Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

I seem to be writing a “100 easy recipes with butternut squash” blog at the moment.

I also seem to be finding it increasingly difficult to come up with ideas for family meals. My children are finally of the age when we can have a family supper all together in the evening, after years of cooking separate meals for us and the kids. This does however limit what we can eat, as pleasing everyone seems almost unachievable. I am always trying to think up new and enticing ways of presenting vegetables to persuade the kids to eat them. This week I bought some Tacos which always go down well. I offered a little shredded, left over chicken for my daughter, who does not do “spicy” and knocked up some guacamole for my son, who doesn’t like meat. If you offer a selection of different filling, it is almost possible to keep the whole family happy, as least for a while.

Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, very finely grated

Large knob of ginger, very finely grated

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 Chipotle chilli, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried marjoram or handful of fresh oregano

1 tablespoon tomato puree

2 tins black beans

1 packet corn tacos

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced

Small bunch of coriander, leaves picked

Shredded lettuce

A little feta, crumbled

Guacamole (see link)

Whatever else you might like to add – sour cream, tomato salsa, grated cheese,  shredded cooked chicken or sweetcorn

Heat oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and celery. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook about 1 minute more. Add chilli, the salt, the herbs, spices and tomato puree. Stir and cook 1 minute more. Stir in beans with a little of their juice and cook for 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile roast your butternut squash. Cut into quite small dice, toss with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking tray in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise.

Make up your tacos as you like, but I like to  first add some re-fried beans, tops with some shredded lettuce and coriander leaves, scatter on some butternut squash, add a big dollop of guacamole and finish with a little crumbled feta.

Roast Butternut Squash 1

Family Bolognaise

I have been so busy this week with thinking about Christmas, that I forgot to order my veg box. I was so occupied looking at all the Christmas hampers and cook books for family, that I clean forgot. But it is amazing how rummaging through the fridge I came up with all sorts. Last week I was talking about bulking out, or even replacing, meat dishes with mushrooms and I had a punnet to use up so that went in, and I had leeks too, which can always replace onions in sauces or stews.

I have also been talking quite a bit about cooking for kids and I came across a picture of my daughter aged 3, quite happily tucking into Spaghetti Bolognaise and I wondered how she had managed to turn into the fussy little madam she is today. I know that I have probably been a bit to blame, maybe bearing the adults in mind a little too much when cooking family dishes and I am quite a robust sort of cook. With children’s sensitive, little palettes, a little too much pepper or chili is probably enough to put them off. So I decided to make a batch of Bolognaise entirely with her in mind and see if I could win her back. Here are a few key points when cooking for kids although obviously you will need to adapt them for your own. Anyway, I am very pleased otro say that my efforts were rewarded when she not only finished up her own plateful, but somewhat regrettably, half of mine too!

• Go easy on the pepper and chilli. Don’t use too much wine. Make sure you cook it off.

• Break up the tinned tomatoes really well. Children can be fussy about pieces of tomato in things. Don’t use chopped, use whole, and mush them up with your hands until there are no big chunks left.

• Make sure you do not let anything catch. Burning makes things taste bitter. We tend to use leaner and leaner meat which of then does not have enough fat to cook. Add sufficient. If your sauce is greasy at the end, skim it or blot it with kitchen paper,

• Leave out (or puree) vegetables that they hate. My daughter will not eat carrots, no matter how I try and tell her they are something else, golden nuggets for example, she is not falling for it. As frustrating as it is leaving these things out, it is not as frustrating as them refusing to eat the whole dish.

• Cut vegetables fine, and cook down for as long as possible. Do this slowly with enough oil and a good pinch of salt. This will help them disappear into the sauce. This will also add some of the missing flavour that you have had to leave out, back.

• Be careful with cuts of meat. Children can be particularly fussy about skin, sinew or pieces of fat.

• Be careful with “green bits” ie herbs. Dried oregano is best to start with as it is familiar from pizzas.

Spag Bol 2

Family Bolognaise
Extra virgin olive oil
250 g quality British beef mince
6 rashers thinly sliced dry-cured smoked streaky bacon, sliced into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 leek, peeled and finely chopped (or onion)
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
4 large Portobello mushrooms or 8 smaller ones
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
100 ml red wine
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes

Put a casserole pan on a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil then cook then brown the meat. Break it up completely with a wooden spoon. Do not burn. Add more oil if necessary. When golden brown, remove to a separate bowl. Drain any extra fat if necessary. Add another glug of oil to the pan and add the bacon. At first the bacon will sweat. Use the liquid to scrape the bottom of the pan clean so that it does not burn. Fry until crispy. Add leek or onion and celery and sweat for a good 10 minutes, with a pinch of salt, stirring now and then, until really soft. Add the mushrooms, oregano and garlic and cook until completely broken down. Add the mince back, the tomato puree and then pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and cook off for at least 2 minutes. Add the mushed up tinned tomatoes. Rinse the tins out with a little water and add that too. Either tip the whole lot into a slow cooker for 3 hours on slow or cover with a lid and cook on the hob very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Check seasoning and add salt and a little pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever pasta your kids like best. Parmesan is obviously optional too. Don’t forget it is great in baked potatoes.

