Creamy Mushroom & Thyme Soup

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Mushroom and thyme are one of my ultimate favourite foodie combinations. Whether in a pasta sauce, soup or risotto, they compliment each other beautifully. I’d somehow ended up with a load of mushrooms in my fridge which needed to be used up so a creamy mushroom soup seemed like the perfect dish for lunch on a cold and dreary afternoon.

Ingredients (3-4 portions)
•1tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
•2tbsps olive oil
•1 onion, roughly chopped
•2 cloves of garlic, crushed
•200g closed cup mushrooms, sliced
•200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
•2 tsps fresh thyme leaves
•salt and black pepper for seasoning
•700ml mushroom stock
•200ml unsweetened soya milk

Method
1) Soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat the oil and gently sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes.
2) Add the mushrooms (including porcini) a small batch at a time so that they can cook in their own juices. Add the thyme and season well. Once all mushrooms are soft and brown, add the stock and stir in the soya milk.
3) Blend into a thick soup. Leave a few chunks of mushrooms un-blended for extra bite and texture. Add more water to the soup if necessary.

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

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Tofu Tikka Masala

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Pre-veganism, paneer tikka masala was one of my favourite dishes. When choosing curry houses to dine in, my decision would always be based upon whether or not this dish was on the menu. Admittedly, this has been one meal that I’ve missed in the past 5 months but with so many great soya products around, I saw no reason why I couldn’t make a vegan version.

Marinated tofu cubes provide a texture very similar texture to paneer and Provamel soya cream adds a richness to the thick and creamy sauce.

INGREDIENTS (2 large portions)
•1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
•4 garlic cloves, crushed
•A handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
•A 3cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
•The juice of half a lemon
•3 tsps of garam masala
•1 tbsp soya milk
•300g firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
•3 tbsps oil
•1 onion, chopped
•1 can of chopped tomatoes
•1 tbsp tomato purée
•The seeds from a cardamom pod
•2 tsps brown sugar
•150ml soya cream
•1 tbsp ground almonds

For the marinade
1) Place the chilli, 1 garlic clove, ginger, coriander, lemon juice, 1 tsp garam masala and soya milk into a food processor and blend to form a smooth paste. Coat the tofu and leave to marinate for at least one hour.

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2) When ready to use, place under the grill until the tofu begins to crisp on each side.

For the sauce
1) Heat the oil and sauté the onion and 3 garlic cloves for 7 minutes. Stir through the tomatoes, remaining garam masala, cardamom and tomato purée then blend until smooth.
2) Stir in the cream and sugar. Taste the sauce and add more sugar and cream if necessary. Stir in the grounds almonds then mix in the grilled tofu. Leave to cook on a low heat for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with a dollop of cream on top and a scattering of coriander leaves. Enjoy with some basmati rice and poppadoms.

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Ratatouille Stuffed Aubergine Boats

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Ah ratatouille. One of the few things in French cuisine that I’m actually able to eat. I’m always on a mission to eat healthily during the week so that I can splurge without guilt at the weekend. Sometimes I succeed. Most of the time I fail. Ratatouille is something that I haven’t cooked in years but as it’s just packed with peppers and tomatoes, it makes the perfect healthy option. As I had some aubergines that had been sitting at the bottom of my fridge for a while, I thought I’d try stuffing them with the ratatouille!

INGREDIENTS (4-5 portions)
•Aubergines (depending on how many portions will be served up)
•3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
•1 onion, roughly chopped
•2 cloves of garlic, crushed
•1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
•1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
•1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
•salt and black pepper to season
•1 can of chopped tomatoes
•1 tbsp of tomato purée
•2 tbsps red wine vinegar
•A pinch of sugar
•A handful of chopped fresh basil

Method
1) Pre-heat the oven on 200c.
2) Chop off the head and slice the aubergine lengthways.
3) Brush the aubergines with some oil, add salt and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until tender and golden.
4) In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in the pan and gently sauté the garlic and onion for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and seasoning and allow to stir fry for 10 minutes.
5) Stir in the canned tomatoes, tomato purée and red wine vinegar. Simmer gently for 10 minutes before adding the sugar and basil.
6) Remove the aubergine from the oven and allow to cool slightly before scooping out the flesh. Chop the flesh and stir it through the ratatouille mix.
7) Scoop the ratatouille into the aubergine skins, taking care not to over-stuff.

