Recipe: Mushroom & Broccoli Orzo


Do you ever fancy a mushroom risotto but don’t fancy the standing and stirring that goes with it? Although I thoroughly enjoy a good stir in the kitchen, there are times when I don’t have the time or really can’t be bothered. In those situations I reach for orzo pasta – the tiny, rice-grain-shaped ones. It cooks a lot quicker than rice and will give you a lovely bowl of warm comfort in a short time and for very little effort.

I have used mushroom stock here – from the Italian porcini stock cubes. They are well worth seeking out, but otherwise vegetable stock and some mushroom ketchup will do the job. This is one place where button mushrooms will do well – they hold themselves together well in the cooking process. I think this tastes good enough on its own, but the cheese lovers can add the veggie parmesan substitute of their choice if they feel like it.

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1 clove garlic, crushed
200g mushrooms, sliced
200g broccoli, sliced
200g orzo pasta
750ml mushroom or vegetable stock + 1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped

Heat a little olive oil in a wide saucepan.
Add the garlic and warm through.
When you can smell the garlic in the oil add the mushrooms and broccoli.
Stir for a couple of minutes and then add the orzo, stock and tarragon.
Stir well and bring to the simmer.
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer, uncovered, for 8 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
If it hasn’t absorbed all the liquid, turn off the heat and let it stand for a couple of minutes and the pasta will take up more of the stock.

Serves 2

Restaurant Review: Adulis, SW9


I think most of us have a restaurant they have heard about and think would be good to visit, but never actually end up going there. For my friend, Jaz and I it was the Eritrean restaurant at the end of her road. We’ve been talking about going to it for years without ever even trying to make a date, but recently the stars aligned and we finally made it there.

There being Adulis on Brixton Rd, near The Oval tube station. It was worth the wait and anticipation.

The first I want to know as a veg*n diner is what the veggie selection is like. Adulis has a great vegetarian selection at starter, main and set meal sections of the menu.

We skipped starters and went for the set platter – the Naitsom Special – a selection of vegetarian dishes served on a large, round platter lined with injera, the half-pancake, half-bread staple of Eritrea. This was a wise choice in terms of how much food we could eat, but it did mean we had quite a wait before the food arrived.

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The food arrived arranged into little piles on a platter of injera with a basket of injera to accompany it. You don’t use cutlery, you tear off a piece of injera and use it to pick up morsels of food. This is not a place for the carb-phobic, you end up eating a lot of injera this way, which is probably why my friend and I got nowhere near finishing it all. The selection of dishes is a good mix of hot and cold in temperature and spice level. Some a pure vegetable and some a mixture of pulses. Standout dishes for me were the yellow split pea stew, the okra (and I don’t normally like okra) and the lentils. There wasn’t a taste or texture I disliked there.

We finished with the coffee ceremony, where coffee is brought to your table in a traditional ceramic pot and served alongside popcorn and frankincense burning on a little brazier. And stuff freshly ground coffee, these beans are freshly roasted in a corner of the restaurant so everyone gets to enjoy the smell.

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The food was great and so was the atmosphere. This was a mid-week evening and the restaurant was full, so I recommend that you book ahead. The service was on the leisurely side, but came with a genuine friendliness and care for the diner that is all too rare and completely charmed me. The price for the two of us, including drinks, came to £52. I am pleased to have found another veggie-friendly restaurant and cuisine. I will be going back and I won’t be waiting years to do it.

44-46 Brixton Rd
Tel: 020 7587 0055

Price for 2 including drinks £52

Recipe: Vegan Pancakes


It’s Shrove Tuesday on Tuesday. Or, as it’s better known in the UK, Pancake Day. It was a way of using up eggs and butter before the fasting of Lent took over. This being the UK, a virtue was made out of a necessity with the addition of a sporting element and yet another improbable race was added to the British Canon of People Dressed in Stupid Costumes Doing Silly Things at Speed.

All of which is fine if you eat eggs and dairy. But what if you don’t? I have done some searching on the internet to find a good pancake recipe. It’s been a little complicated because a lot of the recipes are for American pancakes, which, while fine for breakfast, are not what is wanted here. I finally tracked down enough proper pancake/crepe recipes and did some trial and error to come up with the best and simplest recipe.

The essential ingredients are flour, soy milk, baking powder and salt. Please don’t omit the last one, it really does make a difference even if you’re going with a sweet filling.

This recipe makes 8 pancakes, but that will depend on the size of your frying pan and how thin you can get the coating. The first one out of the pan is always the throwaway (or cook’s treat) because you never get the temperature right or the pan oiled correctly.

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175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
250ml soy milk
2 tsp vegetable oil
oil for frying

Mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly and slowly add the milk and oil.
Whisk until you have a smooth batter the consistency of thick cream.
Heat the frying oil in a medium sized frying pan.
Pour in enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan.
Fry over a medium/hot heat until it is a light brown on the bottom and moves freely about the pan.
Flip (or toss!) and cook until just cooked, with light brown patches.
Serve folded with a sweet or savoury topping. I go with tradition with lemon juice and sugar.
Makes 8 pancakes

Recipe: Minted Pea and Carrot Soup


There’s a time in every winter when you just want something simple and warming. A pulse and vegetable soup hits the spot every time for me. This is based on the famous pea and ham soup, so I have used the green marrowfat peas, but yellow split peas or lentils would work equally well. Just adjust the cooking time to suit. The mint lifts the flavour of this soup above the ordinary.

