Soup

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Much soup eating has occurred in this house since November. Partly because its cheap, partly because its warming but mainly because its easy. My cooking mojo upped and left for a while and, honestly, it’s not completely back but with soup you get something wholesome, healthy, simple and usually edible. It’s usually the perfect way to meld those random ingredients into a meal. The above soup is tomato and lentil , one that seems particularly versatile and easy to throw together. Just onions, garlic, lentils, tomatoes, some veg stock and some herbs/spices. Nothing complicated. Sometimes I might add carrots or sweet potatoes. Maybe some chopped spinach might find its way in. All good.

Some other soup ideas are: minestrone, tomato and coconut, lentil and vegetable, roasted root vegetable, leek and potato, lentil and sweet potato, lentil and roast garlic, tomato rasam, Hungarian bean and paprika, courgette and rice (with pesto) or Thai banana and coconut.

Do you have a favourite soup?

biscuit bakeathon

A few days a go I had an overwhelming urge to bake and when this happens baking one thing just will not do. Along with the twice weekly star crackers I decided to branch out and try some of the baked goods from Vegan with a Vengeance. I’ve  had this book for many, many years and in all that time I have only ever made the BBQ tofu (very good) and the coconut cupcakes (good but if you leave them overnight they become excellent) so rather than leave it languishing on the shelf I thought I’d give some other recipes a try.

lemon cut out biscuits

lemon cut out biscuits: Not a big success. The dough was improbably soft and never firmed up after chilling. Then they were exceptionally difficult to roll and cut out. They also did not crisp up. I ate them anyway of course.

vegan...whoopie pies? They were *supposed* to be thumbprint cookies though...

The thumbprint cookies…well, admittedly I have no real idea what a thumbprint cookie should be like but  I’m fairly sure this is not it. The dough was, again, so soft it wasn’t possible to roll it into balls so I just dolloped them on the baking sheet. What I got were the most delicious Whoopie pies so I’m not really complaining! Plus I’ll probably make these again and either fill them with icing or dip the whole thing in chocolate.

More successful was the banana lemon loaf and an improved version of this homemade bread (improved by not being so damn stingy with the yeast. I did not know that by doubling the amount of yeast I added it would make it taste, well, tastier. This only dawned on me when reading up on making Vegan Brioche on Celine Steens “have cake, will travel” blog. I have always feared that more yeast would just make the bread taste yeasty but no. It does not).

Vegan MoFo: British scones

Scones and pancakes are the two quick makes I turn to when we are all needing a little something in the afternoon to accompany our pot of tea. Neither are particularly sweet but they make a good vehicle for jam or conserve.

The scones use few ingredients, none of which are unusual, which makes them easy to put together. They do need a light touch and quick handling so that they rise nicely. I don’t even start to mix everything until the oven is heated and I keep the margarine  in the fridge until the last minute to keep it as cold as possible. This also makes for lighter fluffier scones. Also, do not be tempted to use a rolling pin. Just flatten, a very little and gently, with your palm.

I should probably apologise for the recipe being in ounces but it’s the recipe my mum used, the one I’ve used all my life and it’s much easier to remember the quantities.

 vegan scones

scones
16oz self raising flour
4oz margarine
2oz caster sugar
Pinch of salt
10 floz soya milk

Heat oven to 220C (unless you know it’s fierce, then keep it at 200C)

Heat the soya milk very gently until blood temperature but not hot.

Rub the margarine into the flour until roughly done. It doesn’t need to be like breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar and salt.

Using a table knife cut in the milk (so rather than stirring it you are using a sort of slice and mix action).

Pull it gently together with your hands and flatten the top but keep your scones the same height as you want because they don’t rise much.

Cut out your scones, place on a baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.

Eat warm with jam.

vegan scones

It’s never too early to start christmas cake

soaking fruits for christmas cake
If I had my way I’d probably start soaking my fruit in January so that everything is extra fermented and tasty. I did once leave fruits soaking for about 10 months but that was more through neglect than anything else. I’ve already talked about my dislike of things such as mixed peel in anything festive and I’ll also add that a christmas cake full of nothing but currants, raisins and sultanas is disappointment pure and simple. A mix of raisins, apricots and prunes is what I use even though the chopping (or scissoring) of the apricots and prunes is more time consuming. I like to stand meditatively and cut them one by one in a Zen-like trance. Afterwards they get soaked in a random selection of alcoholic dregs and, if I remember some orange and lemon zest. Mmmmmm, it’s beginning to smell a lot like christmas.

(Talking of christmas I am half thinking about bringing back Vegan HoHo again. We’ll see.)

Vegan MoFo – Samosa type things

While perusing the FatFree Vegan Kitchen blog, E’s Samosa Wraps caught my eye. I thought they might be nice for Jonathan to take for lunch; however, I thought pastry would be less messy to transport than wraps. Being scared of bubbling vats of oil, I went for the healthier option of baking the FatFree Vegan’s filling in some whole wheat pastry from Leah Leneman’s book “Easy Vegan Cooking”. The pastry was enough for 9 samosas with a small amount of filling left over. We didn’t have any tofu so I used a can of chickpeas instead and corn instead of peas. They were tasty but not very filling.

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Vegan MoFo: vegan peppermint hot chocolate

 

peppermint cream hot chocolate
When autumn rolls in I do like to treat myself on wet blustery days with a hot chocolate. White hot chocolate is always a favourite but a change is always good. Cue a brainwave. While sitting eating a Frys peppermint cream it dawned on my that a rather mintily delicious hot chocolate beverage could be made by simply melting said peppermint cream in some hot non dairy milk. It was, of course, mintily delicious.

(However, fast forward a week and the acceptance of an outdated Kenwood cookbook courtesy of my MIL ( and where I say acceptance add reluctant) and low and behold a recipe for peppermint cream hot chocolate. Only 22 years behind the times then.)

 

Vegan MoFo: vegan menu planning my way

Until recently I have always found the process of how to menu plan difficult. I definitely  find knowing what we’re going to eat for a week a stress buster but it’s more the “where do I start”. I find sitting with a blank page the easiest way to make my brain go blank. There has to be a process to developing the menu plan otherwise each week becomes nothing but a chore. General, conventional, menu planning seems to follow three main approaches:

1) Theme nights: Meat free Monday, Mexican night, take away…etc. So far this does not work for me at all.

2) coupons. I understand why some people base meals around this as it does mean a cheaper shop but as my primary focus on my menu plans is to get them as nutritionally balanced as possible this isn’t the way for me.

3) looking through cookbooks and magazines. This is the approach my man used to take and it certainly works but it can easily result in very expensive shopping.

The other issue I found was that most menu plans don’t even mention lunch. Not only do myself and the baby eat lunch at home every day but I have to provide two meals for my partner as he works long shifts. That’s a lot of meals and a lot of cooking.

Ultimately what I found was that as there are so many variables influencing what I eat it makes sense to start with them, and it worked!

So, here’s what I do

I start by asking myself a whole lot of questions. Are we near the end of the month? If yes this usually means a tighter budget.

What is in the store cupboard that we can use? What needs used up from last weeks shop? What’s in the freezer? What are my partners shifts this week? What season is it?

While doing this I make mental notes such as “lots of frozen cauliflower. Could make aloo gobi, cauliflower with a mustard and leek sauce or a pasta bake.” or ” That  couscous needs used. Let’s have it with roasted veg and he leftovers can go in a wrap with hummus for lunch.” that sort of thing.

I’ll then slot in those meals and then plan around them. Maybe they need accompaniments. I have a tendency to  base most meals around the carbohydrate component because carbs are good! This way I tend to eat more of a variety. Once I have my carbohydrate I add my protein and vegetables. So if I’m having rice do I want dal, black bean chilli, Thai curry or stir fry with it.

So that’s my general approach to planning my meals. Do you have any useful tips for vegan menu planning?