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

Roast Vegetable Couscous

Autumn sometimes sees a glut of great vegetables as growing season comes to end.

I love to roast these vegetables up to bring out their sweetness. Then it’s time to decide if I’m making a soup with them or a side dish like this.

If like me you like roast big batches of vegetables this can be even quicker to make as you’ll have these made already. This is really versatile, you can swap out different vegetables as they come in season.

If you’re vegan, you can enjoy this along with roasted chickpeas. I like it with griddled halloumi, or roast chicken and Greek yoghurt. It can be served hot or cold, and it’s ideal for lunch boxes.

Halloumi with roast vegetable couscous

Ingredients

200 Grams Couscous

Vegetable stock

1 Large courgette (Sliced)

100 Grams Cherry tomatoes

1 Red pepper (Sliced)

2 Tbsps Olive oil

3-4 Cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp Red wine vinegar or lemon juice

1/2 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Dried mint, or 2 Tsps fresh mint (chopped)

50 Grams Pomegranate seeds

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the oil, sliced courgette and pepper to an oven proof dish, mix to make sure they are coated and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees. Include the garlic gloves (left whole with their skins on)
  2. After 20 mins remove from the oven. Stir and add the cherry tomatoes and sprinkle over the vinegar. Bake for another 15 mins (or until the edges of the peppers starts catch)
  3. In a heat proof bowl add the couscous cumin and mint. I recommend checking the instructions on the packet about how much liquid to add. (Then add the corresponding amount of vegetable stock)
  4. Once you have removed the vegetables from the oven, take the roasted garlic and squeeze out the soft centre and stir into the couscous
  5. Stir the vegetables into the couscous and serve

Tropical Rice Pudding

Scrumptious served with ripe mango or pineapple

I’ve mentioned before that when I was a kid, my Mum wasn’t a great cook (I love you Mo, but we both know the truth). Dessert in my house was usually shop bought, and when I was really young one of favourites was tinned creamed rice with a big spoonful of jam.

Fast forward God knows how many years, and I taught myself how to cook. I was also lucky enough to go out into the world and try some amazing flavours. So I decided to try and experiment with some of my favourites. Coconut, ginger and lemon grass gives a new twist on this traditional dessert.

I like this chilled and served with mango or pineapple, but it’s also really good warm, and you can enjoy it with whatever fruit you prefer.

I used milk in this recipe, but you can substitute some of this with cream if want to make a really indulgent dessert. If you want to make a vegan version, swap cow’s milk for almond milk. I’ve tried both versions and they’re both delicious.

Coconut and spices bring a new twist to an old classic

Ingredients

400 ml Can Coconut milk

250 Grams Pudding rice

40 Grams Sugar

500 ml Milk

1 Large stalk of lemon grass (kept whole but bruised)

1 Thumb sized piece of ginger

Method

  1. Cut your piece of ginger in half length ways, then smack your lemon grass with the back of a knife (or pot if you want get some frustration out). Bruising the lemongrass helps release the flavour. The ginger and lemon grass are kept big to make it easier to fish out when the rice pudding is cooked
  2. Put all the ingredients in a pot with a lid and heat until just before the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over a low heat stirring regularly. Each type of rice is different, so cook until the rice is soft. (mine took about 30 minutes). Different rices will absorb different amounts of liquid so if you think the mix is looking too dry add a little milk/water
  3. When the rice is cooked you can scoop out the ginger and lemon grass. The rice pudding can be served hot or cold. I like it served with fruit

Vegetable Samosas

Light crispy pastry, with a soft well flavoured filling, I like these served with mango chutney.

I was doing another scan around my kitchen cupboards for something to make, and decided on samosas.

Potato and pea filling

I love a samosa, those delicious little Indian flavour bombs are usually deep fried, but these are baked to make them a little healthier. This recipe is vegan, but you can use spiced lamb as a filling. I’ve used potatoes and peas, but you swap out the peas for green beans or spinach.

Roll your divided dough into a circle and cut in half

The first couple of samosas will probably look a bit wonky until you get into the way of making them. Don’t panic these will still taste great, and if you don’t want to serve them then they will be the cook’s perk!

Wet the edges and press together to form a cone

Makes 16

For the pastry

225 Grams Plain Flour

2 Tbsp Oil or ghee

1 Tsp Onion (Nigella) seeds (optional)

Seal the edges to make a cone that you can filk

For the filling

3 Large potatoes (peeled and cut into small cubes)

1 Large onion (finely chopped)

2 Cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated)

2 Chillies, (finely chopped, you can add more or less depending on how much heat you like)

4 Tbsp Oil

100 Grams Peas (I use frozen, and let them thaw)

2 Tbsp Coriander (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Salt

Yummy hot or cold

Method

  1. Add the oil, onion seeds, and flour to a bowl and gradually add luke warm water until you have a dough. Knead for 5 minutes, and then wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large frying pan, and add the shopped onion. Fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes, and then add the garlic, ginger, and chillies
  3. Lower the heat and add the cubed potatoes, and a little water and simmer until potatoes are soft (you might need to add a little water as it cooks, but it should be a runny mix)
  4. Add the peas, salt and coriander and check the seasoning before allowing to cool
  5. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment
  6. Once the pastry has rested, divide it into 8 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the ball into a thin circle. Cut the circle in half.
  7. Pick up the half moon shape and wet the edges with a little water. Make a cone by pressing the edges together and fill the cone with potato mixture. Press the remaining edges together to seal the samosa, ending up with a triangle shape
  8. Continue rolling out the pastry and filling the samosas until you are finished, placing the samosas on the baking sheet. Brush them with the remaining oil and bake for 20 minutes until golden and crispy

Spicy Carrot Soup

I’m challenging myself to try and make better versions of stuff I haven’t been 100% happy with before, and use what’s in the house, (yes, I’m going stir crazy already).

I tried to make spicy carrot soups before and always thought the consistency was a bit weird. I think I have now cracked it. Adding a potato to the soup helps make it a much nicer creamier consistency. It’s still really healthy, and delicious served with big slabs of buttered soda bread (not as healthy given how much I enjoy butter).

Ingredients

1 Potato (cut into cubes)

4 Carrots (sliced)

1 Stalk of celery (chopped)

1 Onion (chopped)

1Tbsp Oil

1 Stock cube

1 Clove of garlic

1 Tsp Ground cumin

4-5 cm Piece of fresh ginger (grated), or 1 Tsp of ground ginger

1/2 Tsp Chilli powder (optional)

750 ml water

Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pot, and add the vegetables and dried spices, cook over a medium heat until the onion begin to turn clear
  2. Crumble in the stock cube and add the water. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, add the garlic and fresh ginger if you are using it
  3. Simmer for another 5 minutes, and check the seasoning
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a blender, or do what I did and use a hand blender to blitz the soup until you have a smooth soup