Chilli with the Black Eyed Peas (Beans), and a few cake designs for chilly spring

Sounds exciting doesn’t it? No bands involved I’m afraid and sorry for the REALLY long gap in between posts at the moment. As I have said before we have the builders in and my new kitchen (which is under construction from the ground up) currently looks like thisIMG_0856

It’s not it’s best side and is sorely lacking in kitchen units, but any minute now they will arrive and the fun will really start.

I’ve also had plenty of work on despite the upheaval, which has been a little challenging. Nevertheless I have been producing seasonal stuff:

IMG_0802IMG_0807

and more seasonal stuff: IMG_0848

and also very specific stuff: IMG_0776

that last one being Taylor Swift’s electric acoustic guitar!

So on with the recipe, I have concentrated so far this year on cakeage, so I think it’s time for a family favourite. This comes with many variations but is, in essence, as supplied below. Instead of aubergine, we commonly use butternut squash, but the fresh, spicy flavours permeate come what may.

You will need for 4:

1 Onion, chopped, 1-2 tbsp Sunflower Oil, ½ tbsp Olive Oil with Garlic, or a clove of Garlic, crushed, a sprinkling of Crushed Chilli Flakes, 2 medium Carrots, grated, ½ Aubergine or ¹/3 Butternut Squash, roughly chopped, 1 tin Tomatoes, chopped, ½ Vegetable Stock cube, 1 300g tin of Black Eyed Peas/Beans, 1 400g tin of Kidney Beans (or Mixed Beans) in chilli sauce, 1 Red Pepper, chopped, juice of a Lime, 2 tbsp of chopped Coriander, a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce, Salt and Pepper.

It’s all very straightforward, fry the onion in the oils over a medium heat in a fairly large saucepan until soft and translucent, add the garlic if using, chilli and carrot IMG_0860and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the aubergine/ butternut squash and again cook for 5 minutes or so over a low heat. Add the tin of tomatoes, stock cube, some just boiled water, start off with 250ml and the Worcestershire sauce and allow the come up to simmering point and then cook with the lid on for 10 minutes or so, add the two tins of beans, the pepper, lime juice, coriander, salt and pepper and cook over a lowish heat again with the lid partly covering for a minimum of 30 minutes until everything is tender, adding more water as necessary to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pan.

This is one of those great stew type dishes where the longer you leave it the better it will taste. If you have the time, go Greek and cook it at lunchtime to eat in the evening. Even a couple of hours between assembly and consumption will make a difference. Serve with rice, bread or tortilla!

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Festive Couscous Salad to Ease You into Your New Year’s Resolutions….

IMG_0568Well here we are on the eve of New Year’s Eve and any minute now those New Year’s Resolutions to eat less, drink less, shop less etc etc will kick in. I am always a fan of easy does it in this regard as going cold turkey usually ends in failure even before the hangover has actually cleared.

We had this a few days ago as a bit of a palate clearer after the Christmas meatathon, enjoyable as always, but as we don’t eat a lot of meat in the normal course of a week, a little bit of something fishy, spicy and herby was fancied.

I am quite into the hot and cold salad together approach and this is just one of several I like to make. The warm prawn component rarely changes but the cold salad underneath is designed out of whatever is lurking in the cupboards and fridge. This one has a distinct Yotam Ottolenghi feel to it. Hardly surprising really…..

You will need (for 2) for the couscous salad:  120g Giant Couscous (or the regular stuff) cooked according to the packet instructions, so boiled in water for 10 minutes for the giant and steeped in boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes for the regular stuff, then we are into a pinch of this and that territory, so some Pumpkin Seeds, some Poppy Seeds and some Pine Nuts, all toasted, some Cucumber, cubed, some Cherry Tomatoes, halved, some Olives, some Sultanas or Dried Blueberries, 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a squeeze of Lemon Juice from ½ a Lemon, 2 tbsp each of chopped fresh Mint and Flat Leaf Parsley, a pinch of Salt and some Black Pepper

Combine everything once the couscous and seeds are cool. Stir around and drizzle the oil and lemon juice over. Add the seasoning to taste. Of course other things like avocados, red pepper, dried apricots could be added too. Leave to sit and infuse whilst you cook the prawns.

