Autumnal lentil and bratwurst stew with pan fried spaetzle

This is a warming, hearty recipe that is perfect for autumn. Spaetzle are German noodles which are usually boiled or pan fried and served with a main dish. This recipe was inspired by a meal eaten in Berlin and I have used readymade spaetzle however you can easily find recipes online if you have time to give it a go. You can also add some smoked ham into the base of the stew if you like. If you can’t get hold of bratwurst then any good quality sausage will work well.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 large carrot- finely diced
2 celery sticks- finely diced
1 large onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
100g diced smoked ham or pancetta (optional)
400g green lentils
600ml vegetable stock
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Fresh parsley
Bay leaves
4 bratwurst sausages
400-500g readymade spaetzle- alternatively you can find a recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/german-spaetzle-dumplings/

1. Get going by taking a large pan and heating a glug of oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes before adding in the carrot, celery and ham (if using). Stir through the lentils so they get a light coating of the onions and garlic.

2. Pop in the stock, vinegar and a couple of bay leaves and bring to the boil. I added 400ml of the stock to start with and reserved the rest and added little by little as some lentils are much more absorbent than others to judge it as you go. I always make more stock than I think I need just in case! Lower the heat, season well, cover loosley and simmer for around 30-40 minutes until the lentils are tender and the liquid is reducing but some still remains for the next step.

3. Just before the lentil stew is ready, cook the bratwurst as you wish. Bratwurst can be boiled, grilled or fried so pick the cooking method of your choice! To finish off, you need to pan fry the spaetzle for a couple of minutes until cooked through. Serve the spaetzle and lentil stew with a sprinkle of parsley, with the bratwurst on the side and tuck in! Of course, you can also chunk the sausage and toss that through the lentils if you like.

Lentil and spaetzle stew with bratwurst- a tasty take on a German classic!  

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Kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi

Kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi combines many of my favourite ingredients in a light yet rich sauce to welcome in autumn in the coming weeks. Food should be colourful and vibrant and it certainly is! I have used a simple white sauce base with a touch of parmesan, garlic and red onion to lift and enhance the flavours of the vegetables but it would also be delicious with a mascarpone sauce if you prefer. Gnocchi is easy to buy and quick to cook and, as I baked it, I didn’t need to boil it before cooking so it’s even quicker!

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Ingredients- serves 4
500g fresh gnocchi
Olive oil
75g cubed pancetta
2 cloves of garlic- crushed
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 small butternut squash- cut into small dice
200g bag of kale- washed, tough stalks removed and shredded
Small handful of fresh sage- finely chopped

For the white sauce
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
250ml double cream
250ml milk
75g freshly grated parmesan

1. Get started by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan; you don’t want the oven too high so the vegetables and gnocchi don’t catch and burn. Take a large frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Fry off the pancetta cubes until turning slightly golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Use the frying pan again and cook the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften before adding the diced butternut squash. I fried the onion and garlic in the pan with the remaining pancetta juices for extra flavour. Turn the heat down to low/ medium and cook for a further few minutes. Add in the shredded kale, sage and cooked pancetta and cover the pan with a lid or foil. Cook down until the butternut squash is tender and the kale is steamed.

2. Meanwhile, you can make the white sauce. Take a medium pan and melt the butter and flour together over a medium heat. Mix together the cream and milk and gradually add to the pan; don’t rush it! If lumps appear, simply take the pan off the heat and whisk it until they disappear and continue on. When the sauce has thickened, take the pan off the heat, season and add half of the parmesan (the rest will be used as a topping for the gnocchi bake).

3. When the squash and kale mix and sauce is ready, take a large roasting dish and place the gnocchi in the bottom. Add the white sauce of the vegetables and make sure each piece is well coated before tossing through the gnocchi. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top and a drizzle of oil and bake for half an hour or until golden. I covered the dish with foil for the first half of cooking and then removed it to finish it off. Serve is warmed bowls and dig in!

And there you have it- kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi with a light creamy sauce. The perfect way to get in the autumnal mood! I mean, look, who could resist these colours in the pan?…

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Butter bean, butternut squash and chorizo crumble

Think of a crumble and most people would conjure images of a piping hot fruity creation but, oh no, not this one! This butter bean, butternut squash and chorizo crumble gives a range of textures and flavours that you will cook again and again.

I have given this a Spanish twist to enhance the flavours from the chorizo which marries beautifully with the gentle sweetness of the squash and the creamy beans. You could also add chicken if you wanted an even heartier dish or leave out the chorizo and add in some other vegetables to make it vegetarian. Supermarkets are becoming quite handy in helping out with shortcuts too so if, like me, you can’t stand having to cut a solid butternut squash you can buy ready peeled squash which is great to have when time is short.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the filling
1 large white onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed or finely chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne
1 red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
100g chorizo- chopped
Small butternut squash- cut into small cubes
1 large red pepper- chopped (or alternatively you can use the ready roasted jarred
peppers)
Tin of butter beans- drained and rinsed
Jar of passata- approx 400ml
200ml vegetable stock

For the crumble topping
100g plain flour
50g unsalted butter- softened
Seasoning
Manchego cheese- as much or as little as you like

1. To get started add a splash of oil to a large pan and gently sweat the onions and garlic. You are looking for gorgeously softened onions which are beginning to get a little colour. Pop in the spices, chilli (if using) and chorizo and cook out for a further couple of minutes so they release their flavour and the chorizo begins to colour. The chorizo enhance the smoked paprika even more!

2. I then add the cubes of butternut squash and red pepper. Stir well so they get a spicy coating and cook for a few minutes. Pop in the butter beans and, again, stir through. Next goes the passata and stock, season and bring the pan to a simmer, cover and leave for 15 minutes before then removing the lid and simmering for a further 15 minutes. If you have left your chunks of squash a little larger then 20 minutes followed by another 20 minutes may be needed but give it a check as you go.

3. Whilst that is cooking away and then sauce is starting to reduce you can make the crumble topping. I have kept this as simple as possible but you could substitute it with a breadcrumb topping if you prefer. Simply take the softened butter and add to a bowl with the flour and rub between your fingers; this will form a crumb. Season and add some grated manchego cheese if you like.

4. When the passata and stock has reduced down spoon the mixture into either one large ovenproof baking dish or individual ones if you prefer. If you are a cheese fan then you could always add small chunks of any leftover manchego cheese to the mixture so this will melt as it bakes. Sprinkle over the crumble topping and bake at 200c/ 180fan for around 20- 30 minutes until the topping is golden. Serve with crusty bread or a simple side salad.

Butter bean, squash and chorizo crumble- a vibrant dish to brighten up any day!

P.S. If, like me, you made too much the leftovers as just as delicous! I added spinach and cooked it so it wilted and served it with pan fried white fish for a variation.

Spicy prawn noodle broth

Spicy prawn noodle soup is like a giant hug in a bowl for the soul and the stomach. It combines the sweetness of prawns, the freshness of vegetables, the lightness of broth with a punch! I made my own stock from prawn shells and a few additions as you will see however if you are short on time you could use a readymade stock but it really is worth the effort to do your own.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the stock

250g shell on king prawns
Litre of water
Knob of fresh ginger
4 spring onions- cut into thirds
Fresh piece of lemongrass- left whole
1 red chilli- sliced and deseeded (depending on how spicy you like it!)
1 fresh lime
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
2tsp palm sugar

For the noodles
150g rice noodles
Handful of sugar snap peas- sliced on the diagonal
Handful of bamboo shoots- sliced on the diagonal
2 heads of pak choi- white parts finely sliced and leaves shredded

1. Kick off by removing the prawns from their shells. Take a large, deep saucepan and add a splash of vegetable oil and heat this over a high heat. Cook the prawn shells until they turn pink. Add a litre of water and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave this for half an hour before straining and reserving the water- you can discard the shells at this stage. Add the water back into a clean saucepan and infuse with the ginger, lemongrass and spring onion; these will all be removed later and won’t be in the final dish so sling them in and off you go! Simmer again for at least 30 minutes but longer if you can so the flavours can develop.

2. When you are nearly ready to use the stock, remove the ginger, lemongrass and spring onion and discard the prawn shells. Skim off any impurities from the surface of the stock and strain well. Now comes the time to season the stock so you must taste as you go. Add the soy sauce, fish stock and palm sugar as stated in the ingredients list but tweak to suit your tastes. Fish sauce and soy will add the salty edge the broth needs so go easy. Give a squeeze of lime to add a little acidity.

3. In a separate pan, add a splash of oil and heat over a medium heat. Add the sugar snap peas, bamboo and the white part of the pak choi. If you like a spicy broth you should add the chilli in at this stage too; if you prefer it to be milder then add it in at the end to serve. Cook the vegetables for a couple of minutes before adding the broth back into the pan. Bring it back to a simmer before adding the prawns and pak choi leaves to cook. The prawns will go blush pink when ready.

4. Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to packet instructions and drain well. I give mine a minute less than it suggests as it will be in the broth so you don’t want soggy noodles. Take large bowls for serving and divide the noodles between them. Ladle over the finished broth and finish with a little extra chilli or coriander if you like.

Spicy prawn noodle broth- the perfect meal for a chilly evening as autumn looms!

Summertime courgette, feta and mint tart

Courgette is now in season so make the most of it with this courgette, feta and mint tart recipe. To make this as flavourful yet light as possible I also used a little added halloumi alongside the feta but you could always use extra feta if you prefer.

This will make two 12 inch tarts or one larger one so get your apron on and get cooking! To make this as simple as possible I used readymade shortcrust pastry to save time but feel free to make your own if you fancy.

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Ingredients
Pack of ready rolled shortcrust pastry
4 large eggs
100g feta
30g halloumi
1 large courgette or 2 medium
Handful of fresh mint- finely chopped
Salt and pepper to season

1. Start by preheating your oven to 200c/ 180 fan; do check the instructions on the pack of pastry you have bought in case the temperatures are slightly different but this is a rough guide. Line your tart tin (or tins if making two smaller ones) and blind bake for 10 minutes. You can do this by placing a layer of baking parchment on top of the pastry and adding baking beans, dried beans such as kidney beans or rice to hold it down. You really do need to blind bake otherwise the base of the tart will be soggy and unappetising. After the ten minutes, I then removed the lining and baked for a further 5 minutes to make sure that the base cooks well.

2. Whilst that is in the oven, crack the eggs into a bowl and lightly beat; emphasis on lightly! Add in the cheese, mint and seasoning. Now comes the star of the show: the courgette. I finely sliced two thirds of the courgette and added this to the egg mixture. I then sliced the remaining courgette so this could be layered across the top of the tart when it’s assembled but you could add it all through the egg if you prefer. You could also sprinkle an extra bit of feta or halloumi over.

3. Fill each tart tin with the egg mixture and cook for around 15 minutes until the egg has set. Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving- nobody wants to burn their mouths on scalding egg! Serve with a salad and dig in!

Courgette, feta and mint tart- a celebration of summertime!