Versatile vegetable pho

If you’re feeling under the weather or you simply need a hug-in-a-bowl to comfort you on these cold wintry days, I recommend making yourself some warming and aromatic vegetable pho.

Last week I came down with a nasty cold. The thought of leaving my cosy flat to go on the hunt for a tin of uninspiring soup didn’t appeal, so instead, I decided to conjure a vegetarian pho up from the ingredients I had at home.

Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a Vietnamese noodle soup, traditionally made with rice noodles, meat and herbs, covered in a broth made from stock.

After having a look at some inspiring and achievable vegetarian pho recipes on thekitchn and ohmyveggies I was confident I could knock something tasty and revitalising up.

This Vietnamese-inspired vegetable broth consists of a fragrant gingery broth, soft silky noodles, sweet carrot ribbons, chestnut mushrooms and soy-marinated tofu.


An earthy and warming ginger and onion broth makes up the base of this pho. The punchy taste of ginger is balanced out the sweet addition of hoisin sauce.

The slender carrot slices have a slight bite and contrast well against the earthy chestnut mushrooms

It looks inviting; a steamy bowl full to the brim with silky noodles, spices, herbs and vegetables.

It smells like a healthier version of super noodles – I mean this in a good way – a comforting smell; your senses know this will make you feel better.

I used these ingredients because they’re what I had in the fridge, but you could easily swap out the veggies and tofu, depending on your preference.

Ingredients

  • 100g firm tofu (I always use Cauldron)
  • 500ml water
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 shallot or small white onion
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ medium carrot
  • 4 medium chesnut mushrooms
  • 1 nest of rice noodles
  • 1 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • a handful of basil leaves

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 1

Method

  1.  Drain the tofu by wrapping it in kitchen roll, placing it on a plate and propping a couple of heavy kitchen objects on top – like a wooden chopping board and a large frying pan. Leave for as long as possible for the water to drain out; though 15 minutes should be enough.
  2. Boil the kettle with at least 500ml water. Finely chop the stock cube and put into a measuring jug. Pour 500ml boiling water into the jug and whisk until the stock cube has dissolved.
  3. Halve and thinly slice the onion or shallot. Peel the ginger and either finely chop or grate it. Put a large saucepan on to boil, adding the onion, stock, ginger and salt, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the mushrooms into quarters. Chop off the ends of the carrot and finely slice, using a mandolin if you have one.
  5. Put a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the oil. Fry the mushrooms and carrots until they soften up.
  6. While the veggies are cooking, unwrap the tofu from the kitchen roll and chop into small cubes, roughly 4cm.
  7. When the veggies have cooked, set them aside. Add the tofu to the pan and cook for five minutes, turning frequently with a fish slice. Pour in the soy sauce and continue to cook until the tofu has browned up – roughly another five to seven minutes.
  8. While the tofu is browning up, cook the noodles by the pack instructions.
  9. Add the chilli flakes to the tofu pan, along with the cooked mushrooms and carrot slices. Pour over the hoisin sauce, reduce the heat and cook gently for another five minutes.
  10. Transfer the cooked noodles to a soup bowl, followed by the tofu and veggies, as well as the basil leaves. Pour over the gingery broth and serve with chopsticks for noodle grabbing, along with a soup spoon for broth slurping.
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Tofu and vegetable summer rolls


These Vietnamese summer rolls are light and silky on the outside and a tasty tangle of textures on the inside. 

They’re the perfect option for a fun, healthy dinner party starter, an impressive party snack or a light summertime supper.

Crunchy tofu pieces cooked in a creamy, peanut sauce sit atop sleek pan-fried vegetable ribbons and fine, cooked egg noodles. All wrapped up in silky softened rice paper.

Vietnam is a country I’ve wanted to visit for years. Of course for its colourful history, amazing landscape and sandy beaches, but  mostly for its cuisine.

