Monday, 29 August 2011

Slightly oriental lentil and rice bake

Genuine experiment this one... Basically it's an attempt at a Asian inspired lentil and rice bake. Worked pretty well. Lovely texture. The coconut didn't come through as strong as I expected but the lemon zest lifts the whole thing. Next time might get some lemongrass in there too. Worth doing again.

Ingredients:

One onion, finely chopped
Tbsp vegetable oil
One carrot, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
One cup finely chopped pointy cabbage
Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Tbsp chopped fresh chives
Tsp chopped fresh parsley
Zest and juice of one lemon
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp agave syrup or sugar
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Tsp sesame oil
1 cup dried red lentils
200 ml vegetable stock
400 ml coconut milk
2 tbsp vegan margarine
2 tbsp corn meal
2 cups cooked basmati rice
Salt and some extra fresh coriander, to hurl in at the last moment!

Method:

Fry the onion in a large frying pan or wok until it starts to go translucent and is about to brown, around 5-10 minutes. Then add the carrot, garlic and cabbage and cook for a further ten minutes. Keep stirring by the way! Then add the dry lentils, and then the herbs, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and oil. Stir through, let the vinegar cook off a little, and then add the vegetable stock and coconut milk. Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender after 20 minutes or so. Stir through the margarine, then sprinkle over the corn meal and stir in, then cook for a further 5 minutes.

Now mix in the cooked rice. Stir through. At this point I added a little salt and some fistfuls of extra fresh herbs to add extra flavour. Press the mixture into a well greased loaf tin and cook, covered with foil, for 25 minutes.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Vegan chinese-style dumplings

Apologies for the slight absence on the food blog - I've not stopped cooking or eating, just struggled to find the time to take snaps of things as they were made. Will attempt to improve my behaviour from here on in.

Anyway today's recipe is born out of necessity. We couldn't find any dim sum/vegetable dumplings in our local chinese supermarket that didn't have MSG in them, so I decided to have a bash myself. Turns out it's pretty easy. You can prepare a load of dumplings and set them aside for later or even freeze them for a day or so. All pretty easy.

Ingredients:

Tbsp veg oil
Half an onion, finely chopped
Two medium carrots, finely chopped
150g shredded green cabbage
100g mushrooms, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
150g dry weight fine noodles (rice or wheat)
Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1tsp mirin (or sugar)
2 tsp sesame oil

350g dumpling flour
200 ml cold water

Method:

Gently fry the onion, carrot,cabbage, mushrooms and garlic in the vegetable oil until softened a little. Just five minutes or so should do it. Then added the coriander and chives and cook for a further five minutes. Cook the noodles as per instructions (mine took just two minutes) and then add these to the pan, too. Stir through gently. Next add the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and mirin and stir through. That's the filling sorted, which you can set to one side,

Mix the dumpling flour and water into a bread-style dough and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Separate into quarters and, a quarter at at time, roll out into a thin sheet. Now use a large round cutter to cut out 15cm diameter circles (don't worry if they're a bit bigger or smaller, get as close as you can). Now you're ready to make the dumplings. Add a tablespoon of your dumpling mixture to the middle of the round, then wet one edge with cold water, fold over and seal to create a semi-circular dumpling. Repeat to prepare all your dumplings.

Now you have two choices - you can either steam or fry the dumplings. I was naughty and fried these today, but steaming works just as well. Serve up with a little soy sauce in bowl, or another dipping sauce such as sweet chilli or plum if you have it to hand.

Variations: you could pretty much introduce any finely minced veg into the dumpling filling, or small cubes of tofu or fried TVP, and you don't have to use the noodles. Have a play and make some  dumplings!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Polenta, aubergine and courgette layer

Am having stupendous fun with the new grill pan I got for Father's Day. This lunch I made yesterday was all about the grill pan - it took a while, but as long as you've got something good on the radio and no critically urgent deadline, it's quite nice to have a slow food lunch.

Ingredients:

1 litre boiling water
Sea salt
2-3 cups polenta flour
1 large aubergine, sliced lengthways
1 large courgette, sliced lengthways
4-5 stems wet garlic or spring onions, sliced
Olive oil
Black pepper

Method:

First of all make the polenta. You can of course buy polenta ready made but it is easy to do yourself and you can make tonnes and tonnes of it for a fraction of the price. Start off by bringing the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly start to add the polenta flour in, as a steady trickle, while you stir. Keep adding the flour, and stirring, until the mixture is a bit like mashed potatoes. Try and keep this going for around 20 minutes or so, as the longer you cook the mixture for at this stage, the smoother the consistency of the final polenta. When you're done with this stage, smooth the mixture into a greased baking pan or loaf tin and put in the fridge to cool and set for around half an hour.

Like I said, this isn't a speedy recipe, so the next slow food action is to prepare the aubergine. Rub a little sea salt into one side of each of the slices, then stack the slices on top of each other, on a plate, in two stacks. Place another plate on top and then pop a couple of tins on top as a weight. Leave for 15 minutes or so to let the bitterness and some of the moisture out. Then drain.

Get the grill plan ready and then start grilling, starting with the courgette. Brush both sides with olive oil and a little sea salt and then grill until tender, with a few of the garlic/spring onion slices in the pan to give a bit more depth. Add a little fresh pepper if you like. Keep the courgette warm in the oven while you do the aubergine, again brushing with oil before grilling.

Finally get the polenta out of the fridge. Tip out onto a chopping board and slice into 1cm thick slices at a similar size to the aubergine and courgette slices. Grill in the grill plan for a good 6 or 7 minutes on each side. When you're done, stack up the polenta, aubergine and courgette into a gorgeous-looking tower and serve.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Tempeh quinoa plus spinach and broad beans in tahini sauce

I swept into cooking dinner at a bit of a pace last night so this is all from memory, consider it a rough guide to the dinner! Adopt and adapt as you see fit. The tahini sauce was a bit of a triumph, and was inspired by a similar recipe which arrived in our veg box from those fabulous people at Riverford.

Ingredients

225g spinach
1 cup broad beans
3 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cold water
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp rice wine vinegar

--

2 cups quinoa
1 red onion
150g tempeh
1 cup pumpkin seeds
Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp sea salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil


Method:

To give yourself a bit of time, get the tahini sauce sorted first. Put the tahini, soy sauce, sugar, cold water, garlic, lemon juice, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar in a blender and mix until creamy and smooth. if the mixture is too thick to use, add more water. The steam the spinach and broad beans until tender (around 10-15 minutes for me) and then shell the broad beans, mix together and the. Add the tahini sauce. You're ready.

At the same time (I know, you need to multitask), prepare the quinoa. First of all chop the red onion and tempeh and begin to fry in the vegetable oil. Get the quinoa going by boiling in a sauce pan, usually for 10 minutes or so. After the onion and tempeh has started to brown, add the garlic and then after a few minutes, the parsley, sea salt and pumpkin seeds. When the whole mix has browned nicely, add the quinoa and mix through.

