Saturday, 7 July 2012

One Day A Week Vegan with an Italian Influence - Including Not Quite Lady-of-the-night Spaghetti and Almond Fig Tarts

This weeks vegan day had an unintentional Italian theme. It all began with the tomatoes in the market. Big red juicy ones. Too nice to be the supporting act...They shouted out to be the star of the show.  Something big and blousey like Pasta Puttanesca...Lady of The Night Pasta or as Delia refers to it 'Tarts Pasta.'  The Neapolitan version sans anchovies or Parmesan. 


To make Neapolitan Pasta Puttanesca for two people you will need:

  • Two portions of fresh or dry egg free pasta. There's a recipe you can link to here.
  • Four to six large tomatoes
  • One medium sized red onion or a few shallots
  • A handful of black olives
  • Two to three peeled and crushed or chopped garlic cloves
  • One teaspoon of capers
  • Chili, either fresh or dried.  Chopped and either with or without the seeds depending how much heat you like. We like hot so I always use the whole chili, seeds and all
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and crushed black pepper
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped


  1. Fill a kettle with plenty of water and put to boil.
  2. Run the blade of a knife around each tomato just slitting the skin. Place in a bowl and cover with the some of the boiling water. Leave for a little while. The skin should start to shrink back from the cut, and wrinkle up.
  3. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the onion/shallots.
  4. Pour a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil into a frying pan and begin to saute them.
  5. Drain and allow the tomatoes to cool a little before peeling.
  6. Chop into small pieces removing the stalks.
  7. Add the crushed garlic to the onions and cook.
  8. Place a large saucepan on the hob and add the boiling water. Season and add a little olive oil. If using dried pasta add to the water at this point. If using fresh do so about five minutes later. 
  9. Once the garlic is cooked add the tomatoes to the frying pan. Stir well. Add the chili, and capers, some of the basil and a little hot water. Season with sea salt and crushed black pepper. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and tender. 
  10. Mash the tomatoes into the sauce with a fork making sure that all the nice flavourful ingredients are combined.
  11. When the pasta is cooked drain, reserving a little of the cooking water.
  12. Add the olives to the tomato sauce, thinning a little with the reserved pasta water if necessary. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  13. Spoon the pasta into the sauce mixing well to ensure that it all gets covered but being careful not to break the pasta.
  14. Dish up. Top with a little more fresh basil.

I served ours with two simple salads. A green cos lettuce one and a radish, yellow and red cherry tomato salad with balsamic vinegar/olive oil/grainy Dijon mustard and honey dressing.


I'm not a massive desert fan. I love fresh fruit and that's usually enough for me. But I do love baking and the hardest challenge on my vegan day has been finding recipes that use oil instead of butter. That was until I discovered coconut oil a new to me ingredient. It's solid like butter so is perfect for making pastry.

I'm experimenting with spelt flour recipes too since the 25kg sack arrived from here and think I may have over estimated how much spelt bread I bake a week! Along with the flour I ordered 3kg of dried figs that are so delicious that it's just like eating sweets, so I decided to make an Italian style fig tart with a spelt and coconut oil pie crust.

To make my Italian Style Fig Tart you will need.

For the pastry:
  • Two cups of whole grain organic spelt flour (or alternative)
  • One tsp of salt
  • Two thirds of a cup of coconut oil
  • Cold water
For the filling:
  • Six or eight fresh figs or dried ones that have been left overnight steeping in the juice of one large orange.
  • Ground almonds 
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
  2. Add the coconut oil and rub into the flour to form a crummy consistency.
  3. Add cold water little-by-little until the crumb mixture combines to make dough.
  4. Roll into a rough ball, flatten with the palm of your hand and then wrap in paper and chill for about half an hour.
  5. Meanwhile remove the figs from the juice, reserving it for later.
  6. Cut off the little hard stalks and slice them in half across the middle.
  7. Prepare oven proof dishes or a pie tin, coating with a little oil.
  8. Once the pastry has chilled remove from the fridge and roll out and line the pie dishes. Pressing well into them. Prick the pastry with the tines of a fork.
  9. Place the dishes onto a baking tray and bake blind in a moderate oven 180-200c for about twenty minutes.  I didn't use any baking beads for this as it's a pretty tough pastry and I wanted to ensure that it cooked through thoroughly.
  10. Remove from the oven and fill each pie until about half full with ground almonds. Pour over the lovely sweet juice from the dried figs.  If using fresh figs just add a little fresh fruit juice sweetened with a honey or agave syrup. 
  11. Top with rings of the sliced fig until the pie is full.
  12. Return to the oven and bake for a further fifteen or so minutes. Serve whilst warm.  Or reserve for later heating up before eating.

These are mouthwateringly delicious. Sweet without even a pinch of sugar. The best bit about the spelt pastry is that it's quite firm so these little tarts easily slip out of the dish and hold their own, making upright little tarts...and the worst bit about spelt pastry is that it's quite when served cold they can be a little tough.  But when warm they are perfect.  If I'd had some coconut milk in the pantry I would have made a quick vanilla ice-cream. It would have been a very special desert. I'll be making these again lots of times.

Figs will always make me think of Italy. Lots of happy memories  of buying big bags of juicy ripe green figs in town markets.  Finding ancient drinking fountains in secret squares where we would wash them and then eat sitting on the steps of some crumbly church with sweet juice running down our chins.  Perfect...

Lunch had to be Minestrone Soup.

Ingredients for two people for supper or more for lunch: 

  • One medium sized red onion or a few shallots peeled and finely sliced
  • One carrot peeled and sliced
  • A couple of sticks of chopped celery
  • One or two cloves of crushed garlic
  • Half a green capsicum deseeded and chopped
  • A handful of spinach or spring greens with the stalk removed then chopped roughly
  • A couple of peeled and sliced new potatoes
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • A little tomato puree
  • Sea salt and crushed black pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Pour a couple of tbs of olive oil into a saucepan and saute the onions.
  2. Add the garlic and cook
  3. Add all the other vegetables apart from the tomatoes, stir well season and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes and some boiling water.
  4. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Dish up.

Had this been a supper dish I would have added the traditional pasta/rice and beans.  I didn't want it to be too heavy or substantial as we were having spaghetti for supper. The traditional celery/onion/carrot combination gives a good strong flavour as does the spinach or cabbage and if well seasoned it doesn't need any extra stock.

And breakfast?  Garlic Mushroom Bruschetta. Just simple mushrooms cooked with garlic and olive oil served on spelt toast. 


  • Two slices of sourdough or spelt bread per person
  • A handful of mushrooms per person. Preferably small wild ones, field or brown mushrooms
  • A couple of cloves of garlic
  • A little fresh thyme if you have any
  • A lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper
  1. Slice the bread and toast.
  2. Put some olive oil into a heavy saucepan and toss in the mushrooms and thyme and allow to cook.
  3. Crush the garlic and add to the pan.
  4. Season and add a little lemon juice.
  5. When the bread has been toasted on both sides rub with a clove of garlic and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  6. Top with the yummy garlicky mushrooms and enjoy...
Not the most colourful of breakfast dishes but it's got to be up there  with the tastiest and one that shouts out Italian holiday...

It may have been grey and rainy outside on my vegan day this week but inside it was a different matter all together...

 linking here and here today for breakfast club blog hop 

and here on Tuesday


  1. It is good that you don't live closer. I don't think I would leave your home. E has been asking for soup. I think a minestrone is just what we need.

    1. It's really substantial with pasta in it too...yummy...

      Have a good week.

  2. Debby, thank you for this post, it is amazing and one I will be preparing for dinner tomorrow night. I am so thankful to see the fig tart recipe as I have a tree full of figs that I don't want to see wasted. I already have enough preserves put up so I don't want to can anymore and I am surprise at just how many people don't like figs...I just adore them!

    1. Me too...I can't get enough and the ones we get over here are little brown ones and so expensive.

      Happy baking Tracey.

  3. Those fig tarts sound delicious!! And so does the mushroom bruschetta! I'll be going to the farmers market this week and i'll be sure to pick up the ingredients! Have you made these with other flours? My son is (ironically) allergic to spelt.

    Thanks for sharing!


    1. You're welcome Corrabelle

      I haven't but it would work with any pastry case just using your favourite short crust recipe.

      Have fun at the framers market.

  4. The fig tarts look gorgeous and I love that simple minestrone, a classic oldie but goodie! Above all, really enjoying all your vegan ideas to make that one day a week a delicious one rather than a chore. I tend to stray in the Indian direction on my vegan days, maybe just because many tried-and-tested traditional indian dishes are vegan and so delicious, especially love dals, but I definitely need to expand my repertoire!

    1. I totally agree with you Shu Han there are some great Indian recipes. I'm finding it really hard to find any British ones...I must do much more research.

  5. ALSO, love your vintage kitchenwares.Where do you find them??

    1. Oh thanks. The rolling pin was my I cherish it. The baking pans I found in a shop that the village holds in the old church hall every summer. It's a bit like a bring and buy sale to raise money for charity. This year it will to help schools in East Africa. It's usually on for all of August and if I'm around I love to pop. I've found all sorts of things from vintage cine projector to all kinds of pots and pans. I can't wait for them to open again.

    2. It's crazy how jacked up the prices are for vintage kitchenwares in london. ah, I have half a mind to make a trip down to the village just for this. also a plus that the proceeds go to charity!

  6. Nice blog! This is perfect because it's simple enough for anyone to make all type recipe after reading recipe books.We also provide some more Food and Recipe books .