Recipe: Easy Mexican Dinner

burrito IG

This is one of the first vegan things I attempted to cook – I wasn’t actually vegan at the time, but I’d just started dating one and was looking for ways to tick that “the way to his heart is through his stomach” box (this dish *totally* helped).

There are a few elements, but I’d say none of them are especially demanding in terms of time, effort, or skill, and at the end of it you get a huge, satisfying, nutritionally ACE meal that has satisfied even the fussiest omnivores and vegans alike.

You can prep the butternut squash ahead of time, and then whip up the other two elements whilst it’s in the oven.

I serve mine with guacamole, a quick tomato salsa, and salad. I’ll mention how I do those at the end, but I suspect you have your own go-to recipes and who am I to change them (or to tell you how to make a salad)?

The fillings I use are:

  • Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash
  • ‘Red Rice’ (roasted red pepper)
  • Black Beans

Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash

  • 1 butternut squash20150225_181403
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • Coriander Seeds
  • Garlic (ideally smoked) – at least two cloves, but this household has a 4 clove minimum!
  • Dried Chilli – at least 1, but the squash is sweet enough to take a fair old hit of spice. I do 3.
  • Grated nutmeg

This is slightly adapted from a recipe in Jamie Oliver’s first book. To be honest, I change up the spice mix depending on what I have in the cupboard, what else I’m serving it with, and who I’m cooking for. This dish also makes a great side dish for a roast, with sausages, or thrown into a risotto or a salad.

Preheat the oven to 180c

Peel the squash and cut it in half. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and pulpy bit. There’s a kind of sweet spot where the texture changes, so if you can find this with the side of your spoon, the seeds and all their gunk comes out in one easy go. If you can’t, just keep scraping until the inside of the hole is the same colour as the rest of the flesh.

Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes (if you’re doing this as a side dish, it’s really nice to do big wedges the length of the squash, but they don’t fit well into a wrap situation!).

Throw the squash into a mixing bowl and drizzle on a generous couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Bash the coriander seeds in a pestle & mortar, and then throw the (peeled) garlic and the dried chillis in too. Bash them all up a bit.

Chuck the mixture into the bowl with the squash, and salt and pepper, grate on some nutmeg and toss it all around with your hands until everything is coated. The longer you leave this to sit and infuse, the better. If you can manage to do it in the morning before going about your business (cover it, obviously) then you’ll have extra tasty squash at the end.

20-30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, tip the whole contents of the bowl onto a baking tray and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Check after 20, in case the squash is catching and needs an oil top up. I like my squash soft, with browned/caramelised edges. Delicious.

Red Rice

  • 1 cup ricered rice
  • 1 or 2 romero red peppers (the long thin ones)
  • Smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsps tomato puree
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

This is something I sort of blagged the first time, and then it was so tasty I’ve made it loads of times since. It is SO easy.

Preheat the oven to 180c (if your squash is already in, move the squash to a lower shelf and pop the peppers on the top shelf)

Cook the rice as you usually would (for me, this is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of cold water. Put the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Add salt and cover, leave for 14 minutes. Do not remove the lid until the end of the time (and yes, I mean 14. Not 15, trust me)!

Whilst the rice is cooking, coat the peppers in a little bit of olive oil, and put in the oven at 180c, with a bit of seasoning on top.

Red Rice!When the peppers are soft and have started to go ever so slightly browned around the edges, they’re ready for the next stage. This should take about 10 minutes, 15 at a push. Lift them (gently, they’ll be fragile!) into a plastic sandwich bag and seal it. Leave this for a few minutes – the steam inside the bag separates the flesh from the skins, which can be a little tough, and makes it easy for you to skin the peppers, remove the seeds and stalk, and throw them into a blender.20150225_182441

Add the tomato puree, smoked paprika, and a touch of olive oil to loosen the mixture, and blitz to a smooth paste. Season to taste.

Stir the paste through the cooked rice, et voila!

Black Beans

  • 2x 400g tins of black beans
  • at least 2 cloves of garlic (I’m more of a 4 girl myself)
  • 2 shallots, or 1 red onion
  • Smoked salt (if you can’t get hold of it, normal salt is fine) & pepper
  • Smoked paprika (if you don’t like too much smokiness, go standard on either the paprika or the salt!)
  • 2 tbsps tomato puree
  • Olive oil

Drain and rinse 1 of the tins of black beans and put it in the blender (sorry, you’ll have to wash your blender up at least once to do all 3 items, unless you have 2!).

