Chickpea, squash and spinach curry


In our household we love a great vegetable curry- often so much fresher and more appealing than their meaty counterparts. This curry is quick, easy and low of faff so no excuses for not rustling up a midweek feast! The ingredients here really need to speak for themselves so keep it simple! Of course, if you are a chilli fiend then add a little more here and there to suit your tastes but not so it drowns the sweetness of the squash. I have used spinach which is one of my favourites but this would also work well with kale. Sometimes I like a drier curry and in this case I usually halve the quantity of tomatoes and roast the squash a little beforehand to cut down on the cooking time. Squash which is roasted with some curry spices is delicious!

I served the curry with homemade brussel sprout bhajis which are a great twist on the traditional onion version. They are quick to make and they also freeze well (if there are any left of course!). See here for the recipe: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-px. Why not make it part of a vegetarian curry feast and also make a side of paneer shashlik which I absolutely love. Check out the recipe here, it’s so simple: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-j9.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Half a butternut squash
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 fresh red chilli- roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped
1 red onion- chopped
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
200g chickpeas- drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Start off by prepping the butternut squash. I will happily admit it, I hate cutting squash but fear not, I have a trick up my sleeve to take the work out of this task! Simply place the squash in the microwave for a couple of minutes, remove and place on a sturdy board ready for chopping The heat will slightly soften the squash and it makes it much easier to remove the skin so give it a try! Remove the skin and cut into bite sized chunks before setting aside.

2. Next, you need to make the curry paste. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, chilli and garlic to a pestle and mortar with a splash of water and work it until if forms a paste.

3. Heat a small glug of oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the red onion for a couple of minutes until softening. Add in curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant- keep it moving so it doesn’t catch. In goes the cubes of squash next! Stir well to ensure the paste coats each cube of squash before adding the chickpeas, again, making sure they are well covered. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is tender and the sauce is thickened. Towards the end of cooking add in the baby spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve with your choice of side such as chapatti or simply enjoy it as it is with a final flourish of freshly chopped coriander.

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry- a spicy offering to keep you warm this winter!

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‘Chloedethumps’

Burns Night is just around the corner and this is perfect as part of your celebrations although there is no reason that this dish has to be confined to being eaten on only one day of the year. Think of a Scottish version of bubble and squeak and you’re on the right track. Rumbledethumps (its official name!) uses seasonal vegetables to create a moreish dish which can be served on the side of haggis (for the fans) or something along the lines of sausage. Traditionally rumbledethumps uses a mix of potato, swede and either kale or cabbage however with the rise of the mighty flower sprout I used this instead.

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Ingredients- serves 4-6
1 medium swede
600g floury potatoes such as Maris Piper
100g unsalted butter
1 large red onion- finely sliced
200g flower sprouts, cabbage or kale
Salt and pepper
50g grated mature cheddar

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Prepare the swede and potatoes by peeling them and cutting them into large chunks. Bring a pan of boiling water up to the boil and cook the swede and potato until tender before draining well. I make sure the chunks of potato and swede are about the same size and boil them together but you could boil them separately in two lots if you prefer.

2. Shred the flower sprout leaves (or cabbage or kale). Melt the a knob of butter in a separate pan before adding the sprouts and onion to cook for a few minutes until softened. When they are ready simply set aside.

3. Take the drained swede and potato and lightly mash the chunks. You are after a rough mash so don’t overdo it! You will find that some potato pieces mash down a bit more than others and bits of swede will stay relatively chunky but that is exactly what you are after. Toss in the remaining butter and stir through. Next, stir in the sprouts before stirring to combine well and then season to taste. A good crack of black pepper doesn’t go amiss here! Place the vegetables in an overproof dish before topping with grated cheese, such as a cheddar. I cook mine in the same shallow casserole dish that I sautéed the sprouts and onion in; saves on washing up!

4. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and cook for 30 minutes before removing the cover and placing it back in the oven for a further 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Serve with your choice of meat and tuck in!

For those of you who indulge in haggis I have the perfect way to finish up any odds and ends… Crumble any leftovers into any leftover rumblethumps or a plain mashed potato and shape them to form potato cakes. Fry in a pan until golden and crispy and serve with a poached egg perched on top and a good dollop of tomato chutney.

Chloedethumps- a modern twist on a delicious Scottish classic!

Hot and sour chicken noodle soup

So, we all love comforting chicken soup- it’s such a classic and cures all ills. Well this is my twist on chicken noodle soup which is packed full of flavour and has taken inspiration from Chinese hot and sour soup. Hot and sour soup is exactly as it sounds- a combination of hot and sour ingredients which give a balanced finish.

I have used leftover roast chicken for this recipe and the dark meat from a chicken is best to use if you can as this is more tender and have most taste. You can also use pork, mixed vegetables or even tofu for this if you prefer. As with a lot of Asian cooking, make sure you everything prepped as it won’t take long once you get going!

