Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food


Kenchinjiru: Shōjin winter vegetable stew.

Kenchinjiru is a traditional winter recipe originating in Zen temples, and there are many variations. The basic recipe adapts well to the sort of winter vegetables that are available in Scotland right now. It’s dead simple, and really warming. The amounts given makes a large bowl suitable for a meal for one. It’ll serve up to four as part of a larger meal. This is more of a formula than a recipe, and it can be made gluten-free by using a proper tamari instead of shōyu.

For the soup:
2 cups dashi
½ tsp frying oil
¼ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp shōyu
1 tsp sake

1 shiitake mushroom, both fresh and reconstituted dried ones are fine. If using dried, include the soaking water in the dashi.

2 large leaves spinach, a similar quantity of any green leafy vegetable, or a few green beans.

½ block (100g) tofu, cubed – either silken or “ordinary” will do

Vegetables: (choose three)
Peel (if needed) and slice them thinly. The first four are traditional:
Half a small carrot
5cm length of daikon from the thin end of the radish
1cm lotus root (quarter, then slice)
5cm burdock root
a quarter or a golden or striped beetroot (the traditional red one will colour the soup)
half a small parsnip
10cm length of salsify
a quarter of a small turnip, more if very small.
a similar amount of whatever root vegetable you happen to have.

Extras (choose one):
½ block konnyaku, any savoury variety, broken into lumps, boiled and drained.
1 sheet aburaage, rinsed and sliced thinly.

Heat the frying oil in a medium saucepan and add the vegetables, mushrooms and konnyaku (if using). Stir fry very briefly, then add the dashi, shōyu and sake. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are nearly cooked through. Add the spinach and tofu, and simmer until the tofu is warmed through and the spinach slightly wilted. Stir in the sesame oil and serve.



Edinburgh Farmers’ Market

Filed under: Ingredients, Shopping — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 11:33

The location for the farmers' market is spectacular, especially on a good day like this.

The location for the farmers' market is spectacular, especially on a good day like this.

The Edinburgh Farmers’ Market is a weekly event, which is unfortunately on the wrong side of town for us. The withdrawal of the number 17 bus has made getting there by public transport impossible, and the fact that it’s on top of a car park isn’t an encouragement to use public transport either. So, when we go, unless we’re feeling really fit, we take the Volvo and then buy enough veg to justify it.

At first sight, the market doesn’t have much to offer the vegan, with an excess of meat stalls, and a couple of cheesemakers. They even have leaflets on the market information stall from the Meat Marketing Board promoting industrially-produced meat! But it’s not all unhealthy stuff, don’t worry.

Phantassie organic vegetables

Phantassie organic vegetables

Phantassie is an organic vegetable farm in East Lothian, and they are at the market a couple of times a month. This time round I bought red spring onions, smoked garlic, pea shoots (a green leafy veg), broad beans, white turnips and shiitake. Another regular is East Coast Organics, another East Lothian farm, who are at the market every week. Their stall provided me with a bunch of onions, another of carrots (carrot greens make good soup), one of radishes, a knobbly cucumber (good for Japanese recipes), a red kohlrabi and yellow courgettes. Meanwhile, my partner bought some fantastic plum tomatoes on the vine, and some baby plum tomatoes from the adjacent J & M Craig (one of the last remaining Clyde tomato growers) stall. The aroma from them is fantastic.

A couple of my favourite stalls weren’t there today. Ardnamushrooms grow shiitake and other fungi, and were the source of our organic shiitake block, an experiment in very local food we’d be glad to repeat some time. Carrolls Heritage Potatoes are only there on the first Saturday of the month, when tatties are in season, but they produce potatoes that I like — ones that taste of something. They have blue potatoes, purple potatoes and loads of flavoursome spuds from days of yore. I note they are now selling online, though, and have a stockist in Leith (if I can bear going into a fishmonger — I might have to send himself).

Cheery staff at the Good Soup Group.

Cheery staff at the Good Soup Group.

All that shopping can be hard work, so we had a couple of snacks whilst there. I ignored him having his pig in a bun (which he complained wasn’t very good – ha!) and chose a spicy noodle soup from the Good Soup Group — the noodles were rice noodles, making the soup both vegan and gluten free. Special dietary requirements seem to be a particular concern at the Good Soup Group, and they try to source everything locally wherever possible. And then there’s The Chocolate Tree, lurking ready to ruin all of your healthy eating intentions. They do a massive range of chocolate bars, vegan chocolate hazelnut spread and vegan chocolate sorbet. The cones for the sorbet are not vegan, but they are more than happy to serve it to you in a cup instead. Messy, and delicious, afterwards my face resembled that of a three-year-old after a bath in cocoa. And I don’t care!


