Monthly Archives: November 2013

Recipe: Chard and Orange Salad


I really should call this Christmas Pudding Salad because everything apart from the chard and the olive oil was to hand because I was making Christmas pudding.

This salad breaks a couple of rules because firstly it uses allspice, which doesn’t normally get used in savoury dishes in this country (I think it gets used with lamb in Finland) and secondly because you’re not supposed to let green leaves sit in a salad dressing because they go wilted and nasty. Chard, however, has leaves robust enough to actually need sitting in the dressing for a bit – think coleslaw. If you don’t have chard to hand, kale would be excellent and even green cabbage would do. I do like the chard though, I used rainbow chard and its jewel-like colours shine out in this simple dish.

Chard and Orange Salad photo DSCN0992_zps7a71f031.jpg

150g chard
1 orange
2 tbsp flaked almonds
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tbsp olive oil

Finely shred the chard leaves and stalks and place in a large bowl.
Segment half the orange and add the segments to the chard.
Juice the rest of the orange and reserve.
Sprinkle the almonds over the chard and orange segments.
Add the allspice and olive oil to the orange juice, mix thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.
Mix the dressing with the chard.
Leave to stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 2 as a main salad.

Recipe: Christmas Seitan, Mushroom and Leek Loaf


Christmas is coming soon and in the weeks leading up to it, this blog is going to feature a few Christmassy recipes. We’re starting off with the big one, the main event, the roast meat replacement. The reason we’re posting this now, is that it contains Vital Wheat Gluten, which you might have to track down if you want to use this recipe, so I’m giving you time to do this before Christmas Day. I buy mine online, but if you have a local health store that stocks it all to the good.

I’ve come late to vegetarianism so I’ve never really been into the nut roast thing. I have two requirements for a Christmas roast – it should taste nice and you should be able to get cold cuts from it. I want to be able to have it in sandwiches! Seitan meets that last requirement, this loaf holds together well when it’s cold and will do very well with a bit of sage and onion stuffing between two slices of bread at 9pm on Christmas Day!

I’ve made the recipe with ordinary mushrooms and some dried shiitake mushrooms for added flavour, but you could make it with the same amount of shiitake mushrooms – it is Christmas after all. I cooked the lentil in enough water so that they were about the consistency of wallpaper paste. If yours are drier, just add extra water to the whole mix at the end. Use your own judgement about more liquid if it’s needed. It should be a fairly moist mix with about the same texture a bread dough, but if it’s too wet to hold together, add some more wheat gluten.

Seitan Leek & Mushroom Roast photo DSCN0998_zpsf4147cb1.jpg

Cooked ingredients
100g red lentils, cooked in water
2 leeks ,finely chopped
200g mushrooms, chopped to a medium fineness
10g dried shiitake mushroom, soaked and finely chopped

Wet ingredients
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup or vegetable Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp marmite
1 tsp mustard
100ml water

Dry ingredients
200g vital wheat gluten
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sage
1 tsp vegetable buillon powder, or 1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 white pepper

Heat a little oil in a saucepan and add the fresh and shiitake mushrooms. When they have started to reduce down, add the leeks and cook until they are translucent.
Let cool.
Mix the wet ingredients together and stir thoroughly.
Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix together well.
Stir in the cooled leeks and mushrooms and the lentils.
Pour in the wet ingredients and stir well until everything is evenly distributed.
Tip out onto kitchen foil and form into an oval, loaf shape.
Wrap the foil around it and seal the edges.
Steam over hot water for 90 minutes.
Take it out of the steamer and open the foil. Let the loaf rest, uncovered for about 15 minutes before carving. This will help it to firm up.

Serves 4, with leftovers for sandwiches later

Recipe: Pasta with chargrilled peppers, pine nuts and feta


I’m a fairly unpicky vegetarian, but I do draw the line at sun-dried tomatoes. After all, who wants to eat shoe leather? At one point it was all you ever seemed to find on restaurant menus. Now goat’s cheese is the new black (and at least edible!)

