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!

Sweet potato and spinach curry with spiced rice

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True to form the British bank holiday weather is looking as grey and gloomy as we’ve come to expect.  Cheer yourself up with a big bowl of warming and healthy curry…

(Serves 4)

For the curry:

  • One large white onion – peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic – peeled and finely chopped
  • 1″ of fresh ginger – finely chopped
  • 4-6 sweet potatoes – peeled and chopped
  • 2 large handfuls of frozen spinach
  • Generous drizzle of vegetable oil
  • 8-10 fresh curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of ground fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon of growing cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomato paste
  • 1/2 pint of veg stock (I use Kallo organic vegetable stock cubes)
  • Approx. 1 tablespoon of creamed coconut
  • Salt and pepper to season

For the rice:

  • 1 large mug of Basmati rice
  • Generous drizzle of vegetable oil
  • 4-6 cardamon pods
  • 1-2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
  • 4″ piece of cinnamon bark
  • 6-8 cloves

For the curry:

  1. Heat the oil in the pan
  2. Add the curry leaves, fennel seeds, dried chilli flakes, fenugreek, cumin and cinnamon for a few moments to allow them to dissolve in the oil
  3. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and gently fry for a few minutes on a low heat to soften
  4. Add the tomato paste
  5. Add the sweet potato, veg stock and coconut milk
  6. cover and simmer for approx. 20-30 minutes
  7. Add the creamed coconut and spinach – stir thoroughly
  8. Simmer for a further 3-5 minutes
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste

For the rice:

  1. Heat the oil in the pan
  2. Add the cardamon, turmeric, cloves and cinnamon bark
  3. Add the rice, give it a quick stir and then gently fry for 2-3 minutes on a low heat
  4. Add 2 mugs of cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes

NB You may wish to remove the cinnamon bark, cloves and cardamon pods just before serving

Vegan kale pesto

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I use pesto a lot in different recipes and although I do sometimes buy ready-made (Zest and Suma both do some great vegan ones), I often make my own.  Pesto is traditionally made with rocket but for this one I used kale instead.  Once made it will keep in the fridge for a few days.

  • 3 large handfuls of organic kale
  • 1 small cup of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic – peeled and chopped
  • Large handful of pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper to season
  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl
  2. Blend using a hand-held blender
  3. Delicious with pasta, gnocchi, in soups or drizzled on salads

Pan-fried gnocchi with zucchini, kale, spinach, pine nuts and pesto

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This is really simple, quick to make and healthy.  Plus at this time of year I always crave something a little lighter than the rich and heavy foods of the Christmas period but before I’m quite ready to head back to salads!

(Serves 2)

  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • One bag of fresh gnocchi (egg-free)
  • 2 organic zucchini
  • Two large handfuls of organic kale
  • Two large handfuls of fresh spinach
  • Small handful of pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon of vegan pesto
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Fresh juice of 1/2 a lemon
  1. Heat up a drizzle of olive oil in a non-stick pan
  2. Add sliced zucchini and gnocchi and fry for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally
  3. Add the chopped kale, pine nuts and pesto and fry for a couple more minutes
  4. Add the spinach and season to taste
  5. Mix through and serve with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

Carrot and orange soup

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I love making soups – they’re so simple to do and there are unlimited numbers of combinations of flavours and ingredients.  Also, most soups keep well in the fridge for a few days and make great healthy snacks and lunches or as a starter for a dinner party – simply warm them up when needed.

We’ve been getting huge bunches of carrots (carrot-tops included) over recent weeks in our veg box so I’ve been basing a lot of our meals around them (sorry G!)  Today’s lunch was a very simple carrot and orange soup, which literally took me about twelve minutes from walking through the door to sitting down to eat.  

