Crispy bean salad

When I was little my mum read “The Hobbit” to me and I remember being completely enthralled by the story, and her infectious enthusiasm for it. She loves the Hobbits, maybe because, like them, she is small, cheerful, kind and generous: the tradition in the Shire is for Hobbits to give everyone else a present on their birthday rather than receiving them. I too love giving presents and seeing that happy and surprised look on the face of a loved one when you manage to give them something they really like that shows that you’ve been thinking of them. I also feel touched when someone gives me something that I wasn’t expecting and that tells me they know me very well: there is a lot of truth in the saying “it’s the thought that counts”. As you might be able to guess, quite a lot of the gifts I receive are to do with cooking. Recently, I was lucky enough to have my wonderful Greek friend Iphigenia and her daughter come and stay for a few days. She very kindly brought a lovely bottle of Greek olive oil with her which I have been enjoying ever since. This recipe was inspired by a fusion of Greek and British cooking. Iphigenia loves scones when she visits the UK so I have combined a Greek inspired salad with savoury dairy-free scones for a light dinner showing off the great taste of the olive oil.

Crispy bean salad

Cooking time: 25-30 minutes (excluding soaking and cooking the beans if you are using dried)

Dietary info: dairy free, vegetarian with the scones, vegan without the scones, gluten-free without the scones or bread

Serves: 2 (easily doubled)

  • 150g rocket, washed
  • 100g dried butterbeans, soaked and cooked as per packet instructions, or 200g cooked beans
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder


  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of 1 small orange
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Toss the cooked beans with the oregano, salt, pepper and garlic to coat them drizzle over the olive oil and stir to distribute evenly
  2. Put the beans in an ovenproof dish and bake at 160C fan for 20-25 minutes until the beans are crispy but not dried out
  3. Mix the mustard powder with 1 tbsp of the vinegar to get a smooth paste then stir in the other dressing ingredients
  4. Put the rocket in a bowl and mix together with the dressing
  5. Sprinkle the crispy beans over the top and serve, with the dairy free cheese scones (see the tasty little extras) or crusty bread

A few tips to prep ahead

  • Soak and cook the beans according to packet instructions – usually soak the beans over the night, bring to the boil in fresh water, boil for about 10 minutes then simmer for a further 40-60 minutes – then store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days
  • Make the dressing  and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 7 days
  • You can also bake the beans once you have boiled them so that they are crispy then store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days if you are going to be short of time on the night
  • On the night either toss the beans in the seasoning and oil and bake, or if you have already done this, just heat in the oven for about 10 minutes to make sure they are hot through and crispy. Bring the dressing to at least room temperature (I tend to heat it for a minute in the microwave or a small pan on the stove) so that the oil is fully liquid. Whisk the dressing with a fork, dress the rocket, add the beans and serve

Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • Make a gluten-free version by serving with gluten free bread, adding some cooked quinoa to the salad or serving with some cheese e.g. crumbled feta, grilled halloumi or baked goats cheese (this can still be vegetarian depending on the cheese you choose)
  • For a vegan version, serve with the crusty bread or add some cooked quinoa to the salad
  • Increase the protein by adding some shredded chicken or flaked fish e.g. salmon, tuna, haddock
    • Rub the chicken pieces (breast, thighs or drumsticks) or fish with the same seasoning as the spices and bake until cooked all the way through (about 20 minutes for chicken, 10-15 minutes for the fish).
    • The chicken is done if the juices run clear when you cut into the thickest bit, fish is done when it is opaque all the way through and flakes easily (although it you are using tuna, you can serve it when it is still pink in the middle if you like it rare)
    • Shred or flake the chicken or fish and scatter over the salad with the beans
  • For a higher protein vegetarian version, add some sliced hardboiled egg to the salad – scatter on top with the beans
  • Vary the salad ingredients e.g. grated cucumber, grated carrot, sliced peppers, sliced lettuce, mixed leaves, chopped tomatoes
  • Try different types of beans e.g. borlotti, cannellini, fava
  • Leftover scones make a lovely breakfast food, reheated in the oven, or a great accompaniment to soup instead of bread

Dairy free cheese scones

Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

Dietary info: vegetarian, dairy free

Serves: 3-4

  • 250g wholemeal or spelt flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 20g dairy free spread (I used vegan avocado spread)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 125g grated dairy free (vegan) cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  1. Mix together the flour and baking powder and rub in the vegan spread until the mixture resembles fine crumbs
  2. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano and cheese
  3. Make a well in the centre of the scone mixture, break the egg into the well and add the almond milk
  4. Whisk the egg and almond milk together and gradually incorporate into the flour mixture to make a soft dough. It if is too sticky, add more flour, and if it is too dry and stiff add more almond milk
  5. Knead lightly in the bowl with your hands until the dough comes together into a workable ball
  6. Put the dough on a non-stick baking tray (I use a silicone baking mat on a baking tray) and shape it into a rough oval
  7. Use a knife to score the oval into 8 wedges and cook scones for 20-30 minutes at 160C fan
  8. Serve with the salad, a soup or just enjoy on their own, maybe cut in half and spread with a little vegan spread

Squash, kale and orange bake

I’ve seen it used several times in films as a comic motif: someone is running on a treadmill, they are unable to stop as it speeds up until eventually it is going too fast and they shoot off the back in an ungainly fashion. Sometimes life feels like that: you are running around faster and faster just to stand still, desperately trying to keep up with everything knowing if it speeds up any more you are just going shoot off the metaphorical treadmill and land in a heap. The last month or so has been like that for us with lots of different things going on at work and home clamouring for our attention and energy. At times like these, cooking is often one of the things that gets squeezed out, but it is even more important that your food is nourishing and healthy to keep you going. This is when I turn to simple, wholesome comfort food: things that I can just shove in the oven when I get home from work which will pretty much look after themselves while I get on with other things until they are ready. Although this dish looks like it takes a long time to make that is mainly the cooking time for the lentils and the baking time, the actual input from the cook is fairly simple and minimal, and it can be completely prepared ahead apart from the final baking. It was inspired by some sausages I saw when i was food shopping, flavoured with squash, kale, fennel and orange as well as some squash “lasagne sheets” (slices of squash about the same size and shape as lasagne pasta). I have made lasagne-like bakes before using chopped sausage instead of mince and this idea along with these two products got me wondering if I could make a vegan layered bake using all of these flavours. I used slices of squash to make the layers like the squash “lasagne sheets”, with kale between the layers as well as some green lentils to add protein and texture more similar to mince, all coated with a tomato sauce flavoured with orange and fennel. For simplicity, and also to make the dish a bit lighter and fresher, I didn’t top with the bechamel sauce or cheese characteristic of the most common lasagne, and I found I liked the appearance of the pretty arcs of unadorned squash on the top.

