Tag Archive | vegetables

Cider apple stew for elves


Stew 10

Apologies for the slightly hurried, out of focus picture. I was hungry.


Ah, so we meet again. I feel like just a moment ago I was preparing a post about freezing gluts of late summer vegetables (which I will post later) and then I fell into a hole in the space-time continuum. Somehow, it’s now January and I’m not sure what happened. Well, that’s not entirely true. A large amount of pretending to be an elf happened if I’m being honest with you. It’s been a busy few months at work, I’ve been quite ill and not a happy bunny so writing time has been re-designated to lying-on-the-sofa-complaining-and-playing-Skyrim time. Cooking has fallen by the wayside. That said, I have had a few revelations:

  • Slow cookers are amazing
  • Stew is amazing
  • Simple, medieval type foods are really good for a poorly tummy
  • Tesco now sells Lactose free Stilton
  • I can get 8-10 meals out of one roast chicken
  • Sometimes I just really need to be an elf for a while

It’s a shame I’ve not had the wherewithal to write here for a few months though as Autumn is my favourite time of year and I have a lot of seasonal recipes I love to make. As soon as September rolls around each year I start getting wistful and excited, roaming the hedgerows and farm shops muttering about “mists and mellow fruitfulness”, and I’m not sure which I celebrate more, Halloween or Christmas.

Still, never mind, on with January and its leftover Christmas cake, half-bottle of sherry and well-intentioned bag of spinach. I don’t diet in January (or indeed, ever). I don’t believe anything good can come of it and I generally have so much food left over from Christmas it takes me an extra month to eat it all. Sooner or later I do end up drifting towards healthy eating though. My internal conversation in January generally runs something like this:

Taste buds: “Oh wow, I love eating Christmas food. Why don’t I eat like this all the time? Why do I only get to have these flavours once a year?”

Brain: “Because we’d literally turn into a salami if you did. It’d be like that episode of Invader Zim where they turn into human baloney.”

Taste buds: “But what if we did it in moderation? You know, just introduce a slightly higher salami-based portion of my daily intake”

Brain: “Hmm… and spinach?”

Taste buds: “Yes, and spinach, we’ll do that. Everyone knows spinach offsets salami. It renders it neutral or something. Let’s go and buy us another salami now then.”

Brain: “Ok, yes, I think we could make this work…”

Stomach: “STOP IT! STOP IT NOW!”

Brain: “Well, I suppose warrior-elves do eat healthily…”

The main thing this warrior-elf has been eating for the last few months has been stew. Lots of it. I have gone from hating stew to pretty much been eating it 5 days a week. It’s easy to make, easy on my tummy, tastes delicious and feels satisfyingly medieval and hearty. It feels like the sort of thing a tired hero might sit down to eat by the fireplace at the inn after a busy day of adventuring and dragon-slaying. And it looks like a witch’s brew so it’s a win all round.

This change in my opinion of stew has been down to one magical recipe which I adapted from a casserole I used to make. I think what makes it nice is the addition of lots of herbs and flavours that don’t become too bland after hours of cooking.

Recipe Notes

  • This recipe can be adapted to use pretty much any veg but think about the sort of flavours that work together. Root veg like turnips or parsnips might work well but you won’t want something like tomatoes for example.
  • I prefer to make this recipe in a large cauldron over an open fire, while wearing my black pointy hat, cackling evilly and stroking the cat but when I can’t, I use my slow cooker. You can make it in a heatproof dish in the oven but what I like about the slow cooker is the consistency of times and temperature it gives and the fact that you can just switch it on and forget about it. You can even leave the house with it on which you can’t do with a dish in the oven. I like the fact that it allows me to cook dinner in the morning when I’m feeling relatively perky and not have to worry about it later when I’m tired. I also like that I can cook enough in it to feed me for a week.
  • The dumplings included in this recipe are ones adapted from the BBC’s Good Food website (you can find the original here). I make them for myself with Lactofree butter and cheese and am yet to fine a satisfactory way of vegnising them successfully for my vegan friends. I think this may be a case of simply using alternative vegan dumplings rather than modifying this recipe further.
  • You can use pork loin steaks in this recipe instead of Quorn steaks but personally I prefer Quorn these days as they soak up the flavour from the sauce really well. If you do use pork steaks you will need to brown them lightly in a frying pan first before adding them to the rest.
  • If you can, use fresh herbs. Sage, thyme and rosemary all work really well for this one. I grow a lot of herbs in my garden but you can buy them in the supermarket easily enough. Of course, dried ones work just fine but fresh really give the best flavour. I tend to use a bit of both.


