Low Carb, Wheat Free Spaghetti Squash Turkey Bolognese……

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This picture is a disaster, but I assure you the recipe is not. This is a clean eating gem: low carb, gluten-free, dairy free, temple food of a comforting type at a time of year when temperatures are plummeting and feasting is just around the corner…..

We have recently changed our veg box supplier and to my delight the range of veggies has been welcome change, spaghetti squash wasn’t something I had had much experience with but the prospect of using it like actual spaghetti really wet my appetite. I was serving this up to sceptical kids so decided not to make a regular bolognese, so that comparisons were less likely to be drawn. Child one found it hard to get past the fact he wasn’t eating actual spaghetti, (why bother) but they all admitted it tasted good in its own right. My better half and I REALLY enjoyed it and in fact I would suggest it is as least as tasty……..

You will need (serves 4)

For the Spaghetti:

1 Spaghetti Squash, a pinch of salt and a drizzle of Olive Oil – pre-heat the oven to 180°C, half the squash having given it a quick wash and scoop out the seeds, sprinkle with the salt and oil, cover in foil and bake both halves in the oven for about an hour, remove the foil after about 30 minutes. It’s cooked when a knife inserted into the flesh meets little resistance.

For the Turkey Bolognese sauce: 400g Turkey thigh mince, 1 medium Onion, chopped, 1 clove of Garlic, crushed, Oil, pinch of dried Chilli Flakes, 1 tsp of Worcestershire Sauce, 1 tin chopped Tomatoes, 1/2 tomato tin of Water, any amount (within reason) of chopped veg such as Pepper, Peas, Courgettes and a handful of baby Spinach Leaves, Salt and Pepper.

So fry off the onion in the oil and once transparent add the garlic, chilli flakes and turkey mince. Stir around until the mince has browned and then add the Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, water, and all the veg you are planning to use apart from the Spinach, stir around and simmer for 30 minutes or so. The sauce will keep of course until the squash is cooked. Once you are sure the squash is tender, remove from the oven, add the spinach to the sauce, season and stir around until the spinach wilts. (Add a splash of water if the sauce becomes too dry).

To serve, loosen the squash from the skin with a spoon/fork combo and fluff the squash up to shake out the individual strands. Divide between the pasta bowls and ladle sauce to over to taste. Serve with or without Parmesan.

I won’t leave it so long to post next time……..

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!

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.

More from the Unloved Vegetables: Stir Fried Kale with Leeks and Garlic

I feel I should start with an apology; I promised pumpkin cupcakes last week for this weeks blog post, however we are moving into fruit cake baking season and my oven could do with deep clean. I have decided to try the bicarbonate of soda route which is in fact a longish process taking a few days. I am uncertain as yet whether it will truly work but am hopeful as ‘Mr Muscle’ seems to be loosing his mojo and you have to put up with that dreadful smell. So baking is currently on hold which is fine but this process has pushed any cupcakes off the agenda for now.

So I am returning to a favourite topic, the unloved vegetables.

Kale really is a bit of a nightmare: bitter, tough, always seems to come in large quantities, the cooking possibilities seem few and far between. I don’t believe there is much point in pretending is possible to convert it into a undiscovered gem of a vegetable, but in terms of bulking dishes out and using it up over throwing it out I do have a few ideas up my sleeves.

Stir Fry Kale with Leeks and Garlic

This is an accompaniment type dish, good with things like pies or roasts. Take a washed trimmed leek and slice quite thinly, heat a slug of olive oil and a similar slug of garlic oil in a medium-sized frying pan and add the leek, stir around for 5 minutes or so, until soft and then add the washed and chopped kale having removed the thick central stems. Stir around for 5 to 10 minutes until the kale has wilted and softened. It takes on a ‘wet’ appearance. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and season with a little salt. The leek adds a sweetness to the proceedings which frankly is much needed.

Kale New Potato and Blue Cheese Pizza topping

I am assuming that you are making pizza here  so rustle up a Margherita and then add sliced, cooked new potatoes, chopped, wilted, drained and dried kale and diced blue cheese (Dolcelatte, Stilton, Danish Blue whatever you like) and bake for 10 minutes or so. Now this really is delicious.

I will come back to making pizza a some other point.

Sweetcorn and Chilli Oil

Finally, a cute little food marriage with the corn on the cob season upon us, boil or BBQ your corn on the cob and then instead of adding butter, drizzle chilli oil instead. It’s fantastic!

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.

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.

Simple Soft Fruits

So we are deep into the soft fruits season and given the expense and uneven ripening of some (peaches, apricots, nectarines) at the point of purchase it can be very tricky to have enough of any one thing to convert into a delicious dessert. I also feel that for many of the summer fruits, red and blackcurrants aside, the least fuss the better. Washed and used as an accompaniment to other things seems the best way forward.

A couple of ideas: pancake pouches with soft fruits, and the old favourite, a vintage sponge. Of course, the ever-present strawberries and raspberries below can be replaced with sliced peaches, nectarines and whole cherries if you have them.

Pancake pouches

I first saw these on Pinterest just as an image and the pouches looked perfect. I can’t imagine how the author/baker managed to get the batter to form little cauldrons into which the fruits can be spooned, but the version we ended up with went down a storm with the kids and can definitely be served up at breakfast as a low faff option or as a pudding with ice-cream as well as fruit. The origins appear to be mini German or Dutch Pancakes.

1 cup or 250ml milk
6 eggs
1 cup or 130g flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
1/4 cup or 60g butter, melted

Sifted Icing Sugar for dusting

  1. Pouches with ice-cream and fruit

    Preheat oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C. Blend first six ingredients (milk to orange zest) in a blender.  Be careful to see that any flour clumps get well-blended.

  2. Blend in butter a little at a time in order to temper the eggs.
  3. Grease muffin tins very well with butter and distribute batter evenly between 18 holes, slightly less than half-full per hole.  Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until puffy and golden on top.
  4. Remove carefully from the oven and allow to fall back and cool down for a few minutes before carefully teasing away from the hole with a small palette knife or similar, arrange individually or together on a plate and dust liberally with icing sugar.

Borrowed from realmomkitchen.com. Bless them, although the recipe appears to be a traditional one.

These are really gorgeous in taste and this method allows one to make pancakes of a morning without the batch cooking. They basically behaved like Yorkshire puddings, for those Brits reading this, but do not cook long enough to set in the puffed up state have a lovely gooey texture too. Yummy. You might need to trial this a couple of times to get the pouch effect and just less than half full as opposed to just over half full in the bun holes seems to work better.

Vintage Cake with Soft Fruits

Just a reminder really that a simple sponge see Easy Peasy Vintage Sponge Cake with soft fruits and cream can create a wow factor like any beautifully iced cake and is far less fuss. Just one word of caution: don’t be tempted to substitute whipping cream for double, it can’t cope with the weight of the top tier so well.

And just for good measure food marriages with soft fruits include:

  • raspberries folded into whipped cream with a ¼-½ tsp of rose-water,
  • peaches cut in half, sprinkled with a little brown sugar and grilled, top with Greek yoghurt and chopped, toasted pistachios,
  • and strawberries with chocolate.

My Mother’s Easy Peasy chocolate cake recipe coming very soon.

Peto Garden Risotto

The Gardens at Iford Manor were designed by Harold Peto. Harold Peto was strongly influenced by Italian gardens he had visited. I adore anything Italian. Therefore, I love the gardens at Iford Manor. Luckily for me Iford Manor is literally down the road.

I took some pictures on Easter Sunday, so around a month ago. Here are some of the best, it’s the easiest place to photograph, picturesque barely covers it but the light was as flat as a mill-pond so I’ve done what I can in Photoshop.

First off the architectural ones:

I like the strange leaded lights and the shadow the branch produces

Gorgeous embellishments

Loving the Loggia

The overriding smell was that of wild garlic that grew in such abundance that it flowed like a river in places and so that got me thinking about risotto as a perfect use for it.

Both wild garlic leaves or wet garlic which is like a giant spring onion can be used in following recipe and the flavour is subtle here not punchy, sharp and leaving you reaching for the mints.

Butternut Squash and Garlic Risotto (serves 2)

As is usual with these things begin by bringing 600ml of vegetable stock (use a stock cube) to simmering point in a saucepan on the back of the hob and then fry off a small to medium finely chopped onion in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Once transparent, add a sliced wet garlic bulb (prepare as you would a spring onion) if using and a finely chopped stick of celery. Stir that around for a minute or two and then add 200g of Arborio or Carnaroli risotto rice and stir again to coat the rice with the oil. Add a slug of white wine if you wish and then begin adding a ladle full or two of stock and stir regularly as the liquid is absorbed. Add half a chopped medium-sized butternut squash and some more stock and keep stirring regularly again until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock and stir repeatedly for 10 – 15 minutes until the rice is almost tender. If using wild garlic leaves, you will need a good handful, washed and roughly chopped, add these now and allow to wilt. Grate in a little parmesan cheese and a knob of unsalted butter and continue to stir until everything is combined and melted. Check the seasoning and serve in bowls with additional parmesan grated over and a little black pepper.

If you feel you need to make this a little more substantial: chopped bacon can be added with the celery, shredded, cooked chicken towards the end of the stock absorption process (check it is piping hot before serving) or steamed purple sprouting broccoli can be laid on the rice once cooked. A multitude of options to suit.

Back to a few more pictures:

They hold Opera and Jazz concerts here on barmy summer evenings. Idyllic… Check Iford Arts link for details.

Ratatouille Style Prawn Curry

Well by now I was definitely banking on warm days, asparagus in the veg box and an opportunity to embark on a few salad recipes. What is going on with the weather? Particularly, as just two hours away by plane, Spain is experiencing some of the hottest temperatures for May on record. However, as I didn’t have the oven on today, I was considering a quick blast of central heating. (I didn’t succumb in the end – promise). So what are we eating instead with the seasonal veg shifting towards salads, courgettes and peppers, that sort of thing. I could have made a ratatouille, but you know what, it didn’t really seem ‘warming’ enough.

Curry. I think that will do it. As I have mentioned before I don’t really worry too much about authenticity with curries. I like a sharp, hot kick, usually mid-week which precludes too much genuine, subcontinental finessing. I appreciate that I should try harder and explore the cuisine with a little more diligence, but when the chilli/spicy craving strikes there simply isn’t the time. I do think though that with a good jar of curry paste and a plan, it is possible to make simple curries with distinctive punch.

Aubergines are excellent curried, one of the most delicious curry dishes I ever tried was curried baby aubergines. Spicy and creamy with some bite to the skins….Heavenly. So it wasn’t too much of a leap to get to this, serves 2:

2/3 Spring Onions, sliced, 1 cm Ginger, finely chopped, 1 clove of Garlic, crushed, 1 Courgette, roughly chopped, ½ Aubergine, roughly chopped, ½ Green or Red Pepper, sliced, 1 tin of Chopped Tomatoes, 2 tbsp Rogan Gosh Curry paste, 250g Frozen Raw Prawns, a good handful of roughly chopped Spinach (optional), Salt, Pepper, Oil and a squeeze of Lemon Juice.

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of oil and add the spring onions and ginger, stir round for a couple of minutes and add the garlic, give it another minute and then add the courgette, pepper and aubergine. Stir round and allow to sweat gently for 10 minutes or so. Stir from time to time and add a little more oil if necessary (the aubergine can really soak it up). Add the tomatoes and the curry paste and about ½ a tins worth of water from the kettle, stir to combine and allow to simmer for 15 minutes minimum, or longer if you wish, whilst you cook some rice. Keep an eye on the sauce, stir occasionally and add a little more water if required. About 5 minutes from the end of the rice cooking time tip in the frozen prawns and the spinach if using and turn the heat up slightly to bring the sauce back to a simmer. Stir frequently at this point, add some seasoning and lemon juice. Once the rice is cooked, the prawns have turned pink and the spinach is wilted, serve sauce on rice in the usual manner.

Spring fresh curry, just what we need it seems.

Sorry I don’t have an image of the final dish, but it looks like tomato sauce on rice; not particularly enlightening!

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