Serve, sprinkled with sesame seeds if you want to be posh.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Courgette and Broad Bean Linguine

It's been a bit quiet on the food blog front. Apologies. I've been in France, amusing the locals with rough and ready explanations of my veganism. In the land of tortured ducks and full on foie gras, I can't say I did too well. Everyone was very jolly, though, and there was some very lovely bread, beer and wine. Anyway I'm back now and the new excitement in our kitchen is a grill pan, which was my prezzie for father's day. As a result, everything's getting grilled now! This recipe features grilled courgette, which is gorgeous, plus some lovely fresh broad beans. Yum.

Ingredients:

One large courgette, sliced diagonally
500g broad beans, in their pods
Three cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt
Linguine
Olive oil

Method:

Heat your grill pan and then add the courgette slices after brushing them lightly with olive oil and sprinkling lightly with sea salt. Pop the pieces of the chopped garlic in between them to let it toast. Grill on both sides - take your time - until the courgette's tender and just on the point of falling apart. Remove from the grill pan and slice roughly, and set to one side, covered.

To prepare the broad beans, steam them for around ten minutes or so, then rinse very briefly in cold water and proceed to undertake the rather laborious, but worthwhile, process of shelling them. I genuinely can't imagine not shelling them (you don't need to really) as the resulting 'naked' broad beans are so beautifully green and delightful. It's worth the effort. I shell them by making a small cut in the top of the bean and then squeezing the bright green inner through the cut.

Mix the beans, toasted garlic and the courgette together with a little more olive oil and squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Meanwhile cook your linguine, rinse with boiling water, and turn over in a little more olive oil before turning the vegetables through the hot pasta. Then serve.

As an added option, I also grilled some peppers to serve on the side of this one, and some slices of a fake vegan ham that we picked up at the chinese cash and carry. It's quite lovely for a faux meat, popular with the kids, and made by some folks in Bletchley at a fab sounding place called 'Veggie World'!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Rhubarb galette

Unlike the rest of this blog, this is recipe is a) a dish that my wife Anne made; and b) taken (and tweaked) from somewhere else. On this occasion it's from Anne's favourite domestic guru Martha Stewart, and I thought I'd post it up as I've got far too few desserts on here. This dish is also worth a try as the crust on this pie is lovely, courtesy of the cornmeal.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 recipe Cornmeal Pate Brisee
1 pound rhubarb, sliced 1/2-inch thick
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground, cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
Caster sugar for dusting
1 tablespoon vegan margarine, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 14-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick.

Place rhubarb and lemon juice in a large bowl; toss to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well combined. Add sugar mixture to rhubarb and toss until well coated. Arrange rhubarb mixture on top of dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Fold border over the fruit mixture, overlapping where necessary and pressing gently to adhere the folds. Brush edges of dough with egg, sprinkle with turbinado or sanding sugar, and dot with butter. Transfer to refrigerator and chill 15 to 20 minutes.

Bake until crust is deep golden brown and juices are bubbling, 55 to 60 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to cool the galette. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Mushroom paté with asparagus and new potatoes

It's been two weeks since I last blogged on here – we haven't stopped eating, I've just been stupidly busy. Anyway I've managed to take a snap of tonight's dinner, which centres around a mushroom paté I've just come up with. Bit of a hit this. The paté has a bit of depth to it, and is quite yummy. Would work well with some diddy toasts, bits of pitta, etc. etc.

Ingredients:

250g chestnut mushrooms
One bulb wet garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
70g breadcrumbs
100g mixed nuts
1/2 tsp sea salt
Tbsp fresh parsley
Tbsp fresh basil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon

And...

One bunch asparagus
A dozen small new potatoes
Juice of the other half of the lemon
More olive oil
Sea salt

Method:

Chop the wet garlic, and start to fry in the olive oil in a large pan or wok. After a couple minutes, before the garlic starts to brown, add the mushrooms. Fry for a further ten minutes or so. At the same time, chop the breadcrumbs and nuts in a blender until they're relatively fine. Back to the pan. Add the sea salt and herbs, stir through, and then add the blended breadcrumbs and nuts. Stir through, and then add the balsamic vinegar. After the mixture has cooked through for another ten minutes, return the entire mix back to the blender, add the lemon juice and blend well until nice and smooth.

Serve with the asparagus, steamed, and the new potatoes, boiled, with some lemon zest, juice, olive oil and sea salt.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Asparagus, lentil and spinach in tomato sauce

This one works pretty well... with hindsight, could have done just as well with the spinach and the lentils on their own, but the asparagus needed to be used! Both spinach and puy lentils are brilliant with a tomato sauce... I once had puy lentils in a tomato sauce with veggie sausages and mash – it was gorgeous! Anyway, on this occasion I'm serving this up with steamed rice.

Ingredients:

Bunch asparagus
1/2 cup puy lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tin chopped tomatoes
tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Tbsp vegan pesto sauce
2 tsp balsamic syrup
Tsp salt
150g fresh spinach

Method:

Put the lentils into some slightly salted boiling water and then start to simmer until tender (around 30 minutes). At the same time, chop the onions and the garlic and start to fry them in a large pan or wok, in the olive oil. When they've started to brown, add the tomatoes and bring to a boil then simmer. Now add the basil, rosemary, pesto, balsamic and salt, and let this simmer for a few minutes; it should go lovely and dark thanks to the balsamic. Let this simmer for a good five minutes or so, and then add the spinach, chopped. Bring back to a simmer and let it thicken up a bit on the hob.

While all this is going on, and while the lentils are still chugging away, get your asparagus ready. I've chopped it into 2-3 centimetre chunks. then get ready to steam it for a minute or so before adding to the sauce. Also about now, get the rice on. I've used LOVELY broken jasmine rice from the ever brilliant W H Lung cash and carry in Manchester. It's great. I tend to wash it before cooking, then boil in just enough water so that it starts to dry out after 8 minutes or so and then I get a tint lid on it, turn off the heat and let it steam through for another 5 or 6 minutes.

Anyway back to the sauce. When the lentils are almost al dente, steam the asparagus for a couple of minutes until tender. Then add to the sauce and stir through well. Serve up, with the rice,

Friday, 22 April 2011

Squashed up noodles...

There's been a butternut squash lurking in our kitchen for a good few weeks now and tonight was its night for fame and glory... I combined it with some courgette and leeks in a very light sub-satay over some noodles and topped with some roasted tofu and toasted seeds. Here's the drill:

Ingredients:

Half a butternut squash
One courgette
One leek
Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp sugar
250ml vegetable stock or bouillon
Tbsp peanut butter
Tbsp light soy sauce
Tbsp corn syrup
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp cornflour
3 bundles noodles, cooked and rinsed in cold water
500g firm tofu
Tbsp sesame oil
3 tsp sea salt
3-4 tbsp mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Method:

First of all get the tofu going as it takes 20 minutes or so. Tofu is really great baked - crispy, chewy and and generally yummy. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Drain the tofu and slice into thick, long slices. Place on an oiled baking tray, brush with sesame oil and then sprinkle with salt. Then bake the tofu for 20-30 minutes or until brown and crispy.

