Lentil and Cauliflower Dahl

For over a year now I have been following the 5:2 diet and although I have the odd slack week here and there I’ve generally fully incorporated it into my life. It’s something I actually get enjoyment out of (maybe don’t ask me to confirm this at 4pm on a fasting day!!) and if the research is to be believed it’s something that my body benefits from in a number of ways.

On my 500 calorie days I have opted for the tactic of skipping both breakfast and dinner (the midday meal) and just having one 500 calorie meal towards the end of the day, once I have gotten in from work. I know this isn’t the best option for many people, but for me, whilst I am busy at work, I find it much easier to go out without food than when I am home in the evening.

One possible downside of the 5:2 diet that I have noticed is that, if you’re not organised, fasting days are not conducive to cooking and it is easy to fall into the trap of living on shop-bought pre-calorie- counted food. This can often be boring and potentially not very healthy but very rarely do I feel like taking the time to figure out how many calories are in 7g of curry powder! Thankfully I did make the effort a couple of weeks ago because now I have an easy, nutritious, cheap and tasty meal that comes in just under 500 calories for my fasting days.

Dahl has always been a favourite of mine, it’s the mac and cheese of Indian food; comforting and warming. This recipe is pretty simplistic, obviously I had to cut it back to the basics in order to keep the calories low but trust me it tastes great!

Lentil and Cauliflower Dahl

This makes enough for one portion

Total calorie count = 492 calories

Ingredients

5g coconut oil (39 calories)

100g white onion (40 calories)

3 cloves / 9g garlic (13 calories)

1 stock cube (24 calories)

100g cauliflower (25 calories) – you can swap the cauliflower for 100g of almost any veg just make sure it comes under or around 30 calories with a quick Google search

7g (about 2 tsp) curry powder (22 calories)

60g raw red lentils (162 calories)

To Serve

Wholemeal Pitta (167 calories) and Fresh Coriander if you’re feeling extravagant (negligible calories…no one got fat off a few coriander leaves!)

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Method

  1. Add the coconut oil to a medium sized pan and melt over a medium heat
  2. Chop your onion and finely slice your garlic and add to the pan to soften
  3. Cut the cauliflower into fairly small florets and make the stock up with boiling water according to the packet instructions
  4. Once the onions are soft and translucent add the spice mix and fry for 2 minutes
  5. Add the lentils and cauliflower and coat in the spices and fry for a further 1 minute
  6. Add all of your stock (it should be about 500mls) and return to a simmer
  7. Leave it to bubble away, stirring occasionally and topping it up with water if it looks too dry
  8. After about 15 or 20 minutes the lentils should have totally softened to the point where they are no longer distinguishable little circles and more of a smooth mush
  9. Serve in a bowl (it will be quite liquidy) with a toasted pitta and a sprinkling of coriander leaves.
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Creamy Garlic Mushrooms on Toast

Ok this is definitely me cheating a little but I promised a recipe a day for Meat Free Week and that’s kind of a tough task when you have a life.  So tonight’s recipe is super obvious and ridiculously easy but not everyone can cook, right? (I’m moving in with a dear friend next week who last night attempted to fry an egg in a griddle pan) and many of you, like me, lead busy lives. So this is what I made for tea tonight and I think it makes a great quick, satisfying meal for any time of day.

Creamy garlic mushrooms on toast (an ode to my soon to be flatmate, Becky)

Ingredients – can anyone else not spell ingredients?! I spell it ingrediants every time I write it!!

Butter/vegan margarine

Mushrooms (obviously) – whatever you have or want; wild, chestnut, field or standard button mushrooms all work, you kind of get what you pay

1 clove of garlic – finely chopped or crushed

Salt and Pepper

A slice of good quality bread – wholemeal or granary is nice for this

Single cream / Vegan alternative (I used Alpro soya)

Method

Melt the butter/marg in a pan over a low-medium heat

Roughly chop your mushrooms into bite-sized chunks (or keep whole if the very tiny ones)

Add the mushrooms and the garlic to the pan, season with salt and pepper and wait. You need to be patient because you want the mushrooms to cook slowly, this will draw out the moisture and intensify the flavourIMG_20150322_113242

After 10 minutes or so the liquid from the mushrooms should have seeped out and evaporated, the pan should be dry and the mushrooms should have shrunk

At this stage toast your bread

Pour a little cream over the mushrooms and turn the heat down. The cream should reduce into a thick sauce

Pour the creamy mushrooms over your toast and serve.

Avocado Chocolate Pots

Given that it’s Meat Free Week and this is Meat Free Manchester I have decided to up my game and do a recipe a day to help out anyone who’s giving vegetarianism or veganism a go for the first time. Granted, this particular recipe might not help you out in terms of Tuesday night tea but there is a lot of hype surrounding these (if you’ve been watching Masterchef you’ll know what I’m talking about) and I had to give it a go. Regardless they are a bit of fun and crazyily straightforward and surprisingly tasty – my meat-eating friend even enjoyed them!

