Jean’s Pasta Salad

Bring this pasta salad to the family barbecue, and if it’s all you can eat there, you’re still not missing out.
With lots of thanks to my friend Jean for giving me the recipe, which I’ve only slightly adapted.

Ingredients

For the salad
500 g whole-wheat pasta, cooked till al dente, rinsed with cold water until stone cold
3 peppers, finely diced
2 bunches of spring onions, sliced finely
15 g fresh basil, chopped or torn
130 g semi-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 sticks of celery, sliced finely
100 g sliced green olives
250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained
1 small bag of pine nuts, toasted

For the dressing
1/3 cup/80 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 largish cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried oregano.

Preparation

– Mix all the salad ingredients (except the pine nuts, if you’re making it for later) in a large bowl.
– Mix all the ingredients for the dressing, pour over the salad and mix well. Chill in the fridge.
– Add pine nuts when you are ready to eat.

Pizza, Vegan of Few Words-Style

It’s great that pizza places have vegan options these days, but you can’t beat homemade pizza, imo. Also, making pizza yourself is dirt cheap.

Ingredients

– 1 quantity of my pizza dough (for two large pizzas)

– 1 quantity of my super easy tomato sauce

– Any vegan toppings you like. I, perhaps controversially, like a ‘naked’ pizza but there are some good mozzarella-style vegan cheeses. If you leave the cheese off, drizzle some olive oil over your pizza before you put it in the oven.

Preparation

– Preheat the oven to 200 Celsius fan (preferred if you’re baking two large pizzas at the same time) or 220 Celsius regular oven.

– Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment.

– Roll out the dough, spread the tomato sauce on it and scatter over your toppings.

– Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

My Super Easy Tomato Sauce

It can barely be called a recipe, but it does make a quick and delicious tomato sauce. Use it on pizza, with pasta, or wherever you need a marinara-type sauce.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, finely grated (preferred) or finely chopped

400 g tin of (organic) chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp dried Italian herbs

Generous pinch of (coarse sea) salt

Preparation

– Pour the oil into a small lidded saucepan and add the grated garlic. NOW heat the oil on a low heat, stirring every now and again until the garlic starts to sizzle but not brown.

– Add the tomatoes, herbs and salt and mix well.

– Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then turn heat down slightly.

– With the lid half on (to prevent splattering) simmer and thicken the sauce for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times.

– Using a (stick) blender, blitz the sauce until smooth.

My Pizza Dough

You need a pizza dough recipe in your repertoire. This dough is healthy(ish), versatile and easy to make.

Ingredients

175 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

175 g wholemeal flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp fast-action yeast

250 ml tepid water

1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tbsp for greasing bowl

Preparation

I use a standing mixer to knead this dough, so I will first give instructions for that. Instructions for mixing and kneading by hand follow below.

– Put the two types of flour in the bowl of your standing mixer and, using the flat paddle attachment, mix them well.

– Add yeast and salt and mix again.

– Keep the machine running and, still using the flat paddle attachment, add the oil and then the water, pouring it in slowly. I find a wettish dough that you can *just* handle gives the best result, but you may not want to add all of the water. Go by eye and remember that you can always add more water later.

– Stop the mixer when your dough is a shaggy mess and attach the dough hook to the machine. Let the machine knead the dough for about 8 minutes, or until elastic and smooth.

– Instructions for kneading by hand: mix flours, yeast and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour oil and water in the well and, using your hand or a wooden/silicone spoon, gradually work in the flour, taking it from the sides of the well until you have a shaggy dough. Transfer dough to work surface (I use a silicone baking mat) dusted with flour and knead the dough until elastic and smooth (about 10 minutes).

– Lightly dust your work surface (I use a silicone baking mat) with flour. On this surface, divide the dough into 2 balls, or more smaller ones, depending on how many (mini) pizzas you want to make.

– Pour the remaining tbsp of oil into a bowl and roll the dough balls in the oil so they are covered with a thin layer of oil on all sides.

– Cover the bowl with cling film or a wet towel (I use a plastic, reusable shower cap) and let stand for 45 minute to 1 hour.

– Voilà, your dough is ready to roll out and use.

Seitan Meatballs

Seitan is great, but the stuff you can buy ready-made looks like chunks of E.T. floating in formaldehyde. So make these balls instead.

Wet ingredients

75 g cannelini beans from a tin

250 ml vegan vegetable stock

2 tbsp soy sauce

Dry ingredients

155 g gluten flour/vital wheat gluten

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 heaped tbsp spice mix of your choice (I’ve used picadillo spices, merguez spices, and curry powder but the sky is the limit, really).

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Preparation

– Blend all the wet ingredients using a (stick) blender or small processor.

– Mix all the dry ingredients in a largish bowl.

– Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix, but only until all the white flecks of gluten flour have disappeared. DO NOT OVERMIX OR KNEAD. Sorry about the caps but this is crucial.

– Divide the seitan mixture into 6 balls (about 83 grams each) and wrap each ball in aluminum foil.

– Steam the balls for 40 minutes. I do this in the Instant Pot. Pour 250 mls/1 cup of water in the Instant Pot and put the wrapped seitan balls on the trivet. Steam for 40 minutes on high pressure and release pressure manually.

