Monday, 30 January 2012

101 vegetarian foods everyone should try

Sometimes when I meet someone new who doesn't know any vegetarians, they ask "but what what do you eat?" Some people have the notion that it's all just mung beans and lentils. While they are important, thats not all veggies eat. So with those people as inspiration, I came up with a list of foods that everyone, veggie and meat eater alike should try. I have yet to complete the list myself, but seriously, you're opening up a whole world of taste here. Some on the list are fairly ordinary, some more adventurous, some you may need to take a flight to try, but you'll have fun getting through it.

1. Hummus

2. Dhal

3. Champagne

4. Courgette flowers

5. Wild strawberries

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Comfort food - Lentils with rice, sumac sweet potato and sour cream

Comfort food seems to be the buzzword around lately. Everyone needs comforting all of a sudden, whether it's the economy, January blues or maybe just a plain old food hug needed. Whatever the reason, I do know that apart from fuel and nutrition, this is one of the things that food does best! The right food can instantly make us feel that everything is going to be ok. Warm and revitalising, it doesn't even have to be expensive. Just a few simple ingredients and like a sea made of cotton wool it washes over us and makes the boo boos going away! Essentially we're all babies; just bigger with more cooking ability! 


(Serves 2)

1 large sweet potato
150g basmati rice
60g lentils
1 medium red onion
splash of olive oil

Wash the basmati rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Wash the lentils in cold water. Get the lentils on a high heat for about 4-5 minutes, then turn down to a simmer and cook until tender, approximately 30 minutes. While the lentils are cooking add the rice to a separate pot, add a pinch of salt. Bring the water to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 10-12 minutes.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into cubes. Slice the onion and add to an oven dish along with the potato. Add a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of sumac and a little salt, stir through to make sure everything is well coated. Cook in the oven at about 180C for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Take the lentil and mix with the rice, add a little salt. Top with spoonfuls of the sweet potato, onion mixture. Add a dollop of sour cream, serve and prepare to smile!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Casarecce con cavoletti di bruxelles

The above title sounds much better than what the English translation brings to mind. Casarecce pasta is a nice change from the usual penne or fusilli, but it's what's worked through the pasta that adds the excitement - Brussels sprouts. My god, as a vegetable they've been done a terrible disservice. What usually springs to mind is the overcooked, waterlogged and limp sprouts plopped onto the side of a plate at Christmas. This is what has put many people off, but done properly, they can be a real treat. Even finely shredded raw Brussels sprouts have a pleasant quite sweet flavor. Here they are cooked slowly to hold onto that flavour, and I promise, miles better than the Christmas afterthought they are often served as. True winter comfort food.  


Serves 2

200g Casarecce pasta
180g fresh Brussels sprouts
glug of olive oil
1 medium red onion
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp dried sage
pinch of sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
juice of half of lemon
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
grana padano, grated, to serve

Fill a medium saucepan two thirds of the way with water and bring to the boil. Add a little salt and the pasta. Turn the heat down to a simmer and leave the pasta to cook for 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick. Drain, but save some of the cooking water.

Remove the stalk end of the Brussels sprouts and add to a food processor and shred finely. Add the oilive oil to the pan, over a low heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 7 or 8 minutes. Next add the sprouts and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes until the greens start to go soft and tender. Add the tomatoes and stir again to mix.

To the vegetable sauce mixture, add the sage, sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stir again and add a little of the cooking water from the pasta of the sauce is too thick, This will loosen it up. Just a tablespoon at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. Add the pasta and stir to coat thoroughly.

Plate onto serving bowls and top with grana padano cheese. Its light, fruity flavour really works well here. Surely one of the best Brussels sprouts meals you've had in years! :-D


Friday, 13 January 2012

Simple lunch: Baked potato with parsnip and pomegranate salad

A healthy quick fix lunch that hits the spot. A little indulgence with the potato is made up for with this saintly salad that explodes with vitamins and minerals. It's a jazzed up, more interesting version of the old reliable of baked potato and salad, which can be a little drab and boring. Not to worry, this will fizz, bang and wallop in your mouth, giving you a kick usually reserved for sweets but in an altogether more virtuous way.


Serves 1

1 medium floury potato
2 tbsps sour cream
zest and juice from half of one lime
handful of spinach - washed
1 small red onion - sliced
1 small parsnip - peeled and grated
3 tbsps pomegranate seeds
drizzle of olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

Get the oven on a medium heat, about 150C. Wash the potato well and prick a few times with a knife. Place in an oven dish and put in the oven. There's no need to wrap the potato in foil, it will cook just as well without it.  Leave for between 40 minutes to 1 hour. You can tell the potato is ready by checking if a knife slides easily in.

Add the potato to a serving plate, top with a dollop of sour cream and grate over the lime zest.

Add the handful of spinach leaves, scatter over the grated parsnip, onion slices and pomegranate seeds. If parsnip seems a strange addition, let me reassure you that raw parsnip is almost sweet, better than the cooked version.

For the dressing, mix together the olive oil and lime juice, stir to combine. You're looking for a 1:1 consistency. Add the cayenne pepper and salt and stir well. Drizzle over the salad.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Carrot, clementine and cardamom soup

This looks like a warm, sunshine-y bowl of Spring, while the taste is a comforting hug and an assurance that everything is ok, at least for a little bit! It is very simple to make so no complications here. Serve with some crusty white bread.


2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium red onions, finely sliced,
8 medium carrots, peeled and finely sliced
glug of olive oil
salt to taste
1.5 litres vegetable stock
juice of 3 clementines
1 tsp cardamom pods
sour cream to serve
black pepper to serve

Start by getting a medium saucepan on a low heat. Add the olive oil, potatoes and carrots. Cook for 15 minutes, then add in the onions and cook for a further 10 minutes. When the vegetables have begun to go soft, add in the vegetable stock and season with salt.

Turn to a medium heat and cook for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add the clementine juice. In a pestle and mortar, grind the cardamom pods until they open, remove them and then grind the seeds to a powder. Add to the food processor and blitz the soup until smooth.

Ladle into serving bowls and top with sour cream and a hint of black pepper. 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Miso marinated tofu with rice

I thought it was about time that I did a post about tofu! Tofu often gets a bad press, being the stereotypical food that meat eaters often like to jab vegetarians with. This is unfair, cooked properly, tofu can be delightfully crunchy, succulent and absorbs flavours well from whatever you choose to pair it with, while retaining its own mild and creamy qualities. It's a great source of protein and soya products have been shown to lower cholesterol. Try tofu today!


150g tofu
4 tbsps miso paste
6 tbsps sweet soya sauce
1 tbsp water
1-2 red chilis
100g sushi rice
sesame seeds to serve

First off, we marinade the tofu. Cut and rinse the tofu. You may want to press it with a little kitchen towel to get rid of excess water, but be careful not to overdo it or the resulting tofu will be hard and chewy. 

In a small bowl, mix the miso paste, soya sauce and water to a smooth paste. Spoon all over the tofu and put in a plastic box and cover. Leave for 4-6 hours or overnight for the flavours to develop. 

Next wash and cook the rice according to the instructions in my Karjalanpiirakka post. Cook on a high heat, covered for 1-2 minutes. Turn to a medium heat for 4-5 minutes and then a low heat for a further 4-5 minutes. Drain and leave to dry for a few minutes. 

 Add a little oil to a pan over a medium heat and add the tofu. Stir frequently so that it doesn't burn. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the chilli and a little salt. Cook for a further 5 minutes or until golden. 

Spoon the rice into serving bowls and top with the tofu. Sprinkle over some sesame seeds and enjoy. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Is this kedgeree?...

Comfort food craving has been the start to the new year. Unseasonal warmth then furious freezing storms, it's been a strange one. The storms have driven me indoors and looking for something to soothe.

This is not strictly kedgeree, but it compares to it. It would serve as a firey wake up call in the morning, or as lunch or dinner.


Serves 3-4

120g basmati rice
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 large red onion, diced
1 small red chilli
2 organic eggs
1 tbsp garam masala
juice of one lime
2 tbsps sunflower oil

Put the rice in a medium saucepan, and cover with cold water. To wash the rice, swirl it around the pan. The water will become starchy. Drain and repeat 7 times. This is a bit of extra work but it's worth it as the rice will have a better flavour. Leave the rice to soak for about 10-15 minutes. Add salt and place on a high heat for 1-2 minutes, then turn down to a medium heat and cook for a further 10 minutes. Drain and leave to steam dry.

Get the eggs boiling in a saucepan. 8-10 minutes for hardboiled eggs. Remove from the water and set aside.

Add the oil to a large pan on a medium heat. When it is hot, add the onion and chilli pepper. I used a Vietnamese Ot Hiem Do pepper, which is very hot so I only needed one. If you are using something milder, you could add more chilis, depending on how spicy you like it.

When the onions are translucent but not coloured, add the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and stir well. Add the garam masala and lime juice and stir thoroughly again to incorporate everything.

Peel and slice the eggs, place on top and season  to taste. Get stuck in and forget the weather outside!
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