Tag Archives: comfort food

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

One of the things I miss as a vegetarian is the rich beefiness of French Onion Soup. It is in my opinion the king of soups and perfect for cold days when you’re craving a rich broth. I once lamented my French Onion Soup regrets to a wonderful chef who used to work at Greens, Simon Rimmer’s vegetarian restaurant in West Didsbury. The next day she’d whipped me up a batch of French Onion Soup which was entirely vegetarian. I was in awe.

She gave me a few top tips for making my own French Onion Soup at home, but she sadly passed away before I could share with her my triumphs. So my version of this recipe is for Shona, my old friend who I miss terribly.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

This is vegetarian, but you could easily make it vegan by swapping the butter for a vegan spread or oil.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Ingredients:
30g of butter
4 or 5 large white onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of plain flour
3 tablespoons of sherry
1 litre of vegetable stock made with Essential Cuisine liquid concentrate
2 tablespoons of mushroom ketchup
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
Half a tablespoon of tomato puree
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Salt & pepper
1 baguette
A handful of grated cheese, Gruyere is preferable but Cheddar is also fine.

Method:
Switch your slow cooker onto high and peel and slice your onions into rings. Add the butter and onions to the slow cooker and leave them to soften for an hour or so. You might prefer to do this stage in a frying pan, softening the onions gently. This would speed up the process if you can.

Once the onions are soft, add the crushed garlic and stir. Then add the plain flour, stir again and then add your sherry. Pour in a litre of vegetable stock and then add the mushroom ketchup, sherry vinegar, sugar, tomato puree, bay leaves and some salt and pepper. Cook on high for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.

Taste your soup and add more seasoning and sugar if it needs it. Turn your slow cooker down to low and it can happily sit for several hours. The longer you cook it, the richer and deeper the flavour.

When you’re ready to serve, slice your baguette up into rounds and grill on one side to your liking. Flip your sliced over and top with cheese, grill until it’s melted and bubbling. Ladle your soup into bowls and then float your cheesy baguette slice on top and enjoy.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is such a delicious treat, rich and warming and all the better for being made with a good quality stock like Essential Cuisine. The range has been around for a long time and has won lots of awards for its ‘homemade’ taste.

There are four concentrated liquid stocks in the range – vegetable, beef, lamb and chicken. They’re bursting with flavour and just the thing for this soup which relies upon a good quality stock to bring it to life.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

In collaboration with Essential Cuisine.

Recipe: Spinach & Pea Soup with Ricotta Dumplings

Over the weekend I made a big pot of my Spinach & Pea Soup with Ricotta Dumplings. It’s so quick and easy to make, and it’s absolutely packed with good stuff. The ricotta dumplings are optional but they help make a simple lunch a little heartier.

For me, Autumn is the season for soup. I love making a big bubbling pot of soup as a weekend lunch, and something that’ll last me through the week too. I’ve been feeling very run down recently and both me and my son are anemic. On top of the iron supplements he has been prescribed, I’ve been feeding him up with iron rich foods, spinach being top of the list. I’ve been finely shredding it and stirring it through all kinds of things, from curries to pasta sauces. Being secretive about eating spinach isn’t always a good thing, especially when it makes something so wonderfully vibrant as this.

Recipe: Spinach & Pea Soup with Ricotta Dumplings

I’m not sure this healthy recipe could get much easier. Often I don’t bother with the dumplings and just make a huge pot of soup. It’s pretty frugal too which makes it an all round winner.

Spinach & Pea Soup with Ricotta Dumplings

Ingredients (serves 8)
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 litre of hot vegetable stock
500g of frozen peas
800g fresh baby spinach
Sprinkling of dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper
Single cream

For the Ricotta Dumplings –
250g ricotta cheese, drained
75g self raising flour
1 large egg
30g Parmesan style cheese, finely grated
Salt and pepper

How to make the Spinach and Pea Soup –

Drizzle the oil in the bottom of a large pan. Throw in your diced onions and cook slowly until they’re tender. Add your diced potatoes and crushed garlic and stir for a minute. Pour in your hot stock, then leave to simmer for ten minutes or so until your potato pieces are tender.

Once your potato is cooked, add your spinach (it may look like a huge amount but it will wilt down to nothing) and put the lid on the pan for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to help the wilting process. Once wilted, throw in your frozen peas and simmer for a few minutes. Add some salt and pepper and about half a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs. You could use fresh herbs such as mint or coriander if you’d like, or even pesto, but dried herbs are fine.

Take the soup off the hob and leave to cool a little. Using a stick blender, blend the soup until it’s smooth with no lumps or leafy bits. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it. At this stage I also like to add a couple of tablespoons of single cream to make it taste a little more luxurious. 

Recipe: Spinach & Pea Soup with Ricotta Dumplings

How to make the Ricotta Dumplings –

Drain your ricotta and pat it dry with some kitchen towel. Tip it into a mixing bowl with the Parmesan, salt and pepper and egg. Mix together. Carefully stir in the flour.

Put a large pan of water to simmer on the hob. Using two spoons, form the ricotta dough into small quinnells. If you don’t want to make quinnells, you can gently pat the dough into small ball shapes no bigger than a teaspoon scoop. Don’t be tempted to make them too big, they won’t cook through properly if you do.

In small batches put the dumplings into the simmering water to cook. Do not crowd the pan. The dumplings should sink to the bottom and then rise. I turn them over in the water and cook for another minute once they have risen to the top of the water. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain. 

