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

Rainbow Salad with Walnuts

Like a lot of people I’m prone to getting stuck in food ruts. You buy the same thing every week, and you cook the same thing all the time, it’s easy but it is boring.

I started getting vegetable box deliveries and sometime I choose an option that’s a bit of a luck dip so that I’m forced to make something different, and you’re forced to work with new ingredients. (This week’s box came with a packet of sauerkraut!, but that’s a whole other recipe).

I had been over indulging in the “pure filth” recipes lately and wanted to feel I was eating something good for me for a change. So with a box full of lovely colourful ingredients I made this fresh crunchy salad with a dressing made with creamy tahini, tangy ginger and a little bit of chilli heat. I like to sprinkle it with nuts, for extra protein.

This is a great vegan dish ( I eat big bowls of this on its own), but is also a great side dish. I used the vegetables I had in a vegetable box, but the beautiful thing about this is that you can adapt the vegetables depending on availability and what’s in season.

Do yourself some good and enjoy a delicious crunchy multi-coloured big bowl of fibre and vitamins.

Ingredients

2 Carrots (grated)

1/2 Red pepper (finely sliced)

1 Large gold beetroot (grated)

2-3 Radishes (finely sliced)

4-5 Stalks of Rainbow chard (finely sliced)

1 Small Celeriac (grated)

For the dressing

1 Red chilli (finely sliced)

2 inch piece of ginger (grated)

3 Tbsp Tahini

Juice of one lemon

Method

  1. I was lazy and used a food processor to grate many of the ingredients. If you don’t have one a box grater does the same job, it will just take a little longer
  2. If you’re using celeriac make sure to cover this with the lemon juice as soon as you grate it to prevent it from discolouring
  3. Combine all your ingredients in a bowl (once you have grated or sliced your vegetables).
  4. In a separate bowl add the dressing ingredients and mix well. You want to add a little water to loosen the dressing, depending on how thick your tahini is.
  5. Add the dressing to the salad and mix thoroughly
  6. Top with walnuts, or toasted cashews or pine nuts also work well.

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

Vegetable Chilli

I’m not a vegan or even vegetarian, but still enjoy a good meat free recipe.

This is a good way to get your 5 a day, and is quick and tasty, with a nice range of flavours and textures. I served mine with some avocado on top, and corn bread, but it’s also really good with rice or tortillas. You can also top it with sour cream or grated cheese if you’re not vegan.

Ingredients

1 Red pepper

1 Onion

2 Stalks celery

150 Grams Sweetcorn

400 Grams Cannelli beans (you can use whatever beans you have)

400 ml Passata

1 Tsp Ground cumin

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

1 Tsp chilli powder

2 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

1 Tbsp Olive oil

Method

  1. Chop the vegetables into equal sizes (I like to keep mine pretty chunky)
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, and gently fry the vegetables for 5-10 minutes until they have softened
  3. Add the garlic, spices and tomato puree to the pan and cook for a few minutes before adding the beans and passata
  4. Simmer over a low heat for another 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened

Walnut Skordalia

This is a traditional Greek dip and is super easy to make and super delicious. I made this as part of a meze at our February supper club, and it was the most popular dish of the night.

While you can use it as a dip, I’ve also used this as filling in wraps and sandwiches along with salad and chopped vegetables and it was amazingly tasty. It’s also really good drizzled across roast vegetables. To be honest you could spread this on a flip flop and I’d eat it, it tastes that good. This is also vegan, so you can keep all the non meat eaters in your life happy with something totally scrumptious.

Ingredients

80 Grams Walnuts

40 Grams Breadcrumbs (I know I bang on about it, but one of my favourite kitchen hacks is making a big batch of bread crumbs to keep in the freezer, it makes recipes like this a 2 minute job)

1-2 Cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (I used 2 and it was pretty garlicky which I don’t mind, but adjust to your own taste)

2 Tbsp Red wine vinegar (Again adjust to your own taste, the first time I tried a the recipe out it was a bit too sharp for me, so I’ve reduced the amount of vinegar but have a taste and you can always add more)

100ml Olive oil

Method

  1. Add the walnuts to a food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes until the nuts are finely ground
  2. Add the breadcrumbs, garlic, oil and vinegar and blitz again. The mix is meant to be quite thick, but if it is too thick for you, you can a small amount of water and and blitz until you get the consistency you like

Greek Lemon Roast Potatoes

Crispy, herby deliciousness

OMG I love a spud (maybe it’s my Irish DNA). Just when I thought roast potatoes were practically perfect in every way. I discovered these.

Potatoes roasted with garlic and herbs in olive oil and lemon juice, are little flavour bombs. I could eat a bowl of these on their own. However, they’re also fantastic with chicken or fish. I have also been known to fry up left over ones (the only reason there were left overs was because I was physically incapable of eating any more) the next day and topping with a fried egg, yum!

Ingredients

750 Grams Potatoes

1 Lemon (juice only)

50ml Olive oil

1 Tsp Dried thyme

1 Tsp Dried oregano

1 Bulb of garlic

Salt

Par boiled potatoes, ready for the oven

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
  2. Peel the potatoes, and cut into 3-4 cm chunks. Par bowl in salted water for 5 minutes
  3. Put an oven proof dish in the oven
  4. In a bowl, add the oil, herbs and lemon juice. Cut the bulb of garlic into four
  5. Drain the potatoes, add the garlic, and oil mixture then transfer to the preheated dish
  6. Put in the oven and bake for about 1 hour, mixing roughly every 20 minutes, until golden and crispy

Parsley and Almond Pesto

I was having one of those nights when I came home and there was nothing in the fridge that immediately lept out at me for dinner.

I cobbled this together from what I had at hand, and it was amazing. Gorgeous with pasta, its also fabulous drizzled over roast potatoes, or use it as a spread to tasty up sandwiches. This pesto is really versatile, I stirred some through plain boiled rice and the freshness of the parsley and slight hum of garlic totally transformed it. This takes 5 minutes to make and will live in a jar in your fridge for 3-4 days (if it lasts that long)

Bright green and full of flavour.

Ingredients

100 Grams Almonds

25 Grams Parsley (stalks and all)

100 ml Olive oil

25 Grams Parmesan (you can use vegan parmesan if you have dairy free diet)

1 Clove of Garlic (roughly chopped)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a dry frying pan toast the almonds until they are lightly browned and smell nutty
  2. Add the almonds to a food processor and blitz until the almonds look like course sand
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until we’ll combined, check if it needs salt and pepper. Some people like it super smooth, but I prefer it a bit chunkier. Serve with pasta or roast vegetables, save any left over pesto in an airtight jar in the fridge