If you’re not a fan of apples or cider, a nice variant on this recipe, which we make just as often, is to swap the cider for a bottle of white wine and to omit the apples. Bottles of wine tend to be bigger than bottles of cider so the extra liquid there makes up for what you will lose by getting rid of the apples, although you may want to add a bit more veg to bulk it up.

Ingredients (to make 5 very hearty portions)


  • One bottle of cider
  • Two Bramley (cooking) apples
  • 2 large carrots
  • Half a swede
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • One courgette
  • 180g pearl barley
  • 10 Quorn fillets
  • Water (approx. 1ltr)
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • Fresh sage (chopped)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tablespoons of plain flour (gf)
  • Eye of newt (optional)


  • 200g Gluten free self-raising flour
  • 1tsp Xanthan gum
  • 100g Butter
  • 2tbs water
  • 100g Cheese (grated)
  • 2tsp Fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 1tbs Fresh rosemary (chopped)

Slow Cooker Method

1 . Peel and chop the veg into bite-sized chunks. Do not peel the apples, just core and chop them. Add to the pot. Chop the herbs finely and add them too. (Pro tip: the best way of doing this quickly is to put them in a mug and use a pair of scissors to repeatedly chop them.

Stew 1.jpg

2 . Add the pearl barley, Quorn and seasoning.

3 . Sprinkle the flour in and give it a good stir.

Stew 2.jpg

4 . Pour in the cider.

Stew 3.jpg

5 . Mix the stock cubes in with a little boiling water (about 100ml should do it) until dissolved and add to the pot.

6 . Add more boiling water, just enough cover the veg.

7 . Turn the slow cooker onto the time and setting recommended by the instructions (mine is “medium” for roughly 6 hours)

8 . Check halfway though just to make sure that the pearl barley hasn’t all stuck to the bottom. The liquid may need slightly topping up with more water or cider at this stage too – it should always just be covering the veg.

9 . Make the dumplings – Rub the flour and butter together with your fingers until it forms “breadcrumbs”. Grate the cheese and chop the herbs finely. Add these to the mixture and sprinkle it with 2tbs water. Kneed it into a ball. (Alternatively, do what I do and just chuck it all into the food processor together – much easier)

10 . Divide into 12 balls and place on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.

Stew 5

11 . Bake at 200C/gas 6 for 10-15 minutes or until they just start to turn golden-brown.

Stew 6

12 . Plop the dumplings onto the top of the stew to finish cooking a couple of hours before the end.

Stew 9

Oven Method

This method is the traditional one but it is much more an art than a science. I made it this way for years and each time the cooking times seemed to be completely different. It always worked out in the end but it was immensely frustrating and this is why I now use a slow cooker. My advice is to allow about 2-3 hours for a large stew. Check it regularly and be prepared to top up the liquid or turn down the heat if necessary. The dumplings should not be pre-cooked, as in the slow-cooker method, and they will need to be added about half an hour before the stew is finished so it is down to your judgement to know when that will be.

1 . Heat up a little cooking oil in a large, ovenproof casserole dish. Fry the veg in the oil on the hob for a few minutes until the pan is nice and hot and the veg has softened a little.

2 . Coat the veg in the flour, then add the wine and barley. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the wine has reduced and thickened a little.

3 . Add the rest of the ingredients, as per the previous method.

4 . Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.

