As usual, this month’s issue of Vegan Life was packed with inspiring articles, as well as a whole bunch of mouth-watering recipes. I was especially excited to see the feature on Daniel Acevedo, Head Chef at Mildreds Vegetarian Restaurant in Soho, London. I’ve heard so many good things about this restaurant and one day hopefully I’ll get to experience it for myself.Continue reading “Roasted Vegetable and French Lentil Salad with a Tangy Balsamic Vinegar and Fennel Seed Dressing”
If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you may remember my sad attempt to grow veggies a few years back. Everything I planted quickly got devoured by the gazillion veggie-loving critters that live in our garden. Some plants literally disappeared overnight :/
I’ve long since abandoned the veggie patch dream and my latest strategy is to leave the patch in a semi wild state and observe what will happily grow there with no intervention on my part. So far, amongst the multitude of wild flowers and “weeds”, I have three edible crops that are flourishing – Golden Raspberries, Lemon Balm and Chocolate Mint!
This week we’re celebrating British Sandwich Week. Do you know how the sandwich got its name? I remember as a kid thinking it was a strange name for a food. It clearly didn’t contain sand. Maybe it was what witches ate? Incredibly, I only learnt the meaning of the name this month (thanks to the May issue of Vegan Life).
John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, was fond of ordering meat tucked between two slices of bread, avoiding both the inconvenience of a fork and messy meat-covered hands, so he could easily eat while playing cards. His fellow gamblers saw the appeal and started ordering “the same as Sandwich”. The 18th century aristocrat’s clean and convenient way of eating is why we came to call any variation of filling between bread ‘a sandwich’
Sadly, here in the UK, the availability of ready-prepared vegan sandwiches is extremely limited. The supermarket aisles are filled with row upon row of chicken, cheese, ham, egg mayo and tuna. If you’re lucky, you might find a falafel sandwich, but then you’re likely to find they’ve added milk or egg into the dressing. I’m sure that one day the sandwich shops will catch up with the growing plant-based trend but, until then, we’ll just have to whip up some of our own.
This month’s Vegan Life magazine has a fantastic selection of sandwich recipes, including the Reuben, Buffalo Tofu Hoagie, Triple BLT, Spicy Wiener and The Peter Pan. There’s also a fun Sandwich Roulette on their Interactive App.
You spin the scroll bar and whatever recipe you land on has to be your next sandwich creation. I landed on Coronation Chickpea which is perfect for me as I love chickpea spreads (as you’ll see below).
In honour of British Sandwich Week, I thought I’d share a selection of my family’s current favourite creations. All of them are 100% plant-based and come together in a matter of minutes. I don’t know about you but, if I need a sandwich, I need it pretty instantly. I’m usually making sandwiches first thing in the morning for lunchboxes or I need to grab a quick bite at lunchtime between jobs, so I can’t be spending ages cooking or prepping the filling.
So, in no particular order, here are our current 7 top picks. Between us, we’ve eaten all of these already this week and we’re only on day 3 of British Sandwich Week!
1. Falafel, Caramelised Onion Hummus, Beetroot Salad and Sweet Pickle.
I always keep a stash of Cauldron Falafels in the fridge for quick sandwich making. At home, I love this filling in freshly baked or lightly toasted granary bread. For lunchboxes, we stuff it into wholemeal pitta breads so, no matter how much the school bag gets shaken, the filling stays neatly inside.
2. Cheese, Tomato and Basil.
This is a pretty classic combination, except that we use vegan ‘cheese’. In our dairy-eating days, none of us actually liked cheese slices, but we really like the Violife version. They’re made with coconut oil instead of cow’s milk and are surprisingly tasty. The slices come in a range of flavours. Cheddar, olive oil, herbs, pizza and smoked are our favourites. In the UK, Violife is currently available in health food shops, Tesco and Asda.
3. Sweet Chilli Chickpea Smash
Chickpea smashes are really versatile. You can flavour them in different ways and change the texture, making them coarse or creamy. One of my all-time favourite smashes is Sweet Chilli Chickpea, made with a can of drained chickpeas, glug of sweet chilli sauce, splash of fresh lime juice and salt whizzed in a blender or food processor until coarse. In this sandwich, I’ve served it with organic sprouts and freshly ground black pepper.
4. Mediterranean Veggie Ciabatta
This is one of our favourite ‘easy’ Saturday night teas. It’s also one of Lil’ L’s favourite school lunches (though we use pittas to keep the veggies intact). A selection of colourful veggies (red onion, courgette/zucchini, bell pepper, mushrooms) and seeds (sunflower & pumpkin) are pan-fried, then served on crispy, warm ciabatta slathered in sun-dried tomato paste. The veggies are either fried in a drizzle of olive oil with plenty of seasoning or a splash of tamari.
5. Smoked Tofu, Avocado, Tomato Salad
I was so pleased to find smoked tofu in the Spanish Hipercor so we could make one of our favourite sandwiches whilst in Marbella last month – organic smoked tofu, sliced tomato and avocado, beetroot salad and hummus, topped with a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper. For our return flight, we stuffed this filling into seeded wholewheat mini baguettes. It tasted so good and far, far better than any option available on the plane. Back home, I use the Cauldron organic smoked tofu, which is currently available from Waitrose, Ocado and health food shops.
6. The Sunday Dinner Sandwich
We used to call this The Boxing Day Sandwich as it was filled with our Christmas Dinner leftovers. However, I love this sandwich so much that I couldn’t relegate it to a ‘once a year’ thing. Now we use the leftovers from the Sunday roast dinner, or I even just make this sandwich instead of a Sunday roast, hence why Lil’ L calls it the ‘Sunday Dinner sandwich’. My favourite components for this sandwich are red lentil & cashew nut loaf or sage & chestnut stuffing, balsamic red onion and brussel sprout hash, served on soft granary bread slathered in cranberry sauce. Tastes. So. Good.
7. Home-made ‘Nutella’ and Banana Panini
And here’s one of our favourite ‘Elevenses’ or mid-afternoon snacks, perfect for when a sweet craving strikes. Slather one side of toasted panini in home-made ‘nutella’ (hazelnut butter, maple syrup, cocoa powder, a little coconut oil and pinch of salt whizzed together) and the other side in mashed ripe banana and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, then slam together and devour.
Happy Sandwiching everyone! xx
What’s your current favourite sandwich creation?
Over Spring break, my family headed to southern Spain for some quality down-time together. No phones, no Internet, just good ole’ fashioned paper books, sketch pads for the boys, and a bunch of DVDs for relaxing nights in. Through HomeAway, we’d hired an apartment in Benahavis, about 20km from Marbella. The apartment was beautiful, stylish, and had the most fantastic balcony kitted out with a comfy sofa, chairs, and stunning views.
The apartment had a fully equipped kitchen (including a dishwasher), which was perfect for us as we were planning to eat in most days. I had tucked a garlic press and cafetiere in my suitcase as these are the items I often find missing in rental apartments, but I needed have bothered this time. The kitchen had everything I could possibly need, including a whole cupboard full of spices and oils. I did take a pot of nutritional flakes with B12 with me (for sprinkling on pasta dishes) and a few energy bars, pretzels and nuts for the journey but, apart from that, we didn’t bother packing any other food items.
I loved everything about the rental apartment but I just wish I could have moved it a bit closer to the sea. We ended up spending most mornings down by the coast, so it would have been lovely to walk there rather than having to drive every day. Luckily it wasn’t too long a drive (20 minutes or so) and there was plenty of free parking space.
One of our favourite morning activities was to chill out in a café on Marbella beach or in the harbour, sipping coffees and checking out the multi million pound yachts and ‘super’ cars that seemed to be constantly cruising past the café. We spotted plenty of Ferraris, Bentleys, Porsches, and the occasional Lamborghini and Mclaren (much to Lil’ L’s delight).
One thing I’d been really looking forward to this holiday was seeing orange trees in blossom. I thought we’d have to head to Sevilla to see the trees but it turned out that they were growing everywhere! It was a bonus to see the trees laden with oranges too. I thought the fruits would come after the blossom, but some were covered in both blossom and fruits. Such a beautiful sight. And the scent was incredible!
As well as spending lots of time chilling out, we also enjoyed hiking in the beautiful countryside and sight seeing. Malaga and Granada were both fantastic cities to visit.
This is the first time that we’ve self catered on mainland Spain, so I wasn’t sure how ‘vegan friendly’ the local supermarkets would be. It turned out that they had far more selection than I ever imagined. In our local Mercadona, they had a good selection of non dairy milks, soya yogurts and chocolate desserts.
It didn’t take me long to find vegan choc ices and ice cream in their freezer cabinet too. Not only was the ice cream delicious and creamy (best choc ices I’ve ever tasted!), but they were really good value too.
We also found big tubs of hummus in the chiller cabinet which, we were relieved to find, were made the traditional way and didn’t include strange ingredients like the ‘fromage blanc’ we found in shop-bought hummus in Paris last year.
The Hipercor in Marbella had even more vegan options. There was a whole chiller cabinet filled with vegan sausages, burgers, tofu, cheese and even Spanish tortilla. The ‘Bio’ (organic) aisle also had vegan patés and all kinds of vegan (and GF friendly) goodies. There was even a dedicated British aisle filled with PG tips, Heinz baked beans and lots of Tesco own brand products.
Needless to say, we weren’t going to go hungry this holiday!
Most days, we packed a lunch to take out with us. We found seeded wholegrain mini baguettes in the bakery section of the supermarkets. often so fresh that they were still warm. We’d fill them with hummus, pate or smoked tofu, fresh tomato slices, salad leaves and enjoy them sitting on the sea wall down in Marbella or out on a hiking trail. For snacks, we had roasted nuts, dried fruit mixes or my personal favourite, roasted sunflower seeds. I especially loved this brand as they were salted to perfection.
To save time preparing evening meals, we bought packs of frozen ready chopped and grilled veggies. They were really colourful, tasty, and ready in just 5 minutes.
One of my top supermarket discoveries was Tomate Frite. I’ve consumed a lot of store-bought tomato sauces in my time and this one was by far the best I’ve ever tasted. The only ingredients it contained were tomatoes, olive oil, salt and garlic, yet it had the most incredibly rich, deep flavour. Clearly, the Spanish know how to cook their tomatoes 😉
Our evening meals were super simple affairs that didn’t require much prep. Veggie paella (using a shop-bought paella seasoning pack), pasta with grilled veggies in tomato sauce, bean salads, and stir-fried veggies (onions, courgette, peppers, mushrooms) in toasted seeded baguettes were big favourites.
We often made a double batch one night and used the leftovers the following day, combined with salad, avocado and hummus or pate-filled bread.
We did eat out on a few occasions. There were two dedicated vegan restaurant/cafés that I couldn’t wait to check out, but we also had a couple of impromptu meals. Italians are my ‘go to’ restaurants for impromptu vegan meals as I find they’re always happy to make me a cheeseless pizza. I just order the vegetarian pizza (‘vegetariana’ or ‘giardinera’) and ask for no cheese. The one I had at Da Pino Ristorante Italiano in Benahavis was especially tasty and had lots of flavourful char grilled veggies and herbs. I definitely didn’t miss the cheese!
In the bigger towns and cities, there were plenty of Indian restaurants offering a wide selections of veggie dishes. In Fuengirola we had a lovely al fresco meal consisting of poppadum and chutney, onion bhajis, tarka dhal, pilau rice and veggie biryani. As we were heading back to the car, we suddenly stumbled into an Easter procession. It was fascinating to watch. The Nazarenes (the guys in the tall pointy hats) were pretty spooky looking!
I never realised that Easter was such a big affair in Spain. The celebrations went on for days!
As I mentioned above, we also ate at two 100% vegan restaurants/cafes. Both were outstanding and definitely warrant a dedicated post, which I’ll publish next week. For now, I’ll leave you with a photo of a beautiful cloud that we saw in Ronda. It’s amazing what you spot in the sky when you’re not busy rushing around.
What does the cloud look like to you? ….
M thought it looked like a bird but, to me, it was definitely an angel 😉
Have you ever self catered as a veggie or vegan in Spain? If so, I’d love to hear your top tips.
For this month’s Suma Blogger’s Network entry, I’d like to share one of my favourite quick ‘n’ easy evening meals. I’ve used the Italian name for this dish ‘Tagliatelle con Verdure’ as the English equivalent ‘Ribbon Pasta with Green Vegetables’ just sounds far too plain and boring for such a beautiful dish.
For me, Tagliatelle con Verdure is the perfect pasta dish for this time of year. It’s much lighter than cheesy or cream-based pastas, and the addition of peas and tender green leaves make it taste fresh and Spring-like.
This dish also happens to be incredibly simple and quick to make. It’s ready in just 20 minutes, and there’s very little prep or chopping involved. It’s perfect for busy week day nights, but also for weekends when you want to prepare something quick for friends and family.
I always use wholegrain pasta as it contains more vitamins and minerals than white pasta (plus my family prefers the coarser texture and nuttier flavour of the wholegrain varieties). At the moment, the health food shops in the UK stock a much wider selection of wholegrain pastas compared to the supermarkets. Pastas made from ancient grains like spelt and kamut are amongst my favourites. For a gluten-free option, ribbon pastas made from maize are available (like this one from Le Veneziane).
In today’s recipe, I used organic whole wheat tagliatelle from one of my favourite pasta companies – la BIO IDEA – which produces its pasta using traditional methods dating back to 1911.
I often keep jars of antipasti in the fridge, as they’re great for throwing into pasta dishes, salads and sandwiches. I especially love the jars of sun-dried tomatoes packed in herb-infused olive oil. The oil is great for loosening up pasta ribbons, as well as adding extra flavour.
Pea shoots are currently in season here in the UK and I adore their fresh pea flavour and tender texture. If you can’t get hold of pea shoots, baby spinach or rocket (arugula) would make good substitutes.
This pasta dish is full of the fresh flavours and colours of Spring. Ready in just 20 minutes, it’s perfect for busy weekday nights or weekends when you’re looking for a quick and easy dish to prepare.
Hands on time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 9 minutes
Ready in: 20 minutes
300g / 10½ oz wholegrain tagliatelle (e.g. whole wheat, spelt or kamut. For a GF option, use maize)
107g / 1 cup fresh or frozen fine green beans, trimmed and halved
75g / ½ cup fresh or frozen green peas
6 sun-dried tomatoes in herb-infused olive oil, drained and chopped (reserve the oil)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 medium courgette (zucchini), quartered lengthwise and sliced
40g / 2 cups pea shoots (or sub with baby spinach or rocket arugula)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 TBSP pine nuts, toasted (or sub with sunflower seeds)
Prepare a large pan of salted boiling water and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Three minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the beans and peas to the pan. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and return to the pan. Drizzle in ½ TBSP of olive oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes and stir through.
While the pasta is cooking, dry fry the pine nuts in a large frying pan (skillet) on a medium heat, stirring regularly. As soon as they start to brown, remove from the heat and set to one side.
Heat 1 TBSP of olive oil (from the sun-dried tomato jar) in the frying pan and cook the courgette until it starts to brown. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking for another minute or so. Stir in the pea shoots until they just start to wilt then remove from the heat.
Once the pasta is cooked, combine it with the contents of the frying pan. Stir in the sun-dried tomato pieces. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Divide between four warm bowls, add a sprinkling of pine nuts and serve.
This pasta dish can also be eaten cold and any leftovers make a great addition to lunch boxes.
What’s your favourite Spring-time dish?
Each month, I eagerly anticipate the delivery of The Vegan Kind subscription box. I love the diversity of products included in the boxes. There’s usually a sweet treat (this month we were spoilt with two high quality chocolate treats), a savoury snack, as well as a fab new vegan beauty, toiletry or cleaning product.
In addition to these goodies, I always get very excited when I see ingredients in a box. My brain immediately starts whizzing with new recipe ideas and I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and start creating.
This month we received a package of Coconom ginger coconut sugar. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how much I love coconut sugar and though I use it all the time, I’d never tried this particular sugar before. It’s infused with real ginger and tastes amazing! My family are huge ginger fans so this product was spot on for us.
As soon as I spied the sugar, a recipe sprung to mind that I knew it would be perfect for – Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I often make these cookies as they’re a family favourite, but this week I decided to add an extra dimension of flavour by adding in some orange zest. Not only did they taste delicious, but they smelt wonderful too. As they baked, the kitchen was filled with the most beautiful orange aroma.
These cookies got a big thumbs up from the family and my Tuesday night study class. I’ve already baked four batches this week and I’ve still got plenty of ginger coconut sugar left for more recipe experimenting. Next up, I’ve got my eye on The Vegan Cookie Fairy’s Banana Ginger Butterscotch Muffin recipe (featured on the TVK recipe card). They sound really yummy!
Makes 9-10 cookies
Hands on time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 12 minutes
Ready in: 35 minutes
45ml / 3 TBSP soya (or almond) milk
35ml / 3 TBSP organic rapeseed (canola) oil (or other neutral-flavoured oil)
40g / ¼ cup coconut sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ TBSP zest from an organic/unwaxed orange
47g / 1/3 cup fine wholemeal (wholewheat) or chapatti flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
70g / ¾ cup rolled oats
45g / ¼ cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F. Line a large baking sheet with non stick baking paper.
Using a strong fork, whisk together the milk, oil and sugar until fully combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract and orange zest, then set to one side.
Place the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined. Sift the flour into the wet ingredient bowl. Stir in the oats, and lastly the raisins.
Scoop slightly rounded tablespoons of dough and spread them out on the prepared baking sheet. Press the dough balls into cookie shape (these cookies don’t spread much). Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly golden in colour. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes (they firm up as they cool) then transfer to a wire rack.
These cookies will keep for about a week stored in an airtight container. They also freeze really well. I often make a double batch and freeze half for lunchboxes and after school snacks.
Products used in this recipe
Tesco Organic Rapeseed Oil, Organic Oranges, Chapatti Flour
Coconom Coconut Sugar
Steenburgs Organic Fairtrade Vanilla Extract
Mornflake Superfast Oats
Crazy Jack Organic Raisins
So far, I’ve had one attempt at a gluten-free version of this cookie. I subbed the wheat flour with oat flour and added 1/2 TBSP ground flaxseed to the wet ingredients. Sadly I found them a bit too dry and ‘claggy’, so I’ll need to try a different GF flour. Lil’ L and M didn’t mind them so much though. They scoffed the lot.
Did you get this month’s TVK box? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. What was your favourite product? Impossible for me to choose a favourite this month as I loved it all!