Monday, 30 December 2013

Day Trip to Whole Foods Market


Giant meringues - pistachio and (I think) raspberry flavour
My friend Anna (from Pink Pom Poms) and I had been talking for a long time about how much we wanted to visit Whole Foods. Now I don't mean just an ordinary 'stock up on some organic/speciality ingredients' trip, but our first EVER trip to Whole Foods Market! The first (and so far, only) Whole Foods in Scotland opened just outside Glasgow a couple of years ago, and I had been wanting to go ever since. But it was not until this weekend that I finally made the pilgrimage (in my defence, although it is fairly local to me, it still involves getting two buses and a journey time of almost an hour to get there). I went with Anna and her mum, and it was well worth the wait! We had lunch in the cafe - delicious sandwiches (though challenging to eat due to how fully stuffed with filling they were) and wee cakes (I had pumpkin pie, yum!) - and bought lots of great goodies in the store itself for sampling later.
Our lunch - half demolished!
Whole Foods, for those not familiar with it, offers a luxury and organic approach to supermarket shopping, with a great range of more unusual and varied fruit and vegetables, a bulk bin section with lots of nuts and grains, and plenty of speciality and healthy foods (e.g. sushi ingredients and coconut water). There was also an impressive selection of cakes and sweet delights, including the giant meringues that I just HAD to take a photo of to share on here! Not surprisingly, perhaps, there was a lot on offer for vegetarians - both raw ingredients and ready meals, plus kind of 'in-betweeny' stuff like pre-marinaded tofu. So partially prepared raw ingredients, I suppose you could say. 

I came away with the following:

1. Polenta - I was given a lovely new cookery book (Vegetarian by Susan Abbott) for Christmas from my brother, and one of the recipes I want to try calls for polenta. I have tried polenta in restaurants before, but never actually cooked with it. I thought I'd go all out and actually prepare the polenta myself, rather than get the ready to use stuff....so that's a kitchen experiment I'll be trying soon. It worked out much cheaper to get the polenta from the bulk bins than pre-packaged (£1.19 per kg in the bulk bins, and I can't remember exactly how much it was pre-packaged, but I think it was about £1.99 for 500g - so a lot more expensive!). 


2. Tempeh - this is something that I have been reading about recently and as a result have been curious to try. As far as I can tell it is somewhat similar to tofu, in that it is a soy product and can be used in place of meat in dishes. However, it has higher levels of protein and vitamins than tofu and apparently a different texture, so I am really excited to try this one out! If anyone has any recipes or ideas of what to do with the tempeh, please let me know. Otherwise, I will most likely just be trying out whatever a wee Google search suggests.


3. Brown lentils - normally I get these from a local Asian grocery store, but I had run out on this particular day and needed them for dinner (my yummy lentil 'meatballs'), so thought I would take advantage of my trip to Whole Foods. Again, I got these from the bulk bins, which is nice to be able to do, as you can buy as much or as little as you like. I can't remember how much the lentils normally cost at the Asian store, but they did not seem overly expensive to me at Whole Foods, at £1.62 per kg.

4. A brew-your-own ginger beer kit. I thought this might be fun for David to try out, as he likes ginger beer, and I always think it's interesting to know how your favourite food and drink is actually produced.
  

I also noticed they sold Tofurkey, which I wouldn't mind trying one day (though it could never beat my amazing nut roast as a Christmas dinner!), but you could only buy the whole thing for £29.99, which was a bit steep for just wanting a quick taste. Speaking of tasting, we were given some smoothie samples in the store. However, it only served to remind me of the fact that I really don't like smoothies that much. The sales girl was very nice when I said I didn't like it and handed the half-finished shot glass back to her! 

Actually, as well as a great range, I would have to compliment Whole Foods on its great customer service. We were served by a very pleasant lady at the check-out, which just added to the feeling of a real luxury shopping experience. 

I would highly recommend a trip to Whole Foods to any foodies, anyone with special dietary requirements who may need more specialist ingredients, or anyone who prefers to eat as healthily/organic as they can. Overall, we all really enjoyed our trip to Whole Foods, and are just hoping that they open a Glasgow west end branch of the store (though it may bankrupt me if they do!).

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas Nut Roast


The finished product!


One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out I'm a vegetarian, especially at this time of year, is 'but what do you eat for Christmas dinner?'. People seem genuinely interested in hearing about this, and lots of people tell me that they could imagine giving up meat to a certain extent, but could never give up their Christmas turkey. All year round I can meet people who say they can't imagine giving up meat, but I think that these feelings are magnified at Christmas time, when the contemplation of a meat-free Christmas dinner is just too much for some!

So I am really excited to tell you all about my stilton and nut roast, that I made this year and last year, and thoroughly enjoyed both times. The best thing is that as I'm the only one eating it, there are always plenty of leftovers, which is good, as it's really delicious! The recipe comes from a book called The Vegetarian Cookbook: From Earth to Table by Nicola Graimes and Fiona Biggs. I love this book, and have tried a few of the recipes so far, but after years of searching for the perfect Christmas dinner recipe, it is their nut roast recipe that I love the most. I have made some minor changes, so the recipe below is not the original, but the slightly tweaked version. 

A few things I love about this recipe:

It calls for roasted chestnuts. So now I have an excuse to roast chestnuts on Christmas Eve and eat the leftovers....yum! This really gets me in the Christmas spirit - such a simple, old-fashioned tradition - and so tasty. Sadly I do not have an open fire on which to toast them, but even in the oven, they're still good.

I prepare this nut roast the day before, getting everything chopped, mixed, and layered into the tin and covered with foil, but I don't cook it until the next day (Christmas Day!) - so all the more time to chill out and enjoy a bit more time with the family on the day. No matter how much I or anyone else loves to cook, who wants to spend Christmas Day slaving away in the kitchen?

Making my own nut roast may take a little time, but I feel that makes it all the more special to eat on Christmas Day. As soon as I have got the raw ingredients in the tin on Christmas Eve, I can't wait to get my Christmas dinner the next day!

It is very forgiving - as I already mentioned, I have changed some ingredients and quantities from the original recipe. But I even adjust the oven times and temperatures to suit the turkey that my mum is cooking in the oven at the same time. And the nut roast still turns out great*. 