To serve, float three dumplings on top of your spinach and pea soup. I added a drizzle of single cream, but some finely grated Parmesan would work well on top of the soup and dumplings too.

Enjoy with some fresh crusty bread and feel virtuous at how much healthy veg you’re eating.

Recipe: Spinach & Pea Soup with Ricotta Dumplings

Check out my recipe for Norwegian Inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

Recipe: Luxurious Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup

Since I made my Norwegian Inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup in the autumn, I’ve been a bit obsessed with this deliciously frugal soup. I’ve started using frozen cauliflower for the recipe, so it’s really cheap and as I keep a bag of it in my freezer at all times, I always have the ingredients to hand if I need to throw together a quick but delicious meal.

Before Christmas I popped into Manchester for a date night with my husband. We were off to a gig but fancied a pint first. We were propping up the bar when I spotted one of their specials was cauliflower and chestnut soup, and an idea formed which I couldn’t shake. I needed to make that lovely sounding soup.

I’ve had a tin of Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread in my cupboard for a few months now. I’d bought it with great intentions, but never managed to make anything with it. I’ve never tried chestnuts before, which I know is a bit strange. So I really didn’t know what to expect until I opened my tin and had a taste.

I confess I may have made a bit of a mistake using the Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread in my Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup. It’s a sweetened spread which is probably more suited for use in desserts, cakes and bakes, but although it did make the soup taste quite sweet, it actually worked quite well.

Having now tasted the chestnut spread I’m going to buy some more to make a good pud with, and maybe buy some unsweetened chestnut purée to make more soup with, but if sweet spread is all you’ve got, it’s not the end of the world.

Recipe: Luxurious Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup

Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup

Ingredients – serves 6

1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
900g cauliflower florets – fresh or frozen
300mls hot vegetable stock
400mls milk
250g chestnut purée
1 tablespoon of finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper, ground chilli flakes

Method

Gently fry your onion in the olive oil until it’s soft. 

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.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool for ten minutes. Add the chestnut purée and the finely grated Parmesan cheese and stir through. Using a blender (I used a stick blender), blend the soup until it is 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.

Add any extra salt, pepper and ground chilli flakes if you think it needs additional seasoning.To serve, spoon into bowls and drizzle some of your favourite oil on top on top – I used a cold pressed rapeseed oil which I particularly like. Serve with warm crusty bread.

It’s as simple as that. My Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup is really delicious and it’s smooth, silky and filling. It’s a luxurious treat of a soup and more than a cut above anything I’ve had before. 

What’s your favourite chestnut recipe?

Five Delicious Vegetarian Comfort Food Dishes

I turned vegetarian when I was 13 and there’s not a lot I miss, but on a cold winter night I do sometimes hanker after the slow cooked, deep flavoured chilli my Nan used to make. Thankfully after lots of practice I’ve finally nailed the recipe and managed to make it vegetarian too.

Most of the warming comfort food dishes from my childhood were meat based – family roast dinners, my Nan’s amazing beef chilli, corned beef hash, shepherd’s pie and bubbling stews cooked so long the meat almost melted in your mouth.

There’s something about cooking up some comfort food which makes you feel like you’re showing your family some extra love. I enjoy throwing a few things in the slow cooker and knowing that by tea time there will be a delicious meal ready for my family.

Vegetarian comfort food can feel a bit hard to come by, so I’ve created and shared some of our favourite family recipes on my blog, here are five of my favourite vegetarian comfort food recipes – 

Vegetarian Galletes

vegetarian comfort food

These are a recent addition to my comfort food repertoire. They’re really easy to make, utterly delicious and once you get the hang of it you can fill them however you want. I made a Goats Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Quince Galette and a Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette. Both were absolutely bang on and real crowd pleasers.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

vegetarian comfort food

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 recreated my favourite soup, but with a cheesy twist. Try my very delicious Norwegian inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

vegetarian comfort food

I’d had it in my head to make a big Spanish style bravas sausage casserole in my slow cooker for a while. This summer hadn’t been up to much and I was desperate to start rustling up comfort food dishes, and this was the first one of the season. 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. The recipe is really simple and it’s now a firm family favourite.

Authentic Armenian style Imam Bayildi 

vegetarian comfort food

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 and herbs are essential, they’re packed full of flavour and these sunshiny aubergines are a little bit of summer on a cold autumn evening.

Easy Microwave Jam Sponge

vegetarian comfort food

No vegetarian comfort food round-up would be complete without a pudding. This incredibly easy to make and very quick to cook microwave jam sponge is just the ticket to warm your cockles on a cold winter evening. All you need are a few store cupboard ingredients, ten minutes of your time and you’ve got a good pud that’ll make your family smile.

Voucherbox.co.uk have a great blog post about the five healthy foods that can actually save you money, and if you want even more money off your online shop they also have plenty of Sainsbury’s vouchers which you can use.

vegetarian comfort food

Recipe: Norwegian Inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup

The first time I ever tried Cauliflower Cheese Soup was 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 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.

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.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

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
  • A tbsp olive oil
  • 900g cauliflower florets – fresh or frozen
  • 300mls hot vegetable stock
  • 400mls milk
  • 100g 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. Pour in 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 even 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 is the ultimate comfort food. What comfort food dishes will be warming your cockles this autumn?

Recipe: Norwegian Inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Try my recipe for Luxurious Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup