Category Archives: Vegan

Tomato and Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

As much as I revere convenience in all its forms, I don’t understand shop bought tomato pasta sauces. I will admit to having lived off these for years, but when I started creating my own, the jars became such an unbearable let down. Expensive, dull and packed full of salt.

The sheer simplicity of tomato sauce creation is not beyond anyone – it is practically impossible to get wrong.

(Apart from that time I fancied myself quite the Michelin chef and, in a seasoning fervour, over-oreganoed to the point of inedible – the beans on toast that night were particularly sour in my mouth.)

I serve this with garlic bread, homemade, with real butter – the pasty, soggy rolls from the supermarket don’t even come close.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 tin chopped tomatoes with basil
1 large red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 or 2 red chilli
2 dessert spoons tomato purée
2 or 3 dessert spoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons pepper
Salt to taste

Garlic bread
3 cloves garlic
100g butter
Bread rolls

Fresh pasta (much better than dried)
Cheese

Steps to deliciousness

1) Chop the red onion finely and fry gently in real butter until soft. (Or, if making vegan, use olive oil)

2) Add all the other ingredients. See, I told you this was simple.

3) Bring to boil, and turn down heat to low. Let this cook away until the sauce has reduced by a third.

4) While it’s simmering, mash about 100g butter with the 3 other cloves of garlic, chopped really finely, and spread this generously onto the bread rolls. (Again, if cooking vegan, use olive oil)

5) Wrap in little packets of tin foil, and put into the oven at 200 degrees. They’ll take about 20 minutes. Open the packet and let the edges crisp up for a few minutes.

6) This is when my favourite part happens – taste your sauce. Think about the flavours, now that they’ve intensified, and how you can improve them. Generally, I add a little more balsamic and pepper. There’s no point in following a recipe word for word when everyone’s palate is different. I love black pepper – it makes up about a quarter of every dish I make – and I drink balsamic vinegar from the bottle at any given opportunity. You may love chilli or salt – I don’t know, I am not you – but be flexible and adapt the recipe to your needs.

7) Dump the cooked pasta into the pan, mix, and serve with cheese.

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A Tale Of Two Burgers

A good burger is something beautiful to behold. A symphony of texture and flavour, a million combinations of buns, meats and toppings to choose from.

My favourite places allow me to pick and mix these to suit my moods. The Counter is particularly good at this – I love the ticky-box ordering system – It satisfies some primal accounting need. The fact that it’s allergen and vegan friendly is an added bonus – Their website has a complete breakdown of everything on the menu.

On this occasion, I selected burger in a bowl – It comes with a huge serving of lettuce instead of a bun, and I always feel much better about myself. Chicken, pickle, corn salsa, grilled onions, grilled peppers, aged cheddar, and bacon – a carefully chosen composite of some of the best parts of the Counter. This is one of the only places I will trust for chicken, so in fear I am of receiving that grey, chewy sponge some restaurants try and pass off as poultry. My accomplice opted for beef, red cheddar and onion strings. The handful of chips that come in a single serving is depressing, so always go for the large version between two.

As is typical when you’re ravenous, our burgers took an an awfully long time, with everyone around us getting their food before our plates arrived. Eager, mild starvation setting in, I dug into my bowl as soon as it was placed in front of me. As per usual, the grilled chicken was beautifully cooked, succulent and packed full of flavour, all the vegetables vividly fresh, the onions and peppers melt in the mouth good and the crispy bacon just to die for. Just looking at the picture below makes my mouth water. And, oh, the cheese… The cheese was… absent.

I looked up, dismayed, and met the shocked face of my companion; her beef burger was made of chicken. This was disastrous.

Though, not really, as we had new, correct dishes in front of us in minutes, and an upfront offer of a discount – Achievement unlocked, impress the food blogger.

Wanting to extend the evening and the amusing banter, I suggested dessert and ordered an adult smoothie – less ‘xxx’ and more ‘mmm’ – strawberry and banana spiked with alcohol, topped with that hideous can cream. Nice, but not worth the €8 price tag. Twisting her rubber arm, she ordered the oversized chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. The cookie was huge, gooey, sweet and sticky, rich vanilla ice cream melting into the warm dough. Decadent, delicious, and a dessert big enough for two.

Not that she had much of a choice in that matter.

2 burgers, 1 fries, 1 coke, 1 adult smoothie €37 (cookie unknown, as taken off the bill)
The Counter, Suffolk St, D2

This brings me on to the next burger bar in the ongoing battle for my affections. Bobo’s, another joint priding itself on locally sourced ingredients, has always caught my eye. A young gentleman, soon flying to far lands, offered to take me and I jumped at the chance. The first thing I noticed were the creepy, realistic cows painted on the wall. I sat directly underneath one, so its big soft eyes couldn’t watch as I devoured its friend.

