Spring Vegetable Caponata

This is a top-notch relish without the price tag because all the vegetables are now in season.  Caponata is an Italian condiment with infinite variations, so I thought I’d give it a local tweak with vegetables in season here.  Can be served as part of a vegan Ploughman’s lunch, or an accompaniment to a sandwich, or a side dish at dinner, or as part of a buffet.  It’s an obliging little dish which you can take anywhere!



3 tbs olive oil

2 medium onions

100g garlic stuffed olives, sliced

1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes

2 tbs cider vinegar

200g baby courgettes, cut into 2 cm baton

200g baby aubergines, diced

2 tbs light brown sugar

zest and juice of an orange

salt and pepper to taste

25-30g fresh basil


  1. Fry the onions for the caponata in the oil until translucent (5-8 minutes).  Stir in the olives, tomatoes, baby courgettes, baby aubergines, zest of the orange and the sugar whipped into the orange juice. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Take it off the heat.
  2. Chop the larger leaves of the basil and stir into the mixture, then when you have decanted the caponata into a pretty bowl, garnish with the smaller leaves.  This is best served a room temperature, so if you want to make it in advance take it out of the fridge half an hour before serving, and garnish with the little leaves at the last minute.

Tesco have brown sugar and basil on special at the moment, so if you can access one, this will cost £7.52 if you do not have cider vinegar in the house.  As always, this factors in all ingredients except the oil.  I was wondering, do you have websites which search supermarkets’ prices where you are living?  They’re so useful if you are on a budget.  I use mySupermarket here – do you have something similar?

Cherry and Pistachio Salad

If you buy the cherries now they’re in high season they won’t be expensive but this salad has a really luxurious feel to it with the succulent fruit and the moreish nuts.  It is just lovely, and really needs no dressing.  I can hardly call it a “recipe”, but it is my favourite salad and I wanted to share it!  Obviously all you have to do is work out how much you want to serve (according to appetite or numbers present), decide on which ratio of nut to cherry would please you, then stone the cherries, shell the nuts and mix throughly.  Serve immediately to keep the nuts crunchy.  

The cost varies enormously from supermarket to supermarket; the cheapest pistachios I found were £1.39 for 150g at Aldi.  Regarding the cherries, they tend to cost between £2.50-£3.00 for 350g in the shops but I rarely buy them there, as I find so them so much cheaper at markets at this time of year.  It all depends on where you live of course, but if you can’t find cherries personally I think pistachio graces whatever it touches!


Mid-Spring Pie: Sausage, Chickpea and Leek Filo Pie PLUS Fragrant Sausage Stew with Garlic Mash

This mixture makes enough to serve with mash the following day; the accompaniments are so different it is improbable that anyone will notice, but even if they do they’re just as unlikely to complain about this appetisingly savoury Southern European blend of ingredients.



Piecrust: 8 sheets long filo pastry and 55g vegan margarine, melted


(divide by half – except the smoked paprika – if you don’t fancy tomorrow’s dish)

11 veggie sausages, sliced and fried until brown

1 extra sausage for garnish, sliced, plus 1 tsp oil

1 tsp smoked paprika

175g baby leeks, topped and tailed, chopped and washed

2 tbs sundried tomato puree

2 tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tbs olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6.
  2. For the filling, fry the leeks in the olive oil until turning translucent, then add the smoked paprika and fry for another minute.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly until blended.  Set aside half of this mixture for tomorrow.
  4. Brush a 7in springform pan with melted vegan margarine, then add the sheets one at a time, overlapping them as you go and painting with melted butter before each addition. Place them across each other, with a generous margin of pastry hanging over either side.  Make sure the bottom of the tin is completely covered, with no gaps.
  5. Add the filling with care and spread it across the bottom.
  6. Bring up the edges of the pie one by one so that they lie across the filling, brushing each sheet with melted margarine before adding another the next one.
  7. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until nut brown.  A few minutes before the end of the cooking time, fry the sausage slices until brown, then place a ring of discs on the pie as a garnish.

Fragrant Sausage Stew with Garlic Mash



If you rename yesterday’s savoury mix for the pie, you are more likely to get away with the repetition, but of course it depends on how culinary minded your fellow diners are!  Remove the portion from the fridge at least half an hour before you cook it to allow it to come to room temperature.  If you want to cook this independently of the pie, obviously  you can follow the instructions given for the filling.

Make garlic mash: boil 800g old potatoes (peeled if not using a ricer) for about 20 minutes until tender, then either mash or put through a ricer.  While still warm, melt 55g vegan margarine and gently fry two finely chopped garlic cloves. Mash into potatoes with 1 tbsp plant milk and mix well.  Start gently reheating the stew when you begin mashing/ricing.  Serve on or off the mash, depending on preferences.

Based on an ASDA shop, you can make both dinners for £9.25, working on the basis of an empty cupboard and having to buy vegan margarine and smoked paprika.  If you have either of these already, that’s fab!







Pepper and Chickpea Cutlets with Sweet and Sour Sauce

This classic Chinese sauce often graces food from other parts of the world and there is an infinitesimal number of recipes for it out there – we’ve all made it our own!  It certainly elevates these appetising but humble cutlets by combining the earthy with the unexpected to maximise both budget and flavour.  This uses a bag of 3 assorted peppers. Please note that this recipe uses cooked potatoes.  You may wish to get this done before you start on the sauce if you haven’t any leftover tatties.



Sweet and Sour Sauce

Make this first, then you can simply reheat it when the cutlets are ready.


1 onion, chopped finely

1 red or orange pepper, chopped roughly

1 425g can of pineapple in juice; you need the juice and the fruit (chopped if you can’t find pineapple pieces)

2 green chilli, bought loosely

one 3 cm square of ginger root, chopped finely

2 tbs soy sauce

I tbs granulated sugar

2 tbs tomato puree

Juice of one lemon (but zest it first for the cutlets)


  1. Water fry the onion until translucent, then add the pepper, chilli, garlic and ginger and fry for another two minutes.
  2. Add the soy sauce, chopped tinned pineapple with its juice, lemon juice, brown sugar and tomato paste.  Mix thoroughly.
  3. Blend all the ingredients together by pulsing the food processor until you have a thick sauce with some pieces intact.

Chickpea Cutlets


1 x 240g can chickpeas (drained weight)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped very finely

30g butter or vegan margarine

500g – 600g cooked organic potatoes

2 tbs soy sauce

zest of a lemon

black pepper

flour to coat, if wished

small amount of oil for frying


  1. Mash the chickpeas together with the butter/marg and potatoes.  Grind in some pepper.
  2. Beat in the onion, peppers, garlic, soy sauce and zest of a lemon.  Allow to cool.
  3. With lightly floured clean hands, shape the mixture into rough cutlet shapes.
  4. Put the sauce on to heat through gently, then lightly fry the cutlets in oil (use a nonstick pan if possible) until golden brown on both sides.  
  5. You may wish to serve the sauce separately so that diners can decide how much they wish to pour over.

If you buy the potatoes, ginger root, lemon, bag of 3 peppers, soy sauce and tomato puree at Aldi, and the tin of pineapple, sugar, a loose onion, a couple of loose chillies and a tin of chickpeas at ASDA, with a bit of luck you’ll be able to get this on the table for just over a fiver (£5.07, if my calculations are correct, based upon today’s prices). This does assume you have oil in the house.

The Full Celtic

(Scottish Potato Pancakes, Sweet Potato Irish Coddle, Welsh Rarebit Tomatoes)


This is a great leisurely feast to make if you love a full cooked breakfast but find the red-faced racing from hob to hob a little stressful; the coddle can be cooked in the oven and the tomatoes can simmer gently while you fry the pancakes.  Tweaking the traditional coddle by using sweet potatoes makes it lighter – it will be too heavy with the potato pancakes otherwise.  The coddle could be made the night before and reheated for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at Gas Mark 6/200C/390F.


For the Coddle 

1 kg sweet potatoes 

1 large onion, diced 

4 vegan bacon rashers 

4 vegan sausages

1 tbs olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

250ml cider

250ml vegetable stock, made with a stock cube

1 small packet parsley, roughly chopped

For the Tomatoes

500g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbs *Worcestershire Sauce

200g vegan Cheddar, grated

For the Potato Pancakes

450g organic potatoes, cut into uniform sizes

60g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

60g vegan margarine

1 tbs plant milk of choice


  1. Start with the coddle.  Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C/390F.  Make the stock by dissolving one stock cube in 250ml boiling water.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 2cm cubes.  Set aside while you lightly fry the onions for three minutes.  This is just to release their natural sweetness – you don’t have to wait until they are translucent.  Scrape the onion into a casserole dish, then use the same pan to quickly fry the sausages for 2 minutes only.  You simply want to brown them.  In the meantime, chop the bacon.  Add both to the casserole dish and mix.  Tip in the garlic, sweet potatoes, cider and stock, cover the casserole dish, then put into the oven for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes for the pancakes if you are not using a ricer. Boil them until they are tender for about 20 minutes, or less if you cut them small.  Mash (or put through the ricer), then add 30g of the margarine, the plant milk and the flour.  Beat vigorously, then when the mixture is cold, shape into a ball with floured hands, flatten it, then roll it out to 2 cm thickness and cut out your preferred shapes with a biscuit cutter.
  4. Five minutes before the coddle is ready, combine the vegan cheese with the Worcestershire sauce, then, stirring now and then, simmer gently on the hob with the tomatoes until the tomatoes are softened and the cheese has melted.
  5. Melt the rest of the margarine for the pancakes, then fry for approximately two minutes on each side on a high heat to produce a gorgeous crust.
  6. On a large plate, dish out the coddle, top with the tomatoes and the parsley, then surround the whole with your pancakes.  Feast away!

*Chippa is a good vegan brand.  You can buy it at ASDA for 1.29.  Life is another one which you can get in whole food shops, but it is more expensive.

If you buy the sweet potatoes, cider, parsley and plain flour at Aldi, and the remaining ingredients (minus the vegan bacon; you will have to go to a whole food shop for that) at ASDA, this will cost around £15.33, buying everything from scratch.  However, you will have plenty of ingredients for your stores left: potatoes, sweet potatoes, bacon rashers, plain flour, vegetable stock cubes, vegan margarine, plant milk, Worcestershire sauce and vegan cheese. Of course, if you have any of these already, you’ll spend even less. 


Glam Chowder

The glamorous silkiness of the creamed sweetcorn and the okra are best achieved if you use really fresh okra so if you can’t find it, use frozen.  Otherwise it will be more slimy than silky.  Chowder is served up in many countries (America, Peru, Bermuda, UK); if you want to experiment with a vegan version you can start with the three base points of corn, plant milk and a thickening agent or two, then connect the dots in any way you fancy.  Here’s one possibility, using the gorgeous asparagus which is now in season.



2 red onions, chopped finely

2 red chillies

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbs sunflower oil

500g potatoes, cubed

225g green beans, topped, tailed and sliced into 2cm lengths

175g okra, topped (or use frozen) and roughly chopped

1 418g tin creamed sweetcorn

4 heaped tbs frozen sweetcorn

250ml water mixed with 2 tbs soy sauce

150ml unsweetened almond/oat milk

100g asparagus

1 tsp ground black pepper

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the top off the chillies, slice vertically, deseed them with the tip of your knife, then chop them.
  2. Grind them in a pestle and mortar with the oil and the salt to make a paste; the salt helps the grinding process.
  3. Tip the chillies in a big pan and fry them with the onions until the latter are tender – you may need to add a drop more oil.
  4. Add the potatoes and fry for five minutes, stirring frequently so the potatoes don’t catch.
  5. Add the water/soy sauce, bring to the boil and simmer gently for ten minutes until thickening.
  6. In the meantime, put a pan of water on to boil for the asparagus.
  7. Add the green beans, okra, creamed sweetcorn and frozen sweetcorn, then bring back to the boil and simmer for another 8 minutes.  Add the plant milk and simmer for another 2 minutes.
  8. While this is happening, steam or boil the asparagus for ten minutes.
  9. Check the veg; al dente works for the green veg but obviously not for the potatoes, so make sure these are really tender before you serve up.
  10. Check the seasoning, adding more if necessary, then transfer to a serving bowl and decorate with the cooked asparagus.

Based on a ASDA shop, this will cost around £8.60.  The sweetcorn and okra I used were both frozen; there was plenty left over to sit happily in the freezer so this is quite an economical dish!

One Filling, Two Flans:  Asparagus and Rustic Vine Tomato PLUS One Dressing, Five Salads: Four Monochrome, One Minestrone

gVegan flans (or quiches if you prefer that term) are often made with silken tofu, which produces a beautifully airy savoury custard.  If you roll the pastry thinly, you’ll be able to have enough flans for dinner one day and lunch/dinner the next.  It makes it easier to achieve this if you put the pastry in the cases in whichever way they fall for the tomato flans; that way, you don’t need to use a lot to fill in all the contours.  This filling will be enough for both days – easily – and if you serve your flans with different salads it won’t feel like repetition.


1x 500g packet puff pastry

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp Dijon mustard

100g Smoked Cheese Alternative (half of a 2oog packet), grated

300g silken tofu

About 100g fine, new asparagus

16 cherry tomatoes on the vine



  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Cut the pastry down the middle.  Roll out half to fit a flan case and other half to fit another flan case or four individual cases – in which case you would obviously have to cut that half into four pieces and shape them into balls before rolling; roll from the middle of the circle, (at regular intervals along the perimeter) to the outside in one direction.  You need to do some calculation here; I used a 35 x 12 cm fluted tin for the asparagus flan and 4 round silicone cases with 12cm widths.  If my maths is right, that makes a total area of 533.04 cm, so you can use which pie plates/cases/dishes you have to hand for your two meals by roughly working out the total area of them.
  3. Once your containers are lined, put greaseproof paper on the pastry, top with baking beans (or pulses or washed stones) as weights and bake for 10 minutes to seal the bottom. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before removing the paper and weights.
  4. Water fry the onions until translucent.
  5. Add the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes.
  6. Blend together the tofu, mustard and grated cheese, then mix in the onions and garlic.
  7. In one flan case, arrange the asparagus spears as you like them.
  8. In the other case(s) arrange the tomatoes.
  9. Spoon the filling in equal proportions in each flan case.
  10. Bake the flans for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
  11. For tomorrow’s tomato flan, reheat in the oven for ten minutes at the same temperature.

Four Monochrome Salads and Minestrone Salad with Lemon Dressing

This dressing will be enough for all five salads if you want them to glisten rather than be drenched; obviously you will have to keep some back for the minestrone salad for the following day for the tomato flans.  If you make the purple salad first, the aubergine will benefit from some marinading while you make the others to go with the asparagus flan.  Before you start the salads, pop the water on to boil for the green beans.


Whisk together the zest and juice of a lemon with one 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and 4 tbs olive oil.


Chop and fry a small aubergine in 1 tbs oil until tender; combine with a drained can of kidney beans and 50g of chopped red cabbage.  Dress immediately and allow to marinate.


Combine one sliced Granny Smith apple with one punnet of mustard&cress and 200g cooked, sliced green beans.  Toss immediately in the dressing to stop the apples turning brown.


Thaw 2tbs frozen sweetcorn; mix with a pack of baby corn, chopped, and a deseeded and chopped yellow pepper.  Dress immediately.


Grate 2 medium carrots, then mix with some chilli nuts and a chopped orange pepper.  Dress just before serving to keep the nuts crispy and crunchy – add some from the packet until you have the look and feel you’re after; it’s a matter of taste.

Minestrone Salad

Mix together 100g (raw weight) of cooked pasta stars (instructions will be on the packet) with 2 chopped medium carrots and 3 stalks of celery.  Dress the salad as soon as you have drained the pasta.

If you buy the lemon, aubergine, frozen sweetcorn, baby corn, organic carrots, chilli nuts, celery, asparagus and vine tomatoes at Aldi, and the rest at Tesco, you can produce these two meals, complete with salads,  for £17.31 for four people.  (This is assuming you have oil in the cupboard).



Pecan and Coconut Granola

You can buy a basic granola very cheaply from the budget supermarkets, and homemade granola tends to be expensive.  However, there is a saving to be made if you want your granola to be on a par with a high-end variety (see below for details) because you are comparing like with like.  In my opinion, it is worth the trouble: this is gorgeous.



500g porridge oats

200g desiccated coconut 

170g flaked almonds

200g pecans

180ml maple syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.  Line two baking trays with nonstick parchment paper.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a bowl, stir in the maple syrup, then spread across the two baking trays evenly.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes until the nuts start to brown.  Keep checking after 5 minutes; if it looks as if they are getting too brown too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking until the 10 minutes are up.
  4. When cool, separate any clumps, then transfer to an airtight jar, such as a Kilner jar.

This will cost around £7.60, if you buy all the dry ingredients at Lidl, and the maple syrup at ASDA.  That may sound expensive, but it makes more than a kilo and a half of granola. When you consider that 500g (sometimes 550g) boxes/bags of high-end granolas cost anything between £3 and £3.69, you will be paying a lot less for a comparable – (dare I say better in some cases?) – taste.

Beer Battered Tempura

Just like traditional tempura, this should not sit around as it quickly goes soggy, so the trick is to have the vegetables and batter prepared before you start to heat the oil.  A half and half mixture of beer and water produced the best result after experimentation;  it tasted far too beery without the water, but with it the flavour was more subtle. A nuance of beer sets the batter on a different trajectory without drowning it.  Practically any vegetables (except potatoes) are good for tempura.  There are many recipes available detailing different combinations of flours but the important thing to remember if you want to experiment is that you do need raising agents (baking powder, fizzy water) if you are using a plain flour. 



2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets

4 leaves of kale, washed

1 head of broccoli, broken into small florets

115g gram flour

115g corn flour

2 tsp baking powder

150 ml fizzy water from the fridge

150ml beer from the fridge

1 tsp salt

sunflower oil for deep frying


  1. Put kitchen paper on 4 or 5 plates in readiness for the hot vegetables.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients, then make a well in the centre.
  3. Pour in the beer and fizzy water, whisking as you go until everything is well combined.
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan (about 4 cm high) until bubbling but not smoking; test a smidgeon of batter in it; if it puffs up and goes brown, it is ready.
  5. Submerge a few of the vegetables in the batter and gently toss to coat, then carefully lower into the hot oil using tongs, making sure you allow plenty of room for the batter to puff up. Keep checking the oil – turn the heat off if it seems as if it is starting to smoke, turning on again when necessary.
  6. Once the battered vegetables are a golden brown, remove with a strainer (the wider the better) and lay in a single layer on the prepared plate.
  7. Continue in this way until you have battered all the vegetables; they only take about 3 minutes so you don’t have to worry about the waiting veg getting cold.
  8. Transfer to a pretty plate and serve with plum sauce or sweet chilli sauce.

Based on an ASDA shop, if you have to buy everything from scratch, including the sunflower oil and flours, this would cost around £9.75, unless you have a beer in the fridge already. 


Emoji Pie with a Hint of Moroccan Flavours

This would be a lovely pie to make for a friend who is going through a rough time. If the gorgeous blend of almonds, chickpeas, paprika, mint and cumin, Moroccan style, doesn’t elicit a smile, maybe the happy face will!




500g tin of cherry tomatoes in tomato juice

1 large tin of chickpeas

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp dried mint

1 tsp paprika

100g sliced almonds

2tbs tomato puree

1 bird’s eye chilli, chopped

600g potatoes

40g margarine

1 tbs flour


  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into uniform pieces, then boil for approximately 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C/400F.
  2. While these are cooking, tip the tin of cherry tomatoes and their juice into a bowl  and roughly mash them with a fork.  Pour into a nonstick pan.
  3. Add the chickpeas, cumin, paprika, mint, tomato puree, almonds and chilli.  Stir well, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the chickpea mixture into an ovenproof dish.  Mash the cooked potatoes with the margarine and reserve a couple of tablespoons.  Spread some flour over a large chopping board, put the reserved potatoes in the middle, then gently roll into a ball so it becomes coated with flour.  You can then mould facial features according to your fancy between the flats of your hands.  If you want to make hair, push the potato through a garlic crusher.
  5. Spread the rest of the potato on top of the mixture.  Add the face, then lightly brown in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Based on a Tesco shop, this will cost £7.29 at time of writing.  This includes the cost of organic potatoes (£1.50 for 1.5 kg) and you’ll obviously have some left over for your next dinner.  There will be some chillies remaining too, plus of course some useful herbs and spices for your cupboard.