Torn Vegetable Lasagne

I seem to have a real problem with dried lasagne sheets.  It has proved to be absolutely infuriating.   I seem to manage to break them.  I am not sure if its in the packing into bags after shopping or because I have rather a rammed full larder cupboard but when I open the packet more often that not there are quite a few broken sheets.    I could get round this by making or buying fresh pasta but, if I am honest, I cant always be bothered or remember to do so.   And I love lasagne.   Its a brilliant comfort food.  So in the spirit of the saying “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, this recipe was born – and whether or not you have broken or whole lasagne sheets, it very tasty if I say so myself.

The trouble with traditional lasagne is that it is fiddly to make.   Lots of layers to assemble and a sauce to make to go on top.   Delicious but time consuming and often too carb heavy for a supper.    The great thing about this “torn lasagne” is it is really simple to do and its easy to make sure that the veggies are more plentiful than the pasta if that’s the way you like things!!  Its also quicker to make and any leftovers are great the next day as a packed lunch.

It uses pesto rather than the traditional creamy béchamel to keep things light and fresh though somehow it tastes just as comforting as traditional lasagne.  If you use the vegan cheese and pesto (shop bought is fine here though, of course don’t let me stop you from making your own ) then you can easily, and very “taste-illy”, make this recipe suitable for a plant based diet without going to any extra effort.   As I have said before, the best parts of a lasagne are where the pasta edges go crispy.   With Torn Lasagne there are a lot more edges to go crispy!! Yum Continue reading

Sweet Potato Satay Soup

I love a good soup.   This Sweet Potato Satay one is pretty special.  Ok I know it’s not a flavour combo you’d probably expect in a soup but it works.    It’s warm and spicy with the flavours of chilli, garlic and ginger and sweet and earthy with red lentils, carrots and the sweet potatoes themselves.  It’s full of good things that fight both a cold and the cold itself,  and yet it’s satay flavours lend themselves to being eaten in warmer weather when you need a pick up.  It’s “accidentally” vegan, gluten free and if you have a nut allergy works as a spiced sweet potato soup if you don’t add the peanut element.  It’s an all round winner!

Of course the use of the peanut satay flavours in this soup doesn’t make this an authentic Indonesian dish   We are entering the same battlefield as M&S are at the moment with their biryani wrap in terms of authenticity.  To call a soup satay (which historically was essentially a meat kebab) is technically incorrect,  but my use of satay here does give you an extremely good idea of this soups flavour profile which I can’t think of any other way of doing so succinctly.

Depending on the time of year, I like to adjust this soup’s thickness/viscosity.   In the winter I like it thick and almost dhal like.  In the summer, by letting the blended soup down by adding water, I like it looser and more of a traditional soup consistency.  This is all a matter of personal preference of course so do whatever feels right for you. Continue reading

Creme Caramel

Imagine a soft, silky quivering custard topped with a rich, toffee amber caramel sauce and you have crème caramel.   It is such a simple, family (and budget) friendly dish that only uses 4 ingredients (milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla) to make something quite special. Yet it is often overlooked in favour of the more popular, and far richer,  crème brulee. Yet Creme Caramel is a French classic in its own right

Creme Caramel can quite happily be made 48hrs in advance and kept in the fridge.   It can be made in one large dish for the family or, if you want it to be smarter, made in individual portions.   Its is delicious on its own or with fruit – imagine that caramel sauce seeping into sliced clementines/oranges.   Whichever way you serve it, I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t end up scraping every last bit of it off the plate (or licking the plate if they think they can get away with it – naming no names!!) Continue reading

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad

When its dreary and cold, or as the Scots would say “dreich”, I always crave something zesty and full of sunshine and this salad gives me all of that simply and quickly with its Mediterranean flavours of aniseed fennel, salty olives and the bright zesty sunshine taste of the oranges.  That’s the strange thing;  oranges (and indeed all citrus fruit), which look like bright orange orbs of sunshine, are at their best right now, in January. Winter.  Not a lot of sunshine.  Duh?

Most importantly, and particularly so for all you who share Paddington’s favourite food, Seville Oranges have arrived!! Y Viva Espana!!  NOTE:  Hurry as they are only here for a few weeks although you can buy them and stick them whole in the freezer if you haven’t time to make marmalade right now. Continue reading

Christmas Gingerbread

Gingerbread House

I do love Christmas traditions.  I am also partial to a bit of kitsch and childish glee. Ticking all those boxes is the gingerbread house and gingerbread cookies for the tree I made this week.  The rustic charm of the house is due in no small part to a few subsidence problems due to my royal icing not setting quickly enough and my gingerbread being a bit wonky – but hey, curlywurlys came into their own as a roof ridge and hiding the gap where the top of the roof didn’t meet properly and jam jars make wonderful scaffolding till all is firm enough to hold its own. Start another Christmas tradition by having a mulled wine whilst you wait then your gingerbread roof will all seem a lot straighter!  Continue reading

Fruit Tarts – Plum and Almond – Pear and Quince – Fig and Earl Grey

STOP PRESS!!  You may not realise this but ready rolled puff pastry – with the exception of the all butter variety – is VEGAN, or at least the Just Rol brand is.   It’s one of those mainstream products I like to call “accidentally vegan”.   Like Pringles Texas BBQ crisps or the classic Oreos, these are the products that didn’t set out to be, and that you just don’t expect to be, vegan.  But are.  This doesn’t mean if you aren’t vegan you shouldn’t use the All Butter Puff if you prefer I am just giving options.

