Viva Vegan CookbookA couple of years ago I gave my initial impressions of this book, but now, having had a decent amount of time to use it, I thought it was worth an update,:

Let’s face it, we’ve got far too many cookbooks, but there’s always room for one that changes everything! We know we need to eat less meat – for health reasons, to save money, and to help the planet – but somehow we never seem to quite get around to it

Sticking Viva Vegan on my Christmas list was a bit out of left field, but it has turned out to be fantastic. The recipes are really delicious Latin American staples with great Vegan twists, and there are some really interesting meat-substitutes that I can’t wait to try – and I’m sure I’ll get to soon. As a bonus, most of the recipes can be made from store-cupboard ingredients – albeit pretty specialised store cupboard ingredients!

As I’ve embarked on a recent on-again, off-again love affair with the VB6: Vegan Before 6 diet I have found myself making the recipes more often, and I’m definitely developing some favourites.

Our top recipes so far are the Cashew Crema – a replacement for the ever-present sour cream used in many recipes – and the Drunken Beans, although we have yet to make the Vegan Seitan Chorizo, which I am really looking forward to.

Making Seitan is one of the things we just haven’t tried yet from the book – it took me a while to source the Vital Wheat Gluten, which is essential to the recipe – none of our local health food shops had it, so I had to resort to Amazon. While I was there I stocked up on some of the more unusual ingredients she mentions – I’ve listed them below to make it easy for you to find them. Any day know I’m going to get the time – and courage – to give it a go, and then I’ll report back . . .

Our favourite recipes

As with every recipe book, we have grown used to several of the dishes, and they get cooked regularly, with varying local tweaks:

Peanut Sauce – Salsa di Mani
This is a quick, simple sauce which makes an easy addition to steamed veg-and-rice. Loved by all the family.

Cashew Crema
Slightly less well received by the whole family, but one of my favourites. We’d use it more if you didn’t need to soak the cashews beforehand, as we’re always after creme fraiche.

Drunken Beans with Seitan Chorizo
I do this one all the time – albeit without the Seitan Chorizo, as I’ve only just got the Vital Wheat Gluten. Some point soon I’ll do the whole thing – it should be even more delicious.

And some recipes we’re keen to try

As well as regular favourites there are a few dishes that I somehow just haven’t got to yet, but which are definitely on my shortlist:

Seitan
Used in lots of vegan dishes – this is a meat substitute based on Vital Wheat Gluten. Getting the ingredients was the hard bit. Now I just need to find time to try making it.

Black-Eyed Butternut Tostadas
Crispy-fried tortillas stacked with toppings – what’s not to like?

Chocolate Chile Mole Sauce
I’d just love to see the kids’ faces when we serve them something covered in chocolate . . .

Mashed Potato Pancakes with Peanut Sauce – Llapingachos
These could be perfect for a VB6 vegan breakfast – and a perfect alternative to Bacon & Eggs!

And there are plenty more where those came from.

Essential Vegan store-cupboard ingredients

In addition to large bags of cashew nuts, peanuts, dried beans, brown basmati rice, and a garden full of vegetables, there are a range of interesting store cupboard ingredients we’ve bought to fill the gaps for our more unique Vegan recipes. Hard to find in your local supermarket, but surprisingly easy on Amazon:

Wheat Berries, a delicious wholegrain alternative to rice, perfect for VB6
Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, essential to make Seitan – the delicious meat substitute.
Liquid Smoke, for adding that essential barbecue flavour to Seitan.
Engevita Yeast Flakes for more meaty flavour.

That’s the update – even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore there are some great dishes for you to try!

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Serves 4 hungry people
25 minutes from start to table
Uses only one pan and cooks on the stovetop

Basic Recipe

1-2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tins of beans (whatever you have – kidney, cannelini – even baked beans!)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 small tin tomato puree
1-2 cups of stock/wine
100g chorizo (I have some that stores for 4 months)

½tsp dried mixed herbs (or 2 tsp fresh)

And for serving

french bread, or good think slices of our everyday wholemeal bread.

Variations

Exchange the chorizo for any other pork: bacon (smoked preferably), chunks of pork belly, sausages etc.
It’s very easy to hide veg in this recipe so the kids eat it without knowing! Try grating in a carrot or courgette – they’ll never spot it.

Heat the oil in a large pan (we use a non-stick wok). Add the onion, garlic, chorizo and cook gently for 5 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

Then add the tomatoes, puree, beans, herbs and enough stock to make sure it’s not too thick.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the beans are just soft. Then serve with the bread on the side to clean the bowls!

(more…)

I’m so flat out planting and working that it’s hard to get to the blog, but I’m taking plenty of pics along the way, so here’s a quick photo update for you: