Category Archives: Vegetarian

Rainbow Vegetable Puff Pastry Tart

Vegetarian tarts are some of my favourite savoury bakes to make. It’s very easy to create a delicious vegetarian meal without feeling as if you’re missing the meat using puff pastry. And this Rainbow Vegetable Tart is an easy and delicious vegetarian puff pastry tart that can be ready in just 45 minutes!

There’s no shame in using ready made puff pastry, especially when it’s so readily available, cheap and good quality from many supermarkets. The tart has flaky and delicate buttery puff pastry with a layer of smooth cream cheese and lots of good vegetables which are tasty and texturally all different; the cucumber provides a soft mellow base, the carrots add slight sweetness as well as a tiny amount of crunch, the tomato adds moisture and sweetness as it roasts on the surface and the red onions cook down and become crisp. The tart is finished off with melted brie and gorgonzola.


1 x 375g block of shop bought puff pastry

75g full fat cream cheese

Ground black pepper

20ml lemon juice

Pinch of salt

½ a cucumber, cut into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler, seeds removed

½ a carrot, cut into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler

3 tomatoes, sliced

½ a red onion, sliced thinly

50g brie, cubed

25g gorgonzola, cubed

Beaten egg, to glaze


Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Cut a piece of parchment to fit a square baking tray.

Roll out the puff pastry into a square on a lightly floured surface measuring 23cm by 23cm. Use a knife to lightly score a mark 2cm in from each side.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese with the black pepper, salt and lemon juice until it has a spreadable consistency. Spread the cream cheese on top of the puff pastry up to the marked edge.

Arrange the cucumber and carrot ribbons over the pastry so that the cream cheese is concealed, again reaching up to the border. Place 16 tomato slices on the tart in a 4×4 grid as in the picture and scatter over the thinly sliced red onions and the brie and gorgonzola. Finish with a crack of black pepper and brush the top of the puff pastry with egg wash.

Bake the tart for around 25 minutes or until the pastry is well-risen, golden and crisp and cooked all the way through to the base. Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before slicing into 4 pieces and serving hot with a lightly dressed side salad.

Homemade Salt and Pepper Tofu

Salt and Pepper dishes (or as we call it at home, Chilli and Salt dishes) are very popular in Cantonese cuisine, high in flavour and savouriness with a punch of chilli heat. You might be surprised that making your own Salt and Pepper Tofu is surprisingly easily to do at home.

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Tofu’s got a bit of a bad reputation. It’s associated with blandness in appearance and taste and it’s only for the health conscious. But tofu is a fantastic food that is high in protein, cheap and not difficult to work with at all. I’d much prefer working with tofu than with a piece of chicken and sometimes I’d much rather eat tofu than chicken.

Tofu blocks are made by preparing soy milk from pressing and crushing soybeans with water. Then nigari, which is a coagulant, curdles the soy milk into water and the curds, which is the tofu. It’s then compressed in a mould to firm it up and the longer it is compressed for, the more water is released and the firmer the final tofu. Because of this, there are lots of different firmness of the tofu and each of them has their own purpose.

Soft block tofu is used in both sweet and savoury dishes. The sweet tofu fa is one of my favourite desserts. But in savoury cooking, it can be deep-fried so that the crisp outside contrasts with the soft and silky centre. But the one that is most versatile is the firm block tofu. It holds its shape much more readily than soft block tofu and so can be used in soups and broths, as the Chinese often do, simply pan-fried, thrown into a stir-fry as well as deep-fried. I think it’s also a lot safer to use the firm tofu for my Salt and Pepper Tofu because it will hold its shape and once drained well, won’t spit in the pan which could be dangerous in a domestic kitchen. But do not confuse it with silken tofu!

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I prepare my tofu by draining it well before cutting it into 1 inch cubes and then tossing into cornflour. I then panfry the tofu in my wok until it is crisp on all sides. Whilst it doesn’t stay crisp after tossing it in the vegetables and spice mix, it does absorb a whole lot of that flavour and provides a slight textural contrast that you would get if you were to deep fry soft tofu for example.

But coming back to the salt and pepper itself, I found a way to recreate the flavour of the takeaway dishes and it does involve using quite a few spices and different ingredients but the savouriness, almost umami, quality of this dish is addicting. I recommend going to an Asian supermarket and buying your spices there, it costs probably around 50 – 70p to buy a 100g bag of spices which lasts ages and is much cheaper than your supermarket which sells the jars.

This recipe will be enough to serve 4 people.


