Category: Mains

Cheesy nachos with cajun British black badger peas

This is my all-time favourite dinner. When I first discovered nutritional yeast I was pretty excited, but that was nothing compared to when I found out how make it into a supremely cheesy sauce — using mostly potatoes and carrots?! It sounds mad but seriously, try it. Plus it takes the guilt factor out of eating a huge plate of melted cheese.  See ya, raclette.

Lately I’ve been trying to source as much of my food as possible from organic British growers. Pesticides (variations of which are used to make nerve gases and bombs) are what is behind the prediction that some of our soils have only 30 to 40 years of harvests left.

We’re only just starting to clock their effect on our health, and they’ve certainly killed wildlife and even people in farms around the world. We absolutely depend on wildlife as part of the ecosystem to grow food, so at some point our chemical addiction has to be addressed or we won’t be able to grow anything to feed ourselves.

Getting an organic veg box is an easy, delicious way to help, and I’ve started ordering organic pulses online from Hodmedod’s, who are bringing back some really great ancient British peas and grains.

So here’s my recipe for nachos with vegan cheesy sauce, cajun black badger peas and a green chilli coriander salsa.

RECIPE

Feeds 4

Ingredients

** The black badgers need to be soaked overnight **

For the cheese sauce

  • 125g carrot (approx. one)
  • 250g potato (approx. one big one)
  • 125ml water
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 25g nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves of garlic

For the nachos 

  • 6 tortilla wraps

For the black badgers

  • 200g dried black badgers (carlin peas) or black beans
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsps paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt

For the salsa

  • 3 small green chillies, go for the variety that suits you for hotness
  • Bunch of coriander, about 30g
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 4 tbsps water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Squeeze of lime juice

Extras

Spring onions, jalapenos, sweetcorn, tomato, limes — but try to go for what’s seasonal! Spring onions are good at the end of winter.

Method

1. Soak the black badgers overnight in plenty of water. Rinse and cover again with water plus 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, bring to the boil then turn the heat down low and cover. Cook for 40-60 minutes until soft.

2. Meanwhile, start on the cheese sauce. Peel and roughly chop the potato and carrot into same-sized chunks and boil for 15-20 mins until soft. Don’t overcook or the sauce will go floury!

3. Drain then blend the potato and carrots with the rest of the ingredients, using a hand blender or nutribullet. You could mash it but the garlic would need to be crushed into a paste.

4. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ 390F/ gas mark 6

5. To finish off the beans, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions over a fairly high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Add all the herbs and spices, stir well and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cooked beans and fry until everything is really crispy. Add any more salt, spices, herbs or oil to taste along the way, the black badgers are great for taking on flavour.

6. Cut the tortilla wraps into triangles and bake in the oven on trays for 10 minutes. Try not to overlap them too much or they won’t crisp up as well.

7. For the salsa, blend all the ingredients together, or chop really finely omitting the water.

8. Assemble — start with the nachos, add the cheese sauce, then black badgers, salsa and any extras. This would also be great reimagined as wraps for packed lunches.

 

Marmite and peanut latkes

I love Marmite so much I once wrote an embarrassing song about it in response to an Amanda Palmer song about her hatred of Vegemite. Just call me Joan Marmiterading. (Sorry.)

Anyway Amanda retweeted it and my life was made.

I’ve now invented a way of getting the salty sticky toffee coffee stuff into a latke, which is the more trendy and pretentious way of saying ‘hash brown’. I went rogue and added peanut butter (although I’m very unsure about the provenance of all nuts and don’t know if they’re ethical, can anyone help?!)

I think tahini would also work instead of peanut butter, and a fried free-range, organic egg would make it even better, if you eat eggs. I just went with wilted spinach and vegan mayo. Here’s the recipe, feel free to write a song about it.

RECIPE

Makes 6 latkes

Ingredients

  • 1lb floury potatoes (three medium sized), peeled
  • 1 onion
  • 25g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsps Marmite
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter, crunchy or smooth, Fairtrade and organic is best
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 5 tbsps sunflower or rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Grate the potato and grate or finely chop the onion. Squeeze it all in a teatowel or muslin until as much water as possible has come out. Wait a minute and then squeeze out more.
  2. Mix with the flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  3. Gently heat the peanut butter and Marmite in a pan with the water and one of the tbsps of oil. Stir until you have a well-mixed paste.
  4. Stir quickly into the potato mixture before it cools and hardens then shape into 6 patties about 2 centimetres thick.
  5. In a non-stick pan, heat 2 tbsps oil over a medium heat and fry half of the latkes for three minutes on each side until good and brown. You can sacrifice one to check it’s cooked in the middle, cook for another minute if not. Repeat with the remaining oil and latkes.
  6. Write a song about them.

Vegan herby dumplings and onion soup

Let’s talk butter. Beurre noisette, almond croissants, madeleines, hollandaise, Nigella’s Marmite butter pasta… this is essentially a list of my life’s greatest moments. My corpulent childhood golden labrador once ate half a pound of butter when our backs were turned and I can’t say I blame her. 

