Tag Archives: vegetarian

Recipe: Norwegian Inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup

In 2003 we had a long weekend in Kristiansand in Norway. It was December and the Christmas lights made the city twinkle at night, the snow was piled high in the streets and it was cold, bitterly, bitterly cold.

We’d venture out and dash in and out of shops, sit drinking steaming cups of coffee in cafes and we’d eat at night in the bistro downstairs from the hotel. Hubs was determined to sample as many Norwegian delicacies as he could, reindeer was a favourite. I am veggie and there wasn’t much choice for me, so I lived on Blomkålsuppe, a Norwegian cauliflower soup. I loved it and I’ve lusted after it ever since.

Now autumn is here my soup making pot is starting to see some serious action. Cauliflowers are cheap and plentiful in the shops, so I decided to try and recreate my favourite soup in the world, but with a cheesy twist that my son would approve of. This morning I made some very delicious Norwegian inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

I’d been sent some cheese from Wyke Farms to try out and I decided to use some in my Cauliflower Cheese Soup. Wyke Farms cheese is widely available in supermarkets, and I always buy a lot of it when I go to the International Cheese Awards. A good Cheddar is an essential as far as I’m concerned, I doubt we go a day without using some in one way or another.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

I decided to use the Extra Mature Cheddar in my soup – it had a lovely subtle tang which I knew would compliment my soup nicely. Cheddar is a perfectly versatile cheese, it melts beautifully and we use it almost as a seasoning. The Wyke Farms Cheddar is a traditional farmhouse style Cheddar which is made in Somerset, which is as it should be.

This Cauliflower Cheese Soup really is very simple, incredibly hearty and exactly like a lovely comforting hug in a bowl. Serve with warm crusty bread, or if you’re feeling especially Scandinavian try it with rye bread.

Norwegian Inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup

This Cauliflower Cheese Soup really is very simple, incredibly hearty and exactly like a lovely comforting hug in a bowl. Serve with warm crusty bread, or if you’re feeling especially Scandinavian try it with rye bread.

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 900g cauliflower florets – fresh or frozen
  • 300mls hot vegetable stock
  • 400mls milk
  • 100g Wyke Farms Extra Mature Cheddar Cheese
  • Salt, pepper, ground chilli flakes
  1. Gently fry your onion in the butter and olive oil until it’s soft. 

  2. Add your cauliflower florets to the pan and stir. Add the hot vegetable stock and 300mls of the milk. Add a little salt, pepper and ground chilli flakes, then put the lid on the pan and simmer until the cauliflower is tender.

  3. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for ten minutes. Using a blender (I used a stick blender), blend the soup until smooth. I added the remaining 100mls of milk at this stage as my soup was too thick. If your soup needs loosening up add some extra milk.

  4. Stir in most of your grated cheese and stir until it has melted through. Taste the soup, you can always add more cheese if you think it needs it. Add any extra salt, pepper and ground chilli flakes if you think it needs additional seasoning.

  5. To serve, spoon into bowls and sprinkle a little extra cheese on top. Serve with warm crusty bread.

If you’d like to garnish your soup with caramelised cauliflower like I have, remove a cooked floret from the pan before you blend the soup and pat dry.

Thinly cut it into slices and gently fry with some butter until golden brown. Gently lay it on top of the soup and serve. Delicious!

You could use frozen cauliflower for your soup. Just defrost it thoroughly first and you’d never know once it was blended up. It’s frugal too.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Cauliflower cheese soup is the ultimate comfort food. What comfort food dishes will be warming your cockles this autumn?

For more information about Wyke Farms visit their website.

Note: I was sent some cheese from Wyke Farms to try, all images and opinions are my own.

Recipe: Goats Cheese & Caramelised Onion Galette

Hello Autumn. This wonderful season of mellow fruitfulness and crispy crunchy leaves has arrived, and my lovely quince tree is heaving with fruit. Normally I make a big batch of quince jelly with its fruit, but this year we have so many that I thought I’d cook with them too. I made a delicious Goats Cheese & Caramelised Onion Galette topped with quince – and it was oh so good!

Quince is an unusual fruit. It looks like a hard pear and is covered in fuzz. They’re not so much an eating fruit, but one you cook with. They’re most commonly found in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cookery. Quince are perhaps most famously used in membrillo, a delicious thick paste served with cheese from Spain.

galette

I’ve never made a galette before, I had one at a French cafe in Devon and thought that it would be a good thing to try at home. It’s a bit like an informal French tart. It’s very simple and a great thing to throw together on an Autumnal evening for a warming family meal. It looks pretty too doesn’t it?

galette

It’s very simple, it’s a shortcrust pastry filled with whatever you fancy. I went for goats cheese and caramelised onion topped with finely sliced quince in a fresh thyme pastry crust. If you don’t have quince you could slice and apple or pear over the top and it would probably be just as good.