Skin and chop the squash into small-ish cubes and then start to fry in a large wok, chop the courgette and (well-washed) leek into similar sized pieces and, after around ten minutes when the squash has started to brown really well, add these pieces to the wok and fry with the squash. While the vegetables are cooking, sprinkle with the sugar and with a tsp of sea salt.

Now make the sauce. In a blender combine the stock/bouillon, peanut butter, soy sauce, syrup and garlic. Blend until nice and smooth. Then add to the cooking vegetables and cook for 3 more minutes to take the edge of the garlic and to let the sweetness of the syrup lift the vegetables. Combine the cornflour with a little cold water and add to the mix gradually until the vegetables and sauce are thickened up nicely. Set to one side.

With ten minutes or so to go for the tofu, you can do the noodles and the seeds. I used udon noodles here, boiled for 4 or 5 minutes in a large-ish pan and then rinsed well in cold water and tossed in a tiny bit of sesame oil to stop them from sticking together.

To prepare the seeds, sprinkle them over a baking tray covered with a little soy sauce and 2 tsp sea salt. Mix through well and bake in the over with the tofu for 5-6 minutes only, until they start to brown.

When the tofu and seeds are done, serve the noodles topped with the vegetables, the tofu and the seeds. Yum. As ever, this dish was designed to be kiddy/wife friendly and so wouldn't suffer at all if there was some cheeky chilli included.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Asparagus risotto



It's amazing how many times a risotto has come to my vegan rescue in restaurants or at catered bashes of one sort or another. Dead easy, always lovely and of course you can chuck all manner of gubbins in at the end to make it funky and adventurous. I've got basil in this one, but you could try mint, or a little rosemary; in terms of other ingredients asparagus is always a winner but then so are mushrooms, aubergine...

Ingredients:

350g risotto rice
Small onion, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
175 g asparagus
4 cloves garlic
500ml vegetable bouillon or stock
200ml White wine
200ml soya milk
1 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
Fresh basil and toasted pine nuts to serve
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok, finely chop the onion, and then fry with the rice for 5-10 minutes. Then add the garlic, and start to add the vegetable stock or bouillon*, and the wine, stirring continuously and adding more as the liquid is absorbed. You can start with the stock, or the wine, it doesn't make a great difference in my experience. This process should take around 20 minutes, but you can pretty much gauge it by tasting a grain of rice every so often to see if it's done.

While all this stirring is going on, chop the asparagus into bite-sized pieces as steam for 4-5 minutes; now would also be a good time to toast the pine nuts lightly in a dry frying pan.

When you're happy with the consistency of your risotto mixture, add the soya milk, asparagus, peas and chopped basil and continue to stir over a low heat for another couple of minutes.

Serve with the toasted pine nuts, some more fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste.

*As with previous postings on this blog, I've indicated vegetable bouillon or stock. We tend to use a low salt vegetable bouillon powder that is widely available and is my preferred option, for me it's slightly thicker and has a bit more umame than regular stock.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Satay tofu & aubergine skewers


























The sun's out today and we've got a few folks over for little person's birthday... but have resisted the BBQ in favour of a buffet type-thing that's largely asian, including dumplings, rice buns and, as you can see, some satay skewers. Quite yummy these.

Ingredients:

500g firm tofu
1 medium sized aubergine
Tbsp light soy sauce
Tbsp sesame oil
Tbsp tomato ketchup
4 tbsp peanut butter
150 ml boiling water
3 tsp tamari or dark soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Method:

First of all make a marinade with the light soy sauce, sesame oil and ketchup. Slice the tofu into small cubes and then cover with the marinade and set aside for 30 minutes or so. Slice the aubergine into similar sized cubes and then salt (to reduce bitterness later) and leave to one side for 10 minutes or so, then cover with boiling water and leave for another 5 minutes, then drain. Toss the aubergine in a little sesame oil and then bake it, along with the tofu cubes, at 200 degrees C for around 30 minutes.

While the cubes are baking, crack on with the marinade. Put the peanut butter (crunchy or smooth, doesn't matter), boiling water, tamari and rice wine vinegar in a blender and blend down to a smooth sauce. I'm cooking for toddlers, so that's as far as I go with the sauce but if you're not worried about spiciness, add a little fresh chilli and ginger at this point too.

When the cubes are baked, pop them onto the skewers, smother with the satay, and serve! I did these on cocktail sticks today, to make them bite-sized, and you could even put them on a barbecue...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Tofu & Miso Soup


























My lot at home don't like chilli. Or curry for that matter. Wifey blanches at the very thought of such ingredients, and the little people do a lot of screaming on the very odd occasion where some of the chilli or hotter ingredients (which I love) sneak into their food, usually airborne. This means that when cooking vaguely oriental dishes, I need to pile in the other flavours to make up for the fact that for family cooking, I can't use chillis to fire up the taste... here combinations like coconut and peanut butter work brilliantly, even bringing a bit of umami to soups and stir fries.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp miso paste
2 litres boiling water
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 carrots, chopped finely
1 tbsp peanut butter
150g bean sprouts
1 head pak choi, finely chopped
200 ml coconut milk
Few chunks of deep fried tofu
Handful of fresh, chopped, coriander
Splash of tamari

Method:

In a large saucepan, dissolve the miso paste in the boiling water, and simmer as you add the crushed garlic and the chopped carrots. Continue to cook for two minutes or so, and then stir in the peanut butter. Allow to simmer for another few minutes and then add the pak choi and breansprouts. Bring back to a simmer and then turn the heat way down before adding the coconut milk (you don't want it to boil from this point on). Stir through, and then add the remaining ingredients...

Cucumber & Noodle Salad


























This is stupendously easy to do, quick, and can result in small people eating something that at least carries the label of 'salad', even if it doesn't feature a towering mound of lettuce (still working on that). The best noodles for this, I've found, are the relatively chunky 'quick noodles' that take 2-3 minutes, rather than rice noodles or anything closer to vermicelli.

Ingredients:

2 blocks of quick cook noodles
1/4 cucumber, sliced and quartered
Tbsp sesame oil
Tbsp light soya sauce
Juice of one lime
Sesame seeds

Method:

Cook the noodles and then drain well in cold water. Add the cucumber, sesame oil, soya sauce and lime juice and then turn through until well coated with all the noodles separated. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Aubergine & Mushrooms in Coconut Sauce


























This piece of 'jazz cooking' worked out pretty well. The absolute key to aubergine my experience is to cook it for absolutely bloody ages... as long as you can, until it's falling to pieces; then it's delicious. Try to rush aubergine and it will taste like you've cut the uppers out of your oldest pair of shoes and attempted to serve them up as an appetiser. So, open a bottle of wine, turn on the radio, and take some time with this one...

