Recipe: Chipotle Sweetcorn Fritters for Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch

I’m forever looking for quick recipes, made with mainly storecupboard ingredients, that can be made during my study day lunches. They need to be speedy (as otherwise I spend half my day procrastinating in the kitchen), reasonably light (to avoid inducing a full-bellied nap), ideally healthy, and (of course) nice and tasty!

These Sweetcorn Fritters fit the bill nicely.

Super quick to make, super tasty and satisfying to eat, and the toppings can be varied week to week so I never get bored. We generally have all of the ingredients to hand so it doesn’t require a trip to the shops (if you don’t have soured cream you could use creme fraiche or yoghurt, or even a small splash of milk), and it doesn’t make me feel like a post-lunch rest on the sofa. It also makes a great weekend breakfast!

Recipe (serves 1 generously)

  • 40g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tbsp soured cream
  • ½ tsp chipotle paste (or a pinch of dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 handful frozen sweetcorn, defrosted
  • 2 spring onions, finely diced
  • 1-2 tbsp oil, for frying

Mix together the flour and baking powder in a bowl, and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the egg and soured and mix to a smooth batter. Stir in the chipotle paste, sweetcorn and spring onions, and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan until hot, then add spoonfuls (2 tbsp seems to make good sizes fritters) of the mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side, until crisp and golden, and keep warm in the oven. Serve hot, with whatever accompaniments you fancy.

In these photos I served with some Chipotle Slaw (it was the day after we ate Fish Finger Tacos, so I stirred the leftover dressing into the leftover slaw) and some Pink Pickled Onions, but these are also good served with any combination of feta, bacon, avocado and poached egg. We’ve also eaten something similar in the past with sausages.

What is your go-to lunch dish?

Food: Eating Meat More Ethically

Before I start, I should make it clear that this isn’t going to be a debate about whether you *can* eat meat completely ethically. Eating meat or not is a personal choice for each and every one of us to make, and one thing I don’t care for is pressure to do one thing or the other. What I do care for, however, is making sure what ever I eat makes me feel good both in terms of health, yumminess and ethically.

If you are completely against eating meat, this post probably isn’t for you. I eat meat. I find my body and mind becomes unhappy without it, and so I eat it. I also grew up with grandparents running a smallholding, so I’m comfortable with the idea of meat production and have been around that kind of thing from a fairly young age. If you’re not particularly comfortable with that idea, I’d suggest stopping reading now.

Buy Higher Quality Meat

Our goal over the next year or so is to transition to only buying meat from our butches, who assure us their producing farms rear happy and healthy animals. It means a lot to me that the meat I eat has been raised well, has seen sunshine, ran around in fields. The issue with this approach is, of course, the price. It is expensive.

For some meats, the quality of butcher-bought items far outshines it’s supermarket equivalent. In particular I find pork and steak to be infinitely better sourced from our butcher. Chicken breasts and mince I’m more on the fence about, though there is still a difference. I don’t dare try a whole roast chicken from the butcher as of yet, as I know it will bring on childhood memories and there’ll be no going back.

By buying higher quality meat, not only do I feel better about the life that animal was able to have, I’m also able to support smaller, local business and farms. Any time my money has gone to ‘Bob the Butcher round the corner’ rather than Tescos is good for me!

Become a ‘Flexitarian’ or Part-Time Vegetarian

Whether you see this as a ‘failed vegetarian’ or not, this is something I personally have seen become a lot more common recently. I have a friend who eats and cooks only vegetarian dishes at home, but will eat meat whilst eating out. I myself try to eat vegetarian breakfast and lunches at least 6 days a week, and a vegetarian dinner a couple of times a week (I’d love to up the dinners, but W isn’t quite on board!).

Some of my favourite veggie meals are Courgette, Pea & Feta Pasta, Risotto (I love Beetroot risotto, though Mushroom will always be my favourite! Make sure you used veggie friendly cheese though…), Chickpea Curry and Falafel.

Bulk out Meat-based Meals

This is kind of similar to eating less meat, but handy if you’ve got a member of your household who isn’t too fond of eating full-on veggie meals! In essence, you’re making the same meals as before, but using less meat – say around half. You can then bulk it out with veggies and pulses, so you’re still eating a ‘meat’ meal but with less impact to the environmental and your purse.

