Healing lentil and vegetable soup

30 Oct

At the start of every university term all sorts of bugs and diseases spread round campus. All the students come in from all over the world with their different germs, which they give to each other and the academic staff, who then pass them on to the admin staff. It’s now three weeks in to term and all of the support staff in my department are either just recovering or just coming down with something. In honour of everyone who works in a university, college, or school, and is feeling grotty right now, here is my get-well-soon soup. The lentils will give you enough protein to make all of those extra white blood cells you’ll need to fight the infection, and the vitamins from the veggies will boost your immune system so you can beat anything. It’s simple enough to make when you’re feeling at your absolute worst. On top of that, it’s both warm and comforting AND fresh and zingy all at the same time. I’ve used a mix of lentils for a varied texture, you could use just split peas to make it chunkier or just red lentil to be smoother. Here it is:

Recipe (serves four):

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped as chunky or as fine as you like
  • 1 stick of celery, also chopped as chunky or as fine as you like
  • 1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs
  • 100g yellow split peas or chana dal
  • 200g split red lentils
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat. Sweat the onion and celery in the oil, covered, for about 10-15 minutes without colouring.

Add the herbs, split peas, lentils, stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes, until the split peas are cooked through but still retain a little bit of bite.

Add the parsley and season to taste.

Curl up in your duvet and eat the soup out of the biggest mug you can find. Get well soon!

In my veg box this week – Halloween pumpkins (well, squashes) and late summer veg

29 Oct

Last Halloween we left it really late to buy a pumpkin to carve. We went to both of our local shops and neither had any left, so we ended up carving a swede instead. Historically in Britain and Ireland it used to be swedes and turnips that were carved at this time of year, but frankly it’s a lot more effort, doesn’t look as cool, and not nearly as tasty either. I’m really pleased to have three squashes to choose from this year. I bought the large one in the middle from the market at the weekend, the butternut and the little one on the right are from this week’s veg box. Whichever one gets carved on Friday will end up roasted or baked over the weekend, and end up in any of the following:

  • with pasta, greens, chilli, seeds, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar glaze,
  • salad with lentils and loads of other seasonal veggies,
  • a creamy curry with chickpeas,
  • soup,
  • cakes or cookies.

This week I was thrilled to get some late summer courgettes and tomatoes. It has been such a long time since I had courgettes. For weeks on end I’d been saving a recipe for the next time I had courgettes (this one with fava beans if you’re interested) and I had actually given up all hope. so it’s a lovely surprise. I’ll enjoy them all the more knowing they’re almost certainly the last courgettes of the year.

Also received this week: onions, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, grapes, bananas, oranges, apples.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

In my veg box this week – brassicas, brassicas, brassicas!

22 Oct

If the colder weather wasn’t enough of a sign that autumn is here, the sudden abundance of brassicas should be enough to convince you. Vegans are recommended to eat green leafy vegetables every day, because they’re a great source of both iron and calcium. Having three different brassicas in one veg box looks pretty extreme, but we should be eating that much in a week anyway. What am I going to do with them? Let’s see…

Cauliflower
It’s quite a small one, it will only feed the two of us for one meal. We’ll save the green outer leaves and feed them to our pet lizards and snails. I think I’ll fry the florets with Indian spices and serve then with dal and rice.

Broccoli
I don’t know yet what I’ll be doing with this broccoli, but last time I volunteered for FoodCycle we made some fab green soup, using onions, potatoes, stock, tonnes of broccoli, and some kale (you can see a photo on Twitter). It was way more delicious than I expected, so fresh and light but satisfying at the same time.

Cabbage
It’s been a few months at least since I last had cabbage. A lot of people don’t like it, but as long as you don’t overcook it it’s lovely and so versatile. I think we’ll have some of it with bangers and mash and gravy (it is October, after all), and the rest will go in a spicy stir fry.

Also received this week: a leek, potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, bananas, apples, oranges, even more plums.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

Chilli con seitan

16 Oct

Chilli was one of the first proper dishes I learned to cook. When I became vegetarian in my early teens I started helping my mum out in the kitchen by making the vegetarian version of whatever she was doing for the rest of the family. Chilli con carne is part of her regular repertoire, and I have particularly fond memories of her giving me a bit of onion, half a tin of beans, half a tin of tomatoes, and letting me be creative with my dinner while we sang along to the radio together and chatted about our day. Over the years I’ve been making it I’ve learned three important things:

  1. While you can knock up a half-decent chilli in 10 minutes or so, if you simmer it for a lot longer the flavours will develop.
  2. Use more herbs and spices than just chilli powder for a greater depth of flavour. I like to use both fresh and dried chilli, together with cumin, oregano, and cocoa powder.
  3. It’s seemingly impossible to take a photo of it that will do it justice.

This is the perfect way to try seitan if you’ve never had it before, for me this shows it at its best. It’s chewy, meaty, satisfying, and stands up well to the complex flavours without either dominating the dish or getting lost in there. It’s a good way to satisfy any meat cravings you have, and it’s crammed full of protein – the seitan and beans alone give you about 30g.

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Recipe (makes two generous portions):

  • 1 tablespoon or more vegetable oil
  • 200g seitan, cut into approx. 1cm cubes
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin half moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
  • 1 x 400g tin of kidney beans, drained (240g drained weight)

In a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, fry the seitan in the oil until browned on most sides, about five minutes. Transfer the browned seitan to a bowl and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add more oil if needed. Fry the onion for about five minutes, until it is softened and starting to brown round the edges. Add the garlic and fresh chilli and fry for a further 30 seconds or so. Add the cumin and chilli powder and cook for another 30 seconds. Then add the rest of the ingredients including the browned seitan. Simmer over a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve over rice, quinoa, or a baked potato.

