Easy Roast Tomato and Basil Soup

I know I harp on about it, but I hate food waste. So when I found some discounted tomatoes in the supermarket that were too soft for salads I decided to make soup.

Tomatoes are roasted with some onion in the oven to bring out their flavour. I always try to cook more than one thing at a time so using the oven is more cost effective, so it’s the perfect excuse to whip up a cake too if feeling like it (I always feel ready for cake)

For the best lunch ever, team it up with a grilled cheese sandwich

Ingredients

500 Grams tomatoes

2 onion (cut into quarters)

2-3 Cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp Oil

500 ml Vegetable stock (I used a stock cube dissolved in 500ml of boiling water)

1-2 Tbsp Basil leaves

1 tsp Cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  • Add the tomatoes, oil, and onion to an oven proof dish and roast for 30-40 minutes or until the tomatoes have blistered. Remove and discard the skin from the garlic
  • Add all the ingredients to a blender and pulse until smooth. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Vegetable (Vegan) Pot Sticker Dumplings

I love any type of dumpling, but have been over indulging lately, so needed something that tasted great but needed to be good for me. These are so delicious you won’t even like you’re being healthy.

I make a big batch of these and freeze them, as they make a really quick week night dinner, they’re also much nicer and cheaper that the frozen ones you can buy. You can use any dipping sauce you like (I just used a bottle of sweet chilli sauce I had in a cupboard).

Like most batch cooking if you can rope in friends or some child labour (kids love making these) it gives you a chance to kick back and give orders. Chop the vegetables fairly finely, as it will be easy to stuff the dumplings.

I came up with these mainly to use up vegetables that had been hanging about my fridge and a packet of wonton wrappers that had been in my freezer since my last visit to the Asian supper market. Traditional pot sticker dumplings are usually made with a dough, so these are a bit of a cheat, I think they work well and saves you time.

Ingredients

1/2 Small head of cabbage (finely chopped)

1 Red pepper (finely chopped)

200 Grams Mushrooms (finely chopped)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

3-4 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Garlic (minced/crushed)

1 Tbsp Ginger (grated or finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 Tsp Chilli flakes, or 1 fresh chilli (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 -2 Tbsp Sunflower oil (plus extra to fry the dumplings)

1 Pack Wonton wrappers

Method

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil to a large frying pan and add the chopped vegetables, chilli garlic and ginger, cook for about 5 minutes, there should still be a bit of bite, but the onion should be cooked through.
  2. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and allow to cool completely
  3. Set up a little work station for yourself, you should have your bowl of the dumpling filling, a small bowl of water to wet the edges of the dumplings and if you are making some to freeze you should have a tray lined with foil that has had a small about of oil rubbed across it so the dumpling don’t stick to it while they’re in the freezer
  4. Open your packet of wonton wrappers and wrap in a slightly damp tea towel to stop then drying out as you work
  5. Lift a wonton wrapper and put a teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Wet your finger and wet all the edges of the wrapper and take one corner to meet the opposite corner to make a triangle. Make sure that the edges of the dumpling is properly sealed. Set on your tray and move onto make the next dumpling, keep going until you have run out of filling or wrappers.
  6. If you’re freezing some of the dumplings, freeze them on a tray and then transfer into freezer bags
  7. When you’re ready to eat the dumplings, spray a small amount of oil in a non stick frying pan (you’ll need a lid or some way to cover the pan) and heat over a high heat. Boil the kettle.
  8. Place your dumplings in the pan (don’t try to squeeze too many in the pan at once). Cook for 2 minutes or until the bottoms have started to brown, then add a couple of tablespoons of boiling water (the pan shouldn’t be swimming in water), and cover with a lid and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until the water has been absorbed
  9. Serve with your favourite dipping sauce (they’re also amazing washed down with a cold beer)

Spicy (Vegan) Dauphinoise Potatoes

Classic dauphinoise potatoes are loaded with cream and sometimes cheese, and are one of my favourite things to eat.

The first time I made this I had spuds but no cream, so these were basically an experiment. But it was a really yummy one. It’s also nice to mess with the classics sometimes.

I could eat a massive bowl of this on its own, but it’s works really well as a side dish to marinated tempeh or chicken or fish if you’re a carnivore. This is full of creamy, garlicy, chilli gorgeousness.

Left overs are also great heated up with a fried egg on top.

1Kg Potatoes

400ml Tin of Coconut mik

3-4 Cloves of Garlic (minced)

1Tsp Chilli flakes

1 Tsp Ground ginger

1Tsp Tumeric

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Peel and slice your potatoes as finely possible. Some people use a mandolin, but I’ve never been able to use one without cutting myself, I just use a kitchen knife
  3. Add the coconut milk, garlic and spices to a saucepan and heat over a gentle heat, add the sliced potatoes and simmer very gently for 10 minutes
  4. Line a baking dish with parchment paper (you don’t have to this, but it does make it easier to clean the dish afterwards)
  5. Add the potatoes to the dish and spread evenly before putting in oven for 40-45 minutes. Test with a fork to make sure the potatoes are soft

Spinach Falafel

Sometimes if you’ve been overindulging your body tells you to eat something healthier. When that happens, this what you should be eating. Packed full of flavour and protein these little falafel are great as the protein element of a main meal or in wraps for a tasty and filling packed lunch. These falafel are baked rather than fried, which helps make them even healthier.

