Spaghettini with Courgettes

courgettes julienne cropped

This dish can be made for any number.

110g spaghettini per person
1 ½ tbs olive oil per person
1 clove garlic per person, crushed but with skin left on
1 tbs per person tomato concasse
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
Pinch of dried Italian mixed herbs
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium courgette per person, julienne, fried until soft & golden
Grated parmesan

Cook the spaghettini in a large pan of boiling water.

Meanwhile heat the oil with the garlic in a wok. 4 minutes before the spaghettini is ready, remove the garlic and discard. Add the tomato concasse, chilli, herbs, salt and pepper and gently sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the courgette and stir gently to heat through.

Drain the spaghettini and add to the sauce. Toss well, adding a little more oil and salt if necessary. Serve immediately with grated parmesan.

Paella Valencia-style

Smoked paprika

Serves a hungry 2

Pinch of saffron
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
6 chicken wings, halved, tips discarded, lightly seasoned with sea salt
½ green pepper, deseeded and sliced
½ red pepper, deseeded and sliced
4 runner beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 rounded tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp tomato puree
200g paella rice (or bomba rice or similar)
650ml chicken stock, plus extra if needed
Sea salt
A small 200g tin of broad beans or butter beans, drained

Heat a paella pan or wide based pan to a medium-high heat.

Prepare the saffron. Wrap it in a small foil envelope and place it in the hot pan for 10 seconds on each side. Remove and set aside.

Add the oil to the pan and when hot add the garlic. Add the chicken and fry it, turning the pieces regularly until well browned and nearly cooked through, approx. 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Remove any excess oil from the pan. Add the peppers and green beans to the pan and stir fry until well coloured.

Sprinkle over the paprika, then stir in the tomato puree. Gently stir in the rice and toast for a few minutes. Crumble the saffron into the stock and pour it over the rice, season with sea salt, stir very gently to mix. Don’t stir too much.

Once simmering, return the chicken to the pan and add the broad beans. Stir in gently. Simmer on a fairly high heat without stirring, then lower the heat a simmer gently for another 5 to 10 minutes, again without stirring. If it starts to dry out too much, add a splash of boiling water but not too much as the finished dish mustn’t be soggy and the edges and bottom layer of rice should be crispy.

As soon as the rice is cooked take the pan off the heat and cover with foil to allow it to rest for 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

Tomato and Mascarpone Soup

Mutti Passata low res

Serves 3

Soups are a Godsend for vegetarians because they offer such a range of different flavours, textures and colours and, usually, they are healthy too.

Tomato with mascarpone is a classic flavour combination. I add sun dried tomatoes to my recipe to make this soup quite luxurious.

2 tablespoons of butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 celery sticks, trimmed and finely diced
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
700g passata
2 tablespoons tomato puree
4 to 6 sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
125g mascarpone

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano and give everything a good stir. Cover and sweat on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Stir in the passata, tomato puree, sun dried tomatoes and stock. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft, approx. 20 to 30 minutes.

Let the soup cool slightly then puree with a stick blender. If you want a very smooth soup you can pass it through a sieve it but I prefer not to as I like some texture in it. Gently reheat the soup and whisk in the mascarpone until it is completely melted in and incorporated. Check the seasoning and serve.

The cooked soup can be chilled and stored in the fridge until needed.

Jerk Chicken in a Slow Cooker

Pieces of raw chicken meat on a white background

Serves 4

In this recipe the chicken is marinated for 24 hours then cooked slowly in a slow cooker. The meat is soft and delicious and has all the essential flavours of Jamaican jerk chicken.

You can buy slow cooker liner bags from Amazon or some cook shops. I don’t often use them but for this dish they come in to their own. You place all of the ingredients in the bag to marinate and then place the bag in the slow cooker to cook the dish. It’s incredibly easy and, as an added benefit, the bowl of the slow cooker doesn’t get dirty so with a quick wipe your washing up is done.

1 red onion, peeled and chopped
5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 ½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 fresh green chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped (don’t skimp here, this dish needs heat)
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Juice of ½ an orange juice
8 medium chicken leg portions (thighs or drumsticks or a mix of the two), skin removed

Blitz all of the ingredients, except for the last 4 (sugar, vinegar, juice and chicken) in a blender until you have a rough puree. Add the sugar, vinegar and orange juice and blitz again until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the mixture into a slow cooker food bag, add the chicken and seal with wire ties. Give everything a good squish to make sure all the chicken is coated and place in the fridge for 24 hours.

To cook, remove the wire ties and place the bag in the bowl of a slow cooker. Scrunch or fold down the top of the bag to form a rough seal. Cook on high for 1 hour, then on low for 4 hours.

I like to serve this with rice and peas and, if you are feeling healthy, a green salad on the side.

Rich Gravy/Sauce for Meats or Vegetables and quick Stews and Casseroles

guiness-draught-beer-440ml-can-lrThis is a very rich and flavoursome sauce. Use it as a base for quick casseroles, such as my mushroom, pepper and Guinness casserole or to accompany grilled meats or vegetables.

The sauce is easy to make. I think of it as “nearly vegetarian”. To make it vegetarian, replace the Guinness and umami paste with vegetarian alternatives.

3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
3 celery sticks, cut into small dice
2 dried red chillies
A pinch of salt
Ground black pepper
½ tsp dried thyme
2 tablespoons flour
400ml of stock made with a vegetarian stock cube, 2 tsp tomato puree, 1 tsp Marmite and 1 tsp umami paste
1 x 440ml can of Guinness
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 pinch of sugar

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and soften for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, chillies, salt, black pepper and thyme, stir well, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and add the stock little-by-little, stirring all the time to soak up the flour. Pour in the Guinness and add the red wine vinegar and sugar.

