Flash fried food is not greasy because it is cooked quickly at a high temperature; because you shake off any excess margarine before serving, it is not swimming in fat. Bretons often flash fry apples to serve with pancakes; tart apples always enhance anything sweet or subtle, and cauliflower is both. Cumin really intensifies the apple flavour. The coconut milk I am talking about is the type in cartons, not tins. This may sound improbable but it was a happy accident which produced a delicious cheesy sauce.
4 red-skinned apples
4 baby cauliflowers
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 litre coconut milk
1 heaped tbs plain flour
55g vegan margarine for sauce
1/2 – 1 tsp ground cumin
35g vegan margarine for apples
120g vegan extra mature cheddar
4 heaped tsp savoury yeast flakes
- Steam the cauliflowers whole – (if they are perky and fresh you don’t need to discard the leaves) for 15-20 minutes, depending on size, until they are tender.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce: melt the margarine, add the flour and stir vigorously to make a smooth paste.
- Turn off the heat, then very gradually, drop by drop, add the plant milk, stirring for all you are worth after each addition. It really does pay to be patient, as I have discovered to my cost after adding a big glug. Turn on the heat and stir constantly until you have a thickened, smooth sauce. Once it starts to simmer, add the vegan cheese and stir until melted.
- Stir in the yeast flakes. Keep the sauce simmering gently while you prepare the apples.
- Melt the other 3og of margarine, thoroughly stir in the cumin, then fry the apples quickly; about 2 min each side. Lift them out with some tongs, shake them, and drain on kitchen paper.
- Nestle the cauliflowers close to each other (see photo), pour over the sauce, arrange the freshly cooked apple slices over the mounds and serve the rest on diners’ plates.
This comes in at about £8.54, buying everything from scratch, including the yeast flakes, marg and flour. This costing is based on a purchase of apples, cumin, mustard and flour from Aldi and the rest from ASDA.
If any single ingredient symbolises the beginnings of fusion food in England, it is Allspice. Allspice is ground from a single berry (of the Pimento Dioica tree from Central America to be pedantic), but in the 15th Century the British thought it tasted like the combined flavours of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, so they called it Allspice. It often turns up in chutneys and pickles, and is especially lovely with date-based preserves, so it is natural choice for this cake.
100g “ready to eat” dried mango (regular dried mango will be too chewy)
200g chopped dates (not rolled in sugar)
280g muscovado sugar
3 tbs ground flax seeds mixed with 4 1/2 tbs water and allowed to stand for 10 minutes
450g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
225ml vegan plain yoghurt
100g pecan nuts, broken into quarters (break in two vertically first)
- Put the dates in the water and bring to the boil. Bring down to a simmer, then cook gently until the dates soften. Beat with a wooden spoon until you have a puree. Leave to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease a silicone Bundt mould (a bit overcautious, but just in case).
- Cream the marg and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer until you have a light and fluffy mixture.
- Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking power, salt and Allspice into a large bowl.
- Lightly flour the mango and pecan pieces (otherwise they will sink to the bottom when baked). Alternately fold in the flax “eggs” and dry ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the vegan yoghurt, date puree, mangoes and pecans. Spoon into the mould and level off the top.
- Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Test the cake by putting a skewer or uncooked strand of spaghetti near the middle. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
- This cake goes with just about anything: vegan cream/ice cream/custard/fruit sauce – anything works!
This will feed four people for two days (or unexpected guests). It has similar layers to a moussaka but the resemblance stops there; a pungent vegan cheese sauce is used and a sweet, tangy tomato and chick pea sauce replace the mince. When I have served this to guests, without exception they have come back for seconds, even the most impassioned meat-eaters, such is its hearty depth of mixed delights. It is quite a performance to make, so it is best reserved for your day off. Alternatively, you can make it the evening before, omitting the baking stage, and leave the assembled dish in the fridge until you come home the following day, but take it out as soon as you get in the door so you can allow it to come to room temperature before baking. Turn the oven on 15 minutes before baking.
