Rich Mushroom Soup


My husband is a proud Yorkshire man and was brought up on a diet of all things Yorkshire, all of which he was delighted to introduce me to when we started dating. One of the foodstuffs he most loves is Hendersons Relish. I’d never heard of this before I met him, so there’s a good chance you may not have either. It’s like Worcester Sauce (don’t hate me, Yorkshire people), in that has an intense, savoury richness which adds an incredible umami flavour to any dish. Yorkshire people particularly like their pies slathered with it – and with good reason.

When we decided to try out the plant based diet, deep, savoury flavours were the ones I thought I’d miss the most. However, on making a mushroom soup, I have discovered that this does not necessarily need to be the case. I found, quite by chance, that Hendersons Relish (unlike Worcester Sauce) is vegan friendly. Woo!

This earthy soup is a wonderful warmer for lunch, as a starter, or with a fat hunk of sour dough, a satisfying dinner. Enjoy!

Rich Mushroom Soup

Serves 4 – takes 30 minutes 

3tbsp olive oil

1 onion

4 cloves garlic

600g mushrooms 

1 vegan stock cube

600ml water

3 tbsp Hendersons Relish

2 slices whole grain bread

Handful chopped chives

1. Roughly chop the onion and add to a large casserole dish with two tablespoons of the olive oil. Sauté gently for 5 minutes.

2. Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan, then roughly slice the mushrooms and add these too. Cook (without stirring) for 3-4 minutes, then add the stock cube, water and seasoning and cover. Simmer for ten minutes.

3. Meanwhile, put your oven on to the highest temperature. Cut the bread up into rough squares and toss with the remaining oil and some salt. Put in the oven and cook for 5-10 minutes until golden and crisp.

4. Whizz your soup with a blender or food processor. If it’s too thin, add some more water to your liking, then add the Hendersons Relish. Check your seasoning and add more if necessary.

5. To serve, top each bowl with a handful of croutons and chopped chives. Yum!

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Black Forest Fruits and Beetroot Smoothie


Mornings can be rushed. Particularly weekday mornings. And when you’re trying to eat more healthily, it’s hard to avoid falling into the trap of grabbing something quick and instantly gratifying for breakfast (like a cereal bar). 

If you’ve got two minutes and a smoothie maker though, you have a healthy and nutritious breakfast at your fingertips.

When I first got my smoothie maker, I was a bit put off by the fruit and veg prep – if I’ve got to peel, slice, and de stone then it’s not exactly quick and easy. For this recipe, though, the extent of the prep is pouring – so easy and so delicious!


Black Forest Fruits and Beetroot Smoothie

Serve one

Ingredients 

1 handful frozen Black Forest Fruits

1 handful oats

250ml beetroot juice

1. Put all of the ingredients in the smoothie maker. Top up with water.

2. Whizz. Add more water if it’s too thick. 

You’re done! Simple, quick and so healthy.

Lentil Chilli with Roasted Sweet Potato


I have had a hiatus. It was supposed to be a two week hiatus – a little break to free up my crammed evenings. It turned into almost two and a half years! I have still been cooking; new recipes, old recipes. Some I’ve been keen to share, but I just didn’t have the momentum.

Then, things changed. Two things fell into place: a holiday, and a new outlook on food.

The holiday has left me with spare time I didn’t have before, and the new outlook came from watching a documentary called What The Health. A brief scour of the net tells us that, as with anything, the facts may not be entirely as presented in this documentary. However, it left me thinking that a plant based diet may be a good thing to try for a while, to see if there are any individual benefits for us.

I struggled though – where are the exciting, inventive vegan recipes? I’m not talking about making a chocolate cake from avocado, I’m talking about something quick, tasty and nourishing to fill you up on a week night. So, I decided to come back to log, mainly for myself, my plant based recipes. I’m hoping to aim for two a week – if I fall off the blogging wagon again, feel free to throw me back on it!

A couple of caveats – I’m aiming for plant based, not vegan, so there may be bits and pieces you’re not happy with if you’re vegan (check the ingredients list). Secondly, I’m not envisaging this to be an all consuming diet and I’m sure I’ll move away from it sometimes. We’ll see how it goes- this is the very beginning!

I have called this recipe a chilli for want of a better word although it has no spice (you could add some though); it is smoky and satisfying and very very easy!


Lentil Chilli with Roasted Sweet Potatoes 

Serves 4

Ingredients 

4 large sweet potatoes

3tbsp olive oil 

1 onion

400g chestnut mushrooms

400ml passata

2 x 250g packets of ready to eat lentils

2tsp smoked paprika

1tep dried oregano

2tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

1. Put the sweet potatoes in a bag and pour over 2 tbsp of the oil. Add a generous pinch of salt and rub them well to make sure they’re coated. Tip onto a baking tray and slice a cross into the top of each one with a sharp knife. Put in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour (or longer – the longer the better in my opinion). They’re done when a knife cuts through them easily.

2. For the chilli, finely chop the onion. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and add the onion, stirring, for two minutes. 

3. Chop the mushrooms into chunks and add to the pan. Leave to cook until they are starting to turn golden.

4. Add the passata, lentils, smoked paprika and oregano. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes, then taste and season with salt and pepper.

5. Just before you are about to eat, add the chopped parsley to the chilli. Slice the sweet potatoes and dollop the chilli on top. We also had a spoonful of vio life vegan cream cheese on top for a little creaminess, but this is optional.

Enjoy!

Mexican Bean Stew


Mexican Bean Stew (2)

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel a bit tired and sluggish, and like you probably need to pump your body full of good things? Well, this is the most delicious remedy! It’s full of beans, grains and vegetables (and topped with a healthy portion of dairy too – optional of course!).

I didn’t fancy making this dish today. I had a lovely griddled pork chop dish planned, but on getting home from work realised my pork chops were a bit old! However, once I threw this together I was glad I did. It’s full of deep, earthy Mexican flavours and really is the most simple way of injecting good stuff into your diet.

This will serve 3-4 (just increase the amount of beans and chopped tomatoes if you want to serve more) and takes 30 minutes to make.

Mexican Bean Stew (1)

Mexican Bean Stew

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 small glass red wine

1 x 400g tin black beans

1 x 400g tin black eyed beans

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 yellow peppers

150g quinoa

1 large handful fresh coriander

Soured cream and grated cheddar, to serve

1. Chop the onion and garlic and put in a large saucepan with the olive oil. Sizzle for 2 minutes, then add the paprika, cumin, ground coriander and cinnamon. Stir well, then tip in the red wine. Allow to bubble down.

2. Add the black beand and black eyed beans (with a little of the water from the tins) and chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the chopped yellow peppers and quinoa. Add a little water if it’s too thick, and bring to the boil. Let it simmer gently for approximately 10 minutes until the quinoa is cooked.

4. Turn off the heat and stir through the chopped coriander. To serve, top each bowl with a little grated cheese and a dollop of soured cream. Enjoy the health kick!

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta


Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta (2)

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Chester it’s been a glorious day – the sun has been shining, the birds have been singing. On coming home from work today, I noticed that my strawberry seeds have finally started to sprout (I was starting to worry I had dud seeds!) and as I sit here typing this I can hear the merry sound of a bumblebee buzzing outside the window. Spring is definitely here!

I always (sadly) get a bit excited when asparagus comes into season – the price plummets and suddenly a new realm of recipes can be made.

I make this particular risotto – using various combinations of veg – probably once a fortnight in spring and summer. It’s a great, tasty way of packing whichever vegetables you choose into your menu. I used asparagus, peas and spinach but you could swap in whatever you like.

Some people might have the misconception that risotto is a heavy, winter dish. This is not true in this case. Simply swap the butter for olive oil and reduce the amount of parmesan you add, and suddenly the risotto is very light and fresh.

This will serve 4 and will take around 45 minutes to make.

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta (1)

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion

300g risotto rice

1 small glass white wine

500ml vegetable stock

100g asparagus tips

200g frozen peas

100g spinach

10g grated parmesan

80g feta

1. Chop the onion and add to a large casserole dish with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, then stir in the risotto rice. Pour in the white wine and stir.

2. When the wine has mostly been absorbed by the rice, start adding the stock bit by bit, stirring all the time. When you have added all of the stock, the rice should be just slightly al dente – taste it, if it’s too al dente, add some more stock.

3. Roughly chop the asparagus, then add it along with the peas and spinach to the risotto. Stir well until the spinach has wilted, then turn off the heat. Drizzle over the remaining olive oil, sprinkle over the parmesan and put a lid on. Leave it for a couple of minutes.

4. Chop the feta into bitesize pieces, then stir into the risotto. Done!

Carrot, Beetroot and Watercress Salad


Carrot, Beetroot and Watercress Salad (1)

March is a month of contrasts, isn’t it? Particularly here in the UK, some days there can be balmy, mild sunshine which shows off the multi-coloured budding flowers and the blossom on the trees. Other days, like today, there can be a miserable, leaden grey sky and a howling icy wind which destroys the buds and blows the blossom away. I, like most people I’m sure, prefer one of these types of day significantly more than the other.

