Man cannot live on pre-drinks alone: vegan stop-over snacks


Sometimes pre-drinks on their own just don't quite cut it (I speak from experience), and maybe you need a little something to soak up some of that tequila. These three dishes make the perfect stop-over food- for friends to pick at en route to somewhere else, or while you're waiting patiently for the hair dryer.

The herb almond recipe is originally from Martha Stewart, who suggests teaming it with sherry and manchego cheese, but I went with white wine and processo, then gin with the figs, although vodka would also be a good match. These recipes are all really easy to prepare an hour before anyone arrives so there's basically no excuse to still be in your dressing gown/towel/the bath (ahem) when the doorbell goes.

Makes enough for 4

Herb toasted almonds
4 tbsp olive oil
200g whole blanched almonds
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt, pepper

Heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large pan and add the almonds and cook for about 12 minutes, until they turn golden and fragrant. Tip onto a baking tray to allow to cool.

With the other tablespoon of oil, drizzle over the serving dish you are using and add the herbs and seasoning, then pour in the almonds and mix until everything is thoroughly coated.

Coarse chopped bruschetta
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped and still in bite size chunks
Handful of basil leaves
Half a red onion, chopped small
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper
1 loaf of ciabatta, cut into chunks

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir. Allow to sit for an hour so the basil can mix in with the oil and tomatoes. In this time, toast the ciabatta chunks under the grill dry, as the oil from the almonds and the fig dressing will flavour the bread, whilst stopping it from being too rich.

Fig and leaf salad
Salad leaves, washed
4 figs, cut 2/3 of the way to the base into quarters, but so they still hold their shape
Fig vinegar- I used L' Olivier fig vinegar just to cut against the fig texture and the almonds, but if you can't get hold of this, a simple French dressing would work too.

Place the leaves on a serving plate, then arrange the figs on top, with enough per each guest. Drizzle the dressing over the figs, making sure the flesh of the fruit gets the flavour.

Easy peasy biryani

So the sunshine caught me a little off guard with my bowl of spicy biryani on the rooftop... but I'm not complaining.

This vegetable biryani was the first recipe I tried from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Everyday! cookbook. I didn't have all the ingredients to hand, so instead just used whatever was left from the Growing Communities vegetable bag. It's a little re-jigged, and A LOT amazing. The new potatoes add a creamy taste that counteracts with the chili and curry powder, while I love the texture of the almonds, chickpeas and rice mixed together. It might not be the most traditional recipe, but when it comes to biryani, I think the only rule you need is to always make double. I was so upset when I finished eating this.

Makes enough for four meals

2 cups of rice
2 onions, one diced small, the other left in larger chunks
2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 handfuls of new potatoes, sliced
1 handful of toasted, sliced almonds
1 handful of parsley or coriander
1 tin (drained) of chickpeas
3 tbsp of your favourite curry powder
1 chili, chopped small
1 juice of lemon
2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and add the onions and garlic, and cook for a few minutes making sure they don't crisp. Boil the kettle with about 300ml of water and add the carrots and onions to the pan, pouring in the boiling water to just about over the vegetables. Put a lid on the pan and allow this to simmer away for about 5 minutes, until everything is coming up to parboiled.

Remove the lid and add in the curry powder and chili. You want the biryani mix to begin reducing now, so add in the chickpeas and stir occasionally, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. In another saucepan, prepare the rice, as there's about ten minutes until the sauce is ready.

Once the vegetable curry mix has reduced, add in the almonds, lemon juice and fresh herbs, and any seasoning if you think it needs it. When the rice is ready, drain and stir into the curry mix. This will keep for two days but be sure to reheat the rice properly for leftovers- even if the temperatures outside are soaring!

The London sky. For real.