Main meals

SUMMER RECIPES (beans, courgettes etc): click here.

I mostly like cooking. It’s a good counterpoint, too, to the mental work I do all day as a writer and tutor. Growing and preparing food is something so essential, so creative, so earthy, so non-mental, handling the creations of the soil, the rain, the compost, the sun, the magic of seeds.

When you have to create recipes too, for instance when the harvest glut is coming in – as ours is now, finally, after a long slow start – it’s an interesting challenge to find a new way to cook courgettes, or green beans.

So here are some recipes for you (hover your cursor over ‘How’ then ‘recipes’ then ‘main meals’ buttons, at top of page). I’m always completely delighted if anyone offers me a vegan recipe that doesn’t involve crazy ingredients and 1000s of food miles, and will credit you.

They’re all vegan, but non-vegans will enjoy them as well; and when they include beans, these are in reasonably digestible forms. (If you’re not used to beans and pulses, your digestion may need a little while to adapt, but it usually does.)

Because they’re vegan, I take care to include protein usually, but you can always add seeds and nuts. (For more on supplying the nutritional essentials on a vegan diet, see here.)

Sorry there are not always photos of the meals – I realise what a difference they make, but never think of it until we’re halfway through eating! Here instead are some photos of our veg over the years. (I know that’s not the same, but they’re pretty.)

A few essential ingredients for the vegan larder/fridge:

Nutritional yeast flakes (Engevita); buy the one with added B12 (blue pot). I was a lacto-vegetarian for 40 years, and knew that one day I’d need to take the logical step of removing the products of animal suffering entirely from my diet, but in the four or five years I’ve been vegan I still miss cheese a lot. Yeast flakes help add that – well, yeasty nutty tang.Occasionally I will buy myself some Violife pizza ‘cheese’ – it’s not a bad substitute; made from coconut milk, it’s both processed and a bit high in food miles, and plastic-wrapped; but, you know, one can only be virtuous a certain percentage of the time without pissing oneself off with self-righteousness, as well as one’s table-mates.

Coyo; the vegan yogurt, made from coconut milk. It’s completely delicious, and the sweeter flavour can be compensated for with a shot of lemon juice (my daughter calls lemon ‘the third condiment’, and it really is). I’m not going to beat myself up a 2nd time for coconut-miles.I used to miss yogurt, too (I mean dairy yogurt) – not any more (and if you’ve never tasted Booja Booja non-dairy ice cream, you’ve a treat waiting).

Cashew nuts are very high in nutrients, and there is no nut (or anything non-dairy else) like them for whizzing up for sweet or savoury sauces with one or other or both of the above; plus they make a fabulous base for a very tasty vegan ‘cheesecake’ (yes, really). But there’s the food-miles issue again; plus unless you buy Fairtrade, the trade is dirty (as of course is eg the cotton trade, unless it’s organic cotton) in terms of poor pay and working conditions and some toxicity for the pickers.For savoury dishes, sweet chestnuts are a great alternative, and I collect them regularly, even in England, in the autumn, and collect masses to bring back if I’m in France. Not so good for sweet dishes, in my opinion, though – although they are used widely in France, Italy and Switzerland for desserts. (In fact, remembering this, I think I might have talked myself back into them.)

In addition, beans – canned beans – of all sorts, including the highly nutritious chickpeas, and all lentils. Of course, in season, green beans; and we grow various beans to freeze so that we don’t have to buy canned: pea bean, borlotti, soissons.

Seeds: pumpkin seeds add an extraordinary amount of protein to any dish; try dry-toasting these, sunflower seeds and, if you’re feeling rich, pine nuts too, and when they’re popping throw in a dash of soy sauce and the juice of half a lemon.