Introduction

Introduction

By
Katy Beskow
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 184949 963 7
Photographer
Dan Jones

When I started the vegan recipe blog Little Miss Meat-Free I never dreamed that within a year I would be teaching cooking classes, demonstrating at food festivals, working with a handful of well-known brands and writing for a national magazine. In between these projects, I continued to work full-time at a day job, hustling to ensure the bills were paid so I could carry on with my real passion. As you can imagine, this left me with very little time to cook and enjoy a meal for myself, even though my days were filled with producing elegant dishes, using the best ingredients, for other people to enjoy. I knew that when I got home, I wouldn’t want to spend the evening in the kitchen, and that I really didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to go shopping for lots of specialist ingredients.

I found that the meals I was cooking at home took fifteen minutes or less to prepare and cook and, as I’ve never been one to compromise when it comes to flavour, my meals needed to be quick, simple, balanced and delicious. I’d raid the fridge and cupboards, often taking inspiration from the dishes I had cooked earlier that day, but using quicker cooking techniques and ingredients that I had to hand.

The fifteen-minute meals I had created were so delicious I decided to post them on the blog and, to my surprise, these remain my most popular recipes, with lots of readers posting photos of their quick creations across social media. I also challenged friends and family to make my fifteen-minute recipes, rather than ordering takeaways, which led to my title 'Fast Food Queen', as I always had a recipe that was quicker, tastier and a lot cheaper than ordering a takeaway!

I love being in the kitchen and would encourage anyone to develop a passion for good food, however busy their lives. The idyllic dream of wanting to prepare a hearty family meal every evening compared with the reality of the time you actually have is often a struggle that is all too real. I believe that great food can be created in even short amounts of time, using fresh ingredients to create something delicious and balanced. I hope you enjoy the time you spend making these recipes as much as you enjoy eating them.

I’m so excited to share my collection of fifteen-minute recipes with you in this book.

Why vegan?

As a life-long animal lover, I have been a vegetarian from childhood. I became vegan when I moved to London and stumbled across a colourful fruit-and-vegetable market, which left me intoxicated with new sights, fragrances, and tastes. Every Saturday morning, I rushed to the market as early as I could to get the freshest produce and be back in time to be inspired by a day of food TV programmes. I didn’t have Nigel Slater’s kitchen garden and I couldn’t afford to shop in Nigella’s delicatessens, but I had a brown paper bag full of colourful fruits and vegetables waiting to be cooked into something delicious (even if it was in the tiniest of kitchens, with just two pans and a cracked jug). I had a limited budget and discovered that by not using any expensive animal ingredients I could experiment even more with flavours and textures.

People choose to become vegan for many reasons, including ethical values, environmental issues, sustainability, reduction of food costs, and health improvement. For me, any health benefit of a vegan diet is a happy side effect of choices that are primarily ethical. More questions are raised about where food is from, the ethics, production, and environmental and humanitarian impact created by what a consumer chooses to purchase and eat. Due to this, there are more people than ever reducing their meat and dairy intake, whether it’s to live a vegan lifestyle or simply to try something a bit different in their diet. This book isn’t designed as a resource for discussing the politics of veganism, but as a celebration of great, fast food that can be enjoyed by everyone. Vegan food is no longer considered bland and minimalist. If we see past the ‘meat-and-two-veg’ style of eating and look at better ways to prepare, eat, and enjoy our food, a world of new flavours, textures, and dishes awaits. So many people eat the same old meals, perhaps due to habit or lack of confidence in the kitchen, but not truly enjoying their food, which is a good indication that it is time to shake things up and try new ingredients and methods of cooking.

Reducing dairy and eggs isn’t as difficult as it may initially seem. Many of us have a learnt dependence on dairy products, rather than trying something plant-based that can be equally as delicious. Think you can’t enjoy a bowl of chilli without a cooling swirl of soured cream? Slice over a creamy avocado. Wonder how you will ever get that soup so thick and rich? Use coconut milk. There’s an alternative for everything, which just involves stepping outside the box.

