Beer Battered Tempura

Just like traditional tempura, this should not sit around as it quickly goes soggy, so the trick is to have the vegetables and batter prepared before you start to heat the oil.  A half and half mixture of beer and water produced the best result after experimentation;  it tasted far too beery without the water, but with it the flavour was more subtle. A nuance of beer sets the batter on a different trajectory without drowning it.  Practically any vegetables (except potatoes) are good for tempura.  There are many recipes available detailing different combinations of flours but the important thing to remember if you want to experiment is that you do need raising agents (baking powder, fizzy water) if you are using a plain flour. 



2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets

4 leaves of kale, washed

1 head of broccoli, broken into small florets

115g gram flour

115g corn flour

2 tsp baking powder

150 ml fizzy water from the fridge

150ml beer from the fridge

1 tsp salt

sunflower oil for deep frying


  1. Put kitchen paper on 4 or 5 plates in readiness for the hot vegetables.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients, then make a well in the centre.
  3. Pour in the beer and fizzy water, whisking as you go until everything is well combined.
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan (about 4 cm high) until bubbling but not smoking; test a smidgeon of batter in it; if it puffs up and goes brown, it is ready.
  5. Submerge a few of the vegetables in the batter and gently toss to coat, then carefully lower into the hot oil using tongs, making sure you allow plenty of room for the batter to puff up. Keep checking the oil – turn the heat off if it seems as if it is starting to smoke, turning on again when necessary.
  6. Once the battered vegetables are a golden brown, remove with a strainer (the wider the better) and lay in a single layer on the prepared plate.
  7. Continue in this way until you have battered all the vegetables; they only take about 3 minutes so you don’t have to worry about the waiting veg getting cold.
  8. Transfer to a pretty plate and serve with plum sauce or sweet chilli sauce.

Based on an ASDA shop, if you have to buy everything from scratch, including the sunflower oil and flours, this would cost around £9.75, unless you have a beer in the fridge already. 



Emoji Pie with a Hint of Moroccan Flavours

This would be a lovely pie to make for a friend who is going through a rough time. If the gorgeous blend of almonds, chickpeas, paprika, mint and cumin, Moroccan style, doesn’t elicit a smile, maybe the happy face will!




500g tin of cherry tomatoes in tomato juice

1 large tin of chickpeas

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp dried mint

1 tsp paprika

100g sliced almonds

2tbs tomato puree

1 bird’s eye chilli, chopped

600g potatoes

40g margarine

1 tbs flour


  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into uniform pieces, then boil for approximately 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C/400F.
  2. While these are cooking, tip the tin of cherry tomatoes and their juice into a bowl  and roughly mash them with a fork.  Pour into a nonstick pan.
  3. Add the chickpeas, cumin, paprika, mint, tomato puree, almonds and chilli.  Stir well, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the chickpea mixture into an ovenproof dish.  Mash the cooked potatoes with the margarine and reserve a couple of tablespoons.  Spread some flour over a large chopping board, put the reserved potatoes in the middle, then gently roll into a ball so it becomes coated with flour.  You can then mould facial features according to your fancy between the flats of your hands.  If you want to make hair, push the potato through a garlic crusher.
  5. Spread the rest of the potato on top of the mixture.  Add the face, then lightly brown in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Based on a Tesco shop, this will cost £7.29 at time of writing.  This includes the cost of organic potatoes (£1.50 for 1.5 kg) and you’ll obviously have some left over for your next dinner.  There will be some chillies remaining too, plus of course some useful herbs and spices for your cupboard.







Spiral Spelt Rolls

This will make 16 rolls and you can freeze the ones you are not using, removing them from the freezer on the morning they are to be eaten.  What is so intriguing about this recipe is wondering how the spirals will turn out, because no two are the same.  Generally speaking, the skinnier the strips, the more defined the spiral will be, so if you would like a variety of formations for your spirals, make your little balls of dough slightly different sizes.



