Gnocchi (v)

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I have never made gnocchi from scratch before, only ever purchased those pre-made packages from the supermarket. I’d wrongly assumed that they would take forever and be messy and not worth the effort. How wrong I was. These took a few minutes to make, and cooked just like shop bought ones in a few mins in a pan of boiling water. The texture was lovely – really light and fluffy, not dense, heavy and disappointing like every other gnocchi I’ve eaten has been. Recipes online say use an egg, but I subbed that for 4 tbsp soya milk.

For 4-5 portions you need

  • 400g mashed potato (mine was a mix of potato and swede)
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2-3 tbsp soya milk or 1 egg if you eat them
  • salt and pepper
  • extra flour for dusting or some semolina/polenta
  1. Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough. Don’t over knead.
  2. Break into 4 tennis ball sized portions and roll each out into long sausages on a floured work surface.
  3. Cut into equal sized pieces and push the back of a fork lightly in to each piece (to help the sauce cling apparently). Dust with polenta to prevent them from sticking.
  4. I left mine to chill for 45 mins in the fridge because they took less time that I thought they would! They should be fine to cook straight away however.
  5. Bring a pan of water to the boil and then add the gnocchi one piece at a time to prevent them from sticking together. Allow to simmer and once they start to float to the surface, remove and scoff. We had ours with a quick and easy to make rich tomato and vegetable olive sauce. Really delicious!

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Lentil and Pearl Barley Root Vegetable Casserole (v)

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Every year I get a bit depressed about the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn. But then I remember warming stews and casseroles and honking geese and I feel a bit less dejected. This casserole is a variation on one I make a lot, but for the first time I cooked it in the oven in the hope that the pearl barley and lentils wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. They didn’t! I served with mashed potatoes and steamed spring greens.

For six portions you need

Casserole

  • 1 leek, sliced into 0.5″ slices
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 small swede cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1.25l vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup pearly barley, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cauliflower cut into bite sized florets
  • salt and pepper to taste

Dumplings

  • 100g self raising flour
  • 50g vegetable suet
  • dried herbs
  • salt and pepper
  • cold water to mix to a dough
  1. Place all the chopped veg apart from the cauli into an oven proof casserole pan with the oil and saute, covered, for about 8 mins until the veg are starting to soften.
  2. Add the stock, lentils and pearl barley. Mix well and bring to the boil.
  3. Cover with a lid and place in a 160 degree oven for 30 mins.
  4. Make the dumplings by adding enough cold water to the mix to form a soft dough. Shape into 8 dumplings.
  5. After 30 mins, remove the pan from the oven and add the cauliflower and dumplings to the casserole. Mix the cauli in well to ensure it cooks, and place the dumplings on top of the casserole. Cover with the lid and return to the oven for a further 25 mins.
  6. Season to taste and serve with veg of your choice and pickled red cabbage if you’re feeling particularly northern!

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Cashew and Vegetable Stir Fry with Miso Sauce (v)

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We’ve been on holiday for a week and eaten out every night. Whilst that was lovely, my body was craving something not deep fried and actual vegetables now we are home. I have an open jar of miso paste in the fridge that needed using up so this stir fry was created. Savoury, filling and nutritious it certainly hit the spot.

For three portions you need

Vegetables

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Small handful cashews
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • Handful broccoli cut into small florets
  • Handful cauliflower cut into small florets
  • 1 leek, trimmed and sliced into 0.5cm slices
  • A little water
  • Rice/quinoa to serve with the stir fry

Sauce

  • 3 tsp miso paste
  • 3 tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • A little water
  1. Heat the oil in a wok and toast the cashews, ensuring they don’t burn.
  2. Add the carrots, broccoli, cauli and a splash of water. Cover with a lid to help them steam. Cook for 2-3 mins.
  3. Meanwhile cook the rice/quinoa and make the sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients in a jar, stirring well to mix in the miso paste.
  4. Add the leeks and miso sauce. Keep covered and cook for a further 5 mins or so until the vegetables are done to your liking (I like mine quite al dente).
  5. Serve and feel super smug.

Thai Sweet Potato Soup (v)

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I like soup. We eat a lot of soup. The teen will still eat things as soup he wouldn’t eat as separate components, and this soup is a good example of that. He won’t eat Thai red curry or coconut milk. But he will eat this, go figure…

For 6 portions you need

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1″ piece of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 3 tsp red curry paste (make sure it has no fish sauce in it if you’re veggie/vegan)
  • 750g peeled and diced sweet potatoes
  • If you want to increase the heat, then add a couple of extra thai chillies, roughly chopped
  • 750ml veg stock
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • Juice of two limes
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander
  1. Begin by frying the onion in the oil for about 5 mins till softened.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger and curry paste. Stir for 2-3 mins.
  3. Add the potatoes and cover in the spice paste for 1-2 mins.
  4. Add the coconut milk, stock, chillies and bring to the boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 mins until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Add the coriander and the blitz the soup using a stick blender until smooth.
  6. Stir through the lime juice and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve.