So it is with a very heavy heart that I have cut it out, after learning that it is one of the most carbon intensive foods around. Since going vegan, I have been trying to find recipes where I can replace it without feeling like I’m missing out on life. Cold-pressed rapeseed and sunflower are the oils with the smallest carbon footprints and have roughly a quarter of the footprint of butter. Read this article for a great environmental comparison of butter and margarine. 

Enter steamed dumplings. They are partly about high fat content, traditionally from suet, but mostly about texture – fluffy and doughy.

To make them I swapped butter for margarine in this herby dumpling recipe. I steamed them for 25 minutes in a huge cast iron pot of onion soup subbing beef stock for veggie and using nice white wine.

The only vegan margarine I can find that uses sustainable palm oil is Biona sunflower spread, but it’s expensive at £3.49 for a 500g tub. I can’t find any margarines that don’t use palm oil at all. I tried to bypass margarine and use rapeseed oil on its own but it was a massive fail. 

I used Flora Freedom (£1.80 for 500g) which has sustainable palm oil label of sorts – its parent company Unilever says it plans to source its oil completely sustainably by 2019. A big part of the problem is a transparent supply chain but by the end of this year they aim to have full traceability. It’s not perfect but it’s better than most others, which make no promises at all to end deforestation and treat workers fairly. 

RECIPE

Makes 14 medium sized dumplings

Ingredients

  • 140g cold margarine, diced
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp chopped mixed herbs – try parsley, thyme and sage or chives

Method

  1. Rub the marg into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the herbs, plus salt and pepper. Drizzle over 150ml water, and stir in quickly with a cutlery knife to form a light dough. Shape into 14 ping pong sized balls.
  2. 25 minutes before your soup or stew is cooked, place the dumplings on top, put the lid on and steam.

 

Veggie sausage, tomato, leek and potato one-pot

One-pot life is coming round again and I couldn’t be happier. Well, nearly one-pot, there are sausages to be had here. This very cheap stew is great to take to work in a flask, or have at home as the winter chill creeps in.

Why is this eco?

Firstly, because I’m using veggie sausages. Quorn sausages are one option, although not vegan, if that’s what you’re looking for, as they contain a small amount of (free range) egg white.

Quorn as a company is really fabulous at reducing carbon in its production chain, and is the only fake meat in the world to get Carbon Trust certification, which is the gold stamp of good carbon practices. Quorn is much friendlier in terms of greenhouse gases than meat.

There isn’t an exact carbon footprint calculation of Quorn sausages but the company does say ‘Quorn products can have a carbon footprint up to 13 times lower than beef and 4 times lower than chicken’ in its 2017 sustainability report. Pork sits somewhere between the carbon footprint of beef and chicken, so the footprint of Quorn sausages is likely to be somewhere between 4 to 13 times lower than regular sausages.

Linda McCartney sausages, however, are made of soya. This would be fine if there was some kind of sustainable certification to say the soya was not causing deforestation or destruction of biodiverse regions such as the Brazilian Cerrado or the Amazon.

But there isn’t. When I emailed the company, they said simply that they sourced their soya from ‘the Americas’.

Seeing as thousands of square kilometres of lovely biodiverse, carbon-absorbing land have been razed just to grow soy over the last few decades in South America, this does not bode well. I’ve asked for more precise information and asked for comment.

Why is deforestation bad? It accounts for 11% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, more than 1 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods and it is causing the extinction of animals. Every year we continue to lose another 30,000 square kilometres of forest – equivalent to the size of England.

So, until I know that Linda’s sausages aren’t contributing to deforestation, I absolutely cannot recommend the brand. However, it is worth pointing out that most chicken and beef that we eat is also fed on soya, which is also often uncertified and is an even less efficient use of energy.

Rant over, back to the recipe!

RECIPE

Feeds 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsps veg or sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 leeks, sliced into 1 cm pieces
  • 1 big potato cut into 2cm dice
  • 2 big carrots, cut into 2 cm dice
  • 600ml veg stock (I used two Knorr cubes)
  • Chilli flakes, as much as you can handle
  • 125g yellow split peas
  • 2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tbsps tomato puree
  • 6 veggie sausages
  • Fresh coriander, finely chopped

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole pot. Over a medium heat, fry the onion, garlic and ginger for 2 minutes. Add the leek, potato and carrot and sweat for 2 more minutes. Add the stock, chilli, split peas, tomatoes and tomato puree.
  2. Preheat the oven to the temperature needed to cook the veggie sausages.
  3. Cook the stew over a high heat for 15 minutes, with no lid. Stir frequently to check nothing is sticking to the bottom.
  4. Turn the heat down low and simmer for 30 minutes, in the meantime cook the sausages for the amount of time specified on the packet. When they’re cooked, chop them up and add to the one-pot. Stir in the coriander and serve.

image1 (10)

Ann’s veggie wontons

Say hello to these delicious tubby little dumplings. They are simple to assemble and would be great to make with friends.

