The Kindly Vegan

vegan recipes - it's easy

Tomato soup with cashew cream

Tomato soup with cashew cream

Summer is here and luscious tomatoes on the vine are freely available at a reasonable price  and once again I found myself eyeballing a very alluring ripe bunch glowing in the wicker basket on my kitchen table.  Brought back memories of my Mum buying kilos of plum tomatoes in season and announcing she was going to cook Ash-e-Tamate the next day!  Everyone in our house loves this Ash – it’s a Persian thick tomato soup dominated by a couple of kilos of ripe, juicy tomatoes, thickened with rice and lentils and flavoured with dried mint and a few fresh leaves torn into it last minute, if available.  We ate it with nan flat bread and a dollop of yoghurt and spring onions, cucumber and lettuce and any other green we could dig out from the salad drawer in the fridge.   Some of us would forego breakfast in an attempt to be really hungry for the treat awaiting us lunch time – a step too far but no-one wanted to be less than ravenous when the clock struck one! 

I’ve adapted it a little by using red/orange lentil which cooks quicker – my mother used chana dal.  I have also added a red pepper and find it works really well.  My mother would have approved and perhaps used red pepper herself but I am sure at the time there weren’t any available in that part of the world.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do and did – doesn’t take long and ingredients and preparation are very quick and simple.

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large tomatoes, chopped (approximately 650-700 grams)
1 small red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 tablespoon white rice
1 tablespoon red/orange lentil
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dried mint
Salt and ground black pepper
3 cups water, about 500ml

Method

  1. Gently saute the onions in oil for 4 minutes until translucent
  2. Add all other ingredients except mint
  3. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer covered for about 40 minutes until lentils and rice are cooked
  4. Blend until smooth in blender
  5. Add dried mint

Tip: if you prefer a thicker soup add a little less water

Cashew cream

Ingredients

½ cup unsalted cashews soaked in boiling water for 1 hour or 4-6 hours in cold water
4 tablespoons natural unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (I use Sojade available from As Nature Intended and Wholefoods)
Pinch of salt

Method

Blend to a smooth cream and add a dollop to the soup before serving

Tip: If you prefer a sour cream, add a little lemon juice

Summer beetroot salad

Beetroot salad(1)
Pictured in a deep dish

Beetroot salad(2)
Pictured in a flat dish

Friday was a warm and balmy day in London.  Storms were forecast for later in the evening.  John and I were out on Richmond Hill with our friend Rani sharing a bottle of wine and good vibrations.  We raised a glass for my sister who would have been 52 that day and talked of days gone by.  I have been friends with Rani for over 30 years now and can safely say she is my best friend. 

On our way to the Hill we stopped over at Waitrose to pick up a bottle of wine and some light food like houmous, bread and salad.  One of the salads we chose was beetroot salad with a dash of grated carrot – it was cold from the chiller and the irresistible colour of beetroot was too tempting to pass by.  We had made the right choice – it was delicious!  I told Rani I would definitely try and replicate it soon.  At first I thought I would need to use fresh beetroot, cook and dice it, but this morning I noticed I had an unopened pack of cooked beetroot in the little wicker basket on the table in the kitchen.   This had to be it.  Why not use pre-cooked beetroot?  Why did I think I needed to buy fresh beetroot – not that would have been any less delicious, perhaps more so, but how could I ignore this pack of beetroot in the basket – it was pleading not to be judged and I decided to give it a chance …. so this is how it came to be. 

I think I’ve managed to reproduce the flavours of the Waitrose salad and the pre-cooked beetroot didn’t let me down, in fact, it made it so quick and easy I am very grateful.   Do try, it takes minutes to prepare but you must restrain yourself and not guzzle it down before you chill it – cool chilled beetroot in a mild tangy dressing is worth waiting for!

Ingredients

3 cooked beetroots (without vinegar)
1 carrot, coarsely grated
Juice of 1 orange, about ½ cup (strain)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (strain)
2 tablespoons good virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of sea salt

Method

  1. Dice the cooked beetroot into about ½ inch chunks
  2. Coarsely grate carrot and add to beetroot together with all the other ingredients
  3. Check for taste – you may wish to adjust the lemon:sugar ratio
  4. Chill before serving

Avocado, onion & tomato salad

Avocado, red onion & tomato salad

Three of my favourite salad veggies – avocado, onion & tomato!  This is quickest and simplest salad to throw together and goes very well with all my rice dishes; crisp, cold and colourful.  You can add red peppers, cucumber or celery to it of course but this version is simple and for me just right with one-pot rice dishes specially if you serve yogurt and cucumber (Mas-o-khiar in Persian or Tzatzki in Greek).  We hardly ever eat rice without some yogurt, usually mixed with cucumber, spinach or grated beetroot - rounds up the rice dish beautifully 

Ingredients

1 ripe avocado, cut into small pieces
About 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt to taste

Method

Mix all the ingredients, chill if you have the time and serve!