Squash, kale and orange bake

Cooking time: 30-35 minutes preparation, 40-60 minutes baking

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves: 3-4

  • 100g dried green lentils
  • 70g kale, washed and cut or torn into bite sized pieces
  • ½ a small butternut squash, washed and cut into slices 2-4 mm thick

Orange, fennel and tomato sauce

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 600ml passata
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (make sure this is vegan / gluten-free if you are making the dish vegan / gluten free)
  • Zest and juice of 1 small orange
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  1. Cook the lentils according to packet instructions (usually rinse, cover in fresh cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until soft, about 30 minute)
  2. Put the chopped onion in a non-stick saucepan with a splash of water to stop it sticking and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften
  3. Crumble the stock cube over the onion, and add all the other sauce ingredients. Simmer over a low heat until the onion is very soft and the flavours have melded (about 15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally
  4. Arrange a third of the squash slices in a layer in an ovenproof dish and cover with half the lentils, half the kale and enough sauce to coat everything. Repeat with a second layer of squash then lentils, kale and sauce, topping with a final layer of squash slices
  5. Bake a 160C fan until the squash slices are soft, and going slightly crispy on top (about 40-60 minutes). I usually cover the bake with foil for the first 30-40 minutes to help the squash soften without burning then remove the foil for the last 10-20 minutes of cooking to let the top get crispy
  6. Serve with the remaining sauce and some salad or steamed vegetables

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the whole bake and assemble in the oven proof dish, then cover it and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days, simply taking it out of the fridge and putting it in the oven when you are ready to cook it on the night
  • If you are going to be short of time on the night, you can even bake it ahead of time then just reheat in the oven on the night until it is bubbling (about 10-15 minutes)
  • Keep the remaining sauce in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 7 days, then heat it until it is hot all the way through on the night, about 3-4 minutes either in the microwave or a saucepan
  • If you don’t have room for the ovenproof dish in your fridge, make the sauce, cook the lentils and slice the squash and keep them in separate sealed containers in your fridge for up to 5 days, then wash the kale, assemble and cook on the night

Some tasty little twists…

  • Replace the green lentils with red or yellow lentils or split peas
  • Add some cooked and chopped vegan, vegetarian or meat sausages or cooked  vegan, vegetarian or meat mince to the bake along with the lentils for a higher protein version
  • Sprinkle dairy or vegan grated cheese on top of the bake for a more lasagne like finish
  • Bulk it out by serving with some crusty bread to mop up the juice (this is not gluten-free unless you use gluten-free bread)
  • Use the sauce as a sauce for squacchi  or gnocchi – mix the cooked squacchi or gnocchi (boiled if shop bought, baked if homemade) with the kale and enough sauce  to coat then bake in an ovenproof dish for about 20 minutes
  • Transform this recipe from a bake to a pasta dish:
    • Halve the amount of kale and butternut squash and either grate or finely chop the butternut squash instead of slicing it
    • Cook some whole wheat pasta (fresh or dried) according to the packet instructions until al dente then drain and rinse with cold water to stop it cooking more or getting sticky
    • Cook the butternut squash in a saucepan or frying pan with a splash of water or a few tbsp of sauce until it is starting to soften, then add the kale and cook until wilted
    • Stir in the cooked lentils, cooked pasta and enough sauce to coat everything and heat, stirring, until everything is warmed through, then serve with the remaining sauce (also heated through) on the side


Quorn and mushroom paprika stew

I usually associate March with the start of Spring but this year in the UK it didn’t get off to a very Spring like start with severe weather warnings and snow across most of the country. Our boiler broke leaving our house freezing cold for two days. As we sat indoors, huddled near the space heater, wrapped up in jumpers and blankets, clasping hot water bottles while it snowed outside we didn’t want fresh spring salads, we wanted warming hearty winter stews and bakes, even if only for the excuse to turn on the stove or oven for a long time for the extra warmth. This stew was inspired by a Hungarian national dish, paprikash, which traditionally combines meat, broth, paprika, and sour cream. I wanted to make it vegan but to retain a rich meaty taste so I added mushrooms, as well as Quorn for texture and protein, while replacing the soured cream with unsweetened almond milk and a splash of lemon to season. I think paprika has a wonderfully warming taste and colour wherever it is used, and steaming bowls of this stew certainly perked my husband and I up when we were feeling cold and miserable.


Quorn and mushroom paprika stew

Cooking time: 30-35 minutes (almost all of this can be done ahead, leaving only about 5 minutes cooking on the night)

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 2-3

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 500g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (make sure this is vegan if you want to make the dish vegan)
  • 150ml hot water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 200g vegan Quorn pieces
  • 150ml unsweetened almond milk
  • Salt, pepper and lemon juice to season
  1. Put finely sliced onion and finely chopped green pepper in a non-stick saucepan with a splash of water to stop them sticking and cook for 4-5 minutes until they are starting to soften, stirring occasionally
  2. Add the spiced mushrooms and cornflour, stir to combine and cook for about 1 minute to start to cook the flour
  3. Crumble the stock cube into the pan, add the salt, pepper and hot water and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the sauce is bubbling. You can add more water if it starts to get dry but the mushrooms usually give out a lot of water so you usually need to bubble it down rather than add water
  4. Stir in the vegan Quorn pieces and continue to simmer until the Quorn is cooked and hot all the way through, usually about 7-10 minutes
  5. Remove from the heat and stir through the unsweetened almond milk, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste and serve


A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the stew up to the point where you would stir in the Quorn and keep in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 6 days
  • If you want to add the Quorn you can, but only store for up to 3 days
  • On the night, just need to heat through the stew until it is simmering, then remove from the heat, stir in the almond milk and serve

