Thai Vegetable Curry (Serves 4)

You have probably noticed from the recipes that I share that I am a big meat eater, so pure vegetarian dishes are not a regular feature on Menu Mistress – however I am trying to change this! Having said that, this Thai Vegetable Curry is something that I have cooked on a number of occasions (I always feel very virtuous when I do!), it is a very comforting curry, with clean tastes; the water chestnuts really give it a lovely crisp texture. I use only one green chilli as I don’t like really spicy food, however you could use two to increase the heat factor.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 tablespoons fish sauce

15g palm sugar (you could substitute this for brown sugar or maple syrup)

400ml coconut milk

400ml vegetable stock

2 sweet potatoes (around 600g), peeled and diced into 1.5cm cubes

12 button mushrooms, quartered

8 stalks Tenderstem broccoli

100g peas

1 x 220g tin sliced water chestnuts, drained

For the Green Curry Paste:

1-2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped (see note above)

3 shallots, peeled

2 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped

4cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 bunch of coriander (stalks, leaves and roots – if possible)

2 garlic cloves, peeled

½ teaspoon sea salt

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

  1. First make the curry paste by placing all the paste ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over a medium heat. When hot add the curry paste, fry for 4-5 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a clean saucepan, discarding the rememants in the sieve.
  5. Bring the curry sauce to a simmer, season with salt (if needed). Add the sweet potato and cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the mushrooms.
  6. Cook the broccoli in a separate pan, for 4 – 6 minutes until just cooked .
  7. Add the broccoli, peas and water chestnuts to the curry and heat through.
  8. Serve with rice.

Oven Baked Mushroom Risotto (Serves 3-4)

Oven baked risotto is more common these days, but when I found this recipe about 18 years ago in a Delia Smith cookbook, it was a revelation – it is such an easy and hands free dish. There is of course, still a time and a place for conventional risotto; I must admit that I find stove top risotto a rather relaxing, therapeutic exercise, but when you are in a hurry or simply want to enjoy the company of your family and friends instead of concentrating on the stove, this recipe is a blessing. It is also very tasty! Just two rules when cooking this dish – follow the cook times precisely and serve immediately. The portions of this recipe are quite small, so if you are very hungry I would double the recipe to make two dishes. I like to serve the risotto with a salad dressed with a sherry vinegar vinaigrette as it compliments the flavour perfectly – the recipe is on my Recipe Pages. The Maderia wine is an important element to the this recipe, although you won’t use the whole bottle, once opened it can be stored in the fridge for many months without deterioratingI always have a bottle in my fridge as a small glug can lift the flavour of many sauces!

10g dried porcini

225g  flat, dark gilled mushrooms(or Portobello mushrooms)

60 g butter

1 onion, chopped

175g Carnaroli risotto rice

150ml Dry Maderia

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated; plus about 50g shaved into flakes with a potato peeler

Sea salt and black pepper

(You will need an oven proof dish with 1.5litre capacity – approx. 23cm with a 5cm depth)

  1. Begin by soaking the porcini in a bowel with 570ml boiling water, leave to soften for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile chop the fresh mushrooms into about 1cm cubes, no smaller as they will shrink with cooking.
  3. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onion, gently cook to soften for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, stir well. Leave the pan to one side whilst you deal with the soaked porcini.
  4. After the porcini have soaked for 30 minutes, place a sieve, lined with a double layer of kitchen roll, over a bowl, and strain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid – squeeze the mushrooms out in the kitchen roll.
  5. Chop the porcini finely and add to the pan with the mushrooms and onions. Gently sweat for about 20 minutes, so that the juices are released.
  6. Meanwhile place a baking dish in a preheated oven, 150’c, to warm.
  7. Add the rice and stir it around to get a good coating of butter, then add the Maderia and the strained soaking liquid. Add a teaspoon of salt, some black pepper, and bring to simmering point.
  8. Transfer the risotto mix from the pan to the warmed dish, stir and place in the oven. Set the timer and give it exactly 20 minutes
  9. After 20 minutes, gently stir in the parmesan. Return to the oven for exactly 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Serve immediately with the shavings of parmesan sprinkled over and a green salad.

Spaghetti with Sauce Vierge (Serves 4)

This is a perfect summer pasta dish, a delicious ‘no cook’ sauce for spaghetti with the added bonus of being vegetarian!

