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What I've been cooking now I've got a kitchen again

Have you seen there's a vegan column in The Guardian? Every week there's a new vegan recipe. I'm a regular reader -- not only because I like to feast my eyes on whatever new vegan dish the writer has come up with, but also because it gives me a chance to play my new favourite game.

My new favourite game involves reading the comments and seeing how many will be posted before someone says 'this would be so much nicer if it was served with pork' or 'I can't believe you're cooking this with chick peas, it should always be cooked with bacon'. You get the idea. Every week, someone nearly bursts an aneurysm by contemplating a recipe that does come with a side of dead animal.

I was musing about what sort of person feels duty bound to seek out a vegan recipe in order to tell people interested in vegan recipes that they hate vegan recipes and people that are interested in them while I was eating one of the new Fry's products in Holland and Barrett.

I love a bit of pastry. I think it's the cockney upbringing -- pastry is one of your five a day to Londoners of a certain age. Maybe that's why my perfect pie would always be a bit of meat replacement in gravy. Sure, things like butternut squash and mushrooms are fine, but seitan and ale, or vegan mince and onion, is heaven in a pastry case as far as I'm concerned.

That didn't stop me giving the Fry's pie, with a vegetable and bean chilli filling, a go. The vegetables were fine, the beans were fine, but what really caught my eye was the fact that it had quinoa in it. Quinoa in a pie wouldn't be my first choice, but I like to imagine some of those Guardian commenters seeing it. 'QUINOA? IN A PIE?!' they'd shout through gritted teeth, veins throbbing in their necks. 'WHAT DEPTHS OF DEPRAVITY WON'T THE VEGANS DESCEND TO? THERE'S NOT EVEN ANY CHICKEN IN IT!' And for that reason, I'm backing Fry's all the way. More Fry's pies please!

Elsewhere, the repairs to my kitchen are finally finished (all four gas rings work!), so I've been taking full advantage of the revamped facilities to make... erm... toast. Not just any toast, but toast with Nutcrafter cheese and beetroot chutney from Mr Flicking the Vs' ma. 

It might not have been the most complex dinner, but the first meal in my finished kitchen was still pretty amazing. Also, it always reminds me that I need to eat more purple food, because purple food always look pretty when you make it.

You'd be surprised how much you miss a kitchen when you don't have one. No washing machine, no oven, no stovetop. It's not pretty. There's not much adventurous you can really cook with a two-ring hotplate that's sat in your living room. Even my breakfasts got stripped back in the face of my terrible kitchenlessness: my normal porridge became overnight oats.

Don't get me wrong, I like overnight oats, but with the weather turning colder, a breakfast that's come from the fridge just doesn't cut it any more. I need the prospect of a hot breakfast before I can lever myself out of my warm bed and into the freezing morning.

With my kitchen back, I made my first bowl of hot porridge. I even put some fancier than usual (well, for me) toppings on - apricots, pecans, and some foraged blackberries from the freezer. Porridge, I've missed you.

But it's not all been toast and porridge - I've been doing some proper cooking too. While rummaging around in my freezer, I found a lonely bao in need of zhuzhing up. Happily, I also had a heel of smoked tofu going begging, and it all came together in one rather respectable meal. The tofu was marinated in a little soy, the carrots were quickly pickled, there's some avocado for fun, and some greens because, well, every meal should have greens on it.

The greens aren't my standard issue kale, spinach, or cavolo nero: they're brussel sprout tops. I've not had brussels sprout leaves before (to my knowledge) which is a shame, as they're delicious. They're the sharp, irony tang you'd expect from kale or savoy cabbage with a good robust leaf that can take a bit of rough cooking and still hold up. Maybe it's the relative novelty, maybe it's the collective fear of all the brussels sprout dodgers out there, but these greens are also really cheap. If you needed another reason to love brussels sprouts, their leaves has got to be one right there.

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  1. Yeah! I'm looking forward to getting my kitchen back in order soon and maybe that will help me with multiple things! Congrats!!

  2. Congratulations on getting your kitchen back! I'm excited for you, as a fellow cook, and lover of a good working kitchen! You've done well by your new facilities — never belittle good toast and toppings. And the bao looks great. I don't think I've heard of brussels sprout tops, but they sound interesting. As for the commenters, some of them seem to be a sub-group of humans that only come out to make obnoxious comments on subjects they disagree with but seem to know nothing about. Gaaaa.

  3. Pastry is an absolute DELIGHT. I had dinner with some German friends recently and we went to a pie restaurant here in Manchester (Pie & Ale) and they told me they "don't really have [savoury] pie". Of course I asked "SO WHEN DO YOU EAT PASTRY?" and they said "......in biscuits?" I was horrified. I need to go to Germany to find out if this is true or if I just happened to meet two pastry-shy Germans.

  4. I love this post! Your imaginary commentary is hilarious! I like a veggie pot pie in the cooler months, which will soon be upon us. Fancy sharing a few photos of your new kitchen?! I’d love to see it!

  5. I know what you mean about the negative comments always accompanying veggie or vegan recipes, I had a column in a local paper and always received at least one similar type of comment, you learn to ignore it - its the same kind of people that throw pork pies into the veggie section at super markets. I want to grumble on a slightly different issue though, my annoyance is recently these vegan columns are being written by meat eaters, not vegetarian and vegans and then they get hailed as if they have created something new - ask a vegan or vegetarian chef and they have been cooking that recipe a long while, but that is just me being finnicky.

    I have seen that pie at H&B, but have resisted so far . Look forward to getting a peek into your new kitchen!!!

  6. I'm so happy that you have a functioning kitchen again. YAY! The toast looks amazing, I need to get more into chutneys when I get back home. I love them but I never seem to have them knocking around. The pastry on that Fry's pie looks seriously good, I can't get down with quinoa and beans in a pie though, I can stretch to creamy mushrooms but otherwise it needs to be fake meat all the way.

  7. Congratulations on your new kitchen. Porridge sounds like a perfect way to welcome it to me - I'm obsessed at the moment.

    I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that, despite reading the weekend Guardian weekly (albeit often I get to the magazine a week or two late...), I didn't realise until my husband told me that the new column at the back was specifically vegan. I just thought we had a good run of vegan recipes :P

  8. So awesome there's a vegan column and hilarious some people feel compelled to rant about it being vegan. Congratulations on getting your kitchen back! Sometimes the simplest food is the best, especially if it's beautiful purple. :-) I don't think I've ever had brussels sprouts leaves before. Actually I never knew they had leaves, now I'll have to keep an eye out for them.


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