12 Meals of Christmas – Day 10 – Kale Chips and Breaded Broccoli

To celebrate Christmas, I’ve launched a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

Kale chips are something that I’ve been working on for some time now. After seeing them on several healthy cooking sites, I decided to have a go at making them on my own. Now, after several attempts, I feel like I’ve mastered them. So it seemed only right that I should share the recipe with you as part of the 12 Meals of Christmas series. Even better, to celebrate the shortest day, here’s one of the shortest recipes I’ve ever made too!

Not only do the kale chips work perfectly in this recipe, but the breaded broccoli is just as tasty and equally as crunchy. Both of these vegetables, when baked, will take you to foodie heaven if dipped into a rich, creamy Stilton sauce – but I also enjoy them on their own with a salad.

Kale Chips and Breaded Broccoli (Serves 2)

A handful of kale

Two handfuls of broccoli florets, halved

Seasoning

A teaspoon of paprika

A lug of olive oil

One egg yolk, beaten

100g of breadcrumbs

A teaspoon of rosemary

Dairy/Vegan cheese, grated or scattered, to serve

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 5/180C. Prepare your breadcrumb by combining a little seasoning, the breadcrumbs and the rosemary together in a bowl. Dip your broccoli halves into the egg yolk first and then layer them in the breadcrumb and rosemary, before resting them onto a baking tray. Repeat this for each broccoli floret until all of them are covered and ready to go into the oven.

Next, lay out your kale over the baking tray and drizzle over a little olive oil. Scatter sea salt and the paprika over the leaves before placing it all into the oven for around 10 minutes. Check regularly and only remove when the breadcrumb on the broccoli has started to crisp.

Serve this dish with a tasty salad or blue cheese sauce, which you can make by melting 25g of Stilton and popping this into a ramekin or small pot.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the 12 Meals of Christmas. If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with all of the meals featured.

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12 Meals of Christmas – Day 7 – Spicy Root Vegetable Pasties

To celebrate Christmas, I’ve launched a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

There is a good reason for pasties and pies being so popular. With hearty pastry encasing hot, flavoursome fillings, each one is a surprise. I’ve made lots of pasties over the years, with one recipe featuring on this blog earlier on in the year. So, it made sense to have a pasty recipe in this Christmas blog series. What’s more, the Jus-Rol pastry in this recipe is vegan and if you use sweetened soya milk instead of egg you have an entirely vegan dish.

Root vegetables are the perfect winter food. And by combining them with spices such as paprika, cumin and turmeric, you can transform them into something even better. As a pasty filling, these root vegetables will have you feeling Christmassy in no time at all!

As you can see from the picture, they don’t even last long enough to take a photo…

Store these goodies in the fridge and you can enjoy them in your work lunches for the days ahead. It certainly beats the office canteen or a lunchtime meal deal. Best part is, they have actual vegetables in, and because they’re relatively fresh, they’re healthier for you too.

Spicy Root Vegetable Pasties (Serves 3 or 4) VG

One roll of readymade shortcrust pastry

Two carrots, chopped and peeled

Two potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly

Half a leek, sliced thinly

A clove of garlic, chopped

A teaspoon of turmeric

A teaspoon of cumin seeds

A teaspoon of paprika

Sweetened soya milk for glazing or a beaten egg yolk for non-vegans

A splash of olive oil

Seasoning

A knob of margarine (vegan or dairy)

To begin making these delicious pasties, heat a dash of olive oil over a medium heat and slide in all your root vegetables. Fry the carrots and potatoes with the cumin seeds, paprika, turmeric and seasoning until the potatoes can be squashed with a fork or knife. As they begin to soften, add in your leek and chopped garlic, frying for around five minutes more. Remove from the heat and set to one side.

Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 5/180C. Grab yourself a baking tray and grease lightly with a little margarine. Roll out your pre-made pastry and, using a large bowl, begin to cut out as many circles as you can manage (I got about three out of my sheet), you can grab another sheet of pastry if this isn’t enough for you. Place each of the circles onto the baking tray.

