Spring has sprung, and after a winter of heavy stews and comfort foods, it’s time to lighten things up in the kitchen. People are craving fresh, vibrant meals that match the season, and National Vegetarian Week is the perfect time to try out some new recipes.
It’s not just about satisfying appetites, though. Good food can have a positive impact on health and well-being when they’re packed with lots of nutrients and fresh ingredients.
Baycroft Care Homes resident chef, Ruby Smith, has shared three scrumptious, spring-inspired vegetarian recipes which promise extra emphasis on quality products and use seasonal ingredients to their advantage.
1. Minestrone soup – serves 4
First up, we have Minestrone Soup. This hearty recipe serves four and is perfect for those chilly spring days. It’s packed with veggies, beans, and pasta, making it a filling and nutritious meal. Just be sure to hold off on adding the pasta if you plan on storing leftovers!
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stick, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 courgette, finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 x 400g can cannellini beans
- 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1.2 litres vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 70g small pasta – can use Orzo, Vermicelli or Spaghetti
- 100g greens – kale, chard or cavolo nero work well, or spinach if this is preferred
- Handful of basil
- Finely grated parmesan, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole pot over a low-medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and courgette and gently fry for 10 minutes.
- Next, add the garlic and oregano, cooking for 1 minute.
- Add the cannellini beans, chopped tomatoes, purée, stock and bay leaf and season to taste, before simmering for 30 minutes.
- Finally, add the pasta and greens, cooking for a further 10 mins. Ladle into bowls and scatter with the basil and some parmesan, then serve.
2. Courgette risotto – serves 4
Next on the menu is courgette risotto. This creamy dish is loaded with fresh herbs, cheesy goodness, and tender courgette. It’s a great way to use up any leftover white wine you might have lying around. And for those who like a bit of spice, feel free to add a fresh red chilli!
- 1 large onion
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 2 sticks of celery
- 1 knob of unsalted butter
- Olive oil
- 2 small courgettes (300g)
- 800 mL vegetable stock
- 1 bunch of fresh basil
- 40g Italian hard cheese
- 300g arborio rice
- 200 mL white wine, optional – can also use non-alcoholic wine
- 1 fresh red chilli – optional
- 2 x 125g balls of buffalo mozzarella
- Peel the onion and garlic, trim the celery and finely chop all three. Place a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Place the butter into a hot pan with the onion, garlic and celery, a splash of oil, and a splash of water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for around 5 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.
- Next, trim the courgettes, slicing lengthways into quarters, before chopping into small chunks and put to one side.
- Fill a medium saucepan with 800ml of boiling water and add the stock cube, stirring to dissolve it.
- Pick and reserve the basil leaves, then add the stalks to the pan of stock. Finely grate the Italian hard cheese.
- Once the vegetables are very soft but not browned, add the rice to the pan, stirring and frying for 1 minute until translucent
- Add the wine at this point if you are using it, and continue to stir the rice until it has all been absorbed.
- Turn the heat under the rice up to medium, then add a ladleful of hot stock, avoiding the basil stalks (these are there to add flavour, but not to be eaten).
- Stir constantly and continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, waiting for the rice to soak it all up before adding the next ladleful. Continue until you’ve used two-thirds of the stock.
- Finely chop the basil leaves and the chilli (deseed the chilli if you prefer a milder heat).
- Stir the chopped courgette into the stock, and keep adding it (courgette and all) until the rice is cooked and the risotto has a nice oozy consistency – if you run out of stock, use boiling water.
- Take the pan of risotto off the heat. Tear the mozzarella balls into pieces and stir into the pan with half the basil.
- Stir through half the grated Italian hard cheese, then season to taste with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Cover with a lid and allow to sit for two minutes and then serve.
3. Steamed orange and lemon pudding – serves 4
Last but not least, we have steamed orange and lemon pudding. This dessert is a citrusy dream come true! It’s light, fluffy, and perfect for rounding off a meal. Plus, the accompanying custard is a real game-changer.
For the puddings
- 90g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 90g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 lemon, 1 orange juice and finely grated zest
- 115g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1–2 tsp milk
For the custard
- 600mL full-fat milk
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
- 3 large egg yolks
- 30g caster sugar
- 2 tsp cornflour
For the lemon syrup
- 8 tbsp golden syrup
- 1/2 lemon, 1/2 orange zest only
- Mixed freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice, to taste
- Lightly grease and dust the pudding moulds – can use a larger tray if catering for large numbers.
- In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and smooth. Crack the eggs into a small jug and beat with a fork. Slowly add the eggs to the sugar and butter mixture, beating continuously. Add the zest, then sift in the flour and baking powder. Fold in to combine. Gently stir in the tablespoons of lemon & orange juice and the milk. Divide the batter evenly between the moulds.
- Place a piece of baking paper over each mould, then lay a larger sheet of kitchen foil on top. Fold it over the edges of the bowl and tie in place using string.
- Half-fill a steamer with boiling water and place the puddings on the steaming rack above. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 25 minutes.
- To make the custard, heat the milk, vanilla seeds and split the vanilla pod in a medium saucepan until almost boiling. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in a large bowl until pale and thickened. Remove the vanilla pod and slowly pour the milk onto the egg mixture whisking all the time. Strain through a sieve into a clean pan and cook over a gentle heat stirring continuously until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- To make the syrup, put the golden syrup, lemon & orange zest and juice into a saucepan. Place over a low heat to warm through.
- Remove the puddings and let them sit for 5 minutes before turning out onto serving plates. Pour over the syrup and serve with custard alongside.