Beyond Bolognese

Vegetarian Bolognese with Gluten Free Pasta

Bolognese is one of those dishes that my husband has always been partial to, and particular about! The advent of Beyond Meat products has reconnected us with it, and he is very happy about that.

Many bolognese recipes call for celery and carrots, but he’ s not at all keen on this idea, so I leave them out. There is a general agreement in our household that sliced mushrooms (~4 oz) fried up with the onions is a good variation, so I occasionally do that, too.

Serves 2 well

  • 1 tsp margarine or oil
  • 3 oz (1/4 large or 1/2 medium) onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz Beyond Meat mince
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • small pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 14 oz diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 fl oz (1/2 cup) unsweetened, plain almond or soy milk (home made or commercial)
  • 4 fl oz (1/2 cup) dry white wine

If you’re going to use home made non-dairy milk, make sure you’ve made it first.

Heat the fat in a large pot, and fry the onion over a medium-low heat until softened and browned (~5-10 mins).

Add the minced garlic to the pan, and warm through for a minute.

Add the Beyond meat to the onions. Break it up into small chunks with the side of a fork or stiff spatula, and stir over a medium heat until it has released its oil, and has started to brown. (~5 mins)

Add the remaining ingredients (including the non-dairy milk, but not the pasta) to the mixture, bring to a simmer, and then cook uncovered over a medium-low heat until the tomato dice have disintegrated into a sauce. (~30 mins)

Cook the pasta, and serve it topped with the hot bolognese sauce.

Sweet, Almond Sauced Curry

This wet curry is mildly spicy, with slight floral tones from the fresh ginger and raisins. Since the vegetables are cooked separately before adding the curry sauce, you can use left over plain veggies, here. I like to serve mine on a bed of basmati or jasmine rice which has been cooked up with a good pinch of ground turmeric to give it a rich, golden hue. I’ve made this one vegan by using raisins, but honey could also be used as a sweetener, though you would need a lot of it!

Initially, when I made this curry, I used an awful lot of honey, and an awful lot of almonds. I rather balked at both the cost and the calories, and found that ground almonds simply didn’t have a strong enough flavor on their own to be noticed over the spices and chili, anyway. On top of that, the large amount of ground almond in the sauce tended to make it stodgy. My husband assured me it was supposed to be like that, but I decided that substituting raisins for the honey, and using almond essence were a good way to go, and I let him add the ground almonds to his curry, separately.

Tips:

  1. Blending the sauce thoroughly will tend to thicken it slightly before it even reaches the saucepan.
  2. Slicing the fresh ginger across the grain before adding it to the blender makes it easier to avoid ginger strings being left in the sauce, though a microplane works even better.
  3. Adding the vegetables towards the end of cooking allows their flavors to remain distinct.
  4. Adding the almond flour just before serving retains its flavor better.
  5. This curry should be pleasantly hot. Jalapeños vary wildly in how hot they are. I’ve stated 1/2 a fresh jalapeño in the recipe, but the other day I had a mild batch and had to use 1 1/2 chilies to get the right heat.
  6. This curry should also be mildly sweet. If the raisins aren’t making it sweet enough, add up to about 1/4 cup sugar.

Variation: Use 4 oz of soy curls instead of the potatoes and green beans by putting it into a bowl with the liquid smoke (if using), and barely covering with water to rehydrate (for 10 mins or as per packet instructions), then adding to the onion and mushrooms to fry when the former are nearly finished cooking.

Serves 6

  • 1 lb baby/diced waxy potatoes
  • 8 oz green beans
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or other cooking oil)
  • 1/2 large onion (6-8 oz), 3/4″ cubes
  • 8 oz mushrooms, 3/4″ cubes
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno chili, deseeded (or to taste)
  • 1/2 – 1 oz fresh ginger, skinned and cut into thin slices across the grain or grated on a microplane
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk (not low fat)
  • 4 oz (~1 cup) raisins, or similar volume of honey
  • 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 3/4 tsp almond extract/essence
  • sugar to taste
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsps garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp amchur (ground, dried mango)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds/ almond flour per person

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, and add the potatoes and green beans. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked but not disintegrating, and the beans are soft.

Warm the oil in a medium sized saucepan over a medium high heat, then add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Turn the heat up to high, and add the mushrooms to the onion. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Put the fresh chili, fresh ginger, coconut milk, raisins, tomatoes, and liquid smoke, almond essence, and sugar into a blender, and blend until completely smooth. Check the flavor, and blend in more jalapeno / raisins / honey / sugar, if desired.

Gather together the salt and spices, then sprinkle them over the onions and mushrooms, and allow to cook for a minute while stirring.

Drain the vegetables (or soy ‘meat’, if using), and add them to the onion and mushroom mix. Stir to coat.

Pour the tomato/coconut mixture into the saucepan, and stir. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, then either stir in the almond flour just before serving hot over rice, or hand round the almond flour so diners can add it themselves.

Garlicky Cauliflower Dhansak

Three bowls of Indian curry and yellow rice on wooden table.
Saag Tofu, Mushroom Dhansak, and turmeric rice.

This is my simplified version of dhansak, a lentil based Indian curry. I have made it with cauliflower, and I have also made it with mushrooms. Just substitute mushrooms for the cauliflower in this recipe. Both are good. I’ve also made it with split mung dal (when I found myself without lentils), and that worked well too. Unless they’re old, there’s no need to soak the mung: just put a lid on them while they’re cooking, and make sure they’re soft before you stir in the cauliflower.

Dhansak should be at least warm with the chili, but otherwise it can be as hot as you care to make it. It is dominated by a deeply earthy tone with sweet/sour accents supplied by the tamarind. It also happens to be my youngest daughter’s current favorite and one of the healthiest curries I make, being low in fat and high in fiber, beans, and vegetables. A real comfort food!

As with many curries, leftovers taste even better (and generally slightly hotter) the next day.

2 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp amchur
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp tamarind paste

1-3 tsp coconut oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 – 1 fresh green jalapeno chili (or to taste), finely minced

8 oz red lentils, rinsed
1/3 recipe (~2 cups) curry base sauce or low fat curry base sauce

12 oz (1/2 large head) cauliflower, cut into thin florets OR sliced mushrooms
6 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped, fresh coriander

Gather together the dried spices in a small bowl.

Heat  the oil in a large frying pan over a medium/high heat, and cook the onion and fresh chili, stirring occasionally, until browned (~20 minutes).

While the onions brown, put the lentils into a large saucepan with 16 fl oz (2 cup) of water and the curry base sauce; bring to a simmer and cook gently until softened. (~10 mins)

Add the cauliflower florets or mushrooms to the onion, and stir to coat with oil, and cook for 5 minutes.

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

Add the spices to the onion, and stir to coat.

Once the lentils have completely softened, scrape the vegetables into the lentil pot, add the salt, and simmer until the cauliflower/mushrooms are just soft, and the lentils have almost disintegrated into a sauce.

Check for seasoning. If it looks at all dry (or the cauliflower hasn’t finished cooking), add a little more water and simmer for 2 minutes to integrate it (or until the cauliflower has finished cooking) before serving hot with rice or GF chapati, garnished with fresh chopped cilantro/leaf coriander.