I usually add lentils to bolognese to reduce the mince needed, and a decent chilli-con-carne just begs out for lots of beans (kidney, black and borlotti are my go-tos). Chickpeas add a great texture to curries, whilst adding an egg to a fish pie is a great way to up the protein.

Eat Local/In Season

This is important whether you’re vegetarian or whether you eat meat. There’s very little point in proudly proclaiming you’re helping the environment by not eating meat when you’re eating carrots from Spain, sugarsnap peas from the US, brocoli from Jordan, avocados from South America, if you’re eating Strawberries in the winter.

Eating seasonally is SO important. Eat what’s good at that moment will mean not only does it taste better, it’s also travelled less, and will likely be cheaper too. There’s something about a perfectly fresh British strawberry that is a million times better than one that has flown several hundred miles to get to your bowl of sugar and cream!

Choose Sustainable Meat & Fish

This is particularly important for fish – there’s so much overfishing going on, when it’s not at all necessary. Instead of cod, try pollack or coley. Oily fish like salmon can be replaced with mackerel. You’ll find these options are often so much cheaper – we can buy two mackerel fillets for less than £2 which is a great thrifty meal that’s packed full of proteins and good fats.

Use All of the Meat

Food wastage is my ultimate pet peeve. I hate it. I hate the thought of shops and restaurants throwing out perfectly good food (I’m the first to ask for a doggy bag when I can’t finish my meal!), it annoys me beyond words when we have to throw out food at home. We’ve taken to trying to use every single bit of meat we buy, getting the most value out of the money we spent.

The easiest example is a whole chicken. There’s not many Sundays that go by without us enjoying a Roast Dinner, and chicken is our go-to because, lets face it, it’s the cheapest. We’ll usually get a large chicken, which will serve us generous for our roast, and will also do at least two other evening meals (and usually either a couple of lunches or a meal for one). Not only this, but we’ll also use the carcass for making stock – and it’s not as difficult or as time consuming as you’d think. Sure, a three hour simmer makes the best stock, but I frequently only give it half an hour or so. And to make it even more thrifty? Don’t cut up fresh veggies to use making stock! We throw all the odds and ends (onion tops, celery hearts, carrot peels, even onion skins) into a bag in the freezer, then use this to make stock. One large bag of veg offcuts, one chicken carcass and around 3 litres of water, simmered for up to four hours on the lowest heat possible, will give the nicest chicken stock you’ve tasted – and all out of ingredients that would have otherwise been thrown away.

Basically, one chicken will do us a roast dinner, 2-3 evening meals and stock for 3 further meals. More ideas for using up leftover roast chicken will be coming up in a post soon, but read this for an initial guide…and know that my current favourite involves frying shredded chicken with chipotle paste and piling into tacos with an avocado and sweetcorn salsa. Delicious!

Are you a meat-eater, vegetarian or do you try to combine the best of both?

Recipe: Sweet Potato Soup

I love a good soup. Warming, packed full of veggies, filling and so versatile. You can be ‘naughty’ and serve with a grilled cheese sandwich (try French Onion soup served with a Cheese Toastie – it’s a total game changer!). You can serve with some artisan sourdough for a smart lunch. You can eat it alone and feel very virtuous. It can be a starter, or a main meal in it’s own right. It can be drunk as a lunch at your computer, rushed between meetings. It can be enjoyed in bed on a sick day, or cosied up on the sofa on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Over colder months I eat a lot of soups – it’ a sure-fire way to warm me up midday, whilst remaining low calorie and (usually) low-carb. Whilst I don’t “diet” as such, I do try to make sure my lunches are lowish in calorie whilst still being filling. I’d just prefer to save my calories for a more exiting dinner! This soup fits the bill perfectly.

Absolutely crammed full of vitamins, it’s so, so tasty. The bold flavours trick you into feeling like you’re eating something more substantial (there’s nothing worse than a bland soup for making you feel unsatisfied and reaching for the biscuit tin!), whilst the sweet potato really does fill you up. You can even add red lentils to bulk it up even further. The red pepper and sweet potato is the perfect combination, livened up with a few key spices. Garnish with some extra chilli and you’ve got a perfect warming bowl of goodness.