Yoghurt & cucumber

Mas o khiar

Yoghurt with cucumber, commonly known by its Greek name, Tzatziki is called Mas-o-Khiar in Farsi.  My mother’s side of the family are Persians and we call it mas-o-khiar and it is something everyone expects to see on the dinner table most days -  specially in hot weather when the cucumber is so cooling teamed with the yoghurt.  It is traditionally eaten with flat bread or on the side with a rice dish but can be used as a dip and as a dressing in a wrap.  A healthy and tasty way of eating that cucumber and something the children will not object to.

Ingredients

1 small cucumber, coarsely grated with the skin (about 6 inches long)
1 250g carton unsweetened vegan yoghurt (I use Sojade which is the best I have found thus far in the UK. I buy it from As Nature Intended but it is also available from Planet Organic and Wholefoods)
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 cloves garlic, finely grated (it is best with garlic but you don’t have to use it if you don’t like garlic!)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Fresh mint (optional)

Method

  1. Coarsely grate 1 small cucumber with the skin and gently squeeze out excess water
  2. Mix cucumber and garlic with yoghurt
  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, dried mint, salt and pepper and give it a good stir
  4. Stir in a few torn fresh mint leaves, if using, and sprinkle some dried mint on top as garnish
  5. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil on top!  Beautiful

Spinach and tomato rice

Spinach one pot rice(2)

I think most people know by now that I have some strong leanings towards one-pot rice dishes!  Very true.  I love rice and the fact that endless variations can be concocted by adding vegetables, beans and lentils to the rice to make it a all in one complete dish means it tends to turn up on our plates at least once a week and we love it.

I promised a Facebook friend, who loves rice too, I would post a recipe for spinach and tomato rice – that was a few days ago but just didn’t get around to it!  However, here it is now and hope you will like it too. 

I am always trying to get people to have a go at rice as there are many who have a “fear” of cooking rice and tell me they never get it right.  Rice is simple but you must remember that the kind of rice you use will make a huge difference to the cooking time and the amount of water you add to it.  That is why we need to “eyeball” rice; keep an eye on it and don’t just leave it to fend for itself – after all it doesn’t take long to cook so not asking a lot. 

If you are unsure and not used to cooking rice, keep a kettle on the boil and start with less water rather than more.  Less water can easily be rectified during the cooking process by adding a little more boiling water. However, if you do find you have used too much water, uncover the rice and let it dry on very low heat.   Perfect rice comes with practice and it doesn’t really matter too much if you get it a bit soggy the first time round; you will know to use less water next time and get more confident once you’ve done it a few times.  It is so well worth it and is very quick (you don’t absolutely have to soak the rice if you don’t have the time although good Basmati rice always benefits from a soak – the rice grains fluff up better).  Rice which has not been soaked will take a little longer to cook.

Best served with avocado salad and yoghurt and cucumber - follow links for recipes!

4 good servings

Ingredients

2 cups Basmati rice, soak for 1 hour
1 cup dried soya chunks (I use Neal’s Yard Wholefoods Natural Soya Protein Chunks sold in 375g bags available at Holland & Barrett for £1.99. These are excellent value and delicious in rice, curry or stews)
250 grams fresh spinach, no need to chop if small leaved (you can use frozen spinach too, whole leaves not chopped – the chopped version is very fine and mushy)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 inch piece of cinnamon
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
Water (see recipe)

Method

  1. Soak soya chunks in boiling water for approximately 40 minutes – strain liquid before use
  2. In a large, preferably wide saucepan, fry onion and cinnamon stick in olive oil until golden brown
  3. Add turmeric, tomatoes, salt and ¼ cup water. Cover and cook tomatoes for 20 minutes
  4. Add spinach, cover and cook on low for 5-7 minutes until the spinach has wilted – stir so tomatoes don’t stick to the pan
  5. Rinse rice 3-4 times and add to spinach & tomatoes together with the soya chunks and 2 cups of water (see picture below)
  6. Bring to boil on high, lower heat and simmer uncovered until very little liquid left (see picture below)
  7. Cover the lid with a teacloth and place tightly on the pan. Steam for about 15 minutes on very low heat. If there is some liquid left in the rice, take the lid off and let it dry for about 5 minutes. This rice will be moist because of the spinach and tomatoes but that is how it is meant to be!
  8. Serve with yogurt & cucumber and a salad of red onion, tomatoes and avocados

Spinach one pot rice
Just added rice, soya chunks and 2 cups of water to rice (step 5)

Spinach one pot rice(1)
Rice having been simmered uncovered (step 6)  just before covering and steaming at step 7

Spinach, mushroom & ricotta lasagne

Spinach, mushroom, ricotta lasagne

Yesterday was another warm sultry day in London – oh joy!  Summer is here and our fingers are crossed in the hope that it will last the course!  