3 1/4 tsp dried yeast

3 1/4 tsp sugar

200ml barely warm water

3 tsp olive oil

2 tsp salt

2 tsp dried mixed herbs

337g wholemeal spelt flour

337g plain white spelt flour


  1. Put the sugar and yeast into a medium sized bowl then add 200ml of barely warm water (turn on the hot tap – if it hasn’t been used recently – and when it is starting to warm up, have your measuring jug ready).
  2. Put the bowl somewhere warm, like under a heated radiator, and leave for 15 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the two flours and salt, make a well in the centre, then pour in the liquid yeast mixture.  Mix with a wooden spoon, then gradually add roughly 220ml water.  You want a slightly wet mixture, because when you knead it, then roll it out later, you will be using more flour.
  4. Knead on a floured work surface or board for 10 minutes, stretching it will the heels of your hands, pulling it back and screwing your knuckles into it, so you give it a really thorough pounding.
  5. Leave in the same warm place for 2 hours, covered with a clean tea towel; this is why you need a large bowl, because if it is too small, when the dough rises it will stick to the towel and you’ll have to peel off all the webby bits.  Five minutes before the end, preset the oven to 180C/335F/Gas Mark 4.
  6. Grease two baking trays.  Put the dough on a floured surface and knead gently for about 2 minutes, then transfer it to a cutting board and shape it into a ball. Cut this into quarters, then eighths, then sixteenths.
  7. Form each piece into a little ball.  Take the one ball, then roll with it the flats of your two hands into a long round strip, like fat spaghetti, to a length of 30 cm (the length of a ruler).
  8. Roll up the strip into a spiral-shaped roll, put on a greased baking tray, then continue with the others.
  9. Bake at 180C/355F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes; tap the bottom of the rolls and if they sound hollow, they are done.

If you shop at Sainsbury’s, the ingredients will cost around £5.80, including the sugar but excluding oil and salt.  However, the spelt flours are sold in 1 kg bags, so once you have bought these and the other ingredients, you will have enough to make this recipe three times over (or you could make 2 large loaves instead).

Vietnamese Style Salad Dressing, Three Ways

A dressing which both enhances and unlocks the flavour of any vegetable you can think of, cooked or otherwise.  Cucumbers are widely used in Vietnam, so I have started with those, but it goes equally well with any vegetable, such as romanesco, or local veggies in your area; I chose purple sprouting broccoli, and it lapped up this dressing gratefully! The quantity given below will go a long way; it graced all the salads above (which were still tasty the following day), with enough left over for another salad. To change the look of the salad, you could put the vegetable on top of the dressing and add nuts, which I did with the romanesco. 



4 tbs olive oil

juice of 2 limes

2 tbs soft brown sugar

1 tbs mirin

4 cloves garlic, chopped finely

3 bird’s eye chillies, deseeded and chopped

1 bunch of spring onions, roots removed then chopped (keep the green parts)

1 red pepper, roughly chopped

1 30g packet coriander, chopped


  1. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, sugar and mirin until well combined.
  2. Stir in the garlic, chillies, spiring onions, pepper and coriander.
  3. If you choose to use this dressing with a cooked steamed vegetable (such as purple sprouting broccoli or romanesco, pictured here) it absorbs the dressing wonderfully if you pour it on when the veg is still warm.

I bought the limes, spring onions, brown sugar, red pepper and coriander in Aldi for £3.10.  I had to buy the bird’s eye chillies (70p) and mirin (£1.79) in Sainsbury’s.  I was also out of olive oil, so I bought a small bottle (250ml) while I was there for £1.25.  I hope you agree with me that mirin is worth the investment, especially if you like Japanese or Chinese cooking.

Textured Split Pea Burgers

These burgers are more interesting both to eat and to look at if you keep the split peas whole rather than blending them with the potatoes, to create a textured burger.  A 500g packet of split beans costs pennies (about 53p on average), and you can get two meals out of it. 



