Category Archives: vegetarian

A family dinner despite the news

Okay, this isn’t really a place to discuss politics, or the news…except that we do not live in a vacuum and everything we do or believe we are choosing is influenced  at some political level.

Friday 8th May 2015 was the day we woke up to the news that the Conservative party had done comparatively well in the General Election, and over the day the news led to the conclusion of events: we have a majority, albeit a small one, tory government.

Neither of us really knew how we were going to vote, right up until walking into our village hall. We live in a ‘safe seat’ constituency, so for us, it was all about how to most effectively register our protest at the current political system. I have met our Conservative MP several times. I quite like the guy; engages at whatever level in community affairs and has come out on a Saturday morning at my request to attend to a localised issue that is really important to our local youths, with – at the time- a three month old baby: I respect that. However, I do not share a political perspective with him, or the majority of voters locally. I believe there is a better way to organise social living on our precious planet; only one party represents my views remotely closely.

I am proud that I added my voice to the 1.1+ million voters who support the Green Party, and in proportional representational terms, lend legitimacy to Caroline Lucas‘s sole voice in Westminster, even though she only -technically- represents Brighton on a national scale.

So what can a green-minded family do in times of such despairing news? Well, we cooked a lovely meal and reflected on what is important to us.

Dinner: Tempura vegetables followed by Thai Green Vegetable Curry with a nice bottle of relatively local Pinot Gris. Heavier whites go better with stronger spiced foods, and wines from the Alsace region are usually a safe option for curries, particularly Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Dinner menu: Tempura Veggies followed by Thai Green Vegetable Curry with a bottle of Pino Gris from AlsaceTempura Veggies:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 10g baking powder
  • Iced, sparkling water
  • Selection of vegetables cut into chunks

Method: Stir the flour and baking powder together in a bowl and gradually add the water until it is thick enough to cover your spoon / finger / mushroom quarter. Don’t over mix: you are trying to slow the developing gluten and any lumps in the batter mean less absorption of fat. The colder the water, the better. Ale (for a heavier batter) and other carbonated waters (soda, tonic) aid the lightness of the batter, literally through the air bubbles.

Plunge into a wok with heated vegetable oil and fry until lightly browned.

Remove and drain as best you can.

Serve with soy sauce, infused with chillies / coriander /  finely chopped spring onions – to taste (chilli-free for our boys).

Frying tempura battered veggiesDraining tempura veggiesAubergine, purple sprouting broccoli and mushroom Tempura battered vegetables











Thai Green Vegetable Curry:

Damian based this course on Jamie Oliver’s dish, but with the following ingredients (and no fish sauce, obviously):

  • Butternut Squash
  • Yellow pepper
  • Aubergine

I can’t recommend making your own paste enough. We have a Magimix Micro for whizzing up all our massalas and curry pastes. It makes all the difference when you can pick fresh herbs from your allotment or select them from your local Asian foods store.

Serve on steamed Jasmine rice and top with loosely chopped fresh coriander.

Infusing the vegetables in the pasteThai Green Vegetable Curry DSC_1810













A fabulous family dinner that gave us time to reflect on what is important to us, what we must keep on striving towards to do our part in sustaining a fairer society and reducing impact on our planet. None of the vegetables in this dinner, apart from the garlic in the paste, were grown on our allotment: it is too soon in the season for us. But what is important is to do what we can to reduce our environmental impact and to keep talking about politics at home!

To finish, here is a photo of Sarah meeting Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party) along with Fiona Protheroe, a local Green Party council candidate in Skipton in 2013…a very positive moment in local activism.

Fiona and Sarah with Natalie Bennett - leader of the Green Party - in 2013
Fiona and Sarah with Natalie Bennett – leader of the Green Party – in 2013

Broad bean risotto

I ended up having quite a disastrous year at the allotment: Too many unplanned jobs arose through the key seed-sowing time. That, plus stories from our allotment neighbours of mice decimating their ground-sown peas and beans, led me to never quite getting around to planting enough in time. I did, however, manage to sow enough field beans (var. ‘Wizard’).

2014-08-13 20.20.542014-08-13 20.21.05What a star crop! They fared better than the few longpod broad beans in the ground through the drought, and were less scarred by the winds a few weeks back. They are smaller than standard broad beans, but are prolific and taste fabulous. What’s more, if you crop them young there is no need to remove the skins. In fact, it’s our first year of growing this crop, so I have not seen old beans – you may never need to skin this variety.

As soon as I had enough broad & field beans, we sat down to a favourite risotto:

Broad bean & lemon Risotto
Serves 4

1-2 handfuls de-podded field beans
Other veg from allotment, chopped

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5oz Carnaroli or Arborio risotto rice
A good glug of dry white wine
1 pint Marigold veg stock, near boiling
1 Strip of lemon peel
1 Bay leaf and handful chopped mint
Handful herbs from garden (thyme & oregano both work)

Juice from 1/4 lemon
25 g butter/vegan equivalent
Small handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Prepare the vegetables and herbs, and make the stock. Good risotto requires you to stir and add liquid gradually, so ideally you need to be ready to go before you add the rice. If you have time/space, make the stock in a pan next to the rice pan and keep it heated. Use a large, flat-bottomed pan for the rice.

2014-08-13 18.01.122. Lightly fry the onion in the oil. Well before it browns, toss in the garlic and stir for another minute. To brown the rice or garlic would spoil the flavour.

3. Add the rice, lemon peel and bay leaf and stir to coat with oil. After about 30 seconds, you will hear the rice beginning to crack. Stir to make sure the rice is toasting evenly for a minute or so.

4. Add the wine. Prepare for the sizzle and steam cloud! Stir until evaporated.

5. Add 1 ladle of stock to the rice and stir, gently and consistently.

6. When the rice has absorbed the stock, add another ladleful. The stock should be hot when added, which is why it is best to have it in a pan over heat, rather than poured from a jug.

7. Add the vegetables at around this point. It takes about 20 mins for risotto, so allow 8-15 mins for the veg depending on cooking times. Field beans require about 10 mins using this method, as does courgette.

8. Keep stirring and adding a ladleful of stock when the liquid has been absorbed / evaporated. The rice and liquid should be keeping a creamy consistency by now.

9. When cooked – al dente rice and liquid gone, remove from heat. Remove the bay leaf, lemon zest and woody herbs if used. Squeeze the lemon over the rice and stir. Add the butter or vegan spread and seasoning, and stir. Do this step quickly, stirring fast to cool the rice to slow further cooking. This dish should be glistening!

10. Serve with fresh mint.

I may not make the most perfect risotto in the world; I believe it is quite an art. But the kids love it, and it’s a great Monday night dinner to finish off any white wine leftover from the weekend.

Pea and mint is another tried and tested recipe, that works ever so well with mangetout from the plot. I grow 3 varieties of mint in the herb garden; the spearmint complements the peas fantastically, and I find the chocolate mint works very well with the broad beans.

2014-08-13 18.54.26

Come on girls!

I have wanted to keep hens for quite a few years. A few of my friends found a way to do just that, and I have enjoyed hearing their tales. My main motivation I suppose is being able to collect eggs and knowing exactly what diet the hens have had and how they are cared for.

But with only small spaces, and two dogs bred for hunting birds (we occupy their minds elsewhere), hens are not likely to grace our garden any time soon. But I saw this card the other week, in the most fabulous little independent bookshop in Llanidloes, and it will be getting framed and put up at home soon. Reading about Green Lizard’s hens in The Netherlands has made me want to care for my own all the more. But for now, this picture will have to do.

Winter home-grown dinners

With home-grown dishes far less frequent over the winter months, dinner on Monday night was a real treat. During a break in the rain I managed to spend about half an hour at the allotment. I dug a few leeks and snipped a selection of leaves: Bright Lights chard, Cavolo Nero and (what we think is) Red Ursa Kale.

Our stores of home-grown produce are really depleted now.  Given the small size of our plot that is no surprise. But in this dish our home-grown ingredients include garlic, leeks, the leaves and our 2013 chilli jam.

Stir fry with home-grown leaves & smoked tofu

In a wok, heat 1cm covering of vegetable oil

Smash 1 garlic clove and add to the oil

Fry the cubed, drained smoked tofu

Set aside on kitchen paper to drain

Wedge  1 small onion and finely chop 1 inch of ginger root

Prepare leaves, leeks and 1 stick celery

Add 1 tbsp sesame oil to wok

Fry ginger, onion and garlic in that order before adding leeks

Keep tossing the wok. Add 1-2 tbsp tamari sauce

Add 1-2 tsp Chilli Jam, or a freshly chopped chilli and a dash of honey if none

Add the celery and then the leaves

Squeeze half to a full lemon, and more tamari to taste

Season, then toss through smoked tofu cubes

Serve hot with egg-fried basmati rice

– Happy tummies, happy kids –

Greens 'n leeksGreensLeeksFrying cubed tofuChilli JamWinter stir fry

Vegetable soap

Our last handmade vegetable soap was coming to an end. Uncle Alex in Australia sent us two beautiful cruelty-free soaps after a visit he and Marlene made to a craft centre on holiday in northern NSW. The smell of frangipani and sandalwood were a lovely reminder of our own travels down the eastern edge of Australia, from Queensland to Victoria.

Calendula & Rose Petal soapsIn our soap store we had two vegetable soaps waiting, another lovely reminder of a family holiday in France. We revelled in the market we visited in our holiday town in Brittany, with fabulous choices of locally grown fruit and vegetables. There was also a travelling soap stall from further south, where we picked out 3 soaps. We used the olive oil block straight away, but still had the rose petals and calendula in store.

Which to choose. Both smell wonderful. I asked the boys at bath time to pick one for now.

To my surprise (and delight), we are now using vegetable soap infused with petales de rose, and every time I wash my hands I remember gorgeous walks along Breton coastal landscapes with rambling roses and abundant hydrangea bushes in all shades of pink. It’s a small thing, but this little bar of soap really makes me smile.

Petales de Rose

Buying locally

YorkshireVegBoothsWe are huge advocates of buying locally, and, that’s not as easy living in the UK as say Australia, never mind in the north.

We are busy planting our seedlings up at the allotment, but are far from harvesting much beyond salad leaves. I stopped in at Booths in Ilkley on my way home last week, and was delighted to see not only Yorkshire grown asparagus, but also sweet peppers. I also picked up some Yorkshire Fettle (Dales-made Feta like cheese) and British spinach and created a fabulous dish for the children in about 15 minutes. I was so pleased, I thought I’d share.

StuffedSweetPepperWithAsparagusI deseeded the peppers and washed them without drying them. I placed them under the grill and turned every couple of minutes. I then stuffed them with spinach leaves and cheese. They went back under a low grill until the cheese melted, and the juices wilted the spinach beautifully.

I served with steamed asparagus and toasted pine nuts on top of pasta.

I was disappointed to discover that the pine nuts I buy from our Health Food shop are imported from China, but I felt we could allow that extravagance given the few food miles the majority of our dish had traveled.

Having been served a lattice of asparagus drizzled with clarified butter once in a London restaurant and simply loving it, I clarified some of our vegan spread (we use Pure sunflower) and added some freshly-picked chopped oregano and sage from the herb garden and drizzled on top.

The boys loved it, as did we! And this is seasonal food at its finest…can’t wait for the allotment to start burgeoning!

Valentine’s Dinner 2009

These days we love to stay in and have dinner after the children have gone to bed. This year, we had a fabulous vegan dinner, cooked by Damian.

Asparagus Pithivier with Watercress Sauce
Asparagus Pithivier with Watercress Sauce


Asparagus Pithivier served with Watercress Sauce


Artichoke, Green Bean & Pine Nut Risotto


Chocolate Espresso and Roasted Pecan Torte

Dessert wine to complement the Chocolate Dessert
Dessert wine to complement the Chocolate Pudding

225g/8oz ready rolled puff pastry sheet
15ml/1tbsp soya milk (to glaze)
25g/1oz sesame seeds

25g/1oz soya margarine
3 spring onions
300ml/1/2pt vegetable stock
2 bunches of watercress
salt and freshly ground pepper

1 clove of garlic, unpeeled
100g/4oz bunch asparagus, chopped into 5cm/2in pieces
4 baby sweetcorn, chopped into 5cm/2in pieces 25g/1oz soya margarine 25g/1oz unbleached flour 180ml/6floz soya milk
45ml/11/2 floz vegetarian white wine
50g/2oz pine nuts, roasted then ground
2.5ml/1tsp mustard
handful fresh, flat leaf parsley, chopped (reserve a few leaves for the garnish)

600ml/ 1pt vegetable stock
50g/2oz fine green beans
15 ml/ 1tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 cloves garlic, crushed
175g/6oz arborio rice
100-200ml bottle dry vegetarian  white wine 2.5ml/ 1/2 tsp dried oregano 40g/ 1,1/2 oz pine nut kernels, toasted 200g/7oz canned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped handful fresh basil, torn (optional 50g/2oz vegetarian Parmesan cheese), salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chocolate Espresso and Roasted Pecan Torte
200g/7oz creamed coconut
1.3l/21/4 pints boiling water
30ml/2tbsp of the boiling water
800g/1lb 12oz Self Raising flour
100g/4oz cocoa powder 10ml/2tsp baking powder 100g/4oz roasted pecans 300g/12oz light muscovado sugar 420ml/14floz vegetable oil 20ml/2tbsp brandy FUDGE ICING 100g/4oz vegan margarine 10ml/2tsp brandy 100g/4oz cocoa powder 90ml/6tbsp water 550g/18oz icing sugar few drops vanilla essence

The full recipes are available at