I made these with cannelini beans, (I thought I had chickpeas in the cupboard, but you could probably use any type of tinned beans). These are also gluten free and suitable for vegans.

Ingredients

400 Gram Can of cannelini beans or chickpeas

2 Tablespoons Porridge oats

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 Tablespoon Tahini

2 Cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

100 Grams Spinach

1 Teaspoon Salt

Handful of Coriander or parsley (toughly chopped)

Tablespoon Sesame Seeds (optional)

Oil for spraying

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Add all ingredients (except the sesame seeds) to a food processor and blend until you have a smooth mix
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment, the falafel mix should be quite soft, so I used a tablespoon to scoop the mix on the baking sheet.
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are using them and bake for 15 minutes before turning them and bake for another 15 minutes

Michael’s Easy Cannelini Bean Soup

My brother made this soup for me and I loved it.  He only gave me the recipe on condition of a name check, so thanks Michael.

This is proper comfort food, and while the recipe is Vegan friendly it’s a really hearty stick to your ribs meal in a bowl.

I’m not vegetarian, so I topped the soup with some bacon I had left.  But in fairness it’s equally delicious with out it.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

400 Gram Tin of cannelini beans

2 Stalks of celery (fine chopped)

2 Carrots (grated)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Vegetable stock cube (or tablespoon of buillion powder)

2 Cloves of garlic (crushed or very finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

500 ml Boiling water

Method

  1. Add the oil to a deep sauce pan and heat over a medium heat
  2. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes until the onion softens but doesn’t colour
  3. Then add the carrot and celery and cook gently for an other 10 minutes
  4. Stir in the garlic and beans (including half the water they came in), crumble in the stock cube, add the boiling water and stir well.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it
  5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the the vegetables are soft and then serve with crusty bread

Herby Potato Salad

Potato salad is lovely summer dish, but not everyone is a fan of mayonnaise.

This version is a little bit lighter and can be enjoyed by vegans too.

Waxy potatoes are probably best, but either is fine. This is such a great side dish, it goes with virtually everything.

Ingredients

750 Grams Potatoes (cut into 4-5cm chunks, I like to leave the skins on but peel them if you prefer)

1 Tsp Salt

1/4 Red onion (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine/cider vinegar

1 Tsp Mustard (I like to use grain mustard but Dijon mustard is fine too)

4 Tbsp Chopped herbs (I used coriander and parsley because it was what I had, but dill or mint or a mixture will also work)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the potatoes and salt to a pot and add enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, and drain the cooking water (Hold back 2 Tbsp of the cooking water)
  2. In a large bowl add the onion and sprinkle with the vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes (this will help stop that harsh raw onion flavour). Add the oil, mustard, herbs, and cooking water you held back from the potatoes and stir
  3. Add the potatoes while they are still slightly warm to the bowl and mix well to ensure they are coated with the dressing, this will allow them to help soak up the flavour

Slow Roast Cherry Tomatoes

Do you ever get a bit over zealous when shopping and have stuff hanging about the fridge that you forget about. I do this more often than I should. I recently found a tub of cherry tomatoes that I had forgotten about and were starting to go a bit soft. I decided to cook these long and slow and they tasted fantastic.

I used these as a side dish, but they would be fantastic stirred into some freshly cooked pasta, or served cold in salads or on some crusty bread with some soft cheese. These are every bit as tasty as sun-dried tomatoes. I made quite a small batch of these (because it was a small tub of tomatoes), but I’m definitely going to make bigger batches next time. These can live in your fridge for 3- 4 days in an air tight jar.

Ingredients

250 Grams Cherry tomatoes (halved)

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1/2 Tsp salt

2 Cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

3-4 Sprigs of thyme or 1/2 Tsp dried thyme

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  2. Place all the ingredients on a baking sheet and mix well to ensure the tomatoes are coated in the oil. Bake for 20 minutes
  3. Reduce the heat to 140 degrees and cook for a further 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes start to look wizened up and starting to char

Pineapple Salsa

It’s barbeque season and although I do love meat, the side dishes can take your barbeque to a whole other level.

I first had this years ago in a restaurant with barbecued pork and I fell in love. It’s one of those Summery side dishes that goes with pretty much every thing. I use it in wraps, in salad and rice bowls and could eat a bowl of it on its own.

I use fresh pineapple in this recipe, but if you can’t find it, canned pineapple will also work. This takes 5 minutes to make, but I like to leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the acid in the pineapple to help soften the raw onion flavour which works well. You can leave the out or increase the chilli depending on your taste.

