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Creamy Vegan Lemon-Tahini Mushroom Ramen

“Who the hell was this guy, barging in to deny me my ramen?”

-Wataru Watari

When I was doing my vegan month, back in November, I reached out to some friends who were vegan, or who had been vegan in the past, to get some recommendations. My biggest cheerleader, supporter and encourager was my baby sister. Not only did she give me lots of advice for surviving the month, she also gave me some recipes or referred me to several blogs that had helpful, delicious and quick but healthy meals.

One of these was Budget Bytes, and I instantly fell in love with a couple of her recipes, including this Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry and, as you can probably guess, her Vegan Creamy Mushroom Ramen. In fact, I’ve made both of them several times since that month and both are so good that I would definitely recommend them and you should try them in their original form.

Once, I’d made the Mushroom Ramen once or twice, I started adding different spices to it and over the course of the next few months, while I’ve kept her method, I have added to her ingredients. I kept envisioning a lemon and sesame flavoured creamy mushroom ramen and after several attempts, which I abandoned with lemongrass, I came up with the recipe below. Almost from the beginning, I began adding garlic, ginger and chiliflakes which are natural pairings for me with any Asian dish but the turmeric is my sister’s ingenious idea and I totally stole it from her (thanks, babes!). Like I said, getting the lemon-sesame combination took a little bit of time but eventually (in fact just in the last week) I came up with a broth that I just love and I am sure that you will, too.

Some health benefits include:

  • pak choi can decrease the risk of cancer
  • mushrooms are cholestrol free
  • spinach is good for your iron levels
  • ginger can reduce damage to your arteries.

Creamy Vegan Lemon-Tahini Mushroom Ramen

Adapted from Budget Bytes

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp tahini, if your tahini has separated be sure to stir it back together before getting the tbsp’s for this recipe
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/ 1/4 tsp of sesame oil
  • 325ml boiling water, more if needed
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube such as Oxo or Knorr.
  • 1/2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil*
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced or crushed
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger, including any juices from the ginger
  • 1/4  1/2 tsp of chiliflakes (I use the  1/2, but if you prefer less spice I’d go with the smaller amount)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 115g of sliced chestnut mushrooms**
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
  • 1 bulb of Shanghai pak choi/bok choy, washed and bottom part of bulb discarded
  • 1 package of Instant Ramen Noodles, I use either Koka or the Hearty Food Co. ones from Tesco. You only need the noodles so you can discard the seasoning package
  • 1/2 cup spinach, washed
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, I use either Chaokoh or Thai Gold Organic
  • 1 bunch basil leaves, washed and stems removed***
  • 1 green onion/scallion, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • sesame oil, for drizzling

Method

  1. Pre-heat a small pot on medium heat. My stove goes from 1-6, so I put it on 3.
  2. Put the lemon juice and tahini in a small glass or cup and whisk together. I used a spoon to stir first and then I whisked with a small whisk to get rid of as many lumps as I could.
  3. Add the sesame oil and whisk again. Don’t worry if it is still a bit lumpy as the broth will help to smoothen it out.
  4. Crush your bouillon cube into a jug, I use a spoon to prevent the glass from cracking, and stir the broth.
  5. Then add a little broth to the lemon-tahini mixture, again using a spoon to prevent cracking, and whisk until smooth. Set aside for a minute.
  6. To the pot, add the vegetable oil and heat for a couple of seconds. Then, add the mushrooms, garlic, ginger, chiliflakes and turmeric and stir with a wooden spoon. The oil will be sopped up by the mushrooms and the pot will look very dry. Don’t worry, this is supposed to happen. Now add the salt and pepper
  7. Stirring occasionally, for the next 10 or so minutes, let the mushrooms and spices cook. Over the next 10 or so minutes the mushrooms will release moisture back to the pot. You want to continue cooking them until the pot dries up again. If any of the spices seem to be sticking to the bottom of the pot, that’s okay as they will be released when you add the broth. (see image above)
  8. In the meantime, stir your small cup of lemon-tahini broth back into the bigger jug. It will look kind of creamy in colour. You need 400ml of broth all together, so if you need to, add a little more boiling water.
  9. Once the mushrooms are ready, as in the bottom of the pot looks dry again, add the broth and bring to the boil by turning up the heat to 5.
  10. Once boiling add the pak choi, making sure the thicker ends are completely submerged in the broth. Then, add the noodles pushing them down into the broth and let the pak choi and the noodles boil in the broth for 3 minutes. I recommend setting a timer.
  11. Turn off the heat but leave the pot on the same ring. Stir in the spinach and once it wilts, remove the pot from the heat.
  12. Add the coconut milk, stirring to combine.
  13. Put everything in a big bowl, add the basil to the middle and then top with the scallion and drizzle a little sesame oil on top. Alternatively, put the scallion in the middle, drizzle over the sesame oil and place the basil in a circle around the onions.
  14. Grab a spoon and some chopsticks and dig in.