London’s Vietnamese restaurants

The Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road in Dalston, east London, are my go-to for a fail safe, delicious meal. From Vermicelli noodles and claypot curries to stir-fries and pho, there’s a wealth of amazing dishes to try, made with fresh herbs and vegetables, seafood and satisfying carbs.

These summer rolls are a little fiddly to make, but only in their assembly. If you’re a dab hand at rolling a burrito, then you’ll get on just fine with these delightful little wraps.

They’re really versatile, so you could easily swap out the vegetables I used for whatever you’ve got in the fridge. Though I would recommend using veggies that you can slice into long, thin strips. Also, if you have some fresh herbs, like mint or coriander, pop them in for a lovely flavour addition.

Traditionally they’re served cold, with raw vegetables and cold fish or meat, but I wanted to cook my filling to crisp up the tofu and soften the vegetables. I served them lukewarm with the indulgent satay dipping sauce, and some sriracha chilli and plum sauces for a bit of variety.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 small courgette
  • 8 rice paper wrappers
  • 200g firm tofu, drained
  • 1 fine egg noodle nest
  • 1 green pepper

For the satay sauce:

  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 drops rice wine
  • 2 tbsp cold water

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 2 as supper or 4 as a starter

Method

  1. Pop the noodles in a large bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave to soften.
  2. Place all of the sauce ingredients into a measuring jug and whizz up with a hand blender. The consistency should be fairly runny. If it’s a little thick, add a drop more cold water and mix in.
  3. Put a large frying pan on a medium to high heat and pour in the oil.
  4. Slice the tofu into slim rectangular pieces and add to the frying pan. Cook until browned up, stirring every few minutes. Half way through cooking, add a tablespoon of the satay sauce to coat the tofu pieces. Stir.
  5. While the tofu is cooking, slice the onion, courgette and pepper into very fine slices.
  6. After about 10 minutes the tofu should have crisped up. When it’s ready, set it to one side on a small plate.
  7. Add the vegetable ribbons to the pan and cook until softened, stirring often. This should take roughly five minutes. When they’ve softened, take them off the heat.
  8. Drain the noodles and put them back in the bowl.
  9. Pour some near-boiling water into a large shallow bowl or deep plate. Take one sheet of rice paper and dip it in the water until it softens all over.
  10. Carefully place the paper onto a chopping board. Time to assemble the rolls. Place a small amount of noodles on the bottom third of the paper, then layer some vegetables on top, followed by three pieces of tofu. Tuck in the ends and then flip the long edge over the filling, rolling it over until all of the paper is used up. Place the roll on a chopping board or plate to serve. Repeat this process until all of your rolls are ready.
  11. Transfer the satay sauce to a small sauce dish along with any other sauces you may like to dip your rolls in.
  12. Serve your rolls with a salad garnish on the side if you fancy it. Enjoy!

This recipe was inspired by Minimalist Baker.

 

Creamy pesto courgetti with asparagus and mushrooms


Well, I’m a couple of years late boarding the carb alternatives train, partly because carbs bring me joy on a daily basis and I’ve never felt the need to be deprived of them. Also, I won’t allow myself to buy anymore cooking gadgets for the sake of our tiny, crammed galley kitchen, despite the distinct urge to buy a spiraliser when they were last year’s go-to bit of kit. However, my lovely soon-to-be in-laws got me a mandolin for my birthday so I thought I’d have a go at making courgetti.

Courgetti, as I’m sure many of you will know, is a healthy and green alternative to spaghetti. By slicing a courgette into thin strips using a mandolin and then slicing them again with a knife into finer strips, you can achieve a similar shape to spaghetti. You can of course also use a spiraliser which may be even simpler.

Courgetti is very low in calories. You feel a bit smug and virtuous while eating it. And, surprisingly, it did fill me up. I think it’s a psychological thing, but after finishing this dish, despite it being very tasty, I instantly felt unsatisfied. This is probably because I’ve got a big appetite and am used to shovelling a vat-full of pasta into my mouth. However, after waiting for 20 minutes or so, while the little courgette worms started to make their way through my digestive system I did begin to feel full up. So if you’re a bit reluctant like I was, give it a go. I’ll definitely be making it again.

I was inspired to make pesto while flicking through Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook book. She suggested using pistachios in her version, but I didn’t have any in, so I opted for cashews instead. The combination of the crunchy cashews with the zesty lemon, the rich sour cream and pungent basil works really well and reminds me of summer.

This meal is a great mid-week option as you can have it ready within 20 minutes AND because it’s got so much goodness in it, you can balance it out with a tasty dessert. I just happened to pair the courgetti with vegetables I had in the fridge, but you could swap asparagus for crunchy mangetout or green beans and perhaps some butter beans instead of mushrooms to achieve that lovely earthy texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 4 chestnut mushrooms
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • Finely grated cheddar cheese, to serve

For the creamy cashew pesto sauce

  • 10 or so jumbo cashew nuts
  • a large handful of fresh basil
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • finely grated cheese, to taste
  • plenty of salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp sour cream or creme fraiche

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 1

Method

  1. Finely slice the courgette using a mandolin. Pile up your courgette slices on a chopping board and thinly slice them lengthways. Set them aside in a bowl.
  2. Prepare the pesto. If you have a food processor, put all of the pesto ingredients – except for the sour cream – into the processor and whizz them up until mostly smooth. Don’t worry if it’s not entirely smooth, it’s nice to have a little bit of crunch. If, like me, you don’t have a food processor, do the same but chop the cashew nuts up with a knife as small as you can first, then use a measuring jug to put the ingredients into and whizz them up with a hand whisk. When you’ve got a paste, mix in the sour cream.
  3. Put the grill on a high heat and place the asparagus spears under the grill for 5-1o minutes, or until they have softened.
  4. Put a frying pan on to a medium high heat and pour in the sunflower oil. Fry the mushrooms for five or so minutes, until they begin to soften.
  5. Meanwhile, boil the kettle. Pour boiled water over the courgette slices and leave for 30 seconds to a minute, then drain.
  6. Add the courgetti to the pan and reduce the heat. Stir in the creamy sauce and take off the heat.
  7. When the asparagus has softened, remove it from the grill. Chop the spears in three and add to the pan. Stir all of the ingredients in well together and season well.
  8. Serve in a pasta bowl topped with some finely grated cheese.

Prawn and avocado salad with a sesame, honey and chilli dressing

This is a delicious salad of juicy king prawns and creamy, soft avocado in a slightly spicy yet sweet Asian-inspired dressing on a bed of mixed leaves.


Spring has sprung. As we feel rejuvenated by the sunnier mornings and longer evenings, and we start to think about the approaching wedding and holiday season, the lighter option of salad is once more appealing.

But this ain’t any old boring salad. This lunchtime dish is an absolute treat. The dressing is made up of honey, sriracha chilli, soy sauce, lime juice and sesame oil, bringing together a mixture of exceptional sweet, spicy and salty flavours. It really packs a punch.

I hate to be shellfish to all the other shellfish, but prawns are the king of crustaceans for me. They’re fairly firm in texture and have a subtle fishy flavour which is so versatile. They go well in soups, salads, curries, noodle dishes, pasta, dumplings, batter, on a barbecue, you name it.

And let’s not forget the amazing avocado. It’s not the most Instagrammed food going by luck. This creamy green dome of goodness is highly nutritious, providing you with iron, Vitamin E and potassium.

Ingredients

  • 160g pack of cooked and peeled prawns
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 80g mixed leaves – I used a salad bag of watercress, rocket and spinach

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sriracha chilli sauce
  • ½ tsp honey
  • 4 drops lime juice
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Pour the dressing ingredients to a large bowl and mix together with a metal spoon to form a smooth paste.
  2. Mix in the prawns and salad leaves until they’re well-covered by the dressing.
  3. Slice the avocado in half. Lift out the stone by scooping underneath it with a teaspoon and then scoop out each half. Cut into thick strips and then halve the strips into chunky cubes.
  4. Tip the prawns and salad mixture into a pasta bowl or plate and scatter over the avocado.