So I adapted this recipe from one a friend used to make. Come to think of it, her version had broccoli in as well as sun-dried tomatoes. I love broccoli, but oddly enough, not with pasta very much. So I went off and started fiddling.

I’m always on the look-out for dryer pasta sauces, given I’m not fussed about creamy ones, and sometimes get a bit bored with tomato-based sauces.

I like peppers a lot. I was a lazy minx and used half a jar of chargrilled peppers that I happened to have in the cupboard. And some of the oil from them loosened up the final dish.

If you’re vegan, you could certainly put the broccoli back in and omit the feta.



Serves 2

Clove of garlic, chopped finely

Small red chilli, chopped finely

Tbsp of toasted pine nuts

Chargrilled red and yellow peppers, cut into bite-sized chunks

Feta cheese

Black pepper

Penne pasta


Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. Once they’re done, set them aside and add a dash of olive oil to the pan. Warm the garlic and red chilli through, but don’t let them colour. It’s up to you whether you warm the peppers through as well, or whether you use them straight from the jar. I tend to warm them slightly. Crumble the feta, then add everything to the pasta and mix well. Serve with plenty of black pepper.

Recipe: Carrot, Lentil and Coriander Soup


In the late 80’s I was living and working in London. It was my first job, I was living alone for the first time as well, cooking what I wanted to eat with no one to please but myself. I have to say, for an apprentice foodie, I did make some grim choices – boil in the bag fish with parsley sauce being one of the worst. But it wasn’t all bad. I came across the New Covent Garden Soup Company, who were one of the first to make ready-made gourmet soups – a world away from the tinned varieties I was used to. I remember their chicken and tarragon soup, but the one that blew me away was the carrot and coriander soup. I don’t think I’d had anything quite that exotic in my own kitchen before.

In fond memory of those times, here’s my take on it. I’ve added some lentils to give it a bit more body for autumn days. I’ve also changed out the normal lemon juice for lime juice, I think it goes better with the coriander and it adds a great lift to the flavours.

Carrot & lentil coriander soup photo DSCN0985_zpsfc974c7d.jpg

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
500g carrots, roughly chopped
150g red lentils
1 tsp ground coriander
750 ml vegetable stock
3tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
Juice 1/2 lime

Sweat the onion and garlic in a little oil.
When the onions are translucent add the carrots, lentils, ground coriander and vegetable stock to the saucepan.
Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked.
Add the fresh coriander and blend until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the lime juice just before serving.

Serves 4

Recipe: Sauce Romesco with Tenderstem Broccoli


Yes, you read that right – the sauce is definitely the star with this recipe!

For what is a simple recipe, this has a bit of complicated origin for me. It all started with a review of Drakes Tabanco by Jay Rayner in The Observer. In it he wished that the restaurant had paired a dish of romesco sauce with something more thrilling than tenderstem broccoli. Well, I disagree. Romesco sauce packs a hefty punch and I think something green and irony is just what is needed to stand up to it. Tenderstem broccoli does just the thing. Broccoli of any type would do, but so would kale, savoy cabbage or spinach. Blanch the greens, stir through the romesco and you have a dish that should be thrilling enough for anyone. I’m sorry, Jay, but we’re not letting the meat-eaters keep this sauce to themselves.

And besides – look how pretty it looks! Prettier than any meat you could pair with this.

 photo SauceRomesco_zps8ffbbf2d.jpg

For the sauce:
2 red peppers, grilled and skinned
75g ground almonds
15g breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp vinegar
80ml olive oil
squeeze lemon juice

Pack of tender-stem broccoli

Put the peppers under a hot grill until their skin is blackened on both sides.
Remove the skins and seeds.
Put the pepper flesh with the rest of the sauce ingredients into a food processor and whizz until you have a smooth paste.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cook the broccoli in plenty of salted water until just tender.
Drain the broccoli and serve with the sauce spooned over.