Recipe (makes 4 lunch portions)

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 red peppers, with as much skin peeled away as possible and the flesh roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 500ml vegetable stock

Heat a teeny tiny bit of oil in a pan, and fry the onion and celery gently for  5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and continue to fry for another couple of minutes. Increase the heat, add the pepper, sweet potato and stock then simmer for 20 or so minutes, or until the sweet potato is tender. Blitz the soup with a handblender (allow to cool slightly if your blender, like mine, has a tendency to splash liquid everywhere), and serve.

You could be fancy and add a swirl of yoghurt, perhaps some coriander, but it’s pretty good just as it is!

Are you a fan of soup? What’s your favourite recipe?

Recipe: Creamy & Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce

This sauce has been a revelation for me. I bookmarked the Pinch of Yum recipe YEARS ago, but finally gotten around to trying it  few months back. I was feeling slightly worse for wear on the run up to exams, wanted something comforting for lunch, something filling but that wouldn’t have me in need of a lie down after eating. This fitted the bill perfectly.

If you didn’t know it had cauliflower in it, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just an ‘ordinary’ cheesy white sauce. There is perhaps a hint of nutty roasted-cauli taste, but so little that I’ve managed to feed this to cauliflower haters with no problems whatsoever. It’s reasonably low in calories (compared to my usual recipe!) yet tastes so indulgent and rich. It freezes far better than a traditional white sauce, making it perfect for study day lunches. Tossed with a good pasta, stirred into rice or even thinned down into a soup (I like to use chicken stock to do so) it’s become a firm favourite.

I’ve even used it to make what turned out to be a pretty awesome cauliflower cheese – add to roasted cauliflower, top with extra cheese then grill until golden. Perfection without all the calories!

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Recipe (makes around 6 portions)

  • 6 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 cauliflowers, split into medium-size florets
  • 75g grated parmesan (or other cheese of your choice), finely grated
  • 1/2 cup milk (more to taste)

Toss the cauliflower with the oil, season with salt and pepper, then roast at 200C for around 20 minutes, or until very lightly charred and fork-tender. Meanwhile slowly cook the garlic in butter over a slow eat until soft – don’t let it brown or it will taste bitter. You could also add some fresh herbs to the pan – rosemary is particularly good!

Pop the cauliflower, parmesan, garlic and buttery juices (discard any herbs) into a blender and whizz until smooth, gradually adding the milk until you have your desired consistency. Chill until ready to use. I find this sauce keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, or in the freezer for a good long while.

Enjoy stirred into tasty for a comforting meal without the guilt! Next time I make this I’m planning to try it as a base for a white pizza…

What’s your current favourite recipe?

Food: When I Was A Vegetarian For A Week

I always swear I could never be a vegetarian. Whilst I don’t eat a huge amount of meat, I do enjoy it. I love a good steak, belly pork is one of my favourites, and bacon is something I’m not quite sure I could live without. I rarely eat meat throughout the day, unless I’m taking leftovers for lunch. Usually at least one dinner a week is veggie, more if W is working late (as then it’s mushroom night). We’ve recently cut down our weekly fortnightly fry-ups to a maximum of once a month.

 photo Veggie Week_zpstswcjvsb.jpgBut I’ve always been curious about how I could get on without meat. I’m a huge animal lover, and I’ve never felt completely comfortable with the meat industry. I try as much as possible to eat free-range meat and if we had a more convenient butcher I’d definitely make more use of them. I will try and use every last scrap of meat I can, including making stock when I get the time. I never buy anything but free-range eggs, and I’d dearly love to give up milk (unfortunately more dairy-free milks don’t agree with me, and I have to buy lactofree so am pretty limited). I also love veggies.

A fresh crunchy salad? Vibrant colourful stir-fry? A comforting and nourishing bowl of lentil stew? These are all some of my favourite meals. With that in mind, and spurred on my an inspiring Instagram feed for National Vegetarian Week, I cut out meat from our diet and fridge for a week. I’ll admit, W cheated. He’s part of a lunch group and some of the guys contributed meat dishes that week. He also went to the pub for a massive Gammon & Eggs. However I stuck to it and, bar one slip-up, didn’t consume a single meat product for a week.

 photo IMG_20170412_133323_278_zpscnepqvam.jpg photo IMG_20170308_213720_196_zpshbwlvzbl.jpg photo IMG_20170223_083803_732_zpswvhkigyi.jpg photo Veggie Squash Stew 6_zpssdhmljya.jpgBreakfasts were as normal. A mix of granola and yoghurt, ricecakes and p-butter, and overnight oats. Snacks were homemade energy balls, though I did find I had a stronger 4pm slump than I normally would. Lunches were again pretty standard. Generally I either take leftovers into work, or make some kind of chunky substantial salad. I also have a lunch allowance in our work canteen, so then to supplement my lunch there with fruit, more salad or a jacket potato. That week I mainly ate a salad of couscous, harissa-roasted butternut squash, feta and spicy crunchy chickpeas.

