Soya Mince Extravaganza, or The Meal I Sacrificed My Fingertips For

A while ago, I bought a bag of dehydrated soya mince. It’s been sitting in the cupboard staring accusingly at me ever since. I have a habit of buying things because they look interesting and then forgetting to use them, but the upside of this habit is that when I find a new recipe I want to try, I often discover I already have all the ingredients.

This was one of those recipes! My favourite vegan cookbook, Another Dinner is Possible, has a recipe for lasagne that required dry soya mince, courgettes and a white sauce made from vegan margarine and soya milk. Once I’d restocked with margarine (having used the last of the previous tub on some delicious flapjack) I got to work.

Pumpkin seed vegan flapjack

The flapjack in question, perfect for a snack during a long shift!

Chopping onions is a lot easier since I bought some decent knives, but the sharpness of the blades also means that my fingertips are sometimes at risk. This was one of those times – I managed to slice a small chunk out of the end of my left middle finger, which nicely matches the chunk that my left thumb is missing after a similar mishap with garlic on Tuesday. Fortunately the finger chunk didn’t disappear into the sliced onion (is it still vegan if the “meat” is mine?) and the resulting lasagne was delicious, if a little overbrowned thanks to my distractability.

Vegetable lasagne

Overbrowned maybe, but delicious nonetheless!

I had a fair amount of vegetable mince left over, since I hadn’t got enough pasta sheets to make as large a lasagne as the recipe suggested, so I mashed up some of the myriad potatoes which have been colonising my cupboard for the last month and made a variation on shepherd’s pie. There’s still a bit of the mince left after that (it was a large bag of soya flakes) so I’ve dug some pastry out of the freezer and tomorrow I’ll be crafting some kind of vegetable pasty. Also on the menu for tomorrow is a delicious-sounding chocolate, chilli and black bean soup in celebration of the imminent release of a certain new recipe book – the beans are soaking as I type.

Vegan shepherd's pie

Shepherd’s pie with bonus kitchen details

At the moment I’m on placement, which means working very long shifts three times a week and packing in all the rest of my commitments on the other days (as well as catching up on sleep and trying to keep on top of the housework). The two years I spent perfecting the art of bulk cooking in advance to accommodate my choir schedule have served me well; my freezer stash is a perfect source of the two packed meals I need to take for each shift. And my days off are giving me plenty of time to cook my way through the list of recipes I’ve been meaning to try.

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National Vegetarian Week 2013 – Vegan Lasagne

Happy National Vegetarian Week! This year I’m setting myself the challenge of cooking seven new recipes, with a particular focus on vegan dishes. Each day I will post a photo, a summary of the recipe and my verdict on whether the meal will make its way into my repertoire.

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Vegan lasagne, packed with protein

This wasn’t the recipe I was planning on sharing with you tonight, but unfortunately the photos I took of the tomato soup were blurry to the point of being useless. My camera has all the disadvantages of a film camera (no screen on which to preview the photo) without the advantage of a viewfinder, so it really is a case of point, shoot and hope for the best. I’m amazed all the other photos have come out so well! I will have another attempt at photographing the soup when I eat some for lunch later in the week.

This was the main course for the vegan dinner party. The initial plan was to make cannelloni, but we concluded that the lasagne sheets were not really large enough to successfully roll so lasagne it was. I also managed to forget to buy spinach, so we substituted bok choi and purple sprouting broccoli. The “white sauce” is silken tofu combined with the green vegetables and whole stems of steamed asparagus were spread throughout the layers.

My friend Heidi did the majority of the work in assembling the dishes, while I chopped, steamed and otherwise prepared the vegetables and made the salads. The lasagne was very good – I particularly liked the chickpeas which were included on top for additional protein. I am a big fan of cheese in my lasagne but I didn’t feel that this recipe was missing anything at all. I shall definitely be using silken tofu again; I’ve always been intimidated by it before but this challenge is beginning to show me that vegan cooking is not as complex as it feels. I suspect a lack of familiarity is at the root of people’s aversion to vegetarian cooking too, but that can only be remedied by experimentation. Stay tuned, as I have a couple of experimentation projects planned once National Vegetarian Week is over!

Tomorrow and Friday I will share the side dishes for this meal. Sadly I didn’t manage to take a proper photo of the dessert either, so I will simply state that it was a rhubarb and mixed fruit strudel with some rather liquid vegan custard (I have yet to find a dairy-free milk which successfully thickens, suggestions would be very welcome) or oat-based vegan cream.