5 . Cook for roughly an hour at 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Check regularly. When it’s ready the veg will be tender and the liquid thick.

6 . Remove the lid and add the dumplings (uncooked) to the top of the stew.

7 . Cook for a further 20-30minutes until the dumplings are golden.


Stew 11

Another rushed, out of focus picture, this time with the camera flash on. I’m not sure if this makes it better or worse. I can confirm that it tastes the same however you take the picture.




Simple Courgette Pasta for Dinosaurs

dinosaur courgette

This is the giga-courgette. The latest in a series of giant courgettes to have grown apparently overnight in my garden. The picture includes an actual, genuine, totally-real-life dinosaur for size reference. (I found him grazing on my herbaceous border last week) I would call it a marrow except it’s not quite there yet. I have been very impressed with this year’s variety of plant that seems to let courgettes grow to mammoth size before they develop the texture and seeds of marrows. I would buy it again next year except I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called.

Excellent though all this is, it does leave me with a bit of a surplus. Which is ironic given that the inhabitants of this city are still reeling from “that month when Sainsburys didn’t have courgettes.” How we all survived that apocalyptic event I can’t fathom…

I’m pleased to say (not a little smugly) that my home-grown courgettes do taste nicer than the supermarket one, especially this yellow variety which is much sweeter. This means that I really want to enjoy them in simple recipes without a lot of flavour competition. The recipe below is really simple and great for summer. You can make this with any courgettes of course and it will still taste good, but if you do have access to a farmers’ market, organic store or a kindly friend with a courgette problem then I would urge you to try it with the nicest courgettes you can get your hands on. Even if that means wresting a dinosaur for them.


Two normal sized courgettes from my plants last week

Recipe notes

I prefer using spelt pasta these days because it doesn’t stick together in the pan like lots of the gluten free ones do, however it’s not suitable for people with a serious gluten intolerance. Spelt pasta comes in white and brown, and the white version tastes just like normal pasta to me. Having said that, I actually prefer the brown as it is more flavoursome and filling. You can actually use any shape of pasta for these recipes but I find spaghetti works best.

I have taken to peeling courgettes instead of chopping them – you basically peel them like a carrot and keep going until there’s nothing left (mind your fingers!). They cook much quicker that way and I prefer the texture. If you have one of those fancy spiralizers you could also use that.

Since I am a fearsome carnivorous velociraptor I use bacon in this recipe when eating alone. If my herbivorous brachiosaur mate is joining me however, we substitute it with Quorn hot dogs. The flavour seems to work better than Quorn bacon for some reason. They come in frozen and non-frozen packets and as far as I can tell they’re exactly the same thing; we just use the frozen ones because they’re cheaper. They are not vegan however.

If you are using standard out of season courgettes for this and want to add a little extra flavour, a little green “FreeFrom” brand pesto works brilliantly to perk it up.

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry dinosaurs)

  • 1 giga-courgette or 2 smaller ones
  • 3 spring onions
  • 3 pieces of streaky bacon OR 5 Quorn hot dogs
  • Seeds – I use a pre-mixed packet of pumpkin, linseed, sunflower and sesame seeds.
  • Cashew nut pieces
  • Cold-pressed olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Approx 200g pasta – gluten free or spelt



(Vegetarian instructions in green)

  1. Cook the pasta, following the times given on the packet. If using gluten free, heating it up in cold water (as opposed to using boiling water from the kettle) may help it to stick less. Remember to stir often throughout the cooking process.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, peel and/or chop the vegetables. Courgette pasta 2.jpg
  3. If using bacon, cut into little squares and fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Cook the hot dogs as per the instructions on the packet (for the frozen ones this involves removing them from the packet and microwaving for 2mins).
  5. Add the vegetables to the frying pan and cook for about 5mins until they soften. Courgette pasta 3.jpg
  6. Chop the hot dogs into pieces and add them to the pan about halfway through cooking the veg.
  7. Toss in a handful of chopped nuts and seeds. Fry for 1 minute.
  8. Add the pasta and stir it all up until it is thoroughly mixed and warmed through. Courgette pasta 4.jpg
  9. Plate up and drizzle over a little olive oil.  Courgette pasta 5.jpg
  10. Roar victoriously.

