It’s Arctic in Sheffield this month. Even though it’s nearly Easter, we’ve got nearly a foot of snow in some places. So, I’m cold and craving soup - hella spicy soup to be precise, which is how this recipe came to be.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until they start to soften. Add the pepper and courgette and start to warm through (but don’t colour them).
Add the tomatoes, then add the same amount of water as tomatoes - filling up the box or tin they came in is a good way of measuring this. Season with salt and pepper then add the cayenne, cumin and tabasco.
Leave to simmer on a medium heat until the sauce has reduced and the vegetables are tender - about 10-15mins.
Transfer the whole thing into a large bowl and whizz it up with a hand blender. Add water to get the consistency you’re happy with then chuck in the coriander and the lime juice. Give it a stir and you’re done.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream (if you’re not vegan), and a huge glass of water. This soup be hot.
The lovely Our Favourite Places folks have launched a brand spanking new website to house their reviews, previews and top tips for having a brilliant time in Sheffield.
I’m very proud to be a contributor to the site, writing bits and bobs on veggie, vegan and wheat-free food (as well as film - the day job!).
Have a look at my first veggie piece: Top 3 for Veggies, which includes some top tips for meat-free eating out, and keep your eye out for more in the coming months.
Just a quick post today with a recipe for a nice spelt salad, which is what I just ate for my lunch. Spelt is lovely - chewy, versatile and much faster to cook than barley. I know barley is cheaper, but I resent standing around boiling it for the entire evening. I have some very important telly-watching to do.
4 baby courgettes (trimmed and sliced in half lengthways)
A handful of pinenuts (toasted)
A handful of spelt
A few semi-dried tomatoes
5 artichoke hearts
Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of basil leaves
Sea salt and black pepper
If you’re using artichoke hearts from a jar, rinse the oil and herbs off first as these can be a bit dull tasting. It’s better to soak them in your own dressing as I think artichokes really work best with a bit of a sharp flavour. In a bowl, mix your artichokes with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper and the juice of half a lemon (a bit of garlic is good here too). If your hearts are big enough, slice them lengthways into smaller pieces so they’ll go a bit further. Leave them to sit in the dressing whilst you prepare the rest of your salad.
Boil your spelt for about 15-20 minutes then rinse in cold water. Leave to stand in a sieve for a while.
Place your courgettes in a griddle pan with a little oil and heat until you have lovely stripes across them. Turn them over to cook the skin side then remove from the heat.
When all of your ingredients are cool, in a bowl mix together the spelt, the courgettes, the artichokes (save the dressing though) and the semi-dried tomatoes.
For the dressing, finely chop your basil and add it to the olive oil and lemon mixture that you had your artichokes in. Season a little more if needed, them mix into the salad. Finally add your toasted pine nuts and mix.
If you’re having this for tea instead of lunch, serve with some torn up mozzarella and some crusty bread and pretend you’re somewhere sunnier than you are.
(the salad when it was freshly made last night, struggling not to be eaten)
Little Hanoi is a brand new Vietnamese restaurant that just opened on London Road in Sheffield. I went along to the ‘soft’ opening on Sunday, and left with a belly full of well cooked, tasty, meat-free food.
Some points that will make vegetarians happy about going to Little Hanoi:
Lots of choice
I’ve been told there are 18 veggie options on the Little Hanoi menu, and although I didn’t count, there are definitely plenty. I think vegetarians should be as spoilt for choice as much as the next person. That’s half the fun of eating out.
Lots of Tofu
I love tofu. It’s totally unappreciated and has earned a bad reputation from hippies and that crap they sell in supermarkets. Proper tofu is brilliant, and Little Hanoi has plenty of it, cooked well - crispy on the outside and custardy in the middle.
The veggie stuff is actually properly labelled
Little Hanoi’s menu clearly shows which dishes use fish sauce, and don’t put a (v) against them even if they are a non-meat dish. This is a mistake a lot of restaurants make. It’s nice to feel confident that you’re not getting some sneaky shrimp in your meal.
New, authentic dishes
It’s boring getting offered the same vegetarian options from restaurant to restaurant, but Little Hanoi has some interesting dishes that I’ve never tried before. For main course I ordered Hot Clay Pot Stew with Aubergine and Tofu (without the peanuts), which is a delicious lemongrass curry, thick with coconut and full of silky aubergine and lots of tofu. I was pretty happy with it, but there’s enough on the menu that I don’t have to have the same thing next time I go.
Little Hanoi looks to be a great addition to the London Road restaurants that welcome vegetarians (I’ve loved Zeugma and Dim Sum for years). It’s also staffed by some very helpful people, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for substitutions (the vegetarian diner’s secret weapon). I’d say Little Hanoi is place a veggie can feel confident and full of good food, which is my favourite state to be in.
This isn’t an authentic, bang-on recipe for Ssam (the Korean term for wrapping food up in lettuce - usually pork) but is a completely delicious recipe for a tofu version, resembling ‘lettuce wrapped’ which is a starter you can sometimes get at Chinese restaurants. It’s completely delicious, fairly healthy and fast to make, providing you get all of your chopping out of the way before you start to cook.
