Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Budget Noms: Simple Yoghurt Cake

Sometimes cake is a necessity in life, I'm not willing to have a life without it while I'm on a budget. Generally, I find a lot of basic vegan bakes are fairly cheap to make, a basic sponge, banana bread, fruit crumble for example aren't going to eat into your budget too much. I always make sure I freeze any fruit I have that's on the turn for this reason. Bananas are particularly good to have in the freezer, so many dessert options like ice cream, pancakes or general egg replacer in tasty bakes.

Late last week I was craving something sweet. I had some soy yoghurt in the fridge that was going spare along with some flour and sugar, I was sure I could whip something up with that. So this is what I came up with, I'm sure this would work if you have some of those soya pudding pots lurking in your cupboards too, or any other kind of non dairy yoghurt.

Simple Yoghurt Cake
  • 1 cup non dairy yogurt - 90p
  • 1 cup icing sugar - 19p
  • 1.5 cups self raising flour - 5p
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 cup oil - 16p
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract - 22p
= £1.52 for the entire cake
Makes 8 slices
= approx 19p per slice (not including toppings)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a cake tin with a little oil. I used a 26cm round cake tin, it is pretty big, you could use a smaller one but might need to bake for a little longer.
  2. Whisk together the yoghurt and sugar until combined. Add the baking powder and bicarb and let rest for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Whip in the oil and the vanilla.
  4. Finally, add the flour little by little and whisk through until combined. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 20-25 minutes.
This is a really simple, cheap and tasty basic cake. I didn't want to frost it, not because I don't LOVE frosting but because it can work out pretty expensive. The beauty of having this cake plain is that I've been able to use up some ingredients that have been kicking about in the kitchen for way too long. I've served this with hot jam, leftover ice cream, topped with peanut butter and a little syrup and my favourite was spreading a little of my Choc Macadamia spread I have leftover from my last trip to Germany.

I honestly didn't feel like this cake was missing anything and I've cleared a little room in my cupboards. I think this would also be great with some fruit layered over the top, or filled with chocolate chips. You can do whatever you want with it really.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Budget Noms - Mung Bean Dal

To break up all these travel posts (I promise, my Beijing posts will soon be on their way!) it's time to get some recipes up here. Due partly to my trip to Beijing but mostly lots of other crappy circumstances, I'm really struggling financially at the moment. Not great fun for me but it's brought back my impressive cheapskate skills and I thought some budget recipes and tips might be helpful for some of you.

For the last month or so, I've not spent more than £10 in a week on food for the two of us. Luckily for me, as well as having great cheapskate skills, I'm also pretty good at hoarding food in my cupboards, which has been really helpful for me sticking to my budget. So far I've been able to keep my cupboard essentials (lentils, rice, beans, tinned vegetables, spices, oil etc) topped up within the £10 by getting just a few extras alongside my fresh veggies each week.

One bonus for me is that I work in a grocery store that stocks affordable basic wholefoods and organic fruit and veggies, this has helped immensely. The food I buy from there is generally cheaper than supermarkets, mostly organic and really good quality. I do also get a discount along with occasional freebies that we can't sell, so this does put me in a good position to follow budget. However, whilst I may save a few quid a week with my discount, I still think the average person could do the same on around £12-£15 for 2 people.

This lot came to £10.67 without my work discount, despite the fact I needed to top up oil, marg and turmeric. The veg alone only came to £7.89 and I will likely have some leftover for next week too.

So, what has helped me keep costs down?