Taking a ladel, dish out your vegetables onto half of each of the circles. With your hands, gently fold the pastry over the vegetables and press it down at the edges to make the traditional pasty shape. With a pastry brush, glaze the pasties with the egg yolk before sliding them into the oven to bake for around 20 minutes, or until the tops of the pastries are golden.

Once the pastries have a nice colour to them, remove from the oven and serve immediately with a hearty winter salad ( I recommend shredded beetroot, walnuts and rocket) or store in the fridge for up to five days ready for work lunches).

Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the 12 Meals of Christmas. If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with all of the meals featured.

12 Meals of Christmas – Day 1 – Roasted Leeks and Parsnip Mash

We all fancy ourselves as a cooking pro, right?

Of course, not all of us have the time, equipment or the money to be a gourmet god. Or perhaps we do?

To celebrate Christmas, I’m launching a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

All of my meals are veggie, as I am a vegetarian. However, you can add meat to dishes such as today’s offering. In fact, this leek and parsnip mash dish is highly versatile – add roast potatoes and vegetables and you have yourself a far healthier version of a meaty feast, or leave it in.

When buying your ingredients, grab an extra leek, yoghurt, paprika, cumin, tumeric and garam masala for tomorrow’s recipe!

Roasted Leeks and Parsnip Mash (Serves 1)

One leek, halved

A tablespoon of honey

A dash of vegetable oil

Three parsnips, peeled and chopped

A tablespoon of magarine

A teaspoon of cumin seeds

Two pinches of rosemary

25ml of soya or cow’s milk

Seasoning

Whack the oven onto gas mark 6/200C. Taking a baking tray, lay out your two leek halves. Drizzle vegetable oil, a dash of rosemary, honey and seasoning over the leeks before placing them into the oven for around 35 mins.

Into a saucepan, drop in your parsnip chunks. Cover these with boiling water and turn the hob onto a medium heat. Add your cumin seeds, before placing the lid over the parsnips and cooking them for around 20 minutes, or until the chunks are fairly easy to slice through with the knife.

Once this is done, remove your parsnips from the boil and drain. Taking a masher, begin to combine the margarine, seasoning and the soya or cow’s milk in with the parsnips. Once the mash is smooth, set to one side.

Take the leek halves out of the oven and serve up. Add your parsnip mash on the side and finish off by making gravy. This recipe can be adapted for roast dinners and more – make it as big or as small as you like. More importantly, sit back and enjoy your moment of gourmet godliness.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the 12 Meals of Christmas. If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with all of the meals featured.

 

Macaroni Cheese with Butternut Squash Makes Squasharoni Cheese

Squasharoni Cheese. There it is, I’m coining it.

What more could you want from the winter than a dish of pure stodge? With the addition of butternut squash, onion, a nice bit of garlic and some herbs, you have a much healthier version of the popular classic though. And wait until you see just how orange and vibrant the squasharoni looks when it comes out of the oven!

I enjoyed this squasharoni cheese for dinner and for my work lunch the day after, saving me all that money on meal deals and expensive subs. Follow the recipe below to make your very own meal of cheesy indulgence:

Squasharoni Cheese (Serves 4)

Half a butternut squash

A couple of cupfuls of Macaroni

One onion, chopped

Five mushrooms, finely chopped

50ml of milk (soya or cow)

Bunch of fresh basil, chopped

Two cloves of garlic, crushed

Seasoning

Begin by turning your oven onto gas mark 6/ 200C. Taking the squash half, carefully remove the skin and de-seed. Chop into thin chunks and place these into the top of a steamer, or into a pan with boiling water. Into the bottom part of the steamer or into a separate pan, pour in your couple of handfuls of macaroni. Cover the pasta with water, place a lid over the top and turn the hob onto a medium heat. Leave the pasta and squash to simmer for around 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through and the squash is soft.

Into a large mixing bowl, drop in your cooked squash. Taking a blender, blitz the squash until smooth. Next up, add the sliced onion and mushroom, along with the basil, garlic and seasoning too. Stir in the 50g of milk then grating the cheese into the bowl. Finish by adding the macaroni pasta, and combining everything thoroughly.

