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.


Creamy Zucchini and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I made this sauce one evening when I wanted to make Rich Mushroom and Black Olive Sauce, but only had 1/2 the mushrooms I wanted and a child who, for stuffed jacket potatosome unfathomable reason, had decided that she didn’t like mushrooms! It has the advantage that it is more colorful than the original, but apart from that is similarly easy to knock together, and it has my husband’s seal of approval!

I have served it up on pasta, and as a stuffing for baked potatoes. It’s also good in the baked tofu shells that I recently figured out as Halloween fare ….. but this sauce is a little too bright and jolly to be served up on that holiday occasion.

These quantities are good for 8 oz of dried pasta (cooked) and 3 – 4 people.

4 oz (1 scant cup) raw cashews
1 tbsp margarine
4 zucchini (courgettes), quartered lengthways then sliced
4 large roasted red peppers, deseeded and cut into 1″ squares
3/4 cup (~40) black olives
1 tbsp light chickpea miso
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt (for the sauce)
1/8 tsp black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Put the cashews into a blender with 1 cup (8 fl oz) water, and leave to soak, briefly.

Heat the fat in a large frying pan over a medium/high heat, then fry the sliced zucchini (courgettes), stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown.

Add the roasted red peppers and black olives, and allow these to warm through over a low heat.

Add the remaining sauce ingredients (miso, lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg) to the cashews, and blend the sauce until completely smooth.

Pour the sauce over the vegetables, then use an additional 1 cup (8 fl oz) of water to rinse the blender out onto the vegetables.

Turn up the heat, and stir frequently until the mixture thickens.

Check for seasoning, and serve hot with pasta (this is sufficient for 8oz dry pasta, cooked), baked potato or baked tofu shell.

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.


Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Vegan Haggis with Neeps and Tatties.

Gluten free and vegan haggis. I would think all three of those are weird to the mainstream eater! Haggis looks very much like a sausage overstuffed with cooked minced meat, or soy chorizo, so finely chop up all the ingredients. I chop mine by pulsing them in the food processor. I previously used mushroom powder to help with the meaty / umami flavor, as well as the fresh mushrooms which give a chewy texture, but updated the recipe to miss the dried mushroom which gave it a slightly stodgy texture. Authentic haggis contains quite a quantity of oats, and although I know that GF oats should be O.K. for my tummy, I remember feeling not so well after eating them, and haven’t given them another chance since. You could add them if you really wanted to.

The flavor of this is very satisfying. It is filling, and warming, lightly spiced, and savory. I did wonder whether I should throw a wee dram of whisky into the mixture, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that to single malt scotch. (Update: I tried some with a little whisky, and daughter #1 was not at all keen, so we’re leaving it out.) The texture of the filling is soft and hearty, and contrasts well with the chewy rice-paper covers. All served with gravy and mashed tatties or swedes: very homey and satisfying.

Make 12 individual haggis, enough for 6 folks.

2 tsp cooking oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) dry red lentils, rinsed
20 fl oz / 2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tin or 10 oz drained, cooked, black or red beans
1 1/2 oz / 6 tbsp ground pecans
1 tbsp Braggs Amino Acids (or other GF soy sauce, for salt and color)
12 x 8” round rice papers for wrapping

Bubbling haggis

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and sauté the onion and carrot for 5 minutes.

Mix in the mushrooms and garlic, and continue cooking 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the lentils, water, salt, pepper, nutmeg and ground coriander, and simmer gently, uncovered, until the lentils are no longer crunchy.

Add the remaining ingredients (except for the rice-paper wraps).

Stir, turn the heat down to low, and simmer gently until the haggis filling is a thick, spoon-able consistency.

Check that the lentils have fully softened, and if not, add another 4 floz of water and continue simmering.

Turn off the heat, cover, and put to one side while you compose the haggis parcels.

Cooked haggisSet up a frying pan wide enough to hold the rice papers, with 1/2” of water, heated until finger hot.

Place one rice paper in the hot water, holding it down with your fingers so it doesn’t curl up on itself. Allow the rice paper to soften for 20-30 seconds, until soft and pliant.

Transfer the rice paper to a plate; place 1/4 cup haggis mixture in a 2” by 1” sausage in the center, then fold the rice paper first over the short sides of the sausage filling, then roll the haggis up to complete the casing.

Put the haggis on a warmed plate to one side, covered with tin foil to keep warm, then repeat with the next rice paper, until all the mixture is used up.

Serve hot, with mashed potatoes and swede (neeps).

