Vegan-ish cooking

This fortnight I have been cooking dinners from Jackie Norman and Gareth Scurr’s Easy and Delicious Vegan Recipes for Busy People, although I have been un-veganfying the recipes with cheese and yoghurt and real milk.

OK, I’ve just been cooking vegetarian meals. But I like the terms unveganfying vegan meals or veganish cooking.

I like vegetarian food. I like the lower impact on the environment. If you want to do something for the environment, and you eat meat, cut out a red meat dinner each week. You’ll lower your carbon emissions by quite a bit.

I also like that I am not inflicting suffering on animals.

But the main reason I like vegetarian foods is: I like the flavour. But not vegan. Nothing beats milk and cheese and yoghurt.

I often go for the vegetarian options at lunches. People often comment, “I didn’t know you are vegetarian!” I’m not. Just prefer it.

I do like some meat. Roast lamb. Yum. An occasional piece of salty ham. Prawns. Mmmm. Roast pork. Occasionally. Not a fan of most pieces of chicken. While I often eat butter chicken, I normally only eat the sauce with a piece of naan, leaving the pieces of chicken for Mr S. I do like the skin off a roast chook. Not so much the meat.

Some of my meat-free choices might make little sense. I hate meat on my pizzas. Except for a few prawns. Spag Bol with meat is horrific. Makes me gag. But I can eat savoury mince. I hate tofu. It also makes me gag. Blurgh.

I’ve been following Jackie and Gareth on FB for a while – they sold up and have been living a minimalist life in a van driving around NZ. When they released a vegan cookbook, I thought it might not be released in Australia. Luckily it has been and my library had a copy.

First dish I made was their Ye Olde Family Chilli. Very similar to my own brew but they add tinned lentils and cocoa powder. Once cooked up, it really looked like meat. Not that I needed it to look like meat, but if sons come it might be good to fool them. I jazzed up our bowls, or loaded them up, with corn kernels, yoghurt, grated cheese, sweet chilli sauce and corn chips. My cheese and yoghurt additions are the non-vegan additions.

This was a winner!

Second dish was lasagne. Similar to my recipe, more so because I won’t use non-milk options to make white sauce and have to use real cheese.

I adapted their Man Flu Minestrone. What made it the BEST EVER minestrone was my addition of a piece of Parmesan. A rind with a bit of cheese still in it. OMG. Devine.

Also adapted their cauliflower curry. I tossed in some Nigella seeds and cardamom pods. Went down a treat. This was vegan. I was going to add yoghurt but it was off.

As well as being yummy, cutting the meat makes for cheaper meals. Which is lucky because I spent a bit on chocolate for Easter. 🐣

Cauliflower, potato, pea and red lentil curry

Cooked this tonight. Found the recipe I used before but as usual, I made the recipe my own.

God it was a good brew.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Bunch of coriander
  • Curry. I used two or three teaspoons of Keans curry powder, a generous sprinkling of ground coriander, and even more garum masala
  • 1 cup and bit of dried red lentils
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock. I use Campbell's real stock
  • Whole cauliflower, cut up into florets
  • 3 or 4 small potatoes, peeled and chopped into quarters
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Big squirt of tomato paste, about 2 or 3 tablespoons
  • Several handfuls of frozen peas
  • I also used left over and wilting celery, finely chopped so it would disappear because Mr S doesn't like it. But he picked it straight away. OK, I didn't chop very finely.
  • Natural yoghurt, to serve


  1. Heat oil in large pan. Add onion, garlic, and celery. (The latter is optional.) Fry for a bit until onions soften. About 5 minutes.
  2. Add curry powder. Fry up a bit.
  3. Add lentils and stir so lentils are coated in all the curry goodness.
  4. Add stock, cauliflower, potatoes, tomato paste, tin tomatoes l.
  5. Simmer for about 25 minutes with lid on.
  6. Add peas and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  7. I turned off the heat and took off lid so it would thicken.

It has to be served sprinkled with chopped coriander leaves and thick Greek yoghurt.

I wish we had some Naan bread. That would have improved on perfection.

My minestrone 

This soup was divine. Mr S had two bowls straight up when I made it. He loved it too.

I combined two recipes: from my mate, Jamie, and the Australian Woman's Weekly and tweaked it myself.


  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 2 carrots
  • Celery – a few bits
  • Fennel bulb. Try it. Adds great subtle flavour to the soup. I forgot to put it on the shopping list so didn't get it for this week's pot. Sad. 😦
  • stalks from a bunch of parsley  (I often have parsley for something else and don't want to waste the stalks.)
  • dried rosemary 
  • tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • tomato paste
  • tin of cannellini beans or whatever beans you like
  • 1 litre Campbell's real beef stock
  • fresh grated Parmesan
  • Some pasta – shell usually but sometimes whatever


  1. Heat a big saucepan with olive oil. Chop garlic and leek. And put in pan. While this fries…..
  2. Chop carrots, celery, fennel bulb and parsley stalks. Put in pan and sprinkle with as much rosemary as you want. Stir and let fry for a bit. I put in a few celery leaves too. They disappeared but no doubt added depth of flavour.
  3. Pour in 400g tin chopped tomatoes and squeeze of tomato paste. Maybe just over 1 tablespoon or more. Mix up. I put some water in the tin and squish it around and pour in pan so I get all the dregs of tomato flavour.
  4. Pour in stock. I half filled the stock container with water, squished around and poured the water onto the saucepan so I got all the flavour out. (I can't abide waste!!!) Pour the tin of beans and the liquid from the tin as well. (I used to rinse beans but Jamie says to use the liquid. For some reason I thought it was bad for you. Don't know where I got that thought. Anyway I don't bother rinsing now and have suffered no ill effect.) Add some extra water as needed.
  5. Simmered for 45 min.
  6. Added some shell pasta and cooked for further 10 min.

When you serve the soup, sprinkled some grated Parmesan over the soup. It gives the soup piquancy. 


Jamie Oliver burnt chicken san fran salad

This was the best salad ever. I’ve never been a fan of the quinoa (not only because I can’t say it, but because the few times I’ve had it, it has dominated the salad or been used in a salad so sparse in other ingredients and so bland, it has been boring and gluggy.)

I was given the Jamie Oliver 15 Minute book and DVDs years ago but have never got around to cooking anything. A chance watching on free to air TV, had this recipe featured. I had to give it a try. 

I’ve also never been a fan of smoky paprika, preferring the sweet, so if it wasn’t for the show on TV, I never would have cooked this. 

The flavours, the colours, the smells. Heaven. 

When I had started preparing the salsa and put the spices on the chicken, Dreamer came in and said the smells were making him hungry. The smell was divine!

I’m not going to list the steps if the recipe as I largely followed Jamie Oliver. But here’s some pointers. 

Of course it doesn’t take 15 minutes. But that’s OK. It really wasn’t that long, though I can’t say exactly how long. I didn’t time it as I prepared some bits before my guests arrived and, as luck would have it, had a power outage for two hours just before the guests came and then I was socialising while cooking.  You do need a food processor to moosh up the baby spinach, coriander, mint and spring onions. This spread through the quinoa, makes the quinoa edible. My salsa was a bit dry to I added a teeny little bit of water.

I used chicken thigh fillers not breast because they were on special. Also being smaller, they were quicker to cook and I am always worried about under cooking chicken. 

No cress in our fruit and veg shop, so I used snow pea sprouts instead. Like them better than the peppery cress anyway. 

Didn’t use chilli because one friend doesn’t eat it. 

I served some limes on the side, for extra juice. I didn’t have enough avo because they were not ripe so could only use half a large one which is a shame as more avo would have been better. 

The salad doesn’t really last or maybe we were left with too much quinoa. Anyway, it is nicer when the chicken and capsicum are warm. So eat it up quickly. 

Truely, this is a great one to serve with friends. It looks so impressive. I’ll be putting this one out again this summer before the mango season finishes. 

My chicken soup

I am going through posts I have written but not got round to posting this year. (Hence the rush of blog posts.) And here’s a gem for those needing a simple soup. I wrote it in winter. Not much use in summer now. Oh well. 

I’ve previously posted my favourite, and oh so easy, pumpkin soup recipe. Here’s my chicken soup recipe. 

It’s quite versatile. You can serve it with toast, bread, rice, noodles. More meat, less meat. Take out the meat and use the meat for salad or sandwiches, leaving the broth. I give a leg to a hungry son to make him happy. 


  • One whole chicken
  • Litre of Campbell’s Real Chicken stock and extra water
  • Chopped veggies of choice – I use couple of big carrots, an onion or leek or spring onions, celery. I have used wilting stalks of celery. Great to use up past-their-best veggies. Make sure you use things that don’t ruin the clear broth and hold their shape in long cooking. So no mushrooms. 
  • Bay leaves (about three or four) 
  • Whole pepper corns
  • Water 


I have cooked this in a slow cooker. (Good because it cannot boil over or burn but takes ages to get going.) I’ve cooked this on the stove top. Same same. 

  1. Put chicken in pot with Campbell’s real stock and some extra water. I just do it not look. 
  2. Add herbs and vegetables. 
  3. Add water to cover. 
  4. Bring to boil and simmer for hours in the slow cooker or one and a half to two hours on stove top. 
  5. Remove chicken, shred meat and add as much as you want back. 

Schimple. Why did I take so long to realise it was so easy?

Mimi’s refried beans

Mimi is a cook on a forum I belong to. She comes up with wonderful and often cheap recipes.

This was wonderful, quick, yummy, cheap and healthy. Mimi put smoky paprika but I prefer sweet.


2 cups dried red kidney beans
1 cup red lentils
3/4 cup olive oil
6 cups water
1 onion diced
6 cloves of garlic, sprinkled with a touch of oil and roasted for 15 minutes in a moderate oven (more or less according to your love of garlic! I make extra to use in other dishes, eg salsa.)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 Bay Leaf


1. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of it’s papery shell.

2. Combine everything in the crock pot, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. You can also simmer this on the stove top for 2-3 hours.

3. Remove the Bay Leaf.

4. Empty into a food processor and blend until smooth.

How to serve?

1. Soft tacos
I made guacamole – mashed an avocado with a fork, squeeze of lemon, spoonful of Greek yoghurt (I make my own yoghurt with Easiyo).

And I made salsa – chopped cherry tomatoes, chopped coriander, couple of roasted garlic, half a cooked onion.

Warm tortillas, put small spread of refried beans, some lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sweet chilli sauce. Wrap and eat!

2. Dip
Serve as a dip layered with salsa and guacamole with corn chips.

3. Wraps
Heat a heaped tablespoon of refried beans and a stalk of broccolini in microwave for a minute. Place two pieces of Mountain Bread on board. Spread beans thinly down middle of slice, put on broccolini and grated cheese. Roll bread and put in sandwich press until cheese slightly melts.

Of course you could use it for nachos, hard tacos etc but these were the three ways I served it. Yum!

Do you menu plan?

Time for a post on frugal living. The need for this will become more obvious in a future post. (Oh, dear readers, I’ve been bad!)

The expenditure that households can save the most money on is the regular grocery shopping.

How so?

Well, we waste so much food. Buying too much and letting it rot before cooking or eating. Cooking more than we need, putting the left-overs in the fridge until the mould growth makes you feel OK about tossing it. Even a very little bit too much leftover adds up over the year. Dishing up servings that are too large is another way we waste food.

There’s plenty of information on food waste. Google and be shocked. Here’s one report.

And food waste is definitely not good for the environment. All that water and energy used in growing produce and raising life stock; processing; transporting.

My first step in reducing the waste, and hence my grocery bill, was menu planning for the week. It also helped as Mr S and I both work, so knowing what we were to cook at night, and whose turn it was, reduced the stress of the evening. We always had a couple of “catch-and-kill-yourself” evenings, otherwise known as left-overs. There was always leftovers in our house, because of cooking too much. And as my boys got older, they asked for left-overs so they could eat them as snacks or for lunch.

Our menu planning wasn’t strict, in that we always had some tins of things and other staples for quick meals, if we didn’t feel like our planned meal or ran short of time. (Cowboy cooking, Mr S calls it. Throw in a tin of this and a tin of that with some chopped onions and some meat and some curry paste or the like.) And we move the meals around depending on evening schedules. I actually use to only write 1 to 7 to make sure I had enough meals.

Once you’ve menu planned, the next step is to write out the shopping list for what you actually need.

These simple steps cut our waste and grocery bill significantly.

After a couple of years of this I made the next jump to fortnightly supermarket and butcher shopping.

How does this save money?

Going less frequently to the supermarket means you are not tempted to buy so much junk and all the impulse buys that jump out at you. And knowing you’re not going to buy more biscuits or other junk the next week, means you make them last a little longer rather than gutsing them in one go. For some reason instead of buying double biscuits, I bought the same amount (who wants to go through the checkout with more than 10 packets of biscuits?) My family didn’t notice, and definitely didn’t feel deprived. Really we were buying and eating too much junk.

And just recently I have lasted three weeks between supermarket visits. Mainly because we have eaten out a bit but also by using up things in the fridge and pantry. My family are so used to having excess in the pantry that a normal pantry looks empty to them. “You better go shopping. There’s nothing to cook.” Oh, just watch – as I made several more dinners. And now with adult children, there will be nights they are not home so dinner for one night becomes dinner for two nights.

All round menu planning is a time saving, money saving, environment saving, sanity saving hint. We also like dishes that can be cooked in double quantities so you get a night off!

Here’s the last and our current menu plan stuck on our fridge. They say only two weeks worth, but I generally extended them by a night or two.



Spaghetti Marinara


Apparently seafood divides the masses.

At the Sans we are fans of prawns, octopuses/octopodes, muscles, calamari.

No recipe for tonight’s feast, Spaghetti Marinara, as Mr Sans cooked it. (Actually, he is the cooker of most seafood in the house.) Onions, garlic, tomatoes, carrots. Cook them altogether. Add seafood for a little bit. Sounds about it.

We are spoilt. Australian prawns and muscles. (OK, our black muscles are not as good as Kiwi Green-lipped ones.) We eschew prawns from China and Vietnam; they lack flavour and there are too many horror stories of how they are farmed.

But if I had my druthers, I’d have stir-fried sweet chilli octopus. Too good!

The BEST EVER Pumpkin Soup

As Mercester asked for more recipes, here’s a simple and yummy one.

I know I am known to have tickets on myself but this really is the best ever pumpkin soup. And it is not just me who says so.

Look it is on the packet.


OK, it says Best Pumpkin Soup, but what’s the difference between best and best ever? I do so like hyperbole.

Best of all, this recipe is quick and easy. Very few steps.

Ingredients and Utensils

  • 1.5 kilo chopped pumpkin. (I admit this is the hardest part – chopping pumpkin and cutting off the peel. Love how the packet says “peeled pumpkin”. Have you ever peeled a pumpkin? To be honest, I don’t weigh my pumpkin, just pick a big bit and chop it. I don’t use butternut as the flavour and colour is too wussy. Love the Jap one.)
  • 20140528-184656.jpg

  • 1 roughly chopped onion. (The packet says finely chopped, but why bother when you’re going to blend?!)
  • 1 litre of Campbell’s Real Vegetable Stock. This is the key ingredient. It gives the soup depth of flavour. You cannot just use water or stock cubes. OK!
  • 20140528-184743.jpg

  • 1/2 cup cream.
  • some nutmeg – however much or little you like. Actually recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon but I just sprinkle or grate.
  • some pepper to taste.
  • a saucepan and a stick blender.
  • Method
    1. Put pumpkin, onion and stock in saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes.
    2. Use stick blender to purée in the saucepan. I cover with a tea towel so I don’t get pumpkin everywhere.
    3. Add cream, nutmeg and pepper. Generally doesn’t need it but if it does heat it again over low heat.

