grub, green issues and gays

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Creamy vegan leek and potato soup

Creamy vegan leek and potato soup

So yesterday, I was feeling restless. That kind of feeling that says “you have to do SOMETHING constructive, don’t just sit on your arse and play games all day”. Looking at the spoils of our veg box (thanks, Bristol Veg Box!), I settled on something […]

Slow cooker butternut squash dhal

Slow cooker butternut squash dhal

Dhal, daal, dal – however you want to spell it, it’s one of my favourite veggie options when I order a takeaway. Creamy lentils, garlic, sweetness – it’s proper comfort food. I decided to whip one up to use up a butternut squash I’d had […]

The ultimate veggie lasagne

The ultimate veggie lasagne

Veggie lasagne is one of those dishes I’ve struggled to get right. Which really bothered me, as it’s one of my favourite things to eat – the combination of tomatoey bolognese, white sauce, pasta and cheesy topping… I could eat it every day. My own recipe was finally perfected yesterday, after a good few years of experimenting. The amounts below are a bit slapdash, because I didn’t originally intend to write this up, but as long as you get them mostly right, you’ll end up with a rich, delicious sauce and a lasagne with a perfect crispy top – as evidenced by this appreciative video, with voiceover by Scooby Doo.

Ingredients (serves 6):

1 large white onion
1 small red onion
1 red pepper
1 medium courguette
3 cloves garlic
250g-ish veggie mince (I used Quorn frozen mince)
2 tins tomatoes (Napolina are the best)
1 teaspoon Marigold bouillon powder
2 big pinches mixed Italian herb seasoning
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Big squirt ketchup
Big glug red wine
Couple handfuls of spinach
1 jar white lasagne sauce
Lasagne pasta sheets
Mary-Anne’s Dairy “hard cheese” – thumb-sized lump

Start by preheating the oven to 200 degrees. Make sure you have a large, rectangular dish to make your lasagne in – one of the Pyrex ones is ideal.

Pour a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil (or coconut oil, sunflower, whatever you usually use) into a big saucepan or wok (I use a wok with a lid, it’s great for everything and gives the ingredients more room than a saucepan) and let it heat up while you chop up the onions. Add to the oil, then chop up and add in the red pepper, courguette and garlic cloves. Soften everything for about 5-10 minutes, until the onions start to get some colour on them. Take your packet of mince out the freezer and smack it on the side of the counter a bit, to break up all the frozen chunks – this is both necessary and very cathertic, do not skip. Add about 250g, or half of a big bag, of mince to the cooking vegetables. Stir everything about until the mince and veg are all mixed in, then sprinkle a teaspoon or so of bouillon powder straight into the pan, along with the herbs. Season with salt and pepper (big pinches, life is short).

Next, add both tins of plum tomatotes, and mash them down a bit to break them up. I used to buy the cheapest chopped tinned tomatoes, but over the years realised they were a false economy, as they made everything taste sour and crap. Get the Napolina ones in packs of four when they are on offer, it’s worth it. Now add in the rest of the wet ingredients – the tomato paste, the wine and the ketchup. You can either use the really old dregs of a bottle of cooking wine (like I did), or you can open a fresh bottle and have a glass for you, and a glug for the dinner. Leave everything to cook over a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

To assemble your lasagne, first add a couple of splodges of white sauce to the bottom of the Pyrex dish. A lot of people will sneer at using a jar of sauce, but I’ve never managed to make a sauce that’s as thick and tasty as one that comes out of a jar. It’s also less effort, and less washing up. I’d recommend this one. Now, lay your first layer of pasta sheets down, single thickness, to cover the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of bolognese (don’t make it too thick, we’re going for more layers rather than thicker layers). Add another layer of pasta sheets, then cover with white sauce (again, not too thick, just enought to cover the pasta). Arrange some spinach on top of the white sauce, to act as a barrier underneath the next layer of bolognese you put on. Continue in this way – bolonese, pasta, white sauce, spinach – until you’ve used everything up. It can be tricky working out quantities, but you want to end up with your final layer being white sauce. Finally, grate the hard cheese (generic stuff is more likely to be vegetarian, actual Parmesan-with-a-capital-P is never) and sprinkle it over the top.

