The Kindly Vegan

vegan recipes - it's easy

Hearty Winter Pasta

Pasta, spinach & soya mince

I did a simple all in one spaghetti a while ago when the sun was shining and a light pasta dish was so welcome with a glass of wine in the garden.  But those days are gone, the sun is waning and the evenings are closing in – it is after all November!  This hearty winter pasta is based on the all in one style but is far more robust and well, hearty!  We had a friend coming to dinner and I decided to make it a little bit special and quickly fried a few meat free balls for topping!  It went down very well indeed and second helpings were in order.

I have used a pasta which I had never seen or tried before called Casarecce – it is not actually a tube like penne, but more like rolled flat strips of pasta.  It worked beautifully and absorbed the sauce far more effectively than penne – a shape of pasta I have never really warmed to.  So grab yourself a pack of Casarecce next time you’re shopping – I am now hooked and well stocked up.

4-5 servings


400 grams pasta (I used Casarecce which worked beautifully – available at Sainsburys in UK)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large tomatoes, about 400 grams, chopped
200 grams fresh spinach or equivalent amount frozen spinach (chop if leaves are big)
1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley (I buy big bunches, wash, chop and freeze – works well)
40 grams dehydrated soya mince (frozen vegan mince is fine too – about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
100ml red wine (optional, but it does add to the flavour)
Salt to taste
Vegan meat balls (optional – I used VegiDeli available at Holland & Barretts in UK and Goodness Direct online)

Pasta, spinach & soya mince(4)
Onion & garlic with tomatoes added

Pasta, spinach & soya mince(3)
Mixture ready for the pasta to go in


  1. Fry onions and garlic in olive oil on low heat until translucent but not brown
  2. Add chopped tomatoes, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until mushy
  3. Add chopped parsley and fry for a couple of minutes to release flavours
  4. Add spinach, soya sauce, oregano and wine
  5. Cover and cook for a further 15 minutes until spinach has wilted and ingredients well mixed
  6. Add 650ml of water and the Casarecce.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and let it cook gently – packet says 10-12 minutes, but check. Keep stirring and check for salt.  Best to keep a kettle on the boil in case you need a drop more water.
  7. Fry the vegan meat balls and add before serving

Pasta, spinach & soya mince(2)


Chilli Napolitana

Chilli Napolitana

I wouldn’t describe myself as a big Chilli fan…… it could be that I am simply accustomed to a different taste and recipe.  In Asian homes, we cook red kidney beans called Rajma not with just the traditional Chilli spices like cumin and chilli powder,  but with a variety of curry spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, chilli powder, garlic and ginger and this is finally garnished with fresh coriander, served with plain steamed rice; it is a warming and hearty meal.  My mother would soak the red kidney beans overnight and then cook them in a pressure cooker the next day – the stock and juices were retained. The onion, tomatoes and spices were prepared in a separate pan and the beans added to this spicy mixture and gently simmered;  some of the beans were mashed with the back of the wooden spoon to thicken the gravy, resulting in a very aromatic dish of Rajma in a gorgeous, lusciously thick sauce, yum! Will post the recipe next time I get the urge for Rajma soon.

And this is how Chilli Napolitana came to be on our menu when we fancied red kidney beans as filling for our humble jacket potatoes…. and as the name suggests, it is an Italian variation where I have omitted the usual Chilli  ingredients, cumin and chilli powder, and resorted to Italian herbs like oregano and basil – half a cup of red wine takes it to a higher level!

If you use it as filling for jacket potatoes: enough for 3-4 large baking potatoes or 6 medium sized potatoes


1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tin chopped tomatoes, 400 grams
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 good teaspoon dried oregano
1 good teaspoon dried basil
½ cup red wine (optional, but definitely tastier with!)
Salt to taste


  1. Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent but not brown
  2. Add tin of tomatoes, tomato puree and 1 cup water (about 200ml)
  3. Cover and cook the tomatoes for about 20 minutes
  4. Add beans, herbs, wine and salt and cover and cook for a further 20 minutes until the chilli is thick

Serve with jacket potatoes or rice

Wholemeal apple & cider pie

Wholemeal apple & cider pie(2)

Yesterday being a Saturday, I trotted down to our local Farmer’s market …. the varieties of brassicas was something to behold.  Came back with a huge bunch of Red Russian Kale, Cavolo Nero, apples and a gorgeous crusty loaf of rosemary bread!  Apples in the Farmer’s market are quite unlike the ones in the supermarket – you can smell them from a distance as you approach the stall, lined up with boxes of varieties unheard of in the shops.  On my way I had a hazy idea of doing an apple pie but she had run out of cookers!  Undaunted I bought some Cox’s, a very fragrant, slightly tart and crisp apple which is on the top of the list of apple lovers in the UK, specially if you buy them from the Farmer’s market, or if you are lucky, pick them from your tree.  I used to have an apple tree but it got sick and had to be cut down….sad.

