Lovely Noodly Lunch

In an effort to recreate the great “Saien Soba” noodles I had at Wagamama’s recently, I threw this together after getting back from the supermarket this afternoon.  My ‘naughty’ tip for max flavour is to get some cheapo instant noodles (unless you are watching your salt intake!).  They are usually vegan anyway.  Here are my ingredients – the only thing I used that isn’t in the picture is some veggie stock.

Ingredients list:
Some oil, for stir frying (ie, NOT Olive oil!)
1/2 small packet stir fry veg
1/2 packet shiitake mushrooms
1 spring onion, sliced
1/3rd packet of asparagus tips
1 packet (portion) of instant chicken noodles (vegan)1 mug of vegetable stock
Tamari soy
Sesame Oil

Here is how it worked…
1. Prepare the noodles as per the pack instructions.
2. Meanwhile, slice the shiitake mushrooms and any of the stir fry elements that need to be a little smaller (to allow even cooking), and slice the spring onions.Image
3. Heat a frying pan (or wok) until very hot, add oil, then the shiitake mushrooms and whichever veg will take longest to cook (in this case, broccoli).
4. Fry, but don’t stir too frequently (the ‘real secret of stir fry’) so the veggies catch and caramelise slightly on the edges.  You want the shiitake mushrooms to brown, to bring out the depth of flavour.
5. When the noodles are cooked, tip them and their liquid into a large bowl.
6. Make up a mug full of veggie stock (I used Marigold vegan bouillon powder), and pour it over the noodles.
7. Tip the cooked stir fried veggies on top of the noodles, and drizzle with a little soy (I used tamari soy) and sesame oil.


And a little bonus recipe suggestion… (my supper as I write this).
There’s nothing like some fresh strawberries on bread with marge – but make it a little richer by adding some Tofutti cream cheese spread and sprinkle with sugar.  Instant cheesecake!Image


Incredible Chickpea Curry

This curry is pretty simple but amazing.  Normally I use a Patak’s Rogan Josh paste for this instead of the whole spices, but really, using whole spices totally makes this dish more fragrant and complex and delicious…

In all, my rice took 25 minutes to cook, and it took the same time to prepare and cook the curry too.  The thing to remember with curries, is that if you have all the ingredients, it’s easy. If you don’t, the ingredients list can look daunting.  Always check out your local Indian food shop – the spices are cheaper than the supermarket and they usually have a great range.Image

You will need:

Some veg oil and a little knob of dairy free spread (Vitalite is nice and buttery)
I medium onion, chopped,
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black onion seeds
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
pinch of hing/asafoetida
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 tsp chilli powder (adjust according to your taste pref)
1/2 400g tin of chopped/plum tomatoes
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup stock
few lumps of frozen spinach, defrosted (in microwave)
pinch of dried fenugreek leaves
shake of shake o cini mushroom powder (optional!)
salt, sugar (agave nectar/maple syrup) to taste.
To serve: tomato relish can be great, but this went beautifully with a sweet, smokey aubergine pickle (from Waitrose).

How to:
1. Heat oil in the pan
2. Add cumin, black onion and mustard seeds and fry until sizzling. Add the dairy free spread.
3. Add hing/asafoetida, and stir.
4. Add onions and fry until they are good and soft and starting to brown.
5. Add the ground coriander, chilli and turmeric, stir and cook for 1 min.
6. Chuck in tinned tomatoes and stir.  cook for a few minutes (usually until you see the oil separating from the tomatoes).
7. Add tin of drained chickpeas and stock.
8. Put the spinach in also, stir in the dried fenugreek leaves.  Then season with salt, sweeten with syrup/sugar, add mushroom powder and let simmer until the stock has cooked down and you have a nice sauce.
9. Serve  – with brown basmati rice and pickle.

My twist on whore’s pasta (spaghetti alla puttanesca)!

