Tag Archives: stew

Recipe: Red pepper and butter bean stew


This is a Chinese whispers of a recipe. A friend of mine got it from a friend who got it from a friend who might have got it from a Slimming World or Weight Watchers meeting. No one seems to have written it down, though. And each person seems to have fiddled around with it.

Mine is a vegan version – the friend who passed the recipe to me eats meat. And she likes chilli – I prefer paprika’s smokey taste. She didn’t use tomatoes – I thought it was a bit bland and dry without when I made it the first time, so added tinned tomatoes and chucked in a bay leaf second time around. That pepped up the creamy butter beans no end.

Anyway, go ahead and fiddle to your heart’s content. It’s very simple, has a pleasing texture and really benefits from good paprika. In fact, the hardest part of the recipe was getting my posh new tin of Spanish paprika open without showering it over me and the kitchen!



Serves two

One red onion, sliced

One red pepper, sliced

Tin of butter beans

Three or four veggie/vegan sausages

Small tin of chopped tomatoes

Olive oil/olive oil spray

A bayleaf

Smoked paprika – i used about a teaspoon and a half

Sea salt and black pepper

Chopped fresh parsley

Sweat the onion and red pepper in a little olive oil/olive oil spray, depending how healthy you are trying to be. Tip in the butter beans and the chopped tomato, add the bay leaf and cook gently. In another pan, fry the sausages. When they’re done, cut them into bite-sized chunks and add to the main pan. Add the smoked paprika and the other seasoning. When everything is warmed through, fish out the bay leaf and serve with chopped parsley. I paired it with baked potatoes, but creamy mashed potato would work nicely as well.


Recipe: Afghan Carrot Hotpot


This is another recipe from Veggiestan. It caught my eye as being an unusual combination of yellow split peas and carrots, which is not something I’d ever thought of putting together before. I was also a little sceptical as to whether unsoaked yellow split peas would cook before the carrots turned into mush. Well I was wrong, the peas are cooked through and the carrots are tender, but hold their shape. The spicing is light with this recipe, the chilli just adds a background heat and the vinegar lifts the flavours.

There’s not much prep involved in this recipe and it cooks in an hour, it could just be a winner on a cold, rainy winter’s evening.

Afghan Carrot Hotpot photo DSCN1043_zpsf39b7f71.jpg

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1cm ginger, peeled and chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 clove
300g chanteray carrots, or 2 large carrots cut into large pieces
150g yellow split peas
2 tsp tomato puree
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp vinegar
300ml vegetable stock

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and add the onion.
Soften for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic, ginger and chilli.
Stir for a few more minutes and then add the spices and stir until they have all mixed in with the oil.
Add the carrots, split peas, tomato puree, tomatoes and the vinegar.
Add the vegetable stock, this should just cover the mixture.
Season to taste.
Bring to the simmer, then cover and simmer for 60 minutes.
Check every so often to make sure it’s not catching on the bottom of the pan and add some boiling water if it is getting too dry.
Serve with rice and some mango chutney on the side.

Serves 4

Recipe: Ratatouille


I’m under the weather at the moment and sorely in need of comfort food. Pasta and various toppings has been OK, but I had an urge the other night for ratatouille and baked potato.

I think I’ve spent 20-whatever years searching for the perfect ratatouille recipe. On the face of it, it should be simple – it’s a vegetable stew, after all. But it’s dead easy for it to tip over from perfect texture to mushy mess.

I used to bung everything in together and let it cook, but that’s a sure-fire route to crunchy courgette, leathery aubergine and soggy onion. I then tried a suggestion from one of the TV chefs (forget which one), where all the ingredients are cooked separately and then mixed together with the tomato for the final few minutes. Sod that for a game of soldiers – all it produced was a mountain of washing up and a bland dish, as the flavours never seemed to meld. And I think it’s St Delia who has a baked ratatouille – it’s OK, but, but … This is a stew we’re talking about.

So now I fry the aubergine, courgettes and peppers together for about 15 minutes, then add the onions, garlic and tomatoes, and cook on a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Trial and error has discovered that a blander oil is best. I’d usually use olive oil for everything, but it tends to overpower the vegetables. Sunflower oil is fine.

I add the seasoning at the end and then allow it all to stand for 15-20 minutes. This is a dish that I prefer not to be piping hot. In fact, it’s as good cold the next day (although it re-heats fine) piled on a baked potato, or served with good crusty bread to mop up the tasty juices.


1 aubergine (I salt it, leave it for about 30 mins and then rinse off the juices. A load of the chefs say you don’t need to. I think it makes a difference, so humour me)
2 medium courgettes
2 peppers (I prefer one red and one yellow for added colour, but this time I had two green peppers, so waste not, want not won over. And 20 years ago, green peppers was the default option!)
1 large onion (red or white)
2 large cloves of garlic
Sunflower oil
Tin of chopped tomatoes or jar of passata
Mixed herbs
Sea salt
Black pepper
Brown sugar

Chop the aubergine, courgette and peppers into bite-sized chunks or slices, as takes your fancy. I tend to cube the aubergine, do slices of courgette and strips of pepper for variety. Fry on a medium heat for 15 minutes.

