Quorn and Lentil ‘Beef’ in Ale Stew

Autumn is for eating hearty stews that warm you to the cockles of yer tum. And one of the things I miss most about not eating meat is a rich, warming beefy stew that’s been cooked for hours and hours. But despair not, if, like me, you’re a bad meat craving veggie, this stew will satisfy the most beefy of cravings and leave you with a warming internal hug. The dumplings are the crowning glory for warm doughy loveliness and soak up the yummy juices as it all cooks away. Simple and quick to prepare, it’s also ready in less than an hour.

For 4-6 portions you need
For the stew
1 pack quorn steak strips
1/2 cup brown lentils
1 bottle good stout (about 500ml)
500ml veg stock
1 onion chopped
2 field mushrooms, diced
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
salt and pepper
1 tbsp oil
3-4 carrots, cut into large chunks

For the dumplings
100g self raising flour
50g veg suet
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
cold water to mix

Begin by frying the onions, carrots and mushrooms in the oil for about 10 mins until the onions are softened and the juices have run from the mushrooms.

Add the lentils, quorn, beer and stock and bring to the boil. Season and add the ketchup. Cook for about 20 mins until the lentils are cooked.

Mix the dumpling ingredients together and form into 8 balls. Place on top of the bubbling stew mixture and cook for 20 mins. Serve with mash and curl up in front of the fire!

Salted Caramel Shortbread Slice aka Millionaire’s Shortbread

This is to die for. Literally. Scroll down the list of ingredients and you’ll see why. But don’t let that put you off. In the immortal words of Masterchef’s Greg Wallace it’s got the perfect buttery, biscuity base topped with oozing salted caramel and then a thick layer of slightly bitter chocolate. An orgasm on a plate if you will. What’s not to like… Adapted from Nigella’s Roxanne’s Millionaires Shortbread in Domestic Goddess.

For 24 pieces you need
225g plain flour
75g fairtrade caster sugar
375g unsalted butter
397g can sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons golden syrup
250g fairtrade plain chocolate
2 tsp salt, preferably something flaky like Maldon

Begin by making the shortbread. Place the flour, sugar and 175g of butter in a food processor and blitz till it turns into sandy rubble. If you don’t have a food processor you can do this by hand by rubbing the fat into the flour and sugar.

Tip the sandy mixture into a lined 23x23cm tin and press down. Bake in a 160 degree oven for 35-40 mins. You want a crisp, golden brown bottom so take care not to have the oven too hot or it will brown before it cooks through.

Meanwhile make the salted caramel by placing the remaining 200g butter into a pan with the condensed milk and golden syrup. I learnt previously when I made this that using a cheap pan separates the butter fat out and splits the caramel. This is NOT a good thing. I managed to resolve it by beating the caramel in the pan submerged in a washing up bowl of cold water but it’s tricky so I recommend using a pan with a deep a base as possible (a Le Creuset is brilliant but admittedly perhaps too middle class for this…). Anyways. Melt the butter into the condensed milk and syrup and then bring to the boil stirring constantly until it’s thickened and a light golden brown in colour. This will take about 20-25 minutes and can’t be rushed. To ensure you don’t let it catch you need to take it slow and steady, stirring all the time. Beat in 1 tsp of the salt and leave to cool.

The shortbread should be baked by now, and if it is, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15-20 mins before pouring the likewise cooled caramel over the top. Tilt the tin to coat the base properly then sprinkle over the remaining 1 tsp of salt. Leave to cool while you melt the chocolate.

Melt the chocolate in a bain marie/bowl over a pan of water. I like to use 75% plain and 25% milk chocolate on mine, but do as you wish. Once the chocolate has melted, pour over the caramel, again ensuring it’s covered properly and leave until fully set. This means overnight unless you cheat like me and put it in the fridge.

Cut into squares and scoff. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Probably The Most Awesome Vegan Pie Ever (v)

OK, OK, I am feeling rather smug after tonight’s dinner marvel, but it was delicious. Really, really delicious. And it was also very easy to make, and used up some of the veg that has been looking sadly up at me from the bottom of the fridge for the last week. Because it’s vegan, there’s no cream in the recipe, just some soya milk which makes a lovely creamy sauce. And this makes it a healthy choice too if you’re watching the calories, what more do you need to convince you to try it 😉

For 4-6 portions you need
1 sheet puff pastry, rolled out to .5cm thickness
1 leek, finely sliced
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 parsnips, ditto the carrots
4-5 mushrooms cut into chunky slices
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1/2 pint soya milk plus a little extra for glazing the top of the pie
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp stock powder
2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsely
salt and pepper

Begin by sauteeing the vegetables in the oil in a large pan. Cover with a lid and allow the veggies to steam fry for 5 mins or so. Remove the lid and increase the heat a little to evaporate off the mushroom juices.

Sprinkle over the flour and stock powder and allow to cook out. Add the mustard and slowly add the soya milk until it’s all absorbed and the sauce is nicely thickened. Season and add the parsley.

Place the vegetables and sauce in a pie dish. Put the puff pastry on the top and seal the edges. You don’t have to use a pie funnel but it will help to cook the inside out if you have one and prevent a soggy pastry lid. Crimp the edges of the pie and brush the top with a little extra soya milk.

Bake the pie in a hot (180 degree) oven for 30-40 mins until the pastry is golden, crispy and cooked through. Serve with baby jacket potatoes, steamed cauliflower and lashings of yummy gravy. Nomtastic.

Roasted Squash, Carrot and Onion Soup with Chilli (v)

It’s definitely autumn here now: cold, misty, and in need of filling, warming food! This soup hits the spot fair and square. It’s a delicious combination of velvety smooth pureed squash and warming chilli and spices. A doddle to make, but luxurious to eat.

For 2-3 portions you need
1 spaghetti & 1 acorn squash (or equivalents of other squashes!) deseeded and cut into rough slices, skin on
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3-4 carrots, cut into rough chunks
1 tsp each of cumin, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2-3 birds eye chillies
1-1.5 litres of vegan stock (depending on thickness of soup desired)

Place the squash, carrots and onions onto a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle over the spices and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a moderate (170 degree) oven for about 30 mins until soft and cooked.

Scoop the squash off of the skin and place in a pan along with the onions, carrot and chillies. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Puree using a stick blender, check seasoning and serve with oodles of fresh crusty bread. Delicious!

Vegetable Crumble with Pine Nuts and Almonds (v)

This was a bottom of the veg box use-it-all-up idea which turned out good. Very good. It’s not strictly a crumble I guess as I cheated and used bread crumbs on the top, but it worked well to give a crunchy, tasty, nutty crust to counter the vegetables below. Omit the cheese for a vegan version. The veggies given below are what we needed to use up. Other combinations would also work!

For 4-6 portions you need:
1-2 onions, chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 squash, peeled and cut into chunks
2 ears corn, with the kernels stripped off
1 courgette, thickly sliced
2 tsp vegetable stock powder
3 slices brown bread with seeds
handful grated cheddar
salt and pepper
1 tbsp roughly chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley)
1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp light olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp flaked almonds

Begin by sauteeing the onion in the oil. Add the squash and carrot and cook for a further 2-3 mins. Add the courgette and sweetcorn and enough water to come half way up the sides of the pan (you don’t want too much). Add the beans, stock powder, herbs and season. Cook for 5 mins or so.

Meanwhile blitz the bread in a food processor till fine crumbs. Tip the veggies and stock into a large oven proof dish and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. Add the cheese if using and then the pine nuts and almonds. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 mins until the veggies are all cooked and the crumbs are browned. Serve with saute potatoes and braised red cabbage. Yum yum yum.