I have to cook this dish when my husband is out working, usually on a Saturday, when he’s shooting a wedding, because he hasn’t yet learned to love the incredible flavours of some of my favourite umami boosters that make this dish so mouthwatering.  Traditionally, a puttanesca sauce relys on anchovies to give it a salty, umami boost, but you really won’t miss this with my recipe!  Essentially, it is very simple and you can adapt to your own tastes: it is a tomato base with some nice Italian extras thrown in. 
I mentioned umami in my last post, the magic 5th taste that makes food taste so appetising, and this has umami in abundance: olives, capers (in vinegar), mushrooms, artichokes and not to mention the tomatoes themselves.  Here is a list of what I used: (makes 2 servings – one for now, one for later!!)
Light olive oil for cooking
I small onion, chopped,
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped,
2-3 mushrooms, halved, then sliced,
1/3 of an aubergine, cut into small dice
generous shake of dried herbs – I use oregano, parsley, thyme, marjoram – but use whatever combo pleases you 🙂
1 400g tin of tomatoes
small handful of green olives (I used marinated garlic olives)
a few pieces of marinated artichoke, chopped
3 teaspoons of capers (drained and lightly rinsed)pinch of salt to taste
generous grinding of pepper
a teaspoon of maple syrup (or agave nectar, or just brown sugar)
a shake of shake-o-cini (optional)

Method:1. Fry onion and garlic in a generous slug of the oil until softened. ( you will need the oil for the aubergine and mushrooms)
2. Add chopped vegetables and herbs (if using dried) and fry until the aubergine looks nice and soft.
3. Add tinned tomatoes, olives, capers, artichokes and stir.
4. Add seasoning, shake o-cini and syrup, stir.  At this point, I would add a little water to allow the sauce to cook down and then put the spaghetti on.
5. When spaghetti is cooked, drain (leaving a small amount of the spaghetti water in the pan to keep the spaghetti ‘lubricated'(!), and put your Puttanesca sauce on top, stir through and serve. 
No need for (vegan) cheese – this has so much flavour it would be a waste 🙂

This recipe is pretty versatile and you can do all sorts of things to make it your own – add fresh herbs near the end for example, season with tamari soy instead of use salt and shake-o cini.  Leave out aubergines, add black olives etc etc….  Just get the balance of flavours right for you – ensure you TASTE your sauce before you serve it to make sure you got the balance right.

Umami magic

One thing I’m obsessed with is getting maximum flavour to make my dishes interesting. This either entails lots of different and varied ingredients, or just being clever with certain flavours I know will deliver. The main stumbling block for people switching to a vegan diet is that they can miss the flavour satisfaction they used … Continue reading

Vegusto open sandwiches.

ImageI was very hungry so here’s what I did:
2 slices wholemeal bread, toasted
some lettuce
some tomatoes
some artichoke (this was in garlicky oil from supermarket)
2 slices of Vegusto vegan schnitzel, fried in oil
2 sliced mushrooms, fried in oil, seasoned with tamari soy

This was all thrown on top of the bread and drizzled with a garlic dip (also from Vegusto). It was delish and made such a satisfying lunch, I don’t need dinner!  (I was going to use Avocado instead of the artichoke, but my ripe and ready avocados were neither ripe, nor ready).
If you’ve not heard of Vegusto, visit their website: not cheap, but the Swiss made vegan meats and cheeses and great – and they use no palm oil.  All cheeses are nut based rather than soy.

Hoi sin mock duck stir fry


So here is one of my adventures with vegan ‘meat’ – I bought a pack of Hoi Sin Duck from Redwoods (from my local Holland and Barrett) and having already tried and loved making hoi sin duck-style pancakes with it (chinese pancakes or tortillas, fried ‘duck-style’, strips of fresh cucumber, shredded spring onion and hoi sin sauce), I wanted to stir fry it. Stir fry is one of my frequent go-tos of an evening – i get to use loads of fresh veg and (because I work for Blue Dragon and have a cupboard full of sauces) I can always do something with lots of flavour.


There are two stir fries on this plate – I always do my prep beforehand, as the cooking should only last 3 minutes at the most, so it’s usually a frantic dash at the end: an extra pair of hands can be a great help.  The rice is just brown basmati – I’ve kept it plain as the rest of the food is rich.  Brown rice is more filling – and we all know that empty feeling you can get after a Chinese…. combat it with brown rice! 

Hoi Sin mock duck – ingredients (for 2)

dash of oil (nut oil or other flavourless oil)
1 packet of Redwood duck-style
1 red pepper (pref. romano or pointed peppers, as they are very sweet)
4 spring onions, sliced
1 Jar of Hoi Sin Sauce (I use Blue Dragon, of course) – you won’t need the whole jar, but the sauce will keep for quite a while in the fridge.

1. heat the oil, and when very hot, add the peppers and stir continuously until they are starting to soften and catch a little on the pan (brown bits) – should only be about 1-2mins.
2. Add Redwood duck pieces and stir – this too will start to caramelise on the edges
3. Add spring onions and stir through – these really don’t need to cook much as the more raw they are the more tang they add.
4. Add a small amount of hoi sin sauce: you want to ensure your finished dish has a glazed look, and isn’t swimming in sauce, as this will be too sweet.  Stir through until heated, then your dish is ready to serve.

Stir Fried tofu and veg in veggie oyster sauce: this dish is more green and savoury to counter the sweetness of the duck dish, so don’t overdo it on the sauce

Oil, for frying (about 1 tbsp)
handful of tenderstem broccoli
tablespoon of Shaoxing rice wine or water
1/2 block firm tofu, drained and cut into wedges
good handful of mange tout
handful of baby corn
vegetarian oyster sauce (or ketjap manis, but this is sweeter, so balance with a bit of soy sauce)

1. Heat your wok until it smokes (if using a seasoned wok), then add the oil.
2. Add the tofu and stir fry gently until browned on the edges.  Remove from the pan and drain on a kitchen towell.
3. Then carefully add the tenderstem broccoli – this needs to take longest so is first of the veggies in.  Stir fry.
4. To help this tenderise through steaming, add either the Shaoxing wine (you can use dry sherry) or some water and continue to stir fry.
5. Then add the mangetouts and baby corn and stir fry for another minute until the mangetout turn bright green.
6.  Add the tofu back to the pan.
7. Add a few glugs of Veggie oyster sauce, stir and heat through, ensuring it coats your veggies, then serve.

Marinated cucumber
Just to add a touch of freshness and bit to the proceedings, cut up some cucumber (remove the seeds) into chunks and chuck in a bowl with splash of something vinegary like White Rice vinegar or Mirin.  Throw in a small crushed clove of garlic, and some chopped chilli and mix in – this can be done in advance and left in the fridge.  The cucumber will be nice and crunchy.  If you like sesame oil, a couple of drops can be added before serving.  The key is to taste – if it’s too tart, just adjust with some agave nectar syrup or sugar.

White bean burger with roasted beetroot salad with garlic maple dressing

My singing teacher, Judith, generously furnished me with a lovely looking beetroot, grown in her own garden.  I felt the need to do the root justice, so took it home and roasted it and put it in a delicious salad.  I served this with some leftover homemade white bean burgers (garnished with lots of iron-rich parsley) and some luscious tenderstem broccoli…. Lunch made in heaven!

White Bean Burgers:
400g of white beans (tinned – I used a mixture of cannelini and black eyed pinto beans)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 cup flour
chopped rosemary
chopped parsley
Tamari soy sauce (or season to your own liking!)

1. Mash the beans or do as I do and blitz them in a blender!
2. Mix in with the other ingredients in a bowl.
3. Shape into patties – I have a fab burger press which compresses them and therefore means they hold together better in the pan.
4. Fry a few minutes on each side in a little oil and serve with garnish.
Easy as that.  And the good thing about burgers is once you get the hang of them you can put in whatever you fancy – different grated veg, chilli, different herbs – the world is your oyster!

Roasted Beetroot Salad (based on a recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook)

1 Large or several small fresh beetroots, trimmed and washed (leave skin on)
3 smallish carrots
mixed salad leaves
herbs of your choice (book recommends dill)
For the dressing:
maple syrup
mild olive oil (or vegetable oil/corn oil)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
sherry vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 200 C, and meanwhile wash and prepare the roots.
2. If the beetroot is large quarter it and wrap each quarter in a small amount of foil so that it is sealed.  Place on baking sheet in oven for approx 30mins (keep testing with a knife until you’re satisfied they’re tender.
3. Slice the carrots lengthways and lay in a small oven dish and drizzle with a little oil and season.  Place in oven and roast until tender and a little brown and crispy at the edges.
4. When your veg is cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool, before attempting to peel the skin off the beetroots.  Then cut the beets and carrots into bite size chunks.
5. Make the salad dressing by mixing roughly equal parts oil to maple syrup, add the garlic and add the sherry vinegar until you like the balance of sweet/sour.  Season to taste.
6. Mix salad leaves with roasted veg and dress salad just before serving.


