A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Category Archives: Cooking

Last week, I returned from Lapland to my latest OddBox delivery.

I must say that I was baffled by the item in the bottom left corner. I thought it was a beetroot but there was no indication on the website or letter that we would get beetroot this week. I then thought it might be a really big potato. It smelled like a potato.

It was indeed a yellow beetroot, though I wasn’t entirely certain until I had cooked and tasted it 🙈

I stir-fried the cavolo nero and purple broccoli.

I followed the recipe that came in the box for a roasted carrot and lentil salad. I don’t really like roasted carrot (I prefer sweet potato) but I liked the lentils and dressing, and it was pretty filling.

I also followed the vegetable soup recipe from the box. The soup is serviceable but it looks repulsive.

I also managed to have zero waste vegan quidditch tournament! When I realised that the only available food would be from a burger van, I took some time to food prep. I had shopped in the Source and Lemons & Limes, a lovely greengrocer in Chiswick. I made the satay noodle dish I’ve done a few times before.

I packed two servings and warmed them up each morning before transferring to my vacuum flask.

Since I was volunteering, I got a £5 food voucher. I got some (black) coffee in my keep cup and the lid of my food container saved a couple of polystyrene trays from landfill. Its so nice to be able to eat hot food when you’re standing around outside in Manchester all day.

The team I was coaching came third and my club’s second team (London Unstoppables) took silver, so all in all a successful weekend.

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Day 15

I had a banana, almond butter and chocolate toastie for breakfast. Following on from Sunday’s food prep, I had a roasted vegetable, hummus and quinoa salad for lunch.

I also had a bit more of the salted chocolate I bought yesterday. It made a big difference to eat it at room temperature rather than cold. I much prefer the texture when it isn’t cold.

I went to the gym straight after work. Got home and had a protein shake and another hotdog. I was quite hungry so I ate a lot of nuts too.

Day 16

I started feeling like I was coming down with something yesterday. I woke up feeling dodgy so worked at home rather than going to the office as planned. Had my final hotdog for breakfast.

My flatmate got some vegan Magnums so I had one as an afternoon snack. Overall the experience was similar to eating a normal choc-ice, but both the ice cream and the chocolate coating had peculiar flavours. The ice cream tasted too strongly of artificial vanilla and the chocolate tasted like artificial sweetener, though the textures were spot on. I didn’t dislike the Magnum, but I found the flavours a bit distracting.

Day 17

I woke up early to go to the gym before work. I wanted avocado toast but the only bread I had was two leftover hotdog buns. I decided to try something different. We have a kind of panini press in the flat and I used it to fry and refresh the buns, which were getting a bit stale. I cut the buns in half and spread both sides with a thin layer of coconut oil before put in the press. I have to say it worked incredibly well. The delicate taste of the coconut was delicious with the avocado.

I had a protein shake as my mid-morning snack and the final serving of quinoa, roasted vegetable and hummus salad for lunch.

I met a friend at Farmacy for dinner. It’s in an area of Westminster I hardly ever visit. We both went Mexican. I went for corn tacos stuffed with mushrooms. They were delicious, with lots of refried beans, some kind of vegan soured cream and guac.

My main priority was the dessert. I went for the staff recommendation of a brownie sundae, which was not what I envisaged at all. It was massive! But the brownie was really tasty and there were lots of interesting textures.

Day 18

Repeated yesterday’s successful breakfast. I also got a few minutes to photograph my OddBox. That arrived yesterday too.

I’m going out for dinner again this evening so I’m not quite sure what I’ll end up doing with some of this veg.

I was in a school all day and didn’t bring any lunch because they normally feed me. I was unsure if they would have vegan options. I ended up with the hearty staple of a jacket potato with beans. I always imagined that it would be depressing without butter and cheese but actually I enjoyed it more than I thought. The potato itself had a butteriness to it.

I had a pre-made vegan snack (kind of like a package-free Nakd bar) in the afternoon before meeting Glory and her gal pal for dinner at Mildred’s in Soho.

Winner winner vegan dinner.

I was really full from the two starters and dessert (similar to yesterday). I feel like plants fill me up in a different, less uncomfortable, way to meat.

Day 19

Had quite a boring smoothie for breakfast. I’d forgotten I am out of frozen blueberries, which would have jazzed it up.

I had a good look at the OddBox veg and weighed the items to see what I can do. I was thinking of a soup with the Jerusalem artichokes, but I have less than 200g so it’s not worth it. I decided to oven roast them because I’d never tasted them before.

It was nice! I also roasted a beetroot and some carrots at the same time. I very nearly incinerated the lot!

I decided to try making brownies using some of the beetroot. I had a lot in the house considering I don’t really like it.