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 garlic cloves- roughly chopped
1 red chilli (as hot as you dare!)- roughly chopped
3cm piece of ginger- grated
Pinch of salt
100g bundle of fine rice noodles
Groundnut or vegetable oil
100g shitake mushrooms
2-3 spring onions- chopped
1 1/2 tbsp dark soy and 1 1/2 tbsp light soy
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 rice wine
1 head of pak choi- stems finely chopped and leaves shredded
2 chicken legs- cooked and meat removed from the bone
450ml good quality hot chicken stock
1 large egg- beaten

1. Start off by making the paste which forms the base of the soup. Simply grind the garlic, chilli and ginger in a pestle and mortar. Add a pinch of salt to help form the paste and set aside.

2. Bring a pan of water to a boil and cook the noodles until tender- this is usually 2-3 minutes depending on the noodles you use so remember to check the packet instructions. Drain well and run under cold water; this stops the cooking process and stop them sticking together as they cool.

3. Take a large pan which is going to be able to fit the stock and chicken in. Add a glug of oil over a medium heat and cook the paste for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms, spring onions and chopped stems of the pak choi. Pour in both types of soy, the rice wine vinegar and rice wine and cook for a further minute. Shred the chicken meat into smaller bite sized pieces and add to the pan; coat in the paste and sauce.

4. Next up goes the hot stock so carefully pour this into the pan; it is important that it is already hot before being added to the pan so don’t miss this out. Bring the stock to a gentle boil and leave for around 10 minutes until slightly reduced and the chicken is warmed through. Remember to taste as you go and adjust with more soy or vinegar to suit your tastes. Now for the fun bit! Hot and sour soup has egg which look like little strands of ribbon. To do this, take a chopstick and swirl the stock until a whirlpool forms. Gradually add in the whisked egg and keep the stock moving; you will see the egg cooking before your very eyes and dispersing- that’s all there is to it!

5. When you are ready to serve, divide the noodles between two deep bowls before serving the soup on top. The soup will heat the noodles again. Add the pak choi leaves to the soup at the last minute. Top with a little extra sliced chilli if you like and grab a spoon!

Crab, king prawn and rocket spaghetti

As I’m writing this I’m sitting with the heating cranked up and considering reaching for a blanket to try and warm up so such a light pasta recipe may sound a little strange for a winter’s day. It’s simple really, I love seafood and sometimes these cravings have to be indulged regardless of the season!

Crab pasta recipes usually use white meat however I have chosen to use half white and half brown meat as this really ramps up the flavour. The addition of baby plum tomatoes are also lovely if you like. The sweetness of the crab and prawn pair perfectly with the gentle heat from the chilli and kick of acidity from the lemon so read on and get twirling that spaghetti!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
Glug of olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
1 red chilli- deseeded and chopped
60ml dry white wine
2 tbsp low fat crème fraiche
200g raw king prawns- deveined
200g crab meat- white or white and brown meat
50g rocket
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

1. Start by bringing a large pan of water to the boil; cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions and drain when it is perfectly al dente. Drain well.

2. Whilst the spaghetti cooks, get going on the sauce as it won’t take long. I can’t stand pasta that is drained and then stands around for ages, slowly clumping into a wonderful mess so avoid! Take a large frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and red chilli and cook for a couple of minutes until softening. Add the white wine and reduce the amount by half before lowering the heat. In goes the crème fraiche and simmer for a minute or two.

3. Pop the deveined raw prawns into the pan and cook for a further minute before adding the crab meat and rocket. Simmer until the prawns are a gorgeous blush pink and the sauce is warmed through. Season to taste. If the sauce looks a little dry then add a splash of the water from the pasta pan in to loosen it slightly. I try not to add extra crème fraiche as this tends to make it even thicker and a bit claggy. When the pasta is ready, add it to the pan with sauce and toss to coat each strand of spaghetti well and finish with a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice to really make the flavours sing. Serve immediately.

Crispy tofu dandan noodles

Now, all you need to know about Sichuan dandan noodles is that they’re blooming delicious and so simple to make! Dandan often uses meat such as pork mince however, after a meat heavy Christmas season, I have decided to lighten this up and use tofu. These noodles are also packed with other vegetables such as shitake mushroom, which give a wonderfully meaty taste and don’t compromise on flavour. Balance this with the savouriness of Tianjin preserved vegetables and you have a dish to die for! Preserved vegetables may sound strange but, believe me, they are divine. They add a wonderfully salty and garlicky taste that is hard to replicate.

I have cooked my tofu in an unusual way by crumbling it into smaller pieces that resemble mince; frying crumbled tofu adds a crunch to the dish which balances the texture of the vegetables perfectly. Use a firm tofu and, if you haven’t had it before, it is a good introduction to it. Sichuan peppercorns are also called for; you can find these in Chinese supermarkets and add a mouth tingling finish. The taste is completely different to the heat that a chilli provides so it is worth finding these.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp Chinese chilli oil
1/2 tbsp sesame oil or tahini
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
200g firm tofu
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetables
200g shitake mushrooms- roughly chopped
2-3 spring onions- chopped
1 head of pak choi- leaves shredded and stalk chopped
200g rice or egg noodles

1. Start by making the sauce that also provides the base for the dish. The Sichuan peppercorns need to be toasted; to do this, take a small frying pan and heat to medium, warm the peppercorns until they start releasing their fragrance. Remove from the heat and grind in a pestle and mortar before setting aside. Combine both types of soy sauce, the chilli oil and sesame or tahini. A word of caution: Chinese chilli oil can be rather warm on the old tongue so I always give mine a quick taste and adjust to my liking. Dandan noodles are meant to have a bit of kick!

2. To prepare the tofu, remove from the packet and drain off any excess water it comes in. Pat dry thoroughly between pieces of kitchen roll. Crumble the tofu into small pieces and sprinkle over the cornflour; this will help the tofu to crisp up. If you find your tofu is particularly moist, then you can add a touch more flour. At this stage, add half of the ground peppercorns and toss through the tofu. Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the tofu; cook over a medium heat until the tofu is crisp and golden. This may take around 10 minutes so give it a stir from time to time as you move onto the next step.

3. Boil a pan of water and cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Take a wok and add a glug of flavourless oil such as groundnut or vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add the remaining peppercorns, preserved vegetables and half of the sauce. Throw in the mushrooms, spring onion and the chopped stalks of the pak choi and cook for a minute or two.

4. Drain the noodles well and add bit by bit to the wok. I added a small amount at a time and then added another bit of sauce with each addition of the noodles to minimise the risk of them clumping together. Pop in the pak choi leaves and stir fry until the vegetables are cooked through and the noodles are warmed. The sauce should lightly coat the strands of noodle. Serve immediately in warmed bowls and divide the crisped tofu and sprinkle on top of the noodles.

Crispy tofu dandan noodles- a new way to use tofu for the New Year!

Butternut squash, sage and ricotta lasagne

The sweetness of the squash, fragrance of the sage and creaminess of ricotta are a divine match. The flavours need very little to bring the best out of them so keep the ingredients as simple as possible so you can taste each element. The secret twist to the creamy ricotta filling is a good helping of sweet roasted garlic which really takes it to another level. Ovenproof dishes come in such a range of shapes and size so, before you cook the lasagne sheets, try to work out how many sheets you need to fit yours. I always cook a couple of extra sheets in case they tear. The filling also works with cannelloni.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the lasagne filling
1 butternut squash- cut into cubes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3-4 garlic cloves- kept whole and with the skin on
Handful of fresh sage
250g ricotta
Ground nutmeg
Lasagne sheets

For the béchamel sauce
500ml milk
1 onion- halved
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
50g butter
50g plain flour
Parmesan to top

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160fan. Place the cubes of squash on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss the cubes and add in the garlic cloves so each is coated in the oil and roast until tender. When it is ready, a knife will easily sink through the cubes. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Whilst the squash is roasting you can get started on the béchamel sauce. Secure the bay leaves to the onion halves using the cloves- this way you don’t have to go fishing around the saucepan to find the cloves later on! Add the milk to a small pan and bring to a boil before removing from the heat and allowing the flavours from the bay and clove to infuse for around 20 minutes.

Take another pan and melt the butter and flour together until a paste, or roux, is formed. Remove the onion, clove and bay from the pan containing the milk and slowly add the milk to the pan with the roux. Keep stirring so lumps don’t form! Simmer and stir until it thickens before removing it from the heat ready to pour over the lasagne.

3. Stir the ricotta through the squash cubes so well combined. Finely chop the fresh sage and add to the bowl along with 1tsp of ground nutmeg; use fresh nutmeg if you can. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit you. Set the mixture aside whilst you prepare the lasagne sheets. Don’t worry if the squash starts to break up; I sometimes mash down half of the squash and leave the other half in cubes to add a different texture and make smoother. Squeeze the tender roasted garlic from their skins and mix through well.

4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the lasagne sheets to cook, a few at a time so the pan does not become overcrowded. Cook the sheets until parboiled- you can cook them without parboiling but I think this really does make a difference. Nobody wants to find chewy pasta in their mouthful!

5. Now to assemble the lasagne. I spoon a little of the béchamel sauce in the bottom of the ovenproof dish to stop the pasta sticking when baked. Lay sheets of lasagne to cover the bottom before adding a layer of the butternut squash filling. Add another layer of pasta and repeat until the filling has been used up and finish with a layer of pasta.

6. Pour the béchamel sauce over the lasagne and top with freshly grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and golden. I usually cover the lasagne for the first half of the cooking time and then remove the foil for the end but it will depend on your oven as to if you need to do this or not. Serve with a simple side salad and dig in!

Squash, sage and ricotta lasagne- a satisfying vegetarian pasta dish which is perfect for a midweek meal or special occasion!