Having got the Cox’s, I wasn’t sure which way the pie was going as this apple keeps its shape and traditional British apple pie (as far as I am aware) uses cooking apples, like Bramleys which go mushy and are very tart.  American apple pie on the other hand uses eating apples and the apples are not  cooked prior to baking.   I wanted the apples to stick together when cooked and not fall apart when the pie was cut….that wouldn’t look too good although wouldn’t have made much difference to the taste.  I also had a vision of a dense, moist filling, almost like mince meat used in mince pies.  I decided if I coarsely grated the apples, and cooked them in cider (bells ringing now!!), used dark unrefined sugar and then a little arrowroot powder to bind the mixture, I might win the battle of the perfect slice of apple pie.

As the apples simmered in cider, the kitchen filled with the heady fragrance of apples. cider with hints of cinnamon; at this point I could have just eaten the boozy apple stew with ice cream and been a very happy bunny indeed.  But I restrained myself from indulging in this wicked temptation and popped the pie into the oven, waited impatiently for it to cook, let it sit for a few minutes and then cut a deep, large slice.  Lifted it onto a plate………and hey, a perfect slice of rich, dark, fragrant apple pie, with a distinct flavour of the whole bottle of cider I had used up!  

The wholemeal pastry makes this a hearty, hefty apple pie but if you prefer a lighter texture, use white flour and cut out the baking powder.  I hope you will try this as having tasted it, I for one will never go back to the basics.

Wholemeal apple & cider pie

Using my newly acquired enamel pie dish

Wholemeal apple & cider pie(3)


6 servings

Ingredients for apple pie
500 grams eating apples (slightly tart, crisp variety, I used Cox’s)
Half cup, about 60 grams mixed dried fruit (raisins & currants)
500ml still cider
2 inch stick cinnamon
70 grams natural unrefined cane sugar (I used Billington’s Molasses sugar for a rich dark finish, but you could use the lighter variety)
1 heaped teaspoon arrowroot powder

Ingredients for wholemeal shortcrust pastry (600 grams for 8 inch pie dish)
400 grams plain wholemeal flour (I used Allinson’s wholemeal flour, available at Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. If you prefer a lighter pastry, you can use white flour of course and cut out the baking powder)
200 gram margarine
4 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
50ml cold water

Instructions for shortcrust pastry

  • Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and margarine. Rub together with your fingertips to mix margarine with the flour – should resemble breadcrumbs
  • Add cold water and form a dough
  • Wrap in cling film, shape the dough into a ball (easier with the cling film on) and leave in fridge for 30 minutes or longer.  It is important to keep pastry cool at all times
  • Flour a large pastry board or work surface and roll out pastry to fit dish
  • Bake according to instructions in recipe

Instructions for apple pie

  1. Make the pastry and leave in fridge to keep cool (it’s very important to keep pastry cool at all times)
  2. Now peel, core and coarsely grate the apples
  3. Put in stainless steel pan and add dried fruit, cinnamon and cider and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes
  4. Remove cinnamon stick and add sugar. Bring to boil and lower heat and cook for another 10-15 minutes stirring intermittently – check for sweetness and add a little more sugar if you prefer it sweeter.  There should be very little liquid left in the pan (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  5. Mix the arrowroot powder with 2 tablespoons cold water and add to apples. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes – you should now have a thick apple stew, bound together in a rich glaze.  If it still looks a little runny, add some more arrowroot and cook on medium/high, stirring all the time until nice and thick
  6. You will need to round sheets of pastry for the pie; the bottom sheet larger than the top crust sheet
  7. Divide the pastry into two (one larger than the other) and roll out the large sheet and line the pie dish with this
  8. Pour the apple stew into the pie dish and cover with second slightly smaller sheet
  9. Press the edges to seal – use a little water to help seal pastry. You can flute the edges if you wish – I use the back of a wooden spoon to flute
  10. Pop into pre-heated oven at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 30-35 minutes (adjust temperature for fan assisted ovens and check pie after 30 minutes)
  11. Serve with Oatly long life cream or a scoop or two of non-dairy ice cream – I like Swedish Glace available at Waitrose!

