Lazy Vegetarian Recipes #4: British Onion Soup

I got paranoid that I’d run out of onions during the Christmas period.

While I am a Big Fan of onions, there’s really no sensible reason for the number of onions I bought, or the places I put them.

I found onions in on the preserves shelf, next to the preserves shelf, in the saucepan cupboard (inside the saucepans??), and in a crate of beer…?

This was more onions than I could normally use before they went off. So. I needed to cook something that would use a lot of onions.

I decided to make onion soup. I had never made onion soup before.

I asked for recipes and was directed to a lot of recipes for French Onion Soup. I’d never actually had that and was surprised to learn that it requires both bread and cheese. These would make the meal a bit more calorific than I was after, and to be honest, I didn’t really want them. So I took the French Onion recipes as a base line for how you turned onions into something soup-like, and made my own.

I’m calling it British Onion Soup. It’s like French Onion Soup only with less cheese and bread, and it’s goddamn delicious!

British Onion Soup

Makes 4-5 portions.

Takes 2-3 hours.

(I’m not estimating the price on these things anymore, partly because prices change over time, partly because it was different when I very poor and saying my meals were cheap, and partly because I don’t know how to estimate the cost of spices I already have in.)

You Will Need

  • 5 large onions (doesn’t matter what colour)
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 3 Vegetarian Beef Oxo Cubes (probably other stock cubes would be fine, but I had these in and I do think the simulated beef flavour was ideal)
  • Some red wine vinegar (actual red wine would also work, but this is what I had)
  • 1 litre of water
  • A teaspoon of thyme
  • Some pepper
  • Some olive oil
  • A tablespoon of flour


Chop each onion in half and then slice it horizontally, so you get long thin semi-circles.

Heat a saucepan to a medium-high heat.

Add a generous splash of olive oil to the saucepan and progressively add the onions as you slice them.

Keep an eye on your onions. You want them to brown, so it’s good to keep the heat reasonably high. It’s OK if they burn a little as you can scrape that off the bottom and it’ll add to the flavour, but as with anything you don’t want it to burn so much that you can’t scrape it off.

It’s good to use a hard-edged spatula rather than a spoon for scraping-off-the-bottom reasons.

Chop the garlic as you like. It’s always good to crush garlic, but it’s all gonna get simmered for quite a while, so the flavour will spread anyway.

Add the garlic to the saucepan.

When the onions have been reasonably browned, add the red wine vinegar. I did not measure this. I used maybe a cup, as Americans say? I think if I had actual red wine I would have used a glass of that, but I didn’t want it to be too vinegary.

Boil a litre of water and mix 3 Oxo cubes with the water to create stock. (I did this in three goes as my measuring device didn’t go up to a litre.)

Add the stock, thyme, and pepper.

Add the flour – the recipes I read for French Onion Soup added this directly, but that made for lumps that were then annoying to mix in. I would treat this like cornflour: mix with a little cold water before you add it to the hot mixture. Then it shouldn’t clump.

Simmer until it looks more like soup than onions in brown water, stirring every now and then.

You can taste to see if you want to add anything else, but be aware that the flavour will intensify as it reduces and as you mix in any onion that browns off the bottom of the pot. I added salt early on (even though I almost never do that) and I realised later that it really didn’t need it – there was plenty in the Oxo cubes.


This has a high-ish salt content because of the stock cubes, but the only fat is the oil.

Onions are one of the richest sources of flavinoids, and antioxidant that may help prevent cancer. Flavinoids are also anti-inflammatory. The garlic is also great for this.

They’re also rich in fibre and promote gut health. They’re also a source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, and manganese as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

A soup with other vegetables would bring a wider source of vitamins, but this is very tasty and a good way to use up onions if you need to!

Lazy Vegetarian Recipes #3: Pumpkin Guts Soup

A pumpkinIt’s post Halloween. You got a pumpkin. You carved it. You saved the guts (the stringy flesh inside that you scooped out) with the vague sense that you paid £3 for a piece of food and it just feels plain wrong to eat none of it. What do you do?

