Sunday, 31 August 2014

Spaghetti Bolognese

Quick to prepare, this makes a nice easy and filling midweek dinner.

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • Pinch of basil (fresh, frozen, or dried will do)
  • Dash of olive oil
  • 500g of vegan mince (I used Meet the Alternative), you can use a 400g tin of lentils instead of the mince if you prefer
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 teaspoon of Marmite or yeast extract
  • Water
  • Small glass of red wine (if you prefer you can add a dash of balsamic vinegar or just leave it out)
  • 250ml of vegetable stock
  • Spaghetti (75g-100g per person)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Sweat off the chopped onion and carrot in the oil until they begin to soften
  2. Add the garlic and stir well, heating until the garlic begins to go slightly clear
  3. Add the herbs, mince, & Marmite, and mix well
  4. Once the mince is warm, add the wine and heat until the alcohol evaporates
  5. Add the tin of tomatoes and the vegetable stock
  6. Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes, stirring regularly 
  7. Taste to check the carrot is cooked through, if not keep on the low heat for another 10 minutes
  8. If needs be, add more water to ensure the mixture doesn't dry out
  9. Add salt and pepper to your taste
  10. Once the bolognese is almost cooked, bring the a pan of water pan to the boil for the spaghetti
  11. Cook the spaghetti for 11-12 minutes, until al dente 
  12. Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the bolognese and mix well 
  13. Serve with a sprinkling of basil or sprig of parsley 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tofu & Edamame Stir Fry

Who doesn't like a big bowl of stir-fried noodles?  This simple dish has mixed veg, tofu, and edamame making it a great source of protein and fibre.  

Ingredients (serves 2-3 people) 
  • 1 onion (I prefer red onions)
  • 1-3 chillies depending on your taste for spice
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • Soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of yeast extract (eg. Marmite)
  • 1 x 400g block of firm/tub tofu 
  • Salt & pepper
  • Dried chillies (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice 
  • 1-2 handfuls of shelled edamame (baby soya beans)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 pepper
  • Handful of greens (eg. cabbage/kale)
  • 1 spring onion
  • 200g of dried soba noodles (or 2 packs of precooked noodles if you prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup (agave or sugar will do also) 
  • Cooking oil (rice bran is good as it has a high smoke point) 
  1. Wrap the tofu in a clean tea towel and press well to remove the excess moisture (this is much easier if it has been frozen and then defrosted first) 
  2. Dice the tofu into cubes and coat with soy sauce, salt, pepper, and dried chillies then set aside 
  3. Boil the edamame for 10 minutes or until edible (make sure they are soft enough to eat before adding them to the stir fry
  4. Boil the soba noodles according to the instructions on the packet
  5. Dice the onion and chillies and set to one side
  6. Grate the ginger and crush the garlic and set aside from the chillies and onions
  7. Chop up the rest of the veg, keeping it fairly small so it cooks quickly
Cooking Instructions
  1. Add 1-2 tablespoons of oil into a frying pan
  2. Place the tofu into the pan and shallow fry, turning regular so all sides brown off
  3. Meanwhile, add some more oil to a wok or large frying pan and add the onions and chillies (if you don't have separate pans, then precook the tofu until crisp then set to one side) 
  4. Once the onions and chillies have started to brown, add the garlic and ginger
  5. Soon after, add the carrot, pepper, and greens 
  6. Also add a generous dash of soy sauce, a the yeast extract, and maple syrup/sugar/agave
  7. If required, add a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent the pan from drying out and burning the dish
  8. After the veg has started to soften, add the noodles, edamame, and tofu
  9. Mix well and ensure that all items are heated well 
  10. Before serving, have a quick taste, and if needs be add more soy sauce/seasonings
  11. Serve and garnish with spring onions   

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Beans on Toast

Now everyday beans from the can on toast is delicious enough in its own right.  However, when you have just a little more time, this twist on the classic dish can make for a very satisfying feed!  

Ingredients (serves 2-3 people) 
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cans of mixed beans (or any beans of your choice)
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes (you can use 400g of fresh chopped tomatoes if you prefer)
  • 1-2 chillies depending on your personal taste
  • Handful of chopped basil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic 
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 250ml of water
  • Sliced bread of your choice, I used pane pugliese in the dish pictured
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Dice the onions & throw them into a flat-bottomed pan with some of the olive oil
  2. Chop the chillies and add them to the pan
  3. Crush the garlic and add to the pan
  4. Empty the beans into a colander and rinse well
  5. Once the onions, chillies, and garlic start to brown, add the rinsed beans
  6. Add the chopped basil
  7. Stir well, before adding the tomatoes 
  8. Season with salt and pepper to your preferred taste
  9. Add half of the water, before bringing to the boil then turning down to simmer 
  10. Keep on a low heat, stirring occasionally, topping up with water when needed, until the beans are cooked through
  11. Spray or drizzle the bread with olive oil then grill until crisp
  12. Taste the beans and add any additional seasoning required
  13. Serve and garnish with any remaining basil  
  14. Enjoy!  

