Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy

Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy recipe

We take gravy very seriously in our house;  what started as some gentle competition has developed into full on gravy wars over the years with the addition of all sorts of flavour enhancing ingredients.  This year I decided to go vegan for Lent and, whilst I haven’t missed meat at all, I have missed gravy.

I love a roast dinner and am just as happy with a plate full of roast vegetables as I am with a Sunday joint but I still want something tasty to pour over it; to pull all the flavours together.  You can buy instant vegetable gravy granules which are suitable for vegans in as much as they contain no animal products but they lack flavour, have a slightly chemical after taste, contain far too much salt and, all the ones I have seen, contain palm oil.  Palm oil production threatens the habitat of and is responsible for the decline in numbers of orangutans so, to my mind, that makes it entirely unsuitable for any self-respecting vegan.

In England gravy is a sauce made from meat juices but in America the term is used to describe a much wider range of sauces.  This “gravy” recipe comes from Isa Chandra Moscowitz‘s book Vegan with a Vengeance.  It is nothing whatsoever like an English gravy but it may just have changed my life!

You know that feeling when you find a new recipe and you can imagine exactly what it will taste like based on the ingredients?  Well I thought this was going to be one of those sauces but it’s not.  It is so much more tasty than I imagined – it is a Gestalt sauce where the sum is definitely greater than the parts.  We ate it on a vegan roast dinner but we had leftovers so I had some on mashed potatoes for my lunch (and for a photo) next day and I can assure you that this may be the best comfort food ever.

I have reproduced the recipe below exactly as it appears in the book (with English measurements) but Isa Chandra says that she loves to experiment and to change it up so it really appealed to me – and of course I made a couple of changes…

I was curious about the use of asian soy sauce and mediterranean herbs but it works really well – don’t be tempted to change that.  However, the original recipe calls for dried herbs and I don’t buy them so I used fresh – I happened to have rosemary and thyme but not oregano so I left that out.  The recipe also calls for flour as a thickener but I decided not to because I am trying to reduce the amount of wheat I eat.  Instead, once the sauce was finished, I gave it a bit of a blitz with a stick blender – I probably blended about a quarter of the chickpeas but left the rest chunky.  This worked perfectly, the sauce was thick enough and flavoursome enough without the flour.  In fact it was a bit too thick by day two and I should have added a little bit more water.  I also added a teaspoon or two of vegan bouillon powder which I think added value.

If you make this feel free to play around with the flavours yourself but please let me know how you get on.

I probably wouldn’t have called it “Punk Rock” gravy but then I don’t look or live like Isa Chandra Moscowitz, although I did have my moments back in the day…

Punk Rock Chick Pea Gravy

Ingredients

35g Plain Flour

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1 Medium Onion (sliced)

2 tsp Yellow Mustard Seeds

3 Cloves of Garlic (crushed)

1 x 400g can Chickpeas

Pinch Ground Cumin

Pinch Paprika

Pinch of Dried Rosemary

Pinch of Dried Thyme

Pinch of Dried Oregano

Pinch of Ground Coriander

3 tbsp Soy Sauce

2 tbsp Lemon Juice

35g Nutritional Yeast

Method

Mix the flour with 450ml / 3/4 Pint water until the flour is mostly dissolved.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed frying pan over a medium-high heat.  Cook the onion and mustard seeds in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is browned and the seeds are toasted.  Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes more.

Add the drained chickpeas and use a potato masher to mash them, you don’t want to mash them into a paste; just make sure each one is broken up, although if there are a few whole ones left, that is ok.  Add the herbs and spices, soy sauce and lemon juice.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bit of onion.

Lower the heat and pour the flour mixture into the pan.  Stir constantly until a thick gravy forms.  Stir in the nutritional yeast.  If it looks too thick and pasty add a little more water and stir well until it loosens up.

Keep warm until ready to serve.

 

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Green Pasta

For most people I know, pasta and pesto is a great store cupboard meal when you don’t feel like cooking.  Boil some water, open a jar of pesto, mix the two together and dinner is ready.

The meal gets a brilliant upgrade if you make your own fresh pesto which, to be completely honest, gives you something to do while the pasta cooks!  But, at the moment, I am being vegan for Lent so I was wondering, how good is pesto without parmesan?

