Rice Bowl with Mildly Spiced Veggies, Vegan Black Bean Burger & Cashew Cheese Sauce

img_3084This dinner came about when I had recently finished a 3 week juice plan and wanted something simple but with a little flavour – not too much, as my digestion wouldn’t be able to cope so soon.

My husband was having chilli, so I decided to have a mild version and also use up some mushrooms and bits of veggies as well as cashew cheese sauce (recipe here) left over from the previous evening, plus a solitary Vegan Black Bean & Walnut Veggie Burger that had been lying forlornly in the freezer for some time. (A chilli burger would work well here too, see Vegan Tiger Nut & Peanut Chilli-Burger).

(I dare anyone to ask where the protein is in this recipe!!)

(You could use spicy tofu in place of the veggie burger and if you really want to spice it up, add a real chilli pepper!).

img_3080The idea was to have rice with mildly chilli-flavoured stir-fried veggies topped with the crumbled burger and lightly chilli-seasoned cashew cheese sauce. 

It turned out really well, but there was far too much for me. It was very filling. I could have halved it and had a small green salad and it would have been more than enough.

 Vegan, gluten-free, organic where possible.

Ingredients for 1-2 servings

1/2 Cup Brown Basmati Rice each, soaked and rinsed well

Various veggies, we used:

Kale, washed and chopped

Red Cabbage, washed and shredded

Carrot, shredded

Chestnut Mushrooms, washed and chopped

Courgette (zucchini), washed and chopped

1 Heaped Tsp Raw Virgin Coconut Oil

Chilli Powder


 Black Pepper

Cashew Cheese Sauce


Cook the rice in about twice as much water until it is absorbed or until it is al dente, you don’t want it split and mushy, it doesn’t taste as nice and it means the rice now behaves as a sugary carbohydrate with a higher GI rating.

Melt the oil; when hot but not smoking, add a little chilli powder then add the veggies, one group at a time so as not to mudddy the colours. Keep them moving.


Add a few twists of Black Pepper.

We added a little tamari to the mushrooms.

Cover and allow to cook on a low heat for a few minutes until done but still with a bite.

Meanwhile, slowly  warm up the burger and cashew cheese sauce.

We added some chilli powder and extra nutritional yeast to the sauce once it was warmed up.

Place the rice in the bowl, add the veggies, top with the crumbled burger and drizzle or pour over the sauce.

Et Voilà!


Copyright: Chris McGowan

3 Vegan Meals with Chilli, Quinoa, Tacos & Steamed Veg (but no Quorn!)

As many of you will know, during a recent and rare visit to a local café, I was innocently duped into having vegetarian chilli by a young woman who believed it was vegan. In fact it contained Quorn mince, which is gluten-free and vegetarian, but not vegan. I was really upset when I later realised; it’s taken me decades of being vegetarian to finally make the leap to veganism. It hasn’t been easy, but I was proud of myself and now I felt I’d failed. It took the shine off what had been lovely afternoon out in a beautiful setting. (See Chillin’ on a Chilly Afternoon with Chilli).

The only thing I felt I could do to make amends (in my way of thinking) was to create a vegan chilli at home and in having it for dinner that following day – and publishing it on social media as well as my blog – somehow I would go some way to erasing my blip and to providing regular meat-eaters and vegetarians with an alternative for their menus.

Quinoa was cooked separately, then added to the cooked sauce to give some added texture in place of ‘mince’. This recipe made enough for a bowl of chilli and quinoa one evening, chilli with 3 tacos and green salad the next, and the leftover quinoa I had with corn on the cob and vegetables the third day.

imageI’ve used chilli flakes because we don’t normally eat fresh chillies, I try to keep nightshade foods to a minimum as they can exacerbate skin and joint inflammation, which is also why I’ve used tomato paste rather than tomatoes. But don’t be put off, it still has a kick and is very tasty. The onion and crushed garlic are missing from the chopping board – they’d already gone in the pot before I remembered to take a photo!

You might be surprised at a couple of the items, or if you’re my son, then probably not!

All measurements are approximate, all ingredients used were organic where possible, vegan and gluten-free. 

Ingredients for the Chilli Sauce

Approx. 1 Tsp Solid Coconut Oil

1 Onion

2 Garlic Cloves, crushed

1 Tsp Chilli Flakes

 French Beans, washed and chopped

Broad Beans

1 Carrot, washed and chopped small

2 Large Chestnut Mushrooms, washed and chopped

1/2 Courgette (small zucchini)

Half a tin of Kidney Beans, rinsed


1/2-1 Tsp Raw Cacao Powder*

2 Cacao Buttons (or just under 1/4 Cup melted cacao butter)#

Big Squeeze Tomato Paste

1-2 Tsps Bouillon Powder

dissolved in

Approx. 300-400 mls Hot water (enough to almost cover the veg)

A Good Splash of Tamari

Black Pepper


Melt coconut oil until hot but not smoking.

Stir fry onions and crushed garlic for a couple of minutes.

Add chilli flakes.

