Meat Free Monday: Vegan Lasagna

Dairy Free Vegan Lasagna (In England, we spell it lasagne, but I’ve used the American spelling as I know most of my readers are American/Canadian):

This post contains an affiliate link.  This recipe takes some time (I take just over an hour) so do it on a weekend day!

What better way to celebrate rabbit awareness week than to start it off with a meat free, animal free lasagna?

You will need:
A box of lasagna/lasagne sheets,
A block of dairy free hard cheese that can be grated/melted,

The “béchamel” sauce (method here):
Flour (or gluten free)
Soya milk (or alternative of your choice)
Vegan butter
Grated vegan cheese (optional depending on whether you prefer traditional or cheese béchamel sauce)

Alternative béchamel (if you are in a hurry):

Some cream cheese,
Cornflour,
A tablespoon or two of soya milk,

The “innards” of the lasagna:
1.5 cups Vegan mince or TVP,
1 Onion (or 1 cup frozen onions),
1/2 carton Tomato passata,
1/2 tsp of vegemite or yeast extract,
Herbs: a sprinkling of basil (OBT),

You will also need a square glass dish. You may need to change your measurements to fit your glass dish, mine is medium sized and serves 4-5. If you don’t have one, this lasagna dish set looks perfect.

Make the innards first:
1. Soak the TVP in some boiling water and mix in the Vegemite to add flavour.
2. Fry the onions and add the (drained if necessary) TVP, herbs, and the passata, mix well and set aside.

Then start to work with the lasagna sheets:
1. Follow the pre-soaking guidelines for the lasagna sheets. I usually pre-boil mine before using them so they’re not too hard.
2. Line the bottom of the glass dish with a layer of lasagna sheets, tearing and overlapping where necessary.

Then pour the innards over the first layer of lasagna sheets to totally cover it.

Next, put more lasagna sheets over the top of the innards.

Make the béchamel sauce next:
Here is the recipe you will use for the traditional béchamel sauce. If you’ve got all the ingredients, this one is the best one to make because it’s by far the most realistic. It’s your choice whether to include the grated cheese.
Alternative béchamel sauce using vegan cream cheese:
Put 1/3 of a tub of cream cheese in a pan, and heat it to soften. Mix in the soya milk and stir well. Add about 1 teaspoon of cornflour (sieve with a fine-mesh sieve to ensure no lumps, or just bung it in and live with the lumps) and mix well with a fork. Add more cornflour to thicken if needed.
Once the mixture is thick enough, pour over the top layer of lasagna sheets to completely cover them. You may need more sauce than this, depending on your dish size.

Grate the hard cheese over the top of the béchamel sauce to completely cover it with a decent layer of cheese.

To cook:

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes on 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 6.

Remove from oven and cut into square slices to serve. I use a wide flat spatula to get it out of the lasagna dish and a spoon in the other hand to stop the filling falling out.

To serve:

If it’s just to serve one, let the rest cool and cover then put in the fridge. When you wish to reheat, remove the amount you want to eat, and either oven it or microwave, depending on what you prefer.

Nutrition:

Approximately 1 of your 5 a day per serving and about 1/3 of your daily protein. For more of your 5 a day (so more vitamins), add some salad on the side or serve with a baked sweet potato and some boiled carrots.

Tips for success:

1. Get used to making the béchamel before you attempt the whole lasagna.
2. To save time you could pre-cook the béchamel for a different recipe the day before and set some aside for today’s lasagna.
3. Stir the vegemite fully into the TVP so you don’t get any lumps of yeast extract in your finished lasagna.
4. You can apparently just put the lasagne sheets in dry but I’ve always pre-soaked them and find this to make them cook better in the oven, as vegan cheese sauce tends to be a little too dry to soften the sheets in the oven.

Notes:
With the exception of the actual pasta itself, none of my pasta recipes contain gluten, so if you’re gluten free, replace your pasta with gluten free pasta and follow the rest of the recipe as normal. Most shops stock gluten free lasagne or lasagna sheets.

Next week: Pizza!

Bene cena!