Vegan food lends itself particularly well to fast cooking, as the basic ingredients are easy to prepare and cook. There are fewer food-safety concerns compared with the storage, preparation, and use of meat, fish, dairy, and eggs; just be sure to wash your fresh vegetables thoroughly, store non-dairy milk and yoghurt products in the refrigerator, and ensure any beans and pulses are cooked thoroughly before consuming. Great vegan food doesn’t have to be complicated – and I promise it won’t be bland. Every recipe in this book has been tested to ensure it is packed with flavour, using the simplest and fastest methods. After all, we want to be eating the food, not waiting for it to cook!

How to cook in 15 minutes

Being short of time doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice cooking great food or be a culinary genius to achieve it. With a few simple tips, time-saving advice, and tried-and-tested recipes, you’ll be eating the best food in no time. Many people think that fast cooking must involve preparing all your ingredients ahead of time, but this is not the case. Simply using your time effectively before and during the process is all that is needed.

If you’re using the oven, set it to preheat as soon as you decide what to cook.

If you need to add hot water or stock to a recipe, get the kettle on before you start, so you have less time to wait once you start the cooking process.

When a recipe calls for the use of a pan or wok, add the oil in and get it over the recommended heat level before you do anything else. You can then prepare the first vegetable required with no time waiting for the pan to reach temperature.

There’s no need to prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. Start with the items that have the longest cooking time, then while these are cooking, you can prepare and then add the other ingredients. Don’t worry if you’re unsure of what should come first – I’ve listed the preparation step-by-step in each recipe’s method.

If you have more time and plan on fast cooking later, you can prepare many ingredients in advance, if you wish. Keep prepared fruits and vegetables refrigerated and in sealed glass jars, then bring to room temperature before cooking.

Have a selection of useful kitchen equipment to reach: a couple of good quality knives, a wooden spoon, garlic press, measuring spoons, and a timer.

Fresh ingredients such as vegetables and fruits are often easier to peel, chop, and work with when they are at room temperature. Produce which is in season is more tender and tastes better, so work with what is commonly available.

Have a storecupboard stocked with essentials such as pasta, rice, flour, and sugar; that way you have all the basics to hand for when you want to cook something (with no running to the shop!). I keep dried items in tall jars, so they are easy to find in the cupboard without having to search for half-used packets.

Taste your food as you cook, adding more seasoning to suit your taste. Don’t be a slave to a recipe – if the addition of more or less of an ingredient works for you, then go with it. Trust your instincts.

Get some music on, pour yourself a glass of wine, or brew a cup of tea and enjoy cooking! Too many people find cooking a chore; relax, get creative, and reap the benefits.

Storecupboard essentials

Having a storecupboard stocked with a few essentials means that you’re always prepared to cook up something delicious in no time at all. Forget about pre-prepared meals, as they can be expensive and lacking in flavour. Instead, have some basic ingredients to hand so you can create a home-cooked dish whenever you want.

Beans and pulses

Beans and pulses are versatile staples of a vegan diet, offering substance and a healthy source of protein and fibre to any dish. However, they are renowned for taking hours to prepare before you can start cooking with them. Instead, canned beans and pulses only require draining and rinsing before you can use them. Always rinse well through a sieve to remove the salted water solution and to remove that ‘canned’ taste. Keep a selection of canned beans and pulses in your cupboard, including red kidney beans, butter beans, green lentils, and chickpeas.

Nuts and seeds

These are the ultimate fast ingredients, instantly ready to add texture and crunch to any dish – think of a sweet pecan topping over pancakes or a sprinkle of sesame seeds over Pad Thai jay. Store in airtight jars to keep them at their optimum flavour and freshness. Nuts and seeds are also nutritional powerhouses, full of essential fatty acids, protein, and fibre. Try a few varieties and discover what works well with other flavours, keeping a few basics in your cupboard, including walnuts, flaked almonds, sesame seeds, and pistachios.

Yeast extract

Love it or hate it, yeast extract is a magical ingredient when you are short of time. A teaspoon of the dark elixir stirred through a sauce will give it a deeper, richer flavour, as though it’s been cooked for hours. If you’d vowed never to eat it on toast, don’t dismiss it is a fantastic basic ingredient in fast cooking. Still need some encouragement? Try it in my One-pot chilli.

