Ukrainian Mushroom & Barley Broth

Here’s another Ukrainian recipe inspired by Olia Hercules. If you love mushrooms, you’ll love this broth. It packs a mighty umami punch and is dark and delicious. I serve is as it is for a lighter meal or for a more filling meal, with these stuffed buns or with creamy mashed potatoes. If you add a spoon of soured cream or crème fraiche when you serve, the flavour is really reminiscent of a stroganoff, and of course, these flavours of umami rich mushrooms, onions, pepper, dill and cream are popular in Eastern European and Scandinavian countries, post-Soviet states, Russia and more. We all have so much more in common than what separates us, and food is one of those things where we can clearly see our commonalities.

Buckwheat is a highly nutritious, gluten free whole-grain, a great source of protein, fibre, potassium, magnesium and energy. We sell the whole grain in compostable bags here (and also useful buckwheat flour and flakes). As well as extra nutrients, buckwheat brings a bit of body and texture to the broth but you can switch it with noodles, pasta or rice as you like. Happy cooking!

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 200g buckwheat groats
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp crumbled dried mushrooms
  • 1 litre of boiling water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 3 white onions, roughly diced
  • 3 carrots, chopped chunkily
  • 500g chopped mushrooms (a mix with some wild mushrooms is always more interesting, but chestnut mushrooms work well too)
  • a large handful or two of chopped dill
  • sour cream, yoghurt or creme fraiche to serve
  • mashed potatoes/cooked noodles/pasta/rice to serve or toast or stuffed buns…


  1. Start by making a mushroom stock. Put the bay leaves and dried mushrooms in a glass measuring jug and boil the kettle. Pour a litre of just-boiled water in and let the stock brew.
  2. Next toast the buckwheat groats in your soup pot. Put the pot onto a medium high heat and tumble in the buckwheat. Stir or shake the pot regularly until the buckwheat is perfectly toasted. Then tip all the grains into a bowl to use later.
  3. Now, in the same pot, add the oil and onion. Sauté with a big pinch of salt until the onions start to colour and soften. Then add the mushrooms and carrots, more seasoning and sauté again for another 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
  4. Add the mushroom stock and the toasted buckwheat and simmer with the lid on until the buckwheat is cooked through but still has some bite. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed with more salt and pepper.
  5. Just before serving, add the dill. Enjoy as is in bowls with a dollop of cremè fraiche or with toast, buns, mashed potatoes, pasta or anything you like.

Balance Broth

This soothing broth is what I make when we have a nasty cold going around. It’s a light, warm and comforting dinner any day of the week though. We call it ‘balance broth’ because it’s an attempt to perfectly balance the tastes sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. And because it makes an imbalanced day seem instantly more level. It’s funny how food can do so much more than fuel our bodies.

Do you have a go-to recipe which makes you feel good? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 litres of water
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tbsp dried seasweed, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp dried mushrooms, crumbled
  • 2 green tea bags
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, finely grated
  • 1 thumb of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp miso
  • scallions, fresh chilli, sesame seeds, fresh coriander, rice or noodles, silken tofu and stir fried vegetables to serve


  1. Prepare what you will serve your broth with first. Our favourite is nutty brown rice, stir fried seasonal vegetables and some simply chopped silken tofu.
  2. In a large pot, simmer all the broth ingredients except the miso and toasted sesame oil for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags and turn off the heat. Allow the broth to cool a little then add the sesame oil and miso and stir. The slightly-cooler-than-boiling broth will ensure the beneficial bacteria in the miso will stay alive.
  4. Taste the broth and balance it as you need with more salty soy sauce or more sour lime juice.
  5. Then ladle the broth over bowls of rice, vegetables and tofu, sprinkle with sesame seeds, coriander, chopped scallions and chilli. Enjoy!

Sweet & Sour Tofu & Cauliflower

It’s Chinese New Year today and we will be celebrating with this homemade sweet and sour dish, a favourite from the takeaway. Delicious sweet and sour sauce is usually packed full of sugar and food colouring, this version uses maple syrup, still sugary but in a less refined-sugar way. The sourness is from vinegar and there is lots of delicious umami in the tomato puree and soy sauce. Crispy roasted tofu and cauliflower bring welcome texture and meatiness to the dish. Simple and delicious, enjoy!

Liz x

PS – get all the organic ingredients delivered to your door here.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 a small cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free)
  • 3 tbsp vinegar (rice wine or apple cider)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 pineapple, peeled, cored & chopped
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded & chopped into a chunky dice
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped into a chunky dice
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • sesame seeds
  • cooked rice or noodles to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Find a large roasting dish and line it with baking parchment.
  2. Put the chopped cauliflower and firm tofu in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of veg oil, sprinkle over the salt and 5 spice. Use a wooden spoon to mix well. Then sprinkle over the cornstarch and mix again ensuring all the pieces are coated in the floury seasoning. Tumble onto the lined tray, spread out evenly then pop it into the oven to bake and get crispy while you cook the sauce, stir fry and rice/noodles.
  3. The cauliflower and tofu should take no more than 20-30 minutes so time cooking you rice or noodles accordingly.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sweet and sour sauce ingredients – the maple syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, tomato puree and ground ginger. Taste and tweak if you like with more of any of the ingredients.
  5. Heat the tbsp of veg oil in a large frying pan/wok. When it’s nice and hot, add the chopped pineapple, pepper and red onion and stir fry until hot and starting to caramelise. Add the sauce and heat through.
  6. Then remove the cooked cauliflower and tofu from the oven and stir them through the stir fry and sauce. Add a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds just before serving over rice or noodles and enjoy!

Vegan Sources of Umami

Good cooks will all instinctively know about balancing the tastes; sweet, sour, salty and bitter, but there’s a very important 5th taste, umami, that is trickier to describe. The Japanese translation of ‘umami’ is a delicious savouriness – but how is that different from salty?

I would describe it as a sort of humming background flavour, rich and rounded, associated with broths and meat, but it is also very prevalent in plants. Umami is found in foods that contain a high level of glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid. Although many of these foods are animal products, it does occur in plant based foods too, so no one needs to miss out on the 5th taste. Here are some plant based ways to get more umami in your life.

Seasoning, Spices & Herbs

Use spices like smoked paprika, cumin and coriander seeds to impart a smokey, meaty umami to many dishes. Toast the spices before adding them to your dish to release the oils and make the most of all that flavour.

Green tea (and black tea) is umami rich, add it as a secret ingredient in your brothy soups and stews for an extra layer of flavour. Try brewing an umami rich broth of green tea, dried mushrooms and dried seaweed. Drain, stir in some miso paste and enjoy with vegetables, silken tofu and noodles.

Nutritional yeast brings umami in a cheesy form, it’s a great replacement for parmesan cheese. Use it to sprinkle over popcorn, risotto, soups or pasta, or whisk it into a vegan cheese sauce.

Mustard, miso, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil…all make brilliant seasonings or marinades to add umami to your vegetables.


Mushrooms, seaweed, tomatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, celery and more are all naturally high in delicious glutamates.

Dried vegetables have an even more concentrated supply so think about adding dried mushrooms, tomatoes and seaweed into your dishes for an extra layer of flavour. Tomato puree is another way to get a concentrated dose of umami.

Fermenting or cooking your vegetables in certain ways adds even more umami deliciousness! Read more about that below.

Fermented Foods

Fermented vegetables go far beyond sauerkraut and kimchi. Think about adding miso, soy sauce, wine, dark vinegars, beer, kombucha, mustard, olives, chocolate, coffee, capers…to your cooking. All these mouthwatering fermented foods are mouthwatering for a reason.

Cooking Techniques

The way you prepare a vegetable can markedly affect its flavour. Think about the difference between a boiled Brussels sprout and a roasted one. Roasting, grilling, pan frying, charring, smoking, barbecuing, caramelising…all these techniques will increase that essential umami flavour in your dish.

Toasted or caramelised flavours are so good! Add toasted sesame oil and toasted seeds to your meals for an instant savoury hit.

Miso Aubergine with Rice, Beans & Greens

We have a new product in our grocery section that is absolutely delicious. These sachets of umami pastes which are basically organic miso with added ingredients like ginger, garlic and chilli. They are flavour bombs and we love them as a marinade for aubergine in this simple, hearty supper. The paste can be used to marinade skewers of tofu and mushrooms for the barbecue too, or even as a stunning broth base for a light miso soup. How would you use them?

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • rice for two (I bring 1/2 a mug of brown rice with 1 mug of water to a boil in a pan with the lid on, then turn down to the lowest setting and simmer until the rice has absorbed all water)
  • 1 aubergine
  • 2 tbsp umami paste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves – sliced
  • 1 bunch of rainbow chard – stalks separated and sliced
  • 1 tin of black beans – drained
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C and get some brown rice on to cook – see ingredients list for my super-simple method.
  2. Cut the aubergine in half lengthways and score the cut side deeply with a small, sharp knife. Spread a tbsp of umami paste onto each half and make sure you get it into all the cuts. Place the aubergines in a small roasting dish in the oven to cook while you prepare the greens and beans.
  3. Separate the stalks from the rainbow chard and slice them. They take longer to cook than the delicate green leaves. Put them in a pan with the vegetable oil and sliced garlic. Sauté until just starting to soften.
  4. Then add the drained tin of black beans to the pan and turn the heat off until the rice and aubergine are cooked through.
  5. When the aubergine is soft (this usually takes around 20 minutes), remove it from the oven and sprinkle it with sesame seeds. Return the dish to the oven for 5 minutes to toast the seeds.
  6. Meanwhile turn the heat back on under the beans and add the greens and a splash of soy sauce (around 2 tbsp). Stir and wilt the greens. Then serve.
  7. Divide the rice between two bowls. Add the garlicky beans and greens and a half of the aubergine to each bowl. Enjoy as it is or with a side of kimchi.