Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Veggies – Love Em or Hate Em?

In my house, we love veggies. Whether it is steamed, in a curry, stir fried or straight up in a salad, we love it all. We are trying to include more veggies in diet as much as we can, because it is healthier for you. And when you eat what’s in season, it tends to be a lot easier on the pocket too. I try to eat local produce as much as I can and always go for what’s in season.

When I came across a recipe for a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, I knew I had to try it. It calls for a bunch of veggies, which most of us usually have on hand, and lentils. We eat a lot of lentils, pulses, legumes, so I knew this would be an interesting way to switch things up. There are a few processes involved in the recipe, but they are all really simple and I loved that there were leftovers.

This Veggie Shepherd’s Pie is chock full of veggies and lentils and is the perfect meal for a cold, wet day. And my secret ingredient is a little Vegemite. This adds amazing depth of flavour and that umami quality that most recipes reach for. The veggies and lentils are full of flavor and are topped with mashed potatoes.And who doesn’t love mashed potatoes?

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

1 cup cooked lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots
2 stalks celery
Handful of button mushrooms, sliced
Salt, to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp vegemite
1 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas
6-8 potatoes, depending on size (You need enough to make about 4 cups worth of mashed potatoes)
A small splash of milk, if needed
A knob of butter (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the onions and garlic and saute till the onions have softened.

While the onions are cooking, dice the carrots and celery to ‘more or less’ resemble the size of the peas and lentils.

Once the onions have softened, add the diced carrots and celery to the pan and cook till the celery has started to soften.

Now add the sliced mushrooms, salt, thyme, mixed herbs, smoked paprika and pepper to the pan. Stir well to let the spices incorporate. Continue cooking till the mushrooms have fully softened.

Add the vegemite, tomato paste and the flour to the pot. Stir and continue to cook the veggies till they’re coated and the pasty mix starts to coat the bottom of the pan. This should take about 2 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth to the pan. Stir to dissolve the flour and tomato paste that has coated the bottom of the pan.

Bring the broth to a simmer. It will have started thickening. Add in the cooked lentils and peas and let them all heat through.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed, stir through and take the pot of the heat.

Preheat your oven to 200ยบC.

Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes to cut down on cooking time.

Boil them in salted water till tender. Drain and mash the potatoes with the milk and butter (if you are using) till no lumps are left. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

Add the vegetables to a large casserole dish (I used my 9 inch ceramic pie dish). Top with the mashed potatoes. It is easier to handle the mashed potato when it is still warm. I used the back of a spoon to flatten the mashed potatoes. You can choose to use a fork or a spoon to create a decorative pattern if you’d like.

Bake for around 15 minutes till everything has heated through. If you want the mashed potatoes to brown some more, place it closer to the top heating element of your oven, or turn your broiler on (if your oven has that function) and bake for a few more minutes. Watch closely and when it has browned to your liking, take it out of the oven.

Sprinkle some more freshly cracked black pepper over the top and serve hot.

Enjoy your veggies!!!

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Baby Spinach Salad with a Balsamic Glaze

Whoever said that the simple things are often the best, was a legend. I have proof. What am I talking about? Well a couple of weeks ago, I’d gone to lunch with a friend. Obviously, I had to have the smashed avo toast – beautiful rye sourdough, topped with a generous amount of smashed avocado. This particular version of it was then topped with a simple salad that was so very good, I had to try replicating it at home. It was just a beautiful and well balanced little number, with every mouthful, I could literally hear angels sing.

Since the salad was so simple, there is very little to do to assemble it. This makes it perfect if you have to make a great big batch to feed a crowd this holiday season. The homemade version was so good, I hardly got a couple of bites of it. The husband, who initially was very skeptical about the simplicity and the ‘no mayo’ nature of the salad, almost wiped the plate clean. So I can tell you that this recipe has been tried and tested and has received the highest seal of approval (well, in my house atleast).

This is not an exact recipe. You simply add the ingredients to your liking and taste and it will turn out fantastic.

Baby Spinach Salad with a Balsamic Glaze


A couple of handfuls of baby spinach (you could also use rocket or any salad greens of your choice)
A few cherry tomatoes
Feta cheese, to taste
Freshly crushed black pepper, to taste
Balsamic glaze, to taste

Place the baby spinach / salad greens on your salad plate.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and place it evenly around the plate.

Crumble some feta cheese on top. (Please note, the feta cheese is salty, so add as much or as little as you’d like. No additional salt in used as the feta seasons the salad.)

Sprinkle a little freshly cracked black pepper on top.

Drizzle a little balsamic glaze over everything to finish it off.

Sit back and look at this gorgeous work or art.

