Tag Archives: vegetarian

Foodie Firsts – Cooking with Tofu

Despite being a vegetarian for the last 27 years there is one ingredient I’ve always been afraid to cook with, but it is one of my favourite foodie things – tofu.

I’ve bought the ready pressed tofu, marinated and ready to use, but never a block of tofu, white and perfect and ready to be transformed into a thousand different dishes. I was asked by Morinaga if I’d like to try their silken firm tofu, and I knew it was time I stopped being a bit afraid of pressed soy puree and just tried cooking with it.

Morinaga tofu

After consulting a friend who is a vegan chef, he told me I’d need to press the Morinaga tofu. This was an easy job, you just take it out of its packet and put it on a plate, place a flat plate or board over the top and put a couple of tins of beans on there for an hour or two. The tofu should let out quite a lot of liquid which you just discard. Then it is ready to use however you want.Morinaga tofuTofu tastes of nothing but is incredibly good at absorbing other flavours, so it’s perfect for marinading in whatever you like.  It’s also low fat, high-protein, dairy and gluten-free.

I like tofu when it’s got a crispy crust, so I pressed and drained my tofu for a couple of hours and cut it up into bite sized chunks. I put some plain flour in a bowl and seasoned it generously with salt, pepper and chilli flakes, I gently tossed the tofu in that, taking care because it is quite delicate. I put a generous tablespoon of groundnut oil in a frying pan and added a splash of chilli oil and heated it up until it was very hot and fried the tofu, turning often until it was golden and crispy.

I’m a bit lazy when it comes to stir-frys, I often just buy a ready made packet of stir fry vegetables and stir-fry them with soy sauce, honey and some sweet chilli sauce, toss through some noodles and add a handful of chopped coriander and serve. Only this time I added my fried tofu at the end and it was delicious. Seriously delicious! 

Morinaga tofu

Now I’ve tried the fresh tofu there is no way I’m going back to the ready made stuff which seems dull and chewy in comparison. The Morinaga silken firm tofu was perfectly crispy on the outside but soft and yielding on the inside. It was as good a tofu as I’d had in restaurants and I was impressed by how good it was, I didn’t think I’d be able to recreate it as I had done.

As a vegetarian I know that tofu is a good source of protein and contains iron and calcium, as well as a range of other essential vitamins and minerals. Morinaga tofu currently costs £1.24 for a 349g packet in ASDA and does not need to be stored in the fridge, though it does once it’s been opened, but it wouldn’t last that long in my house anyway.

If you’ve never cooked with tofu before, do not be afraid. Now I’ve tried it there is no going back for me, my little foodie mind is whirring away with tofu ideas and potential recipes. Do you have a favourite tofu recipe?

Morinaga silken firm tofu available in the ambient aisle of Sainsbury’s and ASDA. For more information visit their website or Facebook page.

We were sent some Morinaga silken firm tofu to try for ourselves. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: FoodMaestro App

Growing up I had no food allergies, though I remember being tested to try and get to the bottom of why my eczema would sometimes flare up. It’s not unheard of for people to grow out of some allergies, but I managed to grow into some.

I turned vegetarian when I was 13, before the days of Quorn and Linda McCartney products, after about ten years of vegetarianism I developed an intolerance to mushrooms, I get hideous cramps and other things I won’t go into. Suffice to say it’s not worth me eating mushrooms. 

More recently I’ve developed an intolerance to rich dairy, so cream and ice cream are out, cheese is eaten in moderation and I try and have a few entirely dairy free days a week to reduce the unfortunate consequences of this.

The boys are thus far ok, able to eat anything and everything put in front of them, it’s just me, the mushroom and dairy intolerant vegetarian who makes meal planning more difficult at home.

I was introduced to the newly launched FoodMaestro app which allows you to create personalised dietary profiles for each family member, logging allergies, intolerances and lifestyle choices that affect their diet.

The app was built in partnership with Guys & St Thomas Hospital Trust and makes it easier to manage food-related conditions. It currently has a directory of more than 75,000 products and 25,000 ingredients, with more products being added all the time. 