Add the garlic, shallots, tomato puree, salt, pepper and paprika. Add a bit of olive oil to loosen it up and blitz to a paste.

Tip the paste into a saucepan and fry. If it sticks right away, add a touch more olive oil. you wanBlack Beanst to cook out the onions in this stage, so give it five minutes or so. You’ll need to keep stirring so it doesn’t go sticky just yet.

Once the onions have cooked (this won’t take too long, as they’ve been blitzed in the blender) add the other tin of beans, including the liquid. Combine fully and turn down to a simmer. You want these to be sticky rather than runny, but you don’t want them to burn. If they’re already pretty solid, add a bit of water so you can simmer them for a bit and let the flavours come together.

That’s it!

I serve these with:20150225_184517

A tomato salsa – super simple, just fresh tomatoes and a red onion diced up finely and placed in a bowl with fresh lime juice, salt, pepper, and fresh chopped coriander leaves. This provides some much needed freshness to cut through all the delicious smoky stodge in the recipes above!

A crisp salad – I try and get some fresh greens in pretty much every meal, and these will provide some much needed crunch. Depends on what I’ve got in – some cos or little gem lettuce, cucumber, and even grated raw beetroot all go really well in this dish. Throw on some toasted pumpkin seeds if you want some extra crunch or protein.

Guacamole – as if you can have a burrito without guac! I prefer a simple guac, so mine is just mashed up avocado, fresh lime, salt and pepper. I make it ahead of time so I can chill it a bit before serving

I buy my tortilla wraps because life is too short (just double-check they don’t have milk or milk-products in). My wrap technique is to fill a strip in the centre of the wrap, leaving a good 3 inches clear at the bottom. I fold up that clear bottom part first, then bring the sides round. It’s not foolproof, but it’s my tried and tested method as a tiny-handed greedy person 🙂

This is one of my absolute favourite dinners, and is quick enough to do on a weeknight (especially if you have a helper to do some chopping and washing up for you along the way) – there’s nothing better than unwrapping a leftover burrito for lunch on a drab Wednesday 🙂


Recipe: Super Easy Katsu Curry

I’ve looked at loads of katsu recipes online, and their ingredients lists vary so wildly in length and contents, that I ended up winging it a bit based on the ingredients that sounded good to me. Fortunately for me, the experiment worked and has been declared by various diners as “SO GOOD” and “the best sauce I have ever had”. So, with the modesty out of the way, let’s get saucy (sorry).

Katsu Sauce

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 inch cube fresh root ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 x eating apples, peeled, cored, and roughly diced
  • 1 stingy tbsp coconut oil
  • liquid aminos or soy sauce to taste
  • 1-2 tbsps sriracha (depending on how hot you like it, and based on the regular sriracha – adjust accordingly if you have the extra hot!)
  • 1 pint water



  • 2-3 tsps curry powder

Sweat the onion, garlic and ginger gently in the coconut oil until soft.

When soft, add the apples and the spice blend or curry powder (whichever you’re using/have in the katsuprogresscupboard) and cook through for a couple of minutes

Add 2-3 tbsps of water to help the apple soften. Once fairly soft, and the rest of the water and the sriracha, and simmer

Once the apple is completely soft, blitz with a hand blender until smooth, and add the liquid aminos/soy sauce to taste (they’re used in this recipe in place of salt).

That’s it. Seriously. This makes enough sauce for 4 people (or two greedy people who want to have half of it on a chippy tea the next day)

What to serve it with

Instead of chicken, I usually do either roasted butternut squash or crispy fried tofu. Sometimes I do both 🙂

For the tofu, before akatsudonenything else I press it. If you’re reading this with a view to cooking tofu for the first time ever, or maybe you have a vegan or veggie friend coming for dinner and you want to make something for everyone, here is the single secret to cooking tofu: YOU HAVE TO PRESS IT. Between two plates, under something heavy (I use 4 hardback cookbooks or my pasta machine) for at least 90 minutes, but several hours is best. This makes it a) way easier to cut and work with and b) much more pleasant to eat.