    Simple, quick and yummy.

    The observant among you may notice the packet calls for sour cream to serve. Well, I bunk that step. Enough fat in the soup with cream. I don’t not add the sour cream for health, I just prefer it my way.

    Some say soup is not a dinner, but I say tough, it does me and if you’re still hungry make yourself a sandwich kids, or cook dinner next time for all of us.

    My Belgium Chicken – for busy women

    Is it about time for another dish for busy women?

    This one is not one of those cook-it-all-in-15-minutes but at the expense of having to buy lots of prepared or expensive food stuff or be left with hours of cleaning up.

    This will take a bit of time, but for much of that you do nothing – except fold the wash, sweep the floor or have a glass of wine. Whatever you have to do to get your house or mental well-being in order.

    I’ve adapted this from a forum to which I belong. A good cook does that – adapts to what you like and what you have to hand. If you want exact measurements, you’re looking in the wrong spot.


  • Half a packet of Angel Hair Pasta, or more. Think this time it was about 3/4 of a 500g packet
  • 1 can or small bottle of beer – beer gives depth of flavour in a short time
  • 1 tin diced or chopped tomatoes
  • an onion, red or brown, I prefer big but if I only have little ones, that how I go
  • half a red capsicum. It has to be a red one. If they are too expensive, leave it out. I had a sad one in the fridge, cut off the sad bits, so it was really nearly a whole. I’ve used slices and I’ve used diced bits. However I felt at the time.
  • 400g of chicken fillets, any sort, it doesn’t matter. And you can put in less or more. My family like meat so I tend to put in more
  • 1 Tablespoon or so of tomato paste. I squirt from the upside down container in the fridge so probably use a but more, but we like tomato flavour
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of sugar, I’ve tried white and brown. Meh! Whichever. Couldn’t say I noticed a difference but I had brown leftover from the lasagne
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of dried/powdered stock of your choice. I use chicken. Or a stock cube.
  • Parsley – a bunch or a bit less
  • Method
    1. Chop the onion and brown in some oil in a large saucepan. (I use a Le Creuset because I suffer from middle-class consumerism. But in my defence I have Aldi copies because I waver between being pompous and being a tight-arse.)
    2. While onion is browning, chop the capsicum. Add to pan and cook until soft. Remember to stir so they don’t burn or stick to the pan.
    3. While the onion and capsicum are cooking, chop the chicken, roughly. No one really cares if everything is neat. Actually, no one cares at all, just chop. Don’t forget to go back to the pan to stir the onion and caps!
    4. Add the chicken and cook for a few minutes.
    5. Add tin of beer, chopped tommies, powdered stock, sugar, tomato paste, handful or so of chopped parsley. (This time I misread the tin of chopped tommies -where were my glasses? – and put crushed tommies. No stress, except over the faltering vision. I just tossed in some tiny grapes tomatoes that were wilting in the fridge. See, told you you can adapt to what you have.)
    6. Bring to the boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. (You know you should be folding the washing now but bugger it. Have a wine instead. I know I do.)
    7. Add half packet of angel hair pasta (I break it in two), and rest of the chopped parsley or another handful if you’re one of those clever people who grow their own, turn up heat and wait for it to boil, making sure that the pasta is not stuck together. That means you have to keep stirring. I find one of those pasta ladles really useful. Sometimes when I have too much pasta to liquid ratio, I add extra liquid. Tonight it was some real vegetable stock I had in the fridge.Cover and leave to boil for 2 minutes only. Turn heat off and leave for about 30 minutes for the pasta to absorb all the juices.

    Oh goody. Time for another glass of wine. Stuff the kids. They can sort their own clothes. After all you do all the cooking.

    Served it up before I remembered to take a photo. But here’s the pasta ladle of which I spoke!


    And that was after four huge servings.


    (A chipped bowl? Keepin’ it real, peeps.)

    As my kids said, they literally inhaled it, it was so good. Seconds? Yes, said everyone.