Recipe: Baked Onions with Hazelnut, Sultana & Feta Stuffing

Big thanks to The Guardian for featuring me in their article about the top 10 vegetarian food blogs – I had over 13,500 hits in a week as a result. Wowzers!

Now for the recipe…. these little beauties would be an ideal veggie option for an omnivorous Sunday lunch.  The meat-eaters could have one as their equivalent of ‘stuffing’ to go with a roast, whilst for the vegetarians they could be the main event surrounded by veg and roast potatoes.

They look fiddly but in fact are a doddle to put together, and fill your kitchen with the delicious smell of cooking onions for a few hours.  Yum!


Baked Onions with Hazelnut, Sultana & Feta Stuffing

Baked Onions


4 large onions (red or white)
100g hazelnuts
100g bulgur wheat or cous-cous
Handful sultanas
6 sun-dried tomatoes from a jar
100g feta (check its vegetarian)
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (adjust according to your taste)
Handful chopped fresh mint, parsley or thyme, or a combination of all three!
Handful finely grated parmesan-style or cheddar cheese


With skins on, chop the top centimetre or so from each onion and wrap each one in foil.  Bake at 180°C for an hour or until soft throughout.  Leave to cool.  For the last 5 minutes of cooking, pop the hazelnuts on a baking tray onto the bottom shelf and roast until starting to brown and skins become loose.

Place bulgur wheat or cous cous along with the sultanas in a bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside for 10 minutes.

Finely chop the roasted hazelnuts and sun-dried tomatoes, (either by hand or in a small blender if you have one).  Drain any excess liquid from the bulgur wheat/cous cous, then return to the bowl and mix in the hazelnuts and sun-dried tomatoes.  Crumble in the feta, and sprinkle over the chilli flakes and fresh herbs, and mix gently to combine but without breaking up the feta too much.

Unwrap the onions, and remove the skins.  Gently pull/scoop out the centre of each onion, leaving just two layers in tact to stuff. Place these back on the baking tray. Take one third of the discarded insides, chop finely and add to the stuffing mixture.  (Chop the remainder and keep in the fridge to add to pasta sauces, curries, chillis etc!).

Carefully fill each onion with stuffing mixture, pressing down to ensure they are packed full.  Scatter over the grated cheese and bake for 15 minutes until bubbling and browning on top.

Baked Onions with Hazelnut, Sultana and Feta Stuffing

Baked Onions with Hazelnut, Sultana and Feta Stuffing


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Recipe Roundup: Favourite Italian Recipes on the web

England’s defeat at the hands of Italy in the World Cup got me thinking about a football-themed recipe roundup, but given that the next two fixtures are against Costa Rica and Uruguay, (who aren’t, as far as I know, famed for their vegetarian cuisine), I think this will be a bit of a one-off!

Italy is a brilliant place to eat veggie as so many of their traditional dishes are or can easily become vegetarian.

Here are five of my favourites from the web:

1. Pappardelle with Spiced Butter from 101 Cookbooks

Just about the most delicious pasta recipe I have come across, and simple to throw together

2.  Felicity Cloake’s ‘Perfect Aubergine Parmiagiana’ from the Guardian

Even if you think you don’t like aubergine, give this a try – very traditional Italian food at its best.

3. Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce with Spinach & Toasted Walnuts from Delicious Magazine

I’m a big fan of gnocchi, and this is a brilliant way of serving it.  Just check your Gorgonzola is vegetarian, and if not, any other blue cheese will do.

4. Fontina, Fennel & Onion Pizza from Martha Stewart Recipes

This pizza couldn’t be further from the greasy, doughy takeaway variety.  Fontina can be very rich, but the fennel and slow-cooked onions balance it perfectly.  Not one for dieters, but even a few slices of this are heaven on a plate!


5. Roast Butternut Squash, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne from Waitrose Recipes

I’ve made this a few times as a veggie option when there has been a traditional beef lasagne on offer too, and this is usually more popular!  A great crowd-pleaser, this will satisfy all the family.