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8) Place back in the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Serve with on a bed of mixed leaves with some wholegrain rice on the side.

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Tofu Tom

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My boyfriend, Tom, is probably one of the most typically omnivorous people you could meet. Whilst he embraced both my vegetarianism and veganism with open arms, he has always made it clear that he loves all things meaty. Cue me hiding in my room every time he cooks flesh in our open-plan kitchen. However, something took me by surprise at the start of the month and continues to surprise me as we progress through January. Tom succumbed to my semi-serious pleas to take the Veganuary pledge. And not only that, he has managed to stick to it. So far so good.

Veganuary aims to reduce the harm and suffering caused to animals and our environment by encouraging people world wide to go vegan for the month of January. Tom cites his reasons for doing Veganuary as wanting to shift a few pounds and sees it as a sort of experiment. After all, how much difference can being vegan for a month really make?

11 days in and already he is beginning to look a little leaner and claims that he generally feels better within himself. He’s not doing it half-heartedly either. He’s doing everything from scrutinising food packaging in supermarkets to experimenting with ways in which to veganise his favourite dishes. I was hugely impressed when he cooked up this sticky oriental tofu dish and I feel compelled to share the tasty recipe.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 3)
•2-3 tbsps maple syrup
•40ml soy sauce
•75ml rich hoisin sauce
•1 garlic clove, crushed
•1 red chilli, finely sliced
•10g ginger, peeled and chopped
•300g firm tofu, drained and cut into slices
•spring onion to serve

METHOD
1) Pre-heat the oven to 190c. Mix the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and marinate the tofu for at least one hour.
2) Place the tofu on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove the tofu from the baking tray and add a little water to the remaining marinade to form more of a sauce.

Sprinkle over the spring onion and serve with rice and pak choi. Normally made with pork, this dish provides the perfect balance of sweet and spice.

I’m confident that Tom will persevere with his veganism right up to the 31st and I look forward to sampling more of his culinary experiments!

http://www.veganuary.com

Crispy Bean Bake

Mixed pulses and kale baked in a tangy, mildly spiced sauce with a coriander-infused topping

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An easy way to pack a load of goodness into a mid week meal. I used some of my favourite warm spices to make this cosy dish on a dreary evening. The beauty of it was that most of the ingredients were things that I already had in my cupboards!

INGREDIENTS (4 portions)
•1tbsp olive oil
•1/2 onion, roughly chopped
•1 garlic clove, crushed
•1 tbsp tomato purée
•1 tsp ground cumin
•1 tsp paprika
•1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
•1/2 tsp ground ginger
•1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
•Pinch of chilli flakes
•1 can of chopped tomatoes
•1 can of red kidney beans, drained
•1 can of butter beans, drained
•1 can of chickpeas, drained
•A large handful of curly kale chopped, stalks removed
•salt and pepper to season

For the topping
•100g breadcrumbs
•1 tsp olive oil
•1/2 tsp ground coriander
•1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Method
1) Pre-heat the oven to 180c. In a large pan, heat the oil and gently sauté the onion and garlic. Stir in the tomato purée and add the spices.
2) Pour in the canned tomatoes, stir and allow the spices to cook with the sauce for 10 minutes. If the mixture starts to get a little dry, add a drop of water. Add the beans and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the kale and seasoning. Leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes.

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3) Transfer to an oven dish. To make the crispy coriander topping, simply mix the ingredients in a bowl before generously scattering on top of the bean mixture.

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4) Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden and leave to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

I served it with a quick and easy squash and sweet potato mash. To make, simply boil roughly chopped squash and sweet potato chunks until soft. Drain then return to the pan, mixing with a knob of vegan butter, a splash of soya cream and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Blend until a thick, smooth texture of mash has been formed.

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Heaven!

Slow-Cooked Vegetable & Quinoa Stew

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Being away last weekend meant that I couldn’t create a big batch of healthy vegan food to sustain me during the forthcoming week! Needless to say, I grazed on some not-so-healthy options and yesterday decided that it was time to get back into my weekly routine.

I thought a stew would be a convenient way to pack in as many vegetables as possible and it seemed an appropriate choice now that the colder weather has finally descended upon us. I was contemplating whipping up sweet potato mash to compliment it but opted to bulk it out with protein-packed quinoa instead.

The ingredients below made enough for a HUGE pan-full of stew. I’ve had two portions so far and I estimate I’ll get at least another four portions out of it!

