I love stuffed peppers! They’re such an easy way to get more vegetables into your diet and this recipe is super-healthy. This was an experiment in changing things up, because I usually make stuffed peppers with rice, but today I wanted something different, so I filled my peppers with a taco-style filling of soy mince (TVP), sweetcorn and salsa, and topped with my vegan no-blend guacamole but you could also add grated vegan cheese if that’s your thing (or if you have any… I don’t, because my local Sainsbury’s has mysteriously stopped selling all vegan cheese since the lockdown began). This recipe is also perfect for when you are craving tacos but don’t have any taco shells.
A big dollop of salsa (you can substitute this for some chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon or two of Piri Piri sauce or a teaspoon of any other hot sauce if you don’t have salsa)
A teaspoon of Vegemite (or another yeast extract)
Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds.
Reconstitute the TVP with boiling water and add the Vegemite, garlic and cilantro. Mix thoroughly to avoid any Vegemite lumps and leave the mixture to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the hot water fully.
Drain off the excess water from the TVP and mix with the sweetcorn.
Put the TVP and sweetcorn mixture into the halves of the bell peppers, taking care not to knock them over. If you have peppers that won’t lie very well in the oven, balance them carefully against each other for support.
Bake for 15-20 minutes in a fan oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 6.
Serve with chilled guacamole and salsa.
What’s your favourite thing to put in stuffed peppers? Let me know in the comments!
For the third year running, I decided to go to all my local supermarkets and find out which Easter eggs are dairy free and vegan, so you don’t have to waste as much time tearing your hair out over ingredients. I did discuss the US options last year, and they don’t seem to have changed so you can find that post here.
The prize for Most Improved Vegan Easter Egg Collection 2017 has to go to Morrisons; they have really worked hard to develop a vegan Easter Egg range and you can find them amongst the normal eggs in the seasonal aisle (not in the Free From section) which I always prefer because then I don’t feel like a leper. If I had any money, I’d send Morrisons a trophy. They have 4 vegan eggs this year, including three from Moo Free; the “milk” chocolate one, the “bunnycomb” (honeycomb) one which has chunks of honeycomb in it, and the “orange” one which has chunks of orange-flavored confection in it, as well as the standard Kinnerton one. Full points for interesting and unique eggs this year:
ASDA have a nice set this year, there’s their Easter Egg with Choc Buttons for the kids, a nice looking one with orange discs for millennials, and a serious dark chocolate fancy egg for people who like a bit of luxury. Take a look:
Sainsbury’s had their usual lovely collection (and I’m pleased to tell you they also now do the most DELICIOUS dairy free Wensleydale cheese AND a vegan microwave lasagne). The highlights were the white chocolate egg and the Choices egg (I love the caramel chocolates that come with that one), both of which I bought. There were others, too, but I can’t seem to find the photos to show you (really sorry; if I find them I will add them to this article):
Tesco’s dairy free range has been a bit disappointing this year, and I noticed their Christmas range was lacklustre for milk-free as well; they seem to prefer to fill their free from range with gluten free stuff (and there’s a lot of stuff that they’re selling as “gluten free” when there’s a normal, cheaper version that doesn’t actually contain gluten). So their range was relegated to the mainstream eggs that didn’t have dairy in. Here’s the set I found (with ingredients as they’re not explicitly marked as vegan or dairy free):
The Hall of Shame:
And now, for the third year running, it makes me sad and a little angry to discuss those eggs that look vegan and dairy free, but aren’t, in Invoke Delight and Inspire’s traditional Easter Egg Hall of Shame:
And the prize for the least vegan friendly Easter chocolate, 2017, goes to Nestle, for THREE eggs that contain gratuitous milk. Again. Why do I suspect that someone in Nestle has a grudge against dairy-free chocolate? Now, Cadbury’s seem like they’ve been pretty vegan-unfriendly, but I will remind y’all that they own Green and Black’s, which has at least 1 dairy free egg, even if some of their others are not, so each year they make at least some effort in this department, whereas Nestle are stuck in 1982:
Nestle, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Again. And don’t bother to contact me if you’re just going to spout some spiel about needing butteroil in your After Eights or that “consumers tell you they like milk in their chocolate” because I’m a consumer and I don’t want milk in my chocolate, and given how popular this “Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan” series of articles has been, year on year, I know I’m not alone. BTW, readers, unbranded After Eights are dairy free and they taste great; most supermarkets sell them as “after dinner mints.”
I shouldn’t be surprised by Nestle, they have always been a bit regressive. After all, they did run that Yorkie “it’s not for girls”, and later, the “this one is for girls” (get in your freaking corner, girls, OMG, like what are you doing trying to eat chocolate?) advertising campaigns.
Has anyone spotted any other vegan Easter eggs in shops? Let me know in the comments!
As promised, the 2016 edition of Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan (UK and USA): I went to all the supermarkets in my town to see which ones carried dairy-free vegan easter eggs, and which eggs were actually dairy free and vegan, then I checked out Amazon.com to help out my American Vegan and Dairy Free readers too, so there should be something here for most dairy-free people.