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Field to Fork: Veggie Inspiration at Vale House Kitchen

Picking organic veg at The Community Farm in the morning, then cooking it up into veggie delights with chef Tim Maddams of River Cottage fame in the afternoon?  Yes please!  What an inspiring day I spent at the lovely new(ish) Vale House Kitchen “Country Skills & Cookery School” on the outskirts of Bath.
Owners Bod & Annie offer the warmest of welcomes to their stunning home, where they have transformed an outbuilding into a state-of-the-art kitchen which hosts all sorts of ‘country skills’ courses including breadmaking, foraging, chutneys, jams, jellies and preserves, and even a ‘make your own wedding cake’ weekend.

Community FarmTheir ‘Field to Fork Vegetarian Cookery Day’ started quite literally in a field, at The Community Farm  where under the expert guidance of Darren, (by far the trendiest farmer I’ve ever met), we picked fresh asparagus, cucumbers, chard, new potatoes, strawberries, spring onions and lettuce.


DSC_0003_066Back in the kitchen, Tim had prepared some of these little beauties – slow-cooked courgette with LOTS of garlic, on sourdough toast, topped with a local cheese I’ve forgotten the name of.  Served with some elderflower, mint and flowering thyme iced tea..

DSC_0005_065On with the cooking – first, we wood-roasted some asparagus (it took about 3 minutes, amazing!), and made a fiery ‘dakka’ to serve with it.  Having never heard of dakka this was quite a revelation, I’ll be making more – such a simple but different way to serve asparagus, (or breads, or anything you can ‘dip’ for that matter!).

DSC_0019_060Next, a fresh and fiery new potato and chard curry.  Sounds pretty average, but with almost all the ingredients being picked/dug less than 2 hours previously I promise this was really delicious, and a surprisingly good dish to serve on a very hot day.


DSC_0014_062Then came the real highlight of the day – these little bhajis are just the most incredible thing I’ve eaten all year.  No, really.  So simple – they were made of a total jumble of fresh veg, (I think these were pepper, chard, mushroom, lettuce(!) and spring onion), a kick of spices and plenty of lemon juice in a beer and gram flour batter.  Really, really good.

Next we made flatbreads.  From scratch, with spelt flour, in about 4 minutes flat, (pardon the pun).  I’m never buying those plastic-sealed six-month-shelf-life floppy things ever again!

After pausing for lunch, (with a glass of wine, sitting out by the pool in the blazing sunshine – we could have stayed here all afternoon), we headed back to the kitchen to make some dessert.

DSC_0022_059These tiny elderflower fritters were again a very simple treatment of a super-fresh and seasonal ingredient.  Served up with macerated strawberries which we had picked hours earlier, a delicious end to an inspiring day.


The Field to Fork: Seasonal Vegetarian Cookery course will be running again later in the year – keep an eye on the website for dates.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Recipe: Hot ‘n’ Sour Mushroom & Noodle Soup

This recipe from a few years ago was recently featured in a Vegetarian Living magazine article, so I thought it was worth digging out again after a few requests.  The soup really packs a punch – you would never guess that the light, clear broth could be so full of flavour, and the addition of fine egg noodles makes this a meal in itself.

I love Thai food, but don’t often get around to making authentic recipes, being put off by the long lists of ingredients.  So this is officially and unashamedly a quick, cheat’s hot & sour soup using shop-bought Tom Yum paste.  The whole recipe should take you less than 20 minutes.


