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.

Creamy pumpkin and lentil soup

The tricks of Halloween may have been and gone for another year, but pumpkin-based foods are still very much a treat to enjoy through this season.

I was intrigued to cook pumpkin as I’d never even carved one, let alone cooked it. As a fellow squash plant, it’s very similar to preparing a butternut squash, but thankfully, slightly less labour intensive.

Soup is definitely back in vogue on these increasingly chilly, autumnal days. This pumpkin soup dish is a slightly richer variation of a BBC Good Food recipe, using cream instead of creme fraiche. It’s sweet and herby and the toasted pumpkin seeds make for an innovative garnish adding a crunchy texture and salty flavour.

IMG_2698

Ingredients

    • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 small red onions, chopped
    • two thirds of a small to medium sized pumpkin, approx. 800g, chopped into cubes
    • a handful of pumpkin seeds (from the pumpkin you’ve just prepared)
    • 100g split red lentils
    • 2 tsp dried thyme
    • 1 l vegetable stock
    • 75ml double cream
    • A pinch of salt
    • A pinch of sugar

Preparation time: 20 minutes (unless you are an advanced pumpkin peeler!)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

Method

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onions and cook for five minutes or so, until soft. Stir in the garlic, chopped pumpkin and lentils and sprinkle the thyme over the ingredients.
  3. Pour in the hot stock and stir, making sure all of the ingredients are well covered.
  4. Season, cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until the lentils have expanded and the pumpkin has softened.
  5. Meanwhile, wash the pumpkin seeds. Remove any flesh still clinging to them, then dry them with kitchen roll.
  6. Heat the remaining half tbsp of oil in a small frying pan and toast the seeds for five to ten minutes, or until they start to turn a warm golden colour. Take them off the heat and place them on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll. Sprinkle over the salt and sugar.
  7. When the pumpking mixture is ready, take the pan off the heat and pour into a large bowl.
  8. Whizz the cooked mixture with a hand blender until quite smooth (though I like to leave a few lumps of pumpkin in the mix). Pour in the cream and stir with a large spoon. Season to taste.
  9. Serve in large, shallow bowls, with the golden seeds as a garnish in the middle and drizzle over a little bit of cream if you have some left over.

This warming pumpkin soup is perfect as a light evening meal served with crusty bread, or it can be prepared in advance and used for lunches.