Recipes: Easy Vegan Wedding Food For 75 Guests

All the recipes I did for my wedding are below.  We got Lebanese, Caribbean and some store bought cakes.

vegan caterers wedding food picnic raw gluten free

As I said in my previous Wedding Wednesday post, we really struggled to find any single caterer in York who would cater to a vegan wedding.  I phoned some places, and I didn’t even get quotes because they just didn’t do vegan food.  I was suggested the supermarket sandwich platters, but not one single vegan option, let alone a whole platter.  They all did “the vegetarian option” which meant cheese sandwiches with that miserable commercial grated flavourless cheese.  Obviously this service cost close to £100.  I was convinced that I could find tastier, more nutritional and more satisfying food for less money.

I wasn’t really sure what to go with for food – as long as it was vegan and tasty – but as the day drew closer I decided I was definitely going to do everything myself.  I’d seen lots of doom and gloom posts warning about the potential for disaster here, especially because people labour under this bizarre idea that you either can cook or can’t cook, and that “being able to cook” is do do with being able to make very specific, Western-Centric dishes that are generally nutritionally void and full of dead animal, and if you’re putting people in those camps, then no, I can’t cook, but if you try to remember that the basic purpose of cooking is supposed to be to get nutrients, and then give me an Indian, Asian, Caribbean, South American or African recipe (you know, two thirds of the world) and I am in my element.  I was so confident that I could do better cheaper food than the sandwich platters, that I set myself a challenge: to cater my own wedding for under £50.  Then I started looking at what to feed people.

I chose a few Lebanese dishes and some Caribbean.  I spent a whole day in the kitchen cooking, the day before the wedding, and refridgerated everything.  For drinks, and a nice visible centrepiece, we did up a cheap big rocking horse (that we found on Ebay for £5) to make him look like Vash the Stampede (links to Youtube) and we added two bags for life to make saddlebags, which we filled with drinks. There was bottled water, and cans of lemonade, cream soda and mini juice boxes of fresh orange juice. We were a little worried about how an alcohol free and animal free banquet would go down, but in the end we decided we wouldn’t do it any other way.

Here is the full list of food I whipped up or bought for the wedding, including the details for all the recipes I made, grouping foods by location:

Caribbean:

Plantain Chips GF

Cassava Chips GF

Fruit Ginger Cake (store bought, not GF)

Cucumber Chow (Trinidad and Tobago): 2 peeled diced cucumbers; 3 cloves of chopped garlic; 6 coriander leaves (finely chopped); pinch salt. Put in bowl and mix. RAW VEGAN FRIENDLY, GF Add hot sauce for more authentic Caribbean taste – I chose not to as the day was already forecast to be roasting.

Lebanese:
Batata Kizbra: 4 lg potatoes (cubed); 1 bunch coriander (chopped finely); 5-8 crushed garlic cloves; 1 juiced lemon; 3 tbsps olive oil. Cook potatoes then fry the lot. GF
Malfouf: (cabbage rolls): 1 whole cabbage; 3/4 cup vegimince; 1 cup raw rice; 4 squeezed lemons; 1-2 tsp of Lebanese 7 spice; 3 tbsp olive oil. Cook the rice, prepare the mince, mix the two. Boil the cabbage leaves until they are supple and rolly. Roll the rice mix in the cabbage leaves. Put in pan. Pour lemon, spice, oil and garlic mix over. Simmer/marinade until tasty (or 40 mins if you’re unsure). Check your vegimince, the rest is GF.

Mujardara (rice lentils): 2 tins of green lentils, 1.25 cups of uncooked rice; 4 medium onions; olive oil. Cook rice and lentils together until the rice is done. Chop and fry onions in the oil, mix about half of the onions in with the rice and lentils and garnish top with rest. Serve with plain yoghurt as a side dish (I served with Alpro plain soya yoghurt). GF

Loubieh bi Zait (beans in olive oil): 3lbs green beans; 3 medium onions; 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 2 tsp of Lebanese 7 Spice; 1/2 tsp salt. Chop the beans and onions, saute onions until they start going pinkish. Add the beans, salt and 1/2 the spices. Mix well to ensure the beans are covered in stuff. Cover and simmer for 45-55 mins. Stir every 5 mins. Once beans have turned a dark olive colour, add rest of spice, mix well and serve. We served cold with pita, julienned bell peppers, and spring onions, but can also be served hot if you’re not feeding 75 in a public park miles from home. GF

Extra Nibbles:

I bought some tiffin (dairy free vegan), in chocolate and chocolate orange flavours, available from the Free From section of Sainsbury’s or many other supermarkets.  I went for 4 packets as there was a 4 for the price of 3 offer on at the time, and I cut each slice into 4 little slices (so we got 80 little slices from 4 packs of tiffin), and we had about half of the tiffin left over after the wedding).

