Herb broth with rice noodles, tofu and vegetables

Whenever I make noodle soup, the default flavours I go for are Chinese or Vietnamese. And while both are delicious, the herbs I have growing at the moment don’t quite lend themselves to those flavour profiles, I have a lot of sage…
So, it was time to experiment!
I’ve used a standard vegetable stock as the base, flavoured with a little caraway, and sage, basil and mint for the herbs.
For the vegetables I’ve used tomato, radish, courgette and chilli, which was a great combination, and very pretty too!
Little cubes of silken tofu add protein as well as texture, and a squeeze of lemon completes the dish.
It was really good, ever so satisfying and a new combination of flavours for my noodle soups. A sort of euro pho if you will!


Herb broth with rice noodles, tofu and vegetables

makes 1 large bowlful

500 ml light vegetable stock (I used marigold made to half strength)
a pinch of ground caraway seed, (you really don’t need a lot)
2 tbsp fresh basil, small leaves left whole and the rest roughly chopped 1 tbsp fresh mint, as above
3 fresh large sage leaves, shredded
2 small tomatoes, quartered. I used yellow ones
4 radishes, sliced
1/2 a courgette, diced
green or red chilli to taste, thinly sliced. I used 1 red chilli
a squeeze of lemon juice, about a tsp
a pinch of black pepper
175 g silken tofu, diced
45 g rice noodles

Bring the stock to the boil and add the caraway and courgette. Simmer for 3 minutes until the courgette is starting to soften.
Add the noodles, chilli and sage and simmer for a further 2 minutes. Next, the radishes, tomatoes and tofu. Cook for a further minute, you just want to warm them through.
Carefully stir in the herbs (so as not to break the tofu up), and season with lemon juice and black pepper.

By E.


Mango, chilli and dill noodles with grapefruit dressing

It’s been very hot and humid here for the last couple of days, and something cold for every meal really has been the order of the day!

I’m not sure why, but humidity always makes me want to eat more fruit, I guess it could be for the water content…

This noodle salad, as well as being appealingly colourful, is hot, sweet and salty from the chilli, mango and tamari. But in addition there’s a refreshing citrus tang from the grapefruit, and fresh dill and crisp green pepper to bring it back into the realms of a savoury dish rather than a fruit salad!

I added tofu and peanuts to mine as I ate it as a main meal, but you could leave them out if you wanted to serve it as a side dish.

Mango, chilli and dill noodle salad

Mango, chilli and dill noodles with grapefruit dressing

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Herby meatless loaf

I haven’t cooked with dried soya mince for a while, but picked some up a couple of days ago and a meatless loaf seemed like a great way to get back into it!

I’ve used oats and a little flour to hold the loaf together, and carrot and courgette for some extra flavour and nutrition. Plenty of herbs too for a lovely savoury flavour!

I’ll be eating it for lunch at work with coleslaw, made with a dressing I haven’t done before, I’ll post the recipe for that tomorrow.

Herby meatless loaf

Herby meatless loaf

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Ackee and pickled samphire with herby lentils and rice

When I was a kid growing up in Preston there was an amazing Caribbean cafe close to where my dad worked, and it was there that I was first introduced to the delights of rice and peas, and ackee, and dumplings, oh the dumplings… there was a stall selling them at the northern vegan fair in Blackpool last year so I had to buy one and it was as good as I remembered! The cafe closed (and became a polish one where I discovered perogi and zebra cake, but that’s a whole other post…) and for ages I only really ate that type of food once a year at the Preston Caribbean carnival.

But becoming vegan and the amount of recipes around which use ackee so creatively reminded me what I was missing! The last time I cooked with it I made a veganised saltfish and ackee recipe, which uses nori for the saltfish flavour which I thought was a stroke of genius!

This time however, I wanted to continue with the sea vegetable theme, and try it with samphire instead.

The ackee itself has a mild, very slightly bitter flavour and a wonderful silky texture. And it looks just like scrambled eggs, hence the classic vegan way of eating it, as a breakfast scramble!

