Category Archives: Mains

23May/15

Puy lentils with spinach

Green lentils spinach(2)

I love lentils and beans for obvious reasons and cook them very often, in one form or another because they are so versatile.  For those who don’t, do please try specially if you are vegan; they are a source of vital nutrition, vitamins, protein and fibre, specially if you use the lentils with the skins on, like green or brown lentils. Add a handful of spinach and voila! complete delicious meal served with steamed rice (link for rice) and a helping of your favourite salad.

I used French green lentils (smaller and speckled known as Puy) but you could use the usual slightly larger, lighter green lentils too.  Here is a link briefly explaining green lentils.  Puy lentils with spinach is so quick and simple; another reason to make it a regular feature on your menu.

Ingredients

150 grams Puy lentils (no need to soak)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
Little chilli powder (optional, I didn’t use any)
100 grams fresh or frozen spinach
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt
Tadka
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

  • Wash and cook the dal with all the spices and salt in 700ml water – about 30-35 minutes
  • When the lentils are cooked and the dal is thickish, add the spinach and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • Adjust the consistency of the dal when you add the spinach – if you like it thinner, add a little more water
  • For tadka: Heat the oil and add cumin seeds. Give it 30 seconds and add onions and fry until golden
  • Pour fried onions and cumin on the dal and serve with rice – I made some aloo gobi too and dinner was served, with a flourish!

Aloo gobi dinner

 

23May/15

Aloo gobi

Aloo gobi(2)

Here’s the way I do my aloo gobi…you know the one we inevitably order when we go for a curry…. The sauce is very basic with tomatoes but the trick is to first add the potatoes and then 10 minutes later pop in the florets – keeps them nice and crisp and perfectly cooked – add them all together at your peril….potatoes take longer to cook and poor cauli suffers the “squidgy mush” syndrome.

I also tend to use a few of the stalks provided they are nice and fresh….why waste? And they add flavour and texture so do give it a go.

Aloo gobi dinner

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 small cauliflower (my florets weighed about 350-400 grams)
Few cauliflower stems and leaves if fresh, roughly chopped
3 medium potatoes (about 500 grams), cut into 4 each
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1½ inch piece of ginger, minced or chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 heaped teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2-3 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree (or add more tomatoes)
Salt to taste
A little fresh coriander for garnish

Method

  • Fry the onions in oil until golden
  • Add all the spices, tomatoes, tomato puree and salt

Aloo gobi

  • Cover and cook gently until tomatoes are cooked and mushy – add a small splash of water if required

Aloo gobi(3)

  • Add potatoes and cauliflower stems (if using) and 150ml water and cook for 10 minutes

Aloo gobi(4)

  • Now add the cauliflower and cook for a further 15 minutes
  • Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with rice or chapatti
20May/15

Courgette (zucchini) with chilli flakes

Courgettes with chillies(2)

Here is a simple and easy courgette (zucchini) recipe with chilli flakes which takes no time to prepare and can be used in a wrap to take to work for lunch or as a side dish with rice and lentils!  Make it as hot as you like or alternatively use one of the milder chilli varieties – your choice!

Don’t be tempted to add water or you will end up with a very mushy plate of courgettes…..simply cover and cook on low as there is enough moisture in the courgettes. If you like them really crunchy, cut the courgettes into strips rather than rounds!

Ingredients

3 medium courgettes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced (don’t skimp with the onions! they go very well with courgettes)
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes (use the mild variety if you don’t like it hot – for example, Ancho Poblano is a mild chilli. You can buy chillies from Amazon or South Devon Chilli Farm)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons oil
Salt

Method

  • Heat oil and add cumin seeds, give it 30 seconds and add onions
  • Fry gently until translucent and edges begin to turn brown
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, cover and cook on low for about 10-12 minutes, stirring to ensure the courgettes don’t stick to the pan. If you prefer the courgettes crunchy, reduce the cooking time
  • Serve with any flat bread, chapatti, or wrap

 

13May/15

Lentil nuggets and curry sauce

Urad dal pakoras(3)

Not enough can be said to extol the virtues of lentils specially in a vegan/vegetarian diet.  They are full of nutrition and a source of protein and should be the mainstay of any vegan or vegetarian diet – they are so versatile and you lose out big time if you don’t get to know them intimately. There is a huge variety of lentils available and yet most of us don’t venture beyond orange lentils or mung beans.  Did you know that lentils without the skin taste completely different to lentils with the skin – for example, take the ubiquitous orange lentil – have you tried the very same with the skin? a very different story ……

Lentil nuggets are deliciously crunchy and so easy to make and yet for some reason had slipped off my repertoire – some things do and then one day it just appears on the radar, triggered by some unknown thought or action….who knows! Anyway, the other day I opened the cupboard to get my usual orange lentils out and spotted the jar of urad dal which I admit doesn’t get as much attention from me as the other lentils….and that is how it came to be.

