Sweet potato chilli

One of my new favourite recipes came courtesy of a friend, who’d adapted this Cookie+Kate offering. I’ve put my own spin on it through repeat cookings, but somehow I’ve never managed to write up the recipe – which you’ll find here.

sweet potato chilli in a bowl

As stated in the original, the thing that really makes this lush and rich, is blending about a third of the mixture before stirring it back in. I cannot recommend this enough! Easiest way is with a stick aka immersion blender – absolutely love mine!

With the added thickness, this is ready to eat straight from the pot, but it also freezes very well. Have also used butternut squash and carrot instead of the sweet potato, but try anything that takes your fancy. Different types of bean are also good – my preference is for mixed bean salad, which comes with sweetcorn, and kidney beans.

Best way to serve, in my opinion, is with some sour cream (or natural yogurt, possibly with some lime juice) and cheese, melted over the top. Scoop it up with tortilla chips for a bowl of nom!

 

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One butternut squash: all the ideas!

Cooking for one comes with a fair number of challenges, including how to use things that don’t really come in small quantities. Personally, I love butternut squash so much that I’m never stuck with ideas for what to do with ‘the rest of it’ (as I’m sure the large number of recipes that start ‘butternut squash something’ show!), but I’m always up for new ideas.

The ‘usual’ might be to start with a meal of ‘squoodles’, aka squash noodles, used as a healthy pasta substitute and served with pesto, roast peppers, and toasted pine nuts – and a hefty slab of garlic bread, since you can’t be too healthy 😉

There’s always soup – I’ve got quite a few listed. My favourite is probably the bnut and red pepper, although it’s less hearty than some of the others and so I tend to do it out of the winter season.

Generally, I’ll end up cubing and roasting at least part of the squash. It goes very well in salads, or pasta, and I’m a huge fan of putting squash into a risotto.

But, this time, we’re after something a bit different… And so I had a week of trying not one but THREE new recipes, all using the same squash.

First up was this butternut mac’n’cheese, which I was hoping would be a healthier (and maybe easier) take on a favourite comfort food. It tasted lovely, but my attempts at cutting it down to a single portion went a little awry and it ended up a bit dry. I’ll probably try it again at some point. Realised on serving that it wasn’t so far off the rather more successful ‘Easy Cheesy Pasta Bake‘, so perhaps I can find a working combination of the two.

Moving on, and one of my main ideas had been a butternut squash curry. This was relatively ‘safe’ – I just used bought curry paste, so it wasn’t going to be massively different from any other curry I’ve made – just, vegan 🙂 I ended up with three generous portions, so the rest went into the freezer, while a large amount went into my very virtuous-feeling tummy 🙂

butternut squash curry photo

Aren’t those colours lovely? I’d definitely do this again, and maybe for guests.

The piece de resistance, however, came from a want to use up some lasagne sheets. I love lasagne. I love my dad making it for me, as it’s a bit of a faff! What else could I do with it? Cannelloni! This was very experimental, combining ideas from at least four different recipes – and oh, was it good!

prepping the cannelloni

photo of finished dishIt did make a lot more than I was expecting – easily enough for 2 meals – but I highly recommend the second portion reheated the next day, as I think it was even better. I’ve read that filled cannelloni can be frozen, so I’d probably give that a go. Also, I’m going to experiment with different sauces – the tomato worked well, but I think a white or cheese sauce might be interesting, perhaps . Keeping the pasta moist was a little bit of a challenge, especially as I didn’t want to drown it in sauce, so perhaps a bit more pre-soaking?

This one is going into the regular rotation, methinks! 🙂

Boozy fruits and marzipan

boozy fruits

Many Christmases ago we had a bit of a homemade theme, and I made chocolate truffles and shortbread, and these, choc-dipped ‘boozy fruits’ and marzipan. I’ve never bothered with the massive effort of the truffles again, but these have become a Christmas tradition, always appreciated and a nice change from all the regular chocolates that are about at this time of year.

I’ve given some instructions here, but a lot of it is a matter of choice: take your pick of fruits (and if you come up with any good ones I’ve not mentioned, let me know!) and combine with whatever alcohol you like – this is an excellent way of using up the tail end of a bottle (hic!).

My recent batch was:

  • 12 dried apricots soaked in honey-whiskey liqueur, a new favourite!
  • 12 dried plums (in case the word ‘prunes’ puts anyone off – they are lovely!) in cherry brandy
  • a pack of dried mango slices soaked in vodka
  • half a pack of marzipan, rolled and cut into stars

All of the above half-dipped in melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk – I do suggest using a nice chocolate you enjoy eating, it’s very noticable.

