Vegan Autumnal Vegetable Stew

The weather lately has been turning colder.  It seems as if it was just last week when I left the flat wearing sandals and short skirts.  But at temperatures only creeping up to 16C yesterday, a hearty vegetable stew was on the cards for a lazy Sunday dinner.  Passing by the vegetable area at Sainsbury’s, I espied one of my favourite things: swedes (or rutabagas to the Americans).  When I first started cooking with swedes, I was really intimidated by them.  I even went into the supermarket with a grocery list I had constructed while attempting to create a cookbook recipe that called for swedes, not even knowing what they were; and after wandering the produce aisles, I eventually asked an employee where I could find the swedes, pretending as if I just couldn’t, for the life of me, find them.  I didn’t mention that I didn’t know what they looked like.

In any event, now I think they’re lovely.  Sweet and starchy balls of root-vegetable goodness, swedes bring you all the gastronomic brilliance of sweet potato but with a firmer texture that holds up well under slow-cooking conditions.  And they work marvellously in stews.

Autumnal Vegetable Stew

This stew is filled with hearty, stick-to-your-ribs ingredients.  It has no pretences of being a ‘balanced’ meal, carbohydrate-heavy as it is.  But I love it. Plus, the addition of brussel sprouts makes your mother happy.  Except they also make me happy.  I love brussel sprouts.

Ingredients

  • 1 swede, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10 brussel sprouts, halved
  • 1 large potato (or two small potatoes), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 400mL water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp marjoram
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of tamari (or soy sauce)

All right, this recipe is super easy.

Step One Prepare all your vegetable ingredients (chopping).  Heat the oil in a big pot, and throw in all your vegetables at once.  Stir over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Step Two Add your water, tomato paste, marjoram and bay leaf; stir to combine.  Raise the heat until you bring the mixture to a boil.  Immediately lower your heat to the lowest setting and cover.  Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, until all vegetables are tender (specifically the potato and swede pieces).  But, better yet, transfer your pot to your smallest burner; turn the burner on to the lowest setting; and allow the pot to simmer while covered for as long as you can stand it (the smell will start to entice you and make you hungry).

Step Three Once you can’t stand it any longer, turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit for at least another 10 minutes.  Butter some bread and ladle your stew into a bowl.  Splash your stew with a few dashes of tamari.  Eat stew with buttery bread.

(I have leftovers for lunch today.  Writing about this stew has made me hungry well before lunchtime.  Damnit.)

Yields 2 really big servings or 2 good-sized servings and 1lunch-sized serving.

Spaghetti with Red ‘Pesto’ Sauce

I made this recipe from Leah Leneman’s Vegan Cooking for One the other night, and I was really pleasantly surprised with it.  While Leneman suggests it as a main meal, both Red and I agreed that it wasn’t quite substantial enough as a main but that it was simple and easy enough to justify making it as part of a component meal.  You see, usually I’m anti-component meal because I’m lazy on weekdays and the idea of orchestrating more than one dish with multiple ingredients and steps doesn’t appeal.  And Red is anti-component meal because it requires him to do more washing up at the end of the night.

Anyway, so like I was saying, this was tasty and simple.  I will definitely make it again in the future alongside a component protein dish.

Also, I put pesto in quotes above because the recipe isn’t actually a pesto at all, as it doesn’t use pine  nuts or real parmesan.  But its substitutes are perfectly tasty.  And, really, it’s close enough.  Plus, I’m more likely to have almonds in my pantry than pine nuts.  Especially since I would probably only use pine nuts if I bought them for making pestos.  And I’m not known for my pestos or anything…
Spaghetti with Red Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 servings’ worth of dried wholewheat pasta
  • 2 spring onions, chopped roughly
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 sundried tomatoes in oil (or soaked in boiling water and drained if dried)
  • 30 g toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vegan parmesan
  • 1 tbsp water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh chopped basil, to garnish

[Yields 2 side servings]

Step One Deseed and halve the red pepper.  Place under a hot grill and cook until well charred.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Step Two Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.

Step Three Once the red pepper has cooled sufficiently, rub off its skin with your fingers and then chop it roughly.  Add all of the ingredients (excepting the cooking pasta, obviously) to a food processor or blender.  Blend thoroughly.

Step Four Drain the spaghetti when it’s finished cooking and return it to the pot.  Chuck the pesto sauce you just made on top of the spaghetti.  Mix the pesto with the spaghetti over the lowest heat on the hob until everything is well combined.

Mmm.

‘Mexican’ Breakfast Burritos (more specifically, fabulous black beans)

I was feeling a bit lazy the other night when considering dinner options.  I had some eggs.  I had a can of black beans.  My chilli plant had finally sprouted a chilli.  So ‘Mexican’ breakfast burritos, it was.  I whipped up some guac, scrambled up some eggs, fried up some tortillas, chopped up some coriander.

