Sometimes you get home and all you want to do is get on with things. While you'd love to spend hours in the kitchen making a delicious, elaborate dinner there just isn't the time. There are projects that need to be handed in, rooms to be tidied and of course shelves to be painted.
And then the boy calls and says he won't be home until 11pm and that he's starving and in dire need of a stiff drink. A cheese sandwich will really not do in a situation like this, will it?

So I wacked up the oven, threw in a red pepper and got on with stuff for the next 45 minutes or so. This sauce does take a little while to make, but there is hardly any preparation time and you can put the lid on the pot and literally complete all your chores while it bubbles away on the stove. This sauce is so yummy- it's sweet, smokey, spicy and most of all comforting and filling (in the healthiest way possible). Well and the drink of choice for this late night dinner - Scotch, what else!

And of course this make the perfect lunch to take to work the next day.

What's your favourite busy evening dinner solution? 


COOKS 1-1.5 hours

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 red pepper, halved and de-seeded
  • 2 jalapeños, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tbsp balsamico
  • 1tsp sugar
  • Italian seasoning (optional)
  • small glass white wine
  • salt and pepper to season
  • penne pasta for 3
  • rocket to serve
  • grated parmesan to serve

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190˚C. Place the pepper halves, skin side up onto a baking tray and place in the hot oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the pepper is soft and the skin charred. 
  2. Peel the skin of the peppers and roughly dice the flesh.
  3. Pre-heat some olive oil in a pan. Once hot add the diced onions and jalapeños and saute for a few minutes until the onions start to soften. Add the tomato paste, paprika, garlic and pepper and cook for a few minutes. Make sure the ingredients are all thoroughly coated in the spices. 
  4. De-glaze the pan with the white wine and leave to cook for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir and season with about 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Cover with a lid (leaving a small gap for the steam to escape) or a splash guard. Leave to cook and reduce down for 30 - 45 minutes, depending on how intense you like your sauce.
  6. Take the lid off for the last 15 minutes and stir in the balsamico and sugar. 
  7. Mix in the cooked pasta and serve topped with a handful of rocket and a shaving of Parmesan.


Cauliflower salad sounds weird right? Cauliflower is meant to be roasted, eaten as a soup, gratin or with lots of cheese.

The first comment I got was: "Is that all we're having?" - Errrm yes. And of course it was more than enough and truly, mouthwateringly delicious.

This salad is pumped full of different flavours and spices and made me long for summer and a barbecue of lebanese sausages, slightly charred lamb chops and spicy chicken thighs. So definitely a must have for the next barbecue.

In the meantime it was just as delicious on a weekday evening, as a light meal, with a drizzle of greek yoghurt and some toasted wholemeal pitta, eaten while watching Ripper Street and sipping on some red wine.

Hope you enjoy!

COOKS 45mins

  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large stalk of celery, diagonally sliced
  • 50g hazelnuts
  • a handfull of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • seeds of half a large pomegranate
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • greek yoghurt to serve
  • toasted wholewheat pitta to serve

  1. Pre-heat the hoven to 200˚C.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets in a large bowl, and toss with 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper. Place in a baking tray and roast for about 25-35 minutes until the cauliflower has crisped and browned. Remove from oven, and return to the large bowl to cool.
  3. Turn the oven down to 160˚C. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Once they're not too hot to touch anymore, roughly chop them discarding any loose skin.
  4. Mix all the ingredients together. Taste for seasoning and serve at room temperature.
That's it. So easy, so yummy. Oh and of course don't forget to try as a barbecue side... because I will!

Recipe taken from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem and adapted by Etta. 


Last weekend I went a bit mental with the old going out. I had my girls date night on the Friday, went for dinner on the Saturday and then for a pub afternoon on the Sunday.

It's Saturday I want to talk about though. Wow, what a dinner. It was Mat's dad's 60th birthday and while it is a big number we decided to keep things low key. We were looking for a comfortable, cosy, slightly quirky place that served great food and wine at a reasonable price. And we got all that and more in Crystal Palace's Exhibition Rooms.

