Hummus – cheap, easy, quick, nutritious and a vegan sandwich staple! What more could a hungry punk want?

Makes a decent bowlful for a few people to share

  • 1 400g can of chick peas (approx 250g cooked weight)
  • 1-2 tbs tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic, depending on how much you like garlic, peeled
  • 3 tbs olive oil (you can use veg oil or a mix of veg and olive if you’re poor)
  • 2 tbs water
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt & pepper

Throw everything into a food processor of some description (the mini ones you often get with hand blenders are perfect, or you can just use a hand blender if you don’t mind it a bit more rustic). Blend everything until it starts to become smooth. You’ll probably need to add a bit more water at this stage to make it creamy but still stiff enough to just about make peaks in the mix. Keep blending for a few minutes until it’s soft and silky. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ideal in pitta bread with salad, as a dip, or on toast with fresh sliced tomatoes and shredded basil.

Cover and refrigerate any leftovers, it’ll keep for a day or two that way (mine rarely lasts that long).

You can vary this easily – for a Thai-style dip (one of my faves), replace the lemon with lime, then add a good pinch of chili flakes (or powder) and a decent amount of fresh chopped coriander (you can add these after you’ve finished blending it for a funkier appearance). Also try adding 1/2-1 tsp of toasted and crushed cumin and/or coriander seeds during the blending for something a bit more pungent. Experiment!

Mushroom & Pea Risotto

Rice is a very versatile thing and makes a good base for both summer and winter meals. Risotto takes a little bit of effort during the cooking, but it’s nothing too excessive for the soft n’ creamy end result. You can easily vary the ingredients to change the experience quite dramatically. This particular version is quite ‘meaty’ without being too heavy, with a lovely fresh piquancy from the other bits and bobs.

Serves two people with good appetites.

  • 15ml olive oil
  • 15ml vegan margarine
  • 200g arborio (risotto) rice
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthways
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 25g dried mushrooms (porcini are ideal), rehydrated, or 200g fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 150g petit pois or garden peas
  • 5ml fennel seeds
  • Black pepper
  • 5ml finely chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme is particularly good)
  • 125ml white wine
  • Juice of half a small lemon
  • 500ml stock (water and a stock cube is fine, mushroom soaking water and a stock cube is better)
  • A few strips of lemon zest
  • 3-4 basil leaves, shredded

Put the stock and lemon zest in a small pan with a lid and keep over the lowest possible heat you can – enough to just keep it simmering very gently.

Gently heat the oil and marg in a deep frying pan. Fry the onion, celery and garlic for a few minutes until beginning to soften. Add the fennel seeds and fry for a minute or so. Add the mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes more. Add the rice and a good grind of black pepper, and gently stir for a few minutes until it becomes translucent. You may need to add an extra dribble of oil during this stage if things start to stick. Stir in the white wine and keep stirring for a minute or two until the wine has been absorbed and evaporated.

Add the lemon juice and a ladle-full of the stock and stir into the rice and veg. You can either continue to gently stir as the stock is absorbed, or you can just stir it every minute or two if you’re lazy. The heat should be just high enough to keep everything gently simmering. Keep doing this until all the stock is used up and the rice is soft and creamy (it’ll take around 40 minutes from the first ladle). Add the thyme about halfway through cooking and stir in. You may need to add another ladle or two of water if the stock runs out before the rice is cooked.

Start cooking the peas 5-10 minutes before the rice is ready (petit pois take about 4-5 mins to steam). Drain and stir into the rice mixture when it’s ready to serve.

Dish up and sprinkle on the basil, add a good salad with balsamic vinegar and oil dressing (1 part balsamic vinegar, 4 parts olive oil, salt and pepper, also herbs and/or garlic if the mood takes), pour a glass of whatever white you used for the recipe, and try to eat it in the garden with the warm summer evening sun on your face.

Oh, and happy May Day to proles everywhere. Keep it real.

