Food & drink

Forays into the Kitchen | A Novice Talks Cooking

It’s been quite some time since I opened up the ‘Add New Post’ tab on WordPress – at least, without staring blankly at the page with a complete lack of words at my fingertips. Between dozing off at 8.30pm more nights than I’d care to admit and a mentally exhausting few months at work, it left me with very little creative energy to pour into my beloved little blog.

Rather than forcing myself to push out content, I’ve instead spent a few weeks focusing on the things that usually get left by the wayside. This includes working out and cooking; two tasks that haven’t been high up on my priorities list for a long while. I’m not ashamed to say that one of the things I loved most about travelling South East Asia was being able to eat out for every meal. After all, why faff around finding a decent hostel kitchen when there’s amazing food on your doorstep for less than £2?

vegetarian cooking autumn

My motivation to finally learn how to cook heightened when I returned from travelling as a vegetarian. For somebody who has historically been an incredibly picky eater – I still assume that sandwich side salads are merely a garnish and not for actual consumption – this has meant a change to the meals I would gravitate towards previously. But in a wonderful way, it’s also inspired me to try and get a little more creative about what I eat.

So, fuelled by a desire to save money and finally feel like a sort-of adult, I’ve put my hatred of chopping ingredients to one side and spent a bit of time each weekend in the kitchen. It’s taken far longer than any of the recipes advised – hence why this blog post is coming to you so late on a Sunday afternoon – but a realisation is slowly dawning on me. I don’t think I hate cooking quite as much as I thought. In fact, I may get a thrill of satisfaction from seeing a bundle of ingredients turn into a fully-formed meal. Even if my parents have stood over me telling me that I’m doing x y and z all wrong more times than I can count.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still terrible at improvising. Take away the recipe book and I’d probably be left with a pile of inedible, burnt mush. In fact, even with a recipe, I managed to mess up the pumpkin soup that smelled so delicious before I hit it with a double whammy of too much salt and cream.

Violife vegan cheese range

I’m still a little more reliant on replacements for traditional meat and dairy products than I’d like to be – although I do eat dairy, I’m trying hard to avoid it when I actually make meals myself. The growing amount of substitutes available is really impressive and I had so much fun trying out the new Violife range that they kindly sent me a few months back – although just an FYI that I was under no obligation to talk about it here. The cheese slices were delicious although, the halloumi replacement that I was so excited about turned out to be…well, a bit pants. While I’m trying to move away from these now that I’ve settled into being a UK veggie, my go-to fast weekday dinner is often some form of Quorn product so I’m a long way off from a real plant-based lifestyle.

So, moving away from the chatter for a bit, let’s talk about today’s creation. I used to love the Lean in 15 recipes – anything to get my dinner made as fast as possible! – but as they’re very meat-heavy, the books have been gathering dust in the corner for a few months. But I made this sausage and sweet potato pie a few times last winter and it turns out that it’s incredibly easy to make it vegetarian and vegan friendly. Just replace the sausages and chicken stock with your preferred veggie alternative then add Sainsbury’s dairy-free feta – I honestly can’t tell the difference between this and real feta! The result is a warming but not overly stodgy meal perfect for chilly autumn evenings.

winter vegetarian meal prep - sweet potato and sausage casserole

I’m hoping to keep going with my little kitchen experiments and hopefully I’ll be able to keep updating you alongside my usual travel content. With my tendency to eat my way around each country I visit, travel and food go hand in hand anyway right?

My next challenge is figuring out a way to make vegetarian pigs in blanket as I can’t bear to miss out on my old Christmas favourite! If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments…

Laura x

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