Tips

*Don’t use olive oil in Asian cooking. It affects the flavour and really doesn’t work here. Sunflower or vegetable oil are more neutral.

**The original recipe called for baby bella mushrooms. I never found these here in Ireland in any of the local grocery shops. They may be available in some speciality shops. I have used one large portobella mushrooms with a few chestnut mushrooms. I sliced it to the same width as the chesnut mushrooms and then cut into threes so that they were same size the others. Both versions tasted great. I don’t have a mushroom brush, so I use a damp papertowel to clean the dirt off.

***In my local grocery shop I couldn’t find Thai basil and I haven’t made it to the Asian market in a while. I just used the normal basil. If you can find Thai basil, let me know what you think as I think it would definitely bring this up a notch.

Smyles’ 5 Ingredient Tomato Soup

“I’m the first to admit I’m not much of a cook. But since soup mainly involves tossing everything in a pot and waiting, it’s one of my better dishes.”

~ Suzanne Collins ~

There is something about cold, wintery, blustery days that just calls for soup. We have had plenty of them in the last few weeks and soup is indeed my comfort food of choice at the moment.

This soup is one of my sister’s. I don’t really deviate in any way from her recipe, until it comes to the toppings. When I did my vegan month, back in November, she suggested this as something that could work quite well during it. And, boy, was she right! In fact, I’d get up early once a week, and make the soup (minus the blending) before I went on my morning walk. At that time, like now, we were in the middle of a national lockdown (and just in case you are reading this in 100 years, it was Covid-19 times!), and I was working from home, teaching ESL. Except for one week, I had this soup at least 3 days every week of vegan month.

Since then, I’ve made it loads – especially when we went back into lockdown in January and the days felt even colder than they did in November. It’s thick and filling with simple ingredients. There are only 5, besides the fat, seasonings as well as the toppings, which are optional. The main thing about this soup that makes it different is the method.

For toppings, my sister usually uses basil, as do I, but I also use almonds. I mostly eat this without any carbs but, occasionally, I eat it with a toasted bagel, grilled cheese, a Tuna Burger , croutons or quesadillas for a difference – especially if I have it in the evening. So, feel free to make it your own.

Smyles’ 5 Ingredient Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 largish carrot, sliced
  • 1 medium white/yellow onion, chopped
  • 1- 2 garlic cloves, peeled but whole*
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly groud pepper to season
  • 500g passata
  • 500ml vegetable or chicken stock*.

Toppings

  • 1 piece basil per bowl
  • 1 tbsp flaked almonds per bowl, toasted
  • 3-4 croutons per bowl=
Method Steps 1+3

Method

  1. Get a piece of tin foil larger than the bottom of the pot you are going to use. Crinkle it into a circle the size of the bottom of your pot..
  2. Put the pot on low heat, 2 maximum, and add the carrot, onion, garlic, butter/oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Cover with the vegetables with the foil, non-shiny side down, pushed down onto the vegetables and make sure no veggies are peaking out (see photo above). This is so that you seal the vegetables in, ensuring they retain their flavour and don’t brown.
  4. Leave for 25-30 minutes. I check the veg and stir it at 20 min to ensure the fat is still covering everything and, then, put the foil back on for another 5 -10 min. It’s very forgiving so if you forget it for a little longer, it’s fine.
  5. At 30 min, or when the vegetables are nice and tender, remove the foil, stir in the passata and stock, increase the tempeature to to 4 (medium high) and bring to the boil.
  6. Cover with a lid, reduce heat and cook for about 30 min.
  7. Once cooked, if using immediately, blend using an immersion blender. If some of your carrots don’t seem to be blending, transfer to a narrower pot.
  8. Just before blending, turn your grill/broiler on, and toast your almonds whilst blending, if using. I don’t add any seasoning at this point but you are more than welcome to.
  9. If not using immediately, you can still blend now or set aside to blend when eating. I’d also wait to make the almonds at that point as well.
  10. Top with basil, almonds and/or croutons and enjoy.