Our booking was at 7pm, we arrived early and although we didn't order until about 7.15pm were still offered the earlybird menu which at £15 for three courses is more than reasonable.

All our starters were absolutely delicious, plentiful and served super quickly. The Ham Hock and Apricot terrine was meaty and salty and the sweet, ginger spiced apricots a beautiful contrast. The Crab with Asian salad was light, fresh and incredibly well seasoned and the Steak Tartare like none I had ever tried before - there were capers, gherkins, tomato sauce, chilli - all topped with a golden, organic egg yolk.

For mains we had the classic: Rump Steak and Chips, which was cooked to perfection, tender, pink with a beautiful charred caramelisation on the outside. I ordered 9 hour Belly of Pork with Dauphinoise Potatoes and garlicky Green Beans and I can only say that this dish blew me away, the pork was tender, the potatoes creamy and the cider gravy intense with a reduced stickiness.
There was Ballotine of Chicken, wrapped in bacon, which was succulent and moist and served with a beautiful jus. ... and Fish and Chips which were just as they should be: huge and coated in a crispy beer batter on the outside and meaty chunks of haddock on the inside.

We were so stuffed after our first two courses we decided to skip desert and went for coffees and liquors instead.

We are definitely going back to the Exhibition Rooms. The atmosphere was cosy and comfortable, carrying an air of 1920s avant garde meets french bistro. The service was friendly, efficient and welcoming and the price more than reasonable.
Rating 9/10.

2 course dinner for four, including a bottle of Prosseco, coffee and liquor and service charge: £132.

69-71 Westow Hill  
Crystal Palace
SE19 1TX
Tel: 020 8761 1175


Seriously guys, I am loving the veggie challenge.

My current best friend is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg Everyday! And, while I find some of his recipes a bit too heavy or a bit time consuming there are some real gems in this book. This is particularly relevant if you are usually a meat-eater and find veggie food a little...well...boring. So we made Mushroom and Kale lasagne, which was super yummy. The white sauce was infused with celery and onions and lots of spices, which made such a beautiful difference to the usual cheesy sauce. I bought kale in a bag and I recommend you do not do the same. The kale is all chopped up into small bits and I ended up spending about half an hour picking out the hard stems. I'd recommend you get a nice cavolo nero and do all the cutting and trimming yourself. Cavolo nero is a more flavoursome, more tender version and would definitely work better in this dish. Also make sure you get chestnut mushrooms or a mix of various mushrooms (i.e. oyster, cep, chanterelle) to add different textures and more flavour. Some supermarkets do mixed punnets, which are great.

I am definitely loving the veggie lasagnes. A few months ago I made a butternut squash and sage lasagne which was absolutely delicious and I will be sharing soon.

Make extra and have for lunch the next day. An incredibly delicious winter dinner dish.


COOKS 45mins-1hr

  • 300g cavolo nero or kale, stalks removed
  • 30g butter (you can use olive oil if you want to go for a healthier option)
  • 500g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
  • 175g green lasagne sheets (you can use normal ones too)
  • 20g Parmesan, grated
  • olive oil
For the béchamel sauce 
  • 750ml full-fat (or semi skimmed) milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • a few black peppercorns
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  1. Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Heat the milk with the bay leaf, onion, celery and peppercorns until almost simmering. Take off the heat and leave aside to infuse.
  2. Roughly shred the kale. Put into a large saucepan and just cover with cold water. Add salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes, or until just tender. Drain well and set aside.
  3. Heat half the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add half the mushrooms and season. Increase the heat and fry, stirring, until the liquid released has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to brown and caramelise. Stir in half the garlic and half the thyme, cook for another minute, then remove to a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the mushrooms, garlic and thyme and set aside.
  4. Gently reheat the milk, then strain. Heat the butter for the béchamel in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook gently for a couple of minutes, until it turns into a thick paste and starts to bubble. Take off the heat. Add about a quarter of the hot milk and beat vigorously until smooth. Add the rest of the milk in about 3 batches, until you have a smooth sauce. Put the pan back on the heat and cook for  a few minutes, stirring and allowing the sauce to bubble gently, until thickened. Stir in the mustard, then season well.
  5. Stir roughly half of the béchamel sauce into the kale.
  6. Spread half the remaining sauce over the bottom of an ovenproof dish (approx. 28 x 22cm). Layer a third of the lasagne sheets in the dish, then spoon the kale over the top. Add another layer of lasagne, then add the mushrooms,. Finish with a final layer of pasta and the rest of the sauce.
  7. Scatter the cheese over the top and add a trickle of olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden. Serve with a green salad and a glass of light red wine.
Recipe taken from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg Everyday and adapted by Etta.