Courgette pasta 7.jpg



Interesting times

“There is a curse. They say: May you live in interesting times” – Terry Pratchett

I haven’t written anything on here in a long time. I’m not sure why that is. Various reasons I think – a busy life, illness, a garden that is just too tempting to be ignored… I have been spending a lot of time reading instead. I have read fascinating blogs, articles and opinion pieces from all sorts of people around the world. I have read about my friends’ travels and have actually started taking an interest in the news again, for the first time in a very long while. It would seem that we live in interesting times.

About the most interesting thing to happen around here is my new cucamelon plant. This I obtained at great expense from the botanical hothouse of one Dr Frankenstein. I do not know the gentleman in question but I am assured that it shall grow magical fruits of great wonder, that will bestow upon me awesome powers of superhuman ability. I’m hoping for either super strength or the ability to shape-shift but time will tell. At the very least my loud protestations of “but you just don’t seem to be that interested in the cucamelons!” and my husband’s dry rejoinder of “that’s because I’m not” has afforded the neighbours some amusement.


Awesome. Super. Powers.

I never mean to grow vegetables in my garden. It just sort of happens to me. Things self-seed and I can’t bear to get rid of them or I visit the garden centre for some cheap plant food but instead walk out with 3 different types of courgette, 2 cucumber plants and 5 packets of “interesting” looking seeds.

I tell myself that it’s silly really. I live in a rented property and making a proper veg patch isn’t an option. I haven’t time for an allotment so make do the best I can with pots and whatever I can sneak into the borders without the local snail population noticing. (The population whom, I am convinced, hold their annual general meeting among my salad leaves) By the time I’ve paid for the seedlings, soil and plant food the cost works out more expensive than if I’d just bought the vegetables from the supermarket. I try to get around this by only keeping unusual varieties or things that taste much better home-grown, but it’s still an expensive hobby.

The trouble is, I just can’t resist the lure of the dream. The dream of living on my own little hobbit smallholding in the woods somewhere and being completely self-sufficient. The dream of a magic, endless supply of delicious vegetables. The thrill of getting something for free. The oh-so-smug satisfaction of being able to say “why yes, I did grow those cucamelons myself, thanks for asking. Yes, they did grant me my powers of telekinesis. No, you can’t have one”.

First crop

Rose petals, strawberries and one teeeny courgette – my first “harvest” about a month ago.

Strawberries 1.jpg

Strawberries & baby chard planted in an old rusty wheelbarrow I found at the bottom of my garden when I moved in.

Courgette 3

First tiny yellow courgettes this year

Courgette 2

Monster courgettes that emerged, bizarrely, from a supposed “baby courgette” plant.

Courgette 1

With a teaspoon for size reference.


A Romantic Interlude…

IMG_20160815_121133 (2).jpgSweet Peppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese

vegetarian/lactofree/gluten free/can be made vegan

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Before we get properly started on the epic adventure curry quest I thought I would share a quick recipe to mark the occasion of receiving my first ever Valentine’s card with the word “wife” on the front. (We got married last summer. Yay us.)

This is one I often make as a romantic treat for my husband. (Yes, we do live in the 1950s apparently) wife-6-600x782.jpgIt’s tiny sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese. My husband loves these naughty little beauties. He first spied them in a pub while on a weekend away in Birmingham and has lusted after them ever since. The look on his face while he is eating them suggests that he may even love them more than me. For my part, instead of getting jealous of the peppers, demanding to know whether he is eating them behind my back, obsessively checking his phone for pictures of peppers and throwing his cheese out of the window, I have decided to take the unconventional approach of welcoming the peppers into our relationship and fulfilling his gastronomic urges every chance I get.

