Recipe: Leek & Potato Soup

 photo 2014-03-09114308_zpsf5cb9baf.jpgNot quite the lightest of spring recipes, but I love a good soup! When the weather is warm I often crave lighter, healthier meals (I’m looking for some exciting and filling salad recipes, so if you have any please comment with a link!) but I also love my comfort food. Coupled with the fact that coming up exams the last thing I want to do is have to spend time cooking dinner, I’ve filled my freezer with homemade soup. A veggie packed meal on hand for lunches or dinners, all I need to do is heat it in a pan and stir for a little bit.

This is one of the easiest soups to make – I often find vegetable soups can be a little flavourless but this is always tasty. It just takes a little peeling and shopping, some simmering time, then a whizz in the blender. In less than half an hour you can have plenty of soup – this recipe made me six servings – for the freezer, which is time well spent in my opinion. My only point is to say that it needs vigorous stirring when you reheat, as it separates and looks rather unappetising for a bit. It does come back together though, I promise!

Ingredients for 6 Bowls of Soup

  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 3 leeks
  • around 800g of potatoes – 6 should do it!
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock

Now Let’s Make Some Soup!

 photo 2014-03-09114947_zps8615282a.jpgFinely dice your onion and celery, then slice your leeks – just mainly the white part and discard the green ends.

 photo 2014-03-09115423_zpsdcf80161.jpgMelt the butter in your largest saucepan, and slow cook the onion, celery and leeks until soft. photo 2014-03-09120736_zps84757b55.jpg

 photo 2014-03-09120058_zps2a523737.jpgMeanwhile peel and dice your potatoes into roughly 2cm chunks.  photo 2014-03-09120744_zps4c5b18e4.jpg

 photo 2014-03-09121103_zps7a7e7e99.jpgAdd your potatoes to the pan, followed by the stock and some seasoning – I used a little dried thyme and a bayleaf. Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

 photo 2014-03-09132032_zpsb294b17d.jpgTransfer to a blender (you may need to do this in batches) and whizz until smooth. Leave some chunks if you like, but I like my soups completely lump-free. Pour the whizzed soup into a clean saucepan to cool for freezing, or serve.

I like to serve mine sprinkled with black pepper and some crisp bits of fried bacon. And plenty of bread for dipping…

 photo 2014-03-12194243_zpsca84869d.jpg

What’s your favourite soup?

Recipe: Chicken Khari Curry

KhariCurry6 photo 2014-03-03194816_zps296459ab.jpgYou may remember from my Spicy Pea Toasted Sandwich (which I hope you try, by the way, as its an amazing recipe!) that my boyfriends dad has been taking an Indian Cookery class in Northampton run by Rashmita Shah (I believe she is hosting these workshops this year). Being away at university I’ve yet to sample any other dishes he’s learnt, but he did send me down this recipe, along with a spice mix from Rashmita herself (which I’m amazingly grateful for – so thank you to John and Rashmita – its getting a lot of use!). I was also sent an amended (to remove the evil tomatoes) recipe, which I generally follow to the letter. In fact my only deviations are to add extra veg, generally spinach, and use garlic granules if I don’t have any fresh! I also generally don’t include fresh coriander, simply because I have bought two plants since starting university in 2012, and killed both…

KhariCurry2 photo 2014-03-03192014_zps91a572ab.jpgThe spice mix I am using is made up of hing, whole cumin seeds, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, salt and low sugar. I’ve no idea whether this would work with other spice mixes (and please don’t go and buy generic curry powder…at the very least buy a few separate spices and experiment). I’ve really enjoyed being able to enjoy a curry that isn’t Thai, or a korma – I’ve felt really limited due to my tomato allergy before now! Lets get cooking…

Ingredients (scaled down for one person)

  • 1 portion of chicken
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1.5 tsp spice mix
  • A splash of boiling water
  • Small handful fresh coriander, if you have greener fingers than me!

KhariCurry1 photo 2014-03-03192004_zpse2b57bb2.jpgStart by chopping your onion, garlic and ginger together, as finely as possible. Rashmita suggested grating these ingredients, though I cheated and used an electric chopper. Fry in the oil, which you have heated to a high heat. You want to stir-fry these at a continuous high heat, stirring very frequently, until they are soft and turning golden brown.

