Low-cost vegan recipes from Gill Kay

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I’VE never believed it is difficult to cook quality vegan food.

True, there are cook books out there that complicate the life out of the simplest of recipes but, after years of trying to follow them, I’ve pretty much refined my own way of doing things. And I think this is what most people should aim for.

I use them more as guideline than set in stone. I mean, who has time to hunt down aleppo sauce, sriracha or the petal of an iris that blossoms only once every five years?

So I apologise if my methods are not quite up to professional cheffie standards, but they work for me.

And the recipes on this page are pretty much my take on fairly standard fare. I can do complicated and gourmet but for this exercise – feeding a family of four (two adults and two children) – I’ve tried to keep it simple.

Feel free to change some of the ingredients to suit your own tastes – what you do in the privacy of your own home is up to you.

Pasta al limone by Gill Kay


Pasta al limone

350g pasta, 55p of 79p packet

1 x large lemon, 49p

1 large tomato, 37p

Salad mix, 30p (reduced)

3 x garlic cloves, 21p

Olive oil

Mixed herbs

Black pepper

Optional: 110g peas (add 20p to total cost)


1) Boil the pasta in water till it’s cooked. The recipes say ‘al dente’ but I ignore that.

2) In the meantime, in a large pan fry the garlic, lemon zest (leaving some for decoration), lemon juice and a good tablespoon of mixed herbs in a glug of olive oil, but don’t let it burn. It should take only two or three minutes.

3) Drain the pasta well. Chuck it in with the sauce and mix thoroughly.

4) Serve it up on warmed plates and decorate with the zest and a couple of slices of lemon. Perhaps grind a bit of black pepper over the top.

Gill Kay: I never add salt to boiling pasta or potatoes – or anything that needs boiling, for that matter. Nobody has ever explained why it’s necessary, other than to add ‘taste’ – but isn’t that what the actual food is supposed to do? If you’re that desperate for salt, add it to the meal afterwards.

‘The reduced-price salad was in date, so it was just a matter of washing the leaves and adding the sliced-up tomato. You can drizzle over olive oil or any dressing of your choice. I liked it without to counter the zestiness of the pasta.

‘Be sure to zest the lemon before you squeeze the juice out of it – you’ll never manage to zest an empty lemon. But, before you do either, roll the lemon quite hard on the worktop with your hand – this will burst all the fruity capsules inside and make the juice easier to squeeze out afterwards.

‘Ultimately, I like this recipe because it’s so simple and quick and uses only two pans, although I reckon I could get it down to one with a bit of juggling.

‘There are numerous recipes for this pasta online, which seems to be the hipster meal of the moment, but they all pretty much all say the same thing. The variations are in the method of making it, with options including adding vegan parmesan, although I personally don’t think it needs it.

‘I like easy recipes and this dish is basically garlicky lemon sauce on pasta – but it is deceptively tasty. Some of the al limone purists advise adding the pasta water to the sauce as you go along to make it ‘creamy’ but who can to be bothered to do that? Not me.

‘The real recipes also say to add fresh parsley as well. I’m sure the herbiness adds to the flavour, but I’ve left it out. I prefer to add peas to this pasta or even broccoli or Brussels sprouts (yes, really) – green veggies go perfectly with lemon and garlic. You can do with it whatever you wish.’

Pros: Cheap, quick and easy to do. It contains zero cholesterol.

Cons: It doesn’t look as delicious as it tastes.

Desperate Dan pie by Gill Kaye


Desperate Dan pie

Gro Sizzlin’ Sausages, £1.75 (Reduced)

600g potato, 33p

300g carrot, 25p

275g broccoli, 87p

250g parsnip, 55p

250g peas, 46p

For the gravy:

75g mushrooms, 48p

Half an onion, 11p

Mixed herbs

Vegetable oil

Water from the boiled spuds

Cornflour/plain flour/ gravy granules


1) Give the potatoes a good scrub (don’t bother peeling) and then chop into 3cm chunks. Add to a pan of water and start boiling. I usually add boiling water from the kettle to save time. Towards the end of cooking time and pre-mashing, add the peas and cook until heated through.

2) Scrub and chop the carrots and parsnips. Wash the broccoli and divide into portion-sized florets. Don’t waste the stalks – chop those as well.

3) Boil the carrots for a few minutes before adding the parsnip (they don’t take long to cook) and finally the broccoli florets. If you cook the broccoli for too long, it will lose its lovely vivid green colour and go mushy. And we don’t want that.

4) Meanwhile, make the gravy. I find half an onion and 75g of mushrooms is enough for a decent gravy, but feel free to use more.

5) In a frying pan, add the finely sliced onion to hot oil and cook until translucent. I tend to leave onions as long as possible until they start to turn brown and caramelise. When they’re ready, add the mushrooms and fry a bit longer. I prefer the mushroom to have a bit of bite, so I try not to overcook them. Add the herbs.

6) At this point (and to save pans) add the sausage and cook until they’re done – then take them out, put to one side and finish making the gravy.

7) Add some water from the boiling potatoes to make the amount of gravy you want and then either add a splash of soy sauce, or a stock cube (though I tend to avoid these), or a spoonful of Vegemite or Marmite – whatever you prefer to make your gravy.

8) Now it’s time to thicken the gravy. A spoonful of cornflour or plain flour mixed with a little water and added very slowly until it’s cooked and thickening the gravy should do it. Keep adding until you reach your preferred thickness. Alternatively, cheat and add gravy granules – Bisto do a great vegan version.

9) The assembly: drain and mash the spud and peas – adding a dollop of vegan butter and seasoning. The peas shouldn’t get too smooshed, they’re pretty resilient.

10) Pile the peasy-mash onto a plate and make a mountain. Stick the sausage into the pile, a la Desperate Dan.

11) Drain the carrot, parsnip and broccoli well and arrange by the mountain. Smother it all in the gravy.

Gill Kay: ‘The photo doesn’t show the enormous pile of mash and peas which is underneath the gravy and veg – believe me, there’s a lot of it. I’m not a food photographer, I’m afraid – I’d rather just eat it.

‘If you want to make life easier, just keep the sausage in the gravy and don’t bother building a pie. Also, you could keep the mash and peas apart and serve them separately. Easier still – don’t bother mashing the spud.’

Pros: Most of your five a day is on this plate. Plus, it uses only two pans. And it contains zero cholesterol.

Cons: There’s nearly 1lb of veg for each adult and child in this meal. It might take some getting through….

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