Ingredients:

1 small onion, chopped
1 small aubergine, chopped
6 or 7 mushrooms, sliced
Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
200 ml coconut milk
100 ml of veg bouillon or stock
2 tsp tamari or dark soy sauce
Tsp corn flour

Method:

Prepare the chopped aubergine by sprinkling it with salt and leaving to stand for a few minutes and then immerse in boiled water for a few minutes. The salting is dead important as it reduces any bitterness, and also makes the aubergine less absorbent of any fats you're using.

Heat the oil in a wok, and over a over a moderate heat, start cooking the onions and aubergine together. Cook for a good while - 20 minutes or so - until they're well browned. Now add the mushroom and garlic and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, and then add the coriander, coconut milk, vegetable stock and soy sauce.

Bring to a very gentle simmer for another 5 minutes or so. At the same time mix the cornflour with a little cold water to produce a creamy mix. Pour into the wok, gradually, until the mixture thickens up to your preferred consistency.

Serve up over some super-fluffy rice. Sprinkle with some more fresh coriander and sesame seeds if you're feeling posh.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Spinach and Chick Pea Wraps


























Now then. The picture's a bit dicky on this one as I left my Olympus Pen at work and had to use my wife's Canon Ixus (lovely though it is, it's not up to food photos), so apologies for slight drop in standards. This dish was a complete experiment but worked out really well - it's very, very difficult to cock up chick peas and spinach, a dream combo. The only other thing I'd say is that this filling was fun in the wraps but would be quite dreamy in filo or puff pastry; hell you could even use it as the filling for vegan vol-au-vents!

Ingredients

Tbsp vegetable oil
One small onion
3 cloves garlic
300g chick peas, drained
Tbsp tahini
Tsp sea salt
Tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp mirin (or syrup)
Tbsp dried coriander
3 splashes hot pepper sauce
Tbsp sesame oil
220g frozen leaf spinach, decorated and drained
100g bean sprouts
100 ml veg stock
3 or 4 deli style wraps

Mix the tahini, sea salt, vinegar, mirin, coriander, hot pepper sauce and sesame oil together and set to one side for use in a moment.  In a wok, fry the onion in the vegetable oil until it starts to brown,  then add garlic and continue to fry another minute or two. You want them a bit crispy; a bit caramelised; so let hem take their time. Then add the chick peas and fry for another five minutes or until the chick peas look to be browning a bit. Don't cook for too long as they can explode, take to the air, and possibly take you out in a way you thought impossible for a chick pea. At this point add the sauce and cook for another five minutes, then add the spinach and the beansprouts. Cook for five more minutes and leave to rest.

In a dry frying pan heat the wraps through for 15 seconds or so, then spoon in the mixture and wrap them up. I served the wraps up with a little salad and some homemade chips.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Potato and leek bake with sweet garlic broccoli
































Okay. Even the lovely people at Riverford Farms have admitted we've waded through a lot of leeks this winter. I reckon this is their last hurrah for a good half year or so in our house... in fact I risk some kind of insurrection otherwise. Seasonal eating, eh? Actually there are some leek recipes I could still hurl in - like vegan leek pancakes, which are quite fab. Anyway this bake is yummy and, as ever, leeks repay patience, so the longer you can let this crisp up and bake through, the better. If you don't have pine kernals to hand, hurl in some sweetcorn and you'll get away with it.

Ingredients

Potato and leek bake

3 medium sized leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced
4 small to medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Tablespoon of fresh, chopped parsley
Tbsp pine kernals
Freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt
400 ml vegetable bouillon or stock
2 Tbsp olive oil

Sweet garlic broccoli

4 or 5 heads of purple sprouting broccoli
5 or 6 stalks of flat beans
1 clove garlic, mashed
100ml vegetable stock
Tbsp soy sauce
Tsp mirin or syrup
2 tsp Sesame oil

Method

Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees Centrigrade. Pour a glass of wine. Switch on Radio 4. Switch off again if it's the Moral Maze. Otherwise, crack on. 

First of all get those leeks good and clean. A top tip here is to chop the straggly bits of the deep green tail off, then slice them down the middle, almost as far as the base, and then fan them under running water to get all the dirt out. Much easier. Then peel and slice the spuds.

This dish is all about layering, so get all the ingredients ready and prepared, and then use a little of the olive oil to line the bottom of a medium-sized baking dish.

Start with a sprinkling of the sliced leeks, then a layer of the thinly-sliced potatoes. On top of this sprinkle some of the parsley, garlic and, sparingly, the nutmeg and sea salt. Add a some of the pine kernals, and you're ready for the next layer. Again start with leeks, then add the other ingredients. Keep on and do 3 or 4 layers in a similar fashioning, seasoning in between, and if you can, finish with a potato layer.

Next, pour the bouillon or stock over the mixture, and leave it for a minute or so to soak through, then drizzle the remainder of the olive oil over the bake, before baking in the oven for around 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Now... for the broccoli. Simply mix the garlic, stock, soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil and leave to one side. Make sure the stock is good and hot as it takes the edge off the garlic. Steam the beans and broccoli lightly, and then toss in the sauce. If you have them, sprinkle with some sesame seeds so it looks pretty.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese

















Valentine's night tonight... so this recipe feeds TWO and not FOUR. Sorry. There are loads of recipes for vegan spaghetti bolognese, but this one is quite fab. Suggest you give it a go.

Ingredients

Tbsp vegetarian bouillon or stock mix
300 ml boiling water
200g textured vegetable protein - chunky!
Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large carrot, finely chopped
Around 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Tsp salt
Tbsp chopped fresh basil
Tsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 glasses red wine (yippee)
Tbsp plain flour
Cold water

Method

First of all add the bouillon or stock mix to the boiling water, stir well and then in a good-sized mixing bowl, pour the stock over the TVP, mix through and leave to sit for at least 20 minutes as the stock is absorbed. When it's been well absorbed, drain well and leave to drain further for a few minutes.

Heat the oil in a large wok. When it's hot, add in the drained TVP and cook until it starts to brown. After this add the carrot and broccoli and continue cooking; then add the garlic, cook for a couple of minutes, and then add in the tomatoes, salt, herbs and two glasses of the red wine. Drink the third as, in the words of L'Oreal, you're worth it...

Let the Bolognese cook well and simmer for around 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, make a paste with the tablespoon of flour and a little cold water. Keep adding the water, slowly, until you have 50-100 mls of the four and water paste.

Add the past to the Bolognese, gradually, until it thickens up nicely. Serve over spaghetti with some crusty bed and some vegan parmesan, if you've got it... my gang aren't that keen!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Apple Brown Betty Pie



















This one's from my mother-in-law in the States and is a slightly upmarket apple crumble that in our house disappears faster than a Lib Dem coalition leader's credibility. Oops. Politics creeping into a food blog. Not good. Anyway make this and you'll feel happy.

