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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