Roasted Sweetcorn Chowder

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Soup is perfect January fare – after all the Christmas indulgence, we turn to healthy food which suits the fresh start of the New Year and soup feels like protection from the cold, dark days. This chowder is even better because the sunshine yellow of the corn, spiked with jewel like red and green adds a bit of colour and light to these dreary days.

This is a slightly unusual chowder in that the soup is blitzed to a smooth velvety liquid and then pan roasted sweetcorn, pepper and if you like, chilli, is stirred in at the end. This was primarily because my children still don’t like ‘bitty’ soups much but it turned out to be a great plan, the best of both worlds in one bowl!

Roasted Sweetcorn Chowder (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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serves 4

  • 1tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 cobs of corn, kernels shaved off (you will need 4 in total for the recipe)
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 glass white wine
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 100ml oat milk, or dairy-free milk of choice
  • Salt and pepper

To top:

  • 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cob of corn, shaved off
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)”
  • Handful of parsley

– Sweat the onion in the oil until soft but not browned. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
– Stir in the fresh corn and thyme and continue to sizzle until it starts to look a little toasty and golden
– Add the potato
– Splash in the wine and scrape any residue off the bottom of the pan, reduce to almost nothing
– Pour in the stock and oat milk and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the potato is well cooked.
– Blitz to a smooth soup
– Meanwhile, gently fry the pepper, extra corn and chilli (if using) in a splash of oil until sweet and slightly caramelised.
– Stir some through the soup, then use the rest as a topping with some parsley

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Egg-free Yorkshire Puddings

 

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Yorkshire puddings are surely an iconic feature of the British menu and the ideal way to pep up a roast dinner for the long suffering ‘you can just have the veg’ vegetarian. I have tried so many approaches but all my previous attempts at Yorkshire puddings have been a total failure – greasy little doughy things with no noticeable rise – just not nice. Some people swear by a recipe that uses grated potato, but it didn’t work for me and I’m a bit baffled by Yorkshire puddings containing grated potato!

This recipe I devised is as true to the original ingredients as possible (if you leave out the main ingredients of milk and eggs of course!). The puddings you end up with are crisp but also light and fluffy with an airy centre, just perfect as a vehicle for some rich red wine gravy. I didn’t get the sunken in the middle effect, but am going to try egg-free vegetarian ‘toad in the hole’ and see if the puddings get the sunken thing going on when made on a bigger scale.

Egg-free Yorkshire Puddings (egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Makes about 18 small ones

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup dairy-free yogurt
  • 1 cup dairy-free milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

– Mix together all the ingredients and set aside for at least half an hour
– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 4 (or there abouts if already have it a bit higher for some roast potatoes in the oven)
– Pour 1/2-1 tsp sunflower oil into each cup in a cupcake tray
– Heat in the oven for 10 minutes
– Carefully remove the pan from the oven and half fill each cup with the batter
– Place back in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until risen and golden

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Smoky potato tian

 

IMG_7821I have had the idea of making a tian on my mind for a while. Tian is a baked, closely packed vegetable dish; think a Provencal style gratin with no added cream. I had been thinking of Mediterranean vegetables but they’re not quite in season, so I veered towards the large pile of potatoes in the larder. This dish manages to transform a few humble spuds and an onion into a dish of beauty (that also tastes great!)

Finely sliced potatoes are closely packed on top of some onions sweated with thyme, and then the potatoes are brushed with a smoky sweet paprika oil, before baking until the tops are crispy. Looks appealing don’t you think? Make sure the slices are snugly fitted into an attractive baking dish for full wow factor.

Smoky Potato Tian (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

 

IMG_7820Serves 4

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-4 waxy potatoes per person
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

– Gently sweat the onions in a little oil with the thyme and salt until soft and slippery, but not coloured
– Spread the onions on the bottom of a pretty oven proof baking dish
– Slice the potatoes as finely as possible and pack closely, sliced side upwards into the baking dish
– Whisk together the oil, vinegar, smoked paprika and seasoning
– Brush the oil mixture over the potatoes
– Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for about 1 hour until the edges are crispy and the potatoes cooked through.
– Serve in the baking dish for maximum impact!

