3 regional recipes to warm you this winter [recipe blog]

Friday, 22 January, 2016

Blogger Vegan Lass shares her winter-warmer secrets with us, demonstrating how you can easily make traditional Lancastrian vegan dumpling stew, parkin and delectably Scottish macaroni pies.

Traditions: many of us hold them in high regard. They’re the backbone of most if not all global societies; they‘re often what we refer to when we want to know why or how to do something; they inform everything from our laws to the way we dress to what we eat. What we tend to forget about traditions, however, is their changeability. Though we may like to think so, traditions aren’t immovable or constant. On the contrary, they change endlessly. The traditions we keep now have altered in hundreds of ways over as many years and as many generations. And the traditions we pass on to our families and friends can be whatever we make them.

I thought my traditions were over when I went vegan. I thought my favourite traditional foods – the meat and dairy-heavy Lancashire fare I ate as a child, and the new foods I’d discovered when I moved to Scotland – were out of bounds. But I soon rethought them, and I rethought my traditions too. The below recipes are the results, the vegan versions of my old and newer favourites: the stew and dumplings I ate on cold school nights, the parkin I had in my gran’s kitchen, and the macaroni pies long-revered by my Scottish friends.

To me these recipes are meaningful, and not just because they’re familiar and comforting. They represent what vegan food can and should (I think) be: a melding of old and new, familiar and unfamiliar, traditional and radical. They demonstrate that going vegan doesn’t mean giving up comfort food, memories, or traditions – just animal products. They’re my new traditions, better traditions, traditions I will be proud to pass on. I hope they’ll become your traditions too.

Root vegetable stew with herby suet dumplings recipe 

My mum made incredible stews when I was a kid; they were the ultimate winter dinner and the best way to warm up on cold, dark nights. This is the stew I eat nowadays, a vegan homage to hers. With root vegetables, herbs, and plump suet dumplings, it’s flavourful, hearty, and extremely comforting. 

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 2 hours (active time c. 1 hour)


4 tablespoons vegan butter

1 brown onion, diced

1 leek, sliced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 potatoes, diced (no need to peel!)

2 parsnips, diced

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 tin butter beans, drained (c. 200g)

25g fresh sage, finely chopped

25g fresh parsley, finely chopped

25g fresh thyme, leaves removed

10g rosemary, leaves removed, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

3 teaspoons strong mustard

4 teaspoons nutritional yeast

330ml vegan beer

1.5 litres good-quality vegetable stock

100g vegetable suet (available in supermarkets)

200g self-raising flour

250ml cold water

Salt and cracked black pepper to taste


Mixing bowl

Large saucepan or pot with lid


1./ Melt the butter in the saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, onion, and leek, along with the bay leaves, and fry until softened. 

2./ Add in the celery and carrot and fry these for a further three or four minutes, stirring as you do. Then do the same again with the potato and parsnip. 

3./ Add in the butter beans, then pour in the beer and stock. Add the mustard, nutritional yeast, a little salt and black pepper, and around a half of the chopped herbs. 

4./ Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for at least an hour, or till reduced and thickened. Keep an eye on the heat and stir occasionally. 

5./ Season again to taste – I like plenty of black pepper – and remove the bay leaves.

6./ Mix up the dumplings. Combine the flour, suet, a pinch of salt, and the remaining herbs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in some cold water, a tablespoon at a time, bringing together the dough with your hands. You will probably need less water than stated above. Just try and judge the feel of the dough as you mix; you want a firm but pliable texture.

7./ Form the dough into around 12 roughly even balls and drop gently onto the top of the simmering stew. Cover the pan and simmer for a further 20 minutes. To brown the dumpling tops, remove the lid and finish in a hot oven, or put briefly under a hot grill.

8./ Serve topped with a sprinkling of herbs or some extra black pepper.

Parkin recipe

This ginger cake is a reworking of a family parkin recipe. Parkin is like gingerbread – except it’s much more than gingerbread. In Lancashire, parkin is a ritual. When it’s baked it comes out a bit like any ginger cake, although perhaps a bit denser and more richly spiced. But when it’s left for a day, or two days, or more, it gets very moist and beautifully sticky. The ritual is in the waiting: or at least it was for me when I was little. While I don’t think my mother could ever hold me back long enough to not try some of the freshly baked parkin, I do remember it getting squidgier and more syrupy as the days went by.

