You know the feeling – you’ve got lots to do, nothing planned for dinner and not much time to shop or cook, but you still want something tasty and healthy.
That was me one evening recently; a quick rummage in the fridge produced a selection of vegetables leftover from various meals throughout the week. I scanned the store cupboard and laid it all out on the worktop – then started chopping.
This casserole took about 10-15 minutes to put together, then I left it to cook for about an hour, leaving me time to finish off some work and still be rewarded by a fulfilling meal at the end.
You can use any vegetables that you like – you need a couple of handfuls per person plus the barley and potatoes. Try to keep them roughly the same size so that they are cooked through at the same time. Listed below is what I used but feel free to mix and match – I loved all the different colours, flavours and textures.
Add more stock if you prefer a casserole that is more like a soup.
Ingredients (per person)
- Half small red onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small leek
- Handful green beans
- 6-8 mushrooms
- 4-6 Chantenay carrots
- Couple florets of broccoli
- 25g barley
- Handful of baby potatoes
- Dash of tomato puree
- Heaped teaspoon of Marmite
- Dash of soy sauce
- Tablespoon of mushroom ketchup
- Mixed herbs
- 300ml vegetable stock
- Pre-heat the oven to 180oC /350oF/Gas 4 and put the kettle on to boil
- Roughly chop the onion into large pieces and sweat until soft
- Meanwhile, chop all the vegetables into even sized pieces; chop the baby potatoes in half.
- Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes
- Add all the vegetables, barley, stock, tomato puree, mushroom ketchup, soy sauce , Marmite mixed herbs and stock – the stock should cover the vegetables.
- Pop it into the oven for about an hour
This tempting combination was created following a mini baking disaster that left me with a crumbled sponge cake that I couldn’t bear to waste. A quick root around the cupboard produced some leftover Pimms – apparently an alien concept to some – and a new take on the traditional sherry trifle came alive.
This recipe works as a template for any flavours, so mix and match the fruit, jelly and alcohol or fruit juice and let me know how you get on. The vegetarian jelly crystals can be found in good health food shops and come in strawberry, lemon and tropical fruits as well as raspberry.
You can lower the fat content by using half-fat crème fraîche and low fat custard.
- About 80-100g slightly stale sponge cake (leftovers or about 6 sponge fingers)
- 2 tablespoons Pimms™ (or other drink of your choice)
- ½ packet raspberry jelly crystals
- 225g fresh raspberries
- 250g pack ready-made custard
- 150ml cream or crème fraîche
- Fruit, toasted almonds or sprinkles to decorate
How to make
- Make up half the jelly in a jug and leave to cool until the jelly has just started to set and is a bit ‘gloopy’– this ensures it sits in a layer over the sponge, rather than soaking in.
- Meanwhile, using a bowl that will hold about 2 pints/1 litre of liquid, soak the sponge in the Pimms and leave to stand so the sponge cake can absorb all the liquid.
- Pile the raspberries onto the drunken sponge (reserving a few to decorate) and then pour the gloopy jelly over the top.
- Put it all into the fridge to set – it will start to set in about half an hour but leave it as long as possible before adding another layer to avoid any mishaps. Note that veggie jelly does not set as solidly as jelly made with gelatine, so don’t try any fancy tricks to check it!
- Pour the ready-made custard over the top and decorate with cream or crème fraîche and fruit, nuts or sprinkles.
Feeling Hot Hot Hot
I’m sure like me you are loving the heat and you know what they say…. If you can’t stand the heat. Get out of the kitchen
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or a little outdoor space then it’s ideal time for a barbecue. It’s time to get out the charcoals and get smoking those veggie kebabs.
Vegetarian barbecues take a bit more imagination than your bog-standard burger ones. It can be a bit of a challenge avoiding burnt veggie burgers or worse a soggy veggie sausage. Barbecues are an ideal opportunity to experiment with making a whole host of delicious salads that provide us with numerous essential vitamins and minerals, including carotenoids and Vitamin C as well as giving your meals that extra crunch factor.
Here’s one of my favourites – Barbecued mixed veg skewers
These are really easy – Just follow these four easy steps and Enjoy:
- Chop up a choice of the following: red/green peppers, onions, mushrooms, courgettes, sweet potatoes, aubergines
- Carefully spear them onto metal skewers
- You can add a glaze or marinade if you want to make them tangy or spicy
- Place them on the bbq and rotate at regular intervals until gently charred (not burnt)
- Eat with a lovely, crunchy salad and Enjoy!
For the marinade:
- 2 teaspoons of honey
- 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
- Optional – add a small piece of ginger chopped up finely to spice things up.
Another favourite of mine is halloumi cheese. Cheese can be a bit high in salt and saturated fat so it’s good not to eat too much of it but cut up into small slices makes a very tasty addition to a veggie barbecue. My personal favourite is haloumi with red pepper skewers.
Another great way to eat this cheese is zingy haloumi cheese salad
If you do fancy a meat free burger there are plenty to choose from major supermarkets. I usually cheat and cook them in the oven to avoid any chance of burning them.
The crunch factor starring the salads…
It’s good to have a few to try so here are my favourites:.
Green leafy rocket, Satsuma, sesame seeds and pine nut salad
Here’s how to make it:
- Get a large bowl and tear the rocket leaves and place them in the bowl
- Carefully peel and separate 2 or 3 satsumas into segments
- Dry roast the sesame seeds and pine nuts until they are golden brown and looking a little charred
- Add seeds and pine nuts to the bowl
- Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of olive oil
Cherry tomato, red onion, radish and cucumber salad with a squeeze of lemon juice
Here’s how to make it:
- Halve the cherry tomatoes, chop up the red onion, cucumber and radish
- Place in large bowl
- Squeeze a little fresh lemon over the salad vegetables
- Or if you don’t like lemon, use balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette dressing instead
Nutty butternut squash and blue cheese salad
Here’s how to make it:
- Slice up half of a large butternut squash and place on a baking tray.
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or barbecue for 10-15 minutes, careful to not burn the skin.
- Once cooked, chop into small cubes and place into large bowl
- Grate about 25g (small slice) of blue cheese
- Dry roast nuts of choice – I like almonds, cashews or pistachios
- Add nuts to the bowl
- Add a drizzle of olive oil and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
Other bbq accompaniments that are both healthy and tasty
- Potato salad – with boiled new potatoes, spring onions, low fat yoghurt, very small amount of mayonnaise and mustard for that extra tang
- Couscous with fresh mint, cucumber and peas
- Rice salad with dried fruits and grated carrot
You’ll notice that I’ve tried not to overdo the salad dressing as this can really rack up the calories especially if it is an oil-based dressing. In many cases, I’ve suggested a squeeze of lemon juice or tangy balsamic vinegar as this can give your salads that extra pizzaz without the calories.
If you really can’t do without the relishes and sauces, then try and find the lower fat and lower salt versions where possible and don’t add great big dollops as they can pile on the calories and drown out all the lovely natural flavours of your food.
Don’t forget the carbs. Couscous, potatoes, rice and wholemeal bread are all good energy boosters to any bbq.
A lovely drink to go with a BBQ is my Strawberry Shlurp.
This is essentially a milkshake and very simple to make, here’s what you do:
Take one punnet of strawberries – add a little water and gently stew in a saucepan over a low heat for about 10 minute
Remove from the pan and set aside to cool
Once cooled pour strawberry mixture into a blender, add 250/300ml milk, 1 tsp plain yoghurt and 1 tsp honey
Whizz it up in hte blender. Pour out into tall glasses and serve with lots of ice. You can be extra creative if you like and drape the glass with fruit.
Don’t forget your straw and go shlurp away! Serves 2-4 glasses
This is so quick and easy to make but tastes rather special and is great fast food for lunch or supper on warm summer evenings.
The chewy texture of the halloumi cheese works well with the broad beans whilst the spring onions and salad dressing add some zing!
As usual, mix and match ingredients to suit your taste.
- 1 pack halloumi cheese (use halloumi light if you can get it)
- I tin broad beans
- 3 spring onions finely chopped
- Salad leaves
- Sun dried tomatoes
For the dressing
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- Soy sauce
- Lemon juice
- Heat up the grill
- Combine the ingredients for the dressing – add dashes of lemon juice and soy sauce until it is to your taste. Try using chilli flavoured olive oil or pepper sauce to add more zing!
- Add the beans to the dressing and leave to marinade.
- Thickly slice the halloumi cheese, baste with olive oil and heat under the grill until golden brown
- Whilst the halloumi is cooking, mix the salad leaves and pile on the plates, dotting around spring onions and sundried tomatoes
- Drain the beans, reserving the liquid to use as the salad dressing, and add the beans to the rest of the salad
- Top the plate with the golden halloumi cheese and pour the salad dressing over the top.
Well, here’s a thing – according to this article in The Guardian, we have a vegetarian pub in Soho and another in Smithfield. Now, my veggie friends, I will have to ask you to read this and try to ignore the rather cheap stereotypes employed by the hack and Giles Coren- maybe they’d had a late night or were suffering from indigestion without a single Rennie to hand.
Anyway, it had me reaching for my badge-laden jacket, banner and DMs because I thought I had missed the start of the veggie revolution; but citizen, not so fast with the laces – this review suggests that to travel may be better than to arrive.
On the plus side we have two pubs not only converting to an entirely veggie menu (and it must be a brave landlord indeed who would even consider this on the edge of Smithfield market) but linking vegetarianism to sustainability.
Fabulous so far and normally I would be advertising for a band of merry vegetarians to accompany me on a fact finding mission, but not sure I can be bothered just for jacket potatoes with cheese and beans!!!
So not a revolution, but a near miss.
Finally a company that can produce a good quality veggie pie – not only that, but they make four different kinds – it nearly had me hanging out the bunting – let’s hear it for Higgidy Pies.
Years ago, I used to regularly ask my local supermarket managers why they were so lacking in the veggie pie department. They would look confused, bemused and scratch their heads, whilst muttering something about considering the possibilities of a cheese and onion turnover. My look of disgust and sigh of despair would usually see them slink off in shame back to the bacon counter – you know where you are with meat eaters.
Quorn pies spectacularly fail to deliver with more air than filling – I would write and complain but c’mon, even I have only so many complaining hours in one day!
Then it arrived – the Higgidy pie – not just one veggie pie but a choice of flavours and sizes – ok sit yourselves down now before you get over excited.
Higgidy make spinach, feta and toasted pine nut for the larger appetite and three different pies for smaller appetites. We can have Little Moroccan Vegetable and Feta pie, Little Butternut Squash and Red Pepper pie or my absolute favourite, Little Mushroom and Leaf Spinach Pie.
The pastry is cooked to perfection, the fillings delectable; pure joy to your taste buds and there’s not a bit of goat’s cheese in sight – hurrah!
Serve with baby new potatoes cooked with fresh mint, heaps of steamed green vegetables and Bisto onion gravy.
This is another one from the ‘cheats’ range but it’s what I cook when there’s not much time and I want something tasty and wholesome. I add Quorn to my pasta bake, but you can add another vegetable instead – broccoli works well. Make use of leftover bread by turning it into breadcrumbs and putting it in a re-sealable bag in the freezer to use on top of this dish.
I hope you will forgive the total lack of expertise required to put this together! I’ve added a pic of an authentic Neapolitan deli so we can at least pretend we’re in Italy!
- Couple of handfuls of pasta – spirals and penne work well
- One 350g jar pasta sauce (I use Loyd Grossman tomato and basil)
- One leek
- 250g mushrooms (chestnut work well)
- Couple of handfuls of Quorn pieces
- Block of cheese
- Pine nuts
- Dried basil
- Pre-heat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6
- Whilst you’re boiling some water in the kettle, chop up the leek and mushrooms.
- Pour enough boiling water into the bottom of a steamer to cook the pasta and steam the leek and mushrooms over the top.
- Whilst all of that is cooking, grate the cheese.
- Drain the pasta and put in an ovenproof dish. Add the vegetables, Quorn and sauce and mix well.
- Sprinkle over the grated cheese, then the breadcrumbs and pine nuts.
- Garnish with sliced tomatoes dipped in olive oil mixed with dried basil
- Cook for about 15-20 minutes