Dinners were where we had to get inventive. With both of us being pretty busy, recipes need to involve minimal fuss, not too much chopping and as little washing up as possible. We had an absolutely delicious chickea pea curry, served with roasted cauliflower in a tandoori spice blend. I enjoyed a butternut squash risotto. W cooked us a ‘treat’ meal on the Friday of mac-n-cheese, filled with roasted cauliflower and broccoli (pretty much this recipe, sans bacon, with nutmeg in the sauce and blanched broc).

 photo IMG_20170521_094513_zpstngq4oaf.pngMy favourite meal, though, was an Asian-inspired salad. Radishes, onions, Chinese lettuce and carrots all tossed together in a limey-soy-peanut dressing. So light and tasty, though we did end up eating the whole bowl (supposedly serving 4) as we neither of us found it hugely filling. This is where I slipped up, accidentally adding a drop of fish sauce. Oops! Recipe to come…

 photo IMG_20170306_134659_495_zpslmqbuz5a.jpg photo IMG_20170322_121827_316_zpsv1h8qinf.jpgI actually picked quite an easy week to eat veggie. I didn’t eat out, I didn’t have to cope with the canteen’s main meals. I’m not so sure I could sensibly eat out combined both my allergies and being a vegetarian (off the top of my head I’m thinking of only 3 options, two of which are pizza based…). But I did enjoy it. Whilst I won’t be turned a full-time veggie any time soon, we’ve both agreed to start eating more veggie meals throughout the week.

My Favourite Vegetarian Recipes

3-Bean Chilli, Beetroot Risotto, Blue Cheese & Pear Salad, Mushroom Risotto,Oven-Baked Falafel, Spring Vegetable Carbonara (sans bacon/ham). I’m also working on a cauliflower salad recipe, and I’m itching to share my pomegranate quinoa soon.

The next step though? Find a good value seasonal veg box…

What’s your favourite meat-free recipe?

Recipe: Beetroot Risotto

This isn’t the most attractive of dishes, I fully own up to that. It’s quite possibly the pink-est thing I have ever cooked, have ever eaten. W (quite rightly, though I wasn’t impressed at the time) claimed it looked at bit like brains.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 2_zpstpdq0qtl.jpgI spoke about my love for beetroot a few weeks ago (when I published my Beetroot, Black Pudding & Goat’s Cheese Salad recipe), but here we go again. For years I shied away from it, and when I did try it I thought it tasted of soil. Not particularly offensive, but not particularly pleasant either. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve actively enjoyed eating it, something I have our engagement meal to thank for. Now not only do I love it in it’s own right, it’s also absolutely essential for me in my No-mato sauces.

Now, I get that to the non-beetroot lover it’s not a great vegetable. It can be bitter yet sweet, and of course it’s quite an earthy taste to become acquired too. This is a recipe I would highly recommend to someone not to sure about it. Sure, the colour is off-putting, but the flavour is muted by the mascapone, the texture is that of a classic risotto – very creamy. It’s also pretty cheap to make, so it’s been a favourite of mine over winter!

Ingredients

  • 2 beets from a vac-pack (freeze the remaining ones – or chop and roast for scattering on the top)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 150g risotto rice
  • Small glass of white wine, optional
  • Around 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • Handful grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp mascapone – or a soft goat’s cheese is excellent (and my favourite!)

Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic, then fry in the olive oil or 5-7 minutes over a low heat. Turn the heat up, stir in the rice until well coated. Pour over the white wine, then allow to evaporate whilst stirring. Add the stock gradually, a ladleful at a stir, stirring often. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked (but still with a little bite). If you run out of stock, just use a little water.

