Sunday, 31 July 2011

Pasta with Red Lentil Sauce

Okay, seriously? This is the most filling pasta sauce ever. And the non-dairy margarine gives it an extra little je ne sais quoi that makes it even better.

I used this recipe, though I made a few changes. I used a yellow pepper, since we didn't have any red ones, and, obviously, I didn't add parmesan cheese. I did use a bit of vitalite instead of the optional butter, though, and, as I said, it gave it a really nice touch.

The sauce serves four people, so if you're feeding less than that, as I am, it'll need to go in the fridge and be reheated.  It's just as good a few days later, as Anthony and I discovered when we took it on a picnic.  I've yet to try freezing it though - feel free to experiment!

Once again, I didn't buy anything new for this recipe, so I'm using Tesco online for prices.  For the vegetables, you will almost certainly be able to get them cheaper elsewhere.  I'd try an Asian supermarket, for those and for the lentils.

  • 1 Onion, diced (approx 24p each, Tesco) - 24p
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, crushed (30p per bulb, Tesco) - 4p
  • 2 Tablespoons of Sunflower Oil (£1.58 per litre, Tesco) - 5p
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil (69p per 16g, Tesco) - 2p
  • 1 Bell Pepper, chopped (3 pack for £1.65, Tesco) - 55p
  • 1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes (33p, Tesco Value) - 33p
  • 4oz Red Lentils (88p for 500g, Tesco) - 22p
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Puree (49p for 200g, Tesco) - 4p
  • 3/4 of a Pint of Water (if you want to figure out the cost, be my guest!)
  • 50g of Pasta per Person (89p for 500g, Tesco Wholewheat Fusilli) - 9p per Person
  • Non-Dairy Margarine (Optional) (Vitalite, £1.20 for 500g) - 2p per Person (approx)
  • Salt and Pepper (Optional, to taste)
Total - £1.93 for four people, 97p for two people, 49p for one person.

The cheese was for Anthony.  I'm told it went really well.

  1. Fry the onions and pepper in the oil for a few minutes.  Incidentally, there's a great video here on how to efficiently fillet a pepper.  Don't say I never teach you anything.  You can also find out how to correctly dice an onion there (remember to use a very sharp knife, and aim away from your fingers).
  2. When the onion is translucent, add the basil, chopped tomatoes, water, crushed garlic, tomato purée, and lentils.  Bring to the boil, then turn down, and simmer for twenty minutes.  Do not add salt at this point, it will make the lentils tough.
  3. Cook the pasta, and drain.  Return to the warm pan, and toss with the dairy-free margarine (if desired).
  4. Season the lentil sauce with salt and pepper, add to pasta, and serve.
  • Most of a Bulb of Garlic.
  • Most of a bottle of Sunflower Oil.
  • Most of a jar of dried Basil.
  • Most of a tube of Tomato Puree.
  • 3/4 of a packet of Red Lentils.
  • Most of a tub of non-dairy margarine.
  • Most of a packet of pasta.

Please note that, if you want to make this recipe again, you'll just need to buy a tin of chopped tomatoes, an onion, and a bell pepper.  Tinned tomatoes keep forever, or near enough, and onions are something you'll want on hand for a lot of meals, which makes it even handier.

Man, that was a good picnic.

Make it Cheaper/Better
  • Add this bread.  I'll be working out the cost and posting it up later, as something you can add to a wide variety of meals.  I'll say that that recipe makes between 4-6 portions, depending on personal taste.  We ate it with our picnic.  For our version, we use wholemeal plain flour, which made it super hearty and filling.  Neither of us could finish it, though Anthony made a very valiant attempt.
  • Speaking of picnics, if you have a bag which will keep food hot, I highly recommend it.  We heated the food up at home, then headed to the Edgbaston Reservoir, which is a five minute walk away.
  • To cut costs, do not buy your vegetables from Tesco.  Try a cheaper supermarket - Anthony seems to recall getting three bell peppers for a pound from Aldi - or an open market.
  • Use less oil for the frying.  I think you could get away with as little as half a tablespoon instead of two tablespoons.  Incidentally, this will cut a hundred or so calories from the total, so about twenty-five per portion.
  • Use fresh basil instead of dried.  You can buy a basil plant for 49p from Aldi, then put it in the garden, and use it for other things in future.

