Tag Archives: lunch

Watercress soup – healthy, sexy, green

11 Jan

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This soup is a bit of a treat, as it takes one whole bag of watercress to make just one bowl. It tastes fresh and peppery and is full of vitamins and minerals, so it will make you feel incredible. I’m not exaggerating, it’s been over an hour since I ate the bowl of soup in the photo above and I’m still on a bit of a high. Either make it as an indulgent lunch for one, or serve it in little teacups as a starter for someone you’re trying to woo.

Notes:

  • The same quantities and method work for other green soups. Just replace the watercress with spinach or kale for a more everyday soup.
  • A small onion/potato/carrot is one you can fit in the palm of your hand and close your fist around.
  • Don’t bother peeling the potato and carrot unless they’re really muddy or have been nibbled by bugs. Just give them a good scrub.

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Recipe (serves one as a meal, or two as a starter):

  • One teaspoon oil
  • One small onion, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One small potato, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One small carrot, diced into roughly 1cm cubes
  • One clove of garlic, smashed, peeled, then roughly chopped
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 75g fresh watercress
  • Salt and pepper to taste (you shouldn’t need very much of either)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the onion, potato, carrot, and garlic. Cover and leave to sweat for 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. A little bit of colour is fine, but you don’t really want the veggies to brown.

Add the stock and simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes. Add the watercress a handful at a time until it has all wilted into the broth – this should only take a minute or two. Blend, check for seasoning, and serve.

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Two-soup Sunday, part two – vegetarian lentil and not-bacon

18 Aug

Soup can be many things: from chunky to smooth, from elegant to “throw it all in and see what happens”, from creamy to spicy, from a delicate starter to a full-on main course. One of soups most important roles is that of a comfort food. As a child, whenever I was ill my Mum would feed me tinned lentil and bacon soup, and no matter what was wrong it would always make me feel better. I’ve now been a vegetarian for a very long time, and while you can get plain lentil soup in a can that is just as comforting (if not more so), I’ve been on a bit of a mission to create a vegetarian version of the meaty kind from my childhood.

The key to this is liquid smoke. It’s quite expensive in the UK, and you have to buy it online, but a little bit goes a long way. It’s probably not going to fool a meat eater, but a hint of smoke in a soup or stew is just enough to trick a vegetarian brain into tasting bacon. Even without the liquid smoke it’s still a tasty soup though, and just as comforting.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3-4 medium carrots, grated
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a good sprig each of rosemary and thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • a pinch of chilli flakes (optional, we put chilli in pretty much everything in the Veg household, whether it’s appropriate or not)
  • 2 cups of split red lentils
  • 7 cups vegetable stock (1.75 litres)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or more if you want it, but be careful!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan with the lid on, sweat the onion in the oil over a medium-low heat for up to 10 minutes, without colouring.

Add the carrots, garlic, herbs, cumin, and chilli, and sweat with the lid on for another 5-10 minutes, again without colouring.

Add the lentils and stock, bring to the boil then simmer for a further 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are cooked through and starting to go mushy.

Add the liquid smoke, then check for seasoning. Serve and enjoy!

Two-soup Sunday, part one – any veg minestrone

18 Aug

I love soup. It’s healthy, filling, usually cheap, easy to make, requires minimal thought and co-ordination, and best of all, you can put pretty much anything in it. Making soup is a lovely calm activity for a gentle Sunday morning, and if you make a massive batch you’ll have a couple of days worth of packed lunch for work too.

Minestrone is the King of versatility. It surprises me that most recipes give a set list of vegetables with precise quantities. Surely it’s more fun and more practical to just throw in whatever seasonal vegetables you have to hand?! It does make my recipe look a bit strange, but that’s just how I like to do things. The point is, if you open the fridge and feel a bit baffled by the random selection of veggies inside, minestrone is a quick and tasty solution.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (completely optional, but almost obligatory in the Veg house)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or any other herb that works well with what you’ve got)
  • diced fresh veggies – a dinner plate piled fairly high is about the right amount (or 2 carrots, 2 courgettes, 1 red pepper, and a handful of broad beans if you want to follow a list)
  • 120g small pasta or broken spaghetti
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 tin any kind of white beans (235g drained weight)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan with the lid on, sweat the onion in the oil over a medium-low heat for up to 10 minutes, without colouring.

Add the garlic, chilli, herbs, and vegetables, and sweat with the lid on for another 5-10 minutes, again without colouring.

Add the pasta, tomatoes, drained beans, stock, and tomato puree, and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes, until the pasta and vegetables are tender.

Check the seasoning and serve. Top with croutons, cheese, toasted pine nuts, or pesto, or enjoy it naked.

This keeps well in the fridge for a few days but be warned – the pasta will gradually soak up the liquid and it will become less soupy over time, but still utterly delicious!

North African spicy chickpea and sweet potato soup

22 May

In my last post I mentioned that I often take home-made soup to work for lunch. I love making soup; it’s easy, cheap, filling, and super versatile. I could probably post a soup recipe every week and never run out of ideas, but here’s just one to begin with.

Harissa paste is a North African blend of chillies and spices that works as a brilliant cheat ingredient for sexing up soup, stew, sandwiches, homous, roasted vegetables. It’s probably my new favourite ingredient. The soup would be great without it (chickpeas AND sweet potato, two of my favourite soup items), but including harissa gives it a Moroccan tagine-style edge that makes it insanely good.

This isn’t the best food photo I’ve ever taken, but you get the idea (recipe below):

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Recipe (serves 2-4)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 red chillies, chopped (optional, depending on how hot you like it)
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
  • Half a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, chillies, and sweet potato, cover and sweat over a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Add the cumin, harissa paste, about three quarters of the chickpeas, the tomatoes and stock. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly then blend until smooth. Add the rest of the chickpeas, heat through and check for seasoning.

Pesto pasta salad

19 May

I’m pretty good at making the effort to make a packed lunch to take to work, usually some salad or home-made soup. But no matter how disciplined you are, there will be some days when you find that (a) you don’t have the time (b) you’ve run out of food at home, or (c) a certain person has taken your lunchbox to work and accidentally left it there. I recently found myself in this position and decided to pop into the shop on the way to work to buy a nice healthy salad. The vegetarian choice wasn’t great that day and I ended up with this:

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It filled a hole, but it was a bit disappointing. It looked really good but tasted bland, didn’t have enough vegetables in it to justify calling it a salad and it was coated in an unhealthy slick some kind of green oil that claimed to be pesto dressing. I was left feeling I could have done a much better job of it myself.

So here is my version: healthier, tastier, cheaper, and not swimming in oil (recipe below).

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Serves 1

  • 75-100g wholewheat pasta (dry weight)
  • A good dollop of vegetarian or vegan pesto (good quality shop bought, or home-made)
  • A handful of something green and leafy, sliced (the shop version used spinach, I used chard, but anything green would be great)
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and leave to cool.

Steam the green veggies, leave to cool.

Combine the pasta, greens and pesto. Top with the tomatoes and pine nuts.

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