If you fancy having this for dinner, add two nests of wholemeal noodles to the mix for a more filling meal.

Seaweed is the new superfood

I know what you’re thinking. Seaweed? That slimy, dull green algae we’re so used to seeing washed up along the British coastline? Yes. Move over kale, seaweed is the new superfood.

Seaweed is in fact a highly nutritious and versatile ingredient. Used widely in Korean and Japanese cooking, it’s packed full of minerals like iodine, which is great for the thyroid function and helps to strengthen the immune system. It contains more vitamin C than an orange, plus it’s high in protein.

Seaweed can be used in a variety of dishes, including stock, soup, salad, and, of course, sushi. Its neutral, earthy taste pairs well with flavourful dressings and sauces, and it will leave you feeling full. You can find the dried stuff in some big supermarkets, as well as oriental supermarkets and online.

Try it for yourself

  
Try making this adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi’s crusted tofu with seaweed and lime.

The seaweed soaks up the chilli dressing, contrasting wonderfully with the punchy coriander seeds and lime in the tofu coating. The seaweed ribbons have a thicker texture than you’d expect, similar to lasagne sheets, though with a fresher taste and more bite.

Ingredients

  • 40g dried seaweed (we used kelp – you could also use wakame or a similar alternative)
  • 20g panko breadcrumbs
  • Grated zest of 1 small lime
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black (or white) sesame seeds
  • 15g coriander leaves
  • 150g tofu, drained and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 20g plain flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 50ml sunflower oil, for frying
  • Salt

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sriracha chilli sauce
  • A couple of drops of rice wine
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 2-3 as a starter

Method

1. Place the seaweed in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring
to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients except the groundnut oil.
Gradually add the groundnut oil, whisking as you go.
3. Next, get your production line ready to coat your tofu. Put the coriander
seeds in a small bowl and crush them with the back of a metal spoon. Add the
breadcrumbs, lime zest and sesame seeds, a pinch of salt and stir in together.
Beat the egg into another small bowl. Pour the flour into a third bowl. Coat the
tofu in the flour, followed by the egg and lastly the breadcrumb mix.
4. Drain the seaweed, and cut into 2-3cm wide ribbons.
5. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the sunflower oil. Cook
the tofu for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.
6. Mix the seaweed, coriander leaves and dressing together in a bowl. Serve
on a plate with the crispy tofu. Squeeze some extra lime juice on top if you
fancy.

Springtime spiral vegetable tart

This showstopper of a tart is the perfect main player for a vegetarian Sunday lunch. The colourful spiral slithers of courgette, aubergine and carrot arranged on a butternut squash puree and shortcrust pastry base, make for an impressive dinner party centrepiece.

As we start to see more frequent bursts of sunshine and there’s a chance of leaving work while it’s still light, the hopeful season of spring is surely on the horizon. This tart epitomises the season of new beginnings, delightful daffodils and blooming blossom with its colourful flower-like shape.

But what does it taste like? Well, the pastry is light and crisp, the butternut squash and sage puree adds a sweet and earthy base and the vegetable spirals bring a trio of textures with a hint of chilli.

One for the weekend

Be warned, this tart does take some time to prepare. This is definitely a dish to make on the weekend, or when you have a couple of hours spare to get creative in the kitchen. Also, the vegetable spirals can be achieved with a vegetable peeler, but speaking from experience, I would advise investing in a mandoline.

This recipe is adapted from Homemade. Their version is vegan, but I opted for traditional cooking spread over soya spread as I was after a creamier pastry. I found that I had loads of leftover vegetables, so I’ve suggested a smaller quantity below.

