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.

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!

Tamarind Dal

Tamarind Dal with Rice

Why has it taken me sooo long to make a dal? Especially when they are so simple? And sooo tasty!

Inspired by the dal I had eaten at the Coco Diner (see post “Coco Delights“) I wanted to recreate it as closely as I could.  Though in the menu it said there was cream in the dal, I chose not to do this, wanting to avoid unnecessary dairy… Knowing the recipe had curry leaves, mustard seeds lentils and was a South Indian dish, I did some searches online, found some recipes and modified them to make my own.  Here’s what I did:

1 cup red split lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup tamarind water *
a few curry leaves (I used dried)
1 tsp turmeric
chilli powder (to your preference – I had just a sprinkle for a mild dal)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
good pinch of hing (asafoetida)
2 medium sized ripe tomatoes, chopped

1. Put the lentils in a pan with the water/tamarind water, turmeric, chilli powder and curry leaves.  Cook until lentils are soft (approx 30 mins, but may vary).  You may need to add more water if the lentils get dry, but don’t let them get too watery, as red lentils go all mushy, so it’d be hard to drain, off: you’d probably have to cook down.
2. Whilst the lentils are cooking, chop the onion very finely.  Heat some oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onion along with the hing and mustard seeds until the onion is thorougly softened, starting to go a little brown.  When nearly done, add the chopped tomatoes and cook these down until soft.
3. Once the lentils and the onion mixture is cooked, add everything in the frying pan into the lentils, stir, taste, season if necessary, then serve.

*Tamarind water: It can be hard to get real tamarind pods but you can find tamarind paste in quite a lot of supermarkets now. Because I work for them, Blue Dragon tamarind paste was on hand.  You just mix a teaspoon of paste with hot water to get 100ml of tamarind water. Easy as pie!

Caramelised onion-butternut roast with chestnuts

Another Veganomicon recipe (p152), this was deliciously sweet – to be served with plain accompaniments, eg, steamed green veg or breads.  Very nice and Christmassy with the inclusion of chestnuts and sage in the topping.
I won’t list the ingredients as I have a feeling I’m going to end up copying out every recipe from Veganomicon at this rate!

Caramelised onion-butternut roast with chestnuts

It has beans in it which makes it nice and satisfying – good to have as your ‘meat’ for a roast dinner (in case mum and dad invite me round! – it’s always good to have a nice recipe to use).

Roasted Portabellos and butternut squash

I’ve just bought a few vegan cookbooks in an effort to find more recipes without cheese, as  I have developed an intolerance to it. This is a good thing in most ways, since cheese is the product of an unethical milk industry; it is addictive and fattening and it predisposes you to all sorts of illnesses as you age, including osteoporosis, ironically.  For more info on my milk is not the wonder product the industry claims it to be see this website: Not Milk

Anyway, so far the star player in my cookbook collection is “Veganomicon” a really interesting Vegan book the writers claim to be the ‘ultimate vegan cookbook’.  This post charts my first cooking adventure: Roasted Portobellos served with Roasted butternut squash with coriander seeds: a pretty tasty and satisfying meal.

Roasted portabellos served with roasted butternut squash with coriander seeds, steamed broccoli and spinach

First I got the squash going – oven about 200C:

1. Cut your butternut squash into bite-size pieces, put in an oven tray and toss in some olive oil until all pieces coated lightly.
2. Crush in a pestle and mortar about 1tbsp of Coriander seeds (don’t grind too small, as the texture is nice), then mix in with the squash, and place in the oven.
3. Cook squash for about 35 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Make sure your squash is starting to go a bit brown – this is when it starts to caramelise and taste really sweet and smokey. mmm.

3 portabello mushrooms (for 2 people to share)
1/2 cup cooking wine
1tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Mix marinade ingredients together and bathe mushrooms in for about 20mins, then cover and cook in oven for 30mins.
2. Take cover/foil off then flip them over before returning to oven for a further 10 mins.

This recipe leaves your mushrooms tasting quite rich and meaty, so they can be used for all sorts including burgers, salads or served like a meat in a meal like we did.

Tofu & stir fried veg with miso noodles

Tofu and miso with stir fried veggies

Realising that plain silken tofu and noodles in a miso (my original intention) would have been rather bland and unsatisfying to a fussy palate, I used whatever I could find in the fridge to jazz this up a bit!