I think these work best when eaten as part of a tapas style spread. On the last occasion, we ate them with sweet potato fries, miniature vegetarian pigs in blankets, baked green lemon tiger tomatoes and olives but you can do whatever you like best.

Recipe Tips

  • Sweet peppers of suitable dimensions to make delicious, single-bite-sized parcels of cheesy goodness are surprisingly difficult to find. Most on offer that I have found in supermarkets are simply too big to be consumed in one bite. Of course the recipe does still work perfectly well with the larger variety, it’s just less satisfying when you have to cut them up. For those of you with a taste for the spicier things in life, this recipe is traditionally made with chillies, and these have the advantage of being the perfect size. I and my digestive system however, cannot cope with all the excitement. On balance, the scarcity of perfectly sized peppers is probably a good thing; given an unrestricted supply who knows what orgies of cheese based consumption might otherwise ensue in our household.
  • You don’t actually have to use cream cheese for this – any soft cheese will do if you can eat cheese.
  • I have not yet found a vegan or lactose free cream cheese that contains herbs or anything exciting so have added in the step of making my own for this dish. If you are using normal cream cheese feel free to skip this part. I like to add Herbes de Provence but a standard Italian herb mix will do just nicely. You can also add a sprinkling of paprika and/or garlic powder if you like them.
  • To minimise cheese-leakage when cooking I have, through much experimentation come up with an ingenious solution involving a scrunched up roll of aluminium foil to hold the peppers cheesy end up. I call my marvellous invention the patented* perky pepper proper-upper  *patent pending**    **patent not pendingpeppers-4

(It’s not the most eco-friendly option I know but unless you are a much better person than me and your dedication to the cause extends to scrubbing burned cheese off your cookware I would highly recommend this solution)


  • As many tiny sweet peppers as you think you can eat – remember: they are going to be stuffed with cheese so this one really is between you, your arteries and your conscience.
  • A tub of spreadable cream cheese. (I use lactose free but vegan works fine too)
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika and garlic powder (optional)
  • Mixed herbs
  1. Prepare the pepperspeppers-1

Gently cut a ring around the stems using the tip of a knife. Pull the stems out and you should be left with a neat hole. Wash the inside of the peppers out under the tap to remove the seeds.

  1. Improve the cream cheese

Decant some cream cheese into a bowl – no measures, just as much as seems reasonable – a few dessert spoons should do it for one person. Add salt and pepper and herbs to taste.

  1. Stuff those pepperspeppers-2

Using a knife, fill the peppers with cream cheese. If you’re feeling fancy you can use a piping bag but the results are much the same.

  1. Bakepeppers-3

Place on a baking tray lined with foil or greaseproof paper. Bake for roughly 15-20mins (give or take – just keep checking it) on 200C.

  1. Revel in cheesy decadence. 

    Neufchatel. Markus Lindholm Wikimedia Commons.

Autumn Leaves pie

Pie 5.jpg

vegetarian/gluten free/lactose free/can be made vegan

No, we have not taken vegetarianism this far, don’t worry. I have not (yet) resorted to eating fallen leaves from my garden. I just named this pie “Autumn leaves” because the colours remind me of autumn and I wanted to sound really clever.


Look at the vegetables before they’re added to the sauce – aren’t they pretty?

This is a lovely, warming pie for a cold evening. It’s relatively easy to make but rather time consuming to prepare so maybe one for a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining and you want an excuse not to leave your nice cosy kitchen.

A warning: When I was shopping for ingredients to make this a few weeks ago I got very excited because next to the usual butternut squashes in the supermarket they had something called coquina squash. It looked the exactly same but was far more expensive, labelled as part of the supermarket’s premium range. Naturally, assuming it must be a far superior exotic squash variety, I bought it, only to find out when I got home that coquina is just another name for butternut squash. Probably you’re all now rolling in the aisles at my silly squashy ignorance but I thought it fair to mention.