Sainsbury’s had an excellent selection of vegan Easter eggs for 2016:
The Moo Free Egg is 100% vegan and available in Sainsbury’s:
This interesting new addition to the range of dairy free vegan eggs is by a brand called Celtic (did they do Scheese??) and is also available in Sainsbury’s:
Longtime entry Caramel Choices Easter Egg by Choices is a very sweet, very tasty dairy free and vegan egg that’s a favourite with children. It tastes like Thornton’s Special Toffee Egg (but vegan) although the chocolate is a little softer. Available at Sainsbury’s. I have three of these ready for Easter, it’s my favourite!
The Choices dairy free vegan chocolate Easter bunny, at £1 each, comes in “milk” chocolate flavour or white chocolate flavour, but is still dairy free and vegan. Available at Sainsbury’s and Tesco:
Sainsbury’s have done their own dairy free and vegan eggs again this year. This one is fantastic (I had one last year) – it’s a vegan white chocolate egg that’s dairy and wheat and gluten free and vegan so it covers all bases. I love white chocolate eggs and there’s so few vegan ones on the market, so this is one of my favourites:
This is the larger of Sainsbury’s two dairy free, gluten free and vegan eggs on offer this year: This one is dark chocolate flavour and comes with little chocolate discs. If you’re a vegan dark chocolate fan this one’s for you.
Moving on to Tesco, who had a very good selection last year, we also have the following dairy free and vegan Easter eggs:
The Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Egg (the one that looks exactly like this with the gold on it) is dairy free and vegan. This egg is quite luxurious and would make an excellent gift for a dairy free or vegan adult who likes dark chocolate, but a child would probably want something a little sweeter:
The Green and Black’s Dark 70% chocolate egg is vegan and dairy free in 2016. Green and Black’s can be very inconsistent with whether they put milk in their food or not. One minute their chocolate is reasonably vegan, then the next minute it’s full of horrible milk, as I’m sure we all know, so don’t rely on this for checking if they’re still vegan in 2017!
The Green and Black’s mint chocolate egg is also dairy free and vegan this year. All the Green and Black’s say “not suitable for milk allergy” but I have an allergy and my only problem is that their chocolate doesn’t taste very nice, it’s never made me ill though:
The Lindt DARK chocolate bunny with the brown ribbon is vegan 2 years in a row! I am most excited about this positive move by Lindt to enable those of us who are dairy free to enjoy their chocolate. Their chocolate is so nice!
The ingredients for the Lindt dark chocolate Easter gold bunny are here:
My local Tesco’s Free From section surprised me two holiday seasons in a row – they didn’t have dairy free and vegan chocolate Advent calendars before Christmas and now they don’t have any Free From dairy free chocolate Easter eggs to choose from, good thing they make up for it with all their vegan dark chocolate egg offerings, but the only vegan Easter chocolate that Tesco sell that children would enjoy is the Lindt gold bunny and the little Choices bunnies, so if you’re shopping for vegan children or children with a milk allergy, Sainsbury’s is far and away the best place to get some proper Free From eggs. Tesco’s selection is better for adults who like dark chocolate, so do check the preferences of your vegan or milk allergy sufferer before assuming they will like something just because it’s dairy free. I think the vegan Kinnerton dairy free egg has been withdrawn this year because nowhere has it on sale and it used to be the most popular one for shops to stock (I’m sort of glad, I’m sick to death of getting that flipping egg from everyone year after year). Morrisons were the most disappointing, for the fifth year in a row, they had absolutely nothing in the vegan or dairy free Easter egg department, not even the Green and Blacks or Lindt ones, and while they’ve expanded their dairy free area of the Free From section recently to move with the times and nearly catch up with… um… every other supermarket in Britain… they still have a long way to go before I can confidently get rid of my car and just use the local Morrisons for my dairy free and vegan shopping.
The Supermarket Shelf Hall Of Shame: NOT VEGAN OR DAIRY FREE:
To follow are a list of eggs that looked like they might be dairy free or vegan but definitely aren’t. Please don’t buy these for someone who doesn’t have milk or milk products:
Cadbury’s also have nothing vegan or dairy free again this year, but I don’t mind too much because I can’t stand their chocolate. The vegan After Eight mint chocolate bunnies we saw last year (that I bought about 5 of at £1 each) also seem to have disappeared this year which is a shame because they were fabulous. If you see them please let me know where in the comments!
Dairy Free And Vegan Eggs on Amazon:
For my American readers, I’ve taken a look through Amazon and come up with a list of the best dairy free vegan Easter eggs available in 2016. There are a couple I excluded because they were too expensive to be even vaguely reasonable for what they were. I was surprised that there wasn’t the vast selection I was expecting:
Moo Free Cheeky Orange Vegan Easter Egg This one is $17.00 (plus $5.99 shipping) so comes in a little on the expensive side but I included it because it’s the only orange flavoured one. This one is dairy free and suitable for vegans.