Excuse the fuzzy pics - it was very dark and flash no option.
Valentine's Day is no big deal to us - there's no presents, no cards and "Happy Valentine's Day" is said with a sarcastic wink. We did take the opportunity though to spend some quality time together, have a three course meal and overindulge on some bubbly. I was way too lazy to cook this year and decided to go for Marks&Spencer's Valentine's special. Which was yummy and exactly what we were after.

So the following day, Susie and I decided to celebrate that it wasn't Valentine's Day and ventured out to Soho on a girlie date night. Our first choice was Flatiron on Beak Street, which is meant to serve excellent steaks for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, there is a re-occurring trend of "no reservations" going on at the moment and we were kindly informed that we would have to wait for 3 hours for a table. There we were at 9pm on a Friday night in the middle of Soho with no reservation, absolutely starving and in dire need of a drink. After a lot of walking we finally found Spuntino on Rupert Street. (We searched forever because there was no name on the front of the restaurant.)

Once again we found ourselves in one of those new trendy restaurants where you have to queue for ages (45 minutes) and are then squashed on some terribly uncomfortable high stools alongside a narrow bar, inbetween some overly trendy hipsters with wispy moustaches.

The Prosecco was Polpo (with a pretty awesome label), it was expensive but very, very nice and went down a treat (of course no champagne glasses here, we were drinking our fizz from miniscule tumblers).

Sharing seemed to be the done thing around the bar and we decided to follow the trend. We had Scallops (there were only 3) with Chermoula and Cauliflower, which were nicely cooked, but the sauce only tasted of cumin and everything was floating in such vast amounts of butter that we couldn't even taste the delicate cauliflower purée.
The ribbon steak with anchovies and chicorée was, again, very well cooked, the meat tender and juicy but the concoction was too weird for our liking. Rather than using the anchovies as a flavour enhancer, the chef had created a sauce entirely made of anchovies which resulted in the beef just tasting of bitter fish. Shame.
The fries were ribbons of fried potato which were more a crisp than a chip and the Spuntino Slaw was red and white cabbage in some vinegar and oil and, while tasty, at £5 was pretty steep.
So really, the only dish I would say was really nice was the Pulled Pork and Apple slider - which was so miniscule we both ended up having half a bite before it was gone.

I have to say that these sort of dinner dates are the most disappointing. When chefs blatantly know how to cook, the ingredients are second to none, the location is great and everything just goes terribly wrong because being "trendy & different" is the utmost priority. And why on earth we had to pay 12.5% service charge still baffles me. We were having bar food, sat at a bar and got no service, apart from our food being plonked in front of us.

I was expecting old fashioned, well cooked American food, served in a buzzing yet relaxed environment but ended up feeling rushed, stressed, hungry and a lot poorer than when I went in. And as I said before, it's a real shame.  
Rating 4/10.

Have you been to Spuntino before? What did you think?

Light dinner for two, including a bottle of Prosecco and 12.5% service charge £68.62.

61 Rupert St  
London W1D 7PW


Happy Weekend everyone. How amazing has the weather been in and around London? I spotted the first daffodils sprouting in one of our balcony flower pots, we've got the windows wide open and spring is definitely on its way.
This morning has been pretty lazy. We had lots of tea and coffee and a scrumptious brunch of Chachouka/Shakshuka. Once you've had this dish you will want to eat it every single weekend from now on. It's a wonderful full on breakfast/brunch and a great alternative to the usual fry up.  There are so many flavours going on it's like a little taste party. I initially used Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's recipe, which was nice but resulted in the eggs being overcooked on top and still underdone on the bottom. I was recommended Ottolenghi's Shakshuka recipe by my workmate - and what a result. Feel free to experiment with Lebanese sausage (or chorizo), aubergine, potatoes, okra etc.

Hope you enjoy!

COOKS 30-45min

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 2tbsp harissa paste
  • 2tsp tomato purée
  • 2 large red peppers, de-seeded and cut into 1/2cm cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 medium eggs
  • thick yoghurt, seasoned with a little sea salt
  • crusty bread (optional)

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the harissa, tomato purée, peppers, garlic, cumin, paprika and 3/4 tsp of salt. Stir and leave to cook on a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, or until the peppers have started to soften. 
  2. Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to bubble away for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and intensified. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Make four dips in the sauce. Gently break the eggs and pour each into its own dip. Use a fork to swirl the egg whites a little bit with the sauce - but make sure not to break the egg yolk. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes until the eggs are still runny, but cooked through. You can also cover the pan with a lid to speed up the process. 
  4. Spoon onto individual plates and serve with the yoghurt and crusty bread.
This is really nice with fresh mint tea - warm in the winter and iced in the summer.

Recipe taken from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem and adapted by Etta.


There's a lot of curry-making and take-awaying in this house. Since we moved to the new flat a few months ago, we've found our favourite curry house, which delivers promptly and always meets our fussy eating standards, particularly when it comes to the good old coriander avoidance.

When I make curry it's usually thai or more of a stew curry (like this one) that includes cheaper cuts of lamb or beef, which take a few hours to cook but result in mouthwatering tender bits of meat and maximum flavour. Stewed curries are no option during the week. We often don't get home before 8pm and who wants to wait for their dinner until 10pm.

That's when Skinny Meals in Heels comes to the rescue. This cookbook has been our saviour on so many occasions. The Meals under an Hour section is perfect for a busy lifestyle and so far I have only had bad luck with one recipe (funnily enough it was a thai curry).

Do try the Jamaican Curry. It's a half an hour job, guilt free and absolutely scrumptious. We used chicken thigh fillets (because they have more flavour) but if you are very health conscious or on a diet go for chicken breast fillets.

Who needs takeaways anymore when you have this in your recipe collection.


COOKS 30mins

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large green chilli (jalapeños are good), finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbs jamaican curry powder
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts fillets, chopped into chunks (or 7 skinless chicken thigh fillets)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • a splash of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1tbsp Ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 heaped tsp cornflour, dissolved in some warm water
  • fresh coriander (optional)
  • basmati rice, to serve (we used quick cook brown rice)

  1. Heat the oil over a high to medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli and saute until soft and the onions start to go translucent.
  2. Add the spices, tomato paste and some salt and pepper and fry for a couple of minutes until the ingredients are well coated. Mix in the chicken and sweet potato and fry for a few more minutes until the chicken is sealed. 
  3. Pour over the stock and vinegar and cook for 15 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft and the chicken cooked through. 
  4. Add the Worcestershire sauce, Ketchup, tomatoes and the cornflour mix and stir in. Leave to bubble for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Serve over steamed rice and sprinkle with fresh coriander.
 ... and of course the obvious drink of choice: an ice cold glass of lager. 


I made egg fried rice - and it was yuuuummy. It tasted like my dad's and I am very proud of that. It has taken me a very, very long time to get this right. We are talking years and years. And the simple secret is - use yesterday's leftover rice.

One thing I won't be telling dad is the way I made Ma Po Tofu. This used to be one of our regular dinner dishes when I was a kid and it included finely chopped beef steak, cha choi, lots of veggies and lots of chilli. My version was taken from Gok Wan, adapted, served with omelette and cucumber salad. It's veggie challenge friendly and only takes ten minutes. Result. And while I thought it was super tasty, to me it was a bit of a "mock" Ma Po Tofu, because it just wasn't what I am used to - and therefore should just be called Tofu in Chilli Bean Sauce ;)

This is great for a light dinner, much better and quicker than a takeaway and ideal for a poorly boy who's just had his wisdom teeth taken out.

