It has been a soggy, cold January week in London – we even had a bit of snow! Which means I have been cooking warm and comforting dinners – with the odd take out falafel on quiz night of course. Through the winter I often rotate and perfect the same 10-15 meal ideas and thought I would share some of my easiest and tastiest. My intentions in sharing these recipes is to put out a weeks worth of simple meals that can be made at the end of a long day and will often will leave leftovers for lunch the next day. Being overly ambitious when planning weekday dinners for me, often winds up with stress and then greasy take out. Cooking for yourself through the week is a great way to save some money and to eat a little healthier.
So here are a few of my current favourites:
MONDAY – Spaghetti with lentil balls
Growing up spaghetti was one of my absolute favourite dinners. This version is simple and healthy without tasting like it.
- 1 package of spaghetti (however much you will eat, no judgment)
- 1 -2 jars of tomato sauce – almost all are vegan, I tend to go for a tomato and basil flavour. Depends how saucy you like it
- 1/2 onion
- about 5 – 8 mushrooms
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup red lentils (dry) – you can use other types of lentils but you may need to add more or less oats as the textures are different
- 1 veg broth cube – I like the Kallo ones
- 1 tsp mustard – I use dijon, any will do
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 cup blended oats – I pulse them in a normal blender until they reach a grainy flour texture
- 1 table spoon flax (optional)
- 1 tsp miso, dissolved in 1 tbsp water (optional)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional but so good)
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 150 C
- Put the lentils in a pot with 2.5 cups of cold water and a stock cube, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let them simmer for 20 minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- While your lentils are cooking, pulse your oats in a blender. It doesn’t need to be flour texture but the larger the bits, the grainier the texture of the balls will be. I use a normal blender and it does fine. Remove the oats and set them aside.
- Add cooled lentils(undrained), garlic, mustard, tomato paste and flax into the blender and blend that up. If you have miso paste to hand I would mix it in with a splash of warm water first and put that in there as well. Not necessary but adds a nice flavour.
- Scoop the lentil mixture into a large bowl and mix in the oats, nutritional yeast, basil, salt and pepper. This should make a somewhat sticky mixture but it should also be firm enough to roll into balls. Taste the mix, everyones preferences are different add more salt, pepper, garlic or whatever you’re into. Roll them into balls and place them on a sheet of parchment on a baking tray. Pop it in the oven for 25 minutes.
- I try not to add oil unless really needed, so I put about 1 tbsp of water in a pan and add the chopped onion, cook on low until the onion is soft and a bit clear. About 4 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms and let them cook for 2 minutes. Add the sauce with just long enough to warm up.
- While the sauce is warming up cook your pasta according to the package.
Thats it! Throw it all into a bowl and sprinkle some extra nooch on there because why wouldn’t you. This makes about 9 balls, and 3 is plenty for a decent size meal.
TUESDAY – Mexi Bowl
Maybe the easiest of the 5. I know refried beans look like cat food but I promise it’s delicious.
- 1 cup rice or however much you would eat. I like basmati but you do you.
- 1 tin refried beans (Tesco has their own brand but the Old el Paso ones are the best)
- 2 orange, red or yellow peppers
- 1/2 onion
- 1 package mushrooms (maybe 10ish)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp chili powder, more or less depending on how spicy you like it
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 avocado
- 1 small head lettuce or bag of greens
- lime juice 1/2 a juicy limes worth
- hot sauce (optional)
- salt and pepper
- Get your rice going and cook it according to the package. Try not to let it stick to the bottom of pan, cause thats no fun.
- Cut all your veggies into strips.
- Add onions with 1 tbsp water to a fry pan, cook for a few minutes until soft. Add garlic, mushrooms and peppers. Add chili powder and cumin. Cook about 5 minutes until veggies are just soft.
- Heat the beans up either on the stove or in the microwave.
- Smash up avocado with a fork, squeeze in lime juice, add salt and pepper to taste
- Cooked rice goes on the bottom of the bowl, then just pile it up. Shred some lettuce and put it around the sides with the avo on top and give it an extra squeeze of lime juice.
This makes dinner for 2. Sadly no leftovers.
WEDNESDAY – Linguine with cream sauce and mushroom bacon
This basic cream sauce can be modified into whatever you need it to be. Add some sun-dried tomatoes, it’s a rosé. Add some pesto, it’s… well creamy pesto. Also because the main ingredient is tofu, this dish is unexpectedly satisfying and will keep you feeling full.