Urad dal pakoras(2)

I forgot to soak the lentils overnight but 4 hours in luke warm water is enough and does the trick. As I was doing the nuggets as part of our evening meal, I decided to make a curry sauce with floating nuggets and you can see for yourself that it was a huge success – lentil nuggets are back on the menu!  For this curry sauce I used yogurt instead of tomatoes but there is nothing to stop you from adding a tablespoon or so of tomato puree.

Urad dal pakoras(6)

Urad dal is a sticky lentil so if you add a little to your regular orange lentil, it will give it a slightly gloopy texture – try it.  Lentil nuggets can be made with just urad dal or a 50/50 combination of urad and mung dal but I have used just urad for this recipe. Give it a go and you’ll see what I mean – it is so simple and the texture of the nuggets is firm and crunchy unlike pakoras made with gram flour (basan).

Makes about 15-16 nuggets

Ingredients

200 grams skinless urad dal (soak overnight in cold water or for 4 hours in warm water)
1 teaspoon onion granules
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ level teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
Oil to fry
Little chopped fresh coriander for garnish

Method

  • Rinse the soaked dal and grind in blender to a coarse, thick paste
  • Add all the ingredients and mix well

Urad dal pakoras

  • Gently form into small, golf size balls – the balls will be soft but that’s fine
  • Heat some oil in a small wok – about ¼ inch of oil
  • Fry the nuggets for 10 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Using 2 forks to turn them over works well for me
  • Serve with a sweet chutney or in a curry sauce (see below) and eat with rice

Curry sauce

Urad dal pakoras(5)

Ingredients

1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, minced or finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (available at all Asian stores or online – buy small packet as it goes a long way)
½ teaspoon paprika (for colour)
Little salt
100ml unsweetened natural yogurt (I used Sojade)

Method

  • Fry the onion in oil until golden
  • Mix all the spices with the yogurt and a little water and add to the onions
  • Fry the spices for about 6-7 minutes, adding small splashes of water if required
  • Add about 400ml of water and let the curry sauce simmer on low for about 20 minutes
  • Check the sauce for preferred consistency and add the urad dal nuggets and simmer for a further 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the chopped coriander and serve with boiled rice
30Apr/15

Vegan Frankfurter Bake

Vegan Frankfurter Bake(2)

Lately I have been buying loads of leeks! Well wouldn’t you….this time I picked up a 500 gram pack of beautiful leeks from Tescos for £1!  I know some people aren’t overly fond of leeks but I find if I slice them thin and sautee in olive oil before adding to the bake they are so creamy and sweet and I always go back for more. However, do use onions if you happen to be one of those not keen on leeks and you should have a delicious bake in no time which feeds 4 hungry vegans or 5-6 not so hungry vegans!

Vegan Frankfurter Bake(3)

Last time I did potato gratin and used vegan bacon which was absolutely finger-licking superlicious! This time I had a go at a vegan frankfurter bake and added some white beans which not only bulked it up, it also added nutritional value and added creaminess – a first rate vegan bake you are bound to love.

Vegan Frankfurter Bake

4 good servings

Ingredients

5-6 medium waxy potatoes, about 650-700 grams, thinly sliced (don’t use the ones for mash!)
2 large leeks, thinly sliced (use 2 medium onions or shallots if you don’t like leeks)
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tin of white beans (Cannellini or any other)
1 teaspoon dried sage
300ml vegan stock (I used 1 teaspoon of Marigold vegan bouillon powder)
2 teaspoons cornflour mixed with a little cold water
6 vegan frankfurters cut into 2 inch pieces (I used Tivall frankfurters as frankfurters hold their shape better)
150ml vegan cream (I used Oatly Longlife)

 

Method

  • Saute the leeks (or onions) and garlic in olive oil until translucent and edges begin to brown
  • Add white beans, sage, 300ml stock and cornflour paste and cook for a couple of minutes
  • Place in large ovenproof dish and add frankfurters and cream
  • Lay the potato slices to cover the dish (I got 2 layers)
  • Cover with a tight lid or foil and bake in pre-heated oven at 200C, 400F, gas mark 6 for about 35-40 minutes until potatoes are cooked through
  • Place dish under grill for a few minutes to brown the potatoes
  • I served this with spinach garnished with 2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic sautéed in olive oil
25Apr/15

Rice, broad beans & braised tofu

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(6)

It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which rice lends itself to variation with good results and how well it marries with most vegetables, tofu, seitan, lentils, beans dry fruit and nuts.

Rice makes a vital contribution to our diet and specially vegans and vegetarians are very fortunate to have this humble, unassuming grain as part of their culinary repertoire. It cheerfully accommodates and adjusts to suit tastes and palates all round the world – I feel blessed…….

Layering rice with a central layer of some sort of stew or spicy mixture is known as biryani as opposed to rice cooked in broth with vegetables, which is called pilau or pilaf. Biryani was traditionally prepared for feasts or special occasions and as such good quality Basmati rice was used.  However, these days most families will have it once a week – Sunday lunch perhaps?

For this recipe I made a mild stew with lots of fried onions to add sweetness, broad beans and flat leaf parsley and replaced tomatoes with soya yogurt.  It turned out to be a delicious and very satisfying meal and required very little besides a simple salad of onion, tomatoes and cucumber.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 small cups (about 300 grams) Basmati rice, soaked for 1 hour
3 medium onions, sliced
5 tablespoons oil
2 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
5 tablespoons natural soya yogurt (I use Sojade)
1 good cup broad beans (I used frozen)
200 grams button mushrooms
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tin Marigold braised tofu, cut into 1 inch pieces + good pinch of turmeric
Salt

Method

  • In 1 tablespoon oil fry the button mushrooms, remove and set aside
  • Fry onion in 3 tablespoons oil until golden
  • Add spices, yogurt, beans, a little salt and half cup of water
  • Cover and cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes until broad beans are cooked
  • Add fried mushrooms and parsley to the beans, cook for a further 2 minutes

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(2)

  • Rinse the rice and bring to a boil in plenty of water with 1 teaspoon salt
  • Boil for about 3-4 minutes until the rice is almost cooked but still slightly al dente and strain in a colander
  • Put about ¼ cup of water in the pan and 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Lay about one-third of the rice in the pan and tip the broad beans on the rice
  • Add rest of the rice to the pan to complete the layering
  • Cover the lid with a clean tea cloth and place firmly on saucepan

Veggie biryani(8)

  • Steam rice on medium heat for 5 minutes, then lower heat to low and continue to steam for a further 15 minutes by which time the rice should be steaming

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(3)

  • Separately fry the braised tofu with a good pinch of turmeric for about 5 minutes
  • Place the fried braised tofu on the rice before serving

 

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(4)

16Apr/15

Colcannon Patties

Colcannon patties & cassoulet

Potatoes again…. and why not?  I love potatoes, they are delicious of course, nutritious and versatile and I have no intention of giving these up ever.  Potatoes are my Desert Island food….would be difficult to choose any other vegetable if I had just one choice and I bet there are many like myself….mind I would prefer an island with olive trees, because for me, potatoes and olive oil is food of the gods.

I served these naughty but nice colcannon patties with a two bean cassoulet with butternut squash and some fresh crusty bread.  A bit of salad too would have been nice, but I ran out of steam.

