How to best celebrate vegetarian week than to start with the biggest star of the crop - the humble onion!
Yes, we hear you, tomatoes seem to make the top of the list, but tomatoes are technically a fruit, so we stick by our onions.
So many dishes start with onions, that they truly belong to the cupboard top 10. Cheap, long lasting in the darkness of the cupboard and packed with flavour, what more could you ask?
Slowly cooked, they released their naturally occurring sugars that add depth to (almost!) any dish - maybe we leave custard out for now. When they’re fast and furiously cooked, their browning edges will give a bitter note to any soup, sauce or stew they’ll end up in. What’s not to love?
Disclaimer: any resemblance to a Dalek is entirely coincidental! 🤖
Salt is amazing, it brings so much flavour to our cooking. And yet is a tough character, hardening our arteries when we use too much of it. So we learn to use it sparingly.
Used in the right amount, it’s a cook’s best ally, enhancing the taste of what we make. Salt is not alone in bringing savouriness to food. You can play with some amazing substitutes to add not only saltiness but extra notes and character to a dish!
Here are our best 5 foods to give table salt a break. Sometimes, they’ll be so savoury that you won’t need to add salt at all!
🧂Soy sauce - savoury and sweet at the same times, it works (not surprisingly) beautifully in stir-fries and Asian dishes. It’s brilliant with mushrooms, giving them quite a meaty flavour, and with lentils as well.
🧂Marmite - love it or hate it, add a spoonful to a broth, soup or stock to add depth and character. Even if you hate it on its own, we challenge you to be surprised! You would be amazed to see how many ready-made stocks already contain some of it, look for ‘yeast extract’. Marmite is also full of vitamins B, which is great if you don’t eat much meat.
🧂Capers and olives - add them to a tomato sauce or any Mediterranean dish for a nice saltiness that tastes of the sea. They both work well with fish, vegetable stews and tomato-based dishes.
🧂Stock cubes - we recommend you use these sparingly and check ingredients’ labels first, as most stock cubes are really salty and sometimes contain additives not brilliant for your health. Used in the right amount, they can bring immediate flavour to a dish. And they last a long time, so worth keeping a stock (no pun intended!) in your larder.
🧂Anchovies - in tins or jars of oil, anchovies last a long time and can be wonderful cupboard guests. They only need to go in the fridge when open and you can even use their oil for flavour once you finished the fish. Work great with pasta, as a savoury base for sauces and stews, in savoury pies and even on toast.
🌿 Risi and bisi is a typical risotto dish in the Venice region, but forget all that stirring and patience required by a typical risotto, as this comes with a twist! Our special guest for today’s recipes is… The Oven. 🔥
You can indeed make risotto in the oven, with little to no stirring required and still all that wonderful taste in the rice at the end.
This really is an easy peasy recipe. The basic ingredients are rice, leeks and peas. If you don’t have leeks, you can use mushrooms. If you wish to add some bacon or chorizo, lead the way!
There you are, our Easy Peasy Rice and Bisi for you.
🍴Oven-baked pea and leek risotto
☑️1 tbsp olive oil
☑️6 rashers smoked back bacon roughly chopped or chopped ham
☑️2 Leeks halved lengthways and finely sliced
☑️250 g risotto rice (or short-grain, paella or Japanese rice)
☑️700 ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
☑️175 g frozen peas
☑️3 tbsp soft cheese or other cheese such as cheddar zest ☑️1 lemon
🔸1. Heat the oven to 200C / 180°C fan / gas 6.
🔸2. Tip the oil into an ovenproof casserole dish, add the bacon and fry for 2 minutes.
🔸3. Add the leeks and cook until soft, but not coloured, for about 4-5 minutes.
🔸4. Tip in rice and cook for 1 minute more. Pour over the stock, cover with a lid or a piece of foil, and place in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring halfway.
🔸5. When rice is just tender and all liquid is absorbed, remove from the oven and stir in peas.
🔸6. Place back in the oven for 2 minutes more.
🔸7. Remove and stir in cheese. Add the lemon zest and adjust salt and pepper to taste - bear in mind that the stock contains salt already.
You could keep it all vegetarian. Mushrooms would work well instead of leeks. You can use ham or chorizo instead of bacon.
Show some love to the veg in your fridge, they’re much more than their core and heart. We know veg are not technically cupboard things, but trimmings can be used as the basis of so many dishes, that we’ve taken them out of the fridge for a moment!
Fennel tops: incredibly aromatic, you can finely cut them and add to a stir-fry or a soup. Going off track and stepping away from the cooker, do you know that fennel tops make amazing natural dyes? They produce a light glowing yellow and it’s a wonderful activity to do with the kids.
Kale stalks: cut them in small pieces, drop into boiling water for a minute and then blitz them in the food processor with cashew (or almonds or walnuts), a good glug of oil, a clove of garlic, salt, pepper and some lemon juice for a super quick pesto. Add basil or sage for extra taste.
Cauliflower leaves: cut them in small pieces and cook them with the florets, they’re just a little bit more stringy but still very much edible. Otherwise, you can rub them with some oil and roast them in the oven - you’ll never throw them again! Of course, you can add them to a soup as well.
Broccoli leaves: finely sliced, they are amazing in stir-fries, pasta or bakes.
Parsnip peels: now we got your attention! Yes, you can actually make
crisps out of parsnip skins, by rubbing them in oil, salt and pepper,
and bake them at low temperature for 20 minutes or so, tossing them
every now and again.
Life’s much more than salt and pepper. Add some spice to it, and it’ll start tingling, we promise. Think of ‘seasoning’ in a much broader sense, and your taste buds will start jumping up and down.
From dry herbs to fresh aromatics, dried berries, spices, roots…The choices to spice up a dish are almost endless. What’s best, just a few leaves of aromatic in a pot can make all the difference in the world!
We’ve put together a few ideas here, have a look:
1. Add herbs and aromatic from the very beginning, this way the flavours will go up in layers, over layers, over layers!
2. Always keep dry herbs in the cupboard for instant flavour - or when the plants on the windowsill have gone beyond recovery.
3. If you can’t choose or don’t know where to start, get some mixed herbs - they generally work with everything - dessert included. Hello herbs de Provence and marmalade sponge.
4. Play with flavours and be bold - lavender works well with potatoes and rosemary is amazing with sweets. Maybe don’t try vanilla and mash - tried that, it’s a no-no…
5. When you go out - and keep your 2m distance from people - go close to plants instead - you might find fresh rosemary, lavender, nasturtiums flowers and even bay trees at your doorstep. Free seasoning. Just don’t clip your neighbour’s rosemary without asking… 🌿
Do you have a favourite seasoning? Let us know! And we’re yet to cover spices, so stay tuned!
Even the hardest skin can hide a soft core, and that’s definitely
true for bananas!
Even when their skin is blackened and their pulp is soft or going dark, there are still so many ways you can use them.
You can mash them into a cake - you can use them instead of eggs to make a light and bouncy sponge. They work great blended down in smoothies or chopped into pieces for a fruit salad.
They can even be made into flourless pancakes, as flour can be hard to find at the moment.
See here for our Flourless pancakes recipe:
(Serves 1 person)
1. Beat 1 egg with a fork and, separately, mash down 1 banana - a fork will do.
2. Combine banana and egg, add a pinch of baking powder or bicarbonate of soda and another pinch of your favourite spice - nutmeg, cinnamon, even garam masala…
3. Warm up a pan, add a splash of oil or a knob of butter and, when hot, pour a couple of ladles of mixture at a time.
4. Wait until a spatula slides underneath quite easily, flip and cook for another minute or so.
5. Eat hot, with a sprinkle of sugar, honey, jam or even chocolate spread. For a healthier option, why not chop up the fruit you have in the kitchen and make a fruit salad? It’s a very refreshing topping. It also works very well with frozen fruit.
No proper cupboard can claim that name without containing a few packets or dried beans. What makes them so great is that they’re inexpensive, can last a long time, don’t take away much space - cans, we’re looking at you… - and with a couple of tricks up your sleeve, they’re incredibly easy to cook and don’t require much skill, just a bit of time. And it seems most of us have buckets of that at the moment.
If you haven’t been conquered by the mighty pulses yet, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to transform them into the new star of your cupboard.
1. Three is the magic number. If you don’t know where to start, get white beans, dark beans and some lentils. White beans work well with more gentle flavours, dark beans can take quite a punch, and lentils are for when you forgot to soak your beans and you need dinner ready pronto. We’ve all BEAN there…
2. Even if you have no clue about tomorrow’s dinner, just put some beans to soak when dinner’s over. Tomorrow you’ll be happy not to have to think about what to put on the table, as it’s already half-way done. Just remember to rinse them before cooking and use fresh water in the pot. And DO NOT put salt, ever!! They won’t cook otherwise, as the skins harden too much. As a rule of thumb, 50-70g of dried beans makes 1 portion. Add the double of the volume of water in the pot when you cook them.
3. While the beans are cooking, go away. Don’t, just joking! Remain around to check the water doesn’t evaporate, and treat this as free time for you to do anything you like, from a HIIT session in your kitchen to a scroll down on your favourite social. Books allowed too, of course.
4. When cooked, drain and dress with oil, salt, pepper and some herbs, dried or fresh. From rosemary to sage, thyme, bay, even mint… Beans and herbs are just great together. Of course, you can also add them to stews, substitute to meat in a bolognese, add to lasagne in the layers, mash down for a paté - homemade hummus, anyone?
5. Add some bread, potatoes, pasta or rice and some veg for a very tasty dinner.
Some of our favourite combos for inspiration:
🔸Chickpea, sweet potato, spinach and coconut curry
🔸Black bean, red pepper and coriander chilli
🔸Lentil, carrot and celery bolognese
🔸White beans and spring veg stew
We’ve never BEAN so much in love!
Oats, what would we do without them? We all know the comfort of a warm bowl of porridge in cold, grey days. But did you know that oat really is a humble hero?
Your heart loves it as oat reduces cholesterol level. Oat is also packed with antioxidants and fibres, helping you feeling full and improving your metabolism. To add more, oat is incredibly cheap. Grown in the UK in the wet season, it sustains local farms and is also good for the environment.
How can we make justice to this unsung hero and give it the glory it deserves?Here are a few suggestions, and before you know, you’ll go from porridge to crumble!
1. Crumble. Can’t find any flour? No problem, use some oat instead. Mix with butter and sugar and use it for a crumble topping.
2. Soup. Oat is great to add substance to a soup. Just add a handful of oats towards the end so they can absorb some of the liquid and a substantial dinner is made in minutes.
3. Meatball. Great to add volume and texture to meatballs. Just substitute it to breadcrumbs and use in the same way.
4. Stuffing. Use oat for an alternative stuffing instead of bread or flour. Works amazing with lentils, rosemary, sage, apple, chestnuts, mushrooms…
5. Coating. Use a food processor to reduce the oats to a finer texture, or use whole for a very crunchy coating.
6. Savoury crumble, anyone? Think of leeks, maybe mushrooms or any other vegetable you fancy roast in the oven. Add some cheese and a splash of stock or cream to keep it moist. Mix the oat with some butter and crumble on top. Bake until you have a golden crust on top. Yes, savoury crumbles are a thing.
How do you eat your oats?
Melt your heart - and the remainders of the chocolate egg! - in a sticky chocolate and orange cake. This is a good recipe to use up things you may have lingering in the cupboard. Kids can get involved with ideas too! It’s good to experiment with those isolated ingredients that need to mingle a bit more…
125 g butter or margarine
30 g cocoa
½ jar of marmalade, plus 2-3 tbsp for the topping
100 g caster sugar
170 g self-raising flour
1. Heat oven to 160°C/gas 5 and line a loose-based 20cm cake tin with baking parchment. Put the butter or margarine, marmalade and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the time, until melted. Leave to cool for 5 mins.
2. Put the 2 tbsp of the marmalade in a small bowl and set aside. Break the eggs whisk, add to the mixture and stir in the flour and cocoa in three batches, folding lightly until combined. Scrape into the tin and smooth the top.
3. Bake for 45-55 mins, rotating the tin halfway through so it bakes evenly.
4. The cake is cooked when the centre is firm when gently touched, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out with a very few crumbs attached, like a brownie.
5.Allow to cool for 10 mins, then turn out and leave to cool right-side-up on a wire rack. Heat the reserved marmalade in the microwave until runny, then brush all over the cake to glaze. Leave to cool before serving.
Add Cardamom, around 6-8 pods with seeds removed and crushed. Works both well with the chocolate and the orange flavour. Also use up chocolate Easter eggs, shards on top of the marmalade drizzle. If you don’t have marmalade, try raspberry jam.
Hummus, falafels, stews, croquettes, dips, mayo, salads, soups, omelettes, farinata, chana masala, meringues, shortbread… The list of dishes made with chickpeas is endless.
We’re so humbled by the mighty chickpea. These round little things are used across the world in a variety of dishes, one more delicious than the other. They’re also very good for your health, packed as they are with proteins, fibres, iron, phosphorus…
If you get them dry, just remember to soak them the night or the morning before using. In cans, they’re such a quick addition to a salad, or can be tossed in a pan with some herbs for a flavoursome side. Add them to a soup to give it bite and substance, or make your own flavoured hummus and even falafels! And… roll of drums… Did you know you can make mayo or meringues with their water? Just look for recipes using aquafaba. Magic.
The last tips for today. If you can’t find wheat flour in the shops, try gram flour - gram is a variety of chickpea. You can make cakes and shortcrust with it - just use your favourite recipe and substitute 2/3 of wheat flour with gram flour, and 1/3 with rice flour. It’ll be golden and properly short!
You can even make omelettes with chickpea or gram flour, look for a recipe for Farinata or do the following:
- Mix it with 3 parts of water and leave it to rest
for the afternoon.
- At dinnertime, add 3 tbsp of oil and some salt, mix well, and either bake it at very high heat, or cook in a pan a few ladles at a time.
There’s very little the humble tin on your shelf CAN’t do. Almost eternal, it can be used well past its best-before day. Just make sure there are no dents and it’s not bloated.
We’re not suggesting eating that dusty tin of sprats that great-granddad Arthur hid away in the attic during WW II, but you get the concept.
Well kept, cans have an incredibly long shelf life. Not only! You know all that tuna or anchovies in oil, artichokes, peppers or aubergines? Once you’ve polished the can or jar, you can still use the oil rather than throwing it down the sink - by the way, if you really don’t have a use for it, your sink will be so happy if you throw in the bin instead.
Good news is, that residual oil in the tin, can be delicious indeed, and rather than feeding the fatberg, you can feed yourself!
they’re vegetables in oil, you can use the residual to make salad
dressings or vinaigrettes.
If they’re from tuna or other fish, that
savoury oil can make an instant pasta sauce - just add some garlic and
Looking for more ideas?
You can blitz some peppers, artichokes -
or any vegetable in oil, really - with some of their oil and make a
very yummy paté to spread on toast.
Yes, you CAN…
With Easter eggs and mint sauce already a memory, it’s time to go back to the cupboard and one of its main staple foods: rice. With more than 40,000 different types of rice in the world, we’re never short of choice or alternatives.
If you haven’t found your usual ‘go-to’ packet this week, why not try another one? You can use brown rice for risottos, long rice for creamy puddings, or short grain for a rice salad like this one.
Chop in small pieces whichever vegetable you have in the fridge, maybe a tomato, half a courgette, a carrot, or even a pepper? Just one or a mixture of all! Dress with a splash of oil, some salt and pepper, mix with your cooked rice and lunch is ready. If you’re lucky enough to have a mint or basil plant on your windowsill, add a few leaves too and you’re ready for spring.