Cream Veggs Milk Free, Nut Free Vegan Easter Cream Filled Eggs These are $16.95 plus $6 shipping, but you do get 6 eggs so if you’re getting something for a family of vegans, dairy and nut allergy sufferers, or if you want all the kids to have the same as each other, this is a pretty good choice and since they’re cream-filled (I’m assuming dairy free cream, otherwise this is a really stupid item with misleading labelling), it’s something a little different to the usual hollow eggs.
Montezumas Chocolate Dark Choc Bunnies 90g This is a $17.82 (plus $5.99 shipping) 90g pack of 8 mini chocolate bunnies that are dairy free, organic and vegan. Interestingly the description says these are made in West Sussex (UK) but I’ve never heard of them so I don’t think they’re a very big company – perhaps one day these will find their way onto English supermarket shelves too!
If you’re new to veganism or recently been diagnosed with a milk allergy (or recently met someone you’re buying for) you should be aware that these eggs will sell out fast! I have already (time of writing is February 2016) got my Lindt dark chocolate bunny, and am getting my Sainsbury’s eggs this week so I don’t miss out, because Easter is a very special time of year for me and my bunnies, and I totally missed out on Christmas due to being critically ill so I’m looking forward to opening my tasty eggs on Easter day which means getting them early. Please store them in a cool, dry place so they don’t go bad or melt, dairy free chocolate is still chocolate and it will melt in warm temperatures/direct sunlight!
I am an Amazon associate. This article contains affiliate links, which means if you buy from Amazon I get some of their profits. This helps me have time to do the painstaking research that goes into producing this content.
While these eggs are suitable for lactose intolerance, A1 casein intolerance and milk allergy sufferers, as well as most people living a milk-free life, not all of these eggs are suitable for all people whose medical conditions mean they avoid milk, not because they contain milk (they absolutely are 100% vegan except the three clearly labelled in the hall of shame) – but some people also have to avoid all of a specific type of sugar as well e.g. with a disaccharide intolerance. If you want to know more about the seven different types of milk-related allergies and intolerances, see my article here.
So you tried Googling “how to get rid of blue circles” and read a bunch of articles about how to get rid of DARK circles, and are feeling pretty disillusioned? I’ve been there. I’ve had them as long as I can remember and have tried every concealer to no avail. Then I did some scholarly research and found the answers. Now I will share with you what to do and what not to do to get rid of the blue circles you get under your eyes. Some people’s blue circles show up more purple; the solutions here will also work for purple circles where the root cause is the same. Note this won’t work for those brown ones you get with age, this is just for blue circles or purple ones! Most of the stuff about dark circles is really talking about brown circles, and they tack “and blue circles” (or “and purple circles”) onto their generic articles just to drive you nuts in your quest for answers. Why don’t they differentiate? Well, that would mean you wouldn’t keep buying products that won’t work, then they’d be making less money! Let me start by stating I have no interest in discussing make-up because it’s not an option for many people, and it won’t address the root cause of the problem, which with blue veins and blue circles is almost always your first task. To use an analogy, why put a rug over a cracked floorboard when you can just fix the floor instead? Having said that, at some point I will do an article about color correcting with make-up because it’s worth knowing about, if you can wear make-up. I will link here once I’ve written about color-correctors.
What Causes Blue or Purple Circles?
Really the key to killing them is to work out what actually causes them in the first place. Basically, the blue circles are caused by the veins standing out and becoming visible through the skin. So two things are contributing to blue circles: Enlarged veins, and thin under-eye skin.
Enlarged under-eye veins are caused by:
Caffeine (including those under-eye caffeine treatments that are marketed at getting rid of the other type of dark circle), and other stimulants such as energy drinks and certain medications – they dilate blood vessels. In brown circles, this improves blood flow (and oxygen) to the under eye area, which helps. In blue circles, it makes the problem worse. Solve it: To really reduce those blue circles, cutting out coffee is number one. This will, after a couple of months, allow the veins to go back to normal, eliminating those pesky under eye blue circles.
Allergies – Not the sort that put you in hospital, the sort that make your eyes feel sleepy, runny nose, itchy eyes, or a feeling of being gunked up inside. When we are allergic to something, the immune system produces histamines to try and fight it. These histamines make blood vessels swell. This puts a lot of pressure on your under eye area, especially when you blow your nose, which increases physical blood pressure to the face. This all causes blue circles under the eye area to look far worse than they would otherwise. Solve it: Take an antihistamine, if you’ve never used them before, start with Loratadine or Cetirizine (the cheaper of the two – that’s $8-ish for 100 cetirizine pills vs $7-ish for 30 loratadines), and work your way through the others until you find the best one for you (they put strain on your liver so go with the lowest one available, usually the two I just mentioned are safest especially for long term use e.g. if you’ve a dust allergy and work anywhere with dust), and pinpoint and remove the source of the allergy as much as you can. Hayfever typically strikes when flower pollen is at its height, but tree pollen can also be a cause and it’s found earlier in the year (March to May in the UK, this varies by plant succession and climate around the world). Dust allergy is most commonly associated with year-round rhinitis (snot) and “hayfever relief” tablets work well for dust allergies too. Move onto Benadryl only if you’re having no luck with loratadine or cetirizine (in England, Benadryl’s active ingredient diphenhydramine is used in sleeping pills). If none of the over-the-counter allergy tablets work, it’s time to pull out the big guns and ask your doctor to prescribe you the prescription strength ones, but only go for these if you really need them, as they will take a toll on your liver. The clue about whether this is the cause is that you will have the other symptoms of allergy such as runny nose, hives etc, not just blue circles.