German bean soup

Filed under: Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 17:07

I needed a quick tea, so I just had a go at veganising a German soup. It seems to have come out okay.

1 litre water
1 can cannelini, haricot or other white beans.
3 carrots chopped.
2 onions, chopped.
1 block smoked tofu, cut into small thin slices.
1 tbl vegan beef-style stock (or use yeast extract)
1 tbl ajwain (celery seed)
1 tbl dried parsley, or fresh equivalent.
1 pack taifun tofu wieners, sliced.
Olive oil for frying

Bring the water to the boil and add the beans, carrots, ajwain, parsley and stock powder. Turn the heat down to low and simmer.

In a separate pan, heat up the olive oil and stir fry the tofu. It doesn’t matter if it breaks up – it’s going into soup – and you want it to be a bit crispy. Once the tofu starts to go crispy, add the onions and turn the heat down. Continue to fry slowly.

When the carrots are cooked, blend the soup. Add the contents of the frying pan and the sliced sausages. Heat through and serve – you should be able to feed two as a meal and four as a snack or starter.


Vegan Dashi

Filed under: Ingredients, Japanese, Products — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:07

Dashi is Japanese for soup stock. It comes in all sorts. Hon dashi (本だし) is never vegan as it’s fish stock. Konbu (こんぶ – kelp) and shiitake dashi are more promising, but they usually contain bonito (also call katsuoboshi), a fish product.

Shimaya konbu dashi

Shimaya konbu dashi

There are at least two brands of Japanese instant konbu dashi which are vegan. The first is made by Shimaya (シマヤ), comes as mid-green sachets (long and thin) in a green plastic bag, and is labelled こんぶだしの素. I have also seen the same product in boxes. You might read that this product contains lactose—it used to, but doesn’t any more. If you want to check, go to the product page and search for 乳糖, which is Japanese for lactose. You’ll find it in the shiitake dashi (which used to be vegan—poo!), but not the konbu dashi at the top. The ingredients translate as: seasonings (amino acid etc), table salt, saccharides (dextrose, sugar), natural flavourings (kelp powder, kelp extract). You can get this from the Japan Centre, or any of the Japanese supermarkets in London.

Ajinomoto konbu dashi

Ajinomoto konbu dashi

The second is a similar product made by Ajinomoto, and is packaged almost identically, with eight long and thin, but light green, sachets per pack. When I first spotted it, I thought it was the Shimaya one with re-vamped packaging. The ingredients for this brand are salt, sugar, mannitol (E421), monosodium glutamate (E621), powdered kelp, kelp extract.

Two brands of dashi which are vegetarian, but not vegan.

Two brands of dashi which are vegetarian, but not vegan.

There are two more brands, which are vegetarian, but unfortunately aren’t vegan, though for one of them you’d never tell from the translated ingredients list. Riken Mutenka (“additive-free”) Konbu Dashi is also GM-free. The importer translates the ingredients as simply “tangle”. The actual list is: flavourings (kelp extract, powdered kelp), starch, lactose, yeast extract. The other is a Dutch macrobiotic brand, Manna, which also contains lactose (I thought macrobiotics discouraged the use of dairy?).

Wel-Pac dashi konbu

Wel-Pac dashi konbu

If you know you will need the dashi a few hours in advance, it’s simple but time-consuming to make your own. Good dashi konbu will be thick and not too wrinkled – I’ve had consistently good results with the Korean Wel-Pac brand, which is stocked by pretty much all Chinese supermarkets and is easy to obtain. To make a litre of stock, take a sheet and break it into three long pieces. Wipe the konbu with a damp cloth and place in a large pan with a litre of water. Put the lid on the pan and bring quickly to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until you have about ¾ of the original volume of liquid. If your pan lid does not have a hole in it to let steam out, place it ajar whilst simmering. Top up the water back to the original level, using cold water, and simmer for a further 20 minutes or so, then top up again and simmer for another 10 minutes.

By this point you will know if you had good quality konbu as it will have expanded and small blisters will appear on the surface. The more dashi you make, the longer it will take to cook. It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, and you could consider making a highly concentrated version and freezing it—just use less water or more konbu.