Hot ‘n’ Sour Mushroom & Noodle Soup


25g packet dried mushrooms (mixed, porcini or any other varieties you have to hand)
2 tbsp Tom Yum Paste (available in most supermarkets.  Check that it’s vegetarian as some contain fish sauce)
150g button mushrooms, halved 
3 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1 litre vegetable stock (low salt if possible – the soy sauce is quite salty enough)
2 tbsp soy sauce (or less if you’ve used full-salt stock)
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
1 nest of fine egg noodles
Juice of 1 lime
Handful fresh coriander, stalk very finely chopped, and leaves roughly chopped

1.  Soak the dried mushrooms in 200ml boiling water.

2. In a large saucepan gently fry the button mushrooms and 2 of the spring onions in the Tom Yum paste.  After 1-2 minutes add the stock and soy sauce and bring to the boil.

3. After 5 minutes, drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquor, roughly chop and add to the pan.  Strain the soaking liquor through a sieve or tea strainer into the pan.  Add the finely chopped coriander stalks and red chilli.

4. After 5 minutes, add the nest of noodles, cover and cook for a further minute.

5. Turn off the heat, and add the lime juice and most of the coriander, reserving a few leaves for garnish.

6. Serve into bowls – I like to form a nest of noodles in the bottom of each bowl with a spoon and fork, then ladle over the broth.  Garnish with the remaining spring onion and coriander and serve immediately.

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Recipe: Walnut & Mustard Cheesy Biscuits

These little biscuits are a brilliant freezer standby… make up the dough and freeze, then when someone pops round for a glass of wine you can just slice off a few rounds, get them in the oven, sit back and enjoy.

Best enjoyed straight from the oven with a cold glass of pinot grigio!


Walnut & Mustard Cheesy Biscuits

Walnut & Mustard Cheesy Biscuits


(Makes about 25)
100g butter
100g grated cheddar cheese
100g wholemeal flour
1 tbsp Maille wholegrain mustard with white wine & black olives
½tsp salt
1tbsp milk
100g walnut pieces


Beat together the butter, cheese, mustard and salt, then stir through the flour and milk to create a smooth paste.  Stir through the walnuts.  
Roll into a long sausage shape about 2-3 inches in diameter, wrap in cling film and chill.  (You can also freeze the dough at this stage).
Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Using a sharp knife, slice off rounds from the dough (less than a centimetre thick if possible), place on a baking tray lined with parchment and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  
Eat immediately!
Walnut & Mustard Cheesy Biscuits

Walnut & Mustard Cheesy Biscuits


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Recipe: Nettle Ravioli with Wholegrain Mustard & Caper Sauce

The only thing growing at our allotment at the moment is stinging nettles, which I have never tried cooking with before so thought I would give them a go.

Three tips if using nettles in cooking:

DSC_0002_0471. Use thick gloves to pick and prepare them – I thought thin plastic gloves would do, and got stung through them. Ouch!  Heavy-duty rubber or gardening gloves are a must until the nettles have been boiled.

2. This time of year is ideal to get the smaller, tender leaves – later in the year they will be a bit too thick and woody.  Try to pick leaves from the top of the plant and leave the lower ones for the same reason.  Choose nettle plants that are well away from roads – they absorb exhaust fumes.

3. Once you have picked them, rinse well in cold water and remove the stems.  Plop into a pan of boiling water and when you remove them a few minutes later they will have lost their sting.


This is another recipe using new Maille mustard flavours – this time its a wholegrain mustard with white wine and black olives, perfect with capers and créme fraiche for a quick sauce.  If you don’t have time to make the ravioli, this would make a lovely sauce with supermarket stuffed pasta too.


Nettle Ravioli with Wholegrain Mustard & Caper Sauce



For the pasta
350g pasta flour
1tsp salt
1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon
For the filling
Large freezer bag of freshly picked nettles
200g ricotta cheese
50g parmesan-style hard cheese, grated (see here)
For the sauce
100g créme fraiche
1 tbsp Maille Wholegrain Mustard with White Wine & Black Olives
1 tbsp capers
Juice of 1 lemon
25g butter
Shavings of parmesan-style hard cheese (as above)


Make the pasta dough – blitz all the ingredients in a food processor, and if necessary add a little water to bring together into a dough.  Knead the dough until glossy and smooth.  Wrap in cling film and chill.