For the warm Prawn Salad (serves 2): a 250g packet of Frozen Raw King Prawns, defrosted, 2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped, a pinch of Dried Chilli Flakes, juice of ½ a Lemon, a splash of White Wine (optional), 2 tbsp of Fresh Coriander, chopped, a tbsp of Olive Oil, Salt and Black Pepper.

Into a medium-sized frying pan over a moderate heat add the oil, garlic and chilli, stir round for a minute or two and then add the prawns, wine, lemon juice and season a little, stir fry for 5 minutes or so until the prawns have thoroughly turned pink and the liquid has reduced a little, add half the fresh coriander, stir round and then, having plated out the couscous salad, divide the prawns and their juices between the two plates. Garnish with the remainder of the coriander.

This is fantastic after all the rich food that is knocking around at this time. One feels extremely virtuous.

A very happy and peaceful New Year to all, thanks to all who follow, comment and read and see you in 2013 I hope! x

Tagine Inspired Shepherd’s Pie and Word about a Christmas Workshop

Just before we get into the nuts and bolts of a Moroccan style Shepherd’s Pie, I am going to make a little announcement:

For those who are resident in Wiltshire (realistically,) although anyone is welcome I am running my second ‘Decorate your own Christmas Cake Workshop‘ on the 14th December 2012. We won’t be tackling anything quite like this ‘Night before Christmas’ Cake just yet, but you will have something to wow your family.

It will begin at 9.45am and run through until around 3pm. Bring your own cake, un-iced, and your lunch. It will cost £25 plus the cost of the decorating ingredients, contact me via the messaging service in Facebook (see the side bar and click through).

Last year we managed this↓ (not sure why the background is so dark, perhaps it was about to snow!)

Anyway, on with the latest recipe. This is something concocted some years ago for Bonfire Night, the sweet heat seemed appropriate for such an event. I have always been a fan of Tagine, but find the soupy, stew-y nature of it a little unsatisfying in the depths of winter, so I came up with the following (serves 4):

You will need for the meat sauce:

800g Lamb Mince, 1 large Onion, 2 cloves of Garlic, crushed, Olive Oil, 2cm piece of fresh Ginger, grated, a pinch of Chilli Flakes, 2 tsp Paprika, 2 tsp Cumin, ½ Cinnamon stick or ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon, ½ Red Pepper, ½ Yellow Pepper (or a whole Pepper of one colour instead), 100g Ready to eat Apricots, roughly chopped, 1 tbsp Runny Honey, 2 tbsp Fresh Coriander or Flat Leaf Parsley Chopped, 2 tsp Tomato Puree, a slug of Red Wine (optional), Salt, Pepper.

For the Mashed Potato topping:

800g to 1kg of potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with butter, a tiny slug of milk, salt and pepper in the usual way.

Quite an ingredients list for this! But it is well worth it. Peel the potatoes and set them on the hob to boil and then simmer in salted water as usual. Keep and eye on them as you start the meat sauce, once tender, drain, add the butter, milk and seasoning and mash. You want quite a dry mixture, not too sloppy here as the meat sauce is quite saucy!

Meanwhile, fry off the lamb in a frying pan to remove the excess fat and heat the oil in a medium saucepan and fry the onion until transparent and soft, then add the garlic and stir round for a minute or two along with the ginger and chilli flakes. Transfer the lamb with a draining spoon to the onion mixture and then add all the other sauce ingredients apart from the fresh coriander or parsley. Add around 300ml boiling water until you have a sauce type consistency. Allow the whole lot to come to the boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes whilst the potatoes are cooking. Stir the meat sauce from time to time and add a little more water as necessary so that the mixture does not dry out and towards the end of the cooking time add the fresh herbs, you want to maintain some liquid at all times.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C, decant the meat sauce into an ovenproof dish and top with the potato, spread the topping around with the back of a fork to completely cover the sauce. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the topping has crispy tinges and you can hear or see the sauce bubbling underneath…..

