Vegetarian Pho with Courgette Noodles

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I had to practically sit on my hands not to do a punny title, because ‘pho’ is a total gift to those with a love of terrible puns. If you read it as written, you’ve got classics such as ‘pho my god’, ‘pho way’ etc. If you go pho-netically with ‘fuh’, you can go down an enjoyably unsavoury avenue.

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Anyway. The point is, I really love pho, but it can be hard to find a decent vegetarian option. When Nam on Old Compton Street closed for good last year, I also closed my heart to a decent bowl of veggie pho. I traipsed hopefully to other Soho Pho (Sopho) establishments, but none of them hit the spot. Also, I frittered away all my cash on Christmas presents, so homemade (phomemade? I’m really sorry, I can’t stop) was the way to go.

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I found the process of making the broth extremely soothing. Something about cooking this kind of food feels like it’s good for your soul. I recommend gathering and prepping all your ingredients in advance in a nice orderly way, and keeping counters clear for full relaxing benefits. I swapped in courgette for the noodle part, because I’m on a ludicrously cliched January health kick, but you should do as you wish. I was also going to boil an egg and pop it in too, but I decided against it, but the egg still snuck into the photos.

Forgive the slightly rubbish pics, my DSLR is in Sussex, so these are phone photos! Pho-tos. image3

For the Broth
1 white onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 litre vegetable stock
1.5 tbsp soy sauce

For the Noodles
1 courgette
1 Portobello mushroom
1/2 red pepper
1 tbsp butter

Garnish
Bean sprouts
Mint/Thai basil
Chili
Lime

1. Heat the onion, garlic and spices in a dry pan over a medium-high heat until the veg begins to char.

2. Add stock and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and heat on medium-low for 25 minutes.

3. Spiralize the courgette, dry it and salt it, then pan fry in a little butter until it begins to soften. Place in your serving bowl, along with the sliced red pepper.

4. Slice the Portobello mushroom and pan fry in the courgette pan with leftover butter until it softens, then add to the noodle bowl.

5. Strain the broth then pour it over the top of the noodles, before serving with the plate of garnishes.

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St Ives Day Four

This post is devoted to one of my favourite places it St Ives.

Is it the Tate, packed to the rafters with beautiful art? No.

Is it Porthminster beach, a wonder of golden sand and proud palm trees? No.

It’s the Hub, a restaurant and bar in the harbour.

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I’ve been coming to St Ives for quite a long time, and I’ve seen the Hub transform from a bar which did a bit of food to a proper, family restaurant. The menu is a burgerfest (hot dogs if you’re feeling adventurous), bolstered by hale and hearty sides and a decent selection of craft beers.

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I’ve raged on here about a lack of decent veggie burgers before – a mushroom is not, and never will be, a burger! So I was delighted to see the Hub offering proper, well-conceived veggie burgers. I had a falafel burger, piled high with chilli jam, charred corn and guacamole, stacked in a plump brioche bun. Proper consideration has gone into making the vegetarian options as exciting and delicious as the rest of the menu.

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Because I’m greedy, a burger just didn’t seem enough. I ordered apple slaw and macaroni cheese, topped off with a gloriously zesty iced tea. I was soon backtracking on my decision, as I left the restaurant barely able to walk and couldn’t eat for the of the day. Well, not MUCH.

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The staff are great, the atmosphere is laidback, and the food beats any of the veggie burgers I’ve had in London so far. And it’s great value! Strongly recommend it if you’re down this way.

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Once I’d regained the use of my legs, I headed home, spotting some amazing graffiti on the way:

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And finally home to fire up the woodburner, and settled down with Douglas Coupland’s ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’. It started out nice and normal(ish) and ended up as a nighmarish post-apocalyptic vision of the future. So, um, that was a nice relaxing holiday read!

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Spaghetti with roasted vine tomatoes in white wine sauce

G’day, mates – no particular reason for the Aussie intro, but it’s a Monday, so let’s go with it. As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I’m down in Cornwall at the moment, and due to a lack of my usual ingredients and utensils, I’ve only been making very simple suppers. That said, I’ve got access to some wonderful greengrocers and delis, so the quality of my ingredients is much higher, a fact which I’m trying to make the most of.

As you might have gathered from my recent recipe posts, such as my veggie burgers, I’m on a bit of a veggie crusade right now. I’m fed up of missing out on certain flavours and techniques in restaurants, instead being offered the standard goat’s cheese tart or mushroom risotto. I’m vegetarian BUT I STILL HAVE TASTEBUDS, GODDAMMIT. Anyway, I fancied a spaghetti dish with a fragrant white wine sauce to emulate a seafood spaghetti dish, so here goes:

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Serves 3-6, depending on how hungry you are

Roasted tomatoes

Tomatoes on the vine, roughly 16
Olive oil to drizzle
3 lemon slices
3 garlic cloves
Salt & pepper

Sauce

300ml white wine
2 garlic cloves
1/2 white onion
500ml veg stock
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper

Assembly

250g spaghetti
Two handfuls baby spinach or rocket leaves
Large handful basil
Cheese, to taste

1. Heat oven to 180°C. Keeping your tomatoes on the vine, place them in foil or a roasting dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Smash garlic cloves with the handle of a knife and wedge in with the tomatoes, along with the three thick lemon slices. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the skins start to split (sounds pretty gross, right?)

2. Meanwhile, start your sauce off. Heat a drizzle of olive oil while you finely chop your onion and garlic. Sweat both in the pan until the onion is translucent, then add the wine. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce begins to reduce down. Add bay leaves and stock, and keep simmering away, tasting occasionally, for about 30 minutes.

3. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions – feels like a real cop out writing that in my recipe, but hey ho. Wash spinach or rocket and leave to drain. Stack basil leaves on top of each other and roll up so it looks like you’re going to be up to no good with it, then slice – this will give you ribbons of basil and is called ‘Chiffonade’. Pretty cool, eh?

4. To assemble, drain spaghetti and add it to the pan containing the sauce. Slice off half of the tomatoes and stir them in, preserving the rest on the vine. Add leaves, basil, and finely grate a cheese of your choice and stir it all in, leaving the flavours to marry together on the stove for about 10 minutes. Top with two tomatoes still on the vine on each dish, some more grated cheese, a lemon wedge, and a thick slice of sourdough or crusty bread to mop up flavours.

Bon appetit! Coming up soon, a write up of the Maritime museum in Falmouth, pictures of actual SUN, and more recipes…

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Vegan Challenge: Day One

Don’t worry guys, I’m not going to post every day! But I thought it’d be interesting to do some key days – like the very first. So here’s a round up of day one (yesterday)…

Breakfast

As I said in my original post, I’ve eaten vegan for some substantial periods before, so wasn’t totally freaked out, and I didn’t go out and buy heaps of new, faintly disgusting food. But breakfast proved a real issue. I wanted something filling but healthy. I Googled ‘vegan breakfasts’ to no avail. Things seemed to mostly fall into the camp of: 1. I’ve gone out and bought a ton of vegan meat substitutes and crammed them into a sandwich, or 2. Screw the meat substitutes, I’m going to overcompensate by making a ridiculously unhealthy sounding breakfast that actually looks like pudding.

Seriously. Within minutes I had pages of BREAKFAST CAKES at my fingertips, and even a flipping COBBLER. Look here. While I’m sure these are probably healthier than an actual normal cake, and while I can often be wholeheartedly in favour of cakes at breakfast, I’m trying to eat well here. How about, you know, some actual veg? Or fruit? Anything?? What’s the point in me eating vegan if I’m just going to eat ‘blueberry waffles with lemon icing’ for brekkers. No, ta. Also, ‘tofu scramble’? Save me, Jebus! So I had a big dilemma. I was going to do porridge with cinnamon and fresh apple, but we had no apple (fun anecdote, you can use it if you want. Ahem). Instead, I opted for porridge with fresh raspberries on top, and cinnamon. It wasn’t imaginative, but thankfully it also wasn’t a CAKE.

Snacks

Part of my plan was to try and eat 5-6 small meals a day, which I was mega excited about. Actually working out what to eat for snack food was a little harder. On a normal day, I’d probably have some toast, and over the weekend I got into the bad habit of having baklava. As I said, I haven’t actually bothered going shopping yet, so I’m stuck with what I’ve got in the house. For my morning snack, I opted for carrot sticks with a squeeze of lemon, walnuts, and olives. This is scintillating stuff, eh? By the time I’d planned to eat my afternoon snack, I found I wasn’t remotely hungry. It was insane. I felt like I’d had more than enough food, so I just had a pear and cut my losses.

Lunch

I unashamedly love Gwyneth Paltrow and proudly have her cookbook. It’s a beautiful thing, and the recipes I’ve made so far are delicious. It also isn’t like the vegan recipes I tend to complain about, all nice and fresh ingredients as opposed to some overprocessed lumps of glutinous tofu. Sorry for hating on the tofu, I’ve had some that I’ve liked in the past, but on the whole it can be a bit grim. Anywho, I opted for Gwyneth’s ‘Tortilla Soup’, because anything with chilli, tomato, garlic and lime in it is always going to be a winner for me. It was nice and easy to make, and smelled delicious while I was cooking it. I made enough to conserve some for tomorrow lunch, so saved myself a bit of time as well.

Dinner

I decided to do a couple of recipes I learnt when I did a detox cookery class last year, as they’re tried and tested. Courgettes in chermoula marinade, and baked sweet potatoes with spices. For some reason, I feel like I shouldn’t be having olive oil, but I have to use SOME otherwise I’ll die. Well, I won’t die, but I’ll be bored, and it’ll be nearly impossible to cook anything. I used coconut oil for my sweet potatoes (not much, a little goes a long way), and part olive oil part warm water for my chermoula marinade. Chermoula is so yummy, a combination of coriander and lemon, lime, garlic, chilli, paprika, cumin…so so good. I had it with some peas and tomato sauce, using the leftover plum tomatoes from lunch. My sweet potatoes were delish, I used cinnamon, paprika, cloves, and garlic to flavour them, and they were the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.

Thoughts

Today wasn’t hard. At all. I spent more time in the kitchen than I usually would, but I love taking time to prepare food. Even after just a day, I feel really good (psychosomatic!), and feel like the food I ate was just much more delicious than a lot of things I’d usually have. For this vegan diet, I’m cutting out so many things that I’d usually lazily rely on for ‘comfort’ or texture like cheese or butter. Instead I’m working really hard on flavours, using more garlic and spices to make sure everything tastes as good as possible. I do miss cheese though. Sob. But weirdly, I felt more full than I have in ages – quite a feat considering I had a five course meal on Saturday and a three course meal on Sunday. I already feel much more energetic and focussed. We’ll see if that continues…