cheat’s bolognese

you know how some days you go to make pasta with a simple tomato sauce, and as you’re frying an onion you discover that you’ve run out of tinned tomatoes? yeah. 

fortunately my frantic search turned up tomato paste and frozen soya mince (i knew that impulse purchase from tesco would pay off!), so i decided i’d do a bolognese sauce. mindful of the ‘perfect bolognese’ article i read in the guardian a few weeks ago (yes i know how bougie that sounds), i added a bit more margarine and commandeered some soya milk to mimic the dairy in a ‘true’ bolognese.

and it was awesome! plus i used yeast extract instead of nooch, so it’s easy to make with on-hand non-specialist ingredients. so without further ado, the recipe:

cheat’s bolognese
serves 4 adults
ingredients (just fyi, these are all approximate)
250g pasta
50g margarine
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
100g frozen soya mince
1/2 to 1 tsp yeast extract, such as marmite
2 Tbsp tomato paste
~1 Tbsp soya sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk (i used soya)
salt and pepper to taste

method
put on the hob a large covered pan of salted water, with a slick of vegetable oil on top. while you’re waiting for it to boil, melt the margarine in a separate pan and fry the onion over low heat until softened.

once it’s all golden and yummy-smelling, add the mince and turn the heat up a little. fry for a couple of minutes until thawed, then turn heat back down. add the yeast, tomato paste, soya sauce, and vinegar, and mix well.

stir in the soya milk and bring to a simmer. by now hopefully your pasta water has boiled, so you can add the pasta to the pan. simmer the sauce for a few minutes, then take off heat while your pasta cooks.

before you drain your pasta, reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water. add this to the bolognese and bring back to a simmer. drain the pasta and return it to the large pan, stirring in the bolognese sauce. add salt and pepper, and serve while hot!

fad food: curry noodles and raita

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no that’s not guacamole, smartarse. i was craving my go-to nice weather junk meal of a packet of curry noodles and homemade cucumber mint raita, but i was too lazy to go to the shops for vegan yoghurt. so i decided to use a mashed-up avocado instead.

and you know what? it is goddamned delicious.

i first hit upon this combo last year, as i was trying to think of a use for curry flavoured packet noodles so i wouldn’t have to go to the shops for less useless packet noodles. (are we sensing the theme here?)

i had a cucumber and some yoghurt to use up, and fresh mint in the garden, so whipped together some raita to go over the noodles. now in summer i pretty much only buy curry noodles to eat with raita!

you can find normal raita recipes that are easy to veganise so i’m going to give you my avocado buttermilk raita recipe instead.

avocado buttermilk raita
ingredients
half a large cucumber, grated and squeezed so that the juice can be drained off (save that juice, it’s lovely with apple juice and water!)
1 avocado, mashed
1/4 to 1/3 cup soya milk
1 to 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 to 2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves, or 1 tsp dry

method
combine 1 tsp lemon juice with the soya milk and set aside. once the grated cucumber is drained, stir in the salt and the rest of the lemon juice. add the mint and avocado, stirring until combined. add in the curdled soya milk according to taste – for a thinner raita, add more milk.

using up kale

let’s just come right out with it: i don’t really like kale. you will never find me buying kale in a supermarket. kale is basically glorified cabbage, but like twice as expensive.

and yet. it’s always the first thing i use when the veg box comes, because i don’t want to deal with a bunch of rotten leaves at the end of the week.

a few weeks ago the kale was used up at the expense of the baby, who now has loads of frozen cooked kale cubes to add to his dinners. sorry, kid.

but i do have a couple go-to recipes to use up the bloody stuff. one is raw, in case you’re the type that likes to juice cleanse or whatever, and one is cooked and stodgy. there’s also soup, but soup is boring.

ly-ly’s kale salad
ingredients
around 2 cups very finely chopped kale (for the love of god remove the spines first)
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted breadcrumbs
one garlic clove, finely minced
quarter of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 4 Tbsp olive oil

method
mix the dressing ingredients in a salad bowl, then add the kale and allow to wilt a bit. add breadcrumbs and serve.

creamy kale gratin
ingredients
2 cups finely chopped kale, spines removed
1 large or a couple smaller potatoes, peeled and diced into 1.5cm cubes
(bonus extra root veg that needs using up)
1 leek or onion, diced
a few garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 to 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup soya milk
salt to taste (i’d recommend around 1 tsp)
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs, combined with yeast and salt in a food processor

method
melt the margarine over low heat in a large pan. add salt, leek, kale, and garlic, cooking for a minute. then add the potatoes and other veg, stirring and covering.

cook until the potatoes are fork tender, then add the nutmeg and soya milk. remove from heat and add the yeast. you want a creamy sauce – if the yeast makes it too thick add more milk.

pour the mixture into a baking dish, top with the breadcrumbs, and bake at 220C/gas mark 6 until the breadcrumbs are golden and the sauce is bubbly.

the white sauce grimoire

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see this?  it’s called a roux, and it is your new best friend.

just by combining flour and margarine over the hob, you now have a magic thickener that enables you to turn a 59p carton of soya milk – or any other non-dairy milk, hell, even water – into a delicious white sauce that even your omni friends will love.

(apologies if you already know what a roux is, my tone is perhaps more condescending than strictly necessary.)

i’m going to give you my recipe for a basic, bare-bones white sauce, and then tell you how i fancy it up.  all measurements are for around 100g of pasta, or enough for two people.

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oooooh lookie i did a mise-en-place! lol

basic white sauce
ingredients
2 to 3 Tbsp margarine
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp flour (can be gluten-free flour if you must)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups unsweetened soya milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/3 cup nutritional yeast (if you don’t have any to hand, substitute with 1/2 to 1 tsp marmite.  but add more salt to get rid of that bitter aftertaste!)

method
1. melt the margarine over a low-medium heat.  add the salt and flour, and stir until combined into a paste – about one minute.

2. immediately add a splash of the milk and stir until the mixture is smooth.  add the yeast and stir.

3. gradually add the rest of the milk while stirring, until the sauce is smooth and well-mixed.

4. allow to thicken over the heat.  don’t worry if it boils – this is non-dairy milk!  add more milk for a thinner sauce.

5. take off heat.  sauce will thicken upon standing.

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pictured: fancy chipotle mac

variations
bechamel – add 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp garlic granules, and possibly a bay leaf while on the heat

pepper sauce – bechamel + 1 to 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

mac’n’cheez – add 1/2 tsp garlic granules and 1 tsp cider vinegar

cheddar mac – mac’n’cheez + 1 Tbsp tomato passata (or 1 tsp paste)

chipotle mac – mac’n’cheez + 1 tsp chipotle paste (or 1 Tbsp chipotle sauce such as cholula), and 1 to 2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander and a quarter of a lime added when the sauce is off the heat.  i also added avocado and vegan chorizo sausage to mine.

fondue – add 1 tsp garlic granules and 1/4 cup hard cider or beer

hollandaise – add 1/2 to 1 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp garlic granules, and either half a lemon’s zest or a quarter of a lemon’s juice

lemon cream – add 1/2 tsp garlic granules and the zest of a whole lemon. smoked paprika is nice with this one too.

that’s what i got today.  stay tuned for why you really need to keep nutritional yeast around at all times!