 

Pea Croquettes with Spicy tomato relish

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I was watching Michel Roux on the BBC Food and Drink programme the other week and he made some chicken croquettes with a tomato relish – they sounded like just the kind of dish I could do something with! Apparently it’s a traditional way to use up left-over chicken in France, but here I’ve swapped it for peas and plenty of black pepper (a combination I think really works). The relish is like a speedy tomato chutney spiced up with smoked paprika (and chilli if you like). We ate these for Sunday lunch and it made a wonderfully satisfying and comforting meal. The girls were originally rather suspicious of the ‘bits’ in the croquettes, but soon changed their minds. This will definitely become a winter family staple – thank you Michel for the inspiration 🙂

Pea Croquettes (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Serves 4 (makes about 12 croquettes)

  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 2 tbsps dairy-free spread
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, lightly cooked
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 slices of stale bread, whizzers into breadcrumbs

– Cook and mash the potatoes (I like to bake them and then rice the insides as it makes the mash very dry and fluffy and totally lump free!)
– Stir in the spread to make a silky, but not wet mash.
– Add the peas and season well with salt and plenty of ground pepper. Taste
– Whilst its still warm, roll the mix into neat cylinders.
– Roll in the breadcrumbs to fully coat (I find if you do this while the potato is warm, then there is no need for the usual flour, egg, breadcrumb combo)
– Place in the fridge for half an hour.
– Shallow fry in sunflower oil until golden on all sides, then transfer to the oven for 10 minutes to fully warm though

Spicy Tomato Relish (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 large handful of cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 dried chilli, crushed
  • Salt and pepper

– Sauté the shallot and garlic until fragrant but not coloured
– Add the tomatoes, sugar, smoked paprika and vinegar. Season with a little salt and pepper
– Simmer gently for 10 minutes until jammy and chutney like.
– Allow to cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
– Serve at room temperature.

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Vegetables au Vin

IMG_7304I spend a lot of my time on my lengthy train commute watching food programmes – for me the perfect way to unwind at the end of a busy working day! Often I get inspiration from these programmes, and on watching Simon Hopkinson the other day I felt compelled to make a vegetarian version of ‘coq au vin’.

I really wasn’t sure it would work, attempting to turn a classic French classic dish into a vegetarian alternative (sacrilege I know, particularly when removing the main ingredient!), but the result was rather pleasing – a warming, comforting vegetarian supper with a deep flavour imparted from the wine.

I chose to cook butternut squash although not my favourite vegetable, and used it with borlotti beans and mushrooms. The butternut was surprisingly delicious (it really takes a good recipe for me to say that!) but did become very soft in the long slow cooking. The borlotti beans and mushrooms on the other hand stood up well. We served it with the classic accompaniments of mashed potato and fried bread triangles dipped in parsley and it was definitely the epitome of a comforting winter meal.

Vegetables Au Vin (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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serves at least 4

  • 1/2 bottle red wine
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 stick of celery, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp red currant jelly
  • 4 large/8 small shallots
  • 1 pack of button mushrooms
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tin borlotti beans
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsps herbes de provence
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp cornflour

– Pour the wine into a saucepan
– Add the onion, carrot, celery, thyme, garlic and redcurrant jelly.
– Bring to a simmer and reduce by a half. Strain out the veg and set aside.
– Brown the shallots in 1tbsp olive oil, then add the mushrooms and squash, cook until the veg has taken on a little colour.
– Add 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped) and cook until fragrant
– Stir in the cornflour.
– Pour over the reduced wine and stock ( if you like chop up the marinade vegetables and add them too)
– Add the borlotti beans and herbs.
– Cover the pot and either place on a low simmer, or even better place in a low to medium oven for approx 1 hour
– Taste and adjust the seasoning. Scatter with a good handful of chopped parsley.
– Serve with the classic accompaniments of fried bread triangles (gluten-free fine of course) dipped in chopped parsley and mashed potato.

Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato Tarts

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I have been lucky enough to have been challenged by Waitrose to concoct a vegetarian alternative to eat at Christmas lunch. They recently conducted a survey of vegetarians and found that Christmas is a particularly difficult time for those who don’t eat meat. Most vegetarians seemed to have a nightmare story of being served meat or a really substandard token replacement. I can certainly relate. As a vegetarian I feel most people presume that I just don’t like food very much, (this is particularly evident at Christmas time) and therefore would not be bothered if I’m served some ready-meal whilst everyone is tucking into a feast. The resounding reply to the survey was to ask the vegetarian what they’d like to eat. It’s obvious isn’t it? I say: the vegetarian does matter, they’re not doing it just to make your life difficult! [full results of survey at the bottom of this post]

As a result of the findings of the survey, Waitrose has picked 6 vegetarian bloggers to come up with suitable Christmas alternatives (all from the top 6 vegetarian Christmas meals) to be featured on their Christmas website. My assignment was spinach pie, and I have to say it’s been a big challenge for me. Cooked spinach is a tricky thing to make ‘special’, and since my blog is primarily dairy-free I felt that I had to come up with a recipe which didn’t contain cheese, but could have it added for anyone who wanted. I gave this a LOT of thought and tested quite a few flavour combos. I hope the final dish hits the spot – it’s a festive red and green, in elegant puff pastry, quite earthy from the spinach and mushrooms, but garlicky and contrasted with sweet and tangy slow-roast tomatoes, with an extra pine nut crunch. I’d enjoy it on Christmas day, and I’m someone who isn’t normally a fan of cooked spinach.