Friday, 15 August 2014

Is Palm Oil Vegan?

There is a lot of discussion about whether palm oil is vegan.  The TL:DR is - palm oil is a plant, it is definitely vegan and if we genuinely want animal liberation, campaigning against it in isolation is actually counter-productive to our aims.  

A lot of people argue that because of the environmental destruction palm oil causes, often with particular mentions of orangutans, that it is not vegan to use or consume palm oil.  But aside from being incorrect - because palm oil is vegan - this is a huge oversimplification of an incredibly complex issue.  To start with, the sheer size of the human population is such that no matter what we eat, it's pretty much impossible to avoid some sort of environmental impact.  So we have to look at the most effective ways to reduce that impact - and singling out specific plants is not the answer.  There are a number of reasons for this:

1. The biggest cause of environmental destruction and species extinction in terms of food production is without a doubt, animal agriculture - by a long shot.  So our priority should be on ending animal agriculture.  If we focus on palm oil or any other specific useful crops rather than ending animal use then we create an extra pressure for new and potential vegans that might make them think twice about ditching their use of animals.  We also give nonvegans yet another excuse (not like they need any more of those!) as to why they should avoid making a change to veganism.  Not only that but if animal agriculture was to come to an end, there'd be a vast amount of land freed up for planting palm and other crops because as we know, it takes many times more land to produce a pound of animal protein than it does to produce a pound of plant protein.

2. Out of all the plant oils, palm oil has by far the highest yield out of any of them (more than double most other oils).  This means it takes up less land to produce the same amount.  Unless humans stop using oils - which is unlikely - then palm oil is actually one of the lesser evils.  It also requires less chemicals and pesticides in its production - which is also a positive in terms of environmental impact compared to other oils.  This article goes into more detail about this particular topic.

3. A lot of palm oil is planted on land that has already been cleared for another purpose - such as illegal logging, or narcotics.  So when the palm oil industry is singled out as the cause, it's not entirely accurate and can be a distraction from a number of very serious environmental problems.

4. Palm oil is a single issue campaign.  Whilst our initial instinct is that single issue campaigns may raise awareness of the plight of some animals, what they invariably end up doing is promoting speciesism and as we know, speciesism leads to people making distinctions between animals they want to protect and animals who they see no problem in harming.  Take for example the narrative of palm oil being associated with orangutans.  There are few people who wouldn't be moved by heart-breaking images of homeless and orphaned orangutans.  However, by promoting the cause of orangutans in relation to palm oil, we reinforce the idea - particularly in the eyes of nonvegans - that some animals are more important than others.  For starters, not all palm oil is produced in locations where orangutans are a native species but because people are speciesist, orangutans have been adopted as the poster ‘child’ of the campaign to emotionally manipulate people – there are far more species who are affected by habitat destruction caused by animal agriculture than by a single plant product.  Further, the nonvegan alternatives to palm oil come from a number of farmed animals - butter, lard, dripping etc.  Who are we to say that orangutans are more important than cows, geese, pigs, or ducks?  How can we honestly say that an orangutans value their lives any more than other animals?  We can't.  I seriously recommend having a read of this article about why single issue campaigns are problematic.

5. If you're going to object to palm oil then to be consistent you should probably be objecting to chocolate, bananas, coconuts, mangoes, sugar, and all other crops that come from tropical plantations.  When we put it like that, doesn't it seem a bit crackers to say things like chocolate, bananas, and coconuts aren't vegan?  More on this here.

So to sum up - palm oil comes from a plant, so it's definitely vegan.  Palm oil has its merits, environmentally speaking, compared to other oils.  Palm oil is a single issue campaign that promotes speciesism and can actually distract from or give some people the excuse they were looking for not to become vegan.  That's not to say we shouldn't be conscious about our consumption of palm oil or any other controversial crops but rather that we should recognise that singling out palm oil but ignoring other problematic crops whilst wasting an opportunity to educate about animal agriculture is not the best use of our time and resources if we want to have a maximum impact on animals and the environment.  Veganism is the best chance we have of solving the issues of environmental destruction and species extinction, and therefore we must recognise that no matter how much our heartstrings are pulled, we must be rational and focus on promoting veganism - nothing less will do.