Iron Deficiency or Anaemia – If you can’t see any blue veins through the skin, just more of a continuous blueness radiating from the tear ducts, your blue circles are probably down to an iron deficiency. This can occur in meat eaters and vegans, and can be associated with heavy blood loss e.g. due to your period. Solve it: Get some iron tablets, I’ve discussed which are best in this article. Continuous use of iron tablets has side effects. To determine whether your blue circles are down to iron deficiency, get a blood test done at the doctor’s, and check whether you have any other symptoms such as fatigue or poor concentration. Consult your pharmacist to check if you can take iron, some people can’t. Pharmacists always know best about these things, they are a cove of free knowledge.
Vitamin K deficiency – This goes hand-in-hand with iron deficiency, as vitamin K deficiency causes you to have increased blood loss, and it will cause the rest of your face to have redness as well as those blue circles from blood deposits as vitamin K makes your blood clot and without it, it doesn’t clot properly (it also helps you absorb calcium). Many iron-rich vegetables are also great sources of vitamin K – such as kale or broccoli, or other dark green leafy things. Solve it: Vitamin K supplements. Readmy article on Vitamin Kfor advice on all things Vitamin K related, as well as the other effects of vitamin K deficiency and the interaction (bad) between Vitamin E and Vitamin K (always leave some hours between taking E and K supplements and buy them as separate supplements or they cancel each other out). Avoid Vitamin K supplements if you have thrombosis or are taking anticoagulants (e.g. warfarin) as they cause problems, although if you think your blue circles are down to thinning of the blood, it is worth seeing your doctor if you’re on anticoagulants/blood thinners as they may need to adjust the dosage. Consult your pharmacist before taking Vitamin K if you need to; their advice is always free and while they can’t generally advise on the effect a vitamin will have on you, they can definitely ask the right questions and tell you whether there is any reason you shouldn’t take it. Many pharmacies don’t actually stock Vitamin K because so many people don’t understand its benefits, I buy mine from Amazon; here’s a link to the Vitamin K I’ve been buying (it’s vegan, they’ve changed the ingredients which is why I’ve changed to this one; the quality is better than some of the more expensive ones). If you’re in the UK, you can get it here although if you’re on a budget, I recommend the (not available in the US) Pure Nature Vitamin K; the packaging’s a bit weird but I tried it this month and I’m halfway through my first pack and the quality of the supplement is nearly as good as the first one I linked; get it here (UK only)
(I only recommend things I’ve bought myself).
Thin Skin under eyes: This can be something you were born with, sometimes it’s caused by a broken nose (it stretches and thins the under-eye skin) or it can just be a natural sign of ageing. If you’re really unlucky, it’s all three. When the skin under the eyes is too thin and pale, the blood vessels underneath will shine through like a shadow puppet show making delightful dark circles under the eyes. Luckily, some anti-ageing creams can help (even if you’re not ageing). Solve it: Creams marketed as “anti-ageing” are not created equal, but look for one with the ingredient Matrixyl in – this has been shown in double blind independent testing by the University of Reading (no pharma connections here, this is an unbiased study) to solve this problem. Common products include Olay Regenerist 3 Point (has to say 3 point on it) Age Defying Moisturiser (this is the exact one: I’ve found it to be more expensive in shops than on Amazon); Sanctuary Covent Garden Spa Power Peptide Protect Day Cream SPF 20 (NOW DISCONTINUED as of December 2016). Just Google Matrixyl Cream to see what comes up if you want to browse all the options, there’s loads, and they all put different amounts in, so if one doesn’t work for you, try another, although I highly recommend the Olay Regenerist 3 Point as I’ve found it to be fantastic and it’s had some excellent reviews compared to more expensive products. Use it VERY sparingly under the eye (I use tiny dots). The other solution is “laser resurfacing” but it costs thousands of dollars and I’ve not seen a single good review or success story for undereye work so I wouldn’t go there personally. Get it here if you’re in the UK
What doesn’t work:
1. Anything that says “banish dark circles” they’re usually marketed towards brown circles for people in their late 30’s onwards, and generally work by thinning the skin and bleaching it (which makes it more transparent, which as you and I both now know, makes blue circles worse).
2. Caffiene under eye roll ons or creams: These dilate those blood vessels, which means they make them bigger, which makes blue circles worse!! I wish I’d known that before I tried one of these for 2 years!
