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

Mushrooms in Adobo Sauce

I think it’s the sudden chill in the air that has made us want to turn up the heat in our meals. Besides, D is a sucker for anything Mexican and a bit spicy. Warning though, this recipe is HOT, not one for the kids unless they have a more adventurous palate than mine do! You could use the basic adobo sauce in a number of ways, it worked well with these mushrooms, one vegetable that I wouldn’t always serve as part of a Mexican meal, so it’s nice to include them.

Mushrooms in Adobo Sauce (dairy-free, nut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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serves 4

  • 4-6 dried chipotle peppers
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Demerara sugar
  • 1/2 jar tomato passata
  • 500g button mushrooms

– Soak the chillies in boiling water until softened. Cut off the stalks and remove as many seeds as possible.

– In a blender, whizz together the chillies, onion, garlic, thyme, oregano and water until well blended

– Heat the oil in a sauce pan, then add the chilli puree and sauce for a couple of minutes

– Add the tomato puree, vinegars and sugar and continue cooking.

– Simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened.

– Add the passata and continue to cook.

– Add about 500g button mushroom to the sauce and cook for about 15 minutes.

– Serve with rice, refried beans and favourite Mexican salsas.

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Courgette/Zucchini Carpaccio

I’m over-run with courgettes – kind friends and relatives keep leaving them on the doorstep, so I’m having to be inventive as we’ve made them into ratatouille, courgette soup, and courgette ribbon pasta. All delicious, but these yellow ones deserved special treatment. I saw a photo of a similar dish to this in a gorgeous French food magazine. Carpaccio plates can look so simple and stunning but you often miss out as a vegetarian. Well, no more! These delicately dressed, blanched courgettes make an elegant, light starter and are going to leave a memorable impression on any who eat them.

The other vegetable that kind people leave me with is runner beans….. does anyone like runner beans? If anyone can give me a way to use them up I’d be most grateful. I certainly won’t be repeating my runner bean chutney disaster from the other year!

Courgette Carpaccio (dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, nut-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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serves 2, multiple the recipe for more

  • 1 courgette
  • a small handful of pine nuts or sunflower seeds
  • 2 sundired tomatoes, cut into small slices
  • a handful of pitted balck olives
  • olive oil (i had basil oil which worked wonderfully)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • parsley, basil or rocket leaves
  • salt and pepper

– Boil the courgettes whole for 5 minutes. Then drain and refresh in iced water

– Slice into long, thin strips

– Place onto a plate

– Drizzle with a little oil

– Arrange the tomatoes, olives, pine nuts and parsley/basil on top

– Drizzle with a little more oil and a few drops of balsamic

– Season and serve.

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Homemade Egg-free Gnocchi

Like most families, we eat a lot of pasta, so I decided to mix things up a bit with some home-made gnocchi. Lots of recipes seem to include egg, but this one is simply potato and flour. The resulting dumpling is light and needs to be treated with care, but the texture is not at all stodgy and works wonderfully with a rich tomato sauce.

Homemade Egg-free Gnocchi (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan – gluten-free if use gluten-free flour)

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Serves 2

  • 2 baking Potatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp Flour

– Bake the potato and then mash or rice the insides ( you want the potato to be as dry as possible)
– Beat in the flour, and bring together to a soft dough
– Split into four pieces and roll each into a long sausage shape
– Cut into 2cm length pieces and press a fork onto each to give a lovely gnocchi shape
– Leave to dry
– Bring a pan of salted water to a rolling boil
– Add a few gnocchi and cook briefly until they rise to the top (it takes 30 seconds max)
– Drain on kitchen paper
– Serve topped with your favourite sauce

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