Tag Archives: herbs

How to make vegan pesto out of anything*

3 May

(*almost)

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I can’t claim that there’s anything groundbreaking about my pesto recipe. It’s just the list of ingredients that I have stuck to my fridge that I tweaked a few times until I was happy with it. I’ve wanted to post the recipe for quite a while now to show how versatile it can be if you mix it up a little bit. Fresh herbs can be quite expensive unless you grow your own or find them in the reduced section, as can pine nuts. It’s really easy to switch out the ingredients for other things to suit your meal or your budget.

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In case you can’t read my writing, here’s the recipe (makes a generous amount for two):

  • One clove of garlic, mashed to a fine paste with a pinch of salt (don’t rely on your food processor to do this for you, pesto is best a bit chunky, and chunky raw garlic is not particularly pleasant)
  • 40g leaves
  • 20g nuts/seeds/legumes
  • Half a tablespoon lemon juice
  • Another pinch of salt and plenty of pepper
  • Two tablespoons of oil
  • One tablespoon (or more) of nooch

First, put just the nuts (or whatever you’re using) in the food processor on their own and pulse a couple of times to get them started.

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Then add the rest of the ingredients…

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… and pulse a few more times until it’s just blended (i.e. not a purée).

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Here are a few examples. First, the pea-sto mark 2 – peas, a 50:50 mix of mint and basil, and olive oil:

 

The super-vegan – pumpkin seeds, kale, and hemp oil:

Pasta with kale pesto and more kale #vegan

A post shared by Mrs Veg (@mrs_veg) on

 

The classic – toasted pine nuts, basil, and olive oil:

Pesto pasta with roast cauli, peppers, white beans and broad beans.

A post shared by Mrs Veg (@mrs_veg) on

 

The English – podded and cooked broad beans, watercress, and cold-pressed rapeseed oil (here it’s mixed in to some risotto and served with more watercress):

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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:

Chunky lentil and vegetable soup, the best cold remedy I know #vegan

A post shared by Mrs Veg (@mrs_veg) on

 

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 – purple sprouting broccoli, parsley, fava beans

9 Apr

This week we have:

Purple sprouting broccoli
It’s broccoli! It’s purple! What’s not to love? We grew both purple and white sprouting broccoli a few years ago, and for a couple of months we had a never ending supply of home grown broccoli. You would think we’d be sick of it but no, it was glorious.

A big bag of parsley
From time to time I get a surprise herb in the veg box. If it’s something I use a lot or can use a lot of in one go (like basil) that’s great, but parsley… Seriously? I use it but I can’t recall a time when I’ve ever needed 50g of it. I’ll either use the whole lot to make parsley pesto, which I’ve never tried before but like the sound of, or this week it will be parsley in everything.

Fava beans
The veg box company are trying to promote fava beans at the moment. Apparently farmers (especially organic ones) grow them between crops to improve the soil, but because nobody in this country eats them they have to export the beans to the middle east. I’m a huge fan of beans and lentils so I am very happy to try them. They look like large lentils, similar to yellow split peas or chana dal, and that’s exactly how I’m going to cook them. I’m going to make a lovely lentil curry and serve it poured all over some rice and the broccoli. Lush.

Also received this week: onions, carrots, potatoes, two tiny red cabbages, a slightly moudly swede (yes, I have complained), mixed salad leaves, oranges, pears, bananas.

Growing vegetables without a garden

1 Jul

Home-grown vegetables taste infinitely better than those bought from a shop. Here’s my top three reasons why:

  • Freshness. The flavour of many vegetables degrades with every second that passes. Produce from a shop is at least a couple of days old, potentially weeks or months old. If you grow your own you can eat them within minutes.
  • Breeding. Commercially-grown vegetables are generally bred to be uniform in shape, size and colour, because sadly that’s what consumers and supermarkets want. If you grow your own, you can choose seeds and plants that are bred for flavour.
  • Ownership. If you put time and effort into creating something, it increases your appreciation of the end result.

As a big vegetable fan, it makes sense that I would have a go at growing my own, and getting the best, freshest veggies I can get my muddy little hands on. I’m not going to let a minor detail like not having a garden stop me. We did have an allotment for a couple of years, but it is too time-consuming if you work full time – I’ll leave that sort of thing to my Mum, who is retired and has two amazingly well-kept and productive plots.

There’s plenty of different things you can grow in containers, even in a small space. We have pots and tubs outside our door and outside our kitchen window. Here’s a selection of what I’m growing at the moment.

Broad beans and courgettes (zucchini). I’ve got these growing in two old recycling containers, with drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Courgettes are very greedy plants, so there’s a generous amount of chicken manure in there to help them along.

 


Potatoes. We’ve been growing spuds in a patio potato bag for a couple of years now, with great success. It’s really easy, you quarter-fill the bag with compost and nestle the chitted seed potatoes about halfway down. When green shoots start to show through, cover over with compost, repeat until it reaches the top of the bag (this takes a few weeks). As with spuds grown under the ground, as soon as either the fruit sets or the foliage starts to die back, the potatoes are ready. If in doubt, stick your hand in the compost like a lucky dip and grope around to see if you can find any potatoes. I’m growing pink fir apples this year, which are my favourite potatoes ever – they’re knobbly, waxy, earthy, nutty… heaven!

 
Strawberries. I’ve already mentioned that home-grown tastes better, but wow… strawberries are proof of this. If you’ve never tried a real home-grown strawberry you need to find some and do it. You will never go back to the bland, watery supermarket offerings again.

 

 

 

Herbs. It’s great to get home from work, think “oh, I need a bit of rosemary for my roast potatoes,” and to be able to snap off a sprig before I even get in the front door. Here we’ve got lavender on the left, and rosemary on the right. We’ve also grown thyme in the past. Any woody herbs should work well in a pot.

 

 
Garlic. If you want to grow something easy, garlic is a great way to start. You get a whole bulb of garlic (from a garden supplier, not a supermarket), break it into cloves and stick them in a bit of compost in a container. Six months or so later, each clove will have turned into a whole new bulb of garlic. Let the skins dry out and they’ll keep for months. Here you can see the scapes (flower stalks) are starting to grow. If you cut the scapes down, the resulting bulb will be much bigger, and you can cook with the scapes too, they’re a bit like spring onions or chunky garlic chives.

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