Sunday, 27 September 2009

Lisa's butternut squash and courgette soup

1 butternut squash
2/3/4 courgettes depending on size and season
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large white onion
mild curry powder, or mixed curry spices - you know what you like
cayenne pepper
chicken stock
coconut milk, or yogurt, or however you want to do it
spring onion for garnish, but this is totally optional.

Peel and chop the butternut squash and nuke it - really nuke it - in the oven til it's soft. It'll take about 15-20 minutes, with a couple of turnings, on the highest setting. While that's going on, saute the chopped courgette, onion and garlic together until soft but not coloured, so leave the lid on and stir often. Add the now-squidgy squash and spices to the pan, along with the chicken stock (up to you how much depending on how much vegetable is in the pan), and then cover and leave it to cook down gently for a while. Hand-blend it or mash it, add the yogurt/coconut milk/whatever and stir in, and then garnish (if liked) with the spring onions; it's a nice crunch. Weirdly good with parmesan, I don't know why since it's technically curry flavoured.

Banana and chocolate chip loaf

225 self-raising flour
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, beaten
3 bananas, mashed
80ml sesame oil
60ml milk
110g brown Splenda, or about 80 ish grams soft brown sugar
110g chocolate chips
60 walnuts
about 60g cherries, chopped
teaspoon of cinnamon

Set the oven for 180 degrees.

Sift the flour, bicarb and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten eggs, mashed banana, oil and milk, and when they're stirred together mix in the sugar thoroughly. Stir this, in turn, into the flour and cinnamon mixture, and then add the chocolate, nuts and cherries.

Pour into the loaf tin (the silicone one), and bake for about 40 minutes. This is quite a soft squidgy affair when it's freshly done and hot, but be careful that it's fully cooked. The skewer won't come out clean as it's got banana and chocolate in it but it should be nearly there.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Potato, leek and bacon pie

Approx 1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped into even sized pieces
3 leeks
1 onion
3-4 slices smoked bacon
bit of garlic

For seasoning the mash -
lots of grated cheese

Boil the potatoes, and while that's going, sweat off the leeks, bacon and onion with the garlic. When the potatoes are cooked, mash them with the salt and pepper and cheese, and then just layer up in a pie dish and bake at about 180 degrees for about half an hour - 40 minutes.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Roast tomato sauce, three ways

Basic sauce:

2-3 packs of baby tomatoes, preferably plum
1 head of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
olive oil
black pepper

For ALL VERSIONS, begin like this:

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a roasting tin with foil or the floppy baking sheet, and sprinkle olive oil over it generously. Empty the tomatoes in, along with the unpeeled cloves of garlic, and roll them around so they're well coated. Season with salt and black pepper - not too much salt though - and stick them in the oven. They will take about 20 minutes but you MUST watch them or they'll burn. Give them a little roll or shake every so often.

While that is happening, pick one of the following recipe options.

Version 1 - Italian:

1 pack pancetta
1 large onion, sliced thinly
black olives, pitted and chopped finely

Sweat off the pancetta til the fat is rendered, and then add the onion and cook down. When the tomatoes look roasted, add them in with the olives, chili and basil, and squeeze all the squidgy roast garlic in, mashing them on the way. Let it cook down and voila.

Version 2 - Fakey Spanish

1 small pack chorizo
1 large onion, sliced thinly
black olives, pitted and chopped
finelysweet smoked paprika

As before, sweat off the chorizo til it's rendered, and add the onion and cook down. Add the tomatoes, paprika and olives and stir, and squeeze/mash all the roasted garlic before adding it to cook down.

Version 3 - Puttanesca

Anchovy fillets, drained and mashed
1 large onion, sliced thinly
black olives, pitted and chopped finely

With this version you don't add the anchovy until everything else has combined. So, in a dab of butter or splash of oil, sweat off the onion. Add the tomatoes, and follow the same procedure with squeezing/mashing etc. Add the chili, olives and anchoves towards the end of cooking and stir well.

Dirty rice

Serves 2-3 HUNGRY people:

1 onion, chopped
thinly sliced chorizo or spanish ham or other porky goodness
1 pack of black beans, drained
300g basmati rice
600ml chicken stock (you need two stock cubes)
1 tsp chile ancho powder
sprinkle of cayenne or chili flakes
sprinkle of oregano

Just soften off the onion and the porky loveliness in a saucepan, before adding the rice, beans, stock and seasoning, bringing to the boil, covering and simmering til everything is absorbed. Fluff it up with a fork and serve with chili/fajitas/whatever :)

Lamb Burgers A La Duckett

2 packs of minced lamb
1 large onion
good squirt of garlic paste
good splat of sweet chili sauce (be generous)
cumin, 1 - 1.5 tsp
pine nuts, a cupful (chopped)
dried apricots, a cupful (chopped)
Fresh parsley and mint, a good handful each, chopped
black pepper/salt
1 egg, beaten

Start by chopping the onion finely and sweating off in a pan so it's soft.