KhariCurry3 photo 2014-03-03192901_zps0898b61c.jpgThen add your spice mix to the pan, and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly.

KhariCurry4 photo 2014-03-03193225_zps7c924658.jpgThen add your chicken, and continue stir-frying over the high heat until completely sealed and virtually cooking through.

KhariCurry5 photo 2014-03-03194458_zpsc42fc176.jpgTurn the pan down a little, and add the boiling water slowly, still stirring constantly. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is as thick/thin as you like it. I add my spinach just before it is done. Then serve, garnishing with coriander if you have it.

KhariCurry6 photo 2014-03-03194816_zps296459ab.jpgAnd that’s it! I was shocked at how simple this recipe was, as I always assumed most Indian recipes were complicated and used a long list of ingredients. Okay, I’m using a spice mix, but even that isn’t overly complex! This is a quite and easy recipe, that’s well spiced with a complex flavour. It takes around 20 minutes to make, and for me the difficult part is cooking rice on an electric hob (any tips, please pass them on!).

What’s your favourite curry?

 

Recipe: Vegetarian Bean Chilli

 photo IMAG1098_zpsmwrulozq.jpgA quick and easy recipe for you today, something that’s become a staple with me over this winter as its warming and comforting without taking hours to cook. I love stews and casseroles, but they aren’t exactly convenient when I leave the house at half 8 and get back at half 6, even with a slow cooker. This takes about 20 minutes from start to finish (less if you have an electric chopped, but then there’s more to wash up…) and I’d like to say it’s relatively healthy.

The best thing about this recipe is that its cheap. As long as your spice cupboard isn’t totally bare (at a minimum you should have cumin, chilli powder, salt and pepper) and you aren’t allergic to tomatoes it shouldn’t cost you much at all!

 photo IMAG1090_zpskpeulb9i.jpg

Now a point about beans. I buy dried beans (with the exception of kidney beans) all the time as they are ridiculously cheap, and I use a lot of them. Generally I cook them in my slow cooker every once in a while and freeze in portions – to do this just add to slow cooker, top with twice and much water and cook on low for 5-7 hours, keeping an eye on the water level. If you don’t eat beans often, I would use a can of mixed beans here.

My favourite combination of beans is predominately black beans (thanks to Wahaca I am addicted to these!), with some pinto beans. I’ll then add a small can of kidney beans too. On the tomato free front  – I use Wahaca’s smoky chipotle sauce in my chillis, and don’t miss the tomatoes at all – its definitely the best ‘substitute’ I’ve found for this kind of dish!

 photo IMAG1095_zpsyxb4rrdy.jpg

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 pepper
  • Beans (see above, or use a can of mixed beans like this one)
  • Spices – I use 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder, a sprinkle of coriander and cinnamon, and some garlic powder
  • Tomato Puree (or chipotle sauce for tomato-avoiders like me!)
  • Vegetable Stock

Start by dicing the onion. I prefer my onion pretty small and well cooked, so I start to fry in a little oil before doing anything else.

 photo IMAG1086_zpsl0rfm3rr.jpg

Then slice up the pepper, and add to the pan. Fry for a few minutes, then add the spices.

 photo IMAG1087_zpslsoijm8n.jpg

Add the spices, and fry whilst stirring all the time, before squeezing in your tomato paste. If you are making this tomato free, add some chipotle sauce when you add the stock.

 photo IMAG1088_zpsnmxs4ofp.jpg

Add the beans and around a mugful of vegetable stock, then simmer. Just simmer until it gets to the consistency you want – thick or thin. I found I only needed 5-10 minutes on a very low heat.

 photo IMAG1091_zpswsdznpsi.jpg

 photo IMAG1096_zpsmbiaijje.jpg

 photo IMAG1097_zps0oorflxx.jpg

Serve with rice, or if you are really lazy (like me) with tortilla chips and a little grated cheese.

 

 photo IMAG1098_zpsmwrulozq.jpg

 

What’s your favourite vegetarian recipe? Let me know if you want me to provide rough costs of my recipes!