250g yellow split peas from a 500g packet

1 red chilli, chopped fairly finely

200g cherry tomatoes

1 tbs olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped very finely

2 large cooked potatoes

1 onion, chopped finely

30g vegan magarine

About 1tbs flour for shaping the burgers


  1. Thoroughly rinse the split peas (swish them in a colander until the water is no longer cloudy) and discard any stones – they do appear now and then.
  2. Boil them for 35 – 40 minutes, until you can squash one between the thumb and forefinger but not until they form a puree (keep checking).
  3. Set aside to cool while you mash the potato with the marg, then mix in the two cloves of garlic, onion and chilli.
  4. When the split peas are cool, mix them into the potato mixture.
  5. Flour your hands and shape the mixture into burgers.  If you have a burger press, so much the better.  They are not expensive (Argos and Lakeland do them for around £6), but if you cannot manage it, it isn’t vital; on the other hand, if you enjoy making burgers, I think a press is worth saving up for).
  6. Fry the burgers on both side just to firm and heat them up; the yellow is too pretty to turn to brown.
  7. In another pan, fry the tomatoes with the rest of the garlic just until they start to wilt.
  8. Serve the burgers according to preferences with gherkins, garlic tomatoes, brown sauce and tomato ketchup.  All or any are scrumptious accompaniments.

Excepting the oil for frying, these will cost around £5.42, based on a Tesco shop and using organic potatoes.  In addition, they do very good cheap tomato ketchup and brown sauces at 29p and 42p respectively.  You can get some good gherkins for 90p if you’re into those!

Tomato and Walnut Pilaf

WEBCW179.jpgPilaf, a middle eastern dish (often) isn’t really supposed to be cooked in the oven, but if you use brown rice, which has a firmer texture when cooked, the grains stay appetisingly separate, as they should be.  Some people find the taste of brown rice overpowers the other ingredients in the dish, but if you emphasise its nutty flavour by adding real nuts, and offset its firmness with soft tomatoes, you may well find it can be subtle too.


225g halved walnuts

500g vine cherry tomatoes, halved; reserve 4 x 2 tomatoes for serving

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

2 medium onions, chopped fairly finely

1 tsp garam masala

225g brown rice

1/2 litre of water combined with 2 tbs tomato puree

2 tbs olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/350F/180C.
  2. Gently heat the oil in a wok (or if your dish is oven to table, in that)
  3. Fry the onion until translucent.  Add the garam masala, then fry for another two minutes.
  4. Stir in the rice and tomatoes and cook for five minutes, stirring all the time.
  5. Pour in the water, bring it to boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 4 minutes, stirring now and then, but gently.
  6. Add the walnuts and garlic to the mixture, and toss lightly.
  7. Transfer to your casserole dish (or just to the oven if you have the right dish) and cook for 45 minutes.
  8. Let it rest for five minutes before serving, then transfer into bowls, and garnish each one with some tomatoes on the vine.

As tomatoes are becoming more plentiful now, you should be able to make this for around £9.34.  This figure is based on a Tesco shop with reduced price organic vine tomatoes.  As tomatoes are the main event, it does pay to use top quality here.

Sunrise Crepes with Sausages


(Baked Bean Pancakes sounded a bit prosaic)

This is a crispy,  tangy and surprisingly tasty breakfast.  My family loves them, so I sometimes make them for dinner too, adding a chopped red pepper to the pancake batter and serving a salad on the side.


2-4 drops vegan Worcestershire sauce

300ml plant milk

2 tbs apple sauce

115g flour

1 tin of baked beans

A little oil for the pan, repeated for each pancake


  1. Preheat oven on a low light.  Open the tin of baked beans and stir in the Worcestershire sauce with a teaspoon. Cut the sausages on the diagonal, fry them until cooked, then put in a covered plate in the oven to keep warm.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour, add apple sauce and plant milk, then mix to make a paste.  Stir in the beans, lifting and gently mixing until your batter turns a beautiful apricot colour.  Fry the sausages until browned and keep them, covered, in the oven.
  3. Heat a little oil in a nonstick frying pan, swirl it around the pan, then when it is so hot it is almost smoking, add 2 tbsp batter, smoothing it quickly with the back of spoon, so that the layer is just a bean’s width.
  4. Watch as it bubbles away – don’t leave it – and when bubbles start to appear in the centre, it is time to turn it over.  The easiest way, I think, is to: (a) slide the half-cooked pancake onto a plate (b) tip the pancake, raw side down, back into the pan.  (c) allow to cook for about 3 minutes, if that; lift the edges gingerly to check it is browned on the other side at frequent intervals.
  5. Make a batch by lining a plate with greaseproof paper, placing a pancake on that, then adding another layer of greaseproof paper.  Continue in this way, interleaving pancakes and paper and popping the plate in the oven in between additions.  (Of course, you could serve the pancakes straight away, but it would mean you couldn’t all eat together).
  6. Serve the pancakes surrounded by the sausages.

