vegetarian

spinach, risoni and lemon soup

philippa-moore-spinach-risoni-lemon-soup

This is one of my most favourite soups of all time. And if you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while, you’ll know how much I love soup and therefore that is not a statement I make lightly!

This soup came into my life like so many good things have - in Melbourne, through a friend. The original recipe had chicken in it and when I used to eat meat, I made the original recipe and it was truly ambrosial. Then when I went vegetarian 12 years ago, I used Quorn in place of the chicken. These days, I am mostly in favour of eating natural, unprocessed stuff as often as possible (I make an exception for Smith’s Salt and Vinegar chips but I digress) so I have ditched the chicken substitute all together for a can of cheap, nutritious beans.

And therefore, the 2019 version of this soup is quite frankly the best ever.

Try and grind cumin seeds fresh if you can - I must confess I only did this when I found myself in a kitchen that only had seeds, not ready-ground cumin! It is such an essential part of the soup and when freshly ground, there is an added magical earthy deliciousness to it. But don’t worry if you can’t or don’t want to, it will be just as tasty! You can also add the liquid from the beans in to the soup, I often do. I find it helps the soup to thicken. But by all means drain them first if you prefer.

This soup makes an elegant and delicious meal for friends and an equally nourishing meal for just yourself. Soup is the ultimate act of self care. Well, in my world it is.

Spinach, risoni and lemon soup

Makes heaps

1 tablespoon olive oil (or you could use cooking spray)
1 leek, thinly sliced or 1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
A splash of dry white wine (optional)
1.5-2 litres vegetable (or “chicken style”) stock
250g risoni (orzo in the UK) or any other short pasta
1 x 400g can cannellini or butter beans
Zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
250g spinach leaves, washed (and chopped if they are large)
Chopped fresh dill, as much as you like


Heat the oil in a large pan on low heat.  Add the leek/onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until soft.  Add the cumin, saute for 1 minute. Add the wine, then the lemon zest, risoni, beans and stock.

Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Add the lemon juice, spinach leaves and dill.  Simmer for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper (and more lemon juice if you like) and then serve.

I love dill so I am very liberal with the amount I use.  I also sometimes put some stalks in with the broth to cook the pasta in.  If you don't like dill you can use parsley.  You can also add other green vegetables you might need to use up, like celery, zucchini (courgette) or green beans. If you have a heel of stale sourdough or other good bread lying around, you can also put the piece of bread in your bowl first, then ladle the hot soup over the top and leave for a few minutes to grow soft before eating. Divine. And no waste! (my favourite).

Despite being filled with pasta and beans, it's wonderfully light and nourishing.  You can feel it doing you good as you spoon it up. If I have a cold, this soup is all I want to eat.

roast pumpkin and cauliflower curry

I also added tofu and silverbeet from my dad’s garden to this particular version of the curry - which I’d highly recommend!

I also added tofu and silverbeet from my dad’s garden to this particular version of the curry - which I’d highly recommend!

Tasmania had a rather hot summer this year. Compared, at least, to what the summers were like when I last lived here 14 years ago! In fact, it’s now been revealed Australia experienced one of its hottest Januarys on record. Talk about a welcome home!

So you might be surprised to hear that curry remained on dinner rotation throughout the summer season for Tom and I. We eat vegan half the time and a curry, or some variation of it. is a deeply satisfying vegan meal.

I have also become addicted to pumpkin since moving home. In the UK, you could only really get butternut squash in the supermarkets - none of the beautiful Queensland Blues or grey green-skinned Kents that I so loved. Of course the open-air farmers markets had more variety than my local Sainsbury’s but most of the time I couldn’t be bothered schlepping to Portobello Road or Marylebone early on a weekend morning. My elbows needed a rest from the working week commute! So it has been heaven to enjoy pumpkin again more regularly. It’s very cheap here too, and I find a decent piece from the Hill Street Grocer stretches to at least two meals, if not more.

I prefer roasting pumpkin because you can keep the skin on - saves you a horrendous job! - and once roasted it is edible. It goes so beautifully crisp. And it’s so delicious. I have no idea why people would cook pumpkin any other way!

Back to the curry - a great way to make curry in warmer weather is to barbecue or roast vegetables that you’d normally cook in the sauce, and then add them to the sauce (or pour over) just before serving. Thanks to air con I could have the oven on inside and not roast myself, but if you want to avoid having the stove on more than necessary, outdoor grilling of the veg is the way to go.

It’s a pretty basic sauce that I’ve done here, naturally you can use whatever combination of spices you like. I quite like the occasional return to curries that remind me of health-food shops when I was growing up - the milder, garam-masala heavy curries I remember from the late 1990s, trawling through my mother’s cookery books and turning my hand to a few dishes, some of which were complete disasters but many of which my family liked. This was one of them.

