Vegan, Vegetarian

Khoresh Bademjan (vegan)

Trying out new recipes was not top of my list during recent months. Work and keeping us all sane was the priority. Yesterday, while sporting my ‘Lockdown Grey’ hair, I decided to make something new. To draw from the selection of spices I have but not produce another dish with chili or curry as the dominant taste.

2While I haven’t that much knowledge of it, I have really enjoyed the Persian food I have had. I decided to put together a vegan version of Khoresh Bademjan. I substituted yellow split peas for the meat and it turned out quite delicious. I served it with plain Basmati rice but it would be equally nice served simply with flat breads.

My stash of Sumac was gone (now there’s something I never thought I would run out of!) so I used orange and lemon instead. It worked well and there are lovely citrus-y, garlic-y, flavours to this dish.

Serves 4-6

1lb aubergines, chopped into bite size pieces
Olive oil
Table salt
2 medium sized onions, chopped finely
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped finely (adjusted according to taste)
1 medium sized orange
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Saffron threads soaked in 3 tsp water
1 cup dried split yellow peas, rinsed with cold water
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato puree
Sea salt and ground black pepper to season

1. Place chopped aubergines in a colander and sprinkle liberally with table salt
2. Leave aside for 20-30 minutes
3. Zest and juice the orange. Place the zest in the juice and set aside
4. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C
5. Rinse the salt off the aubergines and dry the pieces
6. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes
7. While the aubergines are roasting, heat about three tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan
8. Add the onions, cover and cook gently for 6-8 minutes until soft
9. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes
10. Add the cumin, paprika and cinnamon, cook for 1-2 minutes
11. Add the lemon and orange juices (including the orange zest) and combine with the onion mix
12. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, saffron (with water), the yellow split peas and a good grind of black pepper
13. Simmer for 10 minutes
14. Add the roasted aubergines and simmer gently for 30 minutes (stir occasionally and gently so that the aubergines stay in pieces)
15. Add salt to taste
16. Serve with plain Basmati rice or flat breads

Lamb, Slow Cooked Shanks

Slow cooked lamb shanks  

When the weather is freezing, my need for red meat escalates accordingly. This time I didn’t want anything too heavy so I threw together the following recipe for lamb shanks cooked in the oven. Instead of using red wine, which I felt might overpower the dish, I opted for white wine and it worked very well.

While light in consistency, the sauce was quite intense in flavour. When I tasted it, I longed for some fresh French Bread to dip into it as it was delicious; I’d be completely happy with that on its own! The final dish? It’s rather hearty but perfect winter fare. I ate mine with creamy mashed potato because I am such a creature of habit while the Teen chose whole wheat pasta and both complimented it very nicely indeed. Other alternatives would be to serve it with green beans or flageolet beans instead of potatoes, rice or pasta.

The dish takes time to cook but we think it’s worth it.

Lamb Shanks

(Serves 4)

4 lamb shanks
1 large onion, chopped finely
6 large cloves of garlic, chopped finely
4 large carrots, diced
12 fluid ounces white wine
Tin of chopped tomatoes
4 fluid ounces good quality chicken stock
Bouquet garni
Salt and ground black pepper
Sunflower oil for frying

1. Preheat the oven to 220C
2. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy casserole dish
3. Brown each of the lamb shanks, removing each from the dish when done and setting aside
4. Add another tablespoon of oil and when hot, add the onion
5. Cover with the lid and allow to soften for a couple of minutes
6. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes
7. Mix in the carrots, coating them with the onion and garlic mix
8. After cooking these for a further two minutes, add the wine and bring to a gentle boil
9. Stir in the tomatoes and stock
10. Season with salt and pepper and tuck the bouquet garni into the sauce
11. Place the lamb shanks on top of the sauce and cover with the lid
12. Pop into the oven and after 10 minutes reduce the heat to 165
13. After 40 minutes, check the casserole and cover the meat with sauce
14. Return to the oven
15. After 1 hour and 45 minutes, remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce down for 15 minutes
16. Replace the lid and let it stand for 15 minutes before serving with an accompaniment of your choice.

Ratatouille, Ratatouille, Vegan, Vegetarian

Ratatouille – not exactly traditional but we love it!

