Fried Cauliflower and Broccoli with Cashew “Cheese” Sauce

Last year I went to Vegfest London. I was expecting a spectacular selection of meat free foods but instead I was presented with a vast array of meat and cheese substitutes. I tried a sample from one of the cheese shops. Quite possibly the most vile thing I have ever tasted and the taste lingered in my mouth. Yuk Yuk Yuk!

So when I saw Lee Watson‘s Creamy Cashew Cheese Sauce I wanted to see if a vegan cheese existed that could knock my socks off. To be honest I’m now 25 days into Veganuary and haven’t missed cheese at all. Veganuary has been an eye opener, trying so many new ideas and ingredients. I’m loving it. This cheese sauce is amazing.

So here is a vegetarian classic caulflower cheese with a few twists. This made enough for 2 with enough left for snacking on before bedtime or for a packed lunch at work tomorrow for one.

For the sauce:
100-120g raw cashews – soaked for a few hours or preferably overnight in the fridge
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a big pinch of turmeric (watch out as it will stain your fingers and everything you touch)
1 teaspoon English mustard
approx 200-240ml dairy free milk – I used Soya. Almond would be good too

Check everything in the food processor except the milk. Switch on then slowly add the milk until you have a smooth, thickish, creamy sauce. If you need more liquid top it up with water.

For the rest:
Half a head of cauliflower – chopped into florets a size that you like
half a head of broccoli – same as above
1 leek – cut in half lengthwise then sliced finely
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh Basil leaves – finely shredded
1 heaped teaspoon paprika powder
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan then add the cauliflower, broccoli and leeks. Fry over a medium heat until the cauliflower is browned. This adds tons of flavour that you just don’t get if you boil it. Now add a splash of water, cover and leave to steam for about 5 minutes until everything is just tender.

Put into an oven dish the pour the sauce over. Mix the breadcrumbs, basil and paprika in a bowl with a little salt and pepper, then spread over the vegetables. Drizzle with a little olive oil then bake in the oven at 200C until the crumbs are brown and crispy.



Mushroom & Rice Burgers with Raw Cashew Hummus

I had some leftover rice from a black bean and sweet potato chilli party last week and, as vegans have a bit of a reputation for burger eating, I decided to use them as the base for a Sunday night tea of burgers, salad and baked potatoes. Usually I would be adding cheese and an egg to my burger mix, but participating in #veganuary has taught me that it just isn’t needed and does little to ass to flavour or texture.

The raw cashew hummus is from Lee Watson’s brilliant book Parsnips and Peace and works brilliantly with the jacket spuds as an alternative to the rather unpleasant dairy-free margarines on the market. I just left out the cumin as not sure that would have worked with the burgers.

This makes 4 burgers

For the burgers
1 cup cooked rice
1x400g tin of cannelini beans – drained. You could use butter beans or chick peas if you prefer
3 shallots – finely chopped
1 fat clove garlic – finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms – finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for frying the burgers
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Marmite
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons tahini
1 large handful of spinach – chopped

Heat the oil in a small pan. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently until translucent. Now add the mushrooms, soy and Marmite. Cook on a medium to high heat until the mushrooms are soft and the pan is almost dry. Leave to cool.

Put the drained beans in a large mixing bowl and mash roughly with a potato masher or fork. Add the rice, tahini, oregano, spinach and mushroom mixture. Mix well.

Take a large frying pan, drizzle with oil and place over a medium heat. Take a large handful of the burger mixture, shape into a ball. Place in the pan and squidge it down to resemble a burger. You may need to shape it a little with your spatula. Do this for the other three burgers if your pan is large enough, or fry in batches and keep warm in the oven. These are quite fragile so best to disturb them as little as possible. Leave to cook on one side for around 10 minutes, then gently lift and turn, and fry for further 10 minutes. Again you may have to push them back into shape if they fall apart a little.

Once done, lift and plate up with a white cabbage and fennel slaw and a hot jacket potato crammed full of the cashew hummus.

For the Hummus
250g cashews (not the roasted salted ones) – soaked in water for 3-4 hours
3 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic
100ml olive oil
juice of half a lemon
a little water

Drain the cashews then put everything in the food processor. Blitz until smooth and creamy, adding a little water if needed to loosen it up. Make sure you scrape down the sides between blitzing to remove all the lumpy bits..


Sunday Lunch

When I first gave up eating meat on New Year’s Day 1986, standard vegetarian fayre was a nut roast – or if you were eating alone, a nut cutlet. Over the past 20 years or so vegetarian food has come a long way with books such as SImon Hopkinson’s wonderful Vegetarian Option or Terre a Terre’s new book but sometimes, particularly after a long cold weekend when Spurs could only manage a draw away at Birmingham, a nut roast with gravy and all the trimmings does just the trick.

This one was a little experimental, made with items from the bottom of the fridge that had started to look a little beyond their best.

I fried a chopped onion, a grated carrot and 2 grated courgettes in a little sunflower oil. Sometime it’s nice to add a grated apple too but I didn’t have one. Then added finely chopped mushrooms and a dash of soy sauce. After about 20 minutes of cooking most of the liquid should have gone. If not, cook a little longer. The mixture needs to be fairly dryish.

Allow to cool then mix in about 200g of chopped nuts. You can use anything here. I had about 100g cashews, and 50g each of pine nuts and hazelnuts in the cupboard. Take 2-3 slices of white bread and whiz into breadcrumbs in a blender/processor. Add this to the mixture with salt, pepper and an egg. Mix well then put into a prepared 1lb loaf tin, cover with foil and bake at 200C for an hour or so. Remove the foil and return to oven for another 10-15 minutes until browned on top. Then remove from oven, leave for 5 minutes before turning out.

Slice and serve with roast potatoes, beetroot and turnips (yes I had some turnips), something green and gravy. I had some brussel sprouts from the allotment and some runner beans I had perpared and frozen at the end of the Summer.

Left over roast can be sliced and put cold into sandwiches (great with Branston pickle) or fried into nut burgers


OK, so not the prettiest photos in the world. I served it up then realised I should take a few snaps. These dishes were delicious. On the plate you can just about make out pilau rice with peas and cashews, paneer in a creamy tomato sauceand spinach with potato. The recipes below should feed about 6 people


Pilau Rice with Peas and Cashews
3-4 cups basmati rice
½ stick of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
3 cardamom pods
salt to taste
2 cups of peas
50g cashews
sunflower oil – about 2 tablespoons

Wash the rice in several changes of water, then leave to soak.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the cashews until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon. Return the pan with the oil to the heat and add the cardamom, bay and cinnamon. Fry for a few seconds, then drain the rice and add to the pan. Stir so the rice is coated in the oil, then add enough water to sit about 1cm above the top of the rice. Add the peas and some salt then bring to the boil. Once the rice starts being absorbed and peaks begin to form, place a lid over the pan and switch off the heat. Leave for about 20 minutes. Just before serving, fluff the rice up and mix in the cashews.

Paneer in a Creamy Tomato Sauce
200g paneer – cubed
1 onion – chopped
1cm piece of ginger – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
4-5 tomatoes – skinned and finely chopped
4 black peppercorns and 3 cardamom pods (husks removed) – crushed in pestle and mortar
150ml single cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
cayenne pepper – the amount depends on how hot you like it
sunflower oil
smallish handful of coriander – chopped

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry until the edges start to brown then add the garlic, ginger, garam masala and crushed spices. Stir briefly, then add the tomatoes and salt and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in the cream and paneer. Warm through before serving, topped with chopped coriander.

Spinach with Potatoes
8 or so smallish waxy salad potatoes (I used one from the allotment – nicola or charlotte – I forgot to label them)
250g spinach
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 onion – finely chopped
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt

Scrub the potatoes then boil for 10 minutes or so until almost done. Drain, remove skins, cut into 1cm dice and leave to cool.

Wash the spinach and place in a pan with the water still clinging to the leaves. Cover and heat until wilted. Squeeze out as much water as you can and chop.

Heat the oil then add the mustard seeds. When the seeds sizzle add the onion and garlic and fry until the edges begin to brown. Now add the chopped spinach and stir for 5-10 minutes until nicely cooked. Now add the potatoes, salt and garam masala. Heat for a further 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.