used Savoy here, but spring greens are just as lovely).  Saute chopped carrot and onion in olive oil or Yare Valley rapeseed oil till soft and then season. Remove from the pan, then add a good handful of whole almonds (preferably with skins on) and saute them for a couple of minutes. Remove from the pan. Whilst cooling, quickly blanch the greens in about 100ml of water with a lid on tight till slightly underdone, then drain – keep the cooking water.  Crush the almonds, but keep some chunky bits. Put the carrot and shallot back in the pan with the oil, add the greens then throw in the almonds.  Season.  Add a small amount of the reserved cooking water, clamp on the lid and cook for one more minute.  Voila!