♥ Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
♥ Green Chilli Bread
No one can dismiss the massive surge of people shifting to a vegan diet. With half a million vegans in the UK*, the trend is accelerating. That’s a very large number turning their noses up at the meat and animal product industry.
I can see why this is happening. With a rise of people sharing footage on social media of the inhumane treatment of animals to supply high demand, the shock factor is spreading. Everyone is becoming more aware of not only what they eat, but where it comes from. This is not a bad thing.
Early this year, my sister-in-law switched to veganism. Living here in Dubai too, I have listened to her on many occasions speak strongly about animal welfare. She has always been a huge animal lover so this year she finally made the decision to refrain from consuming all meat, dairy and eggs.
A tough change at first, however it has seemed to come in her stride opting for vegan options at restaurants and cooking more at home. There certainly now seems to be more choice for vegans with the popularity of alternative milks like almond and soya as well as egg replacers being available for baking.
I anyhow do not feel the need to eat meat every single day and never have. The staple food of my Gujarati background is vegetarian. The cuisine lends itself to tasty food structured around vegetable curries, bread, rice and daal (lentils) containing all the essential food groups without dairy and eggs. I never acknowledged it back then but the food my mum made when I was growing up was always very healthy.
Being honest though, I do not see myself going completely vegan anytime soon. I love my cheese too much. But I definitely see the benefit of cutting down on animal products to instead eat more sustainable plant based foods. And I don’t feel that is hard to achieve and do more of not just for health but environmental impact.
Here is a dinner I have created to satisfy anyone of any diet to show vegan food can be filling and delicious.
Shepherd’s pie, a British favourite, converted to a tasty, healthy dish full of colour accompanied with a spicy green chilli bread that’s bound to blow your socks off.
I guarantee you won’t feel you’re missing out on a good dinner with these meat-free, dairy-free and egg-free dishes.
Vegan Shepherd's Pie
This recipe involves lots of chopping but the flavours of all the fresh vegetables are totally worth it.
Prepare the vegetables. Dice the mushroom, carrot, onion, red pepper and tomatoes into small cubes. Mince or crush the garlic.
TOPPING: Peel and quarter all the potatoes. Add the potato chunks to a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Cook for at least 20 minutes until the potato is soft all the way through.
Meanwhile, heat oil on a medium heat in a large pan and add the onion. Fry for a couple of minutes until softened then add the carrot, red pepper and peas. Cook for around 5 minutes until the carrot is tender then add the mushroom and garlic frying for another minute. Finally add the tomato and stir well.
In a cup, dissolve the stock cube in the hot water and stir in the passata. Add the stock tomato mixture to the pan and stir well. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Drain and rinse the lentils. Add the lentils along with the rosemary and thyme. Warm through for a minute. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as you wish.
Pour out the vegetable mix into a baking dish of around 25cm x 25cm. Leave it to release steam by leaving the dish uncovered. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
TOPPING: Drain the cooked potatoes and place into a large bowl. Crush the potato using a potato masher or fork. Once crushed, beat the potato until smooth with a wooden spoon adding the olive oil and check for seasoning adding salt and pepper if you desire.
Using a spatula, flatten the vegetable mix in the baking dish to create an even surface. Evenly spoon over the mashed potato then spread to cover the vegetables carefully. Once covered and smoothed out, create a pattern using a fork. This will add crispiness once baked.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the top is golden.
Remove from the oven and let it cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a simple salad and bread.
Green Chilli Bread
I have used chappatti atta, an Indian wheat flour, with high gluten content which produces lots of elasticity making it easy to roll out thin. The bread is shaped with layers to enable it to bake evenly and without having to kneed in the hot chillies.
Keep the tepid water (not too hot, not too cold) in a small jug and add the yeast. Stir in the sugar to activate the yeast. Keep aside for 10 minutes. The mixture should start to froth up.
In a large bowl add the flour and mix in the salt. After the yeast mixture has frothed up slightly (10 minutes), stir in the olive oil. Make a well into the flour and pour the yeast oil mixture in and begin to mix. Scrape down the sides to incorporate all the flour until it is all combined.
Once it has formed a dough, tip it onto a lightly floured surface and begin to kneed. As you kneed the dough should become smoother and elastic. Kneed well for at least 10 minutes. If using a stand mixer, keep the dough in the bowl and kneed using the hook for at least 5 minutes.
Oil the bowl and place the dough back in covering with cling film or a clean tea towel. Leave to prove in a warm place for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the green chilli by chopping them into small pieces. Wash hands thoroughly and be careful not to touch your eyes after!
After an hour, the dough should have doubled in size. Uncover the bowl and tip the dough out again onto a lightly floured surface. Start working with it again to release the trapped air and roll it up into a sausage shape.
Cut the dough in half and keep one half aside.
Begin to roll out the half piece of dough to a space of around 50cm x 30 cm.
Brush the layer of dough thinly with some oil.
Sprinkle over the chopped chillies evenly over the surface. Then roll out the second half of dough into the same size. Flour the second layer of dough well then carefully roll it up on to the rolling pin. Roll this layer onto the first layer covering the chillies. Then gently roll on top to merge the layers together.
Score 2 lines 10 cm apart down the middle of the dough. Then cut lines at right angles from the lines away to the edges to dough creating 8 pieces each side.
Fold one piece in half then fold again, to cover the centre of the dough.
Repeat this step for all the pieces. Alternating between left and right pieces.
Carefully move the dough onto a lined baking tray and brush the top with some oil. Leave to prove for another hour in a warm place. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden on top. Check the bread has cooked though by placing a sharp knife into the centre which should come out clean. After 5 minutes take out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Or eat warm if you can't resist!
*Source: Ipsos MORI and The Vegan Society in partnership with Vegan Life magazine
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