Saturday 22 February 2014

One day a week vegan - comfort food 1 - Nostalgia

Mention the words 'comfort food' to me and two things spring to mind, mashed potatoes and rice pudding. Both ultimate nursery food with lots of nostalgic memories. 

These are my vegan take on those comfort foods. They are just as creamy and comforting but without all the full fat milk and butter. This is a pretty carbohydrate heavy menu, so not one for every day, unless your days are very active. But every so often it's good to indulge in at least one comfort food meal. 


Vegetable hotpot with creamy mustard mashed potatoes  and balsamic beetroot. 

I don't have mashed potatoes very often but when I do, I love to make them with lots of good olive oil and grainy Dijon mustard or with the centre of softly cooked garlic cloves squeezed into them. Both make the ultimate mashed potatoes. I like to serve them with wholesome seasonal vegetable casseroles like this one:

Ingredients for the vegetabel hot pot:
  • One medium red onion, finely sliced
  • A clove of garlic or two, crushed
  • A small pieces of fresh ginger, grated
  • One or two sticks of celery
  • One head of broccoli, chopped up into small florets
  • One large parsnip, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • Three large carrots, grated
  • One green apple, grated
  • Olive oil and sea salt
  • A little ground turmeric
  • One and a half pints of hot vegetable stock, there's a good recipe here, alternatively use hot water.
  1. Pour a little olive oil into a heavy based pan, heat up and add the onions. Cook until caramelised. 
  2. Add the garlic and turmeric and cook out for a couple of minutes, stirring well to avoid burning.
  3. Add the other vegetables, stir allowing them to absorb all the flavours of the onion, garlic and spice. 
  4. Pour in the hot stock or water, stir, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat, cover with a lid and leave to cook until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Check the seasoning and add salt if necessary. 
  6. Remove the lid and allow the liquid to reduce if it seems too soupy.
Pickled beetroot:
  • One raw beetroot per person, small ones will cook more quickly
  • Sea salt
  • Balsamic or malt vinegar 
  • Wash the beetroots very well and then place in a pan of cold water ensuring that it covers the beetroots. Season with a little salt. 
  • Place on the hob and bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and allow to cook for about half to an hour or longer, depending on the size, until tender. 
  • When cooked remove from the heat and drain. Allow to cool and then remove the skin and slice.
  • Place in a jar or bowl and cover with balsamic vinegar. 
These will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks as long as they are covered with the vinegar.

Ingredients for the mash:
  • One medium potato per person and one for the pot. Choose a variety like King Edwards that mash well. 
  • Olive oil
  • Grainy Dijon mustard (or mustard of choice)
  • Sea salt

  1. Wash, peel and cube the potatoes into small pieces. The smaller they are the faster they will cook, and save energy.
  2. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Don't fill the the pan too full, just ensure they are well covered. 
  3. Add sea salt. B ring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until tender. This should take about fifteen minutes or so. Check every so often to ensure the water doesn't dry out.
  4. When tender if pricked with a skewer or fork remove from the heat and drain in colander or sieve. 
  5. Return to the pan and add a good drizzle of olive oil and heaped spoonful of grainy mustard. Beat really well until smooth and creamy, adding more olive oil if necessary.
  6. Check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary. 


Coconut milk aborio rice pudding with poached cinnamon and cardamom pears.

I could have used any dairy alternative for the pudding such as rice or almond milk but decided to use creamy coconut milk and it was delicious. Served with poached cinnamon and cardamom pears because they remind me of the tinned pears that mum used to let us eat if we had a temperature and couldn't face cooked food. The cold soft pears were cooling and easy to eat. I serve these ones warm.

Mum's rice pudding would be baked in an earthenware dish in the oven for ages until a thick crunchy crust formed. My sisters and I hated that bit and wanted the creamy pudding hiding underneath. Mum loved that crunchy topping and would always amaze us that she considered it a treat...the more crunchy and burnt, the more she loved it. 

I cooked it on the hob for a speedier result. 

  • One can of coconut milk plus one cup of water
  • One cup of arborio or pudding rice
  • Maple syrup or alternative to sweeten
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • A piece of cinnamon stick or a little ground cinnamon
  • The seeds of two cardamom pods
  • The seeds of a vanilla pod or a little vanilla extract
I usually make rice pudding with pudding rice but didn't have any in the house so used aborio rice instead. The resulting pudding was amazingly creamy and unctuous. I think that from now on I won't bother to buy separate pudding rice. 

  1. Simply put all the ingredients into a saucepan. 
  2. Place on the hob bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is tender. Check every so often to make sure that it doesn't burn. 
  3. Taste and adjust the flavouring if necessary then serve with the poached pears. 
I used thick creamy coconut milk not a low fat version for this comforting pudding. 

Poached cinnamon and cardamom pears.

You can link to the recipe here. For my vegan version I omitted the honey using maple syrup to sweeten the sauce. You could sugar or any other sweetener of choice. 


This all seems like a lot of food for one day so a light lunch would be good, something like this clear spinach, butter bean and sweet potato soup. Omitting the parmesan rind and of course using vegetable stock or hot water. It's just as comforting as a rich creamy one. 

Ingredients for four people:

  • Two pints of vegetable stock
  • A large handful of dried butter beans, soaked as long as possible in hot water, or one can of ready cooked beans
  • A couple of handfuls of roughly chopped baby spinach leaves
  • One medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
  • Two sticks of celery, sliced finely
  • Two small potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
  • Sea salt and crushed black pepper to season


Simply place all the vegetables plus the drained dried beans into a heavy saucepan and cook until everything is tender. About thirty to forty minutes. 


Childhood breakfast was almost always porridge on week days. Made the Scottish way with water and a pinch of salt. We would eat it hot with cold milk tricked on top and a big spoonful of Tate and Lyles golden syrup or brown sugar. Eeek...It sounds much too sweet now. I think it was only the syrup that made us eat the porridge. My comfort vegan version would be made in the same way and served with a trickle of fudgy maple syrup.

Alternatively, my homemade spelt loaf makes amazing comforting sandwiches. You can link to the recipe here

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches  Either make your own peanut butter You just whizz up in a food processor peeled, skinned then roasted nuts till smooth or crunchy, depending what you like best. You can add a little oil, peanut or other and maple syrup to taste along with a dash of sea salt. Or you can get good shop bought ones. I love this one which has no added sugar. This is a really substantial breakfast packed with second class protein from the peanuts. 

I hope that you enjoy at least some of the elements of this vegan comfort food menu. 


  1. I think I could eat a whole pot of rice pudding all by myself, I adore it. That being said I never make it because I am the only one in the home who will eat it and as I've already said, I really could eat it all.
    My mom is a big fan of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, she also likes to eat egg and olive sandwiches.

    1. Oh me too Tracey. I can well see where the danger lies. That's exactly why I rarely make that makes it, so it's even more of a treat when I do. I like peanut butter, banana sandwiches with honey as well and Hannah likes what she calls her snickers sandwich with peanut butter, honey and chocolate spread. I haven't tried eggs with olive oil but I'll give a go next time. It sounds a little bit like something out of Dr Seuss.

    2. Although a fried egg in olive oil is wonderful and do try it, my Mom eats boiled eggs mashed with chopped green olives and a little mayo. I have never had the nerve to try it , but she loves it.

    3. Oh I misread your mum's sandwich as, egg and olive oil. I thought it was unusual...I should have put my glasses on when I was reading, (and writing judging by my gobbledygook answer.) Now egg with olives and mayo, sounds even better.
      Thanks for explaining Tracey,