Monday, 6 April 2015

Spiced Red Lentil and Carrot Soup

A subtly spiced, comforting soup which is ideal if you’ve overdone the chocolate this Easter :)

Ingredients (serves 3):

2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
100g red lentils
1 litre vegetable stock
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper


  • In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots to the saucepan and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened. 

  • Add the garlic, chilli and spices. Stir together and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until the garlic and spices are fragrant.

  • Add the lentils and vegetable stock, stir together and increase the temperature to bring to the boil.

  • Lower the temperature and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and vegetables are tender.

  • Leave the soup to cool for a few minutes and, using a food processor or immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.

  • Season with salt and pepper (taste your soup first; how much salt you use will depend on how salty your vegetable stock is in the first place,) and serve garnished with chopped parsley or chopped coriander.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Minestrone Soup (+ bonus recipe: Home-made Tomato Sauce)

Minestrone Soup

In honour of Meat-Free Week 2015, this ultra-easy, but full on flavour recipe has been slightly adapted from a recipe in Ellie Krieger’s Small Changes, Big Results.

Ingredients (serves 6):

2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped in small chunks
2 celery stalks, chopped in small chunks
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp black pepper
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium courgette, cut into medium chunks
120g Fusilli pasta
Salt, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve


  1. In a very large saucepan, heat the olive over low-medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook for 8-10 minutes until softened, stirring often.
  2. Add the garlic, dried basil, dried oregano and black pepper. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock, red kidney beans, courgette and pasta. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil.
  4. Lower the temperature and leave to simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta and vegetables are tender.
  5. Taste your soup and add salt if needed (it will depends on how salty your vegetable stock is. Always add your salt at the end: it is easy to add it, but impossible to remove once you have put too much in.)
  6. Ladle into bowls and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on top.

Bonus recipe to celebrate Meat-Free Week 2015! I hope you’ve enjoyed the ideas I’ve shared with you on here and Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Home-made Tomato Sauce (the slow-cooker version)


2tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion (or 2 shallots,) finely chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped into very small chunks
1 celery stalk, chopped into very small chunks
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp coarse sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
120ml white wine
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1tsp caster sugar


  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion (or shallots,) carrot and celery. Cook gently for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables have softened, stirring often.
  2. Add the garlic, chilli, salt, pepper and dried herbs. Cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring often, until the garlic and herbs are fragrant.
  3. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a slow cooker. Add the white wine, tomatoes and sugar. Stir, clamp on the lid and cook for 3-4 hours on high.
  4. After cooking, once the liquid in the sauce has reduced and all the vegetables are tender, leave the sauce to cool for a few minutes. Using an immersion blender or a food processor, blitz the sauce until it is smooth.
  5. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a portion of pasta and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.

(Sandra’s notes: you do not have to use a slow-cooker. In this case, use a large saucepan from the beginning instead of the frying pan. Follow all the same steps and cook for 1 hour-1 hour 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You do not have to blend the sauce smooth. It is my son’s preference, which is why I do it, but you could easily leave it as it is with the chunky vegetables.)

Friday, 27 March 2015

Wholemeal Spinach and Potato Pasties

In honour of Meat-Free Week 2015, this lovely recipe is slightly adapted from a recipe published in Cook Vegetarian magazine in April 2013.

Ingredients (serves 4):

150g plain wholemeal flour
150g plain flour
½ tsp salt
150g butter, chilled and diced
300g unpeeled potatoes, cut into chunks
225g baby spinach
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
250g ricotta cheese
75g grated Parmesan
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp each salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten, for glazing


1-      Make the pastry first; rub the two kinds of flour, salt and butter together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add about 4tbsp of ice-cold water, to bring the mixture together to form a soft dough (you may need more or less water; it all depends on the flours you use, but wholemeal flour tends to absorbs more water. Simply add the water 1tbsp at a time until the dough comes together.) Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

2-      In the meantime, cook the diced potato in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

3-      Place the spinach in a colander and pour boiling water over it to wilt it. Once the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze it in your hands to get rid of as much water as possible, then chop finely.