Then, combine all the ingredients EXCEPT THE EGG in a large bowl, seasoning well. Mix well with your hands and see what you think the consistency's like. Add about a third to a half of the egg and give it a good squidge. Then form it into burgers, grill or fry or whatever, and serve with houmus and chili sauce :)


1 pack of minced beef, or if you've got loads of time, stewing steak
1-2 rashers of bacon (optional, but nice), or a little chopped chorizo
1 large onion
green and red peppers
1-2 courgettes
garlic paste
tomato puree
carton chopped tomotoes or passata
small can of refried beans
small can kidney beans
carton of black beans
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle
little splash of Tabasco
beef stock cube
1/2 tsp cinnamon
small bar dark, dark chocolate (grated)

Begin as you would with the Spaghetti Bolognese; if you're using any bacon or chorizo, stick em in the pan and let the fat render, and then add the beef along with the stock cube, cinnamon, and a little toot of garlic. When it's all browned and sticky and the juices are running, add the chopped onion and another slug of garlic and let it all go soft and lovely while you dice your peppers and courgettes.

When you're happy that the onion and meat are all cooked down, add the veg, stick the lid on, and leave everything to cook down for about ten minutes or so.

At this point, add the cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, chipotle, oregano, tomato puree and passata. Give it a good stir and let it bubble with the lid on while you get on with draining all the beans and grating the chocolate. When the beans are drained and the chocomalate is grated, add them to the pot, stir well, and put the lid back on. Don't add the refried beans just yet, because they thicken the sauce too much. You can hold back til quite near serving time on that one. Do leave things for about ten minutes and then taste. You might want to add the splash of Tabasco, or a pinch of salt or sugar depending on what you think it needs. After that though, it's smallest gas ring, lowest heat, lid on, and you go and watch the football and leave it all to do its thing.

Serve it with sour cream, nachos, guacamole, grated cheddar, rice, tortillas, whatever you like :)

Spaghetti Bolognese (kind of)

This is as taught to me by my mother, but with a couple of tweaks.

1 pack of minced beef
3-4 rashers smoked bacon
1 large onion
Good squeeze of garlic, or 3-4 cloves
Double handful of mushrooms
1-2 courgettes (optional)
green pepper (optional)
1 pack of passata or chopped tomatoes
tomato puree
beef oxo cube
Italian herb seasoning, or a mixture of basil, parsley and oregano
black pepper
black olives, if liked

Start the dish by putting the bacon into the pan and letting it crisp up, and the fat render. When that's done, add the minced beef and break it up as it cooks, adding the oxo cube, a generous shake of nutmeg, a little squirt of garlic paste, and some black pepper. Really let this brown and get all gooey; keep breaking it up with the spoon as it cooks down.

When you're happy it's browned nicely and all the juices are running, finely chop and add your onion, then put the lid on and turn everything down so that the onion has chance to cook down and soften with the meat.

While that's doing, chop the veg up; rough dice for the courgettes and peppers, and just halve or quarter the mushrooms. Add these to the pot and season well with black pepper. Give everything another ten or so minutes with the lid on to soften and saute. When that time's up, stir in your passata and tomato puree - along with the dried italian herbs, if you're using them (if you're using fresh don't add them until everything is cooked, and just stir them through at the end), and any olives. Put the lid on, reduce it to the lowest heat, and go about your business. It'll be cooked in about twenty minutes, but it'll keep getting better the longer you leave it for. If you cook it for an hour and then leave it overnight it will be stunning the next day :)

Otherwise, cook your pasta as usual, stir it into the sauce, add parmesan if you like, and scoff.

EDIT (13 April 2010):
A pork stock cube (instead of beef, Knorr make them) and a couple of leftover sausages made this quite amazing when we tried it.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Half-arsed, cobbled together minestrone soup

Pancetta or smoked bacon, chopped small
1 onion
1 celery heart
1 green or yellow pepper
1-2 courgettes, depending on size
1 leek, sliced thin
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
Good slug of garlic
1 bottle of passata
chicken stock cube
black pepper
Spaghetti, broken up small (or other soup pasta)
Can of butter beans, drained
Can of haricot or borlotti beans, drained
Bunch of fresh basil, and another of parsley

Start as usual - render any fat from the bacon, and put the onion in to soften. Follow it with the garlic and all the other veg, chopped into small soup-sized dice.

Let them all cook down together for a good ten minutes, with the lid on, until everything is soft and lovely. Then add the passata, the stock cube, both cans of beans, the pasta, and - most importantly - about two thirds of the bottle the passata came in of boiled water. Wrap the bottle in a towel and use the hot water to get the rest of the tomato out.

Put the lid on and keep an eye on things, but mainly at this point you're just waiting for the pasta to cook, so keep it on a nice low simmer once it's all come to the boil.

Just before serving stir in the freshly chopped herbs and serve with some lovely cheese on top and some good bread.

Mushroom risotto

1 small pack of pancetta, or 3/4 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
1 onion
A really good squeeze of garlic paste
2 packs of mushrooms
250g risotto rice
chicken stock
Dried thyme (fresh is ace but this is a good what's-in-the-cupboard dinner)
black pepper
parmesan, grated to taste

Cook off the pancetta first to let the fat render, then add the onions and soften. Stir in the garlic, and add the chopped mushrooms, black pepper and thyme (a really good shake). Put the lid on, turn it down and leave them for a good fifteen minutes so everything is brown and sludgy and delicious smelling.

Put the kettle on, and while it's boiling add your rice to the pot and stir so it starts to cook. When the kettle's boiled, add enough water to barely cover the rice, at least one stock cube (possibly one and a half), and stir. Put the lid on, and now you will have to hover and keep stirring and (possibly) adding water. If you wanted to you could use a glass of wine in with the stock; if you do, add it before the stock goes in and let the alcohol cook off. Same rules apply then though - just barely cover the rice with the water - I mean there should still be some bits of rice breaking the surface of the water, do not drown it!

Anyway while that's doing, and it'll take about 15 minutes, grate your pile of parmesan, have a smoke etc, and keep giving it the occasional stir so it doesn't catch too much. If it starts to dry up too much - it should suck up the liquid but not be completely solid - add a little more water from the kettle but don't go drowning it or it'll be horrible.

When it's cooked (taste it to check), just take it off the heat, stir the cheese through thoroughly, and put the lid back on for a minute or two just to let it come together. Then eat eat eat! :D

Rice and beans/peas

1 onion
2 cloves of garlic or a little squeeze of garlic paste
one can (400ml) coconut milk
400ml chicken stock (made with 1.5 chicken stock cubes)
sprinkle of chili flakes
seriously good shake of dried thyme
400g basmati rice
one regular can of gunga peas, black beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed

So, sweat off the onion and garlic together with the chili flakes until they're nice and soft.

Add the rice, beans/peas, coconut milk and chicken stock, with the thyme, and bring it to the boil.

Put the lid on, reduce to minimum heat and leave to cook - you need to stir it occasionally but not loads. When all the liquid has been sucked up, taste it to see if it's cooked, and then put the lid back on for a few minutes while you fiddle about with the sauce and put the dishes out. When you're ready to eat, fluff it up with a fork and go forth

Tomato, lentil and bacon soup

So, ingredients:

1 bottle of passata
1 big onion
1 pack of pancetta (optional)
2 courgettes
that head of celery lurking in the vegetable drawer
the stray lone red pepper on the middle shelf
chicken stock cube (s)
red lentils (I think there's a few left on the top shelf of the
vegetable rack by the door, if not there's a bag on the side by the
garlic paste
tomato puree
black pepper
italian herb seasoning
hot water

you also need my big metal pan and lid. Be warned, it takes ages to heat up but once it does it's FIERCE and you need to keep a close eye on things so they don't stick and burn.

If you're making lentilly bacony tomatoey loveliness start with the pancetta. Put it in dry and then let the fat render so it's crispy. Do this on a medium heat and watch it like a hawk. When it's all brown and lovely and gooey, fish it out (leaving the fat) and put it to one side.

Using the fat from the pancetta (if not, put a dab of butter or oil in) and start with softening the onions. Really watch them or they'll catch. You might do best to chop everything up first. When they've softened up, add all the other chopped veg and a really good slug of garlic paste (there's more on the vegetable rack) and put the lid on, leaving them to soften while you have a smoke (this is about the right amount of time). Keep a close eye and stir stir. When you're satisfied that they're softening up nicely, add the passata. Don't rinse the bottle! Put it on the side. Stir it in, along with the tomato puree and the black pepper and herbs, and then boil the kettle.

Wrap the passata bottle in a towel so you can hold it, and fill it about two thirds full with water from the kettle, to wash out the last bits of tomato. Add a stock cube. Stir it all in, stick the lid on, and leave it on a low heat for a good 20 minutes or so. Keep stirring occasionally to make sure there's no sticking.

When it's looking nicely globby, take it off the heat and put it on the side. Leave it for a few minutes. Have a cup of tea. Knit a few rows. Then come back, having removed any clothes you are particularly attached to, and put on your apron. Stand the pan on a folded towel on the side so it doesn't move, and using the hand blender carefully puree it smooth. I find that to start with you have to just attack it
bit by bit. Try not to splatter yourself too much and get it as smooth as you can. Be really careful though because the blade's deceptively sharp :)

At that point you can add the bacon back in and you might want to put some more water in too, about the same amount as before (and probably another stock cube, as optimum stock quantity is one stock cube to 300ml of water). Add in the leftover lentils in the veg rack and about another fifth of the new pack, and then let it simmer on a low low heat with the lid on, checking it to make sure it's not sticking.
If it looks dry add boiling water about a cup full at a time.

When it's done just turn it off and leave the lid on :) Don't forget it'll go bloopy and splattery as the lentils cook so keep your apron on as you're stirring.

Garlic bread dear? :)