  • I only buy what I need for the week - this includes not bulk buying bags of veggies that will go off. I buy my vegetables loose, I don't bulk buy tins of beans and tomatoes, I just get what I plan to use.
  • Source affordable food. - You may not live close to my shop, but look out for small local veg box schemes. A small box can go far and is usually under a tenner a week. Discount stores like Aldi and Lidl can be great for getting cheap flour, soy milk and tinned beans and tomatoes. Don't just rely on the big supermarkets, they're not as cheap as you expect.
  • Root vegetables - especially this time of year, they're dirt cheap. I'm pretty much living off carrots, potatoes, parsnips, swede, beetroot, celeriac etc with a few cabbages and greens thrown into the mix.
  • Making use of my freezer - this goes for the obvious leftover dishes/sauces that you can't bear to eat for a third day in a row but also I'll buy a big bunch of greens (usually cavalo nero or spring greens) every 2-3 weeks, chop them up and divide them into portions in freezer bags. It lasts so much longer, I'm very guilty of using a whole bunch of greens for one meal and it's just not necessary. The same goes for fresh herbs too.
  • Sandwiches - The best way to save money is to stick to peanut butter or jam sandwiches for your lunches. Gets a bit boring but it's worth it when you see the savings. Sometimes I switch it up with a homemade filling, but generally keep it basic. I was buying lunch from work before and spending around £4 a day on lunch, it's just not necessary.
  • Free food - Any opportunity I can get my hands on something free, I'm there. When bags of beans and lentils have split on our shopfloor and they'd otherwise go in the bin, I scoop them up and save them for my dinner, making sure to rinse before use. Some people might look down on that but I hate waste and needs must when on a budget. Obviously if something fell in poop I wouldn't eat it. I know not everyone can do this but free food opportunities can crop up, keep your eyes peeled.
  • Get creative - I'm having a lot of the same veg week in, week out. If you don't want to get bored get creative, look up recipes, experiment and try to keep your food exciting.
  • Waste nothing - If you can't think of something to do with your leftovers straight away, freeze it and have a think. I've made cheezy sauces, meatballs and burgers from leftover root veg mash. Anything is possible!
Right, enough going on. Time to see my budget meals in action.

Vegetable Mung Bean Dal

I've made this a few times over the last month. It doesn't look like it'll be much but it's enough for 6 generous portions. Perfect for a nice hearty dinner and then a few lunches during the week. It also freezes well. 

  • 1 cup mung beans - 23p
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 large carrot - 13p
  • 1 large parsnip - 28p
  • 1 handful of chopped greens - 18p
  • 1 tbsp oil - 2p
  • Spices: 3 tsp salt, 2 bay leaves, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp black onion seeds, 1/2 tsp dried chilli, 1/2 tsp asofetida - 20p at most
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped - 12p
= £1.16. Serves 6. 
= 19p per portion

  1. Combine the water, mung beans, cinnamon and bay leaves in a large pan and bring to the boil. Boil and cover for 20 minutes or so, until tender.
  2. Meanwhile chop the carrot and parsnip into small bitesize pieces.
  3. Remove any froth from the mung bean mixture and then add turmeric, the carrot and the parsnip. Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes or so, until the beans and veggies are soft and broken up.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion seeds and chilli. Fry for a minute or so stirring constantly. Add the asofetida and fry for another 30 seconds. Pour into the dal. 
  5. Add the greens and salt, simmer for another 5 minutes or so and then serve
I had mine with some basmati rice and a flatbread that I brushed with a little oil, chopped some garlic onto and then sprinkled a wee bit of coriander on top, baked in an oven for 5 minutes or so and it was a bit like nan. You don't need to add these extras though, it's filling just as it is.

I love this dish! Are any of you on a budget? Do you have any tips?

Vegan in Glasgow - Day 4

My final day in Glasgow was a really good one. We had a bit of a late start as we tidied up the apartment we were staying in and had to get our luggage checked in at the train station so we didn't have to carry it around all day.

We spent the whole morning and early afternoon at The Women's Library, which has now become one of my favourite places ever. It's no ordinary library, it's a really great space that celebrates women and also supports them through services and programmes that cover a wide range of issues. I wish I lived closer to this place because I would be there all the time. There weren't many events on during the weekend we visited so unfortunately we didn't get to attend anything they were putting on, but I spent hours looking through all the books there. I made a huge list of books I wanted to read, some of which I've managed to get hold of and read, they were all great. I could have spent a whole day here and was kicking myself a bit that we didn't come along earlier. Everyone there was super friendly too. Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.

