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Red Pepper + White Bean Orzo with Saffron + Paprika

This recipe should, I hope, encapsulate everything you ask me for most frequently. Vegetarian (vegan, in fact), but not relying on pretend meat for its protein (not that I’m averse to pretend meat, as you know). A small list of ingredients, not a particularly labour intensive affair and – everybody’s favourite – cheap.

I’d say this would comfortably serve three for lunch. In my sad little locked down case, of course, that means one serving is poured into a bowl and two are portioned away in plastic boxes for later in the week. I tend to serve it with greens on the side, too, because I am just that sort of person these days.

Serves 3

175g orzo
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can cannelini or butter beans
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
700ml stock (I use chicken but feel free to use veg)
1 tbsp paprika
Large pinch of saffron
Salt, to taste

1 – Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and add your pepper and onions. Sprinkle with salt then cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes (stirring occasionally).

2 – Uncover and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the garlic and give it 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

3 – Add the orzo, closely followed by the stock, paprika and saffron. Drain your beans and get those in there too.

4 – Simmer, covered, on a low heat for 40-45 minutes – stirring every now and then to avoid sticking – or as long as it takes for the stock to be mostly absorbed and the orzo fully cooked.

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Marzipan Date Porridge

This year – for the first time in my life – I hosted Christmas at my flat. On Christmas Eve Eve, four pints deep with my best friend, it suddenly hit me that I hadn’t got in the ingredients to make marzipan dates for my Mum (her favourite, and therefore a festive essential). Cue my insisting that we leave the pub immediately to get to the supermarket before it closed and rectify my fatal mistake.

After all that, it will surprise nobody to learn that on Christmas Day I was on the prosecco from the very moment I woke up and neglected to remember that marzipan and medjool dates were awaiting my attention in the kitchen drawer. Daughter of the year.

There they both sat, where I rediscovered them last month and added them to my breakfast. Once again my defective personality has led me to something delicious. The universe works in mysterious ways.

Notes on serving: all porridge is, for me, at the moment, incomplete without the addition of toasted nuts and natural yoghurt. Thanks to the wfh life, I’ve suddenly got time to do things like toast nuts in the morning.

If you’d like to do the same: to avoid washing up, toast them (dry) in the same pan you’ll make the porridge in and set them aside while it’s cooking.

70g (or one small mug) porridge oats – I use the organic rolled ones from Aldi
200ml (or one small mug) milk
100ml (or 1/2 a small mug) water
3 dried medjool dates, chopped
2-3cm piece marzipan – or to taste, this bit’s really up to you

1 – Place all ingredients in an appropriately sized saucepan on a medium heat.
2 – Bring to bubbling, and cook gently for 3-5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until cooked to your preferred consistency.

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Savoy Cabbage, Bacon + White Bean Soup with Apple and Mustard

I’m currently recovering from a cheeky little dose of Coronavirus. This soup was something I made myself somewhere in the early stages of death and promised to make again when I was well enough to write it down and here I am, temperature returned to normal and energy levels slowly regenerating, delivering on my word.

You’ll notice that it’s a lesser spotted not-vegetarian recipe. I was sick and I wanted to eat bacon. Moments such as these are the very reason I never actually call myself a vegetarian.

If you have beer and you’re so inclined, add half a can at the same time as the stock. I haven’t included it in the recipe cause I didn’t happen to have any in when I was actually writing down measurements but I did last time I made it and 10/10 would go again.

3-4 servings

1/2 a head savoy cabbage, shredded
1 onion, chopped finely
1 apple, sliced
6 rashers streaky smoked bacon, sliced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1.2L chicken stock
1 can cannelini beans

1 – In your biggest, heaviest saucepan, cook the onion on a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, covered, until beginning to brown. Add the bacon and, again, cook until browned.
2 – Add the cabbage, apple, mustard, chicken stock and beans.
3 – Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour.
4 – Enjoy.

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