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Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Veggie Bolognese

As a kid spaghetti bolognese was a staple of Saturday lunchtimes - it's as proudly British as Chicken Tikka Masala!

Although it's very far from the original Italian ragu alla bolognese, I do agree that it's better with a thicker pasta - tagliatelle or fettucine - but sometimes spaghetti just hits the spot for easy comfort eating.

For my veggie version I used dried soya mince. It's much more economical than frozen Quorn mince, lasts for ever in a cupboard, and genuinely puzzles meat-eaters who assume it's meat but aren't quite sure what kind!

Serves 2 greedy people, possibly more

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 3-4 gloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 handfuls of dried soya mince
  • 2 tsp vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp Marmite (optional!)
  • Glass of red wine (if you have it)
  • Squirt of ketchup/tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning herbs

  1. Put the soya mince in jug with the stock powder, then pour over enough boiling water to cover. Add your teaspoon of Marmite, stir in and leave to hydrate.
  2. Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery and gently fry for a few minutes in a pan with a splash of olive oil. Add the chopped peppers.
  3. Add the tin of tomatoes, fill the can with water and stir into the pan, along with a squirt of ketchup, or tomato puree if you're fancy.
  4. Add the glass of wine, herbs, garlic and soya mince.
  5. Turn to a low heat, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should reduce and become thick and rich.
  6. After 20 minutes start boiling your pasta. When it's done drain the pasta, saving some of the starchy water in your jug.
  7. Add a bit of the pasta water to the sauce, enough to loosen it to your preferred texture.
  8. Serve on a plate with the sauce on top, sprinkle parmesan and garnish with some fresh basil leaves.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Vegetable paella

I visited a market in Spain today bursting with beautiful vegetables - so what better to make than paella! Summer vegetables grow in the winter here, which is why you'll see so many Spanish veggies in British supermarkets. Anything goes great in a paella but I used fennel, courgettes, carrots and asparagus, with strips of sun-dried tomatoes for colour. No need for fish here!


  • 1 bulb of fennel, sliced
  • 6 slim carrots
  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 1 courgette, sliced into rounds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 400 g short grain rice
  • 500 ml good vegetable stock
  • Large glass of white wine
  • 1/2 tsp or big pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • Good sprinkling of cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Lemon wedges (optional)

  1. Fennel takes a while to cook, so chop it into wedges, toss in olive oil and roast for about 25 minutes along with the carrots
  2. Glug some olive oil into a wide, heavy-based saute pan and gently fry the onion and garlic.
  3. Add the rice and stir until it is all coated in oil and lightly nutty.
  4. Add a glass of wine and reduce.
  5. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock. Stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Stir the rice, adding a little more water if it seems dry. Add all the remaining vegetables, arranging them in an attractive pattern on the top.
  7. Cover and cook on a low heat for another ten minutes. Check the rice and vegetables, the rice should be just tender and the asparagus not quite done.
  8. Take off the heat and leave covered for ten minutes to rest.
  9. Garnish with lemon wedges and pretend you're on holiday in Spain. Buen provecho!


You can use any kind of vegetables in a paella, particularly fresh summer veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, baby sweetcorn, peas, mushrooms are all great.

Saffron is traditional in paella but it's expensive so you can easily leave it out. A pinch of turmeric gives a cheaper non-traditional yellow colour, just don't tell!

In the summer use roasted fresh tomatoes instead of tinned, the flavour is better but tinned is more convenient.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Butternut squash and vegetable Malaysian curry

Spicy New Year! After all the festive stodge I like to make something a bit more exotic and spicy to welcome the New Year. This recipe is also a great way of using up any leftover root vegetables. It's also economical because you can snap up veg really cheaply just after Christmas!

You can use any root vegetables for this but firm butternut squash and sweet parsnips are ideal. I always have surplus carrots so they go in too. For flavour either buy a Malaysian curry paste or add powdered spices of your choice to the onion mixture. Really it's up to you - make it mild and savoury or (I recommend) as hot and or spicy as you can bear!