The answer is; it depends on what else you add to the pesto.  I made this one with basil, spinach and walnuts and gave it added zing with some lemon juice.  It was scrummy.  You might also want to consider adding a little nutritional yeast to boost the protein and vitamin B12 content of this meal.  It also adds a faint “cheesiness” to the flavour.

Add some green veg to the pasta; peas or mange tout for example, and dinner is ready.  I like to top mine with a few more nuts for added protein and a bit of crunch and some rocket or parsley for added “green”!

This is instinctive rather than precise cooking so add a little bit more of this or less of that as you see fit.  Experiment with different herbs or nuts – wild garlic or rocket and pine nuts work well.

Vegan Pesto Recipe

Makes enough for two

Ingredients

For the Pesto

A small handful of walnuts

A large handful of fresh Basil Leaves

A large handful of young Spinach Leaves

1 large Clove of Garlic

Juice of half a Lemon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast (optional)

Salt & Pepper

For the rest

150g Spaghetti (more if you are hungry)

A handful of Mange Tout and/or Peas

A handful of Parsley

5 or six Walnuts, broken into pieces.

Method

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook according to the packet.

While it cooks place the garlic, walnuts and nutritional yeast (if you are using it) into a food processor and blitz.  Add the basil and spinach and blitz again.  Pour in the lemon juice and a generous glug of olive oil and blitz again.  Add more olive oil if needed to get a thick but flowing consistency.

Two minutes before the pasta is cooked add the peas or mange tout.  When everything is tender drain and return to the pan.  Pour in the pesto, add a grinding of black pepper and toss.  Plate up and top with the chopped parsley and walnut pieces.

Best enjoyed with a glass of wine and the company of someone who is interested in all the ups and downs of your day.

 

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Nigella’s Vegan Chocolate Cake

Nigella's Vegan Chocolate Cake

This Nigella Lawson recipe was recommended to me by a friend (thanks Angela) who is a vegetarian but not a vegan.  She says it is her favourite chocolate cake and she is not alone in that.

Nigella calls this her “Dark and Sumptuous” chocolate cake and describes it as her “go to” chocolate cake recipe for everyone.  She doesn’t even bother to tell them that it is vegan unless they need it to be.  Anyone who knows Nigella’s cooking knows that she loves uncompromisingly decadent food and this cake makes no compromises whatsoever.

I have already posted a vegan chocolate cake recipe but I thought this one was worth a try too and I am so glad I gave it a go.  It is deeply chocolatey, incredibly rich and torte-like and, well, just plain delicious really.  It also keeps exceptionally well, I made this one 4 days ago and it is still every bit as moist now as it was on day one.

The recipe uses coconut butter.  Please note that this is not the same as coconut oil.  I found it in a good health food shop but, if you can’t get it you can either use any vegan margarine or you can make your own coconut butter by blitzing dried (not desiccated or sweetened) coconut flakes in a food processor.

If you are making this for a vegan please make sure that the cocoa powder and chocolate that you use contain no dairy whatsoever.

I have reproduced Nigella’s recipe faithfully here but, as my kitchen is quite cold, I found that the icing had set too hard by time the cake was baked and cooled.  However, I managed to re-warm it a little (over some hot water) whilst beating it with a wooden spoon; it was soon restored to a spreading consistency and it was still glossy so no need to panic if this happens to you.

You can top it with anything you like (or indeed with nothing at all) but I liked the look of the pistachios and rose petals that Nigella used and, as I had both in the cupboard, I went with them.  I used salted pistachios because I like to offset the slight saltiness against the rich sweetness of chocolate.  I suspect it would be wonderful topped with raspberries too – either fresh or freeze dried so, next time I make it…

 

Nigella's Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

225g / 8 oz Plain Flour

1½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

½ tsp Sea Salt

1½ tsp Instant Espresso Powder

75 g / 3 oz Cocoa

300 g / 11 oz Soft Dark Brown Sugar

375 ml / ½ Pint Hot Water from a recently boiled kettle

75 g / 3 oz Coconut Oil (90ml)

1½ tsp Cider Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar

1 tbsp Edible Rose Petals

1 tbsp Chopped Pistachios

For the Icing

60 ml / 2 fl oz Cold Water

75 g / 3 oz Coconut Butter (this is not the same as oil)

50 g / 2 oz soft dark sugar

1½ tsp Instant Espresso Powder

1½ tbsp Cocoa

150 g / 5 oz Dark Chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids), chopped

You will need a 20cm/8in round springform cake tin.

