Category Archives: Vegan Cooking

Meat Free Monday – Animal Aid

Animal Aid have a campaign called Meat Free Monday, easy for me and incidentally for nearly all of my family. However, I do have friends who eat meat who may be open to being nudged towards a meat free Monday.  The video is very good clearly getting the message over. I can see no reason why anybody would argue against the message, but then I do agree with it, so that part is once again very easy.

The original Press release for Meat Free Monday describes the short film and its message. Simply, as “world leaders….. failed to agree…. meaningful initiatives at the recent Copenhagen Climate Change Conference” the film is a call to action for individuals to make a difference to climate change by dropping meat one day a week and they do have a point. It’s all well and good recycling using energy efficient light bulbs but what about energy efficient eating! With minimal personal investment, beyond light bulbs and recycling, a real difference can be made.

There are some pdf packs with leaflets and booklets, or you can order some for distribution from the campaign page. The booklet has some basic recipes and information for the meat free beginner, which may come in handy, while the other bits and pieces can be put up in local shops and noticeboards.

Lean Mean Grilling Machine for Vegans

George Foreman was renowned for his big BIG punching power, but in recent times more so for his preaching and lean mean grilling machine. I first heard of the Foreman grill years ago, and thought it seemed like a great idea for those sufficiently health conscious enough to reduce their saturated fat intake, not quite as health conscious as they could be, but thats another story.

I bought one form Argos, on a friends recommendation, and have just started to use it. My friend said she was amazed at how much she uses it because she is veggie, but I am yet to get into the swing of it. The first day I got it I decided to buy some vegan soya products and get to some lean mean grilling machine vegan action! Continue reading

Chunky Chinesey Soup

I wanted to cook soup, a nice ‘watery’ Chinese style soup. Nice big chunky veg with lots of liquid, that was the plan. The only veg I had in would have to do, so courgette, savoy cabbage, leek and onion then. Add a some quinoa and noodles, and we’re onto something half decent, I thought.

This watery style of soup is typical of what you get at Cafe Soya in Birmingham, which is probably my favourite restaurant (they understand vegan). Filling and very tasty, I’ve copied this before but for now I was limited by cupboard ingredients. The noodle situation was grim so it was going to have to be pasta tubes, wholewheat of course. Continue reading

Cheeky dumplings………

5 lentil winter stew

I’ve never had much luck with dumplings, they’ve tended to disintegrate, which is very disappointing. My friend made some for a puy lentil soup he made, which were great and were exactly like the dumplings of my childhood. In the lentil post, I describe a stew recipe that dumplings would have suited very well.

In the picture you are unable to see that the stew is piled up on a thick slice of wholemeal bread, this is the poor mans version. Or, nearer to the truth, the unskilled cooks version. The bread soaks up the ‘juice’ and acts like a dumpling, try it it’s very good.

Lentils, not just for Hippies

Lentils for hippies and humans
Miserable hippy, liked lentils

Lentils are great, and not just for Neil off the Young Ones! I used to operate almost exclusively with the red variety mainly making dhals, it  took me a long time to realise just how many types there are. I’m lucky, I live in Balsall Heath,  right on the edge of Birmingham’s ‘Balti Triangle’, so there are a lot of cheap Asian ingredients readily available. So, I have stocked up with six varieties of lentil, all from my local shop and all very cheap.

If you buy these sort of ‘East End‘ products, or the equivalent, from regular supermarkets you pay over the odds, much better to go to an Asian grocery shop, and why not pick up your spices at the same time. I bought three lentil varieties that need only 30 minutes soaking and three that require an overnight job. Predictably, I’ve used the first three types more often, but with a little planning the others have been used too.

Variety

Soaking time

Chana Dall – split yellow gram

30 minutes

Toor Dall Dry

30 minutes

Brown Lentils

30 minutes

Urid Dall Chilka

5 hours

Cow Peas

5 hours

Moong Dall Chilka

5 hours

Soaking lentils to remove phytates

Soaking is important and these times should be considered a minimum. Lentils and other legumes contain phytates which inhibit enzyme activity and make them difficult to digest. The soaking negates this annoying legume feature and eases the digestion difficulty  Phytates are also present in nuts and is why raw vegans soak their nuts!

In years gone by I’d think of lentils as a staple food in times of need, a saviour when cash-strapped, nothing fancy at all. I have, however, tried some recipes more salubrious than simple dall, which in conjunction with dinners at a Hindu friend’s house, have elevated the lowly lentil beyond survival food. This winter, after purchasing my six varieties I have had a bit of a lentil renaissance.

Why do lentils make you Fart?

One reason a lot of people ignore and avoid lentils is an unfortunate side-effect often experienced when over-indulging; wind. Lentils make you fart, there’s no getting away from it. This side-effect is due to fermentation in the gut, which produces gas but is a completely natural outcome of digestion. All legumes, including lentils contain complex carbohydrates which mean they are low on the glycaenic index and as a result take time to digest. Bacteria are involved in this process and sadly lead to fermentation and farts! Read this post for more information on bacteria and the fermentation process.

But, it’s possible to greatly reduce this problem by going overboard on the washing, as detailed below

  • Wash the lentils before soaking in three or four changes of water, the best way I found to do this is to put them into a jug and fill it with water then empty it through a sieve, to retain the lentils.
  • Always change the water after soaking, and wash them again before cooking
  • During cooking occasionally remove froth
  • Once cooked they can be washed a final time
  • NB note the added tip at the bottom of the post!
Lentil Stew - not just for hippies
5 lentil winter stew

I used this method with five of the varieties to make a thinish stew this afternoon. I soaked the overnight lentils and added to them with brown lentils and chana dall then cooked them – boiling hard for ten minutes then simmering for 30 or so. In the meantime I slowly steamed potatoes, sweet and regular with a  few carrots. Then I fried thickly chopped onion for a few minutes before adding some garlic. Before adding the other ingredients, I threw in paprika, cumin and coriander for a final fry.

I then mixed in the cooked veg and lentils, finally adding the ‘steaming’ water (with three stock cubes dissolved) and let the whole thing tick over on a very low heat for 10 or 15 minutes. I wanted the lentils to thicken the stew a little whilst being careful to not let the vegetables disintegrate. The result was pretty good, a lovely hearty stew for this freezing snowy day, which the photo fails to do justice. Lush!

Further tips to stop lentil farts!

EDIT – further tips

Extra tip #1

I’ve just read a great post with a further tip on reducing the fart potential of lentils further. Alexx Stuart suggests

By soaking your dried beans like kidney, adzuki or cannelini overnight or up to 24 hours in a bowl of water with a tablespoon of whey or yoghurt in the bowl, you get: Fart free beans and a fantastic array of easily absorbed nutrients! Fuller for longer and lots of goodness going through your body instead of embarrassing noises!

Extra tip #2

In addition Alex from Beet the System has pointed out that curry spices – tumeric (haldi), cumin (jeera) and coriander (cilantro to the Americans or else dhania) – reduce the fart potential in cows. This makes perfect sense, of course, as lentils are a staple in Indian food and as the spices work on the gut bacteria this should work for humans too!

Extra tip #3

And one more tip from the comments. Silly says that you must ensure you cook lentils for long enough. Failing to do so will disturb the stomach!