Soup Season

So, soup season is coming up here in NZ, and with my new job I’m now living way down south in the coldest part of the country. I’ll start putting up some recipes again soon (teaching leaves little to no time for anything except work, I’m finding) but wanted to put a post out there asking if anyone has suggestions or requests for interesting soups? My usual ones are leek and potato, pumpkin, mixed veg and lentil, or pea soup. I’ll try and get experimental if no-one responds to my soup search.

Good night from the bottom of the world!

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Moussaka

Moussaka is a dish that I haven’t made in a while, as the traditional recipe involves mince, and I couldn’t think of an interesting and filling alternative for vegetarians. However, one day there were some eggplants sitting in the kitchen and I needed to use them up, so I had a look in the pantry and came across a can of chickpeas and decided to try a little experiment.

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Below is the resulting recipe of this experiment, and I’ll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by what came out of the oven! Very tasty, filling, and able to keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Leftovers are always handy, and this recipe is also full of nutritious and healthy (and also quite cheap) ingredients…you can’t lose!

What you will need: 

2 aubergines (eggplants), sliced to make discs of medium thickness

Salt

Cooking oil

1 onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed (use two if you like garlic, I would have but my family aren’t as keen)

800g tin of diced tomatoes

400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed

Paprika

Cheese, grated (optional)

White sauce (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2982678/white-sauce …I don’t use bay leaves or cloves though)

Breadcrumbs

  1. Spread the aubergine slices out on a clean surface and sprinkle with salt
  2. Leave for approx. half an hour so that they weep out the bitter juices
  3. Rinse, pat dry with a kitchen towel, and put to one side
  4. Heat the cooking oil in a large, deep pan on the stove
  5. Add the onion and garlic, cook until onion begins to look translucent
  6.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika
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  7. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, then take off the heat and set aside
  8.  Line the bottom of a baking dish with approx. one third of the aubergine slices
  9.  Pour over some of the tomato mixture until the aubergine is covered
  10. Sprinkle with cheese, then add another layer of aubergine
  11. Repeat this process until you have used up your ingredients or the dish is full (finish with aubergine slices)
  12. Cover the final layer of aubergine with your white sauce, then top with breadcrumbs (I used shop-bought crumbs but you could also make your own)
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  13. Bake at 180˚C for approx. 40 mins or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the dish is beginning to bubble.
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  14. Allow to cool for 10-15 mins before serving with salad or garlic bread
  15. Enjoy!

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Homemade Vegetarian Pizza

The love-hate relationship we tend to have with fast food is a tricky one, so here is a recipe for vegetarian pizza, base and all, that not only tastes amazing but leaves you feeling totally guilt-free! I am a huge pizza fan but always end up with a conscience in conflict after wolfing down a greasy takeaway, no matter how good it tastes. However, with this recipe you know exactly what has gone into your meal and can alter the topping to cater to your own personal tastes.

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Pizza is great for getting creative and trying out different flavour combinations. My central topping ingredient was mushrooms but you could add capsicum, pineapple, red onion, blue cheese, avocado…the list is endless!
This recipe is easy, cheap, healthy, and makes enough dough and topping for two thin-crust pizzas which will comfortably feed four people. Also, the dough is vegan-friendly so if you want a vegan pizza just adapt the topping to suit.

What you will need (dough):

1 tbsp/sachet yeast

250ml of warm (not hot) water

375g plain flour

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

  1. Put the yeast, water and flour into a large mixing bowl
  2. Mix until the ingredients are blended together, then add the oil and salt
  3. Stir until the dough sticks together
  4. Lightly flour your hands and a kitchen surface, then knead the dough for approx. 5 minutes or until it is smooth and has a slightly elastic quality to it
    Note: if the dough is too sticky add more flour
  5. Roll the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl
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  6. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place but not in direct sunlight
  7. Leave for one hour until the dough has doubled in size
  8. Divide into two portions if you wish to make two thin-crust pizzas, or just use the entire amount to make one deep-pan pizza
  9. Allow the dough to rest for approx. 15 minutes
  10. Roll out onto a pizza stone or place in a lightly oiled pizza pan and use your fingers to push the dough out to the edges of the dish

What you will need (topping):

Cooking oil

1 onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

800g tin of diced tomatoes

1 tbsp basil pesto

Musrooms, sliced (as many as needed/wanted, I used approx. 150g for two pizzas)

Cheese, grated

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C
  2. Heat the cooking oil in a pan on the stove
  3. Add the onion and garlic, cook until lightly browned
  4. Add the tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes
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  5. Pour the  mixture into a blender (carefully) and blend for no more than 10 seconds, otherwise your sauce will become frothy
  6. Spread the pesto onto your pizza base(s)
  7. Pour the tomato mixture over the top of the pesto, then add the mushrooms or an alternative topping
  8. Sprinkle with cheese
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  9. Bake for approx. 20-30 minutes or until the crust is crisp and golden brown
  10. Serve with salad, garlic bread or on its own
  11. Enjoy!