Pour everything into an ovenproof dish, grating a little extra cheese over the top so that it’ll brown up nicely. Place into the oven to bake for 35 minutes or until golden on the top. Once this is done, serve up and tuck in.

I’ll be running the 12 Meals of Christmas to help you keep save money and that belly for Christmas. Make sure you follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date!

 

How To Make A Banging Veggie Roast

Us vegetarians and vegans all know what it’s like when you first give up meat, especially on a Sunday. Whilst everyone else tucks into a big filling chicken or piece of beef, you’re often left tucking into the overcooked broccoli and carrots. During my time so far as a veggie, finding a good and inexpensive alternative to the meaty bit has been tough – but I’ve finally cracked it.

This meal is the ultimate meat-free experience. If you’re looking for a vegan alternative, replace the cheese with a cashew cheese or leave it out altogether and use couscous or rich roasted tomatoes instead. And, of course, don’t be liberal with the roast potatoes!

Roasted Squash Stuffed With Cheesy Vegetables (Serves 2)

Ingredients

A large squash chopped in half with seeds and fleshy centres scooped

One onion sliced

A whole head of broccoli chopped

A clove of garlic

75g of cheese, plus extra for topping

A dash of soya or cow’s milk

A large tablespoon of cornflour

Two carrots sliced

Eight or nine baby potatoes, halved

Seasoning

 

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C. Arrange your two squash halves onto a baking tray, drizzling over with olive oil, a spoonful of honey and seasoning. Place the tray into the oven and cook the squash for around 30-40 minutes.

Taking your baby potatoes, place these into a saucepan and fill with boiling water. Turn the hob onto a medium heat and keep the potatoes cooking until they begin to feel soft. Once they do, remove from the heat. Slide out the baking tray and arrange your potatoes onto one side, with the chopped carrots going on the other side. Drizzle these with olive oil, a dose of honey, breadcrumbs and seasoning before placing the tray back into roast.

When the squash is just about done, add a steamer to your saucepan and fill with the broccoli. You only want to steam the florets for 5 minutes maximum, just to get them to soften their crunch a little.

For the cheese sauce, heat up a large spoonful of butter. As the butter begins to melt, drop in a spoonful of cornflour and, at the same time, add soya or cow’s milk. Continue to stir as you add, making sure that the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat once the mixture starts to thicken and then add your grated cheese.

Once the broccoli is done, slide out your baking tray and fill the squash with the florets, crushed garlic and onion slices first, topping this with the cheese sauce and then finishing off by grating cheddar over the top and sprinkling a fine layer of pepper. Add this to the oven for a further 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve up on its own and be the envy of every meateater at the table, or add gravy for an even better Sunday roast. This recipe is perfect for big student roasts, family get-togethers and, with everything cooked on one tray, catering for vegetarian guests as part of a larger roast.

My Budget Greenhouse, Six Months On

Back at the beginning of the year I decided to run a little experiment. You see, I wanted to buy a greenhouse, but I had neither the means to afford a proper glass one or the means to transport it up to my plot, so I settled instead on a plastic model. The trouble with plastic greenhouses is that they aren’t nearly half as durable as their glass counterparts. One strong gust of wind, and the frames end up in a mess or the material covering the house is ripped up. You could even find your greenhouse caught up in a nearby tree.

After choosing the Wilko Greenhouse for around £30, I had to work out a way of ensuring that this wouldn’t happen to me. My plot is quite exposed and even if I could only keep the greenhouse up for a year, so long as the growing season was done I could at least take something away from it.

I decided that digging a trench for the base was one of my safest bets at keeping it secure. Once this was done, I filled the entire square with earth and woodchip to help anchor it down. Wilko do supply you with guide ropes, which I made as tight as I could. Yet, having a compost bin on one side and some fencing on the other guaranteed that the structure wasn’t going to blow off in a hurry.

I can safely say that, six months on from setting the greenhouse up, it has yielded some fantastic results. My tomato harvest has increased to triple the amount I had last year out on the exposed balcony. I’m picking countless hot chilli peppers too. However, the biggest achievement for me this year has been successfully growing aubergines.

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Just some of the delicious tomatoes I’ve picked this year.