3. Concealers and color correctors: I’ve heard of people using tangerine concealers to get rid of blue circles but I don’t think they work if your skin is very light or very dark. I’ve tried all of them (even the MAC colour corrector), I’ve watched countless application videos and not one single one worked to just make my under eye area look like the rest of my pale face – they all either left it a bit too white, orange or brown (or yellow) and some of them sparkled, which made people think I’d been punched in the face by a glitter fairy (illuminating glow? Who are they kidding??). Maybe these work on a different kind of blue circle, and to be fair, they do cover it up on camera, but face to face in real life for normal people they’re no good. Make up in general is no good to cover this up for those of us who are pale, prone to activity, like walking from A to B, or who don’t like to waste time, as the blueness tends to show through after an hour or so of even the thickest plasterboard of make-up.
4. Normal eye cream: I’ve not actually found any normal eye creams to be useful for any of the common complaints around the eye area, particularly blue circles. Most of them are too watery or burn my under eye area which can be a sign of cell damage leading to ageing effects in the future so I discontinue use right away if anything burns.
5. Honey or beeswax – This bleaches things because it contains a low concentration of ammonia; honey is actually used to lighten hair “naturally” by some people. If you use it regularly under the eyes when you have blue circles, it will keep lightening the skin, which makes it more transparent, which will make your blue circles or veins stand out even more. It has it’s uses, but this isn’t one of them!
I just wanted to talk today briefly about the ingredients in food. I know most vegans check their food religiously, but recipes change and vegetarians often don’t actually check ingredients (I’ve only ever met one who did, and he doesn’t bother any more). That’s not a criticism it’s an observation. We tend to rely on Good Faith, you know, you like to think, “how could fizzy orange juice POSSIBLY contain dead fish?” And they lull you into a false sense of security because you are a reasonable person and don’t want to be paranoid about whether there’s cow in your cake or what not.
So here’s some foods you need to be aware of as a VEGETARIAN (vegans, some of these foods are not for you):
1. Cheese: A lot of cheese (especially in the US) these days is made using vegetarian rennet. Some cheese (most traditional stuff) is still made using parts of sheep stomachs. If it doesn’t say “vegetarian rennet” or “suitable for vegetarians” it almost certainly is not.
2. Marshmallows: Made with gelatine. Vegi mallows exist, but they tend to be super-expensive and all the recipes I’ve seen don’t yield the right results (although I’ve had to stop questing for this one in the past couple of months – I’ve cut sugar out to improve my mood stability).
3. Beer and lager: When I was on a tour of Black Sheep Brewery in Yorkshire, I asked the tour guide, “is it vegetarian?” She said “the fish guts aren’t still in the beer when you drink it, so yes, we would say it is vegetarian.” Obviously this is a crock of crap, and the fact of the matter is, fish died to make their beer whether they care to accept that this is the case or not. Many other brands do the same. Fanta did, too, for a while, but I’m not sure if they still do, as, last time I checked (2011), there were specific types of Fanta that definitely did (post mix syrup) and specific types that probably didn’t (cans).
4. Jelly sweets: Again it’s the gelatine. Quelle surprise.
5. Anything fortified with “omega 3 and 6”: For example food marketed at children. Heinz spaghetti shapes used to do it but they have stopped now and it’s 100% vegan again. omega 3 and 6 can come from veg*an sources but the companies do generally get it from fish, this will always be stated in the ingredients.
6. Thai green curry, Thai red curry, ready made sauces: Every single brand of Thai curry sauce that’s available in the supermarket in the UK makes it with either shrimp or anchovy paste which means they’re not vegetarian or vegan. Some of them also contain milk. They didn’t all used to have fish in them, but standards have clearly gone downhill in the past few years. If you love Thai curry, get some coconut cream and the Thai curry paste, and make your own, it’s dead easy (I’ll go through it very soon).
7. “Freefrom” rocky road:This contains gelatine in the marshmallows, even though (annoyingly) it’s usually otherwise vegan and always gluten free. Watch out for this one if someone buys it for you.
8. Refined sugar: In the United States this is often refined with bone meal. In the UK I have never come across this. Tate and Lyle and Silver Spoon both don’t use bone meal, it’s just sugar, so theirs is vegetarian and vegan. As far as I am aware, all other sugar in the UK is also fine. I wanted to bring it up though in case you go to the US (or, if you come over here, feel free to stock up on British grown, animal free sugar, I don’t think customs limits export on it so bring a suitcase).
9. Walkers “meaty” crisps (potato chips): In the past two years, walkers have made a move backwards towards the dark ages (I guess it upset them that they finally made their cheese and onion crisps vegetarian a few years ago). Obviously they’re not happy if they’re not killing animals for seasonings, so their Smokey Bacon contains pork, their Roast Chicken contains chicken, and the Prawn Cocktail is still completely vegan, as are the Worcester Sauce, Salt and Vinegar (yes they stopped filling them with lactose a couple of years ago) and of course Ready Salted. I’m not sure about their less “standard” flavours but do check before putting them in your mouth.
Those are the sneakiest ones I’ve found and which I feel don’t really need animals in them to make them tasty or edible or even chemically stable. It’s just gratuitous. But now you know. And the more you know… (add your own to the comments, as long as it’s the most recent ingredients as they change unexpectedly)…
Note: This is prescheduled, I’ll reply to comments when I get back.
