Wednesday, 20 February 2013

South African Bobotie

I tried to describe to my boyfriend exactly what we were having for tea, and the best description I could come up with was shepherd's pie.... but with no potato, more spice, and an egg on it. So, not shepherd's pie at all really, but bear with me.

This is a veggie version of South Africa's national dish, based on my mum's recipe. It's one of those that's sweet and savoury at the same time (think along North African lines) and is traditionally served with Yellow Rice - dead easy, just add a cinnamon stick and a tsp of turmeric to the cooking water of some normal basmati rice, then add a handful of sultanas when cooked.

The tomato's just there because it was starting to turn a bit and needed eating rather than any culinary reason.

Serves 4! ... Or 2 greedy people with leftovers for packed lunch next day - careful if reheating rice though, doesn't do your belly any good if not properly hot.

What you need

250-300g veggie mince (quorn, TVP etc.)
1 chopped onion
1 tbsp mango chutney
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 whole cloves
a few gratings of nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
3 tbsp sultanas
2 bay leaves (and 3 for the top if you want)
30g whole blanched almonds
2 large eggs
2 tbsps whole milk (& some extra to soak the bread in)
1 slice white bread

What to do

Soak the bread in the extra milk. Might seem like a pretty weird thing to do but it helps the texture of the mince-y bit. Leave it soaking while you do the rest.

Fry the onion in a couple of tbsps olive oil on a gentle heat, until softened. Add the garam masala, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and bay leaves and fry for another minute or so. Stir in the mango chutney, then add the mince, frying off until it's all cooked through. Add the sultanas, and salt and pepper to taste.

Toast the whole almonds (works well in a dry frying pan) until brown - make sure you watch them, they go from not done at all to burnt inconveniently quickly - then add them to the mince mixture.

Now pick up the milky bread and squeeze the liquid out of it - wet bread feels completely disgusting to touch, but it's easier than faffing around trying to squash it with a spatula or something - and beat it into the mince mixture. Pick out the bay leaves and try to fish out the cloves as well if you can find them. It doesn't really matter if not, as long as you don't mind finding a whole clove in your mouth!

Tip the mix into an oven dish. Now make the topping - beat the eggs with the remaining milk and pour over the top, laying the 3 bay leaves on top if you're that way inclined.

Bake at 180 degrees C until the top is set and golden - about 30 mins. It should look like this!

Dish up and enjoy! Hope you give it a try.

Monday, 11 February 2013


You know what day it is tomorrow - pancake day! Fat-n-sugar-n-grease day! Mmm.

Pancake batter was one of the first things I was taught to make as a child, and it's definitely one of the best things to make with kids - messy, easy and fun!

Here's a simple recipe for thin, crepe-style pancakes. I got 8 out of this quantity but a lot depends on the size of your pan and how thick you're making them.

What you need

300ml full fat milk
4oz flour 
1 large egg
a small chunk of butter (optional)

What to do

Weigh out your flour, then add the egg and beat with an electric mixer until combined. Then gradually add the milk, beating again after each addition. Then melt the butter in the microwave and add that too, before giving it a final whizz. You don't have to add the butter. It makes it significantly more unhealthy but also significantly more delicious (same rule with all fat really. Sigh.)

If you're an impatient soul then obviously you can just slop it all together at once, but the above method makes it less lumpy!

It'll make quite a thin batter, but that's fine as it's for thin pancakes...

Then fry them up! You need a non-stick pan really, or they'll be a nightmare. 

We stuffed ours with cheese and leek, but there's tons of ideas online for veggie fillings, here's a few:

Happy pancake day!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Delicious Veggie Food at Mildreds, Soho

So, this weekend me and my boyfriend decided to go and have a jolly in our fair capital. I'm usually not London's biggest fan - sensory overload from all the noise, people, traffic, smells and adverts, and a touch of misplaced Northern resentment (grumble grumble Huddersfield would have made a great Olympic venue grumble).
However, not only did we have a brilliant time pootling round the V&A and so on, we also ate one of the best veggie meals out I've ever had.

Mildreds is a long-standing, solely vegetarian restaurant in Soho, London - less than 10 minutes walk away from Piccadilly Circus. They don't take reservations (except for parties), so on a busy night you can end up waiting a while for a table. We were fool enough to go on a Saturday at 8.30 pm, which meant we were waiting for around an hour. There's a bar area where you can wait, getting progressively drunker and hungrier, but it's probably a better idea to go on a week night and avoid it!

Once you do get to the actual food stage, the amount of choice is amazing. I'm probably not the only veggie who has gotten so used to ordering the one vegetarian menu offering by default that it's now really difficult to choose when faced with actual options. There's plenty for vegans too, from mixed mushroom, porcini and ale pie to Sri Lankan sweet potato and cashew nut curry.

 I opted for a crispy polenta with cherry tomatoes and wilted spinach starter, followed by a delicious but none-too-healthy tomato and mozzarella risotto cake. I also went for a pudding, despite feeling like I was dying by that point (portions are pretty generous!) - a pineapple and chilli upside down cake with rum toffee sauce - which was absolutely delicious.

The bill came to around £65 for two of us - including the service charge, which is optional - for three courses and a couple of glasses of wine each. I thought that was pretty good value, especially for London prices!

Would definitely recommend to veggies, vegans and non-veggies alike - and hope some of you pay a visit next time you're in London!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup

Depending where in the country/world you are, you may have experienced some ridiculous levels of snow and ice recently. Team this with everyone still trying to get over the financial apocalypse of Christmas and it all starts to get a bit miserable. My proposed solution - soup!

This soup has so few ingredients that it ends up being really cheap which, in these frugal times, can only be a good thing! It's really warming and comforting, and incredibly easy to make. Apparently sweet potatoes are very good for you (something something beta carotene..?), and if you don't follow our pictured example and include a big wodge of bread and a cheese scone, this is overall quite a healthy meal. And it's vegan!

I based this on one of Annie Bell's recipes from her book Gorgeous Greens - which can be found here - not an exclusively veggie book but definitely enough meat-free offerings to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Serves 4, or 3 hungry people
What you need

olive oil (just a tbsp for frying)
3 medium-size sweet potatoes (cut into chunks)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
chilli flakes
a bay leaf
a few sprigs fresh rosemary (or dried will do if not!)
900ml vegan stock

What to do

Chop the onion, then fry in the olive oil over a medium heat until soft but not yet brown (7 minutes ish). Add the garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes, and cook for a further minute or two.

Add the sweet potato, bay leaf, rosemary and stock. I like to leave the rosemary in whole sprigs and then fish it out at the end, so that the flavour infuses but you're not chewing on the woody leaves.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potato is completely cooked through. Fish out the bay leaf and the rosemary sprigs. Then blend - either a liquidiser or a stick blender thing. Leave some chunks in if you prefer.