Ingredients

1 kilo (2.2lbs) floury roasting potatoes (King Edwards, Maris Piper)
1 large leek, very finely sliced
2 cups finely shredded green cabbage (Savoy) or pointed cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Oil for frying

Method

  • Peel, dice and boil the potatoes (or peel, slice and steam – this is how I do mine)
  • In the meanwhile, cut the leek lengthwise and slice finely. Cut the cabbage finely just as you would for coleslaw
  • In the olive oil, gently sweat the leeks and cabbage by cooking covered on low heat for about 5 minutes – stir intermittently to keep it from browning

Colcannon patties

  • When the potatoes are cooked, mash them thoroughly, add salt and mix
  • Now fold in the cabbage and leek and mix with a fork
  • Form into fat round patties and shallow fry for about 3-4 minutes each side on low to medium heat
  • Serve with bean cassoulet with butternut squash and enjoy!
16Apr/15

Two bean cassoulet with butternut squash

Cassoulet with butternut squash

If you are a vegan like myself you will know all about beans and lentils and legumes…. not only how versatile they are, easy to prepare as most beans are available in tins and incredibly delicious and nutritious.  The variation of taste from one bean to the next, or lentils for that matter, is blessedly vast and I feel so humbled to have so much available to us to eat to our heart’s content and more.

I actually die the cassoulet as an aside!  What I really wanted and craved for dinner tonight was a big, fluffy, potato cake!  Naughty, yes! but I do love potatoes and have no intention of feeling guilty about it either.

My take on potato cakes today was to add some cabbage and perhaps leeks at which point I realised what I really wanted were some colcannon patties!  Yaaay, so it shall be.  But what to serve with the patties…not baked beans from a tin – no didn’t fancy that.  Enter the cassoulet! that rich, satisfying, French “peasant” food I would happily abdicate my throne for, if I had one!

Eventually, after much deliberation, I decided upon a two bean cassoulet with butternut squash.  Borlotti beans were married with Cannellini beans simply because I love the sweet, creamy taste of Borlottis and had a hoard of tins in the cupboard. Butternut squash went in for sweetness and texture – don’t you just love the gorgeous colour of a squash?  The orange of the flesh is like no other orange and orange is definitely not my favourite colour, and I am always hesitant as I pop butternut squash into the pan because it glows so perfectly on the chopping board….but needs must and in it goes! I tend to buy cheap red wine and then freeze if so often add a shot or two to my pot but this is optional so don’t rush out to buy wine specially.  I believe in making use of what I have to hand and never rush out to buy any ingredient unless it is absolutely vital to the recipe.  Enjoy ….by the way, here’s the recipe for the main course, Colcannon Patties!

Colcannon patties & cassoulet

Ingredients

Half medium sized butternut squash (about 500 grams) peeled & cut into large chunks
1 tin of white beans (cannellini beans)
1 tin of Borlotti beans
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon Herbes de Provence or mixed herbs
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or Tamari/soya sauce
50ml red wine – cooking wine is fine (optional – I used some because I had some frozen in the fridge!)
350ml water

Method

  • Gently fry the onions and garlic until translucent
  • Add all the ingredients and about 350 ml of water
  • Cook on low for about 25 minutes until squash is cooked – check seasoning, you shouldn’t need more salt
  • Check the consistency while it is cooking – you may need a little more water – just eyeball the gravy you want to end up with!

Note: Drizzle with parsley pesto before serving –optional but it does give it that extra buzz!

Parsley pesto
Blend together 1 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley, with 1 large clove garlic and 5 tablespoons olive oil

12Apr/15

Potato & Leek Gratin

Potato & leek gratin(2)

I think almost all my favourite dishes have one invariable…..Potatoes!! What about you? Okay so what vegetable teams best with potatoes?  For me leeks or onions…they both add a sweetness and creaminess no other vegetable can come close to, specially if the leeks or onions are sauteed.

So here we have potato & leek gratin minus the cheese – why no cheese? because we don’t need cheese, not at all.  Simply add a dollop of good quality nutritional yeast and you have a perfect, creamy, cheesy sauce.

I hope you will try this as it is simply the best potato and leek bake I have done to date and yet it is simple and takes very little time to prepare.  Serve with some greens (I love spinach!) or a salad – anything goes! 

