I’m quite happy it’s a bit rainy at the moment. Apart from the farmers who of course need this all day drizzle so desperately, it means it’s comfort food season and being originally from England, I have a special place in my heart for hearty steamy stews and casseroles. So here is one! I’ve sneaked kale into it again, and it’s packed full of other veggies in a lovely rich tomato sauce. You can throw others in it too, I often add frozen corn and peas as well (you can easily increase the quantities, you might just need to add a bit of extra stock and / or tomatoes), which bulks it out if you suddenly find you have extra mouths to feed and adds a splash of extra colour. We used regular tofu this time, but often make it with smoked tofu which accentuates the smokiness in the paprika. We love this brand, it never lasts long in our house…
I’m lucky enough to have a 5-1 cooker which is a pressure cooker / steamer / slow cooker / soup maker etc. and I’ve used the pressure cooker and soup function in this recipe which really speeds things up. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can still make this, the speed also comes from the all in one method, so it won’t take ages anyway.
We served this with Rice Plus which is brown rice with added grains and seeds and is totally delicious.
Quick Creamy Tomato Tofu Casserole
Recipe type: Stew / Casserole
- 400g tofu, cubed (smoked tofu works well too)
- 1 stick celery, diced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 small red, 1 small green capsicum, diced
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup passata (sieved tomatoes)
- 1 T tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 T maple syrup
- 3 medium potatoes – about 450g – large cubes
- ¼ - ½ cup frozen corn (optional)
- ¼ - ½ cup frozen peas (optional)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 4 cups chopped kale
- 1 cup soy milk mixed with 3 tsp cornflour til smooth
- Lime juice - to serve - optional
- Chilli sauce - ditto
- Place all ingredients apart from soy milk & cornflour mixture and lime juice in a pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes then on soup setting / simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir in the soy milk with cornflour and simmer until flour cooked out and sauce is thickened.
- If not using a super-duper appliance, put all ingredients apart from soy milk and cornflour mixture and lime juice in your pot and bring to the boil, and simmer for around 20-25 minutes or until your potatoes are cooked. Then add your soy milk and cornflour, and stir until the flour is cooked out and the stew is thickened.
- Serve with rice or other grain or mashed potatoes.
- Squeeze fresh lime juice over the top if liked, it adds a lovely piqancy. This also lends itself very easily to being pepped up with chilli sauce for those who like it...
This is traditionally a hearty ‘tomato-ey’ Italian soup which generally contains pasta, beans, potato and pesto plus whatever other left over veggies are to hand. “Peasant food” at its best! This is a great way to use up odds and ends in the fridge, kids generally love it as it’s got pasta in it and it’s good and filling. Served with some good wholemeal bread this is a wonderfully substantial meal that requires little preparation and not much involvement once it’s on the hob.
Recipe type: Soup
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 celery sticks, diced
- 1 T tomato paste
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 can cannellini beans / similar
- 1.5 L vegetable stock
- 375 g potatoes, diced
- 140 g small pasta shapes, preferably wholegrain
- 150g frozen peas
- 180 g French beans, cut into small lengths (or other veg)
- 1 small red capsicum (or other veg)
- 150g broccoli florets (or other veg)
- Handful baby spinach.
- 2-3 tablespoons homemade basil pesto *
- Fresh parsley
- Heat a large saucepan or stovetop casserole with a tight fitting lid and sauté the onions and garlic until softened.
- Add carrots, celery, tomato paste, tomatoes, cannellini beans, vegetable stock, potatoes, and pasta, bring to boil, place on the lid and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add peas, green beans, broccoli, capsicum or other chosen veg and simmer, covered for a further 10 minutes or until they are cooked to your liking.
- Adjust liquid if necessary, add more water if necessary. Stir in the baby spinach, pesto, and serve sprinkled with the freshly chopped parsley.
- Like most soups / stews, this is even nicer the next day, or prepared early in the day and allowed to sit out unrefrigerated all day.
- * I do use a little olive oil when I make my own cheese-free pesto (but nowhere near as much as I used to!) and this pesto just an ingredient in a large pot of soup which feeds 6 people easily. So probably only adds 10-20 g of oil to the whole pot, which when divided is less than 5g per serving. If you want to make with no added oil whatsoever, just finely chop a large handful of basil and stir in at the end.
Google “Buddha Bowl” and you will be inundated with versions of this. Basically it’s a bowl of steamed veggies with brown rice or another grain like quinoa, with a sauce over the top.
I’ve already posted my son’s favourite dish, well this is my teenage daughter’s! It’s the sauce that makes it of course, and this is such an easy weeknight dish you will be tempted to have it several times, just changing the veggies or grains, and adding tofu or tempeh etc.
My Buddha Bowl
- Sauce ingredients:
- 1 T cashew butter
- 1 T tahini,
- 2 T vegetarian oyster sauce or other Asian stir fry sauce
- 1 T sweet chilli sauce
- 3 T lemon and/or lime juice - either or both, mixed together (orange is also good!)