Ingredients:

4 cups or more sliced, peeled apples
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup vegan margarine

Method:

Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees C. Take a medium-sized pie dish and give it a rub with some margarine, and then pile in the apples to make a good mound - use more if the dish looks a little empty. Next, sprinkle over the orange juice. In a separate bowl combine the sugar, flour, spices and a dash of salt. Cut in the margarine and mix until you've got a nice crumbly mixture, then sprinkle over the apples. Bake in the pre-heated over for around 45 minutes or until the pie looks golden and crisp. Serve up straight away, preferably with some vegan ice cream like to eternally delightful Swedish Glace.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Vegan chocolate cake























There's a fabulous Punch cartoon from the Victorian era that labels the nascent vegetarian movement of the day to be an inglorious collection of 'pudding eaters'; it was deemed that to a man (and woman) they had an incurably sweet tooth. This blog however, has been stuck in savoury mode for two weeks now and so it's high time some desserts made it in.

The thing about vegan desserts is that they do seem to many to be an impossibility. Other than a fruit salad, most chefs seem stumped, and can't imagine that it is possible to come up with anything that isn't a fusion of eggs, cream and dollops of other dairy products. They're wrong of course, as this super simple vegan chocolate cake - originally from my mother in law in New Jersey - amply proves. Get stuck in!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Tsp basking soda
1 cup pain sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp corn oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Tbsp cider vinegar
Icing sugar to sprinkle

Method:

Pre heat the over to 180 degrees centigrade. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the corn oil, vinegar and vanilla with 1 cup of cold water. Whisk this mix into the dry ingredients and keep on going until the mixture is completely fee of lumpy bits. Pour the mix into a greased 9" cake tin (or you could make cupcakes with this mixture) and bake for 35 minutes or so - basically until the top springs back to the touch; the other way to check if the cake is done is to stick a toothpick or knife into the centre and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. Let the cake cool for a while in its tin before removing, and dust with icing sugar to serve.

Jerusalem artichoke soup

























Ok. Let's get this one out of the way. Yes, if cooked incorrectly and if you happen to be susceptible, jerusalem artichokes can make you, well, a bit trumpy. If you're vegan, this is already a supposed constant state of being so it's tricky to know how you could ramp things up still further with a portion of toot-inducing tubers. Frankly, it's never happened to me, so I'd give this a try as they are very yummy and a totally different kind of smokey, sweet, nutty taste. They can be mashed up, roasted, and here, I've made soup.

Ingredients:

600g peeled and chopped Jerusalem artichokes
Two medium leeks, washed well and chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 apple, peeled, cores and chopped
Tbsp dried parsley
Tbsp dried chives
Tbsp vegetable oil
800ml vegetable bouillon
300ml Soya milk

Method:

In a large saucepan on a medium heat, turn the jerusalem artichokes, leeks, garlic, apple and herbs through in the vegetable oil for around five minutes. Then add the bouillon and simmer on a low heat for a good hour or so, until everything is really tender and well cooked through. One quick note on the bouillon – I've used that here rather than vegetable stock and it's always a bit salty, which is whey there's no added salt in this dish. If you're using stock, you might want to add a teaspoon of salt.

When the soup has simmered for a good long while, remove from the heat and blend well, then add the soya milk and continue to blend. Serve with fresh chives if you have 'em.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sugar snap peas with soya chunks


















Terrible name, great product... Textured Vegetable Protein or TVP makes me feel like I've just picked up my dinner from Pets R Us. It needs a rebrand desperately and I'll be more than happy to help if the manufacturers fancy giving me a call.

When I first went veggie at 17, the market for meat free goods hadn't moved on that much from the days when tins of wheat gluten and 'nut meats' were given out as part of post-war vegetarian rations; it was all pretty bleak to be honest. One of the products that I tried, and misused terribly, was the appallingly named 'Textured Vegetable Protein'. The forerunner of Quorn and vegemince, these chunks of compressed soya flour appeared dry, tasteless and tantamount to punishment for those who had decided animals weren't on the menu.

Of course – like other meat 'analogues' - I just wasn't cooking it properly. Hurling dusty TVP into an insipid tomato sauce is guaranteed to disappoint, and there is a much better way. So tonight's dinner is, to my mind, how you do it and come up with something fabulous. Yes, it is 'pretending' to be meat, but as I've said before, unless you went veggie because of some strange aesthetic objection to the mouthfeel of meat, I don't see why this is a problem.

So tonight's dinner is TVP chunks with sugar snap peas and kale in a rich bouillon, served with basmati rice. A yummy, quick and filling tea.

Ingredients:

200g large chunks TVP
4 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
400 ml boiling water
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
100g sugar snap peas, chopped
100g curly kale, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp soy sauce
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to serve

Method:

Make up half the vegetable bouillon (2 tbsp) with 200ml of boiling water and then soak the TVP in the vegetable bouillon (or you can use vegetable stock) for a good half hour or so. This for me is critical and makes the whole dish work. We'll drain the chunks later. In a wok, fry the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil until the onion becomes transparent. Drain the TVP, and then add to the wok and toss until it starts to brown. Then add the sugar snap peas and kale and cook for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through.

In a mixing jug, add the other 2 tbsp of vegetable bouillon to the cornflour and the soy sauce and mix through, then add 200ml of boiling water to make a rich sauce, add this to the TVP mix in the wok, and you're read to go.

To serve:

This mix - super savoury - is great with mashed potatoes but tonight I served it up with some basmati ice, pressed into a ramekin so that it made a cool little mound on the plate; gives a bit of height and structure to the dish. Add sea salt or black pepper to taste.

Watch out, it's the tahini mousse!




















It's the accidental discoveries that make pottering in the kitchen a sight more rewarding than feeling your synapses slowly dissolve as you watch another episode of Strictly Come Boredom. Here's my latest incidental dish - tahini mousse. What began as an asian salad dressing morphed, through a slight misjudging of measures, into the fluffy, delicate and playful cousin of that vegan staple, houmous. It was served up last night with a similarly asian-inspired chick pea salad, a green salad and some crusty bread.

Tahini mousse ingredients:

2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tahini
Juice of a lemon
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp water
Dash of soya sauce
Dash of mirin or tsp of sugar

Method:

First of all crush and then finely chopped the garlic. Top tip on garlic that I learned from a tutor at the Vegetarian Society cookery school called Ursula Ferrigno, is that it likes to get crushed first, chopped later. Then lightly fry the garlic in half the olive oil, which I find takes the edge off and sweetens it a little. Then add this, plus all the other ingredients barring the water, into a small food blender. Blend it for a minute or so, and then start adding the water, bit by bit, until the mixture in the blender is light and comes up to a fluffy little point if you stick your finger into it. Not hugely hygienic that last bit, but if you're cooking for family and haven't just changed a nappy, I reckon it's ok.

Slightly asian chick pea salad ingredients:

2 peeled carrots
Tin chick peas
Juice two limes
Tbsp fresh coriander
Tbsp sesame oil
Cup of soy-toasted sunflower seeds

First of all toast the sunflower seeds. To do this put a good couple of handfuls of them into a frying pan, without oil, and then start to toast them on a low to medium heat. As they start to brown, hurl in a few dashes of soya sauce, preferably tamari if you have it, and continue to toast, stirring steadily to mix the soya sauce through. Continue for a couple of minutes and then leave to one side. As they cool down, they'll crisp up, and make a really good snack with beer, if you're not about to mix them into another dish.