Once every few weeks, I make Ratatouille. The choice can be for any or all of three reasons – we really like it, what’s in the fridge and its versatility. This rustic mix of vegetables is a firm favourite in this house where it is eaten alone, with roast chicken and steamed new potatoes, with steak and roast potatoes, with fish, with pasta, with rice…

There’s a fierce amount of chopping involved but it is so worth it. While I generally stick to the traditional ingredients, I have changed my cooking method. Instead of using the stove, I now prepare and cook it in a heavy casserole dish (lid on). I think the flavour is a tad deeper while the Teen thinks the cooking method has no effect on the flavour; she believes they taste the exact same. What I particularly like is the fact that I can pop it in the oven and not have to watch it!

French traditionalists will probably baulk at my approach and recipe. I invite them to my home any time if they want to cook the dish for me! 🙂



3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large aubergines, cubed
2 large courgettes, cubed
2 red peppers (or yellow peppers), chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)
1 tablespoon tomato puree (a second can be added mid cooking if a more intense flavour is preferred)
2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
A heaped teaspoon of sugar (optional)

1. Slice the aubergines lengthways, score and sprinkle generously with salt. Leave aside for about 30 minutes. Wash and then pat try. Chop into chunks
2. Preheat oven to 180C degrees
3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy casserole dish. Add the onion, cover and sweat for about 5 minutes
4. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes
5. Add the aubergines, peppers and courgettes. Cover and sweat for about 5 minutes
6. Stir in the tomato puree followed by the fresh or tinned tomatoes
7. Add the herbs
8. Season with salt and pepper
9. Cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes
10. Take out of the oven, stir and return for another 20 minutes. At this point, a second tablespoon of tomato puree can be added. Sugar may also be added if the tomatoes seem to make the mix a little bitter
11. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.



Beef, Curry

Beef Curry with no substitutions!

photo (2)

Curry? While a firm favourite with many, it doesn’t seem ‘cultured’ enough for a dinner party. That’s what I thought but this recipe I tweaked from Hardeep Singh Kohli’s ‘Oxtail Curry’ is always well received. From the cook’s point of view, it’s perfect. Yes, there’s a bit of preparation and cooking at the start but once it’s in the oven, there’s about two hours free until serving. The dish is so rich, all that’s needed is Naan Bread or plain Basmati Rice.

What’s so good about this recipe? For me, it’s the spicing. When I read the recipe first, I found the measures a bit daunting. Everything else is a teaspoon of this and a half teaspoon of that where as this recipe calls for more robust flavouring. It all makes for a deliciously, deep-flavoured sauce. And there’s something about the spices chosen too – they all tend to be larder essentials so there’s no sourcing anything unusual in far away Asian Markets.

Meat? I made the original recipe with oxtail and it was totally sublime. Getting good quality, meaty and affordable, oxtail, however, is not always possible so I tried this with rib steak and it worked perfectly. This cut of steak is great for slow cooking and absorbs the flavour more effectively than other cuts.

The recipe is great as it is. I couldn’t resist experimenting but when I did, it never turned out as nice as the original. The sauce is very rich so I thought maybe I would use tinned tomatoes instead of passata to make it lighter. What a mistake! It was nice but it was not half as nice as when passata is used. I learnt my recipe.

This is Beef Curry with no substitutions!

Other praise for this recipe? Apart from the fact that it is all cooked in the same heavy casserole dish, it is gluten free, nut free and dairy free. Oh, and it’s even better the next day!


Beef Curry

2lbs rib steak, cut in equal chunks
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 star anise
4 cardamon pods, lightly bruised with the back of a knife
5 peppercorns
4 large red onions, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped (preferably a Scotch Bonnet)
1.5 inch piece ginger, grated
½ orange, 3 strips of pared zest and the juice
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground coriander
11 fluid ounces passata
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
Serve with plain boiled Basmati rice