I served this with a feta and lentil salad to satisfy my cheese needs, but you could easily add some goats’ cheese, feta or mozzarella to the tart itself if you fancy.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cooking spread, softened
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 300g butternut squash
  • 4 sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 courgettes
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 aubergines
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves 4

Method

  1. Half-fill a mug with cold water and put it in the freezer.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Cut the cooking spread into cubes and add to the bowl. Rub the spread in with your fingertips, until it reaches a breadcrumb consistency. Remove the water from the freezer and add 3-4 tbsp, until the dough is moist enough to bring together with your hands. Form it into a ball, adding a bit more water if needed, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Put the oven on to gas mark 6, and generously grease a large tart dish.
  4. Meanwhile, make the butternut puree. Finely dice the onion and then chop the butternut squash into small cubes.
  5. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Drop in the garlic, cook for a further minute, and then add the butternut squash and sage. Add 2-3 tbsp of cold water and bring to the boil. Stir, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the squash cubes have softened.
  6. While that’s cooking, prep the vegetable spirals. Chop the ends off the veggies and use a peeler or a mandoline to slice them into thin ribbons. Tip: if you’re using a peeler, I’d advise slicing the aubergine thinly with a knife instead, as the flesh is difficult to slice with a peeler. Pop your spirals into a large bowl as you go, and then sprinkle over the chilli flakes and pour in the agave syrup so it’s evenly dispersed. Mix the syrup and chilli in with the vegetables using a metal spoon.
  7. When the squash is cooked, take it off the heat and mash it to a smooth paste.
  8. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll the dough out till it’s roughly 5mm thick. Carefully lift it up and lay it in the tart dish, trimming the edges with a knife. Cover with foil and pour in baking beans or rice to weigh the foil down. Pop in the oven for 10 minutes, then take out and remove the beans/rice and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven heat to gas mark 4.
  9. Next, add the filling. Remove the foil from the tart and spread the butternut puree over the bottom with a metal spoon. Now comes the artistic bit. Take a slice of carrot, aubergine and courgette and curl them together into a tight spiral. Place the spiral in the middle of the tart and then gradually grow the spiral by adding alternating vegetable ribbons until you reach the outside of the dish. Drizzle over the remaining tbsp of olive oil and place in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the vegetable ribbons have softened.
  10. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then serve with a salad.

Creamy leek and courgette spaghetti

Sometimes all that will suffice is a big old bowl of comforting creamy pasta. Look no further than to this magnificent meatfree medley of green veggies and spaghetti in a creamy cheese and garlic sauce. 

 

This dish is creamy, cheesy and flavoursome,  yet has plenty of goodness from leek, courgette and wholewheat spaghetti. And you can have it on the table in 20 minutes.

Ingredients

  • knob of butter
  • 1 leek
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 2 portions wholewheat spaghetti (roughly 250g)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 tbsp reduced fat creme fraiche
  • 1 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
  • plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Chop off the woody ends of the leek and slice down the middle, so you can see the middle layers, but not all the way through to the other side. Open up the middle layers of the leek and run under a cold tap to clean off any grit. Slice into thin strips.
  2. Wash the courgette and cut in half lengthways, then cut horizontally into small pieces, around 2-3cm thick.
  3. Melt the butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat.
  4. Meanwhile, half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil.
  5. When the butter has melted, add the leek and courgette and fry until soft, around 5-8 minutes.
  6. When the water is boiling, lower in the spaghetti, making sure it’s all covered by the water. Cook to pack instructions.
  7. When the vegetables are soft, add in the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the creme fraiche, lemon juice and milk and carefully pour a little bit of the water from the pasta pan into the frying pan. Stir in together and then add half of the cheese. You should have a fairly thick creamy sauce. Add more creme fraiche if needed. Season well and lower the heat.
  8. When the pasta has cooked, drain into a colander and tip into the frying pan. Mix the spaghetti in thoroughly with the sauce, and add the rest of the cheese. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Serve in large pasta bowls with a sprinkling of grated cheese if you fancy.