It’s not just inside the greenhouse that I’ve reaped the rewards. Providing yourself with a growing space that’s warmer than the outside during the winter and gives plants shelter to grow at their own pace means that you can have several strong vegetable crops ready to plant a little earlier than those you’ve had to grow at home. They’re also cheaper than garden centre varieties, too.

In the five years that I’ve been growing my own food, I have attempted aubergines three times now. On only one of these occasions have I managed to get any fruit. Picking my two long fruits earlier in the year, they made a fantastic base for curries and veggie Bolognese.

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Whether the greenhouse survives some of the winter storms remains to be seen. But the overall picture is very promising indeed. In fact, I am so impressed by the results of my experiment that I will be erecting another greenhouse just a metre away from the original to house more of my seedlings next year.

So, if you’re hesitating about buying a plastic greenhouse over a glass one ready for next year, don’t overthink it. There are plenty of ways that you can keep your greenhouse secure, and the crops are worth it too.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale and Red Onion Soup

When the days get colder and shorter, there is nothing for it. It’s time to bring out hot soup. And no, that doesn’t mean picking up a ready-made tin from the supermarket. This is the proper stuff.

This butternut squash soup only takes an hour to make, and most of that is spent roasting. Grab yourself some tasty bread and get dunking.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale and Red Onion Soup (VG)

2 servings


Ingredients

Half of a butternut squash, de-skinned, with the seedy flesh in the centres removed

Two red onions, chopped

Chilli pepper, chopped

Two big handfuls of kale

Seasoning

Dash of paprika

Vegan margarine

A vegetable stock cube


Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C. Take your squash halves and slice into smaller chunks. Lay these onto a baking tray and drizzle over a little olive oil. Next, scatter over salt and pepper, as well as the dash of paprika. Place the squash in the oven for 40 minutes or until the skins begin to brown.

Take your squash out of the oven and set to one side. Into a saucepan, drop in your vegan margarine and gently heat until it melts. Pick up your onion and add to the pan. Stir the onions for around 5 minutes, or until they’ve absorbed the margarine and are looking softer.

Grab your baking tray and pop the butternut squash pieces in with the onion. Stir in your chopped chilli and stir the vegetables for a further 5 minutes. Boil a kettle full of water and top the saucepan up with this, so that the water just covers the vegetables. Before covering everything with a lid, add a vegetable stock cube. Leave the vegetables to simmer for around 10 minutes. Just before you remove from the heat, add the kale and push the leaves into the vegetables for 2 minutes or until the edges begin to soften.

Remove the pan from the heat and, taking a hand blender, blitz the vegetables until almost smooth, with some texture still remaining. Serve up into bowls and enjoy with some fresh bread for that perfect curl-up-sofa-TV-feeling.

 

Healthy Breakfast Apple Muffins

 

How many of us, rushing to get to work, forget to eat our most important meal of the day? Porridge is a faff, cereal and milk isn’t portable enough to eat on the way to work and expensive smoothies are completely out of the question. Well, like all things in life, plan ahead and you can both perform at your best and not be eyeing up a horse by the time your lunch break arrives. Even better still, this recipe takes only an hour out of your week and you can enjoy the rewards throughout.

Healthy Apple Muffins

 

Ingredients

150g of whole-wheat flour

50g of oats

½ teaspoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of vanilla

1 egg

75g of butter

75g of honey

2 apples grated

1 apple sliced with skins kept on

 

 

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The Cooking…

Turn the oven onto Gas Mark 5/ 180C.

Grab a cake tray and place your muffin cases into the slots.

Measure out your whole-wheat flour, baking powder, oats, cinnamon and salt and add these to a large mixing bowl. Next, cube your butter and drop this into the bowl. Using only your fingers, gently combine the butter into the flour. Once the mixture begins to resemble breadcrumbs, make a well in the centre of the mixture and add your egg. Taking your spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg, following the figure of eight to ensure that air gets into the batter.

Next, add your grated apple, honey, vanilla essence as well as the chopped pieces of apple. Stir these into the batter carefully again, making sure that you don’t rush the mixing. When this is done, transfer your batter into the cases and slot the cakes into the oven for around 35-40 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the knife comes out clean. As the muffins cool, add a little drizzle of honey over the tops to give your cakes even more flair.

