Cheese and apple patties with celeriac mustard sauce

When I was 8 we moved to a house with a large Bramley apple tree in the garden. Since then the autumn has been inextricably linked with the smell of cooking apples and we have had as much baked apples, apple puree and apple pie as we want. This year the apples have come earlier than we’ve ever seen before and the tree is already heavy with them. Apples are one of my favourite foods so I have been thinking of ways I can include them more in my cooking. Bramley apples are not too sweet, with a lovely sharp tang so I think they make a good addition to savoury as well as sweet dishes. When we were children I remember my mum would sometime give us slices of crunchy apple with sticks of cheese as a snack and the crisp acid of the apple was a perfect balance to the salty creaminess of the cheese. That childhood snack was my inspiration for these patties, where I have combined the apple and cheese with celeriac to add an earthy base note to compliment the sweet and salty flavours.

Cheese and apple patties

Cooking time: 10 minutes preparation, 30-35 minutes cooking

Dietary info: vegan if you use vegan cheese, otherwise vegetarian

Serves: 2-3

  • 1 large cooking apple, cored and grated, no need to peel unless you hate the skin (I used a Bramley apple)
  • ½ a medium celeriac, washed, peeled and grated
  • 50g cheese, grated (I used vegan cheese, but if you don’t want this to be vegan/dairy-free you can replace with cheddar, edam or gouda)
  • 150ml water
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 30g oatmeal
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. Mix the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, salt and water together to make a batter then add the grated apple, celeriac and cheese.  Stir well until the apple, celeriac and cheese are well mixed and evenly coated in batter (the batter will tend to stick into clumps)
  2. Spoon tbsps of the patty mixture into a frying pan and cook in batches over a high heat for 30-60s per side until slightly browned then transfer to a non-stick baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes at 160C fan
  3. Serve with the sauce (below) and steamed green vegetables, or for more serving options see the tasty little twists section

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Measure out the dry ingredients for the batter (flour, oatmeal, baking powder, salt) and keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to a week.
  • You can wash and peel the celeriac a day ahead and keep it in the fridge until you grate it. I would not recommend grating the celeriac, apple and cheese ahead of time as they might oxidise / dry out
  • If you are very short of time on the night, you can make the pattied completely, store in a sealed container in the fridge for 1-2 days then reheat them for 5 minutes on a baking tray at 160C fan when you want to eat them
  • Make the sauce (below) and store it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in a saucepan or in a microwave safe container in the microwave until hot all the way through (2-4 minutes) on the night

Some tasty little twists and extras…

These patties are nice but feel more like a snack on their own rather than a meal. To make them into a meal you can serve them with the sauce below and some steamed vegetables or salad as suggested above or you can try some of these options:

  • Apple goes very well with pork so if you aren’t going for a vegan / vegetarian option, serve these with some sausages (although you could use vegan or vegetarian sausages to keep the meal meat free), bacon or pork chops, maybe glazed with a mixture of 1 tsp honey, 1 heaped tsp grainy mustard and 1 tbsp water. Serve with the celeriac sauce, some pureed cooked apple or mustard on the side
  • You could also thread chunks of diced pork, diced chicken, or Quorn (for a vegan or vegetarian option) on a skewer, alternating with slices of apple, glaze them with the honey mustard glaze above and cook them under the grill or on a BBQ
  • Top the cooked patties with ham and some extra grated cheese and finish under the grill for a light lunch. For a vegetarian / vegan version swap the ham for a handful of spinach cooked in a pan with a pinch of salt and tsp of mustard until the spinach is wilted and most of the water has evaporated.

You can also swap the grated celeriac in these patties for grated carrot or parsnip for variety.

Mustard and celeriac sauce

Cooking time: 10-15 minutes to steam the celeriac, <5 minutes to prepare and make the sauce after that

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves: 3-4 as a side

  • ½ medium celeriac, chopped and steamed until soft
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 200ml water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  1. Blend all the sauce ingredients together into a smooth sauce (a food processor is the easiest option for this, but you can also mash the celeriac by hand then mix with the other ingredients) and heat through in a saucepan or a microwave safe bowl for 2-4 minutes before serving

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Tempura prawns in blankets

This recipe breaks most of my blogs normal rules: I’m not making the claim that deep fat fried food is healthy, and most of this dish needs to be made on the night rather than prepped ahead. However, it was my husband’s birthday this week and I always like to create something a bit special as a treat for him. I have written before about his love of all things battered and of bacon, and his particular love of tempura prawns. I’ve never been brave enough to cook them for him before as his absolute favourite ones are made by the noodle restaurant he’s been going to for over a decade and I was worried mine wouldn’t be up to scratch. I screwed up my courage this year and decider go for a twist on tempura prawns inspired by “pigs in blankets” hoping that the addition of bacon would make up for them not being the tempura prawns he has known and loved for so long. They seemed to go down very well and as they are also quick and easy to make I wanted to share the recipe, especially as I’m firmly of the belief that a treat every now and then is good for you. We also served this with a salad which in my husbands book means it counts as healthy food anyway.

Tempura prawns in blankets

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Dietary info: dairy free

Serves 2-3

  • 235-250g king prawns
  • 1 packet bacon (about 200g)
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup water, which has been kept in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably longer
  • 1 egg
  • Sunflower or vegetable oil for frying
  1. Cut the bacon into strips about 1cm wide and 10cm long. Wrap each prawn in a strip of bacon
  2. Sift the flour onto a plate and start heating the oil (about 3cm deep in a medium saucepan) until a piece of batter dropped into the oil sizzles
  3. Beat the egg lightly until the yolk and white are just combined then stir in the cold water
  4. Sift in the sifted flour into the egg and water (so it gets sifted twice – this helps keep the batter light and lump free) then mix to combine: chopsticks work really well for mixing as they don’t introduce too much air into the batter
  5. Dip each bacon wrapped prawn in the batter to coat it then drop it in the oil and fry for a few minutes until golden brown. Don’t worry if the bacon slips off the prawn, it will still taste nice if the prawns and bacon are fried separately.
  6. Remove the prawns from the oil with a slotted spoon or fork and put on kitchen towel to remove some of the excess oil.
  7. Put the fried prawns on a baking tray in an oven at the lowest setting to keep them warm and crispy while you fry the remaining prawns.
  8. Serve with sweet chilli sauce (see the tasty little twists) or soy sauce for dipping and some steamed oriental greens or salad

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • This is really a dish to make on the night so there’s not much you can do ahead. If you really want to do something you can:
    • Measure out the flour and keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to a week
    • Measure out the water and keep in a container in the fridge overnight
    • Cut the bacon up the night before and keep in a sealed container in the fridge overnight