Whizz the beetroot in a food processor to make a purée. Stir most of the Parmesan, the beetroot purée and the mascapone through the risotto. Season well, then leave to rest for 5 or so minutes. Served scatter with the remaining Parmesan. If you’ve roasted some beetroot, add it to the top or (as I did here) fry some cubes of black pudding to scatter over.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 4_zpsmsvmsk4s.jpgThe perfect dish to begin falling in love with beetroot!

Are you a beetroot fan? What’s your favourite type of risotto?

Recipe: Butternut Squash & Goat’s Cheese Risotto

I love risotto. The carbines of the rice, the creaminess of the whole dish, the cheesiness. The fact you can eat with a fork, bowl in hand, snuggled on the sofa. A bowl of risotto is my ultimate comfort food and my go-to meal if I’ve had a bad day.

And it so happens that the one bad thing about living with W is that I can’t indulge my passion for mushroom risotto. I’ve loved all things mushroom since my early teens and despite trying, nothing will convince my fiance to eat them. Rather than give up my risotto love-affair, we’ve come to the agreement that I can try numerous other recipes on him. This is the second and was the one I was most nervous about – the last time I tried butternut squash (four years ago) I hated it. I’ve pretty much avoided it, apart from in spicier soups, ever since. Now it’s my new obsession.

This butternut squash risotto is slightly different from my usual recipes in that some of the squash is blended down, which adds an extra creaminess and cuts down the need (though not my desire!) for excessive cheese. The goat’s cheese stirred through adds a savoury tang which in my opinion is completely necessary against the sweetness of the squash. The celery adds a bit of bite. The roasted squash adds texture and a different layer of flavour. And of course, it’s scattered with parmesan for that salty kick.

This meal was only made better than I timed it to perfection. It was just ready for dolloping into bowls when W walked through the flat doors AND Bake Off was just starting. Doesn’t get much better than that! It does take a little bit longer than my standard risottos, just under an hour, but that’s because of the faff that comes with prepping a squash. It’s completely worth it and standing there stirring (with wine) counts as therapy, right?!

 photo Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Risotto 2_zpsrqaoviiv.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • 750ml stock (we usually use chicken as I have a minor reaction to most vegetable stock cudes)
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 dried bay leaf
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 2 tsp soft goat’s cheese
  • parmesan to serve

Peel the squash and separate the rounded send from the slender top. Chop the slender end into 2cm cubes, toss in a little oil, season lightly and roast in the oven with two cloves of garlic (peeled and halved) at 200C, stirring occasionally, until golden brown on the outside and soft in the centre. I found this took around the same length as the risotto did to cook. Cut the fatter end in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Again, chop the flesh into 2cm pieces and pop into a small pan with the stock and bay leaves. Poach on a gentle heat whilst the risotto cooks.

Finely chop the onion and celery, then fry gently in the butter until soft. Add the garlic and risotto rice and increase the heat slightly – stir constantly for around two minutes before adding a ladle of stock from the pan (try not to add any of the squash). Keep stirring until the stock is absorbed, add another ladle and repeat until the rice is almost cooked; around twenty minutes.

Discard the bay leaves and transfer the poached squash into a blender. Process until smooth, then add to the risotto along with the goats cheese. Stir to combine, season with plenty of black epper, cover and leave to rest for 4-5 minutes. Divide into bowls, scatter with the roasted squash pieces and finish with a lot of little parmesan.

 photo Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Risotto 3_zpsi7fal0li.jpgThis was the perfect warming dinner for a cold Autumnal night – which really took us by surprise here in London in early October! All of a sudden the balmy summer evenings were gone, I needed a scarf to walk home in, and I just made it to the flat in the light. I do love Autumn, but I also miss the lighter evenings. Still, not too long to Christmas now… #24sleepstilSanta! We also found this recipe great for using up a super-cheap pumpkin following halloween. At 30p I couldn’t resist!

What’s your ultimate cosy-night-in comfort food? Also, how on earth do I get someone to eat mushrooms?!