Tofu Noodle Tom Kha Soup (v)

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I’m sure this isn’t an authentic recipe but it was damn tasty and very quick to knock together. I had leftovers for my lunch today and it was just as delicious.

For six generous portions you need:

  • 3 wholewheat noodle nests
  • 1 courgette, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • Handful baby corn, cut into bite sized chunks
  • Handful of mange tout, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 pack of tofu, drained and cut into bite sized chunks
  • Handful of tender stem broccoli, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1.5 litres of vegan stock
  • 3/4 packet of frozen thai herbs (I like the Waitrose one)
  • 1 pack fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 3 thai chillies. finely sliced
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  1. Place everything in a large pan apart from the coriander and lemon juice. Bring to the boil.
  2. Simmer for 2-3 mins until the noodles are cooked and so are the veggies.
  3. Season with lemon juice, adding more to taste.
  4. Serve in bowls garnished with the coriander. Nomtastic.

Thai-style Tofu Noodle Salad (v)

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It’s my son’s birthday today and for his birthday meal he asked me to make this. How could I refuse?! He specifically asked for red cabbage and lots of tofu but you can use any vegetables you want really. The dressing needs to be zingy and fresh and bounce off your tastebuds.

For 5-6 portions you need

Salad

  • 1 pack tofu (I used Cauldron), pressed
  • 1 small red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 bunch spring onions, sliced
  • 1 pack beansprouts
  • 1 pack fine rice noodles
  • 1 pack coriander
  • 1/2 pack mint
  • 1/2 pack thai basil

Dressing

  • Juice of three limes
  • 1″ piece of grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 3-4 tbsp each of mirin, rice vinegar and soya sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • As much chilli as you fancy – I used 2 birds eye chillies and 2 fatter chillies
  1. Begin by rehydrating the rice noodles in boiling water for 3-4 mins. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them sticking. Leave them to drain before squeezing out any excess water. Place in the bottom of your serving bowls.
  2. Make the dressing by placing all the ingredients into a bowl and mixing. Taste and adjust according to taste e.g. make it more spicy or sour or sweeter or more salty.
  3. Shred, grate and otherwise prepare all the veggies. Layer on top of the noodles.
  4. Drizzle over the dressing and scatter over the herbs. I like a lot of greenery. The teen prefers less…
  5. Thinly slice the tofu and fry in oil in a hot pan over a moderate heat. This will take about 5 mins per side. Turn once during cooking and once crispy and browned, remove and drain on kitchen paper.
  6. Serve and enjoy. I love this salad at any time of year but eating it now is giving me hope Spring is finally on it’s way. It is, isn’t it?!

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-18,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

(M)any Vegetable Soup with Marmite Broth (v)

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Also known as ‘wtf-is-there-for-lunch’ soup and ‘try-and-make-the-teen-eat-something-healthy-today’ soup…

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Basically you can put any vegetables you want in this. Today’s soup is what was left in the fridge and a delicious looking savoy cabbage from the local farm shop. On that note, I got all these veggies for £9!! Love my farm shop!

 

For four portions you need

  • Mixed vegetables of your choice. I used 2 small leeks, 2 sticks celery, 3 small carrots, a small head of broccoli, 1/4 cauliflower, 2 savoy cabbage leaves.
  • 1.25 litres veg stock
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tsp marmite
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Chop/dice the vegetables into roughly equal sized chunks.
  2. Add to a pan with the stock and chickpeas. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 3-4 mins until everything is tender but not over cooked.
  3. Season and add the marmite. Adjust to taste.
  4. Serve. I had mine with melted violife slices for vegan ‘cheese’ on toast and piri piri chutney. Yum.

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Avocado Toast (v)

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I’ve come late to avocado toast. And now I can’t stop eating it  especially when it’s topped with chipotle chilli flakes and grilled until the tomatoes melt  I prefer to use sourdough or seeded bread, but use whatever floats your boat. 

