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    Musings, Recipes, Vegan

    Recipe: Vegan Shepherds Pie

    vegan pie

    Chances are if I’m cooking something at home and it’s meat-free it’ll probably be vegan too.  I could spin you a line about the ethics of this, but really it’s just that dairy and my digestive tract don’t always get on. And if it’s not going to make much difference, I’d rather switch it out for something that isn’t possibly going to kick me in the gut and give me a hangover (and that’s the polite version).

    I have a similar view of meat really, that unless it’s the star of the show then I don’t really mind it being switched out for something else.  So after seeing some recipes for shepherd’s pie that used lentils for the filling, I figured I’d have a go at making my own vegan version.  Again, I’d like to tell you that the sweet potato was a conscious health choice, but really it was just that I had one left over, although to be fair given that I didn’t bother with cheese I hoped it would add a bit more flavour, which it did.

    Apparently this should’ve fed five people, which I think would’ve made rather generous portions and I ended up making seven – although I’m not keen on a lot of potato, so whilst the filling is enough for seven, you might want to up the amount of potato (there was more in the photo, I just ate it so you could see the lentil mix).  I used these fab little dishes from IKEA (picked up as part of the Live Lagom project) which are, in my mind, just the right size and they can go from freezer to oven which makes them really handy. I defrost my pies before cooking, but they can be cooked from frozen if needs be.  They’ve become my go to TV dinner when I’m late home from an event, but not late enough to justify picking something up en route.

    Enough blathering from me, here’s the recipe for vegan shepherd’s pie…

    Recipe: Vegan Shepherd's Pie
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    An easy to recreate vegan version of a shepherd's pie which can be made in bulk and frozen.
    Author:
    Recipe type: dinner, frozen, batch cook
    Cuisine: vegan
    Serves: 5-7
    Ingredients
    • 1 onion
    • 2 carrots
    • 3 sticks of celery
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 100g mushrooms (I used button)
    • a bay leaf
    • 0.5 tbsp dried thyme
    • 250g dried green/puy lentils
    • Splash of soy sauce (Worcestershire Sauce if you’re not wanting a vegan version)
    • 2tbsp tomato puree
    • 850ml vegetable stock (use about 700ml to start and top up if needed)
    For the topping
    • 1kg potato – I went for 350g sweet potato (then peeled), 650g salad potatoes with the skin on
    • 40g dairy-free margarine
    • 50ml almond milk (but any milk will do)
    Instructions
    1. Add a splash of oil into a pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for five minutes, then add the carrots and celery until everything is soft and golden – should take about 15minutes in total.
    2. Stir in the herbs, and then add lentils, give it another good stir before adding the stock. Simmer for 50 minutes until the lentils are very soft, stir in the tomato puree, then season to taste.
    3. Whilst the lentils cook it’s time to sort out the potatoes; peel and roughly chop the sweet potato. Frankly I can’t be bothered to peel the little white potatoes, so I just chop them and add them, but peel if you’re keener. Add to a pan of boiling water and cook for about 15minutes until they’re tender. Then drain the potatoes and mash with the dairy-free butter and milk (I used almond, but I think any will do just make sure it’s unsweetened) and don’t forget the salt and pepper.
    4. To make the pies divide the lentil mixture between your dishes and top with mash. Add cheese if you like (there are some vegan cheeses about). If you’re eating straight away, heat the oven to 190c/fan 170c and bake for 30minutes until the top is a bit more golden.
    5. If you’re freezing them, keep them for no longer than a couple of months and it’s best to defrost them before cooking. But if not cover them with foil and bake at 160c/fan 140c for about 30minutes – 1hr (individual pies will take about 30minutes), then uncover and cook for a further 20minutes.

    Disclosure: As part of the Live Lagom project IKEA let me have a few of these glass dishes, but I also bought some myself, because I am a little obsessed. IKEA don’t know I’m writing this so they definitely didn’t ask me to be nice about anything.

    Recipes

    Recipe: Roasted Chickpea and Vegetable Wraps

    I’m a big fan of this recipe for several reasons: it’s simple and easy to make; can be made with store-cupboard ingredients and whatever veg you have knocking around, and its origin.  Whilst looking for something my then-housemate and I would both eat and enjoy, I stumbled across Thug Kitchen – an expletive-ridden food blog which is mainly vegan, but doesn’t feel preachy.

    The original recipe is for Roasted Chickpea & Broccoli Burrito, and the first time I had it that’s what we did.  But this time round I decided to ‘pimp’ the recipe, and added more vegetables and doubled the spice mix.  It was already enough to make 6-8 healthy portions of burritos, but in an effort to get more veg into my diet I added mushrooms, aubergine and yellow courgette too – the latter of which was because a kind neighbour was giving them away for free.  The result is enough to eat as a decent lunch without the wraps…although I will warn you this is kinda spicy.  If that’s not your thing, maybe tone down the chilli powder or add a pinch of sugar.

