plant based, vegan

Can’t face Veganuary? How about Meat Free-Monday?

A friend asked me to write something about eating less meat/being vegan a few of years ago and as it’s Veganuary I thought I’d share it

It’s that time of year again– “New Year, New You” time, where everywhere you look someone seems to be trying to convince you that you need to make a change to your life. Some of these changes are short term, like Dry January, and some are aimed at longer term goals, such as getting you to sign up to a 12-month contract at your local gym – a relationship that will almost certainly be over by Valentine’s Day. One campaign that falls somewhere in the middle, however, is Veganuary , which aims to get people to go vegan for a month but hopes that they will stick with a plant-based diet long-term.  The problem with all New Year’s resolutions, though, is that they almost inevitably end in failure and one of the main reasons is that they can just seem so bloomin’ overwhelming! It’s easy to avoid this though, by making small, manageable changes instead of overhauling your entire life in one fell swoop – which is where Meat Free Monday comes in.

As the name suggests, Meat Free Monday is about reducing your meat consumption by having at least one meat free day a week. Why on earth would I want to go meat free, I hear you cry? Well, there are lots of reasons. The obvious answer is animal welfare, but when I say it’s the obvious answer, I mean it’s really obvious so I’m not going to go into that here. So, what are the other reasons?

Well, firstly, it’s better for the planet – in fact, studies have shown that reducing your consumption of animal products is the most effective way to reduce your impact on the environment – far better than ditching your car!

Secondly, it’s better for your health – vegetarian and vegan diets have been proven to lower cholesterol which can, in turn, lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  A well-planned plant-based diet can also significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Finally – it can save you money! You may have heard that eating vegan is more expensive but, while it is certainly true that some meat substitutes can cost more than the cheapest meat version, they often fall somewhere in the middle of the price range. Though you don’t need to eat meat substitutes or any special ingredients at all! For example, you can make a great vegan curry by subbing the meat for a can of green lentils, which costs about 50p, or just use extra beans instead of minced beef for a chilli “non-carne”.

So now you might be wondering if there sre there any convincing reasons not to try going meat-free for one day a week? By far the most common reason I hear is that it’s too hard. That might have been the case in the past, but in the last few years it has become so much easier to eat vegan that it’s not difficult at all! To prove it, here are some ideas for some cheap and easy meals to help you plan a meat free day :


  • Peanut butter on toast (if you follow a gluten free diet, check your bread ingredients for egg).
  • Your favourite cereal with plant milk or fruit juice.
  • Overnight oats – there are lots of recipes available online, but this is my favourite – it’s like having chocolate pudding for breakfast!
    • 3 tbsp porridge oats (about 30g)
    • 80ml unsweetened soya milk
    • Half a ripe banana (about 70g)
    • 1tsp cocoa powder
    • 1tsp peanut butter
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Place the oats in a bowl, along with the soya milk, cover, and pop the bowl into the fridge overnight

In the morning, add the cocoa powder, peanut butter and banana to the bowl and mash with a fork.

This should be sweet enough but if your banana isn’t ripe you can add a little agave or maple syrup to sweeten.  Enjoy!


  • Houmous sandwich with grated carrot, peppers and salad leaves
  • Jacket potato with vegetable chilli
  • Chickpea Casserole – this is VERY easy to make! You need
    • 1 can of chickpeas
    • 1 can of ratatouille

Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Put the chickpeas and ratatouille in a pan and heat through.

That’s it – you’re done!


  • Vegetable fajitas with vegan yoghurt, salsa and guacamole.
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and vegan meatballs. (Avoid fresh pasta as it usually contains egg).
  • Cottage pie. You can buy a ready made one but it’s easy to make. You’ll need –
  • 1 pack of frozen vegan mince (454g)
    • 1 onion, diced
    • ½ cup frozen peas
    • ½ cup frozen peas
    • 750g peeled chopped potatoes
    • Instant vegetarian gravy – check the labels in your cupboard before you buy some. Some well known instant gravy brands are already vegan.
    • 1tsp vegetable oil.
    • 100ml soya milk
    • 1 tsp vegan spread
    • Nutritional yeast (optional)
    • Salt and pepper.

This will serve 4 and I make mine in an 8” by 6” Pyrex dish.

