Saturday, 21 July 2012

Garden Minestrone Soup- vegan

Garden Minestrone Soup is heavy on veggies, low on pasta and oil

This soup is a tasty way to use your homegrown produce in a quick and healthy meal

Continuing (unintentionally) with the Italian theme, I thought I'd share with you this simple but nutritious soup recipe. We have been making minestrone a lot lately; it seems to be a quick and healthy way to get some vegetables into the kids before they head out after lunch on a Saturday. It was my husband who started making this, and it caught on fast in our house! We always put beans in for protein, so nutritionally it's a standalone dish, and vegan, but they often have it with cheese on toast for some extra energy. (I sometimes have it with crackers or rye bread and homemade seed or nut butter. It's also great with vegan Parmesan sprinkled on top.) We usually put everything into the pressure cooker and it only takes 5 minutes or so to cook, but today I used a regular pan just to see if it was just as simple; it took slightly longer, but it is still a really easy recipe. This was also the first time I'd done it with our homegrown organic veggies, so I kept it low on pasta and left out the hing and miso that I usually put in,  just to showcase the delicate flavours of the veg and fresh basil. The quantities given here yielded 4 or 5 servings. 

2 medium potatoes (250) diced small
200g (shelled weight) fresh broad beans
1 yellow bell pepper, finely sliced
1 stick celery, finely sliced
100g mangetout, trimmed
a large handful of eggless noodles/ wholemeal pasta, broken into small pieces
a 500g carton of passata (or the equivalent in fresh blended tomatoes- I'll definitely do this when ours are ripe...so much more delicious!)
1 tab olive oil
a small handful of fresh basil, torn into small pieces to release the aromatic oil, plus sprigs for the garnish
1 1/2 tsps seasalt
coarse-ground black pepper to taste
  • First wash and prepare the vegetables. Be sure to chop them small so that they are distributed evenly throughout the soup and they cook quickly. 
  • Sweat them with the oil in a lidded saucepan over a gentle heat until cooked soft but not mushy- don't rush this part; it's important for bringing the flavours out.
  • When the veggies are cooked, add the passata, the noodles/ pasta and 1 l of water.
  • Bring to a simmer and season with basil, salt and pepper.
  • When the noodles are soft, it's done. Do not overheat or the flavours will start to disappear.
  • Serve garnished with a small sprig of basil.

By the way, minestrone means "big soup" in Italian, and versions of this (without tomato and potato) date back to Roman times. Originally, before bread was introduced to Rome by the ancient Greeks, it would have contained spelt flour and must have been a lot like upma (a tasty Indian dish of cracked grains and vegetables) and less like soup. It was originally vegetarian, being a dish made by poorer people- fava beans (a type of broad bean) and chickpeas were common ingredients.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Organic Pasta L'Estate/Primavera- vegan


I've used mangetout and broad beans and fresh herbs from our allotment in my take on Pasta Primavera

