Butternut squash and red pepper soup

Butternut squash and red pepper soupThis soup is a seasonal winter warmer that’s really quick to make. The butternut squash gives it a thick and smooth texture that just leaves you wanting more!

We like it spicy, so we use a fair bit of chilli. However. the quantity shown will give you a mild kick. We use a hand-blender directly into the pan for this recipe. If you’re using a conventional blender it will be safer to let the soup cool a little first, then reheat after blending.

Ingredients (serves 4 generously or 6 as a starter portion)
1 tbps extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 pint heated vegetable stock (it’s quite ok to use a cube)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp chilli powder

Method
1. Heat the oil gently in a large heavy-based saucepan
2. Add the crushed garlic and coriander and heat in the oil for a minute
3. Add the squash and peppers and coat in the oil / spice mix then sweat for another 2 minutes
4. Add the vegetable stock, cinnamon and chilli powder then bring to the boil
5. Simmer for around 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is soft
6. Blend to a smooth consistency and serve.
7. We generally serve sprinkled with some chilli flakes, or as in the picture with a drizzle of chilli oil.

Advertisements

Simple Vegetable Stock

Some people seem to find it enjoyable to munch on a stick of celery, or dip it into their houmous. I’m afraid I find it difficult to share their enthusiasm for eating it raw, but when it comes to incorporating that unique flavour with other ingredients it’s a different story.

Celery is one of the ‘holy trinity’ of  vegetables used to make stock. When used together with carrots and onions, celery adds a depth of flavour to soups, casseroles and other dishes that is hard to obtain any other way. Granted, stock cubes or boullion mixes are indispensable when time is tight. But I find  there is nothing to match a bit of culinary love, and a home-made stock rarely disappoints.

The basic idea of making stock is to get as much flavour as possible  from the vegetables  into a quantity of water. This can then be used straightaway as the base for a dish, or set aside for later. Stock freezes well and is therefore a great way of using vegetables that are a little past their best. The recipe below is really a base, but there’s nothing to stop you adding other vegetables as they are available. For example, fennel is a really aromatic vegetable that adds an aniseedy note to the flavour, some people add some tomatoes etc…

I’ve gone for store-cupboard herbs here, but if you have fresh herbs then so much the better. Parsley and basil are favourites, or you may prefer to use a couple of sprigs of thyme. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, it’s all about what you have available and works for you.

Ingredients (for around 1 litre of stock)
2 tsp olive oil
1 large or 1½ small onions (or you can use half onion, half leek)
2 carrots, peeled
2 sticks celery
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried mixed herbs (We use ‘Herbs de Provence’ mix, available in Asda, Sainsburys etc.)
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed (optional)

Method
1. Chop the vegetables as finely as possible. I use a food processor to grate or shred the vegetables as this reduces the cooking time, and ensures you get the most flavour.
2. Spoon the olive oil into a large, heavy based pan and place on a medium heat for a minute or so.
3. Add the vegetables and stir for 2-3 minutes to sweat.
4. Add enough water to cover the vegetables comfortably, at least a litre, and bring to the boil.
5. Turn the heat down and add the garlic and herbs.
6. Cover with a lid slightly ajar then simmer for 20 minutes.
7. Carefully strain the stock through a fine sieve and discard the cooked vegetables and herbs.
8. Your stock is now ready to be used, or alternatively to be cooled completely before placing in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen in batches.
9. To make a more concentrated stock you can reduce the liquid further by boiling until you reach the desired quantity.

Roasted vegetable pasta sauce

This is a simple and delicious sauce to serve over pasta and a great way to get veg into children who are less than keen on the idea! You can vary the vegetables you use according to what’s available, and its also a great way of using vegetables that are slightly past their best. This recipe makes a generous portion for 4 or you can make extra and freeze.

Ingredients
1 Aubergine
1 Courgette
1 Carrot, peeled
1 Red pepper
3 Cloves of garlic
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 400g packets of Passata (or you can use cans of chopped tomatoes)
Fresh basil or oregano (optional)

Method
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (gas mark 4)
2. Slice the aubergine, courgette and carrot into pieces that are around half a centimetre thick. We peel the aubergine and courgette first as one of our children is very sensitive to textures and this makes a smoother sauce.
3. Slice the pepper, discarding the stalk and the seeds. Do not peel the garlic cloves.
4. In a large bowl toss the vegetables and garlic in the olive oil making sure they are covered. The aubergine is greedy, absorbing oil very easily so its best to do it last. (For a healthier version you can use less oil and spray it onto the veg).
5. Spread the veg and garlic over a couple of baking trays and place in the oven for around 25-30 mins. The aubergine will go dark brown but mustn’t burn.
6. Squeeze the softened flesh of the roasted garlic cloves from the skin and add to the passata, followed by the vegetables. At this point you may wish to add some herbs such as fresh basil or oregano for additional flavour.
7. Blend everything together to a consistency that suits you. For smoothest results do it in batches using a blender, but you can also use a food processor or hand blender.
8. Heat the combined sauce through in a saucepan and serve over pasta, seasoned to taste.

Red Lentil Dal

I’m going to start with one of my favourite dishes to cook and to eat.  It’s based on a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey, which is delicious in it’s own right, but with a couple of optional adjustments that I think really lift it.

Red lentils are one of the smallest and most widely available lentils you can buy. Unlike other varieties you can use them without soaking overnight which means that you won’t need to plan too far ahead. You can make two meals from a 500g packet, making it really cheap to make too.

The recipe is straightforward and takes just under an hour to cook, but you can do other things. I often make a large quantity and freeze portions for another meal, a source of envy in the staff room at work! Serve with an Indian flatbread like Roti or Chapati – or lightly toasted pitta bread will do just fine.

Ingredients:

8floz/225ml measure red lentils
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 tsp asafoetida (also known as ‘Hing’ – this is optional but adds extra flavour)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp kalonji seeds (black onion seeds)
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp dessicated coconut
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes ( this gives a medium heat – feel free to add more or less according to your taste)
Half a small onion, thinly sliced
Half a fat clove of garlic, crushed
Handful of fresh coriander leaves

Method:

1. Thoroughly rinse the lentils in cold water. This is best done in a large bowl, using a sieve to catch any lentils that escape as you pour the water out – do it several times until the water runs clear.
2. Drain the lentils and tip into a large pan with a lid. Pour in 24floz/700ml water, then bring to the boil. A white foam will rise to the surface of the water that needs to be skimmed off with a slotted spoon.
3. Stir in the turmeric, reduce the heat to very low and partially cover with a lid slightly ajar. It will take around 40 mins to cook the lentils, after which time they will be soft to eat with a texture similar to porridge. Stir occasionally to ensure they don’t stick.
4. While the lentils are cooking you can make the tarka. Heat the oil in a small pan on a low heat then and add the onion until it is soft. Then add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, chilli flakes, kalonji seeds, sugar, coconut and garlic. Stir in and cook until the onion is well browned.
5. Pour the mixture into the lentils, stir and put a lid on for about ten minutes. This enables the flavours to really mingle.
6. Serve with some fresh coriander on top.

Red lentil dal

The English Hobbit Abroad

More specifically South Korea

yestolifeblog

health, inclusion, human potential

Vegetarian Dad

A blog on the joys of vegetarian parenting

COOKING ON A BOOTSTRAP

by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'

Rocking In The Freelance World

One woman's adventures in self-employment

Anthony McKernan

Thought Shifting Vblogs in 120 seconds.

Penny Veg

plant-based wholefoods on a budget

frugalfeeding | Low Budget Family Recipes, UK Food Blog

n. frugality; the quality of being economical with money or food.

Sheep

Promoting the book