Best tomato pasta sauce

Looking for an easy and incredible pasta sauce recipe? Look no further.

I found this gem in my treasure trove of magazine recipe clippings, originally from The Times Saturday Magazine, and I thought it just had to be shared. As it’s pretty tomato-dense, it’s got a very intense flavour, although a few nuanced additions do well to enhance it. I followed the method below, making alterations to serve one less person.

20170806185925_IMG_1342

To serve four, you’ll need:

  • 1kg vine-ripened tomatoes. Yes, that’s a lot, but you get out what you put in. Make sure they are of a good quality, too – the difference between imported tomatoes and local, seasonal varieties is vast.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • Dried chilli flakes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Half a bunch of fresh basil
  • Wholewheat spaghetti.

Begin preheating the oven to gas mark 8, or 230C. Roughly chop the tomatoes, peel and crush the garlic, and zest the lemon. Place everything in a roasting tin, with 2tbsp of the olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes – the tomatoes ought to be browned, and there will be a layer of thick juices lying at the bottom.

Transfer everything to a large bowl, add chopped basil, and use a hand blender to puree into a smooth sauce. (You can also use a food processor for this.) Add seasoning if needed, before serving with pasta. This is absolutely delicious, and a perfect sauce to have on hand in the freezer for quick dinner fixes.

 

20170806191937_IMG_1348

One year as a vegan

It feels like only yesterday that I wrote about my experiences six months into going vegan. Everything in that post remains relevant; both another six months has elongated the learning curve. So, what else have I realised?

  • Confidence comes with time! For a while, I couldn’t talk about veganism with family members without getting angry, accusatory, and upset. Now, with more knowledge under my belt, I can engage in conversation and am trying to improve my method of pointing out ethical hypocrisies, e.g. my meat-eating brother cooing over newly hatched chicks; the ridiculousness of happy smiling Percy Pig sweets made from pork gelatine; the idea that organic eggs are more acceptable to eat than battery farm eggs. I’m really impressed by the dialogue technique used by some activists in outreach: mostly asking questions, and letting the other person join up the dots, while you empathise with their realisations.
  • Remember that you weren’t always vegan (unless you were). When my vegetarian father protests that he doesn’t like soy milk, therefore doesn’t want to ditch the dairy in his tea, I often forget that I went through the exact same thought process. Coming from a place of understanding and empathy is so much more effective than accusing, or expecting a person to go vegan immediately after you’ve explained why they should.
  • Veganism prompts a chain reaction. It took me two years to see the light after one of my closest friends went vegan. At the time, I didn’t understand what it meant, and I hadn’t a clue why anybody would go even further than vegetarian. A few months after I went vegan, my twin brother said he wanted to go veggie (although this wasn’t an immediate process), my housemate went vegan after conversations about the egg and dairy industry (and now sends me links and screenshots of other people’s hypocritical behaviour), and a few months ago, my dad went vegetarian. Amazingly, my younger brother – who had previously admitted that meat-eating is unethical, but continued eating it nonetheless – watched What the Health and informed my dad that we’ve all been lied to. The fact that animal industries weigh in heavily on the information put out by professional health organisations made him feel cheated. A week on, the teen who for many months ate three eggs for breakfast hasn’t touched animal products. You are a role model to other people, even if you’re not aware of it. Individual efforts are not futile!

Who knows what the next year will entail!

Here’s to another year! x

Courgette and chickpea sandwich

Sandwiches are the perfect lunchtime food. Forget salads, soup, beans on toast, it’s the sandwich that is the undefeated champ of the midday meal. I think that a well-executed sandwich is unequivocally the only thing which can pull you back from a disappointing morning, and the ideal food to motivate you towards lunchtime.

Lately, I’ve been working on my sandwich game. Sure, hummous and veg between toasted brown bread is a beautiful thing, but there are higher levels of satisfaction to reach. Substitute the hummous for avocado, and you’ve progressed a little. But stick slabs of smoked tofu between slices of sourdough, layered with crisp lettuce, cucumber, and red pepper, topped off with a touch of relish, and you’ve got yourself a belter.

Here’s a new favourite of mine, ideal for when you’ve got a little extra time to prepare your lunch, or if you know you’ve got a difficult morning ahead and want something to look forward to. For those who live and breathe carbs, like myself, the doubling-up of them in this sandwich will satiate the most deep-set of hungers.

To feed one person, you’ll need:

  • two slices of thick HIGH QUALITY bread. None of that bleached white abomination or limp branded granary. Visit a bakery (or supermarket bakery), or even better, invest in a bread-maker (which will churn out pure joy for the rest of your life).
  • one petite, or half of a medium courgette
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas
  • handful plum tomatoes, or one or two salad tomatoes
  • small clove of garlic
  • lettuce leaves
  • tahini
  • juice of half a lemon
  • paprika
  • chilli flakes
  • handful of coriander / parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • sweet chutney or relish (I used tamarind chutney).

