Smoky Lentil Soup

Ingredients

75 ml Olive Oil

2 small onions, finely chopped

4 carrots, diced

2 stalks of celery, finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or minced

1.5 teaspoons of dried oregano

1.5 teaspoons of dried basil

2 Bay leaves

1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)

2 litres of vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Boulion Powder)

300g dry green or brown lentils

150g kale, stalks removed and finely sliced (or spinach)

1.5 teaspoons of liquid smoke

2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar (or your favourite vinegar)

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the carrots, onions and celery and cook on a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. You want the vegetables to soften and sweeten and the onions to go transparent but you don’t want them to stick to the pot and burn.
  2. Add the garlic, dried oregano, dried basil and bay leaves and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, the stock and the lentils and stir. Bring it to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes
  4. After 45 minutes add the kale, liquid smoke, vinegar, salt and pepper and add for 15 minutes until the kale is softened (spinach will cook in less than 15 minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
  5. You’re good to go! If you prefer a thick soup you can take a couple of ladles of the soup and blend it, then add it back to the pot of soup and stir.  Serve hot with a thick slice of sourdough bread and butter.

 

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Easy Granola

Easy GranolaVery quick, very easy to make, very adaptable and very tasty.

Ingredients

200 g Jumbo Oats

110 g Sultanas

100 g Pecans, roughly chopped

90 g Mixed Seeds (I use a premade mix of pumpkin, sunflower and sesame)

50 g Coconut Oil

45 ml (3 tablespoons) Maple Syrup

5 ml (1 teaspoon) Vanilla Extract

2.5 ml (0.5 teaspoon) Salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 150 C.

Put the coconut oil in a large bowl and microwave for 40 seconds to melt it.

When it is completely melted stir in the maple syrup, vanilla and salt and mix well.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly

Spread mix thinly on a large baking tray

Bake for 8 minutes then stir and bake for a further 4 minutes (12 minutes total baking time)

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Delicious served with natural yogurt (or any yogurt of your choice) and blueberry sauce.

 

Super-Simple Banana Oat Pancakes

Banana Oat Pancakes Recipe

I’ve seen variations of this recipe popping up online a lot recently. Here’s my version. And yes, they really are super-simple. Note that these are American-style pancakes, that is the small, fluffy ones. Not ‘real’ pancakes, aka crepes. Mmm. Crepes! But these are delish too. And, if you care about these things, gluten-free and lactose free. I recommend them with blueberry sauce and Greek yogurt. But you go for your favourite topping.

Ingredients

(makes 12 small or 8 medium pancakes – perfect for two greedy people!)

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 45 g | 0.5 cup oats
  • 0.5 teaspoon baking powder
  • 0.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Method

  • Put all the ingredients in a bowl and blend well with a hand blender. Make sure its all nice and smooth. It should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Let it sit for at least ten minutes before you start making your pancakes (go make a cup of tea or start your blueberry sauce for topping)
  • Heat a large frying pan to a medium heat. You can dry-fry these pancakes if your pan is non-stick or add a little oil or butter.  Pour a few tablespoons/0.25 cup of batter for each pancake. Allow to brown then flip and brown the other side. Stack the pancakes on your plate. Repeat until you’ve used up the batter.
  • Top with your favourite topping and serve immediately. Note that this batter does not keep well and is best used on the day you make it.

(Photo from Pixabay.com – I’m definitely not a good photograper! Thanks Pixabay 🙂 )

The Vegan Adventures of An Omnivore

ThugKitchenCookbooksThis past month has been an interesting one on the food front. My Da, for reasons that have already been lost in the mists of time, undertook a bet that he couldn’t be vegan for a month.  I have a vague recollection that it arose from a discussion we had on the sustainability or otherwise of an omnivorous diet, especially one that relies heavily on animal products.

Neither he nor I are vegetarian, let alone vegan so this was going to be an interesting challenge. I decided that I would be pescetarian (vegetarian plus fish) for the month in solidarity, and would explore more vegan meals too. Yeah, I was too half-assed to commit to going fully vegetarian, let alone vegan. So bite me.  (Not you, vegans! That woulnd’t be, well, very vegan, would it?!)