Recipe Tips

  • In the pictures, the purple that you can see is purple carrot. I used these as I had some left over from Halloween and I’m a bit obsessed with purple vegetables. I might hesitate to do so if serving this to guests however as they turned the cooked pie filling a rather strange shade of pink. This pie works with any root vegetables really as long as you make sure they’re roasted first to soften them and eliminate excess moisture. Roast peppers or sundried tomatoes also work very well.
  • The best tip for making gluten-free pastry that I’ve ever come across was from a book about pies that friend owned. I wish I could remember the name of it. Next time I see her I’ll find out so I can link to it here because it was a very good book. The tip was to add polenta to the mix of flour. It gives the pastry a fantastic flavour, helps to hold it together and creates a warm yellow colour that makes a welcome change from the usual paleness of gluten-free pastry. Polenta is sometimes called cornmeal and it’s the fine ground, uncooked kind that you want. Most supermarkets these days stock it but you might have to hunt for a bit – try the “word foods” section.
  • If you want to make the pastry completely vegan it is totally ok to leave out the egg – just add a little more water instead. The pastry will be slightly crumblier if you do this as the egg acts as a binder. If you want to avoid this, you can use vegan egg replacer (just follow the instructions on the packet) or chia seeds. See this excellent tutorial for how to do this http://www.foodrenegade.com/how-make-egg-substitute-chia-seeds/
  • Adding the xanthan gum is absolutely vital if you want it to stick together. I’ve also found that adding Lactofree cheese to the pastry, apart from making it taste great, helps to hold it together as well.
  • Unfortunately, even with all the xanthan gum and will in the world, gluten free pastry is never going to look pretty. The best you can hope for is “charmingly rustic”. It will still try to fall apart when you lift it onto the pie and you will never get it rolled thinly. One easy way to get the pastry onto the pie in one piece is to roll it out on a plastic mat or chopping board, then quickly turn it upside down onto the pie.
  • So, you could just leave it OR if you’ve got guests coming over, you’ve had enough wine to pretend you’re a contestant on the Great British Bake Off or you’re photographing it for a food blog and want to look like you know what you’re doing, you could jazz it up a bit. Here are some ideas to impress those Bake Off judges with:

– Use the inevitable little bits of pastry left over and some cookie cutters to cover over the unsightly areas with pretty shapes. (Leaves in this case)

Pie 7 (3).jpg


– Use a knife to gently score patterns into the pastry.



– Make the rough edges look deliberately quaint and homespun by squishing them all along with a fork. Put it on a gingham tablecloth for added effect.



  • Note: The method for making the pastry that I’ll give is the old-fashioned version. I don’t actually do this because if you have a food processor you can just chuck all of the pastry ingredients in there at once and press the “on” switch. The future is here.



(To make one pie that serves roughly 4 people)



  • 6oz gluten-free plain flour mix
  • 3oz fine cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 5oz vegan margarine
  • 1 egg (or substitute)
  • 2tbs cold water
  • A handful of Lactofree cheese (optional)



  • ½ pint milk or milk substitute (Soya milk works well, as does Lactofree)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • 4oz cheddar cheese (melty vegan or Lactofree extra mature work fine)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of Herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard



  • Half a butternut squash
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 medium courgette
  • A handful of sundried tomatoes
  • I small packet of Quorn chunks




  1. Prepare the vegetables.


    More pretty colours…


Peel the carrots and squash (or any other root veg/peppers) and cut into bite sized cubes. Place on a roasting tray (I cover it in tin foil to save washing up if I’m short for time) and roast on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for about half an hour or until the edges start to brown. Chop the courgette into very small cubes and put straight into the pie dish with any extras like the sundried tomatoes.


  1. Meanwhile, make the pastry…


  • Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Add the fat straight out of the fridge so that it is as cold as possible and cut it up into small chunks before adding it the bowl. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add the egg (or substitute) and work it into the mixture with a spoon. Gradually add some water, just a little bit at a time, gently kneading the dough with your hands until it forms one solid ball.


