Posts tagged "vegetarian"

Basil Pesto

There are a lot of pesto recipes out there, and I’ve tried them all: with/ without pecorino; with butter instead of olive oil (thanks for nothing Matthew Fort); toasting the pine nuts; roasting the garlic… I even went through a long period of persisting with the pestle and mortar after reading an article about the pesto championship in Liguria that made me feel a bit inadequate - but to be honest it just took too bloody long. Pesto should really shouldn’t take longer to make than your pasta takes to boil (6-7 mins), so resorting to a hand blender is no bad thing (sorry if I have any Italian readers. I’m so sorry).

My many experiments have eventually resulted in a recipe I love, and I’ve acquired a few tips along the way that are worth sharing:
1) Don’t toast the pine nuts. You lose a bit of that lovely sweetness that the pine nuts add
2) Likewise, don’t cook the garlic, although it’s good to be frugal with it. I love garlic, but once it gets blended it can really overpower the sauce and throw the balance off
3) Invest in a really good extra virgin olive oil - bad olive oil makes for bad food
4) Trust your own tastebuds. If there’s not enough basil, add a load more. Basil’s strength varies hugely depending on the season, so you may need more in colder months
4) This is the important one - don’t mix your pesto into the pasta whilst it’s in your saucepan. Mix the pesto and pasta together in a large cold bowl. The hot saucepan will damage the delicate basil flavour and you’ll be left disappointed after your hard work to make a brilliant sauce. I’m not kidding when I say this really makes a difference - this is my super-duper, top tip, and you are welcome.

1 large basil plant (or two little ones)
½ garlic clove
70g pine nuts (reserve a few extra to top your dish)
Finely grated vegetarian hard cheese
A pinch of sea salt
A big glug of extra virgin olive oil
(I know these are imprecise, but you need to taste and mix until you’re happy)

Add the basil leaves, the pine nuts, a big glug of olive oil, the salt and the garlic to a large bowl. Blend with a hand blender until the consistency is nearly smooth (you don’t want soup, but you don’t want big unblended chunks of garlic or nut either).
Grate in the cheese and mix with a spatula. Taste and season again with more cheese or salt if needed. Add a little more olive oil if the mixture is a bit stiff. It’s your dinner so make sure you’re happy with the balance.

Tip your drained pasta (gnocchi, linguine, trofie - whatever your favourite is) into the bowl of pesto and mix with your spatula. Sprinkle in a few more pine nuts and serve with a twist of black pepper.

Yoghurt & Spelt Flatbreads

— Guest post by Gregory Povey, @topfife.

Last week, I bought Jaq Jerusalem, the new book by Yotam Ottolenghi (and Sami Tamimi). It’s a love letter to Jerusalem, taking in Israeli and Arab dishes, and covering a lot of the influences from the Mediterranean — about 60-70% of which is vegetarian or vegetable-based.

We’ve been a fan of Middle Eastern and Jewish-heritage food for a long time. Mostly through a lot of obvious things - rice dishes, lamb (me), hummous, falafel, boregi, pickles, baklava - and their massive love of salt. Oh, the salt. It’s a bit tricky, as there is obviously a lot of food that falls so far outside the remit of ‘vegetarian’ as to not be approachable, but we’re trying. This week we’ve tried a few - imam bayildi, dukkah, and flatbreads.

The flatbreads present another tiny problem as Jaq is experimenting with a wheat-free diet. Most other flours don’t seem to have the strength of wheat, but spelt is working out well. It’s got a slightly earthier, wholemeal flavour to it, but it’s light enough to fill in for white wheat flour.

A look in Ottolenghi’s Plenty and a couple of tweaks, leads us to Yoghurt & Spelt Flatbreads.


