Cucumber and Rice Noodle Salad

I don’t know about you, but when we’re all at home (and obviously thanks to Covid-19 that is ALL the time right now) I struggle with lunch ideas the most. The other meals and snacks I find I can think up ideas, be creative and non-repetitive, but for some reason lunches often stump me. I guess it’s just one meal too many each day.

However, as I now have plenty of time to get creative with the contents of my fridge and pantry I’m trying to have at least part of each lunch as an exciting, fresh, healthy new idea.

This rice noodle salad is loosely inspired by an Ottolenghi dish; it’s fresh, tasty, easy to make with mainly store cupboard ingredients. Perfect for these days when popping to the shops is a dim and distant memory.

Cucumber Rice Noodle Salad

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

serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

100g rice noodles

1 tbsp olive oil

30ml vinegar

15g caster sugar

1/2 shallot, finely chopped

thumb size piece of ginger, julienned

3 mint leaves, finely shredded

1/4 red chilli, finely chopped

small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

1/4 cucumber, sliced in half, seeds removed and cut into half moons

  1. Place the noodles in a bowl, pour over boiling water and leave to sit for about 15 minutes
  2. In another bowl combine the sugar, vinegar and shallot. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the julienned ginger and finely sliced shallot to the vinegar mix and leave to infuse
  4. Drain the noodles once soft and mix with the olive oil so they don’t clump
  5. Add the chilli, cucumber and noodles to the vinegar mix, stir well and leave for 10 minutes for the flavours to mix
  6. Add the herbs and poppy seeds if using, toss and serve

Vichyssoise (leek and potato soup)

Brrr, it’s suddenly really really cold. A good excuse to make some soup, the perfect comforting winter warmer lunch option …

In my eyes, Vichyssoise is a French classic, although I understand there is some debate over whether it is French or American in origin. It is normally served cold but January isn’t really the season for cold soups and it’s also divine served hot. The classic recipe calls for plenty of butter and a ‘vat’ of cream, but I guarantee you won’t even notice that these ingredients are missing. You really don’t need them. The softly cooked leeks and potato give a natural luxurious velvety smoothness so why add butter or cream? Plus, who wouldn’t love a fantastic flavoured soup with just 4 ingredients as its base? It really is one to file under ‘simple’.

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You’ll notice the different colours in the photos, the greener soup has some of the green part of the leeks added, the cream one has just the white part of the leeks. The greener soup has more of a ‘leek-y’ taste, the white is milder – just go for whichever you prefer the look and taste of.

 

Vichyssoise

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

serves 2 hungry people or 4 as a starter

4 leeks, whites only, finely sliced

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 large or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

600ml vegetable stock

salt and ground white pepper, to taste

  1. Gently sweat the leeks in the sunflower oil until they’re unctuous and soft but not browned. Add the potatoes. Stir.
  2. Pour over the hot stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Simmer (covered) for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are well cooked.
  4. Liquidise. Taste and add seasoning as required.
  5. Serve with fresh bread or savoury scones.

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Noodle Salad

Happy New Year! I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy 2019 🙂

To kickstart a fresh new start, here’s a delightfully tasty noodle salad which is perfect for a tasty lunch as it works equally at home or in a lunch box – even better it keeps for a good few days and so is perfect for making on a Sunday and tossing on a plate or in a Tupperware for the following fews days.

After ‘putting up with’ school lunches Little S has decided to try out packed lunches as we realised that although her school tries really hard and gives her a proper cooked safe lunch every day, she just wasn’t eating it as it often wasn’t to her taste. So we’re embarking on a packed lunch journey which will make life even busier but will also provide a new opportunity for creating interesting and tasty safe lunches. Expect lots of salads, snacks and lunchbox friendly baked goodies in the next few months!

Noodle Salad

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

serves 4

175g spaghetti, cooked and refreshed in cold water

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 and 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 and 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chilli paste or fresh finely chopped chilli

Veg to taste: I used cucumber and carrot ribbons and sweetcorn as they’re little S favourites. But roasted aubergine cubes, peppers (roasted or raw), spring onions, coriander and baby corn all work well too.

  1. Mix together the oil, soy sauce, balsamic, sugar, salt and chilli.
  2. Add the cooked, cooled spaghetti and toss well.
  3. Add the veg just before serving and toss again.

Homemade Mediterranean Veggie Sausages

It’s definitely comfort food time of year; it seems dark most of the time and a bit of warming traditional food is the perfect way to keep the spirits up. Vegetarian sausages can be a great way to have a traditional meal but with a veggie twist – there are a few good varieties but some of the ones you buy can be either unpleasant tasting and trying to be like fake meat (as a veggie, I HATE fake meat) or bland spongy things which are best avoided. Time to create a homemade version!

The Food for Friends (a veggie restaurant based in Brighton) cookbook has a couple of interesting veggie sausage recipes which are definitely worth trying, they are good, but maybe not quite to my taste. So, these are my version;  flavoured with the Mediterranean in mind, using the delicious combo of rocket, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar  – and my, they are lovely! Be warned, the mixture is quite crumbly so it’s definitely worth chilling them in the fridge for a good while before frying. But the resulting mixture is so punchy with umami flavours that we find we can forgive a bit of crumble!

Homemade Mediterranean Veggie Sausages 

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

For 2 sausages, perfect for one person – multiple the amounts for more people

  • 1 slice of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1-2 tbp of the oil the sun-dried tomatoes came in
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful rocket or spinach
  • small bunch of basil
  • seasoning
  1. Best to use a food processor, blend the bread to make fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the tomatoes, balsamic, rocket, basil and garlic and blend to combine. It should look like the texture of green sand
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning
  4. Tip out onto a sheet of cling film, shape into a large sausage shape and roll tightly. Chill well.
  5. Unwrap and cut into two. Fry in sunflower oil until golden on all sides

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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