I’m am wholly impressed to report that Da won the bet, sticking to his vegan diet for the whole month. I’m not in the least surprised that he has decided that he would not be carrying on with his vegan diet beyond the month (though it should be said that his diet beforehand wasn’t particularly carnivorous)

My lessons from the month are:

  1. Nothing makes a vegetarian diet appear to offer a cornucopia of unrestricted options like trying to stick to a vegan diet!  Pescetarian felt positively indulgent.
  2. There are some great vegan recipes out there. They don’t even involve ‘fakin’ bacon’ meat-impersonating foodlike substances (which I abhor). The secret is often in a few ingredients that might not be found in the typical non-vegan store cupboard. Nooch, anyone? Bragg’s Aminos?  These magic ingredients add the umami that would otherwise be missing from vegan dishes.
  3. The Thug Kitchen cookbooks were my source of the most consistently reliable and tasty vegan recipes that I’ve tried so far. In fact I’ve found them some of the tastiest recipes, full stop.  It was from the Thug Kitchen books that I learned about Bragg’s and nooch. At first I borrowed the books from my public library. I love my library! And I highly recommend borrowing cook books to try some recipes before committing to buy as not all cookbooks are created equal.  I was so impressed I’ve since bought all the Thug Kitchen cook books (no, I’m not on commission!) and I have continued to explore their recipes even now the challenge is over.

To celebrate the end of my Da’s vegan month I invited the family over for a vegan feast (not an oxymoron 🙂 ).  The menu was as follows:

Starter

Curried Squash and Lentil Soup from the ever-reliable BBC Good Food (I used full-fat coconut milk and doubled the quantity of lentils)

Home-made No Knead Bread with Hummus and Antipasti (grilled peppers, olives, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes) (I cheated and bought the hummus and antipasti)

Main Course

Black Bean Burger in a crusty bun with home-grown cos lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and French’s Mustard with oven-baked Maris Piper chips

Dessert

Vegan plain yogurt over Thug Kitchen Blueberry Sauce with granola served layered in a glass (again I cheated and bought the yogurt and granola)

Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Bars (to be honest, though I’m a sucker for anything with peanut butter, I wasn’t mad about these. I prefer a crunchier krispie treat and the coconut oil meant the chocolate melted very easily in your hands)

His prize for completing the bet?  A steak!

steak.jpg

The Best Roast Potatoes

roastPotatoesNo, really, these ones are the best.  Trust me, I’ve done extensive research into this matter (translation:  I’ve eaten my weight in roast potatoes).  These are a tasty accompaniment to my moist roast chicken.  Photo from Pixabay.com as I’m never manage to get a photo of my roast spuds before they’re all gobbled up.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg / 2.2 lb potatoes, peeled and halved (quartered if they’re very big).  Roosters, Maris Pipers and Golden Wonders are good varieties for roasting.  You need to use main crop potatoes, not salad potatoes or new potatoes.
  • Stock cube or stock powder (optional – I use Marigold Vegetable Bouillion Powder)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of oil.  I use sunflower oil.  You can use goose fat if you’re so inclined.  Don’t use olive oil or any other oil with a low smoke point.
  • 2 tablespoons of semolina
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 220 C / 430 F.  Place the oil in a large roasting tin and place in the oven to heat.
  2. Place the potatoes in large pot and cover with water to 2.5 cm / 1 inch above the potatoes.  Add the stock now if you’re using it.  Cover and bring the pot to a gentle boil.  Boil  for about 10 minutes.  You’re not trying to cook the potatoes through, you just want the potatoes to be starting to soften a little on the outside.
  3. Drain the potatoes and leave them to dry out uncovered in the pot if you have time – the drier the better.
  4. Sprinkle the semolina, salt and pepper over the potatoes in the pot.  Cover and give the pot a vigorous shake.  The idea is to distribute the seasoning and the semolina and ‘rough-up’ the spuds.  Those rough edges will become tasty, crunchy edges when they’re roasted.
  5. Take the roasting tin out of the oven (very carefully – its very hot by now!).  Place the spuds into the oil very carefully so as not to splash hot oil around.   You should here a little sizzle when the spuds hit the hot oil.  Turn each spud around in the oil to get each one coated in oil.
  6. Roast in the hot oven for 35 – 40 minutes.  The roasting time will vary depending on the size of your spuds.  You should check them after 30 minutes to see how they’re doing.  You want them to be a nice golden colour.  Once they’re out of the oven you may want to add a little more salt and pepper.  Roast potatoes are best eaten hot, fresh from the oven.  Enjoy!