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 3 parsnips
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 onion
  • Half bulb of garlic
  • 1 thumb garlic
  • Asian curry paste of your choosing
  • Red chilli (optional)
  1. Peel and chop the vegetables into appropriate sizes: softer veg in bigger chunks, harder veg in smaller chunks so they cook evenly.
  2. Make your curry base by blitzing the onion, garlic, ginger (and chilli if using) into a paste with a glug of oil, until it's a puree.
  3. Put a large pan or wok on a gentle heat, and fry the puree for 5-10 minutes. Keep stirring and don't let it burn!
  4. Towards the end add curry paste of your choice.
  5. Add the vegetables and coat them with the paste.
  6. Stir in the coconut milk, top up the can with fresh water and add that too, along with a sprinkling of salt to taste.
  7. Cook for 10-15 mins on a gentle simmer until the vegetables are firm but tender. Err on the side of caution as they continue to cook once you take them off the heat. Add more water if the sauce is too thick.
  8. Check for seasoning, then serve with rice and garnish with cashew nuts and a sprinkling of chilli or thinly sliced fresh chilli. Fresh coriander adds a hint of green though personally I can't stand it!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Congee rice

So it's the first of September and heading towards my favourite time of year - autumn! It's sunny but not that warm today and I'm fighting off a cold so dusted off a warming staple I've not made in ages - congee or chao ga, rice porridge.

It's basically a savoury rice pudding, gloopy and warming, great for hangovers and sore throats.

It can be as thick or as watery as you like, and really you can use any type of rice. Personally I prefer a custard-like mush, but a more watery consistency is more traditional.

  • 1 cup rice
  • 6 cups Swiss Marigold vegetable stock
  1. Rinse the rice or soak for half an hour.
  2. Bring stock to the boil, add the rice and stir.
  3. Boil for 10 minutes, then reduce and simmer covered for 1 hour or so.

Serve in a bowl topped with something savoury like stir-fried vegetables with ginger, strips of quorn, mushrooms, tofu, or fried egg, garnished with spring onions or herbs and splashed over with rich soy sauce. The combination of soft gooey rice and salty flavours is the ulimate comfort food!


This is the perfect use for any kind of leftover rice, and it's great for breakfast. Cooked rice also takes a lot less time.

Any kind of rice will do but I often use brown rice which takes a bit longer, but is presumably more healthy. Jasmine rice or broken rice works is more traditional. A mixture of half ordinary rice, half glutinous/sticky rice gives a nice silky consistency.

For more flavour add half an onion to the pot, or a thumb of smashed ginger that you can fish out later. The flavouring is nice but I prefer my congee plain so it gives a nice contrast to whatever you put on top.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Asian noodle salad

It's been too long since I posted but this recipe deserved to be shared! It's so simple but looks elegant, it's cool for the summer and looks great on a plate!

Instead of the usual fish sauce found in Thai salad recipes, my secret ingredient is Golden Mountain Sauce (sweeter, saltier and more complex than traditional soy sauce), plus a sprinkling of dried seaweed flakes.

I'm listing ingredients here rather than quantities, this is just a guide so it's really up to your taste what you throw in. Authentic Asian salads are too hot for me so I use a medium chilli, or a combination of red bell pepper and a hot chilli pepper. For authenticity use Asian mint, basil and coriander - personally I loathe coriander so substitute flatleaf parsley:

  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/3 of a cucumber
  • 2 spring onions
  • red pepper or chilli pepper, to taste
  • handful of peanuts
  • mint
  • basil
  • coriander or parsley
  • rice vermicelli
  • Golden Mountain sauce (or soy sauce)
  • sesame oil
  • juice of half a lime
  • seaweed flakes
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil then add the dry noodles. Pop on the lid, take off the heat and leave to rehydrate for about 10 minutes. Don't leave them too long, better to err on the side of caution as they'll continue to soften later.
  2. Meanwhile finely slice - or julienne if you're being fancy - the carrots, cucumber, spring onion and pepper.
  3. Chop - or chiffonade, if you're being even more fancy - the herbs.
  4. Crush or chop a handful of peanuts.
  5. To make the dressing, in a bowl add a good glug of Golden Mountain sauce, a splash of sesame oil and lime juice. Mix in a sprinkling of sugar, and taste it. If it tastes good your job is half done.
  6. When the noodles are ready, drain, rinse in cold water and leave to drain.
  7. In a large bowl, combine the noodles, vegetables and herbs, then mix in the sauce.
  8. Mix in about a half of the crushed peanuts, then sprinkle the rest on the top to serve.
On a hot day this salad actually benefits from being chilled for half an hour or so, which really allows the flavours to develop. Just don't leave it too long!