It’s easy to search for food products by name or category and find items that are suitable for your diet, the app checks the nutritional information on each product and tells you if it isn’t suitable for you or your family to eat. This allows you to easily build lists of ‘safe’ foods and identify potential problems. 


Once you’ve downloaded the free FoodMaestro app you just put in the details of your family members and their dietary requirements, it’s a simple swipe to choose from a range of allergy and intolerances as well as filtering into vegan, meat free, gluten free options, to name just a few. 

You can then set about creating a shopping list, I went about my kitchen scanning the bar-codes of the items we were starting to run low on, as each item scanned the app would tell me if it matched our dietary requirements. You don’t have to scan the bar-codes, you can write up your list and the app will check each item for you. Once you’ve finished you can share your list, I chose to email it to myself so I could view my list when I went shopping, I normally have my shopping list on my phone anyway. 


As you can see, the app has flagged this item up as unsuitable as it contains traces of milk.

The FoodMaestro app currently lists products from most large brands as well as the supermarkets,  Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda, and they are adding Tescos products to the app shortly.

I can see this app being very useful for me, although I’m a keen reader of labels, sometimes I think a product is ok and it turns out not to be and I’m poorly for a few days (unfondly remembers the posh instant noodles I ate which contained an awful lot of mushroom stock). This will also be great for when we have people round for tea who I know have food allergies and intolerances, helping me to double check that I’m not going to make them poorly. I think the FoodMaestro app is a big step forward.

You can find out more about the FoodMaestro app on their website and you can follow them on Twitter for news and updates.


= This is a collaborative post =

Recipe: Cauliflower Lasagne Sauce

Lasagne is one of those tried and tested family meals, something everyone will happily tuck into and perfect for sneaking a bit of extra veg into if you’ve got kids. I’ve taken things a step further, and for some think may be a step too far, but it’s just as delicious and a little bit healthier. Stick with me on this. I use blended cauliflower instead of béchamel sauce.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore béchamel sauce and find it to be incredibly easy to make and versatile, but, and here’s the big but, it’s just flour, butter, milk and seasoning and it doesn’t count as one of your five a day.

Over the weekend I made our current favourite lasagne, generous portions of roasted butternut squash and parsnip, with handfuls of fresh baby spinach in a fresh tomato sauce, layered with lasagne sheets and topped with cauliflower sauce. It works, it really works and if you put enough cheese in it, it turns into an amazing lasagne-cauliflower cheese mash up. 

Cauliflower Lasagne Sauce

Cauliflower Lasagne Sauce
Sneak extra veg into your cooking with this delicious cauliflower lasagne sauce.
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
1222 calories
73 g
230 g
74 g
80 g
46 g
1620 g
1865 g
36 g
0 g
22 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1222
Calories from Fat 654
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 74g
Saturated Fat 46g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 20g
Cholesterol 230mg
Sodium 1865mg
Total Carbohydrates 73g
Dietary Fiber 24g
Sugars 36g
Protein 80g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 2 cauliflowers
  2. 400mls milk (I used semi skimmed)
  3. 200g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  4. Salt & Pepper (chilli flakes & grated nutmeg optional)
  1. Chop up your heads of cauliflower, they don't need to be in pretty florets as you'll be blending them, add as much stalk as you like, it's full of flavour. Boil or steam until cooked through.
  2. Once cooked, drain and put into a blender (you may need to do this in batches), season generously and add the milk, blend until smooth. If you want a smoother sauce you can pass it through a sieve at this point and/or add a little bit more milk.
  3. Whilst the sauce is hot, stir through the cheese and taste. Add more seasoning if you feel it needs any. Layer the sauce into your lasagne as you would do with your normal white sauce.
  1. You can add as much cheese to the sauce as you'd like, I haven't added much at this point because I know I'll be sprinkling more cheese on top of the lasagne when I cook it.
  2. I sometimes add a spoon of soft cheese with garlic and herbs which give it a nice background flavour.
  3. I like to add chilli flakes to add a bit of a kick, and a touch of grated nutmeg because it just works.
HodgePodgeDays http://hodgepodgedays.co.uk/

Cauliflower Lasagne Sauce

I think my cauliflower lasagne sauce has lots of potential too, I can imagine it working really well in something like moussaka, it’s such a great way to sneak extra veg into your life.

