Hearty Suppers From Yesteryear and This Week

The joys of vegan cooking for January

Grab a cuppa, it’s blog time

It’s been one of those weeks: a busy schedule back at work following a gloriously relaxing fortnight off over Christmas coinciding with Lockdown 3.0 and, very sadly, a family bereavement on Thursday. As we often do at a time of loss, I spent some hours trawling through old photographs which, by an enjoyable and memory-packed meander, brought me to my old blog site. There I found a long-forgotten post about my early cooking adventures as a vegetarian back in the last Millennium and thought that as it’s Veganuary, and we all need a bit of comfort cooking, I’d share that blog post with you here. I think it’s aged pretty well…

The first cookery book I can remember acquiring was The Colour Book of Vegetarian Cooking, edited by Carole Handslip. I have the 1984 reprint.

In Upper Sixth, I turned vegetarian and this little recipe book was bought for me for my 19th birthday by first year uni friends, Jayne and Sarah. I had spotted this cookery book in the remaindered bookshop in Bath and Jayne and Sarah bought it for me.

By today’s standards, it’s a pretty slim volume, with only about a third of recipes accompanied by a photograph of the finished dish. But, in my early years of being “a veggie” I turned to it often and, as a consequence, it is well-thumbed and more than a little grubby. Indeed, the page for gnocchi with tomato sauce and that for corn and asparagus flan – neither of which I have ever made – had quite welded together and I had to separate them with great care; with great care and a serrated knife. Many of the recipes have egg and dairy as principal ingredients, but there’s a sub-chapter dedicated to nut and pulse dishes, so I headed there. I opted to make the bean and tomato hotpot, adapted to account for my lack of a large leek (a shallot, green pepper found idly withering in the crisper drawer, chopped-up stalk of broccoli and additional carrot made for gallant stand-ins) and eschewing of butter. I also doubled the quantity of tinned tomatoes and chucked in a tin of butter beans in addition to the kidney beans. I found a bag of Apache potatoes sprouting nicely in the back of the fridge, so once I’d “de-eyed” them, they were halved for the hotpot topping.

Bean and tomato hotpot from E’s first cookery book

This really was a very easy cook and resulted in a tasty dinner which went down well with both vegan, and the non-vegan, diners. It reminded me how much this particular book had been my vegetarian cooking primer for many years. Three pages on from the hotpot recipe I found the one for vegetable curry. I followed this recipe for years and remember well the first time I made it, up in the fifth floor kitchen of our halls of residence in Somerset Place. That first time led to an earth-shattering revelation: turmeric turns cauliflower yellow! A discovery so profound I made a note of it on the page of the book.

(Adapted from a post on Hiraeth, There and Everywhere in January 2017)

Assembling the ingredients for a Nanny Val-inspired stuffed butternut squash recipe

Back to this week, I made a tasty supper following a recipe Mum had sent me for stuffed butternut squash. The stuffing comprised sautéed onion and garlic, most of the flesh of the roasted squash, red lentils, stock and a heap of herbs, with toasted walnuts and cashews folded through just before stuffing the shell of the squash and returning to the oven to roast for a further 40 minutes. I served it with steamed kale dressed in chilli oil. Nourishing, healthy and perfect for a winter’s evening. Thanks Mum for the recipe, which I will certainly be making again.

A tasty supper of stuffed butternut squash, steamed kale and little bites of vegan cashew cheese

What have you been rustling up for dinner these mid-winter evenings? ~ E

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