Chickpea, Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Curry

I have been making Thai Curry with Butternut Squash for years but for some reason it never occurred to me to make and Indian Curry with it instead. Butternut squash is very dense and very rich so it is important to cut it with another vegetable. Cauliflower works really well and along with the chickpeas adds texture and interest. As always, I prefer to roast the veg and add them to the sauce at the end.

I think this intensifies the individual flavours of the vegetables as well as stopping the vegetable becoming overcooked.

Chickpea,  Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Curry

3 tablespoon coconut oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

1 knob of ginger, scraped and finely grated

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground cardamon seeds (try Spiceways)

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tbsp. tomato puree

½ a butternut squash diced into ½-inch cubes

1 large cauliflower florets cut into small 1-inch sized pieces

1 tin chickpeas drained

1 tin coconut milk

1 small bunch coriander

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large deep pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté over medium low heat for 10 minutes until soft and lightly coloured. Meanwhile toss the butternut squash cubes with another tablespoon of coconut oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a lined baking tray and roast until golden brown. Toss the cauliflower with another tablespoon of coconut oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a lined baking tray and roast until golden brown. When the onions are tender, add the ginger, garlic and chilli cooking and stirring for one minute. Next add the spices and tomato puree and cook for a minute more to release the flavours. Season with salt and pepper. Add the coconut milk and chickpeas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the spices have mellowed and integrated. Taste the sauce and add more salt as desired. Stir in the coriander and then add the butternut squash and cauliflower. Reheat and serve with basmati rice.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sour Cream and Sweet Chilli Sauce

I cant believe that I never thought of baking a sweet potato. How many sweet potato recipes I must have made over the years and I never thought of just putting them whole in the oven and removing them an hour later. That’s it. Healthier than a normal potato, they bake perfectly, and are a stunning deep orange when you cut them open. But what to serve them with? Well, Chilli con Carne would be lovely, or Spicy Black Bean Chilli, but both involve quite a lot of work. I was thinking more on the super quick and simple baked potato fillings – baked beans, grated cheese, tinned sweetcorn. But none of those sounded at all nice with a sweet potato. So I turned to my absolutely favourite accompaniment of all, the unassuming sounding but totally delicious combination of sour cream with sweet chilli sauce. It was perfect!

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Wash your sweet potatoes and dry well and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cook in a pre-heated oven for about one hour depending on size. They are cooked when you can easily squeeze them. Remove, cut open and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Meatballs with Warm Yoghurt and Swiss Chard

I have to admit that I am not very good at trying new recipes. If I do choose a new recipe, it is usually similar to something that I have tried before. I suppose at my age, I put it down to taste and experience. I know what I like and I know what is likely to turn out well. But we can become a bit safe, a bit boring, never trying something that really sounds a little bit out of your safety zone.

With this recipe, I just heard the words “warm yoghurt” and I panicked.  I mean, it just sounds like it is going to curdle. I was about to opt for a safer option – lamb meatballs with braised chard, pitta and yogurt but I stopped myself. After all this recipe is Yotam Ottelenghi from his massively successful restaurant “Nopi” so who was I to question why. Warm yoghurt – why? So I made it.  To tell you the truth, I would have preferred my original idea, but this is for all the more adventurous of you.

Meatballs with Warm Yoghurt and Swiss Chard

1kg lamb mince

150g fresh breadcrumbs

70g pine nuts, toasted

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp dried mint

4 tsp ground allspice

4 garlic cloves, crushed

60ml olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped (120g)

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely diced

300g Swiss chard, white stalks removed and green leaves roughly shredded (120g)

300ml chicken stock

40ml lemon juice

500g Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with 2 tsp water

1 egg, lightly beaten

seeds of 1 medium pomegranate (150g) (optional)

20g coriander leaves, roughly chopped

coarse sea salt and black pepper

Put the first six ingredients in a large bowl with half the allspice, half the garlic, two teaspoons of salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper. Mix to combine, then shape into 5cm-wide meatballs weighing 50g each. You should make about 24 balls.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan, add the onions and remaining garlic and fry on a medium heat for eight to 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions have softened but not taken on any colour. Add the chilli and chard, cook for two to three minutes, until the chard has wilted, then stir in the remaining allspice, the stock and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

Put the yoghurt, cornflour paste and egg in a large bowl with 150ml of water. Whisk to a smooth paste, then gradually spoon in the hot chard mixture, stirring well after each addition, until well combined. Stir in two teaspoons of salt and a good crack of black pepper, and set aside.