Should you/your guest eat cheese then these tarts are the perfect vehicle for using up some of your festive cheeses – I tested with both gruyère and feta, both delicious (although the gruyère  my particular favourite). But I also reckon some stilton or cheddar would work perfectly too. I hope it has also fulfilled a lot of other requirements of the ‘vegetarian alternative’ at Christmas – easily adapted to one large tart, or individual ones for the sole veggie guest, easily prepared in advance and reheated when required and also equally fitting for Christmas day, Boxing day or a drinks party.

Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato Tarts (dairy-free [if no cheese], egg-free, peanut-free, nut-free [if use sunflower seeds rather than pine nuts], sesame-free, soya-free, vegetarian and can be vegan)

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serves 4

  • 1 pack of puff-pastry [i use Jus-Rol non-butter version as it’s dairy-free]
  • 1 tbsp milk [i use oat milk to make the dish dairy-free]

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For the slow roast tomatoes: [or use Waitrose semi-dried tomatoes from the olive counter]

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  • 1/2 pack of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 6

– Slice the tomatoes in half, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with icing sugar and seasoning.

– Roast for 30 minutes until starting to shrivel. Sprinkle with the vinegar and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

For the wilted spinach:

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  • 200g fresh spinach
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • grind/grating of nutmeg
  • 1 dried chilli [optional]

– Thoroughly wash and devein the spinach, let some water drop remain clinging to the leaves

– Heat the oil and garlic in a lidded pan until fragrant. Add the spinach, toss and then cover with a lid.

– After a minute or two add the seasoning and nutmeg, toss again and replace the lid. About one minute later the spinach should be wilted.

– Remove from the pan and let cool.

– Once cool, squeeze out as much water as possible and roughly chop.

For the mushrooms:

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  • 100g small button mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • sprinkle of herbs de provence [optional]
  • salt and pepper

– Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the mushrooms. Once they are starting to colour add the other ingredients and cook until golden

For the pine nuts:

  • 1 handful pine nuts

– Toast until golden and then set aside.

To assemble:

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– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 6

– Roll out the pastry and cut out 4 even shapes, i like making squares with an edge, but circles would be pretty too.

– Layer on some spinach, top with a few pine nuts, then the mushrooms and finally some slow roast tomatoes.

– If using cheese, scatter on some small cubes of favoured cheese.

– Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pastry has risen and is golden.

– Serve with traditional Christmas lunch vegetables or a crispy salad.

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Waitrose Survey Results:

  • 1 in 5 vegetarians have thoughtlessly been served meat on Christmas day
  • Over a quarter (28%) of vegetarians questioned had never been asked what they would like to eat on Christmas day
  • 1 in 4 (25%) veggies prefer to cook for themselves at Christmas to ensure all the elements of the meal are vegetarian
  • 37% of vegetarians voted a meat substitute such as Quorn as their ‘usual’ Christmas dinner option
  • The traditional nut roast was voted the top vegetarian Christmas dinner
  • The ‘usual’ suspects Vegetarians opt for at Christmas include – ‘A meat substitute such as Quorn’ (37%), Nut Roast (26%), A vegetable pie/pastry dish (23%) and stuffed butternut squash (7%)
  • Over a 1 in 3 (36%) vegetarians questioned said they would like shops and restaurants to be more creative with their vegetarian offering at Christmas time
  • Just under a third (30%) of vegetarians said that shops and restaurants don’t sufficiently cater for vegetarians at Christmas
  • Just under a quarter of vegetarians (22%) cook for themselves at Christmas so they can make something creative for their Christmas dinner
  • When asked what advice vegetarians would give people cooking Christmas dinner for a vegetarian this year, the most popular answer was – Always ask your vegetarian guest what they would like to eat!

Other answers included;

–          Be aware not to use goose fat to roast potatoes

–          Don’t use the meat juices to make the gravy and if you do, serve a gravy suitable for veggies too

–          Be creative with what you serve

–          If in doubt make sure you serve extra vegetables on the day

  • When asked to recall their worst Christmas dinner experiences, the following were common answers

–          When at a Christmas do, being served their meal much later than the meat eaters. One participant was even given their meal while everyone around them ate their dessert!

–          Being served meat

–          Only being served soggy, undercooked, burnt or plain boiled vegetables

–          When the hosts make the gravy with the turkey giblets or meat juices and/or, use goose fat to roast the potatoes meaning they have to go without

–          Having to make do with sandwiches, pizza or an omelette