Recipe: Shortcrust Pastry for National Pie Week

 photo IMAG1026_zpsycplbblv.jpgIt’s national Pie Week this week (as I found out walking into Tesco’s to shelves of special buy pastry) and I couldn’t be more excited. I love pies, they form some of my favourite meals. They are just so filling, so versatile, and also pretty quick to make – they freeze really well, so whether you make your own or buy them in you can just throw one in the oven, then come back in a hour and cook some veg. Delicious meal with very little effort.

I prefer to make my own pie (although the Chicken & Ham Pie from the butchers nearby is hard to beat!) filling and then top with ready-rolled puff pastry. I’ve never had the time to make puff pastry from scratch, although I aim to give rough puff a go in the next few weeks. I can, however, make a pretty decent shortcrust. As most students will know, I suffer from a lack of freezer space and often its impossible to freeze fully made-up pies. Its easier and more space-efficient to spoon the filling into a bag, seal, and squeeze in the tiny gaps available. When I do this I really need to make my own pastry, and that’s where this recipe comes in!

I’ve managed to devise the perfect amount to cover my ‘individual pie dish’ – ie the smallest rectangle dish Le Creuset make (I buy mine discounted – and couldn’t recommend the brand enough!). It covers the filling, and leaves just enough to double round the edges to make a thicker, crunchier crust. Not only this but it is extremely quick to make (I can make it in five minutes, before a 9am lectures, then just roll out, cover and bake when I get in) but it is relatively flaky and buttery, and extremely flavoursome from the seasoning. Not quite as good as puff pastry, but a good second-best!

Pastry Ingredients (for a big one-person pie – I am greedy, and I also like lots of pie and no other carbs!)

  • 25g butter
  • 50g flour
  • Seasoning
  • Ice-cold water

How to Make Pastry (also, it’s easy to double/triple/quadruple the quantities if you’re feeding more than yourself – just keep the ratio of half-fat-to-flour!)

Add the flour to a mixing bowl, and season well. My preferred seasoning is a little salt, plenty of ground pepper and a little dried thyme. Tip the butter into the flour. The butter should be cubed, and straight from the fridge.

 photo 2014-03-05100024_zpsf5da3c2c.jpgRub the butter into the flour with your fingers until  its all breadcrumby. No, that’s not a word, but its a good description of what you’re aiming for!

 photo 2014-03-05100357_zpsc69ecc89.jpgNow get some cold water in a glass, and add a drop at a tip to the mix. Stir vigorously with a knife to combine, and only add enough water so that the pastry just comes together.

 photo 2014-03-05100651_zps24e1fe4c.jpgTip the pastry onto clingfilm, and put in the fridge for at least an hour, or until its nearly dinner time! Then you want to roll it out until it’s about the thickness of a £1 coin.

 photo 2014-03-05182806_zpsca95a734.jpgTypically the day I make this pastry for photographing is the day it fails and decides to stick to my marble surface, and then sink into my pie filling. It was still lovely and crisp though!

 photo 2014-03-05192706_zpsb5cad7ba.jpgYou want to bake your pie for about 45 minutes at 180C, until it’s crisp and golden. Brush with melted butter, milk or egg if you want it shiny, though I don’t usually bother.

This pie filling was something quick I knocked up – I sweated down an onion and some garlic, added chicken breast and sealed, then fried some mushrooms off. I then added half (soya) cream and half chicken stock, some lemon juice and seasoning, then simmered for a bit. I find this kind of sauce freezes really well and is so adaptable!

So that’s how to make my version of a simple shortcrust pastry. Let me know if you try it out! Its also a pretty cheap recipe too – far cheaper than buying ready made pastry.

What’s your favourite type of pie?

Valentine’s Baking: Very Easy Chocolate Fudge Cake

2014-02-12 14.34.39A bit of a romantic themed bake for you today. If you remember last weekend I posted about making Cake Pops, and promised you my favourite chocolate cake recipe? Well here it is! I originally found it here, but have altered it ever so slightly to be more to my taste. Really all I have done is increased the cocoa:flour ratio and decreased the sugar slightly. The cake is rich and moist, but to make it even more of a treat (looking at the weather forecast, I’m getting more and more worried that I’ll be spending V-day crying into a plate of cake…so if the weather/train gods are reading this, I’d like the lines to be clear from Northampton to Canterbury please!) I added a very rich frosting. I haven’t eaten it yet, but I have a feeling it will be chocolatey heaven!