The Women's Library almost made me forget my lunch, but a rumbling tummy brought us back to our food mission. We headed back into town to eat at Saramago Cafe

, another all vegan place in Glasgow, still can't get over how many there were! They do a lot of tapas/small plate dishes like many of the others but once I saw Haggis listed in the mains, I knew what I was going to get.

So we started off by sharing some small bits, fresh homemade bread with dukka and olive oil, and some roasted aubergine. Both were delicious.

For mains I went for the Haggis Fritters with Chips and Tartare sauce while Jake went for a Calzone.

I'd hardly call these Fritters! They're basically just massive Haggis Balls and they were fricking brilliant! Honestly one of the best things to ever go in my mouth. I loved this. Jake's Calzone also looked good

We were completely stuffed by this point and decided to mooch around town to burn it all off. We ended up with a few hours spare before heading back, so we thought we'd return to Stereo for a drink. I ended up with this amazing Apple Pie Sundae, which worked out to be a pretty good Glasgow send off.

I was really sad to be leaving but I know this won't be my last visit. I loved Glasgow, so much stuff to do and the amount of completely vegan restaurants was amazing. I think Glasgow definitely gets my vote for the most vegan friendly city in the UK, hands down.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Vegan in Glasgow - Day 3

I woke up on the third day excited about something other than my first meal. DINOSAURS!

This would be the day we'd visit the Dinosaurs and their Eggs Exhibition at Kelvingrove Museum and I couldn't wait! Of course, like always, we didn't get out of the apartment until late, so we decided to grab an early lunch before we set off.

We went back to Mono because I was still dreaming of the menu and wanted to give a different dessert of theirs a go. I'm really glad we went back at lunchtime, it was a completely different atmosphere. It wasn't packed full of people and there wasn't any loud music to annoy me.

I went for the Lamachan pizza, it's a Turkish pizza with spicy mince, aubergine, chillies and yoghurt.

This pizza was uh-mazing. I didn't miss the vegan cheese, the yoghurt and soft aubergine were creamy enough. There was just the right amount chilli on it too. I devoured the whole thing and immediately wanted another one. Somehow I managed to resist.

Jake didn't want to have a main because he was 'tired of being full all the time'...WHAT? So he went for one of the bar snacks, a hot dog. Look at all that cheese, I should have got one as a side dish to my pizza!

I was the only one to go for dessert because Jakes stomach 'hurt'. Whatever. I had my eye on the Bakewell Sponge with hot jam.

Look at that. Perfection. Not only was it beautiful but it was delicious too. So much better than the cheesecake and sundae, if I were to go back to Mono I would have this all over again. Proper nice comfort food.

The dinosaur exhibition was just what we needed to burn off all that food. It was a really good exhibition, lots of interesting stuff AND I got to burst out of a dinosaur egg

I had to wait behind tons of eager kids to get that one. It was worth all the dodgy looks from their parents, although I still think I should have been bumped up the queue due to me liking dinosaurs for way longer than them.

We decided to go get a drink at the 78 after the exhibition. I swear the intention was always to get a drink. But then this hot chocolate brownie with ice cream happened. It was awesome.

We left shortly after to avoid eating anything else. We spent the rest of the afternoon browsing the shops in town and then went back to The Flying Duck for board games. We Boggled our hearts out while a massive folk band played music on the tables around us. It was really fun. It started with just a few people and then ended up being around 15.

After a few hours we thought we'd try out the food. I wasn't particularly hungry so I thought I'd avoid the big burgers and go for a wee portion of nachos with a hot dog.

It was not a wee portion.

Jake went for the burger which looked really good.

It was nice, cheap and cheerful pub grub. The nachos were ridiculously big, I could barely move afterwards.

