Guilt-free bramble crumble (and dutch apple cake)

I don’t like puddings but everyone else I know seems to love them. At this time of year, when it becomes a bit damp and cool, puddings are a go-to comfort food. There are a lot of apples around at the moment and blackberries are in abundance and free if you’re prepared to pick them from the hedgerows and fill your fingers with thorns in the process.

I’ve found a way to make an apple and blackberry crumble so that it’s nutritious and not full of bad fat.

Nice apples are important – something tart like a Bramley works well. Don’t bother with eating apples. Slice them thin in a large-ish dish, sprinkle with a small amount of brown sugar and then place the washed blackberries on top. I usually do two layers, apple, blackberry, with a bit of sugar on both.

For the topping, I mix some oats, a pinch of sugar, some blitzed walnuts and seeds (sunflower and pumplin, usually, and a tbsp ofcinnamon, in a bowl. I add a tbsp good oil and mix it all up, then spoon the crumble mix gently on top of the fruit.

Baked in the oven for 45-50 minutes in a medium oven, the crumble becomes golden brown, with the juices from the fruit bubbling away underneath.

You can serve it with whatever you like – I usually offer plant-based crème fraiche or yogurt or ice cream. (Or all of these…)

Of course, when I say that the crumble pudding is guilt-free, what I really mean is if you have walked miles to pick the berries before the meal and if you haven’t stuffed yourself with a massive roast dinner first and if you haven’t gorged two huge portions of the pudding piled with cream, then it’s probably quite healthy…

NB. Apples also go really well in a dutch apple cake. It’s easy to make a plant-based one with chunks of apples inside using most plant-based cake recipes, and I use the crumble oat and nut ingredients on top of the cake to make it crunchy and delicious. Again, it’s quite healthy as long as your single portion isn’t the whole cake…

The ultimate and best (plant-based) Sunday roast ever

I make roast dinners for large numbers of people quite a lot: nut roasts, nut wellingtons, nut parcels, steamed puddings, vital wheat gluten roasts, all sorts of centrepieces find themselves alongside crispy pototoes. zingy vegetables, gravy, delicious yorkshire puddings, but this one is my favourite roast dish to date. It features chestnuts at the heart of the meal, although you could substitute walnuts or a mixture of nuts and seeds if you prefer, but this works so well with pre-cooked chestnuts. It’s a great meal for a celebration, for Christmas, for Thanksgiving, or just for that special time when families get together and you want to push the gravy boat out.

Preparation

Parboil enough peeled and chunked  potatoes (Maris Pipers work well)) for everyone sharing the meal. Drain the potatoes. Put them in a big bowl with a few chunks of sweet potatoes. Add olive oil, salt, black pepper, lemon juice and leave to marinade.

Make the roast: blitz a packet or tin of drained (cooked) chestnuts, two slices of brown bread, herbs of your choice (thyme, sage, parsley), a little water, a little oil (a tbsp), a shake of soy sauce, a couple of tbsp of brandy, black pepper and then stir in some sauteed onions, garlic, celery and chopped mushrooms. Mix together and put it in some greased individual pudding dishes, one for each person. This should feed four with one individual roast each but I know some people may want to make twice as much. The individual roasts go in a bain marie, a tin containing water, to cook later.

Prepare the gravy. Make a roux out of plant-based margarine and flour or, if you prefer, use a heaped tbsp of cornflour in water to thicken the gravy. Saute onions, garlic, mushrooms and celery; add a little water and a tbsp marmite. Blitz the lot (or most of it if you like bits in your gravy, as I do) then add a little more water, the thickener (roux or cornflour/water mix) and cook gently until the gravy thickens, darkens and bubbles. (I always add a glug of either marsala or, if I can’t get any, blackcurrant or blackberry liqueur to my gravy. Don’t ask why, but it really works well!)

Prepare your veg: broccoli, kale, carrots, beans, peas, whatever you like, in a steamer ready to go.

Prepare the yorkshires – blitz 2 cups self-raising flour, two cups plant milk (I use oat…) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour a little oil in each ‘pudding hole’ of a yorkshire pudding tray.

Forty/ fifty minutes before you want to eat.

Put the potatoes, covered in a little oil, on a tray into the top of the oven on 190. NO need to pre-heat.

Put the bain-marie containing the individual chestnut roasts in the middle of the oven.

25-30 minutes before you want to eat.

