Archive for the ‘Vegetarian meals’ Category

I’ve been utterly taken with making my own onion bhajis, they are just brilliant. Yes, you do need to shallow fry them in oil, thereby having to heat a large quantity of oil on your hob (mildly scary and dangerous) and chop tear inducing onions. But they are worth it I promise you. Much lighter and tastier than their take-away counterparts and much less greasy these are worth the effort.

Homemade onion bhajis

Also (I haven’t tried this yet) but I am sure to use this recipe as a vehicle to use up gluts of vegetables from my garden in the summer. I’m thinking half onion to either half grated carrot, beetroot or courgette. Perhaps even some shredded runner beans? I guess in this way they become more like pakoras, but whatever they are they’ll be delicious.

I like to heat my oil in a wok, as it has lots of space and high sides. I fill it with about 2-3 inches of oil. Just enough that the bhajis float but I need to turn them to get both sides fully done. You could fully deep-fry if you wish but I don’t like heating huge quantities of oil – I am very prone to accidents.

This recipe is adapted from one by an excellent Indian food writer Sunil Vijayakar and makes about 10 small bhajis. Perfect as a starter or side dish with a curry dinner.

Onion Bhajis

2 small/medium sized white onions

5tbsp chickpea flour (available in many supermarkets now)

1tbsp sunflower oil

1tsp salt

Half tsp sugar

1tsp lemon juice

1tsp ground cumin

Half tsp turmeric

1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped, or some dried red chilli

¾ tsp baking powder

3-4tbsp water

Sunflower oil for deep frying

Mango chutney and yogurt or raita to serve


1. Mix all the ingredients, expect the oil for frying, together well until combined and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

2. Heat the oil to 180 degrees or until a chunk of white bread crisps up and goes brown in 30 seconds.

3. Drop small spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil in batches and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Serve hot with dips.



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I’m having a bit of a peanut butter fad at the moment for no apparent reason. I started randomly eating peanut butter on toast occasionally for breakfast a few weeks ago, which is actually quite a nutritious way to start the way as long as you use wholemeal bread.

…..Just to quickly interject – I hate that Nutella advert that suggest Nutella on toast is a healthy breakfast for children – are they mad? I’m not saying Nutella is an evil thing never to be eaten, but just because it has a few hazelnuts in it doesn’t mean it is healthy.

Anyway back to my squash soup. With a jar in the cupboard I was so tempted to make some chocolate peanut butter cookies or some kind of Reece’s peanut butter cups type shenanigan, but instead I went for this healthy soup.

Spicy, nutty squash soup

This is such a simple recipe. The soup is rich, filling, spicy and delicious. The addition of peanut butter is not over-powering, it just adds a nutty edge to the soup. It also adds some protein making it more filling.

For one butternut squash (makes 2/3 portions)

Peel and cube the squash. Fry 2tbsp of red Thai curry paste in a saucepan for a minute or two, add half a can of coconut milk and then all of the squash cubes.

Pour in enough chicken stock (or vegetable) to submerge all the squash cubes. Place a lid on and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is soft and tender.

Transfer into a blender, adding 1tbsp of good quality peanut butter. Blend until smooth. If it is too thick add more stock. Garnish with a swirl of yogurt and some coriander.

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I was instantly tempted to buy the new River Cottage Veg everyday book after seeing the first programme in the series of the same name. Serious carnivore Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (who has got rid of his floppy hair!) has decided to go meat free for a few months in a bid to encourage us all to give it a go – even if it’s just for one month, one week or one day a week.

Chachouka with crusty bread and salad

I have, for several years now, reduced the amount of meat I use in meals, for many reasons: I like to buy good quality meat and therefore I can afford less of it, it is healthier and in fact many vegetarian dishes taste better than many meaty ones. Cooking meat can be the lazy option – pan-fry a steak, serve with chips and mushrooms – not really creative or mouth-popping. But a delicious stir-fry of different seasonal vegetables, with chilli, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, honey and lime – sprinkled with toasted nuts and fresh coriander, now that is exciting and colourful and healthy.

This is not to say by any stretch of the imagination I am going to stop eating meat (and I don’t think Hugh is going to either) but we can all make an effort to eat a little bit less meat. For those of you still unconvinced it is also environmentally friendly because producing meat in large quantities in this country is totally unsustainable (in some instances plain cruel).

By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

So to the book…. This is a chunky tomb of recipes, over 200 recipes in fact. I fancy cooking at least half of them and the rest all look delicious as well. My short-list to try as soon as possible includes pinto bean chilli, aubergine and green bean curry, herby peanutty noodly salad, hot squash fold-over and refried beans fold-over. There are substantial meals, hearty soups and lunches. But Hugh also describes how you can put together several smaller dishes, that you might have previosuly considered side dishes, to create a family meal. Simply put lots of dishes on the table and pass the plates around.

This week I tried Hugh’s Chachouka, a North African pepper and tomato stew with cracked eggs in. This easily made a filling dinner with some crusty bread for dipping and mopping and a crispy green salad.

I heartily recommend this book, but if you don’t buy it at least give a meat-free dinner a go this wee and see what you think. Some of my own favourites from Food4two includes:

Thai-style stir-fry https://food4two.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/577/

Roasted vegetable and grilled goats cheese salad https://food4two.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/roasted-vegetable-and-grilled-goats-cheese-salad/

Mediterranean frittata https://food4two.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/mediterranean-frittata/

Squash and spinach curry https://food4two.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/hobgoblin-curry/

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Thai style tofu stir fry

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for a Chinese, kind-of chicken chow mein on the blog. This is a different kind of noodle stir-fry with more Thai style flavours but is equally delicious.

I can’t get enough of stir-fries at the moment, they are quick, healthy, tasty and usually simple to make – you can’t really beat that as an all-rounder.

This particular stir-fry uses tofu (I can hear the gasp from meat-eaters). I am a meat-eater too, but really, you have to give tofu a go and this recipe is a good place to start. Tofu soaks up flavours and if you fry it before adding to any dish it has a nice crispy outside.

I don’t like to recommend brands but I use Cauldron marinated tofu pieces, which I think are organic and are definitely not full of rubbish. They are also conveniently chopped in small pieces ready to fry. One pack is plenty for two adults.

This is a very free recipe, add and take-away ingredients as you see fit. You can add whatever vegetables you like and if you really object the tofu on accounts that only hippies eat it (not true) then by all means use prawns or chicken instead.

Serve in deep bowls with lime wedges

Serves 2

Fry one pack of marinated tofu in oil in a wok until crispy, remove and set aside. Meanwhile cook some rice noodles according to instructions, drain and wash with cold water.

In the wok add some more oil and grate in two garlic cloves, an inch of ginger and add one chopped red chilli. Fry for a few minutes then add your vegetables (I suggest sliced red pepper, mushrooms, spring onions, mini corn and cabbage) Continue to fry, keeping the veg moving all the time.

Mix together 1tbsp fish sauce, 1tbsp soy sauce, 1tbsp sugar and 2tbsp lime juice.

Add the noodles to the wok and the sauce and stir, cook for a further minute and taste (you may wish to add more soy and lime)

To give it an extra lift add some unsalted chopped cashews or peanuts and lots of fresh coriander.

Serve in deep bowls with a wedge of lime.

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The pinnacle of food flavouring for me is that burst of intense sweetness married with something deep and salty. For example feta and sweet roasted red peppers, Parma ham and sweet melon or even chocolate and peanut butter! The difference in flavour makes your mouth explode.

That’s why I love this little recipe. You will find various versions of this on many a café and restaurant menu. It’s a classic and rightly so. You can add whatever vegetables you like, but I would say red onion, red pepper and cherry tomatoes are a must. Aubergines would be good here, but this time I used mushrooms instead.

Serves 2

Two round slices of goats cheese (the firmer ones like Chevre, which I used, are best)

One red pepper

One courgette

One large or two small red onions

Few mushrooms

6/8 cherry tomatoes on the vine

Handful of herbs (I used oregano, thyme and rosemary)

Two garlic cloves, whole

Two to three handfuls of salad leaves (rocket/watercress and spinach work well)

Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to make a dressing

A simple, tasty evening meal or lunch

Chop all your vegetables into large chunks (accept tomatoes), place in a roasting dish with some olive oil, salt, pepper, the garlic cloves and herbs. Mix up and put in a 200 degree oven for about 20 minutes until softened and charred round the edges. Place the tomatoes on top and return to the oven for five more minutes.

Once the cherry tomatoes have gone in, place you cheeses under the grill with a drizzle of oil to brown on the top, but not melt.

Divide the salad between two plates, top with the roasted vegetables and then the goats cheese. Mix the dressing ingredients and drizzle around the outside, over the salad leaves. Add crusty bread or croûtons to make this meal more filling.

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I tend to consider ‘healthy eating’ to be homemade, fresh food, cooked with real ingredients, not chemicals or additives and using good quality produce. But I guess often when we say ‘healthy’ we mean low fat, or low calorie, or high in nutrients and low in bad fats. I consider most of my food to come under the first description, but the other day my food fell firmly into the later category and I felt distinctly pleased with myself, as it all tasted great as well.

Delicious healthy breakfast

I started the day with a bowl of organic natural yoghurt topped with sliced banana, blueberries and a drizzle of honey, much better than my quickly devoured cornflakes on a weekday morning.