Some tasty little twists…

  • Replace the vegan Quorn with cubes of tofu, tempeh, cooked beans (e.g. butter beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans) or cooked lentils for other vegan versions. These versions are also gluten free.
  • For some vegetarian (and gluten free) versions you can use vegetarian Quorn, or break 2-4 eggs onto the top the stew:
  • Make a dent on the top of the stew at the point you would add the vegan Quorn and break an egg into it
    • Cover the pan and simmer for 5-7 minutes to poach the egg
    • Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, stir in the almond milk, replace the eggs and serve
    • If you don’t mind the almond milk potentially slightly separating, you can add the almond milk before adding the eggs then serve without having to remove the egg
  • For a non-vegetarian (but gluten free) version, you can make this with diced chicken, turkey, pork, beef or white fish. For the meat versions, stir the meat in when you add the mushrooms then simmer gently for 20-30 minutes after you add the water until the meat is tender. For the fish version add the fish 15 minutes after you add the water and cook for about 10 minutes, until the fish is opaque all the way through and flakes easily
  • For any of the versions, bulk them out by serving with boiled rice, boiled gnocchi, mashed root vegetables (e.g. potato, parsnip or celeriac), mashed butter beans or crusty bread
  • Add more vegetables by serving with steamed vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, broccoli or cauliflower

Gingered fennel, spinach and butterbean bake on a cauliflower crust

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. When cooking, perseverance can sometimes be challenging. You pour your energy into creating a dish which turns out to be an utter failure. Next time you’re in the kitchen and you are wondering what to cook, “that thing that didn’t turn out how I wanted it to at all” isn’t necessarily the first thing that leaps to mind. However, given how many unlikely dishes have been created that so easily go wrong this perseverance in the face of failure is something that many cooks over the years must have done. There is also a stubborn streak in me that, once I get an idea into my head, likes to keep going until I get it right. This idea was a fusion of two different dishes my parents cooked for me. The first dish that inspired me was one my mum cooked trying to recreate a meal she had enjoyed in a restaurant consisting of butterbeans, fennel, ginger and spinach all stir fried together, which I thought was delicious. The second was my dad’s favourite way of roasting pork: stuffed with sichuan pepper and fennel which go together beautifully. The linking factor of fennel made me want to introduce a note of sichuan pepper to my mum’s dish. When mum cooked the butterbeans for me there were a lot of leftovers which I took home, and served to my husband the next night as a topping on a tortilla “pizza” with tomato sauce and cheese. I thought this worked well and wanted to experiment with other variations. I was fascinated by the concept of a cauliflower pizza crust and wanted to try making my own version. Most cauliflower crust recipes I found contained a lot of cheese but I wondered if I could use something non-dairy to bind it together. My first attempt was using 40g oatmeal cooked into a porridge like mixture then stirred into the raw grated cauliflower. However, this was far too damp and just fell apart. For my second attempt, I cooked the cauliflower to get rid of some of the moisture. This was better, with nice and crispy edges, but still didn’t really set. For my third attempt I gave up on oatmeal and replaced it with wholemeal flour, plus a bit of grated vegan cheese to help bind it all together. Although the result wasn’t particularly pizza like it held together and tasted good, so I am glad I tried again rather than listening to the comic paraphrase: “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it”.

Gingered fennel, spinach and butterbean bake on a cauliflower crust

Cooking time: 40-60 minutes

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 2-3

  • 100g dried butterbean, cooked as per packet instructions or 200g ready cooked butterbeans
  • 175g cooked spinach, fresh or frozen (defrosted if frozen)
  • 30-35g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 large bulb fennel (about 300g), finely sliced

Cauliflower base

  • 40g wholemeal flour
  • 25g vegan cheese, grated
  • 50ml water
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ a cauliflower, grated
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground sichuan pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Tomato sauce

  • 500g passata
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground sichuan pepper
  • 1 heaped tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Extra salt and lemon to season if wanted
  1. Cook the grated cauliflower in a non stick frying pan until if has softened and lost some of its water (about 5-10 minutes)
  2. Mix together the flour, water, baking powder, salt, sichuan pepper and fennel to a smooth paste then stir in the cauliflower and cheese
  3. Spread the cauliflower mix about 3-5mm thick on a non-stick baking tray and cook at 160C fan for for 20-30 minutes until crispy but not burning at the edges. It may still be a little soft in the middle but don’t worry about that
  4. Mix all the sauce ingredients except the seasoning salt and lemon together in a saucepan and heat until bubbling then season
  5. Put the ginger and fennel in a non-stick saucepan with a splash of water and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the fennel is starting to soften. Then stir in the spinach and continue to stir until it has wilted (if fresh) or heated through (if frozen) and finally stir in the butterbeans
  6. Cover the base with a thin layer of tomato sauce (4-6 tbsp) then top with the fennel / spinach / bean mixture
  7. Return the bake to the oven and cook until the top is starting to crisp (about 15-20 minutes)
  8. Serve with the remaining tomato sauce and some steamed vegetables or salad

A few tips to prep ahead

  • If using dried butterbeans put these on to soak 2 days before you want to cook the topping, and cook them the night before you want to make the topping then store them in a sealed container in the fridge until you need them
  • Make the tomato sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 6 days
  • Make the topping mixture (fennel / spinach / beans) and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 6 days
  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices for the base and keep, covered, at room temperature for up to a week
  • Grate and cook the cauliflower and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days
  • On the night, grate the cheese, mix together the base and bake it, top it then finish it off in the oven
  • If you have enough space in your fridge you can even make and cook the base the night before then keep, covered in the fridge overnight. Then all you need to do on the night is top it and cook it in the oven

Some tasty little twists…

  • Replace the butterbeans with chickpeas, or green lentils
  • For a lighter version, just serve the fennel / spinach / bean mixture with the tomato sauce, or put the fennel / spinach / bean mixture in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce and bake for 15-20 minutes for a bean bake
  • Experiment with different toppings for the base and flavourings for the tomato sauce e.g.
    • Cook sliced peppers, aubergine and chickpeas with a splash of water and seasoned with paprika, pepper and salt, and replace the spices (the fennel, sichuan pepper and ginger) in the tomato sauce with garlic powder and paprika.
    • Replace the fennel in the bean mix with sliced oriental greens such as pak choi or bok choi and replace the fennel in the tomato sauce with ground star anise
    • You can also sprinkle some grated cheese (or vegan cheese for a vegan version) on top of your chosen topping for a more pizza like meal
  • Use the sauce as a pasta sauce: cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and heat through with enough sauce to coat and your choice of cooked vegetables e.g. spinach, roast peppers, grilled aubergine etc.


