Fried Cauliflower and Broccoli with Cashew “Cheese” Sauce

Last year I went to Vegfest London. I was expecting a spectacular selection of meat free foods but instead I was presented with a vast array of meat and cheese substitutes. I tried a sample from one of the cheese shops. Quite possibly the most vile thing I have ever tasted and the taste lingered in my mouth. Yuk Yuk Yuk!

So when I saw Lee Watson‘s Creamy Cashew Cheese Sauce I wanted to see if a vegan cheese existed that could knock my socks off. To be honest I’m now 25 days into Veganuary and haven’t missed cheese at all. Veganuary has been an eye opener, trying so many new ideas and ingredients. I’m loving it. This cheese sauce is amazing.

So here is a vegetarian classic caulflower cheese with a few twists. This made enough for 2 with enough left for snacking on before bedtime or for a packed lunch at work tomorrow for one.

For the sauce:
100-120g raw cashews – soaked for a few hours or preferably overnight in the fridge
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a big pinch of turmeric (watch out as it will stain your fingers and everything you touch)
salt
1 teaspoon English mustard
approx 200-240ml dairy free milk – I used Soya. Almond would be good too

Check everything in the food processor except the milk. Switch on then slowly add the milk until you have a smooth, thickish, creamy sauce. If you need more liquid top it up with water.

For the rest:
Half a head of cauliflower – chopped into florets a size that you like
half a head of broccoli – same as above
1 leek – cut in half lengthwise then sliced finely
2 tablespoons olive oil
Breadcrumbs
Fresh Basil leaves – finely shredded
1 heaped teaspoon paprika powder
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan then add the cauliflower, broccoli and leeks. Fry over a medium heat until the cauliflower is browned. This adds tons of flavour that you just don’t get if you boil it. Now add a splash of water, cover and leave to steam for about 5 minutes until everything is just tender.

Put into an oven dish the pour the sauce over. Mix the breadcrumbs, basil and paprika in a bowl with a little salt and pepper, then spread over the vegetables. Drizzle with a little olive oil then bake in the oven at 200C until the crumbs are brown and crispy.

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Roasted, Spiced Broccoli with Paneer

I’ve been reading lately about the deliciousness of roasted cauliflower – just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, half an hour in a hot oven and out pops a delicious, charred side dish.

I wondered if I could do something similar with cauliflower’s green cousin, broccoli. To make it more interesting I added some warm spices and some cubes of paneer. Served with grilled nan and natural yogurt, this makes for a very easy supper.

Serves 2 to 3 depending on greed

1 large head of broccoli – cut into florets
150g – 200g paneer – cubed
1 onion – cut into 1/8ths
100ml light olive oil
juice of a lime
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon chili powder – more if you like it hotter
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

Put the oven on to 200C or 180C with the fan

Mix the olive oil, lime juice, salt and spices in a large bowl then add the onion, broccoli and paneer. Mix well to ensure everything is coated in the spiced oil.
When the oven is hot, tip everything into an oven proof dish and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes giving it a quite stir around every 5-10 minutes to prevent the broccoli from burning.

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Risotto of Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Tallegio

Today’s Observer newspaper features some recipes from Nigel Slater for purple sprouting broccoli. I may be a little biased but I think this sounds nicer than either of his. So nice in fact that it all got eaten before I had a chance to take a photo.

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This makes enough for 3-4 people

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
3 good handfuls of risotto rice
about 1 litre of vegetable stock
A couple of handfuls of purple sprouting – trimmed and choped roughly into chunks
100g Tallegio – diced
50g grated parmesan
Black pepper
knob of butter

Get the stock in a small pan and keep it simmering.

Take another pan – larger – heat the oil then fry the onion and garlic gently until soft. Turn up the heat and add the rice. Stir until coated in the oil then add a ladle or two of the stock. Stir well then add the broccoli. Keep stirring and adding stock, a ladle at a time, whenever it gets absorbed. AFter about 10-15 minutes the rice should be softened but with a bit of bite. Add the grated parmesan, stir then add the tallegio, pepper and a knob of butter. Cover with a lid and remove from the heat. Leave for about 5-10 minutes then stir and serve.

Pasta with Garlic, Chili and Purple Sprouting

After a long, cold and often wet winter it was such a pick-me-up to see the small purple heads of purple sprouting broccoli peeping their way through the leaves and protective netting down on the allotment. In a year that began with a drought and ended in being one of the wettest on record I had given up all hope: Leeks the size of small spring onions, tough and woody beetroot that grew in the shape of carrots and a crop of beans that never made it past being a dinner for slugs, anything edible has been a bonus. I am however a little perplexed by this vegetable. Broccoli as we all know has been branded as a superfood (I apologise for the link to the Daily Mail!). One of those foods we can eat in unlimited quantities. My father in law did this with his crop a couple of years ago and suffered from a thickening of the blood caused by a build up of iron. You really can overdose on purple sprouting, but you do have to eat it every day for about a fortnight in order to see any symptoms. Everything in moderation as they say.

