£100 challenge – day six

Didn’t spend any money today, and made a nice lunch with some more of the Vegusto goodies and yesterday’s bargain cauliflower.

I had about 60g of the piquant cheese left, and wasn’t quite sure whether to combine it with mashed potato to make potato cakes, or grate it to serve on pasta, but finding the reduced-price cauliflower naturally led me to choose cauliflower cheese. I’ve also been making bread today, so decided to try some of the roll of melty cheese on a simple onion, sweetcorn and tomato pizza using the spare dough for the base. And seeing as this was Sunday lunch for two people who hadn’t had breakfast yet I fried up the sausage I was sent as well.

plate with food on it: cauliflower in white sauce that has been browned on top by being in oven, peas, an oblong slice of pizza and some sliced sausage.

And I did some peas in case that wasn’t already enough food! We were pretty stuffed after this lot!

The Vegusto cheeses didn’t melt like a dairy cheese would, but then they’re significantly lower in fat, so that’s not really surprising. The melty one did still go nice and gooey. It’s quite squishable, and I’m planning on having the rest in a sandwich as I reckon it’ll be a bit like Dairylea (Edit several hours later: I’ve  just tried this in one of my fresh-baked rolls with a dash of hot sauce. YUM! Way better than Dairylea ever was.) The taste of both of these is really very good. For the cauliflower-cheese sauce I made a white sauce from soyamilk thickened with cornflour and added a teaspoon of mustard and dash of cayenne along with a pinch of salt, but no flavouring apart from that as I wanted to see how far the cheese flavour would go, and considering 60g isn’t a great deal and you’d expect to use more dairy cheese than that in a dish that would serve four I thought it did a good job. The sausage slices were also very tasty, despite me forgetting that I hadn’t turned the gas off and slightly burning them.

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£100 challenge – day one

Total spent today = £0

If you divide £100 by 31 you get £3.22, and I thought I’d be generous and put £3.50 into my little purse. I knew I probably wouldn’t need it today though.

Instead, today has been a day of receiving free food. First, the manager at work who grows chillies she can’t eat had been harvesting some more of those plus a handful of runner beans, and this afternoon I received a prize box of goodies, courtesy of a Vegan MoFo competition and Vegusto

I promised to blog about the Vegusto, but I’ve still not decided what to do with most of it. Just to get the ball rolling I made a cheese and tomato sandwich from some of the piquant flavour no-muh cheese.

sliced tomato and shredded vegan cheese in a bread roll on a plate

it’s been a really long time since I ate dairy cheese. I’m not confident I remember what it tastes like, but this does seem to tick a lot of the same boxes. It reminded me of a cross between cheddar and something a bit harder that would have a rind on it. It’s not quite the same consistency if eaten on its own, but it was really nice in a sandwich, where all the textures blend together. What I appreciated about this was that it tastes thoroughly pleasant from start to finish, there’s no unpleasant aftertaste, which I’ve unfortunately noticed with a couple of other brands of vegan cheese sub. It also grated nicely, without leaving smears on the grater or crumbling.

Below is a picture of my total Vegusto haul. If anyone has any interesting recipe ideas please leave a comment, otherwise I’ll probably end up eating everything in sandwiches!

vegusto melty, mild and piquant vegan cheeses, two mushroom burgers and a vegan sausage.

I was going to do a full foodstuffs inventory today, but only got as far as the fresh stuff. At present I have (all weights are estimated):

About 400g carrots
1.7 kilos of potatoes
150g mushrooms
Maybe 5 kilos apples
4 lemons
6.5 kilos onions (I gave some away!)
2 tomatoes
A few runner beans
9 red chilli peppers
Half bulb garlic
Fresh coriander going to seed in a pot
Rosemary in a pot
Mint and bay in the garden.

Tomorrow I’ll make my way through the cupboards and freezer. I suspect it’s about time I overhauled my herbs and spices anyway…


It’s the final Monday (doo-doo-DOO-do….)

