spiced peach syrup

I’ve found a new favourite way to eat tinned peaches (yes, even better than peach pasta. I know, pretty unbelievable that anything could be better than that. But bear with me…).

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It’s really simple but also delicious: pour a tin of peaches in a saucepan (half them first if you like), sprinkle some ground cloves and dark muscovado sugar on top to taste, stir, and stir in 4-5 frozen raspberries if you have them lying around. Leave it on the heat to reduce away and the syrup to thicken. Top with ice-cream. Et voilà. Serves 2.

Of course you can also make this with actual peaches, but they’re not in season at the moment.

Re. the importance of cloves – The Flavour Thesaurus is one of my favourite cookbooks ever and is so useful for knowing what will go well with what! So when I was curious as to what spice to spice my peaches with, this informed me that cloves and peaches go well together, and indeed they do.

#shortbutsweet

butternut squash, tomato and spinach lasagne

First time making lasagne, you say? Make up a recipe, you say? Is a delight of tomatoey, saucy, iron-y, vegetarian delectable goodness, you say?  Omnomnomnomnom.
Nah seriously though, this is très tasty. I enjoy a saucy lasagne, particularly in view of the fact that I made this for lunchtimes so wanted it to survive the drying nature of reheating, so you might want to bear that in mind re. the extra water mentioned below. Though I was also slightly paranoid about the lasagne sheets not cooking enough as some sites seemed to advise pre-cooking them, but last time I tried that it turned into a big gloopy stuck-together mess not at all conducive to layering. So I just added water and cooking time.

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(serves 6)

Squash/tomato filling

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
400ml (ish) passata
1 tsp chopped garlic
Salt, pepper, Italian herbs to taste

  1. Place sauce in pan with water and bring to the boil (or roast)
  2. Once soft (10-15 mins), drain and place in food processor, then chop with garlic and passata so it forms a purée
  3. Pour back into pan and add 1 cup water; cover and simmer 10-15 minutes

Creamed spinach

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
500ml milk, heated
125g cream cheese
250g frozen spinach
Salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg to taste

  1. Melt the butter in a pan, then whisk in plain flour.
  2. Add milk, little at a time, until it’s all been combined into a smooth sauce
  3. Add the other ingredients and stir, heating gently until the frozen spinach balls break up

Assembly – additional ingredients

6-8 lasagne sheets
1-2 cups water
Grated cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella to taste

  1. Layer 1/3 of the squash/tomato filling, 1/3 of the creamed spinach, then half of the lasagne sheets. Pour a little water over the top.
  2. Layer the remaining squash/tomato filling, creamed spinach, then scatter cheese over the top.
  3. Bake in a pre-heated 185oC oven for 30-45 minutes

pickled ginger & sushi ideas

I love sushi, and with a bit of preparation and stock of ingredients, it’s easy to make. I specialise in the tasty and to-hand rather than the necessarily authentic (we have so many vinegars that I sub apple for rice wine, and I thought I’d use up the horseradish rather than going all out with the wasabi), but love pickled ginger in and on top of my maki. The jar I bought from the supermarket sadly fostered it’s own ecosystem after being in existence for mere weeks, so I thought I’d have a bash at making my own, particularly in the face of some ginger root that had been malingering in our vegetable rack for several months.

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110g ginger, peeled and sliced really thinly / with a mandoline if possible
125ml rice vinegar (/cider vinegar)
2 tbsp sugar

  1. Sterilise a jar by shaking some boiling water in it and draining, then place the ginger inside.
  2. Bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil then pour into the jar. Shake to coat.
  3. Leave for about a week, shaking occasionally, then eat. Keep in fridge after opening.

Maki ideas: lump-roe black caviar; red pepper; carrot; tinned sardines / salmon / grapefruit

butternut squash and bulgar wheat casserole

Are we still in squash season? I’m not sure. But if it’s still about, I’d highly recommend this stew, which is also perfect for using up the remains of that packet of bulghar wheat that’s moved from home to flat to flat to home with you over the past 5 years (just me? fine then. potentially you could substitute with couscous and cook for a little less time, but on your own head be it.)

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2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp paprika
225g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 red pepper, chopped
550g butternut squash, peeled and chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
200ml red wine
300ml vegetable stock
75 g bulghar wheat
Optional: 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt and some grated cheddar to serve

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, and soften the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes
  2. Add the cumin seeds and paprika and cook for a further 2 minutes
  3. Stir in the sweet potato, red pepper, and squash, and toss with the onion and spices for 2 minutes
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, red wine, and vegetable stock, season, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the bulghar wheat, cover with a lid, then simmer for 15 minutes more until the vegetables are tender, the bulghar wheat is cooked, and the liquid has been absorbed.
  6. Serve with yoghurt and cheddar if you want.

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red velvet cake

Fine, so everyone is completely over red velvet cakes. They’re also hard to photograph without ruining the moment of partaking of said cake, so this one pre-icing will have to do you. Now, in the past I’ve not been a fan of these (and they also normally need vinegar, which needs judicious addition), but this recipe by Lorraine Pascale is tasty! The icing is mainly butter-based but with a little cream cheese to cut into the sweetness rather than overpower it completely.

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(23cm cake – x2 layers)

base
350g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
350g caster sugar
6  eggs
½ tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
50ml red food colouring (or less if you’re using gel – I used a 35ml bottle of dye plus half a tsp of potent gel and the colour came out well)

  1. Grease and line your cake tins if they’re not silicone.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  3. Gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla, and half the flour.
  4. Add the remaining flour, cocoa, and baking powder, and beat to mix.
  5. Stir in the food colouring.
  6. Divide between 2 tins (*or do it in one higher-sided tin and bake for slightly longer then cut in half) and bake at 180oC for 45-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

cream cheese buttercream

250g butter, softened
600g icing sugar
75g cream cheese

  1. Cream together the softened butter and icing sugar in a very large bowl until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the cream cheese

Sandwich the cakes together with 3 tbsp buttercream then cover the top and sides.

veggie fries – courgette, carrot, beans

Sometimes in life there are courgettes to be eaten and nobody that likes courgettes about. I don’t really like courgettes, but figure that I shouldn’t limit my choices any more than I already do with meat avoidance. So apart from pea and courgette fritters, which I love, these are another tasty way to use them up. I may use less chunky breadcrumbs next time though…

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2 courgettes
1 egg white
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp cornflour (makes these crispier)
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 220°. Grease a baking tray.
  2. Cut courgettes into 3-inch sticks.
  3. Whisk an egg white in a small bowl, and add milk.
  4. Combine parmesan, cornflour, and seasoned breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.
  5. Dip courgette sticks into egg mixture, and then roll in breadcrumb mixture then place on baking tray.
  6. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown.

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Bonus recipes: slightly less-messy fries:

Carrot: Toss thick slices of carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook at 200oC for 12 minutes or so.

Green beans: If using frozen, leave at room temperature for a few hours to defrost and dry with some kitchen towel. Grease baking pan then evenly distribute beans. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and parmesan-style cheese over the top. Bake at 215oC for 15 minutes or so.

 

kale pesto

I like to think that now we’ve* moved on from kale smoothies, kale has now passed into the mainstream. And after making a kale-pan mix for lunch one week (recipe upcoming), I had some left without knowing what to use it for. So I decided to make this with the leftovers in order to preserve it for a bit longer – it makes enough for a couple of jars, or a larger jar + some frozen in an ice-cube tray. Also, I didn’t have any pine-nuts but sunflower seeds seemed to work just as well.

(*non-personal we; the colour always freaked me out)

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60g sunflower seeds
60g kale
60g grated parmesan substitute
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
2 tsp maple syrup
4 tbsp olive oil
pinch chilli flakes
salt + pepper

  1. Whiz everything in a food processor until it’s all broken down. Add water if it needs to come together (though I abstained at this stage and added water when making things with it).
  2. If not using immediately, pour into a jar and top with a thin layer of olive oil.

Ideas for what to do with it

  • Home-made pizza topped with kale pesto, mozzarella, beetroot and veggie-parmesan (à la this recipe)
  • Pasta salad: mix some pasta water into the kale pasta then stir through pasta, beetroot, and goats cheese

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sweet potato-star anise soup

 

Now, I know not everyone likes the taste of aniseed. But I hope you do, because this soup is a delight on a cold winter’s day.

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2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 inches ginger, grated
3 star anise
1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
250ml water
125ml cream (single or double)
6 tbsp sour cream / creme fraiche / yoghurt if you’re desperate

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. When it foams, add the onion, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the ginger and the star anise. Add the sweet potatoes and stir to combine.
  3. Add the broth and water and stir well. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sweet potatoes are completely tender, about 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat then allow the soup to cool slightly. Remove the star anise pods and discard. Process the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until very smooth.
  5. Return the soup to the pot and reheat over medium-low heat. Season with additional salt and pepper as necessary. Stir in the heavy cream, if using.
  6. Combine the sour cream and remaining 1/4 teaspoon ginger in a small bowl, stirring until well mixed.
  7. Serve the soup in warmed bowls, topped with a dollop of ginger cream.

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braised cabbage

A bit after the event, but I had this at Christmas together with the normal accoutrements and a bit of waldorf salad in place of the customary dead bird. But even carnivores can enjoy this – just don’t overcook it!

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(serves 6-8 as a side)

50g butter, plus extra to serve
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 red cabbage, cored and cut into irregular chunks
1 sharp eating apple, finely chopped
3 tbsp muscovado sugar
75-100ml balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp cranberry sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Soften in the butter for a few minutes, then stir in the spices and cook for one minute.
  2. Tip in the cabbage and sauté until shiny and well coated. Add the apple, sugar and vinegar, reduce the heat to low, stir well, cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  3. Stir in the cranberry sauce and cook for another 25 minutes. Season well and stir through a knob of butter before serving. You can also store it somewhere cool for a couple of days, then reheat to serve, if you prefer, adding the butter during the reheating.

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2015-01-02 12.59.51

quick red chilli jam

I stumbled across 4 red chillis for 24p in a pre-hogmanay supermarket clearance aisle, so thought I could find a home for them in a nice preserve. This recipe was the quickest I could find that did not involve specialist ingredients like jam sugar (use an apple for pectin). It turns out quite liquid, but still relatively substantial. And tastes amazing spread on top of some Port Salut or cheddar cheese!

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(makes 1-2 jars)

4 red chillies
3 large cloves garlic
a chunk of fresh ginger (approx 3 cm cube)
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
200g caster sugar
50ml white wine vinegar
1 apple with holes punched into it

  1. Make a paste with the chillies, ginger and garlic (with a pestle and mortar or in the food processor).
  2. Add the paste to a pan with all the other ingredients and stir well.
  3. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the mixture for 25-30 minutes until thick and glossy.
  4. Remove the apple, then pour into a clean jar and keep in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

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