Welcome back after what has been a long, sedentary Christmas and an exam week that has been less than fun for everyone involved. It’s a new term now, and I’m very excited about what the next 11 weeks will bring. However what has shocked me most about coming back to Exeter and getting through the slog of deadlines is realising that actually, it’s still very much winter and no, I still can’t wear a bikini and read outside. I’m still sneaking the heating on while wearing a coat and scarf and clutching at a hot water bottle, and using Eastenders as an excuse not to go out. Yup, it’s still winter.
There are ways of brightening up the days, though. Making the time to cook yourself something warming and homely is, I’ve discovered, one of them. This is why the butternut squash is my vegetable of the week: the pumpkin’s sexy cousin, the butternut squash is great because it’s versatile, filling, seasonal, and bright orange. It’s also cheap for the amount of squashmeat you’re paying for (usually about £1 for a medium variety). Its sweet, sweet nuttiness is great roasted in pretty much any dish from pie to pasta to salad, or blended in a wintry soup. It’s also got a host of health benefits: it’s rich in the natural antioxidant vitamin A, as well as vitamin C and fibre, and contains minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium. It’s basically a strong contestant for the king/queen of vegetables, but this week I’m blending it into a warming soup.
Easy spicy butternut squash soup (vegan)
Ingredients for approx. 4 meals
1 medium butternut squash
1 sweet potato
2 brown onions
2 garlic cloves
1 or 2 red chilli/s
2 vegetable stock cubes
1.5 litre water
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp olive oil
Chop onions, garlic, butternut squash, and sweet potato.
Warm a large pan with olive oil. Chuck in the onions and garlic and brown them, then add the squash and sweet potato. Lightly fry.
Make up 1.5 litre of water with 2 vegetable stock cubes. pour over vegetables and bring to boil.
Add tomato purée, stir, and let vegetables simmer and soften.
When vegetables are soft and tender, add the freshly chopped chilli.
Blend in food processor.
Add salt and pepper to taste; sprinkle with chilli flakes to serve.
Enjoy your radioactive-themed soup for lunch or dinner and try not to feel at least 60% cheerier.
In my repertoire of dairy-free food, flapjacks are by far the easiest and quickest to whip up. They also require very few ingredients, and can therefore be made with little impact on the purse strings, with stuff you might already have in your cupboard. Flapjacks are therefore a versatile treat: the best last minute contribution to party snacks, post-lecture pick me up, or complement to a cup of tea.
I took the basis of my recipe from the Pure Dairy Free website, however added a few things to bulk it up and enhance the flavours.
All you’ll need is…
175g of Pure Sunflower spread
125g demerara sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
350g porridge oats
A few handfuls of pumpkin seeds
A few handfuls of dried cranberries
A few handfuls of jumbo raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease a 28cm x 18cm baking tin and line with baking parchment.
Put the Pure spread, golden syrup, and sugar into a large saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves and the Pure spread melts. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the porridge oats.
Add the berries, raisins, pumpkin seeds and cinnamon and stir until the mixture is well blended.
Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown, but remember that flapjack hardens while it cools so don’t overdo it!
Remove the flapjack from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
Turn out from the tin and remove the grease proof paper. Cool the flapjack on a rack before cutting into squares.
Feeling Autumnal? Don’t know what to do with all that pumpkin goo? Try this deliciously spooky recipe by Jade Ainsworth (jadegreenvegan.com)
Halloween is one of my favourite days of the year, so I am always super excited to drag it out and celebrate it in as many ways as possible. Since going vegan around 6 months ago I have become really passionate about creating new and exciting vegan recipes, so I decided to combine my love of Halloween and great vegan food in order to create the Halloween Pumpkin Smoothie.
What’s great about this recipe is that not only does it result in a yummy smoothie, but it also includes one of my all time favourite Halloween activities – pumpkin carving! When carving the pumpkins, I got way too into the halloween spirit and put my cat ears on which I bought today from New Look. Did I hear someone say crazy cat lady?!
Once you’ve finished carving your pumpkin, this yummy 2 layered smoothie is a great way to make use of the stringy innards of the pumpkin that normally get thrown away! I hope you love this recipe as much as I do.
1 cup pumpkin
2 table spoons maple syrup
1 cup water
1 /2 an apple
1 tea spoon cinnamon
1. For the first layer of the smoothie: place 2 bananas, the stringy innards of the pumpkin, 1 table spoon of maple syrup, 1/2 cup of water and 1 tea spoon of cinnamon into the blender and blend until smooth (this usually takes around 30 seconds in mine).
2. Pour into your smoothie jar and leave to stand.
3. For the second layer of the smoothie: place 1 banana, 1/2 an apple, 1 table spoon of maple syrup and 1/2 cup of water into the blender and blend until smooth.