500g pack of firm tofu

60 – 75g cornflour

3 tbsp sunflower oil, plus 1 tbsp

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

4 whole dried chillies, sliced

2 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp white pepper

½ tsp table salt

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp dried chilli flakes (you can adjust this according to your heat tolerance)

1 onion, sliced

A large handful of spinach leaves, roughly sliced

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

Salad leaves, noodles or rice, to serve


Cut out the pack of tofu and drain away all of the liquid. Then transfer to the blocks of tofu onto kitchen roll to dry as much as possible. Then slice the tofu blocks into 1 inch cubes; the pack I bought has 3 blocks and each block can be sliced in 2 halves, giving 16 cubes each.

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Heat a frying pan or a wok over a medium high heat. Once it’s heated up, then add in the 3 tablespoons of oil. Transfer the cornflour into a dish and then toss the cubes of tofu well in the cornflour and place onto a plate ready to pan fry; they sort of resemble marshmallows but try not to do this too far in advance, more than 2 minutes before you are ready to fry.

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Place the coated cubes of tofu gently in the hot oil and still on the medium high heat, fry the tofu on each side until the tofu is coated in a light golden crispy layer. Drain the pieces on another plate lined with some kitchen roll and repeat until all the tofu cubes are fried.

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Remove any excess oil from the wok and then throw in the coriander seeds and cumin seeds until they are browned and toasted. Remove them and place them onto a chopping board and use a knife to crush the seeds up. Add to a small bowl with the chopped dried chillies, garlic powder, white pepper, salt, ground ginger and cinnamon and the dried chilli flakes.

In the same wok, put the oil over a high heat and when hot, add in the onion and stir around to absorb the flavour from the wok. Then add in the spices in one go with the spinach leaves and toss around to wilt the spinach leaves and colour the onions slightly.

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Add in your tofu cubes and toss the contents of the wok to coat the tofu in the spice mix and heat the tofu through. Once they are coated and hot through, add in the soy sauce and sesame oil and give it a few final tosses before transferring to a plate to serve.

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Carrot and Onion Bhajis

The onion bhaji, a classic staple starter in most Indian restaurants, is usually made by frying sliced onions in a spiced batter which can be quite greasy and heavy. I was inspired by Tracy (@TheLittlePK) to give this recipe a go and make my own version of it.

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The original recipe had turmeric, cumin and coriander seeds, ingredients not a staple of the student pantry. I changed the spicing around slightly, using garam masala, which contained all 3 of the above, and adding garlic as I am a big fan of garlic!

Spices are a fantastic way of flavouring your food without adding extra fat, sugar or calories and they are a cheap purchase as they will last you a long time. There’s no need to go for fancy brands either, supermarket own brands will suffice.

This recipe is a perfect way to use up those carrots at the bottom of the fridge which you have no idea how to use them besides doing a carrot cake or just chucking them into a stew.


3 onions (red or white), thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp garam masala

2 tsp mild curry powder

½ tsp hot chilli powder

¼ tsp table salt

2 tbsp tomato puree

6 tbsp water

90g plain flour


Prepare the onions and carrots. In a frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the oil and the onions and carrots and stir-fry for around 5 minutes until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add all of the spices and salt to the carrot onion mix and continue to stir-fry for a further 6-7 minutes until the spices are well distributed and the onion and carrot have softened slightly. Transfer to a large bowl to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment and give the parchment a light grease to stop the bhajis sticking to the tray. In a small bowl, mix together the tomato puree with the water. Set aside.

Add the flour to the cooked vegetables and use a fork to stir it through. Add around 80% of the tomato puree mixture and you should notice a batter-like mixture surrounding the carrot and onion forms. Leave to sit for 5 minutes.

Use an ice cream scoop to divide the bhaji mixture up. I filled the ice cream scoop three-quarters full which gave me around 10 bhajis but feel free to make them slightly smaller.

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Bake the bhajis for 20 minutes and the tops should have started to brown and get crisp. Push the bhajis off the parchment with a knife and flip them around so that the underside can set too; this takes around 10 – 15 minutes in the same oven.

Serve the bhajis with a cooling cucumber raita as a snack or as a side dish to an Indian meal. These would be a fantastic vegetarian accompaniment to go with my Aubergine and Potato Curry.