INGREDIENTS
•2 tbsps veg oil
•1 large onion, chopped
•3 cloves of garlic, crushed
•3 celery stalks, chopped
•1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
•3 carrots, peeled and chopped
•2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
•The leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme
• 1 tsp dried oregano
•1 tsp paprika
•1 tin of butter beans
•1 tin of chopped tomatoes
• 200ml red wine
•1l veg stock
•200g quinoa
•1 Bay leaf
•2 courgettes, sliced into circles
•200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
•Salt & pepper to season

Method
1) Heat the oil and gently sweat the onion and garlic for 10 minutes. Add the next 10 ingredients and pour in 700ml of stock, setting the rest aside for later.
2) Add the quinoa, bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and leave to simmer gently for 35 minutes. Stir occasionally; the dish will dry up as the quinoa expands so keep adding the remaining stock when necessary.
3) Add the courgettes, mushrooms, salt, pepper and more stock if needed. Continue to cook low for 20 minutes or until the courgette has softened. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, remove the bay leaf and serve.

It sounds a lot to do but was actually really easy to make and just about any combination of vegetables can be used. I served with warm, crusty bread for a cosy feel.

Vegan Pumpkin Recipes: Pumpkin Pecan Cakes

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Following on from my pumpkin pasta bake, I decided to use the remaining pumpkin flesh to make something sweet. Now I’m still a novice when it comes to baking but I was feeling quite satisfied with this attempt. The pumpkin gave the cakes a real chewy texture and I used maple syrup to add a new dimension of sweetness. These were incredibly easy to make, even for my limited baking talents!

INGREDIENTS (9 cakes)
•Flesh of a third of a medium-sized pumpkin
•250g plain flour
•350g Demerara sugar
•1 tsp baking powder
•1 tsp salt
•250ml almond milk
•250ml veg oil
•1 tsp vanilla essence
•60g chopped pecans
•1 tbsp maple syrup

Method
1) Boil the pumpkin for 20 minutes, until soft. Drain, mash with a fork and allow to cool.
2) Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Sift the flour and mix with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the milk, oil and vanilla then mix through the mashed pumpkin. Add the pecans and maple syrup and pour into a lined 9×13″ baking tray.
3) Place in the oven for 25 minutes or 30 minutes if you prefer your cakes a bit less gooey! Remove and leave to stand for at least 20 minutes.

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4) Cut into 9 squares and place sheets of kitchen roll between to absorb any excess moisture. Serve with vegan cream or ice-cream.

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Happy Halloween!

Vegan Pumpkin Recipes: Pumpkin & Cashew Pasta Bake

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With Halloween looming, it only seemed appropriate to spend a day of my half term experimenting with some pumpkin recipes. I created a savoury and sweet dish for a dinner and dessert pumpkin overload!

Now before I delve into the ingredient side of things, I must get a minor vent off my chest. Let me stress; this pasta bake was originally intended to be a cannelloni. I envisioned myself creating the creamy cashew and pumpkin filling and rolling up the lasagne sheets with the mixture oozing out of the tubes.

I made an early morning dash to my local Co-op supermarket to gather all of my ingredients together. However my determination to shop from memory rather than list writing inevitably meant that something was forgotten, in this case, the lasagne sheets. Not to worry, I thought to myself, I can just head back there later. Although when I did return, were there any dried lasagne sheets in the pasta section? No. After pestering an unsuspecting shop floor assistant, it was concluded that the only available lasagne sheets were in the fresh section and, alas, contained egg. Not exactly a vegan’s dream.

I headed on out of there to a nearby Tesco Express in pursuit of dried lasagne sheets. There, situated between the penne and the linguine, were my beloved lasagne sheets. In a state of pasta-fuelled euphoria, I practically skipped to the self-service till. Then…disaster struck. An overly lengthy queue left me with time to peruse the packet. And what dastardly word did I see glaring me in the face? Egg. Egg! Why oh why do these food manufacturers presume that all people want egg in their pasta?! Usually the pasta in the dried section is vegan. Most disappointing, Co-op and Tesco.

I returned to the pasta shelf disheartened and picked up the last available option; this bag of large shell pasta that I decided to stuff with my mixture instead.

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With the rant over, it was finally time to focus on the cooking side of things.
This recipe makes enough for 4-5 large portions and the cashew cream filling made a fabulous vegan alternative for ricotta.