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Spicy Vegetarian Enchiladas

These enchilada parcels are tasty, filling and don’t take at all long to create! You can serve these spicy bundles of beans with sour cream or (my favourite) mashed avocado, and they also make good leftovers for lunches…sometimes I just make a batch to use over a few days because they are so easy to wrap up and take out. 

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This recipe makes enough for a party of four to have two enchiladas each (trust me, you won’t need more than that, they are so filling) and if you want to serve with the avocado, I add a splash of lemon juice and a couple of pinches of nutmeg to it, then mash.

What you will need:

Cooking oil

1 onion, diced 

1 clove of garlic, crushed

800g tin of diced tomatoes

400g tin of kidney beans

400g tin of black beans (the ones I used came in a chilli sauce, if you can’t find these just add some chilli powder or sweet chilli sauce to the mix)

Paprika

8 flour tortillas

Cheese, grated (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C
  2. Heat the cooking  oil in a large, deep pan on the stove 
  3. Add the onion and garlic, cook until lightly browned
  4. Add the tomatoes, beans and spice
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  5. Simmer until thickened 
  6. Microwave tortillas for approx. 15 seconds so that they don’t crack when you fold them
  7. Pile the mixture in the centre of the tortillas
    Note: if you add too much mixture to the tortillas you will have difficulty making the parcels
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  8. Wrap the tortilla around the mixture to make an oblong and then fold the ends over to make a square bundle
  9. Turn the parcels over into a deep baking dish so that the ends are secured beneath the enchiladas
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  10. Sprinkle with cheese or omit and go for a vegan version, and bake in the oven for between 15-20 minutes 
  11. Serve and enjoy!

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Avocado Salsa

So, here is my recipe for avocado salsa! I usually use it with wedges, nachos or whenever I want to replace sour cream or guacamole with a healthier and vegan-friendly alternative. It’s incredibly easy to make and tastes delicious, and has become essential to my summer dining!

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Even just filling a bowl with this yummy salsa and having it with crackers or home-made corn chips makes for a great snack, and this recipe can serve anywhere between four to six people, depending on portion sizes.

What you will need:

Two ripe avocados

Three medium-sized vine tomatoes

Lemon juice

Olive oil

  1. Remove the avocado stones
  2. Using a sharp knife cut the avocados in half and dice the flesh
  3. Empty the diced avocado into a medium serving bowl by turning the skins inside out, therefore pushing the fruit out
  4. Finely dice and de-seed the tomatoes
  5. Add the tomato to the avocado with a splash of lemon juice (approx. half a teaspoon) and a small amount of oil
  6. Mix all of the ingredients together but be careful not to mash the avocado
  7. Serve with your choice of meal or snack and enjoy!

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Note: add half a diced red onion if you want your salsa to have a bit more of a kick

Oven-baked Wedges

Wedges that aren’t deep-fried or unhealthy but still taste delicious and will fill you up, whether as a lunch or dinner? Right here! This recipe is ridiculously simple and cheap to create, and can easily be tailored to suit personal taste. It’s vegan-friendly too, and takes very little time to make.

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The following recipe serves two people, but obviously just double or triple the ingredients if you are feeding a larger group. I also tend to make an avocado salsa to accompany my potato wedges, and will pop the recipe for that up soon!

What you will need:

Four or five large potatoes (depends how hungry you are)

Paprika

Turmeric

Any other spices you may like

Cooking oil (spray oil is best)

  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C, preferably on Fan-bake
  2. Scrub potatoes clean but do not peel
  3. Cut each potato in half, then cut each half in half again
  4. Slice these down the centre in order to make four wedges out of each half
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  5. Place the potato wedges on a baking tray, skin-side down
  6. Spray or drizzle the cooking oil over the wedges
  7. Sprinkle a generous amount of your chosen spices onto the potatoes
  8. Toss the wedges until fully coated in both oil and spices
    Note: I use my hands to rub the oil and spices over all of the potato pieces, in order to make sure every wedge is evenly covered
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  9. Cook the wedges for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden and crisp on the outside
  10. Serve with sweet chilli sauce (if you want your wedges extra spicy) and avocado salsa, if you like, in place of the traditional sour cream. Enjoy!

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Homemade Tortillas with Chickpea Filling

Well, I said a few posts back that I would attempt to make my own tortillas at some point, so here they are! They are a bit time consuming because you have to cook each one individually, but the satisfaction of making your own is definitely worth it.