If you aren’t in the romantic mood, this cake fits perfectly into two 20-inch sandwich tins. To be honest I reckon heart-shape tins bake unevenly, so I’d recommend you use a normal tin really!

So to the really easy recipe!

2014-02-12 13.31.22Grab three eggs, and weigh them in their shells. Weigh out the same amount of butter, and make sure it is really, really soft. Weigh out the same amount of sugar, then put around 25g back. Weight out the same amount (again!) of flour, but 70g of it back and replace with 70g of cocoa powder. That’s your weighing done!

2014-02-12 13.50.54Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy…this is a great way to burn the calories in the cake before you’ve eaten them! I always find beating the butter before adding the sugar helps this step a little.

2014-02-12 13.52.01Now beat in the eggs one by one. If you add them all at once (like I did in this recipe) it will go wrong and curdle. Curdled mixture is fine in the long run, but it doesn’t look pretty, and often the cake is a little greasier than it should be!

2014-02-12 13.58.52Gradually sift in the cocoa and flour mixture, incorporating the mixture fully. It should be thick and fudgy looking (a little like brownie mixture!) but if it looks too thick add a splash of milk.

2014-02-12 14.23.17Spoon into a tin (which you have greased well, obviously…don’t be silly like me and forget!) and bake for 20-25 minutes at 170C, until firm to the touch, but with a slight give. Let it cool completely before removing from the tin.

2014-02-12 14.34.39Now to make the frosting! I used this recipe, but found it to produce ridiculously thick icing which I had to thin with a lot of water. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but it sure tastes good! I’d like to try this frosting again but on a slightly plainer cake.

2014-02-12 19.37.12You want to melt 100g of chocolate, beat into 100g of soft butter, and then beat in 400g of icing sugar and 50g of cocoa powder before thinning down with two tablespoons of strong coffee. I used 300g of icing sugar and it was still very thick!

2014-02-12 20.02.44I sandwiched the two cakes together with some of the icing, then attempted to smooth (not so neatly!) the rest over the top and sides. I was slightly constricted with the size of my tin (I AM buying a domed cake stand with my leftover Amazon vouchers!) so it wasn’t the neatest work I’ve ever done. To try and disguise the damage I added a final flourish of grated white chocolate (grated a piece of my nail off in the process…) which I think works well!

2014-02-12 20.19.19So that’s my little Valentine’s themed post – together with my favourite and easiest chocolate cake recipe. Its the type of sponge that’s easily adapted to anything – I’m thinking of introducing orange and/or chilli to a version soon!

Are you baking for your loved one this Valentine?

Recipe: Cheat’s Chicken & Ham Pie

It was recently my turn to cook dinner for my housemates; I wanted something warming and comforting so pie was the obvious choice. But I also didn’t want to spend forever cooking! I mean, I do have work to do, and Simulation homework doesn’t do itself (though I wish it would!). In the end I decided to experiment with a quick version of a Chicken & Ham Pie, using a few cheat ingredients.

2014-01-26 19.14.24

It turned out to be just what I wanted. The sauce was thick, creamy and full of flavour, the pastry crisp, and enough meat to feel like a good meal without it costing the earth. Served with some mash and plenty of green veg it was certainly a success! Admittedly not the cheapest recipe, but very nice for an occasional treat – I’m sure you could make it thriftier buy roasting a whole chicken breast, making your own pastry/sauce but that really isn’t the point with this cheat’s version!

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 packet shredded ham hock (I got mine from Waitrose)
  • Can of condensed chicken soup
  • Can of condensed mushroom soup
  • 1 small onion
  • Seasoning – I used plenty of pepper, onion and garlic powder, a little parmesan and around 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 pack ready-rolled puff pastry

This made enough for two large pies (easily feeding four), one large portion of filling leftover, and 4 pretty sizeable sausage rolls with the leftover pastry.

Method

Finely dice some onions (I have a confession to make – I recently started using a mini food processor to do this for me, and am wondering why I didn’t start sooner!), then soften in a little butter over a low heat.

Meanwhile chop the chicken into relatively big chunks, and fry on a high heat in some oil until sealed. Then add in the onions.

2014-01-26 18.01.54Pour in the two cans of soup, adding around half a tin of water to each one to ensure everything is out.

2014-01-26 18.03.41

Stir gently until lump-free, and season with your chosen seasonings.

2014-01-26 18.07.22Gently stir in half of the ham – it will break up slightly.

2014-01-26 18.08.42Divide between pie dishes, topping with the remaining ham.

2014-01-26 18.18.49Top with pastry. If you want a nice shiny top, brush with milk, beaten egg or melted butter.

2014-01-26 18.26.51Bake for around 20-30 minutes at 180C, or until puffed up and golden.

2014-01-26 19.14.24

Serve with plenty of vegetables and mashed potatoes, if you like.

2014-01-26 19.28.03

Now I’m not saying this is the most impressive of dinners, the most refined of meals. It was just damn tasty and easy to do, and is great for feeding a larger number of people. If you want to make a meal for housemates during a busy period this is just what is needed, and I reckon it would be perfect for busy mums to – its quick enough to prepare after work, or you could even assemble it all in advance and just bung it in the oven.

I also adapted a crumble recipe to make a savoury topping for the leftover filling – for one serving rub 80g of flour in 50g of butter, add plenty of ground pepper and a little parmesan cheese, scatter over the filling, and cake until the filling is very hot, and the topping golden and crispy. Yum yum!

NOTE: This recipe forms an entry to the Co-Op Electrical Shop’s Winter Warmer competition, the details of which can be found here. In short, bloggers are challenged to create a recipe of their favourite winter warmer, be it stew, pie or pudding. I love winter recipes, as I’m just a lover of cosying up by the fire with something comforting, so I’m hoping the organisers will share all the entries in one place!

What are your favourite winter warmer recipe?

Recipe: Fried Pea Sandwich (a.k.a. A Cheat’s Samosa)

2014-01-19 13.53.49

My boyfriend’s dad is currently taking part in an Indian cookery class, and luckily for me I was able to sample some of the things he made before I left for university. One of last week’s goodies was what I can only describe as a fried sandwich with a filling of spicy peas. I loved it – it was spicy, fresh, crunchy and warming with an almost summery hint coming from the peas. And of course I asked for the recipe.

Reading the recipe I came across a big problem. I’d never even heard of some of the spices (hing anyone?!) and I definitely knew that most students’ budget wouldn’t cover them. Mine definitely didn’t! So I decided to improvise. This recipe is what I came up with, and for about 10 minutes of work and some very cheap ingredients it was damn tasty! It makes a perfect snack or light lunch, so give it a go as something different!

I’m just going to go straight into it and give you the recipe, its so simple you don’t even need an ingredients list…

In the morning, get a handful of peas out to defrost. Get your bread out too – you want it slightly stale for this as it will go crispier.

2014-01-19 13.28.15Get some spicy out on a small plate. I used curry powder, cumin, tumeric and crushed chillies, but even just curry powder would do!

2014-01-19 13.32.44Tip your peas onto the spices, and crush with a fork. The original recipe said they should go like breadcrumbs, mine didn’t look that way! As long as they aren’t whole and they aren’t mush they should be fine…

2014-01-19 13.35.57Press the pea mixture into a slice of bread. Try and press it down as much as possible as this will prevent the sandwich from falling apart.

2014-01-19 13.39.23Top with the second slice of bread (pressing down well!) and then fry in a preheated oiled pan for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden and crispy.

2014-01-19 13.48.37This is delicious served on its own, but I’m thinking it will be even better with a cucumber-yoghurt dip. Watch this space!

2014-01-19 13.53.34

I never would have thought to try making a ‘samosa’ from a fried sandwich, but this really works. Let me know if you give it a go!

EDIT: by request, I’m adding this to Deena Kakaya’s Fabulous Fushion Food Challenge – a challenge which to be honest is right up my street! There’s already some great entries for this month, so please do have a look at them!