Recipes

Recipe – pseudo-healthy Greek yoghurt and banana pancakes


Okay, first thing is first: these are pancakes in the American sense. Nobody is going to be amused if you pull these out on Shrove Tuesday. Well, they will, because they’re delicious. But it won’t be playing the game, and everyone will scowl at you over their plates of yummyness.

So yeah; American pancakes, not “crepes”.

Also, the pseudo-healthy part probably needs a little explanation. Basically, they have fruit and yoghurt. Which are healthy. Of course, these are pancakes, and thus not healthy at all. But if you’re into self-delusion, then you’re welcome!

Read on…

Recipe – Healthy Vegetable Korma


Okay, so the healthy thing I mentioned last week is still ongoing. As is my continued love of tasty food. It’s a dilemma.

Fortunately, things are made somewhat easier with a vegetarian diet (n.b. Ash, not me). It removes a lot of the fat and “stodge” from food, and opens up a world of experimentation with vegetables. For example, it’s rather weird how delicious broccoli is in curries.

And following on from that… Here’s my vegetarian korma recipe. And, of course, not just for vegetarians.

Read on…

Soup of the Week – Asparagus and Spinach


asparagus and spinach soup

Blimey, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these.

We’re back at the New Year period traditional for nascent and short-lived health regimes. And our house is no exception! So roll on the greens and anti-oxidants and other magical crap which sounds suspiciously like marketing fluff.

Except, I’m kind of bad at this. I like food. Particularly, I like food which tastes nice. So my take on health food has that as an added requirement. I’m not willing to suffer for my health.

So here we have it, a healthy but delicious soup full of green vegetables. It’s probably good for you, too.

Read on…

Soup of the Week – Indian Spiced Root Vegetable


indian spiced root vegetable

You may have noticed that my soup of the week blogs have taken something of a hiatus the last few weeks. Part of that is down to a combination of laziness and busyness. Returning home at eleven on a Sunday evening, I find it’s not the best time for cooking. And if the week is busy, it becomes harder to find a time to make soup. Also, eating the same thing week after week is the path to food apathy and ultimately madness.

But we’re back now! Yes, this last week I have been enjoying a soup with a subcontinental twist. Well, nominally. This is one of those rare recipes which makes use of celeriac —  a swede-like root vegetable which tastes kind of nutty and smells of something I can never quite recall.

Ingredients

  • 250g celeriac, peeled and diced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 850ml vegetable stock

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to about 180 degrees (for a fan oven — does anyone not have a fan oven any more?). In a roasting tin, drizzle the celeriac and parsnip with olive oil, and sprinkle over the ground corriander, cumin seeds and chilli powder and season, tossing to coat. Roast for 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, sweat down the onion, garlic and celery in olive oil for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Once roasted, add the celeriac and parsnip to the sweated onion mixture, and pour over the stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, before blending until smooth

As root vegetable soups tend to be, this is quite thick, so you might find you need to add a few tablespoons of water to each bowl to reach the desired consistency.

I was, if I’m honest, a touch disappointed with this soup. It was nice enough, but with the spices I was hoping for something a bit more different from the previous root veg soups I’ve made. I think, were I to make it again, I would probably use more chilli powder. I’m not much of a chilli fiend, but the extra kick might have given it a bit more distinction.

However, having said that, this was still a delicious soup. Thick and filling, with a slight edge due to the celeriac, and the warm flavours of the cumin and chilli.

Soup of the Week – Tomato and Mascarpone


tomato and mascarpone soup

Now here’s a classic! It doesn’t get more Italian (in soup terms) until you get to minestrone, which although I will almost certainly attempt it eventually still seems like too much effort at the moment.
This, however, couldn’t be further from difficult. It’s basically various different forms of tomato, blended up with some onion, herbs and a bit of mascarpone.

Ingredients

  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 320mls passata
  • 5tbsp tomato puree
  • 400mls water
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1tbsp dried oregano
  • 1tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1tsp sugar (or more, to taste, depending on how sweet you like your soup)
  • 1tbsp (heaped) mascarpone

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan, and fry the onion and garlic for 10 minutes, until soft.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, passata, tomato puree, rosemary, oregano and water. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the chopped basil, and blend in a food processor to a fine, smooth consistency (you can’t really over-blend it). Return to the heat, and stir through the sugar and the mascarpone. Season to taste, or allow to cool for storage.