Roast pumpkin and cauliflower curry

Makes four good servings, can be stretched to more if served with rice

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets (including the leaves)
750g (roughly) piece of pumpkin (I mostly use Kent), skin on, chopped into medium chunks
2 teaspoons garam masala
Cooking spray or olive oil
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 medium brown or red onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (take out seeds if you want it less hot)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1-2 teaspoons Keen’s Curry Powder
1 x 420g tin chickpeas
1 x 400ml tin coconut cream or milk (I prefer cream as it makes a thicker, more luscious sauce but either is fine)
Handful of spinach leaves (or any greens you like)
Sea salt and lemon juice to taste

* You can use dried chilli flakes if you don’t have fresh chilli. Or both if you want a chilli fest! My family do not have the same enjoyment of heat as I do so I err on the side of caution. On that note, always try a piece of fresh chilli before you add it to your dish. The heat varies! You may end up only needing half of the chilli. Remember, you can always add more - but you can’t take it away!

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Oil or spray a roasting tin. Place your cauliflower and pumpkin pieces in a plastic bag (or a bowl, and just stir to coat) and add the garam masala. Tie up the bag and toss around to coat the pieces in the spice. Empty the bag into the roasting tin, distributing the pieces evenly (you might need two trays). Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and golden brown.

While the pumpkin and cauliflower are roasting, make your sauce. Heat the coconut oil in a large saute pan (alternatively you could use a Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish). Once melted, add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, cook for a few minutes and then add the spices. Stir to coat everything well and cook until it’s nicely fragrant and toasted, but not browning or sticking. If you find it’s sticking, add a splash of water.

Then add the chickpeas and coconut cream, and stir everything to combine well. If you want more liquid, you can add a cup of vegetable stock (you can get a wonderful vegan “Chicken Style” stock in supermarkets here which I like to use) at this stage. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until your roast vegetables are ready. At this stage, make some rice if you like.

Once the pumpkin and cauliflower are done, this is a nice swift operation. Allow the roast vegetables to cool slightly and then add to the simmering curry sauce, along with the spinach leaves. Stir through gently to coat everything in the sauce and allow to heat through. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and lemon juice (I find a curry normally needs both) to your taste.

Serve immediately! I’ve had it with rice, with bread and all alone. Any way you enjoy it, this is a dreamy, satisfying and nourishing meal.

summer couscous salad

couscous-salad

You know how you go through phases of not eating something for years - perhaps a decade - and have written it off in your mind as a bit boring, but then you rediscover it and think "why did I ever stop eating this?!" That is the story of me and couscous.

Twenty years ago, when I first tried couscous, I thought it was the best thing ever. My uncle made a lovely dish with it, lightly spiced, full of fresh herbs and studded with dried apricots. My favourite dish at a local trendy restaurant - Rockefellers, I think it was called - was their roast vegetable couscous salad. Every time I cooked it myself at home, I pretended I wasn't a bored 17-year-old living at home with three rowdy younger siblings, but some sophisticated trainee journalist in her Sydney or London apartment (clearly I thought trainee journalists living in such places were loaded). But like so many things, I had it so often that I got couscous fatigue. After a few disasters where it ended up clumpy and gross rather than fluffy and perfectly cooked, I threw in the towel and hadn't bought couscous since. 

I'm on a mission to clean out my pantry at the moment, dragging all the packets that were flung to the back when they were hopefully bought in 2014 or 2015 (eek) out to finally fulfil their culinary destiny. I found a packet of couscous, amongst the packets of kombu and nori when I was going through my making seitan from scratch phase, and felt a pang of nostalgia. Why not, I thought. 

It has also been uncharacteristically hot here this past week or so. For the first time in my 11 years here, London is experiencing a proper summer. Not just one or two hot days and then cloudy grey skies for the rest of the season, but full on 29 degrees every day for well over a week now. It's a miracle. I'm loving it. 

So any meal that involves not having to turn the oven or stove on is a winner during a heatwave. But there's only so many baby gems and packets of rocket and watercress you can eat. So this is where couscous is a GODSEND. All you have to do is boil a kettle. 

And after eating this salad, it's safe to say couscous won't be off my menu any time soon. Couscous and I are friends again and I couldn't be happier! 

It's seriously sensational. You can make this for a barbecue, as part of a mezze where you serve several salads, or just have it on its own. Cook the whole packet so you can pick at it all week during the heatwave.

Summer couscous salad

Serves 10 if served as a side, makes 5 generous portions if served alone

500g couscous
4 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra if needed)
800ml vegetable stock made with boiling water and stock powder

Rocket, as much as you have/want
Watercress, as much as you have/want
2 large pieces of roasted red pepper (out of a jar), chopped
Cherry tomatoes, as much as you have/want, halved
Sugar snap peas, as much as you have/want, halved
3 tablespoons capers
200g feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 small bunch dill, chopped
Salt and pepper

Dressing:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons basil pesto

Place the couscous in a large bowl, preferably a clear glass one so you can see once all the liquid is absorbed. Add the oil to the top. Boil the kettle and make the stock. Pour the stock on top of the couscous and oil, stirring briefly to combine. Cover the top of the bowl with cling film and leave for 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is cooked.