Vegan Vegetable Korma

This is a mild, creamy, slightly sweet curry which is great for introducing kids to curry.

Korma 2

Vegan Vegetable Korma with turmeric tinted rice

One thing I have noticed about potatoes is that if you cook them in a tomato based sauce, they develop a tough skin that my kids are not keen on, so I cook the potatoes in boiling water before I add them to the dish. To be honest, this is a good way to use up left over cooked vegetables as the veggies used can be adjusted to suit your preference. Good contenders are mushrooms, peas, potato cubes, small cauliflower florets, green beans, carrot cubes, or fried tofu cubes as prepared for Tofu Florentine. Although you could add canned beans, I feel they’re a bit savory/heavy for a korma. Aim for 1.5 – 2lbs veggies in all.

For the record, I did try this dish using honey instead of sugar, and tamarind instead of lemon juice, but the more familiar ingredients actually tasted better. The less familiar amchur and star anise which I did use are easily available in specialty stores and Amazon.

Serves 4

12 oz potato, cut into 3/4″ cubes
4 oz green beans

1 tsp – 4 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
3 oz (1/4 of a large) onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1/4 tsp salt for the mushrooms

1 1/2 cups curry base or lower calorie curry base
2 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) raw cashews
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt for the sauce
1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground star anise
1 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)

1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil, and add the potatoes and green beans (and any other veggies that you’ve added that can be cooked by simmering. e.g. cauliflower or carrots)

Bring back to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes have softened but are not falling apart. (~10 minutes)

Put the curry base, cashews, lemon juice, salt, and sugar, into a blender or food processor, and process until smooth.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat, then add the onion and mushrooms, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp of the salt, and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent, and the mushrooms soften.

Sprinkle the spices over the cooked onions, and allow to warm through for a few seconds.

Drain the potatoes and green beans, and scrape the onion and mushroom mixture into the potatoes; scrape the smooth sauce out of the blender and into the pan with the vegetables.

Use 4 fl oz (1/4 cup) of water to rinse the blender out into the saucepan.

Heat through, adjust consistency with more water if needed to produce a sauce that clings and runs, and seasonings to taste, then serve hot with a generous leaf coriander garnish, and plain cooked rice or chapatis.

Low Fat Curry Base Sauce

Low fat curry base sauce

This recipe was updated Feb 2020 to reflect an increase in spices that I have been enjoying.

I developed this recipe from my Curry Base Sauce recipe in the hopes that members of my family who are keeping an eye on their weight would be able to join in. It just so happens that this version is also quicker to make without any obvious reduction in flavour, though I would think it’s a bit less rich.

Initially, I tried making a low fat curry base just by ditching the fat, and I  made a couple of batches which got thrown away because they were bitter. In the original recipe, quite a lot of oil is used, and as the tomatoes cook the oil rises to the surface along with some bitter flavors which get skimmed off towards the end (yes, I did taste the froth – it was not good). Nothing rises to the top in this recipe, as there’s very little oil used, and the bitter flavor stayed in the tomatoes. It took a bit of detective work to figure out that the problem was with the fresh ginger, and once I’d substituted dried ginger for the fresh, I was in business again with making curries.

Quantity good for ~3 curry recipes.

  • Coconut cooking oil spray or 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 lb (1-1.5 large) onions, skinned and thickly sliced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp fennel
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger (not fresh!)
  • 1 oz fresh garlic, skinned and roughly chopped
  • 8 fl oz (1 cup) tinned tomatoes in juice

Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan.

Fry the onions over medium heat until starting to brown, stirring frequently.

Add the spices and garlic, and allow to heat through for a minute.

Add the tomatoes to the onions, add two cups of water, and  cook for 10-15 minutes until everything has softened.

Scrape all the ingredients into a blender, and process until smooth. Adjust consistency with water to make 40-48 fl oz (5-6 cups) of sauce, if necessary.

This can be stored in the fridge for several days. I use it for chana masala, korma, cauliflower dhansak, saag tofu.

Saag Tofu (Spinach and Tofu Curry)

This curry is for spinach lovers, and is utterly delicious. It started out as my version of Saag Paneer (which I’ve never tasted as I can’t eat the Paneer cheese) … so this isn’t a vegan Saag Paneer … it’s a dish in its own right. It’s mildly hot, with sweet undertones from the fried onion and tomato in the curry base sauce.

Saag Tofu

Serves 4 with accompaniments

1 (14 oz) pkt of firm tofu
1 lb frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
3/4 tsp salt for the spinach
1 tbsp coconut oil/Earth Balance margarine
1/4 large (3-4 oz) onion, finely diced

1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp chili powder, or to taste

3/4 tsp salt for the tofu

1/8 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 cups curry base sauce or lower calorie curry base

Drain the tofu and cut into 1/2″ cuboids.

DSC_0004Lay a clean cloth kitchen towel on the work-surface, and line it with kitchen paper. Arrange the tofu on the kitchen paper, cover the tofu with more kitchen paper, then fold the towel over the top to help soak up excess moisture. Leave this for 1/2-3 hours. The tofu will have firmed up and have a drier surface when it’s ready, which makes it less likely to stick in the pan while it’s frying.

Put the spinach in a saucepan along with the salt for the spinach. Heat over high heat to remove excess moisture.

Heat 1/2 the fat in a frying pan over medium high heat; add the tofu, sprinkle over with the salt for the tofu, and cook (turning frequently) until the tofu starts to brown and become crispy on the outside. If it sticks to the pan at all, scrape it off with a thin edged spatula (these bits taste good, too).

Once the tofu has become crispy / chewy, scrape it out into the spinach, melt the remaining fat in the frying pan, and fry the onion over medium heat until completely soft and starting to brown (~15 minutes). Add the nutmeg, garam masala, and chili powder at this point, stir to combine (and allow to warm through), then scrape into the spinach saucepan.

Put the curry base sauce and the cashews into a blender, and blend until smooth. Add this to the spinach, stir and heat, then serve hot with rice or GF chapati.

Chana Masala (Chickpea/Garbanzo Bean Curry)

Chana MasalaThis dish is super easy and quick to make once the Curry Base Sauce has been prepared. It’s even better if it’s been allowed to sit for a while and then reheated, as the flavors combine and seep into the beans. It’s mildly hot, and is good for about 4 people when served with rice, or a vegetable side such as my Aubergine Curry. My husband made the suggestion that small chunks of dried apricot would also be a good addition (and it is … we tried it), however, mango chutney on the side is really all that is required … but regardless of whether apricots are added or not, daughter #2 is a happy girl. She loves British Indian Restaurant style curries!

1/2 oz (1/8 cup) raw cashew nuts
2 cups of curry base sauce or lower calorie curry base
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/8-1/4 tsp chili flakes or 1/4 fresh jalapeno or to taste
2 tsp garam masala
2 cans garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained

Put the cashews, curry base sauce, salt, chili flakes, and garam masala together in a blender, and process until smooth.

Scrape the sauce into a saucepan, and use  4 fl oz (1/4 cup) water to rinse the blender out into the saucepan.

Add the beans, and simmer until hot.

Serve hot with chapati, or basmati rice and mango chutney.

Curry Base Sauce

I do like curry. The authentic stuff is ok, but the stuff that I love is the British Indian Restaurant kind which can be fabulous! Apparently, restaurants generally rely on a curry base sauce which allows the production of many different curries really quickly as it contains ingredients common to many curries: onion, garlic, ginger, a few basic spices. It’s a base flavor that you tweak when making the actual dish, a bit like a flavored broth/stock. The secret is to have a spice combination that you particularly like … and not to skimp too much on the oil! If you do need a lower calorie (and faster) version, I have developed such a thing!

Oil: Apart from the taste aspect of the oil, it seems to help in the last section where everything has been blended together and you’re skimming off froth which is sometimes quite bitter. I tried to make an oil free version once, and ended up putting it in the bin!

Onion: I’ve also seen recipes that simply boil the onions to start off with, but once you’ve had your house filled with the smell of boiled onions, you won’t want to do it again. Don’t talk to me about authenticity …. I won’t be boiling any more onions as I’d like my husband to continue living with me.

Salt: Note that my version doesn’t contain any salt. This is not a mistake. Some of the dishes that I’d want to use it in require salt in their preparation (such as salting aubergine/eggplant or mushrooms to draw out their juices), and I’d rather put it in at that stage, than risk putting in too much.

Garlic: Generally, I expect to buy bulbs of garlic and peel the cloves as and when I need them, as they keep better this way.  However, for this dish I find the ready peeled stuff really useful! My store (Trader Joe’s) sells ready peeled garlic in 1 oz packets! So convenient! I don’t even have to weigh them.

Blender: I use the blender 3 times in moderately quick succession in this recipe … and am going to admit that I don’t do anything more than rinse it out into the pot between uses. The flavors are all going to end up in the same dish, anyway.

This recipe makes enough for 2 – 4 family meals, depending on how much the chosen recipe uses. I wouldn’t want to make it in any smaller quantities, though. Check out these recipes that use it (this list will get longer as time goes by): Chana Masala (Chickpea/garbanzo bean Curry), Saag Tofu, Vegan Vegetable Korma.

Makes 4-5 cups of curry base (~190kcals/cup).

1 + 3 tbsp coconut oil/Earth Balance/vegetable oil
1 lb (1-1.5 large) onions, skinned and thickly sliced
8 fl oz (1 cup) tinned tomatoes in juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp fennel
1/16 tsp cloves
1 oz (~2″) fresh ginger, peeled
1 oz (just less than 1 bulb) fresh garlic, skinned

Heat 1 tbsp of the fat in a large saucepan; cook the onion gently over a medium heat in the fat for 20 minutes until completely soft and browned, stirring occasionally.

Put the tomato into the blender, and blend until completely smooth.

Gather the dried spices together into a small bowl.

Curry base oil

Note the oil separating out on the right hand side of the pan.

Heat 3 tbsp of the fat in a second saucepan. Add the spices to this second saucepan, and almost immediately add the blended tomato to prevent the turmeric from burning. Cook this mixture for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fat can be seen separating out at the edges of the tomato or as smooth, dark patches on the top.

Put the ginger, and garlic into the blender with 8 fl oz of water, and blend until smooth.

Once the onion has completely softened and browned, pour the ginger and garlic into the onion pot. Rinse the blender out into the onion pot with another 8 fl oz of water. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes with a tight fitting lid (or 5 minutes at pressure in a pressure cooker) until the onion is almost disintegrating.

Put the cooked onion mixture into the blender, and blend until totally smooth.

Simmering curry base sauce. Note the pale colored froth that forms around the smooth sauce in the middle, and needs to be skimmed off.

Simmering curry base sauce. Note the  smooth sauce in the middle of the pale froth that needs to be skimmed off.

Pour the onion mixture into the tomato mixture. Stir once to combine, then simmer over a low heat for a further 20 – 40 minutes without stirring. During this time, skim off any froth that rises to the surface by dragging the edge of a metal spoon lightly over the surface; try to avoid stirring it in. This removes a harsh flavor. You’re not going to get all of it, but you should get as much as your patience can cope with.

Once the simmering has finished, cool the sauce, and store it in the fridge in air-tight containers, using as needed. I use mine up within a week. I’ve seen some recipes that say it’s OK to freeze this, but I also know that garlic changes its flavor quite dramatically in the freezer, so I’d rather use mine fresh.

Chipotle Mushroom Sauce

Chipotle Mushrooms

Spicy, smokey, and delicious!

We’ve just got back from a 5 day jaunt to Mexico where we ate fruit and vegetables almost exclusively because most other dishes contained contraband. Although I did have a couple of occasions where I was craving carbs (for some reason, there wasn’t a tortilla chip in sight), I came back home with a slew of ideas for dishes to add to our repertoire, and I didn’t put on any weight!!!!!

The only non-main-stream ingredient here is Chipotle in Adobo Sauce, which is available in standard food stores in California and here in Washington, and I’m guessing it’s available pretty much everywhere in the States, but I’m not so sure about other places in the world. A quick Google search shows that amazon.co.uk sells it, so if you’re in England, you can get hold of it. You’ll probably want to freeze the chipotles that you don’t use here in a freezer bag or box, as you won’t be using a whole tin of the things in this dish.

This recipe is moderately hot by my standards. If you’re not into hot foods, reduce the amount of chipotle to 1 or 2 tsps and check before adding any more. I’ve eaten it scooped up on tortilla chips, and as a sauce with rice, but I think it could also be included as a side for any Mexican meal, or as a relish on a veggie burger.

Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side dish/relish

1 tsp margarine/oil
1/2 large (~6 oz) onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1 large/3 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce
8 fl oz (1 cup) tinned tomatoes

Heat the fat in a saucepan, and cook the onions for 5 minutes over a medium heat.
Wash and slice the mushrooms, and add them to the onion along with the salt, and continue cooking on a medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are completely soft.
Once the veggies are soft, add the garlic, and allow to warm through for a minute or two.
Put the chipotle in adobo sauce in the blender with the tomatoes, and briefly blend to get a chunky sauce.
Add the tomatoes to the mushrooms, and simmer for 5 minutes until the flavors have developed.

Vegan Bean and Vegetable Chili

vegetarian-chiliI don’t use meat substitutes much. The vast majority of the meat substitutes that I’ve seen include gluten for texture, stretch and bulk. We recently happened upon some gluten free, tinned vegan chili which my husband loves for chili cheese fries, but it doesn’t have anywhere near enough vegetables in it for my liking. Yes, I know! Chili cheese fries is an indulgence, not a health food ….. but here we can leave the indulgence for the potatoes, and the chili can be loaded with veggies and fiber, and just look and taste the part.

