So now the entire country is in lockdown with only a handful of takeaways delivering us a selection of largely unhealthy and often expensive food, there has never been a better time to get in the kitchen and get creative – even if it is with tinned food!

Understandably, at a time like this, food and shopping are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. For some this is a daunting prospect and the thought of making homecooked meals is their idea of hell. For others this is an opportunity to spend all day in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes. Cooking can be a really uplifting positive experience and regardless of ability, there are new exciting tips and techniques to discover.

Vegan Recipe Club’s website has over 500 tried and tested recipes. Here are their top vegan cooking tips to get you through the coronavirus!

Try not to panic-buy

Of course, it’s very difficult not to get drawn into the fear of scarcity, but there is enough to go around if we all just buy what we need. There are so many amazing vegan recipes which can be made using the most basic of ingredients. Try to support local veg shops and independents as they will be struggling the most during this time. Everyone has been heading to the supermarkets so these local shops have actually been much better stocked. Many zero waste shops also have plenty.

The Vegan Kind online supermarket has increased their own orders from suppliers as well as extending staffing to ensure they can meet increasing demands both for new and existing customers. They’re continually monitoring their stock levels to safeguard supply so they can help more people have access to their extensive range of vegan products.

Keep your immune system tip top

Buy fresh fruit and veg wherever possible. Otherwise frozen veg, frozen fruit for smoothies and tinned fruit and veg are a good option. Try to use brown or wholemeal versions of bread, pasta, rice, couscous and flour but don’t worry if this isn’t possible right now.

Fermented foods contain lots of beneficial bacteria which help boost immunity. Things like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and water kefir are all really good. You can make your own sauerkraut. It’s really cheap and easy and it will last for around 6 months if kept in the fridge.

Variety and flavour

Many people are worried about getting variety and flavour when using more basic ingredients but having a good supply of dried herbs and spices will ensure that you can create depth of flavour and diversity.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Adapt recipes and get creative with your ingredients. Many people are afraid to deviate from a list of ingredients or method but now is the time to switch, swap and not worry about getting a perfect result.

If the recipes call for fresh veg or herbs and you can’t get hold of them then adapt them with frozen and tinned or just stick to onion, garlic and root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash as they’ll last for months. You can also buy frozen herbs if you want to keep that as an option.

Miss out the non-essential ingredients as most of the recipes are easily adaptable. For example, if the recipe calls for a fresh red pepper and you can’t get hold of one then just leave it out or swap it for any veg that you have (fresh or frozen). If the recipe calls for fresh tomatoes then use tinned instead, it’s all about the simple swaps.

Check-in with your neighbours (of course follow the safety guidelines)

For some people, not being able to find their weekly shopping items or being in self-isolation is very worrying. Why not make more than you need, and upload your meals to new food sharing app OLIO – where local families in need can collect.

For other ways to help your local community, visit COVID-19 UK Mutual Aid.

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Our favourite vegan recipes to help you through coronavirus

Tin can spaghetti bolognese

One of the nation’s favourite dishes but tin can style. Using a combination of tinned green lentils, chopped tomatoes, red wine (optional), onions, garlic and tomato purée, it’s actually delicious (and very cheap!). Again, don’t be afraid to switch up the veg depending on what you have in the cupboard or what you can get hold of.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 285g fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced (or other veg of your choice… fresh, tinned or frozen)
  • 400g tin of green lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1x 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 75ml red wine (optional, you can use a dash of vinegar instead)
  • 350ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar or syrup (eg maple or agave. Optional)
  • 280g spaghetti (dried is usually vegan, fresh pasta normally contains egg)

Method: 

  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and fry the onion until soft.
  2. Add the mushrooms (or other veg) and the garlic to the pan and fry for 5 mins until soft.
  3. Add the lentils, tomatoes, wine, stock and tomato puree to the pan and stir thoroughly. Season to taste.
  4. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for 40 mins, stirring occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions.
  6. Take the bolognese off the heat and serve over the drained spaghetti.
  7. To serve, top with grated vegan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes (optional).