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A few tasty little twists and extras…

  • If you subscribe to my husbands philosophy that everything tastes better with bacon and batter (which he has put into practice over the years battering a wide variety of foods including chips and black pudding) then you can swap the prawns in this recipe for pretty much any other food, but some particularly nice substitutions include swapping the prawns for scallops, thin strips of chicken (take extra care that they are properly cooked through), or par-boiled asparagus spears
  • If you want a vegetarian version, then most vegetables make good tempura so swap the prawns and bacon for your favourite vegetables . Some of my personal recommendations are aubergine slices , sliced peppers,  oriental mushrooms, thin par-boiled slices of squash or sweet potato, thin slices of carrot, par-boiled asparagus spears or baby corn. You can also use slices of tofu, preferably marinated to boost the flavour
  • If you want a vegetarian version that keeps the wrapping element, wrap batons of vegetable or tofu in thin, 1cm wide strips of another vegetable such as carrot, beetroot, sweet potato or courgette. Use a peeler or spiralizer to get the thin strips of vegetable

I love homemade sweet chilli sauces, and tend to make mine more tangy and less sweet than shop bought varieties.  This version is very quick and simple to make, a good consistency for dipping and a nice accompaniment for any of the tempura variations described above.

Sweet chilli dipping sauce

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves 2-3 as a dipping sauce

  • 5 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ – 1 tsp sugar or stevia, to taste
  • ½- 1 tsp chilli powder depending on how hot you like it
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Juice of half a lemon
  1. Mix the cornflour to a smooth liquid with 1 tbsp of the vinegar in a small saucepan
  2. Stir in the rest of the vinegar, the soy sauce, sugar or sweetener and chilli powder and heat, stirring until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon
  3. Stir in the lime and lemon juice and serve with the tempura

Soup-er simple celeriac, cauliflower and chickpea curry soup

Vegetable soups are one of my go to dinners when I want something comforting and easy to make, which given we are in the middle of moving house is a necessity at the moment.  They aren’t quick to make, unlike stirfry or some pasta dishes, as they require a bit of cooking time, but they don’t need much input from you.  You can prepare them and put them on to simmer while you go off and do something else.  They are also good food to prepare ahead of time as the flavours often develop if made a bit ahead of time.  My basic soup recipe is ridiculously simple: put the vegetables you want in a saucepan with a stock cube and some spices, cook them until soft, puree about 1/3 of the mixture and stir it back in along with some lemon or lime to season and some optional protein (e.g. beans, shredded chicken etc.) and serve, with bread if you want it to be more filling.  This dish is for my mum, as we are celebrating her birthday this weekend, because she loves pulses (but my dad doesn’t so she doesn’t get them very often) and awful puns, hence the title of this recipe.

Soup-er simple celeriac, cauliflower and chickpea curry soup

Cooking time: 5 minutes preparation (excluding soaking and cooking the chickpeas), 20-30 minutes cooking

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves 4-6

  • 1 celeriac, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 100g dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked according to the packet instructions or 1 235g can of chickpeas
  • 1-2 tbsp of your favourite curry powder
  • 1-2 vegetable stock cube(s), to taste (if you want this to be vegan or gluten-free, check that the stock cube is)
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 pints water
  1. Put the celeriac and cauliflower into a saucepan, sprinkle over the curry powder and crumble over the stock cube(s) and stir to coat the vegetables.
  2. Add the water and heat over a medium heat until it comes to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft
  3. Puree ⅓ – ½ the mixture in a blender and stir back into the saucepan.  If you prefer a smoother soup puree all of the vegetables
  4. Stir in the chickpeas, heat through and season with the lemon juice before serving.  If you want to bulk this out you can also serve with naan bread

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A few tips to prep ahead:

  • If you are soaking and cooking the chickpeas, start soaking the chickpeas a day or two before making the soup. Then you either cook them the day before, cool them and store them in the fridge until you are ready to stir them into the soup, or put them on to cook before you start preparing the soup so that they are cooked through about the right time to stir them into the soup
  • The whole soup can be made ahead of time and kept in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days

Some tasty little twists…

  • I have been quite vague about the seasoning for this soup (“your favourite curry powder”) because the cauliflower, celeriac and chickpeas will all go well with a wide range of seasonings. Everyone has different preferences so I don’t want to be too prescriptive: try a few different curry blends to find the one you like best, or just use the one that is easiest for you to buy  
  • If you don’t like using curry powders, try a heaped tsp each of cumin and coriander, and a tsp each of turmeric, garlic powder, ginger, black pepper and chilli powder, plus half a tsp of any other spices you like and have to hand e.g. fenugreek, cardamom, mustard seeds, cloves, nutmeg etc.
  • Apart from varying the curry powder, you can also vary the vegetables to add your favourite flavours or just use up what you have in your fridge.  Some ideas for other vegetables you could add are: broccoli, leek, sweet potato, turnip, fennel, peas, sweetcorn
  • The chickpeas can be swapped for lentils, split peas, or beans such as borlotti, butterbeans, pinto, or cannellini

This recipe can also be easily turned into a vegetable and chickpea bake:

Celeriac, cauliflower and chickpea curry bake

Cooking time: 5 minutes preparation (excluding soaking and cooking the chickpeas), 40-50 minutes cooking

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves 4-6

  • 1 celeriac, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 200g dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked according to the packet instructions or 2 235g can of chickpeas
  • 1-2 tbsp of your favourite curry powder
  • 1-2 vegetable stock cube(s), to taste (if you want this to be vegan or gluten-free, check that the stock cube is)
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1 pint water
  • 30g fine grated hard cheese (vegan cheese for a vegan version, parmesan or hard smoked cheese for a non-vegan version)
  1. Put the celeriac and cauliflower into a saucepan, sprinkle over the curry powder and crumble over the stock cube(s) and stir to coat the vegetables.
  2. Add the water and heat over a medium heat until it comes to the boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer, covered for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft
  3. Puree ⅓ the mixture in a blender and stir back into the saucepan.  If you want, you can also add a few other steamed vegetables at this stage such as spinach, sliced savoy cabbage or broccoli
  4. Stir in the chickpeas, season with the lemon juice then put into an ovenproof dish and bake at 160C fan for about 20 minutes (30 if you have time) until the top of the bake is starting to brown and the cheese is a little melted
  5. Serve with extra lemon juice and a green salad or steamed vegetables.  If you want to bulk it out a bit more you can also serve with naan breads.  