Pre heat your oven to gas mark 7 / 220° C (200° C for fan ovens)

First, bring the potatoes to boil then reduce heat and leave to simmer.

Whilst they are cooking, heat 1tsp of oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add the mince and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the peas and sweetcorn and cook for another 2/3 minutes

Make up about 300ml of gravy, following manufacturer’s instructions.

Take mince off the heat and put to one side.

After checking the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and transfer back to the saucepan. Add the soya milk and vegan spread and mash the potatoes until smooth. You can also add the nutritional yeast at this point. It adds a slightly cheesy flavour and is a good vegan source of vitamin B12 but if you don’t want to buy any special vegan ingredients it’s fine to leave it out.  Season to taste.

Transfer the mince to the oven dish.

Pour the gravy evenly over the mince and mix with a fork if necessary.

Spread the mash evenly over the top of the mince, ensuring that it reaches the edges of the dish.

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Heat the cottage pie in the middle of the oven until the mash browns slightly (if you use a glass dish look for the gravy bubbling).

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Hopefully, these suggestions show that it really is a piece of cake to eat vegan for a day, and there are plenty of other ways too. You could add a couple of Quorn or Linda McCartney products to your trolley and not notice a difference in flavour or the price of your weekly shop, and if you want to eat out there is more choice than ever. Starbucks and Costa both have a choice of plant milks for you experiment with, as well as a growing selection of vegan food options. All the major high street restaurant chains have vegan options and many even have entire vegan menus. Veganuary is a great time to try them out too, as there are a lot of special offers around to tempt you through the doors. Even Greggs are getting in on it, by releasing their vegan sausage roll this week in a flurry of publicity*. So, I guess the only question left when it comes to eating less meat is – what’s stopping you?

*Obviously, this is out of date now but Greggs are still releasing new vegan products, and there is more choice in shops and restaurants than ever. I even saw this week that Wagamama are bringing out their version of vegan fish and chips!

baking, Cakes, plant based, vegan

Never make a birthday cake in a heatwave!

It was my husband’s 40th birthday last week so I said I’d make him a cake. I wasn’t anticipating the relentless heatwave we’ve been having here in the UK so it all went a bit wrong. After a minor breakdown, I managed to rescue it and posted pics of the finished product online where it got 1000+ likes and loads of requests for the recipe, so here it is! To be honest, in keeping with my other “recipes” , it’s really just assembly instructions as I do everything the easy way. There is a bit of baking involved though – that’s unavoidable, I’m afraid!

Top tip!

You will probably need to start baking this a couple of days before you want to eat it!

Step one :

Bake the cakes! I used this recipe but you can use your own. Instead of splitting this recipe between two 8″ cake tins, I put it all in to one 9″ inch tin and baked for about 35 mins (until a skewer comes out clean). For this cake I made 3 layers – which makes for a big cake! From here on I will refer to the quantities I used for this 3 layer, 9″ cake, which can be adjusted for your particular requirements. After the cakes have cooled on a rack, wrap them individually in cling film and refrigerate. I left mine in the fridge overnight.

Step two:

Stack the layers (on a cake board). The first thing you’ll need to do is trim the tops off them – a sharp bread knife will do the job well. I used Betty Crocker Vanilla Buttercream and Hartleys Black Cherry Jam – I covered the sponge first with buttercream then jam. It’s easier to spoon the jam on then spread it around gently with the back of the spoon to avoid mixing the buttercream and jam up too much (I popped the cake back into the fridge between layers but that was just due to the heatwave making the buttercream melt -you won’t usually need to do this!).

Try not to have them spilling out of the sides as this will get in the way later, though you can scrape off any excess with a palette knife. Once you’ve sandwiched all the layers together, pop it back in the fridge until the buttercream has hardened a bit.

Step three :

Next you need to apply the crumb coat. This is just a thin layer of buttercream that traps all the loose crumbs, helping you get a good finish on your cake. I don’t have a photo of this stage I’m afraid, but the linked video tells you everything you need to know.

Step four :

The next stage is where it all went wrong and I nearly threw the whole thing in the bin – covering the cake with chocolate fondant! As you can see, it was impossible to do this bit properly as it was so hot the fondant fell apart every time I lifted it up. I had to stick it on in several pieces and try to blend the edges together with my fingers. As I was doing this, the buttercream inside had melted so much that the middle layer, which had a small crack in it, broke in half completely, with one of the halves trying to make a break for it and causing a bulge in one side. I tried to squish it back into shape then put it back in the fridge in the hope that the shape would set while I thought of a way to rescue the cake. If you want to see how to do it properly, there’s a video here.