Do-It-Yourself Takeaway

I’m a curry-holic. Curries are cheap, tasty, comforting and, made properly, some of the most nutritious food known to vegankind. Over the years I’ve learned how to make some pretty good dishes. Nowadays I feel confident enough with spices to generally not use cookbook recipes as anything more than a starting point. These two recipes are quick and easy enough for anyone to have a go at. There may be quite a few different spices included but you can substitute pretty much whatever you have to hand if you’re adventurous and don’t mind taking a chance.

Serves about 3 hearty appetites.

Chana Masala

This is also known as chhole or, if you’re dead common, chickpea curry. Whatever it’s called, it’s one of my faves.

  • 15ml vegetable ghee
  • 2cm piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 5ml cumin seeds
  • 5ml yellow mustard seeds
  • 2.5-5ml dried chilli flakes
  • 10ml ground coriander
  • 10ml paprika
  • 5ml tamarind paste concentrate
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 2cm cube fresh ginger, shredded
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 400g tinned chickpeas
  • 200g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt

Mix the coriander and paprika with a little water to make a paste and set aside. Melt the ghee over a low heat and fry the onion and celery for about 15 mins until soft. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, chilli flakes, garlic and ginger and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the coriander and paprika paste and stir for another minute. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes (I prefer to liquidise mine), tamarind and sugar, stir well and bring gently to the boil. Add salt to taste and it’s ready. Like most curries, this improves if left to sit for a few hours then gently reheated before serving.

Sprinkle some fresh coriander on it just before you slop it on the plate with the spud recipe below.

Bombay Aloo

For me, potato is the perfect accompaniment to just about everything, but served as a dryish curry it sits particularly well alongside the chickpeas.

  • 500g small / new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 30ml vegetable ghee
  • 2 medium onions, quartered and sliced
  • 8 dried curry leaves
  • 5ml dried chilli flakes
  • 2.5ml onion seeds
  • 2.5ml black mustard seeds
  • 2.5ml fennel seeds
  • 5ml turmeric powder
  • 2.5ml cumin powder
  • 2.5ml amchoor (mango) powder
  • 1.25ml asafoetida powder
  • 5ml lemon juice
  • Salt

Mix the turmeric, cumin, amchoor and asafoetida with a little water to make a paste and set aside. Steam (or gently boil) the potatoes for around 15 mins until soft. While they’re cooking, melt the ghee over a low heat and fry the onions for about 15 mins until beginning to soften and go clear. Add the curry leaves, chilli, onion, mustard and fennel seeds and stir fry for 2 mins. Add the spice paste and lemon juice and stir fry for another minute. Mix in the potatoes and coat well in the spice mixture. Add salt to taste. As above, leave this to sit for a few hours if you can, reheat and serve with the chana and some basmati rice.

Break open a beer, stuff your face and relish the warm and content glow that spreads inside you.

Smoky Cider Casserole

A recipe perfect for the winter months (with a small glass of cider into the bargain). Serves 3-4 depending on how hungry you are.

  • 1 block (approx 200g) smoked tofu, cubed and marinated in shoyu or tamari for a few hours
  • 250ml dry cider (I’d recommend Westons Strong Organic Cider)
  • 1 tin (approx 400g) tomatoes, liquidised
  • 1 tin (approx 400g) baked beans
  • 2 medium onions (red if available), halved and thickly sliced lengthways
  • 2 medium carrots, thickly sliced
  • 4 sticks celery, thickly sliced
  • 4 medium potatoes, quartered
  • 200g mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 125g sweetcorn
  • 1 red pepper cut into 2.5cm chunks
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped (optional)
  • Bay leaf
  • 1-2 fresh sage leaves, shredded
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tsp or to taste chili powder / flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbs paprika powder
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (I use Kallo organic stock cubes)
  • 1 tbs tomato puree
  • 1-2 tsp wholegrain mustard (optional)
  • 1 heaped tsp cornflour mixed into a thin paste

Preheat an oven to 180°C (gas mark 4, 350°F). Steam the potatoes and carrots for 10 mins until just starting to soften on the outside. While they’re cooking, fry the tofu in a little oil until browned all over. If you don’t have tofu, use 4-6 vegan sausages or some Sosmix balls instead (cut sausages into quarters when cooked).