All the past wet and gloomy summers now a hazy memory; the sun is out and we couldn’t wait to get out into the garden and open a bottle of something - I settled for my usual Campari with soda and John went for a bottle of ale, each to his own I say.  The cats as usual followed us to the back of the garden which is where the sun moves to after 5pm.  Our garden is a typical long and narrow London garden which backs off to a railway embankment overgrown with tall native trees, which means we have our very secluded patch surrounded by trees and the sky and cats of course!  It’s almost like being in the country if it wasn’t for the trains, but we love them too and feel blessed and lucky.

Illu & Shimizu
Illu and Shimizu, sharing the seat with me (out of the picture!)

Irina 2013 summer
Irina is a “he”! The cat rescue lady thought he was a she hence the name! It doesn’t bother him so Irina it is and she doesn’t suffer from a personality disorder either – he’s a big time hunter! naughty cat

Back garden July 2014
Part of the back garden

Then there’s dinner to think of…… we weren’t inspired by the thought of a salad as we had skipped lunch and needed some proper food and lasagne got our vote.  I didn’t feel like something tomatoey and John had just been to the shops and come back with fresh spinach and mushrooms ….. not surprising then that I was inexorably and irretrievably drawn to a dish of spinach and mushroom creamy lasagne, possibly with a green salad – this was voted in and off I went to the kitchen to soak the cashews for the ricotta.

Not everyone loves spinach but I promise you this spinach, mushroom & ricotta lasagne will make you change your mind – just give it a go!  I will shortly post a recipe for a more traditional lasagne with tomato sauce and vegetables  (when we are next in the garden sipping Campari!) but for this I plumped for a béchamel sauce with ricotta.  The sauce and ricotta give it a smooth, mild and creamy texture and the spinach and fried mushrooms make for a happy marriage – perfect for a summer’s meal in the garden.

Lasagne no doubt requires a little preparation - works in stages and you do have a few pans and dishes to wash after - however, the good news is all the steps are short and easy and the result well worth it. 

I have used 800ml of soy milk for the béchamel sauce because John doesn’t like it too saucy and that’s ok by me! moreover, I couldn’t fault it as it was very juicy and moist - the ricotta in the spinach makes a lovely, creamy filling.  However, if you prefer it sloppier, add another 100ml of soy milk and a little more cornflour (about half teaspoon) to thicken the sauce.  Serve with a fresh green salad and see their faces light up!

4 servings 

Ingredients
Approximately 12 sheets of pasta (the sort which doesn’t require pre-cooking!)
Oblong ovenproof dish (mine is 11x8x2½ inches)

Ricotta
200 grams firm or medium tofu (Blue Dragon do a firm silken which is the firmest I can find)
½ cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
100ml unsweetened soya milk (almond or coconut is fine too)
Good pinch of salt

For the filling
500 grams fresh spinach (you could use frozen too; defrost and squeeze water out and chop - no need to cook)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
300 grams basic white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

Bechamel sauce
800ml unsweetened soya milk (almond or coconut is fine too)
7 teaspoons cornflour (this makes a runny sauce and keeps the pasta moist)
Quarter of medium onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons margarine (I used Vitalite dairy free)
2 bay leaves
A little salt and some black pepper to taste

Method

Ricotta 

  • Put all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth

Filling 

  • Steam fresh spinach for about 15 minutes, squeeze out water and chop roughly. Add oregano and stir in the ricotta – set aside
  • Fry sliced mushrooms in olive oil for about 5 minutes – set aside

Bechamel sauce 

  • Add cornflour to a little milk (about ¼ cup) and mix thoroughly – set aside
  • In a saucepan, gently fry onion, garlic and bay leaves in margarine for 3 minutes – don’t brown, fry on very low heat
  • Add rest of milk to the onions and garlic and slowly bring to the boil
  • When boiling, lower heat and slowly add the cornflour paste to the milk, stirring all the time – cook for about 2 minutes on low
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