    Roasted Chickpea and Vegetable Wraps

    2 cans of cooked chickpeas, drained
    1 large onion
    1 red pepper
    1 large broccoli
    1 small yellow courgette
    1 aubergine
    8 medium sized button mushrooms
    4 cloves of garlic
    1 lime
    Wraps and condiments to serve
    Spice mix:

    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 3 teaspoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

    You’ll also need a roasting tin – the sort of one you use for roast chicken is ideal

    Method

    1. Heat the oven to about 200c
    2. Chop the onion, pepper, courgette, aubergine and broccoli so it’s fairly small – you don’t want it to be too much bigger than the chickpeas
    3. In a bowl add all the ingredients for the spice mix and combine.
    4. Add the spice mix to the vegetables and give it a good stir, it should give them all a reddish coating.
    5. Put everything in the roasting tin, if they’re not already, and roast in the oven for 20minutes.
    6. Whilst the vegetables are roasting, chop the garlic into small pieces and quarter the mushrooms…I’ve said about 8 but use however many you feel is best.
    7. Take the vegetables out of the oven, add the garlic and mushrooms, give it a good stir and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
    8. Once everything is cooked, juice half a lime over the mixture for some extra zing.  The vegetables should still have some bite to them, but the broccoli might look a little burnt.

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    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    A vegan raw food experience

    It’s good to get out of your comfort zone right?  I’ve inadvertently eaten vegan dishes a few times, what with the whole not getting on so well with dairy, but raw food is a new experience.  So when an evening of vegan raw food in conjunction with Jay Halford of J’s Organic was listed on Warehouse Cafe’s facebook, I thought it was worth a try.  And somehow I convinced a group of friends decided to accompany me.

    In one of those ways Alanis Morrisette would sing about, I’d managed to eat a full English breakfast and some pork scratchings earlier in the day (which isn’t exactly the norm for me) – something was telling me my stomach was not as curious about this vegan raw food thing as my brain!  But after a cocktail for courage at Le Truc, we moseyed on to the Warehouse Cafe to try something new.

    On arrival it was nice to see a sort of group dynamic with the tables being in a giant horseshoe formation and a good mix of people.  There’s always that stereotype of vegan raw foodists being a bit “right on”, so it was nice to see this wasn’t the case.

    Once everyone was seated we were presented with a drink – a raspberry lemonade, of sorts, the lemon giving a natural fizz and some sort of superfood that I didn’t quite catch the name of (and probably best, I’m deeply suspicious of things called ‘superfoods’).  Tart but tasty, this was an excellent aperitif.

    The first course was a beetroot gazpacho with a sort of hazelnut cracker– a lovely summery soup with a cracker that had a nice zing to it.  The sort of thing you’d eat somewhere and not really think about it being vegan.

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    Main course was the pun-entitled chia non carne, a chia seed mixture, with parsnip rice.  I’ve heard a lot about chia seeds, but mainly adding them into smoothies rather than the star of a dish, and I found the texture of the chilli to jelly-like, which was a bit off-putting.  The parsnip rice however was delicious – somehow buttery and something that I’d happily eat again, ditto the parsnip crisps as garnish.  But this was the course which divided opinion the most – there were meals barely touched and others mopping up seconds.

    The final course, the dessert, was a show stopper.  A sort of millionaire shortbread/cheesecake with a chocolate mousse this was the kind of thing that could convince any carnivore of the merits of raw-food veganism. I wasn’t a massive fan of the banana chocolate mousse, which was a little too bitter for my liking and felt like it could’t done with some sugar, but the cheesecake was delightful.

    This was certainly a more unusual food experience than in usually found in Birmingham. It opened up the possibilities of what vegan raw food can be; a familiar dish you wouldn’t know was such, a no nonsense vegan raw food main and a dessert that showed that the movement can mimic well-loved food surprisingly well.  I’m not sure I’d be in a rush to indulge in vegan raw food all the time, but the night certainly opened my eyes to the possibility of some tasty food minus the meat and heat.

    http://www.thewarehousecafe.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/JsOrganic11

    Product reviews

    Review: Tyrrell’s Vegetable Crisps

    On days when I’m feeling lazy and indecisive, I’ll often go for a meal deal at the a supermarket on Colmore Row for lunch.  It’s not always the most inspiring of meals, but on perusing the vast crisp selection I noticed that Tyrrell’s Veg Crisips were included in the meal deal – a great bargain, considering the individual cost of £1.41 was nearly half of the cost of the meal deal.

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    Made up of thin slices of parsnip, beetroot and carrot, the first thing that is easily noticeable is the colour; the curls of red, orange and beige reminded me of an edible potpourri selection, rather than a dull bag of crisps.  Taste wise the choice of the sweeter root vegetables complemented the sea salt flavouring to give it a really interesting balance of flavours.  And whether intentional or not, I found that the thickness of the crisps varied, meaning some there was a difference in taste and texture amongst the same crisp selections.

    A tad pricey individually, Tyrrell’s vegetable crisps are a nice change from a standard bag of potato crisps, with more variety of flavours within the individual packet.  Nutritionally, though made from vegetables they’re not exactly health food, but they do make a nice, savoury treat.

    https://www.tyrrellscrisps.co.uk/