Category Archives: Vegetarian

Tangy tofu noodles


Something weird happened. I made tofu and I liked it. I don’t like tofu. It’s always seemed to me like a punishment for not eating meat, a banishment from taste and texture. But not this time! It’s all very exciting.

Some context: my fridge-freezer has started humming loudly, every so often pausing to make a loud bang as if it’s trying to escape from the wall. I thought it was haunted before, when it did this to a far lesser degree, but if there is indeed a haunting that ghost is now very angry. Apparently the first stage in exorcising it is to defrost the whole thing, which means eating all that stuff I bought well-meaningly and then never used. Thus tofu. But don’t run away! It’s tasty.

For the tofu:
396g pack of firm tofu
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp dried powdered ginger
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the noodles:
3 packets of fine noodles (4 for a big meal)
1 red pepper
250g fine beans
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Serves 4
Calories: 380
Takes 30 minutes to make, plus 30+ minutes for marinating

Stage one: Drain the tofu and cut it into bite-size pieces. Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar and garlic until the sugar has dissolved, then put it in a bowl with the tofu and marinate for at least 30 minutes, giving it a stir half way through so all the tofu absorbs the flavour.

Stage two: Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan then remove the tofu from the marinade with a slotted spoon and fry for 10 minutes, flipping the tofu so that each side is browned. It won’t go particularly crispy, but it will be very tasty. When the tofu is done, remove it from the heat and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet and drain.


Stage three: In a saucepan, fry the beans, pepper and 1 clove of garlic in the vegetable oil and 1 tbsp soy sauce for 5-10 minutes until they go soft. I left mine unattended for a couple of minutes and they caught slightly, but that’s okay, it gave them a hint of smokiness that I actually liked. What I’m getting at here is that this may all seem a bit complicated but if a bit goes wrong it doesn’t matter.


Stage four: Combine the vegetables and noodles in the pan and mix with the leftover marinade and the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar and mix well. Dish up into bowls and then serve the tofu on top. This works just as well cold as hot!



Pea risotto


I post here when I’ve made food that I eat and think “yes, this is good, I’d like to eat this again”. I’ve been living (mostly) alone for the last week and a bit, and I had plans. I was going to make exciting meals, experiment, oh such things I was going to show you. And then I was lazy, and mostly made combinations of pasta, veg and cheese. I didn’t post that. You already know how to make that. But this risotto is good! It’s low effort, tasty, and relies on ingredients you (or at least I) already have in.


200g Arborio rice
100g frozen peas
1 onion
850ml hot vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
50g parmesan

Serves 3
Calories: 470
Takes 30 minutes to make

Stage one: Fry the onion over a low-medium heat in the oil until it is translucent. Stir in the rice and lightly fry for 30 seconds.

Stage two: Add the vegetable stock one ladle at a time, stirring until the stock is absorbed before adding the next ladle. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on the heat. When you’re adding the final ladle, stir in the peas. Stir in most of the parmesan, then sprinkle the rest over the top (with a little basil if you’re fancy) and eat immediately.

Mushroom tart


That tart is exciting. It’s light and lemony and tastes of summer. And most importantly, it’s all about the mushrooms. I adapted this recipe from the one in the River Cottage Everyday cookbook, which celebrates food in way I really like. Simple ingredients, simple methods, big flavours. In this case, the central ingredient is the mushrooms. This tart would be perfectly adequate if you just used one type of mushroom, but don’t do that. There’s something wonderful about the range of textures and shapes that can occur within the category of things that are still mushrooms. The more of them you can have going on in this tart, the better. I used chestnut, button and oyster mushrooms.

150g puff pastry
200g mixed mushrooms
a pat of butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
20g parmesan, grated

Serves 2 as a light main or very substantial starter
Calories: 390
Takes 45 minutes to make

Stage one: Roll out the pastry into whatever shape you like. Make it round or square, it’s all the same to me. Fold the edges over. Pop it in the fridge while you’re cooking the mushrooms.


Stage two: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C. Thickly slice the mushrooms where appropriate. By appropriate, I mean slice chestnut mushrooms, but only halve oyster mushrooms or other fiddly types.

Stage three: In a saucepan, melt the pat of butter over a medium heat and then add in the mushrooms, stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms start to reduce, stir in the garlic. Continue to cook until the water that seeps out of the mushrooms has evaporated. Remove from the heat, and then stir in the lemon zest and parsley. Season lightly – the lemon already adds a lot of flavour!