For lunch I created these delightful Japanese style rice paper rolls. There is not getting round it, these are fiddly to make and just as fiddly to eat, but they do taste fantastic. They are bursting with fresh tangy flavours, full of vegetables, but not full of fat (see recipe below).

Rice paper rolls with sweet chilli dipping sauce

Rounding it off I did a meal that I cook reasonably regularly – tofu and broccoli in a ginger, garlic and oyster sauce. I used to use fresh tofu and press it between kitchen roll to firm it up enough to fry, but Cauldron has increased the size of its blocks of tofu and made them a bit more watery, which presents me with a problem. So now I use the packs of marinated tofu pieces, also by Cauldron, which is the perfect quantity for two people.

Tofu and broccoli in ginger, garlic and oyster sauce

Makes six rice paper rolls:

6 rice paper sheets

1 large carrot, peeled

¼ of a cucumber

¾ spring onions, shredded

small handful of fresh coriander, ripped up

small handful of fresh mint, ripped up

Some cold cooked chicken, shredded, or alternatively some cooked prawns (or keep it vegetarian)


1tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

Dipping sauce

Mix some shop bought sweet chilli sauce with a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of fish sauce.

Fresh, crunchy vegetables for the filling

Get all your filling ingredients ready. Peel thin slices of carrot using your veg peeler or slice very finely, slice cucumber and spring onions finely. Stir all the marinade ingredients together until the sugar dissolves. Place all the filling ingredients in a bowl with the marinade and toss round so it is all covered. (at this point you could also add a sliced chilli or some cashew or peanuts).

Get a large bowl and fill about a quarter of the way up with warm water. One at a time soak the rice paper sheets in the water for 10-15 seconds, bring out and place on a clean T-towel to dry them a little and make them a bit sticky. Place a small amount of filling in the centre, fold in the edges and roll up as best you can. Continue until all of the rolls are made and serve on a plate with the sweet chilli dipping sauce. This would make a lovely starter as well as a lunch.

Careful not to make a mess when you eat these slippery rolls!

Tofu and broccoli in ginger, garlic and oyster sauce

This is an adaptation of a recipe by Sydney-based chef and author Ross Dobson, who has had a lot of really good books out, including a vegetarian one. I’m not sure which book this recipe came from but he did a great one called 3 Ways with….Stale bread! And 99 other ingredients you’ll find in your pantry fridge or freezer.

I’ve adapted this to serve two adults and added broccoli to the mix, although on other occasions I’ve used chopped mini corn and green beans instead. Here I’ve serve it with plan rice, but it’s very delicious with homemade egg-fried rice.

1 x 160g pack of marinated tofu pieces.

4 spring onions, sliced

1 x small head of broccoli cut into florets

4-6 thin slices of ginger

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2tbsp oyster sauce

250ml chicken stock

2tsp cornflour mixed with a splash of waterFry your tofu pieces in a little sunflower oil for 4-5 minutes until crispy on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the ginger and garlic slices, the stock and oyster sauce to the pan, bring to the boil, add the broccoli and put a lid on it. Allow to steam for 5 minutes until the broccoli is cooked but still retains some bite.

Stir in the cornflour then add the tofu pieces. Tip in the spring onions, replace the lid and heat through for 1-2 minutes. Serve over rice.

A delicious vegetarian meal that everyone can enjoy

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Courgettes are bursting out of my two plants in the garden every day, I just can’t eat them quick enough. I’ve had them stuffed, fried, in an omelette and risotto – next to try is soup and a gratin.

Warm courgette and feta salad

This warm salad is a lovely summery lunch that is perfect for a weekend when you can pick the courgette, cook it, then eat it.

It comes from a recipe in delicious. magazine a month or so ago, but I can’t seem to find the recipe on their website to link to. So below is just how I remember making it. The sweet tomatoes and mild courgettes marry beautifully with the sharp feta and tangy mint. The chickpeas make it filling, but for me this isn’t big enough to be a dinner.

Serves two

One large or two small courgettes, cut into rings or thinly length-ways

Two medium tomatoes

Half a can of chickpeas

Quarter of a block of feta cheese (50g I think)

Zest and juice of roughly ¼ lemon

Small amount of chopped mint

Salt, pepper and olive oil

Fry your courgette in a pan with olive oil so they have a bit of colour but still retain some bite (or even better griddle them, I just don’t have a griddle pan at the moment). Meanwhile dice the tomatoes and divide between two bowls. Halve the chickpeas between the bowls and add the warm courgettes.

Grate in the lemon zest and squeeze in a dash of the juice, add a drizzle of oil, season and throw in the chopped mint. Toss it all together then crumble feta on top and serve.

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