This recipe could easily be adapted for vegans too, just swap the milk for soy milk or similar and leave out the cheese.

Cauliflowers are incredibly cheap in the shops at the moment, so we’re cooking with them a lot. This would also work well with frozen cauliflower. But not broccoli, broccoli is a step too far!

Have you got any tips for sneaking veg into your family meals?

Our Mexican Feast – food from Old El Paso

As a family one of our favourite quick and easy evening meals is fajitas. Usually our fajita evenings consist of an Old El Paso fajita kit, some potato wedges, and as much salad, avocado and guacamole we can lay our hands on. I’m a veggie so we usually load the fajitas up with really well cooked vegetables and some sliced up soya burgers for a bit of protein. It’s a popular, sociable meal which we will all happily eat, it feels like a bit of a treat, but with all those veggies it’s a pretty healthy one.

I was sent a box of things to try from Old El Paso, and with Mexican food being a casual, social affair, we invited some friends around to join us for a fiesta feast!

Old El Paso

I’d never seen the “Stand ‘N’ Stuff” soft taco kit before, it contains boat shaped soft tortila shells which you fill up with whatever you want. It also contains a packet of salsa style sauce and a sachet of flavour powder. All you do is brown some mince (I used Quorn), add a drop of water and stir through the flavour powder, it is ridiculously quick and really tasty. It had a really lovely smoky BBQ flavour which would I imagine work even better with minced beef. I really, really liked these and would definitely have these again instead of our usual fajitas.

The pack also included a packet of chilli flavour mix. We are big chilli fans and I’ve been eating chilli since my fairly exotic Nan started giving it to us for our tea in the early 1980s. I love chilli and know a good one from a bad one,  this was lovely. I followed the instructions on the packet to the letter, but again used Quorn instead of minced beef. I would use this flavour packet again, maybe next time I’d add more chopped tomatoes for a slightly wetter chilli and cook it for longer to allow the flavours to develop further. 

Old El Paso

We also tried a jar of salsa – a store cupboard staple for us, and this was a lovely accompaniment to our tacos, likewise the guacamole, it’s nice to have an ambient one for the times when you just can’t make your own. Hubs who likes  a bit of heat enjoyed most of the jar of jalapeños. I wasn’t brave enough to try them and I don’t think the small boy is ready for chillies just yet. 

Old El Paso

It was a fine feast, we all ate and ate well. The shape of the soft tacos was a bit of a game changer for me, it worked really well for the small boy too, there was less food down his top than usual which is always a good sign. Old El Paso seem to have really expanded their range recently, with more taco and flavour options, I’ll be keeping an eye out for new things to try from them. 

As a family we can’t really go wrong with Mexican food, it’s so easy to eat and secretly healthy and a great way to get veg into the boys without any fuss. All that was missing were the margaritas! 

Note: We were sent a selection of Old El Paso products to try for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Exploring The Really Interesting Food Co.

Over the last few months I’ve been trying out a number of different healthy food brands, the latest one is The Really Interesting Food Co. who make a range of vibrant and imaginative soups and meals inspired by cuisines from around the world. I was sent a couple of their best sellers to try, and I was impressed!

The Really Interesting Food Co.

I tried the Spanish Chickpea Casserole and the Balinese Lentil and Pepper Soup. I was impressed by the vibrant flavours and the heartiness of the casserole and the soup, I served them both with a hunk of bread and they were filling and delicious meals in themselves. They’re a great store cupboard saviour, meaning when I’m tired and hungry I could just open a tin and have a healthy meal in minutes.

