Try something different … Brussels Sprouts

I decided to set myself a challenge for May to cook recipes using ingredients that I don’t normally cook with. I like pretty much all vegetables, but I do know that there are some I gravitate towards, particularly in the kitchen, so I’ve drawn up a list of some fruit and veg that I want to experiment with this month.

Try something different ... Colour Notes

The first recipe I’m posting uses Brussels Sprouts and is based on a recipe in Thomasina Mier’s Book ‘Home Cook’. The original recipe uses Rosetta sprouts and anchovies.


Sprout, marscapone and pine nut pasta (serves 2)

200g pasta
50g pine nuts
200g finely shredded Brussels Sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
A generous pinch of chilli flakes
The needles from one Rosemary sprig, finely chopped
75ml white wine
50g marscapone
30g finely grated vegetarian Parmesan
Zest of half a lemon

1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water.

2. While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until they develop a golden brown colour and then set to one side.

3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, chilli flakes and rosemary. After 1 minute, add the finely shredded Brussels Sprouts and stir well to combine. Pour in the wine and cook over a medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the marscapone cheese, vegetarian Parmesan cheese and lemon zest.

4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain well and mix into the sauce, adding half of the toasted pine nuts. Stir well to coat the pasta in the sauce. Serve with the remaining pine nuts sprinkled on top, also no with extra vegetarian Parmesan, if desired.


Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne

When you have a food blog, you want to add recipes that are delicious, but they also need to look good in a photograph too. I’m not the best photographer (and when I’ve made something I generally just want to get on with eating it, not spending ages photographing it!). I’ve also found that some dishes just don’t look great. This recipe is one that is tasty, but just not pretty to look at.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne (serves 2-3)

1/2 large butternut squash, chopped into 1cm cubes
2 small onions, chopped into 2cm chunks
Olive oil
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tsp Italian dried mixed Herbs
150g Spinach (I often use frozen)
100g butter
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
100g plain flour
Ground black pepper
650ml of milk
10 lasagne sheets (fresh is good if you want it to cook quickly, but dried sheets are fine if you don’t mind waiting longer for your lasagne to cook)
50g vegetarian Parmesan style cheese

1. Preheat oven to 200°C.

2. Roast the Butternut Squash and onion, drizzled with oil, in the oven for 25 minutes until cooked through.

3. Heat the tomatoes, herbs and spinach together in a pan to make a rustic sort of tomato sauce. Stir in the butternut squash and onion.

4. Make the white sauce by melting the butter with the sage leaves. Add the flour and the ground pepper, to taste, and whisk to form a smooth paste. Allow to cook for a further minute. Slowly add the milk a splash at a time, whisking into combine before adding more milk. Put the sauce to one side.

5. Assemble the lasagne by layering the sheets of pasta, tomato sauce and the white sauce. Top the lasagne with the vegetarian parmesan.

6. Bake for 25 minutes if using fresh lasagne sheets, or around 45 minutes if you are using dried pasta.

I’ve also found that I can make an allergy friendly version of the white sauce using dairy free spread (Vitalite), gluten free plain flour and a milk substitute (Koko). In this instance I would also use dairy free cheese instead of the vegetarian parmesan.

Rosemary and Sun-dried tomato pesto

After a busy day out in the cold, a nice filling pasta dish was just what we needed. I rustled up some pesto with an unusual flavour to stir through the pasta.


Rosemary and sun-dried tomato pesto (serves 2)

50g pine nuts
3 heaped tablespoons of sun-dried tomato paste (I used Gia’s which comes in a tube)
½ – 1 level tablespoon of fresh rosemary, finely chopped (depending on how much you like the taste of rosemary. Go for ½ if you want a more subtle flavour)
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
Cooked pasta of your choice to serve

1. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over a low heat u to starting to go golden. Set to one side.

2. Place the sun-dried tomato paste and rosemary in a small food processor. Add most of the toasted pine nuts, reserving enough to sprinkle on the pasta.

3. Blitz quickly then add the olive oil, a little bit at a time, blitzing between additions, until you get the consistency you desire.

4. Stir the mixture through freshly cooked pasta and top with the reserved pine nuts.

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to make your own pesto, I can heartily recommend Sacla’s Aubergine pesto, which is suitable for vegans.

A day in the life

I woke up at 6.40am and spent some time relaxing in bed, responding to emails. I’ve been researching Inbox Zero and I’m trying to be more efficient in dealing with my emails. I’m learning Spanish so I also did a bit of language practice on my iPad.


I had yoghurt with peaches and raspberries and a coffee for breakfast and then walked to work. It was a lovely sunny morning. I try to listen to an audiobook while I’m walking and at the moment I’m listening to ‘After You’ by Jojo Moyes. I download my audiobooks from my local public library and would really recommend this if it’s available in your area.


My work day involved a meeting in the morning and a training session in the afternoon. I grabbed a quick salad for lunch.

For dinner I made Parsnip Carbonara and watched Tattoo Fixers.


