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!


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 ūüėČ

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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! ūüôā

Let’s talk stir fry!

sf 1

One of my frequent dinners is stir fry: quicky, easy, healthy. I’m also of the opinion that not every meal has to be from a recipe, and the busy cook shouldn’t have to feel guilty about taking shortcuts – like buying a sauce. That said, every bought sauce can be improved a little…! I’m currently partial to the Blue Dragon sachets (esp. sweet chilli or teryaki) and then jazz it up with a little extra garlic and ginger, and maybe soy sauce.

The base of my stir fries is veg: lots and lots of vegetables! It’s not a stir fry to me without carrots, onion, peppers, mange tout, and then maybe some broccoli or pak choi or bean sprouts. Bean sprouts are rare: they only come in such huge bags that a single person would struggle to get through!

Once in a very blue moon, I’ve been known to buy a pre-prepared pack of stir fry veg. These¬†are for those ultra-lazy moments, or when I’m craving a bit of a shake up. I love the ones that come with sliced water chestnuts – for the crunch! – or bamboo shoots. I used to buy tins of these things, but again they can be difficult to get through for one.

Even if you’re preparing your own veg – and I find chopping vegetables quite meditative (call me odd, but it’s calming!) – do yourself a favour and do at least two portions. This means you get a prep-free meal¬†in a day or two, and lets you split things like peppers and carrots between two meals.

For the protein, I use either diced chicken breast (I pre-dice it, and freeze in individual portions), sliced minute steak (the really thin kind), or tofu – the Cauldron marinated tofu is excellent. I also like to throw in a small handful of raw cashew nuts towards the end.

So, today’s stir fry adventure went like this: first heat a little oil in a wok – big wok! – and cook the chicken until starting to colour. Then add the onion for a few minutes – it needs a little extra, I find –¬†along with some garlic puree. I then added the rest of the sliced veg and some ground ginger or puree, letting it all fry for a few minutes before adding half a sachet of Blue Dragon teryaki sauce – the other half keeps well in the freezer, fyi. Finally a scattering of cashew nuts before serving,¬†with rice or noodles. Total time: 10 minutes (not including the rice)!


  • oodles of veg – and prep ahead of time; keep a second portion in a sealed tub in the fridge for a day or two
  • freeze individual portions of pre-diced chicken breast for a quick make – defrost in the microwave if you can’t plan ahead
  • no shame in using a bought sauce! 2-portion sachets can often¬†have the second half frozen, even if the packet doesn’t mention it
  • spice up the sauce with a little extra garlic, ginger, soy, chilli flakes, lime juice, or even a splash of sherry –¬†and these are just a few of the possibilities!
  • serve with rice or noodles – the latter make the whole dish take about 10 minutes to cook.

Let me know in the comments – what do YOU do with a stir fry?


Butternut squash and bean crumble

I’m not doing too well on the mix of recipes (or new recipes – yet!) as all these yummy vegetarian dishes have me looking up ones I haven’t tried in a while!

I’m not sure what’s taken me so long to make this Butternut Squash and Bean Crumble again, as it was absolutely delicious! I do love butternut squash, and the mix of the wine and tomatoes is a lovely base. The chilli surprised me a little, but it works – I used a level teaspoon, and wouldn’t want it any hotter.¬†I might, however, have to try butter beans (lima beans, I think?) next time, as the cannellini were a bit small and inconsequential in the finished dish.

The crumble topping is one I intend to try on other things: the breadcrumbs went lovely and crispy, and my experiment of adding some mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)¬†added some lovely crunch and colour – I’ll be doing that again!

My one concern about this recipe is portion size. I remembered the first time I made this ended up with just HUGE portions (perhaps I misread the original recipe‘s 6 portions and thought it was 4?). This time, I halved the recipe – and please don’t worry, I have a great way to use up the other half of the squash! – thinking it would make four decent portions, instead of three huge: instead, I must confess that my version of the¬†recipe¬†gives¬†more of a lunch portion¬†than main course (although: perfect excuse for dessert!).¬†I ended up eating 2/3rds of¬†the half I cooked (the other half is in the freezer), and will throw some salad together with the remaining third for tomorrow’s lunch.

It was really hard to stop here and leave some for tomorrow's lunch...!

It was really hard to stop here and leave some for tomorrow’s lunch…!

Veggie shepherd’s pie

assembling the pie pic

Happy Easter!¬†To balance out all that chocolate (I suspect!) the supermarkets have all had offers on their fresh veg this past week, so an excellent time to stock up on soup ingredients. And to balance out all that chocolate (I know! ;)) a perfect time for some more veggies-as-main-courses, too. This Veggie Shepherd’s Pie is a perfect healthy and hearty, warming dish with the added benefit of a whole lot of flexibility! Make it all at once, freeze it, or make the sauce separately¬†and add fresh sweet potato when you’re ready to eat. I made this a month ago, eating a single portion of the four. This can feel like a long-to-make meal – it’s not really, but anything with more than one step can be too much effort, right? ūüėČ Making the sauce – chop carrots and bung stuff into a pan for a while; making the topping – if you dice the sweet potato it cooks in 15 minutes or less; and finally assembling (tip: press the mash on rather than trying to spread it, which moves the base in a messy way) and baking.

The other three portions of the sauce base went into the freezer (in individual portions) so today I could defrost the sauce and use¬†up one of my fresh bag of sweet potatoes (the rest went into a Sweet Potato and Chilli soup – nom!). I both defrosted and heated the base in the microwave, so it was warm under the new mash, and the whole thing only took 20 minutes in the oven, and around 40¬†minutes total. Had I cooked the whole thing from frozen, it would have taken 40 minutes in the oven, so either approach has benefits. At least this way I didn’t have to find quite as much space in my freezer, and didn’t ‘lose’ a dish in the meantime! I’m sure I could find other uses for that base sauce – it’s very¬†tasty! It’s also a great way to use up carrots, and – as the recipe notes say – the secret to this dish is making sure you leave a little firmness and ‘bite’ in the carrots, rather than letting them cook to mush. The green lentils also add to the heartiness, while just a small amount of red lentils soak up any extra juices. I’d recommend the sweet potato over regular – in fact, I may have to try that more in general, as it is a healthier choice – as it goes so well with the flavours here, adding that bit of sweet to the red wine and herb richness, and the slight tang from the cheese sprinkles. Veggie Shepherd's Pie photo