The key to this dish is plenty of tofu, not being stingy with the garlic, ginger and chilli, and buying a really good Hoisin. I used the Flying Goose brand. If Hoisin isn’t your thing, try Sriracha and prepare for your socks to be blown off.
1 pack firm tofu (pressed then diced)
Veg oil (to fry the tofu)
Light soy (1 teaspoon)
Dark Soy (1 teaspoon)
Sherry vinegar (1/4 teaspoon)
Rice vinegar (1/2 teaspoon)
A pinch of sugar
A big chunk of ginger (about the same quantity as your garlic when finely chopped)
3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
3 red chillies (finely chopped)
1 carrot (diced)
1 onion (diced)
1 green pepper (diced)
4-6 chestnut mushrooms (depending on size)
1 iceberg lettuce (peeled into cups)
½ cucumber (cut into matchsticks)
A handful of crushed cashews
Press the tofu under a plate for about 15-30mins. If you’re pushed for time this is not essential, but squeezing out any excess water between your flattened hands will help.
Dice the tofu into 1cm pieces and shallow fry in hot vegetable oil until you have golden cubes that are crispy on the outside and custardy on the inside. Set to one side and try not to eat them all.
Finely chop the ginger, garlic and chillies then dice the onions, carrot, green pepper and chestnut mushrooms. You’re looking for uniformity of size in this dish, so try to chop them to a similar size as your tofu pieces.
Slice your cucumber in strips and peel your lettuce so that you have large leafy cups.
Mix together the wet ingredients (the two soy sauces and the two vinegars) and season with black pepper.
Now you’ve done all the prep you’re ready to cook.
In a large pan, fry the garlic, ginger and chillies in some oil until they have softened and smell brilliant.
Add in the onion and saute until softened. Add in the carrot, mushrooms and green pepper and stir until everything is cooked and looks good. Add in the fried tofu cubes and stir to mix in.
Sprinkle over the pinch of sugar and then add in your soy mixture bit by bit until you have a good covering (no need to use it all, you don’t want to swamp your mixture). If it still looks pale add in some more dark soy.
Serve the mixture in your lettuce wraps topped with the cucumber, cashews and a good drizzle of hoisin. Wrap up and eat messily.
(the filling mixture)
(Fresh Cucumber Kimchi being made)
I wrote about vegetarian kimchi a few weeks ago, but I thought it might be helpful to give a more detailed version of what substitutes can be made so that you can avoid fish sauce.
Cucumber Kimchi is probably the easiest and cheapest kimchi to make, and you can eat it after 15 minutes, instead of waiting for several days like you need to with cabbage kimchi. It’s also a really handy pickle to have in the fridge for lunches and side dishes, and goes a surprisingly long way. This recipe is an adapted version of David Chang’s.
Light Soy Sauce
Dark Soy Sauce
Thinly slice 1 large cucumber and place in a bowl. Stir in 1½ teaspoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of coarse sea salt. Leave for 15 minutes and then drain off any excess water that the cucumbers let out.
Meanwhile, mix together 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1¼ teaspoon of coarse sea salt, 1½ tablespoons of chilli flakes, a big chunk of ginger (cut into matchsticks), 4 gloves of garlic (thinly sliced), 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and a dash of dark soy (these are the replacement ingredients).
Combine the cucumbers and the mixture, adding in 1 spring onion (cut into matchsticks), ¼ normal onion (thinly sliced or mandolined) and a handful of thinly sliced radish.
Mix again and leave for 15 minutes before eating or store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
You can adapt this recipe to your own preferences - up the amount of ginger for something more fragrant or cut down on chilli if you’re having wimpy guests over for tea.
Serve over rice or noodles, as a side dish or just eat whilst standing next to the open fridge.
(a much milder version we made recently)
It’s been a funny year for asparagus. Bad weather delayed the British season by two weeks, which had me tearing my hair out back at the start of May. Happily though, this means that the season is only just ending and you can still grab a bunch if you’re quick. Most shops are starting to run out of it now, but yesterday I hunted some down in M&S - a British purple variety, which I’d never seen before.
Apparently, purple asparagus is higher in sugar and lower in fibre than the green or white stuff - but it looked pretty, so I bought it. Only the skin is purple, so I shaved mine down to get a nice contrast. Asparagus doesn’t normally need to be shaved, but it helps if you’ve got a particular woody batch.
Disappointingly, the purple hue washed out in the boil a little, even though I like to almost undercook my asparagus. It wasn’t a sweet as I expected either, but it was fresh and tasty. I put my spears with an avocado salad and silently sobbed my way through mouthfuls. I’ll miss you British Asparagus season.
Today’s lunch was supposed to be this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall salad, but I added samphire because I still had half a pack, and basil because I love it too much. To be honest, I didn’t really follow the recipe much at all (I made it without butter), but that’s ok - it was really tasty and makes for a pretty picture.