Stage four: Take the pastry out of the fridge and spread the mushrooms over the top. Sprinkle on the parmesan.


Stage five: Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry has gone golden. Serve hot or cold.


Carrot falafel


I’m procrastinating. I’m writing this post as slowly as possible because I don’t want to clean the bath. It’s not really my fault: I blame whitefly, which are persistently infesting my indoor plants this year. I don’t mind if it’s herbs, I just bin them or put them outside to face the gale force winds on my balcony. But this is different. This time they have spread to my miniature orange tree, and I remember writing a post not too long ago about how keeping this tree alive means that I am a grown-up. I will not have my symbolic adulthood destroyed by whitefly! I don’t know what the real-life metaphor for that destruction would be, but I don’t want to find out. Which leads me to the bath. Today I painstakingly washed the leaves and branches of my orange tree with soapy water. It looks happier. My bath, the location of this washing, is however now full of leaves and soil. I want to take a shower. I need to move the orange tree. I need to clean out the leaves and soil. And then in 3 days I need to do it all over again. And then again. Or maybe I could write this post and put it all off, and then maybe I’ll go to the bath and see a little note of apology from the whiteflies saying they were sorry to bother me and won’t be coming back. I’d like that.

On to falafel. I’ve been making falafel for a while, and it’s always been fine but I’ve just been that bit underwhelmed by it. In my heart, I have known that this was because I simply refuse to put in the oodles of salt and oil needed to make plain falafel truly tasty like the stuff you get from a take-away. I just can’t do it. My solution was to add carrots, which give extra texture, flavour and bulk, and then to bake the lot to give it the crunch I’m looking for. Much better. I serve this with pita, salad veg and hummus/salsa. I’ve packed an extra serving for my lunch tomorrow, and I’m already looking forward to it.


450g carrots
1 red onion
a 400g tin of chickpeas
a 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped finely
1 large egg
4 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Makes about 20 falafel balls to serve 4 people
Calories per serving (not including pita etc): 260
Takes 15 minutes to make, 20 minutes to bake

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C. Blend the carrots, red onion and chickpeas to the size of your choice. I blend a couple of seconds at a time, because I like my falafel chunky and I like to see the different colours. Other people may like them smoother. Anyway, pick a texture and blend accordingly.

Stage two: In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. I’ve added sea salt as a specific ingredient here because you’ll need to add more salt than you would if you were just seasoning. Use sea salt if possible. You’re working with pulses here, which aren’t already packed with flavour and salt like meat or cheese. It’s like if you’re seasoning from a table salt shaker – season as usual and then add 3 more shakes for luck.


Stage three: Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper, and then ball out the falafel. Again, whatever size you like will work here. I went for falafel about the size of a heaped tablespoon. And yes, I did this bit with my hands. I’m sure you could use spoons if you want, but hands is easier as the mixture is quite crumbly.


Stage four: Bake for 15-20 minutes until they look crispy. Enjoy hot or cold.


Vegetarian chili wraps


I spent work today sitting in a sunbeam next to a window through which came a light breeze. It’s summer! Life is good! OK, ironically literally as I wrote this the sky has turned from blue to grey and it has started raining. From this I could derive some kind of life lesson about taking things for granted, or maybe something about the greatest joys being brief, but in truth I don’t really think I’m interested in that and it’s kind of trite. Plus, it doesn’t change anything! I still had a lovely day, and I still used that lovely day as an opportunity to make a lovely summery dinner. For me, this means wraps. I love wraps. I could eat a million of them, preferably with a tasty and nutritious filling, but I’m not picky. I can eat them with Marmite. I can just rip into them plain. I crave them.

Warning: you will make a mess when eating these wraps. Do not eat them in front of people you want to impress. Eat them in front of people you can laugh with. Everyone makes a mess in a different way. I catapulted vegetables over the table, my lap and the floor as I ate mine. My husband somehow managed to make all the tomato juice come out of the bottom of his. It’s a voyage of discovery. Don’t wear a white t-shirt.