So, it’s the last Monday of Vegan MoFo, and with this post I’ve met my goal of a blog post a day. Some have been a bit of a fudge (mmm, fudge), but I’m pleased with some of the stuff I’ve come up with. Can’t lie that some of the ideas I had for themes made me panic a bit and start inventing stuff I wouldn’t cook for myself in the normal way, particularly the amount of pies and scones, however there is some baking I do genuinely do on a regular basis, and that’s bread.

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I generally do half white and half wholemeal organic flour because I like the compromise between rise and nutrition this offers.

I weigh out what my scales tell me is 1lb flour, but judging how much more than half a pint of water I have to add (which is what my original recipe told me to add), my scales must be pretty out. I think I’m going to treat myself to some new ones with this month’s pay packet!

I divide my dough in half, then those in half, and then in half again, to get 8 pieces. What I generally do is make a tray of 6 quite flat bread rolls, which are useful for sandwiches. If I’m not going to get through the whole lot, I like to cut them in half and freeze them. Because I’ve made them flat each half can then fit straight from the freezer into my toaster.

unbaked bread rolls on baking try, held in left hand (only thumb visible)

With the remaining 2 bits of dough, I vary it according to what I fancy at the time, and if I have anything hanging around that needs using up. Sometimes I might make a spice bread, but I’ve plenty of that at the moment, or I occasionally divide those lumps in half again and make 4 pasty/calzone type things, but today I’m going for pizza-ish.

What I tend to do is slice up an onion with whatever else I’ve got around (sometimes just frozen sweetcorn), put a bit of Marigold bouillon powder and smoked paprika, and a slosh of oil in and mix it up in the same bowl I made the dough in.

chopped onion, mushrooms and tomatoes in dirty mixing bowl with small amount of smoked paprika and bouillon powder

The pizza bases are a bit of an odd shape so I can fit them on my baking sheet. And the reason I don’t just do one is because I’d be tempted to eat it all, whereas two means I can have one for lunch and one for another time.

oblong pizza bases topped with onion, mushroom and tomato

I also made hummus today, another regular staple. I buy giant 5kg bags of dried chickpeas, cook up about a kilo at a time and then freeze most of them in handy sized boxes.

Hummus in blender container with mixing spoon, viewed from above

Although the Vitamix is super for making things smooth in super-quick time, I do find it difficult to get the final scrapes of anything thick. Hating to waste things, I tend to plan stuff like this to co-incide with something like soup or stew where I can then add some water and add the watered down last bits of mixture to something else.   This time, instead I added fresh rosemary, dried oregano and some flaked almonds to make a sauce for my pizza. This sauce is nothing like cheese but it fulfils the same sort of function in terms of protein and holding the veg together.

two uncooked oblong pizzas on baking tray

And here’s my lunch!

cooked pizza shown from above on white plate, placed on floral background

If you’ve got this far, thanks for bearing with my rather boring final day’s post.

I’d also like to thank the Vegan MoFo team for their hard work, and say that I’m looking forward to next year already. Now I know how much work it is I’m going to start planning!

Blogging regularly has been a great challenge and I’d like to keep it up, so I’m going to start a new challenge for October. Watch this space…


Scones on Sunday – potato scones

I’ve been thinking about potato scones almost since MoFo started, they cover so many things I really like: potatoes, carbs, friedness. Yep, the potato scone has it all.

Plate with 2 potato scones, 2 vegan sausages, a clump of beans in tomato sauce, 2 tomato halves, fried sliced mushrooms, on a purple tablecloth with the corner of some toasted fruit bread showing

I found several recipes. The common factor in many seemed to be that the flour weighs about 1/5 of the potato. The simplest instructions were at scottishrecipes.co.uk but to a potato-scone-making novice they left out a few rather important bits of information, like whether to flour your rolling-out surface, or grease your griddle.

I knew I wouldn’t get through 500g of potatoes-worth of scones, so I cut it down to 300g, with a corresponding 60g flour. I peeled and weighed out the potatoes, cut them into fairly small chunks, covered them in cold water in a pan and boiled them until they were soft enough to mash. When they were done I drained the cooking water into a measuring jug, being fearful of the instruction that told me not to let them get too dry.