Notes

Garlic I want the tomato to shine, so I usually use about 2 cloves. However, if you want it to be more garlicky, please feel free to add more.

Stock – I usually use a cube of vegetable stock and my sister uses homemade chicken stock. Recently, I made a batch with half vegetable cube and half black bean stock I had leftover and it was a game changer.

New Year’s Eve Sausage Rolls

I do adore food. If I have any vice it’s eating. If I was told I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, I could put up with sausage and mash forever.

~ Colin Baker, The 6th Doctor

New Year’s Eve. Either you love it or you hate it. I think I fall into the camp of “hate it”. I’m not sure why but I don’t particularly like it and I’ve never really gotten the whole “party” atmosphere of the holiday.

That being said, I do have some treasured memories related to the holiday as a child – going outside with the neighbours and banging pots and pans, hearing the fog horns, being beeped by all the taxis and the excitement of movie nights and that illicit feeling you have as a child staying up way past your bedtime and eating lots of fun food. In my family, we have some weird traditions. One is having an egg flip – my dad would line up the glasses with whisked egg and pour on the milk, and every New Year’s Eve, we’d be the first people in Ireland (according to him) to have sausages, grilled, wrapped in bread with brown sauce. Over the years, we’ve graduated from banging pots to going to reflection nights in our local parish, some people going to the pub or a neighbours for a wee party and to replacing the egg flips with Bailey’s or Five Farms and sausages with sausage rolls.

2020 has been a dramatic year to say the least and we all know what the negatives have been. However, there have been positives and I really believe if we concentrate on those it will put us in a happier frame of mind and can help us to find the light in the darkness. Some of the highlights of my year include my new nephew, my sister falling in love and getting married during the pandemic, my new brother-in-law, finding a healthier balance in my life in terms of my food obsession and exercise. I have been incorporating a combination of intermittent fasting with lots of walking and trying (and sometimes failing spectacularly) to make healthier choices everyday. Spending more time with loved ones in person, and via zoom, has become even more important. For me as well, I’ve been on a faith journey that was challenged by the pandemic but not destroyed by it.

Obviously with Covid, many of the parties people would have gone to will possibly be cancelled or, at the very least, much smaller than they would have been. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ring in 2021 or say goodbye to what has been a very trying year. In fact, even I want to celebrate and I intend to with these rather tasty sausage rolls!

Firstly, buy good quality pork or turkey sausages. I used Superquinn sausages, which are topnotch. If you don’t have access to Superquinn sausages (available at Supervalu), please buy from a butcher. Buy unseasoned sausages as you are going to add your own seasoning as per the below. Also, I recommend sausages in casing as it is so satisfying and so much fun pushing the meat out of the casing into the bowl. This would also make it a good activity for young children to be involved in as well as an excellent opportunity in teaching food safety and cleanliness. However, it is a bit “adult” in taste, so younger kids may not enjoy it. My nieces and nephews preferred basic sausages rolls – pork, seasoning and pastry, whereas some friends who were just a little older really liked these.