Serve up and enjoy.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Bowl

Ever since we were little, my mother made sure we ate a lot of vegetables. When I think of it, my brother and I were never picky or fussy about eating our vegetables. My mother and my Nana (maternal grandmother) who lived with us, taught us the value of food and ingrained in us how we were lucky to have meals that were lovingly prepared, when there were so many all around the world that had to go without any. And that lesson has staying with us till date. For this we are ever so grateful. 

Very often, I find myself with not much in the fridge, especially towards the end of the week, just before grocery shopping. On one such occasion, I had a few veggies, none of them enough to make a dish in itself, so I thought I’d just combine the lot of them. I also had some leftover falafel from a previous trip to Costco so I added them to the mix. What I ended up was this glorious winter veggie bowl. 
Putting together a veggie spread like this is so simple and requires very little hands on time. And the best part is you can swap these veggies for any that you have in the fridge. I added a simple salad and dressing over it and topped it with some roasted peanuts. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to dig into a bowl like this – veggies in all their glory. I could live on food like this. You won’t even miss the meat and all these beautiful colors are really good for you too. That’s a win win. The recipe below is not quite a recipe, just guidelines if you want to whip up something like this. Please feel free to change as you wish.
 
Roasted Winter Vegetable Bowl
Serves 2 

1 beetroot, boiled, peeled and cut into pieces 
2 carrots, cut into 2″ long pieces
Cauliflower florets (dont waste the stalks, cut the stalk into cubes and use with the florets)
4 pcs. falafel (prepare according to package instructions)
Hummus 
Olives, pitted and sliced
Green Salad (recipe follows)
Garlic Yogurt dressing (recipe follows)
A small handful of pistachios
Salt, to taste
Freshly crushed black pepper, to taste
Extra Virgin Olive oil, to drizzle over
When prepping the veggies, try and cut them the same size so that they cook evenly. 
I roasted each vegetable in a separate baking dish, but if you prefer, you can use the same dish.
Preheat the oven to 200ยบC.
Cut the carrots, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss well to coat and place in a baking dish in a single layer and bake for 15-20 minutes or till cooked to your liking. Flip the carrots halfway through the cook time.
Sprinkle the cauliflower florets with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss well to coat and place in another baking dish in a single layer and bake for 15-20 minutes or till cooked to your liking. Flip the carrots halfway through the cook time.
Heat a pan and roast the pistachios on medium flame till they’ve lightly browned.
For the salad – 
1 cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, cubed
1/3 small red / white onion, finely sliced
Salad greens of your choice (lettuce, arugula, rocket, baby spinach)
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Lime juice, to taste
Toss all the ingredients.
For the Garlic Yogurt dressing –  
1 cup Greek yogurt
Salt, to taste
1-2 tsp sugar, or to taste
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (Use freshly chopped garlic. Do not use garlic paste because that is too pungent for a salad)
Stir all the ingredients through and set aside.
To assemble the bowls
Place the cut beetroot, roasted carrots, cauliflower, falafel, hummus, olives and the salad in a bowl.
Drizzle the dressing over it. Serve a little extra on the side for the falafel.
Top with the roasted pistachios.
Enjoy!
 

Eeril Fugad / Goan Snake Beans Stir Fry

Today I have a very humble treat lined up for you. I happen to be a huge fan of beans. Fresh, dried, kidney beans, snakes beans, butter beans the whole lot, really. Growing up, every summer, the family would go to our ancestral home in Goa. We’d look forward to it. Our home had a massive edible garden. Back when I was too little to remember and even before I was born, the family grew a lot of vegetables and fruit. When my grandmother was little, they also had cattle and goats on the property.But in more recent times they had plenty of fruit trees. We had mangoes (a few varities), cashews, coconuts, chickoos, guavas and jackfruits growing. The only vegetables we had was some tapioca, dumsticks (moringa), tamarind and kokum. I have very fond memories of those summers and hope I can someday go back to something like this again. Though I may seem like I’ve digressed, I haven’t, not much. I had to build a setting of sorts ๐Ÿ™‚

Every summer, snake beans were at the peak of their season. We didn’t grow this but there was a local farmer in the village who did. And he did a fantastic job of it. I loved and to this day love snake beans. We cook this up in a very simple way, a traditional Goan fugad. A fugad has its roots in Portuguese food. It is a stir fry of vegetables with some spices and seasonings and a sprinkling of fresh grated coconut. Most Goan households still cook their vegetables this way. The snake bean version was my favorite. I volunteered to prep 2 massive bundles every single day. Yes, I managed to convince my mother and aunt that I wanted to eat this every single day while I was there and that I would clean it and get it ready to be cooked myself. Thankfully, they obliged and so someone from that good old farmers household would graciously drop off a couple of bundles at the house on their way to the market. The simplicity of the dish may fool you. But the end result is fantastic. In my humble opinion, it is delicious. The beans turn out tender and sweet I’m sure kids would love it too. I could eat it by itself or with steamed rice or chapatis.