Prepare the filling.  Wearing very durable gloves, put the nettles into a saucepan and boil for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside a few leaves for garnish, then chop the rest very finely.  Combine in a bowl with the rest of the filling ingredients, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Take the pasta dough and divide into 8.  Roll out each section as thinly as possible using a pasta machine or by hand.  Taking one long section of dough, place a teaspoon of filling at 2-inch intervals.  Brush around the filling with water then place a second section of dough on top of the first and press down firmly around the blobs of filling.  Cut either into squares or use a round pastry cutter to make individual ravioli.  Repeat with all the remaining filling and dough – I made 18 ravioli out of these quantities which is enough for 6 as a starter.  (You can also freeze the ravioli at this stage).

To make the sauce, combine the créme fraiche, mustard, lemon juice, butter and capers in a small saucepan and heat gently until just bubbling.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and drop in the ravioli.  Boil for 5-7 minutes until the pasta is tender.  Drain and drizzle with the sauce, then scatter over the remaining nettle leaves and parmesan-style cheese shavings and serve immediately.

Giant Nettle Ravioli with Wholegrain Mustard & Caper Sauce

Nettle Ravioli with Wholegrain Mustard & Caper Sauce





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Recipe: Rustic Pies with Jersey Royals & Tenderstem Broccoli

The lovely people at Maille sent me some of their lovely new flavours of mustard to have a tinker with as part of the #MailleFlavours challenge.  So over the next few days there will be three mustardy new recipes popping up.

The first of these is below – it was originally going to be a Jersey Royal potato salad with tenderstem broccoli in a creamy mustard dressing to make the most of the Maille Balsamic and Honey flavour, but morphed into a rustic pie with a mustardy custardy filling – sort of a warm potato salad in a pie.  What’s not to like?!

Jersey Royals are just coming into season and don’t hang around for long, so give this a go whilst you can!


Rustic Pies of Jersey Royals & Tenderstem Broccoli



For the pastry
300g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
75g block margarine (such as Stork ‘perfect for pastry’)
½tsp salt
¼tsp baking powder
75ml water
For the filling
250g Jersey Royal new potatoes
200g Tenderstem or Purple Sprouting broccoli 
300ml créme fraiche
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
50g grated cheddar cheese
3tsp Maille Mustard with Honey and Aceto Balsamico Di Modena (Igp) Balsamic Vinegar


Blitz all the pastry ingredients except the water in a food processer until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.  Add the water and bring together into a dough.  Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Boil the Jersey Royals in their skins for 10 minutes or until just cooked through, drain and set aside.  Boil the broccoli for 5 minutes or until just tender, drain and set aside.

Beat the remaining filling ingredients together in a jug.  Preheat the oven to 200ºC/Gas mark 6.

Divide your pastry into 6 and roll into balls.  Roll out each ball into a roughly circular shape, making sure it is a few centimetres larger in diameter than your tins.  Grease each tin, and place one of the pastry circles into it, pressing it gently right into the edges.  With the overhanging pastry, make 6 cuts to create ‘flaps’ which you will later fold in over the filling.

Slice your Jersey Royals in half or into three depending on size.  Slice the stems of the broccoli into 3.  Divide the veg between your pies, piling up high above the rim of the tin to create height.  Pour the custard filling carefully over the veg, making sure it comes no higher than the rim of the tin, so that it doesn’t overflow in the oven.  Finally, fold each of the flaps of pastry over the top of the filling then brush with a little beaten egg or milk to glaze.

Bake the pies in the oven for 40 minutes or until the filling has set and the pastry is golden brown.

Rustic Pies with Jersey Royals & Tenderstem Broccoli

Rustic Pies with Jersey Royals & Tenderstem Broccoli

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Recipe: Simple but Sensational Vegetarian Sausage Rolls

This week was my son’s first birthday party.  You can’t have a birthday party without ‘sausage’ rolls, but the range of vegetarian sausages on offer in supermarkets is pretty uninspiring, and they are all very dry.

Q. What’s vegetarian, sausagey, but moist, mould-able, and very tasty?

A. Stuffing mix!

Stuffing 2I used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference stuffing mixes – both Pink Lady, Apple & Herb and Wild Sage, Roasted Onion and Shallot Stuffing Mix with Lemon (this one is vegan). They also do onion, leek & chive, and cranberry, orange & roasted chestnut which would be lovely at Christmas.  See here  I’m sure other supermarkets do something similar, I just happened to be in Sainsbury’s when I had the idea!


Simple but Sensational Vegetarian Sausage Rolls

Sausage Rolls Recipe

Ingredients: 1 packet stuffing mix, 1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (plus milk or beaten egg to glaze, unless you are making these vegan)


– Make up stuffing mix according to packet instructions.

– Unroll your sheet of pastry and slice in half lengthways to create two long thin rectangles.  Brush both long edges of each rectangle with water.

– Roughly shape half the stuffing mix into a long sausage shape and place in the middle of one of the long rectangles.  Roll the pastry around the sausage and seal firmly by pinching between your fingers. Repeat with the rest of the stuffing and pastry.

– Wrap each long sausage roll in cling film and chill for 30 minutes or more.  Preheat your oven to 200ºC

– When ready to cook, remove the cling film and place the roll with the join in the pastry downwards on a chopping board.  Brush all over with a little milk or beaten egg.  Cut off the ends then slice into individual sausage rolls – mine were about 2 inches long.

– Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve immediately!

Want to try something even better? How about crumbling some stilton through the centre of the stuffing mix before rolling up? Or spooning in some chutney?  Or to make them extra moist, stir some grated apple, carrot or grated cheese through the stuffing mix.  Yum!

Simple but Sensational Vegetarian Sausage Rolls

Simple but Sensational Vegetarian Sausage Rolls

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Recipe: Sri Lankan Cashew Nut stuffed Capsicum in a Coconut and Curry Leaf Sauce

Stuffed peppers….. ugh – the epitomy of unimaginative vegetarian cuisine.  Still semi-raw but with flaky burnt skin, and stuffed with bland cous-cous or an cloyingly enormous pile of ricotta and spinach.  No thanks.

However this fabulous recipe from the brilliant World Food Café Vegetarian Bible by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott couldn’t be more different.  A Sri Lankan recipe, this is a bright and colourful centrepiece which looks and tastes like it took an awful lot of work, but really didn’t.

WFC Veg BibleThe World Food Café Bible, (like their Quick and Easy book I reviewed here), is packed full of breathtaking photographs from the Caldicotts’ adventures around the world.  Featuring over 200 vegetarian and vegan recipes from North Africa & Arabia, West & East Africa, the Indian Ocean, India, Pakistan & Nepal, Southeast Asia, French Polynesia, Central & Southern America and the Caribbean, this really is a must-have reference ‘bible’ for vegetarians who enjoy experimenting with world cuisine.

Many thanks to the authors, and publishers Frances Lincoln for their permission to reproduce the recipe here.


Sri Lankan Cashew Nut stuffed Capsicum in a Coconut and Curry Leaf Sauce

Cashew Stuffed Capsicums low resSweet capsicums look like chillis but they are not spicy.  They are available in both green and red varieties.  We prefer red, but if you can only find green that’s fine.  They vary in size, so when choosing take into account how many you can eat.


 10-12 sweet capsicums
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons dessicated coconut
4oz/115g cashew nuts
2 teaspoons roasted curry powder
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon water
3 tablepoons sunflower oil
2 green chillis, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
20 curry leaves
14floz / 400ml coconut milk
salt to taste


Wash the capsicums and then slit each one down one side and carefully remove the seeds, without breaking the capsicum.

