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3. Recipes

Some of my favourite and most-used recipes. Some are made up and some are borrowed and/or adapted from 'Another dinner is possible', my favourite vegan cook book. It's not difficult to improvise and invent once you get a feel for cooking. If you spot something tasty looking in a shop or try something you enjoy in a restaurant, think about how you might recreate it at home or how you might 'veganise' things you used to enjoy before giving up animal products.

All the recipes below are familiar, tasty, easy, nutritious*, cheap, and suitable for a beginner, whether you're a single person or someone who needs to cater for a family.

Don't be scared! It's not about being hyper-accurate with your measuring or making works of art or panicking because you've run out of basil. This is about real, practical, hearty food that tastes great and promotes health.

Lunch: Hummus - Fennel and sundried tomato hummus - Roast vegetables - Noodle salad

Dinner: Pizza - Cottage pie - Lasagne - Sausage casserole - Bean burgers

Baking: Chocolate brownies - Foolproof sponge cake - Wholemeal and seeds bread rolls - Simple wholemeal bread

Other: Almond milk

*Since sugar isn't from an animal it's entirely possible to pile on the pounds as a vegan. The cake and brownie recipes below are not for slimmers, though a little treat doesn't hurt. Please don't blame me if you eat the whole lot in one evening.


Lunch

Hummus

A vegan staple, I can’t get enough of the stuff. Lovely as part of a mezze style lunch with falafel and salad, in a sandwich with marinaded tofu, as a dip, and great for dipping chips in. It’s easy and cheap to make and contains less fat than supermarket brands and none of the additives. You can add less oil and more water if you want it to be even lower in fat, but don't be afraid of hummus: it's a healthy food that'll give you energy and is full of plant protein.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tin chickpeas (240g drained weight) or equivalent dried ones that have been soaked overnight, boiled for an hour and cooled completely in cold water
  • 1 Heaped tablespoon tahini
  • 1 Clove of garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (vegetable oil will do)
  • 4 Tablespoons cold water
  • ½ Teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients into a blender and whizz until smooth.

Tips:

  • Your hummus will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. It freezes well too, just give it a good stir after defrosting to restore its consistency
  • Try adding a roasted pepper, ground coriander, paprika, oregano and chilli powder for a Piri Piri style hummus

Fennel and sundried tomato hummus

This recipe makes richer and sweeter hummus than the plain kind and is great as a dip, a sandwich filling or try with chips! I got the idea when I had a roast veg ciabatta in a local cafe. I was sure I could taste something aniseed-y in there, and tinkered with my usual hummus recipe (above) until I captured it. It's been a favourite ever since.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tin chickpeas (or equivalent dried ones that have been soaked overnight and boiled for half an hour)
  • 4-6 Sundried tomatoes (I tend to buy jars of them in oil and herbs. When you've used all the tomatoes, you can use the leftover herby oil to cook with, or make even tastier hummus and dips)
  • 1 Heaped tablespoon tahini
  • 1 Clove of garlic
  • A teaspoon of fennel powder ('valiary powder')
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (vegetable oil will do)
  • 4 Tablespoons cold water
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Put all the ingredients into a blender and whizz until smooth.

Tips:

  • For a lower fat hummus, use vacuum-packed sundried tomatoes. You could also replace the 2 tablespoons of oil entirely with water (6 tablespoons total), though the hummus will lose some of its creaminess.
  • Replacing the fennel with sweet smoked paprika works well.

Roast vegetables

Roast vegetables are easy to prepare and cheap as you want them to be. If money is tight, you could use carrots, white onion, mushrooms and parsnip. If you want to splash out, go for aubergine, sweet potato, pepper and courgette. Roast veg is lovely warm in a wrap or pitta with hummus, crunchy salad and tofu or veggie sausage; served as part of a larger meal; or cold as part of a mezza style lunchbox. I find it's a good idea to cook hard veggies together because they take longer than soft. Another idea is to give the hard veg a little time to cook first before adding the softer ingredients to the baking tray.