It’s that simple. And that delicious. This is the kind of soup which is great with a hunk of crusty bread to dip into it.

It is a good idea to make sure when you’re stirring in the mascarpone make sure it has all been stirred into the soup — to keep the beautifully smooth consistency.

Recipe – Aubergine Soy Sauce Stir-Fry


aubergine soy sauce stir fry

Happy Chinese New Year! I — as some of you may have noticed — am not Chinese, but since food is now international, I thought I’d use the occasion to share this little recipe with you. It’s an adaptation that Ashleigh and I came up with based on a few different sources, with the primary aim of a healthy, delicious, vegetarian dish for two.

The fact that it’s fairly easy to make is a bonus!

Ingredients

  • 1 aubergine, medium sized
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 3cm piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 red chili,  de-seeded and thinly sliced (or less/more to personal tastes)
  • Two handfuls beansprouts
  • One handful fresh corriander, torn
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (balsamic will do as a substitute)
  • 150mls vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp clear honey
  • Sesame oil
  • Rice, to serve

Method

  1. Slice the aubergine in half, and then into thin wedges. Heat the oil in a wok, and brown the aubergine wedges. Once they have been evenly browned, remove and place in a dish for later.
  2. Add more oil, and gently fry the ginger and spring onions, to release the aromas and flavours. Add the soy sauce, the vinegar and the vegetable stock, and add the aubergine and chilli once gently bubbling. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes, turning occasionally to cover the aubergine evenly, whilst you cook the rice.
  3. Once the stir-fry has simmered for 20 minutes, add the honey and stir through, before turning down to a low heat to keep warm. Plunge the beansprouts into boiling water, and cook for two minutes — so that they are cooked, but still crunchy. Drain and toss with the coriander.
  4. Serve the aubergine stir-fry on top of the rice, placing beansprouts on top, and drizzling over with the liquid sauce from the stir-fry.

Aubergines are one of my favourite vegetables, and I think are very underrated. They maintain their own flavour, whilst soaking up the flavours of whatever they’re cooked in or with. So when you bite down on one, it’s like a flavour sensation!

Also, be careful with the chilli. If you’re a fan of scalding heat, then best of luck to you, but bear in mind that a little goes a long way. But beyond that, good luck to you.

Soup of the Week – Beetroot, Lemon and Chive


beetroot, lemon and chive soup

I’ve always loved beetroot, ever since I was a child. Usually I eat it pickled, with a bit of pork pie or cold meat. But it’s a root vegetable the same as any other, and this soup really brings out a lot of the flavour which pickling covers up.

The flavours are sweet yet earthy, and the combination of chives and lemon juice keep it from being too heavy. And it’s another filling soup, perfect for lazy days.

Ingredients

  • 500g raw beetroot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 bunch chives, chopped

Method

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan and sweat the carrot, onion, beetroot and garlic over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until they are softened.
  2. Add the potato and a teaspoon of the sugar, and pour over the stock. Simmer for 40 minutes to an hour until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Blend until smooth, and stir in the chives and lemon juice. Add more sugar to taste if necessary.

This is a bit of an odd one to make, really. It’s perfectly simple to do, but beetroot has a tendency to stain. I made this on Monday evening, and after peeling and chopping the beetroot, my hands were bright purple. Not the most helpful thing an hour or so before a parish council meeting.

So be careful with it. That staining quality doesn’t go away after you’ve made the soup. Or even…erm…after you’ve eaten it.

I managed to get five servings out of this, and found that it keeps really well. One thing is that it is rather thick, so if you like your soup watery-er you might want to either add a touch more stock in the making, or a tablespoon or so of water afterwards.

Soup of the Week – French Onion


french onion soup

I have been meaning to tackle the godfather of soups, actually, since I started this little project. French onion soup is a rare treat, which I think I’ve only had a few times in my life, and I have an indelible memory of its rich oniony sweetness.

The recipe looks simple, but this was actually the second attempt I made. The original recipe I based it on used flour, which had the effect of thickening the soup and turning it into gravy — delicious onion gravy, to be sure, but a far shot from what I was aiming for.

But this recipe is lovely — sweet, onion-y and rich!

Ingredients

  • 5 medium-sized onions (around 700g), thinly sliced
  • 30g butter
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1.25 litres beef stock (use two stock cubes)
  • 300ml white wine
  • Seasoning
  • Crushed croutons, to serve

Method

  1. Melt the butter in the oil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat. Fry the sliced onions, along with the sugar, until they caramelise. It will take 30 minutes to an hour, and they should finish thick, brown and sticky — and very sweet!
  2. Add the stock and the wine, and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for an hour. Season, and serve with the crushed croutons.

