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.

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.

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.

Easy Breezy Salsa Verde

I’ve always relished a bit of Salsa Verde on a nice piece of grilled fish, especially fresh tuna or a perfectly cooked chunky white fish. Salsa Verde is outrageously flavoursome and has the added bonus of being a raw sauce / dressing, which means it’s quick and easy to prepare. You can even make this in advance of the meal you’re planning to serve it with to remove a little meal assembly stress.

This can easily become vegetarian by omitting the anchovies, but you’ll probably want to add in a pinch of sea salt to pack in the salty punch the anchovies usually bring to the party.

I have recently discovered that the anchovy-free version is rather delicious with scrambled eggs. I don’t know about you but I can sometimes tire of my usual brekky repertoire so a little va va voom from this saucy accompaniment was a welcome change.

Now you can of course pop all of the ingredients in a mini processor and whizz this up in a mere moment. But there are times when I’m right up for a bit of manual labour and at those times I like to plonk the herbs, capers, garlic and anchovies on a board, grab a sharp knife and chop chop chop until I have a chunky green salsa which can easily be mixed in a bowl with the oil and lemon juice.

My final note on this is that you’d normally see an astonishing volume of oil in a salse verde recipe, anything from 100ml upwards. My recipe, on the other hand, uses as little as I can get away with. For me that’s usually a good glug, or between 1 – 2 tablespoons. I advise starting with a glug or 2 then drizzling more in a little at a time until you have the right consistency for you.

If you have any left you can store it, covered, in the fridge.

Easy Breezy Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • A small bunch of parsley, leaves picked
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint (about a tablespoon)
  • A couple of tablespoons of capers, drained
  • 1 plump clove of garlic
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained (leave these out for a veggie version)
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Olive oil, depending how oily you like things use anything from 2 tablespoons to 100ml+

Method

  • On a decent sized chopping board, chop the herbs, capers, garlic and anchovies until you have a coarsely textured pile
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice, mustard and olive oil

OR

  • Blitz everything in a food processor

Marvellous Ways With Salsa Verde

  • Spooned over cooked fish
  • Spread generously in a tasty sandwich or wrap
  • Drizzled over scrambled eggs or a nice cheesy omelette
  • Swirled with a flourish through soup
  • Also divine with a simple roasted chicken breast but I’d go for the anchovy free version here

Quick & Easy Ramen

My eldest had suggested we make ramen at home a couple of times. Usually I’ll jump all over a good food suggestion but for various reasons that just hadn’t happened with this noodley dish: Not enough eggs or no noodles – pretty fundamental stuff in the realm of ramen making.

Jump to Sunday lunchtime. His brothers were at football and rugby training. Eldest decides he’s making ramen for us all. Joy!

In our usual house style this ramen contained just what we happened to have nestling in the fridge so if I made it again I might well use different veg, or add chicken etc etc.

One thing I absolute would have added is dried seaweed. I was sure we had some sushi nori sheets but alas that cupboard was bare, so for this dish we had to do without.

Despite the sad absence of seaweed this is a bowl of delicious ramen on no small scale, packing a punch of savoury flavour. If you’re an umami addict, this will dance a jolly jig on your tastebuds. Its slurping sensational.

The eggs are dreamily soft in texture and oh so delicate in flavour floating in their full flavoured broth.

Regretfully these photos of mine really do not do my son’s fantastic ramen justice. Just as he was arranging the eggs I had the bright idea to include this in my blog. By this point his brothers were back from training, my husband was freezing from spectating hours of junior sports. Everyone was frankly getting hangry! So this was the best I could manage before the bowls were snatched away with tuts and evil glares.

Ramen

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 250g noodles
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • A pinch of chilli powder
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped (if you’re not a fan of chilli heat just leave this out)
  • A bunch of spring onions, chopped
  • 1 litre of hot chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of miso paste
  • A couple of large handfuls of edamame beans
  • A couple of handfuls of chopped spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • A packet of ready to eat quorn chicken slices, chopped or use cooked chicken
  • A couple of sheets of seaweed, torn or chopped
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • 4 teaspoons of sesame seeds
  • Soy sauce

Method

  • Cook your noodles according to the packet directions. Once cooked drain and keep warm in the pan.
  • Meanwhile put all of the ingredients up to and including the seaweed into a large pot and simmer for about 10 minutes. You just want a nice gentle bubble.
  • To serve divide the noodles between your bowls and pour over the broth. Artfully arrange your boiled eggs and scatter over the sesame seeds.
  • I just plonked the soy sauce on the table for everyone to serve themselves. You might also opt to serve with lime wedges and / or extra chilli.