I recently managed to get some gorgeous bundles of snake beans and had to make this fugad again and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to share it with you. So if you can find some good, fresh snake beans or if you grow them yourself, I hope you try this out.

Eeril Fugad / Goan Snake Beans Stir Fry


3 small bundles of snake beans, the fresher the better
1 large onion, diced
2 fresh green / red chillies
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated coconut
1 tbsp olive oil

Break off the ends of the snake beans and break off into inch sized pieces. Rinse through and drain and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

Slit the chillies in length, but not all the way through. This way you get all the flavor but not much of the heat.

Let the chillies fry up for a few seconds till they get fragrant.

Add the chopped onions and saute till the onions have softened and get slightly brown on the edges.

Add the snake beans and stir them in for a while. You will see the green color of the beans turn a darker shade.

Add the salt and let the bean stir fry for about 2 minutes.

Add a splash of water, a very small amount to prevent the beans from burning and help them cook through.

Cover the pan and let it cook. Add more water, if needed.

When the beans are almost cooked, add the freshly grated coconut and stir through.

Serve hot as a side dish with some Goan fish curry or prawn curry and rice or with some chapatis.

Some other Fugad recipes –
Cabbage Fugad
Black Channa (Chickpeas) Fugad

Breakfast Hash with Potatoes, Kale, Peppers and Green Peas

Ever so often, life gets busy for everyone. When that happens in our home, I love having quick and easy recipes that I can fall back on even if I haven’t had the time to cook dinner. My tolerance for take away and ready meals has steadily fallen in the last few years to the point where its non existent now. I do prefer home cooked food, even if its something as simple as breakfast for dinner.

Actually, I really like breakfast for dinner. This breakfast hash is a nice way to fancy things up. What I love about this hash is its made from scratch. That being said, it comes together so quick and easy and all in one pan. If you’re using an oven proof skillet, you can crack the eggs right in and let them cook off in the oven. I didn’t want to switch the oven on, so I used a second pan to fry the eggs. You could use poached eggs or scambled eggs too. This hash obviously uses potato. The addition of red peppers and kale makes it so colorful, not to mention, delicious. And kale in a recipe must definitely make it healthier.

 So if you’re ever in a situation where you need a meal on the table in under 30 minutes or if you feel like a fancier breakfast, or for that matter, breakfast for dinner option, try this hash out. You’ll love it. We certainly did. And leftovers keep quite well, refrigerated. Simple heat it up the next day and serve with an egg, if desired.

Breakfast Hash with Potatoes, Kale, Peppers and Green Peas


2 potatoes, peeled and diced (the smaller the cubes, the quicker it will cook)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cups kale, roughly chopped
1 cup green peas
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 egg per serving (You could use 2 eggs per serve, if desired)

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

Add the potato to the pan and let it cook, stir every now and then to ensure even cooking and avoid any burning.

When its half cooked, add the onion and red pepper.

Saute and let the onion and pepper soften.

Add the paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.

Add the green peas and the chopped kale.

Let it cook for about a minute till the kale and the peas have warmed through.

Serve hot, topped with an egg (or two) cooked to your liking.

Eggplant Pickle

For years now, I’ve envied folks that can make good pickles. In our home we always enjoy a good pickle, but that is one thing my mother never made much of, when we were growing up. She had a few good recipes but seldom made them. She made a real good green chilly pickle and a Goan pickle using prawns and another one using fish. So most of the time we ended up using store bought pickle. We didn’t have a choice really. I didn’t care much for the store bought variety, expect for a certain kind we got in Goa, but those trips usually happened once a year.

Then one year, a dear friend of mine had to visit her aunt who lived an hour and a half away from where we lived and she asked me to go with her. At lunch, she served up a home made eggplant pickle that I fell in love with. I must have been about 16 years old then, so it never really occurred to me to ask her how she made it, nor did I have access to the tonnes of information that is accessible on the internet in today’s day and age. But over the years, I’d think about that wonderful pickle and often wondered if I would every find something similar again.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I got a fantastic deal on some eggplant and picked up a couple of large ones. I originally thought I’d grill it and store it in some olive oil with some herbs. But I ran out of time and it got to the stage where we were to leave for our holiday the very next day. What I haven’t told you yet is that a few weeks prior to that I came across a recipe for a Goan eggplant pickle, which I glanced at and moved on without making much of it. Since grilling and preserving the eggplant in such a short time frame was out of the question, I thought about that recipe and dug around for it.