The Really Interesting Food Co. also have in their range –
~ Moroccan Chickpea Soup
~ Mexican Bean Soup
~ Sri Lankan Lentil and Coconut Soup
~ Thai Temple Curry
~ Thai Green Curry

The products from The Really Interesting Food Co. are free from artificial additives and preservatives, and are gluten, wheat, dairy and GM free, as well as being suitable for vegetarians and vegans too.

Products from The Really Interesting Food Co. range are available from all good supermarkets and health food stores.

Review: Free & Easy Foods

These days food intolerances are being taken more seriously. I know several people who are gluten-free and worryingly I am starting to develop a dairy intolerance, meaning if I have a lovely unctuous cheese sauce or nice creamy pudding I am very, very ill, so I’m starting to avoid dairy as much as I can, which does make life a little bit sad for someone who loves cheese as much a I do.

I discovered the Free & Easy Foods range, which are a boon for people with intolerances, or those who just wish to avoid certain foods. The Free & Easy products range from sauces and gravies, through to ready meals,curry pastes and natural soft drinks. Free & Easy Foods are available from health food stores, fine food retailers and online.

Free and easy foods

Free & Easy Foods are free from wheat, gluten, dairy, soya, celery, mustard, nuts and preservatives. They are low fat and suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.

I was sent a selection of nice things to try. I almost wept with joy at the sight of the red onion gravy. I’m a vegetarian and good gravy in a packet is hard to come by. This had sausage and mash written all over it and it was delicious, really flavoursome and with nice chunky pieces of onion. It would be brilliant with a nut roast!

The next thing we tried was the dairy free cheese sauce, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I griddled some courgettes and tossed them through the sauce with some tagliatelle. Neither of the boys notices the dairy free cheese sauce was missing the key ingredient and I wasn’t really ill afterwards. This is definitely going to be a staple in my cupboard from now on.

Working from home I do like to keep a tin or two of soup or something heartier in the house for those times I fancy a hot lunch. I tried the lentil and red pepper soup and the organic three bean chilli which were both perfect for lunch, really tasty and hearty. I ate them with a chunk of fresh bread and they kept me going all afternoon.

Lastly we tried the tikka curry paste and the rogan josh curry paste. These were really easy to use. For the boys I just marinaded some chicken in the paste for a few hours and then cooked the chicken in a sauce I made with some more paste, vegetables and reduced fat coconut milk, I served this with rice and they really enjoyed it. I made a veggie version of the curry using quorn, but you could also use it with paneer or just lots of lovely fresh vegetables.

The Free & Easy Foods range is great if you’re avoiding certain things in your diet, the food doesn’t taste like you’re missing out on something, which is a very good thing. Free & Easy foods are packed with flavour and are low fat and healthy, what’s not to love?

You can find out more about Free & Easy Foods on their website.


Recipe: Authentic Imam Bayildi Armenian style

I am married to a tall, dark and (I think) handsome man, he gets his olive skinned good looks from his Dads side of the family and he is half Armenian, meaning the small boy is one quarter Armenian. I have no hint of interesting ancestry on my side of the family so I have wholeheartedly embraced some parts of Armenian culture. If I’m honest it’s the bits which involve food.

Armenian food is very Mediterranean, you can find very similar food in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. They do beautiful things with vegetables, so I’m sharing my favourite vegetarian Armenian recipe Imam Bayildi, I hope you like it.

Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. They’re simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables are essential and Cirio Tomato fillets are ideal, full of flavour and a little does go a long way.

Imam Bayildi Imam Bayildi – Armenian Style (serves four)

2 aubergines
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced (I prefer red, but a white onion works too)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 green pepper, finely diced
Half a can of Cirio tomato fillets
Big handful of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt & pepper

1. Cut the top off each aubergine, slice it in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh, leaving an aubergine boat, leave a little of the aubergine flesh around the skin so it can help retain its structural integrity while in the oven. Griddle the aubergine halves on a high heat until they have a little bit of char, then put in a baking dish so they are snuggled up close to each other, this will help them keep their shape in the oven.
2. Chop up the aubergine flesh and fry gently in the olive oil, while that is cooking (stir frequently) chop and add the onion and peppers to the pan. Cook until they are all soft and then add your crushed garlic cloves and half a tin of Cirio tomato fillets.
3. Season well and add your sugar, cook and stir regularly until most of the liquid has evaporated and all of the vegetables are cooked and soft. Stir through the chopped parsley (reserving a small amount to garnish with later).
3. Carefully spoon the tomato and vegetable mixture into the aubergine skins. Add two tablespoons of water to the baking dish to help the aubergines to cook. Bake for 30 minutes at 200c.
4. Once cooked serve with salad, rice or bulgar wheat, maybe some pitta bread.

Imam Bayildi

We love Imam Bayildi, it’s a regular meal for us, really flavoursome and healthy as well as being a traditional Armenian meal. I’m ticking all of the good wife boxes here.

I like to use Cirio tomato fillets because the quality of the tomatoes, the juice is really thick and you can tell by the colour, texture and flavour of the raw ingredient that anything you make with them will be delicious. They are especially good in my Imam Bayildi, a meal we all enjoyed as a family.

Note: I was sent some Cirio tomato products to try out in some of my recipes. All images, opinions and recipes are my own.

Review: EnvirOmega – Omega 3 for Vegetarians

As a vegetarian I have for a number of years been concerned about my diet lacking Omega 3. Omega 3 has so many health benefits and getting enough when you’re a pretty strict vegetarian can be problematic. I was sent a box of Efamol EnvirOmega to try out, which is a vegetarian Omega 3 supplement.

Omega 3 is most commonly found in oily fish, which is why it is recommended that people eat two portions of oily fish a week and for strict vegetarians this can be a real problem, so I’m pleased to find a supplement suitable for vegetarians.

Omega 3

EnvirOmega Omega 3 supplements can help to maintain normal brain function (DHA) and are made from algal oil. The algal oil in the capsules is from a specially cultivated plant source and the capsules contain a combination of Omega 3 fatty acids from marine mirco algae which are a good vegetarian source of DHA.

EnvirOmega comes in a box of 60 and are fish-free algal oil capsules. Each capsule is about 1cm long and is a soft, liquid filled, easy to swallow tablet. They don’t taste of anything in particular and are quite pleasant to take. The dosage is one capsule per day for adults.

Omega 3

I have taken them for a couple of weeks now and I think it’s too early to tell if they’ve had much of an impact on me, I think if I took them consistently for a few months I’d hope to notice some improvements. But it is good to know that I’m doing what I can to ensure that my body and brain are receiving the Omega 3 they need to function.

If you’re a vegetarian and you’re concerned about your Omega 3 intake, then it’s worth having a look at what supplements are available. These Efamol Enviromega Fish Free Brain Capsules are currently available for £11.99 for a box of 60.

Note: I was sent a box of capsules free of charge for review purposes, all images and opinions are my own.

Veggie restaurant food: a rant

I’ve been a veggie for 25 years. In that time I’ve seen vegetarian food go from lentils 12 ways, to shelf after shelf of veggie food in the supermarket. These are good times indeed for vegetarians. Back in the day asparagus came in tins and squash was something bright orange in a bottle that rotted your teeth. As far as we’ve come, I do wish restaurants would catch up.

I eat out at a variety of different restaurants and cafes, from really posh places (this is very rare) to high street chains and independents. A good 90% of the time I look at the menu and realise that the veggie option is more often than not a lazy afterthought.

This week I had a Christmas meal at a reasonably swish local restaurant. My meal was a starter of beetroot and goats cheese tart (the tart was just a circle of burnt pastry) and a spinach and feta filo pie which was almost inedible, the pastry was thick and burnt. I left it. I don’t really like pastry, let alone burnt pastry, two courses of burnt pastry.