This simple and quick pastry tart can therefore be vegan without even trying.  It’s totally delicious. I think it looks pretty wonderful and you can make endless variations.  If you have more patience than I do and want to slice the fruit more finely and arrange more carefully, this can result in a tart (or should I say galette?) that would grace the window of any French Patisserie.

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Chicken, Olive and Tomato Traybake with Herb Dressing

Who doesn’t love a Traybake?  Particularly one which has chunky, crispy garlic croutons, intense and lush tomatoes and pops of salty black olives – and I have even mentioned the juicy but crisp skinned chicken and is dotted with a basil and parsley oil.  All the flavours of the Mediterranean but in a Traybake.  Easy enough for a weeknight but special enough for a kitchen supper with friends

Tomatoes

My tomatoes in the greenhouse are on their last hurrah and so I’ve used some of the last of them in this dish before I turn the remainder into chutney but shop bought will do as well as the roasting intensifies the flavour.

I love how this recipe uses bread – be it the remains of a sourdough loaf or ciabatta as it is a great way of using up bread that’s just past it’s best.  You must used a “textured” loaf for this as sliced supermarket bread hasn’t got the body to stay intact when rolled in the tomato and chicken juices.   The crunchy, toasty-ness that it brings to the dish is the savoury equivalent of dunking a biscuit in a cup of tea.  Quite wonderful and quite addictive. Continue reading

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I fondly remember making these with my lovely goddaughter Chloe a couple of years ago.   They were delicious.   She had a bit of time that day so made her wonderful peanut sauce to go with them – if you are reading Chloe I am still after that recipe!

Chloe is vegan now and this is her version.  I often make them and add shredded left over roast meat to the roll but, honestly, it doesn’t need it. They provide a wonderful crunchy freshness as a totally vegan dish and  I swear they make you feel good as well as being delicious.

I love  Chloe’s website www.vetyogi.com and I really would recommend you have a look   There are wonderful guides to yoga postures and my favourite – 5 minute sequences for everything from neck and shoulders to back to feet and toes   Absolutely wonderful to practice along with at any time

In the mood for something healthy, fresh, crunchy and quick to make? These Vietnamese Rolls are ideal for helping you to get some of your 5 a day, and you can use whatever you fancy (or whatever you happen to have in the fridge). I often take these to work for lunch, and I find myself really looking forward to them. I can’t pretend my way is very traditional, but to be honest as long as they taste good, I just use whatever I have in at that time. Continue reading

A Bun in the Oven – Rabbit with Plums and Port

Michaelmas Daisies, Michaelmas Goose.  Michaelmas Fairs.   Today, 29th September is St Michaels Day or Michaelmas!  Traditionally in the rural calendar this was an important “Quarter Day”.  The day which signified the beginning of Autumn,  when the harvests were supposed to have been all brought in, rents paid and land bought and sold.   Things are a bit different nowadays of course.  Autumn is starting to make its presence felt with fiery reds beginning to light up the countryside and the nights drawing in.   In my garden the michaelmas daisies are in full bloom and pears, apples, quinces, blackberries and plums are all at their best.

Hyssop

As a result of all this bounty, the rabbits and pigeons have  grown plump eating the windfalls and hedgerow berries as well as anything left unprotected in the vegetable garden – with cabbages and lettuces being particular favourites! It’s a perfect time to take advantage of this plumpness and get your own back by eating them.  Sorry if I sound a bit like Mr McGregor here always chasing after Peter Rabbit to put in a pie and obsessed with protecting my plants! Continue reading

Blackberry and Apple Jam

There is nothing better in the mornings than a hot piece of buttered toast slathered with some homemade jam.  Blackberry and Apple Jam is just right for this time of year and accompanied by a hot cup of tea or coffee breakfast feels cosy and autumnal.   But don’t just stop at spreading this jam on toast.  This jam is a great all rounder.  Try it sandwiched in sponge cakes and atop scones but also it works really well with savoury dishes – alongside pork or with venison for example, or it’s lovely served alongside a hunk of tangy cheddar in a ploughman’s or as part of a cheeseboard.

Now I know what you are thinking if you are over the age of 25. …. “great, but what about all those blackberry pips?  I’ll be forever picking them out of my teeth!”  Not exactly an exciting prospect I will be the first to agree.  But don’t worry because this very old fashioned jam recipe of my grandmothers gets over that problem (just as well as she had dentures)  by removing nearly all of them by sieving the pulp.  This isn’t as time consuming as it sounds so please keep on reading.  If you have an old fashioned piece of kitchen equipment called a mouli it is super quick (if not they are really cheap to buy – try Lakeland) and they are so useful for so many tasks in the kitchen.  If not a sieve and a wooden spoon does the same job only it’s a bit slower.

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A mouli in action sieving the pulp

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