Monthly Archives: July 2015

Coconut milk cauliflower curry

This is one of my staple dinners. But last night, as I had to go to my allotment to get some comfrey to make a comfrey poultice for my ribs, I did it slightly differently. I usually steam the cauliflower but as it would take me 20 minutes to get to the plot and back, I roasted it in the oven instead.


  • A cauliflower
  • One can of coconut milk
  • Thai yellow curry paste
  • Tomato purée
  • Green beans, frozen
  • Sweetcorn, frozen
  • Greens
  • Sumac
  • Lemon juice
  • Brown rice


  • Use as much of the cauliflower as you need. I was making enough for dinner and for lunch the next day so I used three-quarters of it. I chopped it in half, pulled off the florets, then put them in an oven dish with a little bit of olive oil. I sprinkled them with sumac for some tanginess. Then I went to the plot, picked comfrey and came back.


  • With the cauliflower still roasting, I put some brown rice on to boil, in an uncovered saucepan. I always steam white rice in the steamer – one cup rice to one and a half cups of water – but brown rice is trickier so I boil it. I cover the rice with boiling water then top up the water if it boils dry. It takes about 25 minutes.
  • I steamed some frozen green beans and sweetcorn for five minutes in the steamer.
  • Then, I took a small bowl and squeezed in a few nuggets of yellow curry paste, 3/4 of the can of coconut milk (shaken first to liquefy it), and squeezed in a dollop of tomato paste. Sorry not to be more accurate, but it depends on how spicy or coconutty you want the sauce to be. Ignore the ginger and garlic in the picture, I was going to use it to fry with the greens, but it turns out to be a salad dressing I’d stored in the jar.


  • You can make the paste as thick or runny as you like. I made mine quite thick. I took the cauliflower out of the oven, when it was browned but not blackened, and added it to a deep frying pan, which I used because I wanted to simmer with the lid on. I added the green beans, then stirred in a mountain of fresh greens. Spinach, chard: the usual.


  • Once they had cooked down, I added the sauce. Then, I made a mistake. I thought the paste was too thick, so I watered it down with some hot water. I shouldn’t have done that: it was then too watery and I should have stuck with the paste as it was. So I tried to rescue it by adding a teaspoon of white flour mixed with water, i.e. my standard gravy thickening method.
  • After about five minutes of simmering on a medium-low heat, so that the sauce was bubbling, I added some salt and lemon juice, and served it with Turkish yogurt and parsley, on top of the rice, plus some torn up bits of Quorn chicken fillets for extra protein. It was alright.


And, because I want this blog to be realistic, I’ll show you what my counter top looked like afterwards. Not glossy, not shiny, just messy.


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Quick spelt bowl with salsa verde

I made this a while ago so I’ll be guessing a bit, but this is what I think I did:


  • Spelt (which you can get in healthfood shops usually)
  • Broccoli, kale, chard, tomatoes
  • Mozzarella
  • Salsa verde: fresh herbs, lemon juice, capers
  • Nuts and seeds


  • Rinse a cup-ful of spelt (for one person; adjust it for more people) and put it to boil for about 15 minutes. It’s ready when it’s nutty but not crunchy.
  • Meanwhile put the broccoli and tomatoes in an oven dish and roast for the same amount of time. Again, I’ve no idea what temperature because my oven is rubbish.
  • When the spelt and vegetables are done, rinse the spelt then mix them together. Tear a mozzarella (which is what I happened to have: you can use feta or nothing) into the bowl.
  • Take some basil, coriander, oregano and parsley, or whatever herbs you like (those were what I had growing), a handful of each, add to a blender with lemon juice, capers. I may have added some olive oil too. Blend it.
  • Toast some nuts and seeds. I use a seed mix from a local healthfood shop, which I think has linseed, sunflower seed and maybe pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I’ll crush whatever nuts I have in and toast those too. Good protein source and good for texture and crunch, too.
  • That’s it.




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Ten minute chickpea curry

I was hungry. I got home late. Priorities first: feed the cat. She got a few bits of raw chicken. I got a chickpea curry with whatever I had in the house, garden or growing on my kitchen windowsill, in ten minutes.