1 tin of kidney beans, drained
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 large white onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tin sweetcorn, drained
200g cherry tomatoes
1 large avocado, or 2 small avocados
a handful of fresh parsley
grated cheese to serve (optional)

Makes 6 wraps
Calories: 340
Takes 20-25 minutes to make

Stage one: Finely chop the onion, crush the garlic, and cook them in a saucepan over a medium heat until the onion has gone translucent. This should take about 5 minutes. Then, add in the chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, chilli powder, coriander and cumin. Season to taste. Give everything a stir, reduce the heat to low, and leave it to do its thing while you prep the rest of the veg.

Stage two: Chop the avocado and halve the cherry tomatoes. I know you don’t need to halve the cherry tomatoes, but I find it hard enough to eat wraps as it is without spraying tomato all over the place. Combine them in a bowl with the sweetcorn and parsley and give everything a mix.


Stage three: Put the wraps together! Dollop in the centre a sixth of the bean mix, then spoon over some salad, and finally sprinkle some grated cheese on top (if you like). Accept that as you are going to make a colossal mess, and enjoy.


Sweet potato bake (aka fake Dauphinoise)


I’ve never been quite sure about Dauphinoise potatoes. I get the point: they’re rich and creamy, which to me is a great quality in a foodstuff. The thing is, I always find myself wanting something more. I want a bit more crunch, a bit more flavour, something a little more substantial that (if possible) won’t make me feel guilty. Somehow, thinking along this vein led me to the conclusion that I could make my own version of the Dauphinoise by basically changing all the ingredients. The plus side of doing it this way is that you can have this as a light main course or a side, and it’s neither too bland for the main nor too overwhelming for the side.

850g sweet potatoes
1 red onion
100g cheddar (I used low fat)
150ml semi skimmed milk
3 eggs
1 tsp wholegrain mustard

Serves 4 (or 6 as a side)
Calories: 350 (if serving 4)
Takes 30 minutes to make, 30 minutes to cook

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan180C. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes, and thinly slice the onions. Put in a roasting tin. If you don’t want the top really crispy, now would be the time to measure out some tinfoil to put over the roasting tin half way through and set it aside for later.


Stage two: In a bowl, combine the milk, eggs and mustard, and season well. Pour the mixture over the potato and onion. Grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the top.


Stage three: Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. Have a look after 15-20 minutes and decide how crispy you want the top. I like the top really crispy, so I just left the roasting tin uncovered, and the top potatoes went all crisp and the onions charred slightly. It’s a personal taste. If you’re not weird like me, very carefully cover the roasting tin with tinfoil and return to the oven.


Sour cream quiche


I’m kind of a control freak in the kitchen. Partly this is because most of what I make is really easy and only requires one person, so to integrate a second person into the process usually involves significant amounts of added time as I explain to them what they need to do and generally natter. This process also amplifies the risk of me injuring myself, which is sadly already very high. However, moving in with someone has made me realise that I am also an ingredients control freak. I plan my recipes a few days in advance and write a list, and sometimes I hand that list to Robbie to do my shopping for me, and sometimes the stores don’t stock all the ingredients on said list and he gets a bit creative, which means that sometimes I need to totally rethink what I’m making. In this case, soured cream was substituted for creme fraiche. This led me to a bit of a dilemma, because I’m perfectly happy dolloping low fat creme fraiche onto everything, but pouring an entire container of soured cream into a very buttery pastry case was a bit intimidating for me (and my arteries). And then I got over it, because it’s yummy. And there’s sweetcorn! I love sweetcorn!


300g shortcrust pastry
300ml soured cream
1 tin sweetcorn
2 red onions
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 eggs

Serves 6
Calories per serving: 400
Takes 2 hours to make

Stage one: Thinly slice the onions and then put them in a saucepan with the balsamic vinegar and vegetable oil. Cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, while you deal with the pastry – the longer the better!

Stage two: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C. Roll out the shortcrust pastry and lay it in a 20cm tart case, pressing it into the edges. Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and cover with baking beans, then blind bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Then remove from the oven and pour the baking beans back into their container, and return to the oven for 10 minutes until the pastry is biscuit brown.


Stage three: Spread out the onions over the bottom of the pastry case.


Stage four: In a bowl, mix the soured cream, sweetcorn, eggs and lots of seasoning. Pour the mixture over the top of the onions in the case, being careful it doesn’t spill over the top of the pastry.


Stage five: Pop in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the top has gone golden. It tastes good hot, and amazing cold!