Shake the potatoes in the tin so that all sides will roast evenly. Move them down the oven to the centre shelf – I put them on top of the individual chestnut roasts to stop the tops of the roasts burning. Put the Yorkshire pudding tray with oil on the top shelf of the oven. 

Eighteen minutes before you want to eat.

Take out the yorkshire pudding tray. Pour the yorkshire pudding mix into the sizzling fat. Put the tray back on the top shelf. The mixture makes between 9-12 yorkshires, depending on the size of the tin. Turn the oven up to 200. Check the potatoes and give them a vigorous shake.

Ten minutes before you want to eat.

Steam the veggies. Season. Add some fresh herbs to the potatoes if you wish. Check the chestnut roast is almost done – firm to the touch or you can insert a tooth pick (but do remember to take it out again!)

Five minutes before you want to eat.

Reheat the gravy. Check the food in the oven is almost ready. Depending on your oven, you’ll be ready bang on time or you may want to cook for another five to eight minutes. The yorkshires will be crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. The veg needs to be just cooked. Drain them and add a pinch of seasoning if it needs it and some lemon juice, then cover and  leave them until you plate up.

To serve

Invert the chestnut roasts and put the potatoes and veggies on plates.  Add the yorkshires. Smother the lot with gravy, just how you prefer it: a lot, a little, everywhere, just on the chestnut roast. A bottle of red goes down very well with this meal.
wine

Lockdown suppers: more ideas for dinner when the cupboard is almost bare

Out here in the sticks, we have a food delivery once every nine or ten days. Day ten’s last supper, before the food van arrives, usually involves a hearty stew of whatever gnarly bits and pieces are left over in the vegetable rack and the fridge. My mother used to be proud that she could make something out of nothing and I’m the same, although the word nothing for my generation means I may not have all that much in the way of fresh produce, but we are fairly well-stocked for spices, herbs, condiments, cans of beans and rice. ‘Nothing’ in my mother’s day meant exactly that – hardly any food at all, so I cook with the realistion of how lucky I am. 

The first seven days were fine. I have tins in the larder and a few items in the freezer such as plant-based sausages, home-made vegan chorizo and a bag of peas but they are just there to embellish any dish I cook. So by day eight, the fresh produce was becoming a bit dog-eared, the couple of remaining potatoes were sprouting. There were a few veggies in the rack: a butternut squash, a couple of  onions, a beautiful big celeriac gifted fresh from my neighbour’s garden, a few sweet potatoes. At the back of the fridge, I had a couple of unhappy mushrooms, a damp carrot or two and a few ends of celery and leeks.

That night I made a leek and onion quiche: the pastry was easy to make with the last of the plain flour, some plant-based margarine and shortening rubbed in, salt, white pepper and a little cold milk. I left the pastry in the fridge wrapped well for a few hours as that really improves the crumbly texture when cooked. I sweated off some onions, garlic, leeks in a little olive oil, turned the pan off and added plant-based cheese, then in a blender I whisked a small carton of silken tofu, a tbsp of plant-based milk and some nutritional yeast. I then combined this mix with the cooked onion and leek mixture and poured it all into a greased quiche tin lined evenly with my pastry, rolled out and placed in just before.

It was baked in the oven for 40 minutes at 180;  the quiche turned golden brown and the leek mixture set perfectly. I left it to cool for a couple of hours as I always find this improves the texture and taste, and warmed it up again for ten minutes with some chunks of sweet potatoes (with a little oil, salt and black pepper, some lime juice) roasted in their skins the oven 20 minutes earlier. I made a  creamy coleslaw, using the last chunk of red cabbage I’d found in the fridge, some onions, carrots, walnuts, raisins and mayonnaise.

By day nine, I decided it was time for the celeriac to step into the limelight. I slow-cooked a few lentils and some old vegetables – a sweet potato, a potato, a drained tin of sweetcorn, broccoli, onions, a bit of leek, some kale that had seen better days and some frozen peas. This was much improved by a dollop of harissa, a bit of paprika, some grated lemon zest, a dollop of coconut yogurt. The peeled celeriac was chopped, steamed and then put in the blender with a bit of plant-based margarine, salt, pepper and the last dregs of a pot of horseradish I found at the back of the fridge. (Celeriac mash is delicious with just a little salt and pepper, but a dollop of mustard would replace the horseradish and take it to the next level.) Served with the slow-cooked stew, it makes a really tasty meal.