Begin by halving the courgette, and halving again. Slice into rectangles. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and set the courgettes to cook until well-browned on each side. Just before they’re done, add thinly sliced garlic and cook for a few minutes, before seasoning with salt, pepper, and a pinch of chilli flakes.

Meanwhile, place two thick slices of bread in the toaster. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, before mashing in a bowl with a fork. Add a tbsp of tahini, a few coriander or parsley leaves, a decent squeeze of lemon, and then season with salt, pepper, and half a tsp of paprika. Mix well to create a thick paste.

When the bread has toasted, layer one slice with the chickpea mash and sliced tomato. Tip the courgettes and garlic on top and arrange precariously. Spread a small amount of chutney on the other slice of bread, place on top of the other, and press down. Use your bread knife to slice diagonally into two perfect triangles.

Serve with salad leaves, or wrap up to put in your lunchbox. This one’s a winner.

DSC_1172

Volunteering @ the Vegan Society

A while ago, I read a little notice on the Vegan Society’s website calling for remote editorial volunteers to help proof-read articles. What a good way to get a little extra experience on my CV, I thought, and to have some involvement with a charity that works hard to get the vegan message out there. I quickly signed up and within a week, I had arranged to actually do a week’s worth of volunteering in the offices. The Vegan Society provide invaluable resources in nutrition, products, transitioning to veganism, and perspectives on the lifestyle, so volunteering seemed a fantastic way to get an insight into how they work, and learn a lot on the way.

The offices are based in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, and I learned from Dr Sam Calvert (Head of Communications and expert on history) that the city was chosen over other destinations for its good cost of living and location. The Society was founded by a group of non-dairy vegetarians, including Donald Watson, marking themselves apart from the Vegetarian Society. You can find more about the Vegan Society’s history on this webpage, including a really fascinating history of the Society’s beginnings by Dr Calvert.

In my week of volunteering, I met officers of campaigns, PR, the CEO, dietitian, the senior advocacy officer, and more. There’s far more going on than I was aware of, with the trademarking of vegan products a significant operation – that little logo our hearts fill with joy to see. They’re a committed group and do a great job!

I spent time researching an article for the Society’s magazine, The Vegan, and penned a couple of blog posts for the website, including one on the interaction of veganism and minimalism. I wrote a film review (of Okja, nonetheless), helped to edit a section of the website posting news, and subtitled YouTube videos. I researched worldwide vegan animal sanctuaries for a directory, which gave me so much optimism – there are so many people out there absolutely dedicated to caring for vulnerable animals.

The most striking aspect of volunteering is the sense of community: used to the fact that you have a minority belief, coming together with like-minded others bolsters your sense of the impact you’re having. It’s easy to lose sight of the growing population of vegans until you come into contact with so many at once! If you do feel disconnected, I’d really recommend taking steps such as joining vegan Facebook groups (UK Vegan, Vegan UK, Vegan Dogs United, What Skint Vegans Eat, and local groups), going to vegan festivals, or finding vegan cafes. YouTube is obviously an inexhaustible treasure trove of resources: try Nutritionfacts.org for everything you need to know health-wise, Mic the Vegan to debunk vegan myths and anti-vegan studies, Joey Carbstrong and Earthling Ed for fantastic activism, and vloggers such as Naturally Stefanie and Jon Venus if it’s gains you’re after.

To sum up – my volunteering experience made me realise that you don’t have to dedicate yourself to activism to be a ‘proper’ vegan. There are some people who would have you think such a thing – but I think that as long as you’re touching other people’s lives, you’re making them think about issues they might not have previously considered – and that in itself is enough.

Red lentil, spinach, and green bean curry

I’ve mentioned previously my love for a well-flavoured daal, specifically those cooked with coconut milk, for a delicious balance of earthy spice.  A week on from my last batch cook of this godly stuff, I had the dahl cravings again, but decided to satiate them in a novel way: red lentil curry.

In another note, I come from a multicultural town where you can often smell south Asian cuisine as you wander the streets at dinner time; and the strongest of these scents I’ve finally identified, after using it in my own food. Fenugreek is potent stuff, seeming to cling to the very air the morning after you’ve cooked with it. But it adds another taste to curries, one which is hard to describe; suffice to say its powerful smell is easy to tolerate once you’ve tasted the outcome.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert at all in any culture of cooking. I just like to play about with different flavours and foods – and while this recipe may fall short of a more ‘authentic’ version, it did the job for me – hearty, healthy, and flavourful.

20170722193705_IMG_1294

For two generous portions, you’ll need:

  • one onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • one red chilli
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 each tsp ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1/3 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 120g dried red lentils
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g baby spinach
  • tin of chopped tomatoes

Begin by rinsing the lentils well, and setting to cook for half an hour while you prepare the curry base.