The first time I had dal (or dhal, never sure how to spell it) I hated it! I was at a fancy restaurant where they served up mushy, flavourless stuff that was like yellow mash potato!
The second time I had it, I was at a Nepalese restaurant (the Yak and Yeti Gurkha Restaurant, York, loads of vegan options and very good value for money) and it was wonderful.
I went home and did a few experiments before landing on my own lentil dhal recipe, something delicate but tasty:
1. Yellow mung dhal (moong daal) lentils. I buy the ones that don’t need to be soaked.
2. Fresh (chopped) or dried coriander (aka cilantro) (2 tsp)
3. Bhuna or balti paste (a tablespoon is ample), or if you can’t find the paste, use a quarter of a jar of the sauce instead. Patak’s do a nice one.
Get a fine meshed sieve and wash your mung dhal lentils until they are clumping together – this removes some of the starch.
Pop them into a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Add a teaspoon of coriander (cilantro). Simmer for about 30-50 minutes, depending on how mushy you want it.
When it has softened enough, drain and add the bhuna paste or sauce (or balti), and stir it into the dhal, stirring in the rest of the coriander (cilantro). Leave on a very low heat for at least 10 minutes so the flavour penetrates the lentils. Stir regularly so it doesn’t burn the bottom of the pan.
Serve in a bowl, either on its own or with rice.
Nutrition: Gluten free, dairy free, 80g of moong dal lentils are one of your five a day (and a separate one to regular lentils because they come from different species of plant), 30g of protein per 100g of uncooked moong dal lentils and 45g of carbohydrate per 100g of uncooked moong dal lentils.
So I wanted to know if there was a quicker way to do lasagne than this. That’s how, on Saturday, I set myself the Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge.
Using just the ingredients I had in the kitchen, I had to make a vegan lasagna in 20 minutes or less (prep time). I had no dairy free cheese and no tomatoes, passata, puree or even pasta sauce, so I was winging it to the highest level. To time me, my husband put on an episode of American Dad, and I had to be back in the living room before the end credits were rolling.
Here’s how it turned out:
And here’s what I did:
1. Pre soaked 2 lasagna sheets in the bottom of the Pyrex lasagna dish.
2. Taking a big bowl of spinach, I tore it up into tiny pieces, pulling out any obvious stems but not going overboard. I covered the bottom sheet with the spinach.
3. I had no tomatoes, so covered the spinach in 1/2 a jar of Spanish Chicken sauce!! Turns out, it’s basically tomato sauce (and it’s vegan if you don’t pour it over any chicken, obv, otherwise it would not be in my kitchen).
4. Next, I soaked 2 more lasagna / lasagne sheets in boiling water from the kettle, holding them carefully over the sink and rotating them to get the bit I was holding, until they started to flex. These went over the spinach/spanish sauce.
If you want this to be even quicker, go straight to step 8 after this and just pour on top of this sheet.
5. Next, I poured a whole tin of sweetcorn (drained) over the middle layer of lasagna. That’s right, this is going to be a three layer lasagna.
6. I covered the sweetcorn in the rest of the Spanish sauce.
7. I soaked 2 more lasagna sheets using the same method as step 4, then put them over the sweetcorn/sauce combo.
8. I made some vegan white sauce (bechamel sauce), as follows: 1 dollop of vegan butter, sieve in some flower and mix until it goes golden yellow. Then add the soya milk very gradually, keep stirring! Once the white sauce has thickened, it’s done.
I poured it over the top of the most recent lasagna sheets
I put my whole lasagna in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes.
The bottom most lasagna sheets were not quite as soaked as they could have been, but otherwise it was a great result.
This proves that you neither need vegan cheese nor vegan cheese sauce to make a tasty lasagna. Serves 3 meals or 6 as an accompaniment with some other stuff on the side. If you’re super hungry, it would probably only do 2 meals.
Nutrition: There is no protein in this. Have some peanuts with it or something. It’s worth 2 of your 5 a day per 1/3 of the whole thing. I used gluteny lasagna sheets because I’m broke but you can buy gluten free ones and make the white sauce with gluten free flour (Dove Farm do a nice one) to make this totally gluten free.
What do you think? Would you take up the Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge? Let me know in the comments or link to your article if you’ve got a faster lasagna recipe!
Dairy Free Vegan Lasagna (In England, we spell it lasagne, but I’ve used the American spelling as I know most of my readers are American/Canadian):
This post contains an affiliate link. This recipe takes some time (I take just over an hour) so do it on a weekend day!
What better way to celebrate rabbit awareness week than to start it off with a meat free, animal free lasagna?
You will need:
A box of lasagna/lasagne sheets,
A block of dairy free hard cheese that can be grated/melted,
The “béchamel” sauce (method here):
Flour (or gluten free)
Soya milk (or alternative of your choice)
Grated vegan cheese (optional depending on whether you prefer traditional or cheese béchamel sauce)
Alternative béchamel (if you are in a hurry):
Some cream cheese,
A tablespoon or two of soya milk,
The “innards” of the lasagna:
1.5 cups Vegan mince or TVP,
1 Onion (or 1 cup frozen onions),
1/2 carton Tomato passata,
1/2 tsp of vegemite or yeast extract,
Herbs: a sprinkling of basil (OBT),
You will also need a square glass dish. You may need to change your measurements to fit your glass dish, mine is medium sized and serves 4-5. If you don’t have one, this lasagna dish set looks perfect.