    Tuesday, 26 July 2011

    Mexican Lemon Chickpea Soup

    I tried this recipe for lunch, after taking a tip from Rachel Wilkerson, and using the spare time I had at breakfast. It reheats fine, though you should give it a stir as it might have started to separate.  I haven't tried freezing it yet, but it should be fine.

    This recipe makes two to three portions of a delicious, filling, creamy, tangy soup.  It could easily be four portions, if served as a starter rather than alone.

    Since I'm eating this alone, rather than with Anthony, you may notice a few differences, ie, no croutons and unbuttered (and un-vitalite-ed more, to the point) bread.

    I also have a confession to make; I didn't do any shopping for this. I made it from things I already had in the cupboard, so, for prices, I used Tesco online. Which, incidentally, tried to tell me that breaded onion rings are fruit and/or vegetables. Oh Tesco, you so crazy.

    My second confession is that, I did use olive oil, but after figuring out that olive oil costs almost twice as much per tablespoon, it's sunflower oil all the way for me now. You only use it for sautéing the onions and garlic, anyway. Your choice though. In a practical sense, it only adds a little over 2p to the total cost.

    • 1 Onion, diced (approx 24p each, Tesco) - 24p
    • 3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped (30p per bulb, Tesco) - 10p
    • 1 Tablespoon of Sunflower Oil (£1.58 per litre, Tesco) - 3p
    • 1 Drained Tin of Chickpeas (43p, Tesco) - 43p
    • Juice and Rind of One Lemon (35p each, Tesco) - 35p
    • 2 Vegetable Stock Cubes ( Oxo, 99p for two boxes of twelve, 99p store) - 9p
    Total - £1.24 for three portions, 83p for two, or 41p for one.

    1. Fry chopped onion and garlic in oil, until browned.
    2. Add drained chickpeas, and sauté for one minute.
    3. Dissolve stock cubes in 1 1/2 pints of water, and add to saucepan.  Simmer for five minutes.  Add the lemon rind and juice.
    4. Pour into a blender, and blend till smooth. 

    10 vegetable stock cubes.
    985ml of sunflower oil.
    2/3 of a bulb of garlic.

    Make it Better/Cheaper
    • Buy the onions, garlic and lemon elsewhere.  Try a farmer's market, or the rag market.
    • Add bottled lemon juice to taste, rather than use an actual lemon (Tesco bottled lemon juice is 44p for 250ml, so 6p for approximately two tablespoons).
    • Add croutons.  Croutons are yummy.  When I reheated a portion for lunch the next day, I ate it with 1/5 of a pack of Lidl's Rivercote Garlic and Herb croutons (99p), which worked out to about 20p.  You could make your own, by brushing bread with oil, rub with garlic (which you then slice to make the soup), and scattering with mixed herbs before toasting under the grill.
    Note that I am not tagging this as 'under £1', since it's not as filling without the addition of bread or something else to go with it.  Anthony wouldn't eat this alone as one course, though I might, if I weren't too hungry.

    Sunday, 24 July 2011

    Meals for Under...

    In light of my new circumstances, I've decided to make more of an effort to cutback. To this end, I'm going to be writing new posts, tagged with such things as "meals under £2", "meals under £3", and "meals under £5".  These will be as described - meals for which the ingredients cost less than a given amount.  These amounts will be based on two portions.

    I was inspired in this by this thread on, which was, in turn, inspired by Jamie Oliver's challenge, of coming up with three course meals under £5.  I won't be posting three course meals, but I will be including smaller denominations.

    Speaking of MoneySupermarket, I highly suggest, if you're in the UK, flicking through this list once a week or so.  The best deal at the moment is the free cocktail/cider/wine from the Pitcher & Piano, just for signing up to their mailing list (I am absolutely fine with being on mailing lists; it generally just means they send me more vouchers).  That's good till the 31st of July, and they are super generous with the sizes.  See the size of that cider?  That's two full glasses in that bottle, that is.

    Anyway, last night, Anthony and I had a budget supper, which I'm going to describe here so I can get the format sorted.