Ingredients:

  • Hard veg: sweet potato, butternut squash, pumpkin, parsnip, carrot etc.
  • Soft veg: aubergine, mushroom, onion, pepper, courgette etc.
  • Olive, vegetable or sunflower oil
  • One or two of your favourite herbs and spices
  • Salt and black pepper

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Chop your vegetables into chunks of the desired size and put them in a baking tray.
  3. Pour a little oil on top, sprinkle your herbs or spices of choice and add a little salt and pepper.
  4. Use your hands to distribute the oil and herb mix. You want the vegetables lightly coated in oil, not drowning. I know it's makes your hands messy, but it's worth it.
  5. Put the veggies in the oven. Stir them every 5-10 minutes so they cook evenly. Take them out when soft, or leave them in for a bit longer if you like them crispier.
  6. Eat immediately or leave to cool in the kitchen for a few hours before refrigerating in an airtight container. They'll keep for 4-5 days.

Try:

  • rosemary with sweet potato and carrot
  • or cinnamon with roast aubergine, mushroom and red onion
  • or basil with butternut squash.

Noodle salad

Salad lends itself beautifully to improvisation, involves minimal preparation and is as cheap as the ingredients you choose to use. And they're not just for dieters, but can be a wonderful tool in that endeavour. I made this particular salad out of a desire to use up some veggies that were looking a bit forlorn in the fridge. Add a simple dressing and some bits and bobs from the kitchen cupboard, and you've got a delicious and healthy lunch. The following recipe makes enough for one hungry person, or perhaps as a starter for several.

Ingredients:

  • A handful of brown rice noodles (King Soba brand bundle their noodles into little paper-wrapped portions. One is enough for this recipe)
  • 1 Carrot, made into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
  • 1 Courgette, made into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • A generous handful of spinach leaves
  • Half a block of tofu, cut into chunks. Alternatively, use a few handfuls of tinned beans or chickpeas
  • Your choice of dressing (some ideas here)
  • A sprinke of toasted pinenuts

Method:

  1. Simmer the noodles for 4-5 minutes in enough water to cover. Drain and put them back into the saucepan with cold water.
  2. Fry your tofu pieces in a little oil (toasted sesame is best) until golden. Splash with soy sauce if you like. Take off the heat and allow them to cool. If using tinned chickpease or beans instead, there's no need to heat them. Just rinse them well before adding to the salad.
  3. Prepare your dressing in a small bowl or jug.
  4. Prepare your carrot and courgette using a peeler and put them, along with the spinach leaves and cherry tomatoes, into a large bowl and mix.
  5. Drain the noodles and add to the main mixture, along with the tofu or beans.
  6. Add your dressing and stir thoroughly so that everything is coated.
  7. Sprinkle toasted pinenuts on top just before serving.
  8. Tuck in. Leftovers will keep for the following day in an airtight container in the fridge, but give it a good stir before serving.

Dinner

Pizza

This recipe makes enough for four regular-size pizzas. Be sure to see the tips at the end of the recipe for my suggestions for cheese replacements.

Ingredients:

For the base

  • 250g Strong white bread flour
  • 250g Plain white flour
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon of vegetable, sunflower or olive oil
  • 325ml Warm water

For the tomato sauce

  • Tomato purée
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: a little black olive pate
  • Optional: Half a teaspoon oregano, basil or mixed herbs

Topping suggestions

  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Roast vegetables
  • Thinly sliced mushrooms, pepper, courgette, onion, chilli, pineapple
  • Vegan duck, chorizo, pepperoni, sausage, beef style pieces, deli slices
  • Tofu chunks, previously fried in sesame oil and doused in soy sauce. Can be done the day before and kept in the fridge for a denser, meatier texture. Add these just a few minutes before the pizza is ready
  • Vegan melting cheese (see my tips below for cheese alternatives)

Method:

  1. Make the tomato sauce by mixing salt and pepper with your tomato purée until you’re happy with how it tastes. Simple! Add black olive pate and/or herbs if you like. Add a little sugar if it's a bit bitter. Put it in the fridge for later.
  2. Put all the dry pizza base ingredients into a bowl and mix. Put the oil and water together and add to the bowl. Work the mixture into a dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. If you're new to bread making have a look on YouTube for a kneading demonstration. I talk more about kneading in the bread recipe below. Don’t worry if the dough is a bit sticky to start with, it’ll soon become smooth and workable. Add a little additional flour to the surface to stop the dough sticking but don’t go mad or the dough will become too dry.
  4. Rub a little oil into a bowl and put your dough into it. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place - like an airing cupboard - to prove (rise) for an hour. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and lightly knead it again for a few seconds.
  5. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape on lightly oiled baking trays into pizza bases. It’ll be quite springy, but keep pressing it to the edges and flattening it with down-turned fists and you’ll get there.
  6. Spread a tablespoon of your pizza sauce on each pizza, then distribute your toppings. Don’t lay things up too much, you still want to see some of the base peeking through. Finally add vegan cheese if using. Make up the pizzas one or two at a time if you have a small oven - the rest of the raw dough will be fine at room temperature for a bit.
  7. Cook each pizza for around 15-20 minutes, or until the base is golden brown at the edges. It’s cooked if the pizza lifts off easily with a spatula when you slide it underneath.
  8. Drizzle any oils or cheesy sauce on top of your pizzas and serve.

Tips:

  • For a higher fibre pizza base, use 125g strong white bread flour and 125g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • Spread a thin layer of miso paste onto your pizza base before the tomato sauce for a richer flavour
  • Instead of cheese, drizzle a little hoisin sauce, sweet chilli sauce, olive oil or chilli oil on top of the pizza once it’s cooked. Or make a cheesy white sauce and drizzle that on top of the pizza before serving. Follow the recipe for white sauce from the lasagne recipe but be sure to use nutritional yeast flakes if you want that cheesy taste. I tend not to bother with vegan cheese because the pizza is moist and rich anyway, especially if using a well seasoned tomato sauce and topping with sundried tomatoes, olives and roast vegetables
  • You can freeze the uncooked pizza dough. After it’s proved, and at the stage you’d usually shape into a base, roll the dough into balls and wrap them well in plastic food wrap or sandwich bags before bunging them in the freezer. When you want to use them, defrost them the night before, unwrapped and put in an airtight tub. Roll them out as usual, adding your sauce and toppings. You’ll find the dough rolls out more easily having been frozen and still makes a decent pizza, though it won't be quite as light

Cottage pie

Not truly a cottage pie because it doesn't contain beef and not a shepherd's pie because it doesn't contain lamb, but it's very similar besides: a rich gravy filling made with mince (or lentils) and vegetables, topped with lovely creamy mashed potato. A complete meal, but try serving with broccoli and roasted root vegetables.

Ingredients:

For the mince

  • 250g Dried soy mince (find in a grocer or health food shop)
  • 1 Teaspoon yeast extract
  • A few splashes of soy sauce
  • 500ml Boiling water

For the mash

  • 1kg Potatoes
  • 1 Small swede
  • 2 Tablespoons margarine
  • A splash of soy milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: Half a teaspoon mustard

Filling

  • 1 Large carrot
  • 1 Large onion
  • 2 Stick celery
  • 1 Leek
  • 3 Cloves garlic
  • 1 Small tin of tomato purée
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast extract
  • A few splashes of soy sauce
  • 1 Pint of water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: A few splashes of Worcester Sauce (vegan friendly, such as 'biona' brand, available from independent grocers and health food shops)
  • Optional: A few teaspoons vegetable bouillon powder or a stock cube. Taste the gravy first. It should be lovely and tasty without either

Equipment:

  • A large, high-sided baking dish

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 C/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Prepare your mince by stirring in 500ml boiling water with a teaspoon of yeast extract and a couple of splashes of soy sauce. Stir well and leave the mince to soak up the water.
  3. Peel and chop the potatoes and swede into chunks and boil in a saucepan with lots of salted water until cooked. Stab pieces with a sharp knife to test; the blade should pass through easily.
  4. While your potatoes and swede are boiling, chop all the other veggies into small pieces and crush the garlic. Fry the lot in a saucepan with a little oil until softened.
  5. Add the mince, herbs, yeast extract, stock, soy sauce and 1 pint of water (or enough to just about cover the veggies). Simmer until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomato purée and taste the mixture. Add additional yeast extract, soy sauce, Worcester sauce, bouillon, salt or pepper if you’d like to.
  6. Mash the potato and swede. Stir in the margarine, soy milk, mustard (if using), salt a pepper. Taste it. Add more of any of those ingredients if you'd like to.
  7. Fish the bay leaves out of the gravy mixture and spread it out in a large baking dish. Spread the mash on top. I tend to place spoonfuls of mash one by one over the gravy mixture until it's all covered, then use a fork to make sure the mash is even. This can work better than just bunging it all on top at once and trying to spread it out. You can end up with one big potato and gravy mess that way. Finally, use a fork to give the mash a ridged texture by running it from one end to the other in big straight lines.
  8. Bung the pie in the oven for half an hour or until the mash is crispy and browned.