A few weeks ago I had a veggie “burger” in a trendy burger place, it was a slab of halloumi. I like halloumi, I love halloumi, but just a slab of it in a burger bun is a disappointing cheese sandwich I could’ve made at home. The chips were nice though.

Every menu seems to have the same selection of veggie options –
Veggie burger
Pasta with tomato sauce
Risotto, usually mushroom
Something containing blue cheese
Something containing mushrooms

Is there a chefs’ law which states “thou shalt offer vegetarians blue cheese and mushroom options only”, I really hope not, I can’t stand blue cheese and I can’t eat mushrooms because they make me ill. Seriously, why so big on blue cheese? There are approximately 8 squillion different kinds of cheese out there, there’s more to life than Stilton.

Is it so hard to think beyond crappy filo pies, slabs of cheese and lasagnes? I know a lot of chefs look at vegetarians in a disdainful, disparaging way, but if we’ve got the money in our back pockets and we want to spend it eating your cooking, why won’t you serve us up something decent?

I’m not asking for the world, I’m just asking for a little bit of excitement on my plate, not the lazy “that’ll do” option. So down with burnt filo pastry, soggy lasagnes and blue cheese and mushroom monstrosities. You can do better, I know you can.

Veggie restaurant food

Healthy Lunch Box – Spinach & Goats Cheese Pesto Pasta

As the only veggie in the house, I am rubbish at feeding myself, the boys eat healthy, nutritious meaty meals and I might have some cereal, or toast. I’ve tried to avoid pasta because I thought that it wasn’t that great for you, that was until I read this article which contains actual science and shows that if you re-heat your pasta, it digests as a fibre rather than a carbohydrate. Which is brilliant because that means it releases energy differently and it is healthy, or pretty healthy. Whichever, it means it’s back on my menu at last.

Because pasta is now healthy when it’s cold, or better still, re-heated, it makes a pretty perfect lunch box staple. So for my lunches this week I made a big batch of spinach and goats cheese pesto pasta. I can take it out and about with me, it can be eaten cold, or if I’m near a microwave I can quickly reheat it. It’s incredibly simple to make, healthy-ish to eat and just delicious.

healthy lunch box

Spinach & Goats Cheese Pesto Pasta

One bag of fresh baby spinach, ready washed
One garlic clove, crushed
100g of toasted pine nuts
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Zest of one lemon
Juice of half a lemon
1 and a half teaspoons of honey
200g goats cheese (grated if you can be bothered, cut into pieces if you can’t
Roasted tomatoes
Pasta – I used twirls

Set up your blender and tip in your fresh spinach, blend for a minute or so until it’s all starting to turn into a paste. Add the garlic, toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, honey and generous amounts of salt & pepper. Blend until it’s all combined and it’s looking like a paste.
Add your goats cheese and then add olive oil until it is the pesto type consistency you need, you’re probably looking at maybe around 100ml of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and tip in your pasta, when it’s cooked (instructions should be on the packet), drain and stir the pesto through. You probably won’t need to use all the pesto which can be stored in the fridge for another day.

I topped mine with some thyme roasted tomatoes which are one of my favourite things in the world. It’s a delicious lunch (or evening meal) for all the family, contains at least one of your five a day, it’s easy to make and a great healthy lunch box for when you’re on the go.

If like me you’re busy, then quick, tasty, healthy and satisfying things are the way to go. Eat Natural have just started selling their first ever (gluten-free) Buckwheat single serving cereal.

It’s designed for people who want a ‘grab-and-go’, natural and nutritious breakfast. The cereal is a blend of toasted buckwheat and crisped rice with raisins, mixed seeds, coconut, honey and a pinch of cinnamon. It’s actually lovely and would be great sprinkled on top of some thick Greek yoghurt for breakfast.
The Eat Natural Buckwheat muesli is available in Tesco stores priced only at 79p per serving.

Healthy lunch box

Note: Eat Natural sent me some of their Buckwheat cereal to try and asked me to come up with a healthy lunch box recipe for busy people like me. All images and opinions are my own.

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