Avocado, garlic and pea spaghetti

In the UK avocados did not become widely available until the 1960s but have since become very popular, and I recently found out that they are one of the top-selling products at our local supermarket. Social media sites are full of pictures and stories extolling the virtues of the avocado: its high levels of “good (monounsaturated) fats”, as well as vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and potassium. It feels almost sacrilegious to admit it, but I have never much liked avocado: I find the taste a bit odd and don’t like the texture of big lumps of it. Until recently the only way I’d found that I really liked to eat it was as guacamole alongside a nice chili. However, I am trying to increase the amounts of good fats in my diet so I thought I should give avocados another go. With so many avocados being sold I started to wonder what they were all being used for. After reading up about uses worldwide I was interested to find out that they are popular in both savoury and sweet dishes, though usually not both in the same country: from salads, sandwiches and dips, to ice-creams, desserts and smoothies most of their uses emphasised their soft creamy texture. This started me thinking about where rich textures work well using traditional creamy dairy ingredients but the avocado could step in instead to make a creamy dairy free dish. My favourite idea was creamy garlic pasta sauces. I wanted to build on the striking green colour of the avocado with other greens, have some rich cooked flavours in there but without cooking the avocado as this can make it bitter, and introduce some crunchy texture in to contrast with the silky smooth avocado. After playing around with a few ideas I came up with courgette and peas for the green, roast garlic for the depth of flavour and roasting the peas for a crispy texture. I was surprised how much I liked the final dish and will definitely be using avocadoes more in similar ways in the future.

Avocado, garlic and pea spaghetti

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, for gluten-free versions see the tasty little twists

Serves: 2

  • 1 courgette, spiralized, grated or cut into fine ribbons
  • 50g dried wholewheat spaghetti, or 100g fresh spaghetti
  • 100g peas, fresh or frozen

Avocado sauce

  • 1 small avocado
  • 2 cloves garlic, whole and left in their skins
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 50-100ml water for consistency
  1. Put the peas in an ovenproof dish and roast at 160C fan for 15-20 minutes until they are starting to brown slightly and get crispy but haven’t completely dried out. Also put the whole garlic cloves in the ovenproof dish and roast until they feel soft and squishy
  2. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions until al dente (usually boil in plenty of water for 8-15 minutes for dried, or 3-5 minutes for fresh), drain and rinse with cold water to prevent it getting overcooked or sticking together
  3. Cut the avocado in half, scoop out the flesh and discard the skin and stone
  4. Peel the skins off the roast garlic cloves and discard the skins
  5. Mash the avocado flesh with the roast garlic, salt, pepper and lemon (you can do this in a food processor if you have a small one that is suitable for this). If you are mashing by hand I find it best to use a pretty ripe avocado and use two forks to mash the avocado in a wide flat-bottomed bowl or plate: use one fork to hold the piece of avocado still and the other to mash it, then finish the mashing with a spoon to cream everything together. If you are mashing by hand I also find it easiest to mash the avocado on its own first then mash in the other ingredients once the avocado is smooth
  6. Stir in enough water into the mashed avocado mixture to make a smooth sauce with a consistency like thick double cream
  7. Put the spiralised courgette into a non-stick frying pan and cook for about 3 minutes until it starts to soften but isn’t going mushy. Stir in the spaghetti and peas to warm them through then take off the heat, stir in enough sauce to coat the pasta and courgette (about 4-5 tbsp) and serve with the extra sauce and some steamed green vegetables or salad dressed with lemon juice and/or olive oil on the side

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • If you have time I think this is best prepared on the day so everything is at its freshest and it doesn’t take too long to make
  • However, if you are going to be short of time on the night, roast the peas and garlic and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days
  • You can spiralise the courgette the night before and keep in a sealed container or bag in the fridge until you need it
  • You can also make the avocado sauce the night before and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge until you need it, but its bright green colour will fade if it isn’t fresh as it is prone to browning when exposed to air
  • If you have done these prep ahead steps, on the night you need to cook and drain the pasta, heat the courgette in a frying pan then stir everything together in the frying pan to heat everything through

Some tasty little twists…

  • For a lighter meal you can replace the spaghetti with another spiralised courgette, or double the spaghetti for a more substantial meal
  • For a crispier texture, you can bake the whole dish except for the avocado sauce for 10 minutes in the oven in an ovenproof dish instead of heating it through in the pan, then serve with the uncooked avocado sauce on the side
  • You can replace the spiralised courgette and/or spaghetti with other spiralised vegetables such as sweet potato, butternut squash or broccoli stems (cook for 2-4 minutes longer than the courgette), cucumber or carrot (no need to cook)
  • For a gluten-free dish, use gluten-free spaghetti, replace the spaghetti with more spiralised vegetables, or  stir in 50-100g cooked quinoa instead of the spaghetti
  • Replace or augment the peas with other vegetables such as sliced sugar snap peas, mangetout, chopped green beans, tenderstem broccoli (florets and stems separated, stems sliced lengthways), sliced peppers or grated carrots. There is no need to bake any of these additions:
    • For the sugar snap peas, mangetout or green beans, stir them in with the courgette when you start to heat it
    • For the tenderstem broccoli cook the stems for 4-5 minutes before adding the courgette and florets
    • The carrot can be stirred in raw with the avocado sauce
    • The peppers can be done either like the sugar snap peas or carrot
  • For a quicker version, there is no need to bake the peas, just stir them in with the courgette. They won’t be crispy but they will have the same lovely flavour
  • Another time saver is to not roast the garlic: chop finely and cook for 3-4 minutes in a small pan with a tsp olive oil before adding to the mashed avocado
  • The avocado sauce can be used as a dip like guacamole, or spread on toast like a spread, or used in sandwiches or wraps instead of butter or mayonnaise


Steak and/or beetroot patties with balsamic raspberry dressing

Even if you wanted to forget about Valentine’s day it would be hard with the number of special Valentine’s day offers and menus, trying to pressure people to spend unnecessary amounts of money on cards, flower, chocolates and meals out that they wouldn’t normally like to prove they are romantic. Maybe I’m being cynical but I rather object to the idea that there is a formula for “romance”; it should be about showing that you love someone in a personal and thoughtful way. A stranger overhearing my husband declare last time we went to the supermarket “I wasn’t going to buy you any chocolates or anything for Valentine’s – they will be much cheaper next week” might have had him pegged as unromantic, but both of us love getting good value and big romantic gestures leave me feeling a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable so it shows that he actually knows me. For me, a romantic gesture shouldn’t be confined to one day a year, and shouldn’t be what you’re meant to do to be romantic: it should be something that is special and tailored to the person you love. Therefore, this is not meant to be a generic Valentine’s dinner recipe, this is me trying to create a meal that suits my husband, though I must admit I have added a few little Valentine’s cliches because every now and then I can’t resist being a bit soppy.  My starting point was steak, as my husband loves this and only has it occasionally as a treat. Then I added a raspberry sauce because raspberries as his favourite fruit. Strawberries go really well with balsamic vinegar so I thought raspberries would too and the vinegar made me think of the delicious balsamic vinegar marinated grated beetroot my mother in law makes. I wanted to make a side for the steak (preferably one I could make look suitably Valentine’s-y) which would also be a vegan alternative to the steak so decided on heart shaped beetroot and bean patties. As I love bean patties this seemed like a good way to make both of us happy. 