4. Pour the second layer of smoothie on top of the first in your smoothie jar.
5. Enjoy your Halloween Pumpkin Smoothie!
Follow Jade on Instagram & Twitter @jadegreenvegan
Got a favourite seasonal veggie recipe? We’d love to hear from you! Tweet us @ExeterUniVeggieSoc
I am a lazy cook. I watch my housemates lovingly stir their lasagna sauce or wait patiently while their hand crafted pies brown in the oven, and as a frequenter of the microwave, I am obviously a cheat and kitchen heathen. That’s why it’s so refreshing to come across a recipe for a meal that ticks all the crucial criteria: quick, relatively cheap, vegetarian (and vegan) friendly, filling, tasty, and easily adaptable for the solo chef. Using a hob also convinces my housemates that I am way more of a culinary wizard than I actually am. My recipe is adapted from the BBC Good Food website, and with a mere 30 minute package-to-plate time, it’s a winner for similarly tardy cooks. Stir fries are brilliant because they’re so flexible, and if you buy the ingredients for one, you’ll have them for days afterwards. My recipe here is for one person.
Flat rice noodles (enough for one)
1 lime (save half for wedges to serve)
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce, plus extra for serving
2 tbsp vegetable oil or sunflower oil
150g firm tofu, drained, patted dry as instructed, and cut into cubes
5 asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
3 spring onions halved and thinly sliced lengthways
A few handfuls of beansprouts
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Handful each coriander leaves and chopped salted peanuts, to serve
*I used these mainly because I needed to get rid of them– but that’s the beautiful thing about a stir fry! All (most) vegetables will find a home there.
1. Before anything else, drain and press the tofu. I used the Cauldron smoked tofu, and I recommend it for a more distinct taste.
2. Cook noodles according to packet instructions
3. Heat 1 tblspoon of sunflower/vegetable oil, and throw in the tofu, allowing to fry until golden brown (this should take around 6 minutes).
4. Add another tblspoon of oil before stirring in the asparagus until tender. Add the spring onions, garlic, beansprouts, and mushroom. Persistently stir for a few more minutes, adding a pinch of salt.
5. Add a squeezed half of lime, with a few tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, and chopped salted peanuts. Continue to stir for a few further minutes. Stir the noodles in with the vegetables.
6. Serve topped with coriander, with a few wedges of lime, and sweet chilli sauce to taste.
I’ve had veganism on my mind for a few months now. The idea of totally cutting out all dairy products as well as meat had seemed pretty baffling to me up until recently. I’d been vegetarian for three and a half years, but vegans had seemed a strange, almost mythical breed, a terrifying fusion of radicalism and restraint. “Vegans,” I would say, elbow propped on the bar, “are just taking it too far. They’re just not being realistic. Life would be monochrome without halloumi and brie. Imagine.”
And I didn’t want to imagine. But gradually, as I have read more and more about veganism- what a stand against meat and dairy farming can mean for our suffering environment, and on a more personal level, the multiplicity of health benefits a plant-based diet offers, I have become more open minded to veganism and what it represents. I have also become fed up of living in a world where we’re becoming increasingly alienated from the food we are putting in our mouths, barely cognizant of what it contains, less so where it came from. I’m tired of eating a product with dozens of listed ingredients, many of which I’d have to Google to know what they are.
To know whether a product is dairy/egg/meat free, it’s important to scrutinise food labels, and in doing this, I’m hoping to feel closer to and more comfortable with the food I’m putting in my body. I’d heard tales of veganism helping people deal with depression, as well improving energy levels and generally making its subjects glowing illustrations of health. It sounded like a miracle cure for life, really. As someone prone to fatigue, I’m undertaking the Vegan Society’s seven day vegan pledge (www.vegansociety.com) in the hope that I will feel some of the proposed benefits of the vegan lifestyle.
The Vegan Society website is a hugely informative resource about the benefits of plant-based living, and if you take the pledge, they will send you hints and support to help you along the way. The hardest part of this week, I think, will be avoiding eggs (I only eat free range eggs, but I’m not ignorant of the questionable conditions of even free range hens) and products containing egg or milk, like my weakness, mayonnaise. Still, I feel positive that I’ve already made a foray into cutting dairy down by replacing cow’s milk with soya or milk alternatives, and an increasing (somewhat worrying) reliance on houmous, peanut butter and falafel. Still, I wonder whether the week will bring any unexpected challenges, and whether, indeed, I will be the picture of radiant vegan health this time next week.