There’re a million websites trying to tell you to turn the slimy innards into facial scrubs and whatnot, but you bought FOOD. You want to eat it. There are other websites telling you to cut out non-slimy flesh and blend that and turn THAT into soup, but you are lazy, goddammit, and you’ve done enough pumpkin carving for one year.

Here’s how to take your slimy pumpkin guts and turn them into SOUP.

Pumpkin Guts Soup

Makes 3 portions. Add more veg to make it go further.

Takes 70mins~

Estimated cost per serving: £1.30 (this is a guestimate, I used stuff from my allotment and spices I already have, so I’ve estimated rough costs)

You Will Need

The guts of one medium sized pumpkin, hollowed out for Halloween

4 or 5 small potatoes (I used small King Edwards, but any new potatoes would be fine)

1 good sized onion or two small onions

1 large parsnip

2 cloves of garlic

1 stock cube

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon crushed chilli

Some olive oil

200ml~ water


Separate the slime from the seeds. Put the seeds to one side – you can dry and eat those later if you like, you can even roast them, but this is about the guts. You’ll note that there are big hard seeds and small soft ones. You can leave the small soft ones in, we’re not being too fussy.

Put a large saucepan on medium heat and add a generous splash of oil – two tablespoons, if you want to measure stuff. Finely chop two small or one large onion. Put it in the oil. Stir occasionally to stop it burning. Crush two cloves of garlic with the flat of your knife, then chop it finely. Add this to the saucepan.

Put another saucepan on medium heat. Boil some water in a kettle to save time. Peel and chop the potatoes – small chunks. Add the water and potatoes to the second saucepan.

Add the pumpkin guts to the first saucepan.

Peel and chop one large parsnip – small chunks. Add this to the saucepan.

Boil 200ml of water in the kettle (I did this by eye, so it’s a rough measurement). Crumble a veggie stock cube into a bowl and pour the water over it. Add this to the first saucepan.

Drain the parsnip and potatoes you boiled and add them to the first saucepan.

Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and chilli.


Put a lid on the concoction and turn down to a low heat. Put a timer on if you can, and leave for 45mins.

45mins later… you have soup!


Pumpkin is a great source of vitamins A and C, Calcium and Iron. Potatoes are a very good source of iron and vitamin B6. Parsnips are good for vitamin C, potassium, folate, and manganese.

Overall, this is a pretty good soup in terms of vitamins and minerals, especially for B6 and iron, which vegetarians should be careful to get enough of.

Lazy Vegetarian Recipes #2: Winter Vegetable Curry

Winter Vegetable Curry

Winter Vegetable Curry

Winter Vegetable Curry

Makes 3-4, depending on how generous you are with your portions.

Takes 30-40mins

Estimated cost per serving: £1.10 (this is a real guestimate, I used stuff from my allotment this time, so I’m not sure of store prices)

You will need:

Rice (I was going to measure this for you guys, but I broke my scales. I usually do enough to cover the bottom of a small saucepan and just a bit more. Which is a terrible way to measure rice, and doesn’t scale up well. You’ve probably made rice before. Do what you’d usually do)
One carton/can of chopped tomatoes (I’m a fan of Sainsbury’s Basics Chopped Tomatoes, which are only 31p!)
2 carrots
2 parsnips
4 or 5 small potatoes (I used King Edwards)
1 good sized white onion
One tub of Cauldron Marinated Tofu (aka How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Tofu)
2 cloves of garlic
3 teaspoons of hot curry powder (could be mild if you’re not as into spicy as me)
Some coriander (I don’t measure this so… I’m gonna say a teaspoon?)
Some whole seed cumin (ditto)

Optional extras:

A little ginger would work in this, and sweet potato would be awesome, although a bit carb-tastic considering you’ve already got potatoes and rice going. And broccoli, of course, broccoli is awesome.


Get a large saucepan on a medium heat and add a little oil. Peel and chop the carrots into fairly chunky slices, put into the saucepan. Next cut the onion and put that in – smallish slices, I’d say, but it doesn’t really matter; however you fancy, really – I tend to vary. Next chop the garlic. I usually cut off the root end then crush the garlic with the flat of my knife, which is good for getting the flavour out and loosening the skin. Remove skin and chop in fine slices. My rule for veggies is usually to go hard to soft, but almost everything I cook starts with carrots, then onion, then garlic. Carrot is usually the hardest, so that goes first, but you want the onion and garlic in early for flavour, and because the moisture in the onion will help stop the other vegetables sticking and burning.