This is my vegan take on the popular "Pasta Primavera"; I've long had an issue with that name being used in the UK, as in Spring ("Primavera") there is very little except asparagus, greens and maybe broccoli. It seems more accurate to call this dish "Summer" rather than "Spring " pasta, as it is only when you get to June, July and August over here that veggies like peas, courgettes (Zucchini), bell peppers etc. come into season. So "Pasta L'Estate" it truly is! I have seen a lot of pasta primavera recipes that call for tomatoes or carrots, but I like to keep it as green-looking as possible. You could experiment with different herbs, but I personally like the zinginess of fresh parsley and I would have used the basil fresh rather than dried if I could've got my hands on any. This dish is really simple to cook. I have kept the oil down to an absolute minimum, though you could add more in the final stage if you want. This is a quick, tasty and healthy dinner that both adults and kids will like. This recipe makes about 6 portions.
500g (dry weight) organic wholemeal penne
2 tabs olive oil (good quality extra-virgin has a great flavour)
1 tab yeast flakes (nutritional yeast)
1 tab vegan Parmesan (such as "Parmazano" brand)
1- 1/2 tabs sunflower seeds (pinenuts or chopped walnuts would be equally good)
650 g (raw weight) green seasonal vegetables, washed and prepared (I used green pepper strips, sweetcorn, peas, broad beans, mangetout and broccoli but you could add courgette ribbons at the last minute, runner beans or whatever you have that's fresh.)
1/2-1 tsp coarse black pepper
2 tsps seasalt
1 tab light soy sauce/ Liquid Aminos
1-2 tabs fresh flat-leaved parsley
2 tsps dried basil (or 1 tab fresh)
Green or black olives to garnish
  • Cook the pasta until al dente in plenty of fast-boiling water. Drain and set aside (but don't let it dry out).
  • Meanwhile, prepare the veggies and stir-fry them in the olive oil until cooked through. Personally, I like to leave a little "bite" to them, but it's up to you. Use a large pan like a wok, as you're going to add all the pasta in a minute.
  • Add the pasta to the veggies, mixing well.
  • Stir in the soy sauce, yeast flakes, vegan Parmesan, sunflower seeds, salt, pepper and herbs, heating gently through. (It's now that you will realise you overcooked that pasta if it breaks up as you stir the other ingredients in!)
  • Garnish with the olives.


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Gentle Barn: Karma's Reunion- this made me cry today...


Every so often you see something on the internet that changes the way you think and feel about stuff. Today was one of those days for me. I cried, despite the happy ending. Then I decided to get a lot better about being vegan, as this is what is happening to millions of cow mothers and babies the world over, just so we can drink milk. Unless they are kept in the Vedic way, in which no calves or adults are slaughtered and the babies get their mothers' milk, this is what happens to cows.
(By the way, the happy ending was quite miraculous- the Gentle Barn people were told that Karma's calf was on its way to be sold for slaughter, but then the truck broke down and they agreed to let Gentle Barn have him.)

Monday, 16 July 2012

Buckwheat, hemp and bean bake/ stuffing- vegan, nut free, gluten free and soya free

Buckwheat, hemp and bean bake also makes a great stuffing for vegetables such as peppers.



Buckwheat is such an amazing food; see here for some nutritional information. Sadly, it just got harder to get buckwheat flour here in the UK, as Dove's Farm seem to have discontinued their buckwheat flour, but you can still get the whole "grains" easily. (For now I've been grinding the grains into flour using my Magimix!) Hemp is also a wonder-food, so this dish is super- nutritious. I tried making croquettes/ falafels out of this, but sadly, whether grilled. shallow-fried or deep-fried, they kept falling to pieces :( So this nonetheless delicious mix is best pressed into a loaf tin/ mould and baked, or used to stuff veggies with. I'll be working on adapting it for the falafels; maybe a binder such as gram flour and water would do the trick- what do you think? The quantities of mix given here fed 6 people as a bake, served with potatoes and vegetables as the protein component of the meal. It's hard to say exactly how many portions, however, as I took out some for frying; so potentially it could feed maybe 8...? Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients; it's actually really simple to make.


2x 250ml cups (dry weight) buckwheat "grains"
50g cooked and drained red kidney beans
2x 250 ml cups shelled hemp seeds
1 tsp powdered ginger
a pinch of chilli powder
1 level tab ground cumin
2 level tabs ground coriander
2 tsps seasalt (or to your own taste)
3 level tabs nutritional yeast (Such as Engevita)

  • Cook the buckwheat in water until it is very soft- almost to the point of mushiness-  and all the water is absorbed. (I use a similar ratio of buckwheat to water as rice, and top it up if necessary.) 
  • Mash the beans in a large bowl, add the buckwheat and hemp and mix well.
  • Mix in all the other ingredients.
  • Use to stuff baked vegetables like aubergine (eggplant) or bell peppers (capsicums) or press into an oiled loaf tin/ dampened silicone mould and bake at around 200C for 20-30 minutes, or until the top has begun to brown.