Tips:

  • Try leaving the skins on the potatoes
  • If you have a few tomatoes lying around, slice them and lay some on top of your mash before cooking. They’ll crisp up nicely and taste sweet and rich
  • Any leftover mash or filling can be frozen and made into a pie at another time
  • If you end up with leftover pie, keep it in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days in an airtight container. It reheats easily in the microwave

Lasagne

Ingredients:

For the mince

  • 250g Dried soy mince (find it in a grocer or health food shop)
  • 1 Teaspoon yeast extract
  • A few splashes of soy sauce
  • 500ml Boiling water

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 Tins of tomatoes
  • 1 Large onion
  • 3 Cloves of garlic
  • 1 Courgette
  • 1 Pepper
  • 1 Grated carrot
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 or 3 Heaped tablespoons tomato purée
  • 1 Teaspoon yeast extract
  • A few splashes of soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: 1 or 2 Teaspoons of vegetable bouillon powder or a stock cube. Taste the sauce first. It should be lovely and tasty without either

For the white sauce

  • 1 Heaped tablespoon plain white flour
  • 1 Heaped tablespoon margarine
  • 500ml Soy milk
  • Salt and pepper

And

  • Lasagne sheets
  • 4 Tomatoes

Equipment:

  • A large, deep baking dish

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 C/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Prepare your mince by stirring in 500ml boiling water with a teaspoon of yeast extract and a couple of splashes of soy sauce. Stir well and leave the mince to soak up the water.
  3. Chop your onion, courgette and pepper, and grate your carrot. Crush the garlic. Fry the lot in a big saucepan until softened.
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, herbs, yeast extract, stock powder, soy sauce, the recently hydrated mince and 200ml water, and give it a good stir. Adjust the heat so that the sauce is gently simmering, and let it do so for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. If your sauce is looking too thick, add a little water. It should be about the thickness of tomato ketchup at the end of its cooking time. If it’s runny, cook for a little longer. Taste, and add extra yeast extract, soy sauce, bouillon, salt or pepper if you like. You can also add extra tomato purée to help thicken the sauce or for a stronger tomato flavour. Take the sauce off the heat set it aside with the lid on.
  6. Make the white sauce by melting the margarine in a saucepan on a medium heat. Stir the flour into it. Add a little of the milk and stir well. The flour mixture will guzzle the milk up to begin with and you'll have a very thick sauce, but keep adding a little of the milk until it’s all incorporated. Adding a little at a time like this will prevent lumps forming, but if the sauce isn't smooth you can use a whisk to beat any lumps out. Add a little salt and pepper, and taste. Take the white sauce off the heat and put a lid on the saucepan to prevent a skin forming.
  7. Layer up your lasagne, starting with half the white sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, then lasagne sheets, then tomato sauce, then lasagne sheets etc. You want to finish with a layer of lasagne sheets then finally the rest of the white sauce. Slice the fresh tomatoes and lay them on top. Bake for 30 minutes. The tomatoes will crisp up and the sauce will brown slightly. Leave to cool for 30 minutes and serve.