All that’s left after that is to present them in a nice box, and enjoy a few bits when the thought of another Quality Street is just a bit much 😉

Honey plum chicken

A couple of years ago, I tried this recipe to use up a glut of plums. It was lovely, but very very sweet.

So, this year again faced with a punnet of fruit needing used, I decided to make a few changes: less honey, some garlic and chilli flakes – you can see my version here, and I declare it a success!

This is one of those recipes that is highly customisable – more honey/maple syrup if you want it closer to the original; more chilli or ginger if you like it spicier. It’s also a one-pot thing (not including accompaniments – I suggest rice and whatever veg you fancy) that’s very easy to make for one (even though I’ve given the ingredients for 2 portions).

I haven’t tried freezing or reheating this; I’d rather eat it fresh.

And, somehow, I totally forgot to take any photos! Next time 🙂

Spicy parsnip soup

Parsnips. Love ’em. The second most festive vegetable – but sprout soup doesn’t exactly appeal  😉 So, parsnips it was, and the quest was on to find something a bit interesting to do with them. Step forward: spicy parsnip soup, with ginger and garam masala, creamy but not too unhealthy.

spicy-parsnip-soup

It’s been a long time since I made a new soup that impressed me quite as much as this one! I was a little concerned about using milk in a soup, but it worked fine, and means you get that creaminess without the calories of cream.

It does mean I’m not so sure about freezing any leftovers, which is one reason for the odd quantities in the recipe – well, that and I only had three parsnips! Actually, I quite like doing a smaller batch once in a while: less work, and no risk of getting fed up of the soup before it’s eaten!

One note: this isn’t the prettiest of soups, particularly while it’s cooking where the spices turn it a rather odd mushroomy colour. Don’t let that put you off – it tastes fantastic!

Butternut squash and sweet potato soup

Oh dear – I’ve managed to wander off again from this site, haven’t I? Cooking has been happening, and indeed I’ve had a minor foody revolution after taking some nutrition ‘lessons’! But apparently I don’t get much mileage out of salads when it comes to food blogging (which I should work on, next year, as there’s a lot to be said!), but now that the weather is heading back to autumn, we find ourselves back in soup season and boy, do I have a lot of soup recipes! 🙂

The veg of the moment has been butternut squash, and I’ve been using quite a bit in butternut and red pepper soup of late. However, as it gets colder I’ve been hankering after something a little more substantial-feeling, and I discovered this butternut and sweet potato recipe lurking in my archives – you know, I don’t even remember making this?! Time to rectify that!

This recipe is one that lends itself well to my ‘bung everything in a pan’ method. I was quite surprised not to be roasting the squash, but nope: all in the pan. I could call this “all the orange” soup: squash, sweet potato, carrots, and red lentils.

Once cooked, I was a little surprised to see a slightly oiliness to the soup – but I hadn’t bothered using oil, or softening the onions. Ah! That’ll be from the tomato puree! But, a little fat in your cooking isn’t bad, and indeed can help make the flavour react better on your tongue, or so I read!

This is a nice hearty soup, with a thick and satisfying texture. both from the lentils and the starches in the sweet potato. The mix of flavours has a sweetness plus a little bit of depth. I think it’d go very well with some ham added, maybe even some beans, if you wanted to make it a bigger meal. Experiment with the herbs used, too, as this is the main additional flavour and therefore quite prominent.

img_20160925_134848750

Enjoy! 🙂

Oatmeal raisin cookies

Everyone should have a cookie recipe to call upon, and oatmeal raisin are the best kind of cookies! My recipe is here.

photo of cookiesI’m offering these as a ‘sorry I haven’t posted in so long’ sort of thing – and come on, who doesn’t like a nice cookie? 🙂 (yup, feeling pretty confident of forgiveness… lol!)

I’ve actually made these three times recently, for different people (and some for me each time, of course – quality control is a must! Ahem). Attempts one and three saw me make a half-batch – nice and easy to halve all the quantities in the recipe, apart from the egg. First time, I used the other half of the egg in a different cookie recipe (choc chip, weren’t nearly as good), and today I saved the other half to make egg-fried rice as part of my dinner.

Making the full recipe, I was actually quite amazed at just how MUCH dough I had, and how many cookies that translated to – I’ve said 24, but it felt more like 94 (I wish?!) with the endless batches going in and out of the oven! Fortunately, the dough keeps really well in the fridge, sealed in tuperware, for a few days. Doing it this way means you get lovely, freshly-baked cookies (the best kind!) several times out of the same initial work making the dough.

Nom! 🙂

Spicy carrot and potato soup

spicy carrot and potato soupWhere would the new year be without lots of warming soups? I’ve been stuck in a rut enjoying cooking up batches of my usual favourites, such as winter veg and lentil, hearty lentil with kale, and minestrone with different beans and pasta shapes.