Add rest of vegetables and heat through, stirring regularly, place lid on and sweat for a few minutes.

Add kidney beans and sweetcorn, bouillon powder in hot water, tomato paste, tamari and black pepper.

Mix the cacao powder with literally a few drops of water (an egg cup is easiest to use) and add to sauce with broken cacao buttons.

Stir well, replace lid and cook on low heat about 45 -50 minutes, until all veg cooked through. Keep an eye on the liquid.

Meanwhile, gently cook 1 Cup Quinoa in approximately 1 Cup of stock to give it some flavour, but be careful not to add salt as the quinoa will absorb it all and there will be salt in the sauce via the bouillon powder, tomato paste and tamari.

Slightly undercook the quinoa so it still has a little bite, at about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on the liquid. Remove it from the heat. Don’t stir it about, it needs to keep its shape and not break up or be soft and mushy. It will soak up some of the sauce when it’s added.

To serve:

Add a few large spoons of quinoa to the chilli sauce, folding it into the sauce but not stirring. Leave about half of the quinoa for  the third evening.

Ladle the sauce into a warm bowl, with plenty of liquid, you want the remainder of the sauce to be thick for next evening.

I sprinkled on some nutritional yeast before eating, but that’s optional. You can have tortillas or crisp homemade bread to accompany the chilli.

When the leftover chilli and quinoa are cool, place in separate containers in the fridge for the next 2 meals.

Day Two

Next evening, the chilli sauce will have been absorbed by the quinoa and will be thick enough to have in tacos with green salad and I added some chilled cashew cheese sauce but you could have plain yogurt (See Easy-Peasy Cheesy Cashew Sauce or Dip).

I made three, but it would easily have made four and was so filling. Two was enough. Be sure to eat this with someone who loves you for who you are because it is the messiest thing to eat!

Day Three

Not the prettiest or most photogenic meal, but everything needed using up. It was tasty and filling and you can’t ask for much more in a meal! It also only took about 15 minutes. 

The corn, broccoli and broad beans were lightly steamed while the chestnut mushrooms were stir-fried with crushed garlic and tamari. They were then set aside in the frying pan while the quinoa was warmed through with some chopped spring onion, keeping it on the move so it doesn’t stick to the pan.


So what’s the verdict? Do you think I’ve made up for my vegan/vegetarian mis-step?



Copyright: Chris McGowan

Chillin’ on a Chilly Afternoon with Chilli

The other day a momentous event happened:

I went to a local café.

To put this in perspective, let me sketch in some background details. Bear with me, it’s worth it.

I haven’t been to a café for 29 years. That’s no typo. The last time I went to a café or restaurant or anywhere that sells food to eat on the premises, was the evening of the day we moved across country to our present house.

It was an horrendous two days of travelling, I was in a monumental amount of pain having just injured an already seriously injured back a few minutes before getting into the car. We were all tense. I was moaning in the front seat, Mum was worrying and feeling carsick in the back, the kids were confused and apprehensive and concerned about me. My husband was doing his best to concentrate on the driving and not get lost. (We do tend to get lost, a lot).

We had an equally horrendous first night at a hotel. We had requested a room with a firm mattress for me, it was anything but.  Our daughter was completely unsettled and spent the night wandering between their room and ours (on the next corridor),  with her exhausted older brother in tow. It was one of the longest and most uncomfortable nights of my life, spent part-time in her bed, part-time on the floor, part-time in ours, and no-one getting any sleep.

Next day, moving-in day, we had to sit in the drive of our new house for several hours waiting for the removal van to turn up and bring us some furniture to sit (and in my case lie) on. I wanted to scream and scream and scream with the pain. (Mum meanwhile was happily filling in the neighbours about our family history over the garden fence!)

When we were finally in, it was early evening. Mum kindly offered to buy us dinner, but wanted us to go to a local restaurant. I had assumed it would be fish and chips out of the paper.  However, she wanted to treat us in an effort to erase the horrible time we’d had. I couldn’t face it, but I didn’t want to disappoint her or the kids who rarely had such an opportunity to eat out. It was the only way I was going to get any food and I was feeling light-headed. Even takeaway was too much for us all to face as it meant trying to find plates and cutlery, washing them etc. So we agreed.

It was a small, homely restaurant with just a few tables and a tiny reception area. The seats were totally unsuitable for me in my state, even padded around with cushions for support. (I am feeling every painful moment of this story as I write, it’s not one I usually like to recall). 

We waited, and waited. The staff were very apologetic, fully aware that something was going on besides kids getting ravenous and all of us about to begin gnawing on a chair leg. They called us through, just as I was about to throw in the towel.

The plates and portions were enormous. There was no way I was going to sit through all that. I felt sick with pain and knew that if I let go of the chair and table that were providing support, in order to use the cutlery, I was done for. My husband tried cutting up the food for me.

I had one mouthful and had to give in. We asked Mum to stay with the kids and my husband took me home, put me to bed and dosed me up with painkillers before returning to the restaurant. To this day, I don’t know if they saved his meal or if the kids ate theirs. I passed out in bed and have never been in an eating establishment since.