Pack into an air-tight container and the muffins should keep for a week. Enjoy as a healthy alternative ready to get you on your way in the morning.

 

Don’t Let the Weeds Bring You Down

Chances are that if you’re reading this you’re either a very neat and tidy grower or you’re a messy one like me. Yes, contrary to the professional (cough, cough) pictures, my allotment is more on the wild side than it is the Gardener’s World side. The site is big; I’ve inherited a whole batch of great plants – yet I’ve also inherited a very well-established hoard of bindweed, which is nigh-impossible to get rid of.

On a typical trip up to the allotment in mid-summer, I can often come away feeling disheartened. Even if I get on with a good bit of de-weeding, the grass stands wild and tall and the pesky weeds dominate the plots once more. In the end, I’ve come to the realisation that I should simply embrace it.

Young Growers – Don’t Give Up Over Weeds

I’m appealing particularly to my generation of young gardeners here, as it’s with first-time gardeners and growers that weeds win.

Across my youthful allotment site, I often compare younger gardener’s plots to older people’s. What I find is that, where there had been good intentions – growing a range of tasty, organic fruit and veg – what instead happens is the manured beds and cleared edges become perfect breeding sites for thick weedy growth.

Many of these people give up their plots after a short while and abandon the idea of growing their own food completely.

As a passionate advocate for growing your own food, and as someone who has his fair share of weedy worries, this makes me very sad. So, I want to tell you something:

Weeds Will Always Grow Because Nature Has More Time on Its Hands

You can’t stop weeds entirely, so move that thought aside. When you see pristine allotment plots, notice the little tuft of grass near the bed’s corner or the creeping vine – no one is perfect and no allotment is either. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to improve conditions, though.

By mulching your growing beds heavily in the late autumn with leaf mold, horse or cow manure and things like newspaper or cardboard, you can kill off a lot of weeds by starving them of light. Then, when the few sprouts begin to surface, book yourself in for a weekly de-weeding session that only needs to last 10 minutes. Do a quick scan of your beds and pull a handful out here and there. By keeping this consistent (use a phone calendar if you need to) you’ll have more time to focus on your veggies.

By raising the soil up, you can also stop the weeds from spreading. The trick is to smother and starve any unwanted plants underneath. Then, once your growing beds are ready you won’t have to worry about weeds. So long as the weeds aren’t growing or creeping over any growing vegetables, just keep them a little managed.

It’s also healthy to let the grass grow. Remember that lots of wildlife relies on tall grass for coverage, pollination and much more. So you only need to give that a cut once it reaches your anywhere before your knee. If the grass is going to seed, it’ll likely spread across your beds. Don’t worry though – as long as you keep up a little bit of weeding each week and learn to embrace the messiness of nature, you’ll do just fine.

Whatever you decide to do – remember this: if the weeds are too high, don’t give up. It’s nature’s job to grow – and you just have to work with that. What’s more important is that you get something out of your garden or allotment. You know, there are even professional gardeners and veg growers out there who use weeds and permaculture to make their crops better.

 

Small Space Garden Episode 3 | Peashoots and Peas

The Small Space Garden series continues.

June is the perfect month to roll up your sleeves, pick up a trowel and start growing some quick and easy crops.

Peas are great speedy vegetables. Home-grown, their flavour is phenominally better than those cheap ones in cans, and if you’re clever you could even save a bit of money too.

In just under a week and a half, with a bit of heat, you’ll have pea seedlings poking through the soil. Very soon after potting the peas up or planting them outside, you’ll be inundated with flowers and delicious pods, ripe for picking.

Trust me, they won’t make it back to the dinner plate.

Last year, I grew just one large container’s worth of peas. There were about ten plants in total. From those ten plants, I received a constant supply of pea pods that saw me through the best part of three weeks. This just goes to show how productive peas can be, even in the smallest of spaces.

No room for a big container? Grow your peas in a small pot and harvest the growing tips instead. Use these on your salads and you can gloat about how healthy you’ve become.

Check out my video below for more information on growing peas: