Noms, Not Bombs!

Soy Not Oi! 2The people behind the classic vegan punk cookbook ‘Soy, Not Oi!’* have got back together to produce a second part in honour of their friend and original SNO! contributor Joel, who sadly died earlier this year.

They’re looking for contributions to the new book – anecdotes about the original SNO!, stories about Joel, special features on vegan living, and original recipe contributions from anyone who’d like to send them one to test out.

I’ve submitted a handful of dishes already. Two have been accepted (devilled chickpeas and coconut, lime and ginger cheezecake), and two are on the ‘to taste’ list (spicy potato balls and cider-battered onion rings). There may be more to come if inspiration strikes.

More info over at the Soy Not Oi! website, with regular updates via their FB page.

*UK folks can get the original from Active Distribution, US peeps should try AK Press.

Soap Bodger

Having suddenly realised that lye = sodium hydroxide = caustic soda = drain cleaner (thanks, internets), I decided to have a go at making my own soap using the cold process method. And it turned out to be a piece of piss, albeit a piece of piss that could horribly scar you if you don’t take precautions with the lye.

Basically, you mix lye with water, add it to vegetable oils of your choice, agitate until it goes custardy, pour it into a mould for a day or two, tip it out, cut it up into bars and give the bars a few weeks (depending on the oils used) to allow the chemical stuff to happen and the soap to harden off.

The tricky / dangerous bit is using exactly the right amount of lye and making a solution with it. Lye reacts with water and produces heat and a strong alkaline solution. Long sleeves, gloves, eye protection and long arms (optional) are strongly advised. Do all of the dangerous stuff in the garden if possible, or at least a well-ventilated area, as it releases very unpleasant fumes when first mixed. Make sure all kids / pets / unstable adults are kept well away while you’re making your soap.

The core principles are explained here, and you’ll find a fantastic calculator for working out how much of everything to use here.

You can readily buy 500g of caustic soda for a couple of quid or so, often sold as drain cleaner (check the label to make sure it’s actually caustic soda and not something else). Google ‘cold process soap recipes’ for loads of ideas or use the calculator to create your own.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to use such a dangerous ingredient as lye in something used to clean yourself, the wonders of chemistry really do ensure that, if you follow the recipes to the letter, you end up with a safe, gentle and natural soap.

NB: I’ve also learnt that you can make a really simple, eco-friendly, cheap and just-as-effective-as-shop-bought washing powder using (home-made) castile soap (80-100% olive oil), borax and washing soda (sodium carbonate). I was a bit sceptical (my default setting) but it really does work.

Pasta With Walnuts And Mushrooms

This one’s dead simple, dead quick and dead-free.

Recipe for 1 hearty appetite, scale down / up as needed.

  • 100g pasta of your choice (I like conchiglie)
  • Knob of margarine or 1/2 – 1 tbs veg oil
  • 1/4 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 125g mushrooms, sliced (use chestnut mushies if possible)
  • 60g shelled walnuts (pieces are fine)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 125ml vegan cream (or 1 tsp cornflour mixed in with 125ml soya milk)
  • Fresh shredded basil (optional), salt and pepper to taste

Get a pan of water on the boil and cook pasta according to instructions. If you’ve got the rest of the ingredients ready(ish), you should be able to get it together in around 10 mins easily. If the pasta finishes before the rest of the recipe, just drain it then leave it covered until you’re ready.

Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking or stirring often, until starting to darken, then pulse them in a food processor for a few seconds so they’re chopped into small bits and set aside.

Add the marg / oil to the pan and melt / heat for 30 seconds or so, then add the onion and fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until starting to soften. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue to fry for a few more minutes, again stirring regularly, until the mushies are cooked to how you like ’em. Add a good grind of black pepper, throw in the walnuts and stir through for 30 seconds, then add the lemon juice and give it another 10 seconds of mixing.

Add the cream and stir through for a minute until it’s hot. If you use the milk / cornflour combo, pour in slowly while continually stirring to avoid lumps.

Finally, throw the pasta in the pan along with the basil and mix until everything’s coated with everything else. Give it a taste and add any extra salt and pepper if you need it. Slop into a big bowl and eat. Make sure you’ve got some salad on hand too. And a nice glass of wine.

Walnut & mushroom pasta

Falafel

Falafels have kept me alive and healthy when I’ve been visiting places where veganism is an almost unknown quantity. They’ve maintained me in a similar state even where veganism is well understood as they’re one of the cheapest ultra-healthy foodstuffs you can buy. A pitta stuffed with falafel and salad is pretty much everything you need to sustain full fighting and drinking strength.

They’re also dead easy to make at home with stuff that any self-respecting vegan should have in their cupboard, fridge and garden / windowsill. Once the mix is made, it takes mere seconds to cook and serve ’em up. With the summer settling in and lazing about with mates being the best way to spend an evening, falafels are the perfect accompaniment.

Makes 10 falafels, scale up as needed.

  • 175g / 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½-1 tsp salt
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed / finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • A handful of fresh parsley and / or coriander, chopped
  • 1 fresh chili (red for spicy, green for not quite so), finely chopped or a good pinch of chili flakes
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • A good grind of pepper
  • Veg oil for frying

Rinse the chickpeas and soak in cold water for 24 hours. Drain then pat dry in a tea towel.

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a pan on a low heat, shaking often, until beginning to colour and release a lovely smell. Grind them coarsely in a pestle and mortar or spice mill.

Uncooked falafel

Uncooked falafel

Put the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse for a minute or two. You’ll need to stop regularly and scrape down the sides to make sure they get properly smashed up. About halfway through add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until fully combined. The finished mix should be gritty (like couscous grains or bulghur wheat) rather than totally puréed. Remember too that this is the basic recipe, you can jazz ’em up with different flavourings as you see fit.

Put the mix into a bowl, cover with clingfilm, and chill for a couple of hours in the fridge.

Pour oil into a wok to around 1″ deep, just enough to cover the falafels, and put on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until nice and hot. Take about a large walnut’s worth of mix and flatten slightly into a small burger shape. Put as many falafels as will comfortably fit into the wok. Cook for a couple of minutes each side until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and place onto kitchen towels to soak up any excess oil. Alternatively, deep fry at around 175°C.

Serve in pitta or tortillas with a load of salad and, if you really like chickpeas, a big smear of hummus too. For more punch use a chili sauce. You can also make a tahini or soya yoghurt sauce to drizzle over, or maybe try a squeeze of lemon or lime. A couple of fresh mint leaves roughly torn and sprinkled on also works really well. In fact, customise ’em however you like. It’s all good.

Cooked falafel

The finished article

No-Fail Nut Roast

I’ve been using this recipe, with various twists, for more than twenty years, and it’s never let me down. I don’t claim any credit for its creation. That goes to Amanda Sweet, author of the long-out-of-print Vegan Health Plan. If you can find this book second-hand, grab it. I’d rate it as one of the best books on vegan nutrition out there, and the recipes generally make good on their promise to deliver tasty and wholesome vegan food. It may appear to be a bit wholefoodish, but the end product is usually at least pretty decent and it’s definitely a firm foundation for creative vegan cooking.

Serves 4.

  • 175g (wholemeal) breadcrumbs
  • 175g finely chopped nuts (one type or mixed e.g hazel, cashew, walnut)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbs margarine
  • 150ml strong stock
  • 1 tbs tomato pureé
  • 1 tsp yeast extract or miso
  • Rind and juice of a small lemon
  • 1 tsp each of dried sage and thyme
  • Black pepper

Preheat oven to 190C and grease a 1 litre ovenproof dish or 1 kilo loaf tin.

Fry onion and garlic in margarine on a gentle heat until soft. Remove from the heat and add the nuts, breadcrumbs, tomato pureé, yeast extract / miso, lemon rind and juice and herbs. Season well with black pepper and mix thoroughly. If you’ve not made breadcrumbs before, it’s dead easy – just blitz chunks of fresh or slightly stale bread in a food processor / blender until they resemble breadcrumbs. It’s usually best done in two or three lots to stop the blade getting clogged up.

Add enough stock to moisten and bind the ingredients together – more for a moister roast, less for a firmer one that can be sliced. Just don’t make it too sloppy.

Press into the prepared dish, cover with foil and bake for an hour. Take the foil off for the last 15 minutes to brown the top.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes and remove from the dish ready to slice for serving (you can also leave it in the dish and serve it straight from that). Plate up with roast tatties, heaps of veg, lashings of gravy and a glass of whatever you like, scoff, burp and feel content with life.

It’s easy to play with this mix too – I often finely dice a couple of mushrooms and add ’em to the onion when I’m frying that then put a layer of thinly sliced raw mushroom in the middle of the loaf when I’m pressing it into the tin. I’ve done a similar thing with a layer of herby stuffing. A grated carrot or two makes a nice change, and the author also recommends trying a grated cooking apple (which I haven’t, yet).

The firm version really does slice well, and is great in a sandwich with a bit of sweet pickle. Reheating is easy in the microwave, or you can even fry it if you don’t mind a bit of extra fat.

Red Lentil, Coconut & Lime Dhal

This is my own adaptation of one of my favourite comfort foods, the humble lentil dhal, made more sexy and substantial with the addition of a load of lovely veg. It goes great with plain basmati rice, a good leafy salad and maybe a chapati too. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients either, it’s only a few steps to actually pull it all together.

Serves 4-6.

  • 1 tbs oil for frying
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 200g carrot, diced
  • 200g potato, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 200g red lentils
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3cm knob fresh ginger, shredded / finely chopped
  • 2 tbs coriander seed
  • 2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seed
  • 1 tsp onion seed
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 250g fresh tomatoes blitzed in 200ml water
  • 600ml water
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • A big handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Salt to taste

Heat the oil over a medium-low heat and add the onion, carrot and celery. Fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then add the spuds and continue to fry for a few minutes more until the veg is just starting to soften. While it’s cooking, dry roast the coriander seeds in a pan then crush them in a pestle and mortar or spice mill.

Add the garlic, ginger, crushed coriander seed, cumin seed, mustard seed, onion seed, chili flakes and turmeric powder to the veg mix and stirfry for another couple of minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and water, mix in the lentils and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and gently boil for 10 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, cover again and then simmer for another 30 minutes until the lentils are soft (if it all starts getting a bit thick, just add a bit more water). Stir in the lime juice, coriander and salt to taste and you’re good to go.

Dhal

Mushroom & Lentil Crumble

Now’s the time of year to start thinking about heartier foods, the kind of solid scran you need to get you through the long cold nights and grey days. Crumbles are ideal, and not just the sweet ones that you can pack with seasonal fruits (blackberries in particular are superb right now). This recipe provides a substantial savoury mouthful that sits well with mashed spuds, Savoy cabbage, carrots, green beans, peas and gravy (don’t scrimp on this, half a pint per person is my standard measure).

Serves 4.

Mushroom & Lentil Crumble

Crumble:

  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 50g toasted chopped hazelnuts
  • 4 tbs (1/4 cup) nutritional yeast or 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 75g vegan marg
  • Pepper to season

Filling:

  • 100g dried Puy (French Green) lentils
  • Bay leaf
  • (Olive) oil for frying
  • 175g mushrooms (try chestnut), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2-3 banana shallots, finely chopped (you could also use a large onion or a leek)
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbs fresh sage, finely chopped
  • Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 60 ml Madeira / sherry / other wine / stock
  • Pepper to season

Bring a litre or so of water to the boil, add the lentils and bayleaf, boil rapidly for 10 mins then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until lentils are soft.

While they’re cooking, make the crumble topping by first mixing the wholemeal flour, oats, hazelnuts, nutritional yeast, thyme and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the marg in chunks and start rubbing it into the dry mix until it’s well combined and resembles chunky breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Now for the filling. Add some olive oil or marg to a frying pan over a medium heat. Put the shallots and celery in the pan and fry for 5-10 mins, stirring regularly, until the shallots are just beginning to caramelise (turn brown). Then add the mushrooms and garlic and fry for a few minutes more. The mushrooms should soften and start releasing their juices. Mix in the fresh sage then give the whole lot a good grind of pepper and a splash of Worcestershire sauce if using. Pour in the alcohol and continue stirring until most of it has evaporated, then sprinkle on the 2 tsp of flour and cook for another minute, still stirring.