Stir periodically.

Next, chop up your potatoes into small cubes – 1-2cm. Potato’s a hard vegetable, and we’re not boiling it, so if the cubes are too big it may not cook properly. I peeled mine as they came straight from the allotment and I was too lazy to really scrub down all the mud, but if you can I’d keep the skins on for flavour and nutrition. Throw the potatoes in, chop up the parsnips and add those too.

Now you want to put your rice on. Put the rice in a small saucepan and add a generous amount of water. Put it on the hob on a high heat. Don’t pre-boil the water in a kettle as we’re gonna use how long the rice takes as out timer from here on in. You’re using some pretty hard veggies this time and they’ll need time to soften.

Once your rice is going, add your chopped tomatoes and stir them in. Now add the tofu. I promise, guys, Cauldron Marinated Tofu is not like the relatively flavourless/slimy tofu you may have tried and failed to make something interesting with before. It has more texture and firmness and a strong savoury taste. I’ve actually got to like other kinds of tofu, too, but Cauldron Marinated Tofu was my gateway drug.

Now add your spices – the curry powder, coriander, and cumin seeds. Stir in well, then put a lid on and turn down to a low heat.

Now your meal is basically looking after itself. Stir the curry occasionally, but leave the rice alone. Once it starts boiling, turn it down to a medium heat and keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t boil over, but don’t stir. Stirring rice agitates the starch that’s frothing off the rice as it softens and will make your rice more sticky than is desirable for this kind of meal.

Once your rice is boiling it should take about 10mins to be done. Your curry should be done at about that point, too. Poke a potato cube with a knife to check – it should slide off easily. Drain the rice in a colander and swirl some water over it to wash away any starchy residue.

Rice on plate. Curry on rice.



A lot of people think of potatoes as empty calories because they’re Just. So. Carby. But they’re not nearly so bad for you when you’ve not deep fried them into chips or crisps. Quoth Nutrition Facts:

This food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Potassium, and a very good source of Iron, Copper and Manganese.

Did you hear that, guys? Potatoes are a very good source of iron and a good source of vitamin B6 – two things veggies should look out for as they can run a bit low in one’s diet.

Parsnips are good for vitamin C, potassium, folate, and manganese. Tomatoes are really good for vitamin C as well as vitamins A and B6, and various other minerals; not as good as broccoli or potatoes for iron, but packed full of goodness in other ways. Carrots are really good for Vitamin A, K, and E.

The tofu is a great source of protein and a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.

This is a pretty carby meal, but it’s low on cholesterol, saturated fat, and salt and full of vitamins, minerals, and protein.

Lazy Vegetarian Recipes #1: Pasta, Vegetables, and Pesto

A friend of mine has recently gone vegetarian, and was asking me for recipes for healthy, cheap, tasty vegetarian meals. This is a question I often get asked a lot – actually, he’s asked me in the past, as he cooked for me a lot – and my answers aren’t always that helpful. This is in part because it’s really easy to make tasty, cheap vegetarian meals – often it just means substituting some other kind of protein for the meat. However, it is also really easy to make veggie food that tastes like shit just because you’ve never worked with the non-meat protein of choice before. And vegetarian cook books aren’t a lot of help; they usually include a lot of fancy vegetables, sauces, and seasonings that you wouldn’t usually buy and/or which are hard to obtain and expensive and/or take ages to prepare.

And fuck that for a laugh, right?

So, I’ve decided to take some ownership here and say that if there are myths about veggie foods I should provide the goods to show people how not to make the easy mistakes and how to cook food you’ll like cheaply. I’m not good at following recipes, so many of these dishes will be of my own concoction and will not have names (or at least, no names I’m aware of), but the food itself will be the sort of food that I, someone with little patience for cooking and no funds for expensive ingredients, would be happy to make at least semi-regularly.

Today’s meal is literally what I just had for lunch, and it tastes amazing.

