Category Archives: main meal

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.

Coconut dal with onion chutney

It’s been a while since I’ve posted – working a compressed shift will do that to you….

So, last week I was hungry, I was tired, and I didn’t want to have to think while I was cooking.  This is a lovely mixture – a bit like a savoury rice pudding with a crunchy, sweet and spicy onion chutney for contrast.

coconut dal and onion chutney on a glass plate

Onion chutney


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped.
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • salt to taste


  • Mix everything together in a glass bowl (plastic will stain).
  • Place in the fridge and leave until the dal is cooked.

Coconut Dal


  • 100g red lentils
  • 25g dried coconut milk powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g rice
  • 250 – 400 ml water (keep some hot in the kettle as you’ll need to add as you go along)
  • garam masala


  1. Mix everything except the garam masala together in a large pan.
  2. Add 250 ml water and bring to the boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
  4. If the dal begins to thicken and catch, add 50 – 100 ml more hot water and continue to stir. You are aiming for a thick, rice-pudding consistency.
  5. Just before you are ready to serve the dal, add 1/4 tsp garam masala (or to taste) and stir through thoroughly.

Lentil Lasagne

This is the filling I use for my lentil lasagne.  It also works very well as a filling for suet pasties a la Mortgage Free in Three, though the white sauce requirements are very different.

Filling Ingredients:

This will make enough for 6-8, so I tend to use 2/3 for lasagne and the rest for pasties.


2 carrots
1 onion
100g mushrooms OR 1/2 an aubergine (you can use both if you like, but you do need one or the other for texture)
1 clove garlic
1 tin tomatoes  or  4 fresh whole tomatoes
1 cup puy (or green) lentils
600 ml vegetable stock (or water 

2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste

You will also need lasagne sheets if you are making lasagne, or self raising flour, salt, butter, suet, water and egg if you are making the pasties.  Warning – suet pastry is hard work to roll out….

To make the lentil lasagne filling:

Chop the onions, carrot, mushrooms and/or aubergine.  You want the bits to all be roughly the same size….


Fry onion, carrot, mushrooms and/or aubergine together in a little oil until they are soft.  Aubergine is notoriously thirsty for oil, but if it starts looking dry don’t add more oil, just add a little water and put the lid on.  You’ll find it will soften beautifully without sticking or burning.

Chop or crush the garlic, and add that and lentils to your pan and mix well.

This is what puy lentils look like, for those who were asking.  You can get tiny black ones called beluga lentils, which make the filling look even more like beef lasagne – they are really posh but they Co-Op sometimes stocks them.


Add stock, chopped tomatoes and bay leaves, mix well and bring to the boil.  If you’re using tinned tomatoes, I find the whole ones are tastier, and just chop them in the tin with scissors before dumping them in the pan.  In this case, I had some ‘salad’ tomatoes that had refused to ripen fully so used them up instead.


Reduce to a simmer and cook, with a spoon in the pan to hold the lid ‘ajar’, for 30 mins until the lentils can be squashed with the back of your spoon.


White Sauce for Lasagne:

3 Tbsp cornflour
3 cups milk (circa 700 ml)
1/2 cup grated cheese
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

In a microwave-safe jug or bowl, mix  cornflour with a little milk until smooth, and then add the rest and mix well.  Microwave on high in 30 sec bursts, whisking in between times, until it thickens to something like single cream.  Add cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and a dusting of nutmeg and mix well.  It needs to be fairly liquid, as you will be cooking the lasagne sheets and they need water to soften.  If it looks too thick, thin it with water or milk.

To make the lasagne, layer pasta sheets, filling and white sauce alternately until the very last layer, when you just put pasta and white sauce with a sprinkling of grated cheese if you have it to spare.  The white sauce in this picture was too thick, and I ended up having to add milk after I’d assembled the lasagne, which was a complete faff and didn’t work all that well….


Either bake in a 180C oven for 30 mins until hot, or cover and microwave on medium for 10-ish minutes until piping hot and the pasta is soft and well cooked.  You’ll need to experiment with times, and may want to pre soak the lasagne sheets as I often find they stay a bit on the dry side.

The lasagne also freezes very well before final cooking.  It will cook best if you allow it to defrost fully in the fridge before baking.

White Sauce for pasties:

4 Tbsp cornflour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated cheese
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

In a microwave-safe jug or bowl, mix  cornflour with a little milk until smooth, and then add the rest and mix well.  Microwave on high in 30 sec bursts, whisking in between times, until it thickens to something like wallpaper paste (yummy!).  Add cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and a dusting of nutmeg and mix well.


To make the pasty filling, mix an equal quantity of lasagne filling with the white sauce, and allow it to cool fully.  Then put a couple of spoonsful on your pastry circles, seal up the pasties, and bake as per Elaine’s instructions.