I should also admit something that may shock cheese lovers here, but will appeal to anyone who is a savvy shopper watching their pennies: I used Morrisons Savers blue cheese rather than actual Stilton....and it tasted great! So even with more budget-friendly ingredients, this roast is still a yuletide winner, and it won't break the bank.

* It's best if you can adhere to the times and temperatures in the recipe as this makes the roast hold together better, but if you can't, due to conflicting temperatures of other food in the oven, it is still possible to cook the roast nicely and it will still taste lovely.

I hope that you all had a very merry Christmas, and that Santa was good to you. I'd love to hear what all the other veggies out there eat for their Christmas dinner - please leave a comment below and let me know! And if you are looking for new inspiration for next year's Christmas dinner, or simply a nice vegetarian roast to serve up at another time of the year, then look no further than the following recipe.

I made the mistake of not lining the tin...

Christmas Nut Roast

Ingredients:

2 tbsps oil, plus extra for greasing tin
2 onions
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
150g roasted and peeled chestnuts (about 250g unpeeled, uncooked chestnuts)
200g mixed chopped nuts
55g ground almonds
55g fresh breadcrumbs
215g Stilton (or another blue cheese), crumbled
30g Cheddar cheese, grated
a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
1 red pepper, finely sliced
115g courgette (for me this was about half a fat courgette), cut into rough chunks

Method:

If you are cooking the roast on the same day as preparing it, start by preheating your oven to 180ºC. If you are cooking it the next day, leave the oven off just now; you're not going to need it. Lightly grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Finely chop one onion and fry in a little oil with the celery and three of the crushed garlic cloves over a medium heat. Fry for about 5 minutes. If you are making your breadcrumbs from a slice of bread, this is  a good time to make them in the food processor, while you wait for the onion, celery and garlic to cook. 

Put the onion, celery and garlic into a food processor and add the breadcrumbs, all the nuts, half the Stilton, the Cheddar and the basil. Pulse until combined, then add the egg and gradually blend to create a stiff mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Finely slice the remaining onion and fry over a medium heat in a little oil with the courgette, red pepper and remaining garlic. Fry for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

In the tin, ready to be cooked!
Place half of the nut mixture into the loaf tin and smooth down. Next, add the courgette and pepper mixture as the middle layer, crumbling the remaining Stilton over the top. Finally, top with the remaining nut mixture and smooth down. Cover with foil. If you are cooking the roast the next day, pop the tin in the fridge at this point, until you are ready to cook it.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 25 - 35 minutes, or until cooked and firm to the touch.




Slice and serve with roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, veggie gravy, veggie stuffing.....and anything else that is part of your favourite Christmas dinner!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Deli-Style Aubergine, Roasted Red Pepper, Mozzarella and Pesto Sandwich



I haven't blogged in a while, probably due to general laziness brought on by the festive season. Christmas - the perfect excuse to eat too much, drink too much, not go to the gym, and just generally laze about doing not too much at all. I love it! Anyway, despite not blogging much, I have been busy in my veggie kitchen, and today I thought it was about time to stop being so lazy and actually write about some of the yummy food I have been creating.

Going hand in hand with the whole 'taking it easy' part of Christmas, I took a couple of days off work this week. On days when I'm not working, I love that I don't have to plan and make my lunches in advance, and so yesterday I took advantage of this by popping to the supermarket for a few random ingredients and experimenting to come up with what may now be my favourite sandwich EVER! Aubergine, roasted red pepper and mozzarella all go together so well and instead of butter, I used pesto to really make this sandwich something special - like something you'd order out of a deli. I loved it so much that I also figured out a way to turn it into a packed lunch (well, almost - a kind of cheat's packed lunch) which I'll explain after I've told you the main recipe.

Deli-style sandwich - ignore the fact that the pepper looks like a tongue
(thanks to David for pointing this out!)

Aubergine, Roasted Red Pepper, Mozzarella and Pesto Sandwich

Ingredients (per sandwich):

2 slices (sliced lengthwise) aubergine
1 ciabatta roll (or other fancy bread roll)
1 tbsp pesto
2-3 slices mozzarella
1/2 roasted red pepper (from a jar, unless you can be bothered roasting your own, which I never can - wash it under running water first to get ride of all the oil, then pat dry so it doesn't soak into the bread)

Method:

Pre-heat a griddle pan and place your aubergine strips onto it. Wait until the lines are charred into the under-side, then turn over and cook on the other side until also charred. Remove from the griddle pan. At this stage, you may like to chop the strips into smaller pieces, to make them more manageable to eat once they're in your sandwich (I find that, much as the whole strips look prettier, when I take a bite out of my sandwich, the whole strip can get dragged out, rather than just the bite I wanted to take!). Cut the roll in half and spread the pesto over the bottom half. Layer all remaining ingredients on top - aubergine, then mozzarella, then red pepper. Close the roll and there you have it - the perfect sandwich!

Packed lunch method:

If you want to make the filling ahead of time, simply place the aubergine (definitely chop it into smaller pieces, in this case), mozzarella, red pepper and pesto into a small plastic tub and mix together. To get the full deli effect, if you work close enough to a supermarket or bakery where you can buy a fresh bread roll at lunchtime, buy the roll just before you prepare your sandwich. Ok, so you still have to pop out to buy it, but you only spend 30-50p as opposed to £3-£5 on a full deli sandwich. If you don't have the option of popping out to buy a fresh roll, I would suggest taking a roll with you and only assembling the sandwich right before you eat it, rather than putting the filling on at home and allowing it to soak into the bread. This way, you still feel like you're eating a fresh sandwich rather than a crushed lump out of the fridge.


If you try making this, please let me know what you think. What other deli-style sandwiches have you made DIY versions of? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Easy Peasy Tortilla and Hummous Pizza


I love homemade pizza. Or rather, I love the idea of homemade pizza. But over the years, although I have had some success stories, I feel that I have spent too many pizza-making evening toiling away over a dough that ends up a bit too sticky or just not quite delicious enough, and subsequently the yummy toppings were always just slightly let down by the base. And not only did store-bought bases feel like cheating, they were also bland. So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon Dreena's homemade pizza, which uses a tortilla wrap for the base - ideal! A little bit creative (store-bought tortillas don't feel so much like cheating!), nice and simple, and best of all, TASTY! This is the homemade pizza I have been waiting for.

