Friday, 20 December 2013

Roasted Root Vegetable Gratin

I was writing out menus and shopping lists for Christmas the other day when I found myself mulling over the question of what to do with the leftover veg from lunch on Christmas Day. Sure… there’s always bubble and squeak; we’ve all been there and done that. But what about something a little different to have with your cold nut roast next day…such as a roasted root vegetable gratin? Ha, now there’s an idea!

Well, in the interests of research and not having any leftover veg about my person, I cooked a small pile of roasted roots yesterday and made a damn fine root veg gratin which we had for dinner last night. It was delicious; in fact, it was so good that we shamelessly polished off the lot between us before I'd even cooked the sausages that were supposed to go with it! Fact is, this can be used as a one-pot main course or, in smaller quantities, a side dish to a 'main event'.

The veg kept their individual flavours nicely and underneath the crispy topping there was just enough mustardy creaminess to bring the whole thing together; I will definitely be doing the same again on Boxing Day.

Actually, I’m really looking forward to Boxing Day, I always enjoy it a lot more than the whole palaver of Christmas Day – it’s so much more relaxed once all the fevered expectancy of the big day is over. A plate of nibbles, a bowl of nuts and a DVD and I’m a happy bunny. I'm easily pleased.

250g carrots
250g parsnips
200g celeriac
200g small new potatoes
2 medium onions
2tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
ground black pepper
4 tbsp crème fraiche
1 dsp grainy mustard
60g breadcrumbs
75g mature cheddar
25g pine nuts

Peel the carrots, parsnips and celeriac; cut into bite-size chunks. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters if they’re a bit big. Peel the onions and cut into eighths through the root.

Put all the veg into a large freezer bag with the olive oil, thyme and a few grinds of black pepper; hold the end securely closed and shake to coat the veg all over. Tip into a large roasting tin and roast at 200C for about 25 minutes.

(Obviously, if you're cooking this with leftovers, you can skip the instructions above)

Mix the crème fraiche and grainy mustard together in a large bowl then add the cooked veg and mix well to coat. Tip the mustardy veg into an ovenproof dish; grate the cheese then mix the breadcrumbs, cheese and pine nuts together and scatter evenly over the veg.

Bake at 200C for about 15 minutes until golden and crispy.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Fruit & Nut Christmas Pudding Loaf

It’s the 1st of December! I’ve opened the first door on my Advent calendar and the outside lights are up, although they haven’t been turned on yet. We couldn’t get Jessie J to do our switch-on, she’s too busy apparently (!), so the honour will fall to Mr Simply Veg.

I’m only cooking for the two of us on the big day this year and I’d already decided I was going to do Cranberry and Apricot Sponge Puds for our dessert… then I saw this recipe on one of the regular email alerts I get from GoodFood which threw my decision out of the window. It seems such a good idea to cook a Christmas pudding in a loaf tin that I wonder why I’ve never seen it done before.

I didn’t want to be disappointed so I had a dry run yesterday. I roughly halved the recipe and cooked it in a 1lb loaf tin; I also changed some of the ingredients. I’m not keen on glacé cherries but I love preserved ginger and nuts; I also dropped the amount of mixed spice but added ground ginger and a touch of  ground cloves to warm it up a little bit.

It cut into eight decent slices, six of which were put in the freezer, and we had a slice each with custard after dinner last night. Well, we had to try it out, didn’t we?! I’m pleased to say it was just right, not stodgy and much lighter than the traditional pudding, fresher tasting and really fruity. I have a feeling it will form part of many of our Christmases to come. I didn’t make the accompanying sauce from the original recipe – it would have been a sweetness overload for us but I leave that up to you.

200g dried mixed fruit
2 balls of preserved ginger in syrup, chopped
½ a small Bramley apple (about 75g) grated
grated zest of an orange
75ml apple juice
2 tbsp brandy
70g butter
50g dark muscovado sugar
1 large egg, beaten
45g self-raising flour
50g white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp syrup from the ginger jar
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
20g toasted mixed nuts, roughly chopped

Put the dried fruit, chopped ginger, grated apple, orange zest, apple juice and brandy into a largish bowl; give it a good stir, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.

Next day, cream the butter and sugar then stir in the rest of the ingredients including the soaked fruit and any remaining juice. Put the mixture into a 1lb loaf tin lined with bakewell paper then put the loaf tin into a roasting tin.

Turn the oven on to 180C or 160C fan. Boil a full kettle. Put a foil ‘lid’ loosely over the loaf tin, scrunching up the sides a bit to make it stay put, then pour a couple of centimetres of boiling water into the roasting tin. Place the whole thing carefully in the oven.

Having halved the recipe this is where I had to use a bit of guesswork. I cooked mine for 25 minutes at 160C fan then I turned the oven down to 140C and cooked it for another 55 minutes. No two ovens are the same, so test with a skewer to make sure it's cooked through.

Serve with cream, custard, brandy butter or whatever takes your fancy.

Makes 8 slices

Saturday, 30 November 2013


Just a quick, brief post to show you what we had for dinner one night last week – Champ…god, it was lovely. We had it with Cauldron Lincolnshire sausages and mushroom gravy – although, to be perfectly honest, I’d have been quite happy to have had it on its own accompanied only by a very large spoon!

It was fabulous; one of those things that cheers you up no end when a bit of cold weather comfort food is required.

500g floury potatoes
75ml hot milk
40g butter, melted
1/2 bunch spring onions
black pepper

Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks and steam or simmer until tender; mash well with hot milk and stir in the finely chopped spring onions and a good grinding of pepper.

Pile the potato into a warmed serving dish and make a shallow well in the middle; pour in the warm melted butter. Serve immediately and try to avoid licking the dish clean!

Serves 2.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Apple Compote

I thought I’d better quickly type up the apple compote I made with the last of our apples from the garden before I forgot what I did.

We eat loads of various compotes with porridge, yogurt or ice-cream and sometimes on pancakes for breakfast so we get through masses of it. I generally cook up a couple of kilos of fruit at a time. This particular one is fragrant with warm spices and is especially good with porridge although, to be fair, I like almost anything with porridge…

Hells bells - I’ve just realised it’s exactly a month today until Christmas!! Now if that doesn’t get you up and cooking, nothing will…!

2kg apples
150ml water
juice of a lemon
150g white sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
¼ of a nutmeg, grated

Peel, core and chop the apples into dice; put into a deep wide pan with the lemon juice and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the apples start to soften (I won’t give you an exact timing because it really depends which apples you use).

Add the sugar, the vanilla bean paste and the spices; stir well, bring back to a simmer and cook gently for about 10 minutes.

Pot up into sterilised jars while still hot. Store in the fridge once opened.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Pre-Christmas Musings

I haven’t been blogging much recently, but I can assure you we’ve most definitely been eating! I don’t seem to have been cooking anything new or terribly exciting, just making old favourites and stuff we like. Oh, I did make some spiced apple compote with the last of the fruit from the garden which is rather nice – I’ll have to type it up.

Now that we’re well into November, though, I thought I’d better stir myself and do a bit of pre-Christmas cooking. So… the Christmas Cake has been made, as has a huge batch of Red Cabbage and a couple of pots of Mushroom and Sherry Gravy for the big day. Nut Roast Wellington seems to have become a bit of a Christmas fixture for us so I’ve made and frozen the mushroom duxelles layer which will save me time later.

The whole point of Christmas food for me is the traditional aspect of it all; I don’t expect to have to cook something different each year – it’s Christmas, therefore we know what we’ll be eating! It wouldn’t be the same if some of the favourites were missing. However, I always like to throw in a few surprises so I’ve also been spending some time scouting around for any new Christmas recipes that might be useful; I’ve found a couple which are worth a closer look.

These spiced plum trifles look really nice and incredibly easy (I’m useless at desserts so anything that’s easy looks good to me!) and I have a sneaking suspicion that these palmiers may make an appearance at some point, although I think I’ll substitute basil or maybe a few dabs of pesto for the rosemary.

We popped into town yesterday for lunch with DS and a bit of shopping at Selfridges; the store was dressed up like a Christmas tree, inside and out, it looked fabulous! The pics aren't great but you get the idea.

Outside, just getting dark.

Looking up into the Atrium from the basement

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Our little veg plot is almost empty and it's looking a bit sorry for itself but we still have lots of lovely carrots waiting to be used. Now we’re well into October, and the weather is feeling decidedly autumnal, it’s time for soup!

It’s not particularly cold here yet (give it time - it will be!) but it’s pouring with rain today and we’ve even had lightning and a couple of rumbles of thunder; it’s also so dark that I had to put the lights on because I couldn’t see to type. It’s 3pm….

This was a really nice soup; fresh and light with a subtle, rather than in-your-face, taste of coriander. When I say fresh, the carrots went from garden to bowl in under an hour – now you don’t get fresher than that!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
a large floury potato, about 250g, peeled and chopped
650g carrots, peeled and chopped
1.5l stock
a good handful of chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes until softened but not coloured; add the garlic and continue to sauté for another minute before adding the potato, ground coriander, carrots and stock.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat, put a lid on and simmer for 20 minutes. Blitz with a hand blender and stir in the chopped coriander.

Sprinkle with a little more chopped coriander and serve with plenty of crusty bread.

Serves 6 (I froze two double portions)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Lemon, Poppy Seed and Yogurt Muffins

I ripped an advert for Alpro soya yogurt out of a magazine a couple of months ago, because part of the ad was a recipe for lemon, poppy seed and yogurt muffins. Alpro is wonderful stuff and I love it with a dollop of fruit compote – it’s rare that I don’t have a tub of it in the fridge – so I thought baking with it could be an interesting development.

The muffins in the advert looked lovely, probably because they’d had a team of food stylists fiddling with them for half an hour, but on closer inspection it looked a really strange recipe…there was an enormous amount of baking powder in it (2 tbsp!!), there didn’t seem to be enough lemon zest to give any flavour and it seemed like an awful lot of mixture for only eight muffins.  I sometimes wonder if anyone actually tests these recipes before they’re let loose on an unsuspecting public!

Well, in the spirit of bravery (or possibly stupidity!) I decided to give the recipe a go. With a few tweaks and twirls it actually turned out OK. I used self-raising flour instead of plain, dropped the amount of baking powder drastically, upped the amount of lemon zest and discovered that it actually made twelve decent sized muffins, not eight.

I added a little drizzle of lemon icing to smarten them up a bit and, although they wouldn’t win a prize at the village fête, they were nice with a cuppa and a good book.

225g SR flour
2 tsp baking powder
140g caster sugar
grated zest of a lemon
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
245g Alpro Plain Yogurt
100g melted butter

2 tbsp icing sugar + lemon juice to mix

Mix the five dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix the four wet ingredients together in a large jug. Pour the wet into the dry and fold together just until no dry flour remains. Do not overmix; it doesn’t need to be completely smooth.

Divide the mixture between twelve muffin cases set into a muffin tin. Bake for about 20 minutes at 190C until golden and puffed.

Cool on a wire rack. When cold, drizzle with a little lemon icing.

Makes 12

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Green Tomato Chutney

Green tomato chutney has been made and the preserving pan has been put away for another year… or maybe not.** I’ve already made Tomato and Cranberry Relish, Red Onion Marmalade and Nectarine Chutney and I am now all chutneyed out! (I’m not sure 'chutneyed' is a word but you know what I mean…)

I thought I’d already finished for this year but the weather suddenly turned cold and wet almost overnight – summer was gone and there was no way all the green tomatoes in the garden were going to ripen. I brought them indoors to warm them up a bit but some of the larger ones were stubbornly resisting turning red so, after retrieving my spare jam jars from the back of the cupboard, I set to once again and started chopping. It’s been a really good year for our onions and apples, happily, so I was able to make good use of those, too.

I always feel so chuffed when I’m able to use our own produce – I'm pathetically easily pleased. I spiced this one up a bit more than usual – green tomatoes don’t have a lot of flavour so they need all the help they can get, poor things.

**I may have lied when I said the preserving pan has been put away… Our apple tree is weighed down with fruit and I don’t intend to waste any of it. Watch this space.

850g green tomatoes
250g onions (after peeling)
250g apples, peeled and cored
125g dates (use raisins if you like)
4 cloves garlic
30g fresh ginger root
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp chilli flakes
300g light muscovado sugar
350ml white wine vinegar

Halve the tomatoes, cut out the core and discard, then roughly chop; chop the apples, onions and dates a bit more finely than the tomatoes then put the whole lot into a large wide pan.

Blitz the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander and salt with a couple of tablespoons of the measured vinegar in the blender then add to the pan along with the cayenne, chilli flakes, sugar and the rest of the vinegar. Stir well, bring to the boil then turn the heat down a bit and let it bubble for about an hour or so until nice and thick.

Draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and if the channel doesn’t fill up with liquid it’s ready to pot up into hot sterilised jars.

Allow to mature for 4 – 6 weeks before eating.

Makes 7 190g jars.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Nectarine Chutney

I bought a large punnet of “Ripen-at-home” nectarines last Friday – they had deep rosy-hued skins and looked gorgeous; I foolishly fell for their charms.

Ripen-at-home? Yeah, right…not a chance! They sat on the breakfast bar in the warmth of my south-facing kitchen for five days and the bloody things were still as hard as a cricket ball – they could have been used as lethal weapons! I gave up waiting for them to become edible and made some chutney with them yesterday – sadly, I am not a woman who’s known for her patience.

I looked online and found nothing for nectarine chutney that appealed but there were loads of recipes for peach chutney if you happen to have a fruit bowl full of rock-hard peaches. They all involved skinning the peaches, understandable when the skins are hairy, but I was looking for something less fiddly; I just knew there was no hope of getting the skins off those damned nectarines!

I could tell you that I adapted my Chilli Plum chutney recipe… or, I could be completely honest and say that, in the end, I made this one up as I went along. As I’ve said before, chutney is very forgiving; just as well, really…

600g nectarines (after stoning)
325g red onions (after peeling)
125g dates
30g root ginger
30g garlic
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
325ml cider vinegar
300g white or soft brown sugar (I used a mixture)

Blitz the ginger and garlic, cumin, cayenne, salt and a couple of tablespoons of the measured vinegar until slushy. Chop the nectarines, onions and dates into largish dice and put into a large wide pan; add the garlic and ginger mix, the vinegar and sugar.

Stir well and bring to the boil then turn the heat down and let it bubble away steadily for about an hour until thick, stirring occasionally, by which time it will be a deep tawny colour. It’s ready when a channel drawn across the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon leaves almost no liquid behind.

Pot up into hot sterilised jars while the chutney is still very hot and allow to mature for about 6 weeks before eating.

Makes 5 190g jars.

Monday, 19 August 2013


I love, love, love pesto, but until yesterday I had never actually made it. I don’t know why, I never buy other pasta sauces, but it was just one of those things that I’d got into the habit of buying.

I saw a discussion on a food forum recently which pushed me into finally taking the plunge and I’m really pleased I did; I used some to make Delia’s Trofie Liguria for dinner last night and it was absolutely delicious, we loved it, it was so much more zingy and fresher-tasting than ready made. I also had some on a tomato sandwich for lunch today – gorgeous!

There’s a million recipes online – I just adjusted quantities a bit. Slightly less basil (I used all I had), no salt (I never cook with salt) and a bit less garlic in order to avoid knocking out the optician while she fixed Mr S-V's glasses today.

I’m a fool to myself – looks like I’ve just made another kitchen job for myself in future…

40g pine nuts
65g basil
40g parmesan-style cheese
125ml olive oil
1 fat garlic clove

black pepper

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden and leave to cool. Chop the cheese into rough chunks then put everything in your processor or blender, add a few good grinds of black pepper, and pulse until you have the consistency you like. I don’t like it absolutely smooth so I stopped before it got to that point.

Pour into a clean jam-jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the fridge. Now... how easy was that?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Warm Roast Vegetable Salad with Feta

This was our dinner on Friday night – it perfectly fitted my Wimbledon food criteria... quick, easy and convenient to eat. I’d spent most of the day watching tennis (Andy Murray’s match was a real nail biter!) and could barely drag myself away from the TV so there was no way I was planning to do anything too tricky foodwise.

I had the laptop, with the BBC's live coverage, on the breakfast bar while I was in the kitchen so that I didn’t miss a ball; I will say that chopping veg is a somewhat hazardous operation, though, whilst watching Andy at set-point to level the match - I don't recommend it at all!

This made quite a decent amount of roast veg and there was some left over so I added the remainder to some garden grown salad leaves, beetroot and tomatoes for lunch yesterday - very nice indeed. It's also good stirred through some couscous along with a couple of spoonsful of dressing to moisten.

......and so we come to today’s match; at 2pm – the Wimbledon Men's Singles final. Ooo-er…missus! I have spent almost my entire life wanting this; will today be the day I’ve been waiting half a century for? I bloody hope so! C’mon Andy!!

Since I put this post on this morning Andy Murray has won the Men's Wimbledon Singles title!! Magnificent, astonishing, stupendous and every other superlative you can think of...! I never thought it would happen in my lifetime, so I am a very happy camper indeed. There wasn't a dry eye in the Simply Veggie was a privilege and a pleasure to watch.

2 red onions
1 small aubergine
2 Romano red peppers
150g mushrooms
1 medium sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil
black pepper
few sprigs of fresh rosemary
150g feta cheese

1tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp runny honey
1tbsp sherry vinegar
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp walnut oil

a few snipped chives

Peel the onions and cut them through the root into eighths; chop the aubergine and peppers into chunks about 2 or 3cm square; peel and chop the sweet potato into chunky pieces; if the mushrooms are small leave them whole or halve them if larger. Put all the veg into a large plastic freezer bag (saves on washing up!) along with the olive oil, rosemary and a few grinds of black pepper; hold the top of the bag tightly shut and shake until all the veg are coated in oil.

Tip the vegetables into a large baking tin or two and roast at 200C for 30 minutes until cooked through and starting to char a bit at the edges.

Put the dressing ingredients into a small jam jar and shake like billy-o until the mixture emulsifies.

Once the roast veg are cooked, discard the rosemary and arrange a goodly amount of the veg on two plates; top with the crumbled feta and a sprinkling of snipped chives. Drizzle over a little dressing and serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers

I’ve been feeling decidedly worse for wear for the last week; Mr Simply Veg and I have both had colds but, looking on the bright side, it’s been a good excuse to stay indoors and watch Wimbledon; not that I need any excuse! C’mon Andy – let this be the year!

Food for Wimbledon has to be quick, easy to prepare and capable of being eaten from a tray whist seated on the sofa in front of the TV – nothing that needs a knife and nothing with a sauce that will end up all over me and the furniture if the match gets exciting…!

On Friday afternoon, while I was waiting for Andy Murray to enter the fray again, I made up a black bean and mushroom burger mix and left it in the fridge to firm up a bit before cooking. It was all a bit “make it up as you go along”, but surprisingly tasty; an amalgam of the best bits of two or three other recipes to which I added a grated carrot and some of our herbs which are growing like crazy. Best of all, the burgers didn’t fall apart in the pan (yes, I know you've been there!) and I have the picture to prove it.
I was going to serve them in ciabatta rolls with some spicy wedges but the tennis was getting a tad intense so we finished up just having the patties with some of our new potatoes and Little Gem lettuces from the garden. A nice easy dinner and Andy won...what's not to like?

125g chestnut mushrooms
1 large onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tin black beans
100g wholemeal breadcrumbs
125g carrot, grated
2 tsp sun-dried tomato paste
1 tbsp oregano, finely chopped

1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
black pepper
1 egg, beaten

a little olive oil for frying

Finely chop the onion and mushrooms and fry in the olive oil until golden. Set aside to cool.

Empty the beans into a sieve, rinse and drain well then put them in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until broken down; add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with a fork. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Divide the mixture into four or six, depending on how large you’d like them to be, and shape into patties.

Fry for 8-10 minutes each side.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Eating at Vanilla Black

It was my birthday last week (yep…21 again - ha!) and, as I've mentioned before, we don’t have a decent veggie restaurant locally so we tootled up to town for the day and had an astonishing lunch at Vanilla Black.

Having become used to only choosing the solitary ‘vegetarian option’ in restaurants I felt quite giddy with excitement at being faced with an entire menu! How exciting!

A selection of homemade breads and salt-flaked butter appeared without being requested – always a nice touch.

My starter of Brie Ice Cream, Pickled Plums and Mulled Custard with Sherry Vinegar and Cracked Hazelnut was very good. Had the ice-cream been a little less frozen, which deadened the flavour somewhat, it would have been excellent; however, the pickled plums and mulled custard were to die for. Mr Simply Veg was very happy with his bowl of Whipped Jacket Potato and Crispy Shallots with Tomato Syrup and Wensleydale Cheese.

My main course of Seared Seaweed and Cabbage with Pickled Potatoes, Soda Bread Sauce, Pickled Mustard Seeds and Foraged Seaside Vegetables tasted as amazing as it sounds and included a little heap of samphire which I love and which is served far too infrequently in my opinion. Mr S-V’s main of Double Baked Ribblesdale Pudding and Smoked Croquette with Pineapple Pickle and Poached Hen Egg was a little like a cheese soufflé served with a perfectly poached egg and a tangy pineapple chutney which offset the richness of the pudding.

I don’t usually eat desserts, I’m more of a savoury type, but as it was my birthday I thought I’d force myself…spoonsful of Chocolate, Port and Yoghurt Sponge with Fig Jelly, Dried Chocolate and Fig and Port Sorbet (mine) and Smoked Paprika Fudge, Malt Loaf and Builder's Tea Ice Cream with Crispy Pear and Smoky Pear (Mr S-V’s) were passed back and forth across the table amidst much smacking of lips while we both “Ooh-ed" and "Ahh-ed” with appreciation.

After excellent coffee we left, replete.

If I was being really picky about Vanilla Black I would say there is an over-reliance on cheese as a protein element and, conversely, a few of the dishes may be a bit protein-light for someone who worries about that type of thing, but.... if you're within travelling distance, go; it’s a proper restaurant rather than a café-style establishment, good service without being in your face and some really unusual combinations of flavours in their beautifully presented food.

All-in-all a very worthwhile excursion; if it was nearer it'd be hard to stay away.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Couple of News Items

Good luck with persuading people of this, chaps...! There’s more chance of me becoming an international supermodel than there is of getting Mr and Mrs Average to embrace the idea of meatless meals.

Most people, with a few honourable exceptions, are too blinkered and small-minded to give up having lumps of dead animal on their plate. They ridicule veggies because it makes them feel better about themselves; they know they're defending the indefensible but they'll continue to justify their meat-eating by saying they only eat free-range, ethically-reared, organic animals who've had a really happy life. Happy, that is, until they were carted off to the abattoir…

I also happened to read something else today which should put an end to the old chestnut “Humans are naturally meat-eaters – you can see that by our teeth. We need to eat meat” that gets endlessly trotted out as though it’s an indisputable fact. It’s not a fact and it’s not indisputable – meat came very late to the party; up until 3.5million years ago we lived in forests and ate a diet of leaves and fruits from trees, shrubs and herbs, much the same as chimpanzees do today.

Sounds like quite a nice diet actually!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Rhubarb and Raspberry Crumble

Last weekend I made rhubarb and raspberry crumble cooked and served in teacups – an idea I have shamelessly borrowed from the recent Waitrose magazine. It was so much easier to serve like this and it looked quite cute, too; now why hadn’t I thought of this before?

I'll admit I was really nervous about the cups surviving the heat of the oven (I had nightmare visions of all the handles dropping off!) but in the event they were fine. If you decide to do this please ensure your china is oven safe and for goodness sake don’t use the cups from your Granny’s heirloom dinner service! Your nerves might be able to stand the strain but mine wouldn't...

The Waitrose recipe used strawberries but I didn't like the sound of hot strawbs so I substituted rhubarb and raspberries; their sharpness contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the crumble which also had a lovely crunch thanks to a handful of chopped almonds and a few rolled oats. I'm not a huge fan of ice-cream so I served it with pouring cream.

It’s actually given me an idea for Christmas – there’s nothing like planning ahead! Chopped apple, orange zest and mincemeat topped with a nutty cinnamon crumble – whaddya think?

300g rhubarb (weight after being topped and tailed)
a tablespoon of sugar
24 fresh raspberries
100g plain flour
60g butter
50g sugar
30g rolled oats
30g whole almonds

Chop the rhubarb into 4cm chunks and put in a saucepan with the sugar. Put a lid on the pan and simmer on a very low heat for 15 minutes until the rhubarb is softened but still holding its shape.
Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar, oats and the roughly chopped almonds.

Turn the oven on to 180C.

