Recipe: Five Veg Chilli


In the summer I ate at the Grain Store near Kings Cross. When it opened it got a lot of plaudits for giving vegetables the same weight as meat on its menu. To read some reviewers, you’d think it was ushering a whole new era of vegetable-centred food. *Looks around* Yeah, that so worked! Anyway, they do have a higher than normal number of veggie options on the menu and when I was there I had the Chilli con Veggie. I was impressed because they produced a thick, satisfying chilli with no use of meat substitutes, just vegetables.

I didn’t really have a clue how to emulate this until I watched a TV series Kew on a Plate where Raymond Blanc cooked the produce of a splendid kitchen garden. He produced a chilli that was pretty much made up entirely of grated vegetables. Now I knew what to do.

This is great. It is everything I wanted it to be – hearty, satisfying and with no fake meats in sight. I suspect it will do a lot towards your five-a-day within one serving.

 photo IMG_0413_zpsqqopnl3a.jpg

200g dry kidney beans
1 onion
2 medium carrots
1/2 large fennel bulb
1 red pepper
3 stalks celery
1 small aubergine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp marmite
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

Soak the dry kidney beans overnight.
Drain, and add to a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until the beans are tender.
When cooked, drain but reserve the cooking liquid.

Grate the onion, carrots, fennel, pepper, celery and aubergine.
Heat a little oil in a large saucepan.
Add the garlic and chilli and stir for a couple of minutes.
Add the grated vegetables to the pan and stir.
Cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes.
Add the cooked kidney beans.
Add the chopped tomatoes and fill the empty tin with the juices from the cooked beans and add to the pan.
Add the tomato puree, marmite, mushroom ketchup, ground cumin, smoked paprika, chilli flakes and the cocoa powder.
Stir thoroughly, bring up to the simmering point and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Check for seasoning.
Serve with a sprinkle of coriander leaves over the top.
This goes well with rice or crusty bread.

Serves 4 hearty appetites

Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Pasta Sauce


This is a lovely, warm, sweet pasta sauce. It’s fine on its own or it could be used as a base for other ingredients, garlic, chilli, balsamic vinegar, olives or all four!

Roasted Veg Pasta Sauce photo IMG_0419_zpsojhxs3fq.jpg

2 red peppers
4 tomatoes, halved
1 onion, quartered
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Arrange the peppers, tomatoes, onion and carrots on a lightly oiled roasting tin.
Place in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the carrots are soft and everything is nicely browned around the edges.
Put the vegetables in a blender and blend to a smooth paste.
Season with salt and pepper.

This sauce needs only reheating while the pasta cooks and a sprinkling of basil as it is served.

Serves 4

Recipe: Kisir with Tofu


I found this bulgar wheat salad in a Slimming World Recipe book. Although it was very tasty and satisfying I didn’t hold out much hope for its authenticity. I did some investigating and found that it’s pretty much what you would expect from a traditional kisir. Naturally that’s not enough for me so I added some tofu to it to up the protein content.

Give this one a go. It’s easy to prepare and makes a great mid-week supper meal.

 photo IMG_0395_zpsqs94j44o.jpg

1 onion, chopped
100g tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tomatoes, finally chopped
100ml vegetable stock, boiling
150g bulgar wheat
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 spring onions, chopped
2 bottled roasted red peppers, chopped
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
60g pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped

Add a little oil to a small frying pan and put in the onions and tofu. Fry gently until the onions are softened.
Add the tomato puree and stir for a couple of minutes.
Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat and let simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Add the stock and the bulgar wheat.
Turn the heat up until the stock is boiling.
Add the lemon juice, spring onions, red peppers, chilli powder, garlic and cumin.
Remove from the heat, stir well, cover and leave to stand for 15-20 minutes.
Once the bulgar wheat has absorbed the stock and plumped up, stir well.
Season with salt and pepper.
Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and mint.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 2

Review: Loxley’s


Eating out in Stratford-upon-Avon can be hard on the nerves. You either get over-priced fast food places with Bard-related names (I wonder if the Titus Andronicus spare rib joint would catch on …), soulless pubs with faux beams, or over-priced restaurants with ideas way above the chef’s talents. And you often end up bolting your food so you don’t miss curtain up.

So Loxley’s in Sheep Street is one to remember for the future. It’s close enough to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s HQ to cater for the theatre-goers – and that’s about the first question the friendly staff ask you, mindful of kick-off times.

Don’t expect a vegetarian extravaganza, though – and we’ve got yet another kitchen that thinks Parmesan is veggie. It’s not an absolute deal-breaker for one half of your blog team (who is usually, ironically, ultra-fussy on small print). The other half of the team asked for the dish in question to be served without it, which was done without drama or raised eyebrows.

Loxley’s isn’t especially cheap (main courses come in at about late teens and early 20s), but the pre-theatre set menu (£13.95 for two courses and £16.95 for three) turned out to be decent value.

2015-09-04 17.43.17
There were two vegetarian choices among the starters. The heritage tomato and goat’s cheese salad, served with basil and balsamic vinegar, was perfect – zingy tomatoes that tasted like they’d just wandered in from the garden, paired with a sharp, creamy cheese. Anth confirmed that the soup (the tomato the waitress had told us about turned out to be confusingly disguised as pea – fortunately with no ham in) was good. It came with two hefty chunks of toasted bread.

The single veggie main course was that restaurant stalwart – Mediterranean vegetable risotto. At least there wasn’t a squash or sun-dried tomato in sight. It came buried under a herb patch of rocket and, although a touch on the bland side, certainly wasn’t terrible. Some better stock would have elevated it no end. By the look of the main menu, the Mediterranean vegetables appear in a supporting role with polenta.

2015-09-04 18.09.24

If you’re not rushing off for culture, Loxley’s would be a reasonable place for a pleasant night out, with its relaxed décor, nooks and crannies where you can plan to take over the universe, and good-humoured young waiting staff who chat happily to you. The main menu offers a couple of vegetarian options (and yes, of course Parmesan appears again), along with an enticing-sounding antipasta board to share (ooh look, sun-dried tomatoes!)

Loxley’s isn’t a world-shattering find for vegetarians, but it’s pleasant, friendly and convenient – and not everywhere in Stratford can say that.

3 Sheep Street
CV37 6EF
Tel: 01789 292128

Recipe: Courgette and tomato tian



This used to be one of my mainstay recipes – something hearty enough to have as a main course with mashed potato or good bread, or as a vegetable side dish if you’re feeding the 5,000.

I have a feeling the original recipe comes from St Delia, but it’s based on a French tian. So it was appropriate dish to make for friends on a holiday in France. It was dressed up with pig products for the meat eaters, and also served with a very good cheese bread. And it’s easy enough to make it vegan by leaving out all the cheese.

Serves four
Two large courgettes
Three or four large tomatoes
Cheddar cheese
Large onion
A couple of cloves of garlic
Veggie Parmesan for topping
Olive oil
Sea salt, black pepper, mixed herbs

Chop the onion and garlic and soften in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Spread in the base of a large oven-proof dish.

Slice courgettes thinly and fry for a couple of minutes in the garlicky oil to soften them slightly.

Slice the tomatoes and cheese thinly.

Arrange alternate upright rows of courgette, tomatoes and cheese so it looks kind of like roofing tiles. Season with salt, black pepper and mixed herbs. Sprinkle over the veggie Parmesan.

Cook in a medium oven for about 15 or 20 minutes until the tomatoes and courgettes have softened, the layers of cheese have melted and the veggie Parmesan layer has gone slightly crispy.

Review: The Storyteller


When you have a food blog, people assume you can recommend good restaurants and cafes with ease. Not necessarily, given the challenges of finding vegetarian and vegan food on menus that doesn’t involve butternut squash, sun-dried tomato or goat’s cheese. Which explains why I’ll happily choose Indian food as a default setting, rather than stare forlornly at another half-arsed attempt from a can’t be arsed chef.

