Tag Archives: vegetarian

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?

Recipe: Luxurious Chestnut and Cauliflower Soup

Recipe: Mini Cheese and Pickled Walnut Quiches

This Christmas, like every other Christmas was a time for feasting. We’ve eaten and eaten well and the fridge is full of lovely leftovers we’re slowly working our way through. A return to normality beckons and those leftovers really needed using up, so for lunch today I made a batch of these lovely mini quiches using the remnants of the cheese board, some pickled walnuts and some stale bread. The result was quite delicious, very simple and as they are made from leftovers, they cost virtually nothing to throw together.

Recipe: Mini Cheese & Pickled Walnut Quiches

Mini Cheese & Pickled Walnut Quiches

Makes 12

Ingredients
6 slices of bread
Small knob of butter
3 spring onions
3 eggs
50g finely grated cheese
3 or 4 pickled walnuts
Salt & pepper

Method
Using a rolling pin, roll each slice of bread until it is flat like pastry, then using a cutter, cut out two circles in the bread, continue until you have 12 bread circles. Butter a bun tray and press a circle in to form your quiche base.

Finely slice your spring onions and gently fry in butter until they’re soft, this should only take a few minutes.

Beat three eggs in a bowl and season, add 40g of your finely grated cheese – I used a mature cheddar. Stir through your cooled spring onions.

Pour a dessert spoon of the egg mixture into each of the bread bases. Slice your pickled walnuts (no more than 5mm thick), place one slice on the top of your quiche and sprinkle with a pinch of the remaining cheese.

Bake at 190° for 10-15 minutes until puffed up and browning. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then serve with a lovely fresh salad.

Recipe: Mini Cheese & Pickled Walnut Quiches

These little cheese and pickled walnut quiches are really quite lovely. I made a batch and the boys gobbled them up in double quick time. They’d make excellent canapés or party food, or just a very lovely lunch. The pickled walnuts add a mouth watering extra pickley edge to the mini quiche.

I know swapping out the traditional shortcrust pastry for bread might be a little controversial, but it’s a great way of using bread which is nearing the end of its usefulness and it’s so much quicker than making pastry from scratch. Though if you are a determined traditionalist, this recipe would work just as well with pastry instead of bread.

I used a nice mature cheddar, but this would work with virtually any hard cheese of your choosing. I’ve a fancy to try them with some Stilton crumbled in which I think would be particularly excellent.

We used Opies Pickled Walnuts which are soft, yielding and an excellent accompaniment to cheese, and as it turns out, pretty nifty in a quiche too. These cheese and pickled walnut mini quiches are so easy to knock up from the remains of your festive cheeseboard, I promise you won’t regret using the last of your pickled walnuts on this recipe.

How do you use up your festive leftovers?

Recipe: Mini Cheese and Pickled Walnut Quiches

Foodie Round Up: Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Ideas

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 13 and one of the questions I’m asked the most is what do you have for your vegetarian Christmas dinner? The easy answer is, pretty much the same as everyone else, but without the turkey and with veggie gravy. We always do 800 different kinds of vegetables anyway, so I’ve never felt left out, and as the lone veggie at the table I never felt like it was worth the bother.

In 2001 my lovely sister in law came along. She was a veggie and when the percentage of vegetarians around the table had increased, we thought it was worth making a bit more of a culinary effort on Christmas Day. Over the years we’ve experimented with various vegetarian alternatives, but hand on heart my favourite has turned out to be the nut roast. I know it’s a terrible cliché, but I just love it.

I’ve picked out six delicious vegetarian Christmas dinner options (or maybe just for Sunday lunch), so if you’re catering for vegetarians this Christmas, there’s no need for them to feel left out.

galette

Go for my goats cheese and caramelised onion galette, it’s incredibly simple but utterly delicious. It’s a real family favourite. You could add a seasonal twist by swapping out the onions for stuffing and adding a dollop of cranberry sauce!

My good friend and fellow vegetarian, Jen from My Mummy’s Pennies has shared her recipe for Festive Stuffed Mushrooms. These hearty shrooms are filled with festive flavours, they’d be easy to put together on Christmas Eve and pop in the oven on the day. Easy peasy.

vegetarian Christmas dinner

Christmas isn’t Christmas without something chock full of chestnuts gracing the table, this Leek, Artichoke, Mushroom and Chestnut Pie from Inside the Wendy House certainly fits the bill. I imagine this would also be great cold on Boxing Day with some bubble and squeak.

vegetarian Christmas dinner

I love the look of this Vegetarian Beef Wellington from Jenny at The Brick Castle. It looks hearty enough to satisfy any rogue carnivores around the table, but quick and easy enough to be thrown together in a busy Christmas kitchen.

If you’ve got a vegan coming for Christmas, Inside the Wendy House has come up with this delicious sounding Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Nut Roast Pie. It looks super-simple but really. Wendy says it’s good served cold too – I bet it is!

vegetarian Christmas dinner

If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy a good stuffing at Christmas. I tend to favour fresh stuffings on Christmas Day, they just taste a bit more luxurious than the dried packets of stuffing. For a really simple vegetarian Christmas dinner option, Mr Crumb have a range of fresh microwavable gourmet stuffings to choose from. I think the apple and apricot is cracking and would be excellent in one of Jen’s stuffed mushrooms with some softly melting goats cheese on the top.

vegetarian Christmas dinner

I think there are lots of great ideas in this round up of vegetarian Christmas dinner ideas – I think most of them could easily be adapted to be vegan too. I do love a nut roast on Christmas Day, but if you don’t, there are plenty of other options available to you.

What will you be serving up on Christmas Day?

Six Sensational Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Ideas

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: Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette

Last week I made a rather excellent Goats Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Quince Galette. It was utterly delicious and incredibly easy, so spurred on my my previous success I decided to make another. Behold my Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette.

This was very much a spur of the moment, what do I have in the fridge that I can use kind of deal. I had some nice looking cherry tomatoes, some feta which needed using up and some red pesto. The rest, as they say is history. Rather delicious history.

Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette

As with my Goats Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Quince Galette, this Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette is ridiculously easy. You could even buy some ready made pastry if you don’t fancy making your own, though making your own takes minutes and is very simple and satisfying. Follow my easy recipe for a lovely simple supper.

Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette

Serves 6
This Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette is a lovely hearty autumnal dish, great for the family and even non-veggies will enjoy it.

Ingredients
For the shortcrust pastry –
100g butter
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves – I used fresh but dry would be fine
tepid water
pinch of salt
For the filling –
150g of feta cheese
50g of cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon of red pesto
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Dab of butter
Salt & pepper
1 egg

Instructions
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. 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.
3. Crumble your feta cheese and cheddar 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.
4. Top the cheese with a tablespoon of pesto and halve your cherry tomatoes and arrange them artistcally on top.
5. 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.
6. Brush with the beaten egg and dot the quince slices on the top with some butter.
7. Bake in a pre-heated oven 200°c for 45-50 minutes until golden brown.
8. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes, and then serve.

Notes
This serves 6 for lunch, or 4 hungry people. I served my galette with new potatoes and salad.

Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette

I loved the saltiness of the feta, if you were so inclined you could throw in a handful of olives too. This Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette would be perfect for a weekend lunch with a leafy salad. It’s so tasty even carnivores wouldn’t complain!

Recipe: Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette

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

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.

Ingredients
For the shortcrust pastry –
100g butter
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves – I used fresh but dry would be fine
tepid water
pinch of salt
For the filling –
150g of goats cheese
1 large onion
knob of butter
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
1 quince, cored and finely sliced
1 egg

Instructions
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Brush with the beaten egg and dot the quince slices on the top with some butter.
8. Bake in a pre-heated oven 200°c for 45-50 minutes until golden brown.
9. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes, and then serve.

Notes
This serves 6 for lunch, or 4 hungry people. I served my galette with new potatoes and salad.

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. Making the sauce in the slow cooker and letting it bubble away gently to itself for a few hours makes it extra delicious.

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.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 500g cartons of passata
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste
8 sausages (two per person) I used Quorn sausages

Instructions
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.

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.

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.

Serve the Bravas Sausage Casserole with crispy roasted potatoes and aioli. Scatter with the remaining chopped fresh parsley.

Notes
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!
This does make lots of sauce. If you have lots left over, it’s delicious warmed up the next day with crusty bread.

The Bravas Sausage Casserole 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?

Recipe: Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

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.