Putting the lasagne together 

  • Pour about one-fifth of the béchamel sauce into the base of the dish
  • Lay 3 sheets of pasta, pour another one-fifth of the sauce on the pasta, top with mushrooms and spinach
  • Lay another 3 sheets, pour another one-fifth of the sauce on the pasta, top with mushrooms and spinach
  • Repeat twice more and top with remaining béchamel sauce – I used 12 sheets of pasta in my dish which is 11/8×2½ inches

Bake in pre-heated oven at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 40 minutes

Potatoes with onion

Potatoes with onion

A while ago I made these potatoes for friends who were coming to dinner.  They were not vegans and when I have friends over who are not vegan I make sure I do some potatoes – everyone loves potatoes and these dry potatoes with onion are very quick to prepare and a perfect addition to a dinner menu.  They loved it so much my friend asked for the recipe and has cooked it successfully many times – she has even passed the recipe on to her sister and others! 

Potatoes and onion prepared with spices and kept dry are very good as a substitute for a traditional potato salad and excellent to take to a friend’s barbecue.  I have often made traditional potato salad with sweetcorn for such occasions but I find this recipe is very well received and goes down a treat.  You could use small new potatoes too – simply boil them in the skin, halve and leave the skin on.  If you leave the skin on the potato will not absorb as much of the spices, however, it makes for a better presentation and is aesthetically more pleasing.  Have a good Sunday – warm again in London although a bit overcast…..

Ingredients

5-6 medium waxy potatoes (approximately 600g weighed with skin)
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon salt (according to taste)
Fresh coriander, if available

Method

  1. Boil potatoes in skin
  2. Pour cold water on them when cooked and peel. Cut into large chunks
  3. Fry onion in oil until pale golden
  4. Add all spices and 2-3 tablespoons water and fry spices on low for 2-3 minutes – don’t let the spices burn, add a splash more water if necessary but not too much – these potatoes are meant to be dry
  5. Gently stir potatoes in and mix over low heat for another 3-4 minutes until well coated with spices
  6. Sprinkle fresh coriander and stir again

Spice List

Spices(2)

Hello again!  I’ve put together this list which I hope you will find useful.  Most of the spices I use in my curries are listed here and will cost very little to stock up from an Asian store.  Once you are armed with these you will change your mind about cooking curries and contrary to some theories I have heard, it doesn’t take a day and more to prepare a delicious curry! An English friend of mine whose parents lived in India during colonial times would swear that her Mum needed at least 2 days to prepare curry and I have never figured how that was possible and she never elucidated.  I cook every day and have all my spices handy and a larder stocked with basics which means I don’t spend a day in the kitchen stirring a pot! You will see that I use curry powder and tend not to use these spices individually.  The reason being that there are some very good curry powder mixes on the market and it cuts cooking time if you find a good one and stick to that.  I trust and use Bolst Mild Curry Powder and it serves me very well.  People are sometimes surprised when I say I use ready mixed curry powder but the truth is there is no harm and it does the job and makes my life easy, so why not?

As for frying onions and grating garlic and ginger, well that too can be made easy if you are pushed for time.  Use ready fried onions (not gluten free, so check) and ready minced garlic and ginger.  Some recipes do need freshly fried onions where the onions are a prominent feature of the recipe but for say sag tofu (spinach with tofu) you could use ready fried onions with impunity. Generally speaking, where the recipe requires 1 medium fried onion, use about 2 tablespoons of fried onions.

Here’s the list you need to take with you to the Asian store – if in doubt just ask them for help or email me.  The links for Bolst curry powder is to the Asian Cookshop and you will find a vast array of spices to tempt you if you prefer to buy online!  I’ve listed most of what comes to mind and each recipe has a slightly different combination of a few, not all!

Curry powder – I use Bolst Mild but you can take your pick and experiment
Turmeric powder
Cumin powder
Chilli powder
Chilli flakes
Cumin seeds whole
Fenugreek dried leaves – Qasuri methi
Fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
Dried mint
Black mustard seeds 
Black peppercorns, whole
Cloves, whole
Cinnamon sticks
Green cardamom pods
Dried bay leaves
Dried whole red chillies
Garlic paste
Ginger paste
Ready fried onions – use 2 tablespoons if the recipe asks for 1 medium fried onion
Pomegranate molasses (this is an added extra for your shopping list but well worth having – has a long shelf life so won’t go to waste.  I use this in my recipe Rice one-pot fit for a king

Mushroom rice

Mushroom rice(1)

I’ve always wanted to go on a fungi foray!  Haven’t you?  This year I must try and contact a fungi group and go hunting in the woods with the experts – it is very important of course to have an expert on board to identify the good from the deadly bad!!  Just googled fungi forays and found this website - definitely going to sign up with them for a walk – can’t wait…..