Potato stuffed dosa with veggie curry

The Dosa was a new discovery for me – I found a packet in the ‘Ethnic Foods Aisle’ at Tesco’s and picked it up, as I was intrigued.  For those that don’t know, it’s a lentil-flour based pancake type thing: In the pack is a powder which you mix with water, then fry in a pan until it goes slightly crunchy whilst still being bendy! It has a lovely subtle but warm flavour and interesting texture.  And the brand name is rather amusing ‘Gits’! tee hee!

Anyway, the filling I put in was based on an Aloo Masala for Dosa (Potato masala) found on Manjula’s kitchen website: The only difference was that I added onion for more flavour and cut down on the green chilli (as I’m a bit of a spice coward!). Oh and I pre-cooked the potatoes so it wouldn’t take so long.

The curry was a simply paste-and-veg jobbie (usually best when you’ve spent time on something else and are suddenly very hungry!).  Ingredients as follows:

Simple veggie curry: (use what you have in the fridge!)
1 onion,
1 Yellow pepper, chopped into largeish chunks
1 Red pepper, chopped into largeish chunks
A few mushrooms, sliced
Rogan Josh curry paste (Patak’s – but whatever flavour takes your fancy)
Tin of Chickpeas
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of lemon

1. Fry your onion in a little oil.
2. When softened, add curry paste (according to pack instructions) and fry for a short while.
3. Add the veg (start with the one that needs most cooking, like the peppers, and gradually add the others allowing each to cook a little before you add the next.
4. Add the chickpeas and tinned tomatoes
5. Cook until all veg is tender.
6. Squeeze over and stir in a little fresh lemon juice (optional, but gives it a lift) and garnish with coriander, unless your husband doesn’t like it!!

Harvest-stuffed mushrooms and maple roasted sprouts

Dinner last night was delicious and exciting.  I’m exploring more and more vegan recipes and find Chef Chloe is very inspiring – I shall be dipping in her recipe collection regularly, I feel!  I know my presentation isn’t as nice as hers, but hey, I’m just cooking dinner here! Here is the link to Chloe’s recipe for these Harvest Stuffed Portabello mushrooms and Maple Roasted Sprouts.

Harvest Stuffed mushrooms

Chef Chloe's Harvest Stuffed mushrooms and maple roasted brussel sprouts served with Jacket Potato.

My hubby and I both love the nutty texture of the mushrooms and the sprouts were awesome!  I’ve never roasted them before, and this way made them soooo tasty! My sprouts were quite small, so I think 30 mins would have been just enough, but I did them for 45.  Still the ‘burnt bits’ added a smoky taste that actually went very well with the syrup! The addition of the hazelnuts at the end really took the biscuit! I’m going to try maple roasting other things now I’ve invested in a nice bottle of maple syrup (I love the stuff – reminds me of our honeymoon to Nova Scotia, when we visited the sugarbush farm near our holiday home and where everything was made of maple syrup!).

Thanks Chloe!

Gado Gado – Indonesian salad with Satay

Gado Gado - an indonesian staple

This meal was tasty and interesting although a little time-consuming to prepare, so I enlisted Rich’s help to expedite things… Taken from ‘The Asian Vegan Kitchen’ by Hema Parekh, I used my own (family) Satay recipe instead as this didn’t involve deep frying peanuts….!

Basically, the main work is preparing all the veg/carbs: This is what is on the plate and how I prepared it:

Potatoes – cubed and deep fried until cooked
Tofu – silken tofu, cubed, dipped in cornflour and deep fried until golden
1 carrot, julienned, then blanched*
some cabbage, cut into ‘squares’, then blanched
2 handfuls beansprouts, blanched
cucumber sliced thinly

*to blanche, just add prepared veg to boiling water for abut 1 min, remove and refresh in iced water. (I ran out of ice, so just ran fresh cold from the tap, which was fine).