(Serves 4)

  • Bunch of organic carrots – approximately eight, scrubbed, topped and tailed and roughly chopped
  • 2 organic oranges
  • 2 gloves of garlic – peeled and crushed
  • Drizzle of organic sunflower oil
  • 5 teaspoons or ground coriander
  • 2 pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo organic stock cubes)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Add the ground coriander and garlic together with the carrots
  3. Sauté for about 3 minutes
  4. Grate the zest and the juice of the oranges to the pan (I also often add the remaining peel and flesh for additional flavour and then just remove before blending)
  5. Add the veg stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 minutes to soften the carrots
  6. Blend and return to the heat (I use a hand-held blender most of the time as it’s much quicker and makes far less washing up!)
  7. Season to taste and serve

Lentil and bean chilli

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This is a really simple meal and relies mainly on store-cupboard ingredients so it’s a great option for mid-week when you meant to get to the shops but didn’t quite get there!

(Serves 4)

  • 1 onion – chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  • Drizzle of vegetable oil
  • 1 red pepper – chopped
  • Half a mug of red lentils
  • Tin of organic kidney beans
  • Tin of organic baked beans
  • Tin of organic chopped tomatoes
  • 1 dessertspoonful of tomato puree 
  • 1 dessertspoonful of Marmite
  • 1/2 teaspoon of hot chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon 
  • 2 squares of dark chocolate
  • Cracked black pepper to season
  1. Drizzle some oil into a large pan
  2. Add the garlic and onion and fry for a few minutes to soften
  3. Add the kidney beans, baked beans, lentils, red pepper, tomatoes, marmite, chilli powder, cinnamon, chocolate, black pepper and a couple of mugs of water
  4. Stir all the ingredients together, bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes

Serve with rice and vegan sour cream or yoghurt

Mushroom and pepper Stroganoff

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Despite it still (officially) being British summertime the weather here has been decidedly wet and windy today.  This vegan Stroganoff is perfect comfort food for rainy days but also holds its own at dinner parties if you’re entertaining.  You can make it ahead of time (meaning more quality time with your guests) – just warm through on the night and don’t add the soya cream or fresh parsley until you’re ready to serve.

(Serves 4)

  • 1 punnet of organic closed cup mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 punnet organic chestnut mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 organic red pepper – sliced
  • 1 organic green pepper – sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic – chopped
  • 1 organic white onion – chopped
  • Sunflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons of paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed spice
  • 1 tablespoon of vegan Worcestershire sauce (I use one by Biona)
  • 1 dessertspoon of Marmite
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup soya cream (I use an Alpro one)
  • Bunch of fresh parsley – chopped
  1. Add the sunflower oil to a large pan and warm
  2. Add the paprika and mixed spice and allow to dissolve in the warmed oil (be careful not to burn)
  3. Add the garlic and onion to the pan and cook for a few minutes to allow the onion to soften
  4. Add the mushrooms, peppers, Worcestershire sauce, Marmite, brandy and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
  5. Stir and cook for approximately 10 – 15 minutes
  6. Stir the soya cream and fresh parsley through just before serving

I served it here with long grain rice but it’s equally delicious with tagliatelle

Chilli ‘beef’ in lettuce shells

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This Asian-inspired dish is really simple to make and super-tasty.  Sweet and spicy with an extra something from the ginger, spring onions and fresh mint.

Good as a starter, a light main or to share with friends.

  • Bag of frozen soya mince (I used the one by Fry’s)
  • 1 red onion – finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger – finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies – finely chopped (with or without seeds depending on how spicy you like your food)
  • Drizzle of toasted sesame oil
  • 2-3 tablespoonfuls of sweet chilli sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoonfuls of hoisin sauce
  • Handful of fresh mint – roughly chopped
  • 3 spring onions – sliced
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 small romaine lettuces
  1. Warm the sesame oil in a wok
  2. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies and fry for a few minutes to soften
  3. Add the soya mince, sweet chilli sauce, hoisin sauce and water and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. Remove from heat and stir through the mint and spring onions
  5. Fill the lettuce leaf ‘shells’ with the mixture and serve

NB you can vary the proportions of chillies vs hoisin and sweet chilli sauce depending on how you like the spicy – sweet mix

Chestnut mushroom, thyme and toasted pine nut risotto

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Mushroom risotto is one of my favourite comfort-foods.  Apart from the time spent stirring (which I actually find strangely therapeutic) it’s really simple to make and it’s just really delicious and always manages to make a bad day a bit better.  I served this one with a rocket salad plus ciabatta and some dipping oils plus a creamed asparagus dip.  (I bought the asparagus dip from an Italian deli but will definitely be making it in the future as it was really delicious and simple to make.)