New Year’s Eve Sausage Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • Superquinn pork sausages (4) or 165g pork sausages in casing OR turkey sausages
  • a large Pink Lady apple (cut in half, and about 3/4 of that half)
  • Vintage or mature cheddar cheese, about a small matchbox in size – you can use a little more or less depending on your own preferences
  • 2-3 tsp red onion chutney/caramelised red onion marmalade
  • 1/4 1/2 tsp dried sage, plus extra for sprinkling
  • milk/butter/whisked egg
  • salt, freshly ground or sea salt
  • pepper, freshly ground

Method

  1. Put the oven at 220°C
  2. Take the puff pastry out of the fridge and it’s box and set aside for around 10 minutes. If you are making a few batches, I’d recommend leaving your pastry for your second batch in the fridge until you are ready so that it doesn’t get sticky.
  3. Prepare a baking sheet with some greaseproof paper/parchment paper or, even better, use reusable baking paper paper.
  4. Grate the cheese and the apple into a bowl and mix together.
  5. Cut the sausage at one end and push the meat through the skin into the bowl.
  6. Add the chutney, sage and some seasoning and using a fork, mixing well. If it’s not gelling well for you, just add a little more of the chutney or cheese.
  7. Set the bowl aside, roll out the pastry and cut down the middle, vertically.
  8. On each piece of pastry, a little off centre, divide the sausage mixture in a the shape of sausage.
  9. Season again with the sage, salt and pepper. If you forget this stage, it’s okay for the pork but the turkey really needs it.
  10. Fold the thinner side of the pastry over the filling, brush/spoon a little milk/butter/egg over the pastry and then fold over the other side, covering the filling completely and the seam is at the edge.
  11. Brush/spoon milk/butter/egg over the pastry and then cut each large piece into 4 smaller pieces and then stab your knife into into the top of each piece and, then, pop in the oven for approximately 18-20 minutes until golden.
  12. Remove from the oven and using a fish slice remove the sausage rolls from the baking sheet and put on a cooling rack/wire rack until ready serve and/or they are cool enough to eat.
  13. Enjoy by themselves or with some ketchup or Ballymaloe relish.

Notes

I’ve tested the recipe several times with friends and family and both the pork and turkey were delicious.

If, for some reason you’ve forgotten an egg or don’t have time to melt butter, just use some milk. I currently don’t own a pastry brush so I just use a spoon, drizzle some milk onto the pastry and then I use the back of the spoon to spread it.

Savoury Sweet Potato Mash

I’m baaaacckkkk! It’s only been a few years!

Just a quick explanation of why I left and why I’m suddenly back. I stopped doing this blog as I felt pressured, from myself, to have something to publish every week and my life wasn’t in a place where I could do that and I felt guilty. To be honest, my life still isn’t in a place where I can do a weekly post but I’m actually okay with that now. I have loved writing this blog, creating recipes and sharing ones that I love and, so, I missed it over the last 3 plus years. The reason I do this blog is because I love cooking and I want to share what I love with the small corner of the internet which wants to see what I cook and because I met a lovely community that I missed connecting with (“hi, again” to Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook, Elaine @ Foodbod Sourdough, Gretchen @ Feeding My Three Sons and Angie @ Fiesta Friday). You can read more about this and me here.

So, here I am, for better or worse. Well, life has changed a lot since my last post in April 2017. I am now renting an apartment on the other side of the city which I share with a lovely Italian girl and a lovely Polish girl. I have two more nephews who are just as adorable as the rest of their siblings. I’ve travelled a lot for weddings – I’ve been to Italy, France, Germany, Poland and the USA – in fact, I even have a new brother-in-law. I’ve travelled to Tanzania to visit my sister and her family who were living there for a little over half a year, back in 2019, and I went on safari. So, I hope you enjoy this recipe, this post and reconnecting after a very long time.

Onwards and upwards!

I love sweet potato but it’s not one of the most popular vegetables in my family. A few years ago my mother and sister did a sweet potato diet and after less then two days they were sick of it! However, they do still love the brown sugar, buttery, marshmallow sweet potato that we traditionally have over Thanksgiving. Thank goodness!

This dish was the result of a happy accident a couple of years ago. I had sweet potato and as I was mashing it, I decided to throw in some cheese and as the Cashel Blue was needing to be finished, that was the one I went with. My aunt makes these wonderful potatoes with raw garlic and so, thinking of that, I threw some in as well. A few more tweaks and this was born! It goes really well with any meat and I, personally, love it with baked salmon or pan-fried duck breast.