Add the onion, garlic and tomatoes/passata and mix thoroughly. Cook on a low heat for about 30 minutes and then check whether the vegetables are done. I prefer stuff under-cooked, but you might want to give it an extra few minutes if you like your vegetables less crunchy.

Add a generous shake of mixed herbs, sea salt and black pepper. I also add a teaspoon of brown sugar which, I think, reduces the acidity in the tomatoes. If you don’t like using dried herbs (and I think they’re fine here), experiment with whichever fresh ones you prefer. But this is a rustic dish and it needs strong seasoning.

I then take the pan off the heat, cover it and leave it for about 15 minutes. I think you get a better idea of the flavours when this dish isn’t super-duper hot.

If you eat cheese, some grated cheddar on the top is good. Otherwise, parsley or basil is good for a garnish. Serve with baked potato or crusty bread.

Serves 3 – 4.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Red Cooked Tofu


There are some recipes you cook that turn out to be a disappointment. The version of this recipe I tried yesterday fits into that category. It was based on the recipe for Red Braised Pork in Fuscia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice. I used tofu instead of pork and used 5 Spice Powder instead of the cinnamon and star anise. It simmered in the slow cooker for four hours, filling my flat with the fragrance of Chinatown. I had such hopes for this dish, glistening with the flavourful sauce coating the tofu.

What I got was thin, watery and brown. In retrospect the mushrooms were probably a mistake. They added great texture and a whole lot more brownness than I really wanted. It was impossible to photograph it so it looked appealing. There was no amount of spring onion garnish in the world that was going to stop it looking brown and grim. It tasted great. It looked like nothing on earth.

Anyway, one lives and learns. This version has no mushrooms, but a chopped pepper (yay! colour!) and I’ve added some cornflour to thicken up the sauce.

This is much better – a lovely, warming stew, reminding us that Chinese cooking is not all about fast and frantic stir fries. It is also, accidentally, a fat-free recipe (if you don’t bother with the drizzle of sesame oil at the end).

Red cooked tofu photo DSCN0930_zps52fd2a4e.jpg

250g firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 red or yellow pepper, roughly chopped
10g ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp 5 Spice Powder
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornflour
250ml vegetable stock
sesame oil for drizzling
1 spring onion, chopped for garnish

Add the tofu, mushrooms, spring onion, ginger, sugar, five spice powder, rice wine and soy sauce to the slow cooker pot.
Mix the cornflour with a little water and then stir in the vegetable stock until it has all dissolved.
Pour the vegetable stock until you have just covered the ingredients. This takes about 250ml in my slow cooker, but yours may vary.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.
When cooked, stir, season with salt, drizzle over some sesame oil and garnish with the chopped spring onion.

Serves 2 as a dinner with rice and stir fried greens

You can make this on the stove. In which case simmer it for 90 minutes. You will probably need to add a bit more stock to allow for it drying out.

Recipe: Puy lentil stew with green cabbage


I generally have a guilty feeling about puy lentils. I love their slate green colour and the cool feel of them slipping through my fingers, but I tend to like looking at them better than cooking with them. They’re not quite as adaptable as other pulses. They don’t blend easily into soups and spreads like split red lentils and yellow split peas. They can’t be mashed as a base for burgers like the bigger pulses can. And at 45 minutes cooking time they’re just that little on the slow side for a quick evening meal. So they tend to sit in their jar in the cupboard, looking good but not getting used.

I didn’t start off this recipe thinking about puy lentils. I was actually looking at ways of getting more green leafy vegetables into my diet when my cooking habits are not of a no-meat and two veg variety. I thought of a stew with green cabbage added right at the end and the idea of adding a green pulse to this was irresistible. I’ve also added mushrooms to add a meaty mouthfeel to the stew as well. This stew has a real depth of flavour, I would recommend serving to a meat-eater who needs to be convinced about eating pulses.

A quick note about puy lentils – give them a quick once-over before adding them to the pot. Alone of all the pulses I’ve used these can occasionally hide small bits of gravel amongst them.

Puy Lentil Stew photo 72bb7519-7e00-4760-941b-256d16f37a1b_zpse1efa442.jpg

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 leek, chopped
100g mushrooms
100g puy lentils
500ml veg stock
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
1/2 tsp marmite
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
100g green cabbage, shredded
lemon juice

Soften the garlic and leeks in a little oil in a saucepan.
Add the mushrooms, lentils, stock, mushroom ketchup, marmite, bay leaf and tarragon.
Simmer for 45 minutes until the lentils are soft and tender.
Remove the bay leaf.
Take the pan off the heat, stir in the cabbage and let it wilt in the heat of the stew.
Season with salt and pepper.
Just before serving, squeeze some lemon juice over it.

Serves 2
Goes well with leek puddings.