By now, the lentils should be ready. Drain them and pour some of the cooking water (a few tablespoons should do) into the mushroom mix. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly, so you end up with just enough thickish sauce to coat everything. Remove the pan from the heat, add the drained lentils and give the whole lot another good stir to mix it up.

Pour the mushroom and lentil mix into the bottom of a deep ovenproof dish (around 15-20cm diameter) then cover with the crumble topping and lightly press down. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for around 40 minutes until golden then serve with all the trimmings. For extra comfort, have a glass of mulled red wine or cider too.

Culinary Anarchy!

Conscious Kitchen logoThe Conscious Kitchen
I found this blog via the rather excellent VegBlogs (another new blogroll addition that collects a fine set of vegan bloggers together in one handy place). It’s a cracking piece of work too, with Emilie (the author) showing just how exciting and flavoursome vegan food can, and should, be. Her blog is packed full of inspirational writing, clever ideas and stunning photographs that made me drool all over my keyboard.

The very first post I read was the author’s tale of the inspiration she’d found from getting her hands on a copy of ‘Soy Not Oi!’ (the closest thing you’ll ever find to a vegan punk bible) the best part of 20 years back, and then, just a couple of years ago, meeting up with J@ck, one of the original authors, and then, just for the hell of it, creating a celebratory 40th birthday meal for him using her battered (battered as in well-used, not dipped in batter) first edition of the book as the starting point and then, while chowing down on the (very tasty looking) end result, deciding to do a twentieth anniversary version. Like you do.

I always liked to cook when I was a kid, but I was quite a finicky eater. Once I’d left home, however, I had the freedom to really play in the kitchen, to try food in new ways (no more boiled-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life cabbage), to challenge my own tastebuds and capabilities (although I still can’t find a way to prepare aubergine that makes it any more attractive than eating a well-spiced slug), to cook how I wanted to cook, and things quickly changed. The fact that this independence also coincided with my move to veganism opened up a whole new world of epicurean pleasure, one that I’m still exploring to this day.

Soy Not Oi coverWhen I discovered ‘Soy Not Oi!’, it chimed perfectly with my by then well-developed approach. I didn’t always know what some of the ingredients were (especially the commercial pre-packaged stuff that pops up now and again), and cup measurements took a bit of getting used to – back then I didn’t have a clue what the volume of an American cup was, so had to guess and do a lot of experimenting to get things just right with some of the recipes, where exact quantities are necessary for things to turn out roughly as you’d expect them to (and not as some inedible swamp-like sludge or dry-as-a-nun’s-chuff lump). Now I’ve got some proper measuring cups, it ain’t half as difficult to get things right first time. But I learnt a lot of useful things without ’em (not least that a stick of margarine is about 4oz or 115g in the non-American world).

I bought five copies of the book back in the day, gave four away as birthday presents and kept one for myself. Like Emilie’s copy, mine too became so much more than a few dozen pages cranked out and stapled together by some young miscreants. It became an essential part of my life. The food is just one element. The attitude is far more important, striking a deep chord that still resonates in me all these years down the line.

Sadly, my original copy was lost in action somewhere along the line a few years back. Happily, AK Press have reprinted it and made it available for the next wave of culinarchists (UK readers can get it for a wallet-friendly £4 from Active Distro). My new(ish) copy is now back where it rightfully belongs, ready for action on my cookbook shelf and still getting the creative juices and saliva flowing.

J@ck and Emilie are looking for contributions to the anniversary edition and are “hoping to collect new recipes and non-recipes, jumping off points for diy explorations to fuel a new generation of vegan masterminds”. If you’d like to join in, email Emilie at emilie@consciouskitchen.net.

While you’re waiting for it to appear, do what I intend to do and check out Emilie’s blog on a regular basis. Your tastebuds will love you forever.

OP’s opinion for both: Five