We let our pet rabbits have a play out and I spent some time working on my latest scrapbook page. The last port of call today will be the quiz at our local pub.


Parsnip Carbonara (Serves 2)

1 parsnip
1 heaped tablespoon crème fraîche
1 garlic clove
200g spaghetti
Grated vegetarian Parmesan style cheese to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2. Peel the parsnip. Use the peeler to make around 15 thin parsnip strips. Put these on a baking tray and brush with a thin layer of olive oil, or spray with a cooking spray. Put the tray in the oven and allow the strips to crisp up. You’ll need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.

3. Chop the remaining parsnip into small pieces and cook for 8-10 minutes in a pan of boiling water.

4. Put the spaghetti on to cook in another pan.

5. Drain the parsnips once cooked, reserving 100ml of the cooking liquid. Allow the parsnips to cools slightly.

6. Blitz the parsnip pieces and the cooking liquid in a blender until you get a smooth purée. Mix in 1 crushed garlic clove and the crème fraîche.

7. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and mix the parsnip sauce into the pasta. If you want to add vegetarian Parmesan style cheese, you can add it in here. Before serving, sprinkle the crispy oven cooked parsnip over the top.

This dish was inspired by a recipe in Asda Good Living magazine but I’ve adapted it to make it vegetarian.


Amatriciana Vegetariana

We eat pasta a lot at our house,  but we don’t often vary our recipes. I thought we’d try something a bit different and decided to vegetarianise Amatriciana pasta.

Amatriciana Vegetariana

Amatriciana Vegetariana (Serves 2)

1 onion
Oil for frying
4 slices of Quorn vegetarian bacon
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
250ml passata
250g rigatoni pasta (or other shape of your choice)
Vegetarian parmesan to serve

1. Finely chop the onion and fry gently until it starts to become translucent.
2. In a seperate pan, getting the pasta cooking.
3. Using scissors, cut the Quorn bacon strips into slices. Add to the onions and continue cooking until the bacon begins to gain some colouration.
4. Add the chilli flakes and the passata to the pan with the onions and Quorn, with 2 tablespoons of cooking water from the pasta pan.  Stir well and season with black pepper.
5. Allow the sauce to simmer, while the pasta cooks.
6. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Mix well to coat the pasta. Serve topped with vegetarian parmesan cheese.

Apparently this sauce is often eaten with Bucatini pasta, which is a tube like pasta, similar to spaghetti, so I’m going to keep an eye out for that.

Pesto using vegetarian parmesan-style cheese

One of my guilty pleasures is watching cookery programmes on television, even if, as a vegetarian, I’m not likely to cook many of the recipes myself.  I’m spoilt for choice at the moment and this week I’ve been watching Celebrity Masterchef, Lorraine’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food, Hairy Dieters and I’ve recorded the Great British Bake-off to enjoy tomorrow.

I’ve been inspired this week to attempt pesto sauce.  The opening scenes of Lorraine’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food showed a quick recipe for pesto and on Celebrity Masterchef there was a challenge to produce pesto, without the guidance of a recipe, using a pestle and mortar.  So, I checked for a recipe, dug my pestle and mortar out and set to.  On further investigation I found that the name pesto sauce is derived from the Italian for ‘to pound or crush’, so a pestle and mortar is the best option for authenticity.

The first problem I came across was that my mortar was too small.  (Okay, I admit it – I had to check online to see which bit was the pestle and which bit was the mortar!)  I was only making enough pesto for two people, but I couldn’t get it all in.  I relectantly had to decant to my mini food processor.  The smell when making it by hand was amazing though.  Perhaps I need to invest in a larger pestle and mortar.

Traditionally pesto sauce contains parmesan cheese.  Parmesan is not vegetarian.  I recommend getting some Twineham Grange Vegetarian Pasta Cheese from Bookham Fine Foods, which is an excellent substitute.  There’s an interesting article from the Guardian, No parmesan please, we’re vegetarian, about the issues surrounding parmesan cheese and the fact that it is not suitable for vegetarians – definitely one to keep an eye on when eating out.

Pesto (serves 2)

½ garlic clove
A pinch of sea salt
20g basil leaves
45ml olive oil
25g Vegetarian parmesan style cheese – I recommend this one from Bookham Fine Foods
25g pine nuts

  1. You need to prepare all your ingredients first, so you have them ready, Blue Peter style to add them on demand. I promise you, I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t necessary – it’s not my style to be organised in the kitchen, but here you need to be.
  2. First of all, gently toast your pine nuts.  Keep an eye on them and don’t let them burn.
  3. Grate your vegetarian hard cheese finely and tear the basil leaves up.
  4. If you are making this in a pestle and mortar, mix ½ clove  of garlic with a generous pinch of course sea salt.  Add in the basil leaves and 50ml olive oil, a spoonful at a time, and muddle together.
  5. Mix in the vegetarian parmesan-style cheese and the toasted pine nuts. Work into a lovely fragrant paste.
  6. If your pestle and mortar are just too small, you can whizz everything up quickly in a food processor.

This is, of course, lovely served with pasta.