Another trick for simmered dishes is to simply place a piece of dashi konbu at the bottom of the pan before you add the other ingredients and remove it after cooking. Don’t throw the used konbu away, though, as it is still good to eat.


Generic Soup

Filed under: Recipes and techniques — Tags: — Feòrag @ 17:22

This morning involved a trip to the dentist’s, so I’ve been thinking about soup. My friends have commented positively on my soups, but the truth is that I basically make them up as I go along, and rarely work to a recipe. I do have a technique though.

To make soup, you need:
Something oniony – onions, garlic, leeks etc.
Various vegetables
Oil for frying (optional)
A tomato or two
Herbs/spices as appropriate
Something proteiny (optional)

Take your onion and fry it slowly in the oil. Olive oil is best in most cases. Onions are very good steam-fried, if you want to cut down on fat. Basically you cook your onions in a tiny amount of water over a high heat, replenishing the water as needed. Chop your vegetables up quite small and add them to the pot, starting with the one that takes longest to cook, and make sure they are well coated in the oil/water. Add any spices at the end of the frying, then add the stock/water and tomatoes. Bring your soup to the boil and simmer until everything is done. Blend. Or not. It’s your call. Remember not to add anything you’d rather not blend until after you’ve blended it!

If your soup contains potatoes, let them cook through before adding the tomato otherwise the potatoes will take all week to cook. Or leave the tomato out altogether.

Good proteins to add include tinned beans or lentils, and fried fake sausages/tempeh pieces. Rice, barley and pasta are traditional soup additions. Tofu tends not to work well in European-style soups.

Quantities depend on how many people you have to feed, and whether it’s the meal itself, or just one component. For a big meal soup for me, I use about 500ml (most of a pint glass) of liquid; for a starter, I’d halve that.

As an example of this in action, my post-dentist soup was curried butternut squash and carrot. It was a meal-sized soup for one. The “onions” were a small red onion, two cloves of garlic and a lump of ginger. The vegetables were two small carrots, about 5cm off one end of the butternut squash and a handful of frozen spinach. I added a tablespoon of hot curry paste (note this is Too Much for most people) at the end of the frying, which I did in sunflower oil rather than my usual olive. I blended the soup, due to necessity, but it would have been fine as was, and added a bit of coriander leaf at the end (frozen, Waitrose own-brand – very handy!).

Another staple is “green soup”, which is made from any green vegetable on which I can lay my hands. Green soya beans (generally obtained frozen – Realeat at health food shops, and various brands at Chinese supermarkets) are good in this.


My ozouni.

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 19:35

Ozouni is a traditional Japanese dish for New Year’s Day. It is generally had in the morning, after having toasted in the sunrise with sake, and is a significant cause of death for old people. There are as many recipes as people, plus a few more. Mine is vaguely Eastern Japan-ish, but vegan. Serves four-ish.

For dashi:
Piece of dashi konbu

For fake fish roll:
about a third of a block of konnyaku
a few drops of red food colouring (yes, there is vegan red food colouring out there)
very strong konbu dashi

The rest:
3 dried shiitake
about half a carrot
a block of firm tofu, cut into big triangular chunks
some greenery (not available this time)
1 tbl shouyu
1 tbl sake
one piece mochi per person
dried yuzu peel

Set the shiitake to soak. Slice the carrots and use a fancy cutter to make them an interesting shape. Bung the konbu and the bits of carrot you cut off into a pan with plenty of water, bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour or so. Drain, retaining the liquid.

Cut round or flower shapes out of the konnyaku. Put it in a small pan with enough strong dashi to cover (I cheated and used instant for this) and the food colouring. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, and don’t forget about it! Strain – no need to reserve the liquid.

Put the home-made dashi back into the big pan, and add the shiitake soaking water, the shouyu, the sake and more water if needed (you know how big your soup bowls are!). Bring back to the boil whilst thinly slicing the shiitake, discarding the stems. Add the shiitake and tofu to the dashi and simmer for 5 minutes, the add the carrots, the fake fish rolls and the greenery.

Continue simmering while you prepare the mochi.

The best place to get mochi is a health food store – I use the Mitoku brown rice ones which Real Foods sell, because I am a Bloody Hippie. Grill the mochi on both sides until they swell up then put one in each bowl. Ladle the soup over the mochi, making sure everyone gets a bit of everything. Sprinkle some yuzu peel over. Eat the mochi carefully – they’re sticky and choking on them is what kills people in Japan.