Peel and finely chop the carrots, rinse the chick peas, and then turn through in a bowl with the lime juice,  coriander and sesame oil. Then at the last minute introduce the seeds, this stops the salad dressing taking a bit of their crunchy edge off.

To serve:

Last night we had the mousse above and the chick pea salad with a mixture of watercress, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cucumber all from those lovely people at Riverford, who leave a box of veggie goodies on our doorstep every week. Yum.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Vegan pizza... yes, it is possible!

























So here's the thing... growing up I did actually like cheese quite a bit, but after a few days working with a cabal of crazed vegans at the Vegetarian Society in the early 90s, I'd knocked all dairy bits and bobs on the head. The only thing that I was a little freaked about was the prospect of no pizza, which is pretty much as essential as oxygen as far as I'm concerned. It took bloody years for me to realise it was perfectly possible to make a vegan pizza by... wait for it... just taking the cheese off. In fact the final moment of realisation came as I was travelling through Italy, and came across some pizza joints selling slices without gloopey cheese included.

Ingredients: pizza base

250g white organic bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp quick action dried yeast
140 ml hand hot water
Tbsp olive oil

Ingredients: pizza sauce and topping

1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Tbsp tomato puree
Tsp salt
Tbsp Rosemary
Tbsp basil
3 large mushrooms

1 large leek - tossed in olive oil
Garlic pepper


Method:

First of all get the base ready. Mix the dried ingredients first, the flour, salt, sugar and yeast, and then add the water. Mix up and then add the olive oil. Then knead for a few minutes and set to one side. If you have time, let the dough rise for a few hours. Roll the dough out, and lay out on an oiled baking tray or pizza dish if you have one.

Next cook the pizza sauce. In a small pan, fry the onion in the olive oil until it softens and goes translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Then add the rosemary, basil, salt and tomato puree and, after a minute or so, the chopped tomatoes. Let the sauce simmer, as long as you can but for at least 15 minutes.

When the sauce is done, spread it across the pizza base and then add the mushrooms and the leeks. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade and then serve with a generous dose of garlic pepper.

Broccoli and pak choi in garlic sauce

























Total winner this one - dead easy and really quick. Tonight I put it together with some basmati rice but there's no reason why it couldn't feature with yummy noodles. Oh, and of course, it wouldn't hurt to hurl some tofu in if you were so inclined. Can never go wrong hurling a bit of tofu into the mix. The thing I like about this garlic sauce is that it tastes really authentic... almost as good as the one they serve up at our favourite restaurant, the Laughing Buddha in Didsbury.

Ingredients:

3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
Tbsp cornstarch
Tbsp soya sauce
Tbsp light brown sugar
Tsp sesame oil
100 ml vegetable stock
Three florets broccoli
One head of pak choi
Tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

Mix the garlic, cornstarch, soya sauce, sugar and sesame oil in a bowl well, and then add the vegetable stock. Put this to one side as you'll need it in a mo. Wash and chop the broccoli and pak choi. Heat up the vegetable oil in a wok and add the broccoli, and stir fry for five minute or so. Add the pak choi and continue to cook for a further five or ten minutes until the pak choi has wilted. Then add the garlic sauce and stir continuously until the cornstarch has thickened up, should take five minutes at the most. Then you're done.

To serve:

This is great on basmati rice and if you're looking to impress, sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Rosemary breadsticks. Sort of cheesy.

Yep. Couldn't help it. I roasted some leeks to go with them.


















Been a bit busy in the kitchen tonight so there are a few recipes ready to get uploaded. These breadsticks are an offshoot of the pizza that will feature shortly, as it shares the same bread dough, but pimped up to include a few 'extras' to allow these proud batons of loveliness to stand their own. Good for munching on. Happiest when dunked in houmous. Not bad with a small dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients:

250g flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp quick action dried yeast
140 ml hand hot waterTbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or very finely chopped
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp vegan parmesan
Olive oil

Method:

You start off by mixing the dried ingredients together - the flour, salt, sugar and yeast - and then mix in the water. When there's an emerging dough in the bowl (still a bit crumbly) add the olive oil and need really well for a good five minutes or so. Then leave the kneaded dough, covered, to rise in a warm place for an hour or so. Next fold in the garlic, rosemary and vegan parmesan (if you want it) and knead through well. Next roll out into skinny batons, brush with olive oil, and bake in a 200 degree centigrade oven for 15 minutes or so.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Roasted leeks with tofu & mustard mashed potatoes




















Right, if you do nothing else in the next week, roast some leeks in olive oil until they're crispy, sweet and delicious. Tonight's dinner was a bit of a triumph, mainly because of the playful, crunchy, delicate strands of roasted leek that played across the plate. Total winner. Also a great 'new best friend' for our roasted cubes of tofu. Roasting tofu is fabulously easy, low fat, and results in lovely, crispy bits of yumminess that are miles away from the mush that some people may have suffered.

Alongside the Leek + Tofu super combo we did a 'pimp my mashed' tonight round our gaff with mashed potatoes combined with steamed kale and dijon mustard. Quite lovely.

And we had some mushy peas. We're not ashamed. We like them. A lot.

Ingredients:

Roasted leeks with tofu

450g tofu
One large leek
2 tbsp olive oil
Garlic salt or mixed herbs
Black pepper

The mustard mash

750g potatoes
130g kale
Tbsp marg
1/2 cup soya milk
2 tsp Dijon

And...

One tin of mushy peas
Malt vinegar


Method:


Coat a baking tray with half the olive oil, and pre heat the oven to 175 degrees centigrade. Cube the tofu into 2-3 cm cubes and arrange on the baking tray, then sprinkle with garlic salt and black pepper. Pop into the oven and set the timer to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile slice the leeks lengthways into quarters, and then half the long strands of leek so they don't become to unwieldy once on the plate. Wash thoroughly - there's always a lot of muck in a leek - and then toss in the other half of the olive oil.

When the tofu's gone for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle the strands of leek across the tofu, mixing it in a little. Return to the oven and let roast for a further 15 minutes or until the leeks and tofu are looking golden and crispy.

While all that roasting is going on get the mustard mash ready. Peel the potatoes, and then boil them until soft. If you've got a steamer like mine, boil 'em at the bottom, and use the upper tier for the kale. Steam the kale, only for ten minutes or so, and set aside. When the potatoes are softened, drain and pound with a potato masher. Still using the masher, introduce the margarine and then the soya milk. Finally mix through the mustard. You're done.