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Sweet(corn) and salty peppered squid

My husband has two mottos where it comes to cooking: there can never be too much sauce, and everything is better with bacon and / or battered and fried (he even once battered and fried chips but even he admitted that was a bit gratuitous).  For him, the pinacle of battered and fried goodness is the tempura prawn our favourite pan-Asian restaurant: as a student he would walk all the way across town about least once a week to go and eat them.  He was terribly sad several years ago when the restaurant closed down, but one day when I was heading home from work I got a very excited phone call from him telling me that the new pan-Asian restaurant which had recently opened just around the corner from us, despite having a different name, had the same head chef and an almost identical menu to his old favourite.  He loves this restaurant so much that one of the things he is saddest about moving house (we are moving this week) is that he won’t get to eat there quite so much (it is his number one choice whenever we go out for dinner). I have to admit, this recipe is nothing like his favourite tempura prawns (I am not brave enough to try to recreate them) but it was inspired by the happy little smile on his face when he gets any form of battered and fried seafood, and the fact that he also loves the salt and pepper squid on their menu. I wanted to make my recipe a little different so that it wouldn’t be directly compared to the ones he knows and loves, and also a bit lower in fat, but still retaining the essential element of tasty, crunchy batter.  I got the idea for a sweetcorn batter from some delicious sweetcorn fritters that we made as part of a recipe from The Spicery and served the dish with a sweet onion sauce to branch out from my usual sweet chilli sauce for fried seafood.

Sweet(corn) and salty peppered squid

cooking time: 15 minutes preparation, 25 minutes cooking

Dietary info: dairy-free (for vegetarian and vegan versions see the tasty little twists)

Serves: 3

  • 3 large squid tubes, cut into strips
  • 1 aubergine, cut into bite sized cubes
  • Extra pepper and/or chilli flakes for sprinkling if wanted

Sweetcorn batter

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300g sweetcorn kernels, from a can or defrosted frozen sweetcorn kernels are usually easiest
  • 100ml coconut drink (milk alternative)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 75 g wholemeal flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 25g fresh coriander chopped
  1. Blend the sweetcorn, coconut drink, salt and pepper together to a smooth-ish mixture, a few bits of unblended sweetcorn in the batter is quite nice
  2. Stir the egg, flour, baking powder and coriander into the sweetcorn mixture until fully combined
  3. Stir the squid and aubergine into the batter until they are coated
  4. Put tablespoons of the batter, squid and aubergine mixture into a non-stick saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until beginning to stick together and brown on the underside then turn with a spatula and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes before transferring to a baking tray or grill pan (a grill pan is preferable as it will stop the underside getting soggy in the oven). If the batter is sticking to the pan then it probably needs 30-60s longer before being turned. Don’t worry if the dollops of mixture falls apart as you turn them, this isn’t the neatest dish and the batter isn’t very sticky.  The idea is just to get bits of squid and aubergine with some crispy batter stuck to them so as long as you’ve got that it’s fine
  5. Repeat with the remaining mixture the bake in the oven at 160C fan for 10-15 minutes until the aubergine and squid are cooked through and the batter is crispy rather than gooey
  6. Sprinkle with the extra pepper if wanted and serve with steamed vegetables (beansprouts and pak choi are nice with this) and the onion sauce below

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Prepare the aubergine and keep in a sealed container or bag in the fridge for up to 2 days
  • Blend the sweetcorn, coconut drink, salt and pepper together and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days
  • Measure out the flour and baking powder and keep, covered, at room temperature for up to a week
  • On the night, cut up the squid (it is good to get seafood as close to possible to when you are going to eat it, hence not recommending preparing it in advance), stir the coriander, egg and flour into the batter, then the squid and aubergine and cook (steps 4-5)
  • If you are very tight for time on the night you can cook this the day before, store in a sealed container in the fridge once cooled, then just reheat for 5 minutes in the oven at 160C fan on the night.  However, I do think this is at its best when freshly cooked

Some tasty little twists and extras…

This recipe is easily adapted – here are several variations including vegetarian and vegan options:

  • For a vegetarian version, replace the squid with 1 more aubergine and cubes of tofu or sweet potato (parboiled or steamed for a few minutes so that they are starting to soften but are not yet soft)
  • For a vegan version, do the vegetarian version above and leave the egg out of the batter.  The batter won’t hold together as well so the dish will be messier but it will still taste nice
  • For a fish version, replace the squid with 300-400g skinned, smoked haddock cut into bite sized pieces and replace 150g of the sweetcorn in the batter with 150g peas (I use defrosted frozen peas).  You can also serve this with sweet potato chips for a twist on traditional fish and chips with peas
  • For a lower effort version, just put the spoonfuls of mixture straight onto a non-stick baking tray (I use a silicone baking sheet on my baking trays) and bake for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway through with a spatula
  • If you don’t mind the recipe being higher in fat, deep fat fry the tablespoons of mixture for a few minutes per batch until the batter turns golden brown, then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or basket and put on kitchen towel with more kitchen towel on top to remove the excess oil.  Keep warm in the oven (at about 140-150C fan) while you fry the rest of the batter then serve
  • This recipe and any of its variations also goes nicely with the coriander garnish for the vegetable jungle curry or sweet chilli sauce

The first time I made this I served it with my tried and tested sweet chilli sauce, as my go to sauce for anything vaguely oriental with batter, but the second time I wanted to make something a little different.  I remembered once having a lovely sweet onion dressing so decided to make onions the base, along with my dipping sauce staples of ginger, vinegar and soy and a sprinkling of pepper to tie it in with the pepper on the squid.

Onion sauce

Cooking time: 10-15 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves: 3 as a sauce for the recipes above

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 100ml water
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tsp soy sauce
  1. Put the onion and water in a small saucepan and simmer until the onion is soft (about 8-12 minutes)
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the onion mixture and heat through (you may want to mix the ginger with a tbsp of liquid in a separate bowl before adding it in to prevent lumps)
  3. Puree the sauce in a blender, adding a splash more water if needed to get the consistency you want, and serve. If you don’t have a blender, just chop the onion very finely before you start cooking

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Vegetable jungle curry

Whether it is preparing to go on holiday, coming to the end of the holiday or preparing to move house, we seem to be doing a lot of cooking at the moment that is based around using up whatever we have in the fridge. It is always useful  to have a few recipes at your fingertips which are good at absorbing whatever you happen to have lying around. I find curries are often a great way to use up fresh foods as there is such a wealth of different curry recipes and most things go well with some combination of curry spices / sauces. I like this jungle curry as it seems to go with whatever combination of fresh vegetables I have in the fridge and has an unusual tangy mix of spices that is a nice change from traditional British curry house flavours. Although there are a lot of ingredients in the curry paste, once you have made that the curry is very simple to put together and can be made with a large variety of vegetables. Here I have topped it with some baked tempeh for protein but you can swap this for other proteins you want to use up (see the tasty little twists).

