This is from a magazine I picked up at the airport and a recipe by MasterChef 2005 winner Thomasina Miers. It is also a bit fussier than I would normally put up with – it was the squash-cumin combination that got my attention. I am told that the effort was worth it, hence blogging it here for reference and others’ enjoyment.
Preparation time: 15 minutes (that’s optimistic, it’s more like 30 minutes what with peeling the squash).
Cooking time: 40 minutes
1 small butternut squash de-seeded and cut into 5cm pieces
1 dried chilli, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
handful of oregano or marjoram
2 red onions, chopped
punnet of baby tomatoes
small bunch coriander, chopped
4 large chorizo cooking sausages, bias cut into long rounds
150g cooked borlotti or pinto beans (I didn’t have any of these so left out, hardly noticed!)
100g Pecorino cheese
Step 1: Preheat oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Put squash, chilli, cumin and oregano in a roasting dish, coat lightly with oil, season. Roast for 15 mins and add onion. Roast for 10 mins then add tomatoes. Roast for a final 10 mins.
Step 2: Pound the coriander leaves to a paste with a pestle and mortar, then add a pinch of salt. Cover with olive oil.
Step 3: Over a medium heat, fry chorizo 2 to 3 mins. Drain.
Step 4: Mix the veg and beans with coriander oil, spinach and chorizo. Add shaved Pecorino and oil.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Prepared the French way, calf’s liver is one of my favourite quick and fairly posh dinners. I ask the butcher to cut not too large but rather thick slices, at least 1 inch, preferrably more, 1 1/2 even 2inch is best. I discovered this having the dish at Cafe Boheme (scroll down to the Mains), which has the perfect way of preparing it.
Heat heavy-bottomed pan as hot as you can (I always use Le Creuset gridle) with just enough oil to stop the liver sticking to it too much. Cook for 3-4 minutes depending on how rare you like the meat in the middle. Remember these times apply to thicker slices. After 3 minutes on each side check the meat by making a small incision to see the center and make a decision depending on your preference. Season and serve with horse-radish or mustard potato mash, fried onions in winter and wilted fresh spinach in summer.
Cold calf’s liver is wonderful with bread the next day.
Note: Never salt liver before cooking, it’ll go hard and chewy.
After a rather nice dinner in an Indian restaurant, I decided to have a go at cooking some Indian dishes myself. I came across this red lentil soup, which turned out to be fragrant, tasty and filling. Serve with some warm grilled naan bread spread with a little garlic butter and cut into chunky fingers. If not bothered about keeping it vegetarian, serve with a decent amount of dry-fried bacon, it works wonderfully and turns it into a hearty dish.
Serves 4, takes 30 minutes to prepare. I made a double batch, which is enough for 8, for sure.
225g dried red lentils
3 tbsp sunflower oil (used light & mild olive oil)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2.5cm piece fresh ginger, grated
1 medium-hot red chilli, deseeded and chopped, plus extra to garnish, if you like
1 medium-hot green chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
300ml hot vegetable stock (I used my own chicken stock, foregoing the vegetarian option)
200g can chopped tomatoes
Good pinch of cayenne pepper
100ml coconut cream
100g baby leaf spinach, to serve (I didn’t have any so I used lots of fresh parsley)
20g bunch fresh coriander, to serve
6 tbsp natural yogurt, to serve (optional)
Put the lentils into a medium saucepan and cover with 900ml of cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming off the scum as it rises to the surface, and leave to simmer for 10 minutes, until tender and just falling apart. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in another pan, add the onion and fry gently for 15 minutes, until browned. Reduce the heat, add the garlic, ginger and chillies and fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the spices and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the stock, the lentils and their liquid, canned tomatoes, cayenne pepper and season with salt to taste. Cover and simmer for just 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool slightly, then add the coconut cream. Blend, using a hand blender or in batches in a liquidiser, until the soup is almost smooth.
Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the spinach and most of the coriander leaves and cook for a further minute. Using a hand blender, blend briefly until the spinach is just roughly chopped.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish each with a spoonful of yogurt, the remaining coriander leaves and some finely chopped red chilli, if you like.
Nutritional Information per serving
16.1g fat (1.6g saturated)