Pour the remaining oil into a large, high-sided saute pan on a medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and fry for four minutes, turning a few times so they brown all over. Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding a little more oil if need be.

Wipe down the pan and pour in the yoghurt sauce. Bring to a very gentle simmer on a medium-low heat – it should barely be bubbling – and stir continuously in one direction to prevent it curdling. Return the meatballs to the pan (they should just be submerged in sauce), cover and cook on a low heat for 20–25 minutes, until cooked through. Serve at once, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, if using, and coriander.

Smoked Salmon with Roast Beetroot and Horseradish

Next up, another recipe good enough to serve on Christmas day. A fabulous combination on Smoked Salmon, Roast Beetroot and Horseradish. Super simple and you can plate it up all beforehand. Roasting beetroot is really easy and intensifies its flavour and sweetness. It is also meant to purify your blood and help remove toxins, which is probably a good idea at Christmas time.

Smoked Salmon with Roast Beetroot and Horseradish

200ml tub crème fraiche or 200mls double cream and some lemon juice

3 tbsp hot horseradish sauce or fresh grated horseradish

1 tbsp vodka (optional)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 large beetroot

Some Salad leaves, lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil

Smoked salmon

Dill or chives

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Begin by roasting the beets. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Scrub the beets, wrap in foil, and roast for 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserts and removes easily. Set aside to cool. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, you can just slip the skins off with your hands. You may want to wear gloves but it is really quite a satisfying experience. Coarsely grate in a food processor or with a grater. Dress lightly with a little olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little finely chopped dill or chives.

Meanwhile, fold the crème fraîche with the horseradish and vodka, if using, with a little seasoning.

Or stir a little lemon juice slowly into the double cream until it thickens. Stir in the freshly grated horseradish and season.

Before serving, arrange a layer of smoked salmon on plates. Scatter over some dressed salad leaves and top with a pile of grated beetroot. Top with sprigs of dill or chives.

Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

Finally, for this week, a really simple sauce or dip to liven up your leftover turkey. This is a middle eastern inspired chilli sauce, and can be used like a home-made harissa. Stir it in to chicken gravy, drizzle it over kebabs, spoon it into wraps, dollop it on your burgers. The possibilities are endless.

Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

2 Romero or any red peppers

1 fresh red chilli

2 red onions

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tsp. ground cumin

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Chilli flakes

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Cut the peppers and chilli in half and remove the seeds and stalks. Add the peeled and quartered onions and the garlic. Sprinkle with cumin and salt and pepper and drizzle with lots of olive oil. Cover with tinfoil and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the foil, stir well and return to the oven to roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and tip into a bowl. Using a hand-blender (or liquidizer) whizz up until a thick puree. Add more olive oil, salt and lemon juice to taste. It should be quite spicy. Add a pinch of chilli flakes if not hot enough

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Savoy Cabbage Braised with Chorizo

This week, like everyone else, I am thinking of Christmas and here is a way to jazz up your cabbage for those of you who are not Brussel Sprout lovers. We always think of braising red cabbage but forget that this is a really good way of cooking any sort of different cabbage from spring to pointed to savoy. There is no need to cook it for ages either. Just wilt it down and leave it a little crunchy. Much more delicious. I’ve been using rather a lot of bacon recently so I tried it out with Chorizo. Remember that the result will only be as good as the ingredients. You have chosen the best, organic cabbage you could so make sure that you source some chorizo which is just as good. There are some super ones out there nowadays, the acorn fed Iberico pigs producing some of the best. You can even buy it ready diced if you are short on time which, lets face it, you are bound to be if you are cooking on Christmas day!

Savoy Cabbage Braised with Chorizo

Olive oil

2 medium sized onions, peeled and thinly sliced

150g good quality chorizo, finely diced

½ savoy, or other cabbage, shredded

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and cook really slowly until just turning golden brown. Add the chorizo and fry until it has rendered its fat. Add the cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and add a splash of water. Cover and leave to cook for 10 minutes or so. Remove the lid and check for tenderness. It is nice to keep a little texture. Check seasoning and serve.

Parsnip Puree

Apart from roasting parsnips this Parsnip Puree is really the most delicious way to eat this lovely root vegetable. You will see it on lots of expensive restaurant menus served up alongside sea bass or scallops, fillet steak or venison, often topped with complimenting parsnip crisps of crispy fried pancetta. You will recognise it, as it will be smeared on your plate in a teardrop shape which seems to be obligatory when serving purees in posh restaurants.