I also know that Textured Soy/Vegetable Protein has a bad name. Somewhere in the dim and distant past I read about it containing chemicals that you don’t really want to be eating, so we haven’t had it. Upon a more recent review, however, I found that the chemicals are indeed used in the standard version of TVP (apparently removed before it’s sold …. uh huh), but the organic stuff doesn’t even get a whiff of those chemicals in the first place. Yes, it is more expensive, but if it means I’m happy we can eat it and I can widen the variety of food stuffs that I can eat, and I have yet another way to present veggies to my kids, then that’s the price I pay.

Serves 6-8

1 cup organic TVP/TSP
1 tbsp mushroom powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp oil/margarine
1/4 of a large onion (1/2 cup), diced
1 lb mixed vegetables cut into <1″chunks (e.g. pepper strips, mushroom chunks, courgette/zucchini slices – quartered, tiny broccoli/cauliflower florets)
1 fresh jalapeños, finely minced or 1 tsp chili flakes
1 large clove garlic
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin OR 1/4 tsp caraway seeds (for a change)
1/4 tsp lemon juice
~14 oz diced tinned tomato in juice (this won’t look enough to start off with)
2 tbsp tomato paste OR minced sun-dried tomatoes
8 – 16 oz cooked, drained, pinto or black beans

Put the TVP, mushroom powder, and salt in a bowl, and stir in 1 cup of boiling water, and leave it to soak.

In a large pan, heat the fat and fry the onion and any hard vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower) for 5-10 minutes.

Once the onions have softened, add the garlic, and spices to them, and heat through for a few seconds, then add the remaining vegetables (except tomatoes) and cook for another 5-10 minutes until they too have started to soften.

Add the TVP, lemon juice, tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the juice has thickened and the TVP has browned slightly.

Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve in flat breads, with rice, crusty bread, jacket/baked potatoes, or (of course), chunky cut potato fries/chips and a sprinkling of vegan cheese.

Aubergine (Eggplant) Curry

I’ve recently got the curry bug, again. Here on the western side of The States, even up here near Portland, Oregon (which prides itself on its cuisine) good Indian curry isn’t really available. The problem with Indian curry is finding a blend of spices that appeals. Cooking the curry itself isn’t difficult, but many curry powders rely too heavily on cumin (a relatively cheap spice), in my opinion, which has left me searching for blends that please.

Warmly spicy and intensely flavored, this tomato based curry pairs well with sweet mango chutney, and plain, boiled, rice.

aubergine curry

One thing you’ll notice about this recipe is the huge variation in oil that is suggested. For a home-style (and healthier) curry, use the lesser amount. For a rich, indulgent, restaurant style dish, use the greater amount. Aubergine has a reputation for absorbing all the oil in a pan in seconds flat, but it will absorb much less oil and stick less when it cooks (and consequently leave oil in the pan to cook the spices), if it has been salted before cooking and the oil is sizzling hot when the aubergine is added.

Note: if your aubergine/eggplant is a bit on the small side, add a 14 oz can of drained chickpeas/garbanzo beans along with the tomatoes.

1 (16-20 oz) aubergine/eggplant, cut into 3/4″-1″ chunks
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed dried chilies
1 tbsp – 1/2 cup coconut oil/margarine/vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, thickly diced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
14-20 fl oz (2 cups) tinned tomatoes
2 – 6 tsps sugar (optional – to counteract acidic tinned tomatoes)

Put the aubergine (eggplant) cubes in a bowl, and sprinkle with the salt. Allow to sit for at least 1/2 hour to soften and draw out some of the juices.

Gather the spices together in a small bowl.

Heat the fat in a medium sized saucepan, over a medium/high heat.

Wait for the oil to get hot, then add the onions, and cook for 5 minutes until starting to soften.

Drain the aubergine (eggplant), and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Add the aubergine (eggplant) to the onions, and cook (stirring occasionally) for about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, and allow to warm through. (~30 seconds)

Sprinkle the spices over the veggies. Stir and allow to warm through. (~30 seconds)

Turn down the temperature, add the tomatoes, cover, and cook until they have broken down into a sauce, and the aubergine is completely soft.

Taste, and add extra salt (~1/4 tsp) and/or sugar to taste.

Serve hot with cooked rice or GF chapati.

Vegan Cassoulet

This recipe was updated Feb 28, 2020 to reflect how I make it with dried beans. The previous version follows at the bottom of the page.

Cassoulet is a classic comfort food from France: a thick, bean-y stew which clings to your ribs. I had it as a pre-vegetarian teenager, when we vacationed there years and years ago, and was so enamored of it, that when I turned vegetarian, I wanted to retain the ability to eat it.

Cassoulet

When I first devised this veganized and simplified version, I was still eating wheat, and instead of tofu, I used 4 large spiced veggie sausages which were utterly yummy here, but much to my frustration were wiped off my menu when I realized I had to ditch the wheat. It took me a fair few years to get around to figuring this gluten free version.

Now, I should point out that ‘normal’ cassoulet not only has meat in it, it also has everything cooked together for quite a long time to cook the beans, tenderize the meat, and form a rich tasting crust which forms due to all the meat fat floating on the surface. We don’t have all that fat here, and tofu isn’t going to be improved by a long slow cook in bean juices: it’s quite tender enough, and if anything, it needs to be firmed up, which is why I grill/broil mine first.

Serves 3-4 people

For the beans:

  • 1 tsp oil or margarine
  • 1/2 large (or 1 medium) onion, coarsely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup (6 oz) dried great northern, haricot/navy, or other small white bean, picked over for debris and soaked overnight, or in boiling water for an hour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste – don’t add until after the beans have cooked)

For the tofu:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 14-16 oz firm tofu (regular, not silken), drained
half cooked cassoulet

Heat the oil for the beans in a saucepan or pressure cooker pan, and fry the diced onion over medium heat until medium brown (~10-15 minutes).

Add the beans and bean seasonings (garlic, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, pepper) and 1 1/4 cups (10 floz) water to the onion. If you’re using a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, bring this up to pressure for 12 minutes, then allow to come down from pressure naturally. If using a regular saucepan, cover tightly and simmer for ~1 hour until the beans are soft, but still hold their shape. Add more water and time as necessary. (Don’t add the salt for the beans until after you’re sure they’re cooked to the required texture.)

Cut the tofu into 3/4″ cubes or chipolata, and put to one side to drain for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together the tofu seasonings (salt, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and chili if desired).

Grease a cookie sheet/baking tray with the oil for the tofu.

Pat dry the tofu with kitchen paper, and use your hands to toss the tofu gently with the seasoning mixture.

Spread the tofu out on the baking/cookie sheet, and place about 6″ under a hot grill/broiler for about 10 minutes until starting to firm up around the edges and sizzle. Stir and turn over the tofu occasionally to prevent sticking.

cooked cassoulet

When the tofu is ready (firmed up on the outside and chewy), stir it into the beans.

Serve hot with crusty GF bread or freshly cooked tortillas, a salad, and warm fluffy blankets next to a roaring fire.


The following is the previous recipe I used to make cassoulet.

The tofu can either be fresh, or frozen and defrosted before use. Defrosted tofu has a different texture to that of fresh which releases its water more easily, and may well have a more acceptable texture for those folks who don’t normally eat tofu.

