Veggie Shepherds Pie

I was tempted to call this Sheep’s pie as a sheep may well enjoy all of these veggie ingredients, but I’m not convinced it’s the most appetising name for something so delicious.

It was bitingly cold earlier this spring and I’d been craving mashed potatoes and warming, comfort food. So I gave this childhood classic a veggie makeover.

The base is a bit like a Bolognese sauce, only with Quorn mince and lentils. The potatoes have a hint of garlic and parmesan, so overall there’s a bit of an Italian shepherd’s theme.

I was in my usual hurry, so rather than bake this in the oven, I just smoothed the mash over the pan of sauce and popped it under a hot grill for a few minutes. Everything is piping hot anyway and the last minute grilling adds a beautiful crispy potato topping.

Veggie Shepherds Pie

Serves 4 hungry people

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 heaped tablespoons red lentils
  • 1 packet of Quorn mince
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 stock cube
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 8 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped in half
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan, finely grated

Method

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and fry your onions and carrots for about 8 minutes until they’re starting to get nice and soft.
  • Tip in the lentils and veggie mince and give everything a good stir. Now pour over your tomatoes crumble over a stock cube and fill your tomato can with water, pour the water over the sauce, scatter in the herbs and stir everything together.
  • While your sauce is bubbling away you can get on with the potatoes: boil your potatoes and garlic halves in plenty of salted boiling water until tender.
  • Drain thoroughly and return to the pan, add a big knob of butter, and half of the parmesan cheese. Mash those potatoes until nice and smooth.
  • Pop the grill on to heat up.
  • By now your sauce should be ready, the vegetables and lentils tender so remove the sauce from the heat. Pile the potatoes on top of the sauce, straight into the pan you cooked the sauce in, then smooth out to cover the sauce completely. Scatter over the remaining cheese and grill for a few minutes, until golden and crispy.

Mmmmint Oreo Brownies

You can’t say “mint Oreo brownies” without saying “mmmm”. Nor would you want to, as these are mmmmarvellous.

As if a chocolate brownie wasn’t gorgeous enough, adding the Oreos brings new, and welcome, texture to this chocolatey party.

This recipe is egg free. For the simple reason that I was fresh out of eggs. Undeterred, I substituted 4 eggs with 4 tablespoons of thick Greek style yoghurt. The resulting brownies were as smooth, rich and gooey as ever so I share it now with you.

Mmmmint Oreo Brownies

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 150g butter
  • 300g soft brown sugar
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tablespoons Greek style yoghurt (or 4 beaten eggs if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 120g milk chocolate, chopped
  • About 8 mint Oreos, broken up a bit

Method

  • First, preheat your oven to 180C and line a square tin with foil (my tin is 20cm square).
  • In a pan which can hold all of the ingredients, melt your butter over a gentle heat. Then stir in the sugar.
  • Next add the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda and roughly mix. Take off the heat.
  • Now plop in the yoghurt and mint extract and stir again.
  • Stir in the chocolate chunks and pour your unctuous mixture into the waiting tin.
  • Scatter over those broken Oreos and press them down very slightly.
  • Pop in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. It’s worth having a check at 20 minutes as you don’t want to over cook and miss out on that gooey loveliness. When ready, the brownie will look set on top but will still have a wobble underneath.
  • Once cooked, take out of the oven and cool on a wire rack, still in the baking tin.

Sweet & Salty Choc-o-nut Cookies

Delicious, delovely, delectable, divine! To quote the utterly degroovey Deee-Lite. The surprising friendship of salty nuts and sweet chocolate is a true delight…though I can’t take credit for its conception.

My middle child, who has always had a knack for sensational flavour twists, fancied doing a bit of baking. These moreish morsels were his winning creation.

Normally, I find it hard to stop at 1 or 2 cookies, but the salty nuts make these gorgeously satisfying. And this, my friend, is a good thing because one bite of these and you will be hooked.

Choc-o-nut Cookies

Ingredients

  • 50g soft butter
  • 25g peanut butter
  • 160g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 60g salted peanuts

Method

  • First of all pop your oven on to 180C / 160C fan. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.
  • Beat your sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Now beat in your egg and vanilla.
  • Gradually add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa (we added 1/3 at a time).
  • Finally stir in the chocolate chunks and nuts.
  • Now just dollop tablespoons of the cookie dough onto your prepared baking sheets, leaving a few centimetres in between each cookie.
  • Pop them in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
  • Once they’re baked to perfection, remove from the oven. Give them a few minutes to cool slightly before you move them to a wire rack.