If you can’t afford to go to expensive restaurants, give it a try at home. It is super indulgent and somehow tastes expensive, especially with a little drizzle on white truffle oil and is a really good way of spoiling yourself when you feel you deserve a treat.

Parsnip Puree

450g parsnips (about 3) peeled, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

125 mls (½ cup) double cream

125 mls (½ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sea salt

Bring parsnips, garlic, cream, milk, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until parsnips are very soft, 10–15 minutes. You should be able to mash them with a wooden spoon. Uncover and if necessary reduce any liquid, or add a little water depending on how dry it is; season with salt. Purée with a hand blender until  really smooth. Unlike potato, you cannot over puree it. Add pepper if you like – white pepper if you want to be poncy.

Purée can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat over medium-low, stirring often.

Brussel Sprouts, Puy Lentil, Pancetta and Mustard

This week I am once again concentrating on those Christmas veg, namely brussel sprouts and parsnips, to make sure that you are not completely board of them before the big day even arrives. A word of warning though – there are lots of recipes out there suggesting you roast, char-grill or pan-fry your brussel sprouts. In my opinion do not trust them! Nothing beats lightly boiling them in salted water. It brings out the sweetness, whereas all the other methods seem to intensify the bitterness and cabbaginess.

brussel-sprouts-puy-lentil-pancetta-and-mustard

I concocted this Brussel Sprout, Puy Lentil, Pancetta and Mustard recipe to serve alongside some good sausages for dinner, but it was so good I recon you could do without the sausages and just eat it on its own.

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Brussel Sprouts, Puy Lentil, Pancetta and Mustard

Serves 2

100g Le Puy lentils, uncooked and rinsed

3 large handfuls of Brussels sprouts, stemmed and halved

90g slices thin-cut pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips

A splash of double cream

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cover the lentils with plenty of cold water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large frying pan, sautee the bacon in some olive oil until all the fat has rendered and the bacon is all crisp. Meanwhile, in a large pan of boiling salted water, cook the Brussel sprouts until to your liking. You know they are done when they taste good. Drain the Brussel sprouts and add to the bacon. Drain the lentils saving just a tiny bit of their cooking water and add to the Brussel sprouts. Return to the heat and cook just until everything is hot. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add the mustard and stir through. Add a dash of cream, stir and serve straight away.

brussel-sprouts

Fettuccini with Leeks, Bacon & Cream

I am really excited about this recipe for Fettuccini with Leeks and Bacon, probably because I am really hungry and it sounds just what I want to eat now. There are so many really good ready made pastas on the market now, and so much choice. This recipe would work just as well with pappardelle or tagliatelle, just choose a good one.

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Fettuccini with Leeks, Bacon & Cream

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil

90g slices thin-cut smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips

1 large leek or 2 small, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, shredded crosswise and washed

100mls double cream

125g fettuccine, tagliatelle or pappardelle

Finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 5-8 minutes. Add leeks and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over a low heat for as long as possible, stirring often, until leeks first completely soften and then begin to caramelize. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Add the cream to the leeks and some of the pasta water so that you have a nice creamy consistency but not too dry. Check seasoning. Drain pasta and add to the leeks and bacon. Add the parmesan to taste and serve straight away.

Leeks cut

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Carrot and Coriander Soup

Yet another recipe which I cannot believe that I have not shared with you yet. This soup was one of my mum’s dinner party favourites, when I was a kid. Back in the 70’s this Carrot and Coriander soup was considered the height of sophistication, and coriander was still a relatively hard herb to get hold of. How things have changed but carrots and coriander are still a great combination and this is still a great soup.

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Carrot and Coriander Soup

Serves 4

Olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

750g carrots, peeled and chopped

Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, then fry gently for 5 minutes until really soft. Add the carrots and a little salt and pepper and cook for about another 10 – 15 minutes or so. Keep the heat low, do not brown just lightly caramelize. This will release the natural sugars and intensify the flavour of the carrot. Cover with water and cook until the carrots are tender. Add the coriander to the pan, stir and remove from the heat. Whiz with a hand blender of in a liquidizer until smooth. Add enough water to reach desired texture. I like mine quite thick and creamy. I also love coriander so I add enough to turn the orange soup almost green. Season to taste and serve hot.

Bunch of Carrots