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!

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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!

Seared Tuna with Roasted Veggies


Seared Tuna with Roasted Veggies (2)

This is another great dish for the transition period between the colder and warmer weather. I’m craving fresh vegetables, but I’m not yet willing to go for full-on salad.

Today, I woke up full of hope for a warm day when I saw the sun peering through the curtains. I was so hopeful, in fact, that I dressed before checking the weather forecast or sticking a hand out of the window. I regretted this fact when I stepped outside baring my ankles to the world and discovered that it was freezing cold and there was an enormous rain cloud heading right in my direction.

However, I am maintaining hope that the warmer weather will arrive soon, and so I went against my instinct to make a giant pot of chilli or macaroni cheese.

This still a lovely warm meal to fill your belly. The roasted veg is tasty and the addition of baby vine tomatoes helps to freshen it up. Perfect with a juicy tuna steak! One of my greatest joys in life (although I am not sure hubby appreciates it) is sucking the roasted garlic from its skin, something which this dish allows.

This will serve 2 (with extra veggies leftover for a packed lunch) and will take 50 minutes.

Seared Tuna with Roasted Veggies (1)

Seared Tuna with Roasted Veggies

3 tbsps olive oil

2 tuna steaks

300g new potatoes

2 courgettes

2 small vines of tomatoes (Vittoria are good)

4 cloves garlic

A little balsamic vinegar and curly parsley, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.

2. Halve your potatoes (cut larger ones into thirds) then place in a large oven proof dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then place in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the potatoes should be soft and starting to turn golden. At this point, add your roughly chopped courgettes and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Add the vine tomatoes for a final 10 minutes.

3. Close to the end of the cooking time for the veg, drizzle your tuna steaks with the remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with a little salt. Get a griddle pan to a very high heat, then add the steaks. Cook for 2 minutes on each side (they should still be lovely and pink in the middle).

4. To serve, dish up your veg. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over it and sprinkle over some chopped parsley. Serve with your tuna steak on the side. Enjoy!

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!

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)

Chicken and Lentil Soup


Happy hump day everyone!

After pancake day yesterday, I’m sure you (like us) need an injection of health to counterbalance the over indulgence.

Chicken and Lentil Soup (1)

Now that lent has started, I can’t think of any ingredient in this soup that anyone will have wanted to give up (apart from meat perhaps?) so it’s a fairly safe bet.

This soup contains tonnes (not literally) of protein, and it uses my leftover lentils, so is packed full of vitamins, minerals and other good stuff too. It is truly an angelic recipe!

This will take you 20 minutes to make, and will serve 4.

Chicken and Lentil Soup (2)

Chicken and Lentil Soup

200g smoked bacon lardons

300g chicken breast, diced

600ml chicken stock

1 tsp ground coriander

400g leftover lentils

Natural yoghurt, to serve

1. Put the lardons in a large casserole dish. Cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes until golden.

2. Sprinkle the coriander over the diced chicken breast, then add to the pan with the lardons. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

3. Tip in the chicken stock and lentils and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Blend about half of the soup with a hand blender – you still want the soup to be fairly chunky, but blending some of the lentils will thicken it.

5. Serve each bowl with a dollop of natural yoghurt in the centre. Enjoy!

Leftover Lentils


Leftover Lentils

This is not a particularly pretty photo – and for that I apologise – but it’s still a recipe I had to share with you.

This is a dish we often have as an accompaniment to meat or fish. At the weekend, my parents came to visit and we had these lentils served with lamb cutlets marinated with cumin and ground coriander. Hence – leftover lentils.

We used the leftovers in our dinner tonight – chicken and lentil soup – (which explains the need for me to share the recipe with you) but you could use them in all manner of recipes. They would be delicious, cold, on their own as a light lunch.

They’re also extremely nutritious – being lentils, they are packed full of good things and the veggies bring lots of vitamins and minerals to the table too. Get making them, then get inventive – let me know what you serve them with!

These will take approximately 30 minutes to make and will make approximately 6 servings. They will keep in the fridge for a few days, and freeze well too.

Leftover Lentils

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 leek

2 sticks celery

1 carrot

1 small glass white wine

500ml water

750g pre-soaked ready to eat puy lentils

1 bay leaf

1 sprig rosemary

1. Chop the onion and add to a large casserole dish with the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat for 2 minutes, then add the chopped leek, celery and carrot. Cook for a further 6-7 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to soften.

2. Pour in the white wine, allow to reduce, then add the water and lentils.

3. Bring to the boil, add the bay leaf and rosemary then simmer for 15-20 minutes (keep an eye on it and stir often) until the vegetables are cooked through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Done!

Mediterranean Vegetable and Goats Cheese Pancakes


Mediterranean Vegetables and Goats Cheese Pancakes (2)

Happy Pancake Day everyone! What are you giving up for lent?

I’ve never been particularly good at giving things up for lent. My philosophy regarding food is everything in moderation, and so giving up chocolate, biscuits or wine would be against everything I stand for unfortunately.

I thought about giving up Netflix – but then how would we spend our hungover Sundays? Giving up pavement rage would never work either (I don’t drive, so my commuter rage is focussed on people who walk slowly and cars that don’t stop to let me cross the road), because there are too many anger inducing sights every morning.

So, I’m making a promise to myself – I will post on the blog at least 6 times a week throughout lent. If you notice me slacking, shout at me!

Anyway, back to pancake day. I decided that seeing as pancakes are so delicious you have to eat more than one, why not fill them with something healthy? These savoury pancakes filled with fresh Mediterranean veggies and lovely, melty goats cheese have enough healthy ingredients to counterbalance the fact you want to eat eight of them (don’t quote me on that).

This recipe will make 6 pancakes, and will take approximately 20 minutes.

Mediterranean Vegetables and Goats Cheese Pancakes (1)

Mediterranean Vegetable and Goats Cheese Pancakes

1 mug plain flour

1 mug milk

1 large egg

4 tbsps olive oil

1 red onion

1 large courgette

1 red pepper

1 handful green olives, halved

40g goats cheese

1. Pour the flour, milk and egg into a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Leave to one side.

2. Chop the onion and add to a pan with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the chopped courgette, red pepper and olives. Cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring often, until the veggies are soft.

3. Heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. When the oil is hot, add a ladleful of the pancake batter and move the pan around to form an even layer over the base. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden underneath, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan, add another ladleful of batter and repeat until you have made all of your pancakes. You may need to add more oil.

4. To serve, pile a spoonful of the veg into the centre of each pancake, crumble over some goats cheese and roll up. Enjoy!

Spinach and Nutmeg Soup


Spinach and Nutmeg Soup (1)

Wow, what a weekend! I had such a wonderful, spoilt birthday filled with meals out, drinks and general revelry.

We had 4 meals out and 2 takeaways in total, and who knows how many glasses of wine/prosecco/cocktails.

Therefore, tonight we needed an instant injection of the vitamins and minerals we are sure to be lacking now. Spinach soup is the perfect way to do this. Not only is it desperately, desperately easy (look how short that ingredient list is!), it is also delicious and packed full of vitamins k, a, c, b2 (almost the whole alphabet!), not to mention iron, magnesium and folic acid. Surely this will aid our bodies’ recoveries after a heavy weekend.

I love the flavour combination of spinach and nutmeg. I got the idea for using nutmeg in this soup from a nettle soup I once made many years ago, which used nutmeg. I was quite young when I made the nettle soup, and remember so vividly the fear that it would sting my tongue! Of course, it didn’t; it was wonderfully flavourful and with spinach and nettle being fairly similar in taste, the nutmeg works beautifully in this recipe too.

The dish is completely vegetarian, and would be vegan too if you omitted the feta, which I just couldn’t leave off.

This dish is ready in 15 minutes, and will serve 4 with some crusty bread on the side.

Spinach and Nutmeg Soup (2)

Spinach and Nutmeg Soup

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 litre vegetable stock

450g spinach

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

20g feta, crumbled

1. Chop the onion. Add to a large saucepan with the olive oil and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

2. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Gradually add the spinach, handful by handful, until it is all wilted.

3. Sprinkle in the nutmeg, then whizz the soup in a blender until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the crumbled feta.

Tomato Salsa Tostados


Tomato Salsa Tostados (1)

Mexican food is fantastic – I’m sure everyone agrees with that, and who wouldn’t want an evening meal which tastes like nachos but is much better for you? These tostados are bright, tasty and you can easily omit or limit the amount of cheese and soured cream to make them seriously healthy. I’m too much of a dairy fan to do this though.

If you haven’t made tostados before, do it! They’re like little pizzas on a tortilla, and you can use any toppings you like. I love these ones because they embrace Mexican flavours – but you don’t need to do that at all – you could easily make Greek ones with black olives and feta, or you could use any of your favourite pizza toppings.

These ones are surprsingly filling because of the avocado, and so I don’t think you need any meat. If you really wanted to add some, you could top with some cooked chicken breast.

These tostados will be ready in 20 minutes, and will serve 2.

Tomato Salsa Tostados (2)

Tomato Salsa Tostados

2 tortilla wraps

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin borlotti beans

1 handful coriander

1 yellow pepper

2 tsps smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

20g grated cheddar

20g soured cream

1 avocado

1 spring onion

1 red chilli

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Place the tortilla wraps flat on a baking tray (use 2 if you need to), drizzle with half of the olive oil and bake in the oven for approximately 5 minutes until starting to crisp. Remove from the oven.

2. Pour the rest of the olive oil into a saucepan. Chop the onion and add to the saucepan. Cook over a medium heat for 2 minutes, then add the chopped coriander stalks (reserve the leaves for later).

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, borlotti beans, sliced yellow pepper, smoked paprika and cinnamon. Simmer for 10 minutes, until thick.

4. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the tortillas, as you would a pizza sauce onto a pizza base. Top each one with grated cheese, then put back in the oven for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are golden.

5. Top each tostado with a dollop of soured cream, sliced avocado, a handful of coriander leaves and some sliced spring onion and chilli. Enjoy!