Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Making the most of Halloween Food

I'm not talking about things that look scary, gruesome or gory. I'm thinking of ways you can liven up the dinner table around Halloween. The 1st November marks the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday celebrated with parties, friends and foods so I thought I would look at ways to create some Mexican flavoured dishes with the help of Santa Maria. ..

Pumpkin Fajita
Of course, around October time, you see plenty of pumpkins arrive in the supermarkets and what better way to make most of the season that to use it in a spicy fajita dish. If you can't get hold of pumpkin, these recipes would work really well with butternut squash as well.

1/2 Pumpkin
Chicken (optional)
Fajita Seasoning

1. Cut the pumpkin into 2cm cubes and coat with a little oil and seasoning mix. Put into the oven at 200c for around 30mins or until caramelised.
2. Cut chicken into strips and coat in the seasoning mix. Place into a grill pan for 10-15 minutes or until cooked.
3. Warm up the wrap then fill with the pumpkin, chicken, salsa, lettuce and cheese.
Pumpkin Quesadillas
I love quesadillas and I wanted to try another way of using pumpkin for some party bites. Pumpkin is like butternut squash and is a pain to cut up so I like to cut it all and try and cook together, allowing for leftovers.

1/2 Pumpkin
1 onion
2 tortillas
salt and pepper
Taco seasoning

1. Cut the pumpkin into 2cm cubes and boil.
2. Slice some onion finely and fry until soft.
3. Once pumpkin is soft, drain and mash with some seasoning.
4. Place a tortilla in a pan over a low heat and add a layer of the mashed pumpkin, onion and cheese followed by another wrap (you are basically making a sandwich)
5. After around 5 mins, or when you feel the wrap is crispy, flip it over.
6. Once both sides are done and the cheese inside is melted, cut into slices and serve.
Veggie Fajita Soup
Another great way to make the most of the season is to create an easy spicy stew. It uses seasonal veg and can be made in batches, allowing for plenty of leftovers for lunches.

1 finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves
half a butternut squash (any that's leftover or double this recipe)
1 parsnip
2 carrots
1 tin tomatoes
half pack of fajita seasoning
1 stock cube

1. Cook off the onions slowly, then add the garlic.
2. Cube the root veg and fry off for a couple of minutes with the seasoning.
3. Add a tin of tomatoes and the stock cube mixed with 1/2 pint of water (you may need to add more throughout cooking)
4. Simmer with a lid on for 30 mins or until the vegetables are cooked then serve with a little grated cheese on top.

Another way of serving this warming dish is to put the mix in an oven proof dish, then at the end top with some tortilla chip crumbs and cheese then grill until golden
Spicy Eggs
Let's not forget the morning after the party. A simple breakfast or lunch for the day after the party can be spicy eggs using up any leftover salsa.

2 Eggs
Handful of Spinach
Handful of tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Heat up a little oil in a pan, and break in the eggs, slowly stir the eggs until nearly done. Then add the spinach and tomatoes and allow the leaves to wilt. Serve up with some side spinach and a helping of the salsa to add a little spice to the plate.
Most of these recipes could be made on mass, and either enjoyed straight away or used as leftovers. With squash and pumpkin in season, you can also roast a whole one then use any leftovers in these dishes. They are versatile and delicious..
Disclaimer: I was sent these products to review, but all opinions are my own

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hairy Bikers Beef and Guiness stew with Horseradish Dumplings

Dumplings are one of those naughty but nice things that make a stew evening more comforting. This Hairy Bikers recipe gives the option of steaming the dumplings on the hob or crisping in the oven and I would always recommend the oven method. With a stew that has a similar consitancy throughout, a little crunch always livens it up.
2 tbsp plain flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1 kg stewing or braising steak, diced
2 tbsp dripping or vegetable oil
2 onions, thickly sliced
3 large carrots, cut into chunks, diagonally
3 sticks celery, cut into chunks
200g celeriac cut into chunks
A large sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
500ml Guinness or stout

For the dumplings:
125g self raising flour
60g suet
1 tbsp hot horseradish sauce (or freshly grated horseradish)
Cold water to bind

1. Season the flour with black pepper and some salt, then toss the beef in it, dusting it off thoroughly.
2. Heat the dripping or oil in a large casserole and brown the steak thoroughly in batches. Remove with a slotted spoon, then add the onions, carrots, celery and celeriac. Saute on quite a high heat so the vegetables pick up some colour.
3. Return the beef to the casserole, then tuck in the herbs and pour over the Guinness or stout. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer very gently, covered, for an hour a half.
4. To make the dumplings, mix together the flour and suet, and season with salt and pepper. Add the horseradish, then gradually add enough cold water, mixing in with a knife, until have a soft, but non sticky dough.
5. Form the dough into balls. Drop into the casserole and simmer for around 20-25 minutes until well risen and firm or place in the oven with the lid on for 10 minutes then remove until crisp.

WIAW Bowls of Food

This week was all about the warming bowls of food. For breakfast, I cut through the cold weather with some porridge, banana and honey.
For lunch, I had a tomato and bean soup with some torilla chips on the side. They added a nice crunch and the soup was a little spicy so worked nicely together. Because the soup was full of beans, it kept me full for ages so I had my snack quite late in the afternoon.
For my snack I had a pink lady apple (the best variety in my opinion) served with some apricot yogurt, grapes and leftover homemade granola.
As I wasn't overly hungry when I got in from work, I spent the time making a risotto. I used onion, and leek as the base, then added courgette, stock, broccoli and peas. I finished it off stirring through some cheese and topping it off with parmesan and fresh pepper. Obviosuly I made a larger batch to allow me to have leftovers for work lunches the next couple of days.
Do you have those days where you just fancy bowls of food?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

WIAW Noodle Soup

This week's food is definitely on the warming winter theme. I left the house earlier than normal and it was pretty frosty, so its no surprise when I got to work I opted form a comforting bowl of porridge. I had it with a dirzzle of honey, banana, dried apricots and chopped brazil nuts.
Lunch was some leftover sausage rolls made at the weekend for a picnic, but as I didnt fancy anything snacking, I bought a tomato soup. I tried dipping the roll into the soup and it was the best idea ever. Obviously sausage works well with tomato, but I didn't expect to like the meat/veg combo quite so much.
A colleague at work turned up with some chicken noodle soup and everyone followed suit and bought some from the local shops. As I prefer to make my own, as soon as I got home I made a large batch which will see me through the rest of the week. I fried off some chicken thigh with garlic and a little ginger. I found some reduced stir fry veg which i added to the pan with some stock and a little soy sauce.

 Whilst I was in France, I bought myself a large variety of chcolate to snack on and this Praline was amongst my favourites and a perfect way to end the day.
What did you eat this week?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

WIAW Leftover Curry Night

This weekend I wanted to do a bit of cooking, so I made some cheese scones for homemade soup (obviously made from leftovers) as well as a delicious curry. It was a saffron chicken curry and suited my korma loving tastebuds.
As I wasn't travelling to work from my house, I had a different breakfast on Monday which was peanut butter on rice cakes with apple. I normally have banana but there wasn't any and I found apple just didnt have the same effect.
I had a late morning snack of rockie road as it was the Bake Off Sweep stakes treat they made. When your picked person leaves, you had to make something. It is quite interesting to see what non-cooks bring in.
Lunch was leftovers from the curry night. This was a vegetable masala which was great.
I also had a fruit snack in the afternoon.
Dinner was a pasta bake which made a big batch so the leftovers will suit me for a few coming lunches or dinner.

What did you eat this week?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Curry Night #09 Hairy Bikers Rajasthani Kesar Murg

I love a good korma curry but sometimes I would like to have something a little different. I came across this saffron chicken curry in the Hairy Bikers Great Curries book and thought it looked similar. And although the saffron is quite expensive to start- dont let it put you off. You only need a little bit as it goes a long way.
There was a lovely creamy element to the curry, similar to that of a Korma but with a little more spice. This fragrant curry is one I would definitely make again. I served it with some green beans and Peshwari Naan. 
This is the recipe adapted from the Hairy Bikers Great Curries Cookbook
6 boneless chicken thighs
150g plain natural yogurt
150ml double cream
good pinch of saffron
2tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
20g fresh ginger chunk grated
 50g ground almonds
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
6 green cardamom pods
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp flaked sea salt
300ml cold water


Cut each chicken piece into 2, season then place into a bowl with the yogurt and marinade for 30-60minutes.

Pour the cream in a small saucepan and add the saffron. Bring to a gently simmer, then remove from the heat which allows the saffron to infuse.

Heat the oil or ghee in a large pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and ginger for 8-10 minutes until well softened and onions are lightly browned.
Once the onions are done, flake the cloves into the pan with the bay leaf, cardamom pods, coriander, cayenne, tumeric, salt and sugar. Cook together for 2-3 minutes.

Add the chicken and yogurt to the pan and fry for 5 minutes, turning occasionally until coloured all over. Stir in the nuts and cook for a few seconds.

Pout in the cream and water and stir well. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

WIAW Wintery Eats

As the nights are drawing in and the days are getting colder, I have starting to crave the comforting food found in the winter months. My breakfast changed for the first time in ages this morning, with overnight oats made with rice milk, peanut butter, jam, cinnamon and banana.
Lunch was leftover butternut squash soup I made the previous night. I roasted a whole squash, a few carrots, garlic and onion, then blitzed with stock, paprika and a little chilli to make this sweet soup with a hint of warmth. I served it with some homemade ciabatta I found in the freezer and some black pepper.
I had a slice of lemon drizzle cake for the afternoon with my cup of tea. It was part of the #GameOnCooks challenge. You can find the recipe here.
For dinner, we had a tasty chicken and chorizo paella with peas, carrots and sugarsnap peas. I made a large enough batch to take to work the next day as well.
What do you like in the cooler weather?