But, most surprisingly, the black beans I simmered up were incredible.  I think the secret ingredient was the apple cider vinegar that I added rather whimsically.

'Mexican' black beans

Black Beans Ingredients

  • 1 tin black beans, drained
  • 1 onion, choppped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small green chilli, chopped (seeds retained or removed depending on how much spice you like. I removed them… wasn’t feeling too spicy that night.)
  • 1 tbsp vegegtable oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
  • salt to taste

Step One Fry up your onion in the vegetable oil for about five minutes.  Throw in your garlic and chilli and fry for another 30 seconds.  Dump in your beans and spices (excepting the fresh coriander).  Stir.

Step Two Reduce to the lowest heat, cover and allow to simmer for about fifteen minutes.  Check every so often, stirring and adding water if the beans are starting to stick to the bottom.  Only add enough water to ensure the beans don’t stick.

Serve.  Simple and fabulous.

Obviously, the eggs don’t make the Breakfast Burritos vegan, but if you do a tofu scramble they would be.

Mini Vegan Double-Layer Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Icing

I was at TK Maxx today trying to find some silicone cupcake tins so I could make some cupcakes when I saw some mini spring-form cake tins.  I had to get them.  And then I had to make a cake.  And so I came home, and I did.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

I had to cut off a bit of the bottom layer so that I had an even surface on which to place the top layer, and I also had some left over icing, and let me just say, genius.  I can’t wait to have a full slice later.  It’s chilling in the fridge right now, as the consistency of the icing wasn’t exactly thick, so I don’t know how it would hold up at room temperature for extended periods of time.  I’ll have to work on my icing in the future.  But, hey, I haven’t baked many cakes in my time, thankyouverymuch.  The ingredients are simple.  The cake is dense and delicious.

To make the cake mix:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup self-rising flour (or all-purpose flour and 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp baking powder)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup dutch-pressed cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 180 C.

Step One Combine sifted flour, sifted cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a big-ish bowl well.

Step Two In a large glass stir the remaining ingredients (all wet) well.

Step Three Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.  Mix well until no clumps are left.

Step Four Divide the mixture evenly directly into two greased mini spring-form cake tins.

Step Five Bake for about 35 minutes.  Start checking the cakes at 25 minutes.  Bake until you can stick a fork in them and they come out clean.  This may take upwards to 40 minutes depending on your oven.

mini cakes

As for the icing… pretty much all I did was chuck some remaining soy sour cream into a sauce pot and heat over low heat.  Then I chucked in the remnants of some dark chocolate I had in the cabinet (chopped up finely first) and stirred until it was all melted and combined, with the pot still over low heat.  Then I chucked in some confectioner’s sugar for good measure.  I wouldn’t say the icing is my finest moment in baking, but it is tasty and got the job done.  I might try something similar but with the addition of a vegetarian jelling agent so it can keep at room temperature for extended periods of time.

Spaghetti and Beanballs with Charred Red Pepper Sauce

I have made the beanballs from Veganomicon a couple times now, and it wasn’t until dinner tonight that I was convinced that they’d go into my recipe arsenal.  I’ve stayed pretty close to the original recipe, but I’ve made some changes to ingredients and preparation methods and have decided that they turn out best cooked they way I made them tonight.  Also, the charred red pepper tomato sauce complemented the taste of the beanballs quite well.  Overall, tonight’s dinner got top marks.

beanballs and red pepper sauce

I’ve outsourced the photo-taking responsibilities to Red, since he just got a new digital SLR.  He was unaware that the focal point of the dinner was, in fact, the beanballs, so they’re sort of marginalised in the pic above.  Put your pitchforks away; he’s learning.

Ingredients

  • 1 tin kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest (or a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp HP sauce (or steak sauce)
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • porridge oats as needed to firm up the mixture whilst kneading (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp oil

Step One Preheat the oven to 190C.  Mash the kidney beans with a potato masher until all beans have been smashed.  The beans should not be completely smooth, though.  There should still be identifiable kidney bean parts (mostly the skins).

Step Two Add the rest of the ingredients except the oats.  Mix with a fork.  Add oats little by little with one hand while combining and kneading the mixture with the other.  Continue adding oats and kneading until the mixture is soft but firm and holds together.

Step Three Form walnut-sized balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and flip the beanballs over.  Put back in the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve with a marinara sauce over pasta or in some bread as a beanball sub sandwich.

And now for the Charred Red Pepper Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 red pepper, charred and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • a zig of agave nectar (about 1/4-1/2 tsp)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly

Step One Hold the red pepper over a gas hob with some tongs to char the outsides a bit.  You can also do this in the oven by placing the pepper on a baking sheet under the grill.  Don’t blacken it too much.  Also, you can just skip this step completely if you want.  Just make sure you fry the red pepper a bit longer than you would otherwise in step two.