Wholemeal shortcrust pastry

Wholmeal Spinach flan
Spinach flan with wholemeal pastry

Who remembers Cranks? This wholemeal shortcrust pastry recipe is from my old, oh so old and beloved Cranks’ Recipe Book and every time I go through it I am overwhelmed by this feeling of happy days and the first ever vegetarian, organic, wholefood restaurant in London.   Started by David Canter and his wife Kay, Cranks was one of the first to promote wholesome and ethical vegetarian food but sadly Cranks closed down in 2001 paying the price for not keeping up with times, not cutting costs and serving food on hand-thrown pottery plates and refusing to compromise on the high standards in their kitchen which had made them so popular in the 60s.

Just follow the instructions below and you will not fail.  The trick with all pastry is to keep things cool and don’t laboriously knead the dough…. margarine straight from the fridge, cool bowl, cold water and rub the flour and margarine lightly with your finger tips, quickly pull pastry together and roll into ball and leave in fridge for use later.

The pastry measurements below are for 450 grams of pastry which will give you enough to cover the bottom of a 10 inch flan dish – to calculate the amount of pastry, add the weight of the flour with the margarine, in this case 300+150=450


300 grams wholemeal flour (I used Allinson’s wholemeal flour)
150 grams vegan margarine (keep it cold in the fridge before use)
3 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
45-50 ml cold water


  • Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and margarine. Rub together with your fingertips to mix margarine with the flour – should resemble breadcrumbs
  • Add cold water and form a dough
  • Wrap in cling film, shape the dough into a ball (easier with the cling film on) and leave in fridge for 30 minutes.  It is important to keep pastry cool at all times
  • Flour a large pastry board or work surface and roll out pastry to fit dish
  • Bake according to instructions in recipe

Chickpeas & spinach soup

Chickpea & spinach soup(2)

If you stock tins of beans and chickpeas in your larder as I do, you won’t have any trouble putting this together in a jiffy.  I used frozen whole leaf spinach which I always keep in the freezer as it is so handy just when you need to chuck in a few 100 grams of spinach in your curry, lentils or just steam to go with your meal.

This chickpeas & spinach soup is so yummy, I promise it will become a permanent feature on your menu.  This recipe produces two regular soup helpings and one whopping big helping for yourself on a cold, winter’s evening.  I resisted the temptation to use tomatoes!   I wanted to avoid an overwhelming taste of tomatoes but instead to allow the earthiness of the chickpeas to dominate without hindrance from any other competing flavour and as much as I love tomatoes, they do tend to take over!


Chickpea & spinach soup

2 regular, 1 meal size serving


1 tin chickpeas (400 grams), drained
80-100 grams fresh or frozen leaf spinach, chop fresh spinach (don’t be tempted to add more spinach as it will overwhelm the soup!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt to taste
250ml water


  1. Puree one-third of the chickpeas with a little water from the 200ml
  2. Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent but not brown
  3. Take off heat, add spices, oregano, whole and pureed chickpeas and water
  4. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, then add chopped spinach and salt to taste
  5. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes
  6. Adjust seasoning and check consistency for preference

Stir fried rice, leeks & peas

Rice, leeks & peas(4)

Rice, as a staple food, never ceases to amaze me – it is so versatile and can be boiled, steamed, layered, and stir fried and almost any vegetable, lentil or bean can be added to make it a meal in one.  Add a handful of dried fruit and nuts and it is transformed into a dish fit for a king or queen of course!  Iranians do some extraordinary dishes with rice and use almost any dried fruit and nut available.  Barberry is a small gorgeous deep red berry, slightly tart, and is used frequently to add a hint of sour.  You can buy these in Iranian or Middle Eastern shops and also online at Sous Chef and are a useful addition to the larder.

This recipe is for stir fried rice, leeks & peas and I have thrown in a small handful of barberries.  If you don’t have barberries, you can substitute these with cranberries instead which are easily available – the link is for Neal’s Yard cranberries available at Holland & Barrett . The stir fried method of combining rice with vegetables etc is the simplest way of cooking rice with vegetables as you don’t need to worry about the amount of water you add to the rice as in pilau rice, where rice and vegetables are cooked in the same pot with a measured amount of water.  

Try it this weekend with some quick and easy curried spring greens or butternut squash with borlotti beans – both of which I have posted earlier today.