  • A tin of chickpeas
  • Jalfrezi curry paste
  • Thick yogurt
  • Greens: kale, pak choi, spinach, char
  • Something to fry up eg small diced celery or spring onion


  • Put a wok on high heat, add oil of your choice, fry the celery or spring onion
  • When that is sizzling, add the greens, raw, and cook until they have wilted (probably five minutes)
  • In a bowl, blend a tablespoonful of curry paste with a couple of tablespoons-ful of yogurt, so it’s thick but not solid
  • Add the chickpeas (though I confess, I may have put the chickpeas in first)
  • Turn down the heat a bit and add the sauce, cook for five minutes or so. Add lemon juice for some spark, and salt if you want. Devour.


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Sweet potato patties with greens, and magic five-minute gravy

On Sunday, after an evening in which I’d discovered that alcohol is a very good painkiller for my bruised/cracked ribs, I made a veggie toad in the hole. It wasn’t brilliant. I’m good at Yorkshire puddings, but I’ve never perfected toad in the hole. I served it with broad beans and peas from my allotment, potato and sweet-potato mash, and my delicious five-minute gravy. Usually I cook it for longer than five minutes, but I forgot until five minutes from the end. Here’s the gravy recipe:


  • An onion if you have one. I didn’t so I used a spring onion.
  • Some boiling water
  • A veggie stock cube if you have one (I didn’t)
  • Marmite
  • Soy sauce
  • Red wine if you have it
  • White flour


  • Fry the onion until it sizzles
  • Add boiling water (according to how much gravy you want)
  • Add a heaped teaspoonful of marmite, and a few splashes of soy sauce
  • Add some red wine if you have it

The important thing is the high heat. Cook for as long as you can spare – I had five minutes – and then take a teaspoon of flour, dissolve it in *cold* water (not hot, it goes claggy), and whisk it into the gravy. Leave for a couple of minutes. If it doesn’t thicken, add a bit more flour paste. I prefer using regular flour to cornflour, though you have to whisk hard to prevent lumps.

That’s it.

That night, I prepared my lunch, as I was going to spend the day in the studio the next day. I had leftover sweet potato mash, leftover broad beans and peas, and a ton of spinach and chard that I’d picked from the allotment that morning with my six-year-old niece. So here are my Leftover Patties.


  • half a pan-ful of cold mash
  • a stick of celery
  • steamed chard and spinach
  • some frozen sweetcorn, boiled for a couple of minutes
  • semolina


  • Fry the celery. I added a fresh chilli and some smoked paprika, because I felt like it.
  • Meanwhile steam the chard and spinach for a few minutes, which I had scissored into ribbons, and boil the sweetcorn.
  • When all is cooked, mix it with the mash, either in the pan or in a bowl if you’re fancy.
  • Sprinkle a good amount of semolina on a chopping board, and make patties in your hands, then coat them in semolina.
  • Fry the patties in oil, at a pretty low heat, until they look done.

I served them with yet more steamed greens, the leftover asparagus and, though I’d like to say that I made a handmade mango and fresh tomato salsa, or a salsa verde, or a mint coconut chutney, I didn’t. I had them with salad cream which I “borrowed” from our communal fridge. (Borrowing is tolerated, or so thinks the person who nicked all my butter.)



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The first post

Today I read this piece by Alexander Proud in the Telegraph about vegetarians. Or rather, that he loves meat but morally should be a vegetarian but probably won’t be. There was a lot of sense in it, about why meat-eating makes little sense any more, both ethically and in terms of resource-depletion. Namely:

What does work for everyone though is not eating meat. It’s basic maths. Estimates vary, but it takes around 7 kilos of grain to make one kilo of beef. Pigs are about 4:1 and relatively thifty chickens are around 2:1. Then there’s the vast water consumption (15,415 litres for a kilo of beef, some of which goes into growing the feed) and the CO2 emissions (27kg for a kilo of beef). If, however, humans were to eat the kilo of grain themselves, that would be that. A kilo of lentils creates only 0.9 kg of CO2. Along with not flying and driving, going vegetarian is one of the very best things you can do for the earth.

And there was some nonsense.

The trouble is, down, I also love Beef Wellington and foie gras and veal. I am a loud, booming alpha male. I have described vegetarianism as an eating disorder – and worse. Spending the next 40 years on mung beans strikes me as both off-brand and off-putting.

This infuriated me on two counts. First, what the hell is a mung-bean? Also, why does everyone talk about lentils when they talk about vegetarians? I eat lentils, but I also eat sweet potato, quinoa, chips, cheese, crisps, spelt, tofu, greens, beans, potatoes, chocolate, ANYTHING. Anything that wasn’t once alive, of course. I eat toffee-apples, too.