How do you make your Ma Po To Fu?


COOKS 15mins


For the Egg Fried Rice
  • 250-300g leftover white or brown rice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • rapeseed oil
  • you can add any other leftover veg or meat to this
For the Ma Po Tofu
  • 370g Firm To Fu, cut into cubes 
  • 1cm piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2tbsp Chilli Bean Paste or 4tbsp Chilli Bean Sauce
  • 2tsp Fish Sauce
  • 1tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • a little warm water
  • rapeseed oil
For the Omelette
  • 3 large or 4 medium eggs, beaten 
  • salt and pepper
  • rapeseed oil
For the cucumber salad
  • 1 cucumber, finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
  • 2tsp sesame oil
  • 4tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • white pepper

  1. First, prepare your salad. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and season with a little white pepper. Set aside. The acidity in the vinegar will "cook" the garlic and spring onion.
  2. Heat a little rapeseed oil in a wok over a medium - high heat. Add the egg and move around with a wooden spoon as if you're making scrambled eggs. Make sure you scrape off any sticky bits from the bottom of the wok. You are after a dry scrambled egg. 
  3. Add the rice and mix well with the scrambled egg. Mix in the remaining ingredients and cook until the rice is warmed through. Place in a bowl, set aside and keep warm.
  4. Wipe your wok clean and heat a little rapeseed oil over a high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the Chilli Bean Paste/Sauce, Fish Sauce and Oyster Sauce and fry for a further couple of minutes until well combined. Add a splash of water and cook until the consistency of your sauce has thickened.
  5. Carefully mix in the to fu, making sure not to break it, until it's well coated in the sauce. 
  6. Cover with a lid and set aside to steam away.
  7. Heat a little oil in a small-medium frying pan. Once hot, pour in a quarter of your beaten egg. Swivel your pan so it is evenly coated with the egg; almost as if you're making pancakes. Fry until the bottom side is done and the sides start to crisp, then flip over and cook for a minute or so more. Repeat this process until you have four omelette pancakes.
  8. Spoon some of the to fu into each pancake, roll and then cut into bite size portions.
  9. Serve with the fried rice and cucumber salad.
This dish is super nice with a steaming cup of jasmin green tea.

Recipes taken from Gok Wan and Papa Din and adapted by Etta.


    These photographs by photographer Kyle Dreier are just soooo clever. I am a big lover of food photography and Kyle brings things to a completely different level with his clever pairings of drink and food - beautifully styled, lit and photographed. You can see more of his work here.

    via FvF


    I went out for one drink yesterday... honestly just one... that turned into three and then I didn't get home until after eight and had a hungry boy waiting for me.
    And then I came across this recipe and initially was extremely uncertain about its lack of ingredients. What beans and rice and that's it? Yep that's it and it is absolutely totally and incredibly delicious, trust me. It only took about 20 minutes to cook and was filling and healthy and yummy-yummy-yum-yum.
    Of course I didn't have any guacamole, or avocados or sour cream to hand and I am sure it would make this dish even more scrumptious - so do add if you have any knocking about.

    Here it goes, Mexican Beans and Rice, for a super quick dinner.


    SERVES 3-4
    COOKS 20-25mins

    • 1 400g tin of borlotti beans
    • 1 400g tin of adzuki beans
    • 1 small red onion, sliced
    • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 3 tsp smokey chipotle paste
    • 75ml white wine or cider vinegar
    • 2tbsp golden syrup or honey
    • olive oil
    • salt and pepper
    • brown rice, to serve (we used the microwave one for speed)
    • a handful of chopped parsley, to serve
    • grated cheddar, to serve
    • guacamole, sour cream or natural Greek yoghurt, to serve

    1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Once hot add the onion and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes until starting to brown and soften. 
    2. Add the beans and heat through for a couple of minutes. 
    3. Mix in the chipotle paste, golden syrup and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
    4. Leave to bubble for 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the vinegar has evaporated a little.
    5. Serve over brown rice and top with the chopped parsley and condiments of your choice.