Pasta, Vegetables, and Pesto

Makes three, but can be expanded easily with more pasta or veg. Just remember: if you keep upping the pasta and not the veg you’ll need to make sure you have some more veg in one of your other meals to make up your five a day.

Takes 15-20mins

Estimated cost per serving (standard version): 96p
Estimated cost per serving (with extras): £1.10

You will need:

Some pasta (two handfuls per meal, so six handfuls for three meals – I used fusilli, but rotini, penne, conchiglie, farfalle, or any smallish pasta shape should work)
1 red onion
1 bell pepper (sweeter is better (orange, red, yellow); green will work OK, but it’s a bit bitter for the mix and you’re gonna put other green vegetables in)
Spinach – several handfuls; this stuff will wilt down to nothing, so don’t be timid, I wouldn’t use more than half a bag, though
Mushrooms – you can really dress this dish up by using a fancy mushroom, but closed-cup will do; at least six to ten, more if your budget allows
1/3 of a jar of pesto (or whatever, you can vary for taste or budget)
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil – ahahaha, only kidding, I don’t measure this shit! I just put ‘some’ in, but I estimate 1-2 tablespoons; whatever you’d usually use for a fry-up job

Optional extras:
1 clove of garlic
3-5 broccoli florets
2-3 cauliflower florets
Or whatever the hell you fancy.

I say these are optional because I would usually put broccoli in (broccoli is full of so much good shit I don’t even know where to begin), and I just tried cauliflower and it was fine, but I know it’s not an intuitive pairing, and if you’re not used to experimenting with vegetables it may seem strange. I imagine julienne cut parsnips or carrots would be awesome, but I haven’t tried it.


Get a large saucepan and fill it with water (you can heat the water up in the kettle first to save time, if you like). Set it to a high heat and leave it alone for a bit.

Put another large saucepan on a medium-hot hob (3-4 on my electric oven, whatever that means) and put in the oil.

Cut up your onion into longish slices. I usually top and tail the onion, then cut in half lengthwise, then just slice each half lengthwise in strips no wider than my little finger… but I have tiny-ass hands; let’s say 3/4 of a cm to 1 cm.

Swirl the warm oil around the base of the saucepan to make sure it’s all covered, then add the onion. If you’re gonna add garlic, chop it up and do that now. stir periodically to stop it from burning.

You want to move from hard to soft with your other vegetables, so if you’re using broccoli or cauliflower, cut these up and add them next as they’ll take the longest to cook. Break off sub florets so that a) your broccoli doesn’t dwarf all the other veg, and b) they look like tiny trees. Chop up and left-over stalk into thin strips and use that too.

Next the pepper, then the spinach, then the mushrooms. I recommend strip-cutting for the pepper and the mushrooms, mostly for aesthetic reasons and to make them easy to skewer with your fork. The spinach just grab and tear up a little.

At some point whilst you’re chopping your vegetables, the water in your other saucepan will start to boil. Add your pasta and stir periodically.

Now you’re just waiting for the pasta to be done. This should usually take about 10mins from when the pasta goes in.

Drain the pasta when ready and add the pesto to the vegetables. Add the pasta. Stir until the pesto is evenly mixed.


If you’re saving any for another day (it works great cold for lunches) put it immediately into plastic tubs and add the lid to keep the pasta moist and soft.

Nutrition facts*:

Most vegetables are a source of protein, especially mushrooms, but meals with lentils, tofu, quorn, and TVP are better, so make sure you’re not trying to get by solely on this sort of light meal.

Also watch out for your iron content. I’ve included spinach, here, but bear in mind that spinach is a source of non-heme iron, which is harder for the body to absorb, and spinach contains other chemicals that inhibit iron uptake. Vitamin C is a good enabler of iron uptake, and broccoli is a good source of both vitamin C and iron, which is why I try to eat a lot of it. Also: MINI TREES. Curly Kale is also recommended as a better source of iron than spinach, but I’m not a fan – and so it goes…

*Note: I am not an expert, and you should always read around a bit yourself and possibly consult your doctor if you are thinking of going veggie, especially if you have specific health needs.