Divide the rhubarb between four teacups and put six raspberries on top. Sprinkle over the crumble mix, put the cups on a rimmed baking tray and bake for 20 minutes until golden and the juices are starting to bubble through.

Serves 4

Monday, 13 May 2013

Thoughts from the UN...!

Good grief, I’ve seen some rubbish in the news in my time, but this just about takes the bloody biscuit. The UN wants people to eat insects……dear god!

Leaving aside the fact that in some areas of the world there are plenty of desperately poor souls who are already eating insects just to avoid starving to death, has it never occurred to the brainless fools responsible for spouting this rubbish that there are ways of eating that don’t involve animal protein?

There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who are vegetarian – for goodness sake, wouldn’t you think an organisation like the UN would have enough collective brainpower to see that in the developed world, where we aren’t poor and desperate, we don’t need to eat meat, fish or insects?

I wonder if bugs and insects are on the menu at UN headquarters? No….I thought not.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Leek, Goat's Cheese and Walnut Tart

I think we’ve finally seen the last of the really cold weather, although even last week we were having overnight frosts! The Bank Holiday weekend was lovely though and we really took advantage of the weather; the raised beds in the garden are finally planted up with potatoes, sugar-snap peas, French beans, carrots, beetroots, courgettes, red and white onions and plenty of herbs; the tomato plants are sitting snugly in their propagator in the shed waiting to be put out when they’re a bit bigger.

I’ve already picked loads of rhubarb but we haven’t had a single blossom on the plum or greengage trees, however the damson has had plenty and the apple tree is absolutely covered in the most beautiful pink and white blossom as I write, so hopefully we’ll have a better crop on those than last year.

It’s been so nice to have a few days of eating more summery food again; I was beginning to think I’d be cooking soup, curries and chilli sans carne forever! My sister and BIL came to us for lunch on Sunday. My first thought was a tagine but then the weather warmed up a bit so I ditched that idea and went for something a little more spring-like – a lemony leek and goat's cheese tart served with rosemary-roast new potatoes and a warm spring salad.

A couple of things I changed in the recipe for the tart: I doubled the amount of leeks because I love them and I halved the amount of cheese. People always tend to overdo the cheese in vegetarian recipes – I think they’re afraid we’ll go short of protein!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Emperor's New Clothes

I read in the news yesterday about the, allegedly, top 50 restaurants in the world. Apparently Heston’s ‘Fat Duck’ fell by 20 places. Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.

To be honest I found the video clip here about the No.1 restaurant ‘El Celler de Can Roca’ hilarious. I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be funny, but there was no way I could keep a straight face at the dross they so solemnly trotted out; mind you, give them their due, they at least managed to sound like they believed it. Emotional cuisine, anyone? Oh, please…! These guys are so far up their own rear ends they can hardly see daylight – the word ‘pretentious’ doesn’t even come close to describing them.  Admit it, wouldn’t you just love to go in and ask them what the veggie option is…?

I’m a simple soul. When I go out to eat, which admittedly isn’t very often given the dearth of decent vegetarian restaurants, I like a well-cooked, nicely-presented seasonal meal in comfortable surroundings with excellent service. Perfect.

Frankly, distilled earth and oak smoke in sugar baubles make me think of a conjuror doing his party piece. I almost expect an aging Paul Daniels to pop out from behind a screen, warbling “You’ll like this….not a lot!” I don’t care how much it’s been distilled, ‘earth’ does not make me think of a relaxed enjoyable dinner no matter how outrageously expensive and famous the restaurant may be.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who are taken in by this flannel; there must be, it’s a successful business and as Phineas T Barnum said "There's a sucker born every minute". However, three words keep coming into my head……Emperor’s. New. Clothes.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Chickpea, Mushroom and Spinach Korma

It’s still like winter here even though Easter has been and gone – we actually had another light flurry of snow this morning; it’s getting beyond a joke now and I am still cooking winter meals!

Now, I know what you’re thinking... This doesn’t look like any Korma I’ve ever seen; where’s the cream, where’s the ground almonds? That’s what I thought too, and that’s what drew me to it. It’s my vegetarianised version of this recipe by Atul Kochhar. Obviously I didn’t want the fish but I liked the look of the spicy tomatoey sauce served with it, so I used the sauce as a base, played around with it a bit and added chickpeas, mushrooms and spinach.

According to Atul (hark at me, first name terms – anyone'd think I know him!) it’s a Middle Eastern Korma; he uses baharat in it, a spice mix I’ve never come across before but I have led a very sheltered life. Wiki says baharat is a generic Arabic word for ‘spices' - there you go, you learn something new every day...

The smell in the kitchen while it was cooking was divine, I could hardly wait for it to be ready to eat. It was worth waiting for, though – not quite like a curry but spicy with a warm fragrant kick to it. Definitely a keeper.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
200m Portobellini mushrooms, quartered
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp Bart baharat
1 tsp ground turmeric
2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 loomi (dried limes) or thinly pared rind of 1 lemon
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
200ml stock or water
a couple of handfuls of baby leaf spinach

Heat the vegetable oil in a large lidded pan and sauté the onions and mushrooms over a highish heat for five minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli powder, baharat, turmeric and cinnamon stick; sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, loomi or lemon rind, chickpeas and stock. Bring to the boil, pop the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the loomi or lemon rind and the cinnamon stick then stir the spinach into the sauce until it wilts.

Serve immediately with rice or naan.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Baking with Gorgeous Granddaughter

So, what do you do with your 2¾ year-old Gorgeous Granddaughter when you’re lucky enough to have her stay overnight during the coldest Easter weekend in living memory?

In our case the answer was:
  1. Baking biscuits.
  2. Making an Easter card with Grandpa for Mummy and Daddy (Grandpa was in charge of the scissors!)
  3.  A couple of short walks, well wrapped up, around the allotments across the road where free-range chickens pecking hopefully in the grass were a big hit.
All the biscuit business which involved knives or hot surfaces was done by Grandma (moi) whilst Grandpa (Mr Simply Veg) was stationed beside GGD to make sure she didn’t fall off the stool (!) at the breakfast bar. However, all the stamping out of biscuits and the topping, with cranberries, milk and white chocolate chips and almonds, was GGD’s own work and a very nice job she made of it (a few of the chocolate chips may have been snaffled by her just to make sure they tasted nice!)
I used a half quantity of this recipe and was surprised at how forgiving the dough was, given that it was very well squidged by little fingers and rolled by her to within an inch of its life! The three of us sampled the biscuits, which were delicious, after lunch and she presented the remainder to Mummy and Daddy with her card when they came to pick her up.

