Sweet potato, lentil and red pepper soup

At this time of year minds turn to soup as warming, comforting lunch or dinner. Sweet potato, lentil and red pepper soup hits all the right notes on the flavour front to give a satisfying meal that you will definitely want more of! If you like a hit of chilli then you can also add this to add some warmth but the flavours of the soup are just as lovely without.

IMG_20150906_184159

Ingredients- serves 4
Knob of unsalted butter
1 large red onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped
1 large red pepper- cut into chunks
1 large sweet potato- peeled and cut into inch chunks
200g red lentils- washed and drained
600ml hot vegetable stock
30ml milk (optional)
Salt and pepper

1. Start off by making sure that all the vegetables are chopped and ready to go. Heat the knob of butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the red onion, garlic and red pepper and cook until the onion and pepper has softened.

2. Next up goes the potato chunks and stir to make sure they get a buttery coating. Cook until the potato is catching a little colour on the outside before adding the lentils and stock. Bring the stock to a boil before lowering to a simmer; cover the pan and simmer until the potato is softened and the lentils are tender. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool slightly before blending with a hand blender; you can make this as chunky or as smooth as you like. At this point you can add a little milk if you would like a creamier finish but it was delicious without too! Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.

Sweet potato, lentil and red pepper soup- autumn in a bowl!

Advertisements

Pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck breasts with spiced pilaf

Treat yourself to taste of the Middle East with this pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck. It gives the perfect balance of sweet and sour which is matched with a lightly spiced bulgur wheat pilaf style side. Pomegranate molasses are punchy and should be used with care but it is well worth a try if you have not used them before; they can be found in any good supermarket.

I paired the duck with a delicate pilaf with aubergine, onion and tomato with spices and herbs but get creative. A sprinkle of pomegranate seeds through the bulgur would also be great. I sourced the duck breasts from http://www.ixhillfarm.co.uk which were plump and packed with flavour. This is the perfect time of year to add duck to your menu!

IMG_20151020_204910

Ingredients- serves 2
For the duck breasts
2 duck breasts
1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp. runny honey
Pinch of ground cumin (optional)

For the pilaf
80g bulgur wheat- rinsed and drained
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 small aubergine- finely chopped
3 plum tomatoes- deseeded and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp pepper paste
Handful of fresh coriander and parsley- chopped

1. Start off by removing the duck from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for around half an hour. Take a sharp knife and slash the skin of the breast a few times. Combine the pomegranate molasses, honey and cumin and rub into the skin side of the duck. Preheat the oven to 220c/ 200 fan ready for later. Take a large non-stick frying pan and heat to high; add the duck breasts skin side down in the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes before turning and searing for a further minute- the skin will caramelise and start going a gorgeous golden colour. Remove from the pan and cook in the oven for 10 minutes for rare and around 15 minutes for medium. When it is cooked to your tastes, allow to rest for around 10-15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, get started on the bulgur wheat. This can also be done in advance whilst the duck is warming up to room temperature. Place the rinsed wheat in a pan and add 600ml of cold water; bring to the boil before covering and simmering for 15 minutes until tender. You often need to drain a small amount of excess water after cooking.

3. Take a frying pan and add a small splash of oil. Cook the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until starting to soften before adding the aubergine. Cook for a further few minutes before adding the tomatoes, cumin, coriander, pepper paste and season well. Remove from the heat and add to the cooked bulgur wheat. Add the chopped fresh herbs and taste- adjust the seasoning to taste. You may need to add a little more spice if you like as the water content in the wheat can absorb a lot of the flavour. Keep warm until the duck is has rested and is ready to slice.

Serve the bulgur wheat in a bowl with the duck slices arranged over the top- sprinkle with some herbs if you like.

Pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck with pilaf style bulgur wheat salad- a flavoursome taste of the Middle East! Who could resist this?…

IMG_20151020_190102

 

 

Beef chow mein

Chow mein is a staple of Chinese meal which is speedy to prepare and so delicious that you’ll never need to order it from your local takeaway again! I have used beef here but it can easily be substituted with pork, chicken or prawn- or perhaps even a combination of them all. Like most of the Asian dishes I cook, this takes next to no time to prepare and assemble but just make sure everything is chopped and shredded before you start to make it even easier.

IMG_20151015_074005

Ingredients- serves 2
100g medium egg noodles
2 minute steaks
1 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove- finely chopped
4 spring onions- finely sliced
1 small red pepper and 1 small green pepper- chopped
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp rice wine
1 large head of shredded pak choi and/ or 60g beansprouts
Handful of toasted sesame seeds

1.Start by cooking the egg noodles according to the packet instructions; drain well and set aside.

2. Slice the minute steak into thin strips or bite sized pieces depending on your preference. Heat the groundnut or vegetable oil in a large wok over a medium to high heat and cook the beef until it is catching some colour and starting to cook through.

3. Add in the garlic, spring onion and peppers to the wok and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Lower the heat and stir the egg noodles through. Pour in the dark soy and rice wine along with the pak choi or beansprouts depending on what you are using. I’m a fan of all Asian greens so pak choi or choi sum usually get my vote! I separated the leaves from the thicker stems of the pak choice; shredded the leaves and then cut the stems into thin strips to add extra texture.

4. Finish off by drizzling the sesame oil, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and toss well to combine just before serving. Make sure the noodles are heated through and serve in large bowls with chopsticks (or a fork if chopsticks equal horror for you!).

