Hi, my name’s Lisa and I’m an EFL teacher who’s decided that travelling and living abroad isn’t challenging enough by itself – I need to try and navigate being vegan in a foreign language too. Wish me luck!
So a few weeks ago I made a new post, announcing my return to blogging after my DELTA-based hiatus and heralding the start of The Vegan Days of Christmas; committing myself to a build up to Christmas like no other with more vegan recipes and christmas treats than you could shake a (vegan) candy cane at. However, as is so often the case, life happened and I’ve found myself unexpectedly back in Poland and teaching at the fantastic language school I started out at erm… some… years ago. It’s lovely to be back, but the last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind and christmas baking has not been top of my list of priorities. Until today!
I’ve taken my go-to cookie recipe from Oh She Glows, but given it a little Christmas twist and experimented with two batches of Christmas-themed cookies. Batch number 1 have a dark chocolate and pecan mix stirred in, with just a pinch of clove to give that special christmas flavour. I didn’t have much choice in vegan butters on my quick trip to the supermarket last night and definitely put a bit too much in these so the texture is a little odd, but that doesn’t diminish the taste of christmas.
Batch number 2 are dark chocolate and cranberry and I added much less of the (questionable) vegan butter this time, going for a little oil instead to balance them out. As a result, they’re a little on the crispy side for my liking and could quite easily be mistaken for coasters, but I can forgive this and concentrate instead on the super christmassy cranberry flavour that’s coming through.
This is a mega easy recipe requiring minimal obscure vegan baking ingredients (i.e. you can probably pick them all up in a regular super market) and I definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for a bit of christmas baking – enjoy!
Go on, admit it, you’ve missed me. Or at the very least, you’ve missed the A-grade catchiness of my post names. No? Whatever. I’m back!
Since ‘The Vegan Variety Project’ came to a close way back in February, things have been quiet on the blog front, though very much not on the life front, and that’s the poor excuse I offer for my extended hiatus. Life in Valladolid continued well and came to a close in June, to be followed by a summer of dotting around the UK and splitting time between family and friends, summer school and Sam’s family too. September saw a brief return to Poland for some tutoring on a teacher training course there, where I got the chance to work with some fantastic humans who will no doubt have a great year ahead of them in Bydgoszcz, before finally arriving in Seville for… wait for it… DELTA!! After much circumnavigation, I’ve finally tackled the situation head on and here I am on the intensive version of Cambridge’s higher level qualification for experienced EFL teachers. While we’ve all occasionally lost our grip on sanity and the real world, it’s a fantastic experience through which I think I’ve learned more than I did in four years at university and during which I’ve met some truly excellent humans.
With a weekend to breathe between Modules 2 and 1, I’m looking ahead to opportunities for the future and, more specifically, to jobs for January. I’m also getting excited about a trip to Bydgoszcz to see Sam in late November, counting down to my final exam and definitely starting to look forward to heading back to the UK for my first extended Christmas stay in seven years! In celebration of this, I shall be blogging about all things ‘Vegan Christmas’ related, so watch this space for ‘The Vegan Days of Christmas’, of which there will surely be more than 12!