Amelie eating spag bol

Roast Courgette, Red Pepper and Tomato Stew.

I had no idea what I was going to cook this week when I got my veg box from Riverford. To tell you the truth I still had quite a few courgettes left from last week, which were playing on my mind. Courgettes can get a bit tiresome, when thinking up new dishes and that is why I decided that it is always best to stick with the classics. One of my favourite courgette dishes is Ratatouille and I had some peppers and onions but just no aubergine. In fact I had so much courgette and peppers that I decided that rather than bulk it out anymore, I would just leave the aubergine out.

As much as I love it, I never used to make Ratatouille much, first of all because it always seemed very time consuming, both in cooking and cleaning, and secondly because it always used so much olive oil, which was both costly and fattening. Then a few years back I had a revelation. Why not, instead of frying the vegetables, which is messy and also uses a huge amount of oil, try roasting them instead. Nowadays, I simply toss the vegetables in oil and chuck them in the oven. Same result, much less time and half the fat. So not really Ratatouille at all – here it is, my Roast Courgette, Red Pepper and Tomato Stew.

Ratatoiuille close up

Roast Courgette, Red Pepper and Tomato Stew.

4 large courgettes
2 red or yellow peppers
2 Small onions, red or brown, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 Tin plum tomatoes
Olive oil
Small bunch basil or dried oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
Cut off the courgettes ends, then across into 1cm slices. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and any white membrane, then cut each half into 3 pieces and chop into bite-size chunks. Toss the courgette with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay out on a baking tray and put in the oven. Toss the peppers in olive oil, salt and pepper, lay out on a roasting tray and add to the oven. Cook until golden brown. The courgettes will need turning half way through and the peppers stirring regularly to ensure even cooking. Meanwhile add some olive oil to a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook the onion for 5-10 mins until soft and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic and fry for a further min. Add the tinned tomatoes and half a tin of water and stir well to break up. Add some salt and pepper and either the basil, finely shredded, or the oregano. Turn the heat right down and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid catching. If too thick, add a little water. Taste the sauce and season. When the vegetables are ready, add to the sauce and check the seasoning. Either serve hot or cold.

Courgettes 2

Kohl Rabi

This week I started with a medium vegbox less roots which contained wet garlic, bunched onions, broad beans, garden peas, swiss chard, mixed salad leaves, mini cucumbers, red pepper and the dreaded kohl rabi,

I decided to get to work straight away on the Kohl Rabi as it is one of those vegetables that no one really knows what to do with. Looking like an unwanted alien, it is of the cabbage family but with the smell of mild turnip. It actually doesn’t taste of anything much but it has a great texture. So many recipes seem to be merely an excuse to get rid of it, so I wanted to try embrace it but use gutsy enough flavours to hide the rather unappetizing smell – unless you are a turnip lover. On the plus side, kohl rabi is really good for you. Higher in vitamin C than oranges it is a powerful antioxidant and contains phytochemicals which appear to have an anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

I have researched long and hard on your behalf and come up with three salads which most celebrate the Kohl Rabi.

Kohl Rabi Remoulade

Kohl Rabi Remoulade
Remoulade is usually made with raw celeriac and delicious with cold meats.
1 medium kohlrabi
A squeeze of lemon juice
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Grain mustard
4 tbsp. Mayonnaise

Peel the kohlrabi and cut it into matchsticks about 3mm thick, either by hand or using a mandolin. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Season well and mix in the kohlrabi.

Asian Coleslaw with Peanuts & Chilli

Asian Coleslaw with Peanuts & Chilli
½ large kohl rabi, peeled and finely grated
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
100g beansprouts (optional)
2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
1 bunched onions, finely sliced
Small bunch coriander
For the dressing:
1 tbsp thai fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red chilli, finely diced

Whisk all of the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and set aside. Pick the leaves from the coriander. Mix together all the vegetables, add the coriander leaves and toss with the dressing. Pile on a serving plate. Sprinkle with the roasted peanuts.

Kohl Rabi and Fennel Salad with Dill

Kohl Rabi and Fennel Salad with Dill
Great with fish, especially fatty fish like salmon or mackerel as the sharpness of the lemon cuts the fattiness of the fish.
I head of Fennel, tough outer leaves, stalk and tops removed, very finely sliced preferably on a mandolin
½ Kohl Rabi, peeled and very finely sliced preferably on a mandolin
½ lemon, juiced
Very good extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Small bunch of dill, finely chopped

Mix the lemon juice with a good pinch of salt. Mix well and add the olive oil, about 3 times as much oil as lemon. Taste and adjust. Add the fennel and kohl rabi and most of the dill. Serve with a little more dill or fennel fronds sprinkled on top.