If you have a fan oven, you can cook this in the middle for 40 mins and it’ll be fine – if you have a crap oven with no fan, like I do, you’ll want to cook it higher up, and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. I cooked mine for 30 minutes at the top, then moved it down so I could cook garlic bread on the top shelf for the last 10-15 minutes. Be sure to leave it in until the cheese is crispy, and finally cut up into squares and enjoy! x

Vegetarian bacon: ranked from best to worst

Vegetarian bacon: ranked from best to worst

Back in the mists of time (4 years ago?) when I decided to become veggie, people couldn’t stop telling me that I was mad, because I wouldn’t be able to eat bacon any more. Oh but what about bacon, they’d wail, as if it was […]

Green alternatives for “that time of the month” (surprise, it’s not more Mooncups)

Green alternatives for “that time of the month” (surprise, it’s not more Mooncups)

Hello lovelies – it’s been a long old time since I last wrote on this little green blog. What with The Situation going on at the moment, I’m flip-flopping between being paralysed with fear about everything, and sitting in an idiotic state of Zen. Today, […]

Meat-free spaghetti carbonara

Meat-free spaghetti carbonara

Lardons. There, I said it.

One of the most difficult-to-replicate meat products is bacon, specifically meat in a chunky, smoked format. Quorn does a mediocre job with their frozen bacon strips (they look like insoles and taste like them too), and most supermarket own-brand offerings are pretty similar. For fry-ups, we like Upton’s Bacon Seitan, but when included in cooking it tends to fall apart – it’s sliced very thinly and easily gets over-crispy. After a lot of experimentation, we found a bacon substitute that’s perfect for carbonara: Vivera Veggie Bacon Pieces. This recipe is simple, quick (it takes as long as pasta takes to boil) and tastes just as good as the carnivore option, I promise.

Forkin’ hell

Ingredients:

Enough spaghetti for 2 people (touch your index finger to the joint in your thumb. See the hole? That’s how much pasta)

2 large eggs

50g vegetarian parmesan/hard cheese (Sainsbury’s Basics is veggie), grated

100g Vivera bacon pieces

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Big lump of butter

Boil some water and plonk your pasta in it. Add a pinch of salt, put the lid on and set a timer for 10 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of wine or grab a beer, and have a scroll through Twitter for a while. With 6 minutes left, heat your lump of butter in a big frying pan. While it’s melting, grate your parmesan cheese, and whisk up 2 eggs into the cheese.

Fry the bacon pieces in the melted butter, and add the crushed garlic after a minute or two. Keep this frying over a medium heat. When your pasta is cooked, turn off the heat on all your hob plates. Use tongs to pick the pasta out of the water and drop it into the frying pan with the bacon. Give it a bit of a stir around, then remove from the heat entirely.

Quickly tip the egg and cheese mixture into the pan with the pasta and bacon, and add a couple of tablespoons of pasta water into the pan too. Mix the whole lot around, being careful not to let the egg scramble. Add another spoon of water if it dries out or gets too sticky, and serve immediately.

Enjoy! x

Bristol Veg Boxes – delicious food to your doorstep

Bristol Veg Boxes – delicious food to your doorstep

Reducing the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives has become a bit of a crusade for me. I’ve reduced most of our cosmetics (shampoo, soap etc) to bar form, went to the zero-waste shop, and I try to take a re-useable coffee […]

BVBG: Buttermilk & Maple, Welsh Back

BVBG: Buttermilk & Maple, Welsh Back

Hello friends! Today’s veggie breakfast was an unexpected treat – having originally planned to eat at Ironworks around the corner, we were disappointed when, after waiting an hour, we were told the kitchen had lost our order! We weren’t happy, so left in search of […]

BVBG: Eat Your Greens, Totterdown

BVBG: Eat Your Greens, Totterdown

Things have been a bit quiet on the Bristol Veggie Breakfast Guide front recently (moving house again, illnesses and life getting in the way) but I’m happy to report we’re back on track! On a slightly hungover Saturday morning, we took a trip over to Totterdown for a bit of brunch, and stumbled upon Eat Your Greens, a vegan cafe / restaurant on Wells Road.

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No packaging, no problem

No packaging, no problem

I’ve been trying to reduce my use of plastic over the past few months, after reading all the news stories about plastic floating in the ocean. This summer, Zero Green opened in Bristol, a zero-waste shop where you can buy all kinds of everyday bits […]