Steak and/or beetroot patties with balsamic raspberry dressing

Cooking time: ~40 minutes (~10-20 preparation and 20-30 minutes cooking on the night), excludes time to cook the butterbean if you are using dried beans

Dietary info: dairy free, gluten-free, vegan if you exclude the steak and just have the beetroot patties

Serves: 2 if you just have the steak or beetroot patties, 2 (very generously) – 3 if you have both

  • Enough steak for 2 (about 2 medium steaks) (optional – you can do the steak or patties, or both)
  • Rocket salad or tenderstem broccoli to serve (optional)

Beetroot patties (optional – you can do the steak or patties, or both)

  • ~200g beetroot (about 1 large or 2 small beetroot), either scrubbed or peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 50g dried butterbeans cooked as per the packet instructions (usually soaked overnight, boiled vigorously for 10 minutes and simmered for a further 50-60 minutes), or 100g cooked butterbeans
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cornflour

Balsamic raspberry dressing

  • 150g raspberries, fresh or frozen (defrosted if frozen)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  1. To make the beetroot patties, mix the grated beetroot with the balsamic vinegar
  2. Put the finely chopped onion, cardamom, pepper and salt in a small saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer until the onion is soft and most of the water has evaporated
  3. Blend the cooked butterbeans and half of the onions to a smooth paste, adding a splash of water if needed to get a smooth consistency
  4. Stir the remaining onion, grated beetroot and cornflour into the butterbean paste and mix until the beetroot is thoroughly coated with the butterbean paste
  5. To make heart-shaped patties, put a heart shaped cookie cutter on a non stick baking sheet, press enough mixture into the cutter to make a patty about 5-10mm thick. Carefully remove the cutter and repeat with the rest of the mixture
  6. Bake the patties at 160C for 20-30 minutes until crispy on the outside but soft and juicy on the inside
  7. Mash the raspberries with all of the other raspberry sauce ingredients until the raspberries are broken down into a smoothish sauce. You can heat for a minute or two in a small saucepan or the microwave to help the raspberries break down if you want. You can also add a bit of water to make a thinner sauce, which can make a better dressing if you are putting it over salad
  8. Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat until it feels hot when you hold your hand about 5mm above the surface. Cook the steaks for 2-6 minutes each side depending on how rare you like it and how thick the steaks are
  9. Serve the steak and/or beetroot patties with the raspberry dressing and a rocket salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or extra raspberry dressing, or steamed tenderstem broccoli on the side

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the beetroot patty mixture and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days
  • Make the raspberry dressing and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days
  • On the night, shape and bake the patties, griddle the steak, prepare the rocket or broccoli if using and serve

Some tasty little twists…

  • For quicker, and less Valentine themed, patties just spoon tablespoons of the patty mixture into rough circle or oval shapes on a tray rather than making heart-shaped ones. Alternatively, you can use different cutter shapes to make them suitable for different occasions e.g. Christmas trees, stars, Easter eggs or bunnies etc.
  • For a more substantial vegan version serve the beetroot patties in wholemeal buns with the dressing and salad to make beetroot burgers, or serve with cooked quinoa. To make pink quinoa, stir a few tbsp of extra balsamic beetroot or a tbsp of the raspberry dressing through the quinoa before serving
    • For a lighter beetroot burger, replace the wholemeal buns with 4-8mm thick slices of grilled aubergine or portabello mushrooms
  • If you don’t have a griddle pan, either fry the steaks in a non-stick frying pan or cook them under the grill
  • Serve the steaks with beetroot chips as an alternative to the beetroot patties:
    • Either scrub or peel the beetroot and cut into wedges or thick batons
    • Steam the beetroot until it is starting to soften to the touch
    • Toss the chips with a tbsp olive oil and spread out on a non-stick baking tray and bake at 160C until crispy on the outside but soft on the inside (about 15-25 minutes depending on how soft they were after steaming), turning half way through
  • The balsamic beetroot is a lovely addition to salads (and makes the whole salad an amazing shade of pink) or side dish, so make double or triple quantities of the grated beetroot mixed with balsamic vinegar and keep for up to a week in a sealed container in the fridge, adding to your meals as you want.
  • The raspberry dressing is a lovely addition or a wide variety of salads, and adds a pleasant fresh kick drizzled over grilled meat or fish


Miso tamarind edamame and sweet potato chip handrolls

This recipe is a complete indulgence for me: a kind of supergroup formed out of load of the ingredients that I would normally introduce with the words “I’m a bit obsessed with….”.  They are flavours and cooking methods I come back to again and again and never seem to get tired of. The miso and tamarind sauce came into being because I really wanted to make a tamarind sauce and a miso sauce and couldn’t choose between them so decided to go for both at the same time. The presentation was inspired by my love of handrolls – probably the easiest of the sushi family to make at home. However, I sometimes find the rice in the handroll a bit boring so wondered whether I could replace it with a flavour that I find more interesting. The handroll shape reminded me of the paper cones of chips you sometimes get from a takeaway shop or van in the UK so I thought it might be a fun way to present sweet potato chips. The chips then needed a partner to turn them from a snack into a meal. To fit with the Japanese elements of miso and nori I decided to try edamame beans, but made into little patties because I can never resist a bean patty. The result may not be an authentic Japanese handroll and have originated from a random assortment of ideas, but I really enjoyed the fusion of a tamarind, miso, nori, sweet potato and bean patties all into one tasty little bite. To quote Mae West, too much of a good thing is wonderful.

