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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Free? Yes please!

Tonight (14 January) I made dinner for two - for free. Let me caveat this: while this blog is predominantly for my own low-cost recipes, often using leftovers, this recipe is neither my own, nor was it using any leftovers. But it was free, and for that reason it gets a mention here. 

This evening my husband carried home with him a brown paper bag. When I asked him what was in it, I got the succinct reply: "food". It transpired that as part of a PR exercise, several bags of 'food' had been delivered to the office, and a couple of days later, the final one - ours - was finally on its way home.

I had been planning to use up the veg in my house, but when I opened the bag it became clear that the contents would not keep. For within the brown paper bag lay a variety of vegetables, including a rather ripe avocado and some downcast spring onions. 

The bag also contained a press release and a recipe. The bag had been delivered from a new healthy eating venture called Mindful Chef.  Its mission is to encourage good healthy and delicious recipes suitable for vegans or those with gluten intolerances. The recipe card I had was for Chipotle black bean burger with parsnip and sweet potato fries, accompanied with an avocado, parsley and cherry tomato salsa. 

Every ingredient had been measured to perfection, from the tiny pot of chipotle paste through to the parsnip and sweet potato. No waste, nothing left over. Exactly enough for two people and I didn't need to add anything to bulk it out (except, of course, for the obligatory tomato ketchup!) 

Rather than write out the recipe I trust the photo (s) to the left and the right will suffice.

They're not very clear but I don't have a decent camera. Or a decent smartphone.

What I loved: 
1) the black beans were lovely and full of flavour. I'm not sure where these particular organic beans can be bought but I suspect they will be relatively expensive compared to a supermarket's brand. I will do a test to see how brands compare as I will do this recipe again.

2) The fact every bit of food was used, with no wastage. You don't need hundreds of ingredients to make a delicious meal.

3) I will be honest. When I first saw it was a vegan recipe, I swore. Effing vegans and their cardboard-tasting no-meat crap. I am not sure why we meat-eaters get so antsy about vegans. Partly because every single thing is healthy and we feel guilty? Or because old habits die hard? I was also a little sad that there was no cheese melting over the burgers. But as tempted as I was to adulterate the recipe with a bit of Snowdonia's finest creamery cheese, I obeyed the recipe and was very glad of it. My husband and I both thought it was delicious, filling and after it, we felt satisfied, without the bloating that often comes with eating rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. 

4) The sweet potato and parsnip fries were enjoyable and we did not miss 'real' chips (even though I make my own potato chips).

5) The recipe was quick and easy to follow. In fact, it was a delight to follow.

Vegan meal. Pic credit SimoneySunday
What I did not like
1) Probably as a result of the bag being left in the office for two days, the avocado was just too mushy to form a proper salsa. Everything in the salsa bowl was covered in a little green slush. I thought it still tasted lush, but I would have preferred a firmer, crisper texture to the salsa. 

However, the lime dressing was a little too sharp for my husband, so perhaps in future I would not use the whole lime.

The slushy avocado and cherry tomato salsa @SimoneySunday
2) I was indeed confused by the very first instruction to 'boil a kettle'. There seemed to be no reason why. Was it to make a cup of tea while waiting for the burgers to cook? Was it to wash the veg? We shall never know. Perhaps MindfulChef could shed some light? 

With those two minor caveats, I have to say I loved this recipe and the idea of creating healthy, gluten-free meals. Indeed, I often cook meat-free meals to make sure we vary our diet and do a little bit to save the planet, but the fact we ate five portions of fruit and veg each in this meal, with no extra naughties save some salt and ketchup, means I am going to introduce more vegan meals into our weekly routine. 

While I would not buy the meal packs from Mindful Chef - we are attempting our own wee garden and have a good local grocer supporting local farms - I applaud and support its endeavours. I just wish there were something similar but cheaper for the people my blog aims to support: those on the breadline, struggling to meet daily bills. This is the sort of healthy, waste-free food so many families need, but cannot always afford.

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