Cabbage Pie

I’ve got to be kidding, right? Cabbage pie! It just so happens that I love this pie filling. It is good in a pastry cased pie (with accompanying chickpea or cashew gravy) or on its own as a pilaf. I’ve made it numerous times, just not recently, and not with GF pastry. I had a bit of a brainwave today, and adjusted my pastry recipe (now reflected on the updated page). This quantity makes enough for a single 8″ pie which feeds 4-6 folks.

Cabbage Pie

Gluten free cabbage pie with an almond pastry, garlicky green beans, and cashew gravy.

½ cup brown rice
1/4 + 1/4 tsp salt
2 + 2 tsps non-hydrogenated margarine
½ large onion, diced
8 oz white cabbage, shredded
8 oz mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb pastry – I like Tender Shortcrust Pastry made with almonds.
2 hard boiled eggs (or same volume of baked tofu)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 – 2 tbsp Braggs Amino Acids (add the lesser amount, taste, and add more if you want it)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaf (a couple of tbsp of chopped basil is different, but would also work)
salt, to taste

Cook the brown rice in twice its volume of water with 1/4 tsp of salt, either in a rice cooker, or in a covered saucepan, until soft all the way through, but not mushy. (~30-40 mins)

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tsps of the margarine, and fry the onion and cabbage until the onion is translucent. Tip this into a mixing bowl.

Now heat the remainder of the margarine in the frying pan, and cook the mushrooms on medium high heat. Sprinkle the mushrooms with 1/4 tsp salt to encourage them to release their juices, and when they do, add the garlic. Cook until the mushroom juices have evaporated. Do not allow the garlic to burn.

Tip the mushrooms and garlic into the bowl with the cabbage.

Stir in all other filling ingredients.

Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired.

Divide the pastry into 1/3 and 2/3. Roll out the larger part, and use to line the prepared pie plate/tin. (See note on rolling on pastry page.)

Fill with the filling; roll out the smaller part of the pastry and use it to top the pie, crimping the edges together.

Brush the surface with soy milk.

Place in the middle of the oven (lightly covered with parchment to prevent over browning), and cook for 30-35 minutes at 380F.

Vegan Taco Meat

One of these tacos is really enough for one person, though it’s tempting to have another, and they do make for deliciously messy eating. There’s something very satisfying about munching into a large handful of salad-y stuff wrapped in a tortilla with all the different flavors vying for your attention. Tacos are very informal fare, and can be presented as a DIY type meal, with a refried bean or taco meat base, and various toppings to chose from.

The taco meat that I outline below is moderately spicy, though its flavor is tempered by the other ingredients in the taco. Tacos are usually made with corn tortillas, but I’d seriously advise against commercially produced ones, as they are remarkably similar to cardboard, but don’t taste as good. Home-made corn tortillas are a different matter altogether, as are home made GF tortillas.

Update: This freezes well. The tofu firms up slightly which is actually quite a good variation.

Tacos with tender, spicy, tofu, taco meat, lettuce, avocado, baby tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.

4 – 8 servings

2 tsp oil
1/2 medium (1/4 large) onion, chopped
16 oz mixed bell peppers (frozen pepper strips work fine), sliced and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground chipotle chili powder (or paprika with some chili added), or to taste
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp mushroom powder (optional, rounds out the flavors)
1 1/4 tsp salt (optionally, extra 1/2 tsp)
14 oz firm tofu, frozen and defrosted (at least once)

8 corn or other GF 6-8” tortillas
romaine lettuce, shredded
fresh tomatoes, diced
diced/sliced avocado or guacamole
Mexican rice (optional)
refried beans (optional)
red onion, diced (optional)
fresh cilantro (leaf coriander)
fajitas (lightly fried slivers of onion, peppers, courgette/zucchini) (optional)

To make the taco meat:

Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat, and gently cook the onion, peppers, and garlic until softened.

Add the chili, salt, paprika, and cumin to the vegetables,, and cook for 10 minutes.

Blend the sauce until fairly smooth. If it is too thick to blend, add up to 8 fl oz (1 cup) of water and expect to simmer much of this off, later.

By hand, squeeze the excess water out of the tofu, and crumble it into the sauce.

Simmer until the sauce has been absorbed by the tofu (~5-10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Adjust seasoning (including heat) to taste.

To make the tacos:

On each tortilla, lay a stripe of taco meat/refried beans, and on top of that a stripe of any or all of the other options, finishing with the salad ingredients. Fold the sides of the tortilla up, and eat with your hands.


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.

This sauce uses mushroom powder to give some of the savory notes. I keep a small coffee grinder for spices only, and grind dried mushrooms, whenever I need them.

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.