This is it, the return of the curry, and what a curry it is! We also have my first ever pink recipe, though whether that’s supposed to be the case or if my camera was even able to convey its particular shade, I’m not entirely convinced…
Now you see, this is different. I NEVER make curry with lentils, so it’s not cheating… it’s a whole different genre of curry. So there. It’s also AMAZING and that justifies it beyond all question (yes, yes, I know, I didn’t know it was amazing before I made it, but that’s not the point). Aside from the lentils, I was drawn to this recipe by the presence of garam masala and coconut milk in the ingredients list, two of my favourite things in the curry world. Cast your eyes over the recipe and you’ll see that it is beyond simple to make, as well as being incredibly quick if you use lentils from a tin or jar. The speed of this recipe in no way diminishes the flavour though and while I’m sure it could take more spice well if that’s your preference, the coconut milk takes the heat out perfectly for me and leaves you with a really well balanced curry. Try it now! http://simpleveganblog.com/vegan-lentil-curry/
Vegans are meant to love peanut butter, right? It’s up there with marmite, nutritional yeast, avocados and chickpeas in the vegan handbook. So I decided it was time to embrace this under-used ingredient and try out a recipe with peanut butter. For the record, I do like peanut butter, I just prefer it in things rather than out of the jar like some people I know. My search for something involving peanut butter happily led me to The Vegan Stoner, link below, where I always find lots of interesting recipes and this is another to add to the list. I didn’t really know what to expect from this stew but the finished result is a mega filling, hearty stew that is ideally suited to chilly winter evenings. The recipe suggests serving it with rice, but I’m fairly sure I’d pass into a food coma half way through the bowl if I did that, and I have made one little tweak by stirring in some spinach to use up the remainder of the giant bag I was forced to purchase. It works! I’d definitely recommend giving this a try and would be interested to see if it turned out pink for other people, though I would suggest maybe parboiling your potatoes rather than attempting the wet paper towel in the microwave extravaganza suggested which was a) structurally unsound and b) pretty ineffective. This may well have been a microwave settings issue and of course you’re all able to make your own life decisions about how to cook potatoes, so find out for yourselves at http://theveganstoner.blogspot.com.es/2011/07/peanut-stew.html
While this week technically only contains one new recipe, it’s a good one! It also includes a progress check on my sauce making abilities…
Mushroom Miso Risotto
Ok, so I may have got a bit carried away and taken this picture a little early… it absorbed more of that liquid, I promise! I’m hesitant to call any risotto recipe ‘simple’, as they’re delicate little things that do require quite a lot of care and attention, but as far as risotto recipes go, I found this one to be pretty straightforward and the result is a tasty risotto with mush-free mushrooms and a nice flavour twist coming from the miso soup. I used seitan instead of sausages in this, as I wasn’t convinced that the vegan sausages available here in Valladolid would hold up to being cooked in a risotto, and it worked well by adding a nice texture to the dish. If you’d like to give it a try, check out the recipe here: http://food52.com/recipes/27608-mushroom-miso-risotto?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=f52-huffingtonpost
Some sort of vegetable bake… thing
Ok, so this is cheating a bit as it’s not really a new recipe at all, just a variation on a very simple pasta bake which, on this occasion, happens to contain chickpeas, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, peas and sweetcorn. The only reason I’ve included it is that it marked progress in my quest to become better at sauce making 😀 A simple white sauce using olive oil and almond milk, seasoned with garlic powder, oregano and parsley, this turned out relatively lump free and with a consistency somewhere between pouring milk on my pasta / spreading lard on it… success!
This instalment sees another curry-free week, but preserves a little spice to keep things interesting…
Mexican Noodle Soup
I’m a big fan of soup, particularly of the kind that doesn’t really look at a lot like soup, so this hearty noodle extravaganza with a little bit of bite to it is the perfect option for me. Now, should you decide to try this recipe out and click on the link below, you’ll see that my photo looks nothing like the one in the recipe. Much in the way that an elephant looks nothing like wooden spoon, for example. This is partly down to the extra veggies I threw in (of course) but mostly, I think, a product of me not have anything with which to purée the garlic, tomato, onion and oil mix that forms the base of the soup. If you’re in a similar position, worry not… I had great fun mashing it all up and everything still tastes great, all the flavours are in there, and I just found that it needed a little extra water in the broth mix to even things out. This is a simple, low-cost recipe that I definitely recommend trying out: http://www.peta.org/living/food/mexican-noodle-soup/
Hearty Vegan Chili (sin carne, of course!)