– Eat straight away or cool and store until you are ready to eat. I usually braise/heat these up in gravy.

Basic Baked Tofu

This method will take the blandness off your tofu, yet make it just neutral enough to use in pretty much every dish you want to add tofu to.

It also gives tofu a great, chewy texture.

Ingredients

450 g of firm/extra firm tofu (I use Singh Tahoe brand), sliced into three slabs lengthwise

1/1.5 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp Chinese rice wine

1 tbsp sriracha sauce

Method

– Press the slabs of tofu by placing them between sheets of kitchen towel and putting weight on them. I use two chopping boards and a heavy, cast-iron pan to weigh it all down. Let stand for an hour.

– Dice the tofu. I cut every slab into three slices, then chop those into six pieces. Anyway, just think bite size.

– Mix the wet ingredients in a shallow container with a lid. Add the tofu and mix again. The sauce needs to *just* cover the tofu. Put on the lid.

– Let stand for at least an hour, carefully shaking the container or turning it over to coat the tofu once or twice. Marinating the tofu longer won’t hurt (at all). The tofu will absorb all the moisture.

– Preheat the oven to 200 C, line a baking tray with baking parchment.

– Bake the tofu for 30/40 minutes, turning it every 10 minutes or so (no need to be overly precise, just give the cubes a quick flip with a flat spatula).

– Bake until it looks firm and slightly charred.

– Take the tray out of the oven and let the tofu cool. It will firm up even more as it cools.

– Either use it in a dish straight away or store it in the fridge or freezer to use later.

Chocolate and Walnut Banana Bread

When life hands you close-to-black bananas (or when you clearly haven’t been eating your fruit), make banana bread.

Wet ingredients

3 overripe bananas

1 tsp vanilla essence

75 ml flavourless oil (I use rice bran oil)

60 g almond butter

60 g coconut sugar

3 tbsp plant milk

Dry ingredients

110 g plain flour

90 g wholemeal flour

25 g unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

generous pinch of salt

70 g walnuts, roughly chopped

100 g dark chocolate (check if vegan), chopped

Preparation

– Preheat oven to 180 C.

– Cover a regular-sized loaf cake tin with baking parchment (if you’re lazy like me, just ball up the parchment and unscrunch it, then use it to cover the tin).

– Put peeled bananas in a wide bowl and mash them up.

– Add all ingredients under ‘wet ingredients’ and mix well.

– Put everything listed under ‘dry ingredients’ in another mixing bowl. Mix very well.

– Add wet to dry ingredients and mix until combined.

– Put the batter in the prepared baking tin, smoothing the top.

– Bake for 40/45 minutes until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

– Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before turning out on a cooling rack.

Okey Dokey Artichokey Sauce with Mushrooms and Pasta

Not a looker, but this vegetable sauce has kick and flavour. Serve like this, with any vegetable, chickpeas or lentils and pasta, or as a dip.

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red chilli pepper, seeds left in, chopped

390 g tin (240 g drained weight) artichoke hearts in brine, drained, each artichoke heart squeezed well

125 ml plant milk

125 ml vegetable stock

1/4 cup (15 g) nutritional yeast

Salt, to taste

150 g vegan dried pasta (like spaghetti)

500 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

Preparation

-Heat small glug of olive oil in a small skillet

-Sauté onion until soft and starting to brown

-Add garlic and chilli and sauté for another 2/3 minutes. Take off the heat and put aside.

-Blitz the contents of the pan together with the artichoke hearts, plant milk, stock, nutritional yeast and salt, using a food processor or (stick) blender.

-Boil the pasta according to packet instructions.

-Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in a large skillet in a bit of olive oil.

-When the mushrooms are almost cooked to your liking, add the artichoke sauce to the mushrooms and heat through until piping hot. Taste and add salt if necessary.

-Serve the artichoke and mushroom sauce with the pasta.

Pumpkin and Peanut Risotto with a Kick (Instant Pot)

Pumpkin is nice but bland. It needs jazzing up. So that’s what I did.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 heaped tbsp red curry paste (check if it’s vegan)

1 tbsp tomato purée

145 g risotto rice

Generous glug saké or white wine

350 g pumpkin, peeled and finely cubed (peeled weight)

400 ml vegetable stock

Soy sauce, to taste

Lime juice, to taste

40 g dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Small bunch coriander, chopped

Preparation

-Heat up Instant Pot (IP) without oil.

-Add oil to pot and let heat up.

-Add onion and sauté for a few minutes.

-Stir in garlic, sauté for a minute.

-Put in curry paste and tomato purée and fry, stirring, for a few minutes.

-Add rice, stir to coat, then add saké or wine.

-Sauté for a minute or two to let alcohol evaporate.

-Hit ‘Cancel’ on IP, then add pumpkin and stock.

-Clamp on lid, cook (High Pressure) for 5 minutes, then do a Quick Release.

-Let risotto stand, lid off, for a few minutes. It will get less wet.

-Add lime juice and soy sauce to taste (you’ll be adding salty peanuts, so go easy on the soy sauce).

-Sprinkle over coriander and peanuts.