Report 9 – Many new things, some failures, and a new haircut (Roast Vegetable and Quinoa Salad & Spicy Tomato Pasta Sauce)

Ok, I’m playing catch-up (again) with this damn blogging stuff, so let’s get to it!

First the recipes:

Roast Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

This came about as a result of my going gluten free (see below for more of that). It’s nice and simple to make, and really tasty too.

100g quinoa

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 courgette, chopped

1 onion, chopped

5 mushrooms, quartered

1 tbsp cashews, chopped

1 tbsp sun-blush tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp sultanas

1 bunch of water cress, roughly chopped

juic of 1 lemon

olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Put the pepper, courgette, onion and mushrooms in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil (toss if needed to coat the veggies), then put in oven for 25 minutes. 5 minutes from end sprinkle cashews over vegetables and return to oven to brown.

Meanwhile, wash quinoa quickly in cold water, cover with plenty of boiling water, and simmer for 10 minutes until cooked through. Drain excess water. Toss in sultanas, stir in, and put to one side.

Chop watercress and tomatoes whilst vegetables and quinoa cool a little, then in a large bowl combine everything, including lemon juice, and stir thoroughly. Can be served warm, but is also excellent as a cold salad the next day.

I’m considering a way to incorporate some harissa paste somewhere, to give it a little extra zing, but that’s something I’m going to have to work on. Maybe with a little olive oil or in with the lemon juice. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Spicy Tomato Pasta Sauce

This is a reprint of an old recipe of mine, because I didn’t manage to try the stew I’ve invented (that’s for tomorrow instead). It’s actually the first ever recipe I did where I didn’t reference anything; just went in the kitchen and made it up… and it worked. It’s simple, tasty, and quick to make.

Kiki’s Special Simple Tomato Sauce

2 small onions (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (to be crushed)
1/3 of a dried red chilli (chopped finely)
splash of olive oil
4 plum tomatoes (chopped)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1-2 tsp dried ‘italian’ herb mix (*)
salt & pepper (to taste)

a handful of dried pasta

Heat some olive oil in a medium sized pan. Add onions, garlic and chilli and fry until onions are soft.
Add chopped plum tomatoes, and tin of tomatoes, season with herbs (1-2 tsp depending on taste) and salt & pepper, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so (ie: until it’s warm through, plus another 5 minutes).

Cook as per instructions on pack, but add a splash of olive oil before serving. Tastes great.

(*The Italian Herb Mix contains oregano, basil, bay leaves, sage and thyme. Next time I try it with real herbs :o)

Now the report proper:

New Things Done: A veritable cornucopia of stuff this week. Firstly I went gluten-free for a week, after my friend Sabera gave it a go with some interesting results. And it wasn’t too bad, I have to say. Giving up beer and bread were the big things, but I have to say even that was ok after a while. I learnt to cook other things to take to work (like the quinoa salad above) and I’ve gotten into my wine (I’ll get round to not drinking some other time) all of which means I’ve been less bloated and lethargic this week. Honestly, I was quite surprised at the results. I slipped up a few times, once with some noodles, once with some cous cous, and once with a Nana’s cookie, but apart from that I did the best I could. It was a pain having to go back to reading labels again (they do like to slip wheat into all sorts of stuff y’know) but in the end it was perfectly doable… for a while. I mean, I don’t think I’m going to do it forever – it’s hard enough finding stuff to eat out and about when you’re vegan, never mind adding gluten-free to that list – but I will be staying off the bread and the beer as much as I canย (I tried gluten free beer, and though it wasn’t bad, the fact that it smelt a bit of vinegar and had a weird after taste really didn’t sell me on the idea). I just feel lighter and a bit more energised without them, and that’s a good thing in my book.

I also went for a bike ride round Richmond Deer Park which, despite being not that far away at all, I’ve never been to before. It’s a really pleasant ride. Even getting there is nice for me (once I get to Kew) as I can go most the way along the river. And we saw some deer! though we did have to go most the way round the park before we did. All in all a great day out (check out the pics below). I’ll be doing it again come the summer. Most gratifying.

And finally I went to a new barbers and got my hair cut but by this comedy Polish dude with a thick accent, a crazy mohawk mullet, and who spent all the time I was there telling me how this wasn’t cold compared to where he was from (though he did admit he’d gone soft being in the UK for so long). Most amusing haircut I’ve had for a while anyway, so I’ll be going there again.

Recipes Done: Roast Vegetable and Quinoa Salad & Spicy Tomato Pasta Sauce

Writing Done: Not much… technically. I sat down and worked out a proper outline for the script I’m working on. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but a good outline is the bones of a script. Without that you’ve nothing to hang the meat on. And a bad one ends up looking all lumpy and mis-shapen. It really is vital to get it right, and I have this time. Kinks smoothed out, wrinkles ironed, and major flaws removed (hopefully).

I also wrote the opening lines for what could be the first bit of proper writing I’ve done in years. Check it out:

“I was glad when society collapsed. Seriously. I’d spent so long trying to live by it’s rules and failing miserably it was actually a relief to see it all go tits up.”

Trust me, it’s gonna be great! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Week 8’s recipes – Jerk Tofu & Carrot and Coriander soup

Jamaican Jerk Tofu

Another old recipe from my college days, this time with tofu instead of chicken.

200g Firm tofu, cut diagonally

4-5 tsp of Jerk seasoning (powdered)

2 tbsp Olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup Boiling water

Mix the jerk seasoning with 1 tbsp of the olive oil to make a marinade (if you can’t get the lovely sticky stuff that is) then coat your tofu wedges in the spicy goo and leave to marinate for half an hour to an hour.

To cook, heat the remaining oil in a non-stick frying pan on a fairly high heat. Place the tofu in the pan and sear one side for 7 minutes (or until brown). Turn over and sear the other side for 7 minutes also, adding the onion around the tofu for the last 5 minutes or so. Take care not to burn the onion.

Once both sides are cooked add the boiling water and turn down to a low heat. Cover with a lid (or plate) and simmer for another 7 minutes or until most of the water has gone. If you put the rice on before you start cooking it should be done by now. Serve on a bed of rice covered with the spicy onions as pictured above.

Carrot and Coriander soup

A classic soup, and stupidly easy to make.

5-6 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

1 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 pints of vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

Fry the onion and carrots in a medium pan on a medium high heat for 5 minutes until soft. Add 1 tsp of ground coriander and fry for another minute.

Add the vegetable stock and salt, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes until the carrots have gone soft. Take off heat and blend until fairly smooth. Add the fresh coriander, stir and serve.

Gluten free – first day failure (but another new thing)

I’ve tripped up on my first day of gluten free. Did ok with a scrambled tofu and fried mushrooms breakfast (with a dollop of delicious Wilkin & Sons brown sauce on the side), but when I ate out yesterday with my friend Sarah at this noodle bar in Ealing, I, without thinking, had a dollop of her noodles in exchange for a bit of rice and spicy aubergine.

That said though it was just a dollop, and since I drank wine all night instead of wheaty beer, I’ve woken up this morning not feeling all tired and bloaty as usual. Could also be to do with going to bed at a reasonable time (11:30pm. I was knackered!) and not eating a massive meal an hour before, like I did all weekend (one of the drawbacks of shift work, it really throws off your rhythm), so I can’t assign it all down to going wheat free, but it is reason enough to keep going with the experiment. Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll have more conclusive results.

And even though I’ve tripped up with my new thing already this week, I have been to my first ever wine bar, so that’s something else to add to the list. ๐Ÿ™‚

Report 8

Right, it’s a piss-poor report this week. Check out this list of non-events.

Script pages done: None. I’ll spare you the excuses. I cleared Thursday to do some work but then I got paid and went shopping instead. Didn’t buy much either, just a jacket and a t-shirt. Thoroughly disappointing all round really.

New thing done: Bought me some vegan shoes. Cowboy boots and trainers to be exact. Never bought vegan shoes before, not intentionally anyway, and not online either. The cowboy boot thing is a big departure for me. Got them from They have loads of great stuff worth checking out. And, if you enter the code VIVA at the checkout you get a whopping 20% off! I’ll be posting pictures when they arrive, so be sure to check back later in the week.

Recipes done: None… yet! I’m working on a recipe for Jerk Tofu, another staple from my college days, but it didn’t come out too well last night so I’m holding off publishing until I do a decent one. Gonna have another go on Tuesday, so it shouldn’t be too long. And I passed on doing a Carrot and Coriander soup tonight in favour of some dahl and subji, coz it’s been a long weekend at work and I was dead hungry. Hope to do that on Tuesday too.

Actually, there should be loads of new stuff next week. My ‘new thing’ is going to be going gluten free, so I’ll have to do loads of cooking just to get by. Maybe I’ll actually get ahead of myself for once, you never know (though I think we can make an educated guess eh, hahaha).