Tag Archives: Winter Warmers

(Leftover) Turkey and Ham Pie

I make this (leftover) turkey and ham pie every year to use up leftover Christmas turkey and ham, although it’s just as good with leftover roast chicken.  The Ham can be substituted for bacon, and you can even add sliced mushrooms and/or sweetcorn.  It’s ridiculously simple, you can make it in advance, and it’s sure to impress.  It is a little calorific though! You can switch the double cream for creme fraiche – we just had some to use up.

We had my father-in-law for supper and he was very enthusiastic about this little baby, and professed that I’d worked far too hard on it.  Little does he know how easy it is to put together.  In fact I quite fancy another one of these now….

Let’s dive in…

Turkey and Ham Pie

Turkey and Ham Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • A slosh of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tub creme fraiche or double cream
  • 1 Knorr chicken stock pot
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (ideally freshly grated)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • A couple of handfuls of cold roast turkey or chicken
  • Cubed ham or bacon, about a handful or two of that
  • 1 sheet ready roll puff pastry
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Start by slicing the leeks into narrow half moons. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the leeks. Cook them on a low to medium heat for around 10 minutes then add the wine and garlic.
  2. Cook those out and tip in the cream, then mix together. Add the seasoning, herbs and nutmeg and then the mustard and stock. Mix together and heat through.
  3. Add the chopped meat, and also some chopped mushrooms or sweetcorn if you fancy. Cook that all out for 10 minutes or so then see how the consisteny is. If the sauce seems a bit thin, mix the flour with a little water and pour a little in. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously and then check the consistency again. Repeat until the sauce is as thick as you'd like, then allow to cool completely. If you don't let the mixture cool it'll steam into the pastry and melt it from underneath.
  4. Tip the cooled mixture into a pie dish, casserole dish or pyrex dish.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180c fan.
  6. Cut the pastry to fit your dish, and use any scraps to make little decorations - I used a star cutter and twisted some strips for round the side. Beat the egg together and brush it round the edge of the dish. Place the pastry on top being careful not to let it dip into the filling. Press it down around the edges and cut a cross in the middle to let the steam out. Egg wash the top of the pastry and add the decorations then egg wash again.
  7. Put in the oven for half an hour or so and until the sauce is bubbling and the pastry has risen and turned golden.
  8. Serve up with some lovely veg and enjoy!
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And if you need to know how to roast that bird, we have some recipes for that too! Try our Clementine and Thyme Roast Chicken or Harissa Roast Chicken for something a little different.  If you want to try something really unusual, this Beer Can Chicken is really beautiful and can be eaten with salad in the summer, as well as taking about half the time to cook as a normal roast chicken.

If a pie isn’t your thing, this Chicken and Avocado Open Sandwich will use up your leftover roast chicken too.

Campfire Brownies

The colder and darker it gets, the more I hanker for a mug of something hot and a slice of something sticky, and these campfire brownies are just the ticket.  Dark, sticky and just sweet enough, these guys will beat smores hands down.  I baked these on Bonfire Night instead of my usual Bonfire Night Cupcakes, and they went down rather too well.  They’re not great for the waistline but the dog walking will make up for that (we hope!).

There seem to be recipes for brownies everywhere these days, in all shapes, colours and varieties, some an improvement, some, well, not so much, but trust me when I say that these really are quite delightful (if I do say so myself).  I haven’t called them smores brownies because a) Starbucks has done that b) we don’t live in America and c) they don’t have a solid cracker base, but the toasted marshmallow on top gives just enough of that campfire vibe.

Campfire Brownies

Campfire Brownies

Ingredients

  • 175g salted butter
  • 150g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 75g plain flour
  • 7 chocolate digestives
  • mini or regular marshmallows, enough to cover the surface area of the tin

Instructions

  1. Place a medium pyrex bowl over a small saucepan (get the two sized so the bowl will balance inside the rim of the saucepan, so it can be suspended over water) and add some boiling eater to the base of the saucepan (not so full that it touches the bottom of the bowl but no so empty that it could boil dry). Weigh the butter and chocolate into the bowl and set over the simmering water, which should be set over a low to medium heat on the hob. Stir gently until both have melted and combined, then carefully remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. While that's cooling, line and grease a 9 inch square loose bottomed cake pan and break up 8 chocolate digestives into small uneven pieces (but not crumbs!). They're going to be mixed into the brownie mixture to add another texture so think of them like large chocolate chips or nuts.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until fluffy.
  4. When the chocolate mixture has cooled, fold it into the eggs and sugar.
  5. Add the cocoa powder and mix this in well, followed by the flour. Once the flour is in, mix until just combined, then mix in the broken digestives. Don't over mix!
  6. Scoop into the tin then top with as many mini or full size marshmallows as you fancy, pressing them down slightly into the chocolate mixture to make sure they'll combine.
  7. Pop the tray into the middle of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until there's no wobble when you shake the pan a little.
  8. Allow to cool then remove the while lot from the pan as a slab, either by loosening the loose bottom or just by lifting out the greaseproof paper. Cut into squares and enjoy with a mug of tea and coffee!
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Why don’t you check out some more of our tasty bakes like these Honey and Lemon Madeleines or these Chewy Oat and Sultana Cookies?

Cottage Pie

Another page in the calendar has flipped over and the clocks have hopped back an hour, so it’s definitely time to dust off the casserole dish and make a hearty cottage pie. If you don’t know what a cottage pie is, it’s basically a shepherd’s pie, but made with beef mince instead of lamb – because for some reason or another, lamb and I just don’t get on.  The beef version is every bit as tasty, in my opinion, and it’s a little bit cheaper to make.

I’m sure most people have an old family recipe for cottage pie, or at least their own way of doing it, but I made one recently and thought I might as well throw my recipe into the ring.

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 large packet beef mince
  • 2 onions
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Knorr beef stock pot
  • salt and pepper
  • a pot of good mashing potatoes, such as Maris Pipers
  • knob butter
  • splash milk or cream
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • a few gratings of nutmeg
  • 200g mature cheddar

Instructions

  1. In a large frying pan on a high heat, brown off the mince in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan and risking it boiling. Colour = flavour! Reserve each browned batch in a bowl or plate to the side for the meantime.
  2. Finely chop the onions, grate the garlic and chop the carrots into quarter discs, and cook these off over allow to medium heat in the pan, until the onions have started to turn translucent.
  3. Transfer into a large saucepan or casserole pot and add the tomato puree. Cook that out for a couple of minutes, mixing into the vegetables.
  4. Add the mince back into the pot and add the herbs, cinnamon, Worcestershire sauce and stock pot, plus enough water to just cover the mince. Put a lid on the pot and allow to simmer over a low heat, stirring every now and then. If it's getting too dry, add a little more water, but we're not going to add anything to thicken it later, so don't go too mad.
  5. The amount of mashed potato you will need for the top will depend how big your casserole dish is and how deep you like your potato, so it's easiest to work that out by eye. Just start peeling and quartering your potatoes and stop when you think they'll make enough mash. It's not very scientific I'm afraid but it's how I do it!
  6. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender when prodded with a knife. Drain the water out then add the butter, cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mustard and mash until creamy and lump-free. That can be set aside with the lid on until you're ready to construct the pie.
  7. The mince should be given at least 45 minutes to simmer, but an hour and a half would be better.
  8. When you're ready to construct the pie, preheat the oven to 200c and grab a nice oblong or square oven safe casserole dish. Spread the mince into the bottom then carefully layer the mash on top, smoothing it out gently with a fork.
  9. When it's all nice and smooth, drag a fork through the top in furrows like a ploughed field. This helps to make the pie nice and compacted, but also gives the surface of the mash some texture, which will help it to crisp up in the oven.
  10. Sprinkle the cheese on top and then put back in the oven for at least half an hour, or until the mince is bubbling and the top is turning golden brown.
  11. Serve up with some lovely green vegetables and maybe some Branston pickle!
  12. Enjoy!
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If you liked this British classic, why not try Charles’ Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings?

Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings

Now, I am not one for semantics but was in a bit of a pickle as to whether this pork and cider stew with sage dumplings really was a stew, or whether it would be better classified as a casserole which then led me to looking on the internet for a definitive distinction between the two and abruptly stopped when I saw Marco Pierre White said “there’s no bloody difference at all!”. I went with stew because what sort of a monster has dumplings with a casserole?!

Pork and cider is such a classic combination but I was slightly worried about it being a bit too sweet in stew form so added the mustard to calm it down. The amount used just rounded the edges off the sweetness without adding any kick. You could certainly add more mustard if you wanted to have a spicier taste.

We are slowly getting into a routine here at Blunty’s, but there has been call for many late night suppers recently, which means preparing ahead but also making sure we’re eating well in a way that warms us from the inside out.  We’re still battling to stop the heating being turned on!

These quantities served two for supper and then a little lunch each the next day.

Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings

Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings

Ingredients

  • 4 pork shoulder steaks (diced)
  • 1.5 cans cider
  • 2 onions cut in strips
  • 5 or 6 mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 grated garlic clove (or squeeze of garlic paste)
  • 1 large tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Dumplings:
  • 80g vegetable suet
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp sage
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • some cold water
  • A beaten egg

Instructions

  1. Heat a casserole pot as high as the hob will allow and aggressively brown the diced pork, you want to add colour without cooking the pork through or it won’t be as tender at the end. I did this in 4 batches, deglazing the pan with cider between batches and then pouring in over the resting pork.
  2. Throw the onions into the pot) and give them a decent amount of colour before pouring in the cider and all other ingredients (except mushrooms).
  3. Add the browned pork and pop it into a 130° oven with the lid on for 2 hours. Checking every so often to adjust flavour etc. and add more cider if need to (provided you haven’t polished off the can!).
  4. While the stew is slowly cooking combine the flour, salt, suet and herbs and slowly add the water a bit at a time. you don’t want to over-work it and leave it so you can still see grains of suet but it is a soft dough. - You want to let the dumpling mixture rest for half an hour before using it.
  5. When you are 30 minutes from serving time add the mushrooms and Roll the dumpling mix into balls and gently place them on top of the stew, try to avoid them sinking down too low, also given them plenty of space to expand, giving them a light egg wash to help them go golden and put the stew back in the oven at a temperature of 180° for the last 30 minutes.
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If you liked this stew, why not try some of our other winter warmers such as this Chicken and Chorizo Cassoulet or this simple Coq au Vin?

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Since the weather doesn’t seem to be improving any, we’re stuck in soupsville for however many weeks it’s going to take Spring to warm things up enough to let us enjoy salads at lunchtime. This is a swings and roundabouts problem, however, because the soup gets made on Sunday, and then portions will need to be reheated each day for lunch, whereas salads necessitate chopping and boxing every evening when supper’s being made, and there often needs to be a roast bird in the oven on Sunday to provide the protein element.  So either way, this is my hardest work part of eating well.

 
All that work pays off, however, as long as you can keep changing things up enough that you keep enjoying whatever it is you’re feeding yourself. And that’s why it’s time for a new soup! You don’t me need to tell you that carrots help to see I the dark but you may not know that they are packed with vitamin C. They can be a little sweet, however, so to me it makes sense to balance them out with a little heat and some acidic citrus to give you a tasty well/rounded soup. 

You will need:

2 onions

2 leeks 

3 cloves garlic

2 cm piece ginger 

1 tbsp olive oil 

1 kg carrots

3 chicken stock cubes (use vegetable if you would prefer, or fresh stock)

2 tsp dried parsely

1/2 tsp ground chilli

1/2 tsp ground cumin 

4 tsp ground coriander 

Splash orange juice

Dash Worcestershire sauce 

Salt and pepper 

A few leaves of fresh parsely or coriander (optional)

  
1. Chop the onions, garlic and ginger. Don’t worry about being too delicate or even – it’ll all blended once it’s cooked.how to make soup 
2. Add a tablespoon of oil to your soup pot and chuck in the onions, garlic and ginger and cook on a medium to high heat until it’s all starting to turn transparent.  recipes to use up leeks
3. Chop the leeks – make sure you rinse out any mud and trim off the toughest part of the leaves.

 carrot recipes 4. Peel and chop the carrots – you can leave the skins on if they’re not too gnarly – just give them a quick wash.easy soup recipes 

5. Add the leeks to the soup pot and cook out for a few minutes… carrot soup recipes 

6. …then add the carrots and stir it all together.  how to make carrot soup 
  7. Make the stock by dissolving the stock cubes in water, then add to the pot, topping up with more water if necessary. I used about a litre and a half. Put a lid on and leave to simmer on a low to medium heat for 40 minutes to an hour.  Carrot and Coriander Soup Recipe

8. Add the parsley and spices  to the pot and take it off the heat. Now it’s time to turn this hitch pitch into a smooth soup. You can do that by pouring it into a blender or by using a stick blender. I like to use a stick blender and decant the soup into a big bowl before blending to avoid getting my soup pot scratched.   

9. Add a little more water if it’s all looking too thick. I added some fresh parsely leaves at this point just to freshen things up, but you could use fresh coriander if you like it. I tasted it for seasoning and added some more ground coriander at this stage but I’ve accounted for it in the overall measurements above. Add seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and the orange juice and mix together. 

Carrot and coriander soup 10. Taste, and add anything you feel is missing. If it’s a little bland, add seasoning. If it’s not spicy enough for you, add more coriander or chilli, or if you think it needs more zest, add a splash of orange juice. Serve up and enjoy!  

Turkey Bolognese

So you want to eat healthily but you also want to eat well? Hmm…..I give you turkey bolognese. No, it’s not dry, and no, it’s not bland. Trust me. Even my Mum likes it and she won’t eat anything that looks or feels even vaguely healthy. We’re not talking superfoods here, but we are talking lean protein, plenty of vegetables and some punchy herbs and spices for good measure. What’s more, it hides any sweetness wholewheat spaghetti comes with so it actually tastes really quite luxurious even if you bring the calories and carbs down to the minimum.
Turkey Bolgnese RecipeTo make a large batch of this light but meaty sauce, you will need:

1 onion

3 cloves garlic

3cm fresh ginger

3 carrots

1 red pepper

Olive oil

3 tsp tomato purée

100ml red wine

1 packet turkey thigh mince

1 packet turkey breast mince

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cans plum tomatoes

1 jar passata

1 Knorr beef stock pot

1 punnet chestnut mushrooms (closed up or button will work as will)

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Splash Worcestershire Sauce

Splash balsamic vinegar

A few leaves of fresh basil and parsley (if you have them!)

Salt and black pepper

Spaghetti Bolognese Recipe 1. Finely chop the onion, carrots and pepper (although I prefer to keep the pepper pieces sort of bite-sized) and grate the garlic and ginger.  Heat a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan or stock pot over a medium heat.  Chuck in the onions, garlic and ginger and cook until soft and transparent.  Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat – the garlic will burn!  Next, add the carrots and pepper and continue to cook out, stirring every now and again.  The idea is to soften the veg so that it becomes part of the sauce, not to brown it.  Add the tomato puree, stir it in and keep cooking it all out.  When it’s starting to turn dry, Add the red wine and let this simmer, steaming off the alcohol and any harsh taste.
Recipes using Turkey Mince2. Grab your largest frying pan, add a little oil and turn the heat up to the max.  Brown off the turkey mince, a few handfuls at a time to prevent overcrowding and lowering of the temperature, letting it turn golden brown before turning.  This stuff will kick off quite a bit of water and fat, so keep some kitchen roll handy to mop up any liquid if it looks like the mince is starting to boil rather than brown.  When it’s nicely brown on both sides, add to the saucepan, dry off the pan, then brown the next batch.  It may seem a little odd to use a combination of turkey breast and thigh meat, but I think it gives the perfect amount of fat balance to keep things moist without over greasing the pudding.
Pasta Sauce Recipes  3.  Stir the mince into the vegetables, add the tinned tomatoes and some of the passata – you may need more or less of this depending on the overall balance of mince and veg to sauce, bearing in mind that it will reduce during cooking.Spaghetti Bolognese Recipes  4. Add the beef stock pot and stir in – this can take some time and effort to distribute evenly but it really helps to round out the flavour.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar, then the dried spices and herbs, lemon juice and sugar and stir.  Put a lid on and leave alone to simmer (check the temperature) for around half an hour.  Recipes using Chestnut Mushrooms

5. Cut the grotty stalk ends off the mushrooms then slice them, bearing in mind that they will cook down a bit in the sauce. Add to the sauce, stir in, and cook out for another half hour or so, stirring every now and then.  You’ll notice that the sauce has already started to deepen in colour. Oh and if your saucepan isn’t big enough to take everthing, you can just as happily split the sauce into two saucepans, just remember to split any extra ingredients between both.
How do you make Spaghetti Bolognese?

6. Put the lids on and cook out for at least another half an hour to 40 minutes before serving, but ideally as long as possible.  Taste, adjust the seasoning and then add the fresh herbs before stirring through a final time.  Serve with some perfectly cooked pasta (not necessarily spaghetti!), green veg or salad and maybe even some garlic bread.  Grate a little fresh parmesan over the top if you have some -a little goes a long way if you’re counting calories.  This batch fed me for two suppers, and my parents for one, with a large freezer bag going in the freezer, so I’d day it would feed 6 people easily.

Best Ever Spag Bol Recipe

Buon Appetito!
Low Fat Spag Bol

Butternut Squash Risotto

The last few weeks have been a bit of a festive whirlwind with present-buying and wrapping sitting alongside Christmas baking and work, of course. But at last (hooray, hurrah) I’m off work until 29th December, so finally I have a chance to breathe.

Roasted squash risotto recipe

My first free evening was largely spent in the kitchen and on the floor wrapping presents, but I was feeling a bit more chilled than I have been and I’d bought a butternut squash at the weekend as an antidote to lots of meaty meals, so I thought I’d throw together a wholesome risotto for a bit of relaxation (yeah, I do actually find that sort of thing therapeutic!). This tasted so wholesome, comforting and filling without having to cook up any meat. You could so easily make this fully vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and if you use 80g of each vegetable, it can also make up 4 of your 5-a-day. Add whichever veg you fancy – it’s also great with roasted sweet potato.

Squash risotto recipes

As a bit of a warning, though, you’ll need about half an hour and a great deal of patience to make this dish. Once the liquid hits the rice, you’ll need to constantly stir it until it’s ready. Be prepared! I forgot about this part when I thought I’d be able to get a batch of mince pies ready for the oven at the same time!

How to make risotto
You will need:

Half an onion or a few shallots

1 clove garlic

Dash white wine or vermouth (optional but delightful; essential on a Friday evening)

80g carnaroli rice (or however much you care to pour in by eye – who has time for scales?!)

Chicken stock (a good cube dissolved in hot water and standing by or fresh if you’d like – I have a stock recipe coming soon)

A few florets of broccoli

Half a small butternut squash

Olive oil

A cupful of peas

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Salt and pepper

How to cook butternut squash

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200c, line a baking tray with tin foil and get ready to roast. Carefully cut the squash in half from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds. If you need a hand with how to tackle one of these beasts for the first time, there’s a quick rundown in my squash soup recipe. Once you’ve done that, place one half of the squash on the tray, sprinkle on the chilli and cumin, season and drizzle with oil, then shove it in the oven.

Chop the onion and garlic
2. Finely chop the onion and garlic.

Making a risotto baseI
3. Drizzle a little oil into a medium saucepan and place on a medium to high heat. Chuck in the onion and garlic and allow to soften, stirring every now and then.

Carnaroli rice recipes
4. Tip the rice into the saucepan to join the rice and stir around for about 30 seconds or so, until you hear the rice start to crackle and pop, then pour in the wine.

Winter risotto recipes

5. Cook out the wine until the saucepan is nearly dry. Now comes the stock. This needs to be added a ladleful at a time, cooked out whilst stirring the rice, then repeated. This process will take 20-30 minutes – risotto is traditionally served al dente, but I would recommend tasting it before serving up because home cooking is all about what you like. The stirring process is really important because it helps the starch to be released from each grain of rice, and it’s the starch which will give you a really creamy, unctuous risotto.

Why do you have to constantly stir risotto

6. About 5 minutes from the end, cut up the broccoli into fine florets and boil it up in salted water. When the rice is ready, add the broccoli to the saucepan, then stir in the frozen peas. A couple of minutes in the risotto should be enough to defrost and cook them.

Vegetable rice recipes
7. Check the squash. It should take 20-30 minutes to cook as well. It should be tender throughout and browning on the edges.

Easy squash recipes

8. Chop up the squash into chunks. You can remove the skin before or after cooking, but, like many vegetables, a lot of the nutrients the squash offers are in the skin, plus it turns sort of sticky and marshmallowy when roasted. So yes, you definitely can eat the skin on a butternut squash!

Can you eat the skin of a butternut squash

9. Serve up the rice and add the squash chunks on top so they stay crispy on the edges. Then enjoy! If you want this to be extra creamy, you could stir in a tablespoon of crême fraiche before serving, or even grate some Parmesan over the top, however that would seriously bump up the calories, and of course remove the dish’s vegan and vegetarian credentials, but the world is your rice bowl.

Roasted butternut squash risotto
I’d love to hear about your favourite risotto and your favourite way to prepare and eat butternut squash.

Roasted Squash and Pepper Soup

Is it just me or is it starting to feel like winter is never going to end? It’s too cold. What I will say though is that whilst I’m getting bored of winter food already in some ways, it is the time of year when a steaming bowl of something will hit the spot like nothing else. Especially on a work day in a draughty old building when you’re having one of those days that makes you wish you were back in bed. 

 squash soup recipes 
I don’t know about you, but if a soup is good enough and hot enough, one spoonful will immediately revive me to the point of begging winter’s forgiveness for ever speaking badly of it. I’m not talking about those crazy Pinterest soups though; there’ll be no cheese or nachos in my soup pot. What a good soup can give you is a vibrant, hot bowl of bright goodness. It tastes like nourishment. And it can be so packed with flavour. With a little bit of time and a lot of love and patience, you can turn a small bag of groceries into somethings spectacular which can keep you in healthy, warming lunches all week.

 pepper recipes  

 You will need:

2 onions

1 leek

2 cloves garlic 

3 peppers, choose your poison (I bought a 3 pack of yellow, orange and red, but 3 red would do you just fine)

1 3cm piece ginger 

2 butternut squash (3 if they’re small)

1 sharp green apple (a bramley is perfect)

3 chicken stock cubes (or vegetable if you’re vegetarian) 

Salt and pepper

1 tsp parsley

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp thyme 

1/2 tsp smoked paprika 

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder 

Dash Worcestershire sauce 

 roast for better flavour 
1. Preheat the oven to 200c and line 2 trays with foil. Peel and quarter the onions and core the peppers before cutting them in half. Place in one of the trays, along with the garlic, and drizzle with a little olive oil. 

 winter warming soup recipes 
2. Cut the squashes (squash, squashi?!) in half down the middle from top to bottom. Be careful; these can be tricky nuggets! I find it easiest to cut off the knobbly bit on the top first, stand them upright on a board and slice top to bottom with a chef’s knife. It’s hard to get the knife through to start with but once you get to the bulbous section it’ll be plain sailing. Scoop out the seeds and place them in the other tray, flesh facing up. Season and drizzle with oil then shove them in the oven too. Both trays will take around half an hour, but have a look at them after 20 minutes.

 winter squash recipes 

3. In the mean time, chop up the leek and add it to your soup pot with a little oil. Try to keep the heat relatively middling so they don’t brown, but hot enough to sauteé them. Grate in the ginger.

4. Remove the onions and peppers from the oven when the peppers are beautifully tender with dark brown skins. If the onions are still a little hard don’t worry too much, but you can put them back in the oven on their own if you’d prefer. 

 How to roast onions, garlic and peppers   
When cool enough to touch, chop the onions into smallish pieces (but don’t worry about them being too fine) and add these to the pot as you go. You should be able to squeeze the garlic out of its skin and into the pot. Cook the onions down a little more whilst you carry on to the next stages. 

Before chopping up the peppers, carefully remove their skins. If they’re cooked enough, this should be easy. Simply pint the skin at its darkest and it should tear and peel away really easily. Then chop up the pepper flesh and add it to the pot. 

Roasted butternut squash   6. When your squash looks sticky and tender, remove from the oven and chop into chunks. Leave the skin on as it will have turned marshmallow in the oven and will be liquidised later. Peel, core and chop the apple and add than too. Trust me on the apple. It sounds a bit “out there” but it really balances out the flavour, adding a little earth and a bit of sharpness. I made this soup last week without the apple and it just wasn’t the same. 

Give everything a good stir to get nice and hot. best ever butternut squash soup recipe  
7. Prepare your stock by dissolving it in hot water if you’re using cubes or just pour it in if you have liquid stock instead. Add a little seasoning and stick the lid on. Allow to simmer on a low to medium (just bubbling) heat for around 40 minutes. 

tasty soup recipes8. Liquidise in a blender or on a big bowl using a stick blender. You can do it in your stock pot if you want but mine is non-stick and I don’t want to risk scratching it so I always use a big metal mixing bowl to blend then pour it back into the stock pot to finish. 

  

 
9. Add the herbs, spices and Worcestershire sauce, allow to cook through and then taste. This is the tricky part where you need to work out whether it needs more salt, more spice or nothing at all. You have to trust your tastebuds here I’m afraid! 

And that’s your soup! Enjoy!
 

Tikka Masala Paste

It started snowing this morning so I decided it was the perfect day to make a curry. I’m made chicken tikka masala many times, many ways, but today, I thought things should be done properly, entirely from scratch. 

  
So the starting point is a great tikka masala paste. I’ll share the recipe as to how to turn this into a full-blown curry later this week, because that recipe can also be made with a ready-made from the supermarket curry paste, if that makes sense. As well as a proper curry, though, this makes a great marinade for chicken or prawns, loosened up with Greek yoghurt and a teaspoon of lemon juice. 

  
You will need:

4 cloves garlic 

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped into 4 pieces

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp smoked paprika 

2 tsp garam masala 

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander 

1 tsp chilli flakes (if you prefer, you could use 1 or 2 fresh chillis)

2 tbsp groundnut oil

2 tbsp tomato purée 

1 tbsp ground almonds (I used flaked because I had some open) – if you’re allergic to nuts you can obviously leave these out! Use dessicated coconut instead o

  
You will also need a mini-chopper or a good heavy pestle and mortar. I have a Brevie stick blender which also came with a chopper attachment as well as a blender attachment so I just used the chopper to save my muscles.   
1. Put the garlic (peeled) and ginger into the chopper or mortar (yes, I just looked that up! The mortar is the bowl and the pestle is the grindy thing). Add in all the dried spices, then the oil and tomato purée. Finally, add the almonds. 

  
2. Carefully bash or blitz everything together. It can be pretty stubborn to start with, but be patient. If it stops turning at any point, you may have to open it up and move it all about with a spoon a couple of times before it will be completely smooth. Don’t worry if you don’t get all of the almonds completely ground; they’ll add a nice texture later. 

  
Spoon out into a bowl or jar. If you’re making it ahead of time, you might want to add a little groundnut oil, cover and put in the fridge. This should be enough to make a curry for 4, but you’ll have leftovers if you’re cooking for 2. 

  
Let me know how you get on!

Frisky Chicken Fricassée 

I indulged myself when I made this on Sunday, I have to admit. I was feeling pretty lousy, so a luxurious few hours in the kitchen (not just making this, don’t worry!) was just what I needed. I could have made this more quickly, but I really enjoyed the calm preparation. There are so few ingredients but it’s packed full of flavour, and it can be served in so many different ways. A perfect winter warmer. 

  
If you don’t like chicken thighs, you could absolutely make this with chicken, either baked in foil in the oven for about 20 minutes and then dressed with the sauce, or sautéed in large pieces for around 10-15 minutes. Personally, I think the slower cook works better. The thigh meat is more tender, and cooking it on the bone adds lots of natural flavour. 

If you don’t like brandy, you could use white wine, but honestly the strong alcohol flavour cooks out either way so you don’t really taste it, but it definitely improves the sauce.

  
You will need:

1 pack chicken thighs – I bought 8 with their skins on and bones in for £3 and this made 3 meals for me (or your preferred chicken cut)

3 rashers smoked bacon 

3 cloves garlic

1 punnet chestnut mushrooms 

50ml brandy 

100ml chicken stock

2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs of fresh 

Good crack of black pepper 

  
1. Trim off any excess skin and fat from the underside of the chicken thighs. I find it easiest to do this with a clean pair of scissors. 

2. Add a little oil to a large saucepan/casserole pot/sauteé pan (whichever you have or prefer; I used my big non-stick soup pot) and put onto a high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot, add the chicken thighs, skin down, and leave in until the skins are nice and crisp, then turn over. I did this in batches of 4 to try to keep the moisture in the pot down to make sure the skins can brief nicely. Flip over each piece to brown on the bottom. 

  
Once you’ve done the first batch, set aside on a plate. They will be cooked through later so don’t worry too much about that. I then dried off the pot a little, carefully, using a piece of kitchen towel held by my kitchen tongs. This helps to get rid of any excess fat and water. Then repeat with the second batch and set aside on the plate. 

  

3. Chop, crush or grate the garlic then slice the mushrooms. Remove the fat from the bacon then chop it up into nice even small pieces. I know I’m breaking a hygiene rule by cutting raw meat and vegetables on he same board but they’re about to go to the same place! 

  
4. Brown the bacon in the pot you used to brown the chicken, then throw in the brandy and garlic, and turn down to medium. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side up, and add the herbs and bay leaves.   

 5. Leave the heat at medium, and carefully add in the chicken stock. This should just simmer away at the bottom of the pot, otherwise you’ll risk the skin going soggy. 
  
6. After about 20 minutes of simmering, add the mushrooms, trying to keep them down in between the chicken pieces so they can’t throw out too much water into the chicken. Add in batches if this is easier. Cook for another 20 minutes, adding a little more stock if it starts to go dry. 

7. Check the chicken is nicely cooked through and serve! If you’re using chicken breasts, these can be gently browned on both sides as for the chicken pieces at stage 2, although it will take less time if you use skinless breasts (or skinless and boneless thighs!), then make the sauce and let it simmer away to itself for around 20 minutes before adding the chicken for the last 10 – 15 minutes so it can cook but won’t dry out. 

Serving suggestions!

Because I’m trying to eat healthy, I actually decided to skin and bone my chicken after going to the effort of browning the skin (like I say, I was in the mood for cooking!). It doesn’t look as pretty but it’s much easier to eat. Traditionally, I think you would just serve up a couple of thighs per person with some if the sauce and perhaps some potatoes and vegetables. 

  
The first night, I added a couple of ladles of this deliciousness to some cooked penne, added a spoonful of crew fresh and mixed together, before serving it with broccoli.

  
The next night, I plumped for brown rice. And broccoli. 

  
Last night, I served it up again with some wholewheat spaghetti and broccoli (this is what happens when you live alone) and I honestly enjoyed it equally each night. I’ll definitely make this again!