A happy time was had by all.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns

You can really tell it's Spring; the garden is under a blanket of snow and the temperature hasn't risen above -1C all day! Unbelievably, we change the clocks to Summertime next week...

There's only one thing to do – make Hot Cross Buns! Baking is not my forte, to be honest I’m not sure I even have a forte, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

As it happens it was even more simple than usual since I threw the ingredients in the bread machine for the mixing and first proving, although it's not rocket science even if you choose to do it by hand. The warm spicy aroma while they were cooking was absolutely tantalising – so much so, we were forced into sampling one of the buns while they were still warm; purely in the interests of quality control, you understand….ahem.

I got halfway through measuring out the ingredients only to find the mixed dried fruit I was sure was in the pantry, wasn’t. Don't ask... Half a bag of cranberries and a handful of raisins had to suffice and made a very good substitute, happily.

½ a sachet of yeast
250g strong white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
25g butter
125ml milk
1 egg
½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
75g mixed dried fruit
25g mixed peel

1 heaped tbsp plain flour

If you have a bread machine put the dough ingredients into the bread tin in the order given and set the machine going on the ‘Basic: dough: raisin’ setting, putting the fruit either in the dispenser or adding it when the machine beeps. When the machine stops follow the steps ** below.

If you’re making by hand, put the dry ingredients (except the fruit) and the egg into a large bowl, heat the butter and milk together until barely warm then add to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a dough then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and silky; put the dough back in the bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm; leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in size then knead in the fruit and follow ** below.

**Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and, with lightly oiled hands, form into slightly flattened rounds. Put onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper, cover loosely with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size.

Turn the oven on to 200C.

Mix the plain flour with two tablespoons of water to make a thick paste. Spoon into a plastic sandwich bag, squeeze the paste into one corner and twist the bag tightly so it doesn't escape. Cut a tiny corner off the bag and you now have yourself a disposable piping bag.

Once the buns have doubled in size pipe crosses onto them and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.
Boil 25g sugar with 2 tbsp water for 5 minutes to make a syrup then brush the buns with syrup whilst they’re still hot. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve with butter and jam.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Tomato and Mozzarella Linguine

It’s allegedly the first day of Spring today, although I heard someone on the radio this morning say that Spring has been put back this year until the weather warms up a bit …round about August!  I’m thinking maybe we’ll just skip Spring and Summer; save time and go straight for Autumn…or perhaps we’re entering a new ice-age? It’s certainly blimmin’ cold enough.

I can’t believe I’m still cooking ‘winter’ food – it’s Easter next week for goodness sake! Note to self – must make some Hot Cross Buns…

I’ve just had a look back on the blog to check when I last made a new pasta dish; astonishingly it was in July 2012; this rather gives the lie to the widely held belief that veggies eat a lot pasta, don't you think?

Last night’s dinner was a tweak and a twist on a recipe I saw recently in a magazine – I’ve ditched half the ingredients (what is it with cream in everything these days?) and made the whole thing a lot less calorific and a whole lot cheaper. Proper week-night food…easy, simple and on the table in double-quick time.

Sorry about the iffy photo – I really must learn how to work that camera!
150g linguine
2 tbsp tomato pesto
100g bocconcini (baby mozzarella)
8 sun-dried tomatoes (in oil, from a jar)
grated parmesan-style cheese, to serve

Cook the linguine in a large pan of boiling water until just al dente – mine took about 7 minutes; cut the bocconcini in half and roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Drain the pasta well in a colander; add the pesto, tomatoes and bocconcini to the hot pasta pan then tip the pasta back into the pan and stir to coat in the pesto.

Divide between two warmed pasta bowls and serve with plenty of parmesan-style cheese.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

I'm still waiting for Spring...

I was going to put a nice post on here today about Spring having sprung….Mr Simply Veg unpacked his brand new mower and cut the grass at the beginning of the week for the first time this year; it was a really lovely day, mild and sunny and such a pleasure to be out in the garden after all the awful weather we’ve had for the past few months. 

The smell of newly mown grass was in the air and a few daffodils were just starting to open; I even started looking up recipes for salads and lighter weight dishes for warmer weather…..and then it all went pear-shaped!

By the middle of the week it was cooler and raining and today it’s back to cold, misty and grey. What happened…?? It feels like November out there!

We went out for a walk this afternoon in the greyness – I was attired in boots, scarf, gloves and a heavy coat! On our return I mooched off to the kitchen and started making soup again; there’s a pan of Vegetable Beanpot and another pan of Red Lentil and Tomato on the hob. Looks like the salads and lightweight meals will have to wait for a while yet.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Squash, Lentil and Coconut Casserole

I'm still on the spicy kick, as you can see. Last night’s dinner was inspired by a recipe I found recently in a Waitrose magazine; it sounded just the thing for a cold day. Yesterday was certainly that day – it was lovely, dry with some weak wintry sunshine, but it was absolutely freezing! When we went out for our daily walk there was a bitter easterly wind which made my eyes water and my face go numb…not a pretty sight…!

Anyway, when we got back I fiddled around with the aforementioned recipe and changed some of the ingredients (Mr Simply Veg isn’t keen on fennel), ditched the cream that was in it (cream and coconut milk…hmm, no thanks, my hips don’t need the calories) then added a handful of lentils.

OK, so it doesn’t look anything like the original dish but it was really good. We had it with crusty bread but next time I’ll serve it with rice or maybe noodles – it makes masses so I froze two portions for a later date.

Much as I love spicy food I’ve never used Cajun seasoning before – god knows why, I must be mad, it’s wonderful stuff!

2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1kg butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2-3cm cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp dried thyme
250ml stock
1 400ml can coconut milk
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
75g red lentils

Heat the olive oil in a large lidded pan; fry the onion and squash over a high-ish heat for 5 minutes then add the garlic and fry for a minute or two.

Add the Cajun seasoning and thyme, stir well then add the stock, coconut milk and tomatoes; bring to the boil then turn the heat right down, pop a lid on and simmer for 15 minutes. Mix in the red pepper and lentils, put the lid back on and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the veg and lentils are tender.

Serve with crusty bread, rice or whatever you fancy.