Finely chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry the onion gently in oil for five – ten minutes, or until softened. Put the mustard seeds in a dry frying pan on a medium heat, and cook until you hear them begin to pop. Add garlic, ginger, and chilli to the onions and fry for another minute, adding more oil if needed. Then, tip in all the spices and cook for a minute, stirring well.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes with 50ml of water, stir, and leave to simmer fairly vigorously for around twenty-five minutes. Meanwhile, get a pan of brown rice boiling. Trim and halve the green beans before adding to the rice and cooking for eight minutes, before setting aside. Drain the lentils.

Shortly before the rice is cooked, begin adding the spinach to the curry in handfuls. Afterwards, stir through the beans and the lentils, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Serve the curry with the rice and enjoy.

Review: V Rev, Manchester

For those who still hold the assumption that vegan food is all salads and spirulina, a visit to V Rev in Manchester’s stylish Northern Quarter is a must. Not only is there no single head of broccoli in sight, there’s no limp side-salad available for the sensible vegan, either. Entering the doors, you go all in for unhealthy eating, the stuff of parents’ nightmares and American fast-food dreams.

V Rev is a completely vegan diner, specialising in beefburgers, chk’n burgers, and fully-loaded fries. There’s a range of organic and fair-trade soft drinks to complement the meal if one doesn’t opt for a huge milkshake or beer. Most strikingly, the creative powerhouse behind the menu has utilised all of their pop culture knowledge in naming each item: from the ‘Hell-vis Presley’ beef patty to the ‘Wake Me Up Before Mojito’ cocktail, the levels of pun are atmospheric. It’s canny marketing, capturing the diner’s modern aesthetic and giving the traditional vegan stereotype – long-haired, anaemic, tree-worshipping – a right kick up the backside.

IMG_20170626_170929_113

Guac to the Future

Walking in on a Friday night, the diner is busy and bustling, but it’s not long before I’m guided to my reserved table in a quieter zone. We order beer, cider, the special donut burger, and a ‘Guac to the Future’. The first consists of fried chik’n, cheez, baecon, fried onions and maple sriracha sauce sandwiched between two sweet donuts, and it’s an interesting combination. Hard to get your mouth round – but the different layers of sweetness bring it home. The Guac is made from breaded, deep-fried seitan, and I try it in that hope that I get over my first average experience of it – but I don’t. The texture isn’t chicken, but it’s chewy and reminiscent of it in a way which doesn’t twist your brain wondering if it actually could be the dead stuff itself. Also included is cheez, guacamole, chipotle mayo, salsa, and lettuce – all good toppings. Both burgers come with sides of fries, which I drown in slightly luminous and watered-down ketchup. The drinks are great, though, and the service friendly – “Where did you get your blouse?” – so we tip gratefully.

A factor close to my heart is cleanliness, with no complaints. The decor fits in with the old-school American diner feel – food’s served in red plastic boxes, with squeezy condiment bottles. The wall prints had me Googling “You’re the nutritional yeast to my macaroni” to self-mail next Valentine’s.

So, V Rev have an awesome thing going with their unique menu and whole aura of what my dad calls ‘trendiness’. While the food’s no Temple of Seitan, it’s still tasty, and I’ve heard excellent reports on the milkshakes. Most importantly, it’s idolised by vegans and omivores alike, if their social media feeds are anything to go by. You can find their Instagram here and website here.

V Rev, 20-26 Edge St, Manchester, M4 1HN

Sweet courgette pasta sauce

Sometimes, things we put little thought into end up turning out well. Think spontaneous trips, impetuous decisions, and the undeliberate decision to go out for dinner. Although I am generally not at all a person to act on impulse, I can occasionally throw together a tasty meal with little planning or thought, as this recipe shows. The tomato puree, sugar and balsamic vinegar bring together a lovely sweet sauce, mimicking the variety of expensive organic tomato we can never justify buying in the supermarket.

20170706194050_IMG_1261

(Those unappetising chunks lining the bowl’s perimeter are Cauldron’s vegan sausages – in my opinion, the most superior veggie sausage on the market. They aren’t meaty, but soft and beany – so perfect for anyone who prefers a beanburger over their soy protein mockmeat.)

To serve two, you’ll need:

  • one red onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • one small carrot
  • one large courgette
  • half a bag of kale
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • tomato puree
  • dried rosemary and oregano
  • dried chilli flakes
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sugar

Begin by roughly chopping the onion and leaving to cook gently for ten minutes. Finely chop the carrot and add to the pan. After these ten minutes, add sliced garlic. (To remove the skins easily, shake each clove in a jam jar before peeling.) Cook for a few minutes.

Add a tbsp of tomato puree and stir well to incorporate. Finely slice the courgette and put in the pan. Tip in the chopped tomatoes, with a glug of balsamic vinegar, two pinches each of the dried rosemary and oregano, two pinches of sugar, and a tsp of chilli flakes. Stir again, and leave to simmer for twenty-five minutes, or until the courgette is tender and the sauce well-reduced.

Meanwhile, set a pan of fusilli to cook. I also steamed a few handfuls of kale, seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve the pasta with the sauce, and sprinkle with nutritional yeast.