    • 2 Tins of Vegetable Soup  (17p each, Morrisons' value range) - 34p
    • 1 Wholewheat Baguette (Morrisons', discounted to 9p) - 9p
    • Garlic and Herb Croutons (Rivercote, Lidl, 99p) - 50p (I was very generous with these; they're yummy!)
    • Vitalite (£1.20 for 500g) - 12p

    Total - £1.05 for two, or 53p, for one portion.

    I like my croutons, I do.
    1. Heat soup (microwave or stove - up to you!).
    2. Slice bread, and butter ('vitalite-ise'?).
    3. Put soup into bowls, add croutons.

    9/10 of a tub of vitalite.
    1/2 pack of croutons.

    Make it Cheaper/Better
    The bread was barely stale at all
    - not that it matters, if it's going
    to be dipped in soup.

    • Turn some of the bread into croutons, by brushing with oil, sprinkling with herbs, and grilling while you heat the soup.  Please note that, if you don't have a grill, it may cost more to use the oven for this than it does to just buy the damn croutons.  Or you can leave them out entirely, it's a personal thing.
    • Speaking of personal things, you obviously don't have to butter the bread.
    • You could add fresh or dried herbs to the soup to make it more flavourful.  We have mint, basil, parsley, and coriander growing in boxes on the balcony, and buying these plants for 50p from Aldi was cheaper than buying dried herbs.
    • Slice a potato into tiny dice, and boil it in the soup.  You could microwave them first, so they cook faster in the soup, but they shouldn't take too long if you get them really tiny.

    Thursday, 21 July 2011

    What Time Do You Call This, Missis?

    ...I've been a tad busy.  Mostly because I just quit my job.

    I've mentioned before that I worked in fast food.  It made me miserable.  Eventually, it reached the point where I just couldn't carry on with it any more.  I'll survive, but I'm not really sure what I'm going to do now.  I've got a meeting with a careers advisor tomorrow, though - wish me luck!  Oh, also, I had my navel pierced.  By a vegan!  He told me when I asked if there was anything non-vegan about the process (there isn't).

    Sadly, in other news, KPL Vegan Cafe has closed down.  I miss it.  I loved going somewhere, and not having to carefully read through the menu to make sure something was vegan.  I could just order anything, anything at all, and then I could eat it, and I could be sure that it was vegan.

    Happily, a vegetarian cafe, VEG'ed Out has opened in Fletcher's Walk, near the library.  They are vegetarian, not vegan, but they're promising to have a vegan option every day, which is a good start.  They're currently working with volunteers and limited opening hours, allowing other groups to use the space at other times.

    I'll write more about them later, but it's bedtime now.  'Night!

    Wednesday, 6 July 2011

    Street Harassment: Hollaback

    Here's an email I attempted to send to the Rangers of my local reservoir;

    To whom it may concern,

    I would like to report an incidence of harassment on the part of council volunteers.  Yesterday, July 6th, between 2pm and 2:45pm, I was at the Edgbaston Reservoir, singing.  I was standing in the little graffitied hut which is located by the little hill as you walk from the Rotten Park Road entrance towards the car park.  As far as I am aware, it does not disturb anyone to have me practice here, and I am happy to find another location if I am told that it does.

    A group of men wearing fluorescent jackets with 'council volunteers' walked past, at approximately 2:30pm.  One of them (the one who is waving in the attached image) decided to howl like a dog as I was singing, then offered to "fix [my] vocal chords".  I tried to remain polite, but the comments did not stop until the group had passed me.

    Attached Image
    I hope it is obvious why this behaviour is upsetting and inappropriate.  As a young girl alone, I also hope it is obvious why I found the behaviour even more threatening and unpleasant.

    I would appreciate a reply, concerning either how this is dealt with, or contact details for a more appropriate person to speak to about the matter.

    Thank you.
    Kali Ravel

    ...unfortunately, this got bounced back to me, as the email inbox was no longer active.  So, I googled up the council offices covering parks, and called them.  The person I spoke to told me that the group were probably on probation, and suggested I try googling "Ministry of Justice Probation Department", since they had no contact details.