There was one of these rare sunny days recently. It reminded me that in a few short months, my sister and her fiance are getting married. They’re getting married abroad, which means a beach holiday (and the bikini which goes with it), and it was as such a notification that perhaps the time is here to wean ourselves off stodgy winter warmers, and towards lighter, more bikini body friendly meals.

This particular salad is a happy medium. It is served warm, so is nice when the weather is as miserable as it is today (I resembled a drowned rat when I got home), and is packed full of healthy veggies.

It’ll take approximately an hour in total to make, but it’s very low maintenance and the majority of this time is spent sitting on the sofa, drying off next to the fire. This will serve 3-4.

Carrot, Beetroot and Watercress Salad (2)

Carrot, Beetroot and Watercress Salad

500g baby carrots

6 raw beetroot

2 tbsps olive oil

1 tbsp runny honey

2 tbsps lemon juice

250g ready to eat lentils

100g watercress

75g goats cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

2. Trim the ends of the carrots and place in a large baking dish. Cut the top and tail off each beetroot and slice them into wedges (no need to peel). Add these to the dish along with half of the olive oil. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until soft.

3. To make the dressing, mix the remaining olive oil with the honey and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Towards the end of the cooking time, heat your lentils – either on the hob or in the microwave. Place in a large bowl and mix with the watercress and cooked carrots and beetroot.

5. To serve, share out the salad between bowls and top with a few blobs of goats cheese and a drizzle of dressing. Enjoy!

Fennel, Leek and Mushroom Penne


Fennel, Leek and Mushroom Penne (2)

Leeks are one of my favourite vegetables. I love their fresh, slightly fragrant flavour. At this time of the year, in the UK as we approach Spring, they will start to go out of season soon. So, along with my Anglesey Eggs last night, I wanted to produde a few recipes which would celebrate this wonderful, underrated vegetable which somehow manages to cheer up the winter months.

Shortly, as Spring arrives, we’ll start getting lots of new exciting vegetables. But in the meantime, why not make the most of what we have.

This is a moreish, creamy pasta dish which I’m sure you’ll love. It’s completely vegetarian, ready in 20 minutes and warming on a cold, biting day (it’s supposed to warm up by Saturday apparently, but for now the Winter seems to be clinging on…).

This will serve 5-6.

Fennel, Leek and Mushroom Penne (3)

Fennel, Leek and Mushroom Penne

500g fresh penne (or dried equivalent)

10g butter

1 onion

3 medium leeks

1 fennel bulb

200g button mushrooms

200ml half fat creme fraiche

1 tsp dried oregano

1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water until al dente. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, slice the onion, leeks and fennel. Add to a large saute pan with the butter and cook for 10 minutes until softened. Halve the mushrooms and add these – cook for a further 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the creme fraiche and 200ml water. Add the oregano, bring to a simmer then season with salt and pepper.

4. Mix the sauce with the pasta and leave to sit for 2 minutes. Enjoy!

Fennel, Leek and Mushroom Penne (1)

Find this recipe on the Pasta, Please! link up hosted by Family-Friends-Food and Tinned Tomatoes!

Anglesey Eggs


Anglesey Eggs (2)

With it being St David’s Day yesterday, I thought it only right to share a Welsh recipe today. This particular recipe is one my Nain (Nain is Welsh for grandmother for those who don’t know) used to make often.

My Nain, who lived on Anglesey, was a fantastic cook; we used to love visiting for the delicate scones, fruity bara brith and melt in the mouth Welsh cakes.

This recipe was a speciality and we used to eat it with crispy skinned baked potatoes. I didn’t have time for baked potatoes today, so we had it with crusty bread rolls instead to mop up the cheesy sauce.

Anyway, my Nain gave this recipe to my mum, who also used to make it often throughout our childhood. When I was desparate for a comforting, nostalgic meal one day I asked her for the recipe – and now I’m sharing it with you. It is tasty, cheap and easy, and I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has.

I just googled ‘Anglesey Eggs’ to see if it is a well-known dish, and it seems others do know of it. The recipes I found had potato in them though – that’s not how our family make it!

This will serve 3-4 and takes around 40 minutes to make.

Anglesey Eggs (1)

Anglesey Eggs

3 medium leeks

6 eggs

30g butter

20g plain flour

1 pint milk

80g cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1. Preheat the grill to high.

2. Slice the leeks and add them to a frying pan with 10g of the butter. Saute over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes until soft.

3. Meanwhile, hard boil your eggs in boiling water for 6 minutes. Once they’re done, run them under the cold tap for a couple of minutes, then gently peel them.

4. For the sauce, melt the remaining butter in a saucepan then stir in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Gradually whisk in the milk, then put it back on the heat and cook, whisking all the time, until thick. Stir in most of the grated cheese, and some salt and pepper.

5. Transfer the leeks to an oven proof dish. Lay the eggs on top (keep them whole), then pour over the cheese sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and the smoked paprika, then put under the grill for 5 minutes or so until golden and boiling. Iechyd Da!

Anglesey Eggs (3)

Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters


Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters (2)

What could be better, after a tiring Tuesday, than a meal you can basically put on a platter and eat? (Sure, with this meal there is a small amount of cooking – but this is so easy it barely counts). I love this sort of meal – see my Swedish Smorgasbord or my Greek Salad. They are perfect for Tuesday nights – not only are they seriously easy, but they are fun – sharing is fun, so lighten what could otherwise be a dreary night of the week.

You may notice some similarities between this and my Greek Salad. That is because they are both inspired by our honeymoon in Greece last year. When we were on Kos, we did a bus trip of the whole island. As part of this trip, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant high up a cliff which overlooked a tiny, beautiful cove. It was so peaceful. The friendly waiters brought us a 3 course lunch – bread and olives, then courgette fritters and tzatziki, followed by chicken skewered kebabs. It was a wonderful lunch, with a cool breeze coming off the ocean and the warm sun beating down on us. This is the sort of memory you need in the middle of February.

So, it is no surprise that today, when we woke again to frost and I can hear the rain beating against the window now, that we would want a meal to remind us of that delicious lunch on that beautiful island.

The fritters are the star of the show here – mix and match the additional bits as much as you like. I would advise you make the tzatziki too; they work so well together – but other than this, change the type of bread if you like, make your own hummus if you have the time, add some meat…whatever you like!

This’ll serve 4, and takes 15 minutes.

Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters (1)

Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters

2 courgettes

4 tbsps plain flour

10g grated parmesan

2 tbsp olive oil

300ml Greek yoghurt

1/2 cucumber

2 cloves garlic

4 pitta

250g hummus

A handful of green and black olives

10g feta, chopped

1. Put the pitta in the oven at 130 degrees to warm through for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, grate the courgette. Squeeze the grated courgette to get rid of the excess water (it’s good to do this in a tea towel), then put in a large bowl with the parmesan and flour. Mix well.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Split the mixture into 6, then roll each bit and squash like a burger. Pop into the frying pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the pan and leave to rest on a piece of kitchen paper.

4. For the tzatziki, grate the cucumber and chop the garlic. Mix with the yoghurt and season with salt.

5. To serve, chop the pitta and add to your serving dish/board with the hummus, olives, feta, tzatziki and courgette fritters. Let everyone dig in!

Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters (3)

Beetroot and Thyme Fusili


Beetroot and Thyme Fusili (1)

It’s been one of those days – long and busy. All I wanted for dinner tonight was something quick, comforting and carby.

Hubby is eating out tonight, so I thought I would treat myself and pick my favourite things and somehow combine them into a meal. So – beetroot, feta and pasta it was. I was quite worried about how this would turn out. Not so much the flavour – how could this combination not taste good – more the look. And as you can see, it is pink! I think there’s a kind of vibrant beauty to it though.

I was so pleased when I tasted this. It is lovely – there is sweetness from the beetroot, creaminess from the creme fraiche, saltiness from the feta and the wonderful aromatic thyme too. If you try one of my recipes, make it this one!

And don’t worry – hubby won’t miss out – I’ve made enough for lunch tomorrow!

I used pre-cooked beetroot in this, but if you aren’t in need of such instant gratification as I was, you could roast your own fresh beetroot before starting the recipe.

This will take 10 minutes and will serve 4.

Beetroot and Thyme Fusili (2)

Beetroot and Thyme Fusili

500g fresh fusili (or equivalent dried)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

250g pre-cooked beetroot

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

200ml creme fraiche

feta, to serve

1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saute pan over a medium heat then add the chopped onion. Sizzle for 2 minutes then add the chopped beetroot along with any juice from the beetroot. Cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the thyme and creme fraice.

3. Simmer for another 2 minutes, stirring often, then season. Drain your pasta and add to the saute pan along with 3 tbsps of the pasta water. Mix well.

4. To serve, top each bowl with a little crumbled feta and tuck in!