Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Macaroni never again cheese

I have purchased some bright, shiny new vegan cookbooks. I wouldn't recommend them. One of them, written by a doctor, has a  very good first section, explaining why avoiding stuff that comes from animals benefits you and the planet, but the recipes are a bit uninspiring. The other, written by some Irish celebrity is bloody awful. Her writing style is bright and breezy and the pictures are nice, so you are tempted to try her stuff, but everything I've done so far has been a disaster. I made something called a macaroni no cheese, which incorporates a roast butternut blended with coconut milk, mustard and something else. It was fucking vile.
I won't name the writers, they are clearly energised by what  do and mean nothing but good, Problem is they seem to want to convince us that what they are eating isn't vegan, as a lot of vegan authors do. I can only think that the butternut concoction exists because it looks a bit like a cheese sauce, as it is a gaudy bright yellow, like a Dairy Lee  slice. And about as appetising.
The many and varied blogs do better at providing recipes, or ideas for recipes, but you don't really need to be trawling vegan websites or the bookshops for inspiration, you can always just cook what you've always cooked, but omit the bits that once belonged to a mom or a dad or a cute furry baby. Mushrooms, aubergines, and tofu, yes, tofu, can be great friends  if you really must pretend there is something akin to meat on your plate.
As the young un's grew up, with a great aversion to anything resembling a vegetable, I'd sneak the buggers into their meals, a bolognese sauce being the classic. I'd only use a small packet of mince and stretch it out by chopping up onions, mushrooms, carrots and celery really small. Somehow, they'd manage to pick their way around all the veg, and there they would remain, forlorn and defeated on the plate, as the nippers left the table.
The solution was simple, I'd just whizz all the veg up in a processor. You can make mushrooms look like mince in about 3 seconds flat and there is no way they can be picked around, same with carrots, or courgette, or aubergine; they don't look like mince but they become impossible to avoid. All you do then is cook it up as you would any other bolognese or chilli, or moussaka, or cottage pie. This even won plaudits several times from the daughters ex boyfriend, who claimed to be allergic to 'shrooms. Well, it gets simpler, just omit the meat all together, increase the quantity of veg, and you have a vegan dinner.
Let's face it, you don't really have meat for the flavour, not even bacon, the flavour of which comes from the curing process. You stud your leg of lamb with garlic, rosemary and anchovies, you do an apple sauce and a sage and onion stuffing to make pork taste nice, you smother yer chicken in butter and oregano before sticking a lemon up its arse, and you fancy up yer beef with with mustard and horseradish, not to mention the gravy. Oh, man. The gravy. Then there are all the curries and chillies and oyster sauces and what not. Getting flavour into vegetables is no harder, and is probably easier.
There's a million things you can do with aubergines to add some meaty variety to yer plate, the simplest of which is to slice 'em lengthwise to look like thick steaks, marinade 'em in something nice, like harrisa, or a chilli bean sauce, or some Italian or Frenchified thing, and bake for 20 minutes. Same with tofu, take it out of the packet, put it on plate, put another plate on top and some tins of beans to force out excess water, then slice, marinade, preferably in something spicy and bake. Coat the buggers in polenta, if you want, for a crispy finish . It's all a piece of piss, really.
One of my daughters favourite meals, which I would cook even before she went vegetarian is simple, quick, cheap and delicious and I had never considered it to be vegetarian  or vegan, it was just a nice meal. Here it is
Pasta with Broccoli and Tomato
A load of wholemeal pasta, any kind you like
A packet of purple sprouting or other broccoli with a long stem,
A packet of nice tomatoes, not shit tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli or a big sprinkle of chilli flakes
Nutritional yeast flakes

Salt and Pepper
Put the pasta on and while that's doing slice garlic, really thin, warm it up in a good glug of olive oil, then add the tomatoes, leave 'em to to collapse a bit. Chop all the broccoli up and throw that in too. As pasta is done throw a big spoon of cooking water in, drain the pasta and throw that in too. That's it, done, serve with a big handful or three of nutritional yeast flakes chucked on top, maybe some garlic bread and a few leaves. 

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