We all know we should eat less meat. And if Paul and Linda McCartney didn't convince you in the '80s, maybe the latest advice from doctors and environmentalists is reminding you that bacon is not one of your five a day. However, being vegan can be a big lifestyle change, and while our tastes are somewhat more diverse than they were 50 years ago, many of us still base our meals around the classic meat and two veg.
What's more, when it is cold and miserable outside, the idea of cutting out some of your family favourites does not sound appealing. So, whether you are trying to convert to veganism, or just want some easy meat-free recipes to add to your repertoire check out these comforting and tasty dishes from Yumbles that just so happen to be animal product-free.
1. The ultimate vegan shepherd's pie
It's the pie that is vegan, not the shepherd – although they might be too once they give this a try. Cosy up with this classic winter warmer, made with lentils, lots of veg and a filling sweet potato topping. Make a batch ahead and whack in the oven when you get home for a no-fuss meat-free dinner.
Prep time: 30-35 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
For the lentil sauce
- 2 red onions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 sticks of celery, diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 0.5 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 0.5 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 cans of lentils, drained and washed
- 690g passata
- 2 tbsp bouillon powder or two vegetable stock cubes
- 2 bay leaves
- Juice of half a lemon
- 0.5 cups of water
- Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper (to taste) for seasoning
For the sweet potato mash
- 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 tbsp almond milk
- Vegan spread (optional)
- Heat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/GM4;
- Heat some oil in a large casserole dish over a medium heat. Fry onion, carrot and celery until soft;
- Add the herbs and garlic and soften for a minute;
- Add lentils, passata, bay leaves, stock powder, water and lemon juice and bring to the boil;
- Simmer for 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper (and cayenne if desired) then set aside to cool;
- While the lentil sauce simmers, bring the sweet potatoes to the boil in a pan of water seasoned with salt;
- Once soft, drain and mash with almond milk (and spread), then season with salt and pepper;
- Remove the bay leaves from the lentil sauce and pour the mix into an oven-proof dish
- Top with mash and spread with a fork (this helps create texture);
- Garnish with rosemary, then bake for 30–45 minutes until the top is golden.
The best range cookers
Looking for a new cooker with plenty of space on the hob and plenty of ovens? Check out our guide to the best range cookers.
2. Pasta with vegan red pepper pesto
Roast the peppers ahead and store in the fridge, or buy ready-roasted in a jar and you can whip this tasty vegan meal up in the time it takes to boil a pot of spaghetti. If you want a lighter alternative, swap the spaghetti (or maybe just half of it... ) for spiralised courgette to boost your veg intake. Don't have a spiraliser? Most supermarkets sell zoodles (zucchini noodles) with their fresh produce.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes (or 8 minutes if you use pre-roasted peppers)
- 320g spaghetti or courgetti/zoodles
- 4 red peppers, quartered
- Bunch of basil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 4 tbsp ground almonds
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- If making your own roast peppers, preheat oven to 220ºC/430ºF/GM7;
- Line a baking tray with foil or baking paper and place the peppers skin side up;
- Roast for 25–30 minutes or until the skin is charred and flesh softened. Allow to cool;
- Put a pot of boiling water on the hob and cook the spaghetti according to instructions;
- Place the roasted peppers into a food processor with half the bunch of basil. Blitz to your desired texture, until the ingredients are combined;
- Add the ground almonds, garlic and oil and blitz again until well mixed. Season to taste with salt;
- Toss your cooked spaghetti or zoodles in the red pepper pesto. Garnish with some finely sliced basil.
The best blenders
Whip up this red pepper pesto in no time with one of the best blenders on the market.
3. Vegan coconut caramel slices
And now for a sweet treat. These raw coconut caramel slices are a bit like millionaires shortbread, but packed with healthy fats and not so packed with sugar. They're perfect for a packed lunch, a mid-morning pick-me-up or that something decadent after dinner.
Prep time: 40-45 minutes
- 200g medjool dates, stoned
- 2 tbsp almond butter
- 100g ground almonds
- 150g desiccated coconut
- 1 vanilla pod (or a tsp of vanilla essence)
- 50g coconut cream
- 1 pinch salt
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp agave syrup
For the base layer
- Soak the dates in boiling water for 10 minutes;
- Strain the water and set aside nine dates for the caramel layer;
- Process the remaining dates in a food processor with 1 tbsp of the almond butter to form a sticky paste;
- In a bowl, mix the paste with the almonds and desiccated coconut;
- Press into a 2inch deep baking tin, lined with baking paper and set aside.
For the caramel layer
- Blend the coconut cream, salt, vanilla and nine dates together to make a thick, creamy mixture;
- Pour on top of the base.
For the chocolate layer
- Melt the coconut oil with the other tablespoon of almond butter and cocoa powder;
- Add the agave syrup and mix together well;
- Pour on top as the final layer;
- Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours until set, then cut into squares.
The best food processors
Chop, mix and whisk up a treat with these mixers and food processors.
Read more on limiting the impact of your lifestyle on the environment:
- Find out how to make an old home more energy efficient
- Check out the best recycled and sustainable products for your home
- Create an eco-friendly garden