Exquisite Asian Spiced Lentil Soup

This soup is a stunning bowl of healthy deliciousness. And a sparky change to a classic lentil soup. What’s more, it’s a doddle to make : just roughly chop your veg and fling your ingredients into a pan. No precision chopping required and no need to fry before bubbling away.

This would work beautifully with any root veg, I just happened to have a fat sweet potato and a rather pitiful, past it’s best, parsnip in the fridge. Well let me tell you I did that ancient parsnip proud with this smooth, exquisitely spiced soup.

I should say that the flavours here are merely a nod to Asia and by no means is this an authentic Asian soup. Just my humble hankering for something a little different for lunch.

Asian Spiced Lentil Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • About 4cm of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 parsnip, roughly chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, roughly chopped
  • A couple of sticks of lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 2 handfuls of red lentils (about a cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 litre of chicken stock
  • 400ml can of coconut milk
  • Juice of one lemon

Method

  • Chuck everything, apart from the coconut milk and lemon, into a pan. Pop a lid on, bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Once the veg and lentils are tender pour in the coconut milk and simmer really gently for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice, turn off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
  • Remove your lemongrass sticks. Now just blend your soup and get ready to delight your taste buds.

Veggie Burger Sky Scraper

Veggie Burger Sky Scraper

When presented with tall food, like this sky scraper burger, there are 2 types of people: Those who see all their dreams come true between 2 halves of a bread roll and those who think blimey how on earth am I going to fit that in my dainty mouth without dislocating my jaw. I’m a bit of both, initially delighted and then slightly concerned.

But the bonus about a burger like this, especially if you serve your stack in a brioche bun, is that once you’ve picked it up and taken your first bite it usually squishes down to become a much more manageable girth. And this beauty is rammed with so many healthy and delicious trimmings, it would be to your healthy detriment not to add them. Healthy greed, just the way I like it.

Use any kind of burger whether is be homemade, veggie, or slices of halloumi (and the general idea obviously works for chicken or beef burgers too).

Veggie Burger Skyscaper

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • Veggie burger or halloumi slice
  • Burger bun (brioche or sesame buns are perfect)
  • Houmous, a massive dollop
  • Tomato, sliced
  • Rocket, a big handful
  • Onion, a few rings
  • Cheese, a couple of slices (not too thick or they won’t melt)
  • Ketchup, or any sauce you fancy
  • Coleslaw, if you have it

Method

  • Cook your burger or halloumi according to the packet instructions.
  • Meanwhile slice open your bun and lightly toast the insides.
  • When the burger is almost ready, top with the cheese slices and return to the heat to allow a bit of melting.
  • Then just start construction of your delicious skyscraper stack: I put a large dollop of houmous on the base, followed by onion slices, tomatoes and a bit of rocket. Next comes the burger with its blanket of melting cheese. And finally, ketchup, a little squirt of sriracha and more rocket. Put the lid on the bun and squash it down slightly so that the whole thing doesn’t fall over on the way to the dining table.

Super Simple Salmon Chowder

Chowders are like the posh cousins of the soup family. A good fish chowder feels a bit grander than, say, a classic tomato soup or a chicken broth. To me, it’s a bit of an indulgence. I dare say a proper restaurant chowder would indeed be somewhat of a treat with lashings of cream and butter. This version, while tasting divine is, brilliantly, rather good for you. A definitively lighter rendition – posh and saintly.

Made mostly with chicken stock, it finds its delicate creaminess from a good glug of milk added near the end of the cooking. I tend to use full fat milk for this but I can’t imagine semi skimmed would taste noticeably inferior. I wouldn’t advise skimmed milk though, unless you want the creaminess in colour only. But then, why bother?

If you want to boost your veg intake, add sweetcorn, peas or chopped spinach. And finally, don’t scrimp on the bread. Big hunks of wholemeal or granary are spot on with a fish chowder.

Super Simple Salmon Chowder

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced quite finely
700ml chicken stock
300ml whole milk

1 pack of smoked salmon, chopped
1 lemon – zest of whole lemon and a squeeze of juice to taste
A handful of parsley, chopped
A few sprigs of dill, chopped (optional)

Method

Pop your potatoes, onion and hot stock in a pan and simmer for about 15 minutes with the lid on.

Once the potatoes are tender add the milk, heat through over a low heat then add the smoked salmon and lemon zest. Gently simmer for a couple of minutes.

Turn off the heat and add a spritz of lemon juice and the herbs. If you can wait, leave the chowder to sit for a few minutes so that all the flavours can merrily mingle.

Serve with an extra scattering of herbs and more lemon juice if you like.