Carrot, Spinach and Puy Lentil Soup

Puy lentils, carrots and spinach sit in a tomato, herb and lemon broth to create this healthy, warming, vegan and gluten-free soup

Soups | March 23, 2016 | By

I can’t believe I’ve only got round to blogging this soup, as it’s definitely one of my favourite chunky broths. With spring bringing us giant leaves of seasonal spinach, I thought that I should get the recipe for this perfected and ready to post. This is vaguely based on a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which was one of the first soups I ever started cooking when I turned vegan, but I’ve tweaked it quite a bit since then. In mine, Puy lentils and carrots are cooked in a rich tomato and thyme broth which is brightened up with lemon and parsley right at the end. Fresh spinach is thrown in at the end also, but not cooked with it so it just has the opportunity to wilt in to the hot soup and retain it’s bright green colour. Of course, it’s got a little kick from chilli too, making this warming and healthy bowl perfect for when you’re feeling under the weather.

The vegetables can be changed up too; I make this through the winter with shredded kale instead of spinach, or the carrots could be substituted with sweet potatoes (bear in mind that sweet potatoes take less time to soften than carrots so would need to go in 15 minutes after the lentils). Brown or green lentils will work too, although I love the elegance and the ‘bite’ of Puy lentils.

Carrot, Spinach and Puy Lentil Soup
Serves 4
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  1. 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  2. 100g onion (1 medium), chopped
  3. 10g garlic (2 cloves), crushed
  4. 2 tsp dried thyme
  5. 1 tsp salt
  6. 3/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  7. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  8. 1 can chopped tomatoes
  9. 100g puy lentils
  10. 250g carrots, chopped in to 1/2 cm cubes
  11. 800ml vegetable stock
  12. 60g spinach, roughly chopped
  13. 6g parsley, stalks finely chopped but leaves roughly chopped
  14. 3/4 tsp lemon zest
  15. 2 tsp lemon juice
  1. Heat the oil in a medium sized pan over medium heat and fry the onions for about 5-10 minutes, until soft.
  2. Add the garlic, thyme, salt, chilli flakes and black pepper and fry for a minute more.
  3. Add the tomatoes, lentils, carrots and stock, and bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat and place the saucepan lid slightly ajar on the pan, and simmer until the lentils have softened: about 25-30 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and throw in the spinach, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Allow to sit for a few minutes so that the spinach can wilt, and then serve!

Cabbage and Roasted Chickpea Salad

A raw cabbage salad that will win over cabbage-haters: roasted spicy chickpeas and garlicky tahini sauce make it irresistible. Vegan and gluten-free.

I have to come to terms with the fact that most people aren’t as big of a fan of raw cabbage as I am… I mean, I could just eat it as is, undressed, uncooked. So crunchy. However, I hope that the dressing for this is enough to win over even the raw cabbage haters. The chickpeas are roasted  with spices in a hot oven until crunchy, and taste like little salty croutons in the salad. I was inspired by this recipe that I LOVE from The Minimalist Baker, but I’ve simplified the chickpea ingredients, and cooked for a little longer to get them extra crunchy. The tahini dressing is a personal favourite: garlicky, herby and tangy, and can be used on a variety of different things. This salad is really good with some other mezze dishes: hummus; falafel; flatbread or pita, but can be eaten simply inside a tortilla wrap as it provides a good source of protein and veg. It’s also really nice instead of a grain as it feels really substantial, so it would pair nicely with a hot stew and then you don’t have to think about a side salad either!  

One good thing about this salad is that it can be made ahead, even the day before, and doesn’t become watery like other raw ‘slaws.

Cabbage and Roasted Chickpea Salad
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Ingredients for the chickpeas
  1. 480g chickpeas (2 cans, drained)
  2. 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  3. 2 tsp cumin
  4. 2 tsp garlic powder
  5. 2 tsp smoked paprika
  6. 1 tsp salt
Ingredients for the salad
  1. 680g white cabbage
  2. 8g garlic (1 large clove)
  3. 40g tahini
  4. 12g green herbs (coriander, parsley, dill or a mix)
  5. 12g apple cider vinegar
  6. 70g water
  7. 3/4 tsp salt
  8. 1/3 tsp chilli flakes
Instructions for the chickpeas
  1. Drain the chickpeas, wash under cold water and dry them as best as you can.
  2. Combine the spices, oil and chickpeas in a baking tray and roll everything around until the chickpeas are evenly coated.
  3. Cook in a 200 degrees C oven for 40 minutes, until the chickpeas are slightly crispy.
Instructions for the salad
  1. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a mini food processor, or using a whisk and a bowl. If you are doing it by hand, crush the garlic and finely chop the herbs. If using a food processor, throw everything in whole and the machine will do the work.
  2. Using the grating attachment on your food processor, shred the white cabbage. Alternatively, slice the cabbage very finely in to thin strips.
  3. Combine the cabbage, dressing, and cooked chickpeas in a bowl. I use my hands to mix everything.
  1. For serving, everything should be mixed together, but I chose to keep the elements fairly separate for the sake of the picture. Also pictured, I have garnished with red onion which isn't essential. This ingredient is purely decorative and not stipulated in the recipe, although will taste good too if you want to use it!