Step five:

So, I rummaged in my cupboards to see what I had to rescue the cake with. I found partial pots of the frostings I’d used so far, an icing comb, a cake turntable/lazy susan and a 3 colour piping set, and a plan formed! I spread some of the chocolate fudge icing around the sides of the cake with a palette knife, smoothing any of the rough edges along the top edge over on to the top of the cake (they’ll be hidden later). I then used the icing comb and the turntable to create the lines around the sides. Once I was happy with those, I put the cake back in the fridge while assessed what I had left.

Step six:

I had roughly equal amounts of the chocolate and vanilla left so I filled one icing bag with chocolate, one with vanilla and one with half of each. I assembled the 3 colour piping bag using the star nozzle, and piped “blobs” all around the top and the base of the cake. I flipped the bag over between each blob to get the alternating colour effect you can see in the photos. Then – you’ve guessed it! Back to the fridge!


Step seven:

It now looked a million times better than it had at the fondant stage but it still needed a bit of something extra to make it special enough for a special birthday. Luckily, I love a biccie so I had a pack of Birthday Party Oreos in the cupboard, and I have a cupcake loving 5 year old so I also have an impressive stash of vegan sprinkles. I stuck them both on the cake and lo, and behold! The finished article!

So, hopefully, this is proof that anyone can make a decent looking cake, even under conditions that are less than ideal! This is only my third cake so if I can do it, any one can! Please don’t be put off by the specialist equipment I have used. I only have it as I inherited it when my mum (who made AMAZING cakes) passed away last year. There are ways around most of it, though if you want to achieve the same effects, you can get most of bits you need quite cheaply online.

If you have any question, please get in touch. In the meantime

Happy Baking!

baking, Cakes, plant based, vegan

Vegan Christmas

In case you didn’t know – Veganuary is just around the corner! We’re all vegan already but it’s always a good time of year for vegans and veggies as there are lots of great recipes and special offers to be found, as well as some great advice for people just starting their vegan journey. This year, I’m planning on making more food from scratch (I say that every year but as I’m “kept woman” nowadays, I have no excuse this year!) but that’s not always possible so I’m going to share our Xmas menu and hopefully show that you can be vegan AND lazy!
First thing to think about ( for me, anyway) is nibbles! There are some ready made mince pies available but as I had my little one at home because of the school holidays we decided to make our own – the easy way – using ready rolled pastry (I actually didn’t even know that was a thing!) and a jar of ready made mincemeat. MiniMe loved it as she got to play with the pastry cutters and icing sugar and I got to control the amount of mincemeat (not a huge fan) so it was a win-win!

Next up were the gingerbread men. Now, we did make them from scratch but the recipe is very easy (and can be found in this book). We did cheat a little with the icing as we bought a tube, but I have no idea how to make vegan icing that’s suitable for decorating gingerbread men, so any tips would be most welcome!

Christmas isn’t complete without a bit of chocolate and what better form than a yule log? I wasn’t sure that my usual vegan sponge recipe would be flexible enough to make into a swiss roll so we haven’t had one since MiniMe’s allergies were diagnosed. Luckily I stumbled upon (i.e, stole!) a genius idea and manged to cobble this together.

It’s made by sticking eight chocolate cupcakes together with chocolate frosting (with a ninth stuck onto the side) then covering the whole thing with what’s left of the frosting. A sprinkle of icing sugar (I actually used this) and a plastic robin and you’re done!
For our Christmas dinner, I handed the kitchen over to my husband, and he did a fabulous job! We started with some cheezly and cranberry bites, then we had a Vbites Celebration Roast with lots of veggies  (including scrummy roast parsnips) and roast potatoes.

We were all a bit full by this point but after a little break we managed a bit of vegan trifle for pudding (recipe can be found on a previous post).

We could barely eating another thing after that so we had slice of yule log for afternoon tea and then gave our tummies a rest! Only until Boxing Day, obviously, when we had more delicious food, but I’ll save that for my next post! For now, I’ll just wish you a Happy and Healthy 2018 and hope that you give Veganuary a try – you won’t regret it!