Stuck in a culinary rut? Here’s some plant-based inspiration to get you through January
It's easy to get stuck in a rut with your vegetable choices - peas with everything, carrot sticks at every opportunity, avocado brunches on repeat. But between New Year health kicks and talk of 'veganuary', as well as guideline recommendations swerving from five portions of fruit and veg-a-day to a whopping 10, you can be forgiven for finding the veg aisle a bit stressful. So, to reinvigorate your culinary possibilities in regards to the green stuff, and get 2020 off to a positive - but still very tasty - start, take a little inspiration from these plant-heavy cookbooks...
1) Vegan(ish) by Jack Monroe (£16.99, Bluebird)
Food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe has been prolific this year, releasing two cookbooks: first, the very clever Tin Can Cook, and the latest, Vegan(ish), featuring 100 plant-based recipes intent on helping you cut your food bills and your impact on the planet in one appetising swoop.
The dishes are in Monroe's typically straightforward style, and only use everyday ingredients you will helpfully find in almost any supermarket, meaning you won't have to resort to tracking down, say, pickled walnuts, on the internet.
The Kinda-Carbonara sounds particularly enticing.
2) Five Ingredient Vegan by Katy Beskow (£20, Quadrille)
Often a veggie meal can look unfinished without a slab of meat on the side, or chefs overcompensate and require you to buy eight different root vegetables and 11 types of lettuce leaves, plus nuts, seeds and two kinds of dairy to load on top - and all that just for a sharing salad.
In this book, recipe developer and writer Katy Beskow strips veg-heavy vegan meals back to just five manageable ingredients (plus a few basic store-cupboard items), so you can settle down with a bowl of smoky Boston beans or tomato fritters on a weeknight, and not feel overwhelmed.
3) The Vegetarian Cookbook by DK (£12.99, DK)
For beginner cooks, and those used to just treating all their veg in a single way (i.e. boiled and you're done) this 50-recipe haul provides step-by-step instructions and new ways to treat classic veg drawer favourites. Turn cucumber into sushi bites and sweet potato into homemade falafel balls - your taste buds will appreciate it.
4) 7 Day Vegan Challenge by Bettina Campolucci Bordi (£15, Hardie Grant)
Just because January has now also been rebranded as 'veganuary', doesn't mean you have to unceremoniously ditch all animal-products entirely, and immediately.
But if you are looking to transform your home into a safe space for vegans a night or two a week, vegan chef Bettina Campolucci Bordi's latest offering - which shows how anyone, regardless of skill level or diet, can be fully plant-based for seven days - could get you off to a good start. Guaranteed you won't miss beef when you're slicing into one of her turmeric spiked cauliflower steaks, bejewelled with pomegranate seeds.
5) Simply Good For You by Amelia Freer (£22, Michael Joseph)
Not wholly vegetarian or exclusively vegan, Simply Good For You is instead focused on nutritious fare, whatever your dietary requirements. Nutritional therapist Freer has also slotted in numerous kitchen hacks to help you and your family save time and costs when it comes to planning what to have for dinner. Her 'bottom of the fridge' vegetable stew will be a total crowd-pleaser.
6) Vegetarian Meals in 30 minutes by Anita Bean (£16.99, Bloomsbury Sport)
Tempted to up your exercise output next year, as well as your vegetable intake? If you've signed up for a 10k, or, wince, a marathon, what you put into your body is going to be increasingly important as your training progresses - and Anita Bean is the woman to keep you well fed and motivated.
The nutritionist and former body building champion knows how to utilise a vegetarian lifestyle to eke out the best in you sports-wise.
Her new slew of 30-minute recipes are more fun than you might expect too - there's a blackberry and apple crumble in there, a Thai curry soup and a pre-workout mocha-smoothie.
I've eaten a lot of salt beef sandwiches in my life: fat heavy numbers from Baker Street cafes that I could barely get my sizeable jaw around, midnight bagels in taxis passing through Brick Lane, New York food trucks, and supermarket pretenders that didn't quite hit the spot but were better than not having one at all," recalls food writer Jack Monroe.
"A sandwich chapter would not be complete without this, the undisputed king of all sandwiches, so I set about trying to create a vegan version that would be just as delicious in its own right, while staying as faithful as possible to the original. This took a few tries; I marinated in beer, in powdered mushroom stock, in dark hoppy ales and Bisto granules, before I decided to just let the flavours speak for themselves and stop trying to imitate the actual beef. The result is crisp but tender, dry enough but with a juicy bite and a tangy, salty, peppery familiarity, something that's equally at home in a toasted white bagel as a hunk of dark, sweet rye bread."