This is a real cheapie; based on an ASDA shop, it will cost you around £6.08, omitting the oil.  AND that is using decent baked beans, if you catch my drift!  If you have flour in the house and don’t mind the cheaper variety of baked beans – (I am afraid I do) – you’ll make further savings.

Mid Autumn Pie: Bobotie Mince Two Potato Pie

This mixture of earthy and sweet potatoes is El Dorado for mash lovers.  Bobotie is a famous South African mince dish which usually has a slightly eggy topping which I replaced with potatoes.  Another one of the win-win joys of fusion cooking: you get to keep all your favourite parts as well as adding beloved foods for good measure.



170g sweet potatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size

300g organic potatoes good for mashing, such as Maris Piper, halved or quartered as above

40g vegan margarine (or more if you like a really creamy mash)

2 onions, chopped

2 apples, chopped

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin

300g veggie mince

2 tbs mango chutney

1 tbs flaked almonds

1 tbs raisins

a little oil


  1. Boil the potatoes in one pot for each for 15-20 minutes, depending on size, until tender.
  2. Mash the two types of potato separately, with 20g marg in each.  Combine the two, but roughly; you don’t want the colours to meld together.
  3. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200c/390F.
  4. Gently fry the onion and apple in a little oil together in a nonstick wok for ten minutes to release their sweetness.  Stir in the garam masala and cumin and cook for another 3 minutes, still on a low light.
  5. Tip in the mince, chutney, almonds, breadcrumbs and raisins and cook gently for 10 minutes.  Tip it all into the bottom of an ovenproof dish.
  6. Put the mixed potato mash in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
  7. Pipe the potato over the filling; if you haven’t over-mixed the two potatoes, you should get a lovely stripy effect.  Alternatively, if you don’t fancy piping, you could just swirl the colours together with the tip of a large spoon to marble them.
  8. Cook for 15 minutes, until only slightly browned, in order to reheat the potatoes while retaining the orange glow.

If you are happy to go two supermarkets, this will cost around £11.94, excepting oil.  The sweet potatoes, onions, apples, cumin, flaked almonds, chutney and sultanas were bought at Aldi.  The rest came from Sainsbury’s.

Pantomime Peas

Or Giant Peas and Tiny Sausages, or Topsy Turvy Dinner

These are a bit of whimsy, invented after a trip to see “Jack and the Beanstalk” where they bounced inflatable giant peas into the audience.  



349g block firm tofu

4 tbs frozen peas, thawed

2 tbs fresh mint

120 ml water

2 tbs fresh coriander

10 green olives in brine, drained and chopped small

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

70g white rice

salt to taste (you may not need it, as the olives will taste salty)

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 onion, finely chopped

For the Sausages in Mediterranean Tomato Sauce: the rest of the olives from the jar (sliced) plus one onion (chopped finely); a tin of chopped tomatoes; two cloves of garlic (chopped) and two tbs each of olive oil and tomato puree,  vegan sausages chopped into smaller sizes or, when you can get them, vegan *chipolatas 


  1. While the rice is cooling (or start with this if you have already prepared the rice) make a Mediterranean Tomato Sauce: fry the onion in olive oil until softened, then add 2 tbs tomato puree followed by a can of chopped tomatoes.  Add the sliced olives and cook gently for a further five minutes.  Put to one side.
  2. Blend the tofu, water, and coriander until you have a thick paste.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, olives, celery, onion, garlic, peas and cooled rice, then add the paste to this mixture and mix really well with a spatula, making sure you reach the bottom and sides of the bowl.  Add water a tablespoon at a time until you have a firm, but not sloppy mixture.  Add more or less as necessary.   Shape the mixture into the balls somewhere between the size of a ping pong ball and a tennis ball.  With luck, it should make about 16 balls, four for each person. 
  4. Cook for about 15 minutes but check as beforehand to make sure it doesn’t brown; you want to retain the green colour or the joke will fall flat.
  5. While the peas are baking fry or grill the sausages and heat up the Mediterranean Tomato Sauce.  Serve with the peas when they are ready.