Make the innards first:
1. Soak the TVP in some boiling water and mix in the Vegemite to add flavour.
2. Fry the onions and add the (drained if necessary) TVP, herbs, and the passata, mix well and set aside.
Then start to work with the lasagna sheets:
1. Follow the pre-soaking guidelines for the lasagna sheets. I usually pre-boil mine before using them so they’re not too hard.
2. Line the bottom of the glass dish with a layer of lasagna sheets, tearing and overlapping where necessary.
Then pour the innards over the first layer of lasagna sheets to totally cover it.
Next, put more lasagna sheets over the top of the innards.
Make the béchamel sauce next: Here is the recipe you will use for the traditional béchamel sauce. If you’ve got all the ingredients, this one is the best one to make because it’s by far the most realistic. It’s your choice whether to include the grated cheese.
Alternative béchamel sauce using vegan cream cheese:
Put 1/3 of a tub of cream cheese in a pan, and heat it to soften. Mix in the soya milk and stir well. Add about 1 teaspoon of cornflour (sieve with a fine-mesh sieve to ensure no lumps, or just bung it in and live with the lumps) and mix well with a fork. Add more cornflour to thicken if needed.
Once the mixture is thick enough, pour over the top layer of lasagna sheets to completely cover them. You may need more sauce than this, depending on your dish size.
Grate the hard cheese over the top of the béchamel sauce to completely cover it with a decent layer of cheese.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes on 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 6.
Remove from oven and cut into square slices to serve. I use a wide flat spatula to get it out of the lasagna dish and a spoon in the other hand to stop the filling falling out.
If it’s just to serve one, let the rest cool and cover then put in the fridge. When you wish to reheat, remove the amount you want to eat, and either oven it or microwave, depending on what you prefer.
Approximately 1 of your 5 a day per serving and about 1/3 of your daily protein. For more of your 5 a day (so more vitamins), add some salad on the side or serve with a baked sweet potato and some boiled carrots.
Tips for success:
1. Get used to making the béchamel before you attempt the whole lasagna.
2. To save time you could pre-cook the béchamel for a different recipe the day before and set some aside for today’s lasagna.
3. Stir the vegemite fully into the TVP so you don’t get any lumps of yeast extract in your finished lasagna.
4. You can apparently just put the lasagne sheets in dry but I’ve always pre-soaked them and find this to make them cook better in the oven, as vegan cheese sauce tends to be a little too dry to soften the sheets in the oven.
With the exception of the actual pasta itself, none of my pasta recipes contain gluten, so if you’re gluten free, replace your pasta with gluten free pasta and follow the rest of the recipe as normal. Most shops stock gluten free lasagne or lasagna sheets.
Okay guys. We’ve been building up to this for three weeks. Today I share with you the ultimate vegan cheese sauce recipe, the one that you’ll want to make every time you do cheese sauce. This is advanced sauce making. It’s the one you can feed your parents and they’ll have no clue that there was no dairy in it. The one you can use for vegan macaroni cheese, vegan cauliflower cheese or to do the top sauce for a vegan lasagna (leave out the “cheese” if you prefer a white sauce lasagna).
It requires the full arsenal of ingredients, but I make it a one-pan meal by cooking my broccoli or pasta in the pan, draining that then using the same pan to do the sauce.
You can measure the ingredients, but I don’t bother because it’s far more important to get a feel for how the ingredients interact with one another, and anyway, it utterly depends on how much sauce you want to make. As long as there’s a good dollop of each ingredient in its packaging, you’ll be fine.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Equipment: Saucepan, butter or table knife, fine meshed sieve, fork, spoon (also: cheese grater if you’re not using cheese slices and wide meshed sieve as well if you need to get rid of lumps and don’t have a hand blender).
1. Vegan butter. I am currently preferring the Pure Soya spread.
2. Flour. Recipe books always say to use plain flour for sauces, but I use self raising because I don’t “cook” (as in, make recipes that are nutritionally void and generally require some sort of flour) enough to have two types of flour in the house, and usually what I cook is cake, so self raising is just more useful to me and it’s never made a difference to my cheese sauces. If it matters so much use plain flour.
3. Soy milk. I haven’t tried it with other dairy free milk but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work, although rice milk is very watery. I use unsweetened soy milk.
4. Either grated vegan cheese (e.g. Tesco soya medium, Cheezly, Scheeze block cheese or Violife block cheese) or slices of Violife, torn into small pieces (don’t kill yourself, it’s still gonna melt if it’s big pieces).
5. Something you want to cover in cheese sauce. I go for pasta, cauliflower or broccoli, but it’s entirely up to you.
1. With a knife, get a dollop of butter and put it in the pan. I use a small non-stick pan so there’s nowhere for lumps to hide later on.