The place had a canteen feel, not helped by the white tin plates I could see being dropped to other tables, but the menu was intriguing. Lamb, beef, chicken, fish, pork and two different kinds of vegetarian burgers – I almost chose beef until..

I couldn’t – I went for the Miss Piggy instead; pork and chorizo with goat cheese, rocket and garlic mayonnaise, accompanied by a half and half of onion rings and chips. My travelling friend chose The Grafton, minus the cheese and bun, with a side salad.

Quickly, our food arrived. My burger towered in front of me, menacing but inviting. I glanced over. The bun had been replaced by two lettuce leaves holding the burger, giving an oddly sad look to the plate – Worst presentation of a dinner, ever.

I was more interested in the imposing structure in front of me, and tentatively begin to devour.

The food was, in many parts, excellent. Pork mince has a tendency to dry out, but I didn’t find this at all with my burger, juicy with chunks of quality goat cheese disintegrating in the heat, their flavour being brought out by the contrast of peppery rocket – a classic combination for a reason. The chorizo was bland, a rather pointless addition as it faded into the background – a spicier version should be used. Home made onion rings always tempt me, and I need to stop giving into it – I am always let down by how greasy and tasteless they are, and Bobo’s were no exception. The chips, however, were crunchy and good, and my counterpart’s salad was great, with a lip smacking vinegar kick.

2 burgers, 2 sides, 1 coke €33
Bobo’s, Dame St, D2

In this round, yet again, The Counter has come out on top – will there ever be a true contender?

Well, I don’t know – it was a hypothetical question.

As I write this, I am procrastinating from packing for another trip – this time to London and Paris. I leave in 12 hours, and my suitcase is miserably agape on my bed. As I shall be marching up the Eiffel Tower, drinking coffee and eating cheese all weekend, there will be no post.
Again, fear not, for a Consumation does Paris will follow!

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Nando’s Unpretentious Chicken

As someone who abhors puns but has a grudging respect for good ones, the “Man Eating Chicken” sign outside Nando’s left me torn. The fact I was frustrated, out of breath and sweaty due to a simple misunderstanding that anyone could have made – there are two Nando’s in the city centre: The one I was actually eating in, and the one I arrived at – did not help. Groan and roll my eyes, or giggle? I gave up.

A friendly, “Hi there, welcome to Nando’s! How can I help you today?” greeted me as I entered which swept away the annoyance, but not the sticky, sweaty feeling. I was ready for a beer.

Thankfully, because of my utterly blamelesss lateness, my tablemates had already selected dinner from the simple, clear menu, with no spritz in sight. With three of us dining, the full platter seemed to suit best; a full chicken, with 2 large sides.

Next came the spice discussion – go with highest spice level that suits everyone. If one person doesn’t like spice at all, then choose something along the lines of mango and lime. With the full range of peri-peri sauces available for dipping – my favourite being garlic – each person can spice their meal up to the correct level.


(Attributed to Verndogs)

I went up to the till, Nando’s being an odd mix of both self service and table service, and ordered the platter, a Portuguese bread roll, a slice of cheese and two beers.

I warned the waitress about keeping the bread roll separate to everything else, as one of my companions was coeliac, and she scurried downstairs to warn the kitchen staff. Nando’s is particularly good for food intolerances, with an allergen book in each branch covering every dish and who it’s acceptable for. Also, according to my friends who are that way inclined, the veggie burgers are fantastic and, surprisingly, vegan.

As everything is cooked when ordered, it was about twenty (heart breaking, stomach rumbling) minutes before our food arrived. The Superbock was sating my thirst, a light and refreshing lager, but doing nothing for the gaping, bottomless pit in my stomach,

It’s this hunger that accounts for the lack of food pictures in this post, as I fell upon the BBQed corn, sweet and crunchy, smothered in butter, as soon as it arrived, following it quickly with most of a leg of chicken stuffed into the bread roll with cheese, ketchup and garlic peri-peri sauce. By the time I remembered my camera, I was already wiping the smears of sauce from my face and hands.

Nando’s serves the chicken skin on, and the tart lime mellowed with mango marinade permeated right through the meat. It was perfectly cooked and juicy, and I was a little sad when I finished picking the bones and there were no more delicious morsels left.

The chips are nothing special at all, disappointingly, as the quality of the other dishes raised my expectations – I would opt for garlic bread side next time.

Unfortunately, we had to rush off, but from previous experience, the white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake is worth a trip to Nando’s by itself. Like none other I’ve ever tasted, it is extremely firm, as if the cake has been compressed, increasing the flavour intensity. Sweet and cheesy and sharp and decadently heavy, you’ll think the thin slice you’ve been served is too little, but it is the perfect amount.

Too long, didn’t read?

Good quality, healthy food at relatively good prices, with no ridiculously pretentious bells and whistles, fantastic at catering to food allergies and very family friendly – there’s something for almost everyone in your group.

If you manage to go to the right branch, of course.