INGREDIENTS
•80g cashew nuts, soaked for several hours
•Salt
•Black pepper
•Pinch of nutmeg
•1/4 cup of water
•2 tbsps olive oil
•18 tomatoes, halved
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
•1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• A small handful of torn basil leaves
•The flesh of three-quarters of a medium-sized pumpkin
•300g large shell pasta, blanched in hot water for 3-4 minutes
•30g grated vegan cheese (optional)

Method
1) To make the cashew cream, blend the soaked cashews with water, a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg until a smooth, cream-like paste is formed. Set aside.

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3) To make the tomato sauce, heat oil in a large pan and add the tomatoes and garlic, stirring gently for 7-10 minutes until the tomatoes start to release some of their juices. Add the balsamic vinegar and basil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Stand for 5 minutes before blending into a rich sauce. Set aside.

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4) Now heat the oven at 180c. Boil the pumpkin for 20 minutes until soft. Drain, leave to cool and the mash with a fork. Mix with the cashew cream and stuff the pasta shells with a spoonful of the mixture, placing in a large Pyrex dish.

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5) Pour the sauce over the stuffed shells and sprinkle over the vegan cheese if desired.

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6) After 15 minutes, remove the foil, add a few basil leaves and put the dish back in the oven for a further 15 minutes or until bubbling and golden. Leave to stand for a further 10-15 minutes before serving.

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I served a large portion of this hearty, autumnal dish with a watercress side salad. Enjoy!

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Creamy Squash & Spinach Curry

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When it comes to curries, I don’t feel like there should be any set rules with regards to quantities of herbs and spices. Part of the fun should just be playing around with ingredients until you have it tasting just the way you want, which is exactly what I did with this flavoursome curry. I added Alpro soya cream to give it this creamy texture.

Ingredients (4 portions)
•1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
•1 tbsp ground cumin
•1 tsp ground coriander
• 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (plus more to garnish)
•1/2 tsp tumeric
•1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
•1 tsp ground black pepper
•Juice of 1/2 a lemon
•A pinch of chilli flakes
•1 tbsp veg oil
•800g butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into chunks
•1 can of chopped tomatoes
•1 cup of water
•1 tsp sugar
•250g spinach
•200ml soya cream (more to garnish)

Method
1) Place the first 11 ingredients in a blender and blitz until a paste is formed.
2) Add to the pan and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add the squash and stir so that the paste covers all the chunks. Cook gently for a further 10 minutes.
3) Stir in the tomatoes and add the water bit by bit. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
4) Add the sugar and sample the sauce of the curry. Add more water and seasoning if necessary, before adding the spinach. Stir in the cream and leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

To serve, add a drizzle more of cream and the chopped coriander. For a healthy touch, serve alongside wholegrain rice.

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Enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper & Lentil Soup

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I love a hearty bowl of soup for lunch during the week and there’s nothing more satisfying than making your own, free from the high levels of salt, sugar and preservatives that the shop-bought varieties contain.

I made a massive batch of this delicious soup on Sunday afternoon and it has provided me with lunch for the entire working week.

Several red peppers are required in order to bring out the flavour in the soup but I can guarantee it’s worth it. I used a mixture of bell peppers and sweet pointed peppers.

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Roasting them for an extended period with thyme brings out immensely sweet flavours and the added red lentils give that hearty feel to it.

INGREDIENTS (4-5 portions)
•4 red bell peppers
•4 sweet pointed peppers
•4 tomatoes, halved
•3 cloves of garlic, crushed
•The leaves of 7 sprigs of thyme
•1 tsp black pepper
• Pinch of salt
•1tbsp olive oil
•700ml veg stock
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
•200g red lentils

METHOD
1) Pre-heat the oven at 180c. De-seed and roughly chop the peppers, placing in a large oven-proof dish along with the tomatoes. Sprinkle on the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, drizzling over the oil.

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2) Place in the oven and roast for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, rinse and boil the lentils, drain and set aside.
3) When removing the peppers from the oven, leave to stand and cool significantly. Add the majority of the stock and blitz with a hand-held blender. Examine the consistency and add more stock if necessary. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, lentils and serve.

I drizzled a dash of soya cream on mine and served with a sprig of thyme. The rest of the soup was then dished out in tuppeware boxes, ready for the week ahead!

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