    If you’re using a food processor the dough should look roughly like this when it’s done.


Remind you of anything? That’s right – it’s the same method as the one we used for the pizza, just slightly different ingredients. Turns out the component parts of many different recipes are pretty much the same – once you learn the basic skills they’re easy to remember and adapt.


  1. And the sauce? This is exactly the same as the one for macaroni cheese. It’s a Mornay (cheese) sauce.


To save you reading that recipe twice, (although if you haven’t yet, please do) here it is again. Thank you, copy and paste function:


  • Mix the cornflour with a little of the milk in a glass until it dissolves.
  • Add the milk to the carrot water (if a lot has boiled off you might need to top it up – you should have roughly 1 pint of liquid in total)
  • Add the salt, pepper and herbs.
  • Heat until it starts to simmer then remove from the heat.
  • Tip in the cornflour and stir. (A balloon whisk can help here) pie-1
  • Return the pan to the heat and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
  • Grate and add the cheese. Stir until it melts.
  • Add the mustard and a generous pinch of yeast flakes.


  1. Now put it all together…


  • Put the vegetables and sauce in a large pie dish with thin slices or tiny cubes of the courgette – as small as you can get them.


  • If you have one, pop a pie funnel in the middle of the pie.


  • Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and transfer to the top of the pie. Trim the edges with a knife and cut an X shape in the centre and use it to make a little hole – either for the pie funnel to poke out of or just as it is to release some of the steam.


  • Decorate as you prefer. If you have any holes or bits that don’t quite look nice you cn cover them up with the extra bits of pastry like I have in the corner here.
  • pie-6

    Fixing the broken bit on the corner to make it look deliberate…


  • Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for half an hour or until the top has browned slightly and the vegetables are cooked through.
Pie 7.jpg

All done!

Cheesy vegetable bake


Vegetable bake with Quorn sausages

vegetarian/gluten free/lactose free/can be made vegan

One week until the end of the month. That means it’s time to get creative. We may not have any money right now but what we do have is a tray full of mushrooms that are on the turn, half a loaf of stale bread and a couple of wrinkly peppers. What more does a girl need?

I don’t know exactly what this recipe is. It’s one I inherited from my Mum and in our house it was just called “veggie dish”. It’s sort of a delicious baked vegetable mush with a cheesy crispy, topping. It’s great for those times when you have a load of old odds and ends rattling around in the fridge and not much money in your bank account.

Assuming that bears had raided your kitchen and you had to buy every single ingredient in this recipe from a mid-range supermarket (I used Sainsburys prices to work this out) the cost would be roughly £4.50. This gives 4 portions at £1.12 each which is pretty good considering how nutritious it is. I love it because it uses up ingredients that I often have in anyway and prevents any waste.

In my local Sainsburys the celery, peppers, courgettes and mushroom are all cheaper to buy in gigantic packets than they are individually. This seems like a bizarre system to me and a silly waste of plastic but what do I know? I just take advantage of it while I can.


Recipe Tips

  • This one really works best if you have a food processor. I have made it without and it tastes just fine but you don’t quite get the same texture and the chopping takes ages. If you are doing this without a food processor you will need really stale bread to make the breadcrumb; it has to be totally dried out or else it just won’t work, especially if that bread is shop-bought gluten free.
  • If you’re like me and hate green peppers then this is an excellent way to disguise them. Also, despite the vast quantities of mushrooms in this, my husband who hates mushrooms cannot tell they’re in it.
  • If you want to make this vegan, then just leave out the egg or use egg replacer/chia seeds. It’s not a vital ingredient; it just helps to bind it.
  • My Mum’s version of this recipe used an onion, not a courgette but as I cannot eat onions in large amounts courgette is a good replacement.
  • This can be served with pretty much anything. I like it with sausages or with baked beans and half a jacket potato.