To serve:

The kale, mash and mustard mix and the leek and tofu roast work great together but we threw in a tin of mushy peas... Beautifully green and silly amidst the lightness of the tofu and leeks. We also dashed a little malt vinegar over said peas. Well you have to, don't you?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Making a bit of a meze



















Here's tonight's dinner... Have managed to dodge the tofu tonight and go all 'club med' with a bit of a meze based around a nutty aubergine couscous and some dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). There's also some of the houmous I made yesterday and a green salad drizzled with olive oil, lemon and some balsamic syrup.

Now, aubergines. I've managed to win over my beloved to the joys of aubergine, principally by slooooooowwwwwww cooking. It's practically the only vegetable that likes to be overcooked. Take a while with it, and then take a little longer.

Anyway, here's how to make the couscous.

Ingredients:

Two medium sized aubergines
One courgette
One small onion
Three cloves garlic
70g mixed chopped nuts
Tbsp crushed, dried chives
250g couscous
4 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt
Boiling water

Plus, to serve:

Dolmades
Houmous
Fresh green salad

Method:

Chop the aubergine into chunky, quarter slices and then coat them in sea salt and let sit for ten minutes in a colander. This draws out some of their moisture and takes out any natural bitterness. After ten minutes rinse them with some boiling water then leave to dry.

Meanwhile, chop the courgette into similar chunky slices, crush the garlic and slice the onion. Heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade and prep a good sized roasting dish - NOT aluminium by the way, as that would mess up the flavour of the aubergines.

When oven's ready, roast the aubergines, courgette, onion and garlic in the olive oil for 20 minutes.

While the veg are roasting, Make the couscous. I do this by boiling some water in a small or medium pan, then add some sea salt and olive oil and then the couscous. Leave a couple of centimetres of water above the level of the couscous, cover and leave to stand for a good ten minutes or so.

After the veg have been roasting for 20 minutes remove from the oven, mix through and then toss in the chives and mixed nuts. Mix through again and then put back in oven for another 15 minutes or so. Mix through a couple times more. Basically it's done when the nuts and aubergine are nice and browned.

In a mixing bowl, fork the couscous out of the pan, this fluffs it up and separates it. Now add the vegetables from the roasting pan and mix through. If it needs it, add a little more olive oil.

To serve, arrange the couscous, salad, dolmades and houmous together, and dress with some lemon zest, drizzly bits of balsamic, and anything else you have to hand. Lovely!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The chick pea mash-up

Time to blend up these bad boys...

















Oh I know... it's a cliché of monstrous proportions but let's face it, I had to get houmous onto this blog good and early otherwise, quite rightly, my vegan credentials would have been roundly doubted. If you've never made it for yourself, it's bloody easy and ludicrously cheap if you soak your own chick peas. In fact, for price of a few tubs of the stuff from M&S you could make enough to fill a decent sized paddling pool. So get blending comrades!

If you're starting from dried chick peas, much respect, and don't forget to soak them overnight and simmer them for a good half hour or so before using. Otherwise it's out with the tin opener. The other essential ingredient is tahini, which is basically crushed sesame seeds, which are also good for making oriential-style salad dressings, amongst other vegan goodies.

You'll need a decent blender for this unless you like your houmous a little on the lumpy side; I remember trying it with a hand blender in my student days and finding the whole process thoroughly dispiriting. Decent blender or food processor... essential.

Houmous and pitta - proof that there is a higher being?




















Ingredients:

450g soaked and cooked chick peas
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Tsp sea salt
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp water

Optional:

2tsp paprika
Handful of coriander leaves

Method:

Put the chick peas, lemon juice, garlic, tahini, olive oil and sea salt into your food processor and start blending. I've used the juice of two lemons here as I think really lemony houmous is a winner. You'll need to blend for a good minute or so and then make a judgement call about how much water needs to go in. When I was making this batch this afternoon, just one tablespoon did the job – add the water and continue to blend for a few minutes until really smooth. If the mixture looks a little thick, add tiny amounts of water at time to get it right. DON'T add too much, as watery houmous is the work of the devil and not to be tolerated.

Pimp my houmous:

That's the basic houmous done and the one we have at home as my lot have simple tastes. At this point though you could add paprika or coriander or even go really made and lob an avocado in there and make a kind of wacky houmous/guacamole fusion.

Serve:

With pitta bread, obviously! Dreamy combo, never to be beaten. Or you could go for little carrot and cucumber batons if you're trying to kid the little ones into eating more veg.



Carrot, lentil and coriander soup





















"Soup's not for dinner!" Is a refrain often heard in our house, when the awesome and fabulous Anne, my partner, suggests that it is in some way acceptable to serve soup as an evening meal. It is not. And attempting to 'pad things out' with the odd baked potato or maybe some garlic bread just serves to compound the situation. Terrible idea.

BUT... soup is obviously a top option for lunch, and you can freeze it and take it for work, etc. etc. So I make a fair few soups. Here's a good standby, the ever wonderful mix of carrots and coriander with red lentils thrown in to make it packed with iron and give it a little more umami. This dish can be swerved into a slightly more thai direction with a little lemongrass and substituting the soya milk for coconut milk.

Ingredients:

One medium sized onion
230g carrots, chopped
Four cloves garlic
Tbsp vegetable oil
2 litres vegetable stock
Tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
200g red lentils
150ml soya milk
Black pepper to taste

Method:

In a large saucepan turn the carrots, onion and garlic through in the vegetable oil over a medium heat. This is apparently known as sweating them, rather unpleasantly.

After a couple of minutes add the vegetable stock and simmer for around ten minutes, add the salt and coriander and crack on with the simmer until the carrots are becoming tender. Then add the red lentils, bring back to a simmer, and leave to cook until the lentils are cooked, through - around 15-20 minutes or so - you'll known when it's happened as they start to break down wonderfully and take on a slight fluffiness.

Remove from the heat and in a dedicated blender or with a hand blender in the pan (my preference) blend the soup until totally smooth. Then add the soya milk and blend in.

Serve in posh bowls with some lovely bread, black pepper to taste and a little more fresh coriander.

Breakfast tofu


















What? More tofu? Yep! If you are looking for the very definition of 'staple', the only thing that beats tofu in our house is houmous. Oh and margheritas. This is an unashamed 'bacon butty' replacement that I've been making for years now and which always goes down well, even with the odd meat eater. Sorry, that came out wrong. Meat eaters aren't odd. Well not that odd. Anyway onto the recipe.

First of all tofu. Or compressed soya beans if you'd like a more straightforward definition. A lot of people have had bad tofu moments. Mostly this is because of poor recipes and the terrible brand of tofu that dominates all the main supermarket chains. The best tofu can be had from health food stores or, even better, from Chinese supermarkets. If you have to buy the brand in the supermarket whose brand name brings to mind the witches of Macbeth, go for the smoked option as it stays together better. The tofu I've used for this recipe is Clear Spot. Just as good is Pauls. I've used plain tofu, but opt for smoked if you want to really emulate bacon.