Miso tamarind edamame and sweet potato chip handrolls

Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 2-3

  • 1 sweet potato, cut into chips
  • 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 4-5 sheets nori

Edamame patties

  • 150g shelled edamame beans, fresh of frozen (defrosted if frozen)
  • ¼ medium cauliflower (about 120-150g), grated
  • 2 tbsp of the miso tamarind sauce (see below)
  • 1 heaped tbsp miso paste

Miso tamarind sauce

  • 1 heaped tbsp tamarind
  • 1 heaped tbsp miso paste (make sure this doesn’t have bonito added if you want to make the recipe vegan)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder or finely grated fresh ginger
  • 50ml hot water
  1. Toss the sweet potato chips in the oil and spread out over a non-stick baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes at 160C fan, turning half way through until the chips are crisp and starting to brown on the outside and soft on the inside
  2. To make the miso tamarind sauce, mix the miso, tamarind, chilli, garlic and ginger together to a smooth paste in a small saucepan
  3. Gradually add the liquids (soy sauce, vinegar and water) to the miso tamarind paste, stirring regularly to avoid lumps, to make a smooth sauce
  4. Heat the miso tamarind sauce over a gentle heat for 1-3 minutes until it is warmed through, but try to avoid bringing it to the boil to make the most of the probiotic properties of the miso
  5. Blend the edamame beans in a food processor until they are in little pieces. If you don’t have a food processor chop the edamame beans very finely and mash a little with a fork to break them down further
  6. Mix the edamame beans with the grated cauliflower, miso paste and 2 tbsp of the miso tamarind sauce
  7. Form tablespoons of the edamame mixture into rough patties on a non-stick baking tray and bake at 160C fan for about 20 minutes, or until the patties are starting to brown on the outside and the cauliflower is soft enough to eat. The patties will still be quite soft and delicate so it is easiest to take them off the baking tray with a fish slice or similar, but don’t worry if a few fall apart, you won’t notice once they are in the handrolls
  8. To make the handrolls have the chips, patties, nori sheets and miso sauce handy:
    1. Fold one sheet of nori in half and tear along the fold so that you have two rectangles.
    2. Take one of these rectangles and place it in front of you, the long edge parallel to you.
    3. Put 3-5 sweet potato chips in a diagonal line between the top left corner of the rectangle and about halfway along the bottom edge of the rectangle
    4. Top the chips with a pattie and a drizzle of the miso tamarind sauce
    5. Fold the bottom left corner up at a diagonal to meet the top edge of the rectangle to make a cone around the filling and pick up the hand roll. Then fold the rest of nori rectangle down to enclose the filling and continue to wrap around the filling to complete the cone
    6. For pictures of how to make a handroll see my recipe for salmon and ginger hand rolls with miso sauce but put the chips on a diagonal like the filling is shown in the picture for that recipe with a patty on top


A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Mix together the ingredients for the miso tamarind sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days
  • Make the edamame patty mixture and store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days
  • Chop the sweet potato into chips the night before and keep in a sealed container or bag in the fridge until you cook them
  • On the night, toss the chips in the oil and cook them, make the edamame mixture into patties and bake them and heat through the miso tamarind sauce

Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • Add extra vegetables to your meal by putting some steamed beansprouts, shredded lettuce or grated carrot into your handrolls as well as the chips and patties
  • If you don’t want to spend time shaping the edamame mixture into patties, simply spread it out on a baking tray about 1cm thick, bake until it is  crispy on top and the cauliflower is soft enough to eat, and break it up into chunks to put in your handrolls
  • Try replacing the edamame beans with cooked aduki beans or the grated cauliflower with grated mooli
  • If you have a low fat fryer, cook your chips in that instead of the oven (we have one where the chips still only need about a tbsp of oil and are blasted with hot air while being moved around to cook them)
  • If you prefer something a bit closer to the sticky texture of sushi rice, steam the sweet potato and roughly mash it instead of making chips
  • If you don’t want to make handrolls, simply serve the patties with the chips, a drizzle of sauce and some steamed vegetables or salad
  • For a non-vegetarian version that is a fun twist on fish and chips, replace the edamame patties with 200g of fresh tuna or salmon, cut into chunks, coated in a few tablespoons of the miso sauce (if you have time, leave it to marinate for 15-20 minutes) then cooked in a non-stick frying pan until they are just opaque all the way through (3-5 minutes)

Thai spiced spinach and coconut soup

January is the month of two faces: named after the Roman god of doors and gateways, Janus, who is usually depicted with one face looking into the future and one face looking into the past. In January we look forward to the new year and reflect on the year behind us. Here in the northern hemisphere this split personality also makes itself felt in our food choices as January tends to be the month of new year resolutions: fresh and light food after Christmas heaviness, a new healthier you etc. However, it is also often cold and miserable making us long for comfort and warmth. This recipe was inspired by this potential conflict. I have combined the warmth and comfort factors of a nice steaming bowl of vegetable soup with zingy, fresh oriental flavours to make a light and easy meal full of vitamin rich vegetables. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K which is important for maintaining bone health, as well as containing vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese, magnesium, non-heam iron and vitamin B2, while cauliflower is also a good source of viatmin C and manganese.

Thai spiced spinach and coconut soup

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 3-4

  • 500g spinach, fresh or frozen
  • Half a medium cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp Thai 7 spice or 1 tsp each garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and ½ tsp each of chili, cloves, cayenne pepper, pepper, star anise powder, onion granules
  • 4-6 tbsp Soy sauce, to taste
  • 700ml Water
  • 400ml Coconut milk drink
  • Juice of half a lime
  1. Put the spinach, cauliflower, spices and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer until the cauliflower is soft (about 10-15 minutes)
  2. Blend the soup to smooth then add the coconut milk, soy and lime to taste then serve. You can drizzle an extra swirl of coconut milk into the soup as a finishing touch to make it look pretty if you want


A few steps to prep ahead:

  • Make the soup and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • On the night reheat the soup to boiling and serve
  • If you are making the stir steam, make the spinach soup and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • Measure out the spices for the cauliflower rice and keep, covered, at room temperature for up to a week
  • The rest of the stir steam is quick and easy to prepare on the night, but if you are really pushed for time you can grate the cauliflower, and chop the vegetables the night before and keep them in sealed containers or bags in the fridge overnight

Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • To make a more filling meal, stir some cooked noodles in the soup after you have blended it or serve with naan or flatbread
  • For a gluten free version use gluten free soy sauce, and use gluten free rice noodles if you want a more filling meal
  • For extra vegetable and texture, serve with lightly steamed beansprouts, shredded chinese cabbage, sliced pak choi or the sliced green leaves from the cauliflower stirred into the soup after you have blended it
  • For a higher protein meal, stir some cubed tofu (baked in the oven or stir fried in a little sesame oil) if you want a firmer or crispier texture, or shredded chicken or cooked seafood for a non-vegetarian alternative
  • Any leftover soup makes a nice “stir steam” sauce  (see below), which can also be served with real rice or noodles (cooked with coconut and the spices if you want) for a more filling meal

