Monthly Archives: December 2016

Spreadable Butter

This must be one of the quickest and easiest way to save money and avoid E-numbers.

The ingredient list on a tub of spreadable  butter substitute is fairly lengthy, and includes several things I struggle to pronounce.  Not ideal.  The alternative, actual spreadable butter, is outside my normal budget and seldom available unsalted in any of my local shops.

So, I looked at the proportions and ingredients on the side of a tub of Lurpak and started experimenting.  The result is gratifying, and can be customised to match your preference for firmer or softer spreadability.


  • 4 parts soft butter (not melted)
  • 2 parts oil (minimally flavoured so not extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 part milk


  1. Place everything in a suitably-sized bowl and mix enthusiastically by hand, using an electric mixer, or using a blender.
  2. Scrape the resulting creamy stuff into a tub, and refrigerate until needed.

These proportions give “butter” that is solid in the fridge but can easily be scraped up to spread onto bread or toast. If your bread is fragile, try increasing the proportion of oil and/or milk gradually until you get a consistency you like.

If you’re feeling experimental, then try making flavoured butters and let me know what your favourites are…


Refried beans

I’d been at work all day, and he was ill.  No cooking had been done, and tummies were growling.

One package of tortilla wraps, the end of a block of cheddar, and the scrapings from a tub of creme fraiche magically became a meal with the addition of this wonderfully satisfying and totally meat-free concoction.  It’s equally good as a topping for a baked potato, or the base for cheesy nachos.

First, obtain some cooked beans.  You can open a few tins of kidney beans, or alternatively cook your own from dried.  I prefer the tiny military-tan adzuki beans for my recipe as they are easy to store, and cook relatively quickly in the pressure cooker (here’s my preferred reference for pressure cooking times).  One tip: if you are cooking your own beans, the flavour is greatly improved by adding a bay leaf to the pressure cooker before cooking.

You’ll need about three cups of cooked beans, or the drained contents of two tins, to make enough refried beans to feed 4 – 6 hungry adults.

From there, the recipe is easy.


  • 2 tins beans, drained, or 3 cups cooked beans
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tomato, chopped, or half a tin of tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf (if you didn’t cook your own beans with one in already)
  • half a teaspoon red chilli flakes, or less of chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • oil for frying
  • coriander leaf to garnish (optional)


  1. Saute the onion and garlic until soft.
  2. Add the tomatoes, chilli and bay leaf and mix well.
  3. Add the beans and mash (ideally using a potato masher) into the sauce until everything is pureed. It’s up to you how much texture you decide to leave.
  4. Add salt if needed.
  5. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, with the lid off until the puree starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Garnish with the coriander leaf if desired.

Cabbage Curry

This is a work in progress. A very good friend has a vegan cafe and restaurant, and last time I went she fed me the most amazing cabbage curry. I haven’t managed to replicate the unctuousness of the original yet, but this is still very tasty.

If you ever visit Durban, South Africa, do stop in at “It’s all good”. Whatever is on will be tasty and healthy – a far too rare combination.



  • 1 medium cabbage (800g approx)
  • 1 medium aubergine (brinjal, eggplant)
  • 1 tin tomatoes or 4 medium fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp honey / sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Quarter the cabbage, remove the hard centre and slice finely.
  2. Rinse the chopped cabbage under running water to remove any dirt, and allow to drain.
  3. Peel the aubergine (carefully, the skin is tough) and cut into 1cm dice.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over a medium heat in a large pan until the oil shimmers shimmers.
  5. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, and fry for 2-3 minutes until the seeds splutter.
  6. Add the coriander, turmeric and chilli powder and stir for a few seconds.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes and squash them down into the spices.
  8. Add the aubergine and stir to coat in the spicy tomatoes.
  9. Add the cabbage and lemon juice, cover, and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until it is wilted.
  10. Add the salt, mix well, cover, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  11. Uncover, mix well, recover and continue to cook for another 3×5 minutes until the cabbage and aubergine is tender.
  12. Add the other tablespoon of oil and the honey/sugar, mix well, and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until any surplus liquid has boiled off.

Serve with boiled brown rice if you can. The nuttiness of the brown rice really complements the cabbage.