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Mum's Recipes with Tessa Meares



For Doha mum Tessa Meares veganism has been a natural progression. A vegetarian since her teenage years with a vegetarian mother, Tessa made the decision in 2004 to go vegan after watching a documentary and researching the benefits of a vegan diet. “I sat all night watching videos of animal cruelty from the egg and dairy industries. I was so disgusted that I went vegan that night,” she recalls.

Tessa and her husband John moved to Qatar nine years ago from the UK. Now a family of three, Tessa is a full-time mum to their seven-year-old son Woody. Though Tessa has chosen to remove all animal products from her diet, John still eats meat. As a compromise between parents, their son Woody is a vegetarian. “Most of the time Woody doesn’t know he’s eating vegan food. There are some things he doesn’t enjoy such as vegan cheese, but he quite often tells me that I should open a cafe and sell my food so I think he quite likes my cooking. As I’m the main cook in the house, most of the time my boys eat vegan. I don’t even know how to cook meat.”

Vegan diets exclude all animal-based products such as dairy, meat, eggs, seafood and honey. An increasing number of vegans also avoid animal-derived materials such as leather and fur.

Fortunately for Tessa, being the only full-time vegan in the family has not presented too many dietary challenges. “We just kind of accept our differences,” she explains. “John knows that I will not touch, cook or even buy meat for him. Woody also does not want to touch or eat meat and he happily tells people that he’s a vegetarian.”

Eating vegan in Qatar

Luckily for Tessa and a growing number of vegans in Qatar, plant-based products are now stocked in most major supermarkets. She buys most of her meat alternatives such as vegan sausages, burgers and cheese from MegaMart, while alternative plant milks are available at most supermarkets. “I really enjoy Tesco or Frys vegan sausage rolls—they’re so yummy and I quite often put them in my son’s lunchbox.” For sweets, she loves Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream from MegaMart. “They have a better selection here than in the UK,” she claims. Her kitchen is always stocked with bananas, frozen blueberries, tinned beans, lentils, pasta, potatoes and passata tomato sauce. Her blender and juicer get used a lot to whip up delicious smoothies and juices.

Breakfast for Tessa usually consists of a smoothie containing fruit, chia seeds, one green vegetable such as spinach, and a plant-based milk. Lunch is a bit sporadic, but it’s whatever she can find in the fridge. Some days it may be a simple vegan cheese sandwich, or avocado and marmite on toast. For dinner, being a Brit, she loves starchy foods such as potatoes—fried, roasted, baked, mashed—plus vegan lasagne, pasta and soups. For Woody, she relies on lots of meat alternatives. He especially likes the vegan braai-style sausages by Frys.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge into veganism, Tessa recommends that you educate yourself as much as you can and transition slowly. Try Meatless Mondays or introduce one vegan meal per week. Don’t beat yourself up if you eat something with meat or dairy in it, she says. “I haven’t always been perfect, and it’s been a major learning experience for me too. You can get a lot of information from the Internet including recipes and resources but don’t overwhelm yourself with information. Keep it simple.”

Black Bean & Sweet Corn Chilli

A go-to meal for Tessa and her family, this recipe can be made in bulk and stored in the freezer. Serve as an accompaniment to rice, pasta, jacket potatoes or nachos.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cans (400g) black beans
  • 1 can (400g) red kidney beans
  • 2 cups passata sauce
  • 2 stock cubes
  • 250–400ml hot water (depending on how thick you like it)
  • 3 cups sweet corn, fresh or frozen
  • Cayenne pepper, optional

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and gently saute until cooked. Add the minced garlic and cook for one minute
  2. If you’re using seasoned black beans, pour the beans and liquid into the pot. Otherwise, drain the liquid from the cans and add the beans to the pot
  3. Stir in the passata sauce and mix well
  4. In a small jug add the stock cubes plus 125ml of hot water. Stir until dissolved. Pour the broth into the pot and
  5. mix thoroughly
  6. Add the sweet corn and cook on a low, simmering heat for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water to reach your desired consistency
  7. Season with cayenne pepper, and serve hot

Chocolate Cake

Tessa has made this simple chocolate cake for fifteen years and it’s become a firm favourite with family and friends. For a rich and decadent version, Tessa recommends doubling the icing. If you can’t find vegan chocolate chips, you can always chop a vegan chocolate bar into small pieces.

Batter ingredients

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 225ml water
  • 85ml sunflower oil
  • 25g vegan chocolate chips

Icing ingredients

  • 75g vegan margarine such as Pure or Earth Balance, at room temperature
  • 175g powdered sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C and grease a 20cm cake tin
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir
  3. Combine the water and oil in a measuring jug and mix thoroughly
  4. Slowly add the liquid to dry ingredients and mix well
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips
  6. Pour mixture into the cake tin and place in the oven for about 20 minutes until firm but springy to touch
  7. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once cooled, remove from cake tin and place on a plate
  8. While the cake is cooling, whip the icing ingredients together with a mixer until well combined and fluffy
  9. Frost cake with icing and top with extra chocolate for decoration

Simple Tomato Sauce

This simple recipe can be used for pasta, pizza, lasagna or any other tomato-based meals. Perfect for freezing. Use either fresh or frozen vegetables. Try eggplant, carrots, capsicum, mushroom—be creative!

Ingredients

1 vegetable stock cube

  • 375ml hot water, plus extra for desired consistency
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables of your choice, finely chopped
  • 1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup uncooked red lentils
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

Method

  1. In a jug, combine 125ml of hot water and the stock cube. Mix until dissolved, and set aside
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat
  3. Add the chopped onions and saute until cooked, three to four minutes
  4. Stir in the chopped vegetables and gently cook for one minute
  5. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, stock and remaining water. Bring to a boil
  6. Add the lentils and mix thoroughly
  7. Stir in the basil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for approximately 20 minutes or until the ingredients are cooked
  8. Add more water if desired and stir thoroughly

Tessa’s Top Tips

  • Keep food simple until you have the hang of it. Vegan food doesn’t have to be complicated
  • Check your labels. Ingredients such as whey, lactic acid, gelatin, shellac and casein are all animal derivatives
  • Don’t be afraid to eat out. Call the restaurant in advance and see what food alternatives they can arrange. If you spontaneously decide to eat out, Italian is a good option: a simple pasta with marinara sauce plus a sorbet for dessert, or cheese-less pizza full of vegetables.
  • Stay positive! Remind yourself why you are embracing the vegan lifestyle and don’t let the judgement of others derail you

PLEASE NOTE: Before commencing any diet or lifestyle change please consult your doctor for advice

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