Kol Rabi

Shakshuka

Next this week I turned to the peppers. Peppers are one of those veg which sometimes seem to hang about in the bottom of the fridge until they are no longer looking their best.  No more – this is one of our favourite Brunch recipes and is especially good for a bit of a hangover, although it is not essential.

In Israel they eat it for breakfast and specialist restaurants serve nothing else. Originally from North Africa it is best eaten with chunks of really good bread to soak up the sauce. The vegetables can be cooked beforehand but the eggs must be done last minute to get your exact preference of perfection. I like mine yoks runny but the whites firmly set. If you have a glut of fresh tomatoes, it is great for using those up too along with your peppers, but if you have none to hand then you can use tinned.

Shakshuka in bowl

Shakshuka
Serves 2
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium brown or white onion, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium green or red bell pepper, sliced
2 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 1 can (14 oz. each) good quality tinned tomato
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Cayenne
Pinch of sugar (optional, to taste)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 eggs
1/2 tbsp. fresh chopped coriander (optional, for garnish)

Heat a deep, large skillet or frying pan (one that can go in the oven) on a medium heat and the olive oil. Add chopped onion, sauté for a five minutes or until the onion begins to soften. (You can cover the pan to help it along.) Add garlic and continue to cook a minute more. Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened. Add spices and sugar, stir well. Add the tomatoes (if you are using tinned add ¼ tin of water too.) Stir and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes till it starts to reduce. Meanwhile pre heat oven to 170⁰C. Taste the mixture. Add seasoning and more chilli if necessary. It should be fairly hot. Make little holes in the sauce and crack the eggs, one at a time into each one. Pop in the oven until eggs are just set and the sauce has reduced. Sprinkle with Coriander and serve with fresh bread or Pitta.

Shakshuka with spoon

Use-up Stir-fry

Spring greens are a thing of beauty, however I do understand when you have seen your hundredth one turn up in your veg box, you may not continue to think so.

I got a couple this week in my small fruit and veg box along with more carrots, another veg that often accumulates, spring onions, sugar snap peas and new potatoes. On the fruit front there was apples and raspberries. So to make sure that you do not despair of summer greens, I will be concentrating on them over the next few weeks starting with a fabulous use-up dish this week. This is the sort of recipe which clears out your fridge before your next veg box arrives because there are so many variants of ingredients you can use. And of course you could add some prawns, or chicken, pork or steak if you wanted.

I started with my spring greens, sugar snap peas, carrots and spring onions but I also discovered half a left over red pepper, some mushrooms and a few bunched onions, which all went in. The only staples that you really need are chillies, ginger, garlic and coriander and a lime, Teriyaki sauce and noodles.

There are several varieties of Teriyaki sauce. My kids like Waitrose own best probably because it is particularly sweet but if you want a healthier option Clearspring make an organic one. The sweetness is counteracted with some lime juice and if you want more salt, add a little soy or Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce) is also particularly good. On the noodle front, any will do. I used some old Pad Thai noodles which  where hanging around in the cupboard. More important is the ratio of veg to noodle. Your cooked veg quantity should be about equal to that of noodles otherwise it can get a bit heavy going. I have given you a rough recipe below but really it is up to you.

The only other thing which really is of help in use-up stir-fry is a Wok. If you don’t have one, don’t splash out on an expensive one. I got mine about 25 years ago for £10 and it is still going strong.

Stir-fry in bowl

Use-up Stir-fry

Serves 2 very generously

150g Pad Thai noodles (or any will do but vary cooking as instructed)

1 head summer greens

1-2 fresh red chillies

Large knob of ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled

4 spring onions

2 small bunched onions

4 carrots, peeled

8 mushrooms

100g sugar snap peas

½ a red pepper

Sunflower oil

1 lime

Teriyaki sauce

Sesame oil (optional)

Soy sauce, Nam Pla or salt

Small bunch of coriander

Boil the kettle and pour boiling water all over the noodles so that they are submerged. Leave for 15 minutes. Meanwhile shred your summer greens, wash and drain well. Grate the carrots. Thinly slice the mushrooms and red pepper, removing any seeds. Remove the outer most layer from the spring onions and bunched onions and finely slice. (Don’t forget to use the green of the spring onions too.) Top the sugar snap peas and string if necessary. Finely chop the chilli, removing the seeds. With a teaspoon remove the outer layer of the ginger. Grate the garlic and ginger. Drain the noodles. Heat your wok or large frying pan with a little sunflower oil. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for a minutes, stirring well. Add the spring onions, bunched onions, mushrooms, sugar snaps and red peppers. Stir-fry for a minute or two more. Next add the summer greens and carrots. Stir-fry until the veg has wilted. Finally add the teriyaki sauce and noodles and mix really well. Take off the heat and stir in your chopped coriander. Squeeze over the lime and drizzle with Sesame oil if using, Taste. If it needs more salt add soy or salt. Make sure you have the balance of sweet, salty and sour. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Stir Fry in Wok