Hot + Hearty Vegan Soup with Barley and Vegetables

I made this soup for lunch on a cold, wintery day when I had loads of random ingredients at home and really had no idea what to cook. I decided to throw all of these ingredients together in a soup and took a few pictures, just in case the experiment turned out well – and it did!

This soup is probably the healthiest thing you’ll ever eat, and yet it’s delicious. Use whole barley rather than pearled, as the former has all its vitamins and minerals intact and, therefore, is higher in iron, protein, calcium and fibre. The barley gives this dish a hearty, creamy texture which is normally hard to recreate without dairy products. Try it and tell me what you think. These doses serve one ravenous person or two light eaters.

What you’ll need:

  • 80 gr whole barley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • A handful of medium size mushrooms
  • ½ mushroom stock cube
  • A couple of glugs of hot sauce
  • A pinch dried coriander (to garnish)

Rinse the barely and bring it to the boil on a high flame.  Once it boils turn down to a simmer and cook for about an hour (or until it’s soft), as the whole barley takes a lot longer than the pearly type. In the meantime chop the garlic and onion to a mince and lightly sweat them with the hot oil in a sauce pan for a few minutes. Add the chopped pepper, tomato, mushrooms and minced stock cube. Cook them for about ten minutes or until the pepper softens up. The tomato will let out some water, in which the stock will dissolve. Add the boiled and drained barley to the pot of veggies and simmer for ten minutes, so that all flavours join together. Check for seasoning, although the stock should have made the soup flavoursome enough. Add the hot sauce (I go for plenty) and garnish with dried coriander leaves.

Serve by itself or with a buttered slice of toasted granary bread!

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Delicious Dairy-free Chicken and Vegetable Quiche

A couple of weekends ago, my friend Sara and I decided to make a healthy quiche which didn’t include tonnes of cheese as pies normally do. We decided to cut out the cheese completely and instead go heavy on the veggie goodness. Unfortunately by the time the quiche was cooked the sun had set and we had to take the picture of the final result with artificial light, but hopefully you should be able to get the idea of how delicious it looked (and tasted) nonetheless. By the way, all the pictures in this post were taken by Sara, the master of food photos.

This quiche is brilliantly healthy and because it has no dairy, it could easily become vegan if you decide to omit the chicken and swap the eggs with flaxseeds. 100 gr of chicken is a very little amount for a whole quiche but I decided to add it in to add some protein, as I did not include any cheese, and because I had defrosted it and wanted to use it. So feel free to add the double amount of chicken, if you like.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tsp of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 120 gr chestnut mushrooms
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 balls of frozen spinach
  • 100 gr chicken
  • 1 tbsp of coarse oats
  • About a couple of tsps of mixed herbs (marjoram, thyme, oregano and dry sage are all good)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp of soya milk (optional)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • A dash of chili sauce or Tobasco (optional)
  • A handful of flour
  • 1 packet of Jus-Rol puff pastry (or you could make your own puff pastry)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Pour the olive oil into a tissue and rub it thoroughly on a quiche plate, making sure to cover well the bottom and sides of it. Place the spinach in a small pot with about a tbsp of water and let thaw on medium heat. Grill the chicken in a non-stick pan. While the chicken cools chop the vegetables into about 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes. Chop the chicken. Once the spinach is fully defrosted, spread it on a chopping board and leave it to cool, as you don’t want the egg whites to scramble when you mix them with the spinach later.

Place all the veggies and chicken in a big bowl and mix well. Add the egg whites from the two eggs (saving the yolks), oats, plenty of herbs, salt, a good dose of black pepper and a dash of Tobasco. If at this stage your mixture looks a bit too dry feel free to add the soya milk. If you are worried it might be too runny or wet add another spoonful of oats. Make sure you always stir well in order to get all the ingredients hobnobbing!

Get your puff pastry and knead it altogether. Make sure you’re working on a floured base as you don’t want your pastry to stick to your table/board. Roll it thinly, about 0.2 in (5 mm). You should have enough pastry there to place a whole layer on the quiche dish and save some on a side to cut the lattice pattern. Once you have spread the pastry at the bottom of the dish, pour all the other ingredients into it and then start cutting the pastry for the top pattern. The strips should be about ½ in (1.2 cm) wide. Try to keep them from breaking but even if they do it’s not too big a problem as you can always join to pieces of strips together.

Beat the egg yolks together and spread the liquid on the pastry with a brush. Place in the oven and leave to bake for a good 40 to 45 minutes as you want the vegetable juices to dry away and the pastry to rise beautifully.

Let it cool a little before slicing and then enjoy!