There were also store bought apple and strawberry pastries (£2 for 18-20 from Brompton House bakery brand who make cheap pastries for ASDA and Home Bargains), a few packets of cassava chips (crisps made from Cassava, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), a few packets of plantain chips (crisps made from plantain, found in the Caribbean aisle of ASDA), and a lot of packs of pitta bread to eat the Loubieh bi Zait.

bunny bowls wedding bowls easter

We got these cute bowls for 10p for a pack of 10 from ASDA and okay, they say Happy Easter on them, but they are bowls, you put food in them, and they have bunnies on them. If the words were in Chinese, nobody would even know what they said so I figured, meh, letters, people can get over it. Anyway, it’s never too late to wish people a Happy Easter. When I’m faced with a choice between something expensive with no bunnies on it, and something cheap which has bunnies on it, I am always going to choose the bunnies, it’s a complete no brainer. Since the wedding was filled with little touches of randomness, everyone thought we were being ironic and found it funny.

My main worry was whether this would feed enough people, since we had about 75 guests who actually turned up from 100 invited, but I needn’t have worried.  The actual problem was that there weren’t enough drinks for everyone.  On one of the hottest days of the year, we ran out of drinks which was very stressful.  I could’ve done without that.  It was fine though, because we moved the cake-cutting forward (apparently there’s a social cue that cutting the cake means the wedding party is over.  I accidentally cut the cake too soon, wanting to share it with my friends, and didn’t know why everyone left so suddenly) and we went home to where we had a stockpile of more drinks and a cupboard full of cups, and sat around with the last 20 guests playing video games.  The 3lbs of beans and the extensive amount of cucumber chow (I doubled the recipe) meant that everyone who wanted to eat something had something to eat.

I will do a separate post for my wedding cake, which was made inside the £50 wedding food budget.  Spoiler alert: It was made of cornflakes.

vegan wedding picnic food

Meat Free Monday: More Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipes

Given how well my first two cheese sauce recipes went down last week, here’s two more.  They’re a bit more complicated but I’ve made pasta and cheese in all of these methods and can vouch for the fact that it will scratch an itch, even if it’s not remotely nutritious (more advice on making this meal more nutritious at the bottom).  Some of these are more realistic than others, as a general rule of thumb, the harder it is to make, the more realistic it comes out, so it’s up to you how much effort to expend in making vegan cheese sauce.  I oscillate – sometimes I don’t care enough to take any time and other times I’m spending half an hour on that perfect vegan cheese sauce recipe and smoothing out lumps with my hand blender (that’s a pro-tip, btw).  It all depends on how hungry or rushed I am vs how much I miss cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce 3. Using vegan cream cheese, method C:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 2 tablespoons of cream cheese per person (you may need more)

About 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person (also works with rice milk, not sure about others).

About 1 tablespoon of cornflour.

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. In a small non-stick pan (ideally), on a medium heat, spoon your required amount of cream cheese into the pan and add about 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person to start with.

Stir it together while it’s heating until it’s all warm and sauce like.

3. Add the cornflour (sieving it into the pan with a fine mesh sieve is the best way to avoid lumps, but work with what you’ve got) and combine well with a fork.

4. Once the sauce has reached the right consistency, serve it all up – put the pasta in bowls and pour the sauce over the top.

Cheese sauce 4. Using vegan cheese slices, vegan cheese sauce method D:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 3-4 dairy free cheese slices per person (Tofutti or Violife are the UK brand leaders),

Method:

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. Put the pasta back into the pan. Tear the cheese slices up and drop them into the pan.

3. On a medium heat, stir the cheese slices into the pasta. Need it cheesier? Add more cheese!

4. Serve it in the right number of bowls and eat it.

Nutrition: To make these more nutritious, use cauliflower or broccoli (or some of both) instead of pasta.  I like to also throw in a serving of frozen or fresh peas to ensure there’s some colour on my plate.  A handful of peanuts will help you achieve your day’s protein goals.  I strongly recommend you don’t use lentils – they don’t work well in this sauce.

You can make any of my recipes gluten-free by subbing the pasta for GF pasta.

Stay tuned for next Monday when I will put up the all-singing all-dancing Oven Baked Vegan Mac-N-Cheese Recipe that you will want to get your hands on.

Meat Free Monday: Mac and Cheese Recipes 1 and 2

Pasta and “Cheese” Sauce

Before I developed a milk allergy, my favourite food was mac and cheese, although I would make it with lots of different shapes and sizes of pasta (one of my favourites was pasta shells, because they suck up the sauce). Since I’ve been dairy free, I’ve tried a lot of different ways to make pasta or macaroni and cheese.

The one way I absolutely DO NOT recommend is the “vegan” “cheese sauce” that comes in a tub from the supermarket/health food store. It’s a crime against vegetables. It literally tastes like someone threw some herbs in a pan then threw up on it.

Over the next three weeks, I will present several alternative pasta and cheese ideas, leading up to the all-singing, all-dancing “proper” one with a roux and everything; today’s two recipes are the simplest, and both use vegan cream cheese:

1. Using vegan cream cheese, method A:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 2 tablespoons of cream cheese per person (you may need more)

About 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person (also works with rice milk, not sure about others).

1. Cook the pasta and drain.  Gluten free pasta takes much less time than wheat pasta as it doesn’t have to soften the gluten protein.

2. In a small non-stick pan (ideally), on a medium heat, spoon your required amount of vegan cream cheese into the pan and add about 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person to start with.

Stir it together while it’s heating until it’s all warm and sauce like. If it’s too thin, add more cream cheese. If it’s too thick or the flavour’s too strong, add more soya milk.

3. Once the sauce is warm enough and reached a decent consistency, divide the pasta in bowls for each person eating and pour the sauce over it in a fair manner, then eat straight away.

2. Using vegan cream cheese, method B:

Ingredients:

1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)

About 1/3 of a tub of vegan cream cheese per person.

1. Cook the pasta and drain.

2. Heat the cheese in the bottom of a small non-stick pan (ideally) and once it’s softening, mix the pasta in until it’s all coated in cream cheese.

3. Serve in bowls and eat at once.

4. This one dries hard, so wash your bowls straight after eating.

Note: 

You can make these gluten free by using gf pasta instead of regular, or replacing pasta with either broccoli or cauliflower (although I recommend using my pasta recipe #5 for cauliflower).

These provide none of your 5 a day (fruit and veg), no vitamins to speak of, and negligible amounts of protein. They’re mostly carbs and a smattering of fat. To make it more nutritious, serve with a salad, or replace the pasta with cauliflower or broccoli (or just serve them up on the side) and sprinkle with sunflower seeds or your favourite nuts for protein (dry roasted peanuts are my fave but you gotta eat them fast so they don’t go soggy in the sauce).  I love mac n cheese but rarely eat it these days because it’s a nutritional vacuum.

Meat Free Monday: Kale Spinach And Vegan ‘Cream Cheese’ Canneloni

Recipe

A brief note about measurement:  I believe that people go a bit mad sometimes with measuring things to the very gram, and that it’s more important to get a feel for the amount of each ingredient and how they interact with one another, which is why I work in cups (the American measurement; you can buy a cup set in most homeware stores if you’re not in the US or do conversions if you need to) wherever possible.  I like to use fresh ingredients to make nutritious and tasty food whose sole purpose is nourishment.

(OBT) means Optional But Tasty.

Gluten:
Except for the lasagne and canneloni recipes, you can substitute the pasta for broccoli or cauliflower in any of these, if you need to eat more veg, or if you’re totally off processed foods. With the exception of the actual pasta itself, none of my pasta recipes contain gluten, so if you’re gluten free, usually you can replace your pasta with gluten free pasta (or broccoli) and follow the rest of the recipe as normal. I’ve not seen gluten free canneloni but you can pre-cook gluten free lasagne sheets and roll them up if you would like to try out this canneloni recipe and you’re GF.

Kale, spinach and cream “cheese” canneloni

You will need (all food ingredients are per person, scale the dish to fit):

A glass oven proof dish: Choose the smallest dish that fits all the tubes in, otherwise you will end up with a LOT of sauce and not much canneloni.

Four canneloni tubes per person;

1/2 cup of spinach;

1/2 cup of kale;

2 tablespoons of vegan cream cheese per person;

1/2 carton of tomato passata;

Grated vegan hard cheese;

OBT: Basil and garlic (to taste);

1. Boil the spinach and kale until it’s very soft. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat the cream cheese in a small non-stick pan (ideally) and stir in the spinach and kale. Add more cream cheese if needed.

3. Stuff the uncooked canneloni tubes full of the spinach and kale mixture, and put them in the glass oven-proof dish.

4. Mix the garlic and basil into the passata and pour the passata over the canneloni tubes.

5. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top of the food to cover the passata and the tubes.

6. Put in the centre of the oven at 150 degrees C or gas mark 5 for 35-45 minutes.

7. Remove and serve; don’t cut the canneloni to serve them if you can help it or the filling might come out.

Meat Free Monday: Pasta Scossese

I am away in the Scottish Highlands until Friday evening. I will not be able to reply to or approve comments until I get back. My posts are all pre-set to go live Mon-Wed, I will not be posting Thursday/Friday this week.

As it’s fitting with where I am when you’ll be reading this, I’ve decided today’s food will be Pasta Scossese (that’s Italian for Scottish Pasta). It’s another easy vegan pasta dish. Make it gluten free by substituting GF Pasta or broccoli for regular pasta.

OBT means Optional But Tasty.

Pasta Scossese:
Ingredients:
1 cup per person: Your favourite pasta (depending on density), gluten free or otherwise,
1 cup per person: Curly kale (scotch kale in the US),
1/2 cup per person: Tinned carrots (or 1 chopped fresh carrot per person, but will need boiling for longer to soften),
2 medium sprigs (those little mini-trees) of broccoli per person.
An onion,
Half a cup of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) mince, or other vegan mince of your choice,
1 carton of tomato passata,
1 tbsp of your cooking oil of choice (I prefer coconut oil),
OBT: A small sprig of rosemary and a larger sprig of thyme (or a little sprinkle of each dried herb), a sprinkle of basil, and a generous dash of garlic and oregano.

This meal is 2-3 of your 5 a day (depending on portion size), and serves 2.

Method:
1. Put the TVP/vegan mince into a bowl and add a little water and Vegemite (yeast extract), mix in and leave for 5-10 minutes to absorb the liquid.
2. Cook the pasta for 10-13 minutes and drain. Put it aside. While the pasta is cooking, boil the carrots, broccoli and kale until tender. The broccoli needs longest so could also be cooked with the pasta if you prefer.
3. Chop the onion in half, then chop it into thin strips, then cut each thin strip into 3 to make little rectangles.
4. Using the same pan or a fresh one, heat the oil and add the onion.
5. When the onion is sizzling, drain your broccoli (if it’s been cooked with the other vegetables), carrots and kale, and add them to the onion.
6. Pour the tomato passata over the vegetables in the pan and add the optional herbs if you wish. Stir it all together well, to ensure no onions are stuck to the bottom of the pan, then simmer on a low heat for 4-6 minutes.
7. Mix in the pasta (and broccoli, if it was cooked with the pasta), until everything is evenly distributed throughout the pan, then serve in a bowl.

Meat Free Monday: Pasta Italiano

So in the first of my new posting schedule, today’s recipe is Pasta Italiano.  It’s a dish inspired by my visits to Italy.  It’s a fairly simple one, but perhaps it’s a good place to start:

(OBT) means Optional But Tasty.

Notes:
You can substitute the pasta for broccoli or cauliflower in this, if you need to eat more veg, or if you’re totally off processed foods. With the exception of the actual pasta itself, none of my pasta recipes contain gluten, so if you’re gluten free, replace your pasta with gluten free pasta (or broccoli) and follow the rest of the recipe as normal.

Pasta Italiano:

Ingredients:

1 cup per person (dependent on density of pasta): Your favourite pasta, gluten-free or otherwise,

Half a tin (or about 10-12) olives per person,

1/2 cup of whole almonds,

An onion,

1 carton of tomato passata,

1 tbsp of your cooking oil of choice (I prefer coconut oil),

(OBT): A generous sprinkling of the following herbs: garlic, basil, oregano.

This meal is 2-3 of your 5 a day (depending on portion size), and serves 2.

Method:

Cook the pasta and drain. Put it aside.

Chop the onion in half, then chop it into thin strips, then cut each thin strip into 3 to make little rectangles.

Using the same pan or a fresh one, heat the oil and add the onion.

When the onion is sizzling along nicely, add the almonds, then once the onion starts to go transparent, add the tomato passata and the olives. I like to chop my olives in half but some people prefer to eat them whole. Stir in the herbs and simmer for about 3-5 minutes on a low heat.

Put the pasta in a bowl and pour the sauce over the top.