This is a vegan version (that I made up years ago) of pasta puttanesca, which apparently translates to ‘whore’s pasta’. I read somewhere that it was so quick to make, that the aforementioned lady could whip it up between customers. Personally, I think such fast preparation results in a pretty uninspiring dish. I like to cook the onions slowly to make sure they’ve properly browned before adding the remaining ingredients which should then be cooked long and slow enough to concentrate the flavors. Don’t rush it.

Veganesca served on hot GF pasta.

Veganesca served on hot GF pasta.

Puttanesca normally contains anchovies. It is a strong tasting tomato sauce for serving with pasta; this version is also a great alternative to pizza sauce.

I was concerned that using a cast iron pan rather than a stainless steel pan could affect the flavor of this dish. Although cast iron is usually my pan of choice, here the tomatoes are in contact with the iron for so long, that their acid leaches iron out of the pan, which I understand is good for your health, but I was worried we might not care for the flavor change. Having said that, I have just made this in cast iron, and daughter #1 told me it was delicious and had to be shoo’d out of the kitchen before she ate it all out of the pan. Go figure!

1 tbsp oil or Earth Balance
1 medium to large onion, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
2 x 28oz tins of chopped tomatoes in juice
8” square of a sheet of seaweed ground into 1 1/2 tbsp ground seaweed
1/2 cup (~24) black olives, pits removed, and sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Don't even think about progressing with the recipe until the onions are AT LEAST this brown.

Don’t even think about progressing with the recipe until the onions are AT LEAST this brown.

Heat the oil/margarine in a large frying pan or saucepan, and fry the onion until it browns.

Add the garlic to the onion and allow it to warm through for a minute.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes, uncovered, and stirring occasionally, or until the tomato juice has boiled off, and the flavors have intensified.

Check for seasoning, and serve hot over pasta.


Butterbean and Tomato Soup

This is a rather comforting, warming, winter soup. Wrap yourself around a hot mug of this next to a flickering fire, and you can feel morally and physically good, all at the same time.

Butter bean and tomato soup served with (prototype) vegan almond bread.

Butter bean and tomato soup served with toasted, (prototype) vegan almond bread.

A note about some of the ingredients: Don’t miss out on the bay leaf. I didn’t bother putting one in once, and to my mind the soup came out missing something. The margarine used to cook the onion should also not be missed: it gives a slightly rich cheeziness to the soup (enhanced by the nutritional yeast, if you use it).

If you don’t use a pressure cooker, you might need to add more water to the beans to prevent them from drying out as they cook. They should still be just covered in liquid, when they’ve finally softened.

1lb dried butter or lima beans
1 tbsp non-hydrogenated margarine
1 large yellow/white onion (or 1/2 large onion, and 6 spring/green onions – sliced into rounds.)
1 bay leaf
1 (~28oz) large tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)
1 tablespoon sugar (depending on how sweet your tomatoes are)

Pick the beans over for debris, wash, cover with water, and either leave to soak overnight, or bring the beans to a boil, turn off the heat, and leave, covered, for 1 hour before continuing.

Skin, and dice the white / yellow onion.

In a large saucepan or a pressure cooker pan, gently fry the white / yellow onion (not the spring/green onion, that gets added at the end, if you’re using it) on a medium heat in the margarine until starting to brown (5 -10 minutes).

Drain and rinse the beans, and add to the onions in the pressure cooker or saucepan, and pour on just enough water to cover.

Add the bay leaf to the beans and cook until soft (40-60 minutes gently simmering on the stove top, or 5 minutes at pressure in a pressure cooker – leave to come down from pressure naturally).

Make sure the beans are completely soft and falling apart before continuing.

Remove the bay leaf from the beans, and add the tomatoes.

Blend the soup until completely smooth; I use an immersion blender.

Add the spring/green onions, if using.

Simmer for 10 minutes or so until the flavors have melded, and the spring/green onion has softened (if using).

