I appreciate it’s a verbose title, but “Curried Soup” didn’t do it justice. I can’t even begin to tell you how good this smells, let alone tastes. Each stage of the process creates a new fragrant layer and the end bowl smells truly sensational. It is a gloriously golden and extremely inviting bowl of soup.
For the soup I used:
1 x white onion
3 x garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 – 2 teaspoons curry powder (mine was a hot powder and I used a generous teaspoon, for medium powder use 2)
700g butternut squash
700 – 800 ml vegetable stock
3 teaspoons oil
For the chickpeas I used:
4 – 5 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons oil
The process is simple:
Chop the vegetables and fry the onion and garlic for 2 minutes till covered in the oil.
Add the spices and dry fry them for 3 minutes before adding the vegetables and stock (just enough stock to cover – no more or it will be too thin).
Cover and simmer for around 20 – 25 minutes till the vegetables are soft enough to blitz.
Whilst cooking, pop the chickpeas, cumin and oil into a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes until they brown slightly (I had the fan oven on 150 degrees Celsius).
Blitz the soup and top your bowl with the crispy cumin and chickpea mix.
This makes around 1500 ml, giving 5 servings each with approximately 175 calories per serving.
The chickpeas pre and post cooking (yes minus a few I tasted along the way):
Check your spices
Have a quick check on your spice dates and/or how long they’ve roughly been open. Just because they have long dates, spices still fade and deteriorate once opened. There are also differing intensities to spices depending on where sourced. I have a spice tray that we bought from a lady called Prett Tejura. I sent Alex on an indian cookery course last year as a Christmas present. He came back armed with a tummy filled with curry, loads of new tips and techniques, a cookery book and an amazing spice pot. They are the best spices we’ve ever had.
Choosing an oil
One tip when cooking Indian food is be careful on the oil you pick. Don’t automatically pick up the olive oil. Olive oil is derived from olives – not at all relevant to Indian cuisine. Try safflower oil, sunflower oil or failing that vegetable oil.
Final word on the squash that keeps on giving
I used up the last of the giant butternut squash from the weekend for this soup. Further to the original salad, it made an appearance in a sticky salmon bake, some chicken stock and today’s fragrant soup.
This soup is such a must to try, it is simply divine.
I’m hot on the heels of the Ginger nutters I posted last week. I’m not sure these surpass, but they’re certainly in the running. These ones are really crunchy and nutty, a completely different flavour impact to the previous.
I like the whole ball concept – they’re more of a little nibble than an actual snack. They’re also a bit more guest friendly and look pretty cool in a glass jar or bowl.
I’ve increased the nut ratio and combined with both prunes and flaxseed (linseed), making them a good digestive aid if that’s in order.
Prunes are really high in fibre and a great source of vitamin k and beta carotene. I’m not sure these small little balls of loveliness alone can help u-turn our ageing, but a diet high in beta carotene can only be a good thing. It protects and fixes the damage of free radicals on our cells.
Linseed is renowned for its wondrous ways. It too has anti-oxidant qualities, it is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids (the ‘good’ fats) and is packed with fibre.
At the end of the day these balls offer a better type of snacking. They are good for you and keep you fuller longer than an equivalent empty calorie option.
To make 9 20g balls will need:
30g dried unsulphered apricots
20g brazil nuts
2 teaspoons maple syrup
What to do:
This time I just whizzed everything up at once rather than the dry ingredients first. The balls are far more textured this time. I think it’s down to personal preference.
Once blitzed you can weigh out (or guesstimate) 20g balls and shape.
Then pop in the fridge for a couple of hours. I keep these in a jar in the fridge.
I’ve had another super-sized vegetable to deal with. This towering butternut squash was at least 3 times the standard you see in the vegetable aisle.
So yes, there’s a medley of squash on the food board this week. The exact dishes depend on how creative I’m feeling as the week goes on. The starter for ten features the usual suspects of butternut squash soup, butternut squash risotto and roasted squash. I’d like to think the end plates feature a bit more excitement than these initial working titles.
First up though, the squash had it’s first outing yesterday, in the form of a big bold salad. We had friends over for lunch and enjoyed this as a side dish to the main event.
I am leaving out the exacting measures on this recipe. There’s no way to go wrong, you won’t break it if you dial up certain flavours or pare down depending on your preference. Just aim for a variety of textures on your leaves and make sure you keep tasting the dressing till it’s spot on.
I used a simple balsamic dressing for this one. I think you should always buy the best balsamic you can – or just not bother. The cheap stuff tastes tart and too vinegary, a negative input rather than a sweet and rounded addition to the salad.
For the salad I used:
A butternut squash – or in this case around a third of the squash
A big sprinkle of pumpkin seeds
Lots of fresh rosemary
Crispy gem lettuce chopped quite finely (just adding for extra crunch)
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to around 150 degrees Celsius
Firstly chop the butternut up into cubes and lay in single layer on a roasting tin, sprinkle over the rosemary and a little even drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of seasoning.
Whilst cooking make a simple dressing with a 3:1 ratio of oil to balsamic. Add a little dijon mustard and some seasoning. Keep tasting and tweak the oil / balsamic to get it exactly as you like. My dressing was quite thick and rather sweet in taste. It only needed to be used sparingly to add plenty of flavour to the leaves.
Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes then add the pumpkin seeds, leaving in the oven for another 15 minutes until the squash is sticky and soft and starting to brown a little. The rosemary should snap easily when you pick it up. By this point the smell will be so inviting. It’s worth making just to welcome people in to your home.
Leave the squash to cool and dress the salad. Always remember to dress the leaves not the whole assembled salad. I always get my hands in to make sure there is an even covering. Don’t drown the leaves, your plate shouldn’t be greasy and soggy.
Assemble the salad in a clean bowl scraping in any sticky crunchy bits from the roasting tin.
You can then crumble over some feta and mint or leave just as it stands. If I were eating this on my own I would be just as happy without the dressing and feta.. But food is about the audience as much as the cook. I wanted to make this a massive crowd pleaser.
There was a little bit left which I kept in the fridge and enjoyed with fresh leaves for lunch today. It would have tasted pretty good with some brown or wild rice too.
I picked up some fabulous peppers yesterday. I’ve made a gorgeous soup, BIG ingredients and BIG on flavour. It’s both incredibly tangy and deliciously sweet.
This soup really does live or die on the ingredients. I think tomato soup in particular is pretty disappointing with watery, flavourless tomatoes.
To make the soup I used:
3 large red peppers
3 large beef tomatoes
Lots of fresh rosemary – as much as you like, I used about 2 very large sprigs
Lots of fresh basil – I used about 10 large leaves
A splash of balsamic
A splash of olive oil (up to a tablespoon)
3 garlic cloves
Small white onion
A little stock – volume depends on how much liquid your vegetables creates and how thick you like the soup, I added around 200 ml.
Place the peppers on an oven tray and pop into the oven as they are, at around 180 degrees Celsius.
Also put in a separate tray of sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic, some seasoning and lots of fresh herbs.
Remove from the oven after about 20 / 25 minutes when the peppers are starting to char a little.
While cooling fry up the onion and chopped garlic in a splash (maybe 3 teaspoons of olive oil).
Then remove the pepper skins and seeds. The skin should just slide off.
Add all the flesh, the tomatoes and any juices into your onions and garlic, add a little stock to cover the vegetables and keep on the heat (with a lid) for around 20 minutes until everything is soft (and smelling by this point delicious).
Then simply blitz up, taste and season as you like.
I serve mine with a ruck load more chopped herbs on top and very very hot.
This makes around a litre. I pour around 300 ml servings (each with around 100 calories) into jars, so that I can just pull out one at a time when I want to eat. If you don’t want to eat them all in the same week, just pop a jar or two in the freezer.
It’s incredibly good for you and seriously makes you want to lick the bowl.
It’s raining here in Gibraltar today. It doesn’t happen very often, so I quite like it. I’ve been for a wet run with Finn Dog, collected the boys from rugby and then turned into Debbie Domestic in the kitchen.
I’m all over the ginger at the minute. I’ve made the boys a ginger, carrot and apple loaf for later and made some clean eating raw food balls, packed with raw ginger.
So first the cake…
Is the cake clean eating? No, it’s got vegetables, fruit and good spices in which is pretty wholesome, but it is made with wheat flour and lashings of butter. However the kitchen smells amazing right now and I’d rather them eat that than open a boxed cake later on or a soulless frozen desert. There’s some conditioned and deep rooted maternal desire to get the approval of your brood with food. This kind of pudding warms hearts and makes me feel good to give.
Will I feel like I am missing out? Will I secretly cry inside as they crack into the ginger loaf and ladle with custard? I honestly won’t. It’s been so many years now since I ate anything like that, I just don’t want, need or miss if from my life. I am not depriving myself. I made choices that ultimately make me feel good not just when I eat or after I eat, but each and every day for life.
I think ginger is such a special soulful ingredient. This slightly spicy cake loaf smells amazing and because of the moisture in the apples and the sticky molasses, it’s got a lovely rich texture. It’s a bit like parkin that’s been left to develop for a couple of days. Of course this is also even better when it’s been left for a day or so, but chances are it won’t make it in time. My boys like this with custard on, but it looks great naked as a nice slice to go with a cup of tea.
100g unsalted butter
100g light brown sugar
50g molasses (or black treacle if you don’t have)
50g golden syrup
zest 1 lime
1 carrot, grated
Half an apple grated
Tablespoon of raw grated ginger
175g self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
To make this:
Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius (fan oven, 180 degrees C for others)
Grease a 900g loaf tin
Melt the butter in a pan and add everything except the flour, bicarbonate and eggs
Once melted in remove from the heat, add the flour and then the eggs (it’s best not to add the eggs on the heat as they may scramble, not good!)
Bake for 40 minutes – until a skewer comes out dry
You can sprinkle with a little icing sugar to make it look really pretty.
There’s no instruction required on this one really. I just wanted to post a fresh plate with the right mix of textures, that takes no time or effort, It is simply good in every way.
Half a fillet of salmon (try sprinkling a little paprika and a squeeze of lime before wrapping loosely in foil and baking at 150 degrees c for 20 minutes)
1/5 – 1/4 avocado
Some lettuce leaves
A few torn mint leaves
A squeeze of lime
Avocados offer nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in every serving, including potassium (which helps control blood pressure), lutein (which is good for your eyes), and folate (which is crucial for cell repair).
Avocados are a good source of B vitamins, which help you fight off disease and infection. They also give you vitamins C and E, they’re low in sugar and they contain fibre, which helps you feel full longer.
Salmon is full of nutrients. It is an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals (including potassium, selenium and vitamin B12) plus high density of omega-3 fatty acids. (Good for brain, joints, heart and general well-being).
I haven’t made granola before, but after some fresh air and exercise this morning, I came back with granola on the brain.
This granola isn’t overly sweet, but that makes a pleasant change from the stuff you buy in the shops. You may want to put in more sweetness to the recipe, or even a tiny sprinkle of salt. It’s down to personal preferences, but this recipe allows you to finish off with a little extra honey or maple syrup when served. Delicious.
For around 5 40g servings you will need:
Tablespoon of oil
Tablespoon of honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon
60g dried fruit – I used raisins, dates and unsulphered apricots
40g pumpkin seeds
20g almonds or almond flakes
Preheat the oven to 180c
Place all the dry ingredients into a shallow baking tray – excluding the dry fruit
Mix the oil and honey together then pour over the dry ingredients and work in with your hands. It doesn’t feel like there is enough moisture but go with it and mix well.
Bake for between 20 – 25 minutes. I wouldn’t leave this alone as it needs a few shuffles in the oven through the baking to make sure the heat gets evenly distributed.
When brown and crispy, incorporate the dried fruit and leave to cool down.
Each 40g serving contains approximately 185 – 190 calories
The beauty of soup is that you can use what you have. This soup was originally going to be a pea and mint one, but I ended up getting some gargantuan courgettes from the Spanish supermarket and needed to blitz them into something good.
To create 3/4 servings, you will need:
150 g onion
1 or 2 cloves of garlic (we are garlic monsters and always add plenty)
300g chopped courgette
500g frozen peas
About 15 mint leaves
400ml – 500ml vegetable stock (add around 300ml then add more at the end if you like a thick soup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Here’s how to do it:
Simply soften the onions and garlic in the oil, then add the other vegetables and stock.
Simmer for a good 15/20 minutes with the pan lid on until all the ingredients are soft.
Blitz up with the handheld or food processor
Season as you like it and enjoy really hot
This one is great with some shaved parmesan and ripped mint leaves on top
A 300ml portion contains approximately 125 calories (before any parmesan or extras)