I’ve paired the ackee and samphire with a delicious, savoury mixture of rice, lentils, leeks and tomatoes with plenty of fresh herbs stirred through at the end. It’s incredibly moreish, and a great treat as unfortunately ackee can be rather expensive… I got mine on offer from tesco a little while ago, but it was still £3 a tin!

ackee and pickled samphire with herby lentils and rice

ackee and pickled samphire with herby lentils and rice

makes 2 servings

for the herby lentils and rice

100 g brown basmati rice, rinsed

75 g red lentils, rinsed

1 large leek, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

250 ml vegetable stock, hot

1/2 tbsp oil

1 tbsp coriander, chopped

1 tbsp mint, chopped

1 tbsp dill, chopped

salt and pepper

for the pickled samphire

50 g samphire

1/4 tsp celery seed

1/4 tsp ground fennel seed

2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

and the ackee…

1 540 g tin of ackee, drained (340 g when drained)

To make the herby lentils and rice, heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium low heat and cook the leeks partially covered, stirring often for 10 minutes, until softened. Add the rice, lentils and garlic and cook for a further 3 or so minutes stirring all the time, until the rice begins to look translucent. Add the stock and tomatoes, give it all mix and turn the heat to low. Cover the pan and leave to cook for 40 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the pan covered for 5 minutes. Stir through the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.

For the pickled samphire, simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes.

To serve, stir the drained ackee gently through the rice mixture, and top with the pickled samphire.

By E.


Schnitzel style tofu with mushroom, pepper and potato salad

I acquired a piece of tofu the other day that rather than being a block like the usual supermarket kind, was in a flatter piece around 1.5 cm thick. I was chatting with Alex about how best to cook it, rather than just cubing it and baking, and he came up with the idea of a tofu schnitzel type of thing. And well that just sounded delicious!

So I made a marinade full of smoky herbal spice and mustard, and used polenta for the coating to get a beautifully crisp outside.

The salad is sweet with roast peppers, and the juicy mushrooms add a savoury earthy note. The potato soaks up the flavours nicely, and pickled gherkin and parsley add acidity and freshness.

Schnitzel style tofu with mushroom pepper and potato salad

Schnitzel style tofu with mushroom pepper and potato salad

makes 2 servings

For the tofu

230 g tofu, sliced lengthwise if possible into 3/4 cm slices

2 tbsp mild mustard, I used a Polish variety

1/2 tsp caraway seed

2 tsp liquid smoke

1/2 tsp fresh thyme

a pinch of salt

100 g polenta

2 tbsp oil

For the salad

2 small peppers, sliced

175 g mushrooms, quartered

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 tbsp oil

1 potato, cooked and cubed (I baked a potato while the oven was on and used that)

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

a few slices of pickled gherkin, chopped

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c.

Toss the peppers and thyme with the oil on a baking tray and pop in the oven for 25 minutes, turning once. Add the mushrooms and stir. Roast for a further 10 minutes until the mushrooms are juicy and the peppers are soft and caramelised at the edges. Discard the thyme stalk and toss the vegetables with the parsley, gherkins and some seasoning and set aside.

Mix together the mustard, caraway, liquid smoke, thyme and salt and coat the tofu. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Heat the oil on a baking tray.

While the oil is heating tip the polenta onto a plate and press each slice of tofu well into it to coat (keeping as much of the marinade on as you can). You won’t use all the polenta but it’s easier to coat the tofu if you have plenty. Lay it carefully onto the hot tray and then bake for 30 minutes, turning once. The tofu will be golden and crisp, and smell delicious.

By E.


Chilli aubergine

I was flicking through my copy of Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop looking for inspiration for an aubergine dish when I came across the dry frying method for cooking the cubed vegetable. I was a little sceptical about whether it would work seeing as a lot of aubergine recipes which state such a short cooking time, in my experience, really don’t work! But this one does, I’ve upped the cooking time from the 5 minutes in the book to 7 minutes, but if you cut your aubergine evenly enough 5 would do.

I’m a big fan of Fuchsia Dunlop’ s books on Chinese cookery, they aren’t vegan books by any means, but they are full of interesting flavours and techniques, and there are plenty of vegetable and tofu recipes in there, which if not vegan to start with, are easily adaptable.

So this recipe is inspired by the flavours of the Sichuan province, and although capers are definitely not a usual Chinese ingredient, I’m using them in place of Sichuan preserved vegetables which have a similar salty, tangy flavour.

If you don’t have chilli bean sauce (which is made from fermented broad beans and chillies), then a spoonful of miso and some chilli sauce would give a similar layer of flavour.

Chilli aubergine, so so tasty!

