Category Archives: Vegetarian

Bring Some Excitement Into Your Life! Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Seed Bread

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If you are bored of your everyday bread, if the thought of yet another white sliced loaf makes you want to scream, if you are crying out for something to break the lunchtime sandwiches tedium… Then this is the bread for you.

Why should this be the answer to your problems, you may ask? Well, not only does it look lovely, with its rich golden colour dotted with tempting pumpkin seeds, but this bread also has the advantage of partnering equally well with sweet or savoury toppings. I am pointing this out because sadly it isn’t the case with a lot of other speciality breads (onion bread with jam, anyone? ) so it is perfect for busy households where the same loaf needs to be used for toast at breakfast and to make sandwiches to take to work.

Don’t like sweet potato? Or pumpkin seeds? No problem. This works equally well with the same amount of potato, pumpkin or squash, and you can use sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pecans, etc.

You will also be pleased to know that this lovely bread is also rather good for you, with its vegetable goodness and healthy pumpkin seeds.

So, to sum up: this bread is good-looking, versatile, tasty, and healthy.

It will change your life.

Bake it.

You will need:

250 g sweet potato, cooked then mashed

1 x 7g sachet dried yeast

350 g strong white flour

110 g pumpkin seeds

10 g salt

1 tbsp. olive oil

250 ml warm water

Method:

In  a large bowl, mix the sweet potato, flour, yeast, salt, pumpkin seeds and olive oil. Gradually add the water to form a consistent dough (you may need a little bit more or less water), then knead for about 10 min until smooth and soft.wpid-20140209_140641.jpg

If using a mixer, knead with the dough hook for 5-10 min.

Shape the dough into a ball and leave to rest, covered, for 1 to 2 h or until well-risen.wpid-20140209_144329.jpg

Press down gently with your fingertips to deflate the dough, then either shape into a ball again on a floured baking sheet, or fill a lightly oiled 900 g loaf tin. Cover and leave to rise again for 30-45 min.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C/ fan 200C/ gas 8. Bake the bread for 25-30 min until dark golden (the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom).

Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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Filed under Bakes, Bread, Breakfast, Vegetarian

The Next Best Thing To A Duvet Day: Velvety Mushroom and Chestnut Soup

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Winter is dragging on, my mood is as gloomy as the weather, and I feel like I am going to be cold forever.

I wish I could just burrow under the duvet and wait for the temperatures to start climbing again before venturing back out, but I can’t do that because I would most probably get sacked. Unfortunately, my job cannot be done from home, and it definitely cannot be done from under a duvet, so like most other people I have to suck it up, leave my bed and wrap up in a lot of layers in order to go to work. And it sucks.

Sadly, taking your duvet to work isn’t normally very practical either. So, what to do? What could make up for having to get out of bed?

In my opinion, the next best thing to a duvet is probably soup. It is warm, comforting and satisfying, and unlike a duvet you can take it to work to enjoy during your lunch break, without having to endure being stared at by your co-workers as if you have suddenly grown a second head. If you agree with me, then this recipe is definitely for you.

This mushroom and chestnut soup is very tasty and warming. The chestnut purée is optional, but the texture wouldn’t be as smooth and velvety without it. Use any mushrooms you want; if you are lucky enough to have access to wild mushrooms then don’t hesitate to use them. I usually go for a mixture of chestnut mushrooms and (rehydtated) dried porcini.

You will need (for 4 servings):

800 g mixed mushrooms (rehydrated weight if using dried mushrooms), quartered
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30 g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 pinches dried thyme
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
Salt, pepper
4 heaped tbsp unsweetened chestnut purée

Method:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and butter together on a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and thyme and cook until soft but not coloured (about 3 to 4 min).

Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 min, then add the brandy and cook for 1 or 2 min to evaporate the alcohol. Add the stock, season, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 min.

Transfer about 2/3 of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour it back into the pan with the rest of the soup, and stir in the chestnut purée. Check the seasoning.

Serve with plenty of crusty bread, and crème fraîche if you like.

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Filed under Mains, Soups, Starters, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Butternut Squash, Feta and Spinach Roast

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With all this windy, cold weather, I was in the mood for some nice comfort food tonight; a tender beef stew maybe, or simply sausages and mash. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go the the butcher’s at the weekend, so I am having to rely mostly on vegeterian options this week.

I am, and forever will be, a committed carnivore, but I really enjoy a meat-free option every once in a while. Having no meat in the house usually forces me to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, and find interesting ways to cook vegetables.

This is one of my favourite meat-free dishes; it is quick enough to prepare on a weeknight after work, and it features feta which I adore. It is easy to substitute some of the ingredients depending on what you have available (parsnips, sweet potatoes or turnips work very well here too).

If you don’t fancy pumpkin seeds, try some toasted flaked almonds or cashew nuts instead.

You will need (for 2):

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp thyme

A few pinches chili flakes

1 butternut squash

2 large carrots

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

2 handfuls spinach leaves

200 g feta

3 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Method:

Preheat your oven to 220ºC/ fan 200ºC / gas 7.

Peel the butternut squash, cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and membrane with a teaspoon, discard. Cut the flesh into cubes (roughly 2 cm). Peel the carrots and cut into thick slices.

Peel the onion and cut into rough 1 cm cubes. Peel and crush the garlic.

In a roasting dish, mix the squash, carrot, olive oil, thyme and chili. Use your hands to mix thoroughly so the veg is well covered with the oil and flavourings. Bake for 20-30 min or until tender.

Meanwhile, wash and drain the spinach. Chop the feta.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the feta, spinach and pumpkin seeds to the dish, mix briefly, and return to the oven for 5 min.