Makes: one loaf

Preparation time: 80 minutes


100g vegan margarine, plus extra for greasing

75g muscovado sugar

150ml golden syrup (if unavailable use agave nectar)

150ml black treacle (use blackstrap molasses if unavailable)

4 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp baking powder

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

275g flour

A pinch of salt

The aquafaba (bean water) from 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas (non-salted, preservative-free, and preferably organic). This should equal about 125-180ml (half to three quarters of a cup)

150ml soy or almond milk


Cake tin (loaf or round)

Greaseproof paper

Medium saucepan

Large mixing bowl

Jug (or second bowl)


1./ Grease and line the tin and preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. 

2./ Add the margarine, sugar, syrup and treacle to the saucepan. Heat gently over low to medium heat until the butter has melted. Take off the heat and stir in the spices; mix well.

3./ Sift the baking soda, baking powder and flour into the mixing bowl, and make a well in the centre.

4./ Add the aquafaba, vinegar and milk to a jug. Mix up a little then set aside.

5./ Tip the margarine/sugar mixture into the flour, stirring constantly as you do, till fully incorporated.

6./ Beat the milk/aquafaba mixture into the batter, a bit at a time. Mix till smooth (but not too much!).

7./ Pour the finished batter into the tin and bake for about an hour (or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean). Resist the temptation to open the door for as long as possible.

8./ Remove from the oven, tapping the tin on a work surface or table, then leave to mature.

Macaroni pies recipe 

Macaroni pies are a well-loved Scottish delicacy, and with good reason. My recipe uses a traditional roux-based white sauce for the macaroni, and crisp hot water crust pastry. Enjoy hot or cold (or even baker-style: just-warm with tomato sauce!). 

Makes: 7 small pies (or 1 mega pie!)

Preparation time: c. 2 hours


For the macaroni filling…

1 litre of soy milk

1 large brown onion, peeled and halved

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 bay leaves

300g dried macaroni

100g vegan margarine

80g plain flour

3 teaspoons strong mustard

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (buy online or from health food stores)

100g vegan cheese, grated (buy online, from health food stores or in the UK from Tesco and ASDA. Be sure to pick a good-quality vegan cheese that melts. I have used Daiya cheddar shreds and Violife cheddar slices with success)

Salt and white pepper to taste

For the pastry…

500g flour

250g vegan margarine

150ml water (potentially more)

A pinch of salt


Seven small (10cm) springform tins (or one large one)

One large saucepan

At least two medium saucepans

Large mixing bowl

Balloon whisk

Wooden spoon

Rolling pin


1./ First, place the onion halves, garlic, and bay leaves into a saucepan along with the soy milk. Set this aside while you make the pasta.

2./ Cook the macaroni until soft, as normal.

3./ Place the pan with the milk, onion, garlic and bay over a medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, then simmer for a minute or two, then turn the heat off and pick out the onion, garlic, and bay leaves.

4./ In a separate pan, melt the margarine over a medium-high heat. Add in the flour, stirring as you do, until a paste (roux) forms. Then pour in the milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Bring the whole mixture to the boil, then turn down the heat. Stir in the nutritional yeast, the cheese, and the mustard, and simmer for a few minutes, till thickened. Season to taste.

5./ Add the macaroni to the cheese sauce, and combine well. Set this aside while you make the pastry.

6./ Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

7./ Mix the salt into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Place the butter and water in a saucepan and heat until the margarine is melted and just about boiling.

8./ Make a well in the flour and pour in the margarine and water mixture, stirring in the flour as you do. When mostly combined, work the dough with your hands, bringing it together into a ball; add a little extra hot water if the dough is too dry to work. Knead until smooth, then set aside until just about cool to the touch.

9./ Roll the dough out into a even circle large enough to fully line the bottom and sides of your tins (or tin). Make sure there are no holes! Trim any excess from the top, then fill with the macaroni.

10./ Bake in the oven till golden-brown on top.

11./ Serve hot or cold. Enjoy!

By Vegan Lass

Vegan Lass (AKA Emily Wilkinson) is a Glasgow-based writer and recipe developer. Part-activist, part-chef, she is known both for her hearty vegan recipes and for her outspoken advocacy. You can follow Vegan Lass on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and check out her latest recipes over on . 

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