For a more Western Japanese style, add white miso.


Quick Tomato Soup

Filed under: Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 14:39

Makes two meal-sized bowls or about 4 starter sized portions.


1 400g tin tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped.
3 cloves garlic (or to taste), crushed and chopped.
1 tinful stock, or 1 tinful water plus 1 tsp stock powder.
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika.
1 bay leaf.
Basil to taste.
Approx 1 tbsp Olive oil.

Making it

Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add the tin of tomatoes and bash them about a bit to break them up. Add stock, bayleaf, paprika and basil, bring to the boil and simmer for as long as you can. Blend if the tomatoes haven’t collapsed of their own accord and serve with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.

This comes out somewhere inbetween a soup and a broth. If you want it richer, add more tomatoes, or less stock; if you want a broth, add more stock.


Belgian Chicory Soup

Filed under: Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:43

The organic veg box this week contained a head of chicory. I know full well that my beloved spouse isn’t going to touch it with a bargepole so I decided to eat it myself. A quick Google revealed this Chicory Soup recipe, which I veganised for my lunch. The proportions are a little different on my version, due to the available ingredients. This amount made one meal-sized soup. Chicory has a nice bitter flavour, and the sweet, browned onions work well with it.

1 medium onion, sliced finely
1 head chicory, chopped
1 small leek, chopped
500ml strong vegetable stock (see note)
Olive oil or vegan margarine for frying
Pepper to taste
Parmezano (or equivalent “old sock” powder) to garnish (optional)

Fry half of the onion until it is dark, dark brown. Put to one side and fry the chicory, leek and other half of the onion in a saucepan until the leeks soften. Add the stock and dark brown onions, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Blend and serve. Season to taste and garnish with fake parmesan.

Note: I used a kosher fake beef broth as stock. This comes as a powder which has to be added to boiling water, so add water to the soup and add the powder when it comes to the boil. Any strong-flavoured vegetable stock can be used – adding a bit of yeast extract to a milder one would work nicely.


Butterbean and Broccoli Soup

Filed under: Experiments, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 16:57

This recipe is a little approximate – it’s what I had for lunch.

1 good handful broccoli, plus the stem from an entire head.
approximately 500ml (a pint) of stock
1 tin butterbeans, drained
6 cherry tomatoes
1 medium onion
crushed garlic to taste
a pinch of rosemary
half a teaspoon of oregano
Olive oil for frying (optional)

Cut the broccoli into small florets, separating out the stems. Chop the stems. Fry the onions and garlic with the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the stock, cherry tomatoes, broccoli stems and herbs. Bring to the boil and simmer until the broccoli stems are cooked and the tomatoes have burst. Take a hand blender, or transfer it to a blender, and blend the contents of the pan. Add the broccoli florets and butterbeans, and cook until the broccoli is done to your taste – around five minutes. Serve with bread and season to taste.

Low-fat alternative: rather than frying the onions and garlic, just add them to the stock with the tomatoes and broccoli stems.


Brazil Nut Soup

Filed under: Historic — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:47

This recipe is from A Comprehensive Guide-Book to Natural, Hygienic, and Humane Diet by Sydney H. Beard, published in 1913 by the Order of the Golden Age. The book is currently being OCRed so I can put it through Distributed Proofreaders and into Project Gutenberg. The soup is extremely filling and warming – excellent for winter – and would make a good base for creamy soups.

The original recipe reads: Pass 1 pint of shelled Brazil nuts through a nut mill, fry these with one or two chopped onions in 1-oz of nut butter, keeping them a pale yellow colour; add 1-oz flour, and gradually 1½-pints white stock; bring slowly to the boil and simmer gently until the onions are soft. Pass through a hair sieve, and dilute with milk.

Now, nut butters at this point meant solidified nut oil, used as a replacement for butter. White stock was a pale stock made from haricot beans. This is a British book, so a pint is 568ml or 20 fluid ounces.

For my version, I used half a cup of nuts and a spare half onion I had to use up. I grated the nuts finely and fried them with the onion in olive oil. I used a level tablespoon of flour and my usual vegetable stock powder – 1 cup of stock. I did not sieve it, but did give it a quick go with my hand-held blender, and I used soya milk to bring it to a soupy consistency. I got two lunches out of it.

Create a free website or blog at