Put all of the vegetables, including the potatoes and carrots, and tofu into a large casserole dish and mix together. Add the tomato puree, stock cube (crumbled), mustard, chili, paprika and herbs, pour over the beans, tomatoes, cider, cornflour and enough water to bring the liquid to just below the top of the veg mix, and mix again. Add a good grind of black pepper and put a lid on the casserole dish. Place into the oven and cook for approx 1 1/2 hours, gently mixing every 30 mins, until everything is soft and the liquid has thickened (you can add a bit more liquid during cooking if it’s getting too thick).

I sometimes turn the heat down to around 150°C (gas mark 2, 300°F) after 45 mins then give it an hour and a half or so at this temp to really slow the cooking down and intensify the flavours.

Drink the rest of the bottle of cider while you’re waiting.

Serve with steamed Savoy cabbage, a chunk of bread if you’ve got a healthy appetite, and another bottle of cider.

Tastes even better the next day, so try and save a portion. Difficult, I know, but your tongue and belly will thank you.

Green Your Eats!

Thursday 1st November is World Vegan Day, a chance for vegans globally to show just how positive veganism is. And not just for the animals we don’t kill, but also for our own wellbeing and for the health of the planet. In fact, this year the focus will be on the ecological catastrophe that is animal farming. ‘Eating The Earth? How Your Diet Could Change The World’ (PDF) pulls together the evidence and makes a forceful case for veganism for those who claim to be concerned with environmental issues.

I’ll be inviting a few friends round for some good vegan nosh, sociable amounts of alcohol and a bit of high- and low-brow debate to mark the day. I don’t expect my bonecrunching friends to give up eating dead stuff, but if they eat a bit less of it it’s no bad thing.

There are plenty of excellent vegan recipes online – I’d particularly recommend Post Punk Kitchen for some really top-class fancy examples of vegan cuisine. The rich chocolate cake is the best cake I’ve ever eaten, vegan or otherwise, a view shared by most of those who’ve also tried it. But to help you get started, here’s one of my own creations.

Tofu & Veg Thai Curry

It’s sometimes hard to find food that is both light and substantial, but Thai food is generally just that. Lots of fresh flavours, sharp spicing and a certain creamy fattiness all make for a lovely mouthful. It’s also bloody quick.

This recipe uses Thai curry paste, which isn’t cheating as the fresh ingredients can be a bit of a bugger to find sometimes (and even harder to prepare – lemon grass should definitely be renamed lemon wood to honestly reflect how tough it is). One thing to watch out for – many Thai pastes contain fish in one form or another, so check the label carefully – I use the ‘Maesri’ brand.

Serves 2-3.

  • 1-2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 150g of smoked or marinated tofu cut into cubes (Taifun smoked tofu with almonds and sesame seeds is very good in this recipe)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 stick celery, sliced diagonally
  • 2-3 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8 medium florets broccoli, halved
  • 75g sweetcorn
  • 75g green beans, sliced, or fine green beans topped, tailed and cut in half
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced
  • Half a red pepper, halved lengthways again and sliced
  • 2 tbs vegan red or green Thai curry paste (or according to your brand’s instructions)
  • 3/4 -1 tin (approx 3-400g) coconut milk
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 tbs shoyu, tamari or vegetarian ‘fish / oyster’ sauce
  • Fresh basil (Thai if available), shredded

Heat the oil in a wok or big frying pan over a medium high heat for a minute, then throw in the tofu and stir fry until starting to brown. Add the carrots, celery, shallots, garlic, broccoli, sweetcorn and beans, and continue to stir fry for about 4 mins. Add the mushrooms and pepper and stir fry for 2 mins, add the curry paste and fry for a further min. Pour in the coconut milk so there’s enough liquid for your own preferences, lime juice and shoyu / tamari / ‘fish’ sauce and heat until it starts to bubble, then remove from heat. If you like your veg a bit softer, then let it simmer for a few more mins in the coconut milk. Stir in the shredded basil to taste and dollop over rice (white works best with this recipe, both basmati and jasmine rice are excellent and will cook in the time it takes you to make the curry).

Best eaten with a spoon to get all the juices (call me simple, but I always prefer an easy shovel motion to the complex two-handed approach when eating saucy foods).

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