This one in the picture was made with part regular, part sweet potato as the topping which is very good too.

What to do with the rest of the bag of Dill once you have made Nigella’s Sicilian Pasta: Cannellini Bean and Dill Stew

Sorry the title isn’t snappier but I felt like I needed an explanation in using dill at this time of year. As I have said before, to me dill conjures up Greek islands, lemons, salads with couscous and the like, not casseroles and crumbles and everything that goes with late Autumn.

The previous post revealed my delight with Nigellissima, the latest scrumptious series from Nigella Lawson. Here at Cutest Cakes HQ we have been having a bit of an Italian week ourselves what with one meal and another and the Sicilian Pasta featured, pieced together from the recipe bites on the iPlayer. It’s intensely fishy, with smoked mackerel the principle component and dill also featuring heavily. What shall I do with the rest of the packet? I think I have the answer and here it is:

So apart from the asparagus, which does give away the fact that I took this picture in the Summer, this is quite a hearty dish and can benefit from the addition of some premium sausages, either on the side or chop up into. It is also super speedy, taking no longer than the time to cook sausages should you be having some.

You will need (for 4):

1 can of Cannellini Beans in water, drained, 1 jar of Passata (or a tin and a half of chopped Tomatoes), 1 Onion, chopped, a little chopped Celery Leaves (optional), as much Dill as you can stand or what you have left over, chopped, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, grilled Sausages if you wish.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the onion over a medium heat until soft and transparent, add the celery leaves if using, stir round for another minute, and then add the passata or tins of tomatoes if using them instead…..

I was given a very good tip regarding the difference between using tins of tomatoes or passata, which is passata will cook very quickly really only requiring a warm through and doesn’t require a period of cooking down and the excess liquid evaporating away, tins of tomatoes do require this lengthier simmer and benefit from a ½ teaspoon of sugar due to the bitterness of the seeds.

…….so depending on the state of your tomatoes proceed as discussed and add the drained beans and dill and allowing the whole lot to cook down for 5-10 minutes minimum. Season and if you are using passata you may need to add a little water from the kettle to prevent from drying out.

You can add the chopped sausages (if using) at the point of serving and serve with crusty bread, pasta, asparagus…. whatever takes your fancy.

Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast has replaced Nigella for now. It is a visual wonder and I shall post a recipe inspired by his foray into Morocco next week.

Romanesco Cauliflower: The most loved veggie of all

Look what turned up in the veg box this week!! My better half and I adore these for some reason, which is curious as it’s more prevalent cousin, the bog standard cauliflower, usually gets whizzed up as soup round here.

The whorliness must make a difference.

So in order to extract maximum enjoyment from this patterned perfection we have it with pasta, and I can’t stress enough how delicious a dish this is; you will need (for 4): 1 Romanesco Cauliflower, cut into bite size florets, Olive Oil, 1 tin of Anchovy Fillets in Olive Oil, drained, 3 cloves of Garlic, crushed, 10 finely sliced Button Mushrooms, ½ Red Pepper, sliced, 2 tbsp of chopped Flat Leaf Parsley, Black Pepper, Parmesan, a few Green Olives (optional).

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil for the pasta (Penne or Rigatoni work best) and once you have a boil, add the florets of Romanesco instead and return to the boil. Meanwhile into a large frying pan, over a moderate heat, warm some oil and add the anchovy fillets (minus their own oil) and the crushed garlic and stir round until the anchovies are mush. Transfer the florets from the pasta saucepan with a draining spoon to the frying pan.

Weigh out however much pasta you need and add that to the boiling water left behind by the florets and cook in the usual way.

Back with the frying pan, add the mushrooms and red pepper, sprinkle in the parsley and a grinding of black pepper, stir round, add a splosh of water and either cover with a lid or large plate. Turn the heat down a little. Allow the ‘sauce’ to steam/fry until the pasta is cooked, the florets should still have some bite and there should be the merest hint of liquid in the bottom of the pan. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce and olives if using. Serve with Parmesan.

Buon Appetito.

Tempted by a Tomatillo? Only if they are Curried.

Tomatillo? What’s that I here you cry… Well the official answer is the Mexican relative of a cape gooseberry and here are some examples:

Now I know they look under ripe and not very tempting, but after a couple of weeks of experimenting due to their arrival in our veg box, I think I might have the measure of them.

We started off trying them raw in a salad, always a good place to start I think. They are fairly hard and quite sour so whilst that was fine, we moved on to incorporating them in a guacamole style salsa to go with a chilli.

Now that worked really well: into a bowl combine some chopped avocado and equal quantities of chopped tomato and tomatillo. Mash together a little and add some chopped coriander and a little salt and pepper. The sourness of the tomatillos removes the need for lime juice.

Then last night I thought they might work well in a curry and so made my version of Cornish Chicken Curry. Cornish Chicken Curry!! What can be Cornish about Mexican fruits or Indian Curry. Ah well, Cornish Chicken Curry is by definition a dish of ‘using up stuff’ and what do we all have half a jar of in the fridge? A jar of curry paste, along with a few bits and pieces of veg which are looking long past their sell by date and the omnipresent store cupboard staple, a tin of tomatoes.

So this version of the curry went something like this (for 4): fry off a couple of smallish thinly sliced onions in a slug of oil for 5 minutes or so until soft and then add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, a sliced green chilli and 1 cm or 2 of grated fresh ginger. Stir all that around for 2 or 3 minutes, add some diced chicken (around 400-500g) and stir frequently until the chicken has coloured on all sides and then add a couple of tablespoons of curry paste, the tomato based ones work best like Balti or Rogan Josh. Add a diced pepper, 5 or 6 chopped tomatillos and any other veg you fancy, a tin of tomatoes and a cup of water, allow to come to the boil and simmer until the chicken and veg are cooked through. Season if required and serve with rice. The tomatillos again give a lovely sharp tang to the dish and do retain their form like peppers, a real winner.

Chicken curry essentially all looks the same so I haven’t taken a picture of that, but here’s the salad we tried: baby beetroot, potato, smoked salmon, samphire, dill and goat’s cheese. The tomatillos were superfluous frankly but the rest was nice enough. Top with a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds.

What to do with a Pumpkin

Two for the price of one this week. Pumpkin season is upon us and apart from making lanterns, or perhaps as well as, a few recipes using up the flesh appear to be in order.

Pumpkins themselves do have a fairly bland flavour so the best tactic is to spice it up. Here are a couple of recipes to such an end.

Thai Red Vegetable Curry

This is heavily based on a Nigella recipe: Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry in her book Nigella Bites.

You will need (serves 4): 400ml tin Coconut Milk (full or half fat), 1 heaped tbsp Red Curry paste, 300ml Vegetable Stock, 2 tbsp Fish Sauce, 1 tbsp Sugar, 1 heaped tsp Lemongrass paste, 2 Lime Leaves (if you can get them, dried will do), ½ tsp Turmeric, 350-400g Pumpkin, chunked, 300g waxy Potatoes, chunked a little smaller than the pumpkin, 1 Red Pepper, thickly sliced, a couple of handfuls of Spinach, shredded Swiss Chard or trimmed Green Beans, juice of ½ Lime, Coriander leaves to serve.

You should be able to buy the Thai ingredients in Tesco or Sainsburys; Barts make the lemongrass paste and Blue Dragon the fish sauce. Lime leaves will be with the spices or specialist ingredients of larger supermarkets.