    The weather has been in a right old mood lately. Some days it's so bitter cold it hits you right down to the bone and on others you can smell spring in the air, there's the first signs of daffodils and the sun is so bright and warm all you want to do is venture outside.

    This dish is for those icy cold, late winter evenings. When you feel like having dinner, snuggled up on the sofa, watching your favourite series.
    It's everything a hearty stew is, without the meat and cooks in a quarter of the time - oh and it makes a great lunch to take to work the next day.


    SERVES 4
    PREPARATION 10mins
    COOKS 45mins

    • 15g butter or 2tbsp olive oil (or beef dripping from Sunday's roast)
    • 2 large onions, finely chopped
    • 1 bay leaf
    • A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
    • 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
    • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
    • 1 small parsnip, finely chopped
    • ¼ tsp ground coriander
    • A sprinkle of ground nutmeg
    • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
    • ¼ tsp ground mace
    • 100g pearl barley, rinsed
    • 1.5 litres beef stock (if you want to go 100% veggie use vegetable stock)
    • A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    For the croûtons:
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 slightly stale sourdough breadrolls, cut into 2 cm cubes
    • salt and pepper

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. 
    2. Heat the butter (or beef dripping) in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and gently sweat the onions with the bay leaf and thyme for about 15 minutes, until soft and translucent. 
    3. Add the celery, carrot and parsnip and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the coriander, nutmeg, cayenne and mace. Add the barley or spelt, pour in the stock and add some salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 25–30 minutes, or until the grain is very soft. Remove the bay leaf. 
    4. After your soup's been cooking for 15 minutes, place the bread into a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss a couple of times to make sure the bread is coated in the olive oil.
    5. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until your soup is done.
    6. To thicken the soup a little, remove 2 ladles full and blitz with a stick blender. Add the puree back to the soup and stir.
    7. Serve the soup topped with the crunchy croûtons and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
    Recipe taken from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg Everyday and adapted by Etta.


    Eating meat free (for most of the time) has been a challenge. I feel hungry a lot of the time and catch myself thinking about food more often than I should do. The worst thing is that I know it is all in my head. I have genuinely been feeling better though - more alert, less tired, healthier.

    Overall my lack of creativity when it comes to vegetarian cooking is probably to blame - I basically end up making a soup, or a salad, or pasta... and that's that.

    So pasta it was again...well sort of...gnocchi to be precise. The sauce though was pretty awesome. Lots of veggies, lots of wine, lots of flavour. And I gave myself a pat on the back, because I am getting there... slowly but surely. :)

    Of course if you have any yummy (veggie) recipes, please do share.


    SERVES 3
    PREPARATION 10mins
    COOKS 35mins

    • 1 carrot, finely chopped
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 1 courgette, finely chopped
    • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
    • 5 large mushrooms, finely chopped
    • 1 chilli, finely chopped
    • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
    • 1tbsp tomato paste
    • 200ml red wine
    • 500g gnocchi
    • olive oil
    • salt and pepper
    • rocket to serve
    • parmesan to serve

    1. Heat about 2tbsp of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, celery, carrot, chilli and tomato puree and sauté for approximately 10 minutes until everything is fairly soft. It's really important that you veg is cut the same size so it cooks evenly. I went for tiny cubes, but thin slices will do, too.
    2. Add the mushrooms and courgette, cook for a couple of minutes on a high heat, then deglaze the pan with the red wine. Cook for about 5 minutes until the wine has reduced by 1/3. 
    3. Add the chopped tomatoes, season with salt (about 1tsp) and pepper and leave to bubble away for about 15-20 minutes.
    4. Five minutes before your sauce is done, cook your gnocchi to the instructions on the pack.
    5. Serve with the tomato ragu, top with a handful of rocket and some shaved parmesan.
    And there you have it your veggie ragú, no meat, no quorn mince but full of flavour and lots of lovely textures.