The most stressful aspect of daily life during this pandemic for me is food. I really feel for people with allergies and specific dietary requirements when it comes to shopping and cooking. I hope my experience will inspire vegetarians, vegans and meat-eaters alike to try new recipes and ideas and demonstrate that you don’t have to give up the things you love during this pandemic.
Quick shop and list are out the window
Questions around which supermarket to go to, the anxiety that builds up adjusting to and paying attention to the new rules while shopping along with the stress of being out around other people – all of that on top of playing supermarket sweep is difficult. I usually shop with a list but with all the panic buying that’s been going on recently, it’s more a game of what will I end up with… so advance meal planning has been out the window recently.
I have found it difficult to get some of my usual go to products (let’s not even get into the toilet roll issue!) and to keep safe, I am only going to the supermarket when once a week. If I can’t get something, I’m not driving around lots of shops to find it so I’ve had to be more creative.
Vegan doesn’t mean boring!
I really enjoy cooking, especially for other people and I’m really missing having friends and family round where I can cook for them. The OneKind team are usually always hearing about new things I’ve made and it’s where “Lunch Club” was formed. I spent my childhood in the Middle East where meat is a staple part of the culture and diet but I have definitely found the transition easier with the amazing meat alternatives on offer. I can still make many of my old favourites but can do so now knowing they are cruelty-free! I’ve heard so many people worried and panicking because they can’t get eggs, milk, meat etc. I want to share that you don’t need them to make tasty and healthy food! I have also seen people turning to vegan alternatives because they’ve had to and have been pleasantly surprised.
I’ve popped some of my favourite recipes which are so easy to make (I have tested most of these on meat-eaters and they love them!) and made a list of the ingredients you can use.
This is one of my absolute favourites and made from scratch, is so much healthier than any sauce you can get in a jar. All you need are a few ingredients (and it tastes just as good) so if you do eat beef mince, trust me that you can make it without beef.
Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s all do their own vegan mince (it’s so cheap at just £1.75 a bag) and you’ll easily feed a family of 4 with less than the amount in the bag. You also cook it from frozen.
Chop your onion (you just need one) and fry on a medium heat until softened. Add your mince (I live alone and use half the bag which gives me 3 portions) for around 5 minutes. Add a clove of garlic (or more if you like) and a vegetable stock cube.
In a small cup, add another vegetable stock cube, 2 tsp soy sauce, a tsp tomato puree and half a teaspoon of sugar. Add boiling water up to around an inch or so and stir. Then add that to your mince.
Once stirred, add a tin of tomatoes (I like to blitz mine first) and simmer for 15 mins. Add a touch of salt and pepper and taste. If you like it to taste a little more “meaty”, add a touch more soy sauce.
Cook your pasta (if you’ve been lucky enough to get some) and voila!
Then you can keep the rest of the mince you have and make chilli (just make it exactly the same way as the Bolognese but without the garlic; just add chilli seasoning and pop in some kidney beans!)
Alternative chicken and leek pie:
This one is a particular favourite among my friends and my sisters.
I use Quorn vegan fillets or Tesco’s own frozen meat free chicken alternative pieces – again, only £1.75 per bag
I make this to serve 4 people. Chop either 2 large or 3 smaller leeks and fry until softened (in a butter alternative) and then add the meat free pieces. Make sure everything is coated in the “butter” and add a little more if required.
In a measuring jug, mix up your stock. To make it taste more like “chicken”, I use the MARI GOLD vegan bouillon powder but mixing up vegetable stock cubes would work the same. Then go back to your pan and slowly start to add plain flour until it starts to form a paste around your meat free pieces and leeks (don’t worry, it’s meant to be thick) and then slowly add your stock a little at a time. Continue adding flour and stock until you have formed a soupy like sauce. Then to make it creamy, add around 100ml of soya milk (any milk or cream alternative will work) and then drop to a lower heat and simmer to allow the sauce to thicken over 10 -15 mins.
Then transfer your sauce mixture to an oven dish and then roll out your pastry and cover your dish. Brush your pastry with a little soya milk and put into the oven at around 180 degrees for about 20 mins.
Quick and healthy pasta:
Another favourite is spaghetti with spinach, fresh chillies, garlic and tomatoes (I use piccolo tomatoes). It’s quick and easy to make by putting all the ingredients in a pan with olive oil (add the spinach for the last few minutes). Once the pasta is cooked, toss it in, mix together and serve. Easy!
Waste not want not:
I hate food waste so have been making different meals with similar ingredients; fajitas one night, tofu tacos or wraps, stir-fry the next. I have even managed a roast dinner using up ingredients I already had without even thinking about it in advance.
If you have some vegetables left over, toss them all in a pot with some vegetable stock and lentils to make soup (I like to blitz mine) then add some chopped and lightly fried Vivera! bacon pieces (and it makes vegan lentil and bacon soup – and tastes amazing!
- Make your own garlic bread! If you’ve bought wraps for fajitas then you can also turn them into garlic flatbreads; just spread margarine on them and then spread garlic paste, crack a little sea salt, add some mixed herbs and oregano (I use the jar of dried ones) and put under the grill for around 6 or 7 minutes until golden.
- Beef stock alternative: 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp tomato puree, 1 vegetable stock cub, half a tsp sugar and boiling water.
- Mix up your tofu to make it interesting; cut up and either dip in cornflour before lightly frying to crisp it up or coat in (dairy free) milk and dip in breadcrumbs and bake.
- Fancy a roast dinner but don’t have a muffin tin? No problem, neither do I! I made perfect vegan yorkshire puddings in a mug! (porcelain works best – glazed on bone china are likely to crack in the oven).
Of course, you can use tofu or meat free pieces interchangeably according to your preferences.
My other favourites:
Some of my other favourite recipes, I’ve found on various websites and they are all vegan.
- Banana pancakes – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/vegan-banana-pancakes
- Black pepper tofu (tastes just like black bean) – https://www.yummly.co.uk/recipe/Black-Pepper-Tofu-2389986
- Tofu tikka masala – Happy Vegan cookbook (by Fearne Cotton)
A few of my favourite ingredients (and even those who would usually eat meat will love them!)
- Oumph kebab and Oumph chunk
- Vivera! bacon pieces
- Tesco/Asda/Sainsbury’s vegan mince
- Tesco meat free chicken style pieces
- Tofoo tofu (especially the smoked one!)
- “Like Meat” range; the chicken and smoked sausage alternatives are fantastic
- Wicked Kitchen Sticky toffee pudding and Red Velvet brownie
- Alpro custard (only 95p!)
I can also recommend the Happy vegan book – it’s full of lots of ideas for lunch, dinner, desserts. I’m looking forward to trying more of them!