When ill, the last thing you feel like doing is cooking. Then again, it’s not like you feel like eating either, so the difficult bit comes when your appetite returns but your energy levels absolutely don’t. This is when soup really comes into its own. Grab stuff, throw it in a pan, add water and leave alone until it soups itself.
That’s not always the most exciting of meals, though. So here’s a tangy, spicy ‘flu-buster soup for you, packed with vitamin C and traditional cold remedies and sweet and rich with butternut squash. If nothing else, the colour is bound to cheer you up!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter (optional)
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tspt garam masala
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
- 1 stick celery
- 1 x small red onion
- 3 x small potatoes, quartered
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled & chopped
- Juice of 1/2 small lime
- 1 litre veg stock
- 1 tsp lime pickle
- Fresh coriander (optional)
Heat oil over high/medium heat and add spices. Warm until aromatic.
Add ginger, celery and onion. Cook until softened.
Add potatoes and squash. Coat well in spices. Add butter (or not).
Pour over stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and bubble away for 30 mins or so – until veg is softened
Add lime juice and lime pickle
Whizz soup in a food mixer until smooth. Serve with sprigs of fresh coriander and some good bread.
My 5 year anniversary of vegetarianism is approaching and nary a drop of meat has passed my lips in all that time. Not one drop. (Shhh, Christmas chipolata, shhh! It was just ONCE, I was drunk, you were so lonely … ) In that time, my digestive system has improved beyond recognition, my sense of taste has intensified, and I believe I am not only much healthier, but a better, more versatile cook.
And so I believe it is time to tackle my fears. Open my arms to one of my last great mental barriers.
I have always feared tofu. The number of times I’ve truly enjoyed a tofu meal can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Too often it is badly cooked, watery, soft, squidgy, flavourless. On my plate it has slithered and slipped, disintegrated, granulated. In my mouth it has been flaccid and bland. Yes, I have truly experienced some Bad Tofu.
But once in a while – just now and then – it has sung and danced. It has been crispy, aromatic, joyous. It has sat snug amongst noodles, tumbled with rice, made merry with veg. It has been infused with heady flavours – gifts from an imaginative chef – and carried them to every bud.
And so, with great trepidation, I tried my very best to create a dish closer to the latter than the former. I’m delighted to say that, while improvements are always possible – this was pretty damn tasty!
Here’s what I did.
Ingredients (serves 2)
200g Basmati rice
300ml coconut milk (Blue Dragon remains my favourite – no, I’m not endorsed)
3cm fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
Sesame oil (or oil of choice)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch Cayenne pepper (to taste)
Tiny pinch Allspice
Pinch ground ginger
2 tsp palm sugar (or sugar of choice)
1/2 red pepper, chopped quite small
1 x Spring onion
1 x red chilli (optional)
For the rice:
1. Fry onions, fresh ginger and turmeric in oil over a medium heat until the onions are soft
2. Add rice & salt. Stir until well coated in the spices
3. Combine coconut milk with water and add to rice mix. Boil for 10 minutes, or until liquid is all absorbed. Then take off the heat and cover for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add sprigs of fresh coriander just before serving.
For the Tofu:
1. Drain the tofu and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Press firmly on the tofu until all the liquid is removed.
2. Combine coriander, cumin, paprika, Cayenne, Allspice, ginger and sugar in a bowl. Add the tofu and coat thoroughly
3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok and stir fry the tofu mix for roughly 5 minutes on a medium-high heat. (Usually the higher the better for tofu, but with added sugar there’s a risk of burning so medium is better)
4. Add red pepper, spring onions and red chilli and fry for a further 30 secs
For a spot of poshness I put the rice in an old plastic hummous tub, tamped it down and then upended it on a plate, making a nice rice-dome which you can decorate with coriander leaves. The colourful spiced tofu with red peppers and green spring onions went on the side. It all looked – and smelled – wonderfully fresh and tempting. I’m delighted to say it also tasted great, with the sweet coconut milk brought to zingy life by the tofu spices. (I did add a fair amount of salt to my serving of coconut milk, but I have a salty palate. Y didn’t add any at all.)
As a total aside – this is also an excellent dish if you’re watching the lbs. Tofu is a low calorie and low fat food, with only 171 calories in the 225g of this recipe, and 10.8g of fat. BUT – coconut rice is more problematic. The 300mls in this recipe comes in at 462 calories – 231 each. Add that to 100g of Basmati and we’re looking at 580 calories. So if you’re really keen to drop weight, exchange coconut rice for ordinary Basmati. But still – in total we’re talking somewhere in the region of 700 calories per portion for this recipe. So fill yer boots!
Hope you enjoy it!
Had a dear ole pal join us for supper t’other night. She’s not a chilli eater, and likes her food comforting and mild, so I had to wrack the brains for something worthy of a celebration. Turns out Mrs Crimble can do a decent gluten free pastry, so it was PIE TIME!
- Gluten free pastry mix
- Pack of Quorn pieces
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 chestnut mushrooms
- 1 large leek
- 1 egg yolk
- Approx. 175g cream
- 1-2 tsp lemon zest
- Squeeze lemon juice
- Salt & Pepper
- Preheat oven to recommended temperature of the pastry mix
- Boil leek in water and drain, reserving a little liquid
- Fry mushrooms in oil with rosemary and seasoning. When softening, add the Quorn and fry briefly on a high heat until all ingredients are nicely browned.
- Put Quorn mix into a large bowl. Add leeks and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, make the pastry as suggested by retailers and roll out to pie-crust thickness (your choice). A good tip is to roll it out between 2 layers of clingfilm to prevent sticking, breaking, screaming and shouting.
- Back to the pie mix. Now it’s cooler, add the cream cheese, egg yolk, lemon zest, juice, and seasoning. Stir it all up. If it seems a bit stodgy, add some of the reserved leek-liquid to thin it a little.
- Pour the gloopy loveliness into a pie dish and cover with pastry. Be warned – it will almost certainly break on you, so be careful. I ended up just laying it over the mixture and tamping it against the dish at the sides. It was fine. I also added little pastry leaves – BUT! Although they look pretty, they were a little soft underneath, and also softened the little bit of pastry they covered. Up to you whether you think the look is worth it.
- Bake in the oven until the pastry is golden and crisp. Warning: it’s possible that it will look golden but will not be crisp when you take it out. I’m afraid mine had darker patches on it where the pastry became a little overcooked, but it was worth the ‘well done’ bits to make sure most of it was crisp on top. But then, my oven is rubbish, so you might not have the same issue.
- If you’re me, you serve it with a huge American-style salad, full of such goodies as walnuts, boiled eggs, avocado (if in season – which it wasn’t this time), and all other salady things you can get your hands on. I dressed it with a lemon-mayonnaise dressing (mayo, half a lemon, pepper, pinch of paprika).
- Throw in mouth and make yum sounds.
It certainly went down well, both with our guest and with Y. It’s incredibly simple, very quick to make, and really very tasty.
Aubergines have become one of my new favourite things. I used to have a bit of a ‘meh’ relationship with them, but nowadays they make me smile and skip and frolic with foody joy. Especially now the ‘local’ supermarket is selling stripy ones that are sooo pretty.
Anyway. I had to whip up a quick meal last night, and this took about 30 minutes to cook. Granted, this may be because the oven I use is powered with some kind of nuclear fuel – so for all of you with ‘normal’ ovens, it’ll probably take longer. This made enough for 2 people when served with rice, but it wasn’t a big meal, so you might want to double up.
- One small aubergine
- Olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 inch stub of ginger
- Curry spices
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 small onion
- 2 tbsp yoghurt
- 1 green chilli
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- Fresh coriander
- Bake the aubergine in the oven until the skin is crispy and the flesh soft.
- Heat oil in a frying pan. Add spices, onions, ginger, garlic and chilli and fry until softened.
- Scoop all the flesh from the aubergine. Add to pan, along with tomato and fry for 1 minute.
- Add yoghurt. Stir and, if needed, add tomato paste. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, under cover.
- Throw in a handful of fresh coriander and allow to wilt in.
- Serve over rice, with naan or whatever accompaniments you like.
I do declare, as Elizabeth Bennet might have said (happy birthday Lizzie – 200 today and still as full of eclat as ever), but declaiming one’s success in the kitchen might be perceived as swollen headed. After all, why share mediocrity with the world and expect anything other than incredulous yawns in your face (my typo-ridden fingers actually wrote ‘yams in your face’ then, which is just as appropriate, I suppose). So … yeah. Sometimes recipes succeed. Sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they taste like rancid grit in dishwater. I feel it unnecessary to share the latter two with y’all – but I think it only fair to reveal a few of my more haphazard successes. This one was definitely more by chance than design. I wanted to make a fresh, light curry to break a day’s fasting (I’m on the 5-2 diet), but ended up … well. Not. Instead it was rich, creamy, tangy … and will be much improved with practice! (Clue – don’t follow this recipe as it’s quite annoying. Give it a read through and then do your own thing with it).
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 aubergine, sliced to 5mm
2 garlic cloves, chopped large
baby tomatoes (8? 10?)
3 baby peppers
1 x tin chick peas
1 x tin coconut milk
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
- Pour 1 tbsp sesame oil into large frying pan/wok-type-deal and fry with the garlic pieces
- Remove onion onto a plate. Add another tbsp oil, then spices, followed by aubergine slices, salted. Fry until aubergine is softened and well coated in the spices.
- Add the onion back into the pan. Look dubious.
- Add baby peppers and fry til slightly softened.
- Add tomatoes, fry for another few minutes. Stare at pan. Look dubious. Taste. Make face.
- Scout around kitchen cupboard. Light upon chick peas. Think. Frown. Shrug. Chuck chick peas in with everything else. Look even more dubious.
- Add heaped tsp lime pickle. Shake head. Scout around cupboards some more. Discover forgotten packet of paneer.
- Chop half the packet of paneer into cubes and add to slightly grizzly looking curry. Ransack cupboards in growing dismay. Discover elderly tin of coconut milk.
- Add venerable tin of aforementioned. Stir and simmer for a while. Taste. Make face again.
- Add heaped tsp harissa paste. Simmer. Stir. Taste. Make slightly less dubious face. Add little bit more harissa.
- Add more salt.
- Simmer while cooking rice. Become pleased with golden hue curry is now adopting. Less pleased with slop-like texture of onions and aubergine. Taste. Make surprised and pleased face 🙂
- Add generous squirting of tomato paste. Stir, simmer some more.
- When rice ready, serve golden-hued and slightly sloppy curry with rice.
- Take cautious mouthful. Find it pleasingly hot, and jauntily tangy.
- Stuff face. Drink beer.
It retrospect, the main problem was not knowing what I was doing (NO!!) and therefore allowing the aubergine to become a little overly soft. But then again, it’s possible a firmer texture would have meant less flavour. It’s also possible that this only tasted good because it came at the end of a 24 hour fast, so if anyone does decide to give it a bash (or something similar) then do let me know what you think. I liked it’s tangy richness – but it could definitely do with an improved texture. Perhaps it just needed something a bit firmer to balance it out, like carrot (but too sweet?) or potato.
Anyway – no matter what you’re eating tonight on this anniversary of Lizzie n Fitzwilliam – happy munching! And while you’re doing it, why not give that ol’ Pride and Prejudice a revisit. It’s really, really quite good you know. Even without the zombies.
Last night I had a lovely time with some local pals, who came to the house bearing bottles of vino, chocolate and – wonderfully – a Spanish halva-style confection made with almonds. The latter was good news indeed, as I hadn’t remembered to make a pudding. Oops. Luckily, I did make enough main course to fill bellies fu’ twice over.
I used to do a lot of entertaining. That I do less now has nothing to do with my change in diet, but more to do with the fact I don’t see my old friends very often, I’m a lot busier than I used to be, and the place I live is quite wee, with a very, very wee kitchen! But I was truly excited n delighted to be donning my entertaining apron (not as entertaining as Nanny Ogg’s spiderpants – but that’s a tale for a different blog) and getting into the dinner party mindset once again.
The local supermarket, which is a mere 20 miles from my door, is now selling some remarkably interesting fruits n veg, including samphire, fresh turmeric, gourds, shiitake mushrooms … and plantain. At the sight of the plantain, a little greedy light bulb went off in my brain and I decided to jazz up an old recipe. This one, to be precise:
But instead of using two bananas, I decided to try using one fat plantain instead. I’d never eaten one before, much to Yesh’s astonishment, and was intrigued to discover just how much like a banana it was. Turns out, not much. It’s like a cross between a banana and a potato – and much more like the latter than the former. A few more differences, too: I didn’t use Brussel Sprouts, and because I used the juice of half a lime and half a lemon as well as the zest – and because the long red chilli I used was pretty hot – I didn’t need to add lime pickle. In fact, I used too much of the juice and had to add water, so I would recommend using it sparingly and to taste. Another wee point – plantain doesn’t cook like banana. It needs loads of time to soften, so cook it up in the stock first and only add the coconut milk at the last. Finally, because plantain is not sweet, you may need to counter the spicy citrus with a teaspoon or two of sugar.
So that was my starter. And because it is the season to be squashy, and because I’d already tested out the flavour combos on my previous squash recipe, I thought this would be a good option. Posh Squash!
Ingredients (Serves 6)
3 small butternut squashes
6 fir apple potatoes
Large handful pecan nuts
Salt n pepper
- Put the pecan nuts in the oven and gently roast for 5- 10 minutes or so
- Split the squashes and scoop out their brains. Don’t bother to peel them – the skin softens and is full of fibre and goodness.
- Now dice them into chunks about 3cm and scatter them on an oiled baking tray along with the fir apple potatoes, halved (or quartered, if necessary). Glug some more olive oil over them, season with salt and pepper and scatter thyme over their little heads.
- Roast in the oven at 2oo˚C for 45 mins or so.
- Once roasted, tip the squash and potatoes into a serving bowl and sprinkle over the roasted pecans. Add the crumbled stilton and toss it all together.
- Eat several helpings. I served it with roasted vegetables, Purple Majestic potato salad (very cool colour), and a simple leaf salad. Most lovely.
Most importantly – try and serve it to people as fun and appreciative as F, Nanny Ogg, A and – of course – Yesh were. Hurrah for friends on cold rainy nights!
I love a good butternut squash, so here’s a recipes for these golden skinned beauties that I think is delicious. The trouble is, it’s a little … unsightly. If you’re having a dinner party, you want the food to look as pretty as it tastes, and this is just a bit … squishy. But for an everyday winter warmer, it cannot be beat. This recipe serves 2 hungry vegetarians, but you could easily halve it and serve it as a hearty accompaniment instead of as the main attraction.
2 butternut squashes
350g mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large red onion
200g hard blue cheese
3 cloves garlic, diced
Knob of butter
Salt & pepper
(Gluten Free) breadcrumbs
- Cut the squashes in half. Careful – they can be tough and the knife can slip, making the halves uneven, which is a pain.
- Remove the seeds, and brush halves with olive oil
- Place in the oven at 180˚C (or 200˚C if you’re oven isn’t too overenthusiastic) and roast until soft. How long it takes depends on how large the squash is.
- While the squash is roasting, melt the butter in a frying pan and add onion. Fry until soft, then add the garlic, chopped mushrooms, and thyme. Cook and mix together, seasoning as you go.
- When the squash is roasted, take from the oven and spoon out tablespoons of the insides, leaving only enough to keep the squash’s shape. Mix the soft flesh with the mushrooms etc, and crumble in the blue cheese.
- Spoon the stuffing mix back into the squash skin, and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. Return to the oven and bake until the breadcrumbs are golden.
- Serve with the accompaniment of your choice (wine is good), and be joyous.