Slow cooked pasta sauce

Slow cooked pasta sauce

Late in from work, I promised to make the Teen something tasty for dinner to be ready when she arrived in from college. Not a lot in the fridge but still enough to make a tasty pasta sauce. I’ve slow cooked meat ragu before so I wondered if I could make a vegan version. At that time of the day, I simply wanted to prepare something which ticked all the boxes but didn’t exhaust me making!

Into the kitchen and I find vegetables, tins of tomatoes, lentils and some wine so I get to work. I let it cook at a low heat and like the meat version, it became richer with the cooking. Served up with penne, it made a very happy Teen. And we discovered that it freezes well too. Win win!

Serves 4

2 tbsp, olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced finely
4 oz mushrooms, chopped finely
1 roasted red pepper, cut into thin slices
4 oz green lentils, rinsed
1 glass red wine
2 tbsp, tomato puree
1 tbsp, dried parsley
1 heaped tsp, dried basil
2 tins, chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tsp, sugar
Ground black pepper and sea salt to season

1. Heat the oil and cook the onion over a medium heat until soft (about 8 mins)
2. Add garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes
3. Add carrots, mushrooms and lentils cooking for another 4 minutes
4. Add red pepper
5. Add red wine and cook for 2 minutes
6. Add herbs, tomato puree, tins tomatoes and sugar
7. Season with salt and pepper
8. Bring to the boil and then reduce
9. Cook over a low heat for 3 hours
10. Serve with a pasta of your choosing

Creamy Vegan Curry

Creamy Vegan Curry

The Teen likes creamy food but she’s never liked cream in food. I kept this in mind when making a curry recently and wondered how it might turn out if I used coconut milk to make a creamy curry. I wanted the creaminess but not the coconut flavour which wouldcoconut not have suited the spice blend and it worked out perfectly once I got the following ratio correct. One tin of tomatoes to one tin of coconut milk was too creamy but two tins of tomatoes to one tin of coconut milk worked out perfectly. It made it a big pot of food so this curry generously feeds six!

It can be served with rice or warmed naan bread. It’s even nice to eat on its own and it freezes well too.

2 tbsp, sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 tbsp, grated ginger
1 red pepper, cut in strips
2 large carrots, diced
4 oz, mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-2 chillis, chopped finely or 1 tsp, minced chilli from a jar
½ tsp, cumin seeds
1 tsp, ground cumin
1 tsp, ground coriander
1 tsp, garam masala
1 tsp, turmeric
2 tbsp, tomato puree
2 tins, chopped tomatoes
1 tin, coconut milk
Sea salt and ground black pepper to season

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
2. Fry the onion over a medium heat until soft for about 8 minutes
3. Add the garlic and ginger cooking for another 2 minutes
4. Add the pepper, carrots and mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes
5. Add the chickpeas, cumin seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, turmeric and cook for 2 minutes
6. Add the tomato puree and tins of chopped tomatoes
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper
8. Cook for 40 minutes over a low to medium heat
9. Add the coconut milk and heat through just before serving.
10. Serve with boiled rice or warmed naan bread

Baking and stuff, Peachy Buns

Peachy Buns

Oooooh peaches! Beautiful peaches! I bought two packs, And the very next day, I wake up to see them turning to mush before my very eyes. I am determined not to throw them out!

I start flicking through my cookery books – peach salsa, chilli and peach jam, peach jam. They all sound delightful but require ingredients I don’t have and am not bothered to go to the shops to buy.

I’ll make buns. I know the flavour I want and work backwards from that. I wonder ‘Will they be too sweet?’ ‘Will they be too wet?’ Will they rise?’ I persevere and they turn out delicious.

I cooked some in paper bun cases and some in a traditional muffin tin. The ones in the paper cases rose beautifully, the ones in the tin not so much. They all tasted the same – yum!

3 soft peaches, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
4 oz, soft unsalted butter
6 oz caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
8 oz self-raising flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
4 tablespoons, almond flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (Fan)
2. Set out 16 paper bun cases
3. Sift the flour, cinnamon and salt together
4. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale
5. Add in the beaten eggs until combined
6. Add in the peaches and nuts
7. Fold in the flour in three stages
8. Divide into the bun cases
9. Bake for 20 minutes in the middle of the oven
10. Test with a skewer to see if they are cooked through
11. Remove from tin and allow to cool on a wire rack

Vegan, Vegetarian

Butter Bean and Sweet Potato Curry

Ah, you can’t beat a summer in Ireland! While you might expect to be knee deep in salad beansingredients and all sorts of delicious fresh produce, wintry fare is often far more suitable. No surprise then that I cooked a Butter Bean and Sweet Potato Curry yesterday for the teen. A one pot dinner which suited the weather perfectly. She ate it while sitting at the window looking out at the lashings of rain!

½ lb dried butter beans soaked overnight or 2 tins of butter beans
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
5 tbsp, sunflower oil
1 onion, cut into thinly sliced rings
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1½ tbsp, fresh ginger grated finely
1 tsp, minced chilli from jar or 1-2 fresh chillis, chopped finely
1 tsp, turmeric
1 tsp, ground cumin
1 tsp, cumin seeds
1 tsp, garam masala
1 tsp, ground coriander
1 tsp, mango powder (optional)
1 tin, chopped tomatoes
2 tbsps, tomato puree
Cup of water
Sea salt
1 cube, vegetable stock
1 tbsp, lemon juice

1. If using dried butter beans – place in a saucepan, cover with plenty of water, add the stock cube and boil gently for 30-40 minutes until the beans are softening but still have a bit of a bite. Drain and set aside

While beans are cooking
2. Preheat the oven to 180C Fan
3. Toss the sweet potatoes and carrots in 3 tablespoons of oil and season with salt
4. Roast in the oven until carmelised but still have a slight bite (about 20-25 minutes)
5. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until soft – about 8 minutes
6. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes
7. Add the chilli and cook for about a minute
8. Make a well in the onion mix and add the spices
9. Let these cook for a minute and then combine thoroughly and cook for a further 2 minutes
10. Add the tomato puree, tin of chopped tomatoes and lemon juice*
11. Cook for 10 minutes
12. Add the beans and roast vegetables
13. Add the water, if needed
14. Cook for another 5 minutes
15. Serve as it is, with green vegetables or some warm naan breads.