I mashed the potatoes with a pinch of salt and added them to the flour while they were still warm, and added a glug of olive oil. I cut them in with a fork, and the mixture did look a bit on the dry side:

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So I added a dribble of the cooking liquid. Not a great idea. It was still a cohesive dough, but definitely on the sticky side. I ploughed on, scooping out half of the mixture and starting to roll it out on my silicone pastry mat. Disaster! (yes, I’m being melodramatic.) The dough stuck to the mat. I scooped it back into the bowl, turned the mat over and floured it, despite lack of instruction to do so, and put a bit of flour on the dough for good measure. This successfully rolled out into a rough circle which I then quartered.

The recipe also doesn’t say to grease the griddle, but I didn’t want to be scraping dough off my recently-re-seasoned cast iron pan, so I poured a good couple of teaspoons of oil in and swirled it around. The seasoning must have taken pretty well this time, because these didn’t stick at all, and in fact came out looking pretty good:

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I’m not usually one for a big breakfast, but this is the last Sunday of MoFo, so I decided to treat myself. Beans in tomato sauce (with added chopped onions), mushrooms fried with a bit of oregano and smoked paprika, a tomato cut in half and warmed up in the oven, and some Linda McCartney rosemary and red onion sausages, and the scones as the king of the plate! Jolly good it was too. Since I usually only have cooked breakfasts when I’m on holiday, and because the sun is shining today, it was a great start!


Souper Saturday – sweet and spicy carrot soup

vibrant orange-coloured carrot soup, with a sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds

I’m not going out until later so there are no pictures of my sociable Saturday yet. Instead, here’s a soup I felt like making.

Sweet and Spicy Carrot Soup

(Probably serves about 4 as a starter)

Ingredients:

150g chopped onions

2 tsps cooking oil

150g carrots, fairly finely sliced

35g dried apricots

500ml-ish water, divided

125ml hard cider – I used Weston’s Wyld Wood, which I got 3 litres of on special offer

100g cooked chickpeas

10-15g root ginger (depending on how gingery you like things!)

1 hot red chilli, de-seeded (optional – think this would still be nice without)

2 teaspoons bouillon powder

To garnish: Toasted flaked almonds

Method:

Chop onions and start frying them in the oil in a medium-large saucepan which you have a lid for.

Once they’re sizzling reduce the heat and leave while you slice the carrots up into thin rounds. Add those to the pan, turn the heat up and mix them up for a minute or two. Add half the water, and the bouillon powder, and bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover with lid and simmer for a few minutes until the carrots start to soften, then turn off heat.

Put ginger, chilli, chickpeas, apricots, and cider into a blender, then strain the cooking liquid from the pan of carrots and onions into the blender container. If you like a completely smooth soup add all of the carrots and onions as well, but you might need some extra liquid. I wanted some texture so I only scooped half of the carrot-onion mix into the blender container. Blend until smooth then pour back into the saucepan. Add the other half of the water to the blender container and swoosh it around to get the rest of the blended stuff then add that to the saucepan too. Turn heat back on to gently reheat soup.

While waiting for the soup to re-heat, a quick and delicious crunchy garnish can be made by toasting some flaked almonds with seasoning of choice. I squirted my cast-iron frying pan with some Fry Light 1 cal sunflower spray, added a few drops of the liquid smoke I got from a rare visit to one of the few Whole Foods stores in the UK, and a dash of soya sauce for colour and flavour, then mixed them round on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until they started to brown and crunch up.

flaked almonds in frying pan, with spatula

I probably don’t need to continue with the instructions, really! Put your soup in a bowl, top with some of the almonds, and enjoy!

Bowl of orange-coloured carrot soup, with flaked almond topping, on tropical fabric covered surface.


Pie-day Friday – cauliflower and onion pie

It’s payday! I meant to make a bad title worse by buying expensive ingredients and then calling this ‘payday pie day Friday’, but you are all spared as I saw a cauliflower for only 60p while I was mooching through the market.

If you read yesterday’s entry you will know that I bought rather a lot of onions on Wednesday.

shopping trolley two thirds full of onions

I’m planning on making something like relish with some of them, but I’ve also been looking at onion pie recipes. I was taken with a suggestion from easy as vegan pie to caramelise onions and blend some into a sauce, although the layering described in the recipe sounded a bit faffy.