Herbs, spices, and blends

Invest in a few jars of herbs and spices, so you always have the basics to create a full-of-flavour dish, no matter how much time you can spare in the kitchen. Woody herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano are preserved beautifully as dried herbs and enrich the base flavour of a dish. Leafier herbs such as parsley, coriander, basil, and mint are best kept on your windowsill and used fresh. Have a selection of your favourite sweet and savoury spices in your cupboard, including cinnamon, ground ginger, cumin, and turmeric. Spice and herb blends require no pre-toasting – think mixed chilli powder, herbes de Provence‚ and garam masala. There is often snobbery around using a concentrated curry paste – it may not be fully authentic to the dish you are making, but it is a fantastic way to pack a flavour punch with a blend of spices, particularly when you are short of time.

Pasta

This is the ultimate fast food and a staple in any household cupboard. It’s available in many shapes, sizes, wheats, and colours, making it the perfect base ingredient for a number of dishes. Most dried pasta sold in the supermarkets is egg free, but double-check to be sure. Pasta is a low-cost ingredient, which will keep well in your cupboard stored in its sealed bag or in a clip jar. Have a selection of penne, spaghetti, tagliatelle, and macaroni as standard.

Antipasti vegetables

Vegetables preserved in oil are a useful ingredient for any cook, particularly when you want to create a great dish with little time. The vegetables are roasted, charred, or sundried before being submerged in the oil, ready to use, cutting out that lengthy cooking time. Have a selection of jarred antipasti vegetables, including artichokes, sundried tomatoes, peppers, and mixed mushrooms – perfect for when you need maximum flavour.

Ketchup and sauces

Never think of ketchup just as a dipping sauce. Squeeze a tablespoon of ketchup into tomato-based dishes and sauces for instant seasoning. Have your favourite sauces, including barbecue, sweet chilli, and mustard available to add extra quick flavour! Always read the labels on shopbought labels as they can contain hidden non-vegan ingredients.

Rice

This makes a wonderful side dish or pudding, and is extremely versatile as a staple for your storecupboard. Opt for basmati, jasmine, American long grain, and flaked rice for the fastest cooking times, and save wild and brown rice for when you have more time in the kitchen.

Oils

The purpose of oil when cooking is to bring the pan to a high temperature so that heat can be transferred to the food, thus promoting fast and effective cooking. It can also be used to add flavour to finished dishes, as well as adding moisture to baked goods. I’d recommend using a mild-flavoured oil (such as sunflower or olive oil) for general cooking and baking, and a good-quality pressed oil (such as extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil) for drizzling over finished products. Coconut oil is best used in puddings because its sweeter flavour can overpower a savoury dish.

A note on sugar

Sugar provides natural sweetness and should be enjoyed in moderation. Although I disagree with ‘hidden sugars’ in food, I use sugar where required in home baking, including caster, granulated, demerara, golden syrup, and maple syrup (but not all at once!). Most of the sugar sold in the UK is not combined with, or filtered through, animal products, making it suitable for vegans. If you are unsure, contact the supplier or research online.

A note on salt

A sprinkling of salt enhances both sweet and savoury flavours, lifting a dish from everyday to exceptional. Use good-quality salt flakes and gently crush them between your fingers as you scatter moderately over your food.

Fast, fresh essentials

Fast cooking calls for fresh ingredients that are easy to prepare and cook down quickly. It’s always worth having a selection of fresh ingredients in your refrigerator, so when the need for a fast meal arises, you have the essentials to hand.

Soft fruits, such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, and blackberries, require no preparation and can be used for a quick morning smoothie, simple snack, or baked into a crumble for pudding. Other low-preparation fruits include peaches, nectarines, bananas, and cherries. Choose your fruits seasonally for the best flavour, price, and variety all year round. It’s worth keeping a couple of peeled, ripe bananas in the freezer to throw into smoothies or whip up a Banana split ice cream.

Lemons and limes provide fast bursts of flavour in a dish when the juice is squeezed over at the end of cooking. Always choose unwaxed fruits as they are often waxed for aesthetic purposes with an animal ingredient such as shellac, which is not suitable for vegans. Squeeze lemons and limes when they are at room temperature to get the most juice out of them.