And so I decided to share my take on this fun Friday treat with you. As Dreena's original recipe is in fact vegan, you could certainly leave out the cheese to make this vegan-friendly - but I love cheese, so had to include it! I didn't half my cherry tomatoes, but that led to some less-than-fun explosions of burning hot tomato juice when I was eating, so I have suggested halving them in my method below. You can adapt this recipe to include any other toppings you choose - perhaps red onion, olives, or sweetcorn would also be nice. Mix it up a little and try your own toppings! Because that's the beauty of homemade pizza - it can be made exactly how you like it. What are your winning combinations for pizza toppings?

Tortilla and Hummous Pizza

Ingredients:

2 tortilla wraps
1 red pepper, sliced
approx. 5 small mushrooms, sliced
approx. 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tbsps hummous
a little Cheddar cheese, grated

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Put the chopped pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. On a separate oven tray, place the tortillas, and bake for 5-10 minutes (checking frequently to ensure they do not burn!). Remove the tortillas from the oven and leave to cool while the vegetables continue to roast. When the vegetables are done, remove from the oven. Spread the hummous over the tortillas (putting only a thin layer in the middle, to ensure it does not get soggy, and more towards the outside). Spread the vegetables evenly over the hummous, and finally, sprinkle with the grated cheese. Pop the pizzas in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the hummous has 'cooked in' to the base a little.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Kitchen Experimentation: Making Spätzle

Germany is not famous for its gastronomical wonders. Most people would struggle to name much more than Sauerkraut and Bratwurst if tested on the subject. And it is certainly not known for its vegetarian cuisine. Many people ask me 'but what did you eat?!' when they hear I lived in Germany as a vegetarian. Actually, I got on fine, as most restaurants did not serve specifically German food (Italian and Asian food was very popular in Berlin, where I spent two years), and when I cooked for myself, other than the lack of Quorn in the supermarkets, there wasn't too much of a difference from cooking for myself back home. But it is true that when you do go to a German restaurant or a traditional event with traditional food, it can be slim pickings for the vegetarians.

Yesterday I set myself the challenge of making Spätzle for the first time. Spätzle is a type of German dumpling, and I really enjoyed this dish when I was living in Germany (especially since it tended to be the only vegetarian dish at markets and festivals where all the meat-eaters were tucking into their Bratwursts). My brother came round to help out (with the taste test, mainly) as he also enjoyed Spätzle when he visited Germany, and he was kind enough to bring his ukelele, so my cooking could be accompanied by eine kleine Nachtmusik!

One of my friends, Danielle, had given my a rough guide to making Spätzle a while back, so I used that as my basic template, but also took a look at some other recipes I found on the internet for inspiration. The basic dough is just made up of flour, egg and water, with a little salt. But we both felt that it might be more interesting to add a little more flavour to the dough, so opted for nutmeg and mixed spices. We also felt that the pinch of salt I added initially wasn't really enough, so I think more salt is called for in the final recipe.

The main problem though, that I found, was getting the dough into the pan in little separate dumpling shapes, rather than all clumping together in one large mass. I used a potato ricer to form the dough into little fat noodles, but no sooner were these little shapes formed, than they stuck back together again, right as they hit the water! They separated out again to some extent, but there were still quite a few clumps. Perhaps my dough was too watery. Danielle did say that it should be 'between a dough and a batter' in consistency, so next time I will try adding less water.
Frying - but you can see the clumps.

Danielle advised that the Spätzle should be sauteed rather than fried, but I have to admit, I prefer it fried (it must be the Glaswegian in me - we fry everything!). So I fried my Spätzle in a little butter and then added cheese to melt on top. I am going to try making this again this week sometime - with less water and more salt - and intend to fry it with a little garlic, onion and mushrooms, as I think that will make a really tasty dinner. I will let you know how I get on, and if it's any good, I will post the final recipe here. If it's not....well, if you don't see a Spätzle recipe appearing on this blog in the near future, you can assume that my second attempt was a complete failure!

Do you have any tips for cooking Spätzle? Or can you recommend any lesser-known foreign dishes that I should try to recreate in my veggie kitchen? And let me know if you are a vegetarian living abroad - how easily do you manage?

Despite the clumps, still tasty!


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Treats from My Home Bakery and a Lovely Rice Salad




Sunday tends to be our shopping day, but today we felt like a wee treat after getting in the shopping and so we went to a lovely little local bakery in search of cakes. The bakery in question was My Home Bakery on Hyndland Street, and so tempting were its wares, that we we left the shop with not only two cakes, but also a savoury pastry each for our lunch. If you are in the west end of Glasgow, you should definitely pop in to this lovely little shop sometime, as it really is special. Service is always with a smile, and there are samples of various cakes if you can't decide just by looking at them which you would like to try. As their food not only tastes wonderful but also looks perfectly put together, I've included a selection of photos for you to drool over at the end of the post - and one just below, to whet your appetite!

A selection of the cakes on offer at My Home Bakery

After lunch, I decided to recreate a (slightly) less healthy version of a salad I saw featured on another local blogger's site yesterday: a rice salad from What Kate Made Next. I thought this looked nice - simple, healthy (though I switched the brown rice for white...), and a nice lunch to take into work with me. But I was amazed by just how great this salad is. Totally moreish, I couldn't stop myself from taking cheeky spoonfuls from it as I was preparing tonight's dinner! So I thought I would share this (ever so slightly modified) version of the recipe with you.


Spinach and Rice Salad

(makes enough for 4 lunchbox portions)

Ingredients:

250g long-grain rice
1/2 red onion
1 medium apple
100g baby spinach
80g raisins
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar

Method:

Wash the rice and strain through a sieve. Put the washed rice in a pan and add 600 ml of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the water has all been absorbed and the rice is cooked through. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Meanwhile, chop the onion and apply into tiny pieces. When the rice has cooled, put into a bowl and mix in the onion, apple, spinach and raisins. Add the oil and vinegar and mix well. 

So simple, so delicious! I can't wait until lunchtime tomorrow to eat a full portion of this!