4-      Place the spinach in a large mixing bowl, with the garlic, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir.


5-      Pre-heat your oven to 190oC/170oC fan. Line a large tray with baking parchment. Stir the cooled potato in the spinach and cheese mixture.

6-      On a well-floured surface, cut the dough in four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle about 20cm across and 5mm thick. Using a small plate (approximately 20 cm across), cut out a circle from each rolled circle of dough with a paring knife. Arrange one quarter of the filling on half of each circle of dough, leaving a 1cm border around the edge. Brush the edges with the beaten egg, bring them together to seal and crimp for a decorative finish (I used a fork prongs to do the crimping along the edge.) Chill the pies for 10 minutes.

7-      Place the pies on the prepared baking tray and brush with the remaining beaten egg. Cut a slit on top of each pasty, sprinkle them with a little pinch of coarse sea salt and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Serve the pasties hot or cold.

They went down pretty well in our household! J


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Home-made Cheeseburger and Sweet Potato Chips

This is another one of my son’s favourite meals, often requested at home. Making everything from scratch means you can feel good about serving this treat meal; you know every single ingredient that has gone into making it.

As you’ll see, I like to keep the seasoning of the burger meat very simple but feel free to add more if you like; dried herbs, a dash of Worcestershire sauce or spices are all good options.

To make fresh breadcrumbs, simply put a few slices of stale bread in a food processor and blitz them for a minute or so. I usually make a big batch of fresh breadcrumbs and then keep them in the freezer to use as needed.


Home-made Cheeseburger and Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients (serves 4:)

6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and each cut into 8 thin wedges
½ tsp coarse sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1tsp paprika
¼ tsp Cayenne pepper
2tsp olive oil
500g minced beef
½ tsp coarse sea salt
¼ tsp pepper corns
25g fresh breadcrumbs
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 medium egg
1-2tsp olive oil
8 slices Edam cheese
4 brioche burger buns


1-      Pre-heat your oven to 200oC/180oC fan.

2-      Place the sweet potato chips in a freezer bag and add the salt, pepper, paprika, Cayenne pepper and olive oil in the bag. Close the bag and shake it thoroughly to ensure the chips are evenly covered with the oil and spices.

3-      Take the chips out of the bag and place them in a roasting tin. Make sure you place them in a single layer so they roast properly. Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes until tender and golden.

4-      In the meantime, place the minced beef in a large mixing bowl.

5-      Put the salt and pepper corns in a pestle and mortar. “Smash” the pepper corns and salt together, until all the pepper corns are cracked.

6-      Add the salt and pepper, breadcrumbs, wholegrain mustard and egg to the beef. Then, roll your sleeves up and use your hands to mix all the ingredients together!

7-      Separate the beef mixture into four equal portions and shape them into burgers.

8-      Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the burgers approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.

9-      Put two slices of cheese on top of each burger and put them in the oven for 3-4 minutes until the cheese has melted. (Ideally, it is best to use a cast iron frying pan for this or an oven-proof frying pan that you can pop in your oven straight from the hob. Otherwise, just slide the burgers in a roasting tin; it will do the job beautifully.)

10-   Remove the burgers from the oven, once the cheese is melted and bubbly (but take care not to burn it.) Serve the burgers on brioche buns. If all has worked according to plan, your sweet potato chips will be ready to serve at the same time J Add any sauce of your choice to the burgers but we love them as they are. However, Louisiana slaw also makes a great side dish (recipe can be found here:


Friday, 13 March 2015

Quinoa, Apricot and Chickpea Salad with Grilled Halloumi

The base for this recipe was inspired by a Quinoa Pilaf recipe from Ellie Krieger’s Small Changes, Big Results.