I was a little sceptical since I’d never made a pickle before. But I figured I had nothing to lose but trying my hand at it this once. I always thought it was a daunting process. I was amazed at how simple this recipe was. A few spices, a little cooking and a week of maturing. We got back from our holiday to a really fabulous pickle. Very similar to my friend’s aunt’s version. This recipe is a keeper. I made a few changes to the recipe and the one below, reflects those changes. It’s safe to say that I’m very happy with this first attempt and can’t wait to try out some more as and when we need to replenish our stock. This pickle is mildly spiced and sweet at the same time and is a wonderful accompaniment to a simple dal and rice or any meal really. ๐Ÿ™‚

Eggplant Pickle
Adapted from: Erica’s Yummy Food


2 large eggplants
20 cloves of garlic
2 pieces of ginger, each about 3″ long
1 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
1 tsp cumin seeds
12 cloves
4 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup oil
2 heaping tsp mustard seeds
A handful of curry leaves
4 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Prep a glass bottle but thoroughly washing and making sure it is completely dry. (You could use mason jars if you like.) Any moisture on the bottle will result in your pickle going bad. It will get moudly and you wont be able to eat it. I simply place the bottle in a dishwasher and it is perfectly washed and bone dry.

Cut the eggplant into cubes (about 1/2″).

Sprinkle the eggplant with 4 tsp of salt and toss well. Set this aside for 2 hours.

You can now prep the rest of your ingredients, while you wait for the eggplant to discard all the excess moisture.

Peel and roughly chop the ginger and garlic.

Using a mixer / food processor, grind the ginger, garlic, fenugreek leaves, cumin seeds, cloves, red chilly powder, turmeric powder and vinegar to a paste.

After 2 hours, you will notice that the eggplant has released a lot of moisture. Drain all the liquid from the eggplants and gently squeeze the eggplant to get rid of any liquid. You want to be gentle and let the cubes retain their shape but still discard and excess liquid.

Heat the oil in a large pan. Lower the heat to a medium low.

Add the mustard seeds and let them sputter.

When they are sputtering, carefully add the curry leaves.

Add the spice paste and cook on a low to medium heat for 10 minutes. But cooking the paste first, you are left with a mellow flavour and not a sharp tartness of the vinegar. Stir frequently.

Add the eggplant cubes and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir gently every now and then to mix well, but be careful to not break down the eggplant pieces. After cooking for 10 minutes,  the eggplant cubes should be tender but will still somewhat retain their shape and not be too mushy.

Add the sugar to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes and now you will see the oil separating at the sides of the pan.

Take off the heat and spoon the hot pickle into the prepared glass bottles. Cover the bottle and leave it on your counter to cool. (Bottling it when it is still hot creates a vacuum when the mix cools and ensures your pickle has a good shelf life.)

When it has completely cooled, you can store it in the fridge. I left mine to mature for a week while we were away.

Enjoy!!!

Now, do your pickle loving self a favour and try this recipe out soon. You can thank me later. ๐Ÿ™‚

Spiced Butternut Pumpkin Soup

You’re probably wondering why I’m posting a soup recipe in the middle of summer. Well, it’s like this – we’ve had about two and a half days of rains now. So everything around is grey, wet and bleak. Don’t get me wrong. I love this kind of weather. All you have to do is snuggle up with a nice hot cuppa and a good read or watch the rain – perfect. Also, it means we get to have soup. I love soup but have not made it from scratch often enough. All I can say is, I am done with the instant and frozen, store-bought varieties. I have had very good results the couple of times I’ve made soup from scratch and come this winter, I hope to make plenty more.

So back to the butternut pumpkin. This is the second time I’m making a butternut pumpkin soup. The last time it turned out really bland and I wasn’t overly impressed, which is why it hasn’t made an appearance on the blog. This time around, I decided I wanted some bold, punchy flavours so I looked around and took a few ideas from around the web. It turned out this recipe was easy, simple to make and has big, bold flavours. I remember thinking the last time, that a little ginger would make this soup so much better and I was right. This soup just warms the cockles of your heart.

I took the idea of topping it up with blue cheese from a recipe I found online. Please do yourself a favour and add the blue cheese. The blue cheese elevates this soup from being a nice soup to being a fantastic one.

Spiced Butternut Pumpkin Soup


700g butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp grated ginger
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 – 1 tsp red chilly flakes, or to taste (optional)
1/2 tsp chives
2 tbsp olive oil
1 litre boiling water
1/3 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Blue cheese, to crumble over

In a large pot, over medium heat, pour the olive oil.

