Recipe: Asparagus and Lemon Soup

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Asparagus season is just starting. One of the things I miss about moving from the Surrey countryside to London is that I no longer have a ready supply of locally grown English asparagus. I’m making do with Spanish-grown spears at the moment. As usual, being on my own, I end up having to buy more than I can comfortably eat at one time. That is where this recipe comes in. It’s a good way of using up the remains of bunches and spears that have just started to get a bit droopy.

It has a lovely, fresh taste – spring in a bowl. But be careful with the flavourings, not too much garlic and not too much lemon – you should be able to really taste the asparagus.

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Ingredients
300g asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced small
750ml light vegetable stock
4 tbsp small soup pasta shapes
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
1 sprig mint
1/2 lemon, juiced

Place all the ingredients apart from the lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for 5 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
Remove the mint sprig.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the lemon juice a bit at a time until the soup has a fragrance of lemon in the background.
Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Recipe: Greek Stuffed Peppers

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I have been enjoying Rick Stein’s trip around the mediterranean sea from Venice to Istanbul. Although he’s famous for fish, he has also been featuring some vegetarian recipes. And this one, from Greece, was a lunch favourite for the crew, apparently.

Stuffed peppers, are nothing new for veggies, of course, but these are sunny and light-flavoured while still being substantial enough as a lunch dish on their own.

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Ingredients
2 large red peppers
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tomato, skinned and chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
150g long-grain rice
200ml vegetable stock
pinch chilli flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 small packet of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 sprigs mint, finely chopped
lemon juice (optional)

Remove the ‘lids’ from the peppers and scoop out the seeds.
Place upright in a roasting tin. Keep the lids to one side.
Heat some oil in a saucepan, and sweat the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and softened.
Add the chopped tomato and tomato puree and simmer for a few minutes.
Add the rice, vegetable stock, chilli and herbs, season with salt and pepper stir thoroughly and simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes the rice should have absorbed most of the stock, but it should still be a fairly wet mixture.
Spoon the rice mixture into the peppers and replace the ‘lids’.
Season with salt and pepper.
Pour 100ml of just boiled water into the roasting tin and cover with kitchen foil.
Put in a preheated over, 180C for an hour.
After an hour, remove the foil and put back in the oven for a further 30 minutes
Serve hot, room temperature or cold with some lemon juice drizzled over the top.

Serves 2 for lunch

Recipe: Lemony Lentil & Spinach Soup

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This recipe is based on one from A Lebanese Feast of Vegetables, Pulses, Herbs and Spices by Mona Hamadeh (review to follow). I have had to adapt it because a) I didn’t have the green lentils it originally called for and b) I really don’t like swiss chard. I did buy the chard for this recipe, but when I was cutting it up I gave it a quick taste and ick! if I want something that earthy, I’ll go lick an earthworm or something! So, no chard, but I had some fresh spinach to hand so I used that instead. Please use chard if you do like it.

This is a lovely soup. The strong lemon flavour seems to pull the sun into the soup, giving promise of warmer days to come. It’s freshness and warmth suit the uncertain spring weather. A keeper, I think with the possibilities of a change of vegetable to suit whatever is available.

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Ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
250g split red lentils
1 l vegetable stock
250g fresh spinach, finely chopped
2 lemons, juiced

Soften the onion in a little oil in a large saucepan.
When the onions are translucent, add the lentil and vegetable stock.
Bring to the simmer, skim off any scum from the surface, cover and simmer gently for 25 minutes.
Add the chopped spinach and lemon juice.
Stir vigorously to break up the lentils.
Simmer for another 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Recipe: Macaroni No-Cheese

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Sometimes cooking is Art, sometimes cooking is Science, sometimes cooking is Alchemy and sometimes cooking is, well you don’t know what just happened. This is one of those kinds of recipes. There’s no cheese in this recipe. There’s no vegan cheese-substitute in this recipe. It doesn’t taste cheesy. But somehow it carries the same savoury, flavour-punch that you get with a good cheese sauce.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll be making it again!