Vegetable jungle curry

Cooking time: 25-30 minutes (can be made ahead with just 5 minutes to reheat on the night)

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves: 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are and what you serve it with – see the tasty twists)

  • 200ml water
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 300-400g Mushrooms
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 pack tempeh
  • Lime to season and serve (optional)

Curry paste:

  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 medium bunch of coriander (about 25g) chopped, half for paste half to serve
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 2 heaped tsp ground ginger
  • ½ – 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp lemongrass (ground or finely chopped)
  • 1 heaped tsp ground coriander
  1. Blend together all the curry paste ingredients apart from half the coriander  (which is to serve), adding a splash of water of needed to get a smoothing paste. If you don’t have a blender just chop finely and mix together
  2. Put the paste in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until it starts to set and bubble
  3. Add all the other ingredients apart from the tempeh and courgettes and stir together, cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, adding the courgettes about 5 minutes after the other vegetables (10-15 minutes)
  4. Cut the tempeh into cubes, mix with a few tbsp of the liquid from the curry and bake in an ovenproof fish at 160C fan for about 15 minutes until it is hot through and a little crispy on the outside
  5. Season the curry with lime juice to taste and serve sprinkled with the baked tempeh and remaining coriander, with extra lime juice to squeeze over and some coriander garnish  (see the tasty little twists) if you want

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • If you want the curry fresh on the night, make the curry paste and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 says
  • If you want to save more time on the night you eat the curry, make the curry and bake the tempeh, and keep in separate sealed containers in the fridge for 3-4 days then just reheat the curry in a saucepan to heat through and crisp up the tempeh in the oven at 160C fan, both for about 5 minutes
  • The corriander garnish is best fresh but can be made the day before and kept in a sealed container in the fridge overnight

Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • Use this curry to use up whatever vegetables you want i.e. replace the red onion, mushrooms, courgette and aubergine with other vegetables such as pak choi, choi sum, sugar snap peas, mangetout, baby corn, broccoli, cauliflower, leek, cabbage, peppers, sweet potato etc. You may have to adjust the cooking time for the different vegetables (15 minutes for hard vegetables and anything you want soft, 5-10 minutes for other vegetables or things you want crisper)
  • Swap the tempeh for baked tofu (see below), cooked lentils or beans, or even cooked meat or fish for a non vegan version
  • To serve more people bulk this out by serving it with rice, farro, quinoa, naan bread or chapatis (of you want to keep this gluten-free go with rice or quinoa)

I like cooking tofu like this as it is incredibly simple and stops the tofu being soggy or tasteless. It makes a good topping for vegetable curries or stir fries.

Baked tofu

Cooking time: 20-30 minutes pressing  (optional), 5 minutes preparation, 20-30 minutes baking

Dietary info: vegan,  gluten-free

Serves: 2-4 as a replacement for the tempeh in the recipe above

  • 300-350g block of firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen towel and place on a place with an edge to keep the water in or in a bowl. Put another plate or chopping board on top of the tofu weighted down with something like a cooking book and leave for 20-30 minutes. You can skip this stage but the tofu will have more water in it
  2. Cut the tofu into bite sized cubes, mix with the soy sauce and put in an ovenproof dish
  3. bake at 160C fan for 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the tofu is beginning to brown on the outside and go a little crispy

This corriander garnish is nice and tangy and can be served dolloped on top of or stirred into the curry.

Coriander garnish

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Dietary info: vegan,  gluten-free

Serves: 2-4 as a garnish for the recipe above

  • 1 small bunch coriander (about 25g)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  1. Blend all the ingredients together to a smooth sauce, adding a splash of water if needed. If you don’t have a blender just chop the coriander finely and mix everything together
  2. If you find the taste of the garlic and ginger too sharp heat the sauce for about 30-60s in the microwave or a small saucepan

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Potato and black pudding bake

I’ve always loved visiting Scotland.  My dad’s sister lives there and I have many happy memories of holidays there with my cousins.  My child minder when I was young was also Scottish and was very pleased that I grew up to marry a Scotsman. I really just seem to be giving myself more and more excuses to go there.  When we got married, instead of registering at a department store we asked for donations towards a barrel of whisky which has been sitting in a warehouse maturing ever since.  This week, to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary we have headed up to Islay to come and visit our barrel to see how it is getting on (and whether it is ready to bottle), and the enjoy the beautiful Scottish landscape, and changeable weather.  Over the time we have been together my husband has taken it upon himself to introduce me to more Scottish food, one of his favourites of which is black pudding.  Black pudding is a bit of a divisive food, many people love it but there are also many people who wouldn’t go near it (either they’ve tried it and don’t like it, or just think it is too weird).  For me, there are some really horrible black puddings available but it can also be wonderful so, like sausages, getting a good quality one is essential.  My favourite ones are from my parents local butcher (full of grains, not too fatty and delicately spiced) and from a butcher on Islay (so lean we almost burned it, strongly spiced and with a texture like velvet) which we have sadly never been able to find anywhere else.  Although black pudding is quite high in fat it is also high in iron and a little goes a long way, either as the star of a meal or to crown other dishes such as venison or scallops.  Here is a recipe for a creamy layered vegetable bake topped with a little black pudding just to finish it off.  However, the black pudding is just the “icing on the cake” and the vegetable bake is also nice without it if you want to make a vegan version.

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Black pudding bake

Cooking time: 20 minutes preparation, 30-40 minutes baking

Dietary info: dairy-free

Serves: 3-4

  • ½ a quality black pudding (about 200g), thickly sliced (5-10mm)
  • 5 medium potatoes, sliced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 400g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp cornflour, mixed to a smooth liquid with water
  • 300ml almond milk or soy milk
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp onion granules
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (smoked if you can find it)
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  1. Steam the potatoes, or cook them in the microwave in a covered microwave safe bowl with a splash of water, until soft (about 8 minutes) and sprinkle with the ½ tsp salt
  2. Cook the mushrooms in a non stick frying pan, with a splash of water to stop them sticking, until soft (about 5-8 minutes)
  3. Cook the black pudding in a non-stick frying pan for a few minutes each side until it is cooked through.  It should change colour slightly all the way through and be crispy on the outside but still soft inside.  Black pudding usually has enough fat in it that it will cook in its own fat if you heat it gently at first but if it doesn’t, grease the pan with a little oil first.  When the black pudding it cooked through, drain it on kitchen paper to get rid of excess fat
  4. Mix together the cornflour water, spices and almond or soy milk in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring until thickened.  Season with the lemon juice
  5. Layer half the potatoes in an oven proof dish, then cover them with half the mushrooms, then half the tomatoes and pour over half the sauce. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and sauce then top with the black pudding
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 160C fan and serve with some steamed green vegetables e.g. broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and the tomato sauce below if you like