Serve with some crusty bread.

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Filed under Mains, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Your Sunday Night Hug: Fried Eggs With Potatoes and Peppers

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Do you ever get this Sunday night feeling? You know, at the end of a great, sunny weekend, full of your child’s smiles, and laughter, and walks around the park, good food and good company, and a host of simple, little joys. When you realise this is over, and in the morning, once again, you will don your corporate smile, and matching suit, and make your way to work.

When you get this feeling, you want and need something that will help you make the most out of the small slice of weekend you have left. Something comforting and safe.

This is what this dish is. A little piece of sunny Sunday, a bit of a smile on your plate, an edible hug to help you through the week ahead.

You will need (for 2):

4 eggs
1 green pepper
3 medium potatoes
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. In a non-stick frying pan, heat up enough olive oil to come up to about 5 mm deep. Gently fry the potatoes on a medium heat until cooked, but not crisp.

Meanwhile, de-seed the pepper and dice it. Add it to the pan about 10 min after the potatoes. When cooked, drain the vegetables onto kitchen paper and pour the oil out of the pan, reserving just 1 tbsp.
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Return the pan to the heat with the reserved oil, and gently fry the onion. Add the potatoes and pepper. Spread in an even layer at the bottom of the pan.

Break the eggs over the vegetables, taking care not to break the yolks, and cook to your liking. Season, then serve with crusty bread.image

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Filed under Eggs, Mains, Vegetarian

Another “No Cheese” Rant: Authentic Gratin Dauphinois

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I was fortunate enough to spend 3 years studying in Grenoble, in a part of the French Alps called the Dauphiné. And it just so happens that this region is the birthplace of Gratin Dauphinois (or dauphinoise potatoes as it is called in English).

When I say that I was “fortunate”, it is because at the end of these wonderful 3 years, I headed back home with the recipe for Gratin Dauphinois in my back pocket (and a Master’s Degree in Business, but who cares? You can’t eat a degree).

Now, for those of you who read my Quiche Lorraine post, you will know that I don’t like it one bit when people mess with a beautifully simple recipe. This also applies to Gratin Dauphinois. THERE IS NO CHEESE IN IT, just potatoes, milk, cream, eggs and seasoning. That is all you need!

This gratin is perfect as a side dish with roast meats, or as a main with a few slices of cured meats.

You will need (for 4):

About 1.2 kg potatoes
2 eggs
750 ml milk
4 tbsp double cream
1 clove garlic
100g butter + extra for the dish
Nutmeg
Rosemary
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ fan 180C/ gas 6-7.

Peel the garlic and cut in half. Rub the cut side over the bottom and sides of a large oven dish. Butter the dish.

Peel and wash the potatoes, then cut into 2mm slices.

In a large jug, beat the eggs, then add the cream and milk. Season.

Put a layer of potato slices over the bottom of the dish (you don’t need to be neat), then pour some of the milk mixture over it. Repeat until the dish is full or you have used up all the ingredients.

Season, sprinkle some grated nutmeg on top, and some rosemary. Dot small pieces of the butter all over.image

Bake for about 45 min or until golden and cooked through.

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Filed under Mains, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian

The poor, un-sexy globe artichoke

Globe artichokes are not sexy. They are not fashionable, and rather hard to find in Britain. Most people I know have never tried one.

Why is this? Does the name put people off, I wonder, with its suggestion of choking? Or is it its large, tight leaves and almost Jurassic appearance?

Whichever way, I think it is a real shame. Artichokes are delicious, nutricious and easy to prepare, and they should be a lot more prominent on people’s shopping lists.

Now just to be clear, I do NOT hold shares in any artichoke-growing conglomerate. I am not here to brainwash anyone into eating artichokes. To me, they are simply a taste of my childhood, and I think it would be nice if more people gave them a chance.

The best way to cook them is to steam them. So dig out your pressure cooker, and after just a few simple steps, you will be ready to enjoy this little treat.

Here’s how:

Snap off the stalk, and steam for around 22 min (slightly more if your artichoke is large)

Place in a shallow bowl, and pull out the tougher leaves around the
base.

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You are now ready to enjoy the first part: the leaves.

In a small bowl, mix some crème fraîche with a dash of lemon juice and a bit of salt and pepper. Pull a leaf out, dip the fleshy part into the cream, then put it in your mouth, and scrape with your teeth as you pull it out. (at this point I shall refer you back to the word “un-sexy” in this post’s title).
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Keep doing this until you reach the central leaves, and have exhausted the fleshy ones.
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Grab the leaves firmly in your hand, and hold the base of the artichoke in your other hand. Pull firmly apart, and you should be left with just the base, covered with thin, straw-like bristles.
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Pull these out, they should come out easily.
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You will be left with just the heart. With a small knife, trim any harder bits away from underneath.
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Cut into chunks and eat with the rest of your cream dip.

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Filed under Vegetables, Vegetarian

Lunchbox chili pasta

I call it lunchbox pasta because it is an easy way to use up any leftover pasta you might have after an evening meal. I usually make this with leftover cooked lasagne sheets (see Open Lasagne),cut into ribbons, but any pasta shape will work.

Rinse the pasta in some cold water to avoid it sticking together, then refrigerate in a microwaveable container.

In the morning, add a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of chili flakes, and some pitted, roughly chopped black olives. Grate a bit of parmesan on top.image

At lunchtime, microwave on full power for 2 to 3 min depending on wattage. Tuck in, and don’t forget to put your best smug face on in front of your colleagues with their shop-bought lunches!

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Filed under Mains, Pasta, Vegetarian