4 servings


2 cups (200-225 grams) Basmati rice (soak for 1 hour)
500 grams leeks, (sliced thinly)
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons barberries OR cranberries (soak in cold water for 10 minutes)
1 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large wok, fry the leeks in the olive oil until edges turn golden and leeks are soft
  2. Add peas and barberries or cranberries and fry gently for a further 3-4 minutes
  3. Rinse the rice a few times and boil in lots of salted water. Lower heat to medium once boiling and cook for about 3-4 minutes until rice is cooked (depends on the quality of the rice so keep an eye and check – eye balling is the best approach to cooking rice)
  4. Strain in colander and add to the leeks mixture in the wok and fry with a spatula, turning over gently for a couple of minutes to mix thoroughly

Curried Borlotti beans & squash

Squash & borlotti beans curry

Butternut squash is in fact a fruit but is used as a vegetable that can be roasted, used to make delicious sweet soup, added to casseroles, mashed and added to cake and curried!  The one true advantage of butternut squash is that it keeps and gets sweeter and deeper in colour – oh that glowing rich orange, pity can’t be eaten as a fruit!  Just let it sit on your kitchen table decoratively and use as and when.  Once cut, put a piece of cling film on the cut side and pop into the fridge and will last for yet another week for when you get round to making some soup or bread or cake. 

This combination of curried borlotti beans & squash lends another dimension to the versatility of butternut squash; I have added spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and mace for a heady fragrant concoction and it is delicious with rice or quinoa.


400 grams butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tin Borlotti beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, sliced
2 good tablespoons oil
2-3 cloves garlic, grated
1 inch piece ginger, grated
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of mace
2 tablespoons tomato puree
Fresh coriander for garnish (optional)


  1. Fry onion in oil until golden
  2. Take pan off heat, add all spices, salt and tomato puree and fry spices on low heat, adding small splashes of water, for about 4-5 minutes
  3. Add squash, Borlotti beans and 1 small cup of water
  4. Cover and cook on low for about 20-25 minutes until squash is cooked
  5. Chop and sprinkle fresh coriander, if using

Curried Spring Greens

Spring greens curried

Springs greens are very closely related to kale, crunchy and sweet and yet so humble….. one of the tastiest brassicas available and cheaper than kale and very good value.  I never go past spring greens without popping some in my shopping trolley.  Spring greens are delicious steamed, stir fried, soup-ed or as in this case curried spring greens; cooked with tomatoes and spices, it will have you coming back for more! Don’t cut off all the stem unless very tough; just chop them fine as they are very sweet.


500 grams spring greens, wash and chop
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons oil
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tablespoons tomato puree
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, chopped
1½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric


  1. In a deep pan, fry onion in oil until golden
  2. Take pan off heat, add spices, salt, tomato, tomato puree and fry on low heat for a couple of minutes
  3. Cover and cook on low heat until tomato is softened, about 7-8 minutes will do the trick
  4. Add greens and 1 small cup water(about 100ml)
  5.  Cook covered on low heat for about 15-20 minutes – if you are left with too much liquid, uncover pan and dry off on medium heat stirring to ensure greens don’t stick to the pan
  6. Serve with rice or wrapped in a tortilla or chapati

Rich fruit & nut cake with olive oil

Christmas cake 2014 Christmas cake 2014(4)

Here we are, Summer past, and Autumn racing towards cold, dark, long Winter evenings.  On the bright side, with the onset of Winter we also have a special festive occasion to look forward to; the season of goodwill and compassion, the season of gifts and charity, and this Christmas lets not forget our animal friends, those voiceless faithful beings who deserve our love – let’s make this a special Christmas for them too – please spare a thought for those who share this earth with us equally.

………….whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the festive season is upon us and Christmas cake and mince pies come to mind;  friends, family and all things good to look forward to and brighten the long and dark winter nights.

Before I go further I have an admission……I have never, ever, baked a vegan fruit cake and even more scary I have never baked a rich fruit & nut cake with olive oil!!  In fact, I am not very good at baking cakes and yet I had to make a Christmas cake this year – I had to because I retired in May and for many years I have promised myself I will do all the things I have wanted to do, but never had the time, when I retire….and here we are.  Having trawled for recipes to modify to my spec, I decided nothing really appealed much – well I didn’t find many recipes for vegan fruit and nut cakes! I was also determined to use olive oil instead of vegan margarine and a little wholemeal flour to give the cake that divine yet earthy taste which of course made it more difficult to find anything to adapt!

We don’t eat much cake but when we do we don’t like it too sweet.  I have used 150 grams of brown sugar which is quite enough, but you could add a little more, say another 30 grams, if you like it sweeter.  I chopped the nuts but kept them quite chunky – we like nuts and I love bagging a big Brazil nut in my slice of cake.

Having soaked the fruits and nuts they patiently waited in the bowl, getting merrily tipsy, for 4 days while I shilly-shallied and eventually took the plunge – with much trepidation. A friend who bakes for angels sent me his basic fruit cake recipe which was a great help and I am grateful, however, I did make considerable changes to it and having done so, all I could do, was pop the cake in the oven and wait…….

