30 June 2013

The joys of balcony gardening

A part of The VegHog's balcony garden 30th June 2013

I have told you before of my passion for homegrown produce and mentioned my limited growing space. It has been extremely satisfying in the few last weeks to watch my balcony plants grow. I've harvested plenty of radish, some courgettes and of course diverse herbs. The sweet peas have started flowering and blooming tomatoes and beans have attracted bees to visit.

I will soon give you a more detailed update of my own urban garden, but first of all today I would like to talk about two books that have enthused and supported me with my gardening lately. These are not really sufficient book reviews, so please check out the links below if you want to know more, or are interested in purchasing the books.

What struck me first in this book is the exquisite art work. The veg illustrations look so endearing and tasty that reading alone made me hungry, and the vibrant photos didn't let down either.

If you have been thinking that your growing space is too limited, this book will make you think again and help you to find creative solutions. There are no excuses anymore for not growing anything in your home even if it's only a small flat, there's always enough space for something.

This book contains some very valuable growing and storing tips and even recipes.

I can highly recommend this book to all urban and rural gardeners alike. I'm sure you would enjoy reading it!

Some time ago I purchased The Medieval Flower Book. In the first instance again the lovely illustrations caught my eye but once I started reading the book I couldn't put it down.

The VegHog is interested in Medieval art and literature anyway, so this book ticks several boxes for it. It's full of beautiful flower illustrations from medieval herbals and manuscripts including interesting facts about the flowers' symbolism and history.

Obviously I also highly recommend this book to all plant lovers.

Your VegHog

26 June 2013

Pearl barley mushroom risotto

This risotto can be made very much like a regular risotto. The only difference is that we'll use pearl barley instead of arborio rice. Pearl barley is nutritious, healthy and it tastes brilliant. So it's definitely always a winner and delightful with mushrooms. I think pearl barley needs to simmer slightly longer than arborio rice, but otherwise I'm using my normal risotto method. Let's start cooking!


1 cup of pearl barley
250g chestnut mushrooms
1 large shallot
2 cloves of garlic
100ml white wine
A few dried procini mushrooms
Vegetable stock powder
Vegetarian pasta cheese
Black pepper
Olive oil


Chop the shallot, garlic and chestnut mushrooms. Prepare a vegetable stock by mixing the vegetable stock powder with water, adding parsley and warming it up. Crush a few porcini mushrooms and soak them in water for about 10 minutes. Later you can add this mushroomy soaking water to the vegetable stock. Remember that we want to make this whole risotto extremely shroomy!

Heat olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the chopped shallot. Then add the chestnut mushrooms to the pan and keep frying for about 5 minutes. Finally add the garlic and the soaked porcini.

Add small butter bits to the pan and let them melt. Then add the pearl barley and stir everything on the pan for a couple of minutes.

Pour the white wine in and let it evaporate. Then add a cup or two of the hot vegetable stock to the pan and let simmer under a lid. Stir often and add more vegetable stock after a while. Keep this up until the barley is cooked.

Grate some vegetarian pasta cheese (vegetarian parmigiano) and add it to the risotto. Season with salt and black pepper. Add more wine, butter or parsley if needed.

Garnish with parsley, cheese and some thyme and enjoy!

Your VegHog

25 June 2013

Pineapple and halloumi salad stacks

Today I'm making a light summer salad or a side dish. If you are a regular reader of my blog you might already have noticed my passion with halloumi cheese and char-grilling. In these salad stacks I'm combining both of those with my favourite fruit: pineapple. So in some senses this is a very typical VegHog salad.

This is all you'll need:

1 fresh pineapple
1 halloumi cheese
Pea shoots
Raspberry vinaigrette
Vegetable oil for grilling

This amount of ingredients makes lovely small salads for two people but feel free to double the amount up for more people or larger stacks.

Slice the halloumi, peel it and slice one fresh pineapple. Grill the slices on a griddle pan or on a barbecue until grilling marks appear.

Place fresh pea shoots on a plate and then stack the pineapple and halloumi on top of each other in order to build a stack. Pile it high as you'd like.

Sprinkle some raspberry vinaigrette on the salad and enjoy. This is just how easy a summer dish can be!

Stay hungry!

Your VegHog

Low fat sweet potato chips

These sweet potato chips are very effortless to make and low on fat: no oil and no frying! Simply coat the chips and then bake until crispy. Here's how.

2 sweet potatoes
1 egg
Grated vegetarian pasta cheese
Bread crumbs
Potato flour

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into long thin chips.

Grate vegetarian pasta cheese and mix it on a deep plate with bread crumbs. Place potato flour on another plate and beat an egg on another.

First coat the chips with the potato flour. Then roll them in the egg and the cheese and bread crumb mix.

Place them into an oven dish and bake at 180C until the sweet potatoes are baked with a crispy coating.

Enjoy with a nice dip or salsa or pair them with a chunky veggie burger.

Your VegHog

23 June 2013

Tomato and mozzarella soup

Tomato soup is a classic and nice dish to enjoy on several occasions. Tomato soup is also a good summer soup because it's quite light. I have added some cold mozzarella balls to the soup and used both fresh and tinned tomatoes. There's no added cream, so you can easily veganise this soup by leaving the mozzarella out.

Follow these easy steps to prepare this soup.


600g cherry vine tomatoes
400g tinned plum tomatoes
2 large onions
3 cloves of garlic
150g mozzarella balls
Handful of fresh basil
Vegetable stock powder
Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the cherry tomatoes and heat them under the lid until they start breaking. In the meanwhile chop the onions and garlic. Add them to the pan and keep heating under the lid. Stir occasionally.

