I’ve been cooking some delicious things recently, even if I do say so myself. I’ve not been eating meat during the week (first unconsciously and now I’m making a point of it), and have found that it’s forced me to be a bit more creative with the meals that I cook for myself. While a piece of chicken and some potatoes simply served might make quite a satisfying meal, a pile of plain veg on a plate will not, so I have to try a bit harder than that.
If you’ve ever read one of my recipe posts before, you will know that I don’t measure or weigh anything, so all quantities will be approximate. If this bothers you, then run. Run away now. Regard it more as inspiration for a meal, rather than a structured, prescriptive recipe. Bonus points: these meals are mostly vegan (with obvious exceptions) and pretty damn cheap to make if you’re savvy when shopping. (My best bets for cheap vegetables are Aldi, Morrisons, and your local greengrocer if you’ve a good one nearby.)
Spaghetti with cream cheese, pesto, and mushrooms
If you’ve been a student any time in the last few years, you might be sick to the back teeth of pasta with pesto and scroll right past this one. That’s fair. I don’t blame you. It took me a while to come back round to the idea of eating this as a genuine meal. But trust me, this is delicious, and easy peasy to put together. Start with pasta – your choice, I think spaghetti works great with this kind of non-saucey sauce, but just go with whatever you’ve got in the cupboard. Cook your mushrooms in a little oil and butter (throw some onions/shallots in there if you have any) while the pasta is boiling. Add a dollop of cream cheese to the pan with the mushrooms and stir around until it breaks up and becomes like a sauce (if you want it to be thinner, feel free to add in some milk and/or some of the pasta water). Add a generous amount of green pesto into the mix. Once your pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and mix everything together. Serve with a lot of black pepper and maybe some parmesan if you’re a double-cheese sort of rebel.
Stir-fried vegetables with nuts, served with rice
Okay, I absolutely can’t get away with calling this a recipe. But I’m posting it because the combination of these vegetables together was excellent so I would like to suggest it, and I would also like to suggest buying the bags of mixed peanuts and cashew nuts from Aldi and eating them with this. In the mix was courgette, red/green/yellow pepper, and some curly kale, cooked with lots of fresh garlic, ginger, and chilli.
I’m calling this Thai because it reminded me vaguely of a Thai green curry. I will accept any and all criticism to the contrary. Start by mincing garlic, ginger, chilli and a few coriander stalks very finely. You want them mushed up into a sort of paste that you will then fry in a bit of oil. Once that’s lovely and fragrant and hopefully not too burnt (I’m still getting to grips with my new cooker; perhaps you are more au fait with yours) add in a selection of robust vegetables – I went for baby sweetcorn, aubergine, and courgette. Stir fry these for a few minutes and then pour in a tin of coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave it simmering away with a lid on it for about 15-20 minutes – you want to take it off the heat when the veg is cooked through but not yet a mushy mess. Serve with cashews, peanuts, and coriander, if you have any of those things. For a more filling meal prepare some noodles or rice to go on the side.
Aubergine, sweet potato and lentil stew (a.k.a. Leftover Parfait)
This pretty much was leftover parfait, Malcolm in the Middle style. Or, at least, it was a meal borne out of scrounging through my fridge and cupboards to find what was lurking there and then cooking it all together, with little concern as to whether it was going to taste good together. Excellent outcome: it did. In here went two medium sweet potatoes, most of a medium aubergine, a tin of plum tomatoes, a large handful of red lentils, cooked with garlic and chilli. (Perhaps a bit too much chilli – but I would advise using a decent amount, this is the sort of dish that needs something to perk it up slightly.) Using those quantities yielded enough for four generous single-lady servings.
Soy-sauce vegetables with a fried egg
Once again, absolutely not a recipe. Nobody’s going to be convinced by this one. Just a heads up as to what things taste utterly delicious together. Mushrooms, spring greens, courgette, baby sweetcorn, and green peppers. Stir-fried with the usual suspects (ginger/chilli/garlic) until almost cooked, then I threw a hefty dash of soy sauce in the pan and cooked it on a high heat for a few minutes. The result of this was that the soy sauce thickened and made a sticky, delicious, intensely savoury sauce. I threw a fried egg on top because fried eggs are delicious. I cook them with just a smidge of oil in a frying pan and then put a lid on it, so that the yolk almost steams while the bottom of the egg goes nicely burnt and crispy. You’re welcome to cook yours in a more civilised way, of course.
Here’s to many more delicious meat-free meals, vegetable-filled meals on the horizon. The plan for tonight is avocado pasta with a side of roasted vegetables including mushrooms, pepper, and courgette. Have you any ideas for delicious, easy, and preferably cheap meals?