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250g marrowfat peas, soaked
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks of mint
750ml vegetable stock
3 or 4 mint leaves, shredded for garnishing

Add the ingredients to a large saucepan.
Bring to the heat and simmer, covered, until the peas are tender. This should be 45-60 mins.
Remove the mint stalks and discard.
Spoon out about 1/4 of the peas and carrots and reserve.
Blend the remaining soup until smooth and then add the reserved peas and carrots back in.
If you want a completely smooth soup, just blend all of it together.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with the mint leaves sprinkled over.

Serves 2

Recipe: Lemon and Coriander Noodle Soup


This is a simple, fragrant soup with sour and hot notes. it makes a lightening-quick, great tasting, lunch or supper. You can add more vegetables to this if you want, but I’ve kept it simple with only the flavour of lemon, coriander and chilli.

I have assumed you’ll be using the type of noodles that come already portioned in nests or bundles of noodles. If you don’t have that type of noodle, you’ll need about 80g per person.

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2 portions noodles (about 80g each)
500ml vegetable stock
1/2 chilli, chopped
25g fresh coriander, chopped
100g tofu, diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Sesame oil

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions.
Drain into a colander and cool under a running cold tap.
Set aside.
Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan.
When it is simmering add the chilli, coriander, tofu and the lemon juice.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Season with salt.
Divide the noodles into two serving bowls.
Pour the soup over the noodles.
Serve with a little sesame oil drizzled over the top.

Serves 2 for lunch

Recipe: Tofu and Brussels Sprouts with Teriyaki Sauce


I had an American vegetarian friend once, who, on a visit to the UK, was surprised to be offered stir-fried brussels sprouts at a restaurant. It’s a little unusual, but not completely off the wall, sprouts are a member of the cabbage family, after all and stand up to stir frying very well.

I’ve given two recipes for teriyaki sauce here. The authentic version with sake and mirin and the inauthentic version with sherry and sugar. Mirin and sake should be found in most medium-large supermarkets and do taste better, but the sherry version still beats the ready-made stuff.

The combination of sweet, caramelised sauce and slightly bitter greens works well. It would also work well with stronger greens like kale or spring greens. I usually make twice the quantity of teriyaki sauce because I find it addictive and have to save some for another recipe the next day.

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For the Teriyaki sauce:
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
2 tsp sugar

4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
2 tbsp sugar

For the rest:
200g tofu, cubed
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
350g brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 spring onion, chopped

First make the teriyaki sauce by putting all the ingredients into a small saucepan.
Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes until it is reduced and syrupy.
Set aside.
Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan.
Add the cubed tofu and fry over a medium to high heat until the tofu has browned a little on all sides.
Take out of the pan and keep to one side.
Put the pan back on the heat and add the garlic, ginger and brussels sprouts.
Fry until the sprouts start to take on a little colour.
Reduce the heat to medium and add water until the sprouts are just covered.
Simmer vigorously for 4-5 minutes until the sprouts are just tender and the water has all but disappeared.
Add the tofu back to the pan and turn off the heat.
Pour over the teriyaki sauce and stir until everything is nicely coated.
Serve over rice or noodles garnished with the spring onions.

Serves 2

Review: The Wilson Cafe


I make the worst cheese sauce on the planet. No, scrub that – I would make the worst cheese sauce on the planet if only I bothered! I rarely have flour or milk in the house, and I can’t get past the fact that soya, rice or almond milk just doesn’t seem to make very good sauces. The only time this culinary black spot bothers me is when I want macaroni cheese.

My mother made the best macaroni cheese on the planet – a tasty, cheesy sauce with a dash of mustard in that was thick enough to coat the pasta properly and to stay on the fork, and crunchy breadcrumbs coating the top. It was her full-proof method of bribing me to do something: “I’ll make you macaroni cheese on Wednesday night if you give me a lift to a meeting afterwards.” Shazza Cabs was always there like a flash!

There are some fairly decent supermarket ready meals available, but macaroni cheese isn’t one of them – the sauce is always tasteless and too thin. So I end up going without and periodically resolving to have a go at making cheese sauce.

So you’ll excuse my excitement when I spotted ‘Mac ‘n’ cheese’ on the menu at the Wilson Café in Cheltenham. I’m even going to forgive them that glaring Americanism, as it was the best macaroni cheese ever. I dragged a friend there several days later so I could make sure the first time hadn’t been a fluke. It hadn’t. The sauce was perfect, the topping crispy and it came with a stack of bread lightly brushed with garlic. I think I took the glaze off the dish making sure I hadn’t missed a trace of sauce!

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The Wilson Café is a good little find – it’s part of the revamped museum and art gallery in town. The previous café was up lots of stairs and was full once four people were in there. The new one is on the ground floor at the front of the building and has a couple of tables outside. There’s not a huge menu, but what there is seems to be decent quality, and there are always a couple of veggie choices there (even if they’re heavy on eggs, particularly for the breakfast choices). Vegans will struggle, though. The coffee and cakes are yummy as well, and the staff seem friendly. A few people have moaned to me about the slow service there; it’s been fine on the four or five I’ve visited, although the place doesn’t look over-burdened with staff.

I have a nasty feeling the café changes its menu periodically. So I could be OD’ing on macaroni cheese for a while!

The Wilson Café

Clarence Street


GL50 3JT