Bring to a simmer, cover and cook in a low oven for 1 ½ hours. Stir the sauce occasionally and add a splash or two of boiling water if it starts to dry out. Check the seasoning.

The final sauce should be the texture of gravy and will coat the back of a spoon.

The sauce can now be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed.

Broad Beans with Bacon and Paprika

Broad beans

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

This is another quick and tasty recipe. I like to serve it with roasted chicken. Or have it chilled as part of a salad buffet.

2 tablespoons olive oil
150g rindless smoked streaky bacon, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
400g to 500g frozen broad beans, defrosted
Splash of water

Heat the oil in a wide based pan and sauté the bacon until almost cooked. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan a sauté until softened and starting to colour. Return the bacon to the pan and add the paprika, salt and pepper and stir well. Stir in the broad beans, add a splash of water, cover and simmer for 5 minutes of so until the beans are hot. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Mexican Mushroom Chilli

White button mushrooms

Serves 3

This recipe gives vegetarians and vegans a delicious, fresh and spicy Mexican chilli that’s full of flavour. It’s easy and quick to prepare and it can be made ahead and stored in the fridge or freezer until needed. It has quite strong flavours so I like to serve it with plain white rice.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Mexican chilli seasoning mix made up of: 1 tsp ancho chilli powder, 1 tsp chipotle chilli powder, 1 tsp mulato chilli powder, 1 tsp pasilla chilli powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, ½ tsp ground black pepper and ½ tsp salt
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (use Mutti tomato pulp if you can get it)
150ml stock made with vegan stock powder
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
10 to 12 quite large white button mushrooms, stalks removed, wiped clean and cut into bite sized pieces
1 red or green pepper, deseeded and cut into bite sized pieces
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and sauté the onion until softened and starting to brown at the edges. This will take about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute. Add the Mexican chilli seasoning mix and stir fry for 1 minute. Add a splash of stock if it starts to catch.

Add the tinned tomatoes, stock and vinegar, stir to mix well and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, cover and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Add the peppers and kidney beans, cover and continue to cook for a final 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needs be.

The dish can now be cooled and stored in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen until needed. To serve, return to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Beetroot Bourguignon

Beetroot bourguignon lr

Serves 4

“Bourguignon” is normally a beef dish. But it doesn’t have to be. The rich flavours of wine, mushrooms, onions, garlic and thyme work wonderfully well with the muskiness of beetroot to give an earthy flavour that even meat eaters rave about.

This dish is vegan heaven, and I defy anyone not to love it! It is quite rich so needs a carbohydrate to go with it. Virtually any sort of potatoes work well but I particularly like it with puff pastry, to make a deconstructed pie.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 rounded tablespoons flour
½ bottle (375 ml) vegan red wine
400 ml vegan stock
60ml balsamic
1 rounded tablespoon tomato puree
1 rounded tsp Marmite
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
Salt to taste
1 rounded tsp dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
4 to 5 beetroots, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
5 to 6 carrots, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
5 to 6 celery sticks, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
12 or so quite large white button mushrooms, stalks removed, wiped clean and cut into bite sized pieces

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and add the onions and garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to colour at the edges. That will take about 15 minutes. Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Stir in the wine a splash at a time, making sure the mixture stays at a simmer. Stir in the stock, balsamic, tomato puree and Marmite and return everything to a gentle simmer. Leave to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. This helps to cook off the alcohol.

Add all of the other ingredients, bring to a simmer, cover and cook in the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours until the vegetables are softened. Check the pan from time to time. The sauce shouldn’t be too loose but add a splash or two of boiling water if it looks like it’s getting too thick. At the end of the cooking time check the seasoning.

At this stage the dish can be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed.

When you are ready to serve, reheat gently in a pan on the hob.

Egg Curry

Egg curry lr cropped

Serves 2

This is another quick and delicious vegetarian dish. I like to serve it with small roasted potatoes. Potatoes with curry is a match made in heaven!

You may notice that I say to use organic turmeric. Organic turmeric is more intensely flavoured than non-organic. If you don’t have organic, just bump up the amount of turmeric a bit.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
A pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp organic turmeric
1 ½ tablespoons tomato puree
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1 x 400 g tin coconut milk
6 hard-boiled eggs, halved

Heat the oil and sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add the chilli and continue to sauté until the onions have softened. Stir in the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the ginger and stir-fry for another minute.

Stir in the salt, black pepper and turmeric and cook off for 30 seconds. Add the tomato puree and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the tamarind and sugar, then pour in the coconut milk. Bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer and stir to mix well. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until you are happy with the consistence of the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you prefer a completely smooth sauce, pass it through a sieve.

The sauce can now be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed.

To finish the dish, bring the sauce back to a gentle simmer, add the eggs and serve as soon as they have heated through.

Indian Vegetable Soup

Indian Vegetable Soup lr

Serves 4 as a hearty lunch

This is a very satisfying and highly flavoured soup, another one for the slow cooker. What’s more, no pre-cooking is required so it is very quick and easy to prepare.

3 carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
3 large celery sticks, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 to 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
130g split red lentils, rinsed thoroughly under running water
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
1 ½ litres of chicken stock (made with 2 stock cubes)
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 165g jar of korma curry paste (I use Pataks)
4 bay leaves
Salt (optional)

Place all of the ingredients except for the salt into a slow cooker. Give them a good stir, then cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

Taste to check the seasoning. Add a pinch of salt if it needs it. It may not, given that the tomatoes, stock cubes and curry paste already contain salt.

This soup likes to be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a day or two.