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Purple sprouting can be somewhat bitter at times. Here the bitterness is balanced by the creamyness of the sauce along with the hint of spice from the chili.

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
A few heads of purple sprouting broccoli inlcuding leaves – stalks removed and cut into large chunks
1 red chili – deseeded if you don’t like it too hot – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 teaspoon each of dried basil and dried oregano
200ml single cream or 200g mascarpone
Enough pasta for 4 people. I used penne but I think orechiette or conchigle perhaps work best
125g Mozarella (optional)

Place a large pan of water on the hob and bring to the boil. As this is coming up to temperature, heat the oil in a large frying pan (one that has a lid) then add the chili, garlic, dried herbs and purple sprouting. Fry gently for a couple of minutes then add about half a cup of water and put the lid on. Allow the broccoli to steam until the leaves are witled and the stalks tender. Now remove the lid, add the cream or mascarpone and stir until the mascarpone has melted.

When the water boils add the pasta and, if you are going to serve this straight away cook as per the instructions on the pack. If you want to top it with cheese and bake it then reduce the cooking time by 2-3 minutes else the pasta will overcook when it goes in the oven.

Now back to the broccoli. If the sauce is a little thick, add a ladle or two of the cooking water from the pasta. This is full of starch and not only helps to bind the creamy sauce together but adds its own creamyness too.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain then add to the sauce. Stir and serve or if you prefer, place this in an oven dish, top with torn chunks of mozarella and bake at 200C for around 10 minutes until the cheese melts and starts to colour.

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Green Vegetable Soup with Pearl Barley

You may have noticed I’ve got a bit of a thing about soup at the moment. So simple and healthy and can be made from almost anything. This one came about one Saturday morning when I scoured the vegetable tray at the bottom of the fridge looking for something to feed five hungry people. Surprisingly good, so good in fact that my son ate three bowls of it. I served it with a warm homemade foccaccia.

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks – sliced in half lengthwise then finely sliced
1 courgette – cut into quarters lengthwise then into chunks
Handful of broccoli – I used tenderstem but the normal stuff works just as well – cut into chunks
3 handfuls of pearl barley
1 x 400g tin butterbeans – drained and rinsed
2 handfuls of frozen peas – about a small mugful
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
vegetable stock – enough to cover the vegetables – more if you like your soup more of a broth
1 teaspoon marmite or other yeast extract
salt and pepper
1 red chili – sliced (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan then gently fry the leeks until soft. Add the courgettes and thyme and continue to fry and stir gently for 3-4 minutes. Now add all the other ingredients except the chili, bring the stock to the boil and simmer until the barley is cooked. If using, add the sliced chili and heat through.

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Chinese Vegetable and Tofu Stew

An early celebration of Chinese New Year. Inspired by (and almost copied from) Ken Hom.

100g or so of each of the following
– trimmed whole mange tout
– shredded savoy cabbage
– finely sliced red pepper
– sliced courgette
– mushrooms – halved of quartered depending on their size
– broccoli – cut into small florets
1 block firm tofu cut into cubes – I used Dragonfly’s deep fried tofu
600ml water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons black bean and chili sauce
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt

Take a large saucepan and pour in the water. Add the soy, hoisin and black bean and chili sauces. Bring to the boil. Now add the broccoli and cabbage. bring to boil then add the red pepper and mushrooms. bring back to the boil and add the courgettes, mange tout and tofu. Simmer for about 4 minutes then add the salt and sesame oil. Stir and serve with sticky rice and a side dish of pak choi stir fried with garlic, chili, spring onion and sesame seeds.

Pasta with Mushrooms, Cream and Purple Sprouting

The snow appears to have destroyed the purple sprouting on the allotment. Last year the pigeons ate most of it so this year I grew it under netting. Now it snakes across the allotment floor looking distinctly sorry for itself and unable to raise itself from the ground. Good job then that Riverford delivered a nice big bag of the stuff to my door yesterday. I love the stuff, but how do you convince three teenagers to eat it? The answer….smother it is cream and cheese

This serves 6 or so hungry people

2 tablespoons olive oil
knob of butter
1 small onion – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
5 large field mushrooms – cut into chunks
2 tablespoons green pesto
170ml single cream
bunch of purple sprouting
Pasta shapes – about 400g
1 tablespoon capers – drained
125 mozarella
handful of pine nuts

Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pruple sprouting until tender. Drain and leave to one side.

Bring another pan of water to the boil, cook the pasta till al dente, drain and combine with the purple sprouting.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan. When hot fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft then remove from heat and combine with the pasta.

Add the pesto, capers and cream then place in a shallow oven proof dish. Top with torn mozarella and a handful of pine nuts then place in the oven at 190C for about 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and everything is hot.

Serve with grated parmesan and chopped red chili