I really hope, though , you will maybe try this at your Thanksgiving celebration. And on that note, Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Savoury Sweet Potato Mash

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 tsp salted butter
  • small matchbox size, maximum, of blue cheese (I use Cashel Blue)
  • small matchbox size, maximum, of feta
  • 1 garlic clove (you will use it raw)
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 1 small bunch coriander
  • sea salt and black pepper, freshly ground

Method

  1. Chop your sweet potato into small pieces, I usually do about bitesize, but it doesn’t really matter as you will just be mashing it.
  2. Rinse and then place in a pot of water that just covers the sweet potato. Bring to the boil and continue to boil until tender. The length of time will depend on how big you cut your potato – I find it takes about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mince your garlic, parsley and coriander and set aside. Keep the garlic separate from the herbs, though.
  4. Dice your cheeses and set aside.
  5. Once the sweet potato has boiled, drain and mash with the butter, salt and pepper.
  6. Then, using a fork stir in the raw garlic, feta and blue cheese.
  7. Finally, add the herbs.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Fiesta Friday #169 Leftover Aubergine Rarebit Wrap

“How can people say they don’t eat eggplant when God loves the colour and the French love the name? I don’t understand.”

~ Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet

Recently, I shared my Aubergine Rarebit recipe, and now I’m sharing a leftover idea. I’ve used this for lunch (and breakfast) quite a bit recently and it’s really tasty. It’s also easy and while it does pack a punch calorie wise (especially on this Blood Sugar Diet), it’s really filling and overall pretty healthy.

I really like Tesco’s Caramelised Onion Hummus but you can use whichever one you prefer or leave it out. I’ve used BF’s gluten free wraps as well as their Quinoa and Chia Seed Wrap. The gluten free wrap is 99 calories but the quinoa one is around 110, so if you are calorie counting, it’s something of which you should be aware. Overall, I prefer the Quinoa one – I find the texture of the gluten free one strange. As you all know, avocado is one of my favourite foods and it’s not a stranger to this wrap. In fact, if you don’t use the hummus, you need the avocado which adds a lovely creaminess to the rest of the ingredients and pairs so well, as always with the roasted tomatoes.

Originally, the first few times I made the wrap, I didn’t include the olives or coriander but they’ve been a wonderful addition. I had a jar of black olives that needed to be used and some leftover coriander (I like adding fresh coriander to soups) and I popped that in one of the days. Let’s just say that what had been a highly enjoyable lunch became a topnotch one!

Anyhoo, I ‘ll leave you go – it’s late and a Sunday night so I’m sure everyone is tired and getting ready for the work week (in Ireland it’s a public holiday on Monday, so I’m getting a three day weekend – but I’ll do my best not to rub that in your faces!).

I’m sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday #169 hosted by the lovely Angie and her cohosts for this week are the ever lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Elaine @ FoodbodAlso, a huge shout out to Elaine – her post on aubergine recently was what inspired me for my aubergine rarebits. So, thanks, Elaine!

Leftover Aubergine Rarebit Wrap

Approximately 300 calories

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • BF Quinoa and Chia Seed Wrap
  • 1 tsp Hummus  (I used Tesco Carmalised Onion Hummus), optional
  • Handful of spinach, washed and spun-out
  • Aubergine Rarebit, 1 serving
  • ¼ bell pepper, diced or sliced (I prefer red or yellow)
  • ¼ avocado, diced
  • 4-5 black olives
  • ½ tbsp chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
  • 1 scallion, chopped (optional)

Method

  1.  Depending on whether this is something you are eating straight away or if it’s something you are bringing into work for lunch you have two options:
    1. If eating immediately,  heat the leftover aubergine rarebit up under a grill/broiler on the lowest setting for about 5 minutes.
    2. If bringing into work for lunch,  you don’t need to heat them up. Just keep add them to the wrap as in step 4, and then from when you leave for work until you eat it, leave at room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the wrap up on a frying pan for a few seconds on each side.
  3. Smear some hummus on the wrap and then layer spinach on one side of the wrap.
  4. Top the spinach with the aubergine rarebit, and then sprinkle on the remaining ingredients
  5. Roll the wrap, burrito style and enjoy or wrap in tinfoil and bring to work.