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and pop in a baking sheet at the same time.

Start with the icing.  Put all of the icing ingredients except the chopped chocolate into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil, making sure everything’s dissolved.  Then turn off the heat – but leave the pan on the hob – and quickly add the finely chopped chocolate and swirl the pan so that it is all underwater, so to speak. Leave for a scant minute, then whisk until you have a darkly glossy icing, and leave to cool.  Give the icing a stir with a spatula every now and again.

Line the bottom of your springform cake tin (you will need a good, leak-proof one as this is a very wet batter) with baking parchment.

Put the flour, bicarb, salt and instant espresso and cocoa in a bowl and fork to mix.

Mix together the sugar, hot water, coconut oil and vinegar until the coconut oil has melted, and stir into the dry ingredients.  Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes. Though do check at the 30-minute mark to see if it is already done.

When it’s ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin and a cake tester will come out clean, apart from a few crumbs. This is a fudgy cake and you don’t want to overdo it.

Once the cake is cooked, transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the cake cool in its tin.

Turn to your icing, and give it a good stir with a spatula to check it is at the right consistency. It needs to be runny enough to cover the cake, but thick enough to stay (mostly) on the top. So pour over the unmoulded cake, and use a spatula to ease the icing to the edges, if needed.

If you wish to decorate, now is the time to do it. In which case, sprinkle joyously with rose petals and chopped pistachios or anything else that your heart desires; otherwise, leave it gleaming darkly and, indeed, sumptuous. Leave to stand for 30 minutes for the icing to set before slicing into the cake.

 

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Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan; the Holy Trinity of a Vegan Diet

Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan

Ok, so I hate this photo more than any other I have ever taken.  Food has never looked so unappetising.  I even used an old, chipped, overly reflective blue plate just to get some colour into the picture and this made it both better and worse at the same time.  But I am not apologising because, if we are talking vegan we have to talk tofu, tempeh and seitan – the holy trinity of vegan protein sources.

So what are they?

Some Facts

Tofu

Tofu is essentially a bean curd made from soya beans.  It is formed by coagulating soya milk (mmmm) – the resulting curd is then pressed into blocks to form tofu.  This is a very similar process to that used when making soft cheeses (it doesn’t sound so bad now does it?).  It is reasonably high in protein and is also a good source of iron.  Do check the packaging though to make sure that your tofu is made from a non-GMO source of soya.

Tofu doesn’t have much flavour but it can absorb flavours wonderfully well and so becomes a carrier for the sauce or marinade of your choice.

Tofu comes in a number of different forms and they can be a little confusing:

Extra soft tofu is usually sold in a tube as it will not hold its own shape.  It is less commonly available in the UK but is often used in Korean cooking.

Soft or silken tofu is very smooth and quite fragile.  It is usually sold in block form and you can buy soft or firm silken tofu (not the same as firm tofu).  This can, with care be sliced, marinated and fried / grilled but it is best used as an egg substitute in baking/scrambled “eggs” or pancake batter.

Firm tofu comes in firm or extra firm.  It has been pressed longer than silken tofu and contains less water.  This is your go-to soya if you want to slice it and fry it or if you want to use pieces in stews or casseroles.

You can buy tofu fresh, frozen, in jars, pre-marinated, smoked… the list goes on.

Tempeh

Tempeh is also made from soya but this time the beans are fermented.  Tempeh has more flavour than soya and is kind of mushroomy/meaty.  It is also very firm and is often used as a meat substitute in casseroles and stews.  Tempeh can be sliced thinly and is sometimes used to make a meat free alternative to bacon.

Seitan

Seitan is made from wheat gluten.  It is closest in texture to meat and has a chewiness about it.  You can make seitan at home but it is a lengthy process which involves making a wheat dough and repeatedly washing it (by kneading it under water) until no starch is left.  The dough is then cooked and flavoured with vegetable stock or soy sauce for example.  The resulting seitan can be sliced and is firm enough to be cooked on a BBQ.  You can but seitan in blocks, in jars or vacuum packed.  Seitan is an excellent source of protein.