When we were able to walk, we went back to the apartment to watch films and get an early night. At this point I was officially in love with Glasgow and really sad that the next day would be our last in this wonderful city.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Vegan in Glasgow - Day 2

We woke up late on our second day so our plans to visit the whole of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum changed slightly. We decided to check out everything except the Dinosaurs and their Eggs exhibition, which we would save for another day. I wanted to have enough time to appreciate that exhibition.

This place was really cool, we spent hours wandering round. There were some cool floating heads but I'm not gonna spoil it for you, it's well worth checking out if you visit Glasgow.

We built up a huge appetite, which was good because The 78 wasn't too far away! The 78 is another 100% vegan bar/restaurant. I really liked the inside of this place, it had a really nice relaxed feel and wasn't too busy.

I decided to go for the Coconut Bean Chilli Nachos and the Special Burger. I think I made a bloody good choice. The nachos were awesome. I would never think to put coconut in a chilli but it worked so well. It had a really nice sweetness to it and I was so sad when it was all gone. I've vowed to remake this myself but not yet given it a go, I think I'm scared of making it less delicious. So good! I'd definitely have it again if I ever return.

The Special Burger was also really good, annoyingly I can't remember what it was, I think maybe mushroom? Not sure but it was so good and massive with a really decent serving of chips. Basically everything I want in a burger.

Annoyingly I was way too full for dessert and we decided to walk back to the city centre to try and burn some of the food off.

We had a few hours to kill before we had an excuse to eat even more food so we went to the Glasgow Film Theatre to watch The Tale of The Princess Kaguya which was beautiful and awesome just like you expect from Studio Ghibli, I definitely recommend it.

I wasn't super hungry after the film but I was desperate to stuff my face all over again so we walked over to The 13th Note. I was determined to manage 3 courses this time and carefully planned my choices as I knew that we'd only get one chance to visit during this trip.

I chose the Herby Meatballs in tomato sauce with garlic bread to start.

You can't really see the meatballs because of the salad but ohh yeah this was good. It was basically like a mini main course. I loved it! There is so much vegan garlic bread in Glasgow, it's the best thing ever.

I went traditional for my main because I wanted to try and have haggis everyday, so I went for the Haggis Neeps and Tatties with a peppercorn sauce.

Now it looks a bit weird but this was really, really tasty. I took two photos so you can see it once it's chomped into.

Yummy. I love a bit of stodgy food. The peppercorn sauce was really good too.

After my experience with the Mono cheesecake, I avoided the one at 13th Note which I've been told was a huge mistake. I'm definitely gonna have to go back to Glasgow now. I went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding instead, which was still a good choice in my books.

Just look at that. Lovely. Another massive portion. Scotland is great!

I really enjoyed my meal at 13th Note, it felt like a proper special restaurant meal which we lack here in Manchester. And for something so special the prices were really reasonable too. The only thing that disappointed me was that it's not completely vegan! It might as well be, so much of it is and there are so many vegan places in Glasgow that my expectations were raised a fair bit. All in all it was bloody good though.

So we were another day down and I was ready for an early night, I was super excited for the Dinosaur exhibition the next day.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Vegan in Glasgow - Day 1

The following posts have been a LONG time coming. I visited Glasgow for a birthday break back in April and it was marvellous. I ate some of the best food of my life. I fell in love with the city... and yet I didn't come back and immediately post about it. Sorry. Life got a bit crap upon my return, then Mofo got in the way which resulted in me being completely waffled out. But now I'm ready!

The first day we spent in Glasgow was pretty chilled out. I managed to find us a cheap flat to stay in through Airbnb in Shawlands, which was about a 5-7 minute train journey from the city centre. It was pretty good. We arrived around lunchtime but unfortunately our host managed to misplace the keys to the flat so we spent an hour or so hanging out in a nearby cafe. Once we dropped our stuff off and checked out the flat we were ravenous. I wanted food and I wanted it immediately.