Ingredients

500 Grams Pineapple (cut into 2cm chunks)

1/2 Red pepper (cut into 2 cm chunks)

1 Red chilli pepper (seeds removed and finely sliced)

1/4 Red onion, or 2-3 scallions/spring onions (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Coriander (mint also works well)

Juice of 1/2 Lime

Method

  1. In a bowl combine all the ingredients and stir well. Chill for 30 mins before serving.
  2. This will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days

Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry

I love a good curry, and this is a really tasty and satisfying curry that can be enjoyed by vegans and meat lovers alike.

Coconut milk adds a lovely creaminess to this and I serve with rice or flat bread, to make it even better sweet potatoes and spinach are full of flavour and vitamins. I top this with some toasted cashew nuts for some extra crunch and protein, but it will still be delicious without them.

It’s also quick enough to be a great midweek meal and is packed full of lovely spices without being hot (unless you love chillies, in which case add as many as you like).

Ingredients

500 Grams Orange sweet potatoes (cut into 3-4 cm chucks, I leave the skins but peel if you prefer)

250 Grams Spinach (you can use frozen spinach if this is what you have)

2 Onions (roughly chopped)

1 Red chilli (cut in half, and seeds removed, add more if you like a hot curry)

3 Cloves of garlic (peeled)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Ground Tumeric

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

1 Tsp Salt

Juice of 1 lime, or half a lemon

400 ml Tin of coconut milk

400 ml water

2 Tbsp Fresh coriander (chopped, optional)

2-3 Tbsp Cashew nuts (toasted, optional)

Method

  1. In a food processor, add your onions, chilli, garlic and ginger, and blitz until it makes a smooth(ish) paste
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the paste you just blitzed in the food processor, and cook for 5-10 minutes
  3. Add the spices to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water. Cook for another 10 minutes (or until the chunks of sweet potato are soft)
  4. Add the lime juice, and spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted. When the spinach has wilted check the seasoning, adding salt if needed, and sprinkle with copped coriander, cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes if you prefer a thicker curry
  5. If you’re adding cashew nuts, toast them in a dry pan for 2 minutes (it will make them even more delicious)

Healthy Spring Rolls and Dipping Sauce

I love the spring rolls I usually get from my local Chinese take away, but am conscious that they are deep fried and probably not great for my first waistline.

I wanted to make a slightly healthier version, so these are packed with vegetables and using filo pastry which can be baked rather than deep fried. This version is vegan, but you could also add cooked chicken or prawns if you wanted to add more protein. I used shop bought filo pastry which makes things quicker (anyone who makes their own probably needs to get out more), and is a great way to use up left over veggies.

Stir fried veggies

The dipping sauce was a bit of store cupboard throw together, (my favourite dip is usually shop bought sweet chilli sauce). I have a friend who is much more experienced cooking Asian cuisine and she told me that all good dipping suaces should include sweet, sour, salt, and heat. I’m definately making this again. These are great as a starter or side dish, but I enjoy them as a snack along with a cold beer.

Ingredients

For the spring rolls

270 Gram Pack Filo pastry

1 Onion (finely sliced)

1 Carrot (cut into matchsticks)

1 Red Pepper (finely sliced)

2 Handfuls Cabbage or any greens you prefer (I used some left over cooked cabbage I had, but if using raw cabbage make sure it’s very finely sliced)

4-6 cm Knob of ginger (grated)

2 Cloves of garlic (grated or finely chopped)

1 Tsp Chinese 5 spice powder

2 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (optional)

For the dipping sauce

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Tsp Chilli flakes/fresh chilli

1 Clove of garlic (grated or finely chopped)

1 Tsp Honey

1 Tsp Soy sauce

1 Tbsp Warm water

1 Tbsp Vinegar (if you have rice wine vinegar is probably best, I didn’t have this so used red wine vinegar and it was fine)

Tuck and roll

Method

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan/wok, and add the vegetables, cook lightly for a few minutes and add the Chinese 5 spice powder, garlic and ginger, fry for another minute or two until the vegetables start to soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before trying to assemble the spring rolls
  2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Open your packet of pastry, most packs recommend that you cover the pastry with a slightly damp tea towel if you are not able to work quickly. This prevents the pastry from drying out and becoming brittle and difficult to work with
  3. I cut sheets of around 8-10 cm long and 6-8 cm wide (you can make smaller rolls if you prefer). Lay a sheet on your work surface and brush or spray with oil (those low cal oil sprays now a available are really handy, but just brush lightly with oil if you don’t have this) and top with another sheet of pastry, and repeat until you have 3 layers of filo pastry
  4. With the pastry lengthways in front of you, lay a good heaped tablesoon of your vegetable filling and place near the right hand corner of the pastry. Tuck short corner of the pastry over the vegetables and tuck on the sides and roll (as shown in the photo)
  5. Brush/spray the rolls with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are using them and place on a baking tray. Place in your heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden
  6. The dipping sauce is strainght forward, simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir before checking the taste (you mighy want more heat, sweetness etc). Put into separate serving bowls, Serve along side the spring rolls