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Ingredients
1 butternut squash, cut into wedges and de-seeded
200ml soy milk
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp mushroom ketchup
1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 bay leaf
250g macaroni pasta
cayenne or paprika for garnish

Heat the oven to 200C.
Place the butternut squash wedges on a roasting tin, pour over 100ml of water and cover with tin foil.
Put in the oven and bake for an hour.
When cooked and soft, remove from the oven and scrape the flesh from the skin.
Put the macaroni on to boil.
Add the butternut squash flesh into a saucepan, add the soy milk, bouillon powder, mustard powder, mushroom ketchup, thyme leaves and bay leaf to the pan.
Bring to the simmer and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and blend to a smooth paste. Add some boiling water from the cooking pasta if the sauce is too thick.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the sauce.
Stir until thoroughly coated.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately with some paprika or cayenne sprinkled on the top.

Serves 4

Recipe: Lentil and Mustard Salad

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I would not have put Ethiopian or Eritrean food at the top of my list to try, until a friend took me to an Eritrean restaurant. It was a revelation. Not only is the food very veg*n friendly, with a wide variety of pulse and vegetable dishes available, it tastes wonderful. One of my favourites was a lentil salad that had a kick of heat from mustard or horseradish. I had no idea how to reproduce it, until I came across this recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook.

The hidden ingredient was brown mustard seeds and they add a lovely pungency to the dish. I’ve used puy lentils here, but any whole green lentils would do, including a tin of green lentils, which would make this a really quick addition to a meal of different salads.

NB the water must be boiling for this recipe. Anything less and the dish will be bitter.

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Ingredients
190g puy or other green lentils
1/2 green pepper
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
8 peppercorns
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp boiling water
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp olive oil

Put the lentils with 500ml of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
When cooked, drain and add to a bowl.
Chop the pepper into small dice and add to the lentils.
Put the mustard seeds and peppercorns in a pestle and mortar and grind until you have a coarse powder.
Add the chilli powered and the boiling water and stir.
Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then add the lemon juice and olive oil and stir thoroughly.
Add the mustard dressing to the lentil and peppers and mix through.
Season with salt.

Serves 4 with other salads

Recipe: Chilli Tofu

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Chilli Tofu

This is based on the recipe of Chilli Panner from
Meera Sodha’s Made in India: Cooked in Britain book. The recipe is delicious but it had one great failing as far as I’m concerned – there wasn’t enough of it. Meera’s dish is a snack, I wanted something to use as part of a main course, so I have added more tomatoes to carry the wonderful flavour on for a little longer.

You need to try this recipe. It has bags of flavour and cooks in less than 20 minutes (apart from pressing the tofu). And, considering the amount of garlic in it, it might be my new favourite way of dealing with a snuffly cold!

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Ingredients
400g tofu, drained & pressed, cut into 2cm cubes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1.5 tsp cumin powder
1 green chilli, finely sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
Lemon wedges, to serve

Heat a little oil in a large saucepan and add the tofu. Fry the tofu until lightly browned on all sides. You may need to do this in a couple of batches.
Add all the tofu back into the pan and stir in the garlic, cumin and chilli.
Saute on a low heat for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes.
Simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has reduced a little.
Season with salt & pepper.
Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over.

Serves 4

Recipe: Carrot and Lentil Soup

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Come the New Year we all want something healthy to eat, right? But it’s cold and wet so something comforting would be in order as well. Well in these times, my thoughts turn to soup. This is my latest contribution to the easy, tasty, lentil soups pile. The comfort comes from the soft lentils, the taste comes from the star anise which adds a background fragrance and the health comes from the carrots, which are absurdly good for you. The chilli oil is optional, but will clear your sinuses if you’re feeling snuffly on top of the other seasonal ills.

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Ingredients
200g split red lentils
1 star anise
1l vegetable stock
2 large carrots, grated
chilli oil, optional

Put the lentils, star anise and vegetable stock in a saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the carrots, bring back up to the heat and simmer (covered) for another 10 minutes. Remove the star anise and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzling of chilli oil.

Serves 2