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This is not a post for vegans, this is a post for people who are lumbered with/ overjoyed to be catering for vegans, and would like to look amazing. 

Introducing more vegan meals to the family, is a part of my gradual move from vegetarian to vegan. For my own sanity, it needs to be gradual, because while the move away from meat being an easy one – don’t ask, it involves Edwina Curry, a bacon sarnie and a major epiphany – I find the idea of never again eating seafood utterly fucking terrifying.

I'm also horrendously bad at planning ahead when it comes to meals, which it turns out is rather important when it comes to having some of the go-to ingredients for vegan cooking. No mind, I'm an ex Girl Guide, so below are three very forgiving recipes, complete with my notes on how I mangled them.

Pulled Pork with BBQ sauce


Our friend was coming over for a BBQ, and having seen the endless shares of that BBQ jack fruit video on social media, I was keen to give it a try. Unfortunately, when it came to actually do something with a tin full of anaemic fruit segments, I couldn't find the video for love nor money, so I tracked down something that seemed to follow similar lines.

To cook the jack fruit, I used this recipe from The Minimalist Baker:

         2 20-ounce cans young green jack fruit in water (NOT in syrup or brine)
I had a single tin – no idea how big – and it was plenty for my dinner and lunch the next day
         1/4 cup BBQ seasoning (2 Tbsp brown sugar + 1 tsp paprika + 1 tsp garlic powder + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp pepper + 1/2 tsp chili powder)
My version, based on what I had in the cupboard: (1tbsp Muscovado sugar + 1tsp paprika + pinch of salt + crack of pepper)

Method:

1. Drain tin and cut the cores off the segments. In reality, I’m not sure if you NEED to do this, unless you are a super stickler for that “shredded pork texture”. 

2. Throw the BBQ seasoning and jack fruit in a pan and sauté. Make sure you get lots of crispy bits on the outsides, which will probably happen as soon as you turn away to refill your wine glass, because that’s what sugar does when you’re not looking. 

3. Dump a mugful of water into the pan, and stir to “deglaze” the pan/ save the pan from sugary death, and then turn down to a simmer. Feel free to get on with other things at this point, but keep an ear out for the water evaporating, and the sugar bonding permanently with your pan, and top up with water until the jack fruit is fall apart soft, the sauce has once again reduced, or you get bored. 

4. Use a fork or a spatula to squish the segments so that they splay out into pork like fronds. 

5. Spoon over a few tablespoons of the BBQ sauce of your choice (we used Jamie Oliver’s one

6. Stuff into the bready receptacle of your choice, and watch indulgently as the vegan in your life shovels it into their face with the grace, and restraint, of a starved wolverine.   

Koftas and shiitake mushroom curry


I made this recipe in response to Keith’s demand that I “make something special” with the purple cauliflower we got in our weekly veggie box. Jeez, way to heap on the pressure there, chief. I was scanning through one of my go-to books, and I came across a Paneer Kofta recipe that gave me an idea.

I amended the sauce recipe from Anjum’s recipe thusly:

50g cashew nuts
I only had almonds, because for some reason we only ever have almonds, so I used those instead.
8 tablespoons vegetable oil
I used waaaaaay less than this, 2 glugs at most.
3 black cardamom pods
Green cardamom pods work just fine
2 large onions, sliced
That’s one onion too many for my household
25g root ginger, grated, (peeled weight)
Check
4 fat garlic cloves, peeled and grated
Double check
4 large tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons tomato puree
I used a tin of chopped tomatoes instead.
1/2-3/4 teaspoon chilli powder
With my children?!? Nope!
1 rounded tablespoon ground coriander
Triple check
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
I used 2tsps, because I love cumin
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
I can’t be bothered with 1/3 tsps, one whole tsp is my minimum
2 teaspoons garam masala
I may have gone big on the garam masala.
salt, to taste
Oops, forgot
5-6 tablespoons double cream, plus more to serve
Not very helpful for a vegan, so I used a tin of coconut milk instead
1 rounded teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
I don’t have these. I don’t know anyone who does have these.