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 4-5 days
  • Cook the potatoes, mushrooms and black pudding and assemble the bake a day or two before and then just bake (step 6) on the night
  • Make the tomato sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week

Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • If you don’t like black pudding, swap it for some bacon:
    • Cook the bacon rashers for a few minutes a side in a frying pan and drain on kitchen paper
    • Remove the rinds (optional – I just don’t like the rinds very much) and chop the bacon
    • Sprinkle over the bake for the last 10 minutes of cooking
  • For a vegetarian version, try breaking 2-4 eggs onto the top of the bake for the last 10 minutes of cooking (it will look like the bake is topped with fried eggs)
  • For a vegan version, top with extra mushrooms e.g. thick sliced Portobello mushrooms, or serve with some beans cooked in the tomato sauce below:
    • Either soak and cook 120g beans of your choice according to the packet instructions or use a can of beans, drained
    • Mix the beans with half of the tomato sauce recipe below and cook until heated through (3-5 minutes)
  • Try swapping the potato for sweet potato slices or slices of sweed, turnip or celeriac, or trying different mixes of mushrooms (e.g. button, chestnut, Portobello, enoki, shitake, oyster)
  • You can top any of the bakes listed here with a bit of grated cheese (dairy or vegan) e.g. a hard smoked cheese

I have written before about how much I love tomato sauce and how my husband thinks that there can never be too much sauce so unsurprisingly, here is a very simple tomato sauce that you can serve on the side of the bake above if you want some extra sauce.

Spiced tomato sauce

Cooking time: 5-10 minutes

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 3-4 as a side to the bake described above

  • 500ml passata
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp onion granules
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (smoked if you can find it)
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  1. Mix together all of the ingredients apart from the lemon juice and heat, either in a saucepan or in the microwave in a microwave safe covered bowl, until warm (3-5 minutes)
  2. Season with the lemon juice and serve

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Veggie stuffed pancakes

This is my 52nd post so to celebrate a year of blogging I have chosen a recipe for stuffed and baked pancakes.  Pancakes are very easy to make  but for some reason they always feel like a celebratory food to me, maybe because I always associate it with pancake day (Shrove Tuesday) when I was a child: my sister and I got to tuck into lovely fresh pancakes slathered in sugar and lemon juice while our parents provided entertainment by trying to toss more pancakes.  The pancakes in this recipe are savoury, wholemeal and low in fat but still tasty, packed with vegetables and sauce finished off with melted cheese.  Pancakes are associated with Shrove Tuesday across Britain and the commonwealth countries as they were a way to use up perishable goods, such as fat or lard, before the fasting period of Lent.  Although these pancakes don’t include much fat or any dairy ingredients, the idea of using up perishable ingredients also seemed very fitting for my husband and me at the moment as we are trying to move house and therefore using up as much of the food we have as possible to avoid taking it with us or throwing it away.  Pancakes are very versatile so I have included two variations here: a broccoli and sweetcorn pancake with a cheese sauce based on the cheese sauce I use for my cauliflower cheese and pasta bake, or a spinach and cream cheese pancake with a nutmeg tomato sauce, as well as some other ideas to try.

Broccoli and sweetcorn pancakes

Cooking time: 45-50 minutes preparation and cooking the pancakes, 20-30 minutes baking

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 2-4 (makes 4 pancakes)

  • 1 broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 300-350g sweetcorn kernels (this is usually easiest to buy in a can or frozen)
  • 35-50g vegan cheese, finely sliced or grated (you can use dairy cheese if you don’t want to make this dish vegan / dairy-free)

Pancakes

  • 125g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika (normal or smoked depending on your preference)
  • 310ml cold water

Dairy free “cheesy” sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 300ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tsp malt extract
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp paprika (normal or smoked depending on your preference)
  1. To make the pancakes mix together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and paprika in a bowl and then gradually mix in the cold water, breaking up any lumps of flour when it is still a thick paste, so that you get a smooth, lump free batter
  2. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan (if you don’t have a non-stick pan then grease the pan with a little olive or other vegetable oil) and ladle in a quarter of the batter, tipping the pan so that the batter evenly coats the bottom of the pan
  3. Cook the pancake over a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes until the top is getting a little dry and you can easily slide a spatula under the pancake to turn it over.  If it is sticking a lot it probably needs a little longer cooking. Turn the pancake over and cook for another 5-7 minutes until both sides are lightly browned
  4. Repeat with the remaining pancake batter.  This is the longest bit of the cooking but you can quite easily multitask (e.g. do the rest of the preparation including assembling each pancake) while doing this as the pancakes don’t need much babysitting while you are cooking them apart from turning them over so it isn’t as time hungry as it looks
  5. Steam the broccoli and sweetcorn until heated through and the broccoli is just starting to soften (about 5-9 minutes for the broccoli, about 4-5 minutes for the sweetcorn)
  6. To make the cheesy sauce, put the oil, wholemeal flour, cornflour and paprika in a saucepan and stir to combine
  7. Heat gently until the flour oil mixture starts to dry out, then take off the heat and stir in a few tablespoons of the almond milk and mix to a smooth sauce.  Return to the heat and gradually add all but a few tbsp of the remaining almond milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
  8. Mix the malt extract with the remaining almond milk to make it easier to stir into the main sauce.  You may want to warm it for 30-60s in the microwave to further soften the malt extract.  Add the malt extract / almond milk to the sauce and bubble until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon then stir the soy and lemon juice into the sauce
  9. Sprinkle each pancake with a quarter of the broccoli and sweetcorn, drizzle with 4 tbsps of the cheesy sauce and top with a quarter of the cheese, then roll up and put into an ovenproof dish
  10. When all four pancakes have been rolled up and put in the dish top each one with 1 more tbsp of the sauce and bake at 160C fan for 20-30 minutes until the top is browned.  Serve with some steamed green vegetables or a salad and the rest of the cheesy sauce on the side

A few tips to prep ahead:

      • Make the cheesy sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 4-5 days
      • Prepare the broccoli and keep in a sealed bag or container in the fridge for up to 3 days.  You can even cook the broccoli the day before and defrost (if using frozen) or open and drain (if using a can) if you want to save a few more minutes
      • Mix together the dry ingredients for the pancakes and keep in a covered bowl at room temperature for up to a week
      • Then on the day you will need to cook, assemble and bake the pancakes and heat through the cheesy sauce (in a small saucepan or the microwave for about 2-3 minutes)
      • I prefer to make and stuff the pancakes on the day if I have time but if you are pushed for time you can make and assemble the whole dish the day before, keep covered in the fridge in the ovenproof dish, then just take out bake and heat the cheesy sauce on the night.  The pancakes may sometimes go a little soggier than when you prepare them on the night but should still be good and tasty

Some tasty little twists…

Pancakes have quite a neutral flavour so you can really fill them with whatever you like.  I like to add some vegan cheese because it melts beautifully which binds together the rest of the filling, but if you don’t like melted cheese then just leave it out.  My structure for making savoury pancakes is:

      • Choose the vegetable(s), pulse and/or meat or fish (e.g. sweetcorn, broccoli, spinach, aubergine, beans, lentils, chicken, prawns, smoked salmon etc.) – if you are using pulses, meat of fish I would recommend also using a vegetable to bulk them out
      • Choose the sauce base, favourites of mine are cheese / white sauce, tomato or other pureed vegetable or herb sauces (e.g. my broccoli pesto or broccoli sauce from my veggie omelette recipe)
      • Choose a seasoning to complement the filling and sauce e.g. paprika, garlic, onion granules, allspice, chilli, ginger, cinnamon, mixed herbs etc. or a ready-made blend e.g. curry powder, BBQ blend, harissa, ras el hanout, jerk seasoning.  Use this in the sauce and also to replace the paprika in the pancake mix
      • Add cheese if you like it and it goes well with the other ingredients, from strong or smoked cheeses to mild creamy cheese if you want the melted texture but don’t want the strongly cheesy flavour.  If you are using a cream cheese is can be easiest to spread this over the pancake instead of adding it on top

Some ideas to get you started:

      • Aubergine and beans with a tomato sauce seasoned with ras el hanout or harissa and a dash of lemon juice
      • Chicken and sliced peppers with pesto and mozzarella or vegan cheese for pizza for a dairy free option
      • Sweet potato and black beans with a white sauce made with coconut milk instead of almond milk, leave out the malt extract and paprika, swap the lemon for lime and flavour with 1/2 tsp each of chilli, allspice and cinnamon
      • Kidney beans, sliced onion and mushrooms, courgettes or peppers in a tomato sauce flavoured with chilli and cinnamon topped with guacamole and grated cheese
      • You can of course also make sweet pancakes which can be served with youghurt or ice cream (there are a lot of good vegan options available now if you want to make a vegan pudding).  Swap the paprika for something like cinnamon, ginger or mixed spice and only include 1/2tsp salt (you can also add 1 tsp sugar) in the pancake mix. Sweet stuffings include:
        • finely chopped cooking apple and raisins or chopped dates (perhaps with a sprinkle of brown sugar and lemon juice as a homage to the pancakes of my childhood)
        • berries with a pinch of pepper or cardamon (baked or unbaked)
        • sliced oranges marinaded in a few tbsp of brandy (no need to bake this one)

Here is a variation that I particulary like: spinach and cream cheese flavoured with nutmeg.  You can also add some flakes of hot smoked salmon if you don’t want to make a vegan version.

Spinach and cream cheese pancakes

Cooking time: 45-50 minutes preparation and cooking the pancakes, 20-30 minutes baking

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 2-4 (makes 4 pancakes)

      • Pancakes as for broccoli and sweetcorn pancakes except replace the paprika with 20 grates of nutmeg
      • 300g spinach (fresh or frozen)
      • 50-100g vegan cream cheese

Tomato sauce

      • 300ml passata
      • 1 tsp smoked garlic
      • 20 grates of nutmeg
      • ½ tsp allspice
      • ½ tsp cinnamon
      • ½ vegetable stock cube
      1. Make the pancakes as for the broccoli and sweetcorn pancakes above
      2. Steam the spinach until it is wilted (if using fresh) or heated through (if using frozen)
      3. Mix together all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a saucepan or a microwave safe bowl.  Heat on the hob or in the microwave for 2-4 minutes and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and the sauce is heated through
      4. Spread each pancake with cream cheese, put the spinach in a thick line across the middle of the pancake, drizzle with 2-3 tbsp of the tomato sauce, roll up and put into an ovenproof dish
      5. When all four pancakes have been rolled up and put in the dish top each one with 1 more tbsp of the sauce and bake at 160C fan for 20-30 minutes until the top is slightly browned.  Serve with some steamed green vegetables or a salad and the rest of the tomato sauce on the side

Soy and butterbean cheesy burgers with olive dip

We finally managed to get the BBQ out at the weekend, which to me meant homemade burgers.  I came across a lovely recipe for beef cheeseburgers where instead of putting the cheese on top of the burger patty you wrapped it inside so there was a lovely melted centre when you bit into the burger.  I used to work with someone who liked to use the phrase “steal with pride” whenever he found something that another department was doing well that he could adapt it for his own needs rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.  This recipe is a case of me “stealing with pride”.  I loved the cheesy burgers but I wanted to see whether I could make a vegan version, so tried it mixing soy mince with mashed butterbeans to stick it together and using a vegan mozzarella-like cheese in the middle.  I really liked the flavour but the mix was a lot less robust that minced meat so I opted for the safe “bake it in the oven” option rather than putting them on the BBQ where I was worried they would fall through onto the coals.  However, this is probably more useful most of the time in Britain when the weather (or time constraints) are not BBQ friendly.  The burger patties are seasoned with a mix of popular Italian flavours to complement the melted cheese in the middle, so they taste a little bit like pizza. I have served them here with a balsamic vinegar and olive dip and grilled aubergine slices instead of burger buns as an easy way to get extra vegetables in. This recipe is dedicated to one of my best friends, who told me she had lots of dehydrated soy mince to use up so I hope it proves helpful.