The wontons are filled with shallots, crunchy water chestnut, coriander, green beans and… Quorn chicken.

Yes, Quorn! It has half the carbon footprint of actual chicken, making it a great substitution if you want to cut down your meat intake to help out the planet. It is a processed food but there are no ingredients in Quorn chicken that are suspicious and unlike tofu, it’s not linked to deforestation.

Be sure to use the frozen variety rather than the refrigerated – it has a significantly lower carbon footprint.

Thanks to Ann’s Chinese Kitchen in Newport, South Wales, for the recipe. Ann runs a cookery school out of her home kitchen where she shows you tips and tricks for making mouthwatering Malaysian street food, including these wontons. She caters for vegetarians too. Find out more about the school on her Facebook page.

Veggie wontons about to be poached in stock

Why is this eco?

Quorn aims to be low-carbon from farm to freezer. About 3.8kg of CO2/equivalent is produced per kg of Quorn chicken pieces while actual chicken produces 6.9kg. Interestingly, frozen Quorn has a lower footprint than the refrigerated stuff, which comes in at 5.5kg. (CO2/eq is used to measure all greenhouse gases under one common unit.)

Quorn is the first global meat substitute to get Carbon Trust certification of its footprint, which basically means it cares a lot about sustainability. Thumbs up.

RECIPE

Makes 15 wontons

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 shallots, very finely diced
  • 50g stringless or green beans, also very finely diced
  • 50g frozen Quorn chicken pieces, defrosted and very finely diced (even better if you marinate it in a little ginger, garlic and soy sauce for a few hours beforehand)
  • 1/2 tin of water chestnut, very finely diced
  • 15 frozen wonton wrappers, defrosted
  • 2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 egg white
  • Pot of veggie stock (about a litre)

Method

  1. With the oil in a frying pan on a high heat, gently fry the shallots until soft and brown. Add the stringless beans and stir fry until soft for a few minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the Quorn with the water chestnut, shallots, coriander, soy sauce and white pepper.

IMG_13603. With a wonton wrapper flat on your palm, add a teaspoon of the mixture in the centre. Dip your finger in the egg white and dab it along all four edges of the wrapper, so that you’ve drawn a square around the filling.

4. Press two opposite corners together, folding the square to make a triangle. Then bunch up the wrapper to enclose the filling and pinch lightly to seal. Use a damp tea towel to keep the remaining wrappers moist while you’re folding.

5. Drop the wontons in a pot of boiling veg stock and poach for 3-4 minutes. Serve with blanched pak choi, noodles and chilli sauce.

 

Double pea barley risotto

Pearl barley seems to have got stuck in the winter stew category. No more! The chewy fat grains make a great summery (and very affordable) risotto.

I’m loading it up with peas but add any veg you have kicking around in the fridge. Top with radish slices, herbs and/or leaves from the top of veg.

You can find pearl barley in lots of small supermarket stores – Tesco express has a 500g packet for 55p. Carnaroli risotto rice is £1.69.

How is this eco?

Growing rice, including risotto rice, produces a lot of greenhouse gas. Rice is grown in paddies, which are flooded fields. When plant matter degrades in water, it releases methane, the second most potent greenhouse gas. Growing rice accounts for 20% of the the world’s manmade methane emissions.

And worryingly rice paddies produce more methane as the climate gets hotter, this 2012 study showed.

Pearl barley isn’t grown in paddies, so it has a much lower footprint. And we are very good at growing it in Britain. Together with France, we have the greatest yield ratio for the amount of nitrogen fertiliser used to grow it (see page 87 of this 2o12 Defra report).

Nitrogen fertiliser results in the release of nitrogen oxide, another greenhouse gas. We need nitrogen to fertilise crops but it is a huge contributor to the greenhouse gas footprint of food – much more so than transport. So the less used to grow barley, the better!

RECIPE

Ingredients

Serves 4

For the pea puree

  • 150g frozen or fresh peas
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 150ml veg stock

For the risotto

  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsps oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300g pearl barley
  • 100ml white wine
  • 500ml veg stock
  • 40g hard cheese, grated
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 200g frozen or fresh peas
  • Garnish – pea shoots, leafy veg tops, sliced radishes or extra cheese sliced with a vegetable peeler

Method

  1. To make the puree, cook the peas for 3 minutes with the oil then add the stock and simmer for 3 more minutes. Blend with a handblender or in a mixer and leave to cool.
  2.  In a big saucepan, add the oil then sweat the onion over a low heat for two minutes. Add the garlic and pearl barley and cook for 3 minutes to toast the barley lightly. Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Then add all the remaining stock, give it a big stir and put a lid on the saucepan. Keep the heat low.
  3. After 25 minutes, check the barley is a texture you want to eat. If it’s too hard, cook for another 5 minutes or until al dente. Add the peas – if frozen, cook for 2 minutes, if fresh, cook for 4. Stir in the pea puree, cheese and lemon juice and top with any garnishes.