I sliced and started cooking 5 onions with a pinch of smoked salt, but forgot to add sugar – 20 minutes later they were still pale, but they had a great flavour.

I made a standard short crust pastry case.

uncooked pastry in pie dish with frill of excess pastry

uncooked pastry in pie dish, trimmed

baked empty pastry case

Kinda wish I’d left it with a ripple!

I cut the cauliflower into what I hoped were bite-sized pieces, and fried them in a drizzle of oil with some of the onions. I made a sauce by blending 200g tofu, 2 cloves garlic, most of the remaining fried onions, a couple of teaspoons each of English mustard and bouillon powder and (a mistake!) 2/3 of a dried chipotle, which made it too spicy. I was gilding the lily by adding that as well as mustard. I also added soyamilk and about 3 tablespoons cornflour, as I didn’t want it as firm as last week’s custard, but in fact it could have stood a bit more.

The pie went in a hot oven for about fifteen minute, with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a few squirts of one-cal sunflower oil spray.

whole baked pie

It tasted pretty good, although definitely too chipotle-y, and went pretty well with some of the rhubarb and apple chutney made earlier this year. I have a feeling the flavours will mellow and become tastier once it cools.


Thirsty Thursday – Aronia Berry Milkshake

Yesterday evening I went on a supermarket run to get potatoes. They were out of the ones I wanted, but instead I left with 10 kilos of onions (they were on special offer! 2 five kilo bags for only £3.50, how could I refuse??), 3 litres of organic cider (also on offer) and a punnet of aronia berries, marked down at the end of the day from £2 to 20p.

dark round berries on a plate

I have never, to my knowledge, eaten an aronia berry before. These were grown in Scotland, so no worries about air miles, but for an unusual ingredient they were sparse on recipe suggestions on the pack, just telling me they work well cooked. So, completely ignoring that, I ate a couple raw. They were a bit weird, I have to say. They have a definite ‘hedgerow’ flavour eaten out of hand. I thought I’d bung some in a milkshake to use them up.

I used around half of the 250g punnet, and to thicken and sweeten it a bit I added 6 dried apricots. Because I forgot to refill the ice-cube tray I used a few chunks of frozen rhubarb, and blended it all up with 3/4 pint or so of unsweetened soya milk.

purple drink in glass on green background

On first taste the flavour of the berries came through in a rather bitter way, and I thought I’d just wasted a load of ingredients, but I’m glad I gave it a second sip, because once you get used to it it’s fine, rather pleasant in fact.

Aronia are alternatively known as chokeberries because of their astringent qualities, and they do produce a slightly unusual sensation of dryness in the mouth, but it’s bearable, and after a while the taste is reminiscent of black cherries.

Apparently, aronia are sometimes found in ornamental planting schemes on municipal land. I don’t think I would buy these at full price, but now I know what they look like I’ll be keeping my eye on the hedgerows!


Midweek munchies at Mirch Masala

I got more casual work this afternoon! I’ll be able to afford to eat the month after next, woohoo!

I didn’t have time to go home between my morning and afternoon jobs, so I popped into Mirch Masala on Market Street, a handy 3-minute walk from my workplace.

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This place is great if you want to pop in for a hot, crispy, spicy snack (and if I’ve got more time to have a sit-in meal, I really like their spicy bean pizza and chips meal).

Mirch Masala has two branches in Leicester. They are a ‘pure vegetarian’ establishment, which means they use dairy but not eggs. They offer sit-in meals from the menu or lunchtime buffet, and a takeaway buffet counter and option to order take-out on any of their menu items, but I usually just grab a spring roll and/or samosa from their hot counter, as these are always tasty and they’re only 50p each if you just get the ready made ones.