Soy and butterbean cheesy burgers with olive dip

Cooking time: 25-30 minutes preparation (if you have extra time an extra 10+ minutes in the fridge will make the burger patty mixture easier to handle), 30 minutes cooking

Dietary info: vegetarian, vegan if you use vegan cheese, gluten-free

Serves: 3-6 (depending on what you serve it with, it makes about 12 burger patties)

  • 100g dehydrated soy mince
  • 300ml water
  • 1 400g can butterbeans (235g drained), or 120g dried butterbeans, soaked and cooked according to the packet instructions
  • 4 tsp dried basil
  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 50g black olives, sliced
  • About 60-120g vegan cheese for pizza (or mozzarella if you don’t want to make a dairy free burger) i.e about 5-10g cheese per burger,cut into slices about 3-5mm thick, and 2cm long by 1-1.5cm wide – see the tasty little extras for a way to use up any extra cheese
  1. Rinse the soy mince then bring the 300ml water to the boil in a saucepan.  Add the mince and simmer for 10 minutes, then take off the heat, drain off any excess water and let it stand while you prepare the other ingredients
  2. Put the chopped tomatoes on a non-stick baking tray (I use a non-stick silicon sheet on my baking tray) and bake at 160C fan for about 20 minutes until they are starting to get a bit crispy and crinkly looking at the edges
  3. Puree the beans in a food processor or mash as fine as you can if you don’t have a food processor
  4. Mix together all the ingredients for the burger, except for the cheese, until you have a smooth mixture with the olives and tomatoes evenly distributed throughout.  If you have time you can refrigerate the mixture for 10+ minutes at this stage to make it firmer and cooler to handle
  5. Put a heaped tbsp of the mixture into the palm of your hand, push a slice of cheese into it and use your hands to shape the mixture into a burger patty around the cheese, making sure the cheese is completely covered
  6. Place the burger patties onto a non-stick baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes at 160C fan until they are browned and crispy on top. They will be quite soft because of the cheese so carefully take them off the baking tray with a spatula to serve.  Don’t worry if they have cracked a bit and some of the cheese has leaked out, they will still taste fine
  7. I like to serve the patties with the olive dip and on the cheesy aubergine slices (see the tasty little extras) with a salad dressed with lemon juice on the side but see the tasty little twists for other ideas

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the burger patty mixture, except for adding the cheese and shaping into patties, and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days, then add the cheese, shape the patties and bake on the night
  • Make the olive dip and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for  up to 5 days then just reheat in the microwave or a small saucepan until warmed through on the night
  • If you know you will be very short of the time on the night you can completely make the patties a day or two ahead then reheat for about 5 minutes in the oven at 160C fan on the night
  • I think the aubergine slices and cheese aubergine are best made on the day but, like the patties you can make them a day or two ahead then reheat for about 5 minutes in the oven at 160C fan on the night

Some tasty little twists and extras…

I made this olive dip originally because I still had a lot of olives left over after making the burgers and hate to waste food.  I basically just pureed the olives then added different things to it until it tasted nice so feel free to keep on adding things, e.g. fresh basil or chopped sundried tomatoes, to make a more complex dip.  Although it was made as an afterthought, my husband loved it so now I’m happy to buy olives specifically to make it.

Olive dip

Cooking time: 5-10 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves: 3-6 along with the burger patties

  • 100g black pitted olives
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 50ml water plus extra to bring it to the consistency you want
  1. Puree all the ingredients together in a good processor to make a smooth sauce then add enough water to bring it to your preferred consistency. If you don’t have a good processor, chop the olives as small as you can then mash together with the other ingredients
  2. Heat through for 1-2 minutes in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl just to cook the garlic, then serve either warm or at room temperature

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Grilled or BBQed aubergine slices make a nice low carb alternative to burger buns to pick up your burger patty and sauce with (although they can be a little harder to bite or cut through – if you find this a problem you can make little cuts in the skin around the outside as this tends to be the hardest bit to cut through). If you are a big cheese fan or have some left over cheese after making your burger patties, you can make these incredibly simple cheesy aubergine slices.  If not, just cook the aubergine and don’t add the cheese.

Cheesy aubergine slices

Cooking time: <5 minutes preparation, 10-20 minutes cooking

Dietary info: vegetarian, vegan if you use vegan cheese or leave out the cheese

Serves 2-3

  • 1 aubergine, sliced crossways or lengthways into slices 3-5mm thick
  • Leftover cheese (vegan cheese for pizza or mozzarella) – about 5-10g per aubergine slice – sliced or grated (leave out for plain aubergine slices)
  1. Cook the aubergine until it is soft and starting to get a little crispy around the edges,  either:
    •  Baked in the oven (8-10 minutes per side at 180C fan)
    • Under a medium grill (5-8 minutes per side), or
    • On a griddle pan (4-6 minutes per side once the pan is hot).
  2. Put the cheese on top of the aubergine slice for the last 5 minutes of cooking the second side until it is melted and bubbly

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Although I have told you how I like to serve these burgers feel free to experiment and find your favourite way e.g.:

If you want a meat version you can replace the soy mince with 400g lean minced beef.  You can also replace the butterbeans and cornflour with 40g breadcrumbs and 1 egg if you are doing the meat version.

 

Warm curried cauliflower and mixed grain salad

Most people find food shopping a chore but I enjoy it as it feels like a journey of exploration and discovery:  I think that it is amazing that we have such a variety of incredible food from around the world readily available for us to try.  In this recipe alone, quinoa originates in the Andean region in South America, farro from Europe.  Bulgar wheat comes into European, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine whilst curry powders, which vary considerable in composition, are usually based on spices found in South Asian cuisine.  The concept of curry powder is thought to have been invented by British colonialists in India to describe a specific mixture of spices, and has been popular in British cuisine since the eighteenth century.  Although I also love using local produce I think we are lucky to be able to experience the richness of culinary heritage and flavours from across the globe and really enjoy mixing these into my cooking.  This simple salad was inspired by the wealth of lovely grains and spices now available in many shops and a tasty cauliflower curry I tried in my work canteen and wanted to recreate at home.

Curried cauliflower and mixed grain salad

Cooking time: ~40 minutes (about 5-10 minutes preparation, 30 minutes cooking and about 5 minutes re-heating and assembly needed on the night)

Dietary info: vegan, to make a gluten-free see the “tasty little twists”

Serves: 2 (easily doubled)

  • 1 cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 30 g quinoa
  • 30 g Bulgar wheat
  • 30 g quick cook farro
  • 2 tbsp mild curry powder, or replace with any other curry powder or mix of spices of your choice (see the “tasty little twists”)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, liquid (you may have to heat it slightly to make it liquid), or vegetable oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt, optional
  1. Steam the cauliflower for 5-8 minutes until it is starting to soften but isn’t mushy
  2. Toss the cauliflower in the coconut oil, curry powder, salt and half the lemon juice in an oven-proof dish and roast in the oven at 180C fan for about 20 minutes, stirring half way through, until the cauliflower is starting to brown and go a little crispy at the edges
  3. Cook all the grains, separately, according to the packet instructions.  These are usually:
    • For the quick cook farro: rinse the farro. Bring a saucepan of water (about 600ml) to the boil and add the farro, simmering for about 10-12 minutes until tender then drain.  Alternatively put the farro into a microwave safe bowl with enough water to come about 1cm above the farro, cook for 5 minutes, stir and add more water if necessary (there should be very little water left at the end) and cook for another 5-7 minutes until tender then drain
    • For the quinoa: follow the same steps as for the farro but simmer for 20 minutes, or 15-20 minutes in the microwave
    • For the Bulgar wheat: rinse and place into a heatproof bowl. Cover in boiling water, leave to stand for 25-30 minutes then drain
  4. Mix the cauliflower and grains together and serve drizzled with the remaining lemon juice, and the chilli tomato sauce below, with perhaps a few mixed leaves / lettuce on the side