Here are the ingredients – quantities are not measured, as they really are up to you and how much you want – there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

1 block silken tofu (firm), cut into bite size chunks
miso paste (I used a mixture of red and white, but if you only choose one, use red, like barley or brown rice miso)
veg stock
crushed garlic
red chillis chopped
pak choi/bok choi or any suitable soft greens like spinach or chard (this is what I used)
baby corn (finely sliced)
mushrooms (finely sliced)
yellow pepper (finely sliced)
spring onions (finely sliced)
fresh coriander

'bird's eye view' (but don't worry, the bird isn't likely to eat this!)

1. Cook noodles, drain and refresh with cold water to stop cooking – divide between bowls to be served in.
2. Stir fry your garlic, some of the chilli, peppers, baby corn, mushrooms, and some spring onions. When cooked, spoon ontop of noodles in their bowls.
3.  Meanwhile cook your pak choi (or other greens) by boiling for a couple of mins in the veg stock.
4. When wilted, take off the boil and stir in your miso paste (you mustn’t boil miso, as it destroys the goodness).  Taste the broth and add more miso until you like the flavour.
5. Scatter the tofu cubes onto the noodles and pour over the broth.
6. Garnish with your spring onions, chilli and coriander (you can add this to the broth at the end if you prefer).

Eat with a bib, as this is a messy, slurpy dish!  I’m told it’s considered polite in Japan to make slurpy noises when eating your noodles, as it’s a sign you’re enjoying the dish!  Not sure the Japanese would approve of my hybrid version, but we did!  With a nice kick from the chilli, fresh greenness from the coriander, wholesome goodness from the tofu and warmth from the miso – the stir fried veg just added that extra big of flavour and excitement: and we felt holier-than-thou eating it! nom nom…. slurp.

Thai Green Curry with Sweet potato and mixed veg

Mmmmm! easy peasy curry using shop bought paste BUT Warning: Many Thai Red & Green curry pastes have fish sauce in them, so this is not vegetarian.  I used Blue Dragon Premium Green Curry paste (small black jar). If you can’t find any from shopping around and are an avid fan, you might have to resort to making your own paste, but it can be hard (at least in most parts of the UK) to find the exotic ingredients.

Some of the veg I put in the curry!

Thai Green (or Red) can be made with pretty much whatever you fancy tossing into it.  I made the main feature Sweet Potato, and added chunks of courgette, mushroom, green beans, peas and tomatoes into the mix.  I served this with brown rice, because I’m trying to be saintly and majorly up my wholegrain consumption, but if you want it for a more special occasion, Thai Jasmine rice is particularly nice and fragrant.

Here’s a list of what I used and how I used it:

Ingredients (for 2):
1 tbsp oil
3 tsp thai green curry paste (depends on brand you are using – so check pack directions)
1 heaped teaspoon of ground coriander seeds (you may think this isn’t necessary, but I guarantee it makes a tastier, richer sauce)
400ml tin coconut milk
All your veg (see above for what I used).
Coriander to garnish

1. Heat oil in a pan (wok or deep frying pan)
2. Add curry paste and fry for a minute or so, being careful not to burn.
3. Add your coriander powder, stir and continue frying paste, stirring constantly.
4. Scoop out the fat that may have settled at the top of your can of coconut milk and add this to the paste, allowing to bubble with it for a minute before adding the rest of the tin.  (Don’t worry if it hasn’t separated, just pour a bit in to start then add the rest)
5. Add your veg – the slowest cooking first, and gradually add as the various veg require.  I added the sweet potato and left it for nearly 10 mins before adding anything else.  Make sure you cut it smallish, as it will take forever otherwise.
6. When all veg is cooked TASTE your sauce and make sure you are happy with its flavour.  At this point Thais would adjust the flavour of their curry by adding sugar and salt – palm sugar and fish sauce.  Of course fish sauce is out – buy soy is a good substitute, although it will darken your curry a little.  And normal sugar is fine – but if you have a brown sugar (not too dark), then that might be a little nicer.  The trick is to keep tasting. I added a small dash of soy sauce, and that was all that was needed.

Thai green curry

Sweet Potato Thai Green Curry served with brown rice