  • 2 peppers – 1 red and 1 green works best
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 12oz mushrooms
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 6oz cheddar cheese (Lactofree or vegan cheddar style)
  • 8oz stale bread (brown is best)
  • 1 egg (or substitute)
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil


  1. Chop the vegetables as fine as you can. Use a food processor if possible.


2. Fry the vegetables in a little vegetable oil for about 5mins.veggie-dish-3

3. Either use a food processor to turn the bread into breadcrumbs or rub it between your fingers.

4. Grate the cheese.

5. Beat the egg a little in a cup with the salt and pepper and add to the mixture.



6. Add 6oz of the breadcrumbs and 4oz of the cheese to the mixture.


7. Stir everything in and cook for another couple of minutes.





8. Put the mixture into an ovenproof baking dish and smooth down. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the top.




9. Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes or until the top is browned and crispy.veggie-dish-2


Simple Vegetable “Risotto” with Pesto


vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/lactose free

We are recovering from a nasty bug here at the moment. My husband has been sick all week and I have felt stranger than a blue hippopotamus with wings.

Despite being nominally hungry the very thought of cooking makes me want to leap out of the kitchen window. It’s hard to know what to do when you’re feeling sick. Should you eat properly to keep your strength up or should you follow your first instinct and hide under a blanket with a bag of crisps until it all goes away?

My go-to choice for times like these is a simple vegetable risotto. This can be made as safe and bland or as exotic and exciting as you need. It doesn’t use too many ingredients and is quick to prepare. This isn’t the proper way to make an authentic Italian risotto, especially since I always insist on ruining the suble flavours by adding large amounts pesto at the end – this recipe is probably more accurately described as “risotto rice with mixed veg”  – but it is tasty, nutritious and very easy to make.

Recipe Tips.

  • This recipe can be made with whatever vegetables you have lurking in the fridge, which is especially handy if you’ve been feeling too ill to get to the shops. I have used pepper, courgette and kale here because that’s what I had to hand but pretty much anything goes. If you are planning on using root vegetables however they may need to be pre-cooked as they do take longer to cook through.
  • I like to add a protein element to my vegetable risottos. Here I’ve used some Quorn chunks, vegetarian hot dogs and mixed seeds but you could try nuts, tofu or any other vegetarian meat substitute. Or, of course, there’s meat if you’re not vegetarian. Chicken is probably best. If you are using meat this will require a longer cooking time so it’s be best to add that before the veg instead of after.
  • At the end, I like to add extras for flavour such as pesto and/or cheese but you don’t have to.


(To serve 2 people)

  • 200g Arborio risotto rice
  • Approx 700ml boiling water
  • A vegetable stock cube (gluten free)
  • A pinch of mixed Italian herbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • A splash of white wine – optional – (about half a glass should do it)
  • Mixed vegetables. I generally use: a red pepper, half a courgette, a handful or kale or spinach, half a carrot.
  • A jar of tomato pesto (gluten/dairy free brand)
  • A handful of grated cheese (vegan or Lactofree if necessary)


  • Peel and/or chop the vegetables into small cubes.
  • Fry the vegetables in a little oil for a couple of minutes until they start to soften.
  • Add any protein, if desired, and fry with the vegetables. (If using meat, a longer cooking time may be required – you may need to add it before the veg.


  • Meanwhile, make up 700ml of vegetable stock by adding boiling water to a stock cube. Add the herbs and seasoning to the stock.
  • Add the uncooked rice to the pan and fry with the vegetables for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add a splash of wine if desired and stir until the wine disappears.
  • Add a splash of the stock to the pan, stir and reduce the heat. Allow to simmer (you should see gentle little bubbles, not big violent ones).


  • When the stock has disappeared, add a little more. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked through – taste it to check – and all the stock has been absorbed. (The amount of time this takes and how much stock you need will vary depending on how absorbent and quick-cooking your ingredients are. As a rough guide this should take around 15 minutes)
  • Add the kale or spinach and cook for a few minutes until softened.
  • Add any extras such as pesto, cream or grated cheese. Continue to cook until these are melted/absorbed/dissolved.


  • Enjoy and feel better.