Serves 3-4 people

2 tsp oil or margarine
1/2 large (or 1 medium) onion, coarsely diced
2 cloves garlic
2 cans great northern, haricot/navy, or other small white beans (not drained)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp pepper
salt to taste (depends on how salty your cooked beans are)

~14 oz firm tofu (regular, not silken), drained
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F, so the beans won’t cool down too much after being put in.

half cooked cassoulet

Heat the oil in a dutch oven, and cook the diced onion over medium heat until medium brown (~10-15 minutes). Add the garlic, beans, the bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, 1/4 tsp pepper, and enough bean liquor / water to cover by 1/2″. Check seasoning (it should taste slightly under salty at this point). Bring all to a gentle simmer, and transfer to the hot oven (uncovered).

Stir together the tsp of salt, nutritional yeast,  and one of the 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl. Add a dash of cayenne, if liked.

Cut the tofu into 3/4″ cubes or chipolata, pat dry with kitchen paper, and use your hands to toss the tofu gently with the seasoning mixture. (Defrosted tofu is particularly delicate.)

Spread the tofu out on a baking/cookie sheet which has been lined with baking parchment, and place in the oven for about 1/2-3/4  hour until starting to firm up around the edges. (This will depend on how wet your tofu is, and how big the chunks are.)

cooked cassoulet

When the tofu is ready (firmed up on the outside and chewy), stir it into the beans, and continue cooking the beans in the oven until the sauce has finished thickening (a total cooking time of about an hour for the beans).

Serve hot with crusty GF bread, and warm fluffy blankets next to a roaring fire.

Lentil Soup (Dal), and variations

The recipe below is my basic lentil soup recipe. Below that are some variations that I have enjoyed. Both this and the lentil and spinach soup are actually fairly standard Indian curry accompaniments, when served thick. It’s one of those very comforting meals, sating hunger without expanding your waistband.

1 tbsp Earth Balance (vegan margarine) or oil
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 lb red lentils
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice

Heat the margarine/oil, in a large saucepan, over a medium heat, and fry the onion until it becomes translucent and starts to brown.
Add the garlic and cumin to it, to warm through for a couple of minutes.
Pick the lentils over for stones, and then rinse them.
Add 6 cups (48 fl oz) of water to the onions, then the lentils, and bring to the boil. Simmer the soup until the lentils have completely disintegrated (about 20-30 minutes. The lentils should disintegrate just with vigorous stirring with a spatula).
Adjust consistency with more water, if desired.
Stir in the salt and lemon juice (and any other desired additions); taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Variations:

Lentil and Tomato Soup: Add 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes (halved) to the soup 5 minutes before the end of cooking.

Lentil and Spinach Soup: Add  ~8 oz fresh or frozen spinach to the soup at the end of cooking, along with 1/4 tsp salt.

Chili Lentil Soup: Mince 1/2 cm squared piece of chipotle chili in adobo sauce (check for gluten) with the blade of a knife (so you don’t end up with exciting lumps in your soup), and add with the water and lentils.

Aloo Gobi (Potato and Cauliflower Curry)

When eating out, curry is so often a good option for me. A decent curry house doesn’t have problems substituting oil for ghee and coconut milk for cream, being vegetarian is always understood, and wheat flour isn’t used in everything the way it is used in western cooking. They do, however, have a tendency to use much more fat than I could possibly contemplate while cooking at DSC_0001home, which is probably a really good reason for cooking my own! If you want to make yours ‘richer’ (and I don’t dispute that it tastes good!), then by all means increase the oil used to a couple of tablespoons per pan, but I don’t think it really needs it. It does benefit greatly from the use of fresh ginger and coriander, though. I peel my ginger by scraping a knife blade firmly over the surface, and I like to use a micro-plane to grate it, as this tends to separate out the fibrous parts that can be a little unpleasant. I also keep it vegetarian by discarding the last part so I don’t grate my fingers! However, finely chopping the ginger also works.

I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet to get intimidated by long lists of spices. This curry recipe, however, is relatively short and remarkably quick to make, cooking in only a little longer than it takes the potato to soften. One pan for veggies, one pan for sauce, and one pan for rice if you’re serving that too. This curry is mild in heat, and the flavors of the vegetables are still evident through the permeating spice flavor. This is a good starter curry for both cook and diner. Delicious!

This serves 4 – 6

1 tsp dry mustard powder
3 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp garam masala

1 + 1 tbsp coconut or other cooking oil
1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cubic inches fresh ginger, peeled, and very finely minced, or micro-planed

14 fl oz chopped, tinned tomatoes
1 – 3 tbsp honey / agave nectar / maple syrup (for vegan option)
1 tsp tamarind paste, or 2 tsp lemon juice, if tamarind is unavailable

1 1/2 lb potato, (waxy, preferably) peeled and chopped into bite size (1/2″) cubes
1 1/2 lb cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt

Fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped

Measure out the mustard powder, cumin, coriander, and garam masala, into a small bowl.

Warm 1/2 the fat in a frying pan, and gently fry the onion over medium/low heat until completely soft and starting to brown.

Add the garlic and ginger, stir and allow to warm through for a minute.
Add the dried spices, stir, and allow them to warm and become fragrant.
Add the tomato, 1/2 cup (~4 fl oz) water, honey, and tamarind.
Simmer gently until the tomato chunks break down slightly.

While the onions are cooking, warm the other 1/2 of the fat in a saucepan, and gently fry the cauliflower and potato for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Coating the vegetables in oil will help them to hold their shape during the simmering process.

Add the turmeric, and stir until it evenly coats the vegetables and has warmed through.

Add 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) of water and the salt to the potato/cauliflower, bring to a simmer, and steam gently until the veggies are barely cooked. If the veggies are still uncooked by the time the water boils off, add another 1/4 cup (2 fl oz) of water and continue cooking. The water should be mostly gone by the time the veggies are just cooked.

Add the onion/tomato mixture to the cooked potato and cauliflower along with a couple of tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander, and simmer uncovered for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check seasoning for salt, and add more honey to taste.

Serve hot, garnished with more coriander, and rice or GF naan bread.

Shiitake Mushroom Risotto

This dish is courtesy of some fine fellows down at the Fallbrook Mushroom Company, who periodically drop a few (large) boxes of shiitake mushrooms off at a Bank of America down in Temecula. I get to take a load home, and experiment! Shiitake mushrooms are quite different to regular mushrooms in my mind. Although they taste fairly similar, I don’t think you can rinse them like normal mushrooms, and the stems are really chewy. In this dish, I removed the stalks, but I didn’t throw them away, as they are wonderful in veggie burgers!