Also, if he thinks alpha-males can’t be vegetarian, he should go for a run with the amazing ultra-runner Scott Jurek, a long-term vegan, or No-meat Athlete. Or me.

I’ve been vegetarian since I was 21. Twenty-four years. I became a vegetarian when I had a bar job and one of my fellow bar workers told me for weeks on end about the six months he’d just spent working in an abattoir. I haven’t always been a perfect vegetarian, not by a long way, but I have been for a while now, and I intend to stay that way.

I’d guess that 80% of my food is home-cooked, by me, and most of it is pretty fast food. It’s healthy and it’s good. So I have decided that having my regular blog and my running blog and a book deadline that is absurdly tight is not enough, and I’m going to start this food blog too. I’ll post recipes. Most will be of the “what’s in the fridge and cupboard and what can I do with it? That is the kind of cook I am, and sometimes I’m successful and sometimes not. I get that kitchen cupboard inventiveness from my mother, who is a brilliant cook and baker. So I wanted to start a blog about being a vegetarian, and a cook, which is honest and representative and healthy. I don’t have razor-sharp cheekbones or glossy hair like the Helmsley sisters. I’m fit and a runner but currently about half a stone heavier than I’d like. So I will be cooking and eating to get the weight off, only so I have less to carry while running. I NEVER DIET. Here is a representative meal, which was my dinner last night. I looked at what I had and made something up. But in fact it has protein (tofu), loads of vitamins (kale, spinach, chard), more protein (peanuts) and fibre and complex carbohydrates (brown rice). Serendipitous.

Oh, why mucky fat? Because I’m from West Yorkshire and though beef dripping on sliced bread is not for me, I still love the name. I’ve used it in the site’s name to mean that vegetarians eat more than lentils.


  • A packet of tofu (Cauldron organic, because it’s the only one on sale near me)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Swiss chard, spinach and kale, a panful (from my allotment)
  • Asparagus tips (because they were on sale for 99p)
  • A dollop of peanut butter
  • Soy sauce, a few splashes
  • Vinegar (ideally rice vinegar, but I was out of it, so white wine vinegar instead)
  • Sweet mirin sauce for sweetness (but a teaspoonful of sugar would do)
  • Olive oil
  • Brown rice


  • 1. Chop the tofu. Cauldron is pretty robust but if you have time, press it under something heavy (I put my stone pestle on top of a plate)
  • Put a bit of oil in an oven dish. Sesame would be good, but I didn’t have any so I used olive oil.
  • Cube the tofu, add it to the dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds and anything else you like (dunno, cumin? smoked paprika?). Put it in the oven. (I first got the idea for baking tofu from the wonderful Veggie Runners, whose site and company I highly recommend.)
  • Boil water in the kettle, rinse a cupful of rice and add to a pan of the boiling water, enough to comfortably cover it. It will take 20-25 minutes, so leave the tofu in that long too. As for oven temperatures, my oven is rubbish so I always put it on at about Gas Mark 7 and keep an eye on everything. I left the tofu in for about 20 minutes.
  • Sit down and have a drink
  • After ten minutes or so, wash and steam the greens and asparagus for 5-10 minutes
  • Get your blender. I have a Nutribullet, which I bought and was not given as a freebie, but I recommend it anyway because it’s quick and easy and washable and very powerful. Also it’s supposed to do special nutrient extraction, but I can’t testify to that without a lab and a scientist. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, mirin and vinegar, and a tablespoonful of olive oil. Then add some boiling water, enough to make it into a thick liquid rather than a claggy mass of peanut butter. Blend.
  • I didn’t have any ginger but if I had had, I’d have grated some with some garlic and fried that briefly in a very hot wok. Maybe some spring onions too, and half a fresh chilli, including seeds (you can remove the seeds if you don’t like too much spice). Tip in the greens and asparagus and saute for a bit, then add the tofu and saute for about five minutes (I can’t remember how long I did it for). Then add the sauce and stir everything, again at high heat, for another few minutes.
  • Take a stylish picture for a blog that you haven’t yet realised you’ll be creating (oops)
  • Eat it.

And now, a picture of mucky fat sandwiches at my Uncle Keith’s funeral wake:


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