* The lemon juice is important as it cuts through the sweetness of the beans and roast vegetables

Vegan, Vegetarian

Romesco Sauce

More experimentation in the kitchen. Whenever I am at my busiest, my mind wanders to cooking and today was no exception. I saw this sauce being made to serve with fish and thought it could be nice to serve as a vegan pasta sauce too.

After scouring a number of recipes, I put together the following. It can be stored for up to a week in the fridge but I doubt this will last that long! The teen ate it with a spoon from the jar and spread it on bread before eating it with pasta. We also thought that it would be a very nice accompaniment to serve with chips or potato wedges.


2 red peppers
4 tbsp, blanched almonds
2-3 cloves, garlic
2 tomatoes, peeled and cored
Pinch of salt
½ tsp, sugar
¼ tsp, cayenne
1 tsp, smoked paprika
2 tbsp, wine vinegar
2 tbsp, olive oil

1. Pre heat oven to 180C
2. Place peppers on an oven rack and roast until soft, turning a couple of times over the 10-15 minutes required
3. At the same time, place the almonds and the garlic on a baking tray to roast for 8-10 minutes, turning the almonds once during the process to make sure they do not burn
4. In a liquidiser, place the tomatoes, salt, sugar, cayenne pepper, paprika and vinegar
5. When roasted, remove the peppers, almonds and garlic from the oven and allow to cool
6. Peel the peppers and remove the seeds and stalk
7. Peel the garlic
8. Add the peppers, almonds and garlic to the other ingredients and blitz until combined but the nuts are still slightly visible
9. Add the oil and combine thoroughly
10. Transfer to a sterilised jar


Baking and stuff, Caramel Slices

Decadent Caramel Slices

As traybakes go, this is not only one of the most decadent but also one of the most warmly received! I have made this so many times over the years and it has always put a great big smile on people’s faces!

Constructed in stages, it does take a little time but it is also very straightforward. I add in some semolina to the flour to make the base more crumbly. I have thought of substituting butter for the margarine but it could be a step too far!


Makes 12

4 oz, soft margarine
2 oz, caster sugar
6 oz, plain flour (less 3 tablespoons)
3 tbsp, Semolina

6 oz, condensed milk
2 tbsp, golden syrup
4 oz, butter
3 oz, caster sugar

6 oz, milk chocolate

1. Heat the oven at 180C degree
2. Grease a baking tin (about 7 inches x 11 inches)
3. Cream the margarine and sugar
4. Add the flour and semolina and mix all ingredients together until fully combined (as if making pastry)
5. Press the shortbread mix into the baking tin and smooth over with the back of a spoon
6. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and then allow to cool
7. Combine all the caramel ingredients into a heavy saucepan
8. Gently heat these ingredients until they come together, stirring all the time, and are slightly thickened (10 to 15 minutes)
9. Allow the caramel to cool slightly before pouring over the shortbread.
10. When cold, melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water
11. Spread the chocolate over the caramel and allow to cool before cutting into squares

Vegan, Vegetarian

Chana Masala with Roasted Pepper

We’re at that time of the week when the fridge is bare! Time to conjure up something with the softening red pepper and larder staples of onions, garlic and chilli. In the press are tins of tomatoes, chickpeas and my collection of spices. I decide to put that pepper spicesout of its misery by roasting it in the oven to bring out its sweetness and to give it a slightly charred taste. And with the tomatoes and chickpeas, I make my version of Chana Masala. I add mango powder to the spice mix – yes, it does make a difference but it can be left out. I have to admit that I only bought it at the Asian Market as I was curious and then had to go looking for recipes to use it in!

It’s not traditional as I have no tamarind to add to the mix but the Teen declares it to be ‘unreal’ so that is praise enough for me!

Serves 4

1 red pepper, whole
3 tbsp, sunflower oil
I medium onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp, cumin seeds
1 tsp, chopped chilli from jar or 2-3 fresh chilis, chopped finely
1 tsp, ground cumin
1 tsp, ground coriander
1 tsp, mango powder (optional)
1 tsp, garam masala
1 tsp, turmeric
¼ – ½ tsp, salt
2 tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tin, chopped tomatoes
6 dried curry leaves
1 tbsp, lemon juice

1. Heat the oven to 200 C degrees
2. Place red pepper on the rack and roast for 20-25 minutes, turning twice through the roasting process
3. While the pepper is roasting, heat the oil in a large saucepan
4. Fry cumin seeds for 1-2 minutes
5. Add the onion and cook for 8-10 minutes until soft
6. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes
7. Add the chilli and ginger and cook for a further 2 minutes
8. Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, mango powder, garam masala, turmeric, salt and combine thoroughly with the onion mix
9. Add the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas, curry leaves and lemon juice
10. Slice the roasted pepper into thin strips and add to the mix
11. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes
12. Serve with flat breads or rice