I’m guessing mine is not the only family thinking about saving a few pennies after the glut of summer and before the festivities of Christmas. Also recently I’ve been giving some thought to the kinds of recipes I want to feature on this site, and how I might offer something different and genuinely useful.
I own a mountain of vegan cookbooks. The first one I ever bought was all about baking, because the most important thing on my mind at the time was not how do I get my protein, or calcium, or B12 or whatever, but how do I get my cake! Well, things have moved on a bit since then: fabulous vegan cakes are everywhere but I rarely eat them (although I think somehow psychologically it helps me to know that I could if I wanted to).
The next phase in my plant-based explorations involved needing to prove to myself that animal-free foods could be as good as anything on Masterchef. I spent hours in the kitchen cooking weird and wonderful things full of weird and wonderful (and expensive) ingredients. I don’t need to prove this any more. I have eaten lots of creative, beautiful, flavoursome and satisfying plant-based dishes both at home and in various pioneering restaurants on both sides of the pond.
Now I’m into a new phase, needing to feed my family of four tasty, nutritious meals that don’t take hours to make or break the bank. I’m a bit wary of the old-style image of plant-based food as shapeless brown slop in a bowl with a huge hunk of solid brown bread on the side – although this is sometimes what is needed and there’s nothing wrong with a hearty stew once in a while. A brisk yomp up a tall mountain is great for working up an appetite for this kind of fare!
Most recently I’ve been playing with raw food, and I bought a great recipe book called Going Raw by Judita Wignall. In it are tons of great recipes, but they do all take some making. Near the end there is this one paragraph in which she says that of course she doesn’t really eat like this all the time, but no-one would buy a book about what she does eat, which is pretty repetitive and fairly straightforward to prepare. I just thought that I would love that book – I would definitely have bought it. The great revelation of raw food for me has been keeping it simple. It really is okay to just eat the apples. You don’t have to make pie. You can just get a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables, wash and chop them, then eat your way through them. It really is nature’s perfect fast food.
For the kids, I quite often make them up “snack plates” for lunch or even dinner, with things on them like sweetcorn, peas, carrots, cashew nuts, mixed seeds, raisins or dried apricots, cubed firm tofu, olives, berries, apple or pear “boats” (slices), cucumber etc. etc. I have made them into funny faces once or twice, but mostly I don’t bother. It’s quick and easy, and arguably more nutritious than any meal based around bread, pasta or rice. I’m not sure if there’s a cookery book in this idea, but you never know!
So here’s my challenge to myself: to find or develop, and share on this site, recipes for meals that are healthy*, delicious, plant-based, reasonably cheap, reasonably quick and easy to make, and that contain (not too many) ingredients commonly found in UK supermarkets and health-food shops.
I would love to hear from anyone who feels they have recipes they would like to share that meet these criteria. My main aim is to develop a useful resource, not to showcase my own stuff. I’m not a trained chef – everything I know about cookery has been self-taught or picked up from family, friends and a scattering of workshops. Sometimes I struggle to think of what to make for dinner. Sometimes I just want to curl-up on a sofa with a take-away curry. I do enjoy undisturbed cooking as relaxation on a Friday night with the radio on and a nice glass of red, but I find trying to put three meals a day on the table amongst babies and buggies and dressing up and play-doh a bit more of a struggle. It helps to share the workload and bounce ideas off others in a similar position. Do get in touch – I would be very happy to hear from you…
*I define healthy here as essentially plant-based and made without added salt, refined sugar or white flour, hard fats or extracted oils.