- linguine or fettuccine noodles
- 1 package tofu – I use Cauldron, cheapest I’ve found it is from Tesco
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup water
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup nooch
- 1/2 onion (optional)
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 package mushrooms
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- free from pesto – Tesco and Sainsbury’s both have one (optional)
Preheat oven to 160C
- Drain tofu block and break it up into bits and put in the blender. Add garlic, lemon juice and just enough water to blend. For my blender thats about 1/2 cup. Blend, taste and add salt, pepper or more garlic. Set aside.
- Slice mushrooms and toss in olive oil. Add salt and paprika. I have made the mistake of adding too much salt before and it leeches all the water out of the mushrooms and they wont crisp up so be aware of that. Lay evenly on a tin foil lined baking tray. Put them in the oven. Check on these every 5 minutes for the first 10-15 minutes and then every 2 minutes. I have been burned by not checking before : | Remove from oven and let cool. They are ready to come out when they are brown and a little crispy but they do harden up a bit once cooled. Even if you are like me and can’t get the texture right the first few times, they still add that perfect bit of smoky saltiness.
- While the mushrooms are in the oven, slice the onion into strips and fry in a bit of water until soft. Add sauce from the blender and warm that up slowly.
- Cook your pasta according to instructions. Once cooked, toss it together with the sauce. Sprinkle mushrooms on top. I like to add a little spoon of pesto on top to be fancy.
This serves 2 – 4 depending on how much pasta you cook. Serve it with some greens on the side if you want to be healthy.
THURSDAY – Lentil and spinach curry on rice
I crave this curry when I have gone too long without eating anything healthy. I can pack in so much spinach without any overwhelming flavour, just creamy goodness.
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 cup rice
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tin coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 6 cups spinach – I use about 3/4 of a bag
- 1 small onion
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp garam marsala
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 inch chunk of ginger – chopped
- chili flakes or hot sauce to taste
- mango chutney (optional)
- salt and pepper
- Mince onion and add it with 1 tbsp water to a pan. Cook about 3 minutes. Add minced ginger and garlic, cook another minute. Add spices and let them heat up for a minute or 2. Pour in chopped tomatoes and let them cook for about 5 minutes on medium. Stir in coconut milk and water, bring to a boil. Add lentils and simmer, on low, stirring often for 20 minutes.
- Cook rice as usual .
- Chop spinach.
- Add spinach after 20 minutes of cooking time and let simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce if you want some heat.
- I think it’s nice with a bit of mango chutney on top.
This makes enough for 2 for dinner and at least 1 lunch. I would just make fresh rice for the next day if possible.
FRIDAY – Chili with baked potato
Chili is always a good call. Make a huge pot when friends are over. Or just make it to eat for a week, it only gets better with time. This is a simple version, add any and all veggies you like.
Preheat oven to 150C
- large baking potatoes – one for each person
- 2 cans chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp chili powder, or more if you like it spicier
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 large carrots
- 1 onion
- 1 stock cube
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 2 cans mixed beans – drained and rinsed.
- salt and pepper to taste
- Wrap your potatoes individually in foil and put in the oven.
- Add chopped onions into a large pot with a tablespoon of water over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until soft. Add chopped carrots, mushrooms and garlic. Cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the 2 cans of tomatoes and 2 extra cans of water, as well as the stock cube. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to simmer and leave the lid off. Cook for 30 minutes stirring once in a while so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- Drain and rinse the beans and add those into the pot. Add the chili powder, oregano, paprika and cumin. If you have an open bottle of red wine, splash a little of that into the pot. Let simmer for 20 more minutes or until most of the liquid has cooked off. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Your potatoes should be ready to go. You may want to slice the potato and let it cool for a bit before adding the chili on top. I like to put a blob of plain coconut yogurt on top to take some of the heat.
This makes enough for 2 large dinner portions and at least 1 lunch. You can adjust the heat levels by adding hot sauce or chili flakes.
I normally don’t measure things while I cook so I have had to estimate a few things. I feel like cooking becomes much more enjoyable when you start tasting and experimenting, therefore flavouring dishes to your own tastes.
I hope these recipes will encourage vegans and veg curious to try something new and to perhaps ease the stress of trying to sort dinner after a busy day. Please let me know if you make any of the dishes and how it goes!