Epic Vegan Bolognese


I believe it was Dickens who said…

It started with an aubergine ūüôā

I was intending to make Chloe Coscarelli’s Pasta alla Norma. However, having consumed a large glass of Shiraz¬†I instead¬†decided to put¬†every vegetable I had in the fridge¬†into¬†my food processor, chop it up real teeny tiny¬†and create some sort of epic pasta-y powerhouse of vegetable goodness.

Turns out, once those veggies have been added to chopped tomatoes and the moisture has reduced, it creates the exact consistency of¬†Quorn Mince and weirdly enough it tastes quite similar too but it’s so much richer and tastier and more filling – and best of all you know it’s super good for you. It’s completely guilt free in my book!

Epic Vegan Bolognese
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 aubergine, diced (plus enough salt to coat)
1 bag/200g of kale
250g chestnut mushrooms
3 carrots, peeled
1 red pepper, deseeded
2 tins of chopped tomatoes (400g each)
1 tbsp of sun-dried tomato paste
Fresh basil
1 tsp of dried parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
200g of dried pasta, cooked according to package instructions
200g vegan mozzarella (I used this smoked mozzarella and it was absolutely delicious)

Instructions:

1. Place diced aubergine in a colander and salt generously. Leave to drain while you prepare the other veggies.
2. Add the oil to a frying pan. While it heats, using your food processor (or by hand) finely chop the onion and then gently fry until translucent.
3. Finely chop the garlic, mushroom, kale, carrot and pepper and add to the pan (I did each veggie separately as my food processor is quite small).
4. Rinse the aubergine, pat dry and add to the pan.
5. While that’s cooking through, blend the chopped tomatoes and sundried tomato paste until it is completely smooth. Add to the veg mixture and gently simmer for 45mins to an hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to¬†200C.
6. By now the majority of the moisture will have evaporated from the mixture and it will have the consistency of Quorn Mince. How exciting!
7. Add the cooked pasta and thoroughly combine, then transfer to a ovenproof dish. Top with thin slices of vegan mozzarella and place in the oven for 15 mins.

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As it is only me eating this dish (the boyf has an aversion to vegetables!) I’ve divided it into portions and frozen it¬†to devour¬†next time I can’t be bothered to cook.

Guys, give this a try I am sure you won’t be disappointed! It’s one of the tastiest meals I have made in a very long time. xx

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Sesame Tofu & Zingy Peanut Butter Dressing – Part 2

Back in January I posted a recipe for a rather delectable sesame tofu and peanut butter dish that I was LOVING.

After a little break I decided to make it again last night, but I kicked it up a notch and I just had to share the result because it was even better than the last one! You know when you eat something and you’re still thinking about it the next day and excitedly planning¬†your next opportunity to make it? (and actually deliberating¬†whether it’d be weird to make it at 8am?) ūüôā

So just a brief recap: this dish is tofu coated with sesame seeds and breadcrumbs and gently fried until golden brown, and the dressing is peanut butter, lime (or lemon) juice, soy sauce and freshly grated ginger (click here for my original recipe).

See those pretty¬†green flakes? That’s kale, blitzed in the blender and popped in the frying pan with the tofu. I’ve only experimented with kale a couple of times and never been particularly taken with the result, but THIS worked (which is fortunate as I still have 700g of kale to use up!).

I also added extra dollops of sesame seed/breadcrumb mixture to the frying pan and they gave the dish a delicious crunch.

To add even more nutritious goodness I tossed some carrots, onion, cherry tomatoes and pepper in garlic olive oil, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and roasted them in the oven for about 20 mins at 200C.

All of this combined produced the little plate of heaven you see before you ūüôā I should’ve taken more care photographing it but I was just too ready to eat it!

I hope you guys enjoy; give it a go and let me know what you think!

Vegan Avocado Pestomole on toast

The more I google vegan recipes, the more I discover this hugely popular and diverse staple of the plant-based diet: avocados on toast.

It’s something I have never tried. To be honest it has never occurred to me to combine the two: I rarely eat bread and if I have avocados I tend to make guacamole to¬†top a salad.

So I decided to buy some avocados and experiment using up some of the bits and pieces in my fridge. The result ended up a delicious mash-up of lovely fresh guacamole and basil pesto. Quick and fresh, it may not be revolutionary but it was hella good!

Vegan Avocado Pestomole on toast
Serves 1

1 avocado
4 cherry tomatoes
1 clove of garlic (raw if you can handle it, or gently fried first)
Handful of fresh basil
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp of onion (again, raw if you can handle it or gently fried first)
1 tsp of nutritional yeast flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
70g of Basil tofu (I used Taifun Basil Tofu)
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle (optional)

Peel and de-stone the avocado, and peel the garlic clove.

Place them into your blender alongside the tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, onion, nutritional yeast flakes, salt and pepper and roughly blend (or pulverise if you prefer it smooth).

Toast your bread for 3-4 minutes, and while it’s toasting¬†thinly slice your basil tofu.

Plate your toast and arrange the tofu slices on top. Scoop the pestomole over the top and season again, adding a drizzle of olive oil if you like.

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If you don’t have a blender you can use a mortar and pestle, or use a fork to mash the ingredients together.

The tomatoes and lemon juice add enough moisture to bind the pestomole together so there isn’t a need for olive oil but it’s a tasty addition if you’re someone who drizzles it over everything like I do!

And all the fresh flavours make you feel like you’re eating something really healthy and nutritious, so it’s perfect! ūüôā

Navigating a stormy sea of vegan cheese

A couple weeks ago, I did my first vlog: a vegan food haul. In it I talked about, amongst other things, my first impressions upon opening up a packet of vegan cheese for the very first time.

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The cheese in question? VBites Cheezly Hard Italian Style.

The verdict? Stinky. Tasted like it smelt. Definitely avoid eating it on its own!

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I also had a packet of¬†Cheezly White Cheddar Style¬†which I hadn’t opened at the time of filming. I have since opened it.

The verdict? Plant-y. And weirdly sweet. Tastes like a sweet plant. Wrong.

I’ve now thrown both packs away, unfinished, which I never do normally¬†because I hate waste. But¬†I was enduring them,¬†rather than enjoying them, and¬†in the end it just wasn’t worth it.

But it’s not all bad news!

Tesco-Soya-Smoked-(with-black-background-for-web)

Tesco do a smoked cheddar made from soya.

The verdict? Tastes like smoked cheddar. Smells like smoked cheddar. Melts like cheese. Thankyouplease I’ll take it!

This cheese actually won ‘Best Dairy-free Cheese’ at the PETA UK Vegan Food Awards 2014, and I can see why, it just blows these other cheeses out the water. Tesco also do medium and mature cheddars which I haven’t tried yet, but I would like to. The added bonus is that Tesco is my local supermarket so this cheese is¬†super easy to find and buy.

I won’t be buying a Cheezly cheese again, however, I will continue to try other brands. I will need to scout about for an online vegan food supplier as there are no other options in my local stores.

I would like to try making my own cheese using cashew nuts and nutritional yeast flakes but I haven’t yet been able to find the yeast flakes. I also remember reading (I can’t find the source now) that eating a lot of cashew nuts means eating a lot of fat and I’m not sure whether that’s a healthy choice. Nor am I sure, though, that eating a lot of soya based cheese is good either.

It’s all so complicated! I would like to research more into it. In the meantime, any suggestions and guidance would be most¬†welcome!

Holiday Food Diary: dairy temptations and vegan triumphs!

I can’t believe it was a week ago that I was whisked away for my birthday!

I was taken to Center Parcs in Woburn Forest for 3 nights. It was SO MUCH FUN!

View from our room, which overlooked the lake.

As I venture into Veganism, I’ve found it super easy to go vegan at home where I control what I buy and what I eat. But I set the¬†intention when I started out that, when going out for dinner or going on holiday, if¬†the vegan options available are limited or unappetising then I allow myself a dairy dish. This is because I think being vegetarian limits you enough (depending where you live/where you travel of course), and I rarely go out to restaurants or go on holiday so I don’t want my enjoyment to be impeded.

This was my first holiday since I began a vegan practice, so I thought I’d keep a little diary! (No food pics though, sorry!).

Friday

We drove to Woburn Forest on Friday morning and I kicked off the day with a soy chai latte from Costa. We picked up some food at Tesco to store in our room and I bought plenty of veg, hummus, almond milk and vegan cheese while my boyf bought regular cheddar, milk and meat Рwe eat completely opposite foods! As its a birthday trip I treat myself to a red velvet cake, which is most definitely not sugar-free or dairy-free!

Once we’ve arrived, checked in, explored and played badminton (which I lost, even though I insisted on ‘birthday rules’ which is where I get to make up the rules and point-scoring system to favour myself!) we are shattered by 5.30pm lol! We visit the onsite supermarket and decide to buy the easiest, quickest dinner which we can cook up in our room. We decide on pizza, and there is only one non-meat option for me, a¬†classic margherita pizza.

Saturday

On Saturday I¬†had a cup of tea in the room (with my almond milk), and then we went to play archery! Traditionally I’m quite good at archery and it’s one of the only games I can beat my boyf at, but this time I lost (I blame the cold!).

We hurry to the onsite Starbucks afterwards where I have another soy chai latte. Then we go back to the room and I have a vegan lunch of my veg and hummus (plus a bit of cake).

After a nap, a ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ marathon and some drunk blogging¬†we go to Strada (an Italian restaurant) for dinner, but not before hitting the bar for a mojito!

I start with a delicious tomato Bruschetta but for mains I only see a few vegetarian options and no vegan options at all on the menu, so I settle for a Caprino pizza with aubergine, courgette, mozzarella and goats cheese. (It is really lovely!) For desert I go completely off the rails (I’m way over my sugar/calorie intake by now anyway and have succumbed to dairy) and have the Pizzetta Nutella. Literally, a pizza covered in Nutella ūüôā

Sunday

For breakfast we kick off with tea and prepackaged golden syrup porridge made with almond milk. Which, to be fair, is very tasty,¬†but I’m pretty sure the ‘I Quit Sugar’ diet would not approve!