Serves 4 as a starter

Restaurant review: Star Bistro


Some years ago I did some freelance work at a college in Birmingham. The money was rubbish, but I discovered the perk on the first day when the people I was working with ushered me down to the training canteen run by catering students.

Many college training restaurants are open to the public. Yes, you might have to be patient with befuddled new students at the start of term, and the menu is often fairly limited. But the food, in my experience, is worth taking a chance for.

Star Bistro, which is part of the National Star Centre at Ullenwood, near Cheltenham, is a definite gem. The college is for students with disabilities, and has produced some Paralympians. Based on today’s showing, it’ll be turning out some talented chefs as well.

The restaurant is light, airy and cheerful, with plenty of space between tables for wheelchairs to get through. And this also means you don’t feel your neighbours can reach over and snitch a chip. It’s an open kitchen at one end where staff from the Wiggly Worm, who run the bistro with the college, are supervising students.

The college aims to use local produce. And the chefs certainly know how to showcase the food, which has wonderful flavours and is immaculately presented. It’s good value, too – £14 for two courses and £20 for three (the latter includes coffee). 

A basket of two home-baked breads arrived at the table very promptly, as did, unasked, a bottle of tap water, which won the place brownie points before we’d even started! The menu isn’t huge, particularly for vegetarians (and beware of the parmesan – I suspect those in the kitchen, like many restaurants, don’t realise it isn’t veggie).

The starter, pumpkin gnocchi, came with a sage butter, nutmeg creme fraiche, crisp sage leaves and parmesan shavings. The small brown ovals looked nothing like usual pale gnocchi. And the flavours were amazing. Also veggie (sans parmesan cream) was mushroom soup, which was garnished with tarragon and croutons. The only criticism of both from my stepmother (who had the soup) and me was that they could have been slightly hotter.


There was just one vegetarian main course, but it was fabulous – mini spinach and ricotta cakes with a dijon mustard and cream sauce, pea shoots and goats’ cheese mousse. I was glad I was warned by my stepmother, who’d been before, that it came as is – it definitely needed a bowl of buttery new potatoes to bulk it out. Again, the flavours were just beautiful.

Dessert was an autumn crumble, packed full of apple, plums and blackberries, with a sesame, pumpkin seed and almond crumble topping, served with a dinky pot of creme anglais. I narrowly resisted licking the plate.


Service was cheerful – there are cunning gadgets to help students with disabilities take orders and then deliver the food to the table. It turned out to be a thoroughly pleasant choice for my dad’s birthday meal and certainly one to try again.

According to the website, they will cater for special diets, so I assume vegans could phone in advance. Note, though, that the bistro is only open during the week (11am – 4pm). It also serves morning coffee and traditional teas.

Star Bistro

National Star College



Tel: 01242 535984

Recipe: Apple Salad


It’s apple season. I have a confession to make – I’m not that fond of apples. At least, I’m not fond of apples on their own. I was very pleased, therefore, to find this recipe for a fresh and zingy apple salad. It specifies green apples, but the lime juice in the dressing is sour enough so that sweet, red apples would do just as well. I’ve also made it considerably more substantial with the addition of chinese leaves and carrots (I had purple ones to hand so that’s why they’re a strange colour in the photo!)

This would do well alongside a curry or a tofu stew, but the Thai flavours aren’t so dominant as to rule out some falafel either.

Apple salad photo DSCN0976_zps4c782058.jpg

For the garnish:
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 tbsp roasted peanuts, finely chopped

For the salad:
2 medium green apples
1 tbsp lime juice
4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 chinese leaf leaves, shredded
1 small carrot, julienned
2 tbsp coriander, chopped

For the dressing:
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed

Heat some oil in a pan and add the shallots. Fry until golden brown and then put on to kitchen paper to drain.
Finely core and slice the apples and toss in the lime juice to stop them browning.
Add the rest of the salad ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Mix the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad.
Top with the peanuts and crispy fried shallots.

Serves 2