    I did this, and tried the first number, which turned out to be the wrong one (it was the court probation service, which I guess I should have gathered from the heading).  After speaking to someone who suggested I call the police, though "it's not really an offence, is it?", I scrolled down a bit, and found the right office, the Probation Administration Office.  The people I spoke to there were wonderful; they took me absolutely seriously, apologised profusely, and promised to make sure that everyone involved knew that this behaviour was not appropriate.  Which is all I wanted; to be taken seriously, and for the person responsible to get a bollocking, to get some indication that this behaviour was not appropriate.

    I did film myself singing, but I haven't linked to it here because the quality of my voice is completely irrelevant. 

    If you're harassed by someone whose organisation is not immediately recognisable, (or even if it is!) have a look for your local Hollaback.  Hollaback is a grass roots movement, started in New York, to end street harassment by naming and shaming the people involved.  Many cities have their own Hollaback websites where victims can submit stories and images.  Birmingham will be getting one in August; until then, they have a facebook page. Hollaback ladies - lets get some justice up in here.

    Tuesday, 5 July 2011

    The "What Can I Eat?" Game

    What can you eat?  Most of these, for a start (from EAT).
    The "What Can I Eat?" game is something I highly recommend for new vegans or for anyone with dietary restrictions. It consists of reading menus and looking at products when you're not hungry, so you know where they are when you need them. Seriously, if you're in a pub, take a look at the menu, even if you're only getting drinks. When shopping, pop into little cafés or takeaway places, and have a look at what they've got. Chains are particularly good for this, because you're not limited to just that one location; you know that you have that option in most places you visit.

    I recommend this simply because, when I'm hungry, I do not want to look for options. I want to know what they are, and where they are, and how much they cost. Otherwise, I will be stuck with chips, or salad, or apples, or maybe I won't be as thorough in checking, and I'll accidentally eat something with a bit of dairy or egg in it, and then I'll be miserable as well as hungry. Or I'll eat an entire packet of bourbon biscuits in one go, and then I'll feel sick while I'm on a sugar rush, which is a horrible combination.

    I've already mentioned things like Wetherspoons Sweet Potato and Chickpea curry, which is vegan if you get it without naan bread. Their roasted vegetable flatbread is also vegan, and so is their flatbread and dips, if you avoid the yoghurt based dip (so use this one as a shared starter, if you're out with an omni? That is what it's intended for!). Their new Superfood Salad is also vegan, and very interesting, for a salad. It's got edamame beans for a start, so I'm won.

    I found a couple of vegan sandwich options, too. Pret-a-Manger does a gorgeous crunchy houmous bloomer, which is filled with houmous, carrot, roasted red peppers, and coriander leaves, on 7 grain bread. It's so light, and refreshing, and it has such a good crunch to it. It's really good. Anthony bought me one for helping him move (he's gone back to Liverpool for the summer!). He quite liked it, too.

    I tried replicating it at home, and I think I did fairly well. I used store-bought houmous rather than homemade, so I didn't get the nice crunch of an occasional chickpea. I also forgot to roast the peppers; I'll have to experiment a bit more.

    EAT has some vegan options too, like the ones in the image above, the wasabi peas and chilli olives and things.  They also stock vegetarian sushi, which, unfortunately, contains cheese.

    EAT has a vegan sandwich, too, which I haven't tried.  Houmous, avocado, and harissa.  I freely admit that I only know what two of those things are, but a close up on the allergens shows that it is vegan, so I guess I'll give it a try one of these days.

    Cafe Ritazza and Costa Coffee both sell lovely iced fruity drinks, which, as far as I can gather, consist of fruit juice blended with crushed ice.  I tried Cafe Ritazza's Virgin Mojito, and it was gorgeous.  Costa Coffee were giving out samples of their iced fruity things yesterday, so I tried both the reddish one, which I think was summer fruits, and the mango and passion fruits one.  The former was very like Ritazza's virgin mojito, and the latter was much milder.  I didn't like it as much, but it wasn't bad.  I also found that Pancakes & Ice Cream sells three kinds of sorbet, which are vegan.  I was quite surprised, since I didn't expect them to have anything.  Bennetts, a wine bar owned by Marstons also has some interesting vegetarian options, which I intend to email them about, to see if any of them are vegan.

    In short; if you ask, you may be pleasantly surprised.
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