Bodged Bun* Chay

* A Vietnamese noodle soup. Chay means vegetarian.

Oh Vietnam. The Husb and I spent a month cycling there in 2017 and, while it wasn’t without its challenges, it left an indelible impression in our minds. Not least the food….OH THE FOOD! I can barely talk about it without shedding a tear.

The Husb is, in fact, out eating Vietnamese this evening and I am WELL JEAL. Fortunately, we recently acquired a Vietnamese veggie cookbook, so I consulted it to see what I could conjure up from an inadequately-stocked store cupboard.

‘It must be pho’ I hear you cry. But no! While pho is widely touted as the ‘national dish’, we actually ate a lot more bun. Same soup, different noodle. Where pho noodles are flat, bun are round, more like spaghetti. Both made of rice, yet surprisingly different, especially in texture.

I had to freestyle it somewhat, not least because we didn’t have any actual noodles! Spaghetti would have to do. Which, if you have ever eaten bun, is less random than it sounds. Despite the different composition, the texture and taste is not dissimilar. And needs must!

I used:

  • Light olive oil
  • 1 block tofu, cubed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and slightly bashed
  • 6 dried chinese mushrooms (could use porcini but use fewer, or fresh Shitake)
  • 1 stock cube and 1 litre hot water
  • 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 0.5 tbsp chinese rice wine (or any white wine)
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • 4 small carrots, peeled and then cut into strips with the peeler
  • 4 large leaves from summer greens / pointed cabbage….or similar, ribs removed and shredded
  • Couple of handfuls of spinach
  • 150-200g spaghetti (or bun noodles, obviously!)
  • Handful of coriander and chives, roughly chopped

Warning – this sounds like a faffathlon. It wasn’t actually that bad!

First, I coated the tofu in a slosh of oil and baked it in the oven until lightly crispy.

Meanwhile, I fried the onion until soft, and soaked the mushrooms in a small amount of hot water. I let the onion pan cool a bit while I removed the mushrooms from the water (I also sliced them for later). I topped up the water to a litre and added the stock cube.

I added the stock, soy sauce, wine, ginger, garlic and chilli to the onion pan. I brought the mixture to the boil, then reduced to a gentle simmer and put the lid on. I let it all infuse for 15 mins while I cooked the spaghetti. Once I’d drained the spaghetti and rinsed it in cold water, I removed the garlic and ginger from the broth.

I then added the cooked tofu, sliced mushrooms, carrot and greens to the broth pan and cooked it for a couple of minutes. I turned the heat off, and stirred in the spaghetti and spinach before serving in bowls with the herbs.


Not bad at all! I was almost taken back. Almost….sigh!




Daal with herb smash (inspired by my girl crush*)

Well hello. Not sure what happened to my blogging mojo, but it’s back tonight at least!

The Husb and I are just back from Switzerland, where we may have eaten All. The. Cheese. Something a smidge lighter was required this evening! We also have a coriander excess, as the two plants we procured from the garden centre have gone mad on our sunny doorstep. Indian was the obvious, we love daal, and *Anna Jones does an excellent line in ‘herb smashes’, which I reckoned I could adapt to fit the brief. I also channeled Anna in the daal ingredients, and used a variety of protein sources to give a bit of texture.


Love these brown chickpeas. Found in big Sainsos.

Here goes! This makes four generous portions.

For the daal, you will need:

  • 3 cloves garlic (half reserved for the smash), chopped
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used coconut for extra flavour)
  • About 0.3 tin coconut milk
  • 120g dried red lentils
  • 0.5 stock cube
  • 60g quinoa
  • 1 tin chickpeas (I used brown ones but normal are fine)
  • Salt

For the herb smash, you will need:

  • Handful of fresh coriander (a supermarket bag would be about right)
  • 0.5 cloves garlic (from above)
  • 1 large green chilli (ie mild), deseeded and chopped
  • 1 green bird eye chilli (ie pretty hot), deseeded and chopped
  • Small handful cashew nuts
  • Juice from 0.5 lemon
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt

Right, let’s get cracking. For the daal, I heated my oil and then fried the garlic, ginger and spices for a minute or two. I added the lentils and coconut milk, and let it cook gently while I boiled the kettle. I then added ‘some’ water. I started out with double the lentils’ volume (about 250ml) but I added more later, at least 500ml in total. Bottom line – add as much water as you like, better to top up as you go along so it doesn’t get too runny. I also added the stock at this stage. When the lentils were cooked but still had bite, I added the quinoa and let it all cook on a low heat.