Serves 4

Monday, 11 February 2013

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Last week I bought an enormous cauliflower for the princely sum of 50p at the veg stall on the market; having used some in a cheesy cauli and broccoli bake I still had more than half of the monster left. When in doubt…soup!

I’m going through a period of curry type spices in almost everything I cook at the moment; it could have something to do with the on-going weather which is cold, damp, grey and miserable. All I seem to want right now is food to warm me up from the inside so I decided to use my usual curried parsnip soup recipe for this and just subbed the cauli for the parsnip; despite my slight misgivings it worked really well and, in fact, I think I actually prefer the cauli version.

I should warn you this makes quite a lot of soup but it freezes well.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium potato, peeled
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
700g cauliflower in florets
1 tbsp curry paste
1.5l stock

chopped coriander

Fry the chopped onion gently in the oil in a really large saucepan for 5 minutes; add the chopped garlic and fry for another minute or two. Stir in the curry paste then stir in the chopped potato, celery and cauliflower florets (reserve one cauli floret); stir to coat in the curry paste then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, put the lid on and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Divide the reserved cauli floret into tiny pieces and blanch in boiling water for a minute or two.

When the soup is cooked blitz with a stick blender until smooth, you may need a little more stock, and serve with a scattering of chopped coriander (you'll have noticed I had to use parsley - forgot to buy any coriander...duh!) and a few tiny blanched cauli pieces.
Serves 6 (or even 8) generously

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Vegeree or Veggie Kedgeree!

I’ve been scouting around recently for a decent recipe for a fishless Kedgeree; sadly, the main recipe on the net was Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s offering (you may remember HFW upset me greatly a year or so ago when he went half-heartedly veggie for a few months, purely in order to sell more books – I now refuse to cook anything of his!) plus others which seemed to have an awful lot of ingredients which rather negated the simple feel of the original Kedgeree. I had to come up with my own.

It was a nice easy dinner and you could easily substitute any veg you have to hand. Yes, I know kedgeree was originally eaten for breakfast, but a curried rice dish really doesn’t do it for me at 8am, I’m afraid – I’m more of a porridge fan, myself – however, the same dish at 8pm for dinner is a different matter entirely.

Mr Simply Veg had the traditional topping of boiled egg quarters with his, but although I can just about manage an omelette, I can’t cope with anything that looks quite so overtly eggy so I topped mine with tomato wedges. It occurred to me a little too late (we’d already eaten it!) that some toasted cashews scattered over the top would be a tasty addition. Next time, maybe…

1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 shallots
2 tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
175g baby sweetcorn
250g basmati rice
500ml water
1 bay leaf
150g frozen peas
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped coriander

1 egg per person
(or a tomato in my case…)
lime wedges

Fry the finely chopped shallots in the oil in a lidded frying pan until translucent, then stir in the curry powder, cumin and coriander and allow to cook for a minute or two. Add the sweetcorn, cut into 2-3cm chunks, and the rice followed by the water and the bay leaf; stir well and bring to the boil then turn the heat down to a simmer, put the lid on and leave to cook for 10 minutes.

Put the eggs into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil; simmer for 5 minutes then run them under cold water and peel.

Stir the peas into the rice and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes by which time all the water will have been absorbed. Leave the lid on and allow to stand for five minutes before mixing in the chopped herbs.

Serve with a quartered egg (or tomato) and lime wedges. Oh, and don't forget to remove the bay leaf before serving, as I did!

Serves four 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Piedmont Roasted Peppers

Last night’s dinner was something that we usually eat in the summer but, having had my appetite whetted by seeing a thread about them on a food forum, I decided I really couldn’t wait several months for the weather to warm up a bit. Piedmont Peppers on February 1st – completely unseasonal but gorgeous at any time of the year...!

As usual I’ve had to vegetarianise this, but I think a few green olives add the required saltiness and I usually throw a few pine nuts on top just because I like them and they add a bit of texture.

We had them for a light dinner with a couple of chunks of fresh bread to mop up all the delicious juices, but just one pepper half with a rocket salad would be good as a starter too.

Word of warning – don’t try making this with green peppers, the flavour is all wrong; you really need the sweetness of the red variety.

2 red peppers
1 clove of garlic
16 green olives
3 tomatoes
4 dsp olive oil
black pepper
1 tbsp pine nuts

Turn the oven on to 180C. Halve the peppers through the stalk and remove the seeds but leave the stalk attached; put the peppers in a small roasting tin. Slice the peeled garlic and put three or four slices, followed by four green olives, in each pepper half. Put the tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water – leave for a minute or two then peel off the skins; cut into quarters, remove the cores and put three pieces of tomato on top of the garlic and olives.

Drizzle a dessertspoon of olive oil into each pepper half, grind over some black pepper and put into the oven for about 45 minutes. Take out of the oven, sprinkle over the pine nuts and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes until the edges of the peppers are starting to char at the edges.

Serve at room temp with lots of crusty bread.

Serves 2

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Vegetarians have healthier hearts...

No, I'm not making it up, it's here in black and white – vegetarians are less likely to die or need hospital treatment as a result of heart disease. Well, there’s a surprise…not!

It’s odd, the Government spends an awful lot of our money putting out all sorts of health advice – eat more of this, drink less of that, have five of these – but never to my knowledge has it ever suggested people give up meat and go veggie; I can only assume that Government ministers are scared of upsetting the farming lobby, but they’re not too bothered about people dying of heart disease…hmmm.

I find the comments at the end of the article by the British Heart Foundation a bit suspicious, too; they seem to be talking down the benefits of going veggie – but, well, they would wouldn’t they? They have a vested interest because if everyone went veggie there wouldn’t be so many people dying of heart disease and there might be no need for the BHF. It’s much more important for them to look after their jobs than to actually give out some advice which would benefit the ordinary man and woman in the street. Oooh, I’m such a cynic!

It seems obvious to me that eating less saturated fat and more fruit, veg, nuts and pulses is almost certain to be a better idea for your health and for your wallet – being a veggie is so much less expensive than being an omnivore – so why don’t more people do it?

It’s certainly the case that people seem to like meat, although the more I read about it the more I wonder why, but in today’s more health-conscious climate why are they still so blinkered? Why do they spend £££ on a gym membership then pick up a burger on the way home? Is the culture of meat-eating so entrenched in people’s minds that they can’t imagine life without it or is it that they still see vegetarianism as some sort of minority pursuit carried out by sandal-wearing tree-huggers?