I’m starting the challenge in a positive mindset. Breakfast is cereal with soya milk. I’m first struck by the fact that the cereal packet isn’t explicitly labelled as to whether the product is vegan, and I have to scour the ingredients list for any sign of dairy. I am in luck, and proceed with breakfast. I follow this with a barrage of fruit, because I’m working in a pub all day, and could do with the extra kick. I then anticipate that the chances of getting a vegan-friendly lunch at the deep South West country pub I work in are exactly nil. I then have to make up a meal at 9.30am that will sustain me through until half six at the earliest. I decide on chilli giant cous-cous with cashews and peanut, and falafel salad, a meal I made up, and was extremely grateful for at 2.30pm.
I confronted a problem that I have no doubt is doubly irritating and a saving grace to vegans on a daily basis- the need to take packed lunches, and be aware that when they are on their travels, there will not always be a vegan friendly snack option. In the majority of veggie sandwiches, cheese rules the waves, and houmous is yet to take over the world in quite the way it deserves to. It is clearly a source of frustration that ready-made vegan lunch options are so hard to come by, but it’s kind of comforting (not to mention more cost friendly) to make up a meal knowing roughly where everything has come from. This does rely, however, on completely recalibrating what you determine ‘cupboard essentials’. Out with the cheddar cheese, milk and eggs, and in with the tahini, harissa paste, quinoa and avocado. This can be expensive at first, but I’m convinced that once you know where to shop for the best deals (think independent international shops and supermarkets at night), and you have the essentials nailed down, it doesn’t have to keep up that way.
My first day of veganism has been a success. At the end of the day, I still feel bursting with energy. Meaty propaganda would have you believe that veganism leaves you being blown around with the passive energy of a leaf by the end of a day, but I feel happy and positive. If I last the night time mayonnaise cravings, I’m hoping for good things tomorrow as well.
Today I eat a lot. I’m working at the pub again, and while popular imagination might picture me idly polishing glass and pouring the odd ale for bearded locals, it’s a pretty hands on and hectic job, requiring ready attention and a bunch of energy. When it comes to lunch, I realise that most things are (particularly shop-bought sandwiches and salads) made up of at least a smattering of milk, cream, or egg. Even if it’s the teeniest particle, it’s non-vegan friendly, and it made me wonder how strict vegans will be with the ingredient content. If you’re starving and the only thing to buy from the shop is a roll with whey in the ingredients, do you eat it, or would that be like me (a diehard veggie) eating a roll with ham chunks in it? Do vegans just have to be super prepared for the eventuality of hunger? Is it really not that hard once you get the hang of it? Most supermarkets these days are equipped with a “free from” section lined with Naked bars and nut snack packs, offering a great way of temporarily quashing hunger pangs when on the go, which I guess is one solution.
Alas, i’m beginning to realise that a diet of falafel, houmous, and avocado just isn’t enough for me- I need to pull in the big guns from now on. That is, all of the vegetables. I also need to locate a sources of protein and iron to make sure I feel as strong, fit, and energetic as I possibly can. I feel like I’ve been increasing my intake of carbohydrates to ensure I don’t go hungry, but this is more likely to leave me feeling bloated and tired. Overall, a greater balance is needed for the next couple of days.
I started the day off in a positive manner, with soya porridge and fruit. At lunch, I cooked giant cous cous and served it with avocado and a shop bought edamame salad. it was delicious. Disaster struck, however, when I checked the salad ingredients and learned that the lemongrass dressing contained milk. I felt disappointed and a bit cheated, and sure that the dressing could have been just as good with only olive oil, lemon juice and lemongrass. I suppose this is something that early day vegans encounter a lot of- accidentally tripping up when they don’t give ingredients lists complete scrutiny. However the Vegan Society website is helpful here, suggesting that “even the most careful vegans get tripped up by something”, and making the effort to be more conscious of choices is a step in the right direction anyway.
I suppose from this I learned that if in doubt, it’s a good idea to eyeball the ingredients closely, but it’s not something to lose sleep over or feel too guilty about. I feel sure that seasoned vegans know which food is game and which isn’t, but right now it seems like I’m avoiding a huge amount. It’s like culinary minesweeper. I have a flick through the Vegan Society website to remind myself why I’m taking the pledge, putting myself through all this abstention, forgoing my Granny’s lemon drizzle cake. Yup, there has to be a pretty compelling reason for me to say no to Granny’s cake. The environmental stuff swings it for me.
Today I get a really cute email from the Vegan Society to help me along. Today is also the day that I impress my family with how edible vegan food can be. I am confident that the aromas of my sweet potato and coconut curry will win my parents round instantly. Unfortunately I misjudged exactly how hot the Madras paste would be and choked everyone in all corners of the house instead. It was a simple success however, though my mum had to top it with Greek yoghurt to cool it down, insisted that said yoghurt is vegan, and afterwards quipped that “that would be lovely with a bit of lamb”. So, almost a success.