But when a friend asked for ideas for where she and her husband could take visitors from India, my usual fallback was looking rather like a busman’s holiday. So, being terribly self-sacrificing, we agreed to try out some of the quirkier places in Cheltenham.

The town suffers from a surfeit of vaguely posh hotels with ideas above their station and not much in the way of decent veggie food. There’s a Raymond Blanc, which I found to be thoroughly underwhelming – a small square of still frozen bland lasagne. Oh, yum.

The Storyteller is rather a gem, though. It’s on the edge of the town centre, but right next to a big car park. The website describes the food as Tex-Mex and BBQ grill, and at lunchtime you can get three courses for £12.50. It’s a bright, conservatory sort of building, with art on the walls. Service was friendly and efficient.

2015-07-27 12.52.53

The menu’s not over-burdened with veggie choice (and you’ll be going hungry if you’re vegan). But what’s there is a bit different. The lunch menu offered sweet potato and butternut squash soup that was smooth, perfectly spiced and dotted with herby croutons. And the main course was rather intriguing – cinnamon cornbread with green vegetables and a cheese and chilli sauce. As one of my friends said, you wouldn’t want to eat it for every meal, but it was, again, immaculately spiced and the vegetables cooked to perfection. We’ll overlook the fact that the bread had the consistency of a faintly crumbly fruitcake! The chocolate torte, which I didn’t need but wanted, was divine – smooth, rich and not over-sweet.

2015-07-27 13.20.39

The lunch special (four choices for each course) included chicken fajita, and lamb enchilada the day we visited – and I always wonder how difficult it would be to offer vegetarian or vegan options of both of those.

The dinner menu looks light on veggie stuff – and the ubiquitous butternut squash makes an appearance in burritos. So I get the feeling the Storyteller is a decent place to eat occasionally, with nicely-presented and thoughtfully-prepared slightly quirky food, but not a regular haunt for vegetarians unless the menu gets changed a lot. If the friend’s Indian visitors are meat eaters, they’ll be OK. If not, watch this space as we explore further …

The Storyteller
11 North Place
GL50 4DW
Tel: 01242 250343

Recipe: Vegan lasagne


Please say hello to a special guest from Down Under this week! Our friend Julie Carter is a social worker with a serious book addiction and a love of all animals – and she’d rather not see them on her plate, thanks, hence the vegan diet. So, over to Julie …

Well, it looked like it was going to be a disaster, especially when the tin attacked my finger … Here is the basic stuff I used – not a recipe, just some ideas I had and I generally flew by the seat of my pants. I didn’t measure anything and just played it by ear and it wasn’t half bad. More of the sauces next time, though, I think. But it got the thumbs-up from my step-son who is a meativore and my husband who is also a vegetarian, so I was quite chuffed.

Julie's lasagne

I went for the gluten-free fresh sheets of lasagne, which are soft and ready to cook, not the hard stuff in packets.

Sweet potato
Eggplant (aubergine)
Capsicum (peppers)
You can add any veggie you want. I sliced them all thinly and roasted them until they were browning and soft.

Vegan margarine
Gluten-free flour (I used it because I didn’t have any gluten-free cornflour, but it is just as effective)
Coconut cream (place in fridge so that it is all creamy – sometimes the tinned ones are still milky but putting them in the fridge hardens them)
Melt margarine and then mix flour to make a paste. Then add coconut cream until thick but still runny – do all of this whilst still on the stove.  

Basically this is a Bolognese sauce. I used garlic, olive oil, a jar of Dolmio (Garden Vegetables), lots of chopped-up olives and tinned lentils. I cooked it all for about 30 minutes until it was still runny but had boiled off.  

I layered the veggies evenly between each layer of lasagne sheets, pouring a little white sauce and red sauce between each layer. I poured the remaining white sauce over the top of the top sheet followed by the remaining Bolognese, and topped it with slices of fresh Italian tomatoes and vegan cheese. I cooked it until the sheets looked sagging and it was bubbling – about 30 minutes.