What to Cook for Vegans

Without having to eat tofu…


You love entertaining but can’t face having your vegan friends round for dinner. Fear not! You can cater to their dietary needs without having to resort to rubbery tofu.

Canapés and Snacks

Guacamole

Simply mix ripe avocado flesh with lime juice, tabasco and garlic. If you can be bothered to make your own corn chips to dip in it so much the better, but the chances are that if you can be bothered to be vegan you can be bothered to make corn chips… (100g maize flour + 1tbsp olive oil + 50ml water — mix and roll out thin on a baking sheet then cook for 8 minutes at 190C).

Mojitos!

Yup. Also Martinis, Old Fashioneds, Daiquiris and pretty much every cocktail except White Russians or Sours (they have egg in).

Parsnip crisps

Not just parsnips! Carrots, beetroots, celeriac…

Great as an accompaniment to cocktails. Bake them in the oven for extra parsnipy healthiness. Recipe here.

Hummus

Chuck a tin of chickpeas and a tablespoon of tahini into a blender, add crushed garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon juice until it tastes awesome. You can dunk pretty much anything into hummus — carrots, toasted bread, sliced peppers, cucumber…

Starters

Artichokes

Fun to eat and easy to cook, artichoke leaves taste great dipped in olive oil.

The large round variety takes around 30 minutes to simmer and the smaller ones around 15.

Grilled aubergines (eggplants)

If you can find those long thin Asian aubergines even better — cut them in half lengthwise and place in a hot griddle pan until soft and lightly charred; season with olive oil, fresh parsley and salt; enjoy.

Pumpkin and chestnut soup

Freshly picked last September

When I last had vegan friends round for dinner I made a roasted pumpkin stuffed with wild rice and cranberries — it looked good, but was a bit disappointing flavour wise. When teamed with freshly gathered chestnuts however, pumpkin finds its match.

The chestnuts have to be roasted in the oven before using in the soup — don’t forget to pierce the skins with a sharp knife or spend the next month picking bits of shell out of the back of your oven.

Migas (Spanish peasant dish using stale bread)

Migas — as eaten at a wedding in Zaragoza

You’ll need vegan bread of course, but this is a very tasty and easy way to use up stale loaves. Tear the bread into pieces and moisten with water, add some sweet paprika and some hot paprika, dried herbs if you fancy and season with salt and pepper; fry the moist bread in olive oil until it begins to crumble and also crisp up around the edges. Eat by the spoonful because it’s so tasty.

A more detailed recipe here.

Mains

Dal (Indian dish of lentils or split peas)

Eaten all over with boiled rice, dal is healthy, tasty and cheap. Add a couple of tomatoes, sliced onions, garlic cloves, curry leaves and chillies to a pan of lentils, pour over cold water until covered and then simmer for an hour (until tender). Eat with rice and mango chutney.

Chips…

As in English chips — thick, chunky bits of potato deep fried in vegetable oil — also known around the world as French Fries. They’re not healthy, but they are vegan.

Pasta con broccoli

Traditionally served with orecchiette (ears)

Eaten across northern Italy, this is a really quick and tasty dish that I eat pretty much every week in the winter.

The trick is to parboil the broccoli florets in the pasta cooking pan and then pull them out with a slotted spoon so that the pasta gets all that broccoli flavour, then simmer the stems with a bit of garlic and chilli in another pan while the pasta cooks. You want it to have a sauce-like consistency so prod the broccoli stems until they go soft and add a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking water towards the end.

Ratatouille

You will need these.

French country classic, best made in the summer when tomatoes, peppers and courgettes are at their best, but also works in the winter with a can of tomatoes. Some versions include: potatoes, fennel, onions, garlic, chilli, parsley, aubergines, basil…

Just put everything in a saucepan and simmer slowly with a few tablespoons of olive oil until all is tender — around 1 hour.

Anything with za’atar sprinkled over..

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern seasoning made from sesame seeds, sumac and thyme. Sprinkle or spread it over grilled aubergine slices, roast potatoes, toasted bread, or whatever you fancy.

Panzanella (Tuscan bread and tomato salad)

It tastes great, honestly.

This is awesome, especially in the height of summer when tomatoes are at their best. It may take a little time to prepare, but it’s totally worth it. Recipe here. Leave out the anchovies in to make it vegan — obviously…

Desserts

Nut brittle

How can nuts coated in sugar not be tasty? Spread your nuts out on a sheet of baking paper on a tray. Pour over melted sugar — you’ll need to heat it very slowly in a heavy-bottomed pan. Do not stir it! Once the sugar has liquified pour carefully over the nuts. Break it into pieces once it’s gone hard.

Baked apples stuffed with raisins and spices

You’ll need one of those coring things to get the middle out of the apple. If you don’t have one just bake the apple whole. Stuff the cavity with a blend of raisins, sugar and spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger are nice.

Watermelon ‘agua’

If you don’t remove the pips you’ll spend half an hour trying to sieve out the pip pieces then end up drinking the juice lumpy...

Refreshing on a hot day and common across South America, this drink is made by blending watermelon flesh, thinning slightly with water, then seasoning with a squeeze of lime juice.

The effort of removing the pips before you blend up the watermelon flesh is worth it I promise.

Sorbet

Especially passion fruit flavour or lime and mint flavour — tastes like mojitos! You can make a cheats sorbet by freezing fresh fruit such as apricots, strawberries or mango pieces and then blending them up in your food processor. Eat quickly.

Really dark chocolate

Apparently a lot of dark chocolates are ‘accidentally vegan’ meaning that they are produced without dairy, whey or casein. These types of chocolate usually contain more cocoa making them extra tasty. It’s a win all round.


I hope this has inspired you to invite your vegan friends round for dinner, or maybe eat a bit more vegan food yourself — it’s good for the planet after all.

Please let me know if there is any vegan deliciousness I’m currently missing out on.