Most vegetables can be quick-cooked, depending on the method you use. Some vegetables, including mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, and long-stem broccoli, cook quickly, while other root vegetables require longer cooking times. Look out for vacuum-packed, pre-cooked root vegetables, like beetroot, which normally require a long roasting time, but whose pre-cooked versions can be simply sliced before eating. Opt for versatile vegetables, such as spinach, which can be served as a salad leaf or added into a curry; kale, which can be stir-fried or crisp-roasted; and celery, which can be used as a base flavour for cooked dishes or to give added crunch to salads. Sweetcorn, peas, edamame beans, and butternut squash all retain their great taste and texture when frozen, making for a convenient and economical way to enjoy these vegetables.

Onions and garlic make for a fast, flavoursome base to many dishes when used either together or individually. Have a selection of brown and red onions to hand for variety, and keep them in a cool, dark place for longevity.

Fresh herbs, such as parsley, coriander (cilantro), and mint can be quickly torn or chopped and added to a dish to take it from simple to superb, adding layers of fresh flavour. If you have the space, grow them in a window box or keep them refrigerated, stem-down in a jar of water. Basil is best stored at room temperature.

If you’re new to dairy-free cooking, try the many ranges of milk available, including soya, almond, cashew, macadamia, oat, and rice. Many are available as sweetened or nonsweetened, so choose which suits you best. I tend to opt for an unsweetened soya milk for use in cooking, alongside a nut milk for drinks and desserts. A pot of non-dairy yoghurt is also a useful ingredient to keep in your refrigerator; for use in a savoury dish, opt for an unsweetened, sugar-free soya yoghurt. Sweetened or flavoured soya yoghurt is best used in sweet dishes.

If you enjoy cheese, do try the ever-growing range of vegan cheeses now available in most supermarkets and health-food shops.

When a recipe in this book calls for coconut milk, it refers to the full-fat canned variety, which is thick and creamy, not to be confused with the blended coconut milks which you’ll find chilled in cartons.

I make no apologies for using shop-bought pastry; it’s quick, fuss-free, and even top-name chefs like the convenience of a premade pastry sheet. I tend to keep a supply of shortcrust, puff, and filo, ready for a speedy supper or dessert. Store in the freezer or refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before using for best results. Many brands are accidentally vegan, using vegetable fats instead of butter – simply check in the ingredients list before you buy.

Wine and beer can be added to a dish to give a hearty, warming flavour or enjoyed alongside your meal, although some varieties contain eggs, gelatine, and isinglass, which is derived from the swim bladders of fish. Check with your supplier or do some research on one of the many great online resources. Do bear in mind that brands change their ingredients from time to time, so be sure to check before re-purchasing.

Useful kitchen equipment

A few good-quality knives will make chopping much quicker. For home cooking, I’d recommend a small, medium, large, and a bread knife. Look for knives that are weighty yet ergonomic and buy the best you can afford – they will last you a lifetime if you look after them well. Alongside knives, a non-slip chopping board makes preparing ingredients hassle-free. Wooden boards offer protection for your knife blades, as they absorb the impact of the knife better than plastic or glass boards.

When cooking in 15 minutes, opt for pans that are silver or black inside as they heat up quickly. Often, casserole dishes have a white lining internally; these are best kept for slowcooking. Woks are also great at fast cooking due to their concave shape.

A high-powered blender is a great investment piece and can be used to whip up the creamiest sauce, smoothest pesto, and even make ice cream! Blenders with a power of over 1000W have the best capabilities and versatility.

Measuring spoons give accurate amounts of tablespoons and teaspoons, which are more precise than the measures from the cutlery in your drawer. Food processors slice, chop, and shred vegetables, mix ingredients and can even knead dough. They differ from blenders as the interchangeable blades work better with drier ingredients, allowing you full control of how you want an ingredient prepared.

A garlic press is a cheap, easy-to-find gadget that saves lots of time in the kitchen. Simply place the clove into the device and squeeze the handle to crush the garlic. The skin will come away smoothly.

    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again