- 2 T tamari
- ½ cup soy milk
- 1 T sweet soy sauce
- Put your rice on to cook, or even easier, use packets of ready cooked brown rice which just need warming through! (you can put itin the steamer along with the veggies if you like)
- Whilst your rice is cooking, prepare and steam your desired vegetables – broccoli, carrot, capsicum, celery, mushrooms, baby corn etc, and top with a packet of ready marinated and cooked tofu cubes to heat through (if desired - this is optional) – sweet chilli / garlic variety.
- Blend all the sauce ingredients in a blender (we use the Magic Bullet for this) or a jug with an immersion/stick blender until very smooth and creamy. Taste the sauce and adjust a little if necessary - different people like it more salty / more sour / more sweet etc. Pour it into a saucepan and heat gently for a few minutes when your rice and veggies are almost ready.
- Divide the rice, veggies and tofu between your bowls and pour the sauce over the top. Also nice scattered with fresh chopped coriander / toasted sesame seeds / etc.
I know what you’re thinking – SIMPLE dinner idea?
It looks time consuming but as long as you remember to take out your spinach and filo pastry from the freezer in the morning, there is very little preparation to do, only chopping 1 onion!
We tend not to eat much at all in the way of pastry due to its high fat content, but filo pastry is already extremely low in fat – 3.8g per 100g (and this recipe only used 1/4 of a pack, so less than that in the whole recipe for 4) so as long a you really watch the amount of oil you spray when layering it’s a treat you can enjoy from time to time. It’s also a great way of getting a large serving of greens into children! 🙂
We love this with just a simple salad, as it also contains rice it’s fairly filling. Some steamed asparagus / tomato salad etc would also compliment it really well.
Spinach and Rice Filo Pie
Recipe type: Pies and Centerpiece Dishes
- 350g Frozen spinach portions – defrosted and as much water squeezed out as possible
- 200g organic silken tofu
- 2 heaped tablespoons creamy houmous (low fat)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp dill paste – from a tube, or use ½ tsp dried / fresh to taste
- Zest and 3 tablespooons of juice of a lemon
- 1 x 250g bag ready cooked brown rice
- Salt and pepper
- 6 sheets filo pastry, defrosted
- Olive oil spray
- 3 tomatoes, sliced
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Mix spinach – salt and pepper together thoroughly in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Line a square baking tin with baking paper.
- Spray a sheet of filo pastry very lightly with the oil and place centred in the tin, so that edges hang off the edge. Alternate next sheet so it goes across the 1st piece. Repeat so you have 4 sheets on the base.
- Scrape the contents of your bowl into the tin and level out, making sure you push it into the corners.
- Top with the sliced tomatoes, and season well.
- Spray final 2 sheets, place one folded up on the top to make a lid, then fold in the edges of your base sheets over the top. Place final folded sheet on top.
- Decorate if liked with scraps of pastry, then spray again lightly over the top. Can also sprinkle with sesame seeds, which looks pretty. (Didn’t have any!)
- Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes – checking after 20 to make sure it’s not turning to brown too fast.
- Let it sit for 10 minute before slicing.
Whenever I ask my son (11) what he would like to put on the menu for next week he ALWAYS says Spag Bol. It really is rather good. This is an easy midweek meal as once it’s all in the pot you can just leave it pretty much unattended for ages and then just pop on your spaghetti once you’re ready. It only improves the longer you cook it, just watch it doesn’t catch and burn on the bottom (one of those heat diffusing pads is useful here) and that it doesn’t become too reduced. It also “cheats” a little by using a small jar of ready made pasta sauce as one of the ingredients. If you don’t have one to hand you could sub with another can of tomatoes, or equivalent of sieved tomatoes / passata type of thing.
It’s called “2 Lentil Bolognese” as it uses both the wonderful Split Red Lentils which break down so beautifully to that dhal-like creamy mush and the slower-cooking Puy Lentils which are those beautiful little round green/blue ones which keep their shape and add great texture to the dish.
I like to blend the sauce just a little using the immersion blender to break up some of the lentils and make a thicker sauce, but that’s completely up to you. Smaller children may well like it much smoother as they often object to the presence of lentils. 🙂
This usually makes enough for 2 dinners for 4 so the rest goes in the freezer for next time!
2 Lentil Bolognese
Recipe type: Pasta
- 1 medium onion
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2 small sticks celery
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 field mushroom/ 6-8 button mushrooms
- :- all diced small
- ½ cup red lentils
- ½ cup Puy (French) lentils
- 1 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 2 (use empty tomato) cans water
- 2 heaped Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 heaped tsp "chicken" or vegetable stock / bouillon powder
- 1 rounded tsp dried mixed Italian herbs
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 small (375g) jar tomato and basil pasta sauce / your favourite
- Fry or dry fry / water sauté the onions and garlic for a few minutes whilst you chop the other veggies.
- Add the celery, carrot and mushrooms and sauté for another 10 minutes over a gentle heat.