Platter (Whole chicken, 2 large sides), bread roll, cheese, 2 beers €37
Nando’s, St. Andrews Street, Dublin 2

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Vegetarian Jalfrezi

When I want my entire apartment to smell mouth-wateringly good, I cook Indian food. Or, more specifically, jalfrezi. The time spent making this dish is so worth it, as it has a gorgeous balance between the spices, chilli and citrus.

You can cook this with chicken – replace the vegetable stock with chicken stock, and the chickpeas with 400g of chicken – but it tastes much better without it.

Ingredients (serves 4)

625g chickpeas (Big tin and a little tin)
Vegetable oil

6 cardamom pods (ground with mortar and pestle)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon medium curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric

3 large peppers
1.5 large onions
2 large chilli
4 garlic cloves (mashed)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
1 small tin tomato purée
6cm ginger (grated)
1/2 vegetable stock cubes

1 lime
Half a lemon

Naan/rice/cous cous

Steps to deliciousness

1. Toss the chickpeas in a little vegetable oil and bake at 200 degrees for a half hour/40 minutes, until they’re crunchy.

2. Heat the spices in six dessert spoons of vegetable oil, but don’t let them burn.

3. Chop the onions and peppers into large pieces, and add the onion to the spices to soften.

4. Add the peppers, garlic and chilli, and cook for 5 minutes on a low heat.

5. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, tomato purée and ginger, with a tin of hot water and a stock cube – taste for saltiness. Generally, I use 1.5 stock cubes.

6. Simmer for about a half hour, until the peppers are soft and the sauce has thickened. You may need to add another half tin of water if it gets too thick and the peppers aren’t soft.

7. Remove from the heat and add the juice of a lime and half a lemon.

8. Serve with something nice – Tesco finest garlic and coriander naans are fantastic.

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Vegan (Or not so much) Maple Pecan Caramel Squares

I must admit, I love a challenge. The sense of achievement after a hard fought success is particularly nice, especially for the chronically competitive such as myself. So, when a vegan friend bemoaned and lamented the lack of dairy, egg and honey free desserts, I immediately thought

and my mind began ticking over. It did take a while, but when it struck me, I knew it was simply the only way to go; how to combine the two most complimentary dessert flavours into a sufficiently interesting vegan dish?

Maple Pecan Caramel Squares (capitalisation deserved)

As the work crowd demolished the dairy filled version of these in mere hours recently, I will also supply you with the substitutes that should be made, in case you would like to attempt them instead.

Ingredients
Base:
200g plain white flour
150g vegetable shortening/Butter
75g castor sugar

Condensed soy milk:
1 litre soy milk (unsweetened)
150g soft brown sugar
Half teaspoon vanilla
Or replace these three with one tin condensed milk

Caramel:
2 tablespoons golden syrup
100g soft brown sugar
100g vegetable shortening/Butter
1/2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Pecans
Chopped mixed nuts

10inch x 7inch deep baking tray.

Steps to Deliciousness

1) Pour soy milk and sugar into pot.

2) Take book in one hand, wooden spoon in the other, and reduce to one third over a moderate/high heat while stirring. Do not let it stick to the bottom of the pan.
This took one hour, despite my staring at it accusingly, knowing it could condense more quickly, it just didn’t want to.

Jean’s tip of the day: Pour one third of the soy milk into the pan first. Then mark the height on something – a straw, a knife, the wooden spoon. Now you have a measure of height so you can identify when it has reduced enough.

3) When the mixture has reduced , it will be slightly thicker. Add the vanilla essence.

4) Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
5) Line the baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Cut a rectangular piece of the paper, and slit the corners. It will slip nicely into the tray.

6) Beat the vegetable shortening/butter into the castor sugar. If you’re using butter, it should go a little white.

7) Rub in the flour with your fingertips. Do this quickly, and do not over work it. You want the consistency of breadcrumbs. If it goes greasy or grey, start again.

8) Press this evenly into the baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until it’s golden brown. It will be soft to the touch.
(Warning: Do not actually touch – From experience, as it is just out of the oven, it is very hot).

9) Put a small plate in the fridge, and move onto the caramel creation.

10) Add the condensed soy milk/milk, vegetable shortening/butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and maple syrup to a pan.

11) Keep this at a gentle boil and stir like your life depended on it. Make sure you are covering the whole base of the pan. Unfortunately, in order for the sugar to dissolve, the temperature needs to be high enough that it will burn if it’s not stirred.

12) The vegan caramel thickens in about 20 minutes, but the butter version can take almost an hour. When it turns rich golden brown and seems thick, drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the cold plate to see if it sets solid and holds its shape.
It is essential to eat these testers to ensure that you are, in fact, making delicious maple caramel.

13) Pour onto the base, and smooth out. Top with toasted mixed nuts and pecans, and leave overnight before attempting to cut it.

14) Success. Sit back and reap the rewards of being victorious, and possible diabetes.

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