The brownies are ok. I would probably try a different recipe if I wanted to make beetroot brownies again. The texture is good, but there is nowhere near enough sugar, so there is a bitterness to them. Thank goodness there are plenty of chocolate chips mixed in.

I also struggled with the chocolate glaze that went on top. Because I wanted to make the brownies sweeter, I added quite a bit of maple syrup (stevia was recommended in the recipe, which I don’t have). However, that made the glaze too wet. I added some coconut sugar in an attempt to balance. The result isn’t bad, but I think it could be better.

I had a stir fry for second lunch using the purple sprouting broccoli. I find lettuce a massive pain- I’ve come to think that salad leaves are a bit of a waste of space- so I just ate that on its own.

You might be wondering why the noodles are red. I cooked them in the water I saved from boiling the beetroot. The water was so red, I felt it must contain some nutrients. I added some water chestnuts and cashews to bulk the stir fry up a bit. It was delicious.

I went to meet friends at Draughts board game cafe. I was uncharacteristically early (I thought the booking was half an hour earlier than it was) so picked up a Crosstown doughnut on the way.

I had the vegan offer on option at Draughts on the waiter’s recommendation. It was ok. Actually the biggest issue was that the patty wasn’t warm enough.

Day 20

Avocado toast for breakfast. I added a little spirulina today. Took a protein shake, leftover roasted veggies and an apple to snack on at quidditch training.

Got home and had another broccoli stir-fry. Glory and I went to a friend’s for dinner and she made us a nice vegan chili. I wouldn’t have thought to cook that dish, but I liked it. She also had a vegan mozzarella that was pretty good. We also had some of the brownies for dessert.

Day 21

I made a big pan of apple pie porridge first thing, which was a pretty dumb move because I was very nearly late for my hand therapy appointment. However, the porridge came out really nicely and I have enough for the next three days.

Took two vegan brownies, some sweet potato soup from the freezer and a small serving of leftover chili from last night to work.

Picked up a doughnut from the new Crosstown in Hammersmith. I love the filled one with elderflower. Also grabbed another veg patty. Pretty much identical to the other brand I had last week.

Thoughts/reflections

I’m feeling much more comfortable and happy eating a plant-based diet. Up until this week I’d been envisaging going on an enormous meat binge once February rolls around. I am starting to see the vegan diet as less impoverished and just different. It’s such a privilege to have such a variety of fantastic vegan restaurants in London. Eating out has helped to open my eyes much more to the pleasures of plants.

Something I find interesting is the pressure put on vegans. They/we are given a really hard time and held up to a bizarre standard of dietary perfection. If a vegan makes a choice to eat something non-vegan, a lot of people really seem to revel in being proven right that the vegan diet somehow isn’t good enough.

I’m still not decided on what diet I will follow once Veganuary comes to an end. Flexitarianism does feel like a bit of a cop-out, but at the same time I would like the flexibility to occasionally eat animal products while following a primarily plant-based diet.


I’m going to keep a daily journal of my Veganuary exploits.

Day 1

Spent it in bed rueing the day I was born. All I could keep down was some avocado toast my flatmate kindly made for me. Oh, and a Lindor, which wasn’t vegan 🤦🏽‍♀️

Day 2

Due to being incapacitated on new year’s day (see above) I had made no food plans for the week. I had a green smoothie for breakfast and some frozen squash curry for lunch. Went to Asda and got overwhelmed by what I couldn’t eat. Ended up having a protein shake and crackers for dinner. But I did make some initial meal plans for the rest of the week.

My OddBox arrived quite late and I looked up a few recipes before bed.

Day 3

I ended up having smoothies (one green and one kind of apple pie/oatmeal one) for breakfast and lunch due to still not having any proper food in. They tasted nice but I’m kind of over drinking variously-coloured sludge.

I followed(ish) a recipe from an old OddBox and made pasta with mushrooms and cavolo nero. I used the mung bean pasta I picked up at the Source- it’s higher in protein.

Sadly it’s also higher in the taste of butts. I don’t know what I expected to be honest. I’ve never knowingly eaten a mung bean. At least I only bought 75g (bulk shopping win) so I don’t have to eat it again.

The sauce was ok but reminded me of a dish I used to subsist on at university that I charitably called ‘vegetable melange’. Basically it was loads of tinned veg with some onion, chopped tomatoes and ketchup. I remember the secret ingredient was a lot of cheese.

Today was a bad cooking day overall. I followed this recipe for vegan mayonnaise using oat milk and rapeseed oil and it didn’t work at all. Although the liquids seemed to emulsify, it wouldn’t thicken.

I still used it to make this ‘better than tuna‘ sandwich filling with the chickpeas I soaked on day 2. I still have the aquafaba from the chickpeas so I might try another mayo recipe (think I over-reduced the aquafaba though. Seriously cursed cooking day). Fortunately the spread turned out to be nice enough or I would almost certainly have cried. I also had a protein shake/iced decaf thing because I hadn’t slept well. I should be tracking my macros but I haven’t had time.

Day 4

Had the apple pie smoothie for breakfast again and a banana/peanut butter protein shake after going to the gym. I was feeling a bit sick at the gym and I wonder if I’ve been having too many liquid meals. I guess my body is also adjusting to a new diet.

I also prepped another wrap with yesterday’s spread. I actually took two wraps for lunch (I only ate one). I struggle with portioning vegan food. When bulk cooking, I find it helpful to weigh my food and I know that I normally eat around 400g for lunch. I have learnt to my cost that 400g of different foods are not equal!

For dinner, I met Glory at Patty and Bun for an impromptu flatmate date. We tried their Whoopi Goldburger.

The burger itself was decent. The bread was lovely and the patty had a good texture, though it was a little on the loose/wet side for me. The fake cheese was quite nice too. My favourite part was the rosemary fries. It felt so good to eat something deep fried, hot, salty and crispy. I’ve eaten too much mush this week.

I picked up some vegan chocolate on the way home. Turns out that I really really really like milk in my chocolate.

Day 5

Had a green smoothie for breakfast. I like to have fruit or vegetables as the first thing I put in my stomach each day but chewing is tiresome. I didn’t add avocado and I actually preferred the more watery texture for a change.

I had some avocado and mushrooms on toast later. I was due to go out for a meal and expected to eat more, but I’m still not feeling too well. I did feel a little hungry so snacked on a bit more of the vegan chocolate, which was nicer with coffee.

Went to the Spread Eagle, a vegan pub in east London. All of the meat alternatives were super tasty and it was another welcome change. I had the trio of tacos and enjoyed them all.

I also had this deep fried cheeze, which had a similar texture to brie. I liked it but wish I had ordered a dessert instead.

Unfortunately I just don’t feel right in myself. I’m feeling increasingly sick throughout the day. I’m also tired, though to be fair I haven’t been sleeping well (unrelated to diet). I’m going to give it a few more days but I am worried that being vegan is making me feel so bad. I did a bit of research and I think it is quite normal to take time to adjust. But I don’t like the idea that I’m making myself ill when I was pretty happy with my diet before.

Day 6

Slept in, which I hope will help me. Perhaps part of my malaise has been sleep deprivation. I ate the last of my mushrooms first thing, followed by batch cooking some very nice apple porridge.

I was still a bit peckish so had a protein shake as well. I toasted the wrap I didn’t have on Friday for lunch and it was pretty tasty. Spread stuff needs more salt though.

I then prepped a stew featuring my OddBox veggies. It turned out quite nice.

I wanted four full servings for next week and I was still hungry after eating what was left in the pot. I had a peanut butter, banana and chocolate toastie. It was great! I don’t normally eat much bread but I think that’s going to help me through the month.

I didn’t feel sick today so I’m hoping my body is getting used to veganism. I’m also feeling much more prepared for the forthcoming week. Bring it on!

Day 7

Reaped the rewards of food prep and had porridge, a chickpea wrap and stew with little effort. Not feeling sick but did get so hungry after the gym that I had stomach cramps. Treated myself to a rice-coconut chai latte from Pret but the barista told me the powder (note: the chai and turmeric drinks aren’t ZW friendly!) contains milk. I ended up having a turmeric latte with unclear vegan credentials because I had already paid. Pret later contacted me on Twitter and their allergen information indicates that neither product contains dairy. I guess they want to be careful since someone recently died after eating something to which they were allergic in Pret.

I was ravenous when I got home so had another peanut butter, banana and chocolate toastie. Started feeling like I could get used to veganism.

Summary/observations

All in all, it was quite a hard start to Veganuary. A lot of that was down to my poor planning. I’m hoping to start tracking my nutrition because I’m sure I’m not getting enough protein for muscle growth.

I have noticed that I’ve been ticking the ‘no unhealthy snacks’ box on my habit tracker more frequently. This is mainly down to not having unhealthy vegan things in the house to eat. I’m also quite weak-willed and partial to a chocolate or five if people bring them into the office. Or if my flatmate brings them home after Xmas. It’s so weird to think that on Monday I was scarfing them down only to stop on Tuesday because I ‘can’t’ eat them.

A challenge for this week has been my own narrative that I don’t like to eat processed food. This story prevents me from eating pretty much all meat and cheese substitutes. However, I am perfectly happy to eat (mass-produced) dairy and meat products such as cheeses, yoghurt and sausages. It’s interesting that I’ve come/been conditioned to not consider these things ‘processed’ or ‘bad’ and yet I am mistrustful of vegan alternatives.

Having to cook everything from scratch is quite a strain so I feel like something has to give. I might ask my vegan friends for some recommendations about what is worth trying.


I got my most recent OddBox a couple of weeks ago.

Again the timing of my cooking and lighting did not lend itself to getting good pictures of what I made. I followed two recipes that came with the box.

A broccoli and cauliflower bake (that I managed to leave a knife in). I bulked it out a bit with some orza (pasta) that I’ve had lying around for a while. The meal was surprisingly tasty and filling.

This leek and potato soup was delicious. Nuff said. I should have heeded the warning that it’s best frozen without the cream.

I also made this squash curry. Also pretty tasty. It’s meant to be a jalfrezi but I used Thai curry paste because that’s what I had on hand. I also made coconut rice (1 tin coconut milk, 1 tin brown basmati, 1 tin water cooked using absorption method) that was much-needed because the curry was slightly too spicy for me.

I also made some snacks- the recipe is for the vegan coconut bites they sell in Pret à Manger.


I really enjoyed the plant-powered pistachio dessert I made for vegan Jamaican night a few weeks ago.

I have a massive sweet tooth so it was nice to have this in the freezer, ready to be blended into a refreshing and healthy milkshake. Its nice to have a second vegan ice cream option beyond basic banana nice cream.

You can find the original recipe here but this is the version I made. As OP notes, the dates do dull the green colour. I think it’s worth it for the taste.

Dates vary a lot in sweetness so I recommend starting off by adding 2/3 cup, tasting and increasing if desired. Remember that flavours do tend to mellow in the freezer. If possible, make the night before you need this recipe because it does take several hours to set.

Next time I make this I will try using matcha rather than spirulina to add both colour and flavour. God I’m a hipster.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond)
  • 2/3 – 1 cup dates
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 – 1 tsp spirulina (for colour, optional)

Method

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blitz until smooth. Start with smaller amounts of the dates and spirulina and add more to taste.
  2. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze overnight.
  3. Remove from freezer 10-15 minutes before serving


The cooking hasn’t been as interesting this week, due in part to my broken finger.  A lot of my OddBox haul (including the pineapple) was pressed into service in smoothies. I’ve read that you should get lots of vitamins and minerals to support the healing process so I’ve been going hard on the old fruit and veg.

One thing I did make was cauliflower gnocchi based on the recipe in the box. Having done the pasta class helped me to try something outside my comfort zone.

I have to say that the gnocchi tasted suspiciously like dumplings. Not sure if this is my Jamaican heritage meaning I can’t make gnocchi properly or if that’s normal. I think I will have to try making some potato gnocchi to test.

I also made an amazing satay-style noodle soup dish. I found the recipe on Pinterest and knew right away that I would have to try it. I supplemented the remaining OddBox veg with some Asian produce from Chinatown.

I will definitely be coming back to this dish in Veganuary.

Weekly tilt

A disadvantage of trying to reduce waste is becoming hyper-aware of how wasteful society is. Here I share things that have bothered or worried me.

Having an injury generates quite a lot of waste- I have to clean my finger at least once a day, which means replacing the tape. I’m quite glad I’m not attempting to put my rubbish in a mason jar. That would be quite disgusting!


I had a day off the other week and spotted a ravioli-making workshop online. Making pasta has always been one my list of things to try but always seemed like too much effort. I remember my uncle, who used to be a chef, made a big batch and promptly dropped it all in the cat litter tray, which somehow put me off even though I don’t have a cat. Funnily enough, this was the last thing I did before discovering I had a broken finger. You can see my blissful ignorance (and swollen and bent finger) in the picture below.

Pasta ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 180g 00 flour

Filling ingredients

  • 100g mascarpone
  • 100g ricotta
  • 40g Parmesan
  • 40g rocket

Method

Put the flour on a clean surface. Make a well in the middle and crack in the eggs.

Use a fork to combine the egg and flour. Once it starts to come together, knead until smooth adding more flour if needed. About 5 minutes.

Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.

For the filling, combine the ingredients and season to taste. Leave and allow flavours to develop.

Once the dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface and roll out until you can see light coming through it.

Gently score down the centre of the pasta to mark where you will fold it.

Take walnut-sized balls of filling and place on one half of the dough.

Brush water all around each piece of filling to allow the dough to stick. Fold.

Working from the centre out, seal each raviolo being careful to get all the air out. You can pierce any bubbles with a toothpick. The dough can take rough handling.

Cut out your shapes.

Leftovers can be cut up and used in soups etc.

The only part of this workshop that I really didn’t like was the enormous amount of waste generated. We were not allowed (apparently because of license problems) to eat the pasta, which meant that loads of perfectly good food went straight in the bin. I asked if I could take the ravioli if I assumed the risk but I was told no.

The positive is that I now feel confident to try it on my own.