Stuffed veggie pittas

Sometimes expediency is of the utmost importance in eating lunch. Generally, you’re caught between tasks, you’ve got somewhere else to be, or there is much you need to do. Hence the brevity of this post, and the simplicity of the recipe.

These pittas are very simple, and can be stuffed with whatever is there is in the fridge.

You’ll need:

  • one large wholemeal pitta
  • half one ripe avocado
  • half a lemon (for the avocado), and seasonings
  • stuffings: chickpeas, pepper, tomato, roasted veg will all work beautifully

 

Simply tear the pitta in half and place in the toaster – slightly crisped is the aim. Mash the avocado (to make batch lunches, use more) with the juice of the lemon, and season well with salt, pepper, and chilli flakes. Carefully slice open the pittas, and spread the avocado inside. Chop a little red onion and sprinkle within, before adding stuffings of choice – but don’t over-stuff.

Eat immediately, or wrap up and pop in your bag. My absolute golden combination, as of yet, is as follows: avocado seasoned with lemon, s&p, and cayenne; cold yellow peppers, roasted in oil and mixed herbs, perfectly tender; and a few sprigs of coriander.

Butternut squash and carrot soup

It’s definitely soup season. With chillier afternoons and cold evenings, I crave warm and comforting bowls of chilli, stew, or soup, the latter with a doorstop of crusty bread for the dual purposes of dunking and mopping up last vestiges. And if such simple things as bread and soup don’t cheer me on a winter night, then I fear nothing will.

As butternut squash is abundant right now, and delicious, I bought one and then sat a long time looking at it, considering its possibilities. A previous squash had made a vegan mac ‘n’ cheese; another quarter was roasted in a dish with other vegetables, with rosemary from my garden. This one, I decided, was destined for soup.

Carrot and cumin make for a beautiful combination, earthy and mildly sweet: and the squash added another layer of sweetness. I added chickpeas to mine, although these can be easily omitted for a lighter meal.

You’ll need, for two generous portions:

  • half of one medium-sized butternut squash
  • two carrots
  • one medium-sized brown onion
  • tin of chickpeas (optional)
  • two cloves of garlic
  • half of one small red chilli
  • cumin seeds
  • cayenne pepper
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

There are two ways to go about cooking the squash: either cut in half and roast for an hour, skin-side down, in a little water; or go through the lengthy process of removing the skin, deseeding, and chopping into cubes.

Whichever way you choose, begin the soup by toasting half a tbsp of cumin seeds until aromatic. Roughly chop the onion, and cook on a low heat until softened. Add finely chopped garlic and chilli, fry briefly, then add the toasted cumin.

Roughly chop the carrot into small pieces, put in the pan, and pour in 200-300ml of  vegetable stock. If using pre-cooked squash, scoop the flesh out of the skin and add to the pan; if using uncooked cubes, drop them in. To bulk the soup out, you could add chickpeas or a cooked potato (sweet would be interesting).

Simmer for half an hour, or until the carrot and squash are tender. Blitz to the desired consistency, using a stick blender or food processor – I left mine relatively smooth, with the occasional chunk. Season and stir in chopped coriander before ladling into bowls. Add a swirl of plain soy-based yogurt and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

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Chunky orzo stew

Recipes aren’t just lists of ingredients – for me, they’re interactions of sort. The author is putting out the recipe as part and parcel of an exchange of knowledge, and of culture and identity: they’re sharing their skills, and a memory attached to the dish we’re looking to make. Every recipe I’ve written myself has a little something of ‘me’ in it – my preferences and tastes, and perhaps the recollection of the occasion I first made it.

This one recalls to my mind a vegetable soup my mum used to make regularly in the winter. She’d use fresh organic veg from our weekly delivery box, following one of their recipes. I liked it so much that I continued to make it for myself in my first year of uni, carrying with me a little bit of home. I’d completely forgotten about this now, in my third year – and with the recipe buried away somewhere, I improvised my own.

Hot bowls of hearty soup are an absolute winner in the colder months, and this was no disappointment; the red wine vinegar and basil give so much flavour.

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To serve two, you’ll need:

  • Two small / one large courgette
  • Half one onion
  • Half a stick of celery
  • One carrot
  • Two small cloves of garlic
  • Tin of beans – butter, kidney, canellini, chickpeas all work well
  • Tomato puree
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 150g dried orzo pasta, or other small pasta shape
  • Two handfuls fresh basil
  • Dried rosemary
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar

Begin by dicing the carrot and celery, and roughly chopping the onion. Heat a glug of oil in a large saucepan, and gently cook on a low heat for ten minutes.

Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan, turning up the heat. Cook until fragrant, before squeezing in 1/2 tbsp of tomato puree. Dice the courgette and add to the pan. Cook for another minute, stirring, before pouring in the tin of chopped tomatoes, and stock.

Add a tsp each of the dried herbs, along with crushed chilli flakes if desired. Stir well to incorporate, add a splash of red wine vinegar, and bring to the boil before turning the heat down and simmering for ten minutes. Top up with a little water if it’s looking dry.

Cook the pasta in the pan for fifteen minutes – towards the end, tip in the drained beans to warm through. Stir in the torn basil leaves, season, and taste: add more vinegar if required. After another five minutes, serve in pasta bowls with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, and eat with spoons.