In Which I Make Nutty Museli/Granola

This was inspired by wonderful food stylist Natalie Seldon’s recipe for Maple-roasted Nut & Seed Granola in her book The Goodness of Nuts and Seeds. I’ve simplified it and cut out the maple syrup, so it’s really more of a muesli. It also means I can choose whether or not to eat something sweet with it, depending on how I feel. It’s great mixed with yogurt and a little drizzle of honey or agave nectar (choose plant-based yogurt and agave to keep it vegan).

Oats and dried goji berries – yum!

In the recipe pictured I use pecans and cashews with pumpkin and sesame seeds, but the recipe is very versatile, so you can use whatever you have in the cupboard or fancy buying at the shop. Every time I make this I’ll use up to four different types each of nuts and of seeds to keep it interesting. You can buy pre-mixed bags of both if you can’t decide.

Chop, chop, chopped up nuts and seeds

If you’d like a lower-carb or gluten-free version, then swap the oats for more nuts and seeds. I used to make it without oats all the time, but nuts can be pricey so now I add the oats to bulk it out a little. Apparently they’re good for low cholesterol (according to the Tesco packaging), so they’re not ‘empty’ carbs. Plus, if you mix them with the dried fruit before combining everything it helps prevent the fruit sticking together. Swap for another dried fruit if you don’t like or can’t find goji berries.

Ta-da!

Nutty Muesli

Makes 400g/enough to fill a 500ml jar

125g mixed nuts
75g mixed seeds
100g Scottish porridge oats
30g dried goji berries
20g ground seed mix, such as linseed, hemp seed and chia seed (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Chop all the nuts. As nuts can roll around when chopping, it’s easier to do this in small batches. Tip the chopped nuts along with the seeds into a deep baking tray, mix together and spread evenly. If you only have a shallow tray, you may find it easier to mix together the chopped nuts and the seeds in a bowl before putting them in the tray.

Bake for 5–10 minutes, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes.

In a bowl mix together the oats, goji berries and seed mix (if using), then add the baked nuts and seeds once they have cooled.

Store in a jar or other sealed container. It should last a few months (probably longer, but eating it for breakfast every day it’s usually gone in about 2 weeks!).

In Which I Make Courgette and Pea Pesto Pasta

This recipe was inspired by a dish I saw online/in a recipe book/heard someone mention (read: somewhere, which I then immediately forgot, hence no credit) that featured courgette ‘ribbons’ with spaghetti. Now, I don’t have a spiralizer or specific ribbon-cutting machine (knives can do just as much as any 137-use device!), so I just pulled out my bog-standard peeler (so not actually knife here, though you could probably use one if you’re good at cutting thinly. I am not…). It looks quite nice if you can peel away evenly enough with a little strip of skin showing on the side, but it’s all the same.

The pesto I created from vague memory of various recipes I’ve tried over the years, and the fact that I just cannot seem to keep a basil plant alive. If you are able to keep basil alive (or just want to buy some pre-cut fresh) then use a big bushy handful of the stuff. Or go half-and half with fresh and dried if you prefer. Taste as you go and experiment a little; too much dried ingredients and the consistency can become grainy.

Poor dead basil

Nutritional yeast (not the type used for breadmaking) is what makes this pesto vegan; it’s a popular substitute for cheese amongst vegans, as it has a similar salty/sharp flavour profile as strong cheese. You can buy nutritional yeast from health-food shops (Holland and Barrett) or online. In all honesty, I was pretty sceptical of it at first (and my SO still calls it ‘vegan fish food’ thanks to its flakey appearance), but it’s a great store cupboard food as it lasts for ages. You can leave it out if you wish, or if you eat dairy you could swap it for some grated strong cheese. (I don’t use DOC Parmigiana Reggiano, as it contains rennet so isn’t vegetarian).

Nb: dried pasta is almost always vegan, but do check the label

Courgette and Pea Pesto Pasta
Serves 4 (or 2 very hungry people, plus a bit left over for lunch the next day)

250g/half a packet spaghetti
2 courgettes
100g/2 big handfuls frozen peas

For the pesto
3–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
50g/3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon dried basil (or 1 big handful fresh)
2–3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a large saucepan with 2–3 litres of water and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and boil for 10 minutes (or according to packet instructions), stirring infrequently to stop the pasta sticking together.

Meanwhile, trim the top off the courgettes and using a peeler peel long strips (or ‘ribbons’), rotating around all sides until you reach the seeded middle. You can keep the middle for another use (or throw it the food waste bin if you really can’t stomach it) or, if you wish to use it in this dish, slice into thin discs.

3 minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the frozen peas.

For the pesto, add all the ingredients into a food processor and blend for 1–2 minutes. Taste, check the consistency and add more oil/basil/nutritional yeast as needed. I prefer it with more basil and more ‘cheesy’ flavour from with yeast flakes, which requires more oil as there are more dry ingredients. It should have a similar consistency as shop-bought pesto.

1 minute before the pasta is cooked, add the courgette ribbons (and slices, if using). When the pasta timer is up, drain everything then return to the saucepan. Tip in the pesto and mix into the pasta and vegetables with a spider spoon. Serve immediately, with some more nutritional yeast flakes sprinkled on top if you like.