Tag Archives: vegan

Chickpea and tomato bake


I’m having a good few days for finding ways to flavour ingredients I normally struggle with. My solution with today’s ingredient, chickpeas, was to make the sauce by roasting rather than frying and keeping the chickpeas in it the whole way through. Normally I add them towards the end to stop them from overcooking, but this time I just bunged everything in a roasting pan and I liked the result. The aubergine almost melts into the sauce, becoming buttery. The brown rice (and I think it’s pretty important to use brown rice, but it’s your call) provides chew, complementing the softness of the chickpeas and tomatoes. All in all, this dish is comforting and warm, good for when it has literally not stopped raining all day and you haven’t slept the night before.


400g tin of chickpeas
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 white onion
1 clove garlic
1 aubergine
200g cherry tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tbsp olive oil
300g brown rice

Serves 4
Calories: 450
Takes 50 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C. Get out a roasting tin. Drain the chickpeas and tip them in. Add the chopped tomatoes. Thinly slice and onion and finely chop the garlic and bung them in too, along with the cherry tomatoes. Chop the aubergine into cubes of about an inch and add. Drizzle in the oil, chilli and oregano and season really well – chickpeas aren’t salty, so you’ll need to add some extra tang. Give everything a mix around, and then try not to look at it too hard. It won’t look promising. It looks like it will never come together. It looks bad. Don’t worry, it will be alright. Put it in the oven and cook for 40 minutes, giving it a mix around every 10-15 minutes so it doesn’t catch.


Stage two: Cook the brown rice according to the instructions on the packet. Brown rice usually takes ages to cook – mine took about 35 minutes. If it takes longer than you’d expect, that’s ok because the vegetables won’t suffer for an extra 5 or 10 minutes in the oven.


Stage three: Drain the rice (if necessary) and dish it out, and then serve the chickpea bake on top.


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!


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.


Comforting pasta with tomato and (veggie) sausage sauce


I keep moving back the boundaries of what I call adulthood. It used to be getting a job, and then it was graduating, and then it was moving out of home and getting married, but somehow I never felt I’d got there. But now I actually feel like I’ve made it. In the brief interval of sun on Sunday, I bought potted plants in the hope that this summer I will actually get to spend some time around greenery without being rained on. I think it’s because when you buy a potted plant, it says you are staying put in your current home, and are responsible enough not to kill everything in your care. Very grown up. If I kill the plant, does that mean that I have failed at adulthood? Time will tell. Anyway, I type this on a table that is now shared by a tiny bitter orange tree. But what I’m posting today is not as gloriously sunny as those lovely little oranges, because after stumbling exhausted through a day of rain and fog I wanted comfort in a bowl. And I wanted to put cheese on it. And I wanted to eat it all with a spoon.


250g veggie sausages
1 onion
2 gloves garlic
1 red pepper
250g mushrooms
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 spring rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
220g pasta
grated cheddar, to serve (optional)

Serves 4
Calories: 410
Takes 50 minutes to make

Stage one: Slice the veggie sausages, finely chop the onion and crush/chop the garlic. Cook them with the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat until the onions have gone translucent – this will take 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, wash and slice the mushrooms and red pepper, and pull apart the rosemary. When the onion is done, add the mushrooms, pepper and rosemary, and cook for a further 10 minutes.


Stage two: Add the chopped tomatoes, season well, and simmer. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta. I know 220g doesn’t seem like that much pasta for four, but trust me, it’s a seriously filling dish. Then mix everything together, and serve with some grated cheese.


Carrot and lentil pasta sauce


I missed British summer this year. I was in New York, where it poured with rain almost constantly for the entirety of my visit. There’s a lovely picture I took of Robbie pointing at what we think may have been the Statue of Liberty, although it’s hard to tell through the mist. The man at the foot of the Rockefeller centre pointed up at the thick cloud shrouding the top and told us to give up on getting a view. Ironically, on the days we decided to give up and do things inside, there were suddenly brief periods of sun that we saw through the windows. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind rain. It made the city feel more like home. But now it’s grey and damp in Newcastle and will remain so for the foreseeable future. I think this makes it legitimate for me to make a comforting lentil pasta sauce. The carrots make this sauce bright and cheerful – in fact, it may be the closest thing to real sunlight I have seen today. It is tasty and satisfying. Like most of my lentil-based foods, you cannot identify a single one of the lentils that is in it.