 

In my veg box this week – onions, broccoli, satsumas

15 Oct

The battery in my camera ran out just as I was lining up the shot of my vegetable box this week. Some days that would be enough of an excuse to give up and not bother with the post, but I’ve had a good day and I’m in the mood to write. Luckily I just worked out recently how to embed Instagram photos in my posts, so my phone came to the rescue. On the subject of Instagram, if you’re on there and interested in pictures of my dinner, my pets, and my knitting (all fascinating obviously) you can find me at instagram.com/mrs_veg.

You might notice that the beetroot in this picture look particularly dark. It’s not the lighting nor the variety of beets, it’s actually proof that they’re local. The soil in East Anglia is black, giving both the scenery and the root vegetables an ominous hue.

This week we have:

Onions
How have I been writing about my vegetable boxes for this long without mentioning onions? I get quite a big bag of onions most weeks, about 500g. I put onions in most savoury dishes, they’re an obvious starting point for soup, stew, curry, pasta sauce. They’re also great baked, just chop them in half round the equator but don’t peel them, drizzle with a tiny bit of oil and bake for about 30 minutes.

Broccoli
Another thing I can’t believe I’ve never written about! Humble broccoli is a long-time favourite in the Veg household. Not only is it green, crunchy, and versatile but, like its friend cauliflower, it has a high surface area so it’s glorious with sauce. One of my favourite ways to cook it is to boil it with pasta (just for the last minute or two of the pasta cooking time or it will turn to mush) then serve it with any pasta sauce. It also goes particularly well with miso soup, they complement each other with their natural umami-ness.

Satsumas
I know it’s still a couple of months away, but nothing says Christmas to me quite like satsumas. The closer you get to Christmas the softer, sweeter, juicier, and more plentiful they become. By mid-December I will be eating several of these a day. For the moment, the first couple are a tantalising little hint that winter is coming, and that maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Also received this week: potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, a green pepper, spinach, apples, a tiny little slug, oranges, yet more plums, a lemon.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

In my veg box this week – cauliflower, plums

4 Oct

 

It has been a long summer, the warm weather has just about managed to last into October. Autumn is quite late coming this year, but the signs are there. I may not yet be hunkering down in a big jumper eating stew and dumplings, but the evenings are getting darker and summer cropping plants are slowing down. During the transition between the two seasons I don’t know what to expect in my veg box. Will it be the last of the summer beans, aubergines, and tomatoes, or will it be the first of the autumn squash and cabbages? This week I’ll look at one of each.

This week we have:

Plums
Plums last into autumn longer than any other stoned fruit. They ripen more slowly, which means they last a lot longer in the fruit bowl, and don’t do that annoying thing of looking fine one minute then mouldy the next. On top of this, they’re incredibly fragrant, lending themselves well to jams, cakes, and crumble.

Cauliflower
Poor cauliflower. It has such a poor reputation. Of course it does, people have been boiling it to death and smothering it with bland white sauce for years! With a bit more love and affection you can use its natural creaminess to your advantage without killing the flavour or destroying all of the nutrients. Make vegan ricotta by mashing cooked cauliflower with tofu, nooch and salt. Mix roasted cauliflower with pesto pasta to make it creamy without  being heavy or greasy. Or blend roasted cauliflower with stock and herbs to make a luxurious but healthy soup.

Also received this week: potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, kale, leek, corn on the cob, oranges, apples, grapes.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

 

VegfestUK London 2014

28 Sep

I’ve just got back from a brilliant day out at VegfestUK London at Kensington Olympia. According to their website, 10,000 people went through their doors today, to try and buy vegan products, do some clothes shopping, browse books and magazines, eat some amazing food, meet people from conservation organisations and welfare charities, and to watch talks and stand-up comedy. I could have easily spent the whole weekend there, especially because there were so many caterers selling different incredible-looking meals. Here are some of my photos.

My favourite thing about VegfestUK is that it’s a completely vegan festival. It’s kind of tiring going to an event as the vegan in the room, always having to check and ask what I can and can’t eat. It was exciting to be in a place where I’m normal, where everything I could see was edible. Here are some of the thing we bought. I’m particularly excited about the crazy amount of snack bars, my new favourite chocolate from Ombar, and the Round Up wagon wheels (I’ve had them before and they’re incredible). We also bought some Mr Nice Pie pies for tonight’s dinner from (not pictured), which I’m really looking forward to.

Ok, so despite there being so many caterers offering beautiful, colourful, healthy meals, as soon as we heard that Vegusto were selling hot dogs all good intentions went out the window. Here’s one of their delicious frankfurters with fried onions, ketchup and mustard. It was amazing, I regret nothing.

In true Mrs Veg style, as soon as I saw the bar I had to go for a vegan ale. Here’s me sampling a pint of Eco Warrior from an organic brewery called Pitfield’s.

VegfestUK is a brilliant day out for vegans, vegetarians, and the veg-curious. I’m already looking forward to going back next year.

http://london.vegfest.co.uk/ – VegfestUK London.

http://vegfest.co.uk/ – other VegfestUK events around the country.

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