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Meatless Monday: Aubergine and Potato Curry

Meatless Monday is a worldwide campaign aimed at improving the health of people and the planet by removing meat from our diet for 1 day a week. Founded in 2003, Meatless Monday has gained immense popularity and whilst I haven’t actively done this myself, as a student, I do find that meat is expensive and also a bit of a pain to cook sometimes. With that, I came up with this Aubergine and Potato Curry.

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I cooked this curry in a large batch so I could have some in the freezer on hand to defrost at any time. You can change this curry around to suit your tastes by using hot or mild curry powder or omitting the dried chilli flakes if you don’t like the heat. You could also add cauliflower, spinach or chickpeas if you want to; frozen spinach is brilliant in curries I find as it thickens it up nicely too.

I used tinned potatoes for my curry, it’s cheaper and much easier than cooking potatoes from scratch at just 15p for a tin that was just right for the amount of curry I was cooking. Frozen or tinned vegetables are essential items in my kitchen, it eliminates the need to prepare them and they can be more nutritious than their fresh equivalents as the nutrients are locked when they are flash frozen.


1 onion, chopped into 1 inch squares

1 pepper, chopped into 1 inch squares

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 carrot, cut into 0.5cm half moons

1 medium aubergine, cut into 1 inch squares

1 x 560g tin of new potatoes

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

¼ tsp hot chilli powder

2 tsp garlic granules

4 tsp medium curry powder

2 tbsp garam masala

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

50g frozen peas


Place the onion and pepper into a saucepan over a medium heat with half of the oil and sweat the onion until it has turned slightly translucent and has softened slightly. Add in the carrot and continue to cook until the carrot softens slightly and then season.

In a separate pan or wok, fry off the aubergine in the remaining oil until the aubergine has browned on both sides. Season with salt and pepper and add the aubergine into the rest of the vegetables. Add in the tinned potatoes and add around 100ml of water and cover the pan with a lid and let the vegetables cook for 10 minutes.

Place all of the spices into the pan you cooked the aubergine in and toast the spices. You should start to smell the spices’ aroma as they toast. Once toasted, add in the tomato puree and mix the spices into the puree and let the puree “brown” for 2-3 minutes; by this I mean heat the puree through so that you intensify the tomato flavour.

Meanwhile add the chopped tomatoes with a teaspoon of sugar to the vegetable pan and swill out the tin of tomatoes with 50ml of water. Add in the browned tomato puree and give everything a stir to combine. Leave the curry to bubble on a medium high heat for around 10 minutes to finish cooking the vegetables and allow the flavours to amalgamate.

Adjust the seasoning and the spice to your liking and then add the frozen peas and leave the curry to boil for a further 10 – 15 minutes to thicken up. If it is still a bit too wet, you can remove some of the liquid and create a slurry with some cornflour, adding it back to the pan to thicken it.

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When the curry sauce is to the desired consistency, serve the curry with some freshly cooked basmati rice or some naan bread; I bought some garlic and coriander naans which were perfect for mopping up the curry sauce. You can also finish it with a sprinkle of coriander, serve it with a cucumber raita or with some crispy poppadoms!

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Paprika Cumin Tortilla Chips

So you buy a pack of 8 tortilla wraps for yourself and you get pretty sick of them after having just 2, what do you do with them? You can make your own flavoured tortilla chips with them and you’ll fool your flatmates into thinking you bought them when you know it cost you hardly anything.

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This is a great way to use up your leftover tortilla wraps and is a cheaper and healthier alternative to your shop bought tortilla chips which can often be loaded with salt and fat because these are baked in the oven instead of deep-fried yet still maintain their crispness as long as they are kept in an airtight container.


2 tortilla wraps

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

¼ tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 200˚C

Chop up the tortilla wraps into triangle shapes.

Put them into a large bowl and sprinkle over the spices, salt and oil and toss them with your hands until all of the tortilla chips are covered with the spices and oil.

Arrange them on 2 baking trays in one layer, leaving some space between them.

Bake them for 6 – 8 minutes until they are crisp around the edges.

Serve alongside dips for a party or just to have as a snack on their own.

Product Review: Nanny Violets Jam

I was contacted by Nanny Violets Jam to try and review their fantastic homemade jams in my cooking and baking. I was excited at the prospect of trying lots of different flavours of jams, chutneys and relishes since you probably wouldn’t find these in your supermarkets.

The 6 flavours that were given to me to sample were Blueberry, Kiwi and Strawberry and Champagne Jam, Orange and Whisky Marmalade, Fig and Basil Chutney and Sweetcorn Relish. Arriving in this fantastically hand decorated box, I was so eager to try the jams out in my baking!