And now for the photos of our treats from My Home Bakery, as promised:

My spicy bean 'sausage' roll
The non-veggie version - pork sausage roll

Raspberry crumble - so sweet and delicious!


Chocolate orange cake - with orange rind through it. Yum. And it's gluten free.




Monday, 4 November 2013

Lentil 'Meatballs' and Tomato Sauce


I love taking inspiration from other food blogs - in terms of both style and content. I have already mentioned one of my favourite blogs, The Stone Soup on here - not only is Jules very knowledgeable about her subject, but she has a great style that I love reading. Plus all of her recipes come with tweaks, so even when she blogs about a meat or fish-based dish, she gives pointers on how to make it vegetarian or vegan. Her recipes are also nice and simple, which is always a plus! But another thing I love about her blog is how interactive it is - lots of readers always comment on her recipes, and - perhaps following her lead - are always keen to share how they have tweaked the recipe to suit their own needs or tastes. The end result is an amazing melting pot of culinary ideas based around a common dish, which I find so inspirational.


Last night's dinner was an amalgamation of one of Jules's recipes and one of Heidi Swanson's. Jules had blogged about lentil balls as an alternative to meatballs, and one of the commenters mentioned that they had made Heidi's Five-Minute Tomato Sauce to accompany the lentil balls. The sauce sounded so amazing that I just had to try both it and the lentil balls (that I keep accidentally referring to as meatballs....slips off the tongue more easily, doesn't it?!) and I was really impressed with both and just had to share this recipe with you. (David really enjoyed it too, so it has also passed the 'meat-eater test'.)

Lentil 'Meatballs' and Tomato Sauce

(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

115g dried brown lentils
500ml vegetable stock
3 tbsps olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp lemon juice
75g ground almonds
1 medium egg
150g dried spaghetti

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC Put the lentils in a medium pan and pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until lentils are soft. Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce. Put the olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and garlic in a pan and gently heat until the aromas are released - don't let the garlic brown. At this point, add the tomatoes, and bring to a gentle simmer. Crush any larger pieces of tomato between the side of the pan and the stirring spoon. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice. Pour the sauce into an oven-proof bowl and set to one side. Once your lentils have finished cooking, drain them, put them in a bowl and rougroughly mash them. Add the ground almonds and the egg, and mix well. Once everything is well combined, use a soup spoon to help form the lentil mixture into medium-sized balls, and place the balls into the tomato sauce. Drizzle with a glug of olive oil. Bake the whole thing in the oven for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, put the spaghetti into a large pan of boiling water and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Serve the lentil balls and tomato sauce on top of the spaghetti for a tasty, filling dinner.

To serve, Jules suggests sprinkling with parmesan, which I forgot to do, but that would definitely be really tasty!






Sunday, 3 November 2013

Mushroom Risotto



I think I need to improve on my food photography skills.....this mushroom risotto is mouth-wateringly good but I don't think it comes across in the photos. You'll just have to take my word for it for now, and any tips on the photography front will be gratefully received!

Many people think that making a risotto from scratch is really difficult and/or time consuming. But it is one of my go-to meals, partly as it is so easy to make it seem fresh every time by altering the ingredients, but partly as I feel so comfortable making it. Yes, you need to spend a good half hour standing over it, stirring frequently, but other than that, there's not much else required in terms of time. And it is not as complicated as you'd think. I think the trick is to keep tasting the rice as you near the end of the cooking time, until you are satisfied with the consistency - not too hard, not too mushy. You will eventually develop a feel for how long your risotto takes.

Another tip I would offer would be this: don't worry too much about how much stock you need. If you taste the rice and it seems done but you haven't used all your stock, that's fine. (I suggest preparing a litre in the recipe below, but the other night I found I only used 700ml.) Or, if it's not quite done and you've run out of stock, simply add a little boiling water instead of the stock. Bearing this in mind may help you if you have a fear of trying to make risotto.


I have been making mushroom risotto for years, but had taken a bit of a break from it for the last few months, favouring pea and mint (ever since I started growing my own mint, I have loved any excuse to use it in my cooking!) or pea and carrot versions. But now the weather's getting colder and I was looking to revisit some old favourites, the mushroom risotto came back onto the menu, and it has been a welcome return!

I am usually not very specific about quantities with this recipe - I use lots of mushrooms, as I absolutely adore them, but you can reduce the amount if you want/need to. Also, I just add as much cheese and butter at the end as I feel like (sometimes this is dictated by how much of each I have left!!), but I tried to weigh out what I was using the other night to give me an idea of what to suggest you add - these are the weights I have noted in the recipe below.

If you don't have wine, it is possible to make the recipe without it, or to substitute lemon juice (both of which I used to do), but the wine really adds the 'wow' factor to this one, so I'd highly recommend its inclusion if possible. One thing I've learned over the past couple of years is that although white wine can't be drunk after more than two or three days open in the fridge, it is still fine to use in cooking after this time. I usually have an open bottle of 'old' wine in the fridge specifically for cooking, and a couple of times I have used wine as old as two months old in my risotto - and it was still delicious and caused no problems. This makes it even easier to include wine in your risotto - there's no desperation to use up the rest of the bottle! Alternatively, you can buy those mini bottles of wine, or even small cartons of wine for a pound or two at the supermarket - ideal for cooking with.

Mushroom Risotto 

(serves two with a little left over for lunch the next day!)

Ingredients:

3 tbsps olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
300g button mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200g arborio rice
150ml white wine
1 litre vegetable stock
30g butter
50g grated parmesan/vegetarian equivalent
salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and fry, stirring gently until the mushrooms have softened (approximately 10 minutes). Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Now add the rice, stirring to coat each grain in the oil. Once all the grains are coated, add the wine. Stir until the wine has been fully absorbed by the rice. Now add the stock, gradually (many recipes suggest a ladleful at a time; I am not so precise, but would say about 150ml-200ml at a time). After you have added a ladleful/approximately 200ml, keep stirring until the stock has been fully absorbed by the rice. Only at this point add the next ladleful/200ml portion. At this point, it may be good to turn the heat down a touch, if the risotto seems to be boiling rather than simmering. Continue like this until the rice is cooked through - it should still retain a little bite (it should definitely not be soggy!) but it should not be so firm that it's crunchy either. I never normally time this, but I did the other night and it took approximately 20 minutes to reach this stage. At this point, take the risotto off the heat and add the butter, cheese and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Let stand for a couple of minutes, and then serve. If you have some fresh basil leaves, they make a nice garnish.


I hope you enjoy this recipe and that if you have previously been put off trying to cook risotto, that I have inspired you to try!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Cheese and Tomato Rice


I have the day off work today, which is nice - a whole day to myself with no plans. Except waiting in all day for a parcel to be delivered, so I am house-bound. Still, the weather is pretty horrible just now, so I am not too upset that I can't go out. Instead, I am taking advantage of all of this free time, and as well as catching up on the book I'm reading, I decided this morning to give my blog a little spring (or autumn) clean: I have added a new page, basically a contents page, listing all of the recipes I have blogged about, categorised by meal/type. This should make it easier for you, my readers, to find the recipe you're looking for, and also easier for me to keep track of what I have and haven't blogged about, and what might be missing. Hopefully you will find this page helpful - it can be found here.

I also thought today would be a good day to tell you all about one of my favourite autumn/winter dishes - it's filling, it's tasty, and it can easily be adapted to suit the vegetables you have to hand that day. The recipe is Cheese and Tomato Rice, and is based on the Cheddar and Tomato Rice recipe I found in the BBC Good Food 101 Veggie Dishes cookbook. It is not one of my quickest recipes, as it has to go in the oven for half an hour after you have cooked it on the hob - but during that half hour, I like (ok, maybe 'like' is taking it a bit too far) to wash the dishes, so that after dinner there's not too much to clean up. It's also good reheated - I usually just keep it in the oven dish that I bake it in, and then pop the whole thing back in the oven for half an hour (including the time it takes the oven to pre-heat) - this seems to heat it through nicely.

Cheese and Tomato Rice (serves 4)

Ingredients:

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced
250g mushrooms
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock
300g long-grain rice
salt and pepper, to taste
150g frozen peas
100g cheddar, grated

Method:

Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large pan. Add the onions, red pepper and mushrooms, and fry until completely softened. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. At this point, turn on your oven to pre-heat it to 180ºC (160ºC fan-assisted). Add the tomatoes, stock and rice, and season. Bring to the boil, stirring gently, then reduce to a simmer, still stirring. Add the frozen peas. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and scatter over the grated cheese. Put in the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes. This is delicious served with a side salad, but I find it filling enough on its own too.


The great thing about this recipe is that you can easily add any vegetable you prefer - asparagus, sweetcorn or broad beans would all be nice, I think. Let me know if you customise this recipe to your own needs/tastes, I'd love to know how it turns out!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Emma's Malteser Cake


This week is my last week in my current job so at the request of my colleagues, I have made them some  Malteser cake. This is a no-bake effort, and really easy - in fact, the recipe came from a former colleague, Emma, who made it for bake sales and was subsequently asked to share the recipe with its adoring fans. But since she left, I have picked up the baton for making this for every bake sale or any time someone requests it, really! So it is my leaving gift to my lovely team, who I will miss very much.

This cake is ideal for bake sales or for friends coming over for coffee and cake, as it's so easy and requires minimal effort (it takes maybe half an hour to prepare, then you just pop it into the fridge for an hour) but tastes great! It is certainly not for anyone on a health kick - you can practically see the calories dancing all over it - but it's a great sweet treat that always goes down a storm.

Malteser Cake

Ingredients:

225g milk chocolate
110g butter (but I have just realised I accidentally made it with 225g butter tonight, and it tastes AMAZING!)
3 tbsps golden syrup
225g crushed digestive biscuits
225g Maltesers (plus a few extra to sprinkle on top)
100g white chocolate

Method:

Melt the milk chocolate, butter and syrup in a pan over a medium heat until the butter and chocolate have fully melted down. While this is melting, this is a good time to crush the digestives, if you keep an eye on the pan at the same time. Once the chocolate mixture is ready, add the crushed digestives and Maltesers and mix well until the chocolate layer on the Maltesers has melted into the mixture. Pour the whole lot onto a baking tray and smooth down with a spoon. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave by breaking it into chunks and microwaving on full power for blasts of 10 or 20 seconds at the time, checking it frequently to check it's not burning. Drizzle the white chocolate over the top of the Malteser layer in the tray. Finally, crush the remaining Maltesers and sprinkle them over the top. Put the cake in the fridge for at least an hour. You can leave it in over night, but beware, if you do, you'll need to take it out a couple of hours before you want to cut it, as it will be solid!






Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Tasty Tzatziki

Tonight's dinner was a repeat of that delicious spicy broccoli pasta I told you about on Friday -  but this time, David was here to sample it too. I am happy to say that he found it as delicious as I did, and we are both in agreement that it will be a regular feature in our dinner menus from now on. I love making food that I enjoy, but half of the enjoyment of eating surely comes from the company you enjoy the food with, so it's always nice to know that David's a fan of one of my favourite dishes (yes, I just made it for the first time last week and already it's one of my favourites!).

Tzatziki saves the day!
Last week wasn't all discovering new favourite recipes though. On Thursday, I was really excited to try a new falafel recipe from A Girl Called Jack. Like Jack, I too have tried on various occasions to make my own falafel (after falling in love with the stuff when I was living in Germany - whilst all my meat-eating friends were munching on their döner kebaps, I was discovering the delights of falafel). Also like Jack, none of my previous attempts had quite lived up to my expectations. (Ok, basically they crumbled and fell apart completely.) So I was really excited to see that she had finally cracked the perfect falafel!

Yeah....falling apart in the pan - not great!
Unfortunately, my attempts to recreate this perfect falafel failed. This could be because I shallow (rather than deep) fried my falafel, and the turning could have aided the falling apart. Or perhaps it was because I used a food processor rather than a hand held masher to mash the chickpeas. Either way, I had the same problem of the falafel falling apart. They were still tasty, in the garlic and coriander pita bread, accompanied by salad, but what really lifted this failed experiment was the delicious tzatziki I made to drizzle over the falafel. This is an incredibly simple recipe that could be used as a dip for almost anything you fancy, or if you are able to make your falafel more successfully than me (please tell me how!), then it would obviously be great with that.

Not the full portion, but this is what the finished product should look like!

Here's how I did it.

Ingredients:

150ml natural yoghurt
1/3 cucumber (I really love my cucumber, so feel free to use less if you prefer!)
2 garlic cloves
3 tsp lemon juice
a few mint leaves, finely chopped

Method:

Pour the yoghurt into a bowl. Chop the cucumber into tiny pieces (I chop it firstly into rounds of maybe 1/2cm thick, then cut each round - you can stack them and do several at once - into slices one way across, then the other way across). Add this to the yoghurt. Crush the garlic cloves into the mixture, add the lemon juice and mint, and then stir everything together. Yum!


On another note completely, I have just discovered that one of my friends has recently started blogging too, so I wanted to share her blog with you. Tales of Adventure, Big and Small is not a cooking blog, but shares some of Laura's musings (and she's my friend, so you know they're worth listening to!) and good ideas. I love her fruity vodka idea, and am just thinking of which of my friends would love this as a Christmas gift. So why not take a wee look?

Please do let me know if you've had more success than I have with falafel. Or if you have something that is always a failure when you try to make it, let me know - maybe I'll have some tips for you?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Spicy Broccoli Pasta

Spicy Broccoli Pasta

Having no idea what I was going to eat for dinner, not very much in the fridge, and no desire to go back out into the cold (it has got freezing over the last few days!), I seem to have come up with a real winner of a dinner, just by chance. Inspired by a Yottam Ottolenghi creation (I must recommend his book, Plenty, again - I was drooling just reading it), I created this Spicy Broccoli Pasta.

It is unusual, delicious, and best of all, easy! I would definitely pay good money for this in a restaurant, and I am looking forward to cooking it for guests sometime, to see their reactions. I had never tried the combination of broccoli and mint, but it was really lovely. I think it's the combination of the fiery spices and refreshing mint that makes this dish so surprisingly good. But I will leave it up to you to try it out and let me know what you think of it.

Spicy Broccoli Pasta (serves 2)

Ingredients:

100g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
300g broccoli, chopped into florets
200g rigatoni
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
handful of fresh mint, finely chopped

Method:

Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion. Cook gently for 10 - 15 minutes or until the onion is soft. Meanwhile, put the broccoli into a steaming basket over a pan of boiling water and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Cook the pasta in boiling water according to packet instructions. When your onions are nicely softened, add the spices, salt and pepper, and stir well. Take off the heat. Add the pasta and broccoli to the sauce, and stir. Serve on plates, sprinkled with chopped mint.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Kitchen Products I Love

I have just finished my dinner - the delicious Wholesome Lemony Dhal from my friend Nicola's blog, Just8 - and had to tell you about it, as I think anyone who enjoys my blog and/or recipes should definitely try this one out. I had mine with broccoli instead of rice, as suggested by Nicola, and David also had some garlic and coriander pita bread with his. I love the simplicity of it - but at the same time, it is so filling, with each flavour really shining through. With the spinach and broccoli, it will take you well on your way to your five a day, and the lentils are a great source of protein. The health benefits of the dish combined with its ease of preparation and delicious taste make it as close to a perfect dinner as I can imagine. The only thing I would add to the original recipe is that if you don't have lemons to hand, you can use lemon juice from a bottle, in which case I would add about 120ml.

Wholesome Lemony Dhal with broccoli and salad
But what I really thought I would write about tonight, was not a recipe at all, but actually some of the recent and not-so-recent purchases for my veggie kitchen. From the start of this blog, I've said I would review products as well as share recipes, so today, I'm going to talk to you about some of the kitchen items I love (and one I'm not so happy with...just to warn you!). So, without further ado...

Tiger - Bargains or Cheap Tat?

I have recently been introduced to the delights of Tiger by my friend Anna at Pink Pom Poms. This shop is fairly new to Glasgow, but from looking at their website, they are a pretty big chain across much of Europe and even further afield. They don't appear to have an online shop, but if you have one nearby (there's a store locator on the website), it's worth a wander. I'd describe it as a kind of smaller scale Ikea (but that could just be the way they name their products) - they sell small kitchen and home products, such as kitchen timers, candles, notepads, etc.

When I was there a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for a cheap and creative way to store my rubber gloves (yes, how exciting!). I can't attach anything permanent to the wall, as we're in a rented flat, so it had to be something removable too. I came up with this:



Yup, a toothbrush holder. But as you can see, I have successfully used it to store the rubber gloves, and at just £2, I'm pretty pleased with my bargain! I was a little bit worried about the suction cups and whether the holder would actually stay stuck to the wall, but so far it's stayed up no problem for over a month. Just goes to show, that sometimes it pays to think a bit outside the box when you're looking for cheap storage solutions.

I also bought a knife sharpener at Tiger. However, this was not such a success story, unfortunately. I thought it looked cool, and must have been swayed by this and the price - £3 - (and the fact that my lovely Jamie Oliver knives are getting a bit blunt). But when I tried it out, it didn't seem to really make much of a difference. I wondered if I should have tried running the knife through the 3 sections for a bit longer, but this actually seemed to make the knife even blunter! I would have to say, it looks like a knife sharpener is not one of those products that you can go for the cheapest option with - or at least, not Tiger's version.


So, looks like while there are some great bargains to be had at Tiger, sometimes cheap really does mean bad.

IKEA

Who doesn't love IKEA?! I headed there last night to pick up some storage jars for some of the dried ingredients in my kitchen. As you can see below, they look pretty smart in the cupboard, and keep the contents nice and fresh. I've used mine to store my different types of pasta (but need more jars for more types!), rice (ditto), cous cous and lentils in. The tall ones cost £4.25 each and the shorter (but presumably bigger in terms of capacity) ones in front cost £4.75 each. They are really nice and do the job well (I already had one of the tall ones for a while, and loved it so much I decided to 'add to the family'.)


I'll need to get some more for the top shelf though - as you can see, it's still a bit of a mess! 


Kitchen White Board

This white board is the final product I wanted to show you. I actually bought this over a year ago, and I'm so glad I did. It's often the small, simple things that make a difference, I find, and the white board is a good example of that. I didn't have a pin board in my old flat, so thought this would be handy for scribbling notes on. I now do have a pin board, but while I pin money off vouchers, postcards, and taxi company business cards to it, I still like my whiteboard for writing notes. 

I sometimes use it to plan the week's recipes, or if I'm having friends over for dinner, I might write up the dinner plan there, so I remember any good ideas I have for dessert or accompaniments! 




Most recently, we've been using it to keep track of staple ingredients that we run out of (or are about to run out of) as we notice them. That way, when we come to do the weekly shopping, we can just check the whiteboard to see what we need to add to our shopping list in the way of any herbs, spices or other little things we might otherwise assume we have in the cupboard (because seriously, does salt ever run out?....Well, actually, yes, it does. And we remembered to restock because of our whiteboard list.)


The whiteboard sticks directly onto wood or metal (so you could put it on your fridge, if you wanted). Ours is stuck discreetly on the inside of a cupboard door. The best thing about the whiteboard is that it is re-stickable (not sure that's the word they actually used, but I like it!) - so I had it stuck to a cupboard in our old flat, but when moving day came, it couldn't have been simpler to peel it off the door, transport it (I stuck it to a plastic poly pocket just to keep the sticky side clean during the journey), and then reapply it to a cupboard door in our new flat. So another great one for us renters - or anyone who likes the idea of being able to move their notes around the kitchen, or simply not damage nice wooden cupboard doors.

I bought it from Staples for (I think) £5, and the non-permanent markers were from there too (can't remember the price, but it was reasonable too). Annoyingly, I can't see this product on their website any more, so if you know where to find these, please let me know in the comments, as I'd highly recommend them!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Morning Glory: breakfasts that inspire

It's the most important meal of the day - or so we are always told. Yet I hear so many people saying they never or rarely eat breakfast ("Ugh, how can you eat first thing in the morning?"). I don't know whether it's possible to train your body to feel repulsed by the idea of food first thing, but it does seem to me that it's a strange thing to feel repulsed by - when did these feelings of disgust at the thought of breakfast start - didn't the parents of these people feed them breakfast all through their childhood? So presumably they used to eat breakfast on a regular basis. Surely this revulsion is a learned reaction to the first meal of the day?

I have always had to eat as soon as I wake up - at least if I'm going out to work/university/school - basically, if I want my body and brain to function! So I just can't understand why anyone would feel they couldn't eat at this time. For me, it's the opposite: never do I feel more in need of fuel for my body than first thing in the morning. But I have to say, I am not a cereal girl. Perhaps the people who say they can't stand the idea of food first thing actually mean they can't stand the thought of typical breakfast food first thing. Well, I can understand that a bit better.

I need food that I love the taste of, that is quick to prepare (as well as loving food, I really love my sleep!!), and will also keep me going for longer than a slice of toast or cup of black coffee. (In fairness, not being a coffee drinker, I have no idea how long a cup would keep me going for....but I'm pretty sure my belly would be rumbling fairly quickly after the last sip.) So I thought I'd share a couple of my favourite breakfasts with you - and I would love to hear any ideas you have for perfect breakfasts. These are not necessarily all healthy breakfasts, but I'm sure they are all healthier than not having breakfast and subsequently snacking on crisps and chocolate throughout the morning at work.

Eggs and Toast

With so many different ways to cook the eggs, this is one you can easily keep feeling fresh and interesting (I can get bored of eating the same breakfast every single day). For a trip down memory lane to childhood breakfasts, nothing can be as comforting as a soft-boiled egg and 'soldiers' made of toast. Delicious, nutritious, pretty filling, and a comfort food - how many different boxes do you want your breakfast to tick?! For tips on boiling your eggs, check out this previous, egg-focussed post.

Alternatively, I love to scramble a couple of eggs (somehow, one never seems enough) - keeping the heat medium-high, so that the eggs don't go rubbery, and adding a little butter at the end. Take the pan off the heat just before you think the eggs are cooked through, as they will continue to cook a little after you have taken the pan off the heat. Sometimes, inspired by the German Bauernfrühstück (literally: farmers' breakfast), I fry up some chopped vegetables (mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes....or anything else you fancy really) and then add the eggs to scramble it all together. That makes a proper meal of it! 

My most-recent addition to the egg-repertoire is poached egg. This one is a little trickier to pull off, but I have finally perfected my method, and will share it with you here. 

First, bring a small pan of water to a gentle simmer. Add a little vinegar (any type can be used, so I usually just use the cheapest I can find in the supermarket). The vinegar will help the egg stay together during the poaching, but we don't really want to taste it, so I just use my best judgement as to how much to add. I'd maybe say 2 to 3 teaspoons. Bring the pan back to a gentle simmer. Crack an egg into a cup, being careful to keep the yolk intact. Now, using a slotted spoon, gently stir the water round and round, to create a whirlpool effect. Carefully drop your egg into the middle of the whirlpool and set your timer for 2-and-a-half minutes. (This is also a good time to put your bread in the toaster.) When the timer goes, take the egg out of the pan using the slotted spoon, and drain on kitchen paper. Butter your toast and serve the egg on top. The perfect poached egg should have a runny yolk and completely set white. I like to chop some chives and sprinkle them on top, sometimes.

Don't worry if you don't manage first time. Try experimenting with the heat of the water, amount of vinegar, or the timing. For some reason, 3 minutes used to work well for me, but now 2 and a half seem to do it. Instead of toast, why not serve this on an English muffin to really add a touch of luxury to your breakfast? 


Porridge

As a child, I always loved porridge. I even remember loving a story - The Magic Porridge Pot - about a magic pot that cooked endless amounts of porridge, to the extent that the whole town ended up flooded with the stuff. That sounded like my dream! Then I discovered that the traditional way to have porridge is not, as I was used to, with sugar, but actually with salt. Hm. I wasn't so convinced by this. And health-conscious people recommended eating porridge with neither salt nor sugar added. I have tried this, and while I can eat it, it just didn't excite me enough - and like I mentioned earlier, I have to really have a breakfast that I love (what else can motivate me to get out of bed in the morning, if not the food I'm about to eat?!).



So by all means, if you enjoy plain or salty porridge, please don't follow me and my bad habits. But if you are not so bothered by the idea of sugary porridge, or just want a 'treat' breakfast, then I can highly recommend porridge as a great, stodgy breakfast that will fill you up for the whole morning (seriously, I have had to reduce my portion from the recommended amount on the porridge oats pack, as I was too full - can you imagine?!). 

First things first - don't buy those handy little sachets of pre-mixed porridge oats (with/without added flavourings). Just buy a packet of porridge oats from the supermarket (I have recently discovered Morrisons do a bag for 99p for 1kg that makes a tasty porridge, but I also like Scott's Porage Oats). I use 30g of oats and 200ml of milk (if you're trying to be healthier, you can use water or half water, half milk), plus a heaped teaspoon of sugar (honey is a healthier alternative you can use). When I'm trying to be really quick (most mornings before work!), I put it in the microwave for two-and-a-half minutes, then stir, then back in the microwave for a further two minutes. 

If I have a little more time, I combine my ingredients in a pan and cook over a medium high heat on the hob, stirring constantly (make sure and stir from the outside of the pan right round and inwards until you reach the middle, to make sure it doesn't stick at all) until the porridge reaches a nice creamy consistency. This method doesn't take much longer than the microwave method, but it does involve standing by the hob for the whole time. I prefer to use those 5 minutes to get dressed, make a packed lunch or put on my make-up!

For a change, why not add a couple of handfuls of sultanas into the mix before cooking it, and then scatter some chopped almonds on top when it is ready? I have been doing this recently and it really adds the wow-factor to this breakfast favourite. An added bonus is that with the natural sweetness of the sultanas, you don't need as much sugar. Perfect! Or if you're feeling very bad, skip the sugar, but add a dollop of golden syrup at the end of the cooking process. This makes for delicious porridge, but it is certainly not the healthiest breakfast!

Milk

If you are really short on time, or just feel you can't face proper food in the morning, milk is a good option to at least line your stomach. Sometimes I'll have a glass with my eggs and toast, just to fill me up that bit more. If you're feeling naughty, like I often am, you could have flavoured milk (I love chocolate milk and use Nesquick powder to flavour mine). Although this is clearly less healthy, I tend to think it is still a better option than not having the milk at all and then reaching for a bar of chocolate half way through the morning.


Yoghurt

I don't love plain yoghurt, but there are some delicious vanilla yoghurts or yoghurts with fruit bits through them that I do enjoy. For a nice summertime breakfast, try a bowl of yoghurt (plain or otherwise) with some fresh fruit. I like mine with grapes, blueberries or even chopped up apple pieces. Or a combination of all three! This is a nice, fresh breakfast with lots of goodness from the fruits, but the yoghurt should ensure it is also nice and filling.

Over to you....

Do you have any good breakfast ideas you'd like to share? Or, if you don't like breakfast, I hope that the above ideas might inspire you to try and change this! Please let me know what you think; I love to get comments on my blog.



Sunday, 15 September 2013

Katie's Cous Cous Salad


One of my fellow bloggers, Anna at Pink Pom Poms  blogged a few months back about the difficulty of eating healthy, tasty lunches at work, and the temptations of canteens and high street offerings. Not only can you waste a LOT of money constantly buying lunch when at work, but chances are you're also not eating as healthily as you could be. I'm a big fan of packed lunches - but only if they're interesting and tasty - and not too much effort to prepare the night before. But I'm not a great fan of sandwiches - at least, not every single day. So I thought I'd blog about a nice cous cous salad I made today. In addition, I noticed that Lisa, over at Lisa's Kitchen, is running a competition for veggie salads featuring mushrooms - which my cous cous salad does - so I figured now is a good time to post this and enter the competition at the same time. For more information on this competition or great recipe ideas from Lisa, click here.

I love a good cous cous salad, and have a couple that I like, but today's was a new experiment that went well! I had it for lunch with a mixed salad (lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, mozzarella and beetroot) and my homemade pink coleslaw (more about that later - very easy, and pretty too!). I have boxed up a bit of each 'component' of my salad for lunch tomorrow and the day after, and I still have a decent-sized portion of the cous cous salad left (perhaps to have with dinner one day, or if I make up some more mixed salad, it'll do me for another day's packed lunch). So you can see, this is a great way of taking the hard work out of preparing a packed lunch. I should really have timed myself better, but I would say that altogether this took me under half an hour to prepare.


It was absolutely delicious - the sultanas gave a nice juicy burst of flavour and the toasted almonds gave  a nice crunch. And I just love the taste of roasted mushrooms in any dish. It was also good in that it filled me up nicely but not so much that I felt stuffed, so you won't require a siesta after this one! I would also happily have this as an accompaniment to a larger dinner, so it really is versatile. All in all, a winner!


Ingredients:
1 medium leek
1 medium courgette
80g baby button mushrooms
1/2 yellow pepper
3 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
black pepper, to taste
200g cous cous
70g sultanas
250ml vegetable stock
30g almond slivers

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Finely chop the leek, courgette, mushrooms (I quarter these) and pepper; place these in a roasting tin. Mix the olive oil and lemon juice, and add a little black pepper - sprinkle over the vegetables. Mix well and put in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, put the cous cous and sultanas in a heat-proof bowl and pour the stock over. Leave for the cous cous to absorb all of the stock. Now, gently toast the almonds by dry frying them (i.e. don't use any oil in the pan). Once the vegetables are cooked and the cous cous has absorbed all of the stock, mix the vegetables and almonds into the cous cous mixture. The cous cous salad is now ready to serve, or if preferred, you can leave to chill before serving - both will be delicious.

Two lunch boxes full of delicious salad
 And as for that pink coleslaw? Yes, that's the little bit of pink you can see in the pictures above (but I've put a better picture below, too). Well, it's really simple - I just grated half a carrot and half a cooked beetroot into a bowl and added a couple of tablespoons of light mayonnaise. Mix together, and you have pink coleslaw! Because there's no cabbage in this coleslaw, it isn't tangy like real coleslaw - in fact, it has a lovely smooth taste - but the carrot still gives it a bit of bite.


 Let me know what your verdict is, if you make my cous cous salad or pink coleslaw. I'd also love to hear any other great packed lunch ideas, if you have some?