The Infinity Pool at the Aquasana Spa (note: that's not me lol)

The Infinity Pool at the Aquasana Spa (note: that’s not me lol)

I headed down to the spa for a few hours, I LOVE me a spa! There are tons of sauna rooms, steam rooms, meditation rooms etc and my favourite is the crystal healing room which had a lovely big amethyst in the centre.

I grab a quick vegan lunch in our room before we head off to our next activity which was my favourite: the OWL Encounter! Check out this dude!

This owl was called 'Bracken'.

This owl was called ‘Bracken’.

I’m very good at holding owls ūüôā I wish it was my job!

For dinner we go to an American diner called Hucks. Again, there are few vegeterian options and none vegan. I know I can probably ask any restaurant if their chef could veganize a dish for me, but I see enough lovely-looking cheesy dishes to tempt me.

We start with goats cheese empanadas, and then I have a vegetarian burrito with salad and Mexican rice – this is a largely vegan dish but does have a bit of cheese inside the burrito.

We then go to the bar to play a bit of pool, which I lose at. I lost at everything we played this weekend, it’s so annoying!

Monday

Monday is my birthday itself and we are booked into Cafe Rouge for brunch. I decide to treat myself (why stop now!) to eggs florentine which comes with spinach and potatoes, and it is lovely.

We don’t eat again until dinnertime, by which time we are back at home, and I am so tired that I grate¬†spaghetti strands out¬†of a large courgette (zucchini), grate some smoked vegan cheese over the top and add a dash of nutmeg, and microwave it. Lazy, but tasty!

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So, what I’ve learnt is, if I do decide further down the line to be a stricter vegan when I’m out or on holiday, I will need to ask for vegan options to be created for me because they are likely not to be openly available. I will also need to be really disciplined to avoid all those lovely cheesy vegetarian options!

I didn’t feel too guilty though, as really it was only a few times that I succumbed to dairy: the rest of the time it was still super easy to make myself or obtain tasty food. I figure that the occasional dalliance with dairy isn’t the end of the world, it’s my regular daily choices that really count and they are still committed to striving to be as dairy-free as possible.

As for trying to be as sugar-free as is humanly and sensibly possible, well that just didn’t happen did it ūüôā IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY! I’m back on the wagon now though!

My first Vegan Food Haul!

You guys…. I done a VLOG! (co-starring Baxter!)

One of my goals for 2015 was to vlog, and last weekend I had the epiphany to film a vegan (and low in sugar) haul video to help other vegan beginners like myself.

Please have a watch and let me know what you think –¬†(be gentle with me it’s my first time!) –¬†and,¬†if I may be so bold, if you like it do¬†give it a Like and a Subscribe!

Vegan cheese & a Pesto recipe

Yesterday marked my first experience with vegan cheese. The cheese of choice was Cheezly’s Italian Hard Cheese.

Now this might be a rookie mistake but I opened up the pack and decided to take a bite, like I would any other cheese. This was a mistake! It didn’t taste good, and it didn’t smell good. I had to hold my breath while I grated it up to go on my pomodoro pasta.

Once it was mixed in and melted it was ok, so¬†I guess that’s the lesson here; this cheese is better for melting not eating on its own!

Anyway, today I made fresh pesto dip with the Cheezly and the smell was a bit less repugnant, so perhaps it just takes some getting used to?!

I have to say it’s my most successful homemade pesto yet! I got the idea for adding milk to pesto years ago from the book “Audrey Hepburn: Elegant Spirit” which contains a couple of Audrey’s¬†favourite pasta recipes, and I’ve adopted the method ever since. It makes a creamy pesto and means you can use¬†less olive oil. I also added spinach because I’m trying to get as much veg into my diet as I can. I’ve tried this recipe with avocado and that worked nicely too – you¬†can’t really taste the extra veg¬†above the basil and garlic etc. so its good for sneaking secret greens¬†to people who¬†don’t like them¬†(like my other half!).

As ever, adapt and amend this¬†to suit your tastes, because I’m a strange individual who loves strong tastes like raw garlic ūüôā

FRESH PESTO DIP:

100g of tofu, drained as much as possible
200g of spinach, cooked & drained as much as possible
50g fresh basil
1 garlic clove
30g toasted pine nuts (I toasted them in a dry pan on the hob, tossing them every couple mins until they went golden brown)
50ml extra virgin olive oil
25g Italian hard cheese (or more if you’re a cheese fiend like me!)
Generous splash of unsweetened almond milk
Freshly ground black pepper

TO PREPARE:

Shove it all into a food processor. Nice and simple! ūüôā

I ate it with some raw cauliflower, raw carrot, cherry tomatoes, a few sun-dried tomatoes and some leftover sweet potato fries. All excellent dipping materials!!

As it makes an ample amount I will use up the remainder with pasta and add some more olive oil and milk to thin it into a sauce.

I’ll be back soon with more Cheezly adventures! If you have any vegan cheese recommendations or recipe ideas, please leave me a comment ūüôā