Goats Cheese & Caramelised Onion Galette
Serves 6
Try this delicious informal French tart - the perfect thing for an Autumnal supper.
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
45 min
493 calories
35 g
119 g
35 g
10 g
22 g
188 g
162 g
2 g
1 g
11 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
188g
Servings
6
Amount Per Serving
Calories 493
Calories from Fat 310
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 35g
54%
Saturated Fat 22g
111%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g
Cholesterol 119mg
40%
Sodium 162mg
7%
Total Carbohydrates 35g
12%
Dietary Fiber 2g
7%
Sugars 2g
Protein 10g
Vitamin A
24%
Vitamin C
7%
Calcium
7%
Iron
8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. For the shortcrust pastry -
  2. 100g butter
  3. 225g plain flour
  4. 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves - I used fresh but dry would be fine
  5. tepid water
  6. pinch of salt
  7. For the filling -
  8. 150g of goats cheese
  9. 1 large onion
  10. knob of butter
  11. 1 teaspoon of sugar
  12. 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  13. salt & pepper
  14. 1 quince, cored and finely sliced
  15. 1 egg
Instructions
  1. 1. Make your pastry. Rub the butter and flour together in a bowl until they are like breadcrumbs. Add your thyme and salt and combine. Gradually add the tepid water a couple of spoons at a time into your bowl until you have a ball of dough that isn't too sticky and wet or too dry. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for half an hour or so.
  2. 2. Finely slice your onion and fry gently until soft and golden in the knob of butter. Once soft, season and add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook through. Set aside to cool a little.
  3. 3. Roll out your dough until it's about the thickness of a pound coin and roughly the shape of a circle approximately 30cm in diameter. Place on baking paper on a baking tray.
  4. 4. Slice or crumble your goats cheese (whichever works best with the cheese you've chosen) and place it in the middle of the pastry, leave an edge around the sides of about 6 or 7cms so you can fold the pastry up to make the classic galette shape later.
  5. 5. Top the cheese with your caramelised onions and then fan your finely sliced quince (or apple or pear) in an artistic circle on top of the onion.
  6. 6. Take a pastry brush and brush beaten egg around the visible edge of your galette. Now take a look at my picture of the finished galette. You will need to bring the sides of your galette over the sides and covering the top, leaving the middle of the galette open. Fold the sides in sections, working anti-clockwise so they roughly overlap. Gently press the folds together. It is meant to look rustic.
  7. 7. Brush with the beaten egg and dot the quince slices on the top with some butter.
  8. 8. Bake in a pre-heated oven 200°c for 45-50 minutes until golden brown.
  9. 9. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes, and then serve.
Notes
  1. This serves 6 for lunch, or 4 hungry people. I served my galette with new potatoes and salad.
beta
calories
493
fat
35g
protein
10g
carbs
35g
more
HodgePodgeDays http://hodgepodgedays.co.uk/

My goats cheese and caramelised onion galette was delicious and easy to make. I really liked how rustic and hearty it looked, and it’s always good to bring something to the table which makes everyone’s tummy rumble. The French often make sweet galettes with plums and such like, I have a feeling we’ll be eating a lot of these versatile galettes this year.

galette

Recipe: Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

When I go out for tapas I always order patatas bravas. I love the crispy pieces of potato smothered in the garlicky, tomatoey bravas sauce. I’ve had it in my head to make a big Spanish style bravas sausage casserole in my slow cooker for a while. This summer has not been up to much and the rainy days have had me guiltily rustling up comfort food dishes, instead of summery salads and such like.

I confess I made my sausage casserole with Quorn sausages, but you could very easily make them with your favourite meaty sausages if you’d prefer. I made the sauce in the slow cooker and let it bubble away gently to itself for a few hours.

Bravas Sausage Casserole

I browned the sausages separately and popped them into the sauce for the last hour or so. The great thing about Quorn sausages is that they take on some of the flavour of the sauce.

To serve I roasted some new potatoes in some oil and once they were cooked I spooned over some sausages and bravas sauce and added a dollop of incredibly garlicky aioli.

Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole
Serves 4
A super simple, delicious and fairly frugal family meal.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
4 hr
386 calories
8 g
69 g
32 g
16 g
9 g
159 g
713 g
4 g
0 g
20 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
159g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 386
Calories from Fat 292
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 32g
50%
Saturated Fat 9g
47%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 16g
Cholesterol 69mg
23%
Sodium 713mg
30%
Total Carbohydrates 8g
3%
Dietary Fiber 2g
7%
Sugars 4g
Protein 16g
Vitamin A
17%
Vitamin C
14%
Calcium
4%
Iron
11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  2. 1 large onion, chopped
  3. 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  4. 2 500g cartons of passata
  5. 2 tablespoons of tomato purée
  6. 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  7. 1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce
  8. 1 teaspoon of sugar
  9. 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
  10. 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  11. Salt & Pepper to taste
  12. 8 sausages (two per person) I used Quorn sausages
Instructions
  1. In a frying pan gently fry the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until it's soft but not brown. Add in the garlic towards the end of cooking and cook through.
  2. Tip the fried onion and garlic into your slow cooker, add the passata, tomato purée, smoked paprika, sweet chilli sauce, sugar and oregano and cook on medium for about 3 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning if you feel it needs it.
  3. In the frying pan, fry your sausages until they're brown, drain and add to the sauce and leave to cook through for an hour. Before serving stir through 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley.
  4. Serve with crispy roasted potatoes and aioli. Scatter with the remaining chopped fresh parsley.
Notes
  1. I sometimes finely dice some peppers, cook them off and add them to the sauce to bump up the veg content. This sauce is perfect for hiding secret veg from your children!
  2. This does make lots of sauce. If you have lots left over it's delicious warmed up the next day with crusty bread.
beta
calories
386
fat
32g
protein
16g
carbs
8g
more
HodgePodgeDays http://hodgepodgedays.co.uk/

It was delicious and something I will be making over and over again. What’s more it’s very simple, pretty quick to throw together and fairly frugal. What’s not to love?