While that bubbled away, I made the herb smash by putting all the ingredients in my mini blender, and giving it a whizz. My blender is a bit blunt these days, so it didn’t become the paste that I’d envisaged! Still very tasty though. I reckon you could get the same effect using a mezzeluna or sharp knife, if you also swapped cashew nuts for a dessert spoon of nut butter.

Once the quinoa was pretty much cooked, I added the chickpeas to heat through, and seasoned to taste. We had ours with rice, and the Husb added mango chutney. It was delish and a welcome change from the heavy food we’d been stuffing ourselves with in Zermatt! Not to mention the Easter eggs….


Random salad on the side….because that’s also going mad in our garden at the moment!


Squash, lentil and tofu tagine

My friend McSwede is also dabbling in veganuary this year, so I decided it was only fair to invite her and the other members of Cake Club round for a tasty vegan dinner.  As a group of ladies with certain partiality to lashings of butter and cream, I had to rack my brains for a tasty option that wasn’t ‘too vegan’….yet, at the same time, felt compelled to demonstrate my oft-stated belief that ‘tofu is great’ 🙂 Tofu is best paired with a tasty sauce, but I didn’t want to be super predictable and make a curry.  Tagine seemed to fit the bill, so I consulted this Moroccan cookbook, gifted to me many years ago and bizarrely seldom used. This may be set to change!


That may be a duvet. I may be blogging from my bed.

I plumped for the ‘spiced lentil and pumpkin tagine’ recipe, and expanded it to feed five greedy hungry Cake Clubbers by increasing quantities and adding the tofu.  The result was surprisingly delicious given the modest list of ingredients – one of those dishes that seems to be greater than the sum of its parts.  To recreate it, you will need:

  • 1 butternut squash (mine weighed about 900g before peeling and de-seeding), cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils ( about 250ml)
  • 4 tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 heaped tsp paprika (I used smoked; the recipe didn’t specify)
  • 1 heaped tsp harissa paste
  • 4 tsp tomato purée
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander, chopped (half to go in the tagine, half to garnish
  • salt and pepper
  • 250g firm tofu (NOT silken!), cut into bite size chunks
  • marinade for the tofu:  1tsp harissa, 1 tsp tomato purée, 2 tsp soy sauce

I started by marinading the tofu.  The marinade is quite thick but that’s ok, it sticks well when you cook it.  I also put the lentils on to cook according to the instructions on the packet – reduce the stated cooking time by 10 mins as they’ll also cook in the sauce.

Then I prepped the tomatoes.  The method seemed a bit odd but worked really well.  Just cut each tomato in half and remove the seeds.  Then grate, flesh side down.  This removes the flesh from the skin.  (I absolutely love our new grater, with bowl attached.  I bought it for The Husb for Christmas, he’s so lucky!)


I fried the onion in a slosh of olive oil until translucent, then added the garlic and spices.  I gave it all a good stir and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes, tomato paste and harissa.


I then added the cooked lentils and the squash, along with the parsley and half the coriander, 1tsp salt and a good grind of black pepper.  My mixture was a little dry, so I added around a cup of water at this stage.  I think I added a bit more later as well – keep an eye on it.

The recipe then suggests simmering the tagine for 20mins (lid on) to cook the squash. Mine took a fair bit longer than this, perhaps because my squash was in large chunks.  However, I think this was a good thing as the squash stayed in whole pieces and didn’t get too mushy.

While the tagine was simmering, I cooked my tofu.  I heated a good glug of olive oil over a medium heat, and then carefully friend each piece on two sides.  This really helps the tofu stay in whole pieces – if you don’t pre-fry, it tends to crumble.  Also, for this dish it meant that the marinade stayed ‘attached’ to the tofu, if that makes any sense at all!!

Once the squash was tender, I stirred in the tofu.  Done!

I actually made this a couple of days in advance.  This often seems to help the flavour in spiced dishes – not sure why!  I reheated it on the night, and served it with couscous and some of The Husb’s delicious sourdough bread.  It went down pretty well!