Recipe: Courgette Risotto

Perhaps a bit late in the year, this post, as the courgette glut tends to happen in late summer, but so damn delicious I couldn’t help share. I can’t believe how behind I am at posting recipes; it seems like I make something, photograph it and then it’s months before it makes it’s debut on the blog. Whoops! I’ll definitely have to try and be prepared for the Christmas themed recipes I have planned…

 photo Courgette Risotto_zps6n6dzibs.pngThis Courgette Risotto, admittedly not the easiest thing to photograph, was born out of desperation for risotto. I’ve talked about my favourite-ever-meal before, mushroom risotto, and how it’s my go-to meal when I’m stressed, ill, tired, need cheering up or just fancy treating myself. I love it. And W hates mushrooms. I’ve tried converting him. I’ve tried sneaking them into things. It’s not worked; he hates the taste, despises the texture and I’ve not made mushroom risotto since moving out of uni in June. I was craving it so much in my first week of work I spent an hour researching different risotto recipes and proposed this one. Admittedly it was quite a bit of work for an after-dinner meal, and on one of the hottest days of the year I was certainly sweating over the hot stove, but it was delicious.

I was worried it was going to be a bit bland, but actually the gentler, subtle flavours really worked well together to create a rather tasty dinner. The mix of textures was spot-on, the seasoning just right and I felt it was quite possibly the perfect risotto consistency. Calorific, yes, but well worth it. Oh, and it can easily be made veggie by using veggie stock and checking the label on your cheeses.

 photo Courgette Risotto 1_zpswfg13ri5.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 50g butter, split in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, again split in half
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 150g arborio rice
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • Handful fresh basil
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons mascapone

First, prep the veg. Finely dice the onion and celery, finely chop the garlic. Coarsely grate 1 whole courgette, and around half of the other. Chop the remaining courgette into 1cm chunks. Melt half the butter in a pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil, then sweat the onion and celery until softened. Make up the chicken stock and add the basil – this infuses it and adds a delicate herby taste.

Turn the heat up and add the garlic, grated courgette and rice. Fry, stirring constantly, for one minute then add the lemon juice (and a splash of white wine if there’s a bottle open). Stir until the liquid is absorbed, then add a ladleful of stock. Again, stir until absorbed (or at least every minute or so), adding ladlefuls gradually, until the rice is soft and creamy. I found it took around 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir through the Parmesan and macapone along with plenty of black pepper. Cover with a lid, off the heat, for around five minutes.

Whilst you wait, heat the remaining oil/butter over a high heat and add the diced courgette. Fry until slightly softened and golden. Vigorously beat the risotto and divide into warm bowls, and scatter over the fried courgette. Drizzle over some buttery pan juices, then enjoy with a crisp green salad (watercress and rocket works particularly well).

 photo Courgette Risotto 2_zpslzqwzso4.jpgWe both really enjoyed this risotto, the light flavours worked perfectly and it really showcased how delicious courgette can be. I know I love this vegetable, but a lot of people (other than trendy courgetti) don’t really know how to use it. I’ll definitely be making this again – and I’m a lot more open to experimenting with other risotto flavours now. I’m thinking a rather Autumnal butternut squash and sage version next…

Are you a fan of risotto?

Recipe: Vegetarian Stew & Dumplings for Really Hungry Students

One of my favourite meals is a stew, casserole or hearty chunky soup. They are easy to cook, freeze really well, and are comforting and relatively healthy. They don’t have to take forever to cook up to – yes, a good beef stew takes a day in a slow cooker, but I can generally whip up a sausage casserole, chorizo soup or vegetarian stew in under an hour after work. A chop of veg, a shake of various seasonings, a splash of whatever I can find, quick stir and then it’s ready to simmer whilst I get on with whatever else I have to do. It sits virtually unattended, filling the kitchen with delicious smells, and is ready to go with just a bit of veg, some bread, or perhaps some mash if I’m feeling up to a little more prep.

 photo 8eb920f9-190a-4501-bd12-c499cd158fae_zps0da92cb2.jpgWhen I was offered a copy of The Really Hungry Vegetarian Student Cookbook to review, I was initially a little dubious. I’m far from a vegetarian. I don’t actually eat a lot of meat, but I do tend to throw a little bit in most meals to add flavour. A bit of chorizo in a stew makes it (to me) seem far more special. Some bacon sprinkled in a Mac’n’Cheese just finishes it off. I also like to use meaty stock in any ‘veggie’ dishes I do make as I think it just works a little better. But anyway, I challenged myself to cook a recipe strictly from this book. Or as much as I could, as vegetarians do like their tomatoes! I went for this veggie stew, as I had everything in my kitchen already. Bar veggies sausages, which I just omitted.

 photo baa46a0e-84ce-44de-bfbe-8221bf830138_zps71e5ed45.jpgThis stew is actually pretty amazing. Filling, super hearty, super healthy, and the gravy is pretty damn good considering there’s no meat involved. But it wouldn’t be cheap to make. As a student I wouldn’t tend to cook with wine, and I also only have balsamic vinegar in because I’m on placement year and thus earning a good wage. I found this a regular problem with this book, recipes seemed to require a few expensive additions, or some complicated cooking (too much deep frying, the idea terrifies me!). Having said that, it has some lovely breakfast ideas, some great sandwich combinations, and I’m working towards adapting their baked beans recipe to be tomato-free.

 photo db90df76-cb13-491f-9b3d-e188189e3c92_zps9a4b77d6.jpgI’m not going to repeat the recipe on here (for fear of copyright legalities!) but I will hint towards it. It’s super easy, frying off onions, adding seasoning and wine, boiling off the alcohol, adding other veg, stock and simmering away in the oven. Dumplings are made from butter (not suet, as is my usual) and flour, with plenty of herbs. Add salt and pepper too, which the book omitted. Then plop into the stew and bake until golden. The dumplings needed longer cooking in my opinion, but the ratio of double the flour to butter was spot on. It made a heart meal, that needed nothing else apart from some green veg. I felt super virtuous eating it, and knowing I had five portions of the stew ready for quick dinners and microwaved lunches in the coming weeks.

 photo 255218db-f225-47a7-8b8a-16b8a33170aa_zps7b5db913.jpgIf you’re a vegetarian bored of your meals, or simply want to get more veg into your diet, then I highly recommend this cookbook. If you’re looking for a budget option, it’s probably not for you. But its a cookbook I will continue to refer to you for a good few years. Despite having far too many of the things…

Do you eat vegetarian food? What’s your favourite veggie recipe?

Recipe: Supergreen Soup

Autumn is the perfect weather for soups. Its not so cold that I’m craving spicy chillis, toad in the hole or stew and dumplings, but its cold enough to want warm and comforting. I try to avoid too much heavy food pre-December (I have a gorgeous 21st dress to squeeze into!) so soups are perfect. They’re also great for two things;

  • Getting loads of veg into my diet.
  • Using up odds and ends in my fridge that my meal plan means would otherwise go to waste.

 photo 2014-10-25141934_zps3226af23.jpgThis soup is super-easy, super-green and super-healthy. It’s also pretty much ready in thirty minutes – although you will have to be careful if you blend it with a hand blender straight away, as if the liquid is too hot it will burn. I found this out the hard way! My amounts also made six really generous servings. I’ve eaten this as it is for lunch, topped with bacon and served with cheese-on-toast for dinner, and have also added blue cheese to add a little naughtiness. Any leftover creme fraiche or cream mixed in doesn’t go amiss. And it freeze super well too, reheating from frozen in the microwave. Strong in flavour but not overwhelmingly green (my biggest tip is to avoid overcooking the broccoli!), this is a soup which has firmly pushed itself into my rotation. I highly suggest you try it!

 photo 45e91254-37e2-43b4-ab13-16d9451a0750_zpsfe0fd83f.jpgIngredients

  • 1 whole head of brocoli. Florets in big chunks, all of the stalk into finer chunks
  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 a bag of kale
  • 1 pint of veg stock
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, a few herbs if you have any (I added a teeny bit of thyme)

 photo d6e8e6e2-19b0-41be-8c85-78fd4aaaac9a_zpse66987b3.jpg photo 2014-10-25134734_zpsa75c8c31.jpgStart by frying the onion and celery in a little oil. You don’t need to soften it too much, just a little. You can do this whilst you prep the brocoli. Add the broccoli and the kale, top with the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Don’t boil vigorous or you’ll have a horrible veg smell filling the kitchen.

 photo 2014-10-25141106_zps30ffab7d.jpgLeave to cool for as long as you possibly can, then blender to a smooth consistency. Reheat and season to taste. Portion out, freeze, or eat. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days too, especially if you don’t add cream.

 photo 2014-10-25141934_zps3226af23.jpgServe with some good bread. And any other toppings that take your fancy. I highly recommend a crumble of blue cheese!
Now a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories! Now, if you vote for me I’ll post out cake… 😉

What’s your favourite soup?