This risotto is an uncomplicated, richly mushroom-y supper. A really personal pleasure.

shiitake risotto

Serves 2 well
1 tbsp margarine
8 oz of shittake mushrooms
1 tbsp margarine
1 cup arborio rice or similar short grain white rice (do not wash)
4 tbsp mushroom powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 pint white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
black or white truffle oil garnish

Prepare the mushrooms by wiping any dust/dirt off them with a paper towel. Remove the stems. If the mushrooms are fairly small, leave them whole, otherwise, quarter them.
Melt the margarine in a medium saucepan.
Add the mushrooms, and fry for about 5 minutes until softened.
In a second pan, warm 2 1/2 cups of water, with the mushroom powder, salt, pepper, and wine.
Remove the mushrooms from the pan, and put to one side.
In the mushroom pan, melt the second tbsp of margarine; add the rice, and stir frequently until the rice is all coated with fat and turning translucent.
Add about 1 cup of the warmed water mixture to the rice, and stir frequently until the water is almost completely absorbed.
Keep adding the warmed water mixture 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, and allowing each addition to be almost completely absorbed before adding the next. Repeat until all the warmed water mixture has been added.
Check the rice is cooked; if necessary, add another 1/2 cup water and continue cooking.
Stir in the cooked mushrooms.
Serve with optional (and highly recommended) black or white truffle in olive oil garnish.

Black Eyed Pea Goulash

Over the last few years, I’ve strayed somewhat from the beany stews that I so loved when I was first learning to cook. Could it be that I see them as unsophisticated? Certainly their image is somewhat austere, and they can seem unexciting, and yet (for some reason or another), they are warming, comforting, homey, reassuring, kind to my tummy.

Black Eyed Pea Goulash

Black Eyed Pea Goulash with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

It doesn’t hurt that they’re economical and healthy, too. I wanted to make Boston Baked Beans for dinner this evening, but found I’d run out of haricot beans, and there was this packet of black eyed peas sitting in the dried bean draw waiting to be tried. In a rather bad mix of enthusiasm and disorganization, I put the beans on to soak, and then headed for my copy of Rose Elliot’s The Bean Book, which I’ve had since the mid 80’s and is now festooned with annotations and post-it notes, and has lost much of its glue, so is falling apart and has to be treated with respect in what is definitely the autumn of its life.

Anyway, I made the Beany Goulash, with my inevitable tweaks (more garlic, less oil, sun-dried tomatoes instead of puree … that sort of thing), served it up with garlic mashed potatoes, and watched while both of my girls cleared their plates, and told me I should make this more frequently. So much for austere and uninspiring. I shall make this more often. It will probably surface every couple of weeks on a weekday evening, warming tummies, and not requiring a whole lot of my attention.

8 oz dried black eyed peas/beans
2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
16 oz (4 cups) green/red/yellow pepper strips (frozen works fine)
28 oz canned, chopped tomatoes in juice
4 oz (1/2 cup) sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and minced
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp sugar (white or brown)

Pick the black eyed peas over for debris, rinse, and cover with plenty of water before leaving to soak over night.

Drain the peas, rinse once or twice, then cover with fresh water, bring to a simmer, and cook until the beans are soft but not falling apart (~30-40 minutes stove-top, or just bring up to pressure in a pressure cooker, then remove from the heat and allow to cool naturally).

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and gently fry the onion for about 10 minutes until it is soft and translucent.

Add the garlic and pepper strips, and carry on frying and stirring for 5 minutes.

Drain the beans. Stir all ingredients together, and allow the stew to simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the surface turns a little darker, and the oil separates and rises to the surface, and the sauce has thickened.

Check seasoning before serving, and eat with a clear conscience.

By the way, if you want to make garlic mashed potatoes: peel, dice, and boil 4 baking potatoes (~2 lbs) until soft but not disintegrating. Mince 6 cloves of garlic and warm through in 2 tbsp vegan margarine (I like Earth Balance). Once the potatoes are cooked, roughly drain them, add the garlicky margarine and 1 tsp salt, then mash thoroughly with a potato masher. Check seasoning before serving.

Vegetable Tagine

The first time I ever had a tagine was on a ferry crossing between England and France, when I’d only just realized that I needed to stay off gluten, and this was the only gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian option on the menu ….. providing I didn’t eat the couscous. I can’t say I was disappointed. Surprised, but not disappointed. This is my version of that dish: a slightly spicy, warming take on ratatouille.

Frying the vegetables in the oil first helps them to retain their shape during the simmering time, so I wouldn’t skip that step if you can help it. Although the list of ingredients looks pretty long, the recipe doesn’t really take that long to make, and it is most definitely worth the effort.

jhg

The sweet fruit contrast with the warming spices, and the soft vegetable contrast with the crunchy almonds.

pinch of saffron threads
2 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, cut into 3/4” dice
1 large or two small zucchini (courgette), cut into 3/4” cubes
1 cup slices of mixed bell pepper
1 small eggplant (aubergine), cut into 3/4” cubes
~28oz tin diced tomatoes in juice
4 clove garlic, sliced
2” fresh ginger, grated
1 cup raisins
2 tbsp sweet white miso (optional)
1 tsp salt
5 oz (18-20) prunes
1 oz (1/4 cup) slivered almonds
2 tsps sugar, if needed to counteract tart tomatoes

Gather all the dried spices together in a small bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a wide pan, then gently fry the onion for 5 minutes until softened.

Add the zucchini (courgette) and bell pepper, and cook gently for 5 minutes until well coated in the oil and starting to soften.

Add the eggplant (aubergine) and spices, and stir to coat all the veggies with the spice mixture.

Add the remaining ingredients, and cook, covered, until the eggplant (aubergine) is cooked, stirring occasionally. (~20-30 minutes)

Serve hot over cooked quinoa, or in a baked potato.

Optional extra: 10 oz cooked chickpeas, drained (1 standard tin)

Potato and Tofu Tagine

When I first started avoiding gluten, I had real problems figuring out what to eat. Initially, I lost weight (hurray), and then came the slow old process of figuring out how to make substitutions for glutenous favorites such as bread and pasta. There are days when I wonder how wise this was. Like most folks in the developed world, I have to keep a sharp eye on my weight, and to be honest, following a diet that was predominantly vegetables (as I did when first gluten free), was actually pretty invigorating, and made weight control a no-brainer. However, moving on, we do now eat more stews, soups, and salads than we used to, despite the fact I’ve found tasty GF dried pasta and a bread recipe that I could indulge in daily. This tagine is a lightly spiced, lightly fruit sweetened stew, with a flavor intensity that comes from the relatively long simmering time. Serve up with quinoa or rice, instead of the more traditional couscous which is made from wheat.

You’d think that simmering for upwards of 40 minutes would leave everything in a stew with a soft texture. However, the almonds retain some of their crunch, the potatoes (because they’re cooked in tomatoes) retain their integrity, and have a slightly more resilient surface in comparison with their soft insides, and the tofu ends up with a minor league springy bite. Note that when you test the potatoes for being cooked, you should bite a piece because their firm exterior can be misleading if you only prod them with a fork. This stew is actually better for sitting for a while after being cooked, as the flavors meld and develop, so don’t feel you have to rush it.

Potato and Tofu Tagine

Potato and Tofu Tagine served with quinoa.

This recipe calls for both fresh and powdered root ginger. It’s up to you whether you include slices of the fresh ginger, or grate it for a uniform flavor. I think if you’re not used to fresh ginger in your food, then it can come as a bit of a surprise to bite into a whole slice of the stuff, though the flavor is mellowed somewhat during the cooking. I’ve stipulated grating the ginger in this recipe, but you could also try it with slices.