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This post is going to be a two-step recipe, starting with how to make the tortillas, followed by my recipe for a chickpea filling so that you can make yummy, vegan-friendly burritos.

Cheap and easy to make, as well as healthy, this recipe makes about eight tortillas and enough filling to match…good to serve four people with two burritos each.

What you will need (tortillas):

2 cups plain flour

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup of water

3 tbsp olive oil

Cooking oil (spray oil is best for this recipe, so that your tortillas don’t become greasy)

  1. Put the flour and salt into a medium-sized bowl
  2. Add the water and oil
  3. Mix together with a wooden spoon, until all ingredients are combined
  4. Knead for approx. 20 seconds
  5. Leave to rest for 10 minutes
  6. Heat the cooking oil in a large pan on the stove but make sure to turn the heat down before cooking the tortilla wraps
  7. Return to your dough and divide it into eight portions
  8. Roll each portion out thinly on a well floured surface, until approx. 2mm thick
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  9. Cook the tortillas on each side for around one minute, or until they begin to brown
  10. Keep the tortillas covered with a cloth until ready to serve
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What you will need (chickpea filling):

Cooking oil

1 onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

800g tin of diced tomatoes

400g tin of chickpeas, drained

1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan on the stove
  2. Add the onion and garlic, cook until lightly browned
  3. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas
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  4. Simmer until thickened
  5. Add lemon juice
  6. Serve with tortilla wraps, salad and anything else you fancy. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Hummus

My first Thai dish! Well, I have no idea if this is particularly traditional but I had it at a Thai vegetarian restaurant and loved it so much that I went back the next night and had it again, just so I could try and work out what was in it so that I could make it once I got back home.

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It can be served as a starter, a dip for party snacks, or a main with rice/bread/salad…whatever you choose! It’s delicious and it’s versatile, as well as healthy and vegan-friendly. It does take a bit of time to assemble, but the effort is definitely worth the final product.

What you will need:

Half a pumpkin, cut and peeled

300g spinach, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, crushed

2 cups sesame seeds

1 tbsp curry flakes/powder

2 tbsp paprika

1 cup cashews, crushed

  1. Boil the pumpkin until a fork goes through each piece easily
  2. Drain and set aside to cool
  3. Put the spinach in a pan with a small amount of boiling water
  4. Cover and leave until wilted
  5. Drain and squeeze any excess moisture from the spinach
  6. Add to the pumpkin and mash together
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  7. Heat a small amount of oil in a pan on the stove
  8. Add the garlic and sesame seeds
  9. Cook briefly until the sesame seeds are toasted and slightly golden
  10. Add to the pumpkin mixture, along with the curry powder, paprika and crushed cashews (I used a pestle and mortar to grind up the cashew nuts, which took a bit of elbow grease but was pretty easy)
  11. Mix everything together, refrigerate until chilled, then serve and enjoy!

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Note: I found that avocado goes really well with this dish, its smokiness somehow complements the sweet and nutty flavours of the hummus…give it a go and see if you agree!

Gnocchi for one

Well, my trip left me relatively broke, so this recipe is for the cheap but filling meal that I ended up cooking tonight. Gnocchi for one. It’s a potato dish that can be altered to serve as many people as you want, which is good because sometimes I find myself playing the lone vegetarian, in need of making something that doesn’t require refrigerating as leftovers for the next week. 

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This is one of the simplest things to make, and it’s also cheap and vegan-friendly…so why not?

What you will need:

Three medium potatoes

3/4 cup of plain flour

Salt and pepper 

  1. Microwave the potatoes until soft enough to mash
  2. Allow to cool
  3. Peel and mash
  4. Add the flour and knead
  5. Season
  6. Roll into small balls, then indent each one with the back of a fork
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  7. Add the gnocchi to boiling water
  8. Once all of the gnocchi pieces have risen to the surface, remove from the heat
  9. Drain, then serve with your choice of sauce – I added some pesto to mine, but you can also use the Basic Pasta Sauce from one of my earlier blog posts, or make a simple cheese sauce
  10. Enjoy!

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New foods

So, I have discovered that I like Thai food and plan on trying to recreate some of the dishes I had on my travels.

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At the elephant sanctuary all meals were strictly vegetarian, which was a real treat, but it was a bit of a struggle finding many vegetarian options at regular restaurants, especially in Bangkok. I eventually discovered a little street with about four vegetarian restaurants along it, and May Kaidee’s was my favourite haunt, so if you’re ever in the area definitely give it a visit! She also does cooking classes, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to try one. Anyway, once I have recovered from jet lag I will set about to attempt some Thai recipes…hopefully they work out okay, stay tuned!

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(Jokia and Mae Perm at the elephant sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai)