Whole-roast munchkin pumpkins with pumpkin and sage risotto

Pumpkin risotto

I made this for the family this weekend as part of a Halloween lunch and it went down really well, especially with the littlest Munchkin!  We ate this as a main course but if you reduced the amounts it would also work well as a starter at a dinner party.

 

Good old autumn comfort food…

(Serves 4)

  • 4 Munchkin pumpkins
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 6 shallots – peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves – peeled and finely chopped
  • Drizzle of maple syrup
  • 1.5 mugs of Arborio rice
  • 1 cup of dry white wine or dry Vermouth
  • Couple of pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo stock cubes)
  • 1 mug of pureed roast pumpkin or, if you’re feeling lazy a jar or tin of pureed pumpkin (I bought mine from Ocado)
  • Chopped fresh sage (dried will be fine if you don’t have any fresh herbs)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the whole, munchkin pumpkins on a a baking tray and in an oven at 180° for about 45 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and then add shallots and garlic for a few moments until they soften and then add the maple syrup, allow them to caramelise for a few minutes.
  3. Add the rice on a high heat for a few moments until the edges of the rice start to go translucent then add the wine/Vermouth.  Reduce the heat and then gently massage/stir the rice with a wooden spoon to help release the starch.
  4. Have a pan of simmering vegetable stock at the side and slowly keep adding stock to the risotto, stirring as you go for around 30 minutes minutes.
  5. Remove the pumpkins from the oven and carefully remove the tops and scoop out the insides, removing the seeds as you go.
  6. Mash the pumpkin flesh with the back of a fork and stir into the risotto.
  7. Add the pumpkin puree and sage and cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring and adding more stock as you go.
  8. The risotto is ready when you have a nice, creamy texture but the rice grains still have a bit of a ‘bite’ to them.
  9. Season the risotto to taste.
  10. Spoon the risotto into the scooped-out pumpkins  before replacing the tops and then arrange the rest of the risotto on the plate, alongside the pumpkin.
  11. Happy Halloween!

Roasted tomato, red pepper and red lentil soup

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As the weather gets colder I crave big, wholesome bowls of homemade soup more and more.  This one is simple to make and delicious.

(Serves 4)

  • Punnet of organic tomatoes (stalks removed)
  • 1 large organic red pepper (De-seeded and chopped)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Mug of red lentils (rinsed)
  • 1-2 pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo stock cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of dill
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Pop the tomatoes and pepper in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil for about 20 minutes at 180°
  2. Heat some olive oil in a large pan and add the spices and then the lentils, fry for a couple of minutes
  3. Add the tomatoes, pepper, dill and veg stock
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes
  5. Blend (I use a hand-held blender as it’s much easier to wash-up!)
  6. Season to taste and serve with crusty bread

Aubergine and tomato bake

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Autumn really makes me crave comfort food and this ticks all the boxes when the days get shorter and colder.

(Serves 4)

  • 2-3 aubergines – sliced lengthways
  • 1 red onion – peeled and chopped
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves – peeled and crushed
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sundried tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • Handful of wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • Dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a pan
  2. Add the garlic and onions and gently fry for a few minutes
  3. Add the maple syrup and fry for another few minutes to help caramelise the onions
  4. Add the tin of tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika and salt and pepper
  5. Simmer for 15-20 minutes
  6. Place the aubergine slices in the bottom of an ovenproof dish
  7. Cover with a layer of the tomato sauce
  8. Continue building up the layers, finishing with a tomato sauce layer
  9. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and thyme
  10. Bake in the oven at 180° for 30 minutes

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Chinese dumplings with dipping sauce

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I absolutely love Chinese food and can spend many a happy hour wandering around Asian supermarkets sourcing weird and wonderful ingredients.  I adore dim-sum and can happily sit and devour plate after plate of these…

(Serves 4 – Or just 1 if you’re really greedy like me!)

For the dumplings:

  • 20 ready-made dumpling wrappers (Available from most Asian supermarkets – just check that they’re egg-free)
  • Punnet of chestnut mushrooms – finely chopped
  • Punnet of oyster mushrooms – finely chopped
  • Garlic clove – finely chopped
  • Drizzle of vegetable oil
  • 4 spring onions – finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger – finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper

For the dipping sauce:

  • 1/2 cup Chinese rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Red chilli – chopped
  • Fresh ginger – chopped
  • 1 spring onion – chopped
  • 1 garlic clove – chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar

For the dumplings:

  1. Heat the oil in a wok
  2. Add all the other ingredients and gently fry until the mushrooms are lightly browned
  3. Drain the excess liquid off
  4. Carefully place a small spoonful of the filling into the centre of each dumpling wrapper
  5. Fold the wrapper over and seal the edges using a small amount of water around the edge
  6. Once all the dumplings are filled and sealed heat for a few minutes each side in a non-stick frying until brown

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For the dipping sauce:

  1. Combine all the ingredients, mix and serve

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Zucchini and dill soup

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We’ve been inundated with tonnes of fresh, local squash lately and we’ve almost had more than we know what to do with.  I’ve been making soups a lot as the weather has been getting cooler and this is currently one of my favourites…  It literally takes minutes to prepare so it’s a great lunchtime option.

(Serves 4)

  • 4-6 zucchini (washed and roughly chopped)
  • Generous drizzle of olive oil
  • Couple of pints of veg stock (I generally use Kallo organic stock cubes)
  • Generous sprinkle of dill (fresh or dried is fine)
  • Salty and pepper to season
  • Half a lemon
  1. Heat the olive oil up in a pan
  2. Add the zucchini and gently sauté for a few minutes to soften them
  3. Add the vegetable stock
  4. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes
  5. Remove from the heat and blend (I just used a hand-held blender for this, which worked really well and cuts down on washing up!)
  6. Add the dill, salt and pepper to taste
  7. Squeeze in the fresh lemon juice and stir
  8. Serve with warm, crusty bread

Vegetable tart with caramelised onions

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This is such a quick and easy supper and as we usually have a pack of pastry in the freezer (no, I don’t make my own – no judgment please!) plus plenty of veggies around it’s a great option for when you’re low on ingredients and short of inspiration.  It’s also great cold so a good option for picnics and packed lunches.

(Serves 4 – 6)

  • 1 pack of Jus-Rol puff pastry (ready-rolled for ultimate laziness)
  • 2-3 onions (peeled and sliced)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Maple syrup
  • 2-3 zucchini (sliced)
  • 4-5 large vine tomatoes (sliced)
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper to season
  1. Grease a baking tray
  2. Place the pastry on the tray and pinch around the edges
  3. Pour the oil into a pan and add the onions – gently heat through to soften and caramelise
  4. Add a generous drizzle of maple syrup to the onions for the final few minutes of cooking
  5. In another pan add olive oil and slowly shallow-fry the zucchini slices
  6. Spread the caramelised onions evenly over the pastry and then alternate the zucchini and tomato slices
  7. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts, oregano and salt and pepper over the vegetables
  8. Pop in the oven at 220° for 30-40 minutes
  9. Serve with new potatoes and a large green salad

Chocolate raspberry pots

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I’ll happily hold my hands up and admit that generally, puddings are NOT my strong point.  I love eating them but making them?  Not so much.

However, pregnancy has definitely given me something of a sweet tooth so I thought I’d have a play with a really simple, foolproof vegan recipe involving two of my favourite sweet things (chocolate and raspberries) and this is the result…

PS Even if I say so myself, they taste kind of amazing!

(Serves 4)

  • 2 x 85g bars of dark chocolate (minimum 65% cocoa)
  • 2/3 tin of coconut milk (full fat)
  • 2 large handfuls of raspberries (fresh or frozen will be fine)
  • Dried rose petals and sugar to decorate (optional)
  1. Boil a pan of water
  2. Break the chocolate into chunks and pop them into a Pyrex jug or bowl
  3. Gently place the jug or bowl into the pan to slowly melt the chocolate (be careful not to get any water in the chocolate)
  4. Once all the chocolate is melted slowly add the coconut milk, stirring as you go
  5. Place a few raspberries into the bottom of the ramekin dishes
  6. Slowly pour the chocolate and coconut milk mixture over the top of the raspberries
  7. Pop in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to set
  8. Decorate as you so wish, serve and enjoy!

Pan-fried sprouts with chestnuts and a hint of chilli

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This is one of my favourite side-dishes at Christmas-time.  Although not popular with everyone I absolutely love sprouts and personally I could happily eat them at any time of the year!

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

  • 450g of sprouts – with stalks and any brown leaves removed
  • 200g of chestnuts – roughly chopped (I bought mine from Merchant Gourmet)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Sprinkle of dried chilli
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Steam the sprouts for 5 minutes to soften
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and then add the sprouts and chestnuts
  3. Pan-fry for approximately 6-7 minutes
  4. Add chilli, salt and pepper to taste

Creamy hazelnut pâté

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This is so easy to make that I’m a little embarrassed to call it a recipe but it’s so delicious that I thought it was well worth including!  It makes a great starter for a dinner-party (plus the super-quick preparation time means that you can spend more time with your guests and less time in the kitchen) or a nice tasty lunch or snack.

(Serves 4)

  • One tub of Tofutti vegan cream cheese
  • 3-4 large spoonfuls of hazelnut butter
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  • Slices of fig to garnish
  1. Blend the cream cheese, hazelnut butter and sea salt together (you can do this really easily with a spoon)
  2. Serve with slices of fig and crusty bread

Crab-friendly ‘crab’ cakes

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I heard about a vegan restaurant in California using hearts of palm to make ‘crab’ cakes a few weeks ago and have been keen to experiment ever since.  These were my first attempt and they were really tasty but I personally think I may add a bit of potato to the mix next time as the texture was quite crunchy and I think a combination of soft/crunchy may work better.  I also found that although they looked quite ‘crabby’ the taste and texture was quite different to the crab-unfriendly version (from what I can remember!) Having said that, these are still well worth a try for something a little different plus they taste good in their own right and they’re healthy!

If anyone else has experimented with crabless ‘crab’ cakes then please do post a comment to let me know how you got on and to share any tips or ideas you might have.

(Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main)

  • Tin of hearts of palm – roughly chopped into small pieces and make sure you buy it with salt, not sugar!
  • 1 small bunch of radishes – topped, tailed and grated
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic – peeled and crushed
  • Drizzle of organic sunflower oil
  • 5 teaspoons of paprika
  • 6 teaspoons of dill – fresh or dried
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Panko breadcrumbs to coat
  1. Once prepared place the hearts of palm, radishes and garlic into a sieve and using the back of a spoon force out as much of the liquid as possible (for the mixture to hold together in the pan later you don’t want too much moisture)
  2. Add the oil, hearts of palm, radishes, onion and garlic to a pan and gently fry for a few minutes to soften
  3. Add the paprika, dill, lemon juice and salt and pepper
  4. Leave the mixture on the side to cool down to room temperature and then place in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill further
  5. Using either your hands or chef rings mould the mixture into patties and coat in panko breadcrumbs
  6. Fry in a little oil for a few minutes each side until nicely browned
  7. Serve with a green salad, dill sauce (mix soya yoghurt, dill and lemon juice) and a wedge of fresh lemon