Tips:

  • Add a few heaped tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes to the finished white sauce for a richer, slightly cheesy flavour. Find them in a grocer or health food shop
  • Serve with Asda Smart Price garlic bread (from the frozen section) for a cheap and tasty accompaniment
  • Use lentils instead of mince. You may need to add extra water as the lentils soak up liquid or...
  • use more veg and ditch the mince entirely. Adding an aubergine works very well, or try a few handfuls of frozen spinach. Again, you may need to add additional water as the veg will soak up liquid

Sausage casserole

This is a great recipe for using leftovers and is very adaptable. The recipe will make enough for 4 hungry people and probably give you leftovers too. It keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze it.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 sausages (Linda McCartney’s are perfect for this and my favourite)
  • 1 Large onion
  • 3 Cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tins tomatoes
  • 2 Large carrots
  • 2 Sweet potatoes or one large baking potato
  • 2 Sticks of celery
  • 6 Mushrooms or a couple of those nice tasty big flat ones
  • A few splashes of soy sauce
  • A few splashes of Worcester Sauce (vegan friendly, such as 'biona' brand, available from independent grocers and health food shops)
  • A tablespoon of yeast extract
  • A sprinkle of thyme
  • A sprinkle of Sage
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: A few teaspoons vegetable bouillon powder or a stock cube. Taste the casserole first. It should be lovely and tasty without either

Method:

  1. Take your sausages out of the freezer and leave them on the side to defrost for an hour before starting.
  2. Chop your vegetables into nice hearty bite-size chunks and crush the garlic. Fry the lot in a large saucepan with a little oil until the onion if softened.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes, soy sauce, Worcester sauce, yeast extract and herbs, and enough cold water so that the veg is covered. Give it all a good mix and bring to simmering point.
  4. Chop the sausages into sixes and add to the saucepan. Simmer the casserole gently until the potatoes and carrots are soft, stirring occasionally.
  5. Taste it and add salt and pepper and additional soy sauce, Worcester sauce, yeast extract or herbs if you like.
  6. Allow the casserole to rest off the heat for 20 minutes and serve.

Tips:

  • If you’d like a thicker sauce, add tomato purée or a little cornflour made into a paste with cold water. Be sure to stir continuously as you add the mixture of it'll form lumps. Vegetable gravy granules can be used to thicken sauces too, but beware if you're already happy with the flavour of your casserole
  • Add a few generous tablespoons of hummus to the casserole just before serving for a creamier texture
  • You really can chuck any spare vegetables in, even ones that are looking a bit sad in the bottom of the fridge
  • Add lentils, cooked beans or wholemeal pasta at state 4, but remember that you may need to add extra water during cooking
  • Try swapping sage for tarragon or basil or the ditching herbs completely and using smoked paprika and a little chilli powder
  • Use soy mince or chunks instead of sausages for a cheaper meal
  • Serve with Asda Smart Price garlic bread (frozen section) for a delicious way to scoop up the last of the sauce from your bowl. A wholemeal roll or pitta bread is a healthier and more filling option

Bean Burgers

I use veggie mince and beans together to give the burgers a lovely, meaty texture, and the spices, herbs and soy sauce create a mouthwatering barbeque flavour. It's a recipe that lends itself to improvisation: try swapping herbs and spices for your own, coat the patties in cooked quinoa, experiment with bean types and chickpeas, add a little chopper pepper, mushroom or a dollop of mashed sweet potato etc. Use sage instead of thyme, ditch the paprika and tomato puree, add a generous splash of Worcester sauce (Biona brand is vegan) and extra black pepper, and shape into sausages instead. Lovely with sweet potato mash and gravy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tins of beans (I usually use 1 x kidney and 1 x butter) or the equivalent in dried that have been soaked and cooked in advance
  • 50g Dry soy mince
  • 1 Teaspoon of yeast extract (Marmite or other brand)
  • 1 Large onion
  • 2 Cloves of garlic
  • 50g Chopped mixed nuts
  • 2 Teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 2 Teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • ½ Teaspoon of chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few handfuls of oats