1 large, or two small aubergines
2 tbs olive oil (or thereabouts)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tins chickpeas
500g mushrooms, halved
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
800g organic potatoes
4 tbs tomato puree
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp sea salt (if necessary; taste first because the cooked chickpeas may be slightly salty)
170g vegan cheddar cheese; one block of 55g, grated with the smallest hole on the grater, and 115g for the cheese sauce
1 tbs plain flour
30g vegan margarine
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbs nutritional yeast
500ml plant milk
- First prepare the aubergine(s): Line two large plates with kitchen paper. Slice into 1 cm slices, then fry in the oil until soft and lightly browned on both sides. Aubergines are notorious for soaking up oil. Two tricks help with this. Firstly, if you are lucky enough to have a griddle pan, you can brush the pan with oil and if you keep an eye out, turning the aubergine frequently, you should be able to soften the aubergine without needing to add more oil. Secondly, if you fry the aubergine in two batches, once with the larger slices then again with the smaller (when you need less oil), hopefully they will cook evening and you won’t be forced to add more oil to prevent the little slices blackening.
- Drain the cooked aubergine on the lined plates. When they are cool, blot them further with kitchen paper – this ensures that you extract as much oil as possible. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Boil or steam the potatoes for about 15 minutes, until tender. Thick slices work well in this dish, and you need to cook them first.
- While the potatoes are cooking, make the savoury tomato sauce: fry the onion until transparent, then add the peppers, garlic, tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs, chickpeas and salt (if necessary). Bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes, then add the mushrooms and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
- Pour the sauce into a large casserole dish. Lightly sprinkle with a little of the 55g block of vegan cheese. Add a layer of cooked potatoes (it doesn’t matter if they overlap as they are already cooked), then sprinkle with soft dusting of the vegan cheese. Finish with a layer of aubergines and another smidgeon of vegan cheese.
- Repeat these layers, ending with the aubergine, but on this final layer do not sprinkle any cheese because you will be finishing with a covering of cheese sauce.
- To make the cheese sauce, melt the margarine, add the flour and stir vigorously to make a smooth paste.
- Turn off the heat, then very gradually, drop by drop, add the plant milk, stirring and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan after each addition. Turn on the heat and stir constantly until you have a thickened, smooth sauce. Add the mustard, nutritional yeast and the grated 115g portion of cheese and stir until both are incorporated.
- Pour the sauce on the top of your layered casserole dish and bake for about 40 minutes until the top is lightly browned.
All the ingredients for two nights for four people come in at £12.88; however, that is buying everything from scratch, including flour, marg and nutritional yeast. I had to go to a health food shop for the latter. It can be found in Waitrose but it is usually for the same price, so if you are not near a Waitrose you’re better off going to your local health food shop, which you’ll know if you’ve used nutritional yeast before. You’ll also know that it lasts a long time (it’s a large tub) and is extremely useful for vegan cheesiness!
Birthday Persian Rock Cakes
These little light cakes are a particular favourite of mine. They are quick, supremely easy to make and are very economical. Sprinkle a classically Persian ingredient into classically English cake mix which has stood the test of time and you have an extra special breakfast fit for a birthday or another occasion worth celebrating.
225g self-raising flour
3/4 tsp ground mixed spice
125g vegan margarine, cold from the fridge, diced
3 rounded tbs soft brown sugar
80g tub of pomegranate seeds
2 rounded tsp apple sauce and 1 tbs plant milk, whisked together with a fork
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Grease a baking sheet.
- Sift the flour and mixed spice into a bowl. Rinse your hands in cold water, dry them, then rub the marg into the mixture until you have little breadcrumbs. Try just to use the tips of your fingers because you want to keep the marg as cold as possible.
- Add the sugar, the dried fruit, the pomegranate seeds and the plant milk/apple sauce mixture. Gently stir until everything is just combined, like you would with muffins. If you overmix, you’ll end up with tough cakes.
- Using a tablespoon (serving-spoon size, not the measurement), put 8 rock-like heaps of the mixture onto your baking sheet, making sure you have plenty of room around each cake to allow them to spread.
- Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until browned. Leave to cool on a wire rack. (The pomegranate seeds get startlingly hot).
- Serve with birthday candles stuck into them at odd angles. If you happen to come across these candle holders with tiny garden forks, so much the better to shift rocks.
If you buy the apple sauce, sugar, sultanas and flour at Aldi, and the margarine, milk, mixed spice and pomegranate seeds at ASDA, the bills will total around £4.33, but of course you’ll have plenty left of all the ingredients, excepting the pomegranate seeds. But with a bit of luck you’ll have some of these items at home already!