Farinata

So what is it!? It’s a Mediterranean street food (a bit like a Spanish tortilla) made from a gram (chickpea) flour batter that can be adapted in a variety of different ways. This recipe is filled with jarred olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes and capers but you can fill it with pretty much any combination of veg that you have… also think breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Ingredients: 

Batter

  • ?200g/1? cups chickpea/gram flour
  • 500ml/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Pinch black pepper

Filling

  • Around 5-6 whole artichoke hearts, sliced (tin or jar)
  • ½ red onion finely sliced (optional)
  • 12 whole sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp capers
  • About 12 pitted black olives, halved or sliced
  • Handful of chopped dill and 1 tbsp chives (or any fresh herbs of your choice), finely chopped

For a budget option, remove the artichokes and fresh herbs and use 1 tsp dried mixed herbs instead.

Method: 

  • Sieve the gram flour into a large mixing bowl and then pour in the warm water. Whisk thoroughly and then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and set aside to ferment for a minimum of two hours but ideally overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 210°C (fan)/410ºF/Gas Mark 6-7. You can be prepping the rest of the ingredients now if you wish.
  • When the batter is ready, remove any foam that has formed on top of the batter and then stir in the olive oil, salt, black pepper and fresh herbs.
  • Line the bottom of a baking tray (approx 15″ x 11″) with a good layer of olive oil so it forms a thin coating. Heat in the oven for a few minutes until smoking hot.
  • When the oil is hot enough, remove the tray from the oven and pour in the batter. Then add your filling ingredients so they are evenly distributed.
  • Bake in the oven until golden brown on top, approximately 15-20 minutes (don’t overcook it or it will get rubbery).
  • Let it cool slightly then cut into triangles or squares and serve with a nice fresh salad.

Store cupboard nut roast

Yes, you can have your weekly Sunday roast (or a roast any day for that matter)! This recipe is cheap, easy and surprisingly rich and delicious!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 slices stale bread or 100g ready-made breadcrumbs (use GF where necessary)
  • 200g nuts (use pre-chopped if easier), finely chopped
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp yeast extract
  • 2 tbsp ground flax mixed with 4 tbsp water (mix in small bowl and set aside – this is your flax egg)
  • 1 tsp dried basil or mixed herbs
  • Salt and pepper

Method: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan) 356°F/Gas Mark 4. You will need a small loaf in (1lb).
  2. In a small frying pan, heat the oil and then cook the onion until soft and golden.
  3. Add the garlic and cayenne and fry for a further minute.
  4. Toast or oven bake the bread until slightly crispy, cool, then make into breadcrumbs using a food processor. Place the breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl while you grind the nuts in the same manner. You want small pieces, but do not over blend.
  5. Add the chopped nuts into the mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs and herbs.
  6. With the stock in a jug, mix in the yeast extract.
  7. Pour the liquid and the flax egg into the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and combine thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
  8. Grease your loaf tin and line it in one direction with a strip of baking parchment to make the nut roast easier to remove when it’s cooked.
  9. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth out using a spatula.
  10. 1Bake in the oven for 30 mins, checking after 25 mins to see if the roast looks done. It’s cooked when it is a lovely brown colour on top and feels firm to the touch.
  11. Allow to cool, before loosening around the edges with a pallet knife and gently tipping out upside down onto a rectangular plate. Delicious served with vegetables and gravy!

This nut roast can be cut into portions and frozen.

Quick & easy chana masala

Such a brilliant weekly staple and made using a variety of cheap ingredients including tinned chickpeas, tinned (or fresh if you can get them) tomatoes, spices, onion and garlic.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cloves garlic (use pre-chopped garlic for extra speedy option)
  • 1-2 inches root ginger, grated (optional)
  • 1 fresh chilli (optional)
  • 5 tsp ground cumin
  • 5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces or 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4 x 400g tins chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 250ml/1 cup strong vegan stock (add more little by little, if the mixture is too dry)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 2 handfuls of spinach (optional)

To serve: brown rice, unsweetened vegan yoghurt, fresh coriander, toasted mixed seeds and our delicious easy naan bread

Method: 

  1. Fry the (optional) grated ginger and fresh chilli in a little oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute.
  3. Add all of the spices and fry for another minute, adding a little more oil if necessary.
  4. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes and tomato puree to the pan and stir into the spice mix.
  5. Pour over the stock and simmer for 20 minutes until the chickpeas are soft and the liquid has reduced down.
  6. Stir through the lemon juice and spinach a few minutes before serving and add a little salt or more stock (in a tiny bit of water) if necessary. Enjoy 🙂

Bean burgers

Viva! couldn’t leave these off the list!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed OR 2 tsp garlic puree
  • 10ml/2tsp oil
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • ½ tsp mild chilli powder (or even less if you really hate hot spices)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin + more if you wish
  • 1 tin rinsed and drained pinto or kidney beans
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (a mild type) – or use a bit less regular English if that’s all you have
  • 1 tbsp soya sauce – use tamari for a gluten-free option
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 75g/3oz rolled oats – use either jumbo or porridge. If GF, use gluten-free oats, eg Nairn’s; Bob’s Red Mill; Alara etc
  • Oil spray or a drizzle of oil
  • Optional: breadcrumbs, home-made or bought; 1 pepper, finely chopped and fried in with the other veg; 1 stick celery, chopped fine ditto; 1 tsp smoked paprika – experiment!

To serve – choose from this list (or add your own ideas)

  • Vegan mayo, eg Follow Your Heart; Plamil (or make your own easily and very cheaply with our brilliant recipe here…)
  • Sliced avocado; sliced tomatoes
  • Relish
  • Tomato or BBQ sauce
  • Salad leaves
  • Alfalfa sprouts

Method: 

  1. Fry onion and garlic in oil until softened. Add a little water if mixture starts to stick – a tablespoon or two.
  2. Add grated carrot, chilli, cumin and any other spices you fancy. Fry for another minute or two, stirring to make sure nothing sticks.
  3. In a bowl, mash beans thoroughly with a potato masher. Add mustard, soya sauce, tomato purée and oats and mix all ingredients in thoroughly. You can also food process the mixture but avoid making it into a smooth goo. The burgers need some texture, so use the pulse function to avoid over-processing.
  4. With wet hands, form mix into burgers. If you want the breadcrumb option, dip each burger into the crumbs now. Flatten each one with back of wooden spatula or spoon. (Use a cup as a cookie cutter if you want them evenly round or use a burger press if you want a real pro look).
  5. If time, chill the burgers on a flat tray for at least 30 minutes – they are easier to cook and keep their shape better.
  6. Using a little oil or oil spray, heat a non-stick frying pan or wok. Fry the burgers gently for a few minutes on either side until they are brown on the outside and squidgy in the middle. Don’t worry if they fall apart, just squish them back together! Alternatively, bake them in a medium oven for 20-30 minutes, at about 180°C/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.
  7. Serve with salad and baked potatoes, or on a wholemeal roll with some of the options listed above.

Super-fast scrambled tofu

Use long-life silken tofu or firm (if you can find it) and mix with all the best vegan ingredients: tahini, nutritional yeast, turmeric, soy sauce and garlic… oh, and it only takes 5 minutes! Dress it up with salad for lunch or have it with fried brekkie items. Enjoy!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and crushed) OR ½ -1 tsp garlic puree
  • ½ packet of firm silken tofu (approximately 175g) or firm tofu
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp tamari (GF) or shoyu
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ tsp turmeric

OPTIONAL EXTRAS: eg sliced avocado; sliced tomato; lightly cooked cherry tomatoes, super sprouts, chopped peppers or chilli; rocket or kale…

ALL KITTED OUT
Small knife and garlic crusher; medium saucepan; scissors; measuring spoons; cooking spoon

Method: 

  1. Gently fry the garlic in the oil for about 30 seconds until lightly golden. Don’t let it burn.
  2. Add the all other ingredients and mix together. Try not to break the tofu up too much but make sure it’s well stirred.
  3. Heat to warm through for approximately 3-5 minutes and serve immediately.

See Vegan Recipe Club’s full list of store cupboard/freezer adaptable recipes here and budget recipes here.

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