Step Two Heat the oil in a small-to-medium-sized pot and cook the onions for 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Add the red pepper and cook for 1 more minute.

Step Three Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot except the fresh chopped basil.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  As soon as the sauce has come to heat, lower to a simmer and cover the pot.  Simmer over the lowest heat setting for 10-15 minutes.  Stir the fresh basil in through the mixture at the very end of the cooking time and remove from the heat.  Serve over pasta.

Mmm o’clock.

Caribbean Corn and Pea Curry

So, I paid a visit to the Afro-Caribbean store in Southside the other day and picked up a plantain (I love plantains, like whoa) and what I thought was a sweet potato.  It looked sort of like a sweet potato, but it wasn’t marked.  I figured the worst it could be was a yam, and I could roll with a yam.

But when I skinned it and cut it open, I was in for a traumatising result.  I thought, ‘Hm, this might be a yam.’  And in the time it took me to exit the kitchen, enter the living room, say to Red, ‘I’m not sure it’s a yam, either’, and make it back to the kitchen, the not-yam had sprouted what can only be described as root-vegetable blood which had promptly turned a mouldy colour.  Horrifying.

So, I was left with a plantain. Excellent.

Tonight’s dinner was a lesson in ingenuity and good-pantry keeping.  And, to my very pleasant surprise, it ended quite tastily.

Corn and Pea Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe plantain (yellow), sliced lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • Half a small tin of sweet corn
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2-inch ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Half a bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 50mL water, plus more as needed

Step One Heat oil in a big pot.  Add onion and sweat over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, and red chilli flakes and fry for an additional minute.

Step Two Add thyme, bay leaf and 50mL of water with a bit of salt.  Stir and cover the pot.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.

Step Three Add the rest of the ingredients, stir to combine.  Add water as necessary to make the consistency just barely on the soupy side of not-sticky.  (I know this probably makes no sense.  Basically, make sure that the mixture isn’t sticky and burning onto the bottom of the pot, but don’t add so much water that your curry turns into a stew/soup.)  Turn up the heat to bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover.  Simmer for another 5-7 minutes.

Serve with/over brown rice.

Yields 2 servings

Next time I might make it with scotch bonnets instead of chilli flakes and call it Jamaican.

Goop

I’ve been having a series of not-so inspiring dinners of late.  Or, I’ve been having really delicious dinners but have accidentally eaten them all before realising I’ve taken no pictures.  I made beanballs from Veganomicon the other day and put them in a spicy Asian-y sauce over brown rice, which was pretty good.  And then Red and I had Molly and Phil over for dinner on Tuesday night for our very first ‘dinner party’ in our new flat.  I made spaghetti and beanballs with a grilled courgette and corn salad with a coriander vinaigrette.  This meal was generally a success.  Although I did make some garlic bread that turned out more like garlic croutons because I was busy running my gob rather than checking on the bread baking in the oven.  Oops.

Anyway, so I didn’t take pictures of any of that, but the beanballs were a great success so I will doubtlessly be making them again in the future.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen yesterday only to emerge with a so-so dinner.  Definitely nothing to blog about as of yet.  The night before, temperatures reached 30C during the day so I was in no mood to slave over a gas hob for any extended period of time.  This meant I pulled out a tried-and-tested childhood recipe: Goop, so named because of the goop-ey sound it makes when you stir all the ingredients together.  I think it was created in my grandmother’s kitchen, and it was a staple for my mother’s kitchen; it originally called for cooked beef mince. My version isn’t the most nutritionally sound, as it involves the original can of condensed tomato soup and a healthy squirt of ketchup, but at least it’s low fat after I’ve made my vegetarian mince substitution, right?  In any event, it’s absolutely simple and delicious.

Red loves Goop night.

Goop

Ingredients

  • 170g dried egg noodles (Italian style, not Chinese)
  • 3/4ths of a tin of condensed tomato soup (In America, get the Campbells. In England, you can only get Cream of Tomato soup, usually at Waitrose.  This is fine.  Just don’t get the Cream of Tomato soup with basil. That would be weird)
  • 150g frozen vegetarian mince crumbles
  • A long squirt of tomato ketchup (3 seconds, maybe)

Step One Cook the egg noodles to package instructions (boiled in water for ten minutes, usually). Drain and set aside momentarily.

Step Two In the same pot (once water is discarded), pour your frozen veggie mince in with your condensed tomato soup.  Stir around to combine and warm up over medium heat on the hob for about a minute.  The mixture will be big and globby at this point.

Step Three Dump your cooked egg noodles into the pot.  Squirt your ketchup over them.  Mix everything together with a big spoon.  Goop, goop, goop.  Continue stirring over medium heat until everything is heated through.  Don’t let the mixture burn on the bottom.

Serve in bowls! Eat on the couch while watching The Dog Whisperer.

Yields 2 servings