Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

I made this as a combination of two recipies for a creamy butternut squash soup. It came out truly amazing and I just have to make a note of what I did to recreate it exactly next time.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total time: 70 minutes  
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 500ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 800g-1kg Butternut squash, seeded and peeled
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 4 small Thai chillies choppped
  • 1 tsp Ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Garam masala
  • 6 Garlic cloves, peeled, whole
  • 1 Onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large piece of ginger (about 10cm) very finelly chopped
  • 400ml Coconut milk (1 can of Waitrose half-fat)
  • 1 Lime, juice (I used half a lemon)
  • Double cream, to serve
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh Thai chillies chopped
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Cut the squash into 5cm chunks, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and toss with the chillies and spices. Roast for 20 minutes than scatter over the garlic and roast for a further 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan; add the onion and ginger, cover, and allow to soften. Saute for about 10 minutes. Add the roasted butternut squash, stock and coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes, add lime juice or lemon juice to taste and season. Liquidise with a handheld blender or a processor.
  3. Serve with a drizzle of double cream, add fresh basil and chilli to garnish the soup.

Chicken with garlic and cider

This is a wonderful impromptu dish I made for my mother when looking at what ingredients I had at hand. From my trusted source of ocado recipes.

Don’t be put off by the large quantity of garlic, as the flavour will mellow in the cooking. Good with boiled new potatoes and green beans.

Serves 4

Total time required 50 mins

Preparation time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 40 mins

Ingredients:

15 Garlic Cloves, unpeeled

1 pinch Salt

1 pinch Black Pepper, freshly ground

2 tbsp Olive Oil

30g Butter, unsalted

4 Chicken Breasts, skin on

1 Bay Leaf

450ml Dry Cider

200ml Apple Juice

200ml Double Cream

1 tbsp Thyme, leaves

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Cook the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves in a pan of boiling salted water for 4 minutes. Drain, cool slightly, then peel and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in the casserole. When sizzling, add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook for 4–5 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Turn the chicken over and add the garlic cloves, bay leaf, cider, and apple juice. Cover and transfer to the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Lift the chicken out of the pan. Remove half the garlic cloves and discard. Bring the remaining juices up to the boil. Crush the garlic into the juices with a fork, then boil until reduced and thickened slightly.

Add the cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the sauce and baste with the juices; add the thyme leaves and serve immediately.

Saag paneer

Another Indian side dish to join spiced okra in my Indian cooking escapades. Both spinach and cheese are popular in this household so how wrong could it go? Also, saag paneer is one of the dishes I tend to order when having an Indian meal (which is rarely until now).



IMG_7718, originally uploaded by alecmuffett.

IMG_7734 by alecmuffett IMG_7740 by alecmuffett IMG_7741 by alecmuffett IMG_7744 by alecmuffett

I used this BBC food recipe but instead of fresh spinach I got a bag of frozen one from Waitrose, which did just as well. Useful metric: cooking 10oz of frozen spinach will deliver the equivalent of 1lb of fresh, cooked one.

Ingredients:

750g/1½lb baby spinach, washed (I used >500g of frozen spinach)
3 tbsp vegetable oil (a bit less as I always try to go easy on fats)
1 tsp cumin seeds (only had ground cumin which I added after the onions, as they were frying)
1 large onion, chopped
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into long julienne
1½ tbsp chopped garlic
1-2 green chillies, whole (got confused about this, but followed the recipe and discovered that whole chilli does transfer enough heat to dish. Chopped would have ruined it with too much heat).
2 tsp ground coriander (I only had seeds so crushed them myself)
salt, to taste
250g/8¾oz ready-made paneer (I found mine in Waitrose), cut into cubes (these were cut into 1cm cubes, but got a request to chop them smaller next time or quickly fry them before adding to spinach to have them a little more heated through)
½-1 tsp garam masala
6 tbsp whole milk, or 4 tbsp double cream (I used cream, so the fat I avoided in less oil shows up here. Better place, I say.)
1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste

  1. Blanch the spinach in hot water for three minutes or until wilted. Drain into a colander and run cold water over it until cool. In a food processor or blender, blend to a smooth paste and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the cumin and fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add the onion and fry over a low heat for about six minutes, until soft. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the ground coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another 30 seconds then add the spinach and a splash of water if necessary. The mixture should be loose but not watery. Bring to a boil and then simmer for three minutes.
  4. Add the paneer cubes, garam masala and milk or cream. Stir and cook for a few minutes or until the spinach is nice and creamy. Stir in the lemon juice to taste. Serve with pilaff rice or naan bread.

It tasted like proper saag paneer and I’ll definitely be making it again.

Cream of fennel soup

This, together with the white bean & smoked bacon soup, has to be my favourite. Another worthwhile recipe from The Sunday Times magazine. It’s sophisticated, smooth with complex flavours, the result of combination of fennel, Pernod and nutmeg.

Serves 6
75g butter (I use about 50g max)
1 medium leek, white part only, chopped
3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks (you want about 750g trimmed weight), chopped, and fronds reserved (these really make a difference when serving)
1 medium, floury potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
4 tbsp Pernod
1 litre chicken stock
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper
Nutmeg

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (again I use my 26cm Le Creuset casserole dish). Add the leek and fennel and sweat gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften. Add the potato, stir, then pour in the Pernod and cook for a minute to bubble off the alcohol. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Cook until the potato is done — about 15 minutes. Add the cream and bring to the boil again, then turn off the heat and liquidise. To do this I use a handheld blender which works really well, turning the soup into lovely smooth texture. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, dusting the top of each one with nutmeg and scattering with some of the reserved fennel fronds.