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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Viva Vegan Cookbook

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, but never seem to 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. As a bonus, most of the recipes can be made from store-cupboard ingredients – perfect for our collection of Resilient Recipes.

Now all that’s standing between me and some Seitan Chorizo sausages is finding some Vital Wheat Gluten!

I’ve got some Black Beans and Cashews soaking now for tomorrow’s dinner – I’ll let you know how we go.

I got it from Amazon, so if you can’t find it locally, here is the link –Viva Vegan, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

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…)

Another of my wartime specials, this is a collection of Marguerite Patten’s recipes from 1940-1954, helping people to make the most out of the wartime and post-war rations. It ‘s full of fascinating insights as well as frugal recipes and is great at demonstrating alternatives to rationed foods. There are a lot of meat-substituting tricks, as well as recipes where the meat is padded out with cheap, easily available, extras. These are joined with a variety of amusing “mock” dishes: Mock Apricot Flan for example, where the apricots are replaced with carrots; or Mock Crab, Mock Duck,  and Mock Oyster Pie; as well as any number of eggless alternatives to traditional cookery.

It contains a good section on preserving, although I suspect it is well behind current thinking on food safety, so I’m not sure I’d use the recipes given for canning. I hope I never need the advice on stewing and frying Whale meat, but I’d be happy to try the Honeycomb toffee.

Overall it is a fascinating read for the frugal, alternative approach to living that we may be returning to. I think it’s a book to try out from a library first, and then buy if you’re enticed. I got our copy from the National Trust bookshop at Dunham Massey for less than a fiver, but if you can’t find it locally, here is the link to get it from Amazon –Victory Cookbook: Nostalgic Food and Facts from 1940-1954, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

Today’s Guardian has an extract from the new book “Economy Gastronomy”. They’re looking at delicious frugal food, from great ingredients. The four recipes they have all use Salmon, but I bet they’d all be great with the Rainbow Trout we’re going to use in our Aquaponics system. The recipes are: Warm poached salmon and never-fail hollandaise, Home-made gravadlax, Salmon and horseradish fishcakes with creme fraiche tartare, and an unusual one – Salmon and corn chowder.

Once we’re harvesting our fish I’ll give some of these a go!

I never thought life would get this bad 🙂 but I’ve been looking for a resilient alternative to Wheat, as I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be able to grow enough in our garden to feed my Wholemeal Bread habit. 

Prompted by an article written by Janaia from Peak Moment called “Make Like a Squirrel” I’ve found out that you can eat acorns (after quite a lot of preparation!) They were a key food for Native Americans, and can be incorporated into a range of dishes including bread. The most comprehensive srticle I’ve found is one from Peggy Spring at the San Antonio Natural Area Parks, who suggest these recipes:

 

Steamed Acorn Black Bread 
Mix together: 
1 1/2 cups Acorn Meal 
1/2 cup Acorn Grits 
1 cup white flour 
1/2 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
Add: 
1/2 cup dark molasses 
1 1/2 cups sour milk 
2 tablespoons salad oil 

Wring out a pudding cloth in boiling water, spread it in a round bottom bowl and turn the batter into it. Tie the corners and suspend the bag over boiling water in a closed kettle for 4 hours. This should be served hot from the bag, and a steaming slab of this rich, dark, moist bread is just right with a plate of baked beans.


Apache Acorn Cakes 

1 cup acorn meal, ground fine 
1 cup cornmeal 
1/4 cup honey 
pinch of salt 

Mix the ingredients with enough warm water to make a moist, not sticky dough. Divide into 12 balls. Let rest, covered, for 10 minutes or so. With slightly moist hands, pat the balls down into thick tortilla-shaped breads. Bake on an ungreased cast iron griddle over campfire coals or on clean large rocks, propped up slightly before the coals. If using the stones, have them hot when you place the cakes on them. You’ll have to lightly peel an edge to peek and see if they are done. They will be slightly brown. Turn them over and bake on the other side, if necessary.

I can’t see these being a staple of our diet any time soon – but I’m dying to give this a go. I’d better keep an eye out for local oaks.

I have often remembered the chicken broth my mother used to make when I was a child. In those days of frugality, making a broth was the best way to ensure that full use was got out of a chicken – that every last morsel of meat was gleaned off the bones and every ounce of goodness was extracted from the carcass, and was put to delicious use. And yes, it was delicious!

 Of course, in the fast-paced lives that we so often live in our young adulthood, making broth never seemed to be worth the bother. But my husband has recently been ‘educating’ me on the expected ravages that will descend upon the world post-peak-oil, and how we will need to become much less wasteful with our food. Plus, I thought, my two-year-old daughter will love it. So, despite the risk of irretrievably entrenching myself into the stereotyped stay-at-home mum rôle, I decided this evening to have a go.

 So here’s a rough guide to how to make it: 

  • Put the chicken carcass into a pan
  • Add an onion, cut into eighths
  • Cover with water and bring to the boil
  • Season with salt and pepper and a good shake of mixed herbs
  • Boil for 3-4 hours until the carcass has fallen apart and all the meat dropped off the bones
  • Extract the bones (that’s the real fiddly part. There are no short-cuts to getting into it with your fingers)

 If you want, you can make a proper meal by adding chopped vegetables towards the end of the cooking time, but my mother’s version was always unadulterated.

 As I write, the wonderful aromas of chicken and onions are filling the house. The hard part is waiting for all that cooking time before you can eat the soup!

 I may try amending the recipe to give it a more modern, cosmopolitan flavour in the form of Asian-style chicken noodle soup (I’m sure that the addition of noodles alone will not be sufficient!). Perhaps a further post will be necessary. Must go now – tasting to do!

 PS – Of course! Here’s how chicken broth fits into our post-peak-oil lives. Picture our (as yet hypothetical) wood-burning stove, blazing away all day in the winter to heat our rooms, with a pot of broth simmering away on top…