Thai Food, Veggie mains

Broccolini & tofu with sesame and mushroom sauce


This dish is a meal in itself, served with some steamed brown rice. It’s similar to the sesame crusted tofu with charred broccoli I made a while ago but with a sauce.

I started by draining a large block of tofu which I cut into cubes and patted dry with a tea towel. Then I put it in a bowl and marinated it in about a tablespoon of light soy sauce. I then heated about 3 0r 4 tbsp. of sesame oil in a frying pan. I fried a handful of cashew nuts and then drained them and put them to one side. I sprinkled about a tablespoon of white sesame seeds on the tofu and then fried it until golden brown. I put the tofu on a tray in a warm oven. Next I strained any remaining sesame seeds from the oil and chopped up and medium onion and fried it in the oil. I added about 3 or 4 sliced cloves of garlic and grated in a similar quantity of fresh ginger. I fried this for a minute or so and then added about 250g mushrooms and a small bunch of Chinese celery. Meanwhile I steamed about 400g broccolini / Hong Kong kale. Once the mushrooms looked cooked I added a tbsp. of light soy sauce, a little dark soy sauce, some ground black pepper and the remaining sesame seeds from the tofu and a tsp. of black sesame seeds. Then I added a couple of tablespoons of mushroom (oyster) sauce and some hot water to make a gravy like sauce and cooked this down a little. I placed the broccolini on a serving plate poured over the sauce, sprinkled on the cashew nuts and arranged the tofu around the side.


Veggie mains

Vegetable stew with lentils and barley


There’s something comforting about a pot of stew. When I was young my mum often made a lamb stew with barley in it. This is a meat free Monday version.

I think you need to be flexible when you make stew using the vegetables you find in season at the market. Today I found a nice cauliflower, some lovely asparagus, and sugar snap peas that I wanted to incorporate into my stew along with some other year round veggies.

I started by preparing all my veg and putting all the trimmings in  a pot with boiling water, some salt and peppercorns and some herbs, bay leaves, dill and rosemary to make a stock. While the stock was simmering I fried a chopped onion in some olive oil, to this I added a few crushed cloves of garlic and some celery and fried it until it began to soften. Then I added a bowlful of chopped mushrooms. Then I added a chopped carrot, a handful of pear barley and two handfuls of brown lentils a couple of bay leaves, some rosemary and a teaspoon or Marmite. I poured in some of the stock and a glass of white wine (optional) ensuring that everything was well covered in liquid and put the lid on and simmered it for about 20 minutes. I added some more stock along with the cauliflower, cut into florets, and the asparagus stems. I cooked this for another 10 minutes or so before adding the sugar snap peas, the asparagus tips, some dill and freshly ground pepper and cooked it for another 10 minutes.

I served it with some mashed potatoes like my mum used to.


Thai Food, Veggie mains

Drunken spaghetti / Pad Kee Mao


This is a try fusion dish a Thai-Chinese noodle dish made with pasta instead of rice noodles. The noodle version is similar to Pad See Ew but with spices. The Thai name translates as drunken noodles perhaps because the spicy version is good after a few drinks. It works well with pasta but if you prefer make it withy thick rice noodles. The quantities and ingredients below are just a guideline as you can mix and match the veggies you prefer and adapt the level of spice to suit your taste. This will make 3 – 4 servings.

So what do you need?

  • vegetable oil
  • 3 or 4 coves of garlic
  • 4-6 small birds eye chillies (prik kee noo)
  • 3-4 large red chillies
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 200g firm tofu
  • 200g mushrooms
  • 150g green beans
  • 2-3 tomatoes
  • a handful of fresh green peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. veggie ‘oyster’ sauce
  • a bunch of holy basil
  • 300g pasta spaghetti / linguine

So what do you do?

Start by heating a pan of salted water to cook your pasta in and prepare your vegetables. Chop the tofu into small cubes, deseed and chop your large chillies and bell pepper, slice your mushrooms, tomatoes and onion. Take any stringy bits off the beans and take the basil of its stems, you’ll need about a cupful of leaves. In a mortar crush the garlic and small chillies together and lightly crush about a third of your peppercorns too.

Then heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a wok and fry your tofu until it’s golden then drain it and put it to one side. Then fry your garlic and chilli mix and onion in the remaining oil. While this is cooking put your pasta on. After a minute or so add the pepper and large chillies, and then add the mushrooms. Fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes and pre-cooked tofu. I lightly steam my beans over the pasta for a minute or too as this brings out the green colour in them. Add the beans to the wok along with the remaining peppercorns and the soy and veggie ‘oyster’ sauce also. You can add a little of the pasta water if it seems dry, make sure the sauce coats everything. Then add the holy basil leaves and stir them in. Finally drain the pasta and add this to the wok and cook for a mintue longer so that the pasta absorbs the flavours of the sauce.




Veggie mains

Courgette ‘kinda’ carbonara

This is based on Rachel Roddy’s Linguine with courgettes, egg and parmesan in The Guardian last week. I’ve been noticing, and liking, her column and this is the first time I’ve made something from it. I’ve adapted it a little upping the veg a bit and using leeks instead of onion. This will serve 2.

So what do you need?

  • 1 or 2 leeks (about 200g)
  • a couple of courgettes (about 300g)
  • a knob of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 whole egg plus one yolk
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 200-250g linguine / spaghetti
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • salt and black pepper
  • a few basil leaves

So what do you do?

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile slice the garlic thinly and fry in the olive oil until crispy and golden, and lift out of the oil. Then finely slice the courgettes and leeks into small strips about 5- 6 cm long and 3mm thick.  Now add the butter to the oil and fry the courgettes with a pinch of salt for a couple of minutes as they begin to soften add the leeks and fry until soft and then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Next put on the pasta. While the pasta is cooking beat together the eggs and most of the cheese with a generous grinding of black pepper. When the pasta is almost done heat up the vegetables again. Drain the pasta reserving about half a cup of the water. Turn the heat off the vegetables and add the pasta then pour in the egg mixture and stir / toss with the pasta so the egg starts cooking then add about half of the reserved pasta water. Stir again so everything is coated in the creamy egg mixture, if it seems too dry / not glossy add a little more of the pasta water. Tear these basil leaves and stir them in. Serve garnished with the remaining cheese, the fried garlic and some basil leaves.

The Basics, Veggie mains

Veggie mince / ragu


This is a great way to make a veggie base for dishes that would normally used minced meat e.g. for pasta dishes like Bolognese or lasagna, moussakaveggie chilli, Shepherd’s pie etc. I don’t really like soya based meat alternatives and find this works really well and is packed with vegetables a good way to get your 5-a-day. You’ll need a food processor as the veggies need to be very finely chopped. You can adapt this to use the vegetables you like / have available and flavor / season it according to the dish you plan to make. You can also add lentils / other pulses to it if you like. For about 1.2kg of ‘mince’ I used:

  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large aubergine / eggplant
  • 3 courgettes / zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 300g mushrooms
  • 600g fresh tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1 dried chilli (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. of light (mushroom) soy sauce

Start by putting the oil in a large thick-based frying pan or wide saucepan, that has a lid, and heat it up. Chop the peeled onion into chunks and put it in a food processor and chop it very fine put it in the pan and fry for a couple of minutes. Next do the same with the aubergine and the garlic and add about a level tsp on salt, add these to the pan. Next process the courgettes, carrot and mushrooms and add them. Add the soy sauce and fry for about 5 – 10 minutes, until the liquid that comes out of the veggies evaporates off. Meanwhile blend the tomatoes and add them with the bay leaves, herbs, chilli and a good grinding of pepper. Stir these in to the other veggies and bring to a boil then cover and simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally. You want to slowly cook and reduce this down it will take about 40-60 minutes depending on how juicy your veggies are and how thick you want your mince to be. If you want make a big batch, doubling or trebling the quantities, and then freeze it in meal sized portions.


Penne & veggie ragu.

Veggie mains

Veggie hotpot

This is a great one-pot meal full of veggie goodness. It’s not really that different from a Shepherd’s pie but instead of mashed potatoes you use sliced one which go lovely a crisp. It’s a traditional dish from Lancashire and reminds me of the TV series Coronation Street where this always seemed the most popular dish in the local pub. This will serve 4 people.

So what do you need?

  • 3-4  tbsp. vegetable / olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 250g sliced mushrooms
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 parsnip or 1/2 daikon radish
  • 100g brown lentils
  • 100g pearl barley
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 1 cup peas / chopped green beans
  • 10g porcini mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 tsp. of marmite / 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. dried herbs
  • 1 tbsp. fresh dill (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. (celery) salt
  • 2 tsp. gravy powder (Bisto) or corn flour
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large potatoes

So what do you do?

In a 20 – 25cm casserole dish heat up 2 about 2 tbsp. of oil and add the onion and fry for a few minutes then add the garlic, mushrooms and celery salt and fry for a few more minutes. Meanwhile peel and cube the carrot and parsnip / daikon radish and then add these to the pot. Next add the lentils and barley and cover well with stock add the dried herbs, pepper and marmite / soy sauce and cover. Simmer for 30 mins. Check after about 20 mins and stir, and add more stock / water if necessary you want to keep the vegetables just covered in liquid. At this point add the peas / beans, dill and porcini mushrooms and cook for another 10 mins. Mix the gravy powder with a little water and mix it into the veggies, again make sure that there is enough liquid to just cover the veggies. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C / 4000 F. Slice the potatoes thinly and blanch in boiling water for a minute or two and the drain them and toss them in a little oil (or melted butter if you prefer) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the potato slices overlapping in layers on top of the casserole and put in the oven for about 45 mins until the potatoes are golden on top. It goes well with some mustard on the side!



Black bean soup

Another recipe to celebrate the UN Year of Pulses, it’s king of a lighter version of a veggie chilli, but still makes a good hearty meal. This will serve 4.

So what do you need?

  • 250g dried black beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2- 3 large chillies
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper corns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 40g / 3 or 4 chunks of plain chocolate (optional)
  • coriander leaves
  • plain yoghurt / sour cream / olive oil

So what do you do?

Start by soaking the beans overnight and then rinse them and put them in a medium-sized thick-bottomed saucepan and cover with fresh water and bring to the boil, you can add a couple of bay leaves to the water and simmer covered for about an hour until the beans begin to soften. (You could use a couple of cans of ready cooked beans if you prefer).

While the beans are cooking but the vegetables up into small pieces, reserve a bit of the onion and pepper / chillies to use to garnish the soup. Dry roast the cumin seeds in a pan and grind them with the peppercorns. Take out the bay leaves and add the vegetables, spices and salt and simmer for about 30 mins until everything is well cooked. The with a potato masher mask the beans up a bit, you want some to break down and thicken the soup and some to remain whole. Add the chocolate (optional) which gives the soup a richer flavor and  simmer for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yoghurt / sour cream or a swirl of olive oil and sprinkle on the remaining onion and pepper / chilli and a few coriander leaves. I served it with warm pitta bread.

If you have any leftover then you can reduce it and use it like refried beans.