Add the garlic and when it is fragrant, add the onion and and saute over medium heat, till softened and translucent. Add the ginger and continue sauteing.

Once the ginger has released its aromas, add the celery, carrot and pumpkin.

Sprinkle the salt, pepper and red chilly flakes and stir well.

Let the veggies, saute for about five minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Add one litre of recently boiled water. (You could add cold water too, but that will increase cooking time. Using hot water results in the soup simmering almost immediately.)

Cover and simmer till the veggies are cooked and tender.

When the vegetables are fork tender, take off the heat.

Using an immersion blender, blitz till you are left with a smooth puree. Add the cream cheese and blitz again.

Add the parmesan cheese and chives and stir through.

Serve hot with a little blue cheese crumbled over.

Enjoy!

Mediterranean Salad

As the days warm up, I find myself thinking about having a salad for lunch more and more. I usually take a packed salad to work for lunch, which is why I need my salad to be more than a salad. I need to keep going through the rest of my work day. I have found that when I opt for a salad over other options for lunch, I feel refreshed and ready to go through the remainder of the day. I’m always on the lookout for new combinations and flavours.

This (sort of) Mediterranean Salad came together thanks to a colleague who put me on to the wonderful combination of roasted peppers, grilled eggplant and feta. She was putting together a sandwich for lunch using these lovelies and I thought to myself, I could make this into a salad and see how it works out. So on my way home, I stopped by my local Coles and went straight to their deli section and picked up some Danish feta and grilled eggplant. I have yet to work out how to make this eggplant at home. While I strongly believe that made from scratch is way better than store bought, sometimes you need to be open to using a store bought shortcut, especially when you haven’t made anything for lunch and need something real quick. Enter, store bought fire roasted peppers; another thing I want to make at home.

Back to the salad. It essentially is made up of veggies, the condiments mentioned above and feta – that’s it! No dressing or anything. The best part is you wont even miss the dressing. The feta is soft, creamy, sharp and salty, so it takes the salad to a whole new level. Feel free to add or take away from this salad and make it your own. I have made this salad a few times and both, my husband and I love it. I made it with and without olives, so feel free to use them, or not. Also, toasted pine nuts on the salad would be divine. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that sooner, but I fully intend adding them to the salad when I make it next. This salad would make a wonderful addition to any barbecue as well.

Mediterranean Salad


A couple of handfuls of Salad leaves (I use the 4 leaf mix from Cole’s)
1 fresh tomato, cut into chunks
Sliced cucumber (about 1/2 cups worth)
A few slivers of thinly sliced red onion
2-3 slices grilled eggplant, roughly chopped
A few slices roasted peppers, roughly chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Danish feta, to taste

Place all the ingredients except the feta in a bowl and toss together.

Crumble the feta over the salad and lightly toss.

Serve.

** This salad also makes a lovely veg. sandwich.

Disclaimer: I haven’t been compensated for this post either monetarily or in kind. I just happen to shop at Coles and that’s why the mention.

Sriracha Chinese Cucumber Salad

Every now and then I love a little snack. Yes, I snack between meals Dad. My Dad would be horrified that I still do. He is a strong believer that food should be restricted to meal time, unless you were at a party or something. However, I love my snacks. I’ve always tried to cook / bake from scratch and now I want to try and take that one step ahead and eat clean. It will take some getting used to, but I think it definitely is do-able and I hope to take that to my snacks as well. Does this mean you’ll stop seeing desserts, bakes and other slightly indulgent food on my blog. Most definitely not. I will still do that, but will try and be more mindful of the kind of food I eat on a regular basis. Do you have any clean eating recipes that you love? I would love to try them out too. Leave me a comment and let me know ๐Ÿ™‚

So back to this salad. I love cucumbers – continental, lebanese, baby cukes – all of them. One of my favourite ways to eat cucumber is straight up sprinkled with a tiny bit of salt. I usually serve some up with lunch or dinner. I wanted to try and change it up a little. Thats where this Asian inspired gem comes in. It was quick and easy and sounded delicious. I could definitely snack on some of this too. I’m very glad I stumbled across this recipe.
If you’re making this salad ahead of time, you can make the dressing in advance and just chop the cucumber and toss it up just before serving.
Sriracha Chinese Cucumber Salad
1 continental cucumber, cut into batons
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 – 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp fresh coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
1/4 tsp red chilly flakes
Lemon / lime juice, to taste
Mix all the ingredients except the cucumber pieces together in a bowl.
Add the cucumber pieces to the bowl and toss well.
Serve immediately.