recipes vegan

Pasta sauce – pumpkin, spinach, tomato, lentil

I was surprised to find that Julian really liked this ‘I really don’t want to go shopping tonight so what do I have in the cupboard’ sauce – in fact he ate it as a soup/stew.

Put around 100g of red lentils in a pan of boiling water (unsalted) & boil for around 15 mins until tender & add salt and drain to give a thick soupy consistency. In the interim chop up around 200g of a washed pumpkin (e.g. 1/4 of a butternut) and cook in the microwave until tender but not falling apart. I leave the skin on because it becomes soft anyway and takes ages to peel. Fry 1 chopped onion with 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Add the lentils, 1.5 tins of tomatoes or 1 x 700mL bottle of passata, some sprigs of thyme & oregano and bring to the boil. Then add around 200g of well washed roughly chopped spinach, put the lid on the pan & simmer for about 2 minutes until the spinach is soft.

I would eat this with a more substantial pasta (e.g. bows or spirals) to carry the sauce and if I had had any I would have stirred ricotta or creme fraiche through the pasta before putting the sauce on top. But I didn’t so just grated parmesan on top.

To drink: a robust fruity but unoaked red.

Vegan friendly.

recipes vegan

Helen’s Christmas cake recipe

….for this year – nice & moist with the apple! Apparently english people would eat it with a nice piece of cheddar. I’m fine with that though I quite like it plain!

250g unsalted butter
340mL apple juice
~950g of mixed dried fruit, my preferred mix:
250g pitted dates chopped
200g dried figs
200g prunes
320g mixed dried fruit (includes peel but not fake cherries!)
1 big granny smith or other tart apple peeled, cored & grated
1tsp bicarb
150g plain flour
150g ground almonds
150g whole almonds
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
finely grated zest 1 orange & 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 150C (140C for fan). Melt butter in large saucepan with apple juice, add & stir all the items up until the line of dots, bring to the boil & simmer for 5 mins.
Transfer the mix to a large mixing bowl & stir in the bicarb (will sizzle like mad) & leave to cool for 10 mins.
Mix in the dry ingredients.
Transfer to a greased 20cm tin (wrap with alfoil if it’s a spring form as the butter will leak). Tie a circle of baking paper over the tin, prick it with a fork to release steam.
Bake for 2.5h approx. Ready when a skewer comes out clean.

For Christmas wrap well in baking paper, make holes in the top with a skewer & regularly feed with with some calvados or brandy.

(N.B. the original recipe says use 315g of butter, so if you feel that the mix is too dry, feel free to add more butter!)


Uncorked Italian wine tasting

The winner for me at this tasting was the Nicodemi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo at £8.49 an absolute bargain. Well balanced, gamey with tobacco box and chocolate & damson plum notes. This was long, tasted typically Italian & is a great food wine. We later drank this with pizza – perfect!

And the winner in the whites was a Soave – what a revelation, I thought everything from this region was undrinkable! From Inama (Veneto) 2005 Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico – lovely pear, honey & green peach aromas, light & crisp, really well balanced with a slightly oily mouthfeel – £12.95. This only just beat the 2006 Soave Classico by the same people, not quite as well balanced, with more of a stewed apple character, mineral tones and slightly bitter at £9.49

Other wines that got my attention were: 2003 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Il Macchione with raisin & licorice on the nose, hazelnut & cedar £16.95. The Corte Sant’Alda 2003 Amarone at £37.95 was a nice restrained example. Amarone is made by drying the grapes before pressing them, which in a less well made style can bring port like tones of raisin and prunes and huge amounts of alcohol. This had an agreeable raisin note along with damson, cherry, cinnamon & vanilla, very full bodied & well balanced. And the highlight was probably from La Fiorita the 2000 Brunello di Montalicino with great fruit and licorice notes, underlain by clean fresh oak notes of pencil shavings. This being the last wine of the tasting, my notes are somewhat sparse.


Waitrose Decanter awards wine tasting Canary Wharf

Last night was a tasting of some of the wines stocked by Waitrose, which won trophies or medals in the recent Decanter awards, & I have to say there were a lot of nice things there at quite reasonable prices!

So here are the highlights for me:

Chateau Jolys Cuvee Jean from Jurancon, France. This is an incredible sweet wine from a region close to the border of Spain whose wine making dates back to the 14th Century. Fantastic slightly botrytised ripe pear notes with honey, great oily mouthfeel & long £10. I’d love to try the sweet Jurancon from Chamarre but I don’t know where to find a Co-Op store.

Chateau Jolys Jurancon Sec light dry wine with light tropical fruit aromas made of Gros Manseng grapes tastes a little like a chardonnay with more acidity £7.

Montes Alpha Syrah will have to check my notes – Argentinian??? £10 lovely wine with deep black fruits, clear fresh new oak with a smokey note, long well balanced.

Cono Sur Gewurztraminer very fruity intense lychee, rose, citrus wine, well balanced strong, my pick for Thai £6.


Salmon with Cajun Blackening Spices

this one’s for Monika. This spice mix is awesome, I’ve been using it on tuna steaks too. I’ve halved the amount of salt because it was too much for me last time!

1 tbs cround cumin

1tbs crushed coriander seeds

1tbs dried ground garlic

2 tbs pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika, available in little square, often bright red tins at your local supermarket, really special!)

1tbs coarsely ground pepper

1tbs dried thyme

1tsp dried oregano

1 tbs salt

I just use the same amount of whole spices & bash them down. Not having dried garlic I used fresh. This is enough for 8 pieces of meat, if you use fresh garlic, I’d store any excess powder in the freezer.

Mix everything. Rub into both sides of the salmon/tofu/meat/whatever so that it’s covered. Cover & leave at room temperature for 30mins (approx).

Heat a frypan very hot, brush with oil & add fillets. Cook for exactly 2 minutes without moving, turn the fish over, cover the pan & cook for another 2 mins. THe spices will have blackened & the fish will be rare. Serve with thick yoghurt, lemon wedges & a tomato & cucumber salad or whatever you prefer!