Chilli aubergine, so so tasty!

makes 2 servings

1 aubergine, cubed

1 onion, sliced

1 tomato, chopped

4 mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 a red chilli, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tsp capers

1 tbsp Chinese rice wine

1 tbsp chiankang vinegar (or balsamic)

1 tbsp chilli bean sauce (see above for a substitution)

1 tbsp light soy sauce or tamari

1/4 tsp white pepper

50 ml water

1/4 tsp roasted ground Sichuan pepper

2 spring onions, sliced

1 tbsp coriander, chopped

2 tsps oil

First cook the aubergine. Heat a wok on a high heat and drizzle a tiny amount of the oil in. Stir fry the aubergine for 5 minutes, keeping it moving all the time. It should be softened, browned and juicy.

Remove the aubergine from the wok and lower the heat to medium. Add the rest of the oil and the onions, and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Put the aubergine back in the pan and add the mushrooms, chilli, garlic, ginger and capers and sizzle it all together for a couple of minutes.

Next add the tomato, rice wine, chiankang vinegar, chilli bean sauce, soy sauce, water and white pepper. Bring to a simmer and bubble for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the szechuan pepper, spring onions and coriander over the top to serve.

I ate mine with noodles, but rice would be great too.

By E.


Savoury roast cauliflower cake 

I’ve found that the easiest way of luring Ellie over to help me with chores is to hide the request in a suggestion that we could cook something together… So .. I roasted some cauliflower, filled bowls with ingredients and sent the invitation.. An hour or so later when Ellie had cleaned herself of paint and glue from the garage the cooking commenced!

Roasting the cauliflower first gives a much deeper nutty flavour, depending on how much confidence you have in your food processor/blender you may want to chop up the garlic and capers too first!

Ready for the slicing and the eating!

Small cauliflower ( mine was 425g after trimming)

50g cashews soaked in water to soften

75g sweet corn

Small tin of butter beans (175g drained weight)

2 tbsps mint, chopped

1 tbsp coriander, chopped

1 tsp capers

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 clove garlic

salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180 Centigrade.

Slice up the cauliflower, arrange on a baking tray, lightly spritz with oil and pop in the oven to roast. Mine took about 20 minutes till it was fairly soft and the edges were browned.

Roasted Cauliflower

Leave it to cool a bit when out of the oven, but leave the oven on.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and purée until the mixture is fairly smooth but still with some lumps for texture and interest. We had to prod it down a bit so that all the ingredients got combined.

mixture in need of a squish

On the baking tray the cauliflower was cooked on form the mixture into a large patty about an inch thick.

Spray the top lightly with oil and return to the oven for 25 minutes, so that its browned and yummy.

It even slices well!

By A&E


Maybe Verduras Bravas?

I realised recently, that as much as I adore the flavour of saffron, I rarely get around to using it. It certainly is an expensive spice, but you need to use so little that I think it’s definitely worth keeping as part of your spice stock. Just don’t use too much in a dish, or it’ll taste like medicine!

The obvious uses for saffron would be with rice, in a risotto or pilaf. But I prefer it when paired with tomato and chilli in a fragrant, tangy and sweet sauce.

I’ve used this particular sauce before to go with potatoes as the classic Spanish tapas dish patatas bravas, but this time I thought I’d use a selection of vegetables to make a more interesting and balanced meal. Some beans would be been good too, only it didn’t occur to me until I was eating it! This is also where the name came from, I think verduras means vegetables in Spanish, I’m afraid I had to google it so forgive me if it’s wrong!

The sauce is all about the balance between the fragrant saffron, the heat of the cayenne, and the acidity of the tomatoes. You may need to adjust the salt and sugar levels depending on your tomatoes. I find that as a rule of thumb, equal amounts of salt and sugar, about a quarter teaspoon of each per tin, tends to work to temper any overly acidic tinned tomatoes.

Maybe Verduras Bravas...

Maybe Verduras Bravas…

makes 2 servings

For the sauce-

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic or 1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oil

1 400 g tin of tomatoes

a small pinch of saffron, soaked in a little warm water

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

black pepper

For the vegetables-

2 potatoes, diced

2 sticks celery, sliced

150 g mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size

1 1/2 tbsp oil

1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar or other sweetish vinegar

a little parsley for garnish (optional)

First get the vegetables cooking. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the potatoes and celery on a medium heat for 30 minutes or so, stirring every few minutes. They should be dark golden brown in places, and cooked through. Add the mushrooms, and stir fry on a high heat for 3 – 4 minutes. Turn the heat off, and toss the vegetables in the vinegar.

For the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan and fry the onion on a medium heat until starting to brown. Add the garlic and cayenne, and stir over the heat for 30 seconds or so (if using garlic powder add it in the next step). Add the tomatoes, saffron (and its soaking water), paprika, thyme, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and let it bubble merrily for 15 – 20 minutes until reduced by about a third. I blend the sauce at this point, but you can leave it chunky if you like. Season with black pepper.

Serve the vegetables drizzled with the sauce.

By E.


mushroom noodle broth

I eat (slurp) this broth at least once a week, usually for breakfast at the weekend. The umami flavour from the seaweed and vegetarian oyster sauce, combined with savoury mushrooms and sweet peas is, for me the perfect start to the day! It’s immensely versatile of course, as this sort of dish is, but I always make it with the basic recipe below adding the extras depending on my mood.

The seaweed makes a huge difference to the depth of the broth. I’m using nori meant for wrapping sushi at the moment (it was 19p a pack at the discount shop!) but I’ve used kombu before with good results. My vegetarian oyster sauce and Chinese mushroom ketchup are from Wing Yip.

Current favourite extras are spinach and sliced sausage! But I’m fickle, and I’m sure in a couple of weeks I’ll be on to something else…

In the photograph, it’s the basic recipe with a sliced spring onion added.

Delicious savoury mushroom noodle broth

Delicious savoury mushroom noodle broth (slurp….)

makes one big bowlful

the basic recipe

500 ml hot light vegetable stock, or water with 1 tbsp vegan broth powder

4 mushrooms, sliced thinly

40 g frozen peas

3 x 3 cm piece of nori seaweed, torn into little bits

1 1/2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce (or substitute 1/2 tbsp with Chinese mushroom ketchup)

1 tsp light soy sauce

white pepper

35 g noodles (I use half a standard block of ramen noodles)


20 g frozen spinach

1 -2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced

1/2 tsp grated ginger

1 sliced spring onion

chilli to taste

sliced cooked vegan sausage

cubed tofu, silken or firm

Put the stock, mushrooms, vegetarian oyster sauce, nori, and soy sauce in a pan on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peas and noodles, and cook for a further 3 minutes. Season with white pepper.

By E.


Split peas with buckwheat pancakes

It was another cold and rainy Sunday on the North West Coast of England, and after a day of painting ceilings and crawling round the garage (thank you Ellie for helping!)  I was in the mood for comfort foods, which I approached with very little plan, the pancakes were originally going to be a flatbread but I changed my mind partway through! These are sleepy flavours, I’d go as far to say sitting under a blanket with a hot water bottle flavours! Ooh now there’s a plan …

The complete dish

The complete dish

What do we need…

200g in total of a mix of carrot, celery, and onion.

150g yellow split peas

A stock cube

500ml boiling water

100g buckwheat flour

5g. Baking powder

1tsp caraway seeds

160ml cold water

Plain soya yogurt


Start off by chopping up the carrot, celery and onion finely and getting them in a medium pan with a spray of oil. I haven’t specified how much of each but for me it was half a carrot, half an onion and a stick of celery. They will take 5 to 10 minutes to turn translucent but not brown, as the picture below.

Translucent not burnt!

Translucent not burnt!

While they are cooking wash the split peas well, in a sieve, until the water coming off them is clear.

Add the split peas, boiling water and stock to the veg and bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for about 25 minutes until the split peas have softened but still have some chew to them.

Whilst the mixture is cooking, let’s make the pancake batter, it’s so simple, put the buckwheat flour, baking powder and caraway with a pinch of salt and mix together, pour in the cold water and whisk to make a thick batter.

Warm up a frying pan and spray with oil ( this only needs to be done once) pour tablespoon sized dollops of batter into the pan. Turn the pancakes over when the bubbles that form on the top have popped and the top looks firm.

The stages of pancake cooking

The stages of pancake cooking

To make the dressing, add some finely chopped coriander, and a pinch of salt to the soya yogurt, stir well, and leave it to sit for 10 minutes.

By now our split peas should be about done, the next step is completely optional but it does add to the comfort feeling! Take half of the lentil mixture out of the pan and blitz with a blender/food processor then stir it through the rest.

Half and half!

Half and half!

Plate up in a fancy fashion then use the pancakes to shovel up the split peas!

Soon to be an ex-pancake

Soon to be an ex-pancake, note grey paint on fingernail!

by A