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Based in Essex and Gloucestershire, Nanny Violets Jam produces an entire selection of luxury preserves, ranging from jams to chutneys to relishes, originating from family recipes passed down through generations. You can find them on Facebook by clicking here.

As with every review, I do receive the products to review and receive no monetary payment to write these reviews. I have not been told to write falsely positive reviews and everything is my own opinion. I keep products after the review.

I was most excited to try the blueberry jam. I have struggled to find blueberry jam in shops and have wanted to use it my baking for a while and so pleased to finally be able to! I decided to use it to create a feathering effect on top of my Blueberry Cheesecake and to accompany a luxurious breakfast of Cinnamon Pancakes with Banana and Blueberry Jam.


Cinnamon Pancakes with Banana and Blueberry Jam

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These are a fantastic breakfast or brunch dish perfect for a little treat. The pancakes are sweet with the familiar flavour of cinnamon and pair well with the ripe banana slices, blueberry jam and syrup. And by pancakes, I don’t mean crepes, I mean the thick American style pancakes!

225g self raising flour

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp sugar

300ml milk

2 eggs

30g margarine, melted plus extra for the pan

2 ripe bananas, sliced on the diagonal

Syrup, to drizzle – I used Sweet Freedom, you can use maple

Nanny Violets Jam’s Blueberry Jam

For the pancakes, whisk together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre and beat in the eggs, milk and melted margarine until the pancake mixture has just come together. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and melt your additional margarine. Once the fat has melted, spoon 3 tablespoons of the pancake batter into the pan, repeating until you have filled your frying pan.

The pancakes are ready to flip when bubbles appear all over the surface and the pancake frees itself from the pan. The second side needs less time than the first. I like my pancakes a light golden brown on both sides. Drain the excess fat on some kitchen paper and then keep the pancakes warm under foil. Repeat until you have used all the batter.

Place 2 pancakes on the plate and top with banana slices, drizzle over your choice of syrup and the blueberry jam.


Baked Blueberry Cheesecake

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I love cheesecakes and baked cheesecakes get a reputation of being difficult to make but my recipe gives you perfect baked cheesecakes with the right amount of wobble each time. Feel free to experiment a bit with the base by changing up the biscuits and adding flavours if you wish but I love the classic digestive base and it has to be thick! Having a thicker base also can help to reduce the risk of the cheesecake filling leaking during baking!

Cream cheese recipes often call for Philadelphia but I find it’s expensive when cheaper supermarket alternatives do the same job! With my cream cheese, I always find there’s a bit too much liquid in the tubs so I drain that off before using.

This recipe is suited for a deep 20cm loose bottomed tin

240g digestive biscuits

100g margarine, melted

450g cream cheese

150g granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 45ml jar of Nanny Violets Jam’s Blueberry Jam

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease and line the base of a deep 20cm loose bottomed tin. I like to have a few strips of parchment running up the sides so that it can help to lift the cheesecake of the base.

For the biscuit base, crush up the digestive biscuits either in a food processor (which takes seconds!) or by placing them in a sandwich bag and bashing them with a rolling pin. They don’t need to be a fine crumb, a few larger pieces is okay. Pour into a bowl and add the melted margarine and stir until it comes together with the texture of damp sand. Pour into the tin and use the base of a spoon to level out the base, making sure there are no gaps. Bake for 15 minutes.

For the cream cheese filling, beat together the cream cheese with the icing sugar until it is even. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. It will look curdled to begin with but keep beating until it is worked in, avoiding incorporating too much air which could balloon in the oven and create a crack! Lastly add the vanilla extract.

Carefully pour the mixture into the cooled biscuit base. Take the jam and spoon it over the top of the cheesecake in a spiral pattern. Then take a cocktail stick and create a swirly effect by running it through the spiral randomly, without overdoing it so that it gets mixed in.

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Turn the oven down to 160ºC and bake the cheesecake for 40 to 50 minutes until the cheesecake is browned on top and a circle in the centre of the cheesecake around 2 inches in diameter has a good wobble. Bring the cheesecake out to cool, leaving it in the tin to cool completely.

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Lift the base out of the tin, and then slide the cheesecake onto its serving plate. Use a palette knife to lift the parchment base away and then place the cheesecake into the fridge to set for a further hour before serving.