I present to you the Avocado Chocolate Pot! This made two espresso pot sized desserts (2 servings)

Ingredients

2 small avocados or 1 big one – make sure they’re ripe but not too ripe.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

About 1 tablespoon of cocoa

A slash of non-dairy milk (I used soya)

A squeeze of agave nectar

Method

Basically use some common sense for this recipe. I scooped out the avocado first and then by eye added the rest of the ingredients. To start just add a little cocoa / agave nectar / milk and blitz until smooth. You can then add more of whichever you need depending on how chocolatey / sweet / solid it is respectively.

Once you are happy with the proportions and taste put in little serving pots – espresso pots work really well. Then chill in the fridge.

To serve I grated some dark chocolate on the top for a bit of fancy J

 

Sorry for the lack of photos; me and my friend ate them before I had chance to get my phone out, they basically looked like chocolate pots though!

 

 

 

Avocado Pasta Sauce

This weekend I was visiting my Dad and Step-mum in London so didn’t do any cooking (lots of eating though!) so when I got home late yesterday evening I had an urge to get in the kitchen.

My fridge was surprisingly well stocked and included a very squishy avocado – this would have to be the base of my meal. Below is the recipe that followed, it was delicious! However, I made a rather stupid mistake of blitzing the sauce in a thin plastic tub with a raised bottom, this resulted in a few splinters of plastic ending up in my finished dish. I ate it anyway but in case you’re as idiotic as me here’s a warning: make sure you use a normal bowl or something – basically anything that isn’t going to get chopped up by your hand blender! I blame tiredness!

Serves one

Ingredients

Pasta – whatever size or shape you have. To measure, I always fill my serving bowl half way up with the dried pasta (it just about doubles in size when cooked)

½ Red pepper – this addition is inspired by @drunkenbutcher’s Macaroni cheese (see last post)

1 Avocado – by the time I’d cut the brown/black bits off I probably had ¾ avocado so I reckon you could stretch a full one to serve 2

1 small clove of Garlic – this will be raw in the finished dish so adjust according to taste

1 tablespoon (ish) of olive oil

Splash/squeeze of lemon juice – again, to taste

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Boil a large pan of water and add a good amount of salt (apparently the water should be as salty as tears 😥 ), cook the pasta according to the packet instructions – about 10 minutes usually
  2. Finely dice the red pepper, heat a separate pan and sauté in a blob of vegan margarine. You just want this to sizzle away to soften and sweeten without colouring
  3. Crush the garlic and mix with the olive oil. I used a pestle and mortar but you can use a garlic crusher, a really fine grater or a knife on a chopping board
  4. Put the garlic, oil and avocado into a suitable bowl and use a hand blender to mix to a smooth paste. This could also be done in a food processor and potentially by hand in a pestle and mortar
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Taste at this point and add more lemon or garlic or seasoning
  6. When the pasta is cooked, drain and reserve a splash of the cooking water – this will help to thin the sauce
  7. Mix the avocado sauce and softened red peppers in with the pasta and loosen the sauce with as much or as little cooking water as you want. Serve!

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Red lentil and vegetable soup

Lentil soup is my absolute favourite. I used to make it with my dad when I was younger and we’d have it on cold winter evenings, sat next to the coal fire, after a chilly walk around Easby Abbey. My dad’s version wasn’t much like the one I make now (apart from the lentils); we always kept it more like a broth with lots of chunky veg. When I came to uni I decided to blend it and now I always do, it makes the soup really creamy without adding anything naughty. Sometimes I add some spice (cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric, chilli etc) but I think I prefer it without.

This recipe makes about 2 servings

Ingredients

A splash of oil

1 white onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 peeled carrots

2 sticks of celery

2 bay leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

Red lentils – I have never weighed them but probably around 100g

2 stock cubes dissolved in 500ml of boiling water

Method

  1. Dice the onion, carrots and celery into small (1cm) cubes and finely slice the garlic
  2. In a large pan heat the oil over a medium heat and add the chopped veg
  3. Add the bay leaves and black pepper and sweat for 5 – 10 minutes until the carrots are starting to soften – don’t brown
  4. Add the lentils – there should be enough just to lightly coat the veg. Stir for around 1 minute – careful the lentils might stick to the bottom of the pan!
  5. Add the stock and top up with enough water to cover all the veg  and lentils
  6. Leave to simmer for around 20 minutes, until the carrots are soft and the lentils are cooked – you may need to keep topping up with water.
  7. Bring it off of the heat, leave to cool for 10 minutes, FISH OUT THE BAY LEAVES, and blend until smooth. Add more water if too thick and season if required

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Chilli Non Carne

So I’m sure most people can make a bean chilli but I thought I’d share my recipe. When I say ‘my recipe’ it suggests I follow a strict method every time I make it, I definitely don’t! Regardless, this is what I made tonight, it’s still bubbling away but it looks hot and tasty and should keep me warm and satisfied for the whole weekend!

Ingredients

Splash of oil – I used normal olive oil but you could use any cooking oil; sunflower, vegetable or even coconut if you’re fancy!

1 onion – I used red tonight, my preference would be white but I buy them in multipacks from Aldi and I’m not gonna buy a bag of white and red onions each week! There’s only so many onions a girl can use.

2 peppers – I always like to include a green, mainly because I know that’s the one that will be left in the fridge out of my 3 pack if I don’t and also the slight bitterness goes well in a chilli, I also used a yellow

About 5 medium-sized mushrooms – I don’t always add these but had a craving tonight and they add an earthy note that I guess makes it a bit ‘meaty’ (I wouldn’t really know!)

2 – 3 cloves of garlic – mmmmmm garlic!

A fair bit of dried oregano and paprika if you have it (smoked paprika would be best)

A sprinkling of frozen/tinned sweetcorn – or fresh (again if you’re fancy!)

1 tin of kidney beans

1 tin of borlotti beans – I don’t usually use these but I have a new-found love for them so they’re going in!

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

Ok so controversial bit of the recipe….. Instead of fresh chilli or chilli powder I used Sriracha hot chilli sauce – firstly because I have neither of the aforementioned and secondly I love Sriracha and thirdly I didn’t want it to be too spicy – I’m going to be eating this on a hangover and I can’t be dealing with too much spice. Basically use whatever you want here to add as much or as little spice as you want!

Method

  1. Chop the onion, peppers and mushrooms into whatever size chunks you wants – I like sort of 1cm cubes
  2. Sauté the veg in a large pan in the splash of oil, finely chop the garlic and add (this is where you would add fresh chilli)
  3. When the veg is soft and starting to go a bit brown add the sweetcorn, paprika and oregano
  4. Follow with the tins of beans (drained) and tomatoes
  5. If you are using hot sauce stir in now and leave to simmer from anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour
  6. Once it’s looking thick and amalgamated have a taste and add seasoning and maybe more spice if it needs it
  7. I’m going to serve with brown rice and my new favourite vegan alternative – soya yoghurt. I’m waiting until tomorrow though by which time my chilli non carne should have had time to sit and get even tastier

How do you make your chilli?!

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The Last (Non-Vegan) Supper; Solita, The Northern Quarter

Halloween was my last day as a vegetarian before starting my Vegan Challenge for the month of November. It also happened to be the first Friday after pay day and a few of us from work had arranged to go out for food and (a few, which turned into many) drinks.

Solita on Turner Street in the Northern Quarter had been suggested and although it primarily looked like a burger joint I liked the look of the menu. Rather than having one vegetarian burger option the menu revealed that any of the meat burgers could be substituted for either a veggie bean burger or halloumi cheese. That way I could still have the pick of all the exciting toppings and variations!

When we arrived we were shown to our big round booth, it was good that we could all see each other and chat together this way. We ordered drinks – I had a Rum infused Cuban beer called Bachata; it was tasty and at £3.75, not too pricey. Some of the other had cocktails and they looked good but were around the £7 mark.

The menu was the same as the one I’d looked at online and after glancing over the starters and deciding against the amazing sounding ‘Lucky 7’ (7 Layers of Guacamole, re-fried beans, sour cream, salsa, cheese, lettuce, olives. Served with blue corn tortilla chips)  I just needed to pick my burger. There was lots to choose from , I could have opted for the ‘Jack Daddy’ with toppings of onion rings, Monterey Jack cheese and Jack Daniel’s grill sauce or the ‘Catalan’ with roasted red peppers, manchego  cheese and roasted tomato aioli.

In the end I went for ‘The Big Manc’; brioche bun, iceberg, home pickles, Monterey Jack cheese and Big Manc sauce. Usually coming with 2 x 6oz minced chuck steak patties I decided to swap them for the halloumi (make the most of being able to eat cheese!). All of the main courses come with skin on fries, I could have decided to upgrade these to sweet potato fries or cheesy curly fries but didn’t feel it was necessary given the double-deckeredness of my burger.

I should also note that when I was ordering I asked about prices; would my vegetarian burger price reflect that of the meat counterpart? The answer was no 🙂 as long as I wasn’t adding meat to my veggie burger mine would cost £8.90…much cheaper than the meat ones!

My burger came and didn’t disappoint. It was huge and looked impressive compared to every else’s measly one-tiered burgers! The brioche bun was soft and tasty, the halloumi had been fried in a crispy coating of polenta which gave it nice crunch around the edges, there were plenty of pickles and lots of Big Manc sauce which was creamy and tangy. The fries were also delicious. Any criticism would be down to my ordering. Realistically there was too much cheese – not only 2 large halloumi patties but also the Monterey Jack cheese. I was stuffed by the end of it and had to leave some of the halloumi – on reflection next time I would probably just ask for one patty and go for the bean burger so as to cut down the risk of a heart attack from cheese overload!

Overall I was impressed with Solita it was nice to have the same amount of choice as everyone else and I would definitely go back again. 4/5

The Veggie Big Manc