I’d been coveting the Scotch eggs in the fridge. Obviously, I wasn’t going to eat them, because they contain meat but, I’d coveted them, nonetheless. But the good thing about being a vegetarian who likes to cook is that I don’t need to covet meaty things in the fridge – I can just make my own vegetarian or vegan version. Yay.
I first thought I’d have to make them by defrosting some Linda McCartney sausages (other vegetarian sausages are available, but I like the Linda McCartney ones), mashing them up, then squidging them around an egg. I wasn’t sure how this would turn out; after all, the sausages are already made into sausage shapes and are meant to be cooked from frozen. Would they like being defrosted, mashed and squidged?
My mind drifted into the direction of Sosmix. I haven’t had Sosmix since the 90s – as you’ll know if you read my article about being a vegetarian back then – but I knew Holland & Barrett still sold it, or something similar, but I didn’t want to go into town to get some. Then I remembered hearing about a meat-free sausage mix from Asda and, after asking on the Little Vegan Kitchen After Dinner Chat Facebook page whereabouts in Asda I could find it (near the tinned tomatoes, in case you’re wondering), cycled to my local Asda to buy some.
Be warned – although I loved these vegetarian Scotch eggs, the Asda meat-free sausage mix has a very strong taste of sage, which lingers for a long time afterwards. It’s also a bit soft but it firmed up after a couple of days in the fridge.
I deep-fried these but a friend on Facebook said she also makes vegetarian Scotch eggs, but bakes hers in the oven.
My next attempt at vegetarian Scotch eggs will be vegan ones, made with tofu.
Review: The Part-Time Vegetarian by Nicola Graimes
Nicola Graimes wrote one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks – Veggienomics. This is definitely one of my ‘go to’ cookbooks and you can see some of the recipes I’ve tried from it here, here and (my favourite) here.
In Nicola’s latest cookbook – The Part-Time Vegetarian – she confesses that, after almost thirty years of being vegetarian, she now occasionally eats meat and fish. While Nicola doesn’t go into detail about why she chose to start eating meat again, part of me dearly hopes one of the reasons is ‘got drunk and bought a kebab on the way back from the pub’ but my guess is that probably wasn’t a contributing factor and, after thirty years, deciding to re-introduce meat and fish into her diet probably wasn’t something she did lightly.
Still, whatever Nicola’s reasons, I’ve got to admit when her publisher asked me if I’d like a review copy, I was hesitant to accept. Although I’m pro-choice and, as far as I’m concerned, if people want to eat meat then that’s their prerogative, my collection of cookbooks is 100% vegetarian/vegan and I don’t want to see meat recipes while I’m flicking through a cookbook looking for something to make.
This isn’t a half-meat/half-vegetarian cookbook though – The Part-Time Vegetarian contains vegetarian recipes that can be adapted to include meat and fish. For example, it could be something as simple as sprinkling some crispy bacon on the finished dish, the addition of prawns, or a more substantial alteration such as spiced grilled lamb instead of roasted mushrooms served on a white bean mash.
So, if you’re one of the two out of three part-time ‘vegetarians’ who occasionally eat meat, chicken or fish*; you cook for a family that contains a vegetarian; or you just want to incorporate a few vegetarian meals to your weekly menu, then this book will be of interest to you. Nicola’s also included menu plans for a family vegetarian week, a part-time vegetarian week, a 7-day healthy week, part-time vegetarian meals for friends and menus for different occasions.
Recipe: Paneer, egg and potato gratin
I don’t know if it was my subconscious to blame, but the recipe I decided to try first from The Part-Time Vegetarian didn’t have a meaty alternative. I also don’t know if how it turned out was anything like it was supposed to, as there’s no photo for this recipe in the book (there are plenty of full-page photos to accompany other recipes though) and the finished result wasn’t how I’d pictured it in my head but, appearances aside, this was a tasty, filling meal, with the paneer and Indian spices giving an interesting twist to the potatoes and eggs.
[Please note: As usual, this is my simplified/altered to my preference version and not how it appears in the book.]
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water with half the turmeric for 10-12 minutes, or until almost tender. Drain the potatoes and leave until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the onions for 8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, cumin seeds, green peppers and chilli and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
Slice the potatoes into 1cm slices and add to the pan, turning gently until combined, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes until the stock has reduced by three-quarters. Stir in half the coriander and transfer to a baking dish.
Make four indentations in the potato mixture and break an egg into each one. Scatter the paneer over the top and drizzle with the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper, cover with foil, then bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove the foil and cook for a further 5-8 minutes.
Scatter over the remaining coriander.
Giveaway: Win a copy of The Part-Time Vegetarian by Nicola Graimes
I’ve got a copy of The Part-Time Vegetarian to give away and if you’d like to win it, just leave a comment below and I’ll pick a winner at random after the closing date of Friday 2 October 2015.
UK entries only.
*Yes, I know there’s no such thing as a part-time vegetarian. Don’t shoot me.
I usually haven’t recovered from the weekend enough to be bothered to cook from scratch on a Monday, but because I had a rare booze-free, exercise-packed, fresh-air filled weekend, my energy levels were up and so I decided I wanted to cook something healthy.
After deciding I wanted tonight’s dinner to involve asparagus, I perused the BBC Good Food website, filtering the results down to healthy options. None of the healthy options particularly appealed, so I took the healthy filter off and saw their free-form asparagus and potato tart, which is what I loosely based mine on. It’s not healthy in the slightest but it’s a big step up from the processed junk I usually heat up in the oven on a Monday.
Had my 16-year-old-self known that one Sunday morning in the future, she’d find herself in a Kent country kitchen making a chocolate cake, she’d have probably partaken in a bit of self-harming. But, it looks as though middle-age has caught up with me, as making a chocolate cake last Sunday morning was exactly what I was doing.
You’ll remember this isn’t my first foray into cake-baking, as I made a Union Jack sponge cake last summer which, thanks to a liberal covering of cream and fruit, looked a lot better than it did when it first came out of the oven.
So why did I want to make another cake? It was The Meat Eater’s birthday, that’s why. I thought I had a box of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix but on unearthing all the Betty Crocker bits from the box they’re currently residing in on the dining room floor (the new kitchen looks fab but it’s a bit lacking on the storage front so the dining room’s getting some goodies from Ikea next week and we might be able to see the floor again then), I found I didn’t have any chocolate cake mix, only carrot cake mix. While I don’t have anything against carrot cake, it didn’t seem very birthday-ish, so I decided to get all domestic and make a chocolate cake from scratch.
As it was Easter Sunday and all the local supermarkets were shut (Kent has weird 80s stylee opening hours, unlike London where you can go shopping on Christmas Day if you want to), this meant I had to make do with whatever I had available in the house. I found this recipe, which looked simple enough and although I didn’t have the exact ingredients (looking at it now, the only ingredient that’s the same as the original recipe is the self-raising flour, ha), I reckoned I could substitute well enough to avoid any disasters and I had two tubs of Betty Crocker icing and four packets of Jelly Tots to cover the cake with to make it look better anyway.
This chocolate cake may not be the lightest and fluffiest cake in the world but it got a rating of ‘Yum’ from The Meat Eater, so that’s good enough for me.
Mix the Flora and sugar together by hand or in a mixer until creamy and lighter in colour
Sieve the cacao powder and flour into a bowl and crack one of the eggs into a cup or ramekin
With the mixer still going, add the egg and a third of the flour mixture into the sugar and butter, add the second egg and third of the flour and add the last two eggs and flour mixture in to the butter and sugar
Put even amounts of the mixture into the tins and spread using a knife. Put into the oven and bake for 25 minutes until springy to touch. Take out of the oven and leave them in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely
Sandwich together the cakes with the Betty Crocker Vanilla Buttercream Icing
Cover the top and sides of the cake with the Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Icing
175g green lentils
1 big bunch of spinach
225g sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 2.5cm pieces
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1½ tsp garam masala
1½ tsp curry powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
½ tsp salt
40g toasted breadcrumbs
25g plain flour
Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5.
Boil the lentils in 750ml water. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer lentils to a large mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher.
Meanwhile, place the spinach in a saucepan and sprinkle over a little water and heat until wilted.