2. Put the heat on a high medium (electric 4, or gas 20 past, with highest being half past if your cooker knob was a clock).
3. As the butter turns to a puddle but BEFORE it bubbles, grab a fine meshed sieve and pour a bit of flour in there. You want a 1:1 ratio of flour to butter,
4. Stir continuously with a fork until you’ve got little balls of flour stuck together with butter, in a slightly orangey colour (not brown, that’s burnt, if it went brown, start again).
5. VERY gradually add the milk: Add a dollop, mix it together until it’s starting to form a thick liquid then add more milk, never stop stirring and never add loads of milk all at once. If your sauce goes lumpy, it’s because you added the milk too quickly or didn’t stir out all the lumps. Squash any solid lumps with a fork as you’re doing this.
6. Stop adding milk once your sauce is a nice thick sauce-like consistency. Remember you want it to cling to the pasta or broccoli, not slide off.
7. Add the cheese and stir it in until it’s all melted.
8. If your sauce is super lumpy, as mine was (usually when I used dairy free Vitalite to do this), you have two options. Either use a wider meshed sieve (if you have one, the sort that you couldn’t drain quinoa through, but you could drain rice through) or a hand blender.
Lump Removal Method 1: With the sieve, get the bowl ready, put the sieve over it (bowl must be wider than sieve, unless you tilt the sieve so all the sauce falls from one place, or you will have cheese sauce everywhere), pour the cheese sauce into the sieve, and wait for the sauce to drain out, then throw away the lumps that are left.
Lump Removal Method 2: With a hand blender, leave the sauce in the pan and just blend out the lumps. It usually thickens when you do this (because the lumps are the flour and butter that is also the thickener that gives the sauce its consistency). If it’s too thick, stir in more milk, a little at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.
9. Use the spoon to get all the sauce out of the pan and enjoy that sauce! If you’ve made too much, put the rest in a separate bowl in the fridge and enjoy it again tomorrow.
A note on cleaning: Get that pan straight under water if you’re not washing up before you eat. That stuff can set really quickly.
A note on nutrition: Add a handful of peanuts for protein, and boiled kale for 5 a day if you’re putting this with pasta.
A note on gluten: This DOES work with GF flour, although it tends to require the usual liquid adjustments – but this is another reason why I didn’t give measurements, so just add liquid until it reaches the right consistency. The chemistry of this recipe is exactly the same.
So there you have it. The ultimate cheese sauce recipe. If you were into your cooking before you became vegan, you may notice this is the standard white sauce + cheese recipe, and I’ve fully explained it so you can avoid all the pitfalls I have made with this recipe over the ten years I’ve been making it.
What will you eat yours with? Do you have any better cheese sauce recipes? Let me know in the comments!
Given how well my first two cheese sauce recipes went down last week, here’s two more. They’re a bit more complicated but I’ve made pasta and cheese in all of these methods and can vouch for the fact that it will scratch an itch, even if it’s not remotely nutritious (more advice on making this meal more nutritious at the bottom). Some of these are more realistic than others, as a general rule of thumb, the harder it is to make, the more realistic it comes out, so it’s up to you how much effort to expend in making vegan cheese sauce. I oscillate – sometimes I don’t care enough to take any time and other times I’m spending half an hour on that perfect vegan cheese sauce recipe and smoothing out lumps with my hand blender (that’s a pro-tip, btw). It all depends on how hungry or rushed I am vs how much I miss cheese sauce.
Cheese sauce 3. Using vegan cream cheese, method C:
1.5 cups pasta per person (pasta of your choice)
About 2 tablespoons of cream cheese per person (you may need more)
About 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person (also works with rice milk, not sure about others).
About 1 tablespoon of cornflour.
1. Cook the pasta and drain.
2. In a small non-stick pan (ideally), on a medium heat, spoon your required amount of cream cheese into the pan and add about 1 tablespoon of soya milk per person to start with.
Stir it together while it’s heating until it’s all warm and sauce like.
3. Add the cornflour (sieving it into the pan with a fine mesh sieve is the best way to avoid lumps, but work with what you’ve got) and combine well with a fork.
4. Once the sauce has reached the right consistency, serve it all up – put the pasta in bowls and pour the sauce over the top.
About 3-4 dairy free cheese slices per person (Tofutti or Violife are the UK brand leaders),
1. Cook the pasta and drain.
2. Put the pasta back into the pan. Tear the cheese slices up and drop them into the pan.
3. On a medium heat, stir the cheese slices into the pasta. Need it cheesier? Add more cheese!
4. Serve it in the right number of bowls and eat it.
Nutrition: To make these more nutritious, use cauliflower or broccoli (or some of both) instead of pasta. I like to also throw in a serving of frozen or fresh peas to ensure there’s some colour on my plate. A handful of peanuts will help you achieve your day’s protein goals. I strongly recommend you don’t use lentils – they don’t work well in this sauce.
You can make any of my recipes gluten-free by subbing the pasta for GF pasta.
Stay tuned for next Monday when I will put up the all-singing all-dancing Oven Baked Vegan Mac-N-Cheese Recipe that you will want to get your hands on.