While you're waiting, prepare the salad vegetables, feta and dressing. Put the dressing ingredients in a clean empty jar, put the lid on and then shake until well combined. Set aside.

Once the couscous is cooked, stir it well with a fork to make it all lovely and fluffy and break up any lumps. If it's too dry, add a little more olive oil. Once you're happy with it, turn it all out into a large, shallow serving bowl.

Add all the salad vegetables, capers, herbs, feta, chilli, salt and pepper and stir well to make sure everything is mixed well together. Finally, dress with the dressing and give it one final toss. 

It will sit happily if you have other parts of your meal that you're waiting on, otherwise dig in! It also keeps brilliantly and makes a great portable lunch for the office.

couscous-salad-2

Seriously, I will happily make and eat this every day for the rest of the summer if it means we can have more weather like this. Alleluia. It only took 11 years but thank you weather gods for giving London a proper summer at last! 

super easy baked eggs

baked-eggs

I wrote off baked eggs from my repertoire a few years back, as I'd had nothing but disasters with them. I think, looking back, it was simply a case of not knowing the strength of my oven (they do tend to vary from flat to flat!). But I've recently been converted, mostly because I wanted a brunch dish that just made serving two people at the same time easier, rather than turning my stove into an omelette station every Sunday morning. It's a bit depressing when you finally sit down to eat yours and your partner has already finished theirs! Baked eggs alleviate this problem, furthering marital togetherness. Try them and I'm sure you'll be a convert! 

Super easy baked eggs

Serves 2

8 cherry tomatoes, halved
6-8 tablespoons of greek or natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon pul biber (Turkish chilli flakes or Aleppo pepper: use plain chilli flakes if you can't find it)
A spoonful or two of crumbled feta per portion
A handful of fresh basil and thyme leaves per portion
2 heaped teaspoons sun-dried tomato pesto
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Boil the kettle.

Butter two ramekins. Divide the halved cherry tomatoes, yoghurt, pul biber, feta and herbs between the two, stirring until just mixed. Place a heaped teaspoon of sun-dried tomato pesto on top, then make a small indent in the centre. Break in an egg and then season.

Once the kettle has boiled, place the two ramekins in a deep baking tin. Pour in enough boiling water to come roughly halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Very carefully place in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes but keep an eye on them....you want them just set and the yolks still runny. They can turn from undercooked to overcooked in mere seconds! 

Serve both portions immediately with crusty bread/toast. Preferably in the garden. 

best-ever vegetarian nut roast

vegetarian nut roast

If you think nut roast is a boring vegetarian cliche, think again!

This little beauty is chock full of delicious nuts, seeds and spices that come together in a taste sensation. Don't be put off by the number of ingredients - most of these are lurking in the average spice rack and it comes together really quickly and easily. It works brilliantly as a roast dinner but also anywhere you would normally use mince, such as in a bolognese sauce, "meat" balls, rissoles, chilli or shepherds pie.

If you're making it for Christmas or Easter, you can add lots of allspice and nutmeg in addition to the named spices for a lovely festive flavour, and wrap the nut mixture in puff pastry to make a delicious Wellington-esque dish, or make sausage rolls with the mixture. The possibilities are endless! I hope you'll love it as much as I do.

BEST-EVER VEGETARIAN NUT ROAST

Serves 6

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 200g (1 large bag) walnut pieces
  • 100g (half a large bag) whole almonds
  • 200g other mixed nuts (I tend to use cashews, pine nuts and pecans)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • Roughly 1½ cups breadcrumbs (add more if too wet)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes, drained (reserve the juices for gravy)
  • 2 large handfuls fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Vegemite or Marmite
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1/4 cup grated strong vegetarian Cheddar cheese
  • ¾ of a medium red onion
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grease and line a large loaf tin and set aside. If you're cooking the roast straight away (see further), preheat the oven to 180C (fan).

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, toast the nuts, seeds and spices, tossing everything to coat well. Be very careful and do not let it burn. Toast for a few minutes, or until the mixture is fragrant and starting to turn golden, then turn off the heat and let it cool slightly.

Add the cooled nuts and spices to the bowl of a food processor. Add all other ingredients. Blitz until thoroughly combined, or combined to your liking (it can be nice if left a little chunky). You might need to stop and scrape it down a few times. If it's too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it's too dry, add a little water, reserved tomato juice or even a dash of red wine if you've got some handy!

Place in the prepared pan and ideally leave for a few hours (or overnight is even better) in the fridge to let the flavours deepen and the loaf firm up. If you're in a hurry you can cook it straight away, but ideally give it at least an hour's resting time.

Preheat oven to 180C (fan). When ready, cook the roast for 45 minutes to an hour until firm and golden. Allow it to cool slightly before carving then serve with gravy and all your favourite roast vegetables.