Steam the sweet potato for 8 to 10 minutes until tender. Add the potato to the lentils and mash thoroughly.
In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of the oil. Add the onion, garam masala, curry powder and cayenne and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the spinach and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, tossing to combine.
Mix the spinach-onion mixture into the lentil mixture. Stir in the eggs, coriander and salt. Fold in the breadcrumbs and flour. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 8 burgers.
In an ovenproof frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil. When hot, add the burgers and cook until browned on each side, 6 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.
Buy Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger at Amazon.
I always think food looks posh in ramekins. I also always think, because it looks posh, that means it’s going to be fiddly and difficult to make. These spiced baked eggs weren’t fiddly and difficult to make at all, and they tasted as good as they looked. The only bit I messed up was leaving them in the oven for too long which meant the yolk set – it would have been nicer runny.
Quick and easy and definitely a dish I’ll be making again. The original version used Swiss chard, but there was none in Tesco, so I used spinach instead.
Spiced Baked Eggs (serves 2)
(recipe adapted from Veggienomics)
15g butter, plus extra for greasing
1 tsp olive oil
125g field mushrooms, finely chopped
2 large handfuls of spinach, chopped
65ml/2fl oz double cream
1/2 tbsp mild curry powder
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas 5 and lightly butter two deep ramekin dishes. Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and fry for 4 minutes until any liquid has evaporated. Add the spinach and cook for another 3-4 minutes until wilted.
Divide the mushroom mixture into the prepared ramekins, then crack an egg into each one. Mix together the cream and curry powder, season with salt and pepper and spoon over the eggs so they are completely covered.
Put the ramekins in a deep baking dish and pour in enough just-boiled water to come three-quarters of the way up the sides. Carefully transfer the dish to the oven and cook for 16-18 minutes until the whites of the eggs are just set but the yolks remain runny.
I’ve never been successful cooking with tofu. In fact, the last time I attempted a tofu stir-fry, it ended up in the bin. Restaurants seem to manage to make it so it resembles actual food and not a gungy spongy lump of tasteless splodge but whatever their technique is, it has so far eluded me.
Until now, that is. Recently, I’ve read on various blogs and Facebook pages about people pressing tofu to squeeze all the water out of it. Pressing techniques ranged from using a fancy press to using a plate with something heavy on top. I chose the ‘plate with something heavy on top’ technique.
I placed the tofu (it had been frozen and defrosted first, as freezing also helps to make it firmer) on a plate, placed another plate on top of the tofu and placed two heavy cookbooks on top of this and left it for about an hour. Some water had indeed been squeezed out but, on prodding it, there was a lot of water still in the tofu so I pressed down harder and squeezed more out of it. Even after pressing down and pressing down, the tofu still seemed a bit waterlogged but it was certainly a lot firmer than it had been and I decided it had got to the ‘it’ll do’ stage.
‘It’ll do’ certainly did, as the tofu, once cooked, was the perfect texture and not in the slightest bit gungy or spongy. It was, despite being marinated, a bit bland – next time I’ll coat it in some barbecue sauce or something similar before dredging it in breadcrumbs.
I can’t believe I managed to cook tofu successfully and I’ll definitely be using the pressing method again. Although I served two per person, they were filling and I reckon one would be enough.
1 block tofu, sliced into 6 slices
75g Japanese panko crumbs
5 tbsp sunflower oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
100g drained tinned haricot beans
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 tbsp bottled jalapeno chillies, drained and chopped
1 handful of coriander, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Mix together the ingredients for the marinade and season well. Put the tofu in a large, shallow dish, spoon the marinade over and spread over both sides. Leave to marinate, covered, for 1 hour.
Mix all the ingredients for the salsa together and leave in the fridge until serving.
Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Put the breadcrumbs in a separate shallow dish and season. Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Dip the tofu slices into the egg and then the crumbs until coated all over, then fry for 3 minutes on each side until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the salsa.
I can never be bothered to cook when I get back from my evening spin class, so I usually either have a couple of cheapy 2 for £1 frozen pizza baguettes (I know, it’s disgusting, but I do actually like them) or I pig out on chocolate and crisps. As you can see, neither of these post-gym meals are exactly healthy.