3-4 servings

Ingredients

6 medium waxy potatoes (boiling potatoes) about 700 grams, thinly sliced
2 large or 3 medium leeks, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
I packet Vegan “bacon”, about 8 rasher (I use VBites Vegetarian Rashers which are vegan)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil (not your best olive oil!)
1 heaped tablespoon nutritional yeast (I use Bob’s Red Mill which is excellent but a tad expensive – Marigold is a lot cheaper but I’ve not tried this)
1 small cup vegan cream, about 150ml (I use Oatly Longlife)
1 small cup water, about 100ml
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence or a mix of thyme, rosemary, oregano
2 level teaspoons cornflour
Little salt and pepper to taste

Potato & leek gratin

Method

  1. Fry the thinly sliced leeks and garlic in olive oil for about 10-12 minutes until wilted and cooked or until the edges just start to go brown – remove and set aside
  2. In the same pan, add roughly chopped up vegan rashers and fry for a couple of minutes
  3. Tip the leeks and bacon into a large ovenproof dish
  4. Cover with thinly sliced potatoes
  5. In a bowl mix together the cream, water, cornflour, nutritional yeast, herbs, salt and pepper and pour over the potato and leeks
  6. Cover and bake in pre-heated oven at 200C, 400F, gas mark 6 for 40-45 minutes until potatoes are cooked
  7. Uncover and pop back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes to brown the potatoes
09Apr/15

Step-by-step Vegetable Biryani

Veggie biryani(2)

Traditionally, biryani is a rice dish prepared for feasts or special occasions by cooks who are hired specially to cook a huge vat, often outside in the garden on an open fire or even in the street if you don’t have a garden. It is served with yogurt raita and salad and, for me, doesn’t need any other supporting dish. Most families will treat themselves to a simplified version of biryani over weekends or holidays.

Biryani is rice layered with a spicy, fragrant vegetable curry where the vegetable curry is sandwiched between two layers of rice – it is quite simple and hardly ever goes wrong.  The rice is cooked till it is al dente (almost cooked with a tiny bite to it) and you can use a whole range of vegetables or step out of line and add a tin of chickpeas or white beans. 

One would think that rice layered with a vegetable curry would taste no different to eating rice and curry, but you will be surprised how different it tastes once it is layered and steamed.  The trick with biryani is to use generous amounts of fragrant whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg and star anise – biryani cooked by professional chefs for weddings etc use an awful lot of fragrant spices and liberally sprinkle the rice with rose water and saffron prior to steaming the rice.

Here is a step-by-step vegetable biryani recipe which works for me every time with a perfectly balanced amount of fragrant spices and if you cook curries often, the chances are you have all the ingredients in your cupboard – so what are we waiting for….let’s venture forth and cook biryani like the professionals or better!

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups, about 300 grams Basmati rice (soak for an hour at least)
Half a large cauliflower, cut into large florets
400-500 grams waxy potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
1 tin of seitan, cut into bite-size pieces (I use “Mock Duck” by Marigold) – you could use soya chunks or any other substitute
Fry together
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
Few cloves, cardamom, black pepper (about 4-5 each)
2-3 small pieces of cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons oil PLUS 1 tablespoon for layering rice (see below)
Mix together in a bowl
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
2 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
4-5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato puree
3 tablespoons natural unsweetened soya yogurt
Juice of half lemon
½ teaspoon salt
Garnish – fry in a little oil for 1 minute
2 tablespoons each of cashews and raisins

Method

  • Fry onions together with the whole spices listed above until onions are golden brown

Veggie biryani(3)

  • Mix all the other spices listed above and add to onions
  • Fry spices for about 5-7 minutes, adding small splashes of water, until the spices are cooked

DSC_0096

  • Add potatoes, cauliflower and “mock duck”
  • Add approximately 200ml of water, cover and cook on low for about 20 minutes until veggies are cooked, but not mushy

Veggie biryani(4)

Cooking rice and layering

  • Rinse the rice, add a little salt and bring to boil in plenty of water in a large, deep saucepan
  • Boil for about 3-4 minutes in which time the rice should be almost cooked (al dente) – it is best to keep an eye on the rice at this stage as Basmati rice comes in numerous grades/varieties and the cooking time depends on the quality and type of the rice; strain in colander
  • Put about ¼ cup of water in the pan and 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Spoon about one-third of the rice in the pan and tip all the vegetables on top of the rice
  • Add rest of the rice to the pan to complete the layering

Veggie biryani(7)

  • Cover lid with a clean tea cloth and place firmly on the pan

Veggie biryani(8)

  • Steam rice on medium heat for 5 minutes, then lower heat to lowest and continue to steam for a further 20 minutes by which time the rice should be steaming
  • Serve garnished with cashews, raisins and the fried onion you set aside earlier