My verdict:  Moist, earthy and wholemealy, very fruity and nutty, not overly sweet and pretty boozy.  If this lights your fire, then follow the recipe and you won’t go far wrong.  If you prefer it sweeter, add a little more sugar.  Whatever you do, don’t pass it by!  It is really quite simple – I was very anxious because I just didn’t know what to expect, but I think the gods were kind and the result just what I was hoping for – fortune does favour the brave……

Christmas cake 2014(3)


450 grams mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins)
100 grams glace cherries, halved (save a few whole for decorating the cake!)
100 grams Brazil nuts, chopped (save a few for decorating)
100 grams walnuts,chopped      = 750 grams fruit & nuts soaked in sherry
1 bottle cheap sweet Sherry
Dry ingredients
300 grams plain flour
100 grams wholemeal flour
80 grams ground almonds
1½ teaspoon baking powder
150 grams brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder (if you don’t have cardamom powder, pound 5-6 green cardamoms in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, discard the skin and use the ground seeds)
½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
Pinch of salt
Wet ingredients
2 tablespoons agave syrup
250-260ml coconut milk (I used 250ml of Koko – only add extra 10ml if mixture is very stiff)
100ml olive oil


  1. Soak the mixed fruit, cherries, Brazil nuts and walnuts in the Sherry (I used about two-thirds of the bottle)Leave to soak for 24 hours but 48 hours is preferable and plumps up the fruit nicely and soaks up the Sherry!
  2. Grease and line a cake tin or a loaf tin with baking parchment (I used an 8½ inch round tin)
  3. Pre-heat oven to 160C, 325F or gas mark 3 (these temperatures are for non-fan assisted oven)
  4. Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  5. Strain the fruit and nuts and add to dry ingredients
  6. Add olive oil, coconut milk and agave syrup and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon beating air into the mixture
  7. Pour cake mixture into the lined tin and decorate with some glace cherries and Brazil nuts
  8. Bake for 2 hours.  Check after 1.5 hours and cover with a sheet of baking parchment – this helps to keep it from getting too brown.  All ovens are temperamental so be sure to check by pushing a skewer in the middle of the cake after 1 hour 45 minutes; if the skewer comes out clean the cake is ready.  I baked mine for 2 hours
  9. OPTIONAL: Leave the cake to cool for about 15 minutes, make holes in the cake with a skewer and pour a little Port, Rum, Brandy or Cointreau (about 25ml). Remove from tin when completely cool.  Rub a little more alcohol on the top and sides.
  10. Wrap in baking parchment and store in a tin.

Good luck and happy baking – may your kitchen be filled with the festive fragrance of fruits, nuts and Sherry of course!  I am planning to warm up a slice or two and have it with cream – Oatly do a very good vegan long life cream which is excellent because you can buy a couple and have it handy when needs must.

Spicy dry arvi

Arvi bhaji

Arvi or arbi or taro root, to my knowledge, is not part of the European cuisine and you may not be familiar with this.  It is a small root vegetable frequently cooked in Asian homes and can be made dry (as in this recipe, or in a curry sauce).  It is a hairy root vegetable, usually about 2 inches long and you will need to peel it before cooking.  The closest I can get to describing the texture is that of a raw banana – you will need to try it and make up your own mind.  I love it of course!

I wasn’t going to post this recipe because I knew very few people except Asians would know of it but I got a call from my friend Rani while I was cooking this and bitter gourd (more about that later!) and she asked if I was going to post it on my blog.  I said well not sure if many will be interested…. but she suggested some might and moreover, she loved arvi, so here we are, this one is for Rani.  So if you are feeling adventurous and feel like trying something different, and happen to see a small hairy root veggie at the local Asian grocer, buy some and try it – tastes very like a cross between a banana and potato and, who knows,  you may love it like me and Rani and the rest of the Asian population!


½ kilo arvi, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons oil
2 whole dried red chillies
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
Fresh coriander, if available



  1. Heat oil and pop in the red chillies and after 1 minute add cumin seeds – these will brown very quickly so lower the heat
  2. Add arvi and fry on low for a few minutes
  3. Add spices and salt and fry on low heat for another couple of minutes
  4. Add small half cup of water, cover and cook on very low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it from sticking to the pan.  Best way to slow cook is to cover the lid in a tea cloth and place the lid firmly on the saucepan – use a heat dispenser if you have one
  5. The arvi should be dry when cooked but if you have some liquid left, uncover and dry it off, stirring all the time
  6. Sprinkle some chopped fresh coriander before serving
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