Vegan creamy spinach and potato soup


I’ve got a confession to make. None of the soup I’ve had on the two days I’ve had soup for lunch for Vegan Monday over the last four weeks has been vegan. This means I have only successfully completed one out of four Vegan Mondays (and that was only because I’d got up too late to have lunch).

Please forgive me though, as I had no idea. I’d been using Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon and it never occurred to me that anyone would put dairy in stock. But after Ocado sent me some Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon with ‘vegan’ written on it in nice big letters, I thought to myself ‘if they’ve gone to the trouble to label that vegan, does that mean the other one isn’t?’ and bah, yes it does mean it isn’t. It has lactose in it, which comes from milk [insert swear word of choice here; mine was ‘bollocks’, in case you’re interested].

Still, a lesson learnt and today’s soup (and therefore tomorrow’s for Vegan Monday) is 100% vegan.

Spinach and potato soup (serves 3-4)
(Adapted from a recipe at BBC Good Food)

1 tbsp olive oil
4 shallots (I only used shallots as I didn’t have an onion), chopped
1 medium potato, diced
150g spinach
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400ml vegan stock
300ml soya milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the potato and fry for 1 minute.
  3. Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the spinach and lemon juice and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and add the nutmeg.
  7. Whizz in a blender.
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Red cabbage and cannellini bean soup


Just look at the colour of this soup – a gorgeous aubergine colour. It pleases my inner goth, that’s for sure.

It doesn’t actually have any aubergine in it though – it’s primary ingredient is red cabbage, along with a tin of cannellini beans.

Seasonal, quick, easy and gothic – what more do you want?

Red cabbage and cannellini bean soup (serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Half a red cabbage, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
700ml vegetable stock
salt and black pepper

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes until soft.
  2. Add the cabbage and stock and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the cabbage is cooked.
  3. Add the beans and salt and pepper and heat through for another 5 minutes.
  4. Blend it or leave chunky (if you blend it and it’s too thick for your taste, add more water or stock).
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Spicy chickpeas in tomato sauce with rosemary


My life over the last few weeks, while not exactly jet set, has certainly been a bit train set with me up and down the country from Kent to Salisbury and London and Dorking and Ipswich and so I haven’t been in the kitchen much making healthy meals. Whether I’ve been in bed a lot complaining of having a hangover is another matter.

Still, I’m back now (well, until Friday when I’m off to London for afternoon tea and a gig, then back again to London on Sunday for the London Duathlon) and so tonight, much to The Meat Eater’s relief, I made something tasty and healthy for dinner.

The Meat Eater said it had too much rosemary in it, but that didn’t stop him cleaning his plate right down to the last grain of rice.

In the cookbook I used – Slow Cooking for Vegetarians – it once again faffs around cooking ingredients before adding them to the slow cooker. The recipe below is my faffless way of doing it.

Spicy chickpeas in tomato sauce with rosemary (serves 4)
(Adapted from Slow Cooking for Vegetarians)

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 tbsp cumin seeds
4 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chillie, chopped
600ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat the slow cooker on High.
  2. Place all the ingredients except the parsley in the slow cooker and cook on High for about 8 hours.
  3. Just before serving, stir in the parsley.
  4. Serve with basmati rice (or whatever you want to serve it with).
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Quorn Singapore noodles


I’ve called this Quorn Singapore noodles, but it was a mix of Quorn mince and Sainsbury’s meatfree mince I had in the freezer I needed to use up.

Not that it mattered. This was delicious, quick and easy.

Quorn Singapore noodles (serves 4)
Taken from The Quorn Kitchen

350g Quorn Mince
6 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp rice wine
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100g mange tout, halved lengthways
6 spring onions, chopped
4 blocks egg noodles
125g beansprouts
200g pak choi, chopped

  1. Combine the Quorn Mince, hoisin sauce, garlic, rice wine, chilli and soy sauce, mixing well. Heat the oil in a wok or stir-fry pan then add the mince mixture and stir-fry over a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the mange tout and half the spring onions and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the pack instructions.
  3. Just before serving, stir the beansprouts and pak choi into the mince, allowing the pak choi to wilt slightly. Fork in the noodles and serve immediate3ly, garnished with remaining spring onions.
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Black-eyed pea bake


I had a few dilemmas with this. Were black-eyed beans the same as black-eyed peas, as that’s all I could find in the supermarket? After a bit of a Google, I decided they were.

Then, the recipe called for 350g of dried peas/beans. Fine, I weighed out 350g of beans and left them to soak overnight. Oh, that’s a LOT of beans. Do I really need all of them? I didn’t think so and weighed out 350g of the soaked beans, freezing the rest.

While reading the method, it said to fry the onions and garlic and add the beans then cover with water and boil, then whizz up in a food processor. Won’t there be a load of water? Do I drain it first or what? Still, I didn’t need to worry about that, as the water got absorbed or evaporated or something, so all was fine there.

Rose Elliot, in her book New Complete Vegetarian, says this bake goes well with a spicy tomato sauce or a vegetarian gravy and, if you’re like me and not a make-your-own-gravy kind of girl, I can confirm that Bisto complements it beautifully.

I was mega-made-up with this dish. How nice can some puréed beans with breadcrumbs on top be, I thought? Flipping gorgeous!


Black-eyed pea bake (serves 4)
Taken from Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian

350g dried black-eyed peas (soaked overnight)
2 large onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping
50g fresh breadcrumbs
50g grated cheese

  1. Drain and rinse the peas.
  2. Fry the onions and garlic in the oil for 10 minutes or until the onion is tender but not browned, then add the peas, herbs and water to cover.
  3. Simmer gently, until the peas are tender (about 25-40 minutes).
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
  5. Purée the pea mixture in a food processor or with an electric hand blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Spoon the mixture into a greased, shallow ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy.
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Slow cooked spicy spaghetti with garlic mushrooms

There’s something not quite right about preparing dinner at 11am but  there’s a reason slow cookers are called slow. This meant I was chopping onions and mushrooms in the morning before going to university, so dinner would be sort of ready when I got back. All I had to do was boil up some pasta and dinner was on the table.

I’m not sure if I’m trying to convince myself the flavours are more intense when food’s come out of a slow cooker because I’ve spent the money on it and I want it to be true, or if it really is the case. But both meals I’ve made in it so far have been gorgeous. The chilli and garlic came through perfectly in the spaghetti sauce from this recipe I adapted from the BBC Good Food website. Their recipe says it serves four, but I found it only served two (it could have served three, but I didn’t want to freeze only one portion).


Spicy spaghetti with garlic mushrooms (serves 2)

2 tbsp olive oil
250g pack chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed small bunch parsley leaves, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp chilli flakes
150g spaghetti

Place all the ingredients except the parsley and pasta in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low for 6-7 hours. Just before you’re ready to eat, cook the spaghetti, drain, mix with the mushroom mix and scatter with parsley to serve.

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Mushroom stuffed aubergine

stuffed-aubergine I always think stuffing vegetables sounds like it’s going to be fiddly and time-consuming. It’s not though, at least not the way I do it which mostly involves bunging the stuffing on top of whatever it is I’m stuffing. Like this aubergine stuffed with mushrooms, for example. Dead easy.

Mushroom stuffed aubergine (serves 2)

1 aubergine
1 onion, chopped
125g mushrooms, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
50g breadcrumbs
50g cheese, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper

  1. Cut the aubergine in half lengthways and score with a knife. Brush with a little olive oil and bake in the oven at 200C for about 30 minutes. Scoop out the aubergine flesh and chop.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms, aubergine flesh and garlic to the onion and fry for another 5 minutes then season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pile the mushroom, aubergine and onion mixture on top of the aubergine skins and sprinkle the breadcrumbs and grated cheese on top.
  5. Return to the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden.
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The Great British Garlic Challenge



I tried to grow garlic once by bunging a bulb in a pot and leaving it to see what happened. Funnily enough, nothing happened except it went a bit manky.

So when I heard about The Great British Garlic Challenge, I thought I’d have a go at growing garlic properly (plus, I’ll do almost anything that has the word ‘challenge’ in it).

The competition is being organised by The Garlic Farm – the UK’s only specialist garlic grower.

To enter, competitors first need to register on The Garlic Farm’s website (registration will stay open throughout the competition). The Garlic Farmer, Colin Boswell, will then email hints and tips on how to grow garlic at home.

To enter the competition, entrants will need to plant and grow garlic of the Solent Wight variety, which you can buy on The Garlic Farm’s website, but it is widely available elsewhere. Once harvested, entrants will send farmer Colin three photographs of their garlic; one in situ, one when lifted and one in its dried and cleaned state.

The Solent Wight garlic should be harvested in July. All photo entries need to be submitted by Friday 16 August 2013 when Colin will study each image before choosing the winner. The winner will receive a complimentary weekend for two at The Garlic Farm, £100 to spend in the farm shop and a meal for two at the onsite restaurant where they will be able to taste some of The Garlic Farm’s very own produce. Five runners up will each receive a year’s supply of garlic.

I’m off to buy some Solent Wight garlic bulbs to grow and I’ll be posting its progress on here. Who else is in?

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Pasta with roast vegetables and tomato sauce

I’ve been eating a lot of food out of packets recently, so tonight I decided to have something healthy. There’s a farm shop local to me that sells seasonal vegetables, so I scooted down there to see what they had and made a super-healthy dish that probably contained at least 8 of my 5-a-day.


Pasta with roast vegetables and tomato sauce (serves 6)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into chunks
1 aubergine, chopped into chunks
1 courgette, thickly sliced
200g mushrooms, sliced
100g spinach
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp mixed herbs
salt and ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Place the red pepper, aubergine and courgette into a roasting tray and drizzle with some oil. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
Fry the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil for a few minutes until soft.
Add the mushrooms and leeks to the onion and fry for about 5 minutes.
Add the roasted red pepper, aubergine and courgette to the onion, mushrooms and leeks.
Add the tinned tomatoes to the vegetables and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add the mixed herbs and season to taste.
Add the spinach and cook until wilted.
Serve with pasta of your choice.

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Stuffed courgettes with mushrooms

Oh blimey, it’s courgette season again. This means weeks of courgette soup and stuffed courgettes. Just as well I like courgettes then, eh?

I found this recipe in Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian and what I liked most about it is that I already had all of the ingredients (or variations of them), which saved me a trip to the supermarket and which kind of makes it a free meal.

It was fab. It was so fab, The Meat Easter has insisted I make it twice this week. Suits me.

I served it with fresh broad beans and new potatoes.


Stuffed courgettes with mushrooms (serves 4)

4 large courgettes
1 garlic clove
4 tomatoes
175g button mushrooms
25g butter
125g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for greasing
25g-50g grated Gruyére or Parmesan-style cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
  2. Parboil the courgettes for 5 minutes, then slice in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh. Mash the courgette flesh. Place the courgette shells side by side in an oiled ovenproof dish.
  3. Crush the garlic, slice the tomatoes and mushrooms, and fry lightly in the butter until tender, then mix with half the breadcrumbs, the mashed courgette centres, the lemon juice and rind, parsley and some salt and pepper.
  4. Pile the mixture into the prepared courgettes, place in a shallow oiled ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the rest of the breadcrumbs and the grated cheese.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.
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