Tofu and vegetable chilli udon

This rich, fiery Asian inspired vegan noodle dish is packed full of wonderful spices and flavours. Thick, smooth udon noodles make for a hearty, filling base, the green pepper adds a nice crunch and vibrant colour, the portobello mushrooms bring an earthy, silky texture and the fried tofu soaks up the delicious spicy coconut broth really well.

This dish is reminiscent of many of the flavours you’d expect at a restaurant like Wagamama, with the coconut and chilli and unusual noodles. It’s pretty quick and easy to make, so whip this up and you’ll be sure to impress your friends!

Tofu and vegetable chilli udon

Ingredients

  • 150g tofu (I used Cauldron original)
  • 200g low-fat coconut milk
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • lime juice
  • 6 baby portobello mushrooms (what I had in the fridge – you can use a different type)
  • 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 300g quick cook udon noodles

For the curry paste

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Place the tofu on a large plate and balance a chopping board and heavy pan on top of it (or something else heavy that is likely to balance). Leave it for 15 minutes or so, to drain out the water.
  2. Meanwhile, make your curry paste. Place all of the curry paste ingredients – except for the sesame oil – into a deep-edged bowl and blend with a hand blender until it’s as smooth as you can get it. Add the sesame oil and then give it another go with the hand blender to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Stir it with a spoon to make sure you’re happy with the consistency; it should thick and a few little lumps are fine.
  3. To make your broth, place a large frying pan on to a medium heat. Add the curry paste and fry gently for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a further five minutes.
  5. While that’s simmering, cut your tofu into cubes, around 3-4cm.
  6. Using another frying pan or wok, add the sunflower oil and put it on a relatively high heat.
  7. Add the tofu and fry it until it’s golden brown, for around 7-10 minutes, turning it frequently.
  8. After 3 minutes, add the pepper and mushrooms and to the tofu pan and continue to turn them frequently with a fish slice or wooden spoon.
  9. Return to your pan of simmering broth and stir in the noodles.
  10. When the tofu has browned up and the pepper has softened, pour all of these ingredients into the pan of broth. Mix together well.
  11. Add the lime juice and cook on a low heat for 2-3 minutes.
  12. Serve in large bowls with a slice of lime on the side and eat with chopsticks.

This dish is inspired by Simon Rimmer’s Malaysian-spiced noodles.

Mushroom and red onion pizza

This delicious vegetarian pizza has a thin and crispy base, with a joyously juicy homemade, garlicky tomato sauce beneath comforting melted mozzarella and cheddar cheese. It’s topped off with mouthwatering mushrooms, sweet red onions and fresh basil leaves. It’s simple and satisfying and is cheap to make.

Make a couple of these and impress your friends at a dinner party, or cut it up and serve it as finger food as part of a birthday buffet. This recipe can easily be adapted if you fancy adding different toppings.

Mushroom and red onion pizza

I always forget how easy it is to make pizza from scratch. And with this recipe, you needn’t buy any obscure flour; you can get a nice thin crust with the plain stuff. The only issue is the washing up afterwards!

I was on holiday in Sardinia, Italy, a few weeks ago and it struck me how many of the pizzas there had only one or two toppings. In the UK, and with takeaway pizzas especially, a vegetarian pizza usually consists of mushrooms, sweetcorn, peppers, onion et al, which I very much enjoy, but sometimes it’s nice to just pick out a couple of your favourite veggies and appreciate them on their own.

Ingredients

  • 100g mozzarella, half grated and the other half chopped into rough chunks
  • 25g mature cheddar, grated
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 4 mushrooms (I used closed cup), sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced

For the pizza dough:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 7g yeast packet
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125ml warm water

For the tomato and garlic sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Seasoning
  • 5 or 6 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Make the tomato sauce: put a medium to large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Add the onion and fry for five minutes, or until softened, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the crushed garlic and mix in with the onion. Fry for a further two minutes.
  3. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, squeeze in the tomato puree, and add the sugar and seasoning.
  4. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. When the tomatoes are bubbling, reduce the heat. Mix in the chopped basil leaves and leave to simmer while you prepare the dough.
  5. Put the oven on to gas mark 8 to heat up.
  6. Make the dough: tip the flour into a large bowl along with the yeast, sugar and salt. Mix together.
  7. Pour in the water and mix together well with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together to form a sticky dough.
  8. Sprinkle a generous helping of flour onto your work surface, pick the dough up out of the bowl and begin to knead it for five minutes, or until it is smooth.
  9. Using a brush, grease a baking tray sized approximately 25cm longways with olive oil.
  10. Sprinkle some more flour onto the work surface and use a rolling pin (or wine bottle if you don’t have a pin) to roll out the dough so it’s nice and thin, and will cover the baking tray.
  11. Give the tomato sauce a stir and take it off the heat.
  12. Carefully pick the pizza dough up off the work surface and onto the baking tray. Trim the edges with a knife if it’s a bit too big for the tray, so it’s nice and neat.
  13. Put the tomato sauce into a measuring jug, or container with high sides. Use a hand blender to blitz the sauce and make it lovely and smooth.
  14. Pour the tomato sauce over the dough and use a knife to spread it out evenly.
  15. Sprinkle over three quarters of the mozzarella cheese and cheddar, then the onion and mushrooms. Then sprinkle over the rest of the cheese, followed by some chopped basil leaves.
  16. Place in the oven on the middle shelf, for 15-20 minutes, or until the base and the cheese have turned golden.
  17. Serve with a mixed green salad and wash it down with a full bodied bottle of wine.

Asparagus pearl barley risotto

I conjured up this tasty rice dish with ingredients in the fridge and cupboard. It’s tasty and simple to make. Pearl barley is a healthy wholegrain and is a great substitute for risotto rice. It brings earthy, nutty flavours and adds wonderful texture with a bit of bite.

The vibrant, green asparagus has a satisfying crunch with a striking and fresh flavour. The creme fraiche and cheese add a layer of richness, but these ingredients can be left out to make the dish vegan friendly. And the soft cooked mushrooms on top balance out the crunchy textures.

This dish is cooked using the same method as risotto. It’s a great meal to make one evening after work.

Asparagus pearl barley risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 160g pearl barley
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 3 closed cup mushrooms
  • A knob of butter
  • 1 dessert spoon of creme fraiche
  • A handful of mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • Plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Pour the oil into a large frying pan and put on a medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, or until it has softened.
  3. Pour in the pearl barley and mix in well with the onion. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cut off the woody ends of the asparagus spears and chop each spear into thirds.
  5. Turn the pan down to a low heat and add a ladleful of stock to the pan, stirring occasionally. When the stock has been absorbed by the barley, add another ladleful and repeat the process.
  6. Put the chopped asparagus into the pan and stir in with the mixture. Add the next ladleful of stock as before, and continue this process until all of the stock has been added. This should take about 30 minutes.
  7. While the risotto is cooking, add the butter to a small pan and put it on a medium heat. Chop the mushrooms into thin slices and add them to the pan. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until the mushrooms start to brown. Set aside.
  8. When all of the stock has been absorbed by the barley, give a grain or two a taste. It should be fairly softer, but with a bit of bite. If it’s not quite ready, add a splash of water and wait for that to absorb, for a further 5 minutes or so.
  9. When the barley is ready, take the pan off the heat and season well. Mix in the creme fraiche and cheese and serve in large bowls with the mushrooms arranged on top.