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C if you're going to eat these immediately (you can freeze them).
  2. Chop the onion and garlic. Fry in a large saucepan until softened.
  3. Add the beans to heat them through for a few minutes.
  4. Put the soy mince in a bowl with 150ml of boiling water. Stir in the yeast extract. A drizzle of toasted sesame oil is great in this too, if you have it. Leave the mince to soak up the liquid.
  5. Take the bean mixture off the heat and briefly whizz it in a food processor or mash it manually. It should be coarse and sticky, with visible lumps of bean.
  6. Put the bean mixture in a large mixing bowl with the nuts, soy mince, thyme, paprika, chilli powder, soy sauce, lemon juice, and tomato puree.
  7. Give it all a good stir and taste. Add salt and pepper, as well as extra paprika if you want a stronger flavour, until you're happy. If you're not happy, this recipe might not be for you. I apologise.
  8. Add the oats and mix. You might need to add more oats if the mix seems too wet. The consistency needs to be firm and dry enough so that you can scoop up little handfuls and shape them into burgers that don't fall apart.
  9. Dab plain flour on your hands and the work surface to stop them sticking, and shape the mixture into burgers. I usually end up with 16, for a standard supermarket burger size. You could make mini ones, or massive great things if you are particularly hungry. There's nothing to stop you making sausage shapes instead or little balls to drop, coated in sesame seeds or a simple batter, into a deep-fat fryer.
  10. If cooking immediately, put them on a baking tray with a little oil brushed on the surface, and a little on top of each burger too. If freezing, wrap them individually in food bags or food wrap (compostable, of course!). They will cook from frozen, but they turn out better if you defrost them overnight in the fridge.
  11. Cook your bean burgers for 5-10 minutes on each side, or until they've crisped up a bit, turning once. They're lovely in wholemeal rolls with hummus, onion chutney, gherkins, tomato, and spinach leaves.

Baking

Chocolate brownies

The following ingredients make enough mixture for a tin of size 9 inch x 7 inch.

Ingredients:

  • 250g Plain flour
  • 150g Brown sugar (muscovado is my favourite)
  • 200g White sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 80g Cocoa powder
  • 120ml Vegetable or sunflower oil
  • Half teaspoon baking powder
  • Optional: Chopped mixed nuts and/or dark choc chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4. Line your baking tin with greaseproof paper: rub a bit of dairy free margarine on both sides of the paper and up the sides of the tin too.
  2. In a small saucepan, mix 240ml water into 50g flour (from the 250g). Bring to the boil, stirring continuously. It’ll go gloopy and weird. Take it off the heat.
  3. In a big bowl, mix the sugars, vanilla, baking powder, cocoa, oil and nuts/choc chips if using.
  4. Add the gloopy flour stuff to the bowl and mix.
  5. Mix in the rest of the flour. It’ll make a firm dough. Don’t be afraid to use your hands since it can be hard to stir at this stage.
  6. Press the mixture into the tin. Bake for 20-25 mins.
  7. Leave to cool for an hour in the tin. Then put it in the fridge, still in the tin, for another couple of hours. It’s ready to eat. You might find it easier to turn the tin upside down and turn out the whole thing before cutting into individual slices. Keep them in the fridge in an airtight container or wrap the slices individually in plastic wrap and freeze them.

Foolproof sponge cake

This wonderful recipe comes from the cookbook, 'Another dinner is possible'. It's incredibly easy and infinitely adaptable. What started as a simple vanilla sponge has since transformed into carrot, chocolate and beetroot, fruit, and coffee and walnut cake. I use a nice easy 'butter' icing recipe that's very versatile too.

The following ingredients make enough mixture for a 2 inch deep tray of size 9 inch x 13 inch, or use ½ - ¾ of the ingredients for two 8inch round cake tins.

Ingredients:

  • 400g Self raising flour
  • 200g Caster sugar
  • 200ml Sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 300ml Soy milk
  • 1 Teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 Teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon of vanilla essence

Butter icing:

  • 125g Margarine such as Vitalite, Pure or a supermarket 'free from' brand
  • 250g Icing sugar
  • A few drops of vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C, 350-400F, gas mark 5-6. Grease and line your tin(s) with a little vegan margarine and greaseproof paper.
  2. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the caster sugar. Stir together.
  3. Stir in the oil. It's normal for it to seem a little dry at this stage.
  4. In a jug mix the soy milk, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice, and add to the flour mixture immediately (or it'll fizz over the top of the jug). Add the vanilla essence and stir until smooth.
  5. Pour the mixture into your greased tin(s) and bake for around 30 minutes or until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean. Your oven might not need as long, so keep an eye on the cake and don't be afraid to test it after 20 minutes.
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Easily get the cake out by loosening it at the sides with a knife, putting a cooling rack on top and flipping the tin over. Carefully lift the tin away and peel the greaseproof paper off. Once the cake is completely cool it's ready for icing.