(Serves 4)

For the risotto:

  • 1 large mug of Arborio rice
  • 2 punnets chestnut mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 1 red onion (chopped)
  • 1 glass of dry white wine
  • 2-3 pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo organic vegetable stock cubes)
  • Handful of fresh thyme
  • Handful of toasted pine nuts
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to season
  1. Drizzle the olive oil into a large pan
  2. Add the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes to soften
  3. In a second pan add the vegetable stock and keep this simmering on a low heat 
  4. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes on a fairly high heat until the edge of the grains of rice begin to go translucent
  5. Turn the heat to low
  6. Add the glass of wine to the rice and stir
  7. Continue to stir the rice until the wine is absorbed, all the while “massaging” it in order to release the starch, which adds to the creamy texture of the risotto at the end
  8. Add stock from the other pan as you go and continue to stir the risotto for a few more minutes
  9. Add the mushrooms and half of the thyme
  10. Continue with the process of stirring and gradually adding the stock for approximately 40 minutes.  You want the rice to be cooked but still to retain a slightly nutty texture
  11. Before serving add the salt and pepper to taste, the toasted pine nuts and the remainder of the fresh thyme

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For the lemon dipping oil:

  • Small cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of one lemon
  1. Combine the ingredients and and allow to stand at least one hour before serving

For the rosemary dipping oil:

  • Small cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Handful of fresh rosemary
  1. Combine the ingredients and leave to stand for at least one hour before serving

Serve with freshly baked ciabatta – You can make your own but I cheated and bought mine from Waitrose!

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Butternut squash, apricot, chickpea and almond tagine with cous cous and red onion and pomegranate salad

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I spent some time in Morocco a few years ago and just fell head-over-heels in love with the place.  This really reminds me of my time there and is a great dish for a simple supper with friends as you can do most of the prep before your guests arrive, meaning more time spent chatting and less time in the kitchen.

I do have a tagine cooking pot which I often use but you can just as easily use a casserole dish with a lid.  You ideally want one that can go on the hob and then in the oven.

(Serves 4)

For the tagine:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • Generous splash of olive oil
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 tin of organic chickpeas (drained)
  • 2 tins of organic chopped tomatoes
  • 1 medium-sized bag of organic, dried apricots – chopped
  • Handful of flaked almonds
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of dried red chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper to season at the end
  1. The first step is to peel the butternut squash.  My friend Sarah gave me a great tip on how to do this which is to immerse the squash in boiling water for a couple of minutes first – this makes the peeling SO much easier!
  2. Chop and de-seed the squash and put it to one side
  3. Pour the olive oil into the bottom of the tagine or casserole dish and add the spices
  4. Once the spices have dissolved add the garlic and the onion and fry for a few minutes to soften them
  5. Add the butternut squash, tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and dried apricots
  6. You may wish to add some water at this stage to ensure that all the ingredients are covered with liquid
  7. Stir and place in the oven, with the lid on at 180°C for about one hour.
  8. Sprinkle with toasted almond flakes before serving.

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Whilst the tagine is cooking you can prepare the salad;

(The idea for this salad is actually taken from a Nigella Lawson cookbook so I can’t claim it as my own BUT it’s delicious and works really well with this tagine.)

For the salad:

  • 1 large red onion
  • Pomegranate seeds (you can de-seed your own or you can buy them ready-to-go from most supermarkets)
  • Pomegranate juice
  • 1 lime
  • Handful of fresh coriander
  1. Slice the onion and pop into a bowl.
  2. Squeeze over the lime juice and and pomegranate juice.
  3. Leave to stand for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Pour off the excess liquid, add the pomegranate and fresh coriander just before serving.

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Serve the tagine with the salad and a big bowl of cous cous.

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 Enjoy!