Brunch at Neighbourhood in Manchester

Weekends are made for brunching. After a busy week of work, one of my favourite things is to go out for brunch with my boys, or meet some friends for a catch up over a plate of good eggs, endless coffee and maybe a breakfast cocktail or two. I was invited to a blogger brunch by Neighbourhood in Manchester, to try out their new brunch menu and sample a couple of breakfast mimosas. 

Arriving early on a rainy Saturday morning, my fragrant friend Liz and I were ushered to a table near the bar. Neighbourhood was busy and buzzing, during the week I suspect it’s busy with ladies who lunch, business lunches and people going for after work drinks. It’s known for being a celebrity hang out and whilst we were there I did spy a couple of familiar faces from the TV. 

We ordered drinks, tea and coffee and a couple of breakfast drinkies (rude not to) on offer were Bellinis and mimosas. We were there for a bloggers breakfast where some of the key dishes from the brunch menu were being showcased. 

Neighbourhood

The first brunch item we tried were the buttermilk pancakes with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce was so glossy Mary Berry would have wept with joy. The stack of four buttermilk pancakes were smothered in the sauce and came with a small (too small?)  dollop of whipped cream, the pancakes were sweet and good and I know my son would have gobbled them all up and then wanted to lick the plate clean afterwards.

Between pancakes and brunch we were brought a Breakfast Sandwich to sample which consisted of a toasted muffin, sausage, bacon and fried egg. The chef kindly made a vegetarian version for me which contained a nice crispy fried egg, spinach and mushrooms, although I can’t eat mushrooms so I had to take those out and give them to Liz. We both particularly enjoyed our crispy eggs and my spinach was well cooked and seasoned and was not watery.

Neighbourhood

We ordered our brunch proper, Liz plumped for the Full English which came with bacon, scrambled egg, black pudding, sausages, tomato, baked beans and toast. One of the failings of the brunch menu for me is the lack of vegetarian options, thankfully the kitchen were happy to specially make me my own veggie brunch which consisted of two buttermilk pancakes, scrambled egg, tomato, baked beans, spinach and mushrooms.

Neighbourhood

There were some very lovely elements to my breakfast. The scrambled egg was among the best I’ve had, I loved the sauteed spinach which was perfectly seasoned. I found the pancakes an unusual addition, but actually they worked well but could have perhaps done with a dab of salty butter on them. The beans were beans but served in a pot to appease the “don’t let my baked beans touch any of my food” crowd. I was slightly less keen on the tomato, which although it was perfectly cooked, had a garlicky aftertaste which seemed to throw off the balance of flavours on my plate a little.

I had to give my mushrooms to Liz because they make me poorly, she was not unhappy with this. There was a really interesting mix of mushrooms on offer, they’d been well cooked and seasoned and smelt so good. Shame I couldn’t eat more than a tiny nibble.

Neighbourhood

Neighbourhood is a bustling busy place, and the staff were just the right amount of friendly, chatty and helpful. I think the new Neighbourhood brunch menu is solidly interesting, with some crowd pleasers on there. I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t a vegetarian option listed on their menu, I know you can always ask for them to make something for you, but if it’s not on the menu then as a vegetarian I’d probably be put off by that. It’s such a shame, especially as the veggie brunch I had I would happily order again.

Neighbourhood is located on The Avenue North, Spinningfields, Manchester. Their brunch menu is available on weekends 10am to 2pm. Visit their website for more information or to view their menu.

We were invited guests of the restaurant and were not asked to pay for our food or drink. Nevertheless, all images and opinions are my own.

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. 

FoodMaestro

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. 

FoodMaestro

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.

FoodMaestro

= 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.
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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
1620g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1222
Calories from Fat 654
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 74g
114%
Saturated Fat 46g
230%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 20g
Cholesterol 230mg
77%
Sodium 1865mg
78%
Total Carbohydrates 73g
24%
Dietary Fiber 24g
94%
Sugars 36g
Protein 80g
Vitamin A
49%
Vitamin C
946%
Calcium
199%
Iron
35%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 2 cauliflowers
  2. 400mls milk (I used semi skimmed)
  3. 200g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  4. Salt & Pepper (chilli flakes & grated nutmeg optional)
Instructions
  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.
Notes
  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.
beta
calories
1222
fat
74g
protein
80g
carbs
73g
more
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.