Archive | March, 2012

Vegetable Stock

29 Mar

Making your own vegetable stock is easy peasy and very thrifty!

I always recycle my vegetable scraps anyway (great for compost) but recently discovered an even thriftier use – boiling up a huge pot of lovely vegetable stock. I was dubious at first as I adore my Kallo stock cubes. However I was very pleased with the results and the flavour far surpassed my cubes!

I tend to save all my scraps in a bag in the freezer, then when it is full I boil it all up with some herbs. You can keep scraps of anything, just make sure to wash it well before freezing. The only scrap I don’t bother saving is potato peelings as they don’t add much flavour. Things that may normally be thrown can add great flavour, try the stalks of fresh herbs, the leaves and middle piece of celery and the outer leaves of cauliflower.

There are no set in stone rules for this recipe, which means you can mix it up and do a slightly different broth every time! I always do try to start off with frying off onions, carrots, and celery in a little olive oil. These three are known collectively as mirepoix, a classic part of french cuisine. They are all aromatic vegetables and provide a great base for any vegetable stock. Once they have had a few minutes I throw in the water, herbs and remaining vegetable scraps.

So anyway here is the recipe, but remember, experiment with different veg peels and herbs until you find your favourite!

  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery chopped
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp of herbs ( I like oregano, thyme and rosemary but pick any you like!)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp marmite  (if not using just add one more tsp of salt)
  • 8 cups/2 litres boiling water
  • One freezer bag/5 cups of vegetable scraps/peels

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Fry the onion, celery and carrots for a few minutes until softened and aromatic.

2. Add salt, herbs, bay leaves, garlic and marmite along with the boiling water.

3. Add vegetable scraps, bring to a steady boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30-35 minutes. Taste to season then strain the liquid from the veg. I pop my strained stock back into the freezer in a container until I want to use it, it can be stored for a good 2 months.  Alternatively you can fill an ice cube tray and use these straight from the freezer in any meal!



Store cupboard essentials

18 Mar

I think more people would go vegan if they knew how cheap and healthy it is! So even if you are unsure about going vegan, just try it for a week to see how much money you will save on groceries (not forgetting how much better you will feel, how many animals you will save and how much kinder to the environment it is)!

I don’t like spending money on food at supermarkets and always loathe anything packaged or processed.  Generally, you will find that if you start by buying the basic ingredients for your kitchen cupboard (herbs, spices, grains, cans of pulses etc) and then just top it up with fresh fruit and veg weekly it is quite hard to spend a lot of money anyway! I am constantly thinking of ways to use up leftovers  and make the most of everything in the cupboards. I also think it’s important to have a few meals you can throw together in 10 minutes if need be!

I hope to show how even in these times of economic doom and gloom you could easily eat for around £10 a week per person.  For £10 you can eat three healthy vegan meals a day with money leftover for some homemade sweet snacks aswell!  It is really a lot easier than you think providing you get the right staples in your kitchen cupboards, sometimes I can spend around £5 getting some veg from the local market for a whole weeks worth of food for three people.

Having my ‘store cupboard essentials’ means if I am low on money one week or home from work really late there will always be an easy meal to knock up in the cupboards! So below I have listed the bare minimum I always have stocked, so that I can add to it as needed, or if I can’t afford to add to it, I can make a meal from what is there. Most of the recipes on here will include some of these ingredients, and I will put up a number of recipes that only use the ingredients below, for those ‘thrifty’ weeks!

  • High temp Oil – for frying, roasting such as sunflower, veg or rapeseed
  • Low temp Oil – for dressing, healthy frying, any olive/nut oil
  • Selection of dried herbs – any you like really, my top 3 – oregano/thyme/marjoram
  • Selection of spices – if you are on a budget, buy more spices than herbs, I tend to use them every day, my top 5, paprika, hot chili powder, garam masala, cumin, coriander
  • Salt and pepper – try and always get fresh sea salt or salt without anticaking agent – check the label
  • Vinegar – not just a condiment, use it to give a tang to sauces/dressings or another dimension of flavour to soups and stews, cider vinegar also makes a great buttermilk for cakes! I usually have balsamic and apple cider vinegar
  • Garlic bulbs – something I use almost daily
  • Piece of Ginger root -used in thai and indian dishes and always great to have around to make a ginger and fresh lemon hot water, so refreshing! Also has great health benefits – check a few of them here
  • Onions – red or white, think red for summer salads and pizzas and white for your basic everyday staple
  • Chilis – any type you like, bought from a grocers you can get them so cheap! A bag of around 10 costs me 40p from my small local grocer
  • Pasta – I always have spaghetti and a ‘shape’, try and buy wholewheat if you can, it is much healthier although can be slightly more expensive
  • Rice – brown is best but again white basmati will do if on a budget!
  • Marmite – even if you don’t like it as a spread, this baby adds a great deep meaty flavour to soups and stews. Also provides vegans with B12 which we can lack unless we are careful (for more info on this, click here)
  • Tinned chopped tomatoes – I literally panic if I run out of these, I should buy shares in them I get through so many. Trust me, grab a few cans at a time, generally around 40p for a value can!
  • Tin of pulses – any you like! Butter, kidney, pinto borlotti, or black eye beans, chickpeas or tinned lentils
  • Red lentils(dry) – my ultimate quick tasty wonder pulse! The humble red lentil makes burgers, pies, patties, daals, curries and is a general yummy thickener in stews and soups!
  • Stock cubes – worth buying decent quality cubes like kallo
  • Plain flour – essential for tortillas, cupcakes, pancakes, cookies, pastry…need I say more?
  • Self raising flour – needed for dumplings, scones and cakes!
  • Plain white bread flour – for pizza dough, focaccia, loaves and flat breads
  • Sugar – soft brown sugar is less refined than white, which I try to avoid unless it is for icing!
  • Instant dried yeast – for bread rising!
  • Dairy free marg – I like pure margarine which is in most UK supermarkets, but there are other brands like vitalite in most health shops too
  • Dairy free milk (unsweetened) – soya is under 60p a box in some supermarkets, but you could choose others such as rice, almond, oat and even coconut
  • Rolled oats – for flapjacks, porridge, biscuits and crumbles. Again try to buy loose from a health food shop to save those pennies
  • Cornflour – used in baking and thickening sauces, a box will last you a long time and is very cheap
  • Baking powder and Bicarbonate of Soda/baking soda – be sure to get the two different types, especially if you want to bake!
  • Tomato puree – can be bought for as little as 35p. I use this all the time, it can help for when you run out of tin tomatoes!
  • Peanut butter – the ultimate savoury snack with crackers, apple and in cookies and smoothies, also full of protein! Have a peek at more health benefits here

So these are my staple cupboard ingredients, knowing that I have them in stock means I can always rustle something up last minute!

Although it seems like a lot at first to get your cupboard ‘thrifty vegan’ ready a lot of these items will last you several weeks! In the UK this shopping list would set you back around £25 if you bought it all from a supermarket. Cheaper of course is always possible if you hunt around for smaller shops that sell items loose by the scoop.

The only thing I would add to this each week is a selection of my favourite fruit and veggies, again in the UK there are many markets, farmers markets and small independent grocers that offer incredible value compared to the supermarkets.  I never buy vegetables or fruit with my regular ‘shop’ as they are so much cheaper from markets and grocers. A weeks worth of potatoes, peppers, broccoli, kale, carrots and oranges would cost me £6 from many markets near me! Buying produce that is ‘in season’ tends to always mean you get more for your money too. Click here for a list of the cheapest fruit and veg by month.

Pepper pot stew with dumplings

17 Mar

This stew is taken from a Levi Root’s recipe, but I have added and removed some ingredients to make it vegan! The original recipe calls for coconut milk, but as I live with somebody with a terrible nut allergy unfortunately I can’t use it! I also think coconut milk can make spicy things too sweet, but by all means add a can if you like. It is hot, so if you prefer a milder taste just use one scotch or even half if you are a real whimp.

  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme , leaves only
  • 6 all spice berries OR half tsp ground all spice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 onion peeled and chopped
  • 1.2l/2 pints vegetable stock mixed with 2 tsp yeast extract
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 450g yam/potato cut into 3cm pieces
  • 400g sweet potato cut into 4cm pieces
  • 450g pumpkin/squash peeled and cut into 4cm pieces
  • 4 large spring onions, trimmed, lightly crushed with a knife
  • 1 1/2 scotch bonnets, finely chopped
  • 1 400g can butter beans
  • 150g spinach or callaloo, leaves only, washed and shredded

For the dumplings –

  • 150g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 5-6 tbsp cold water

1. Place thyme leaves, all spice, bay leaf, garlic, ginger onion and stock into large, heavy based lidded saucepan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

2. Add the vegetables, scotch bonnets and butter beans to the pan. Stir and return the mixture to a simmer, covered for a further 15-20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile make the dumplings. In a large bowl mix flour and salt. Add water little by little stirring until the mixture becomes a smooth dough. Set aside.

4. After the stew has cooked for 20 minutes add the callaloo or spinach, stir and simmer for 5 mins.

5. Meanwhile pinch 20-24 small pieces from the dough and roll into balls, using up all the dough. Add each dumpling to the pot as it is rolled and replace the lid. Continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes until the veg is tender, the sauce is thick and the dumplings have cooked through.

*I like my stew to have a thicker, almost gravy like sauce, so I mixed 2 tsp of cornflour with a little cold water to form a paste, then added it bit by bit to the simmering stew until desired consistency is achieved.*

Baked onion bhaji

16 Mar

These Bhaji’s are oven baked, meaning they aren’t greasy and full of fat like most I have tried. Don’t be put off by the recipe, it is actually very easy! Don’t worry if you don’t have all the spices, mix the spice blend up as you like.



For the Pan –

  •  1/4 chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander


  • 5 small onions OR 2 big onions
  • 5 tbsp buckwheat/gram flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large tsp tom puree
  • 1 and a 1/4 shot glass measure water


1. Preheat oven to 180c. Cut onions in half then cut into slices just under a cm thick. Drizzle some oil into a pan (around 1tbsp) and gently cook until they turn translucent. Ensure the onions do not brown. This should take around 10 minutes on a low-medium heat.

2. While onions are still on the heat stir in the chili powder and mix well. Now add the tumeric, cumin, ginger and coriander. Stir well again and switch off the heat.

3. In a large bowl combine flour,  salt, cumin and coriander. Stir in the onion mixture.

4. Place tomato puree into shot glass of water and mix well. Fill the glass with another 1/4 measure of water and add to the onion mixture. Stir well but not too much! The mixture should be wet and easy to stir but not too sloppy or wet. Add a tbsp or so more of flour if needed.

5. Drizzle oil onto baking tray and place a generous tbsp of mixture for each bhaji. Flatten slightly with a spoon. Cook in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

6. After 10 minutes take bhajis out the oven and drizzle with the tops of the bhajis with a little more oil ( I just use the excess from the baking tray). Place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel before serving.