The recipe was simple and the only real effort is the peeling and chopping– sweet potato, butternut squash, red pepper, garlic, ginger… Veganism and chopping are very happy bedfellows, it seems. It’s at about this point that I seem to start getting the hang of it all. The cooking, the paying attention to ingredients, it actually becomes enjoyable and infuses mealtimes with a greater sense of achievement. When life is so fast paced, meals are often just about ‘getting food inside you so you can get onto doing the next thing’, but it’s nice to take the time out to create something a bit more carefully. Perhaps it’s this thought put into mealtimes that is behind why some vegans report feeling more energetic and generally a greater sense of wellbeing. However while cooking can be therapeutic and great fun, I don’t have the time to put aside hours each day to watch a fresh curry bubble, no matter how much I’d like to. It’s fortunate then, that there are some great supermarket ready options that can still offer good nutrition as well as quick packet-to-plate time. Packet ready quinoa, puy lentils and cous cous can be ready in minutes and teamed with avocado, salad and perhaps even roasted vegetables or vegan sausages, can make a wholesome and filling meal without all the bloody chopping. I feel I’m beginning to enjoy the vegetable hugging.
Today I’ve been all philosophical, thinking about the reasons I decided to take the pledge, and why indeed it is such a challenge to cut out entire food groups from the diet. It struck me that veganism is a means of protest- protest against the way our food system is historically arranged, and a strike against a status quo that insists on concealing the material facts of food production. As we live increasing distances from where our food is produced, we don’t have to visualise the extent of deforestation and way animals are treated in order to enjoy our meals. When our food arrives pre-packed and with the comforting assertion of ‘free-range’ or ‘farm-fresh’, our collective guilt is assuaged. Firstly, ‘farm-fresh’, and claims similar to it, are marketing jargon that mean very little more than to create a myth of pastoral utopia in which animals are lovingly reared- an image often very far from the reality. Second, the popularity of ‘free-range’ products has grown exponentially over the past couple of years, thanks to great campaigns by Compassion in World Farming, and while these are overwhelmingly preferable to caged hen eggs, the criteria necessary to brand eggs free range still allows for hens to live in cooped up, uncomfortable conditions, as well as the mass culling of male chicks. This becomes difficult to ignore for anyone interested in the standards of welfare for farm kept animals. If I take nothing else from this experience, I’ll certainly from hereon be philosophically extremely uncomfortable with the dairy and egg industries.
I made it! And not only did I not float around like a ghost all week, I have bundles of energy. I didn’t even have to take a single nap. I took the pledge, really, because I wanted to prove I could do it (healthily, at no cost to my sanity), to learn to cook some vegan foods and explore culinary diversity, and to have a greater awareness of what I’m putting in my body. It was a pretty laborious exercise in label checking to begin with, as well as a cruel test of restraint when it came to eating out. But got easier as the week progressed, and now I am equipped with some pretty tasty animal product-free recipes as well as the knowledge that I absolutely can do it, for all the right reasons, if I want to.
We’re on the wrong side of August now and there’s nothing for it: autumn is coming. Autumn = jumpers, spanking new notebooks, hot chocolate, and really good TV (hello Doctor Who, Downton Abbey). Autumn is basically no bad thing, but it can take a bit of adjusting to when you’ve just spent your summer frolicking around in a t-shirt.
Blackberry & apple crumble is the best pudding to ease you into A/W14 because it’s hot, fruity, and still pretty hearty. While I’m not vegan, I do see the value in looking for alternatives to dairy when possible, and it was surprisingly easy to turn this British classic into a vegan-friendly dish.
I took my recipe from the Pure Dairy Free website, but given that my approach to recipes is pretty much “bung it all in a pan and see what happens” and “I definitely don’t have all these ingredients”, here is what I did instead:
a bag of blackberries (I picked mine locally, but if you have no abundant hedgerows near you, they’re pretty inexpensive to buy)
about 1kg of cooking apples, peeled and chopped thinly (ditto, pilched from my grandma’s garden, but they’re quite cheap anyway)
lemon juice to taste (around 2tbsp)
a couple of teaspoons of ground cinnamon/ginger to give it those distinct autumn flavours
caster sugar to taste
125g plain flour
75g Pure Dairy Free Soya
1. Heat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Peel and chop apples and place in an appropriate sized ovenproof dish. Pour washed blackberries over. Add lemon juice and sugar, and then a sprinkle of cinnamon and ginger, and a tablespoon or so of water.
3. Place in the oven and leave to soften.
4. While the fruit is softening, make the breadcrumbs by rubbing the Soya together with flour. When this looks like breadcrumbs, stir in some more sugar- if you have demerara sugar, use this.
5. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the fruit.
6. Leave in the oven until golden brown, for about 25 minutes, and serve warm.
7. Add a scoop of ice-cream and ruin the vegan thing straight off.