Can you really make vegan meals for £1? A carnivore, a vegetarian and a flexitarian tried it

  • Wed,15 May 2019 09:23:22 AM

For many of us, the ideal midweek supper is cheap, quick, and easy to throw together.

Miguel Barclay, Instagram sensation and king of the £1 meal, has perfectly filled that slot with his One Pound Meals cookbooks, and now he’s turned his attention to eating vegan on a shoestring.

Vegan One Pound Meals is Barclay’s latest instalment in the hit budget series – and we thought we’d put it to the test, to see how his plant-based recipes would suit the taste buds of a committed vegetarian, a self-confessed carnivore, and a vegan-curious flexitarian.

Here’s what happened…

The vegetarian

Claire Spreadbury tested: Sweetcorn and courgette fritters

Left; Claire's sweetcorn and courgette fritters; right; Miguel Barclay's (Headline Home/Dan Jones/PA)
Left; Claire’s sweetcorn and courgette fritters; right; Miguel Barclay’s (Headline Home/Dan Jones/PA)

“I’ve been a vegetarian for over a decade, but have never, ever, considered going vegan. Even now, when it’s uber-trendy and more accessible than ever, it’s just not for me. I’m not a good enough cook, I don’t have a lot of time and I need my eggs! I’ve also always assumed it’s a fairly expensive diet to live by, so making a whole vegan meal for £1 is a really interesting concept.

“I tried the sweetcorn and courgette fritters from the book and I have to admit, they were pretty cheap to make. I shopped at Ocado and reckon my meal comes as close to a quid as you can get it. The gram flour (which I thought would be hard to find, but actually Asda, Tesco and Morrisons all sell it online) was £1.49 for a whole kilo and you only need two tablespoons. You can spend as much or as little as you like on olive oil and only use a splash, then the portion of courgettes I used came out at 20p, Green Giant sweetcorn at 30p and rocket 40p. All in all, a pretty impressive price point.

£1 fritter ingredients (Claire Spreadbury/PA)
£1 fritter ingredients (Claire Spreadbury/PA)

“The recipe itself is quick and easy to make. All you have to do is grate the courgette, throw in some sweetcorn and gram flour, and then season it. I was a little dubious when instructed to stir it all together until “the mixture has a thick batter consistency”. This isn’t like any batter I’ve ever created before, but I was surprised how well it held together when I pan-fried it, flipping each fritter after a couple of minutes (tip – they do stay together better if you keep them on the small side).

“I was having mine for a mid-week pre-Pilates dinner, so I used rather a lot more rocket than the three artistically placed leaves in the book image, but they tasted great – surprisingly great, if I’m honest. I am a bit of a fritter fanatic and I wasn’t convinced any recipe excluding eggs was going to be all that tasty, but I was wrong. It’s really healthy too and better still – my kids saw me eating them and want to make (and eat) them at the weekend!”

The carnivore

Ella Walker tested: Vegan sausage rolls

Vegan sausage rolls (Ella Walker/Dan Jones/PA)
Left, Ella’s vegan sausage rolls; right, Miguel Barclay’s (Ella Walker/Dan Jones/PA)

“I love a sausage roll, especially golden homemade ones, crisp and puffed up, stuffed with pork meat and chunks of molten apple. But I’m happy eating pretty much anything if pastry is involved, so although I do eat meat, my diet is big on veggie – and increasingly – vegan options too. That said, I am yet to try a Greggs sausage roll, which appears to be the vegan sausage roll to beat…

“Barclay’s recipe is very straightforward – it’s just black beans, onion, garlic and mushrooms fried, blitzed, then sandwiched in shop-bought puff pastry (which I was surprised to discover tends to be vegan by default, even though the defining quality of puff is traditionally yellow layers of butter).

“I doubled the mixture, and it worked out at £1.55 per person (for three sausage rolls each), but to be fair, I already had garlic, salt, pepper, dried oregano and oil at home, which skews the results. And also, I didn’t have time to shop around (which Barclay does to get the best deals). However, with sweetcorn and wedges on the side, it made for a filling midweek dinner, and there were leftovers for a packed lunch the next day.

“On taste, they weren’t remotely sausage-like, but there was a huge punch of flavour from the oregano. My only criticism would be that the filling lacked heft – it was a bit paste-like – and I don’t know how Barclay got the golden crust on his without the help of an egg wash.”

The (largely vegan) flexitarian

Prudence Wade tested: Singapore noodles

Left; Prudence's Singapore noodles; right; Miguel Barclay’s
Left; Prudence’s Singapore noodles; right; Miguel Barclay’s (Headline Home/Dan Jones/PA)

“I try to be vegan as much as possible and often experiment with things like jackfruit and tempeh – tasty, but it can get a bit pricey (I haven’t bought meat in over a decade, so I’m comparing this to buying veg and pulses). With this in mind, I was looking forward to trying a new recipe that’s a bit easier on the wallet.

“Every week I pick up supplies from the local fruit and veg shop (great if you’re trying to cut down on plastic, and the produce is amazing) and get everything else from Tesco. I made this recipe for two people, and was a bit nervous because it did seem a bit simplistic – normally I like to really pack my stir-fries with as many different types of veg as possible and this is basically just beans, carrots and onion. A bit of housekeeping – dietary requirements mean I can’t eat onions and garlic, so I subbed in spring onions and ginger, which are around the same price.

Cooking the Singapore noodles
The noodles in progress… (Prudence Wade/PA)

“I’ve roughly calculated the price of the meal – it’s hard to do it exactly, for example the recipe would call for a handful of cashews but I still had to buy a bag. Per person, the noodles were roughly 40p, 10p for the spring onions, 25p for green beans and 60p for the cashews. I already had sesame oil, ginger, chilli flakes, curry powder, soy sauce and seasoning in my cupboards – if you didn’t have that stuff, the bill would really tot up. In total that’s £1.35 – I’m sure you could get cheaper nuts if you bought in bulk online, but I was buying the smallest bag I could from the supermarket, and it’s definitely not cheap.

“Even if it’s not bang on a pound, you can’t deny it’s a pretty cost-effective meal. However, it didn’t exactly set my world on fire. Sure, it was easy to make and nice enough (if you add more curry powder and chilli flakes than specified in the recipe), but there wasn’t a huge amount of exciting tastes or flavours going on.

“I’m glad recipes like this show that plant-based meals don’t have to be tricky or costly – I just wished it showed that vegan food can be a bit more interesting. All it needed was some different kinds of veg, more spices and maybe some tofu to really kick it up a notch – but that obviously adds on the pennies.”

Miguel Barclay’s Vegan One Pound Meals: Delicious Budget-friendly Plant-based Recipes All For £1 Per Person by Miguel Barclay, photography by Dan Jones, is published by Headline Home, priced £16.99. Available now.

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