Roasted Vegetable Crostata with Sweetcorn Relish

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I decided to use the sweetcorn relish as a tangy accompaniment to my Roasted Vegetable Crostata, which consists of vegetables roasted in olive oil on top of a herbed shortcrust pastry, a mustardy and peppery cream cheese layer, sliced green olives and fresh leaves and feta cheese. This is a fantastic meal ideal for a picnic, an al fresco lunch or just for those times when you don’t want meat!

The crostata has the appearance of being underbaked but it’s from the moisture from the roasted vegetables and the cream cheese seeping into the pastry. You can also do individual portions of this, just divide up the pastry into 4 and roll in the same way. I like to crimp the edges which gives a better appearance.

200g plain flour

80g margarine

1/2 tsp chilli flakes, crushed

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp Himalayan salt

Cracked black pepper

About 2 – 4 tbsp cold water

1 red pepper, cut into 1 inch squares

1 green pepper, cut into 1 inch squares

1 red onion, cut into 1 inch squares

2 tomatoes, deseeded and cut into 1 inch squares

50ml olive oil

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp mixed herbs

100g cream cheese

1 tsp English mustard

Cracked black pepper

A squeeze of lemon juice

75g olives

100g feta cheese

Handful of leaves, plus extra to serve

Nanny Violets Jam’s Sweetcorn Relish, to serve

Prepare the pastry by rubbing in the margarine into the flour until it resembles a breadcrumb texture. Mix through all of the seasonings and add enough of the cold water to bring it to a ball of dough. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 5mm thick. Trim the edges so it is a neat square. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Place the chopped up vegetables into a tin and toss through the oil, garlic and mixed herbs. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the ends have started to catch. Turn the oven down to 180ºC. Drain away any of the liquid in the tray.

Meanwhile make the cream cheese layer by mixing together the cream cheese, mustard, pepper with the lemon juice until incorporated. Slice your olives into rings and cut up the feta cheese into cubes.

Bring out the pastry and crimp the edge between your thumb and forefinger. Spread over the cream cheese over the pastry evenly so that it fills the crimps up. Place over the roasted vegetables and sprinkle over the sliced olives, diced feta and the salad leaves.

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Bake the crostata for around 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese has all melted, the top is golden brown and the pastry is cooked through. Serve warm with the Sweetcorn Relish.


I also played around with the Strawberry and Champagne jam which I used in my mum’s birthday cake, the recipe for which you can find by clicking here.

Strawberry Birthday Cake S&C

I had the Orange and Whisky marmalade on toast too. I don’t usually enjoy marmalade however the whisky added another dimension and made it thoroughly enjoyable!

Spiced Cauliflower, Chickpea and Potato Salad

Simply Nigella has to be one of my favourite cookbooks in my collection. Nigella Lawson has many books out but this is the first one I have. And this book is just bang on trend with 3 recipes for bundt cakes, multiple recipes containing coconut oil and more than a fair few containing buckwheat flour.

And whilst I guarantee I won’t be making the Black Rice Noodles, I could see myself making the Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies or the Nutella Brownies. One of the savoury recipes I have already tried however is the Spiced Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad.

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Now I’m not a fan of pomegranate seeds so I have changed the recipe a lot to suit my taste and budget. I’ve changed the harissa paste to a spiced tomato salsa mixture and I use frozen cauliflower which I partially defrost by soaking in hot water before cooking. This also makes sure it cooks in time. Whilst Nigella serves this on a bed of parsley, I think it is best served in a gem lettuce cup or with some steaming hot fluffy rice. It’s also a great side to any meal.

This recipe is enough for 3 portions but I made this ahead and kept it in plastic containers in the fridge for later in the week. Nigella recommends keeping for only 2 days and this was also the same for me.


600g frozen cauliflower florets

3 tbsp vegetable oil

150g tomato salsa

2 tsp tomato puree

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp ground cumin

4 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained

1 x 560g tin of new potatoes, drained and halved

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a roasting tin with foil.

Put the cauliflower florets into a heatproof bowl and pour over a litre of hot (but not boiling water) water. Leave to defrost for about 15 minutes. Drain the cauliflower well, shaking off any excess water and pour into the roasting tin with the oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place in the oven for 15 minutes until the cauliflower florets are soft inside (test this with a knife like a potato) and set aside. If they are too large, cut them into the same size as the potatoes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the salsa, tomato puree, sugar, spices and olive oil. Season well. Adding in the cauliflower florets (as well as any liquid in the tin), the drained chickpeas and chopped new potatoes. Toss well so everything is coated – you could do this in the tin if you want to.

Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes until everything is warmed through and cooked and the sauce is slightly charred on the vegetables.