Which brings me up to the last meal before the night-time food delivery: the butternut squash was roasted in the oven and added to a pan with a little oil, some sweated onions and garlic and anything else I could find in the fridge, which wasn’t much, (three pieces of kale, three green beans, one very wrinkled mushroom and a bit of celery) plus a tin of chickpeas and a curry sauce made from spices that I roasted in the pan beforehand: fresh ginger, chilli, garlic, fenugreek, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, garam masala and turmeric. These spices, blended into a paste with the last of the coconut yogurt and a spoonful of tomato puree or, in this case, ketchup because I was out of puree,added to the vegetables will create a thick and delicious sauce. I always make curry hours before I eat it and then serve it with rice, home-made naan and papadums.

The alternative is usually to saute the onions, then cook all the vegetables gently with some red lentils and vegetable bouillon. Put the lot in a dish, taste and season the gravy and smother the top with potatoes mashed with mustard and black pepper. This dish is much improved with the addition of a dollop of marmite, brown sauce or even soy sauce to the gravy; a bit of plant-based cheese on top is good too. The picture above shows the shepherd’s pie just before it goes in the oven – it’s another great stand-by dish to make when there are only old bits of vegetables left in the house.

Now the fridge is virtually bare and the vegetable rack has only one onion and one potato. Later, when the delivery van arrives, we will be ok for food for another week, or maybe ten days. I look forward to food deliveries with excitement now in gthe same way  I look forward to Christmas. It’s a joy to have fresh food in the house. Thank goodness for all those key workers who bring things to our door so that we can stay safely at home: where would we be without them?

 

 

A plant-based feast for dinner. 

I wanted to push the boat out and make something really nice for dinner: It had to be healthy and a bit celebrational, a feast for the senses. I managed to buy some aubergines, one for each person, so I made a dish of zata’ar aubergine, salads and flatbreads. The main part of the dish, the roasted aubergine, is something my son thought up, having seen a version suggested by the chef Yotam Ottolenghi. (The original uses buttermilk or yogurt, so here is my plant-based  version!) Zata’ar is a lovely blend of strong herbs with a middle eastern flavour. These days it’s not too difficult to find in supermarkets and shops, and using a liberal sprinkling takes this dish to another level.

First of all, the flatbreads: I made a yeast starter with warm water, dried yeast and a teaspoonful of sugar and left it to ferment for ten minutes, then I mixed it into two cupfuls of strong flour, a pinch of salt, the juice and zest of a lemon (I love zest, so I put a whole lemon’s worth in, but adjust to your tastes), some chopped rosemary, two tablespoons of plant-based yogurt. I added a little water until it became a firm dough, kneaded it for ten minutes and left it for half an hour. (If it seems too slack or sticky, add a bit more flour. I’m assuming you have flour. I’ve improvised with oats milled in a food processor or gluten-free flour or rice flour, but strong flour gives best results if you can find some.)

As well as the dough for the flatbreads, I made the aubergine dressing in advance; I poured boiling water on a cup full of cashew nuts, then after ten minutes I drained them and blended them with coconut yogurt, the juice from half a lemon, a good sprinkle of zata’ar, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast, and a pinch of salt and pepper. A pouring consistency is ideal so a little plant milk or yogurt can be added if it seems too thick.

I roasted the aubergines, halved and with several knife-scored cuts in the flesh (with a bit of olive oil massaged in) in the oven on 180°C .They become brown, soft and unctuous after thirty minutes, but it’s a good idea to check their progress after twenty. They shouldn’t need more than forty minutes! Once they are cooked, and a sharp knife goes easily into the soft flesh of the aubergine, sprinkle them with some lemon juice and keep them warm. 

While the aubergines were roasting, I made a couple of salads: a coleslaw with red cabbage, carrots, raisins, walnuts and onions in some plant-based mayo and lime juice; a leaf and tomato salad with lemon juice, oil and zata’ar dressing, and an oil and balsamic three-bean salad with a bit of chopped chilli for some warmth, a small drained can of sweet corn, chopped red onion, chopped peppers and a few fresh herbs (parsley or coriander), with some pomegranate seeds on the top.

The bread, once risen, is divided into six portions and each one is rolled out flat then fried in a very hot pan with very little oil, turning once, so that it is puffy and brown, cooked on both sides.

To serve, put the flatbreads on a large plate alongside the salads. Serve up two roasted aubergines per person, smothering them with the cashew dressing and decorate the top with an extra sprinkling of zata’ar and few pomegranate seeds. Everyone can serve themselves as much or little salad and flatbreads as they like with their aubergine.

It is really delicious, it smells heavenly and it’s an easy meal to cook and prepare. And, like so many of my recipes here, goes just perfectly with a nice, full-bodied red wine too… Happy cooking!

 

Banana Bread  recipe – because we’re all making it

Apparently, during the lockdown, everyone is becoming an expert at making banana bread. There are lots of recipes for plant-based banana bread; some are crumbly and light and some turn out a bit rubbery. I love the idea of using up overripe bananas as they are so nutritious.This recipe makes a delicious, airy banana bread that slices well, stays fresh for several days and is nice by itself or spread with plant-based butter.

You will need two bowls or a bowl and a blender. In the larger bowl, put 250 grams of plain flour, a pinch of cinnamon, a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda, 70 grams of brown sugar (or more if you have a sweet tooth), a pinch of salt and you can immerse some blueberries in the dry mix. 

In the blender/ the other bowl, put two ripe bananas, a teaspoonful of vanilla paste, a tablespoon of cider vinegar, four tablespoons of light oil and 60 ml of plant milk – I use oat. Blend or blitz the wet ingredients and then mix the liquid blend into the dry one. Add a bit more milk if the mixture needs loosening a little. It should resemble cake mix, not too thick and not too sloppy. Pour it into a greased loaf tin.

Bake it for 40 minutes at 180* and then check it. The banana bread  may need another ten minutes. It’s done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Let it cool then slice it and eat it.

Now here’s the really interesting part. Making the banana bread sing takes a bit of imagination and any ingredients you have at the back of the cupboard. I found some crystallised ginger and some preserved bitter orange peel. I added these ingredients, chopped, to the basic recipe and it really created a very delicious and special loaf. So, basic banana bread plus anything lying at the back of the shelf that needs using up takes this recipe to the next level. 

Playing about with the ingredients is half the fun. It’s nice to make a crunchy topping with a few smashed up oats and walnuts, a bit of brown sugar and a few blitzed seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin.

If you like, you could also add grated lemon rind, pecans or walnuts, or cocoa powder and chunks of chocolate, or raspberries or blackberries into the flour bowl before you add the wet ingredients, whatever takes your fancy. Put all the mix in a greased loaf tin. Press a few of the berries or nuts into the top of the mix so that they don’t all sink to the bottom.

There’s no end to what you can add to this basic recipe. Toast some sunflower seeds or some almonds and add them to the dry mix: any crystallised fruit goes really well in this loaf. This isn’t just one recipe, it’s so many. Mix it up and play around with anything that needs using up, within reason.

You can make a sophisticated banana bread with a whiskey marmalade filling spread through the middle and topped with plant-based cream cheese and icing sugar frosting. You can make it wholesome for the kids by adding a few ground linseeds or some raisins. You could make it decadent by adding chocolate chips, toffee chunks, bits of cinnamon biscuit, pieces of pear or apple. Have fun. Choose your own favourite.

 

Book and a bite: jackfruit tortillas 

I made this when we were getting a little low on ingredients in the house. We did have a packet of tortillas, a tin of jackfruit, and a few vegetables. With a few salad leaves and some rice, it served three, but could have served four!

Rinse and drain the jackfruit and place it in a bowl. Break it up. Add some tomato puree or sauce, a bit of sriracha or chilli sauce to taste, and some liquid smoke if you have some; you could add a bit of brown sauce or barbecue sauce or soy sauce, some garlic and some seasoning. Mix it all up and spread it on a baking tray, then bake it in the oven for 20 minutes at 180°C.

Then take it out and shred it with a fork – it should pull apart nicely. Add some sliced onions and peppers and bake it again for 20 minutes. It shouldn’t burn but it should dry a little and the onions and peppers should be succulent and soft. Taste it and adjust the seasoning; add black pepper, make it hotter if you wish.

Warm eight tortillas and then divide the mixture between them. I added a dollop of coconut yogurt and some coleslaw made from red cabbage, onions, carrots, an old apple and a dollop of plant-based mayonnaise. You can play with this: if you have avocados or tomatoes or salad leaves or cucumber or plant-based cheese, they will work well with the jackfruit. Or it’s fine as it is, but the extra coleslaw makes it go further.

Roll the tortillas into a wrap, serve them with salad or vegetable rice: I mixed some cooked rice with garlic, onions, sweetcorn and cooked beans.

A spicy sauce, tomato sauce or a dollop of yogurt with lemon and/or mint makes this dish really special. I got my hands on some mole sauce (which my son brought us back from Mexico!) and a bottle of red wine: that sent it through the roof.

‘Any leftovers’ Pizza

If you have any strong white or wholemeal bread flour and you’re making bread, here’s a useful meal you can make from the leftover dough and anything that’s lying in your fridge or larder. The bread is simply half a cup of warm water, a teaspoonful of (brown) sugar and a tablespoonful of yeast in a bowl, left for fifteen minutes somewhere warm and then added to the flour with a pinch of salt. I’d probably use half a kilogram of flour, more if you’re feeding a hungry group or making lots of bread. You can also add other things to your bread – I always put ground linseeds in bread as it adds useful vitamins and oil.

Mix the flour and yeast liquid together and continue to add warm water a little at a time until the mixture becomes dough-like. If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour. Knead it vigorously for a good ten minutes.

Leave the dough somewhere warm to rise for 50 minutes. Divide it into rolls, a loaf, bread-stick twists, whatever you like, but leave some over to make pizza.

Roll out the pizza and put it on a greased baking tray. Spread some tomato puree over it and any of the following you may have left over in the fridge or the cupboard:

  • Plant-based cheese
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Artichokes – tinned is fine.
  • Asparagus
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweetcorn
  • Plant-based chorizo, sliced. (I make my own – recipe to follow soon)
  • Pineapple
  • Peppers, any colour
  • Chillies
  • Courgettes
  • Jackfruit, tinned, shredded and baked in the oven in a nice tomato and chilli sauce
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Tofu chunks
  • Herbs such as thyme, oregano, mixed herbs – fresh or dried

You might want to drizzle a little olive oil on top and add olives.

Bake the pizza in a hot oven, 180*,  for 30 minutes. Check it after twenty.

It’s ready to serve with a green salad or a carrot and red cabbage and onion coleslaw and, if you’re really hungry, bake some herbed polenta or sweet potato chips in the oven at the same time. Flip them over after 15 minutes of cooking.

In the absence of  a football game on TV, I’ll be eating this while reading a good book ….

Really good creamy ravioli with a rich tomato sauce: plant based recipe

The pasta is flying off the shelves at the moment, so here is a quick and easy ravioli you can make at home with flour, water and oil! It tastes out of this world.

First, for the filling, soak a cup of cashew nuts in boiling water and leave to one side for ten minutes or so.

Then, onto the ravioli. Take a cup of plain flour and, if you have it, half a cup of pastry flour. If not, one and a half cups of multipurpose flour is fine. Add a pinch of salt, 3 tbsp oil, and add a little water until it becomes a pliable dough. It shouldn’t be sticky. Knead it for ten minutes – if you don’t, the pasta will be rubbery at the end. Put it in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the cashews and blend them up with some garlic, herbs (thyme, parsley and rosemary are ideal!), some salt and pepper, the juice of one lemon and some of the lemon‘s zest and, if you have it, a tbsp. of nutritional yeast (it is optional, but it’s a great addition to your kitchen if you have it – it has a delicious nutty, cheesy flavour you can’t get from anything else).

Now make your pasta sauce. Sauté some chopped onions, garlic, some red pepper a mushroom and add a few herbs – the same ones as before are good. Add 3 tbsps of tomato puree or some passata – a tin of chopped tomatoes will do – and a little bit of water. Thicken it all up with a tbsp. of cornflour to make a sauce. I find a glug of red wine or something else like some blackcurrant liqueur elevates this sauce to the next level. Let it sit and those flavours will develop!

Roll out your dough until it’s long and thin. Put spooned dollops of the cashew mix (I usually get about eighteen – less is fine) at equally-spaced intervals on one half the dough. You want half of the dough to be covered with these dollops, because then we fold the other half over. Seal the edges with water. Then cut out the ravioli with a ravioli stamp or a small pastry cutter or even an egg cup.

Then we are ready to cook them! Bring some salted water to the boil and drop the ravioli into the water a few at a time, depending on the size of the pan. After anything from two to four minutes of boiling, the ravioli should float to the top. Make sure you don’t under cook them – it’s better to give them 30 seconds too much rather than 30 seconds too little! Take them out, drain them and combine them with your herby tomato sauce.

Serve in a bowl and sprinkle your delicious ravioli with a plant-based cheese, a vegan Parmesan or maybe some fine nutritional yeast. The ravioli are great served with salad – I particularly like adding sliced pears and walnuts to a green salad with this dish.

The filled ravioli work really well with the sauce. However, you can use the pasta recipe to make spaghetti or other pasta shapes. Dry them for a while or cook straight away.

I find four ravioli each is enough but I’ve seen people eat twice that amount… Enjoy!

A book and a bite: plant-based recipes to lock down to…

I have big plans for lock down. The imposed isolation is for our own good and I’m going to try to turn the challenge into an opportunity.

I will do my usual amount of walking and going to the gym, which is just a bike and a running machine and a mat upstairs, and I have a pile of ten books I intend to read, a variety of novels from Margaret Atwood to Bernadine Evaristo, from Candice Carty-Williams to Madeleine Miller and Ross Greenwood.

My larder isn’t hugely stocked although I do have a few tins of beans and the wherewithal to make sauces and I have a few indulgent items like rose harissa and preserved lemons. It’s always useful to be able to make things taste nicer and a vegan pantry can often be quite different to a non-vegan one as we tend to have tofu and things that make bland food taste nicer. But, perhaps at the moment, there will be some plant-based-pantry goods available on line. I have enough veg in the fridge to last a few days and my neighbour has kindly given me some sprout tops, so my plan is to read, rest, eat and exercise, not always in that order.

(Oh and I’m going to write another novel too. I’ve written the synopsis, the first chapter, and a fairly organised plan. I reckon I can have fun with that one and finish before the really hot weather arrives…)

But nourishment is the important factor here – we can’t work and work out without something to sustain us and there’s a level of uncertainty about how we’re going to feed the family so here are some of my own ideas on how to throw some good food together. All my food is plant-based– I’ve been vegan for almost thirty years now and B12 tablets are a must if you’re going to follow plant-based eating but in the spirit of a lot of things not being available to buy online at the moment, here are some ideas which might help. I hope so. Enjoy!

Hummus. The best hummus is made from jars of fat chickpeas but any chickpeas, mixed with garlic, tahini, lemon juice and a bit of olive oil in a blender is food from the gods. I eat it as a dip with carrot chunks or pepper chunks or bits of cauliflower, if there’s any available, but more about that later. Bread sticks are brilliant with hummus – just whisk dried yeast, warm water and sugar together to rise for ten minutes, then add a bit of oil and some flour together and knead as dough. I add rosemary, fennel seeds or some lemon zest, let it rise for an hour, prove for another hour shaped into long twists and then bake for 15 minutes, flipped over after ten. It’s great with soup too.

Soup. Several onions, softly cooked for twenty minutes, makes great onion soup. Any onions, red, white, shallots, a mix of them all. Garlic or thyme or other herbs  help it taste nicer, as does a stock cube or a spoonful of miso. Blend with water and eat hot with bread sticks. The same applies to onions and sweet potatoes, onions and half a butternut squash, or parsnips and a pinch of chilli, or sweet peppers and a sweet potato. If all else fails, frozen peas, (mint!), onions, garlic and a bit of chilli makes an incredible soup. If you have a bit of stock, some miso or bouillon to add to it, even a spoonful of Marmite, the flavour improves.

Bake any stale bread with a bit of oil and garlic for a short while in the oven and throw the croutons on top. Add a pinch of paprika, cumin, cayenne or coriander to make all the difference.

Chocolate Mousse. Save the water from your tin of chickpeas. Whisk it for a while until it’s white and peaky like meringue. Melt your favourite chocolate – I have a salted caramel one that’s lovely – and stir it into the aquafaba (chick pea water). (If it’s really dark bitter chocolate you might need to add a bit of maple syrup.) Put it in bowls in the fridge to set. Often I crumble a cinnamon biscuit on top or underneath with a shot of liqueur, which is really decadent. Whatever you like…

Tagine. Any veg, cooked slowly in an oven or a crock-pot, especially with a teaspoon of harissa and a half a preserved lemon, chopped, is brilliant. I mean, any veg is good in a stew – sprout tops, broccoli bottoms (the bit that’s not the floret), old Brussels, the end of a cabbage, any beans, peas, potatoes that have seen better days, all are delicious. It’s good with rice, pasta, minty couscous. If you have no harissa then anything you can find – herbs, spices, sauces, miso, even half a pint of beer thickened at the end of cooking with a little cornflour will make it very hearty and delicious and nutritious. All that B12! Oh and if you’re really hungry, a bit of plant-based suet, flour, some herbs mixed with orange juice and skin makes great dumplings to add to the pot for the last thirty minutes.