So, open the tin of coconut milk, don’t shake the tin before opening, and scope out the coconut cream which collects at the top reserving the coconut water. Plop this in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over a moderate heat and add the curry paste, stir that around for a minute or two and then add most of the coconut water, the stock, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass paste, lime leaves, turmeric, pumpkin, potatoes and peppers and simmer until the pumpkin and potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Then add the greens and cook for another 5 minutes or so and finally add the lime juice. Serve on rice or with naan bread and sprinkle with the coriander.

You can add prawns with the greens if you want and cook until piping hot. This has that lovely sweet, hot tang to it. Yummy.

Easy Peasy Carrot and Pumpkin Curried Soup

This is quicker to make than say the title.

You will need: a small Leek, finely sliced, a splash of Sunflower Oil and an even smaller splash of Garlic Oil, 2 tsp Ginger, grated, 300g sliced Carrots, 300g Pumpkin,chunked, 1 litre Vegetable Stock, 1 tbsp medium Curry Powder, ½ lemon, juiced, Coriander leaves (optional)

In a large saucepan, gently fry the leek in the oils and after a minute or two add the ginger, stir that around and then add the pumpkin and carrot and sweat over a low heat with the lid on for 10 minutes or so. Stir in the curry powder and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or so until the veggies are tender. Blend. Season if required (but I doubt it) and add the lemon juice. Delish.

Now, I will tell you how to make the little pumpkin cakes above next time, I am still trying to refine a pumpkin cupcake as the Hummingbird one is frankly a disaster. Those above are plain cake with orange flavour butter icing, but more of that next week…….

Chilled Thai Broccoli and Ginger Soup

This has got EVERYTHING going for it. Low-fat as I used low-fat coconut milk, non-dairy, no gluten, works well heated up or chilled so perfect for all seasons

and absolutely scrumptious.

Just before we get onto that I am going to just show you these in a fit of jingoistic, patriotic excitement. Good Luck Team GB we are rooting for you in this house!

So on with the recipe; you will need for 4-6 servings:

2 tbsp Thai Green Curry Paste, 1 can of Coconut Milk, 600ml of vegetable stock, 3 cm piece of peeled Ginger, grated, 2 freeze-dried Lime Leaves, 2 heads of Broccoli, washed and broken up into smallish florets, 2 tbsp of fresh Coriander, chopped, 1 ½ tsp of sugar, the juice of a Lime, plus a little zest to garnish.

If you have a recipe to make Green Curry Paste, then I strongly recommend preparing the paste from scratch. It is far superior to the bought stuff. I use Nigel Slater’s recipe which can be found here. Half the quantities stated gives 2 tbsp.

Once you have made the paste it is easy peasy. Pour the coconut milk and the stock into a heavy bottom saucepan over a moderate heat and add to that the curry paste, grated ginger, broccoli florets, kaffir lime leaves, sugar and half the lime juice. If you have not made your paste you may wish to add a tsp of fish sauce to supply a bit of saltiness. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and simmer, with a lid on, until the broccoli is tender. Blend. Add the remaining lime juice and stir in most of the chopped coriander and check the seasoning.

That’s it.

Ladle hot or cooled into bowls and sprinkle with a little more coriander and the lime zest. I started off with it hot as I couldn’t wait and then moved onto chilled with a couple of ice cubes in the bowl. It delivers that sharp heat that inflames the back of your throat. Yummy.

Moussaka with Minimum Fuss

Finally.

We have the sort of glorious weather we have been anticipating for about two months. As luck would have it, this improvement coincided with a camping trip where a pre-prepared courgette cake courtesy of Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess was eaten along with barbecued fish, chicken fajitas, french toast and butter bean dip. All good stuff as the omnipresent camping food of burgers and sausages were for once kept to a minimum.

The speed of the arrival of the heat wave is reminiscent of the process of taking a plane ride to the southern Med and the sudden rise in temperature engulfing you as the cabin doors are opened and you descend the plane’s steps.

Greece, a classic destination for such as phenomenon has been a favourite haunt of ours over the years and I adore their fabulous food and drink. Meze, stews, spinach pies, retsina; I love it all.

The most famous dish of all must be moussaka and traditionally, in this country if Delia Smith is to be believed, preparing such a dish is a long drawn out process and although there is no getting round making a white sauce and a meat sauce, I dont’ believe one needs to fry endless slices of aubergine for hours on end. I would also say this is a good candidate for a few hidden veggies.

So you will need (serves 4):

  • 500g Lamb Mince, 1 medium Onion, chopped, 1 stick of Celery, chopped, 1 carrot, grated, 1 Aubergine, roughly chopped, Olive Oil, 1 tbsp Tomato Puree, ½-1 tsp Cinnamon, 250-300ml Red Wine, ½ tsp of chopped Flat Leaf Parsley, Salt and Pepper and a grating of Parmesan.
  • 500g Potatoes
  • ½ to ¾ pint of White Sauce made using 40g of butter, 40g of plain flour, ½ to ¾ pint of milk, a grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper

By way of preparation, cut potatoes into large chunks and boil until soft, drain and set aside meanwhile fry off the lamb mince in a frying pan and put the roughly chopped aubergine in a colander and sprinkle with a little salt and leave in the sink to catch any moisture released.

To make the meat sauce, fry the onion in a slug of olive oil and once transparent, add the celery and carrot and any other chopped veg you wish to add such as courgette and red pepper. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes and then add the drained lamb mince, the aubergine, tomato puree, wine, cinnamon, parsley and around 200ml of just boiled water so the consistency is not too dry. Stir around, bring to the boil and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, whilst you make the white sauce.

White sauce for anyone who needs reminding: over a moderate heat melt the butter and once completely liquid, add the flour and stir to form a paste. Cook for a minute or two and then away from the heat gradually add the milk, stirring well between each addition until you have a smooth sauce the consistency of single cream. Return to the heat and stirring all the time allow it to come up to boiling and simmer for a minute or two. Add the salt and pepper and the nutmeg, stir, and leave off the heat.

Meanwhile, roughly chop about a third of the now cooled potatoes and add to the meat mixture and check the seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste. Thickly slice the rest of the potato.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C. Into the bottom of a medium-sized oven to tableware dish, smear a spoonful of white sauce and then add a layer of potato slices. Pour in the meat sauce (don’t add all the liquid if it seems very liquidy, but you do want some), then another layer of potato and spread over the white sauce to cover the top. Grate a little parmesan cheese as a final flourish and then bake for 35-45 minutes until the top is crispy and brown and the filling is bubbling.

Delish, particularly, served with a greek salad.

More from the Unloved Vegetables: Broad Beans pep up a Ham and Watermelon Low Carb Lunch

It’s the end of term this week and as fate would have it the work load has increased to celebrate. Hmmm….

I have been up to my elbows in melting moments, photogenic cupcakes and Sleeping Beauty↓

However I’m not eating any of this and in fact the recent cream fest has led to a week or so of obsequious eating, and I am happy to share.

The following was absolutely delicious and uses a very unloved vegetable: the broad bean. I have to say I’m not keen on them ‘skin on’ so my advice is to pop them out of the skins once cooked and cooled a little. This does not remove all the bitterness but makes a surprising difference!

Based on the classic ham and melon Italian antipasta dish, you will need for 1 serving: a thick slice of Watermelon, a handful of cooked Broad Beans, skinned, some Feta Cheese, diced, a couple of slices of Parma ham or prosciutto crudo, Mint, chopped, a sprinkle of Pumpkin Seeds, toasted, Lemon Dressing made with 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar).

Start off by expelling some of the pips from the melon, just the big ones, and then using a pastry cutter (around 5cm in diameter), stamp out two or three circles, arrange on the plate, then arrange the ham, shredded roughly, feta cheese, broad beans, mint, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle over the dressing and you are ready to go. I added a couple of diced cold new potatoes I had lying around as well and it all looked like this:

Despite the work load, roll on the summer holidays…

N.B. You can buy conservative slices of Watermelon in supermarkets and unless you are very keen on the stuff I suggest you seek out these.

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