So, you see why my visit to the local café was such an adventure.

My husband had often spoken about this café in a lake setting where he and his cycling friends stop off for tea and toast during their bike rides. He kept wanting to take me, just for some fresh air and a change in scenery. I was sceptical that the seats would be suitable (they never are), but this particular day, I felt adventurous, it was a fine if slightly chilly day and I decided to go just so my husband could show me what he’d been describing and the subject would be closed. We would have a cup of tea – herbal in my case, he had made sure they sold it – admire the view and come home.

When we arrived, there was only one other couple there and we had the choice of sitting inside or out. The inside chairs were no good for me, but the outside wicker ones looked more promising so we chose a table outside and once I was installed with my ever-present support cushions, I looked around and let out a breath that I didn’t even realise I’d been holding on to.

It was a stunning setting, with a huge lake, trees, fields, housemartins. The lady who served us was friendly and helpful. I had done a quick scan of the meals chalked on the board and soon confirmed there was nothing vegan and gluten-free available. This was where fishermen and cyclists came for toasted bacon sandwiches in the mornings, in the heart of farming country. There were the usual lasagne, jacket potatoes with tuna and cheese, fish and chips and so on.

We ordered tea, my husband had his usual strong brew and I had green with jasmine. I was surprised he didn’t order a scone or cake to go with it. I looked at the menu she had given me; no, there definitely weren’t any vegan snacks, I was beginning to feel hungry and realised I hadn’t had lunch, but I encouraged him to have a scone if he wanted one. He checked with the lady that there weren’t any vegan options and surprisingly, after asking if I ate eggs (!) she said they had chilli that was vegan.

I was more than a little surprised and very sceptical. We questioned her further. Something about the fact she kept switching between vegetarian and vegan made me a little wary. But she was so keen to find me something as, by this time, I was becoming a little light-headed and all those memories came flooding back.

She offered salad, rice, jacket potato and tortilla chips as options to accompany the chilli. She checked the ingredients on the tortilla chips and on the balsamic salad dressing. I was getting caught up in the thrill of it all and as my husband had agreed to the scone I decided to go for it. I was out, I was in a café after all this time, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, it was a lovely afternoon and I wanted to make the most of it. I chose the chilli, salad and tortilla chips.

As we drank our tea and waited for the food, some moorhens came out to play and entertained us chasing around on the grass.


 The food arrived and it looked good. I couldn’t believe this was all happening. I was really enjoying myself, and my husband couldn’t believe he’d got away with bringing me out to one of his many cycling stops and we were actually having an enjoyable afternoon out.


I tentatively tasted the chilli, my husband warned me it may be a bit too spicy for me, it was, but it was good. Then I noticed the textured bits and I was a bit flummoxed, but I was sure it must be some kind of textured vegetable protein. My husband checked with the waitress, she concurred and told us not to worry, she was vegetarian and she understood. She said it was quorn.

Now I had read recently that Quorn were introducing vegan products into their range after a lot of consumer pressure (they had already gone gluten-free). I trusted that this was one of them. A little voice in my head was trying to get my attention. But I trusted her, she had checked and I didn’t want to spoil this celebratory occasion or ruin my husband’s friendly relationship with her and make it awkward for him to go there again with his friends.

As the skies darkened and rain threatened, we called it a day and headed home. I couldn’t wait to tell my family what just happened. I put pictures on Instagram of my vegan chilli. My son commented ‘Fab!’ (He’s a man of few words). Then, ‘How was the chilli?’ ‘Fab,’ I replied, picking up his (relatively) youthful parlance (although I hesitate to describe his appropriation of a sixties expression as youthful, but we’ll let that pass).

Then I remembered and decided to Google quorn.

Guess what.

 Yes, 3 of their products are indeed now vegan. My quorn mince isn’t one of them.

There is a difference between vegetarian and vegan.

 My chilli was gluten-free. It was also vegetarian.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Too Hot To Cook? Simple & Spicy Summer Chickpea Salad

imageOn an overwhelmingly hot day, we had no will or desire for a cooked or complicated dinner. It was also midweek, so this what we cobbled together.

Chickpeas are good to have in the cupboard, so easy to use and a good source of protein, fibre, calcium and iron.

Cucumber is always cooling and hydrating and nicely offsets the hotter flavours of the spring onions, chilli flakes and black pepper.


In a bowl, empty half a tin of Chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

Add about 4″ of ridge cucumber, chopped

2 Spears of Asparagus, chopped

Half a Stick of Celery, chopped

2 Spring Onions, sliced

 Some Chilli Flakes to taste or Fresh Chilli, chopped

Chopped Coriander

Black Pepper to taste

Mix together and add Tamari and Olive Oil Dressing

Serve on a bed of babyleaf salad on a large leaf of Romaine Lettuce.


(Meg, Rufus, this one’s for you 😉)

Ps If you’re reading this via email, you’ll need to head to the blog to watch the video.

Copyright: Chris McGowan