Comparable Data

If you are considering eating these foods as an alternative to meat you might find it helpful to check out some of the comparable data in the table below.

100g Chicken Tofu Tempeh Seitan
Calories 239 70 192 370
Protein 27g 8g 20g 75g
Iron 7% RDA 8% RDA 21% RDA 28% RDA
Vitamin A 3% RDA 0% RDA
Vitamin B6 20% RDA 17% RDA 0% RDA
Vitamin B12 5% RDA 3% RDA 0% RDA
Calcium 1% RDA 13% RDA 11% RDA 14% RDA
Magnesium 5% RDA 23% RDA 6% RDA
  • Data from multiple sources.

A Personal View

So, the piece above offers some general information about tofu, tempeh and seitan but here is my personal view as an experimental blogger!

Tofu is great.  I have used it sliced and fried, flavoured with soy sauce and sesame or topped with a chimichurri sauce.  I have baked with it and used it in some scrumptious sweet corn fritters and as a feta substiute in spanakopita (recipes to follow).

Tempeh and seitan I like less.  I personally feel no need to eat meat substitutes so I take no pleasure in faux meat products.  Tempeh tastes ok in its own right but I don’t find it to be necessary to a balanced diet.  I would rather eat the beans in their natural state.

I have only eaten seitan once, so I may not have given it a fair try, but I hated it.  The weird, fake chewiness of it was unpleasant and I didn’t feel great after eating it – it gave me a headache and an upset stomach.  This is not entirely surprising as I can sometimes have a sensitivity to gluten and this is condensed wheat gluten.  You may find you like it more than I do.  Give it a go!

All in all, these 3 products have their place in a vegan diet, they provide a soure of protein and, if you want it, some interesting meat alternatives.  I just wish they looked a bit prettier for this blog piece!

 

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Vegan Cottage Pie

Vegan Cottage Pie

I nearly called this vegan shepherd’s pie but I realised that shepherd really does imply sheep – not entirely appropriate for a vegan recipe.  Then I started wondering why cottage pie isn’t called beef farmer’s pie.  I guess it just isn’t.  This one has no meat, so maybe I should have called it vegan kinda cottage pie, but I didn’t.  I’ll stop rambling now –   here it is – whatever you want to call it!

I love, rich warming stews and think they are even better when served with mash – of any kind.  Cottage pie is usually made with minced beef and gravy but this one uses puy lentils rather than meat and has a delicious tomatoey sauce rather than gravy.  If you have a tub of homemade tomato sauce in the freezer as I usually do then it is incredibly quick to make.  If you don’t it might take a little bit longer but it is still not an onerous or difficult recipe.

I chose to top mine with cauliflower mash (because I love it) but you could use mashed potato or mashed butter beans (another favourite of mine).  I served this one with some green veg on the side but there is no reason why you can’t add some to the sauce and save on washing up – broccoli florets, spinach or garden peas would all work well.

I think this is a great dish to serve to unadventurous non-vegans.  The flavours will all be familiar to them and the lentils give the dish a kind of “meaty” texture and flavour without being meaty at all.  They also add a nice dose of protein that will keep you feeling full for hours.  I used a pack of ready-to-eat puy lentils but you can, of course, buy dried lentils, just give them a good wash first and you may have to cook them for a little longer.

Vegan Tomato Sauce with Lentils

Ingredients

Serves 4

1 Pint / 500 ml home made Tomato Sauce

2 medium sized Carrots

250g pack ready-to-eat Puy Lentils

1 large Cauliflower

A handful of Chopped Parsley

Method

Place the tomato sauce in a large saucepan and add 200 ml of cold water.

Peel and dice the carrots and add to the sauce along with the lentils.  Bring to the boil then simmer until the carrot is soft.  Add the chopped parsley and taste.  Add more seasoning if you need to.

Meanwhile prepare and steam the cauliflower.  Mash with a potato masher or blend with a stick blender if you want it to be super smooth.  Season to taste.

Pour the lentil mixture into a casserole dish.  Top with the cauliflower and swirl with a fork.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes until piping hot and slightly browned on top.

Serve with green veg.

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