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
1 x 400g tin of jackfruit in brine
1 cooked small red beetroot
1tsp clear vinegar
1tsp each of salt & black pepper
1/2tsp smoked paprika
2tbsp light cooking oil, plus extra for frying
For the dressing:
1tsp finely chopped dill pickle
1tsp finely chopped onion
2tbsp Vegan Mayo
1tsp horseradish, if available, or English mustard
A dash of hot sauce
2 bagels, sliced, or 4 slices rye bread
Dill pickles, thinly sliced
2 slices smoked vegan 'cheese'
1. First drain your jackfruit through a fine-mesh sieve. Squeeze the excess liquid using your hands to push it against the sieve, until the fruit feels fairly dry, then pop it into a large mixing bowl.
2. Finely grate the beetroot over the top. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper, paprika and oil. Break up the jackfruit with a fork or spoon into tiny shreds so the marinade soaks right in. Leave for an hour in the fridge.
3. Meanwhile, make your dressing. Place the dill pickle in a small bowl with the onion. Add the Vegan Mayo, ketchup, horseradish or mustard and hot sauce, and stir well to combine. Put it in the fridge until required.
4. When the jackfruit is well marinated, tip it into a large non-stick frying pan. I prefer to do mine in a wok because I like the space to shove it all around a bit. A normal frying pan will do just fine. Add a splash of oil and cook on a high heat for a few minutes until it starts to sizzle, then reduce to a medium heat and cook for 15-20 minutes more, stirring occasionally to disturb it. You want the jackfruit to be slightly crisp at some of its edges, with a dry-but-juicy texture to imitate the salt beef.
5. Toast your bread - whether a bagel or rye bread - lightly on both sides. Now you need to move quickly. Smother the base layer with your jackfruit. Pile it high. Add sauerkraut, pickles and 'cheese'. Top with dressing. Pop the other slice on top. Halve it if you please - I prefer not to. Devour over a plate to catch all that will inevitably plop out the other side as soon as you take a bite. If it's not leaking, it's not full enough. There is no gracious way to eat this, you just have to get on with it! And enjoy.
Cauliflower can be hearty but light, nutty but vibrant - especially plated up like this... In this refreshing lunch dish by Katy Beskow, lightly spiced and roasted cauliflower, sweet mango, coriander and always-pretty watercress are combined. It's delicious warm or cold, in any season.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
(Serves 2 generously)
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2tsp ground cumin
1 mango, peeled, stoned and sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
2 generous handfuls of watercress
Small handful of coriander, roughly torn
Pinch of sea salt and black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7 and arrange the cauliflower florets evenly on a baking tray.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the oil and ground cumin. Use a pastry brush to coat the cauliflower with the cumin oil. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp at the edges.
3. In the meantime, toss the mango ribbons, watercress and coriander together on a serving plate.
4. Carefully remove the roasted cauliflower florets from the oven and toss into the salad. Season with sea salt and black pepper and drizzle over any hot oil from the tray.
5. For added protein and extra crunch, scatter a few toasted flaked almonds over the salad.
Take 10 minutes out of your time to make this plate of deliciousness, put on a great movie, relax and indulge yourself," says food writer Bettina Campolucci Bordi.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
(Makes 2 portions)
240g drained tinned black beans
1tbsp fajita spice mix
1 splash of Plant Cream
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1 squeeze of lemon juice
Corn chips, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve (optional)
For the plant cream - either cashew, almond or sunflower cream: (Makes a 250ml jar)
60g of cashews or almonds or sunflower seeds (depending on which type of cream you wish to make)
250ml boiling water
For the fresh salsa:
300g cherry tomatoes, halved
30g coriander leaves, chopped
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 chilli, chopped
1 pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1. Make the plant cream: Regardless of which version you choose, simply put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until you have the desired smooth texture.
2. If you want an even smoother consistency, put the nuts or seeds and water in the blender jug and leave them to soak for at least 20-30 minutes before blending.
3. To make the black beans, put the drained beans in a blender with the fajita spice mix, Plant Cream and a pinch of salt and
pulse until well mixed. Scoop out onto a plate and spread evenly.
4. Next, mash the avocado with the squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt and put on top of the black beans.
5. To make the salsa, put the tomato halves in a bowl and add the remaining salsa ingredients. Toss gently.
6. Put a dollop of salsa on the plates, scatter the corn chips around the edges and add some lime wedges for extra zing, if you like.
Enjoy straight away!