I keep my fresh root ginger in a freezer bag in the freezer, and then use a sharp knife to scrape off the skin, and a microplane to grate off as much as a recipe calls for, when I’m ready for it. However, if you find yourself with raw, unfrozen ginger, skinning it and putting it in an electric coffee grinder (which is dedicated to spices and has never seen coffee) along with the garlic, is a good way to prepare it.

Pinch of saffron threads
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 – 2 shakes of ground cayenne pepper (or enough so its heat is just discernible)
1/8 tsp black pepper

1 tbsp margarine / olive oil
1 medium or 1/2 large onion, coarsely diced

14 – 16 oz tofu, frozen and defrosted
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1” cube of ginger, peeled and minced
28 oz can of chopped tomatoes in juice
1 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes
1/2 cup (2.5 oz) raisins or sultanas
3 tbsp tomato puree or minced sun dried tomatoes preserved in oil
2 tbsp light or chickpea miso
5 tbsp dried mushroom powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
18-20 (5 oz) pitted prunes
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup water
2 tsps sugar, if your tomatoes are a bit too sharp

Gather all the dry spices together in a small bowl.

Heat the margarine/oil in a large pot, and cook the onion over a medium low heat for 5 – 10 minutes until softened and starting to brown.

Place the tofu between two stacked plates and squeeze the plates together, tilted over a sink to remove the water. This shouldn’t take more than a minute.

Finely chop the garlic, and finely grate the ginger (I use a microplane).

Once the onions are brown, reduce the heat under them; add the garlic and ginger, and allow to warm through for a minute.

Stir in the spices, and allow to warm for another minute.

Crumble the tofu onto the onion, leaving many pieces in bite-size chunks. Stir to cover with the spice mixture.

Add the remaining ingredients; stir to amalgamate; cover and cook over gentle heat for ~40 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked, and the sauce has thickened.

Adjust seasoning with salt and sugar, and serve hot over cooked quinoa.

Meetoo

This is a chunky tomato based sauce that I use in lasagnas and on pasta, or under mashed potatoes for a vegan, gluten free shepherd’s pie. It serves the same function as a meat sauce or bolognese, though I would doubt that it actually tastes the same.

Meetoo pasta in sunlight

Much of the bulk of the sauce is provided by tofu which has been frozen and defrosted at least once. Tofu is a curious beast. You can mash it to get scrambled egg texture, blend it to get sauce or thick cream texture, simmer and cool it to get the texture of boiled egg white, or freeze it to give it a slightly springy, very tender meat type texture.

In this dish, I like to freeze the tofu and defrost it at least once before using. The texture looks a bit unpromising at first, but don’t get put off by that, as it changes during cooking. Once tofu has been frozen, it has a certain resemblance to a sponge full of water; it’s necessary to get rid of that water before cooking so the flavored sauce can permeate through. You can do this either by taking handfuls of the stuff and carefully squeezing the water out, or you can put it between two plates stacked one on top of the other, and squeeze the two plates together at an angle over a sink. This takes about 30 seconds.

Make sure you have plenty of time to allow the sauce to cook. It won’t require too much of your attention, but both the onion frying at the beginning, and the long slow simmer of the complete sauce are necessary steps in order to attain a rich depth of flavor and color, much like veganesca. If you try to complete it in 1/2 an hour, the finished dish will taste quite uninspiring.

Meetoo sauce with pastaIn case you were wondering, the name meetoo was designated by my kids as an amalgamation of the words ‘meat’ and ‘tofu’, when I explained to them what I was making. It was also a joke, when one would say, “I like this,” and the other would reply, “Me, too!”

12 – 16 oz firm tofu, frozen and defrosted (at least once)

1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine
2 large carrots, peeled and diced or sliced
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

4 oz mushrooms, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
28 oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
2 tbsp chickpea miso
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp of fresh
3 tbsp tomato paste or 1/4 cup minced sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar, if needed to counteract sharp tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp gluten free tamari or Braggs Liquid Aminos (or to taste – this adds salt and brown color)
1/8 pepper, or to taste

Drain the tofu, and squeeze the excess water out of it.

Melt the margarine in a large cast iron frying pan over a medium/low heat, and gently fry the carrots, onions, and mushrooms in the covered pan, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned and softened (~10-15 minutes).

Add the garlic, and warm it through for a minute.

Add the rest of the ingredients, crumbling the tofu into largish pieces, stir, and turn the heat down to low. (Don’t be too eager to break up the tofu lumps, it will tend to disintegrate during the simmer.) Cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. When it’s done, the tofu will have taken up the color of the sauce, and the sauce will have been mostly absorbed, except for the tomato chunks.

Check and adjust salt levels to taste.

Serve with pasta, or in lasagne, or under mashed potatoes as a Shepherd’s Pie.

Meetoo topped with mashed potato (place in the oven or under the grill/broiler to brown), and served with chickpea gravy.

Meetoo topped with mashed potato (place in the oven or under the grill/broiler to brown), and served with chickpea gravy.

For a variation: substitute 1 lb mushrooms for the carrots, and black olives for the oregano.

Chili variation: add 1 tsp finely chopped jalapeno pepper with the garlic, and a tin of rinsed red kidney beans with the tomatoes, then serve with flat breads or plain rice.

(Boston) Baked Beans

boston baked beans

Boston Baked Beans served in a bowl of garlic mashed potatoes.

When thinking about gluten free diets, the temptation is to focus on replacements for bread, pasta, cakes, and such like, so when I include naturally gluten free foods in the blog, I sometimes feel a bit sheepish. However, I’ve been making Boston Baked Beans for far longer than I’ve been interested in making gluten free bread, because they’re such a good staple, and they are gluten free, so I hope you enjoy them! In actual fact, I’ve included two recipes, below. For Boston Baked Beans, the sauce is chunky. For regular baked beans, blend the sauce with some non-dairy cream cheez until completely smooth before adding to the beans.

If you’re not used to cooking beans from scratch, don’t get fazed. It’s really straight-forward: Clean the beans. Soak the beans. Cook the beans. Add the beans to the other ingredients. Most of the time is spent doing other things while the beans do their thing under water.

1 lb (2 cups) dried navy or great northern beans (or other small, white bean)
1 medium onion, diced
2 tsps oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp brown sugar (use white sugar for standard baked beans)
1 tbsp honey mustard (check for gluten!)
3 tbsp black strap molasses
1 x 28oz tin of tomatoes (Doesn’t look like enough to start off with, but it is – once it’s cooked.)
1 tbsp fresh thyme OR 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1-2 tsps salt
(1 oz vegan cream cheez for standard baked beans, omit for Boston Baked)

Check the beans over for debris and damaged beans to be discarded, then rinse them.
Put the beans in a pressure cooker pan or large saucepan, with water to cover them by about 2 inches; bring to the boil; turn off the heat; cover, and leave to soak for an hour or until a bean can be split in half with your finger nail, and appears to be the same color all the way through. Soaked bean

Drain the beans, and rinse them. (This makes them less gassy for those folks who don’t eat beans frequently.)

Return the beans to the pot with enough clean water to cover by about 1/2”. If you don’t use a pressure cooker, you’ll need to add more water either at the beginning, or as the cooking continues. Aim to have the water remain above the level of the beans throughout the whole process.

In a pressure cooker, bring the beans up to pressure, turn off the heat, leaving the pan in place, and allow to come down from pressure naturally.

If you’re just boiling the beans in a regular pan, cover with a tight fitting lid, and simmer for about an hour (this may be more depending on how old the dried beans are), checking the water level once in a while.

Cook beans until tender but not disintegrating. They won’t soften further after the addition of the other ingredients, no matter how long you boil. Any slight crunch will be obvious, and the beans won’t be a pleasure to eat, so taste one to check! If you’re using the pressure cooker, just boil the beans conventionally, if they’re still not quite soft enough when they come down from pressure.

Sauté the onion in the oil until soft.

Add the garlic to the onion, and warm through for a minute before adding all the other ingredients (except the beans).

If making standard baked beans, now put all the sauce ingredients into the food processor (or use an immersion blender) and blend. Pass the sauce through a sieve or chinois, if available, but you can skip this step, if not.

For both kinds of beans: Drain the beans; add the sauce to beans, and simmer for 30 minutes until the beans have taken up the flavor and color.

Serve hot with baked potatoes, or on almond bread toast, or under a cobbler topping.

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 (or 1 tbsp minced chipotle chili in adobo sauce)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tins black beans, undrained
salt to taste (this will depend on how salty your beans are)
1/2 tsp lemon juice or mild vinegar (e.g. white balsamic)
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/vinegar, and serve hot, garnished with the cilantro (coriander leaf) if using.

Mediterranean Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a traditional, rural French stew. The ‘right’ way to make it depends on whose kitchen you’re in. I find it odd that I tend to regard it as a rather austere dish, and yet when I make it, I revel in the flavors. I think part of that can be attributed to the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and olives that enrich it.

Ratatouille served with mashed garlic cauliflower and potato, and grated faux cheez.

Here in my kitchen, the quantities of the various vegetables in ratatouille are approximate since this is a very forgiving dish and can be varied depending on the cook’s mood or the availability of produce. The finished dish can be frozen since the vegetables are all cooked until they are on the verge of terminally relaxing together anyway, though it is better fresh.

If you’re not familiar with eggplants (aubergines), know that you want to pick one that feels heavy for its size, and is shiny. As they mature, eggplant seeds get darker and harder, and holes start to appear in the flesh, which also gets pithier. Mature seeds are rather unpleasant to eat. Another feature of eggplants, is that they absorb oil like the proverbial sponge. To get around that problem, you can either avoid frying them (and cook them in the tomato liquid – the easy option, and my preferred method), or you can salt them for 1/2 hour before cooking. I believe the traditional method of making ratatouille, is to fry everything individually before combining. Personally, I couldn’t stomach the fat involved, and am happy to accept the mixing of flavors that must happen when the ingredients are cooked together.

These quantities make about 6 servings. I like to serve it up in baked potatoes (coleslaw on the side), with garlic mashed potatoes, with garlic bread, in a gougere, or with GF pasta (and grated cheez).

1 large eggplant (aubergine), stem removed, chopped into 3/4″ dice
2 tsps salt (used for salting the eggplant – optional)
2-6 tsps oil (This can be oil from the sun-dried tomatoes if you are using them, and the quantity depends on how rich or low calorie you want the dish to be.)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2-6 zucchini (courgette), either thinly sliced, or 3/4″ dice
2-4 red/yellow/orange bell peppers chopped into 1/2″ thick strips (frozen works well).
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped/minced
1 large (28oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dried or in oil) (optional, but recommended)
1/4 – 1/2 cup (12-25) black olives, Greek brined, not Californian (optional but recommended, adds richness)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried) OR 5 fresh basil leaves (or to taste – optional)
salt to taste
1 tsp thyme (if not included in your sun-dried tomatoes)
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
1 tbsp of sugar, if required to counteract acidic tomatoes

Initially, the tomato doesn’t appear to be quite enough for the stew, but the dish becomes moister, as the vegetables soften.

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

Add the onion, sauté for 2-4 minutes.

Add the zucchini (courgette) and peppers, sauté for 2-4 minutes.

Add all the remaining ingredients, except for fresh basil (if using).

Stir, cover, turn the temperature down for a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have released their juices: about 15-20 minutes.

Add the basil, if using, and season to taste.

Remove the lid and cook until excess juices have evaporated and the ratatouille is a thick stew (or however you like it).

Variation: Vegetable Tagine

Refried Beans

Refried beans are such a comfort food, and so easy to cook that it’s a shame to buy them in cans (not least-wise because they’re so cheap!!!!!). I made up a double batch of them yesterday to serve up with Ranchero Sauce and Tortillas. The beans freeze just fine, so it makes sense to double up when possible.

This is one of those recipes that’s better made the day before (if you can plan that far in advance ……. I’m sometimes challenged in that department). If you don’t have a pressure cooker, just cook the beans in a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid and a couple more inches of water for an hour or two instead of bringing them up to pressure, until the beans are completely soft and starting to disintegrate. Check once in a while to make sure they don’t boil dry.

And in case you’re interested: there are only two things I use distilled white vinegar for: cleaning and refried beans. I have tried making refried beans using lemon/lime juice or white balsamic vinegar, and they just don’t taste right! Weird, I know, but the beans seem to need the cutting flavor of white distilled vinegar.

3 oz (1/4 large) onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, skinned
1 fresh jalapeño OR other chili to taste, stem and seeds removed
1 lb (2 cups) dried pinto beans, picked over, rinsed, and soaked in plenty of water overnight*
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt
2 tsp white distilled vinegar

Put the onion, garlic, and jalapeño in a blender with 16 fl oz (2 cups) of water, and blend until smooth. (Or, finely mince all by hand.)

Drain the soaked beans, and put in a pressure cooker (if you have one) or other large pan with a tight fitting lid.

Add the blended onion/garlic/chili water to the beans, and rinse out the blender into the pan with another 16 fl oz (2 cups) of water to make sure you’re getting all the flavorings.

Add the cumin to the beans, and bring the lot up to the boil. Pressure cook for 15 minutes and allow to come down from pressure slowly, OR boil in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid for an hour to an hour and a half (adding water periodically, if necessary), or until the beans are totally soft and starting to disintegrate.

Once the beans are totally soft, add the salt and vinegar, and allow to cool completely. The juices will thicken as they cool and develop the resistant starches (if you’re interested: see resistant starches).

Adjust seasoning, and reheat to serve with pretty much any Mexican food. (… and yes, this is why they’re called refried beans – they’re cooked twice.)

* Fast soak method: after sorting and rinsing the beans, cover them with enough water to cover plus 2-3″ of water. Bring this to the boil, turn off the heat, and allow to soak for 1 hour before proceeding with the recipe.