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Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

A lovely vegetarian dish I adapted from ‘The Dinner Ladies’ that can be served like a dahl alongside other curries or on it’s own like a soup. I often add a portion or two of diced white fish to cook for a minute or so just before  serving to make a complete meal. It freezes well but tastes best if  you add the kale (and if you’re using it, the fish) when you reheat.  

Serves 4-6.

4-6 kale leaves, chopped
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons concentrated tomato puree
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped or grated
2 teaspoons each ground cumin and coriander, toasted
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
pinch chilli flakes
1.5 cups red lentils
1 cup coconut milk
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
For Serving: Half bunch coriander, chopped; Lemon/lime juice

  1. Saute the onions, ginger and garlic over a low heat in a little olive oil stirring frequently until soft and sweet – about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Still stirring add tomato paste, cumin, coriander, tumeric, nutmeg, pepper and chilli flakes.
  3. Add the lentils to the onion mixture and stir through.
  4. Then cover with stock, tomatoes and coconut milk.
  5. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes unil the lentils are completely cooked and have collapsed into a puree.
  6. At this stage taste for flavour. Add salt, pepper and garam masala if you wish. Now it can be frozen.
  7. Defrost and bring to the boil. Add the kale and the fish if using. Boil for one to two minutes.
  8. Just before serving add chopped coriander, some lemon or lime juice, .

Easy Summer Pea Soup

I have just been discharged from a few days in hospital. Like airlines, the food has improved!!! I so enjoyed the 200ml of soup that came with every meal that I have decided to start making a few light fresh soups that freeze so I can have a cup with each meal at home. This pea soup is an old favourite that I adapted from Robert Carrier many years ago. The ingredients are always to hand, its easy to prepare and tastes delicious. 

250g(1 cup) frozen peas
1 large potato, peeled and sliced
1/2 spanish onion, sliced
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian version)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup cream

  1. Put peas, potato and onion into a saucepan with 1 cup stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Cool slightly and blend with 1/2 cup of water till smooth.
  3. Beat egg yolks lightly with cream and add to the pureed mixture.
  4. Heat the remaining stock and add the puree. Stir continuously over a low heat until the soup is smooth and thick. DO NOT BRING TO THE BOIL to prevent the egg yolks curdling.
  5. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Note: The puree can be frozen before adding the egg yolks, cream and extra stock. I divide the puree into 3 portions to freeze. To serve, add frozen or thawed puree portion to 1 cup chicken stock and heat. Add 3 tablespoons cream to a lightly beaten egg yolk. Mix a few tablespoons  of the hot ‘pea’ mixture into the egg mixture then add to the soup.  Stir over low heat till thick. Remove from heat before coming to the boil.

Roast Potatoes with Paprika and Lemon

These potatoes are incredibly moreish and you can never make enough. Serve with anything – its great with grilled chicken or fish but goes just as well with steak or a roast. Do yourself a favour and try making it just once.

1.5kg (3lb) chat or other baby potatoes
1.5 Tablespoons olive oil
30g (2oz) Butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Combine the salt, lemon rind and paprika in a small bowl.
  3. Cook potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain.
  4. Place the oil and butter in a large roasting pan. Place in the oven for 3 minutes or until the butter melts.
  5. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Use a potato masher to lightly crush the potatoes.
  6. Roast for 10 minutes or until the potatoes start to brown.
  7. Sprinkle the salt mixture over the potatoes. Roast for a further 15 minutes or until golden.
  8. Delicious with EVERYTHING.