400g Spaghetti

For the Sauce Vierge:

2 spring onions, finely sliced

2 shallots, finely chopped

Bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

300g tomatoes, about 4 medium

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons caster sugar

Juice ½ lemon

60ml olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, deseed, discarding any liquid – pat them dry on kitchen roll, slice into strips, then finely dice, add to a bowl along with the other sauce ingredients, mix well and season to taste.
  2. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  3. Drain the spaghetti and mix with the sauce vierge.

Melon, Artichoke & Walnut Salad (Serves 4)

This is a great salad a meal in itself! The vinaigrette is really tasty and worth remembering for other salads. I discovered this recipe in Gino D’Acampo’s cookbook ‘Gino’s Islands in the Sun’, which concentrates on recipes from Sardinia and Sicily, offering Italian cooking with a twist from these islands. It is a good choice for a picnic, if you are, thinking of taking this salad out and about, carry the prepared ingredients separately (the vinaigrette in a small jar, the melon, artichokes, rocket and walnuts in separate containers) and combine when ready to serve.

1 cantaloupe melon

175g chargrilled artichoke hearts in oil, drained and roughly chopped

50g walnuts, roughly chopped

70g rocket leaves

For the vinaigrette:

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

4 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Whisk together the ingredients of the vinaigrette.
  2. Cut the melon into wedges and remove the seeds, cut each wedge into 2cm chunks.
  3. Place the melon in a large bowl, add the rocket leaves, artichoke pieces and walnuts.
  4. Pour over the vinaigrette and toss together to mix.

Penne with Pea and Mascarpone Sauce (Serves 4)

Another recipe from my beloved cookbook ‘A Passion for Pasta’ by the late Antonio Carluccio. You could cook this dish with your eyes closed, it really is that simple, and will be ready to eat in 15 minutes! The original recipe uses smoked bacon, so I have substituted it for chopped onion and a generous pinch of paprika for a tasty vegetarian supper.

50g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

a generous pinch of smoked paprika

450g tomato passata

200g frozen peas

8 basil leaves

150g mascarpone cheese

375g penne pasta

75g freshly grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the chopped onion and a pinch of paprika, fry to soften.
  2. Add the tomato passata and the peas, cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the penne according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
  4. Add the mascarpone cheese and the basil leaves to the sauce, stir until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Drain the penne, add to the sauce, finally mix in the parmesan cheese.

Cashew Nut Stir Fry with Basil, Chilli and Lime (Serves 4)

Originally I published this recipe as a prawn stir fry, however for a vegetarian option I have substituted the prawns for cashew nuts, baby corn and /or cauliflower florets. This recipe is super easy to cook, just prepare all the ingredients so they can be quickly thrown in the pan, ready to cook in minutes. The cucumber salad is an important accompaniment as its subtle spice gives the whole dish more depth. Start by preparing the rice, I like long grain white rice with this stir fry. Whilst the rice is cooking prepare the cucumber salad and all of the ingredients for the stir fry, then start cooking it just as the rice is cooked. If you are gluten free, use gluten free soy sauce for the cucumber salad. 

*You can see the video of this dish being made by clicking on this link to my instagram page

Cashew Nut Stir Fry with Basil, Chilli & Lime

A couple of handfuls of cashew nuts

250g baby corn or cauliflower florets (or a mixture)

200g sugar snap peas

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 red chillies and 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced (use less according to taste)

4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons caster sugar

Juice of lime

20g basil leaves, picked

  1. Halve the sugar snap peas along their lengths, so that the peas peep out.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok, when hot, add the sugar snaps, fry for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the cashew nuts, baby corn/cauliflower florets, chillies and garlic, reduce the heat a little and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the fish sauce, sugar and lime, stir it all around until the sugar has dissolved, finally throw in the basil leaves.
  5. Serve straight away with rice and the spiced cucumber salad.

Spiced Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon of caster sugar

1-2 teaspoons mild chilli powder (according to your taste)

4 spring onions, finely sliced

2 teaspoons of sesame oil (optional)

Black sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Cut the cucumber into wafer thin slices
  2. Mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and chilli powder in a bowl (depending on how spicy you would like it, you can add more or less chilli)
  3. Toss the cucumber into the bowl along with the spring onions, and if using, also add the sesame oil and seeds.