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They nearly always have both vegetarian and vegan options on spring rolls and samosas, I believe the veggie ones have paneer cheese in them, so if you do visit don’t be afraid to ask for the vegan ones. The vegan samosas are the classic samosa filling of peas, potatoes and spices. The ones today were very well seasoned with lots of garam masala spices and plenty of salt (I like salt!).

samosa bitten-samosa2

The spring rolls have a filling unlike any I’ve tried elsewhere. I’m not sure if they might not be using a version of sauerkraut, as they have a real tang to them. The innards may not look exciting visually, but when you get a freshly fried one with piping hot tangy cabbage filling they take some beating!

spring-roll-above spring-roll-bitten3

I’ll be going shopping tonight, so hopefully I’ll be posting about something a bit greener in the next few days. I’m from the ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ school of thought though, and I definitely fancied these.


Booze-day Tuesday – Cooking With Beer

Earlier this year I went on holiday to the Lake District. We had lovely weather for almost the whole holiday, and stayed in a couple of pretty nice places. The one slight cloud in my otherwise sunshiny sky was that the small independent offies we visited didn’t seem to know which of the bottles were suitable for vegans in their vast arrays of local beers. However, a very helpful man in Booths supermarket was sure they had some, and almost as soon as we started searching I spotted this beauty.

bottle of stout

Lancaster Black stout. Apparently it’s won awards. It’s certainly very pleasant to drink. I had one or two after enjoying views like this –

lake district blue skies

But I also bought a few bottles home with me. Going through my freezer recently led to the discovery of a mystery sausage. Upon defrosting, I remembered it as a take on Vegan Dad’s veggie lunch meat slicing sausage, to which I’d added some dried porcini mushrooms, and thought a beery hotpot might be nice to come home to this evening so between jobs I put some stuff in a pot…

Stout and Sausage Stew

Ingredients

200g seitan sausage

200g cooked chickpeas

90g (Medium) onion – or more to taste. I only had one left.

125g (2-3 smallish) carrots

140g (2 medium) potatoes

1 400g can tomato chunks

150ml (5 fluid oz, or just over half a cup) stout, or a bit more if you like

1/2 teaspoon of salt or more, to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano or mixed herbs

2 teaspoons cooking oil

Method.

Cut the onion, carrots and potatoes and seitan into chunks. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook it for a few minutes until it starts to brown then add everything else. Continue to cook on a medium-high heat until it starts bubbling, then lower to a simmer until the potatoes are done.

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It was dark when I got home, to explain the particular rubbishness of the last picture, but I was very glad to be able to grab supper almost as soon as I got in. It’s not the most exciting stew in the world, and the beer flavour is not pronounced, but it seems to round out the flavour of the broth and mellow the acidity of the tomato. Over all, this was pleasant to eat following an afternoon’s work and a mile’s walk home. I’d have added some garlic if I’d had some, but then I would always say that!


(near the) market monday

A short walk from the market, in the Lanes area on Loseby Lane, is Currant Affairs. This is my favourite shop in Leicester. It’s pretty small but they manage to cram a huge range of stock in. It’s all vegetarian, and a lot of the groceries and food from the counter is vegan too.

Currant Affairs shop exterior facing right

shop exterior facing left

All the people who work there are lovely (and I think some of them might be reading this blog! Hi Karyn, Anne-Marie and Lucy!), and if they don’t have an item you need they can usually get it for you pretty quickly.

First to greet your eyes on a visit is the food counter in the window. They have an excellent range of filled rolls ( known as ‘cobs’ in Leicester), most of these are vegan and I particularly like the falafel and hummus, the nut burger with locally made chutney, or the carrot-cashew salad option. Most of the food in the window is produced in their kitchen upstairs. It’s been a while since I asked but they used to happily make variations on their cobs if you had a special request, such as no spread.

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They also have cakes, slices and savoury pasties, mashed potato-and-carrot topped pies with a choice of filings ( all good but the nut one is my favourite), pizzas and puff pastry goodies. During colder months soup with bread is available too.

If you are after ingredients instead of lunch they won’t fail you either. Check out all the useful stuff they cram in!

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There’s more…

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There’s also a freezer with meat alternatives, pies, ice-cream-type things, pizzas… probably more! And at the counter they have lots of impulse buy stuff. I’m always tempted by the Sweet Vegan marshmallows when they have them, but have heroically resisted so far!