We decided to go for Stereo because it's pretty much round the corner from Glasgow Central and it does Tapas type food. 'Great!' I thought, 'a few small dishes to tide us over until dinner time'. When do I ever go for small when I'm travelling? I mean really, what the hell was I thinking?

Of course as soon as I looked at the menu I wanted EVERYTHING. They had spring rolls, buffalo cauliflower, falafels, hummus and breads, chips, wedges, nachos and a fricking haggis pizza. For goodness sake, it was a ridiculous amount of choice. What did they expect me to do?

So of course we ordered loads of little things with a wee side helping of Haggis Pizza...because I had no choice. Obviously.

So here it is: Haggis Pizza, Spring Rolls, Sweet Potato Wedges, Rosemary Polenta Chips and Garlic Bread..

It was all so good. And oh so filling. My favourite was of course the haggis pizza because haggis on a pizza is absolutely genius and 100% a Scottish thing to do. All the dishes were reasonably prices and generous portions. I really enjoyed it and vowed to return before our few days away were up! I was gutted that I was too full for dessert but there was the promise of a lot more food later that day.

We mooched around town for a while to burn some of the food off. I did a wee bit of shopping and then we thought we'd head to The Flying Duck as I'd heard they do great vegan food as well as board games. We were way too full for food just yet, but I always have an appetite for gaming. We played way too much Boggle and drank way too much fizzy pop. It was great. The pub was pretty quiet, which we liked although it did get a lot busier as time got on..which was our queue to head elsewhere for dinner, we planned to go back for the food at The Flying Duck another time (so we could play Boggle again)

I was desperate to try Mono so that's where we went. I had drooled over this menu for a few weeks before the holiday so I was pretty familiar with the options, it still took me an age to decide though. In the end I went for the To-fish 'n' Chips while my partner went for the Seitan Burger. We also got a side of onion rings to share.

Goddamn. I picked the right meal for me that night. The tofu 'fish' was ace and who can ever hate mushy peas? No one! The onion rings were good too.

Now at this point you must be thinking that I was at bursting point. Well, I was. But I wanted to have a dessert, the savoury over sweet ratio was way off, so we decided to hell with it, we'd eat dessert until we wanted to puke and then waddle back to the flat.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't feel like the dessert was worth the pain. I went for the Oreo Cheesecake while Jake went for the Sundae. I need to stop trusting vegan cheesecakes when I'm out and about, I'm always disappointed. The filling was ok but it wasn't great and I really didn't like that the base was made with ginger biscuits. Why not use Oreos? The ginger biscuits were also in the Sundae which put me off that too, I really don't like ginger much so I guess they were bad choices for us.

Overall I loved Mono, the savoury food was incredible and I made a note to return and explore more of their menu. The only other thing I didn't like was the loud music. I'm a miserable grump I know.

Honestly I don't remember much of that night, all I know is that I was very full and very satisfied. I couldn't wait to explore the city again the next day. I'll leave you with this...

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Vegan Mofo #29: Road Trip Waffles

What would you bring on a vegan road trip?

I've never been on a road trip, but I know good snack foods. I decided to put a few of my favourite snacks into one waffle, a nice portable way to carry your favourite snacks!

I chose: Peanut Butter, Peanut butter stuffed pretzel bites, salted almonds, granola, chocolate.

They all sound pretty good together right?

Road Trip Waffles

  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • handful of granola
  • handful of salted almonds
  • 5-6 pretzel bites, chopped
  • 3 squares of chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soya milk
  • splash of vanilla extract.
  1. Heat up the waffle iron. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder granola, almonds, pretzel and chocolate.
  2. In a small bowl mix together the peanut butter and oil until smooth. Add to the flour mixture with the soy milk and a splash of vanilla. Mix until combined
  3. Use a 1/3 cup to scoop the mixture into the iron, cook according to your machines instructions
Makes 4 waffles

Ah, these were tasty. Not a great photo but you'll have to trust me on this one. If I had some icing sugar in the house I'd have piped some of that on top too, but these were good as they are.