- Add all the other ingredients, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Cover if required to cook longer without reducing volume.
- Test for seasoning, add more water if too thick.
- Use immersion blender if required to thicken / smooth the sauce as required.
This is more of concept than a recipe so quantities are a bit vague. Anyway, this is what I do:
Bake 4 large baking potatoes in the oven on a baking tray (I put a metal skewer through each one which speeds up the cooking – don’t bother microwaving – you know it’s not the same!) and bake for a good hour – hour and a half depending on their size and your oven.
Whilst they’re baking boil or steam a smallish bunch of kale until tender then chop finely, and steam-fry a finely chopped medium onion.
Make sure they’re soft and fluffy all the way through before halving them lengthwise, and across the widest part so they will sit flat on the plate without wobbling.
Scoop all that soft fluffy potato out into a bowl, leaving a thin shell that helps the potato keep some sort of integrity and not collapse in a heap.
Add whatever you like to add to your potatoes to mash – we use creamy soy milk, (low fat), houmous, salt and pepper, nooch etc, mash thoroughly, then stir in your onions and kale until really well combined.
Pile this filling back into your potato shells place back on the baking tray and bake for another 15 minutes or so or until you can’t wait any longer. Mmmmmmm.
NB: I will add a photo to this post when I remember not to eat them all so quickly…
I’ve decided to post most days now and share not just my own recipes but things I find online, from books etc and musings on our food in general. 🙂
I’m making a concerted effort now to simplify weeknight meals. I have a tendency to get all excited when I’m making my weekly meal plan and then after a day at my desk stumble into the kitchen, when at 6:30 pm that list of delicious dishes is looking rather overwhelming. SO, I have decided to keep anything very unfamiliar or challenging to the weekend (well, Fri, Sat and Sun) and keep Mon-Thurs of the easy or “done it a million times” variety.
My kids love Heinz tomato soup so I’ve been trying to find a substitute that doesn’t send you into a diabetic coma or sculling a litre of water along with it due to all that sugar and salt. I found this one online but can I find it now? Typing in the exact title only takes me to MyFitnessPal where it’s listed as a caloric total someone once added, but no recipe. Anyway it was called Not Your Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup. I amended it a fair bit anyway, but if you find it, that’s the original source. And thank you whoever you are, it was delicious.
Rather than just having it with bread, I decided to serve it with baked potatoes, this time stuffed with steamed kale. We love something we call “Stuffily Brocked Potatoes” (due to saying it wrong one day – should have been “Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes”!) so thought I’d ring the changes, and find another way to get the awesome kale into the offspring and the result was perhaps even better. We also had some good wholemeal sourdough (this is our favourite) and a simple cos lettuce salad on the side.
Potato recipe to follow in next post… 🙂
Recipe type: Soup
- 5 cups water
- 2 cups diced sweet potato
- 2 cups diced tomatoes (no need to peel)
- 1 very small onion (e.g. golf ball), diced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 150g tomato paste
- 1 tblspn nutritional yeas
- 1 tblspn agave syrup
- 1 tsp salt - or to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- Put water, sweet potato, tomatoes, onion, thyme, coriander, garlic powder, salt and cashew nuts into a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender - about 15 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, yeast, and syrup and blend with immersion blender until smooth and creamy. Leave to simmer for longer if nuts need a little more time to soften completely and then blend again.
I adapted this recipe from an old favourite, “Spicy Rice” by Mary Gwynn. My kids love risotto but I got a bit tired of the usual mushroom and thought I’d try to take the flavours of paella and take them to Italy.. result was delicious and we really enjoyed this topped with asparagus, parsley, and pine nuts, but you can add your own favourite veggies (broccolini is lovely too) or just a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.
Recipe type: Main
- 1 smallish onion, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 large zucchini, diced
- 120g green beans, cut into 1cm lengths
- 1 yellow capsicum, diced
- 1 large jarred roasted red pepper, chopped
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 200g risotto rice
- 800ml vegetable stock
- 1 cup soy milk
- Zest of a lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 handfuls (about 100g) baby spinach leaves
- 4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- To serve (optional)
- - Grilled/ steamed asparagus spears
- - Freshly chopped parsley
- - Lemon wedge
- In a large heavy bottomed casserole pan (e.g. Le Creuset), spray a fine layer of oil or use a splash of vegetable broth and use to saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes.
- Add the zucchini, green beans and roasted red pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
- Add tomato, spices, rice and stir until well combined.
- Add stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes (this will depend on your rice age and variety so check regularly) until green beans and rice are tender. Take care the rice doesn't stick to the bottom and burn, so a simmer pad is a good idea if you have one, or just stir regularly.
- Stir in soy milk, lemon zest and juice, spinach and turn off the heat. Allow to stand for 10 minutes (cook asparagus now if using) before serving sprinkled with the pine nuts, parsley and topped with the asparagus.
- Some vegan parmesan / "cheesy sprinkles" goes well on the top too (grind some nuts with nutritional yeast and salt to taste).