1. Preheat the oven to 180C
2. Chop the onions, garlic and chilli as finely as possible
3. Grate the ginger
4. Heat the oil to a medium heat in a heavy casserole dish. Add the cumin seeds and allow to sizzle for a minute (be careful not to let them burn)
5. Add the star anise, cardamon pods and peppercorns, cooking for one minute
6. Reducing the heat, add the onion, ginger, chilli and garlic and cook until the onions start to become soft (about ten minutes)
7. Add the orange zest and continue to cook the onions for another ten minutes (or until they look carmelised)
8. Add the tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes
9. Add in the turmeric, garam masala and ground coriander and stir through the mix. At this point, add salt and ground black pepper (more can be added at the end)
10. Increasing the heat, add the meat chunks. Cook for about 3 minutes to brown the pieces
11. Add the passata and bring to a simmer. Include the bay leaves too
12. Place the lid on the casserole dish and ransfer to the oven, reducing the heat to 150C after about 10 minutes. Cook for one hour
13. Stir in the orange juice and allow to cook for another 30 minutes
14. Take the dish out and leave covered for another 20-30 minutes while the plain Basmati rice is cooking

Soups, Vegan, Vegetable Soup with Barley, Vegetable Soup with Barley, Vegetable with Barley

‘Baby teeth’ optional

We’re all about soups this month. I make them, the Teen guzzles them – win-win situation. Sometimes, however, I tire of clever soups and simply want something warm and comforting. And quick to make and cheap!

This vegetable soup I make is one of the Teen’s favourites. Not only does she like the flavour, she adores the fact that it is a one pot soup with no blender etc. to wash up. There’s another reason we like this soup – it contains a good dollop of nostalgia. I usually cook up a pot on ‘St Stephens Day’ or ‘Wren’s Day’ as called at home. Turkey and ham sandwiches and homemade vegetable soup – a feast fit for kings!

This is a soup with bits. Rather than spend countless hours chopping vegetables neatly, this involves chopping them any which way, throwing them into the pot, cooking the soup and then using a potato masher to break it all down. Simple!

Removing the chicken stock makes it vegetarian and then using only sunflower oil will make it vegan. Removing the butter also makes it dairy free. I am unsure how well it freezes – there are never any leftovers.

Barley can be added too. About half a cup, soaked for half an hour and cooked with the soup makes it more of a meal than a snack. I like barley now – I refused to eat it when little as I was convinced they were ‘baby teeth’. No amount of effort on my mother’s part could convince me otherwise!


Vegetable Soup with Barley

1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 ounce butter and one tablespoon sunflower oil (or two tablespoons sunflower oil)
2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon fresh parsley or a good sprinkling of dried herbs
1 level teaspoon, dried mix herbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to season
Half cup of barley

1. Melt the butter and/or oil
2. Fry the onions for a few minutes until translucent
3. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook for a few minutes
4. Add the stock, herbs and ground pepper (the amount of salt added will depend on the stock used and personal preference)
5. When the vegetables are soft, used the potato masher to break them down
6. Serve hot with crusty bread or brown bread.




Spiced Cauliflower, Spiced Cauliflower Soup, Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

So the Teen likes soup. Well, not just any soup. She doesn’t like ‘the creamy stuff’ as she calls it, dismissing it as ‘a bit cloying.’ I face a conundrum – she’d like cauliflower soup but with no milk, cream or coconut milk in it. All the recipes I have add some form of creaminess to the mixture.

After looking through a few, well-thumbed, cookbooks, I conjured up the following recipe to tickle the taste buds of my attic-dwelling teen. I wanted to combine what seemed like the best aspects of a few and then to give it a try-out. A culinary experiment, as it were.

And she loved it and so did I (which is strange as I am not a great fan of soup or anything which is a measure of ‘sameness’ in a bowl!).

I used butter as it gave a richness to the soup but that’s a personal preference. This recipe can be made to suit vegans by changing the butter to two tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil and not using chicken stock (eh…obviously!). Removing the butter will also make the recipe dairy-free.

We liked the addition of cayenne pepper as it gave it a little kick but again, that is simply our preference. The soup will be tasty without it too. As I used a commercial stock, I left out salt as there was already plenty. We didn’t feel the need to add more. And it also freezes perfectly.

What can I say? R-e-s-u-l-t!


 Spiced Cauliflower Soup

1 large head of cauliflower, washed and cut into chunks with the stem and greens removed
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 ounces butter or 1 ounce of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil or two tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 pint chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to season

1. Melt the butter in a pan and fry the onion until soft
2. Add garlic and fry for a couple of minutes
3. Add the spices and fry for another couple of minutes
4. Add the cauliflower and coat with the spiced onion mix
5. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer
6. In about 15 minutes, when the cauliflower is cooked, place it in a blender and blitz until smooth
7. Return to the pan
8. Heat through
9. Season with salt and pepper.