I’m beyond excited I’ve just spotted a pile of my new cookbook, The Part-time Vegetarian, in my local Waterstones – and in pride of place displayed with the likes of Ottolenghi, Nigella and Nigel.
I’m not brilliant when it comes to self-publicity – shyness and modesty take over – but, much to my daughter’s embarrassment, I did offer to sign the copies and the books were duly rewarded with a sticker placed on the jacket saying ‘signed by the author’. It did cross my mind when I accosted the Waterstone’s sales assistant to thank him for stocking the book that he may think I was a complete fantasist!
Anyway, I want to share a recipe from the book with you. It’s a warming Noodle Pot with Thai Pesto, so just right for warding off that autumn chill. It’s a flexitarian cookbook so the recipes are mainly vegetarian, but I also give suggestions for how to include meat and fish, so you effectively get two cookbooks for the price of one! So in keeping with the title, I’ve also given you a variation with prawns and red pepper.
Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off as this comforting coconut noodle broth couldn’t be easier to make. The Thai pesto will keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 1 week, just cover the top with extra oil.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 11 minutes
750ml/26fl oz/3 cups vegetable stock
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 long lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed, and inside bruised
4 kaffir lime leaves
4cm/1½ inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
185g/6½oz wholewheat noodles
165g/5¾oz chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 large handfuls baby spinach leaves, tough stalks discarded
300ml/10½fl oz/scant 1¼ cups thick coconut milk
50g/1¾oz/⅓ cup cashew nuts, finely chopped
25g/1oz Thai basil leaves or regular basil, torn into pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
1cm/½in piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
juice of ½ lime
3 tbsp groundnut oil
1 medium-sized red chilli, deseeded and diced
1 To make the Thai pesto, put the cashews, basil, garlic and ginger in a mortar and grind with a pestle into a coarse paste, or use a food processor. Pour in the lime juice and oil, season with salt and continue to grind until almost smooth. Stir in the chilli and 1 tablespoon water to loosen the pesto slightly and leave to one side.
2 Pour the stock into a large saucepan and add the sweet potato, lemongrass, kaffir lime and ginger. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, part-covered, for 8 minutes until the sweet potato is almost tender.
3 Meanwhile, cook the noodles following the instructions on the pack, drain and refresh under cold running water. Leave to one side.
4 Add the mushrooms and spinach to the sweet potato and pour in the coconut milk, stir until combined and cook over a medium-low heat for 3 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Pick out the lemongrass, ginger and lime leaves, stir in the noodles and warm through, then serve in large, shallow bowls topped with a good spoonful of the pesto.
Prawn & Red Pepper
For a speedy seafood alternative, swap the mushrooms and sweet potato for prawns and red pepper.
- Add 1 large deseeded and sliced red pepper, 625ml/21½ fl oz/2½ cups stock and 6 handfuls of spinach to the pan with the coconut milk, 2 tsp fish sauce and ½ tsp caster sugar. Simmer for 3 minutes until the pepper is tender.
- Add 300g/10½oz frozen raw king prawns, defrosted, and the cooked noodles and cook for another 2–3 minutes until the prawns are pink. Serve topped with the pesto.