Crostata – a Taste of Italy

On a recent visit to Italy we explored the countryside of Umbria with it’s authentic renaissance towns in perfect condition still occupied by locals with hardly a tourist in site. We stayed at a romantic AirBNB, Magic Winds, with welcoming hosts who produced the best peaches I have ever tasted from their parent’s farm, heavenly jam made according to Papa’s secret recipe and, for breakfast, Bernadetta and Sylvio produced this delicious Crostata. It’s not particularly sweet and the pastry is bread-like and keeps a few days. We love it for breakfast, afternoon tea or even dessert. We don’t have homemade jam but it’s important to use a quality product like Hanks Apricot Jam or perhaps the Harris Farm Market Blueberry Jam(add a handful of blueberries and some lemon zest to make it extra special). I also think it would be delicious using a good marmelade.

3 eggs
200g butter
150g white sugar
475g flour
1/2 cake fresh yeast or 1.5x7g sachet dry yeast (you need 10g)
2 cups jam(Hanks apricot or Harris Farm Blueberry + fresh Blueberries – optional) or marmelade.

  1. Break eggs and mix yolk and egg whites lightly with a fork in the Kenwood mixing bowl.
  2. Add sugar and beat in Kenwood Mixer with the ‘K’ hook until mixture forms a thick white cream and forms an ‘S’.
  3. Cut the butter into small cubes. Whilst continuing to mix the egg mixture, add the butter to the egg mixture a cube at a time.
  4. Then add flour and yeast slowly, mixing all the time.
  5. Now knead until you reach a homogenous mixture. I use the kneading hook on the Kenwood mixer for a while then finish off by hand.
  6. Place dough in the Fridge at least 30 minutes.
  7. Pull and stretch the dough then place 80% of it in 28cm round baking tin or a 24x34cm rectangular tin. Retain the rest of the dough to make strips for the top. This size pan will result in a bread like consistency. Use a slightly larger pan if you prefer a crispier base.
  8. Spread the jam on the dough in the tin leaving a ½ cm border around the edge free.
  9. Now make strips with remaining dough and layer across in a criss cross fashion.
  10. Bake at 170 degrees C for approximately 30-35 minutes.Buoni appetito!!!

NOTE:  If the base is thin it will have be more crispy like a pastry consistency and if it is thicker it will be more bread like.  Both are nice – it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Baked Mushrooms

I recently discovered baking mushrooms maintains the earthy taste and deep flavours of mushrooms far better than any other cooking method. This dish is simple, quick, versatile and tastes – oh so good.

Brown, Swiss or Portobello Mushrooms have the most flavour
30g butter
fresh herbs

  1. Heat oven to 220 C.
  2. Tear mushrooms and place in 20cm diameter metal baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs of your choice. I like thyme or continental parsley.
  4. Dot with a few little knobs of butter – you need very little.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve as is as an innovative and healthy snack or starter. Alternatively makes a great breakfast or lunch dish if you spread sourdough toast with goats cheese and serve mushrooms on top of the goats cheese with a few extra herbs sprinkled on top.

Cauliflower Rice – A Delicious Low Cal Alternative to Rice

There are so many benefits to this delicious dish – its a tasty way to cook cauliflower that the kids will love, a great addition to a curry evening,  an alternative to using rice or couscous, and its paleo and vegan. It even freezes well. A rough estimate says a serve is 50 to 60 calories versus rice which is approximately 250 calories a serve.  

Serves 6-8

1 whole cauliflower, approx 800g
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
1 mild long green chilli, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon favourite curry powder
1/2 cup hot vegetable stock or water
2 green spring onions, chopped
4 Tablespoons slivered or flaked almonds, toasted

  1. Remove thickest stems of cauliflower and discard. Slice the cauliflower florets and PULSE in a food processor briefly until they look like rice or cous cous. DO NOT OVERDO OR YOU WILL HAVE MUSH.
  2. Heat oil in large frying pan over low heat. Add mustard seeds, green chilli and cinnamon sticks. Cook 30 seconds.
  3. Increase heat to medium. Add the cauliflower, tossing well to coat. Add the curry powder, turmeric, stock or water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes – no longer.
  4. Mix in spring onions, scatter with toasted almonds and serve.
  5. If freezing, omit the toasted almonds – scatter these after you have reheated.
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