When the onions are cooked translucent also add the tinned tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and add some vegetable stock powder. Let simmer further for about 20 minutes.

Add the fresh basil leaves and puree the soup. Pour the soup into bowls and drop some mozzarella balls into the bowls. Serve instantly and pair with a lovely baguette.


Your VegHog

20 June 2013

Olive baguettes

I made these rustic and easy baguettes just because homemade bread is always great. I wanted to spice a regular baguette up a little bit and that's why I added olives.

Ingredients for about four middle long baguettes:

200g green olives
4dl spelt flour
3dl wheat flour
2,5dl milk
25g yeast
50g butter
Sesame seeds

First mix the flours and dry yeast. Add the lukewarm milk and melted butter and finally the olives. This bread doesn't really need any added salt as olives are fairly salty. In order to avoid too much saltiness also use unsalted butter.

Knead until you have a firm bread dough. Let the dough rise covered with a tea towel for about one hour. When it's ready to be baked it should be fluffy and easy to handle.

Divide the dough into four parts and shape baguettes of it. Then sprinkle sesame seeds on them and bake at 225C for 10-15 minutes until the bread is nicely baked.

Enjoy fresh or on the next day. They are really nice as breakfast but then you'd have to get up early enough for the preparations.

Your VegHog

18 June 2013

Strawberry, halloumi and spinach salad

Fruits and salad – amazing! Strawberries and balsamic vinegar – amazing! Cheese and fruits – amazing! So then, this fresh summer salad should be a success! Do try it on a warm day when you want to eat lightly and just prepare it within minutes.


Black pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Vegetable oil

Dice the halloumi and fry it in vegetable oil until golden brown and firm.

Cut the strawberries in half or quarter them. Wash the spinach and rocket.

Place everything fresh in a bowl, grind black pepper on the salad, season with chopped basil leaves and frame with balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy the taste of summer!

Your VegHog

16 June 2013

Butternut squash and pepper lasagne

This is a fine lasagne made out of homemade lasagne sheets and char-grilled vegetables. The freshness of it all can be tasted and it's oh so colourful. Butternut squash brings a certain sweetness to the table that works well with the contrast of the smokiness.

Here are the ingredients you'll need.

For the lasagne sheets:

400g grade 00 pasta flour
4 eggs
A sprinkle of salt

For the sauce:

400g piccolini cherry tomatoes
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Fresh basil leaves

For the filling:

1 butternut squash
1 orange romano pepper
Grated mozzarella

Make the pasta dough first. It can rest in the fridge while you are making the other preparations. Mix the pasta flour and salt with the eggs and knead thoroughly. Add more flour if needed. Wrap the dough in a cling film and leave in the fridge for about one hour.

Then you can start preparing the sauce. Simply wash the tomatoes and heat olive oil in a pan. Fry the tomatoes under the lid until they start breaking apart. Then add the chopped onion and garlic and simmer for about 20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and fresh basil leaves. You can puree the sauce if you would like.

Cut the butternut squash into thin slices and just cut the pepper in half. The pepper can be chopped into smaller pieces after the grilling. Char-grill the butternut squash and romano pepper in a griddle pan until they have distinct grilling marks.

Process the pasta dough through a pasta machine by making thin sheets. Cut them into smaller lasagne sheets with a pasta cutter. I left mine in more rustic shapes because it's more fun and they fit well into my oval shaped oven dish.

Then you can start layering the lasagne into an oven dish. First put a little bit sauce and mozzarella on the bottom, then some vegetables and then lasagne sheets. You can also add extra basil leaves. Repeat this until you reach the top of your dish. Put more mozzarella on the top.

Bake at 180C for about 45 minutes until cooked with golden brown cheese on the top. Serve with watercress and a fresh white wine, for example Riesling. I also added some of my radish leaf pesto to the side.


Your VegHog

14 June 2013

Homemade tortillas with char-grilled vegetables, refried beans, salsa and guacamole

This is the final day of my Mexican week for now (there might be others to come) and today I'm mainly just assembling the components that I shared with you this week. But first of all I'm preparing the final pieces to the puzzle: char-grilled vegetables. What could be a nicer addition to a Mexican style vegetarian meal than some char-grilled vegetables with their smokiness.

I used these ingredients:

1 aubergine
2-3 peppers
1 can sweetcorn
Groundnut oil for grilling

Heat a little groundnut oil in a griddle pan and grill the sliced vegetables until they have grilling marks. You can roast them further in the oven if they are not quite done yet after the grilling.

I used canned sweetcorn this time and just fried them in the griddle pan. It was not the easiest thing as they just got between the griddles but they got slightly grilled in the end.

Gotta love those griddle marks!

Assembly of the dish:

Place some grated cheese, the char-grilled vegetables and refried beans on the tortilla and serve the whole thing with the homemade sauces and sour cream on the side. You can roll the tortillas to wraps, if you prefer, but I chose to leave them open.

Add jalapeños to the plate for extra spiciness.

Tomato and grilled pepper salsa, guacamole and sour cream. 

I tend to eat a lot but this kind of plate is so filling that it's difficult to manage any seconds!

I hope you have enjoyed this week's recipes, which basically are out of my comfort zone. I tried to bring these dishes back to basics and hopefully haven't insulted anyone through lacking authenticity in Mexican cooking.

Thanks for reading and stay hungry!

Your VegHog