I’m genuinely puzzled by this conundrum – so put me out of my misery and drop me an email if you think you’ve got the answer.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Wintry weather...

I thought you might like to see a very chilly picture of the garden taken early this morning. The forecasters were right about us having more snow yesterday; it was snowing when we got up and it was still at it when we went to bed. There’s only been a few inches but it's all very pretty and lends an entirely different look to the garden.

It has to be said that as a country we’re absolutely rubbish at dealing with weather; it’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry or, as in today's case, too much snow. The airports are in chaos and as usual the teachers are using the weather as a poor excuse to have a day off with over 5000 schools across the country closed. It never used to happen when I was a nipper - I wonder what they'd do if the weather was really bad...?

Warming foods are the order of the day at the moment so I made some Leek and Potato soup (probably my all-time favourite) for lunch and a Chilli sans Carne for dinner. That should defrost our pipes!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Winter Vegetable Stew with Chive Dumplings

Well….the rest of the country seems to be up to its ears in snow, but so far all we’ve had is a  sprinkle which looks a little like icing sugar on the top of a mince pie. We are forecast to have more tomorrow, though, so I'll look forward to watching it from the warmth of a snug armchair.

Despite having almost no snow, people are already panic buying; I had to go out yesterday to pick up a prescription at the Doc’s and while I was out I thought I’d pop into Waitrose for some bananas and maybe a bit of salad for the weekend. I didn't bother....the queue of cars to get into the car park was snaking back along the access road onto the main road which meant the traffic lights were snarled up with cars queuing on all three approaches! Anyone would think the world was coming to an end!

Snow or no snow, it’s still absolutely freezing so last night I had a poke around in the fridge and came up with an assortment of root veg which, together with some red lentils and a few dinky little dumplings, made a very warming and filling dinner for two. It was based on a recipe I saw in a Waitrose magazine but I halved the quantities and adjusted it to fit the veg I had in. It warmed us up from the inside out and was just the thing for a cold January evening.

1 large carrot
1 large parsnip
¼ of a medium celeriac
1 leek
1tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dried thyme
50g red lentils
500ml stock
15ml balsamic vinegar
10ml worcester sauce

50g self-raising flour
25g Atora ‘light’ suet
1tbsp chopped chives
plenty of black pepper

Peel the carrot, parsnip and celeriac and cut into 2cm dice; top and tail the leek and shred coarsely. Put all the veg into a large pan (which is suitable for oven use) and sauté for 5 minutes in the olive oil then add the lentils, stock, thyme, balsamic and worcester sauce; bring to the boil then turn the heat down, pop a lid on and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven on to 180C. In a small bowl mix the flour, suet and chives together, add plenty of ground black pepper then mix in 2 tablespoons of cold water until you have a soft but not sticky dough. Divide into five or six pieces and roll into small dumplings with floured hands. Put the dumplings on top of the vegetables and put into the oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until the dumplings are cooked.

Serves 2

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Burger for lunch, anyone?

Neigh....not for me, thanks! (Sorry, couldn't resist it!)

I'm sure you've seen this report all over the news this morning. Now, I’ve nothing against people eating anything they like, but if they buy a beefburger I think they’re at least entitled to expect it to contain beef rather than horsemeat or pork.

It’s quite amusing to see Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and others taking the products off their shelves and, in very carefully worded statements, immediately blaming their suppliers....“Nothing to do with us, guv…we only sell ‘em”. One wonders if they really don’t know about the content of the products they sell or are they just embarrassed at being found out? What do you think?

Certainly makes me glad to be veggie!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Butternut and Carrot Soup

Before Christmas I put all the fruit and veg I’d bought in a cardboard box and popped it outside in the garage to give me more fridge space. I think I may have had a brainstorm because I seem to have overbought somewhat….

We’re still ploughing our way through a small mountain of clementines and quite why I bought so many carrots is anybody’s guess, but I still seem to have masses of them; don’t even ask what I was going to do with the butternut squash I discovered because I can’t remember! Thank goodness root veg keep so well in a cold place.

My usual way of using up a glut of veg is to make soup and that’s exactly what I did a couple of days ago. It was actually quite nice to have something simple after all the excesses of the festive season.

1 medium butternut squash
400g carrots
1 large red onion
1tbsp olive oil
1.5 litres vegetable stock
good pinch of dried chilli flakes
½ tsp dried thyme
50g red lentils
a few snipped chives

Peel and deseed the squash then peel the carrots and chop both into 3cm chunks; peel the onion and slice it into eighths through the root end. Put all the veg into a large plastic bag together with the olive oil, hold the top tightly closed and shake well to distribute the oil; put the veg in a single layer on a large baking tray and roast at 200C for 30 minutes until tender and just beginning to char at the edges.

Scoop the veg into a large saucepan and add the lentils, stock, thyme and chilli flakes; stir well, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are completely soft.

Blitz with a stick blender until smooth.

(I was going to put a spoonful of crème fraiche on this but in the event I decided to go with a sprinkle of snipped chives…better for the waistline!)

Makes 6 good portions

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Well, it’s January 2nd and the Festive Season is all over for another year; tree, lights and decorations taken down and packed away, Christmas tablecloths washed and put back in the drawer and festive china returned to the sideboard. All that build-up, excitement and preparation and it seems to have gone by in a flash; the only remaining signs are the pieces of glitter in the sitting room rug which are stubbornly resisting the vacuum cleaner!

We had an absolutely lovely Christmas and New Year’s Day spent with our three favourite people – it was a delight.

I have to say I am completely fooded out – I have had more rich food and treats than anyone should reasonably expect in a lifetime and it didn’t help that it was Mr Simply Veg’s birthday today which always extends the festive season somewhat. Luckily I don’t drink alcohol or there’d be no hope at all for me and my rapidly disappearing waistline! It’ll be austerity measures and a considerably simpler food regime for the next few weeks to give my overworked digestive system a break.

So, in a spirit of getting back to basics, we went for a long walk today despite the rain, and I made some rather nice butternut and carrot soup which I’ll post as soon as I’ve typed it up.

Thank goodness Christmas comes but once a year.

(Whisper it quietly, but I saw Easter Eggs in the supermarket on New Year’s Eve!!)