Once pressed, I slice it into slabs and coat it in fine semolina with a bit of turmeric powder run through it. I’ve experimented, and I think the best way to coat the tofu is to put the semolina in a sandwich bag and gently toss the tofu in there one piece at a time. Be gentle!

Shallow fry the coated tofu in the oil of your choice, but think about flavour – coconut oil is nice with the right dishes, but vegetable or groundnut is less likely to overshadow the flavour of your dish. Olive is an absolute no-no (it burns at too low a heat, and will impart a lot of flavour to the tofu that you don’t want).

Serve with sushi rice and some greens quickly fried in a wok and dressed with soy, garlic, ginger and chilli. Enjoy!

Product Review: Washed Out Body Butter

Yes, we’ve featured Washed Out before. However, this isn’t favouritism so much as another really great product from these lovely folks!*

The new Body Butter from Washed Out is a real star product. Great on Lewis’ beard as much as his face, and fantastic for Ellie’s combination skin.

E: With my combination skin, I really struggle to find a single product that can handle the dry patches I get during winter, and the oily bits I have on my face pretty much year-round. I was expecting the Washed Out butter to be primarily used for dry elbows and hands, but when it came I was suffering a really painful dry skin day on my face, so just slathered it on to my freshly cleaned face.

£12 for 100g, £7 for 50g

The butter has a really light texture for a product like this, and absorbs into the skin really well. After a minute or two, it makes the perfect base for make-up too, and the Barista coffee-scented butter is great for a wake-up in the morning! If coffee isn’t your thing, there’s an unscented version, and a lovely sounding ‘Six More Weeks of Winter’, which is scented with rosemary, bergamot and pine essential oils.

100g is £12, and our 50g (£7) pot is about halfway through after 6 weeks, with two of us using it. I’d say that’s pretty decent value for such an effective product which feels like a real treat to use.

*for the absolute avoidance of doubt, we bought this product ourselves as we wanted it – Washed Out have never sent us freebies to review or paid us for reviews.

Inspirational Women

It’s International Women’s Day on 8th March, and we thought we’d take the opportunity to seek out some inspirational women working to improve the sustainability and ethics of our environment. We’ve tried to feature a broad range here, but there are absolutely gaps and unsung heroes out there, so please please mention your own picks in the comments, or drop us an email at and we’ll update!

For the most part, we’ve found a video of these women talking about their work – we’re big believers in amplifying the voices of others rather than regurgitating their words as our own. Take a minute, grab a cuppa, and listen to what these inspiring women have to say about the world.

Reni Eddo-Lodge

Reni Eddo-Lodge is a journalist and writer, a black feminist who is extremely articulate on the topic of intersectionality. She has a book coming out in 2017, which arose from a blog post “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”. Well worth a read. (She’s vegan too, if that’s your flex).

Wangari Maathai

(1940-2011) A trailblazer in many senses of the word, Wangari was the first woman from East and Central Africa to obtain a doctoral degree, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her commitment to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Her work promoted “ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.”

She established the Green Belt Movement, who continue her work today, taking an active role in discussions and advocacy around climate change, tree planting and water conservation, and highlighting the links between human activity and the environment.

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva focuses primarily on issues surrounding biodiversity and the use of non-renewable seed crops, as well as their impact on global poverty, food production, and agricultural practices.

Majora Carter

Majora Carter is an environmental justice campaigner, working to bring positive environment change to areas in urban environments, challenging the statistical norms around access to green environment along class, race, and income lines. In the impassioned TED talk linked above, she outlines how these schemes generate benefit for the local environment, and its inhabitants, in really diverse ways. A real firebrand – inspirational!

Safia Minney

Safia Minney is the founder of People Tree, successfully bringing organic cotton and slow fashion to the mainstream. Her business launches have typically been guided by her own desires to be an ethical consumer, and she talks about that a little in the video above.

Anna Lappe

 Anna Lappe is a ‘Food Mythbuster’, and the video above she unpicks some of the ideas around industrialised agriculture.

There are also some great grassroots movements and individuals effecting change out there, and these are just a handful of the ones we came across whilst researching this piece. Again, if your favourite is missing, let us know!

Wool: What is it Good For? Not The Environment

Individuals interested in an ethical and sustainable lifestyle come from different perspectives. We all realise that our actions have an impact  on the environment, and based on this, abstain from consuming products that perpetuate climate change. Surprisingly, I have seen a number of progressive shops selling ‘sustainable’ wool. It has been pitched as a renewable product, which fails to understand the reality of global factory farming and the environmental devastation it leaves in its wake.

Environmental Impact

There are over one billion sheep in the world. Australia, China, UK and New Zealand dominate the market. A government reports puts the number of sheep in the UK at around 23 million. Each one produces 20 litres of methane a day simply by burping. The issue with methane is that it is 19 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide, over a five year period. Alarmingly, methane has a Global Warming Potential  (GWP) rating of 86 over a 20 year period.

Each year 90 million tonnes of methane are produced by all ruminant livestock globally. Shockingly, sheep account for 90% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is due to the large amount of  burping that ruminants do. The impact of wool needs to be considered within the wider context of the farmed animal industry. There is serious dollar to be made out of exploiting non-human animals. Livestock occupy 26% of the Earth’s ice-free land and account for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Meat, wool and other animal fibres are apart of an interdependent system of environmental devastation. The lamb in your kebab as you make your way home in the wee hours could have once literally been connected to your Uggs.

Polluting rivers near farmland is a concern to local wildlife and people alike. Sheep may be treated for parasites by being dipped in a chemical bath. After dipping these substances may find their way into local waterways. Contamination of rivers by livestock faeces / carcasses pose a health risk to people too. Experts stated that the parasite detected at a water treatment facility Lancashire  over the summer was likely caused by this.

Ebony and Ivory say  ‘leave our wool alone’. Image from Flickr user Maurice Koop

Merino Wool

The global wool industry is barbaric.There has been sustained coverage regarding the mistreatment of merino sheep in Australia. This is due to 80% of global merino wool being produced there. It is often seen as a high end luxury product. Sheep are not indigenous to the continent, much like the European invaders who brought them to Australia in 1796. Sheep initially used for wool are sent to slaughter, once there is no further economic value in maintaining them.  The industry  employs  a number of efficient practices as illustrated with the merino breed.

The merino has been bred to yield the maximum amount of wool and not to shed their wool. They have been bred to have wrinkly skin. More skin equals more wool.  Sheep may become overloaded with wool and die due to high temperatures. The wrinkles encourage excrement and urine to be trapped in the folds. This attracts blowflies which leads to flystrike whereby flies lay eggs. The maggots hatch and, if untreated will literally eat the sheep alive. To prevent this farmers employ a practice called mulesing. It involves cutting out chunks of skin from the groin area. No anaesthetic is used.

At the point of shearing the sheep are typically handled roughly. They may be deprived of food and water up to a day before shearing, to make them easier to control. The shearer is paid by volume and not hour. Sheep can be left with bloody wounds which are routinely stitched up without anaesthetic. When sheep are no longer economically viable to maintain, they are transported to slaughter. The Merinos from Australia are shipped to the Middle East without food or water. But this cruelty is not confined to far off distant lands. In the UK it has been reported that 15% of lambs die in infancy. Should they not die, they face tail docking and castration, which often takes place without pain relief if done before sheep reach three months of age – which is routine. This is due to the time needed to administer the injections and the cost of medication. The practices of farming in the UK and elsewhere are necessarily cruel.

There have been suggestions that organic wool is the solution to issues of sustainability. The core issues raised above are still present in all forms of non-human farming. Organic methods are to be championed, but no method is justified when a Being who wants to live, is killed. If small scale farms are able to clothe the world then the issue of methane is back on the table. It has been said it may be possible to reduce the levels of methane produced. This reminds me of the story of NASA producing a pen that could be used in space, whereas their Russian counterparts used a pencil. Though the story is an urban legend it does make one think. The answer is simple. Wool / animals’ bodies generally are unsustainable, so we ought to stop using them –  for the benefit of our children, and their children.

The organic wool green-washing machine allows those who don’t want to know, not to know. Sheep are abused in conventional / ‘humane’ slaughter houses as documented by Animal Aid. Abuse has been reported at facilities linked to progressive  bcorps. Workers on Ovsi 21 farms, who supplied wool for Patagonia, skinned sheep alive. The wool from these farms was sold as sustainable and responsibly sourced. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Patagonia has cut ties with this supplier.

Instead of being complicit in the cruelty of wool, you may wish to make a donation to the Fleece Haven sanctuary in Devon. They rescue sheep from the farming industry and allow them to live out their lives in peace.