For two portions you need:

  • 4 slices of toast
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes
  • salt, pepper and chilli flakes
  1. Scoop the avocado out of the skin and either roughly mash in a bowl or if the avocado is very ripe, squodge directly onto the toast.
  2. Top with sliced tomato and season well.
  3. Grill for about 5 mins until the tomatoes are hot.
  4. Scoff with optional extra chilli sauce (everything tastes better with hot sauce!)
  5. Level up in hipster vegan points and grow your beard an extra 1 cm for each slice consumed…

Creamy Broccoli Pasta Bake (v)

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I had the most delicious creamy, garlicky pasta bake in an Italian in Doncaster of all places a few years ago. I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe ever since. This is the closest I have got. If you’re veggie add some melting cheese to it before baking. I can’t stand vegan cheese so didn’t bother to try and replicate that aspect!

For two portions you need

  • 150g pasta
  • 1 head broccoli cut into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 25g vegan spread
  • 25g plain flour
  • 200ml plant milk
  • 100ml white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp vegan stock powder
  1. Begin by cooking the pasta as per the packet instructions. Add the broccoli to the pasta for the last 3-4 mins of cooking time. Drain, but reserve 3-4 tbsp of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile make the sauce by putting everything else into a pan and stirring until it comes to the boil and thickens. Season to taste.
  3. Mix the sauce into the pasta and broccoli pan and then transfer to an ovenproof dish. Bake in a hot oven for 20-30 mins until the top layer is browned. Serve with a tomato salad.

Celebration Cake 2017

I’ve tweaked and tested and tried various versions of celebration fruit cakes over the last twenty years. Some of them have been a bit dry, some of them too boozy, others too dark and treacly. I needed an excellent cake for the winter solstice this year, and it was also a perfect opportunity to try out a new recipe ahead of our wedding next year (yes, even in a Christmas cake blog post I can get a mention of my forthcoming wedding in, give yourself a shiny*).

I tested this bake at work as the quantities below made more than my 8″ square tin could hold so I was able to bake a skinny 7″ round cake too. Everyone who tried it in the office declared it delicious and I don’t think they were just being polite.

You can veganise this cake by using dairy free spread in lieu of the butter and replacing the eggs with flax egg.

My cake based on Nigella’s Traditional Christmas Cake from her Nigella Christmas book.

* Watch this if you don’t know what on earth I am going on about…

For an 8″ square cake which will yield 16-24 slices depending on greed you need:

  • 1kg of mixed dried fruit: currants, raisins and sultanas. I used up what was in my larder but it worked out at about 350g of each type of dried fruit
  • 200g mixed peel
  • 250g glace cherries
  • 300ml each of brandy and dark rum
  • 300g butter or vegan spread
  • 180g light brown muscovado sugar
  • grated zest of two lemons and two oranges
  • 4 large eggs or the equivalent in flax egg
  • 2 tbsps treacle
  • 450g plain flour (add a little baking powder if using flax egg)
  • 1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  1. Start by placing the dried fruit, peel and cherries in a LARGE bowl and pour over the booze. Mix thoroughly then cover with clingfilm and leave in a cool place (not the fridge) for 2 weeks. Stir every couple of days to rotate the fruit and ensure even soaking.
  2. Make the cake by creaming the butter/spread with the sugar. Then add the eggs/egg replacement and flour in alternate spoonfuls to prevent curdling. Add the grated zest, treacle and spices. Mix well.
  3. Add the soaked fruit. Leave any remaining liquid in the bottom of the soaking bowl until you know if you need it. Sometimes the batter is runny enough without it, sometimes you need to add some of the liquid to let it down a bit. This stage is difficult as the batter is stiff and the bowl will be very full. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands in to ensure even fruit distribution if necessary.
  4. Scrape the mix into a lined 8″ square tin. Fill to 1cm from the top as the cake won’t rise too much whilst baking. Smooth the surface and make a little dip in the middle to compensate for any rise.
  5. Cover the tin with a square of foil with a hole in the middle to prevent the top of the cake from catching and the fruit burning during the cooking.
  6. Bake the cake in a pre-heated oven at 150 degrees (130 if fan) for 2 hours 45 mins to 3 hours 15 mins. Take the foil lid off about 45 mins before the end of the baking time to allow the top to brown evenly.
  7. Once cooked LEAVE TO COOL IN THE TIN!!! I learnt this the hard way this year when I turned it out too quickly thinking that would help it not sweat and scarily huge cracks appeared on the bottom. It was rescued by putting quickly back into the tin!
  8. Once cooled, wrap well and store or marzipan and ice. There’s no need to feed this cake as all the booze is locked inside the soaked fruit. It’s safe to give to children however as the booze cooks off as the cake bakes. If you want you can replace the booze with orange juice for a fresher tasting cake.