Minted Pea and Leek Risotto with Rocket and Cashew Pesto

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In the supermarket today, the only decent produce was some huge leeks. I have never made a proper risotto before with Arborio rice. It surpassed my expectations and was quite filling. I picked the rocket and fresh mint from the school garden this afternoon.

If you do not want to use wine then you can replace all of the liquid with vegetable stock.
This is another recipe where the magic, ground nuts can be used to enrich a dish without the need for cheese.You could also toast some pine nuts to sprinkle on top.

Serves 4
Preparation and cooking time 50 minutes

Ingredients
The Risotto
125g of Arborio risotto rice
A very large leek finely sliced
A tablespoon of olive oil
A clove of garlic crushed to a paste
100g of defrosted frozen or fresh baby peas
A handful of finely chopped fresh mint
1 and a half tablespoons of ground almonds
200 ml of water
150ml of white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

The Pesto
3 large handfuls of rocket
A handful of toasted cashews (unsalted)
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
A clove of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

The Risotto
Gently sweat the leeks and the garlic in the olive oil until they are very soft. Add the rice and a mixed cupful of wine and water. Stir and keep stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Keep adding the liquid a cupful at a time and stirring until the rice is just soft. Add the peas and mint and stir. Season to taste and the stir through the ground almonds.

The Pesto
Place all of the ingredients except the oil in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto binds and forms a smooth paste. Season to taste.

Serve the risotto with a spoonful of the pesto on top.

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Simple is Best Lentil Soup

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Lentil soup is my favourite dish when I need something comforting but quite ascetic. There has been a lot of socialising over the weekend and I am feeling a little sluggish. When Dave and I crossed Turkey on our motorcycle in 1997, lentil soup was essential to our survival as the weather was so cold. They serve it for breakfast in huge bowls with a whole loaf of crusty, white bread on the table. It is unbeatable as a breakfast dish on a cold day.

I never vary the way I cook this. I am so attached to the way it tastes that I would not want to spoil my simple recipe. However, you can use either split red lentils or chana dahl. Both are equally as good. Chana dahl needs to cook for longer and you get a firmer consistency with the lentils. This works well in the pressure cooker if you are in a hurry.

Serves 4
Preparation time 10 minutes. Cooking time 1 hour for chana dahl or 35 minutes for red split lentils

Ingredients
250g of red split lentils or chana dahl
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 large tomato finely chopped
A vegetable stock cube
A teaspoon of oregano or marjoram
A handful of fresh coriander
A crushed clove of garlic
800ml of boiling water

Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes for red lentils or an hour for chana dahl. Season to taste. If using chana dahl, take two cups of the soup and blend before returning to the soup. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish with more fresh coriander.

Avocado and Tahina Breakfast Toasts

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This week I am trying to focus on quick, easy recipes that anyone can make and enjoy in 10-15 minutes as I am back at work and still eating alone. Vegans get hungry easily and a good breakfast is essential. I often eat hummus or avocado on toast in the morning. I got the idea of avocado on toast as a breakfast dish in Chiang Mai, Thailand where there are some great veggie cafés. Served with a banana and coconut smoothie it provided a great start to the day.

I have used tahina for extra flavour and protein here but pesto also works well as a layer under the avocado. It is also delicious topped with slices of tomato or sprinkled with sesame seeds or linseeds or indeed chopped walnuts.

Serves 1
Total preparation time 5-7 minutes

Ingredients
2 slices of rye or wholewheat toast
Half an avocado
A squeeze of lemon juice
4 teaspoons of tahina
Chopped fresh basil to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Spread the toast with the tahina. Mash the avocado with a fork and add the lemon juice and season. Spread onto the toast. Garnish with basil leaves.

Hellykelly’s Traditional Chickpea Hummus

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Hummus is the quintessential vegan good. In our house we eat it almost every day. Even Dave, who is not given to much food preparation, has his own recipe. Hummus can be made in many different ways but here I use chickpeas that are used traditionally in the Middle East. Interesting that traditional recipes do not use olive oil but instead add much more tahina than we use at home. I think the olive oil really adds to the creamy consistency and, as a vegan, you have to get your calories somewhere.

You can easily double up on the quantities here for a larger number of people or if you are just greedy.
Makes one medium bowl
Total preparation time 10 minutes maximum

Ingredients
A tin of chickpeas
A tablespoon of tahina
At least a tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
A quarter of a small clove of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender. You will need go shake it a few times or stop to stir. You can add a little water to get it moving if you need to.

Juicy Mushroom and Avocado Toasts

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I am cooking for one at the moment and prefer light, fresh and easy dishes. Dave cannot eat avocado so I try to eat it with everything when he is not here. You could use shop bought or homemade vegan pesto instead of hummus. I used the pumpkin and avocado hummus that I featured yesterday. You could garnish with fresh coriander for a different kind of fresh taste or even add some dried chilli flakes.

The whole dish takes 10 minutes
Serves 1
1 large slice of rye or wholemeal bread toasted
150g mushrooms sliced
Fresh chives or the green ends from a bunch of spring onions (scallions) finely chopped
Olive oil for sautéing
Half a ripe avocado sliced into 3
5 cherry tomatoes cut in half
A tablespoon of hummus
Fresh basil finely chopped go garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Gently heat the oil in a wide frying pan. Gently fry the mushrooms and onions for about 7-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes. Season to taste. Meanwhile toast the bread. Cut it in half and cover with the hummus. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto toast and place the avocado on top. Sprinkle on the basil.