5 tasty vegan recipes to kick-start your healthy diet

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The New Year is here and following the excesses of Christmas many people are on a healthy eating drive.

And thousands of them will be taking on the Veganuary challenge for January - eating a vegan diet for a month.

But plant-based food is far from boring as the author of new book, The Occasional Vegan, will tell you.

Sarah Philpott says: “The Occasional Vegan is a collection of hearty, home-cooked recipes and proves that being vegan isn’t all about kale and chia seeds.

“It provides a common-sense approach to eating in a flexible way to suit your lifestyle and budget, while debunking the myth that eating well comes at a cost.

“It’s the story of my love of cooking and eating and I recreate some of my favourite childhood meals from growing up in Wales during the 1990s.

“Everything is tasty, wholesome and comforting – it’s food like mama used to make – and it just so happens to be vegan. In this book, you’ll find meals for every occasion, whether that’s a quick weeknight supper, a leisurely weekend brunch, or something for a special celebration."

So if you need some vegan inspiration, why not try out these recipes by Sarah...

Sweet potato, chickpea and olive stew with harissa

This is a seriously good stew and so easy to make. It's just as good in the winter as it is in the summer and very nice with a glass of wine.

It's the harissa with all its sweet spiciness that really makes this so tasty. You can find it at most larger supermarkets or international stores but if you can't track it down, try using a teaspoon each of smoked and sweet paprika

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed or peeled and diced

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1 can (400g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 can (400g) tomatoes

The juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped or crushed

a jar (330g) pitted black olives

3 tsps harissa paste

2 tsp tomato puree

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Method

Place a large pan over a medium heat then add the oil and the sweet potato. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the onion and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the tomatoes, then fill the empty can with water and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper then turn up the heat and cook for 10 minutes before adding the chickpeas, olives, harissa paste, tomato puree and lemon juice.

Reduce the heat, place a lid on the pan and cook for a further 15-20 minutes, adding more water if you think it's necessary.

Scatter over the parsley, if you like, and serve with green vegetables or salad.

This is a great way to use whatever green vegetables are in season. The pink grapefruit adds a splash of colour and some sweet sharpness which sets off the creamy dressing.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 can green or brown lentils (400g), rinsed and drained

1 bag of spinach (or salad leaves of your choice)

2 large handfuls of green beans

2 large handfuls of tenderstem broccoli

large handfuls of asparagus

1 pink grapefruit, peeled and sliced lengthways

Salt and pepper

For the dressing

1 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbp water

Salt and pepper

The juice of half a lemon

Method

Steam or boil the green vegetables (apart from the spinach) for 5-6 minutes, then drain and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, season the lentils with salt and pepper and add the spinach and the cooked green vegetables. Add the pink grapefruit, then make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a glass or jar and stirring thoroughly.

Divide the salad onto two plates and drizzle over the dressing.

Carrot and sweet potato soup

This is sure to warm the cockles this January. The cumin, chilli and ginger work wonders for a cold, as do the carrots and sweet potato as they’re full of vitamin A, plus the orange juice gives a hit of vitamin C. It’s best to prepare all the vegetables before you start cooking so that they’re ready to throw into the pan when the time comes.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small chunks

5-6 carrots, peeled and diced

1 mugful of red lentils, rinsed and drained

Three shallots or one large onion, peeled and diced

2 tbsp coconut, vegetable or olive oil

1.5 litres vegetable stock

1 orange

1 tsp ground cumin (seeds or powder)

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or 1 tsp ground ginger)

Salt and pepper

Method

Heat a large pan and melt the oil, then add the lentils, cumin, ginger and chilli. Allow the lentils to absorb the flavours for 2-3 minutes, then add the shallots or onion, the sweet potato and the carrots to the pan. Now add the stock and season with salt and pepper.

Squeeze in the juice of the orange, then place a lid on the pan and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly. If you’re blending this, allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so and then use a hand-held blender until you have a fairly smooth and creamy consistency. Serve with bread or on its own.

Spaghetti carbonara

Cauliflower is cheap and plentiful at this time of year, and when combined with oat milk, makes a really creamy sauce. You can buy nutritional yeast at most health food shops, but if you can’t find it, use a few tablespoons of soy sauce or a little Marmite instead.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 medium cauliflower (around 300g), broken into small florets

100g mushrooms, roughly sliced

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

400ml oat milk

The juice of half a lemon

3-4 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tsp miso paste

A liberal grating of nutmeg

Salt and pepper

150g spaghetti

Method

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then add the cauliflower florets and boil for 7-8 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, over a medium heat, fry the shallots and mushrooms in the oil for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. Set aside.

Bring another large pan (if you want to save on washing up, use the same one as before) to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Cook the spaghetti for 8-10 minutes.

While the spaghetti is cooking, put the cauliflower in a food processor with half the oat milk and pulse until smooth. Pour the mixture into a pan and add the rest of the pat milk, the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso paste and a grating of nutmeg. Stir together and heat on a low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Drain the spaghetti (keeping a little of the pasta water) and return to the pan. Pour over the carbonara sauce, then stir in the mushrooms and shallots and the little bit of pasta water.

Stir together and serve.

Spiced apple cake

This subtly spiced cake is gluten free as well as vegan and thanks to the ground almonds it’s light and fluffy, although you can use flour if you’re allergic to nuts. It’s low in sugar and isn’t overly sweet although you can add more maple syrup if you have a particularly sweet tooth.

Ingredients

200g ground almonds

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

5-6 small apples, grated

150ml almond milk

1 banana, mashed

4 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon ginger powder

Method

Preheat the oven to 170C (gas mark 3). Sieve the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and stir in the ground almonds.

In a separate bowl, grate the apple, then add the mashed banana, almond milk and the remaining spices.

In the bowl containing the dry ingredients, create a ‘well’ in the middle, the pour in the wet mixture and stir thoroughly. Grease an 8×8 baking tin with a little oil and pour in the mixture, making sure to spread it evenly.

Place on the top shelf of the oven a bake for 50-55 minutes. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes then enjoy!

The Occasional Vegan will be published by Seren in March

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