The most important thing, is not to rush the onions. The caramelisation process is key to the whole thing, and it will take a fair old time. Don’t hurry it, as long as it doesn’t burn you can’t caramelise them too much, and it all adds to the colour and flavour of the finished product.

It’s also, as you may have noticed, not the healthiest of soups. One interesting trick I found — if not eating immediately — is to chill once cooled with cling film resting on the surface of the soup. The butter solidifies on the cling film, and so can be lifted away. I also didn’t do the traditional melted cheese crouton on top, which cuts down the calories. That said, it still has a rather high fat content.

The other point to mention, is that the recipe as above is not vegetarian. I’m not sure if vegetable stock would work as well as beef, but I can’t see why not. The only thing I’d suggest is to make sure the onions are extra caramelised to provide the colouring.

Enjoy, and next week, I’ll be tackling a variation on a beetroot soup (well, if I can find beetroot at this time of year)

Recipe – Peri-Peri Bean Burgers


veggie burger

Ashleigh and I love Nandos. We have for some time, and actually that only increased when she turned vegetarian. Bizarrely, you actually get more choice as a vegetarian than a meat eater (who gets to pick between…erm…chicken, chicken and chicken).

But eating out all the time is expensive, and not conducive to dieting. So we thought we’d have a stab at doing our own (healthier) version of her favourite — the Beanie Burger with peri-peri fries.

We have cheated a little here, and the sauce and chip sprinkle were both Nandos branded (rather than making our own). But the burgers themselves were basically just bean and onion, and the roasted potato wedges are a long-standing feature in our arsenal, as a healthier alternative to chips.

Ingredients

For the burgers

  • 400g can of red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon paprika or Cayenne pepper
  • Nandos peri peri marinade (we used sunblush tomato and basil)
  • 1 ball of low-fat mozzarella, sliced
  • Bread rolls, sliced tomato and lettuce, to serve

For the wedges

  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Nandos peri-peri chip sprinkle

Method

  1. Tip the beans, onion, oats, paprika or pepper, and a dollop of the peri-peri marinade into a food processor along with the egg, and pulse until chunky, but not puréed.
  2. With wet hands, shape into burgers. Rub with the marinade, and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least 15 minutes (but longer if possible).
  3. Whilst the burgers are marinading, cut the potatoes into wedges, and toss in the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Heat an oven to 200°C (180°C for a fan oven) and cook for 30 minutes, turning halfway through to make sure they don’t stick.
  4. Heat a pan brushed with oil on a medium heat, and fry the burgers for five minutes on each side, being careful not to let them stick. Then place a slice of mozzarella atop each burger, and place under a hot grill for a few minutes to melt.
  5. Serve the burgers on toasted buns, with a slice of tomato and lettuce, and the wedges liberally doused with chip sprinkle.

Delicious. So delicious that I forgot to photograph them (the image at the top is a “what we were aiming for” kind of thing). Different to the real thing, but highly recommended nonetheless.

Soup of the Week – Vegetable and Red Lentil


image

This week sees another root-veg heavy soup, to keep up with the frankly still-bitter weather. This sort of soup is filling and warming, which is exactly what you need when it’s snowing outside and the idea of leaving the house seems wholly unattractive.

Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 100g red lentils
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 50ml milk
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • A dash of Worcester sauce or soy sauce, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and fry the leeks for 5 minutes until soft. Add the rest of the vegetables, and cook for a few minutes, before adding the stock.
  2. Bring to the boil, and leave to simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and cooked.
  3. Remove from the heat, and blend to a fine, smooth texture (this may need to be done in two stages). Stir through the milk, and season to taste. Stir through the Worcester sauce to serve.

The first thing I’ve noticed, is that the core recipe makes a very thick soup. It’s lovely, but I’ve taken to watering it down with 3-4 tablespoons of water per serving. If you’re re-heating it, do this just before you put it in the microwave. If you’re serving immediately, do it with the milk.

The other thing is the Worcester sauce. As any good veggie can tell you, it’s not actually vegetarian (anchovies — who knew?). A good alternative that I’ve found is to use soy sauce. It changes the flavour somewhat — from the Worcester sharp sweetness, to a more Asian saltiness — but still makes for a delicious soup.