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.
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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.

Chicken tikka masala

I made this last week on a weekday and must say it was the best Indian dish I have had outside the Painted Heron. It is not from an Indian source but from Gordon Ramsay. The rice is wonderful too, cardamom and star anise working its fragrant magic.

Ingredients:
Serves 4

Groundnut oil
1 large onion, peeled
2 fresh green chillies
1″ piece of ginger, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato puree
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
4 boneless chicken breasts (approx 150g each), cubed
10 dried curry leaves
4-6 tbsp natural yoghurt
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

For the steamed rice
400g basmati rice, rinsed
600ml cold water
Salt and pepper
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 star anise

  1. Heat two tablespoons of groundnut oil in a pan. Slice the onion and fry in the oil. Meanwhile, deseed and chop the chilli, chop the ginger and add to the hot pan, crush in the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften.
  2. Add the chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala and sugar and cook for 1-2 minutes. Next, add the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes to the pan and allow them to cook for a further few minutes.
  3. Transfer the sauce to a food processor and blend until smooth (I transfered into a deepest pyrex ball I had and used a hand blender. This seems unnecessary as the sauce already look good, but it is an essential step to make the dish really creamy and make all the flavours blend.
  4. Add a tablespoon of fresh groundnut oil into the pan and fry the chicken pieces until lightly coloured (watch the video from Gordon on how to joint a chicken). Pour in the blended sauce and add the curry leaves. Simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Place the rice in a saucepan, add the cold water and season with salt and pepper (watch the video from Gordon on how to cook rice). Lightly crush the cardamom pods with your fingers and add to the pan with the star anise. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to steam for a further 5 minutes. Remove the cardamom and star anise. Fluff up the rice with a fork and set aside.
  6. Stir in the yoghurt to the chicken curry along with half the chopped coriander. Serve with the steamed rice and garnish with the remaining coriander.