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love mushrooms and we love mushroom rice and have it quite often with a vegetable dish or salad. It is super quick and so simple to make and never fails to deliver.  I used to add dried mushrooms to this recipe but that costs a bit and one day when I had run out of dried mushrooms, I just went ahead and did without.  Since then I hardly ever add dried mushrooms but if you wish to try, just soak a few in hot water for about 30 minutes and add to the rice with the soaking water.  Dried mushrooms are a good supplement if using plain white or chestnut mushrooms – shitake, oyster and the more flavoursome mushrooms can do without the assistance of dried mushrooms;  it is entirely up to you which sort you go for so experiment with plain or exotic and expensive!  Also, nothing to stop you adding a few peas, the carrot which needs using up or goes into the compost bin or even some soy chunks.

4 good servings 

Ingredients

2 cups Basmati rice, soak for 1 hour
3 tablespoons olive oil
200 grams Shitake, Oyster or mixed mushrooms, chopped (you could use 100 grams of the fancy mushrooms and 100 grams of button or chestnut)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water

Method

  1. Fry the chopped mushrooms in oil for a few minutes
  2. Add rinsed rice, soy sauce, salt and water
  3. Bring to boil on high; lower heat to medium and cook for about 2-3 minutes until liquid is almost absorbed
  4. Cover lid with a teacloth and place firmly on saucepan.
  5. Reduce heat to lowest and steam rice for approximately 15 minutes. Check rice – it should be completely dry now with fluffy separate grains. If it looks moist, cover and steam for a few more minutes.

Note: Basmati rice comes in a variety of grades so a lot depends on the quality of the rice you are using. It is always important to check the rice while it is cooking and use any cooking times set out in recipes as a guideline only. 

Tip: Add a cup of frozen peas if you wish along with the rice – it’s very yummy

Sag tofu (spinach & tofu)

Saag with fried tofu(3)

Spinach is one of my favourite vegetables and very versatile too.  Think sag aloo, sag tofu, sag beans, sag rice, sag lentil! I will be posting all of these and if you love spinach I am sure you will enjoy my recipes.  I generally try to keep my recipes simple – most people either don’t have the time or all of the ingredients.  If you like spicy food and curries it is very useful to visit an Asian supermarket armed with a list and stock up on spices and herbs – doesn’t cost much and you will never be without the means to throw a curry together in no time.  I use fresh garlic and ginger but you could buy ready ground paste in a jar or tube – tubes last longer if you keep them in the fridge.   As for frying onions – admittedly it is one of my least favoured tasks but there is a way out!  Check out bags of ready fried onions (not gluten free so please check) and use those – no harm done and saves a lot of time and I will readily own to using this myself when I simply can’t be bothered to chop and fry an onion.

2-4 servings – depends on your portions. Would serve 4 if served with a vegetable rice

Ingredients

1 large onion, sliced
3 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic – grated (for small amounts of garlic and ginger I find using a mini grater is better than using an electric blender and doesn’t create a lot of washing up – coarsely grated is fine as we are not making a smooth curry sauce)
2 inch piece of ginger – grated
2 heaped teaspoons curry powder (I use Bolst Mild curry powder)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 heaped teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves (also sold as Qasuri methi)
3 large tomatoes, chopped
Fresh spinach, approximately 450 grams
½ teaspoon salt (adjust according to taste)

Fried Tofu

Medium or firm tofu, about 350 grams cut into approximately 1½ squares
Plain flour to coat tofu
Oil for frying

Method

  1. Fry the onion in oil until golden brown
  2. Add all the spices and tomatoes and fry gently for a couple of minutes
  3. Add ¼ cup of water, cover and let the tomatoes and spices cook gently on low for about 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are squidgy and soft
  4. Add the washed spinach, cover and cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes. Add a little water if required – usually washed spinach will have enough moisture and this will suffice
  5. Keep an eye on the spinach and stir to keep it from sticking to the pot! After 30-40 minutes the spinach should be fairly dry
  6. Squeeze moisture from the tofu, cut into squares, dip lightly in flour and fry until golden
  7. Add fried tofu to the spinach and give a light stir
  8. Serve with plain boiled rice, peas & sweetcorn rice or mushroom rice - all super quick and easy
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