I bulked up the recipe with chickpeas, added a spiced lemony dressing and, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I topped it with grilled halloumi slices. This is nourishing enough to be eaten as a main course and the addition of the chickpeas means you will not miss meat during your meal.


Quinoa, Apricot and Chickpea Salad with Grilled Halloumi

Ingredients (serves 3):
130g quinoa, rinsed
330ml water
25g flaked almonds, toasted
400g chickpea tin, rinsed and drained
50g dried apricots, chopped
2tbsp parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 big lemon (approx 50ml)
60ml olive oil
¼ tsp coarse sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
250g halloumi, sliced
1tsp olive oil
1-      First of all, if your quinoa is not the pre-rinsed kind, place it in a fine meshed sieve and rinse it under plenty of cold water. In a medium-sized pan, bring the water to the boil and add the quinoa. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked (cooking tip: the quinoa is cooked when the little white germ has popped out of the grain.) Drain the quinoa, leave it in the sieve, cover it with a clean tea towel and set aside.
2-      Toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan over high heat and set aside (do not take your eyes off the almonds as they will burn quickly if you do. Keep them moving in the pan so they toast evenly.)
3-      Fluff the quinoa with a fork and place it in a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped apricots, parsley, chickpeas and toasted almonds.
4-      To make the dressing, put the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin and Cayenne pepper in a small bowl and mix together.
5-      Pour the dressing over the salad and toss together.
6-      To grill the halloumi, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Place the slices of halloumi in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
7-      Serve the salad topped with the grilled halloumi slices.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Pumpkin and Chocolate Chips Muffins

The publication of this recipe was delayed by my mum visiting us from France during half-term week. On the other hand, I made these muffins whilst she was staying with us and she loved them so much, she asked me to translate the recipe into French so she could take it back home with her.
If this got the Mum’s Seal of Approval, you know it’s a good one! J
I love pumpkin (some of you who have followed Sandra’s Holistic Kitchen for a while will remember my “pumpkin madness week” from a few years ago) and these muffins are based on a Pumpkin Bread recipe kindly given to me by Rachel, my Team Leader at work.
But the first pumpkin muffins to come out of my oven had the consistency of hockey pucks; they were tough, mean and tight! But they tasted nice and had just the right amount of spice (they did not go to waste by the way; they were perfect, crumbled over some Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey.)
I knew I was onto something good, as long as I addressed the texture of the muffins. A few versions later, we have muffins that are aerated and moist thanks to Greek yogurt and vegetable oil; simply perfect… I am very biased of course; this has to be one of my favourite recipes!
This is the pumpkin puree I use and I find it in the World Food aisle in Tesco. I have been reliably informed that it is also available at Waitrose.
Oh by the way, the recipe was originally created without the chocolate chips until I had a bit of a light-bulb moment one day. So if you wish, you can omit the chocolate chips in this recipe but I ask you: why would you want to?!

Pumpkin and Chocolate Chips Muffins

Ingredients (makes 12:)

180g plain flour
1tsp baking flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/8tsp salt
1tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
85g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
195g pumpkin puree
90ml vegetable oil
60ml Greek yogurt
100g dark chocolate chips


1-      Preheat your oven to 180oC/160oC fan and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper or silicone cases.
2-      Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
3-      Using an electric whisk on high speed, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl, until the mixture is pale and has doubled in volume.
4-      Turn the electric whisk speed down and add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil and Greek yogurt until well combined.
5-      Using a spatula, fold in the sifted dry ingredients until just combined (do not over-mix.)
6-      Still using the spatula, fold in the chocolate chips quickly without over-mixing the batter.
7-      Fill the muffin cases with the batter (just above three quarter full,) and bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden (a cake tester should come out dry.)
8-      Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before taking the muffins out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Sandra’s note: I get you to switch from the electric whisk to a spatula for step 5 as it is important not to over-mix at this stage or you will activate the gluten in the flour and your muffins will become tough.