Incidentally, to make a full ‘dinner party’ offering, I also made* two types of hummus (broccoli and beetroot) for nibbles beforehand and Anna** Jones’ banana, toffee and coconut cream pie for dessert. The former were outstanding.  The latter was nice, if you accept that it doesn’t taste like real banoffee pie…..although I doubt we’ll have much difficulty demolishing the remainder 🙂

*spot the unemployed person with time on their hands 😉

**Not sure if I’ve mentioned my extreme girl crush here??



Top picks for veganuary and beyond


Whether you’re attempting veganuary, turning completely vegan, or just interested in more vegan/veggie options, the choice can be both overwhelming and (at times) disappointing.  Here are my top picks to help you get started!

Plant milk and yogurt 

A baffling array of plant milks are now available, which can be overwhelming for the inexperienced dairy-shirker.  I’ll happily consume pretty much any of them, but usually opt for soya, as it’s the only one which comes close to milk in terms of protein (although I do love Alpro coconut milk on cereal!) It also doesn’t seem to separate in your tea/coffee, unlike some others, bonus. So you’ve plumped for soya….there are still MANY options.  Sweetened or unsweetened?  Branded or supermarket’s own?  Maybe I’m not very fussy, but I’m perfectly happy with supermarket own brand.  It’s sooooo much cheaper, only 59p per litre in Aldi! We usually go for unsweetened, but it is a lot less sweet than cow milk, so bear that in mind.

The vegan yogurt selection isn’t quite so extensive (it’s basically soya yogurt of various types, or coconut yogurt – the latter being devoid of protein) but it’s worth a mention because….it doesn’t really taste like yogurt!  I feel it’s best to be prepared for this potential disappointment 🙂


Gotta love Aldi soya milk for 59p

Veganbutter‘ (margarine makes it sound so unappetising!)

I miss butter.  But I reckon Vitalite is the best of the bunch.  Note that it has TWICE the salt content of Pure.  Probably why it tastes better??



I love tofu.  I realise that I am quite strange but, if you’re a doubter, bear with me.  The thing is, it just doesn’t taste of much.  But if you marinade it in eg a bit of soy sauce and garlic, and fry it lightly before you put it in your highly flavoured dish, it’s absolutely your new best friend.  Nutritious and cheap!  HOWEVER….you need to choose a good one.  STAY AWAY FROM THE SILKEN!!  That’s for desserts (and cold dishes if you’re hardcore).  For cooking, you need firm tofu, always found in the fridge.  Health food shops are your best bet…..the widely available Cauldron tofu is not brilliant….but Tofoo has recently appeared on supermarket shelves, thank the vegan gods above!



Linda McCartney every time (in our house at least!)  And only £1.49 in Lidl (£2 in Sains, £2.50 in Waitrose WTAF??) Unless we’ve been to the health food shop, in which case Vegetarian Choice are the bomb.  NOTE that many veggie sausages are not vegan.  So if you’re concerned about added egg, read the label!



As with sausages, you need to read the label here.  I usually opt for supermarket own brand, eg Sainsbury’s, because it’s good, cheaper and vegan (unlike eg Quorn).  I also trialled Meatless Farm mince the other day, and thought it was excellent.  More expensive, but a more ‘meaty’ texture, which meat fans might prefer?  Let me know!


I didn’t think I was that fussed about mayo until we tried Follow Your Heart Vegenaise.  It’s SO GOOD.  Especially in a sandwich with tofurky slices.  Both available in Sainsbury’s.  Or maybe on a cheeky afternoon snack of oven chips 🙂 I also noticed that Aldi are stocking Hellman’s vegan mayo at the moment….I suspect that may be ‘seasonal’ though!


All options in this category are vegan, obvs.  However, I just wanted to share my revelation that all tinned pulses are not created equal!  I haven’t undertaken an exhaustive study, but can say that Aldi/Lidl chickpeas are GOOD, Sainsbury’s bog standard tinned are BAD (read hard and somewhat raw??) but their organic ones in tetrapacks are ok.  Napolina are also ok.  Same for other pulses, but it seems less pronounced.  Shopping around and sharing of other experiences is encouraged 🙂


One last thing

Vegan or otherwise, you need this in your life.  And on your toast.  That is all!





Cottage pie with a Mary Berry twist

Ah, January.  The world has, as usual, lost its head over resolutions and give-up-athons.  There’s a lot of hype around Veganuary this year which, awkward so-and-so that I am, almost made me say bah humbug and refuse to join in.  However, I’ve lapsed considerably from my ‘mostly* vegan’ stance, so am viewing this as a bit of a reset, and an opportunity to get back on my preferred track**.

*some may say failed.  But, cheese.

**feel free to choose your own.  Veganism is not the only way to save the planet / the animals / be healthy / whatevs.

So here we go.  Mary Berry’s extremely un-vegan cottage pie with a dauphinois potato topping…..made exclusively from plants.  Yeah!  For a half quantity (serving 3-4 according to Bezza), you will need:

  • Oil
  • 400g veggie mince (many options, see note below)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 125g mushrooms, sliced (Mary used chestnut, I used white)
  • 25g plain flour
  • 125ml red wine
  • 150ml vegan stock (eg Kallo stock cubes)
  • 1 tbsp mushroom ketchup (see note below)
  • 1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp chopped thyme
  • 1tsp gravy powder (eg Bisto – most/all varieties are vegan)
  • salt and pepper
  • 800g potatoes, sliced into 4mm slices (I couldn’t be bothered to peel mine!)
  • 1 carton vegan ‘cream’ (I used Alpro, Oatly is DELICIOUS on puddings!)

I usually use whatever veggie mince I have lying around for this type of recipe.  I’ve yet to find a bad one, and they all seem to be pretty high in protein (watch out for some, including Quorn, though, as they can contains egg).  However, I’ve been intrigued by a couple of new brands which Sainsbury’s see fit to place in the meat fridge with the beef mince…..so I thought I’d check out how meaty this stuff actually is (especially given that it was on special offer!)


The only other slightly unusual item on the list above is mushroom ketchup, which is a veggie alternative to worcester sauce.  It’s available in our relatively small Sainsbury’s, so hopefully is fairly easy to find:


I followed Mary pretty faithfully, aside from the cooking time of the mince.

I started by boiling my sliced potatoes for about 5 mins.  She says they need to be fairly well cooked. Once the potatoes were cooked, I drained them and left them in the pan.

Meanwhile, I heated a slosh of olive oil, and fried my mince gently until it browned. I NEVER do this for other veggie mince, but it said to on the packet, I guess because it’s pretending to be actual beef.  If you’re using eg frozen mince, I would skip this step.


I removed the browned mince from the pan, added another slosh of olive oil, and sautéed the onions and celery until they were translucent.  Actually, I overdid them a bit by ignoring them, but it worked out fine!  I then added the mushrooms and let it all cook for a few more minutes.  You could add the mince at this stage if you haven’t already cooked it.

Meanwhile, I mixed the flour with the wine in a jug (I had to press out a few lumps with my fingers), then mixed in the stock, ketchup, sugar, thyme and gravy powder.  I poured it all into the pan, and put the mince back in.  Note:  I then had to add more water, but use your judgement.  I tested for seasoning, and added some salt and pepper.

Mary’s recipe then tells you to cook the mince mixture for 45 minutes…..but the veggie mince doesn’t really need the same treatment as beef.  I simmered mine for abut 5 minutes to make sure the flour was cooked out, then deemed it ready for the oven.  It looked freakishly meaty (to this 26-year veggie at least!)


I poured the mince into my lasagne dish and spread it out evenly. I then lay the potato slices on top, adding soya cream between layers, and pouring all the rest on the top.  I used tons more cream than Mary, but she also uses cheese….and I’m yet to find a decent vegan cheese alternative.  Veggies could adopt her cream+cheese combo.


I then cooked it for about half an hour at 200 degrees.  The Husb thought it could have taken a bit longer for crispier potatoes…..next time.


Verdict – rather delish, if I do say so myself!  The Husb awarded it 9/10 (although then deducted a point when I spilt it on the sofa.  Oops.)

I guess the moral of this blog post is that vegans don’t need to look exclusively for ‘vegan’ recipes.  With a little thought, and thanks to all the alternatives which become more widely available by the day, it’s pretty easy to convert many meaty dishes to suit your needs.  I did think I’d had a bit of a disaster making this Delia soup the other day, when the soya milk turned into tofu while cooking…..however, it was all fine once blended!!  Good luck 🙂


Coping with Kale

Oh hello there, hasn’t it just been forever??  If you’re wondering why, please see my other blog, for tales of a fabulous adventure.  If you’re really only here for the food, without further ado…..

Kale.  I am sure I’m not the only veg-box customer whose heart sinks slightly when this particular leafy green graces their doorstep.  It’s been all the rage in recent years, a supposed superfood and usual suspect in all things juiced.  But I just can’t get that excited about it.  When I first started getting my veg box, my otherwise unfussy housemate declared that kale was ‘for cows’ and refused to eat it.  I wouldn’t go quite that far, in fact eating absolutely everything in the box is something of an weekly obsession, but I’m not a huge fan.


I’ve recently discovered libraries.  I hadn’t been near one (other than at University, which was not the same, given prevalence of scary physics books) since about 1987; turns out I’ve been seriously missing out.  Did you know they even do audiobooks??  I digress.  The library in our tiny town doesn’t always have the widest selection of books, but I did find this.


Riverford not only provides the kale, it also provides the recipe!

It’s actually a recipe involving chorizo, but that isn’t much good for vegetarians.  I consulted the Husb, who has at least eaten chorizo within living memory, for help with a substitute.  We settled on halloumi, with a spoonful of smoked paprika.  So, without further ado, here is my recipe for Kale, potato and halloumi hash!

For two portions, you will need:

  • 150g curly kale, de-stemmed
  • 250g potatoes (or more if you’re really hungry), cooked and cubed
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Block of halloumi, cubed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs (optional)

I blanched the kale by putting it in a bowl and sprinkling it with salt, then pouring hot water onto it from the kettle, and leaving it for a couple of minutes.  I drained it then poured cold water on it to stop it cooking any more.  I drained it again, and chopped it roughly.


I heated a slosh of olive oil, and fried the onion* for a few minutes, before adding the potato.  I continued cooking on a fairly high heat until the potatoes started to brown, but not so much that I burnt the onion.  I then added the garlic, paprika and halloumi, and lowered the heat.  I cooked it for a few more minutes until the halloumi was hot and softened.  (At this point, I started frying the egg for the Husb’s portion).  Finally, I chucked in the kale, stirred it all round for a few minutes, added some seasoning, and voila.

The result was really rather delicious.  *If I made it again, I’d start frying the potatoes first, and add the onion second, as my potatoes didn’t really crisp up.  The Husb suggested adding some cayenne pepper too, which would have been great as my paprika wasn’t hot at all.  The addition of the fried egg did work really well, so I’d also choose that next time. The book suggests poached, but at the age of 41,  I still can’t manage those on demand…..


It’s great to be cooking in a proper kitchen again!



Treating ourselves at Gidleigh Park

No blogs for ages and then two in one day.  Must try harder with the consistency thing!

The Husb bought me a tent for my birthday.  I was pretty pleased, given our forthcoming adventure (mostly because new tent is much bigger than old tent), but it turns out that this was not my real present.  I was instructed to keep 17th June free for a surprise….which turned out to be the lunch at Gidleigh Park that I’d requested in the first place!  He does listen after all 🙂

Gidleigh Park.  AKA a very posh hotel and restaurant in the middle of Dartmoor, that used to be the pride and joy of Michael Caines.  He sold it recently, but I’d still heard very good things.  AND, unlike many fancy-pants restaurants, it not only has vegetarian options, but a whole flipping tasting menu.  It had to be done.

It’s hard to convey just how good it was.  First, there’s the location:

Gidleigh Park


 Which gets even better close up:

Gidleigh Park close-up

Nice geraniums, eh Mum?

And is particularly good when admired from the terrace:

Gidleigh Park gardens

Doesn’t do it justice

The menu looked promisingly complicated:


Seven plus two surprises!!

And the service was flawlessly friendly and efficient. But the food. Oh the food!! I’m not sure if the pictures get vaguely close to conveying how amazing it was.

Amuse-bouche. Surprise!

Tomato. With ‘avocado nitro rocks’….!

Artichoke. Yes, those are sunflower petals.

Avocado. And a lot of other amazing stuff.


Leek. Incroyable.

Courgette. The main event.

Blackberry. The best dessert I’ve ever had?

Banana. Parfait. With peanuts. Not too shabby either.

Surprise! More pudding. ThankYouPlease.

The dishes were small, but soooo rich. And there were 9 of them. And there was amazing home-made sourdough bread on the side. With two types of butter….who knew! Needless to say we were absolutely stuffed.

The whole experience was just brilliant.  It did not come cheap…..but I’d definitely recommend it for a foodie treat!