 

 

Hill of Beans

Veggie Chili

Veggie Chili

On my ‘it’s not a diet’ drive at the moment I’ve been determined to try new, healthy recipes.   I’ve found a useful source of recipes on the ‘Operation Transformation’ website.   ‘Operation Transformation’ is RTE’s (Irish TV) answer to the internationally franchised ‘Biggest Loser’ shows.

I’ve tried a number of the ‘Operation Transformation’ recipes over the past few weeks and have found them pretty reliable (with a few minor tweaks), very straightforward and, for the most part, tasty.  Each of their recipes is designed to provide about 500 calories.

Here’s my adaptation of their vegetarian chili.  It makes a substantial, satisfying and flavourful dinner.  The main changes I made to the original recipe were in the method and to the seasoning.

Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled & diced
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded & chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 teaspoons of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 400g can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 100g of red lentils
  • 400g of mushrooms, chopped
  • 250 ml vegetable stock

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.
  2. Add the onion, peppers and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes
  3. Add the garlic and saute for a further 2 mins (adding the garlic later prevents the garlic becoming bitter)
  4. Stir in tomato puree, canned chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, oregano, paprika, and cumin. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the stock, kidney beans and lentils and stir.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until the red lentils are tender and beginning to break down.  (You may need to add a little water if the mix is becoming too dry but remember it is supposed to be a thick stew, not a runny soup)
  6. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with wholegrain rice (50g uncooked per person to stick within the c. 500 calorie limit), cous cous or tortillas.

Mushroom, Pea and Spinach Risotto

Mushroom, Pea and Spinach Risotto

Mushroom, Pea and Spinach Risotto

Another one-pot wonder, risotto is a great staple recipe.  However, risotto seems to have a bit of reputation of being tricky.  Not at all!  If you can stir and have a bit of patience you can make risotto.  The beauty of this recipe is that it can be made almost entirely from store cupboard ingredients.

Ingredients (serves 4, or 2 very hungry piggies)

  • 50 g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 20 g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 200 g risotto rice (yep, it has to be risotto rice – no substitutes)
  • 150 ml white wine (anything drinkable will do – if you wouldn’t drink with it don’t cook with it though)
  • 150 ml vegetable stock
  • 150 g frozen peas
  • 150 g frozen spinach, defrosted
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • grated Parmesan cheese to serve

Method

  1. Place the mushrooms in a bowl and pour over boiling water to more than cover the mushrooms (this water will rehydrate the mushrooms and will become your stock for the rest of the recipe).  Let them sit to rehydrate (about 15 minutes) while you get on with the next steps…
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion and celery. Sauté until soft and sweet.
  3. Add the garlic, stir and cook for another minute
  4. Add the risotto rice and stir to coat all the grains – they should be glistening
  5. Add the white wine and stir frequently until the wine has been absorbed
  6. Add a ladle of the water from the mushrooms to the rice and keep stirring until it has completely absorbed.  Repeat this process adding a ladle at a time until the mushroom water is used up.  At this stage, if the rice is not cooked (it should still have some ‘bite’ but no ‘chalkiness’ in the middle of the grains), add the vegetable stock, again stirring until its absorbed.  You may need to add more stock or less stock than is mentioned in this recipe – it depends on how thirsty your rice is.
  7. Rinse off the mushrooms (to flush away any grit) and chop them up coarsely
  8. Stir the mushrooms into the risotto along with the peas and the defrosted spinach and allow all ingredients to heat through.  Season well and stir in the grated Parmesan.
  9. Serve hot and enjoy!