Method:

1.Put the almonds in a dish and cover them with boiling water for 15 minutes

2. Put the onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor with a little water and blitz to a paste 

3. Add some oil to a pan and cook gentle until the onion stops trying to murder your senses 

4. Add the spices and cook until they become fragrant. You know they are ready when members of the family put their head round the door “just to see what’s going on”, even though they ate lunch 30 minutes ago and can’t possibly still be hungry. 

5. Add the tinned tomatoes and soaked almonds to the food processor and blitz until smooth 

6. Add to the pan and cook for 10 minutes. 

7. Add the tin of coconut milk, slap a lid on the whole deal, turn the hob down to “barely a bubble” and leave to mellow for as many hours as you have in the day. If you manage to make this the day before it will be even better.

In order to make some vegan friendly koftas, I wanted to keep it simple to let the cauliflower come through, sing, of whatever else TV chefs say about wafty vegetables. I found a super easy recipe at The Almond Eater which only needed a little adaptation:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
There is no quinoa in my house. Couscous worked very well instead
2 cups water
You only need 1 cup of  boiling water with couscous
1 cauliflower head
Mine was purple. Because special.
2 garlic cloves
Check
¾ cup gluten free breadcrumbs
Mine were full gluten. Extra on the gluten in fact, because that’s what I had.
2 tbsp flour (preferably all purpose, whole wheat or oat)
Just plain flour. Sorry. Will do better next time. Am not whole food goddess just yet.

5 dried porcini mushrooms

Method:

1. Chop the cauliflower into vague florets and put them in a pan of water to par cook. 

2. In a food processor, turn the dried porcini into powder (I was close, but I got bored waiting) and add it to a bowl with the couscous and boiling water. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. 

3. If using actual bread, put in food processor and turn into breadcrumbs. Add to bowl. 

4. Drain cauliflower allow to cool a little, put in food processor with garlic cloves and blitz to teeny tiny bits. Add to bowl. 

5. Mix the bowl contents around for a bit. It will look like it will never stick together, and will fall apart as soon as you try and cook it, so sprinkle the flour over (and keep mixing through) and then start squishing the mix together in your hands like a toddler holding a hamster. Keep going until the whole thing turns into a cohesive and stiff mass. If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour and keep hamster killing until it feels firmly bonded. 

6. This is where I go old school: get a wok, or a deep pan, or a deep fat fryer and get it heating up. Sorry to the healthy people out there, I'm over the "lightly fried and then baked" method of cooking, if you're gonna be a bear, be a grizzly. Don't even get me started on oven baked chups.

7. Roll the mix into golf ball sized meatballs and drop into the hot oil in small batches. 

8. Eventually you will end up with a platter of cooked cauliflower balls and some creamy sauce. Combine, serve with rice or flat bread and enjoy.

Chocolate and Fig Cookies


In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit that the other members of the family were a lot more impressed with these cookies from The Minimalist Baker than I was. I have certain expectations when it comes to cookies; they have to be a certain texture and because of my lack of forward planning of such staples as almond meal, I think I strayed dangerously close to land of cakey texture. I think if my mind had been expecting baked cake bites instead of cookies, I would have been set.

1 cup dates, packed and pitted (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, then drained)
I used 1 cup of dried figs instead and they worked so, so very well
1 medium ripe banana (~1/2 cup mashed)
I may have under bananad. In hindsight, this was a big error.
2 Tbsp salted creamy peanut butter
I used Fix and Fogg's chocolate peanut butter. Next time, I will use a little more.
1 cup almond meal (ground from raw almonds)
This is where I ran out of talent and had to use normal self raising flour instead. I hang my head in gluteny shame.
1 cup rolled oats (gluten free for GF eaters)
I put these in raw, as they recipe suggests. Next time, I think I will toast them first.

Method:

1. Set oven to 180oC and pray oven is having a good, even, cooking day.

2. Put soaked-and-drained figs into a food processor and turn into fig-fetti.

3. Add banana and peanut butter and combine.


4. Add the flour/ almond meal and oats and pulse until the whole lot comes together. If, like me, it comes together suspiciously easily and doesn't look like the dough above, you need more banana.

5. Take out a muffin tin, spray with oil and dollop a good tablespoon of dough into each muffin dimple.

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and firm. Turf onto cooling rack and leave to cool.

7. Set aside expectations of cookies, and instead enjoy the rich flavour and virtuous texture.

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