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Quick Pizza

I love pizza, it's delicious and great for sharing with friends, but real pizza takes time and planning.

My quick pizza is different - it's ready in 20 minutes!

Heretically I use self-raising flour instead of yeast. It doesn't have the rich yeasty flavour and texture of traditional pizza, but it's thin, crispy and when loaded with toppings it's hard to tell the difference.

My recipe is so simple:
  • 4 heaped tablespoons self-raising flour
  • Half teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Water
  1. Mix in a bowl with enough water to bring together into a non-sticky dough.
  2. Cut in half to make two small pizzas, or leave for one very large pizza.
  3. Roll out the dough until it's as thin as you want, and big enough to fill the bottom of a frying pan.
  4. Take a large non-stick frying pan and get it hot on a high heat.
  5. Transfer the dough disc and cook for 3-4 minutes until the bottom is slightly browned and crisp. Repeat for the second pizza.
  6. Add your toppings, place on a baking tray then cook under a hot grill or hot 200C oven for ten minutes. Enjoy with a side salad, it's so easy!

Topping ideas

Pear and Stilton White Pizza

White pizzas are often neglected but this is so delicious for autumn. Spread some Greek yoghurt thinly on the pizza base, then top with slices of firm pear, chunks of Stilton and chopped fresh chilli. Chopped walnuts are also a great addition.

Mushroom and Tomato Pizza

Classic but delicious: smear the base with a rich tomato sauce, oregano, sliced mushrooms and mozarella.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Vegan roast vegetable quiche

A friend was a having a party and needed to cater for some vegans, so I offered to help! I'm not vegan myself but I'm always keen to try new things, and this was surprisingly good. It was certainly devoured in two minutes flat! I would totally bet that if I'd not said anything, no-one would've known it didn't contain eggs! And it's actually simpler than making an egg-based quiche, which is all too easy to overcook. This recipe is much more forgiving.

I made a bit of a mess of the vegan pastry using vegetable fat. I used Trex which allegedly makes "perfect pastry" but I think the fat content is higher than butter, so my first attempt went horribly wrong. Fortunately, cheap packaged shortcrust pastry is made entirely with vegetable fat so that's a far simpler way to satisfy a hungry vegan!

  • 2 courgettes, sliced into rings
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • A few slices of salad tomato (for topping)
  • 350g firm tofu
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 tbsp gram flour
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 quantity dairy-free shortcrust pastry
  1. Chop the vegetables, toss in bowl with a slosh of oil of your choice, and roast on a baking tray at 200C for about 30 minutes, until lightly roasted.
  2. Meanwhile in a food processor (or with a wooden spoon if you're feeling energetic), whizz up the tofu, yeast, flour and garlic to a smooth mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Roll out your pastry, grease a loose-bottomed flan tin and line it with the pastry, leaving a little bit of pastry hanging over the edges.
  4. Remove your veggies from the oven when they're done, and leave to cool.
  5. Turn the oven down to 180C, and blind bake the pastry for about 15 minutes.
  6. Pick out a few pieces of pepper, onion and courgette to decorate the top, and roughly chop the rest into big chunks.
  7. When the pastry's done, remove from the oven, leave to cool a bit, then trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife.
  8. Mix your pseudo-eggy tofu filling in a bowl with the cooled vegetables, sundried tomatoes and thyme, then pour the mixture into the pastry case.
  9. Decorate the top with your vegetables, and a few slices of tomato.
  10. Bake in the oven at 180C for 30 minutes until cooked and set.


This is a good base for any kind of vegan quiche or flan. Asparagus is particularly good, mushrooms, tomatoes.

Wholemeal pastry adds extra flavour and texture, as do finely chopped nuts and seeds in the pastry mix.