So, yesterday, I decided to be prepared and make something in the afternoon I could heat up quickly when I got back. I’d planned to make these easy bean burgers from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way this week anyway, so yesterday seemed as good a time as any. Especially as, in the book, it says any leftover cooked burgers can be reheated in the oven in about 15 minutes. Perfect.
After I’d made them, I obviously needed to test one and it was delicious hot. It was also delicious cold when I got back from the gym. Yes, cold. I couldn’t be bothered to heat it up so I had it with some celery sticks, tomatoes, olives and hummous while I watched Sharon in Eastenders beep away in intensive care.
225g cooked beans (I used a can of kidney beans)
2 eggs, beaten
25g roughly chopped fresh parsley
20g grated vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I was out of Dijon so used wholegrain)
salt and black pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
40g toasted breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 190C/375F/gas 5.
In a mixing bowl, mash the beans using a potato masher or fork. Fold in the eggs, parsley, vegetarian Parmesan, mustard, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Fold in the breadcrumbs, adding more if the mixture is too loose. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes for the crumbs to soak up some moisture. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 4 patties.
In an ovenproof frying pan or nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook until browned on each side, 6 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.
I did one of those quizzes on Facebook last night. This quiz was ‘What ridiculous food day is your birthday?’ My friend Helen got some weirdy meat thing so I wasn’t feeling too hopeful I’d get anything decent but I was happy when ‘date nut bread’ popped up for my birthday as I thought that sounded suitably vegetarian.
Helen said ‘you should make it’ and I agreed, so today I scouted around the internet looking at a few recipes, then came across one for which I already had all the ingredients. Sorted.
Apparently, the flavour improves after standing for 24 hours but I can’t imagine how it could be any nicer – it’s absolutely blinking delicious. I’m going on a 45 mile charity bike ride tomorrow, and the date nut bread will be coming with me to keep me going (if there’s any left by then).
I’m going to post below how I made it, as I somewhat deviated from the original recipe, as I didn’t have a sieve, so I just stirred the ingredients and hoped I’d got the floury lumps out; I didn’t add the egg and sugar to the dates, alternatively with the sifted ingredients, as I didn’t know what they meant by ‘alternatively’ (yes, I know what ‘alternatively’ means, I just didn’t know what they meant here); I didn’t dredge the nuts in flour, and I forgot to add any salt at all. Also, it said to let it rise, but mine didn’t rise at all, so you could probably skip that bit – unless there’s some scientific explanation to do with the baking powder that means it should sit for a while.
If you want to follow the proper instructions, you can see the original recipe at Food.com.
Date Nut Bread
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped (I used soft dates)
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp butter (I used Flora)
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup nuts, chopped (I used cashews)
Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl, cover and let cool.
Grease a loaf pan.
Beat sugar and egg together and add to the dates.
Add the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly.
Pour into prepared pan and let rise for 20 minutes.
Waitrose asked if I’d like to take part in their Waitrose Christmas Recipe Challenge which involved recreating a traditional vegetarian main dish especially for Christmas. The dish they wanted me to recreate was a vegetable tart.
Fine, I thought, that’s easy enough; get some puff pastry, bung some vegetables on it, cover it in cheese and put it in the oven. Sorted. Unfortunately, when I mentioned this to The Meat Eater he started getting adventurous and asked if it’d have cream and eggs in it. Before I realised he was just trying to scupper Vegan Monday, I’d already agreed, despite my reservations that adding cream and eggs to a tart probably makes it less of a tart and more of a quiche.
Still, it sounded like a plan, so the only thing left to think of was what vegetables would I use. I thought cranberry and brie sounded nice and Christmassy, The Meat Eater said ‘bleurgh’ (or something like that) and asked for Brussels sprouts. Seriously? Brussels sprout tart? I agreed it at least nodded towards Christmas so I eventually (after asking Facebook what it thought) decided upon Brussels sprouts, leek and goat’s cheese tart (even if it was going to be more of a quiche).
I know goat’s cheese is as ubiquitous on the veggie menu as risotto is at Christmas time, but you’ll have to forgive me for this.
Brussels sprouts and goat’s cheese tart (serves 4)