Ingredients:

450g block of firm plain or smoked tofu
Tbsp vegetable oil
Sprinkle of salt
Tbsp of sesame oil
Soya sauce
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds

To serve:

Toasted pitta bread
Ketchup, Piri piri or pepper sauce

Method:

Slice the tofu lengthways into slices 3cm wide by 1cm thick. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and then begin to cook the tofu on a low to medium heat. You may be at this some time, as tofu really repays a bit of patience when you're cooking. Try to rush things and it could fall apart. This morning I took 30 or 40 minutes with this dish, just leaving it to gently cook whilst mucking around with the kids.

While the tofu is cooking, sprinkle over the salt, the sesame oil and, gently, the soya sauce. Let this seep into the tofu for a good 10 minutes or so, and then turn the tofu over. Leave cooking for another ten minutes or so. When the tofu is looking pretty good and brown, tip a tablespoon or so of mixed seeds into the pan, which add extra crunch. Continue to cook until everything is browned nicely.

To serve, toast the pitta, slice it open and then pop the tofu and seed mixture in. Finish the whole thing off with ketchup, or in my case a hot pepper sauce. Breakfast sorted.

Am aiming for the next recipe to be less tofu-centric, promise! May also include a slightly differentiated colour palette as I've noticed this blog is looking a bit muted for my liking. But then it is January...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Tofu & Pak Choi Noodle Soup

























The level of domestic craziness was pretty high tonight as I cooked this, so it's all from memory and the weights are guessed. At least I remembered to take photo. So - noodle soup - spectacularly easy dinner to do, dead popular with the kiddies, practically makes itself. You'll note there are no chillies in the recipe, this is because my loved ones, unlike me, aren't up for a bit of firey fun so if you decide to make this ADD CHILLIES! Yum.

Ingredients:


One small onion
100g carrots, sliced into thin, 5cm batons
200g shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
150g cubed, deep fried tofu
200g pak choi
300g wheat noodles
750cl vegetable stock
One can coconut milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp coriander
3 cloves garlic
3 tsp fresh root ginger
3 tsp soya sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Juice of one lime
2 tsp sugar or mirin
1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Method:

Right, once you've started cooking this it goes like the clappers, so try and prep all the ingredients beforehand if you can. First of all, I'd soften up the noodles in boiling water for three minutes and then rinse and let to stand in COLD water while the rest gets done.

If you've got a blender, it works well if you blend the coriander, garlic, root ginger, soya sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, mirin (or sugar) and rice wine vinegar beforehand too. If you've no blender don't worry - just finely chop or mince them all, mix in a bowl and retain to add at the right moment.

So with noodles softened and the sauce mix prepared, start off by frying the onions, in a large wok, in the vegetable oil. Once they've gone translucent and are on the edge of browning, add the carrot batons. When the carrots are softening, add the tofu and then, after a minute or so, the mushrooms. Let the mix cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the sauce mix, and cook for a further five minutes.

Now add the vegetable stock and coconut milk, and bring to a gentle simmer. At this point add the softened noodles and stir through well. All done.

To serve: 

Some more fresh coriander is dead nice now, and if you're feeling dead posh, some sesame seeds sprinkled over the top looks rather swanky. Have some soya sauce to hand in case you want some more and, don't forget - add some chillies!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Tempeh, Quinoa & Kale




















Right, this one is a superfood showdown. Admittedly, for anyone who isn't a veggie, tripping merrily through the aisles of their local wholefood co-operative, some of the ingredients below might look a little left field but, trust me, once you've got used to chopping up tempeh and splashing mirin around, it'll be a doddle. By the way, if you're in Manchester  this all available, pretty much, at Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton.

But back to the superfood thing. The tempeh alone is pretty amazing with a big dollop of amino acids and protein, oodles of Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Manganese and B6. The quinoa is silly good for you, with a high level of protein and all the essential amino acids. The seeds and the kale follow up close behind... the good news though is that it tastes great and doesn't come across like some kind of punishment doled out by Gillian McKeith. The dish is great on its own with pitta or similar, could be used as a side dish, and you can even let it cool down to use with a couple of other salads.

Ingredients:

150g tempeh, chopped into 2cm cubes
100g quinoa
150g roughly chopped curly kale
80g mushrooms, sliced
100g mixed sunflower & pumpkin seeds
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 tbsp veg oil
Tsp salt
Tsp sesame oil
Tsp mirin
Tbsp soy sauce
Tsp rice vinegar

Method:

Start off by cooking the quinoa and laying to one side. It's just like rice in terms of timing and method, so should all be fine. I actually pop a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan first, then add the quinoa and stir through over a high heat, then add boiling water and cook. Using the oil first gives the quinoa a little extra nuttiness.

While all that's going on, pop the tempeh and sliced onion, with the vegetable oil, into a wok and cook until the start to brown. Then, add the seeds and garlic and continue to cook until the seeds start to brown too. All of that should take 15-20 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and salt, and cook until the mushrooms brown.

At this point tip in the kale... I'd use two spoons or spatulas here to toss the mix through, one in each hand, and then the kale will quickly reduce down, like spinach, to become more manageable. At this point add all the lovely oriental liquids: the sesame oil, the mirin, the rice vinegar and the soy sauce. Cook for 10 minutes or so, no more (have no idea why people think you should overcook kale) and then when it's all reduced nicely, turn through with the quinoa. Don't mix in completely - you want the quinoa in relatively fluffy 'clumps' to offset the tempeh and seeds. Yum.

To serve:

The above is a two person recipe as a main meal, four people as one dish amongst many. If it's making its own way in the world, then the simplest thing is serving up with a few slices of pitta bread.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Lebanese Lentils

Photo by me.

























When I was at college I lived for a couple of years with a brilliant bloke called Tarek who was mad as a box of frogs. Inbetween the rather intense performance poetry sessions I'd occasionally come home to, he introduced me to an early version of this dish, which I've tweaked and played with over the years. It's a bit of winner in our house.

Ingredients:

One cup of puy lentils
One cup of basmati rice
3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
A medium sized onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
100g chopped chestnut mushrooms
Zest of a lemon
Two tablespoons of finely chopped coriander (fresh if poss)
One tablespoon of sugar
Two teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste

Method:

Cook the puy lentils (25 min or so) and the basmati rice (10 min or so) separately, rinse in cold water, and set to one side. I used to try and cook them together in a classic student 'one pot' approach, but it discolours the rice, so definitely keep them apart until you're ready.

Next take the onion and start frying it, preferably in a wok, in the olive oil. Give it a minute or so, until it's softened and is translucent, then add the garlic. After a couple of minutes, as the mixture starts to brown, add the sugar, to let the onions caramelise a little. When the onions and garlic are golden brown, add the mushrooms, lemon zest, salt and coriander. Continue cooking until the mushrooms brown lightly and start to release their juice.

Next tip in the rice and lentils, and mix through thoroughly. Add the lemon juice, stir through, and then season with some pepper. And if you've got any fresh coriander left hanging around, use it as a garnish.

Last night I served it with a green salad and the rescued baked spuds I've included below. Also works brilliantly with pitta bread.