4 carrots, peeled and chopped
250g tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100g lentils
400ml vegetable stock
300g pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp chilli powder
parmesan, to serve (optional)

Serves 4
Calories: 440
Takes 30 minutes

Stage one: Prep the vegetables. You don’t need to be too careful about doing this because you’ll be blending them later, this is really just to get them to cook faster. On a medium heat in a medium saucepan, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 3 minutes until the onion is soft. Meanwhile, rinse the lentils.


Stage two: Add in all the remaining ingredients except the pasta, bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Leave for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the lentils have gone slightly mushy. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a separate saucepan.

Stage three: When the lentil sauce is cooked, remove it from the heat. Don’t worry that it looks so uninspiring, just blend to the consistency you prefer. Suddenly it is bright and beautiful! Lentils and carrots do that. Season to taste and serve immediately with a sprinkling of parmesan. This is one of those dishes that you wouldn’t think will be nice cold for lunch the next day, but for some reason it is. Just saying.


Sweet tooth salad


I have a sweet tooth. My dream three-course meal would be three different desserts. I really only eat main course because I can follow it with pudding, and any way to smuggle sweet things into the main course is a great bonus. This salad is a wonderful solution. Its main ingredient is spinach, so is obviously meant as a main course, but on a number of occasions my guests have requested that it stay out for dessert because of its sweetness and general deliciousness.

I’m loving the strawberries this year! Last year I mostly made this salad using mango, which works really well, but the strawberries marginally beat mango when combined with the sharpness of the dressing. A tip for perfectly sweet berries: take them out of the fridge, wash them, and leave them to come to room temperature for at least 4 hours before serving them. If you’re on a tight budget or don’t have fresh fruit, just grab a big handful of raisins or dried cranberries. It doesn’t make as decadent a salad, but works well enough.

photo (2)

200g bag spinach
200g punnet strawberries, thickly sliced
50g caster sugar
50ml white wine vinegar
50ml vegetable oil
1 tsp each poppy seeds and sesame seeds (optional)

Serves 6 as a side
Calories: 125
Takes 5 minutes to make

Put the spinach and strawberries in a salad bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the vegetable oil, mix, and then drizzle over the top of the salad. Finally sprinkle over the seeds, toss and serve. Easy and wonderful!

Thai red curry


In certain contexts I really love lentils. Basically, they need to not be identifiable as lentils. Red lentils in a curry do this really well – you just cook them until they go soupy and creamy and wonderful. This also solves the problem of how to make a thick but healthy curry sauce. Plus you can adapt this curry to fit whatever you have in your fridge that needs eating. I call that a win.


250g chestnut mushrooms, halved
200g spinach, washed
200g lentils, washed
1 large white onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
3 tbsp thai red curry paste (or more to taste)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 litre vegetable stock
1/2 can reduced fat coconut milk (OR use the full can and 750ml stock if you want a creamier curry)
serve with rice

Serves 6 medium servings or 4 big servings
Calories: 190 (when serving 6, not including rice)
Takes 30-40 minutes to make

Stage one: Slice the onion and prep the mushrooms and pepper. Then fry the onion in the vegetable oil over a low heat until it is soft and lightly coloured. Add in the pepper, mushrooms, and 2 tbsp of the curry paste, raise the heat to medium-high and fry for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the stock if you’re using fresh stock, or boil the kettle if using powdered/cube stock. Wash the lentils in a seive until the water runs clear.


Stage two: Add the stock, 1 tbsp more curry paste, and boil. I know you’re meant to reduce it to a simmer immediately after reaching the boil, but I like my lentils really mushy, so I only reduce the heat to medium. Your choice! Leave for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare your rice.


Stage three: Stir in the coconut milk. Give it a taste, and add more coconut milk and more curry paste depending on how sweet or how spicy you like your curry. My husband doesn’t like particularly spicy food, so I left it as it was and it still tasted great. Finally, stir in the spinach until it wilts – this will only take a minute. Serve immediately.