Root Vegetable Soup

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Screenshot_2016-07-28-07-24-38-1[1] 28/07/2016

The beauty with soup is that you can use whatever you have and pretty much always guarantee a satisfying, tasty meal. I’m not going to sit and tell you what variations you can try. Decide for yourself. Go crazy! This is a really simple, luxuriously smooth, thick and wholesome soup that is easily freezable and even tastes better the next day.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • ½ butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • ½ teaspoon each of dried thyme and rosemary
  • 1 litre hot chicken stock
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium low heat. Add the onion and garlic and gently sweat for 5 minutes until softened. Add the other vegetables, stir well and cover with the pan lid to sweat until beginning to soften. Stir occasionally.
  2. Add the dried herbs and the chicken stock and bring everything to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft when pricked with a knife.
  3. Remove from the heat and pour into a blender. Be careful with the hot liquid. A ladle might be useful so you don’t splash yourself. Blend the soup to a creamy velvety consistency. Be careful with the blender lid. You may need to hold the lid with a cloth to allow a little steam to escape.
  4. Season with black pepper and check the thickness of the soup. You may need to add more water to achieve the consistency you like.
  5. Pour back into the pan and heat through gently. Serve with lovely crusty bread and butter.

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Puy Lentil Dahl with Coconut & Indian Spices

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Screenshot_2016-07-08-18-22-02-1[1] 12/07/2016

Addictive and comforting, this lentil soup is rich and creamy, yet still manages to be light and delicate, if that makes any sense at all. It also uses puy lentils. They become tender in a relatively short amount of time but don’t lose their shape, unlike most other lentil varieties.

Make this soup for a crowd and I guarantee you everyone will be scratching their heads, wondering what is in it that makes it taste so special. Also, as is the case with practically all soups, this one tastes even better on day two or three.

The use of ghee and gently frying the spices really intensifies their flavour while adding rich, buttery goodness.

Screenshot_2016-07-08-18-19-58-1[1]  Screenshot_2016-07-12-09-35-14-1[1]

As shown in the pictures, you can vary the amount of stock and coconut milk added and have this dish as a dahl served with paratha or as a soup. I made a big batch and added more stock and coconut milk to one half. Best of both worlds!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 500ml-1.5 L (6 cups) chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Lentilles de Puy (French green lentils), rinsed and picked over
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
  • salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the unsalted butter in a large soup pot. Add the diced onion and garlic, and saute over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and translucent. They will reduce in volume significantly.
  2. Add the fresh thyme and turmeric, and continue to saute for an additional 7-8 minutes, until the mixture is very soft and fragrant.
  3. Add the stock and the lentils and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (yet still hold their shape).
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the ghee (or clarified butter or unsalted butter) over low heat. Add the spices and fresh black pepper, and saute, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or so, until the butter is fragrant. Watch the pan carefully, as it can easily go from fragrant to burned quite quickly.
  5. Add the butter-spice mixture to the soil. Pour in the coconut milk, and heat soup over medium heat for 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Pasta Bake

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Screenshot_2016-07-11-21-27-03-1[1] 11/07/2016

I almost feel patronising to be blogging a recipe for pasta bake because it is so simple but as with most recipes that require little effort and let ingredients speak for themselves, this dish is packed full of flavour! Pasta bake can be whatever you want it to be from whatever you have but always leaves you satisfied. It is cheap, healthy, comforting, tasty and great as leftovers too.

One rule I always follow for a good pasta bake is – TOP WITH LOADS OF CHEESE! And I mean loads, to the point where you think ‘I’ve put too much cheese on that pasta bake’ then maybe a bit more. Baked in the oven until melting, bubbly and golden brown, it gives a wonderful luxurious, melting finish to the vegetable pasta mix. Not to mention the bits that go crunchy round the edge – ooo yeah!

What you put in is really up to you. You can make a bolognaise style sauce, white sauce, spinach and ricotta, squash puree, spicy bean, bacon, meatballs, go wild! Add vegetables, pasta of your choice, CHEESE, bake, enjoy.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 50g whole wheat pasta (I used fusilli)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 small courgette, chopped
  • 50g button chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 can cherry tomatoes
  • 100g mascarpone
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tsp dried herbs (I used basil and oregano)
  • Extra mature cheddar cheese, grated

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Cook the pasta for a minute less than the pack instructs. Reserve some of the pasta water to use in the sauce. Drain and set aside.
  2. For the sauce, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the onions and garlic and fry for 5-6 minutes until softened and golden.
  3. Add the courgette, peppers and mushrooms and continue to fry for 5 minutes until slightly softened.
  4. Add the dried herbs, can of tomatoes and stir in the mascarpone. Reduce the heat to low and combine everything well. Season to taste and let the sauce simmer gently for a few minutes. Mix the pasta into the vegetable sauce and a dash of pasta water if the sauce is really thick. It should be slightly loose as it will thicken a bit in the oven.
  5. Transfer the pasta and sauce to an oven-proof baking dish and top very generously with cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden and the dish is piping hot.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes then serve with salad and garlic bread.

Sourdough Pizza

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Screenshot_2016-07-07-20-27-25-1[1] 07/07/2016

I have left the instructions for toppings very vague as you can really go to town and add whatever you like. One of my favourite pizzas is with plain tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. So simple but so tasty. The pizza pictured was created as I didn’t have those things at the time and resorted to defrosting the leftovers from a spicy meatball meal with some jalapenos, chorizo slices and cheddar cheese thrown into the mix. Again, a fantastic combo but the star of the show is really the pizza base. Sourdough starter gives the dough a light, fluffy inside and crusty outside with a flavourful tang and great chew. Perfect for dunking into a healthy portion of garlic mayo too!

Makes 3-4 pizzas

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 300ml lukewarm water
  • 120-200g starter dough, depending on how liquid yours is (see my sourdough starter page for the recipe)
  • 10g salt

METHOD:

DAY BEFORE BAKING:

  1. Prepare the dough one day ahead. In a large mixing bowl mix the flour, water and the olive oil. Cover with a cloth and set aside for 30 minutes. Add the active sourdough starter and sea salt. Start to knead with your hands. Knead 15 minutes.
  2. Let the dough proof in a bowl, covered with a cloth for 5 hours at a room temperature (18 – 25°C).
  3. Divide the dough onto four parts, each weighting around 250g. Shape in a small round shape. Put the dough on a tray, cover with cloth and reserve in the refrigerator. The dough is now ready for baking. It can rest in the fridge for up to 72 hours.

DAY OF BAKING:

  1. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature. Twenty minutes before baking lightly dust a work surface with flour and stretch the dough in a pizza shape.

TIP:

Use a baking stone for baking pizza, if you have it. The stone also needs to preheat. Line the baking stone with parchment paper, bake the pizza directly on parchment paper.

  1. Add your favourite topping and bake for 8-12 minutes on a baking tray/pizza stone, lined with parchment paper, on the highest temperature.