Speedy beef chow mein- a perennial Chinese favourite that you can whip up in minutes at home!

Ham hock, leek and mustard ‘macaroni’ bake

Now let’s start with the name of this dish- ham hock, leek and mustard macaroni bake. If you look at the photo you will see that, indeed, I have not used macaroni but instead riccioli (I used Rummo’s version which you can find at www.pastarummo.it) which lends itself to holding a creamy cheese or vegetable sauce however the name ‘macaroni bake’ was sure to grab your attention so now you are reading you may as well continue…

Ham hock is everywhere these days and ready cooked hocks are easy to get hold of so treat yourself to one for this recipe. Of course, if you fancy cooking your own you have so many options for the leftovers- think pea and ham hock soup on a chilly evening for example or (and more probable) make twice the amount of this pasta bake and indulge for dinner and lunch the following day!

IMG_20150915_192227

Ingredients- serves 2
250g riccioli
30g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
1 tbsp dijon mustard
300ml milk
300ml double cream
1 small to medium leek- washed and shredded
100g ham hock- shredded
Liberal amounts of parmesan
50g panko crumbs

1. Start off by preheating the oven to 200c/180fan. Boil a pan of water and cook the riccioli as per the packet instructions. Drain when it is al dente and set aside. Take a medium pan and heat the butter and flour together over a medium heat. Continue to stir whilst the butter combines with the flour and slowly pour in the milk and cream. I mix the milk and cream together before using to make this even easier. Gradually pour in the milk and keep on stirring to avoid lumps! When all the milk and cream has been added bring to the boil before lowering to a gentle simmer and cook until thickened.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the leeks. Make sure the leek is washed well as grit can often be lurking! Soften the leek in a small pan with a small amount of butter and season with pepper. When the sauce has thickened add as much parmesan as you like to add an extra savouriness and stir through the leek, shredded ham hock and mustard. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required. Add the riccioli to the sauce and stir well to coat each pasta curl.

3. Place the pasta in either one larger ovenproof baking dish or two individual ones if you would like to present your guests with one each. Take the panko crumbs and grate some parmesan through so you have a cheesy, crunchy topping. Sprinkle over the pasta and bake for around 25-30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden. Serve with a simple dressed side salad and dig in!

Ham hock, leek and mustard bake- a great way to discover a new pasta shape and keep the family happy!

Chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi

Chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi is the perfect way to make use of the new season vegetables and boost their flavour even more! Chard can be found in most supermarkets but can often be overlooked in favour of its better known friends such as kale and spinach. It’s flavour is akin to beetroot leaves but it is so versatile and just all the colours it comes in is incentive enough to pick up a bunch. I used butternut squash in this recipe but autumn is the time where there is an abundance of different varieties of squash so play around and experiment. Choose a sweeter squash for this recipe to balance the slight bitterness of the chard and the savoury goat’s cheese. I have used Carmarthen ham in this recipe which you can learn more about and order here: http://www.carmarthenham.co.uk. If you don’t use this then simply replace it with parma ham or omit for a vegetarian meal.

IMG_20151005_192034

Ingredients- serves 2-3
Glug of olive oil
1 large red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
Few fresh sage leaves- finely chopped
Small bunch of chard- leaves and stems separated
200g butternut squash- cut into dice
70g Carmarthen or parma ham
3-4 tbsp. crème fraiche
Small log of soft goat’s cheese
Pack of fresh gnocchi- approx. 400-500g

1. Start off by taking a large frying pan and heating a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add in the onion, garlic and sage and cook together until they are softening. I often add a small amount of sea salt to the onions to draw the moisture out and this works well. Take the diced butternut squash and add to the pan; cover and cook the squash until tender. This will usually take around 15-20 minutes but keep checking as it will depend on the freshness of the squash and the size of the pieces. Stir from time to time.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the ham; cut 50g of the ham into bite size pieces and reserve the other 20g. I then placed the reserved ham in a hot smaller frying pan and crisped it up before allowing to cool and cutting finely to sprinkle on the finished dish later.

3. For the chard, make sure the leaves have been separated from the tougher stalks as they need to be treated differently. Cut the stems into centimetre pieces and roughly chop the leaves. Quickly blanch the stems in a pan of boiling water for around 1 minute before plunging into iced water and then draining. Shocking the stems in cold water stops them from cooking further and also helps them to retain their colour. Add the cooked stems and the leaves to the pan with the butternut squash which should be lovely and tender. Pop in the squares of ham.

4. I find that fresh gnocchi can vary in texture and firmness a lot so I simply boiled the gnocchi for a minute and a half until starting to rise to the surface of the water before draining. While the gnocchi is boiling, add the crème fraiche to the pan with the squash and chard and stir well to combine. Tip the cooked gnocchi into the pan and combine so each piece of gnocchi is coated with the crème fraiche.

5. Lower the heat to low/ medium and give the gnocchi a few minutes to relax into the pan and combine with all the fresh flavours of the vegetables.Cut the goat’s cheese into small pieces and scatter in the pan. Cook for an additional minute or so to let it start to melt through the gnocchi. If you find the crème fraiche gets a little claggy then add a small splash of water to the pan and stir in well. Serve the gnocchi in deep bowls and add a liberal sprinkle of the crispy ham pieces on top.

Colourful chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi- a surprisingly light meal that’s packed full of flavour! I challenge you not to sneak a taste straight from the pan- just look at it…

IMG_20151005_194532