But it was high time to try a new recipe – or to put it another way, my fridge was full of veggies to use up, what could I find that would help?!

Step forward Spicy Carrot and Potato Soup. It’s been a while since I did a purely veg soup (no lentils or beans) as I tend to find them less satisfying. The heat from the spices here, however, add not only a lot of flavour but a sense that you’ve eaten your fill, however odd that seems!

As ever, I went with the super-easy, bung-everything-in-pan approach, and it worked excellently. Still raving about my stick blender for ease of pureeing the soup once it’s cooked, too.

As you can (just about) see from the photo, I served this with some cheesy rolls (part-baked rolls, taken out of the oven ~1 min ahead of time, halved and topped with some garlic powder, cheese, and chives before getting the last 1-2 minutes to melt the cheese). Made for a super-yummy, healthy, winter tea 🙂

Foodie resolutions

A very belated Happy New Year to anyone who happens to be reading! I’ve been dreadful at getting back to this blog, despite racking up the recipes to post and taking photos of just about everything – all bar the writing about it, it seems! So there’s the first of my foodie resolutions for the year: upload the photos, post the recipes, and generally catch up with the backlog!

My other foodie resolutions look a little like this:

  • Try new recipes – the obvious one 🙂 I’m going to go easy on myself and say one each month.
  • Try cooking new foods – thinking halloumi, which I’m amazed I’ve only nibbled once, and perhaps polenta. And maybe this is the year I finally try making scones (I know, I know – hanging my head in shame 😉 )
  • Try a new technique or two – like the spiralizer!
  • Try some new eateries and/or something new instead of the old favourites on the menu.
  • Finally finish (ie restart!) inventorying the freezer, and keep it up to date! Perfect time for a clear-out, too.

Anyone else have foodie resolutions for the year – and how are they going so far?

Slow-cooked chicken casserole

Much as I love my slow cooker (aka crock pot), my results can be a little hit and miss. Yesterday’s attempts at a fairly simple chicken casserole, however, were so amazing that I had to scribble down my recipe (here) so I can do this one again!

slow cooked chicken casserole

First to mention, I have one of the smaller-sized slow cookers (about 1.5 litres, I think), which is supposed to be a 2-portion version. However, I tend to cook my accompaniment separately (shout out for frozen mashed potatoes, btw!) which means I get 3 or even 4 portions out of a batch – certainly, 4 out of this batch!

Starting with chicken – I suppose I’m a little ‘mean’ with this, using less than 1 breast per person, but I like to balance it with more veg – I used carrots, parsnip, and leek as my veggies. Top tip: leave the carrots far more chunky than you would usually – the slow cooker makes them lovely and tender, and it’s nice to have a substantial ‘chunk’ as an added feature in the meal. This is pretty important, in my view, to balance the super-tender chicken which can flake into next to nothingness after a long cook. The leeks also more or less vanished into the sauce, along with the onion which I’d only added for flavour.

Flavour was the big aim for this dish. First, a splash of white wine. I’d advise going easy on this – wine can turn a little bitter in a slow cooker, I’ve found. Then some herbs and spices: a little garlic puree, a splash of (vegetarian, so fish-free) worcestershire sauce for that ‘umami-ness’, and a good shake of chicken seasoning (I have the Swartz spice one) – these are all rather unspecific, my apologies, but the phrase ‘to taste’ is a saver here 😉

I’m a recent convert to the ‘stock pot’ style of stock (no, I don’t make my own!), and used about ⅔ of one – the rest will go into my risotto tomorrow. I also added some chicken gravy powder – just a little, for flavour and, I’d hoped, a little thickness – no measurement to share, sorry! Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients to about ⅔ – too much liquid is a common mistake (for me!) with slow cooking. Mix it all well, especially trying to distribute the stock.

I’d prepped all this the night before, so as I was heading out to work I put the crock pot on low and left it for about 8 hours. The house smelled amazing when I got back last night!

Alas, I hadn’t quite got the liquid right, so it was looking fairly running – don’t panic! As I stirred, a lot of the chicken broke up, and the leeks broke down, both adding a little thickness. I also added some cornflour – mixed with a little cold water – and left the whole thing uncovered on high for about half an hour while I prepared the rest of the meal. I know some people find the point of slow cooking to have the entire meal in ‘one pot’ fashion, but I like the extra portion of ‘main’ and a little separation for the sides. Besides, frozen mashed potato is surprisingly nice, and ready in a few minutes!

Rather impressed myself with this one – for a ‘made up’ recipe, it was absolutely delicious! 🙂