Cauliflower, if you can still get it, broken into florets rubbed with chilli and a bit of oil and baked in the oven for 20 minutes is delicious. Even better, make a flour/water paste, dip the baked cauli chunks into it and then roll them in breadcrumbs, put them back in the oven and bake them again for fifteen minutes. Cover them with a sauce made from tomatoes and chillies and maybe some yogurt.

Jackfruit is often quite cheap as a tin will feed four and I don’t think the tins are selling out fast. Drain then shred the jack fruit and bake it in the oven, covered in a bit of Sriracha sauce or tomatoes and chilli for twenty minutes. I add anything I can find to it that will help it – onions, peppers, a bit of plant-based Worcester sauce or soy or liquid smoke. When it comes out of the oven, serve it in warmed tortillas. Add anything you like – a dollop of nut cream or cheese, some beans.

Cannellini beans. Drain them and add to fried onions and a mushroom, some pepper and a glug of ketchup and serve on toast. Better than commercial baked beans which may now be hard to find.

Cream cheese! Soak a handful of cashew nuts in boiling water for an hour and then drain them and blend them to a pulp with some garlic and a bit of plant milk or yogurt to get the texture you want. Macadamias work just as well if you have some in the back of a cupboard. Added cumin or any fresh herbs makes this really lovely on its own.

Add some of this cheese to a huge pile of sautéed onions and a small silken tofu if you have it; add a bit of plant milk to loosen it to a thick pouring texture. Use this to fill a pastry case made from some plain flour and non-dairy butter, bake in a medium oven for fifty minutes and you have a tasty quiche.

Salad. I love to get inventive with salad. If there are any green leaves, a bit of leftover rice, a tomato, a bit of cucumber, a piece of warmed bread cubed and sautéed with garlic, then it’s nice to mix it up with half an apple or a sliced pear, walnuts, raisins, coleslaw made from red cabbage, carrot and onions with raisins and mayo, and maybe some oven-roasted tofu.

Easy peasy ketchup is a mixture (to taste – mine is quite vinegar-heavy) of tomato puree, good vinegar (not malt – I like apple cider vinegar…) and sugar or maple syrup. Add a pinch of salt – (I love Himalayan salt) – or some garlic and it’s really special. I use it as pizza topping on a base made from flour, water and dried yeast. Add anything left over in the fridge: mushrooms, tomatoes, Plant-based cheese is ok on top and some herbs – parsley, oregano, thyme – will improve it.

Bread. Basically, it’s a teaspoon of dried yeast, a teaspoon of sugar and warm water, left for ten minutes, added to strong flour. I like to mix white flour up with rye flour, whole wheat, then add any (not all) of the following; linseed, herbs, sunflower seeds, toasted, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, herbs, rosemary and lemon zest, pureed beetroot (Mmmm!), sautéed onions, plant-based cheese, a drop of oil, garlic. Knead like for for twenty minutes – great workout. Leave to rise for 50 minutes somewhere warm, knock it back with your hands on a floured surface, shape into a loaf, rolls, batons, bread sticks, whatever you like. Leave for fifty minutes and bake in a 180* oven for as long as it needs. It’s done when it’s hollow when you knock the bottom of the bread. Brush the top with oil, oil and salt, oil and garlic, seeds, whatever you like before cooking.

And, to finish the day with a book and a tasty bite, take anything sweet you can find in the cupboard – biscuits, nuts, marshmallows, seeds, raisins and suchlike and add a melted bar of good chocolate, mix it up, put in a small tin, refrigerate for two hours and slice it up, and you have an almost guilt-free version of rocky road. It’s even better if you dry roast the nuts in a frying pan. Healthy-ish, sweet and the treat you deserve for all the work you’ve done keeping body, mind and soul together during this difficult time. Sending best wishes. X