Adjust seasoning to taste with the salt, pepper, and sugar, and reheat to serve.

Mexican Rice

This is a tasty way to serve rice along with all manner of chilis. It’s also very straight forward to make, and most of the time, you just ignore it while cooking the accompaniments. I can’t tell you for sure how authentic this recipe is, but it can’t be far off where it’s supposed to be. If you want to use brown rice instead of white (which will make it even less authentic, I’m sure), you’ll need to increase the amount of water used by another cup (8 fl. oz). If your rice runs out of water before it has finished cooking, just add another 1/2 cup or so of water, and return to the heat again.

I know. I know. You saw this picture in the last post .... but now I'm talking about the rice in the middle. :-)

I know. I know. You saw this picture in the last post …. but now I’m talking about the rice in the middle. 🙂

2 cups (16 fl. oz.) long grain white rice
1 cup (8 fl. oz.) ranchero sauce
1/2 tsp salt

Rinse and drain the rice in a sieve to remove any loose starch that would make the rice stodgy.

Put all the ingredients in a medium sized saucepan (or a rice cooker) along with 2 1/2 cups of water.

Bring the lot to a simmer, and cook (tightly covered) until the water has almost all been absorbed and the rice is very nearly soft. Turn off the heat, and let it rest of 5 minutes while it finishes cooking. Fluff the rice gently with a fork before serving.

Black Bean Chili

There’s something very soothing and comforting about a plate of veggies and beans. Kind to the waistline, wallet, and tummy (and boy, do I need food that’s kind to my tummy!) My mother in law (only half seriously) says that anything nice is either expensive, immoral, or fattening; I’ll have to let her know I’ve found an exception.

The quantity of jalapeño that I’ve stated delivers a mild chili, which doesn’t mean it’s tasteless (my kids cleared their plates today), but if you’re used to a bit of heat in your food, you might want to increase the quantity a little.

Black bean chili and Mexican rice

Black Bean Chili served with Mexican Rice and Ranchero Sauce. Guacamole and tortillas could be added, if you have a hungry pack to feed.

2 tsps canola oil
1/4 large onion, chopped
1 courgette/zucchini or fresh pepper or 4 oz mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 – 1 fresh jalapeño chili, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
1/8 tsp caraway seeds
2 tins black beans, undrained
salt to taste (this will depend on how salty your beans are)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
fresh cilantro (leaf coriander) to garnish, if desired

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium – high heat.

Add the vegetables, cooking until the onion is transparent and the vegetables are starting to brown, stirring occasionally.

Add the jalapeño, garlic, cumin, caraway seeds, and cook for a minute.

Add the beans along with their juices (this should be just enough to cover the beans and veggies; don’t use all of it if there is too much), and allow to simmer to thicken the liquid and finish cooking the veggies. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and lemon juice, and serve hot, garnished with the cilantro (coriander leaf) if using.

Mince Pies

Mince pies are another British Christmas treat. I’m sure even the Queen eats them, though her’s would be made with wheat pastry, I’m sure. Their roots are in the middle ages, when they were a savory dish, filled with spiced minced meat. They evolved to contain less meat and more brandy/sugar, so that today, you can get vegetarian versions. We find ours an essential on the run up to the mid-winter holidays. If you’ve never tasted one, know that they are rich and warming, evoking thoughts of rooms warmed by roaring fires while it snows outside.

1 recipe of almond pastry is sufficient for 9 deep dish mince pies (tops and bottoms)

Mince pies made with almond pastry (unblanched almond meal) and rad whip.

Mince pies made with almond pastry (unblanched almond meal – use blanched for a more traditional white wheat pastry looking crust) and rad whip. The rad whip should apparently whip up stiffer, but I had to get in there and take the photo before the rest of the family ate it all!

Almond pastry (sweet version; vegan option available)
Margarine for greasing muffin tins.
Rad whip, rich brandy sauce, or creamy pouring sauce for serving.