*Redwood make them but they aren’t always available, I have found.  Holland and Barrett usually stock them at Christmas.

If you have the time to shop at two supermarkets, you can make this for £8.39: the sausages, two loose onions and tofu were bought at ASDA; the rest of the ingredients were bought at Aldi.

Lemony Pitta Hazelnut Loaf with Miso and Tahini Sauce

This loaf starts life in Britain then travels to the Middle and Far East, and its sauce travels in the same direction.  Nut loaves are not an exact science but they do need some experimentation. They can fall apart when too wet, or stay together well but are too dry and heavy (and they do still have a bit of a 1970s hippy reputation).  But a good nut roast is such a useful addition to your thrifty repertoire; once you find a wet/dry ingredients ratio that works for you, you can use all your favourite available tastes and combinations.  The key is to have a mixture which is soft but not soggy.  Such a consistency will produce a moist but sliceable loaf, and to achieve this all you need to do is to keep checking how well the dry ingredients are soaking up the wet, which is not difficult if you add the latter gradually.WEBCW130.jpg


For the Lemony Pitta Hazelnut Loaf

100g packet blanched hazelnuts

2 cloves garlic, chopped very finely

1 tbs olive oil

4 spring onions, green parts removed, chopped finely

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

125g mixed exotic mushrooms (e.g. Asian), chopped roughly

2 pitta breads, whizzed into breadcrumbs in the food processor

1 small pack of fresh coriander (28-31g), chopped.  Reserve a couple of sprigs for the sauce.

2 lemons  (juice and zest of one lemon, juice from half of the other lemon and slices from its remaining half for garnish)

3 tbs Teriyaki sauce

freshly ground pink pepper

For Miso and Tahini Sauce

25g vegan margarine

25g flour

1 pint (500ml) soya milk

2 tsp tahini

2 sprigs coriander, chopped (see above)

1 heaped tbs miso

freshly ground pepper

pinch sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C/400F.  Very thoroughly grease a 450g/1 1b loaf tin or silicone mould.
  2. Fry the onion very gently until transparent. 
  3. Add the mushrooms, tomato, garlic and coriander, and fry on a low light for about 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender but still firm.  You don’t want the tomatoes to completely disintegrate either.
  4. Divide the hazelnuts into two piles.  Roughly chop one half and leave the rest whole.
  5. Mix the onions, pitta crumbs, lemon zest, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic and coriander together in a big bowl.
  6. Mix the lemon juice and Teriyaki sauce together, then gradually add to the mixture in the bowl.  If it looks very dry, add a little water.  Grind some pink pepper into the mix.
  7. Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin/mould then press it down until it is very flat and compacted. 
  8. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until the hazelnuts are golden brown and the loaf is set. Leave to cool slightly (say ten minutes) before you turn it out.
  9. As it cools, make the sauce:  Melt the margarine, add the flour and blend until you have a paste.  Cook for about five minutes, then turn off the heat. Gradually add the soya milk, until you have a smooth sauce, then bring to the boil.  Simmer gently, then add the tahini and coriander.  Stir well until the tahini is well blended.  Turn the heat off, then add the miso. Stir again, add a grinding of pink pepper and a pinch of sea salt then transfer to a jug or gravy boat.
  10. Turn out your nut roast and garnish with the lemon slices you have set aside.  Serve with the Miso and Tahini Sauce.

Excluding oil, salt and pepper, this will cost about £15.76 (based on an Aldi shop for the garlic, spring onion, pitta, lemons and flour and Tesco for the rest).  This is because you will need to buy tahini, Teriyaki sauce and miso paste if you don’t have any.  However, these are such useful ingredients to have in the house because they keep for a very long time and turn up in so many recipes!