For the butter icing:

  1. Cream together the margarine and icing sugar until smooth. An electric whisk or mixer makes for a lovely light and fluffy icing, but enthusiasm and a wooden spoon will do.
  2. Add the vanilla essence and stir well.

Cake variations:

  • For chocolate cake: Instead of 400g flour, use 350g with 50g of cocoa powder at stage 1. Add diary-free chocolate chips at stage 2: white, milk, dark or all three! I often coarsely chop up a whole bar of dark chocolate and tip it in
  • For chocolate and beetroot cake: As above, but add two raw, peeled and finely grated beetroot at stage 2. Add a few handfuls of dessicated coconut
  • For carrot cake: At stage 2 add two grated raw carrots, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, a handful of raisins, a handful of dessicated coconut and the zest from a lemon
  • For coffee cake: Dissolve 3 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee granules in a few teaspoons of boiling water and add this at the end of stage 4. Add a few handfuls of crushed nuts - walnut or mixed. Try adding coffee and nuts to chocolate cake (typing this is making me very hungry) for a nutty, mocha cake
  • For fruit cake: Add a few generous handfuls of any dried fruit you like at stage 2, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon, one of nutmeg and the zest from a lemon. Try adding a mashed banana at the end of stage 4

Tips:

  • Don't worry if the mix seems dry at stage 3, especially when preparing the carrot cake. It may seem as though you didn't add enough oil but it'll work out nice and smooth at stage 4
  • I like to grate the zest of the lemon mentioned in the main recipe and add this to the sponge mixture at stage 2. It enhances all variations and makes the most of the lemon
  • To make your cake slightly healthier (though still terribly naughty), replace plain for brown self raising flour or add a few tablespoons of milled flax seed at stage 2. Both options give the cake a nuttier quality
  • Once iced, decorate your cake with chocolate chips, sweets, candied peel or fruit, or nuts

Icing variations:

  • Chocolate: Use a little less icing sugar and add some cocoa at stage 1
  • Coffee: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of coffee granules in 1 teaspoon of water and add at stage 2
  • Orange or lemon: Add a little lemon or orange juice and its zest at stage 2. Be careful not to make the mixture too wet. If you do, beat in some additional icing sugar. An electric mixer may save the day here

Wholemeal and seeds bread rolls

This is a dense, nutty, filling and superbly nutritious bread recipe that I’ve tweaked and adapted over time, and finds it’s way into my lunchbox most days of the week. It won’t make bouncy, insubstantial bread like they sell in the supermarket, that’s full of crap and isn’t made like the real thing. Of course, a lot of bread is vegan-friendly anyway but making your own is cheaper, better for you and makes your home smell amazing all day.

See the recipe after this one for a simple wholemeal bread with only 5 ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 500g Strong wholemeal flour
  • 1 Teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Heaped teaspoon dried yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons flax seed
  • 1 Handfull of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 Handful of sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon hemp, olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 350ml warm water
  • Optional: A pinch of dried seaweed powder (kelp/kombu)
  • Optional: 2 Tablespoons shelled hemp seed

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 220C, gas mark 6-7.
  2. Put all the dried ingredients into a big mixing bowl. Stir well.
  3. In a measuring jug, measure 350ml of warm - not hot - water (I find 280ml of cold and 70ml of recently boiled is about right). Add the oil and vinegar and pour the lot onto your dried ingredients.
  4. Mix with your hands. It’ll be sticky and messy at first, but get stuck in! I find that the best way is to shape one hand into a shovel, stirring and scooping, until the mix forms a dough, holding the bowl still with your free hand.
  1. Tip it out onto your worktop and knead. You can find tips and techniques on kneading on Youtube, but I tend to use my right hand to press the dough down, squashing it into the worktop, and then fold the top back into the middle, occasionally rotating the whole thing and adding a little flour to the worktop if it’s sticking too much: press the dough down, fold it over, press it down etc. You only need to do this for 5 minutes or so, until the dough is spingy and stops being sticky. This means you’ve activated the protein in the flour and have a dough that’s ready for shaping and baking.
  2. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape them into balls. I do this by pressing my palm firmly over a ball on the worktop and rotating, or you can roll between both hands.
  3. Rub a little oil in a baking tray. Press your rolls into it, so they look like little fat burger shapes. Cover with a teatowel or loosely placed cling film with a few holes poked in it (it needs to ‘breathe’).
  1. Leave the tray in a warm place for at least an hour to allow the rolls to rise. I put mine on my hob (turned off!). The heat from the pre-heated oven underneath does the trick. An airing cupboard is perfect too, or even a window ledge on a sunny day. You don’t want to put them somewhere really hot, because you’re not looking to cook them, but to allow the fermentation process (yeast doing its thing) to leaven the dough.
  2. Put the rolls into the oven for around 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them, and remove when they’ve taken on a rich, brown colour on top. Another way to be sure they’re cooked is to tap one on the bottom; it should make a hollow sound, like a little drum.
  3. Take them out of the baking tray and onto a cooling rack for a few hours.

Tips:

  • Once cool, put them in an airtight container and use within a day or two. They're always nicest on the day they're cooked
  • or freeze them in sealed plastic bags or plastic container for weeks/months
  • They're wonderful sliced in half, toasted and used to scoop up homemade hummus
  • You can just as easily make less, bigger rolls with this recipe, or make one big loaf. Allow more time for rising in both cases

Simple wholemeal bread recipe

If you're not keen on seeds and other added bits or want a lighter, springier roll that's cheap as chips to make, then this second bread recipe is for you.

Ingredients:

  • 500g Strong wholemeal flour (swap for brown or white flour if you like. Brown flour makes a loaf with half the fibre of wholemeal; white flour has virtually no fibre at all)
  • 1 Teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Method:

Follow the method used for the seeded rolls (above), but remember you need less water for this one.


Other

Almond milk

I gave this a try a few months back and have been making it regularly since. Creamy, delicious, and packed with calcium, I rarely use anything else on my muesli.

Ingredients:

  • 100g Raw almonds
  • 600ml Cold water
  • 6-8 Dried dates, depending on how sweet you like it
  • Optional: ½ Teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: ½ Teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment:

  • A decent blender. I use a Vitamix. I'll be paying for it for 6 months but it's worth every penny
  • Nut milk/muslin bag

Method:

  1. Soak the almond overnight in cold water.
  2. Tip the soaking water away and rinse the almonds well.
  3. Put them in your blender with the dates and 600ml of cold water and put on the highest speed for around 40 seconds.
  4. Strain the milk through a nutmilk bag, squeezing the milk through until no more is coming out. You can use the pulp that's leftover in smoothies, porridge, various baked goods, or add it to your next beanburger mix. It freezes too.
  5. If you want to enhance your milk with cinnamon and/or vanilla, rinse your blender jug and add the strained milk back in. Add cinnamon and/or vanilla and put the blender on high again for 10 seconds or so. Your milk is ready to drink. It keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days.

Making your own milks may not be the best idea if you rely on fortified foods for vitamin B12. Shop-bought plant milks often have vitamin B12 added, making them a good regular source, but homemade milks don't contain any. Almonds and other nuts, seeds and beans used for making plant milks do not contain B12. If you take a B12 supplement, as I do, then there's no need to worry. Almonds are a good source of calcium, making almond milk a perfect replacement to cow milk with none of the nasties that are present in that.

 

Tips:

  • If you prefer your milk less creamy (i.e. like skimmed or semi-skimmed), use less almonds or more water. But don't be afraid of nuts; yes they contain fat, but it's the good kind
  • Add a few extra dates at stage 3 and a generous tablespoon of cocoa at stage 5 for a delicious almond chocolate milkshake
  • Use almond milk as the base for a smoothie. Add a banana and some strawberries or mango and a few tablespoons of flax seed for a thick and indulgent blend
  • Try cashew nuts instead of almonds for a completely different flavour. The recipe works in exactly the same way but the leftover pulp can be used to make vegan cream cheese or a sour cream replacement. Have a look on YouTube for recipes
  • I haven't had much luck using almond milk in hot drinks. It tends to separate in coffee, though it might fare better if you mix coffee granules with a little cold water, then add that mix to cold milk and gently heat. I imagine the same of making hot chocolate. I'd stick to very warm rather than hot as I don't think it'll take the punishment.