I went through a bit of a phase of accidental chili making a couple of years ago, a stage where I’d go recipe free and make some kind of vegetable, tomato concoction involving using up whatever I had inexplicably bought at the supermarket that week and then throwing some beans in to bulk it out. Basically a chili, right? Not exactly, and in the process of that I bored myself a bit of the concept. This week, I decided it was time for a return to actual chili after I got my eye on this recipe, another one from PETA’s fabulous list of 31 recipes for $3, which is very much worth an explore if you’re looking for some inspiration but are keen to preserve your bank balance. I even followed the recipe! Apart from the veggie burger crumbles which, while I think would be a nice addition, definitely aren’t integral to producing a good chili. And this is definitely a good chili – not overly spicy, which suits me, but with a lovely mix of flavours and lots of scope to experiment with the extra veggies it suggests. Give this one a try http://www.peta.org/living/food/hearty-vegan-chili/
For plant-based eating on a budget, join me in trying out some of the other great recipes from PETA’s list here: http://www.peta.org/living/food/vegan-recipes-dont-starve-until-payday/
In this week, I try my hand at a soon-to-be-favourite recipe and report back on a vegan holiday find…
Macaroni and ‘Cheese’ casserole
Having been away for the weekend, I was looking for a quick, easy and tasty dish to make to keep me going for the next few days back at work and, remembering Sam saying how good this was, I thought I’d give it a try. Despite my inability to make successful sauces of any variety (discoloured water with suspicious looking lumps, anyone?) this turned out really well and the balance of flavours in the sauce is really good. Did I follow the recipe? By my standards, yes – I did everything it said, using all the correct ingredients, and just threw some vegetables in with the pasta to give it a bit of a higher health rating, and it worked really well! I’d definitely recommend giving this one a try, and you can check out the recipe at http://www.peta.org/recipes/macaroni-cheese-casserole/
Hicuri Art Vegan
You’re a vegan. You’re in Spain. You’re in the SOUTH of Spain. What are you going to do? Go to Granada, of course! Actually, whoever you are and whatever your dietary preferences, go to Granada – it’s incredible. But particularly so for the plant-eaters among us, as the choice of vegan-friendly restaurants there will have you falling over yourself, unsure which one to head to first. As we were only there for one day, I picked one at random to drag my meat-eating friend Nick along to and we were not disappointed. The smoothies we tried were mega and we both enjoyed our burgers, though there are so many other things to try on the menu that I can’t bring myself to recommend they are the thing you go for. We also shared some fantastic croquetas de espinacas which I could’ve sworn I took a photo of, but it seems to have disappeared into the depths of my memory card. All the more reason to go try them for yourself at http://www.restaurantehicuriartvegan.com/english/home/
PS… how excited are we about this – Ben and Jerry’s does VEGAN???
This week, I adopt a ‘when in Rome’ attitude and decide to try a vegan twist on a Spanish classic and also eventually come to the realisation that it’s time to stop making curries…
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re quite the fans of their tortilla here in Spain and, prior to becoming vegan, it was never actually something I’d tried. Destined to live a life without ever trying it, you may think. Not the case. Tortilla has been edging its way into my life quite a lot lately, from my finding a slightly questionable readymade vegan version of tortilla on sale in one of the supermarkets to being thoroughly disappointed to discover the cafe we found last week was out of its homemade vegan tortilla. So this week, I decided I’d have a go at making my own and, despite looking like particularly badly made dauphinoise potatoes, this didn’t turn out too badly in terms of flavour. I added a few herbs to the batter to season it and quickly came to the conclusion that less potatoes, more batter is the way forward if you want to stand any chance of this actually resembling tortilla as anyone in Spain knows it. But overall, something a little bit different to the usual vegan offerings and I’m looking forward to having this with veggies when I get in from work this week. If you fancy giving it a try, you can find the recipe on the veganuary website http://www.veganuary.com/recipes/tortilla-espanola-spanish-omelette/
Cheatin’ Chik’n, Cashew and Mushroom Korma
Enough. It has been decided, I’ve reached my curry making limit. As much as I love trying out curry recipes, it occurs to me that the point of this variety project is not simply to make a different curry recipe each week, especially not yet another one to add to the ‘not bad but nothing special’ list of curry recipes I seem to be compiling. And this very much falls into that category… it’s not bad. It will make for a perfectly edible lunch. But it’s nothing particularly special and, as usual, I deviated from the recipe in order to get more veggies into it as, let’s face it, there are never enough veggies. The title also contains more apostrophes than are ideal, in my opinion. Should you be interested in another perfectly fine curry recipe that’s easy to make and pretty much guaranteed to turn out reasonably well with minimal effort, take a look http://www.veganuary.com/recipes/cheatin-chkn-cashew-and-mushroom-korma/
For this week’s instalment, I have a special guest appearance from a visiting chef who recreates a rather intriguing soup…
Easy Vegetable and Dumpling Soup
So this weekend was one of those amazing weekends where Sam gets to visit… yey! And how did I celebrate this? By being ill, of course. So he took over my usual Sunday cooking and made this soup which we had already decided to try out, while I sniffled and shivered away in the corner, occasionally remembering to read out relevant bits of the recipe to him. From what I could see, it was another quite simple recipe to prepare and we pretty much followed what was there, although the dumpling mix needed quite a bit more flour added to encourage it into a dough rather than the batter we started out with. Perhaps it’s all about the dumplings, but this soup reminded me of living in Poland and I think it’s great for the winter! Beware if dill isn’t your thing, as it is a pretty powerful flavour, but I’m really enjoying getting to have this soup after work this week and I’m looking forward to experimenting with the dumpling dough to try out some new flavours. If you’re keen to try it out, take a look at the recipe and many other great ones here: http://www.vegansandra.com/2015/01/easy-vegetable-and-dumpling-soup.html
Eating Out and About
How about these offerings for some vegan variety? Unbelievably, some friends of mine stumbled across this place in Valladolid and on reporting to me that they’d seen a place with the word ‘veganos’ in the window, we decided to return to scope it out. And I’m so glad we did. This little cafe / bar has a staggering range of vegan food on offer and it’s so good! Will definitely be heading back to scope out more of their menu https://www.facebook.com/Circularbarandshop/
In my culinary adventures this week, I try out a new curry recipe and also feel the need to share my new favourite way of cooking potatoes…
Chickpea, Tomato & Spinach Curry
Now, before we get into this recipe, I have to confess that I didn’t exactly follow it. So the relationship between the outcome I produced and the potential outcome of the recipe itself is possibly quite tenuous. Somehow or another I managed to forget to buy the central ingredient of chickpeas and had to replace them with diced potato, whilst also failing to include the lentils. Then to deviate further, I don’t have the food processor/blender that the recipe asks you to use to produce a paste from your tomatoes, onion, garlic and ginger and found that this was as close as a potato masher and some elbow grease could get me…
Caveats dealt with, on to the curry…
I loved the freshness of the ingredients that went into this and it was pretty easy to prepare, with the only time consuming bit being remaining on standby to stir during cooking as it was very keen to stick to the bottom of the pan. The outcome of all this stirring wasn’t a bad result, although the curry really did need more spice. This coming from someone who starts to complain about high spice levels when a curry has been made in a room where someone once opened a packet of chilis. I also had to add quite a bit of extra liquid, though this could have been down to my impromptu potato usage rather than any fault of the recipe itself. Not my favourite curry recipe, but certainly worth experimenting with and you can do just that with the following recipe http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1260646/chickpea-tomato-and-spinach-curry
Seriously, you may think that these are only potatoes, but I have so much love for them at the moment! I’ve been using olive oil seasoned with a little garlic and herb blend for mine, dictated purely by which herbs fall into my hand first, and they really are lovely. Perhaps this is a sin against potato greatness, but I’ve been experimenting with baking a few in a batch then warming them through when I want to eat them and while it’s not on par with the joy of eating one straight from the oven, they still taste great and are a wonderful thing to come home to after a day at work. Make them. Now… http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-hasselback-potatoes-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-199763
So to kick off the project, I decided to try two new recipes this week…
Porcini-wild rice Soup
This recipe came from Veganomicon, an all-round amazing vegan cook book which I can’t recommend enough. I was on the lookout for a lunchtime soup that would keep me going all day and I definitely found it! This is a filling and flavoursome soup and though it’s bordering on being a risotto when it’s done cooking, you simply add the suggested extra cups of liquid to make it as thin (or thick) as you’d like it to be. The grated carrot stirred in at the end adds a great texture and freshness and the different mushroom flavours really hold their own. Aside from a little bit of hunting around to get ingredients, which I love doing anyway, this is actually a pretty easy recipe to make and most of the stated 1hour preparation time is just leaving it to cook away on its own while you get on with other things. I’d definitely recommend giving this one a try!
Curried Chickpea Burgers
Now, as you can see from the pictures, these were a bit more of a mixed result. What the pictures can’t convey is just how amazing this burger mix smells and, despite their appearance, that amazing smell translates into a beautifully subtle yet flavoursome ‘burger’ once cooked. I used a tikka masala curry paste as my base, owing to my lack of interest in tastebud burning spiciness, and it was absolutely perfect for me, though you could easily play around with the spice levels of these. Onto texture. Erm. I had no issue shaping this mix into burger patties and was surprised at how easily it formed into some very convincing looking burgers but sadly, this all fell apart when it came to cooking. Literally. Watching the disaster unfold before me, despite my best efforts with chickpea flour and multiple spatulas, I decided the only way to salvage things was to keep hold of the uncooked patties and refrigerate them to see if helped them to hold their shape at all. Sort of, is the answer to that. I’m keen to have a play around with the these as, to be fair, I don’t have the food processor the recipe suggests you could use to tackle the carrot and onion and the quality of the flavour warrants a bit of experimentation to see what adaptations could improve their structural integrity. If you fancy giving them a go, grab the recipe from the Veganuary website http://www.veganuary.com/recipes/curried-chickpea-burgers/