You might get to the ingredients list of this recipe and wonder if I’ve mistyped it. I promise you I haven’t. That is 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 2 teaspoons of olive oil. That’s because, when the onions and peppers are roasted together like this, they go incredibly sweet and you need the acidity to cut through that sweetness. I used vinegar here, but the juice of a lemon would be great too.
This is a good recipe for use up any red (or other coloured) peppers that are beginning to go a bit wrinkly in places. Note I haven’t removed the skin. The idea isn’t to roast them to the stage of blackened skin, but just to soften the flesh and toast them a bit.
2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into large pieces
4-6 red onions, peeled and quartered
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp capers, chopped
Pre heat the oven to 220C.
Put the vegetables on a roasting tray, rub with the 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and season well with salt and pepper.
Roast for 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and a little brown round the edges.
In a large bowl, mix the vinegar, olive oil and capers together and season with salt and pepper.
When the vegetables are cooked put them in the bowl with the dressing. Toss in the dressing until all the vegetables are coated.
Serves 2 with some nice green leaves for crunch
I like vegetable soups, but too often they are a bit unsatisfying to me. So, faced with a fridge drawer full of vegetable oddments, making a soup was a no-brainer but adding lentils to it makes it a lot more substantial.
This is a lovely, warming, satisfying winter warmer. It’s so good, you won’t even notice that it’s fat-free as well!
150g red lentils
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 medium potato, roughly diced
1 medium carrot, roughly diced
1/2 head broccoli, chopped
1 courgette, roughly diced
1 1/2l vegetable stock
1/2tsp fresh thyme
Add all the ingredients, apart from the thyme, to a large saucepan and bring to the simmer.
Skim off any scum that appears on the surface.
Stir in the thyme.
Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
Add more boiling water if it needs thinning down.
When I first went vegetarian and had a look on the web for things to cook, I came across the concept of ‘tofu scramble’ as a substitute for scrambled eggs. I have to say the idea filled me with horror. Tofu is not egg and I thought it would be the worst kind of fakery and substandard substitution that would fool nobody. But it’s one of those things that I kept on seeing online and some people seemed to like it. Then I found this recipe which frames the concept of tofu scramble not as a scrambled egg substitute, but as an addition to a breakfast menu. The only concession to fakery is leaving in the turmeric – it really does help with the appearance of the dish, it does look a bit grey and grim without it.
So here is my version. Not something trying to be scrambled eggs, but a tasty start to the day that stands on its own feet.
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
pinch chilli flakes, or chilli powder
150g firm tofu, cubed
8-10 mushrooms, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
4 tsp mushroom ketchup or vegetarian worcestershire sauce
handful chopped fresh parsley
Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, red pepper and chilli flakes until the onion is going translucent.
Add in the tofu, mushrooms, tomatoes, turmeric and mushroom ketchup.
Stir vigorously – the idea is to break up the tofu into crumbly pieces.
When the mushrooms are cooked and the mixture has lost a lot of its liquid, season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley.
Serves 2 on toast
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with parsnips – I love them roasted, fried or boiled – I hate them mashed, pureed or souped. I think it’s a texture thing, something about a whole mouthful of soft parsnip makes me want to puke. One of my biggest culinary disappointments was when I made a big pan of curried parsnip and apple soup and couldn’t even eat a spoonful.
So I was really pleased to come across this recipe for spiced parsnip latkes. It got me thinking, if apple worked with spiced parsnip in soup, why not here? And why not a bit of carrot as well? I decided to call mine a rosti because I wanted to make a side-dish for two rather than starters/nibbles for several.
1 parsnip, grated
1 medium carrot, grated
1/2 small onion, finely sliced
1 small apple, grated
3 tbsp corn flour
1tsp curry powder
Add the ingredients to a bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Heat some oil in a small frying pan and when hot, spoon in the mixture.
Spread out until it covers the whole of the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium
While the mixture is cooking, keep pushing it down in the pan so that it forms a solid cake.
Cook until the bottom is golden brown or caramelised to your taste.
Carefully slide a fish-slice under the cake and flip over to cook the other side. It doesn’t matter if it breaks up, just pat the pieces back down into place.
Cook until the new bottom is golden brown.
Serves 2 as a side to a nice stew or Serves 1 for lunch – some mango chutney would go well with it.
There is an apocryphal story about Peter Mandelson, one of Labour’s original spin-doctors, who when going around his constituency of Hartlepool, called into a fish and chip shop. He ordered fish and chips and then pointed to a pot of green stuff on the counter – “And I’ll have some of that guacamole,” he said. The ‘guacamole’ was mushy peas.
That story is almost certainly untrue, but you can make guacamole with peas instead of avocados. It doesn’t taste the same (obviously) but it’s sweet and spicy, cheaper than using avocados, has fewer calories and you can rustle this up in minutes if you have unexpected guests round. It also does well as a side dish to chilli and rice or as a filling in quesadillas.
Mandelson Dip anyone?
200g frozen peas
1/2 red onion
1/2 red chilli
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp fresh coriander
juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp olive oil
sweet chilli sauce (optional)
Cook the frozen peas in boiling water until just tender (about 5 minutes).
Drain the peas and add to a food processor with the onion, chilli, garlic, coriander, lime juice and olive oil.
Blend until it becomes a smooth paste.
Put in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Add more oil if the mixture is too dry.
Serve drizzled with the sweet chilli sauce.
Serves 2 with other dips
I grew up in the 60s and 70s and my parents believed in some old-fashioned remedies. Depending on cause, a tummy-ache would be treated either with Gripe Water or Syrup of Figs. I adored gripe water and it’s possible that it was the dill flavour rather than the alcohol that attracted me. Syrup of figs is as nasty as it sounds. At least I wasn’t dosed with it every Friday night as my Mum was.
And that was my only experience of figs until I went on holiday to Italy when prosciutto with figs arrived as an antipasto course. I thought they were the most delicious things I had ever tasted. Now, of course, fresh figs are available in every supermarket. They’re in season now and there’s the chance to do more with them than just eat them as they are.
This isn’t an everyday recipe, but if you want to impress as part of a dinner party, this will do the trick!
4 red onions (about 350g)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 sheet puff pastry
5-6 figs (sliced)
Finely slice the onions and sweat in a little oil.
Add the garlic and the sugar.
Keep sweating the onions on a low heat until they caramelise. This will take about 30 minutes.
Stir in the balsamic vinegar, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Take the sheet of puff pastry and score a rectangle about 1cm in from the edge of the pastry, this will become the rim of the tart.
When the onions are cool, spread them in a thin layer over the pastry inside the rim.
Take the fig slices and lay them side by side over the onion layer.
Brush the rim of the rim of the pastry with a vegan milk (or normal milk, if you’re not going for a vegan version).
Bake in a pre-heated, 200C oven for 20-25 minutes.
Serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a main course
Every so often you come across a recipe idea that sounds so bonkers you have to try it. Indeed, one of these days I hope to convert the food blogging universe to my baked beans and sweetcorn recipe (really it’s great!). This recipe for cauliflower soup is one of those. I mean the ingredients list consists of onions and cauliflower, no stock, no seasoning beyond salt and pepper. That’s a disaster. Or it’s a work of genius.
I had to try it.
The good news it’s a really easy recipe. The bad news is that it’s really frustrating because every instinct in me wanted to add something to it. Nutmeg, or parsley, or lemon juice. Something. ANYTHING! I had to go and sit on my hands in the living room so I didn’t weaken and fiddle with the recipe.
And I’m very glad I didn’t. This soup has great, delicate flavour. And a wonderfully creamy texture. You won’t believe there’s no cream in this.
I can’t wait to make this again. But I know I’m going to add something – a couple of rasps of nutmeg, a squeeze of lemon juice, some smoked salt – and it won’t improve it!
1 onion, finely sliced
1 medium cauliflower, chopped into pieces
Soften the onions in a little oil until they are translucent but not coloured.
Add the cauliflower to the pan.
Cover with 650ml of water.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Take off the heat and blend to a smooth consistency.
Season with salt and (white) pepper.