A few tips to prep ahead:

      • Cook all the grains the night before and keep in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.  Heat through thoroughly (in a microwave safe container, in a pan or even in the oven) before serving
      • Steam and roast the cauliflower (steps 1 and 2) and then store it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days, re-heating in the oven for about 5 minutes before serving to warm through and crisp up just before serving

A few little tasty twists and extras…

      • Although quinoa is gluten-free, farro and Bulgar wheat are not.  To make this salad gluten-free you could substitute the faro and bulgar wheat for any of the following grains or pulses: amaranth;  buckwheat; lentils; chickpeas; beans; split peas; rice; sorghum; teff. Or you could just make it all with quinoa
      • You can also try different grains just for variety. Alternative grains (which aren’t gluten-free) include: couscous; durum wheat; einkorn; khorasan wheat, also known as Kamut®;  small pasta such as orzo; or pearl barley
      • Try different vegetables such as onion, aubergine, fennel or courgette, either in addition to the cauliflower or instead of it
      • I have just used a ready-made curry powder in this recipe to be quick and easy.  However, the cauliflower will work nicely with almost any spice mixture so feel free to try different curry powders or if you want to make your own try 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, and 1 tsp mixed spice (or a mix of any of the following ground spices: ginger, cloves, mace, bay leaf, cardamom, or star anise)

Chilli tomato sauce

Cooking time: <5 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves: 2 (easily doubled)

      • 4 tsp mild chilli powder, or replace with the curry powder you used for the cauliflower
      • 2 generous tbsp tomato puree
      • 8 tbsp white wine vinegar
      • 4 tbsp soy sauce
      • 8 tbsp water
      1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat for 1 minute, stirring to combine. Alternatively you can stir to combine in a small microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave, covered, for 1 minute,
      2. Serve drizzled over the salad above.

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Turmeric and soy stir-fry

This has been the hottest weekend of the year so far and gloriously sunny (which is really quite exciting in Britain).  I love to cook but I certainly don’t think it should ever feel like a chore and when the weather is this good I don’t want to spend hours hovering over a hot stove.  I also don’t feel like heavy, rich food therefore this weeks recipe is a light and quick stir-fry: quick and easy to cook, light and tasty to eat so that I can spend my time enjoying the sunshine while it lasts.  This stir-fry makes use of courgetti (noodle like ribbons of courgette) mixed with noodles to make it a light and fresh noodle dish and sneak some more vegetables in, and soy mince.  You can buy dehydrated soy mince which is a great store cupboard ingredient for quick and protein packed vegan meals without worrying about going shopping, but if you don’t like soy then there are a selection of alternatives in the “tasty little twists” section.  The courgetti and soy are brought to life by a mix of spices, starring turmeric whose wonderful yellow colour seems very fitting for sunny days.  Just be warned that as lovely and uplifting as the colour is, it also stains most things it touches.  I have previously made the mistake of putting turmeric dishes in plastic bowls which have then stayed stubbornly yellow for weeks however thoroughly I have washed them.

Turmeric and soy stir fry

Cooking time: 10 minutes preparation, 10 minutes cooking

Dietary info: vegan (if you use vegan noodles), can be gluten-free if you use gluten free noodles

Serves: 2

  • 1 courgette, spiralised (you can spiralise the courgette yourself, buy ready-spiralised courgette or just cut the courgette into fine ribbons with a peeler or sharp knife)
  • 1 portion dried or ready to cook noodles, if you want to make this dish vegan check that they are not egg noodles
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 50g dehydrated soy mince -100ml water rinse 10 mins
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (make sure this is vegan if you want to make this dish vegan)
  • 150ml boiling water
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • Juice of  ½ lime, with the juice of the remaining ½ lime to serve
  • A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  1. Rinse the soy mince and the soak in 100ml water for 10 minutes
  2. If the noodles are not ready cook, then cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, rinse in cold water to stop them getting sticky and set aside
  3. Dissolve the stock cube in the 150ml hot water
  4. Put the onion in a non-stick frying pan with a splash of water to stop it sticking and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until it is starting to soften
  5. Add the garlic powder, turmeric, ginger powder, ground black pepper, chilli powder, soaked soy mince, courgetti and stock to the onion in the frying pan, and cook until the courgetti has softened (probably about 5-8 minutes, you can cover the pan for the first 3-4 minutes to let the courgetti cook down and make it easier to stir everything together).
  6. Stir in the juice of ½ lime and the cooked noodles into the mixture in the frying pan.
  7. Serve garnished with the fresh coriander, grated ginger and remaining lime juice.  This can also be nice with a cool and crispy salad of grated carrot, sliced cucumber and shredded lettuce dressed with lime juice, and pinch of salt and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • This is actually pretty quick to cook completely on the night but if you want to prepare ahead you can:
    • Dice the onion the day before and keep in a sealed bag or container in the fridge 
    • Spiralise the courgetti the day before and keep in a sealed bag or container in the fridge
    • Rinse and soak the soy mince the day before and keep in a sealed container in the fridge
    • Measure out the garlic powder, turmeric, ginger powder, ground black pepper and chilli powder into a small covered bowl or sealed container up to a week before (these can be kept at room temperature)

Some tasty little twists…

  • For a lighter dish, replace the noodles with an extra spiralised courgette, or a different spiralised vegetable such as carrot
  • Add extra vegetables, such as a handful of finely sliced mushrooms, babycorn, sugar snaps, peppers or beansprouts
  • For other vegan versions replace the soy mince with crumbled tofu, green lentils or finely diced vegetables
  • For a vegetarian version replace the soy mince with chopped up boiled egg (about 2-3 eggs) or scrambled egg (scramble 2-3 eggs beaten with a pinch of salt in a separate pan and stir in when you stir in the cooked noodles)
  • For a meat version replace the soy mince with lean minced pork or turkey, or diced chicken.  Add the mince or diced meat to the frying pan after you have cooked the onion for about 2-3 minutes then add everything in step 5 (except the soy mince) after 4-5 minutes and continue as per the instructions above.