  • 500g spelt flour (probably wheat, if you like)
  • 500g low-fat Greek yoghurt (TOTAL 2% from FAGE is the best greek yoghurt we’ve found in supermarkets)
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • 1tsp baking powder (a healthy 1 tsp)
  • ½tsp salt
  • Chopped coriander (optional)

Set aside the yoghurt in a bowl and mix in the olive oil. This will loosen the yoghurt up a little and provide a bit of lubricant when kneading.

Add the baking powder and salt to the flour and blend together. Scoop the yoghurt on top of the flour, before making a dough with your hands. This will get sticky. If it’s too dry, add some extra yoghurt until you’re happy with the texture.

Turn out onto your work surface (it doesn’t need to be floured, really) and work the dough. Now spend a good few minutes of kneading, it will be a proper heel-of-the-hand kneading job and your triceps will benefit. (see top image)

Before long, you’ll have a luxurious, stretchy dough with a smooth texture.

Wrap it up in cling film and stick it in the fridge for about an hour, or upto a few days. The longer you leave it, the more tangy yoghurt flavour you will have in your final bread.

When you want to make the flatbreads, make a long roll on a floured surface and cut it up into equal sections. Make a ball out of each section, then roll them to about about ½ inch thick - until they look like flatbreads - and put them to the side.

There are now two options of how to cook them:

1. Pan Fried.
This will give you a flatter, paratha-like flatbread with a crispier texture.

Heat up a pan and add some olive oil. Lay your flatdough into the pan and let it cook. When bubble start to appear, turn it over. Cook for ~90 seconds each side, or until you’re happy with the colour and satisfied that the dough is cooked.

2. Baked.
This will give a lighter, puffed-up bread along the lines of a pitta.

Pre-heat the oven to about 200dC and place the flatbread dough on a floured tray mid-high in the oven. If you’ve got a pizza stone, use that. After about 5 minutes, your dough should be puffed up and proud like a morning cockerel. Turn the bread over and leave for another five minutes.

Take out, let it cool a tiny bit, then scoop up some tahini, olive oil & dukkah, or a load of tzatziki.

Zeugma, Sheffield

Zeugma, with its open grill and famed Turkish kebabs, is a Sheffield institution for meat eaters, but I wouldn’t have been a loyal patron for the last 6 years is they didn’t know how to treat a vegetarian too.   For most of those 6 years I’ve been ordering the same two things - Kisir (a spicy bulgar wheat dish with walnuts and yum) and their vegetarian kebab. The kebab is a total feast - perfectly cooked vegetables served with the best rice in the world, homemade hummus and halloumi. Whilst I‘ve been perfectly content to order the same thing for the past 6 years, I was starting to worry that the waiter was getting disappointed with me. 6 years of warm welcomes and I repay him by barely looking at the menu - as a loyal customer, I decided on my latest visit that I simply must try harder. 

I went for Iman Bayildi (Priest Fainted), a whole baked aubergine, filled with vegetables and sauce. Oh boy, it was worth dragging myself away from my usual for. Deeply rich in flavour, covered in a scrumptious sauce, served with that perfect rice I love so much and some creamy, yet tart plain yoghurt.  I have a feeling the waiter was pleased I’d been less predictable than usual, as we were treated to a portion of this delicious dessert. Pistachios are the best, especially served with crispy noodles, honey and ice cream.

 Spinach Boregi (starter)   

Sushi Express, Sheffield

Sushi Express has been open for a while in Sheffield - the sushi is always very fresh, and the complimentary miso soup is vegetarian to boot. Happily, they also seem to frequently introduce new vegetarian options and they recently added kimchi maki to the menu. Readers of this blog may have noticed my growing obsession with Kimchi. ‘It’s very hot’ warned the waiter, and although he was right, it’s certainly not painfully so. It’s actually blooming lovely.

Here are a few more items from the Sushi Express menu. Order the fried tofu if you go. No seriously, it’s more than a bit heavenly:

Tamago and Inari Maki, Kimchi Maki and Inari Nigiri

Warm cucumber, pea and broad bean salad with halloumi

I missed the first half hour of Saturday Kitchen this week, but @topfife caught it, and he watched Ashley Palmer-Watts make a deliciously fresh looking warm cucumber salad to go with some mackerel.

We decided to give it a go for tea, but instead of mackerel, we thought some griddled halloumi would do the job. It really worked. The contrast between the rich, salty cheese and the fresh, herby salad was lovely and the cooked cucumber, particularly the griddled hearts, made this a super fresh summery tea.

The recipe can be found on the BBC website (the salad is under garnish for some reason), but this is what we did to turn it into a meal fit for a hungry vegetarian:

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 large cucumber
3 tbsp shallots (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
2½ tbsp white wine vinegar
150g broad beans (double podded)
150g peas (frozen is fine)
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 pack of halloumi, sliced
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil
Pea shoots or similar salad leaves

Prepare the cucumber by peeling then cutting the whole cucumber heart out. Cut ½ of the remaining cucumber into 1cm chunks, and grate the other half. You’re just after the juices from this bit so squeeze the grated cucumber into a bowl and set aside. To sum up, because I’m worried I’m being confusing, from your whole cucumber you should now have one long cucumber heart, some 1cm pieces and about 4tbsp of cucumber juice (you can saved the grated bits for tzatziki).

Boil the peas briefly, the cool in iced water. Set to one side. Do the same with the broad beans, then double-pod them by squeezing the beans out of the skin. Set aside.

Season the cucumber heart then place it in a hot griddle pan along with your halloumi slices. Cook until both have lovely stripes across them.

In the meantime, cook the remaining cucumber pieces in some olive oil until they start to colour, then reduce the heat and add the garlic and shallots, stirring for about 2 minutes. Then add the white wine vinegar to the pan and stir until almost absorbed. This will make the cooked cucumber slightly pickled and delicious.

Now add the peas, broad beans, cucumber juice and herbs. Stir together briefly to heat, then get ready to serve. Pile the pea and bean mixture on your plate and top with the griddled cucumber heart (diced up) and your slices of halloumi. Serve with pea shoots, or any similar salad leaves. Eat up.

Courgette, artichoke and spelt salad

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
1/2 lemon
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)

Ssam - Tofu Lettuce Wraps

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)
Black pepper
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)
Hoisin sauce
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)

(the mouthful)

Cucumber Kimchi

(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.

Chilli flakes
Light Soy Sauce
Dark Soy Sauce
Rice vinegar
Spring onion

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)

Baked Eggs Florentine

The day after our wedding reception in Liverpool all I could think about was gorging on eggs, bread and fat (it was a very good party). Luckily, we were staying at the London Carriage Works where their Eggs Florentine comes in a big ramekin and smothered with what I think is Mrs. Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese. Nom.

I’ve been playing around with making my own version at home, but sadly poaching eggs seems to come with a good deal of risk in our house. I’ve eventually found that soft boiled eggs work just as well and mine always turn out perfectly thanks to Delia
She really knows her eggs.


Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil. Pierce the bottoms of two medium-large free range eggs with a clean pin. Have a timer ready and place the eggs into the saucepan using a ladle. After 1 minute (or 1.15 if you have large eggs) turn off the heat and place a lid on the pan. Leave for 6 minutes for a runny yolk/ set white. If you have very large eggs leave for another 30 seconds.

Whilst the eggs are cooking, wilt a large handful of spinach in a pan. Add a big knob of butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the spinach in a good sized, ovenproof individual ramekin.

Once the eggs are ready, take them from the pan and place into a bowl of cold water. Peel the eggs (it’s easier if you do this under the water and start at the rounded end that you pierced earlier).

Place the eggs into the ramekin on top of the spinach. Cover the whole dish in a good cheese of your choice - anything strong and melty will do the job. Place under a hot grill until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

This is what my version of baked eggs florentine looks like, served with a homemade lemon roll.


The perfect hangover breakfast.

Cooking, eating and taking pictures of food without meat or fish.

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