Make the filling by blending together the chopped red onion, soy sauce, lime juice, dessicated coconut, cashew nuts, 1 teaspoon of the roasted curry powder, the chilli powder and the water until a paste forms.  Stuff the capsicums with the filling then heat the oil in a heavy frying pan and fry on each side for a few minutes until brown.  Remove from the pan and set to one side.

Add the chopped green chillis, turmeric and curry leaves to the pan, fry for a couple of minutes, and then reduce the heat and add the coconut milk, salt to taste and stuffed capsicums.  Bring to the boil and gently simmer until the capsicums are soft and the sauce has reduced.  Finally sprinkle the rest of the roasted curry powder over the top, cover the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes before serving with rice.

Sri Lankan Cashew Nut stuffed Capsicums

Sri Lankan Cashew Nut stuffed Capsicums

Special Offer for readers of The Veg Space: To order World Food Café Vegetarian Bible at the discounted price of £16 including p&p (RRP £20) telephone 01903 82850301903 828503 or e-mail and quote the offer code APG58. 

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10 things we discovered during ‘Veganuary’

Oops… somehow its nearly the end of February and I’ve only just got round to posting a roundup of how we got on.

Better late than never, here’s 10 things we discovered during Veganuary:

1. The transition from vegetarian to vegan isn’t nearly as difficult as I expected.  Sitting down to plan our first week’s meals felt like a bit of a chore, but once we had got the hang of what we couldn’t and couldn’t eat, and worked out some substitutions and shortcuts, it was pretty straightforward.

2. We didn’t miss cheese nearly as much as we thought.  And I discovered that its usually the saltiness of the cheese that I crave, so just seasoning well and adding salty things like capers and olives to pasta sauces, for instance, is a great substitute and also far lower calorie/fat/cholesterol.  I’m a bit of a chilli fiend, and found that turning up the heat also distracts you from a lack of cheese!

3. Tomor is a brilliant butter substitute for cooking and baking.  Try it – you won’t believe its not butter.

4. You get used to soya milk in tea after 10 days.  After a dubious start, we’re still using soya milk in our house, so it can’t be at all bad.  We tried lots of other milk alternatives which were great for other things, but none beat soya in tea.

5. Most ready-made pastry is vegan. Who knew?  Obviously not the all-butter stuff, but this is a great thing to know about if you are cooking for vegan guests.  I’ve said it before…. everyone loves a pie.

6. Bird’s custard powder is vegan. Who knew? Made up with hazlenut or almond milk it is absolutely lovely.  I cooked Sunday lunch for some very vegan-sceptic omnivore friends and they were absolutely not expecting apple pie & custard for pudding.

7. Baking isn’t out of the question.  Start with this amazing chocolate cake, then try these dairy-free recipes – all by Dan Lepard for the Guardian.

8. The prefix ‘vegan’ makes things sound a bit less appetizing to non-vegans.  Sorry vegans, but I’m afraid its true. “Vegan custard”, “vegan gravy”, “vegan chocolate cake” – you’re just not really expecting them to taste very nice.  Instead, just call them custard, gravy and chocolate cake, and let the vegans know they are dairy-free.

9. The hardest thing about being vegan was social situations. Having to refuse a slice of a friend’s homemade birthday cake felt rude.  Whipping out a little tub of soya milk at a new mother and toddler group meant having the whole vegan conversation with a group of people I hadn’t met before.  I had to insist on bringing our own food to a few parties and meals at friends houses, which was a bit awkward.  I’m sure you get used to these things if you are vegan long-term, but I struggled on this front.

10. Tweeting pictures of your dinner every day really makes you think carefully about portion size, meal balance (ie. where is the protein coming from), presentation, menu planning etc.


So, overall a very interesting experiment and we are now eating far less dairy at home – still using soya milk and being far more careful with cheese.  We felt really good at the end of the month, and being forced to think more carefully about what we ate actually led to varied and interesting meals than we would have had otherwise.

I know there were a lot of veggie bloggers giving Veganuary a try – let us know how you got on and what you would add to the list above!

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