Spinach and coconut “stir steam” with coconut cauliflower “rice”

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes if you are making the spinach soup, 5-10 minutes if you are using leftover soup

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 3-4

  • 100g shelled Edamame beans, fresh or frozen (defrosted if frozen)
  • 150g Tenderstem broccoli, florets and stems separated, stems sliced in half lengthways and cut into lengths of about 4-5cm
  • 200g Sugar snap peas, cut in half lengthways
  • 150g Baby sweetcorn, cut in half lengthways then in half crossways
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 6 tbsp spinach soup (see recipe above)

Coconut cauliflower rice

  • Half a medium cauliflower, grated
  • 1 tbsp Thai 7 spice or ½ tsp each garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and ¼ tsp each of chili, cloves, cayenne pepper, pepper, star anise powder, onion granules
  • 4 tbsp coconut milk
  • Salt to season
  1. Make the spinach soup as described above if you aren’t using leftovers
  2. Put the broccoli stems and baby sweetcorn in a non-stick frying pan with a splash of water, cover and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until they are starting to soften
  3. Add the sugar snap peas, broccoli florets, soy sauce and spinach soup and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, uncovered until the vegetables are tender but not mushy
  4. For the cauliflower rice, put the cauliflower, spices and coconut milk in a non-stick saucepan or frying pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes until the cauliflower is tender enough to eat but still has a bit of crunch. Season with salt and serve with the stir steam

Not very Scottish vegan haggis

Burns suppers, normally held on or near Burns Night (25th January, Robert Burns’ birthday), are a celebration of the life and poetry of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. The supper typically includes haggis served with neeps and tatties, whisky and recitation of Robert Burns poetry. My husband is Scottish, my dad’s family live in Scotland and my mum adores most things Scottish (she gets especially excited about bagpipes), so I’ve had a fair few Burns suppers in my time, usually with my mum happily reading Robert Burns’ Address to a Haggis in her best Scottish accent. Burns night is also special for my husband and I as we first met properly on Burns night ten years ago. However, I have to confess I’m not a big fan of haggis. It may be linked to the fact that the first time I tried it I came down with a, completely unrelated, high fever a few hours after, or just that I don’t much like offal, but it usually makes me nauseous. I feel I should make an effort though so this year I’ve tried making a vegan haggis. My mum gave me the idea when she served me a vegetarian haggis, complete with candles on top, for my birthday dinner earlier this month. Unlike traditional haggis, I thought it was delicious, so decided to experiment with a number of different vegetarian and vegan haggis recipes to come up with one of my own. In my version, I increased the vegetables and seasoning and made it lower fat than most of the recipes I researched, and didn’t use egg to hold it together to make it vegan. My husband teasingly told me that my vegan haggis was an affront to everything he held dear about being Scottish, being vegan, low fat and healthy, and could therefore it couldn’t really hold its head up and claim to be haggis. However, this didn’t stop him having seconds. Although neeps and tatties (mashed swede and potato) are traditional, my husband admitted he didn’t actually like them very much so we just served the haggis with vegetables and sauce, but I have included instructions for making them in the tasty little twists and extras if you want to give it a go. You could also try reciting the Address to a Haggis (click here for the text) and having a glass of whisky if you really want to get into the Burns night mood.


From our latest visit to Scotland

Not very Scottish vegan haggis

Cooking time: 50 minute preparation, 60 minutes cooking (for a faster cooking time, see the tasty little twists)

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: ~5, easily halved to serve 2-3

  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 300g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 20 grates nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp yeast extract
  • 50g pearl barley, rinsed
  • 200g dried green lentils, or 1 x 400g tin green lentils
  • 50g porridge oats
  1. Put the onion in a large non-stick frying pan with enough water to stop it sticking and cook over a medium heat while you prepare the other vegetables.
  2. If you are using dried lentils, rinse them and then bring them to the boil in plenty of fresh water in a saucepan. Cook according to packet instructions: usually boil for about 10 minutes, turn down to a simmer for a further 15-25 minutes until the lentil are soft then drain
  3. Add the chopped garlic, then the chopped mushrooms, and finally the grated carrot to the pan with the onion as you finish chopping/grating each one
  4. Stir the salt and spices (coriander, nutmeg, pepper, allspice) into the vegetable mix and cook for about 5 minutes to reduce the water in the vegetables
  5. Add the yeast extract, pearl barley and 200ml water to the vegetables. Bring to the boil, cover and cook for 20-30 mins or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the pearl barley is tender
  6. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lentils and porridge oats
  7. Tip the mixture out of the pan onto a large piece of baking parchment. As this recipe makes a lot of haggis, it is probably best to divide the mixture into half and tip each half onto a separate piece of baking parchment, making two haggis, to make it easier to handle
  8. For each piece of baking parchment, form the mixture into a log in the centre, wrap the parchment tightly around the mixture and twist the ends of the parchment so that it is completely sealed. Then wrap the parchment/haggis “log” in a large piece of foil and fold the top and ends securely to make a sealed parcel
  9. Place the parcel into an ovenproof dish, pour water into the dish so it comes 1-2cm up the side of the haggis and put it in the oven at 160C fan for about 1 hour to bake
  10. To serve, carefully unwrap the haggis and roll it out of the parchment onto a plate (it will fall apart alot, but don’t worry about this). If you want to be more traditional, serve with neeps and tatties, but you can also serve with vegetables such as steamed broccoli and cabbage, seasoned with lemon juice, or a gravy or sauce (see the tasty little twists and extras)

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the haggis mixture (i.e. up to step 6) and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days
  • On the night, wrap the haggis up in the baking parchment and foil as described above (or put in an ovenproof dish, see below) and bake as instructed
  • If you are making a gravy or sauce (see below), make this and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • If you are serving with neeps and tatties, you can make them the day ahead

Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • For a faster cooking time, simply put the haggis mixture in an ovenproof dish and bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is just starting to brown but isn’t too crispy. I prefer the texture of the wrapped and steamed version, but this method is handy if you are in a hurry
  • To serve with “neeps and tatties”:
    • Wash 1 large swede (rutabaga), and 1-2 large potatoes and cut into bite sized pieces. If you want a smoother mash, or just don’t like the skins, peel the vegetables before you chop them
    • Put the swede and potatoes into separate saucepans and bring each to the boil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender (about 10-20 minutes)
    • Roughly mash each, season with salt and pepper, and serve with the haggis
    • If you want, you can add a splash of milk (or unsweetened almond or soy milk for a vegan version), and a knob of butter (or vegan spread for a vegan version) to the mash, and mash for longer or in a food processor for a creamier texture
    • You can also serve with an onion gravy or simple tomato sauce if you want more juice (my husband says there can never be too much sauce) – see below for the recipes

Simple onion gravy

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten free if the cornflour and stock cube are both gluten free (sometimes wheat flour is added to cornflour)

Serves: ~5 as an accompaniment to the haggis

  • 2 white onions, sliced
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 scant tsp allspice
  • 1 heaped tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled (make sure the stock cube is vegan if you are making a vegan version)
  • ~400 ml water
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  1. Put the sliced onion in a saucepan over a gentle heat and add the cornflour and spices, stirring until they coat the onion evenly
  2. Gradually add the water, stirring constantly (so that the flour doesn’t go lumpy)
  3. Bring to the boil until the onion is soft and the gravy has thickened
  4. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with more salt, pepper and lemon juice if wanted

Simple spicy tomato sauce

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten free if the stock cube is gluten free

Serves: ~5 as an accompaniment to the haggis

  • ~300ml passata
  • 1 scant tsp allspice
  • 1 heaped tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 veggie stock cube or heaped tsp veggie bouillon powder mixed to smooth with 1 tbsp hot water (dairy free if you want to make this dairy free/ vegan, gluten free if you want to make this gluten free)
  • Salt and lemon juice to season
  1. Mix the passata with the spices and stock and heat through for 3 minutes in a saucepan, stirring until it is all combined or microwave for 3 minutes, stirring half way through.
  2. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste

Veggie chilli burrito

Christmas and New Year is closely followed by my birthday, as well as the birthdays of several friends and family members. This means December and January tend to be pretty sociable months, and it makes me realise how much I love seeing my friends and family. I am very lucky having such wonderful people in my life and, it being a time of resolutions, one of mine should probably be to put more time aside to spend with them as it makes me so happy. Food tends to be one of the things that bring people together: whether going out for a meal, meeting for a coffee, or cooking for those you love. When cooking for others I’m a fan of quite interactive meals as I think it brings everyone together: helping yourself and others from communal platters, sharing dishes or assembling your dinner from lots of constituent parts so everyone can vary it to suit their personal tastes. One of my favourite self-assemble meals is a burrito, and this version combines a vegetable chili, a homemade rough guacamole and your choice of other toppings. I tend to leave out the rice found in many burritos to make it a bit lighter and squeeze more vegetables in without overfilling the burrito. It is also a good way to make a meal that can easily cater for people who want cheese and yoghurt alongside people who want dairy-free, which is great for my husband and me.

Veggie chilli burrito

Cooking time: 30 minutes, assemble at the table

Dietary info: vegetarian, vegan if you leave out the yoghurt and cheese, gluten-free version in the tasty twists

Serves: 4+ (see the tasty twists)

  • 6-8 wholemeal tortillas
  • Yoghurt or soured cream to serve, optional (leave out for vegan version, or use vegan yogurt / soured cream)
  • Grated cheese to serve, optional (leave out for vegan version, or use vegan cheese)
  • Lime juice to serve, optional
  • Salad to serve, optional (e.g. shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced cucumber, sliced peppers, rocket, peashoots etc.)


  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Pinch of salt
  • Juice of ½ a lime

Veggie chili

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 aubergine, chopped
  • 1 pepper, any colour, chopped
  • 600ml passata
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, ground if you don’t like the texture of the seeds
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (make sure it is vegan if you are making a vegan version)
  1. Put the sliced onion in a large non-stick saucepan with enough water to stop it sticking and cook over a medium heat until it is starting to soften (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add the rest of the chili ingredients to the saucepan, stir to combine and simmer until the vegetables are soft enough to eat (about 20-25 minutes)
  3. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh, discarding the skin. Mash the flesh until soft and creamy (I usually use 1 fork to hold the avocado piece in place and 1 to mash it, then a spoon to make the mashed avocado smoother once roughly mashed). If the avocado is quite hard the guacamole will probably be quite roughly mashed rather than smooth but it will still taste good in the burrito
  4. Stir the salt and lime juice into the guacamole. Don’t stir the lime in before mashing the avocado as it will make it slippery and difficult to mash
  5. Warm the tortillas according to the packet instructions, usually about a minute in the microwave or wrapped up in the oven
  6. To assemble the tortillas:
    1. Put an oblong of chili vertically down the middle of a tortilla, leaving a few centimeters gap at the top and bottom
    2. Add your choice of toppings (e.g. guacamole, yogurt / soured cream, cheese, salad, lime juice) on top of the chili
    3. Fold the bottom and top bit of the tortilla over the filling so it doesn’t fall out of the end, then fold in the sides, tucking them around the filling so you can pick the tortilla up easily
    4. Serve with extra salad dressed with lime juice if you want even more vegetables

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the chili and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • I think the guacamole is best made fresh on the night, but you can make it 1-2 days before and keep in a sealed container in the fridge until you want to use it
  • On the night, heat through the chili in a saucepan until bubbling and hot all the way through, heat the tortillas, prepare / get out the toppings and serve

Some tasty little twists…

  • For a meal that is higher protein, and more filling, add cooked beans, peas or lentils to the chili (about 200-300g cooked weight) – kidney or haricot beans go well – or soy mince (about 100g dehydrated, soaked as per instructions, or 200-300g ready to use)
  • If you want to make a meat version you could add shredded chicken, or minced beef, pork or turkey
  • For a gluten-free version:
    • Make sure that the stock cube is gluten free
    • Serve with one of the following: gluten-free tortillas; cooked rice; other gluten-free grain e.g. quinoa
    • Alternatively, add the beans/peas/lentils/soy/meat as suggested above and serve just with salad or steamed green vegetables
  • For a more filling version, or to feed more people, get more tortillas and serve with some rice to add into the burrito
  • For a casual version, serve with nachos and melted cheese (vegan cheese for a vegan version)
  • For variety, try different vegetables e.g. red onion, sweetcorn, chunks of squash, chopped courgette, chopped kale etc. in the chili, instead of or as well as the onion / aubergine / pepper
  • Use the guacamole as a dip for crudite or a vegan spread in sandwiches and wraps