Grease the muffin tins well.

Take golf-ball sized pieces of pastry, and push with your fingers to line the muffin pans, pushing into the corners so the pastry doesn’t get too thick there. You might well not need a whole batch of the pastry, but it freezes well for future use.

Fill the pastry cases with about 2 tbsp mincemeat each.

Fashion lids from the pastry dough, if there’s any left.

Put in the fridge to cool until ready to put in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 370F.

If desired, brush the tops of the pies with beaten egg or non-dairy milk, and lightly sprinkle with sugar.

Bake, lightly covered with parchment, in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Allow to cool slightly before serving hot or warm, with brandy cashew cream.

Medeterranean Orange Spiked Tomato Sauce

This is a chunky, slightly sweet, fancy tomato sauce for dinner parties. The slightly sweet orange tang adds intrigue rather than an obvious orange flavor, and in keeping with that, the sauce shouldn’t comprise the major part of the dish, by which I mean I wouldn’t use it as a sole sauce for pasta. It contrasts well with creamy sauces in moussaka, lasagna, and rollatini. It freezes well, too, both in and out of prepared dishes.

Orange Spiked Tomato Sauce served here with mushroom stuffed galette.

Orange Spiked Tomato Sauce served here with mushroom stuffed galette.

1 tbsp non-hydrogenated margarine (e.g. Earth Balance)
1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
5 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large tin (28 oz) chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 – 2 tbsp marmalade
1/2 cup black olives, quartered
salt to taste

In a large frying pan, gently sauté the onion (if using) in the margarine until translucent.

Add the garlic and ground black pepper to the margarine, and allow to warm through and become fragrant.

Stir in the chopped tomato and black olives, and simmer until the tomatoes have broken down slightly, and the juices have reduced to form a thickened sauce between the chunks of tomato.

Stir in the marmalade, and check for seasoning.

Creamed Spinach and Sweetcorn

Creamy spinach and sweetcorn on almond bread

Creamy spinach and sweetcorn on almond bread

Breakfast has proved to be a rather difficult meal for me, since I gave up wheat. I did a search for gluten free breakfasts on-line, and was treated to a list of high calorie foods utilizing large amounts of starch. I don’t care for the commercial GF cereals on the market, as so far they’ve proved to be too sweet, lacking in substance and nutritional virtue, or too high in calories. Muffins are a decadence to be had with afternoon tea (and I prefer savory stuff anyway), and I suspect that I don’t get on with oats, so oatmeal/porridge is out of the question (though I am experimenting with quinoa porridge). I like tofu (especially scrambled tofu), but I don’t want that every day, and I would blow up like a balloon, if I were to indulge in tofu rancheros every day.

Creamed Spinach with Pasta

Creamed Spinach with Pasta tossed with garlic oil: Comfort Food

I like baked beans on toasted almond bread, and I like this spinach. I don’t stop at breakfast with this, though. I also like it on its own for lunch, or stuffed into galettes or baked potatoes, or inside a burrito, or under scrambled tofu, or sometimes even with pasta and a sprinkling of seaweed (yes, I know it sounds weird, but try it)! It’s a comfort food.

I’m inclined to say, “nothing fancy here.. Just breakfast for one,” but that would belie just how much I like it. However, if you don’t like spinach, then read no further.

It’s rather difficult to eat 8 oz of raw spinach, due to volume, but cooked spinach is another matter, and my 8 oz of spinach gives me about 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber (according to the information on the back of the package) all on its own. This version is warming with the nutmeg and pepper, and spinach’s sometimes harsh edge is tempered with the cream cheez.

8 oz chopped frozen spinach
1/4 cup frozen sweetcorn
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
couple of dashes of ground nutmeg
1 oz vegan cream cheese

Heat the sweetcorn and spinach until it has wilted/thawed and given up and evaporated its released liquid.

Stir in the other ingredients, and serve as is, or on toasted almond bread.