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Spicy, rich and slightly sweet vegan chilli with finely chopped vegetables, hearty beans and nutritious lentils. Cheap and gluten-free.

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Oil-free Hoisin Sauce Stir-fry

Healthy Chinese-style stir-fry with crispy tofu, broccoli and homemade hoisin sauce. Served with Chinese chives and rice noodles. Vegan and almost fat-free!

I don’t particularly endeavor to keep my recipes low-fat or oil-free (as there’s really no need), but I do prefer to get my fat from healthy sources: nuts, seeds, avocado etc. Give me a jar of tahini and i’ll go in with a spoon, give a me a raw salad and I’ll apply olive oil liberally, but cooked vegetable oil really doesn’t contribute any amount of nutritious benefit for our bodies so is best minimised where possible. Chinese stir-fries (or at least the British imitations that are served here) are often characterised by their greasiness (and disconcerting gloopy-ness), so it seemed like a good opportunity for a few healthy tweaks. I often get the impression that most takeaway meals have started off with a pint or two of vegetable oil in the pan, or at least an amount that no-one would dream of using in their own home so I’ve done the opposite with this dish. This recipe doesn’t fry anything in oil, but rather the sauce ingredients get mixed in a bowl and then thickened in a wok, cooking the broccoli at the same time. I’ve also mastered a technique of crispy tofu without deep-frying so that’s exciting.

The sauce is hopefully reminiscent of Chinese hoisin sauce, except that it doesn’t come of a jar or contain e-numbers. If you don’t have plum vinegar, use rice vinegar and if you don’t have Chinese chives, use spring onions or coriander. There isn’t a substitute for miso here, they sell it in the supermarkets so add it your list! Once you stock up on these condiments- soy, vinegar, miso- you are prepared for future speedy rice and noodle dinners as they offer a really big flavour punch with minimal effort. In other words, I think it’s well worth the investment if your store-cupboard is lacking in these things. Serve with rice or noodles (I’ve chosen noodles) or on its own, whatever you want.

Oil-free Hoisin Sauce Stir-fry
Serves 2
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  1. 300g firm tofu
  2. 2 tbsp plain flour
  3. 2 tbsp semolina
  4. 1/8 tsp salt
  5. 75g rice noodles
  6. 2 tsp corn flour
  7. 120ml hot water
  8. 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  9. 2 tsp chilli flakes
  10. 1 tbsp miso paste
  11. 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  12. 1 tbsp agave
  13. 1 tbsp plum vinegar
  14. 1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
  15. 150g broccoli, cut in to small pieces
  16. 20g Chinese chives (optional), finely chopped
  1. Cut the tofu in to 1 cm squares
  2. Mix the flour, semolina and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss the tofu in it, so that all sides of the cubes are covered. The wetness of the tofu will help the coating stick.
  3. Place the tofu on a foil sheet and place under the grill. Grill the tofu cubes on a high-heat for about 15 minutes so that the inside firms up a bit and the outside crisps up. Keep checking as it's cooking as all oven grills work differently; turn down the heat if it's too hot and turn up if it's not crisping up.
  4. Cook the noodles according to packet instructions. I used thin rice noodles which just have to be soaked (rather than boiled) in boiling hot water for about 10 minutes, and then drained.
  5. Mix the corn flour in a couple of tbsp of the hot water separately and then mix all of the sauce ingredients (garlic through to 5-spice), including the corn flour and all of the water and whisk to combine.
  6. Place the sauce in a wok with the broccoli pieces and bring to a boil. When bubbling, place a lid over the pan and turn the heat to low-medium. Cook, simmering, for about 5 minutes, until the broccoli is just tender.
  7. Add in the cooked tofu and mix. Serve over the rice noodles, and sprinkle with the Chinese chives.

Baked Pita With Dipping Sauces

These rosemary and olive oil baked pita pieces are perfect for dipping in home-made cashew-garlic and tomato-chilli sauces. Quick, easy and vegan.

Warmed pita is good, toasted pita is better, but baking it is something else. If you avoid crisps, you can make these instead and trick yourself in to thinking you are tucking in to a bag of Kettle Chips. This is also a great snack to whip up if friends unexpectedly pop round to watch a film (this has never actually happened to me personally, but it often says this kind of thing in recipe books so I’m left to assume that there are individuals out there who have the audacity to turn up to places uninvited).

The sauces are both winners too: tomato-chilli brings spicy and sweet, and cashew-garlic brings creamy and slightly tangy. You will require a powerful blender to get the smooth consistency, but if you only have a food processor I would recommend soaking the cashews in hot water (or boiling them for 10 minutes if short of time) for an hour to soften them slightly. These sauces are really great to have on hand to jazz up any meal, sandwich or snack and they are very quick to prepare. Here are a few suggestions as to how else you could use them, but don’t feel limited to just these; I assure you that these sauces are applicable to many a meal:

If you are gluten-free, why not make some home-made potato chips instead of pita?

They’re a great dunking destination for nut balls and falafel

They’re perfect additions to burger night

The cashew sauce in particular pairs wonderfully with this spinach and almond bake

Perfect with Mexican beans, when served with tortilla or rice

Why not combine with this Indian potato salad inside a savoury pancake?

Great with tofu scramble

Lovely on toast

And finally, I love to combine them both inside a tortilla wrap with these spiced chickpeas, loads of raw vegetables and a dollop of homous.

Baked Pita With Dipping Sauces
Serves 2
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For the pita
  1. 3 medium wholemeal pita breads
  2. 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  3. 1 tbsp olive oil
  4. 1 clove garlic, crushed
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
For the cashew-garlic sauce
  1. 100g cashews
  2. 10g (2 cloves) garlic
  3. 25ml (1 tbsp + 2 tsp) cider vinegar
  4. 15ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
  5. 85ml water
  6. 1/4 tsp salt
For the chilli-tomato sauce
  1. 75g tomato puree
  2. 10g (2 cloves) garlic
  3. 6g (1 tbsp) chilli flakes
  4. 100ml water
  5. 25ml (1 tbsp + 2 tsp) extra virgin olive oil
  6. 25g (1 tbsp + 2 tsp) agave (or maple syrup)
  7. 1/4 tsp salt
For the pita
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Slice each pita pocket diagonally in to strips, about 2cm wide.
  3. Mix the rosemary, olive oil, garlic and salt in a bowl and pour in to a medium sized baking tray.
  4. Place the pita strips on to the tray and smear each around in the oil, on both sides. I've been frugal with the oil so it might seem like it won't stretch, but it will. You can add more oil if you wish.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes and remove from oven. They'll continue to crisp up as they cool.
For the sauces
  1. For each of the sauces, whizz up the ingredients in a high-powered blender until completely smooth.

Bean Sprout Salad With Mango, Lime And Peanuts

This vegan salad is zesty with lime, sweet with mango and crunchy with coriander, mint and spring onions. Perfect accompaniment to any rich, creamy curry.

I realised the other day that I hadn’t bought or eaten bean sprouts for years, despite very much liking the taste and eating them frequently when I was growing up. My mother would often use these guys as an ingredient in stir-fries or thrown in regular green salads, but when designing this recipe, I was keen to make a salad which allowed bean sprouts to be the star of the show. This salad is really easy to put together and the perfect accompaniment to any rich creamy curry, for example a Thai Panyang or Massaman, by virtue of it’s crunchiness, freshness and zesty-ness. Many of the ingredients are similar to that of a salsa: the citrus, onion, herbs and the fact that it too offers light, zingy relief to heavier, richer foods. The mango in it balances out the sour citrus dressing – forgoing any need for additional sugar- and even if the mango is under-ripe, it still fulfils it’s purpose. If this is the case, you might find it easier to peel off strips of mango with a vegetable peeler rather than trying to de-stone and chop in to chunks. I use toasted salted peanuts (which are the cheapest/easiest), but if you wanted something a little healthier you could roast your own peanuts; you might need to add a little more salt to the dressing, however. There’s a small amount of chilli but it’s not spicy, so feel free to add more if you like. If you don’t like mango, you could try with papaya or pineapple, and if you don’t like coriander or mint, you could experiment with Thai basil (although I’ve never cooked with it personally so cannot vouch for it’s efficacy).

Bean sprouts contain a lot of water so you’ll ideally want to make this salad soon before serving, as a lot of water begins to be released. It doesn’t keep well, so don’t make it a day in advance.

*Fun fact*- Bean sprouts are sprouted from mung bean and soy bean seeds and are more nutritious than eating the actual bean, providing good sources of protein, as well as vitamins C and B.

Bean Sprout Salad With Mango, Lime And Peanuts
Serves 6
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For the dressing
  1. 1 tbsp + 1 tsp lime zest (zest from 1.5 limes)
  2. 2 tbsp lime juice (juice from 1.5 limes)
  3. 10g garlic (2 cloves), crushed
  4. 4g fresh chilli (half a red jalapeno chilli, de-seeded), finely chopped
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
For the salad
  1. 300g bean sprouts
  2. 260g mango, chopped (flesh of 1 mango)
  3. 50g spring onion (white and green parts), chopped
  4. 15g fresh fcoriander, chopped
  5. 5g fresh mint, chopped
  6. 50g roasted salted peanuts
For the dressing
  1. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. I juice the lime using a citrus juicer but then throw the pulp in to the dressing anyway; it's all good stuff!
For the salad
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the bean sprouts, mango, spring onion, coriander, mint and peanuts and add the dressing. Combine everything thoroughly (I use my hands) and it's ready to go when you are ready to eat it! As it sits, some liquid is released so just before serving, mix everything through again.

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Spelt Pasta With Cashew ‘Parmesan’

This Autumn dish is the perfect tribute to late courgettes, with chilli, lemon and garlic encasing spelt pasta and sun-dried tomatoes. Vegan and gluten-free

There’s been a few vegan ‘parmesan’ recipes floating around for while and given my previous experience with cheese replicas, I was sceptical. However, after trying the Minimalist Baker’s version here, I was converted! Although, it is difficult to get hold of, the nutritional yeast is really essential here; while the cashews add bulk and texture, the nutritional yeast adds a lot of the flavour. As you can see from the quantities, a little goes a long way! My only alteration of the recipe that I followed was that I reduced the salt content from 3/4 tsp to 1/2.

In terms of the rest of the dish, it’s definitely one for ‘simple, quick and easy’ collection, although it’s definitely elegant enough for a dinner party. Put the pasta on at the start, and by the time it’s cooked, the vegetables AND the parmesan will be ready! The idea is that you can taste all of the elements: lemon, chilli, garlic, in generous quantities. And it’s definitely one to make right away; UK courgettes are just coming to an end of their season, and this dish is the perfect Autumn farewell dish. A tough of summery lightness with the citrus, lightly fried courgettes and olive oil, but an element of winter comfort with the hearty spelt pasta, sun-dried tomatoes and cashew ‘cheese’. If you fancy cooking this meal outside of courgette season, other green substitutes would work fine! Any leafy green, like chard, spinach or kale, would be lovely, or if you don’t have any fresh produce, frozen peas are always a winner. I use spelt pasta, but good old wheat pasta would work just fine!

Spelt Pasta With Cashew 'Parmesan'
Serves 3
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
For the pasta
  1. 250g dried spelt spaghetti
  2. 3 tbsp olive oil
  3. 20g garlic (4 large cloves), finely chopped
  4. 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. Few twists of freshly ground black pepper
  7. 1 tbsp lemon zest (about the zest of 1 lemon)
  8. 100g sun-dried tomatoes (about 80g dried, and re-hydrated in hot water for 20 minutes), roughly chopped
  9. 1 large courgette (about 300g), in thin slices or semi-circles (like pictured)
  10. Rocket (for garnish- optional)
For the 'parmesan'
  1. 100g cashews
  2. 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 1/4 tsp garlic powder
For the pasta
  1. Cook pasta according to packet instructions. I cook mine in a medium saucepan in salted, boiling water for about 10 minutes, until 'al dente'. Before I drain I add a dash of oil to the water and mix around, to prevent the spaghetti strands from sticking to each other after they're drained. When cooking rice and pasta, I always simmer with the lid on, but slightly ajar: this allows a small amount of the steam to be released, but is more energy efficient than cooking without the lid, as more heat is retained.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large wok or frying pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli, salt, pepper, lemon zest and sun-dried tomatoes and fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Then, add the courgette slices and fry, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes, until tender, but still slightly crisp.
  4. Finally, add the drained pasta to the frying pan and mix everything together.
For the 'parmesan'
  1. Add all the ingredients to a small food processor and blitz until a fine consistency is achieved. It will look a little like cous cous. This will last for ages in the fridge (you won't use it all with this dish), and is a versatile condiment to have on hand for a flavour boost.
  2. At the table, sprinkle liberally on top of the pasta!
  3. If you want, garnish with rocket as well.