Halloween happened, and hot on the heels of the spooky chili comes a spicy not quite pumpkin soup. Pumpkins sold for decoration really don’t have much flavour at all, so we use butternut squash instead (don’t waste the scrapings from your pumpkin though, they can all go in to add bulk and a nice colour, just don’t put in any seeds or stringy bits).
2 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 can reduced fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon Thai curry paste (yellow for a milder flavour, red or green if you’re going for hot-hot-hot)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
500ml boiling water and one vegetable stock cube ( we like mushroom)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Brush the cut sides with one tablespoon of the olive oil and put on a baking tray with the cut sides uppermost. Roast in a medium oven for about 40 minutes, or until the flesh is soft. Poke it with a knife to test.
Put the other tablespoon of oil in a large solid saucepan and soften the onions over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Don’t let them stick or go brown. Add the curry paste and paprika and stir it all about.
Meantime, scoop all the flesh from the squash and add it to the pan. Nigella Lawson maintains that you can eat the skin of roasted butternut squash but I’m not convinced. If you have any pumpkin scrapings, now is the time to add them. Pour over the coconut milk and the 500ml of boiling veg stock, give it all a stir and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Test the pumpkin flesh after this time to see if it’s softened. Take the pan off the heat if it’s all nice and soft, and blitz with a stick blender to a nice smooth consistency. If it feels a bit too solid, you can add more stock. Taste and add salt if needed, and several grinds of black pepper. Serve with croutons and a swirl of sour cream.
This soup is vegetarian (but do check the ingredients in your curry paste – some contain anchovy), and vegan if you leave out the sour cream.
A staple of our Halloween parties, and (whisper it quietly) also vegan. It’s completely inauthentic but very tasty.
3 red onions, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
3 carrots, chopped
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 pointed peppers, deseeded and chopped
3 small red chilis, deseeded and chopped
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1x200g tin sweetcorn
2x400g tins red kidney beans
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lime
2 mushroom stock cubes dissolved in 500ml boiling water
3 tablespoons red lentils
50g dark chocolate
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onions. Sweat the onions gently until they are soft but not coloured. Add the crushed cloves of garlic and all the chopped vegetables, add the smoked paprika and stir it all around. Put a lid on the pan and leave the veg to simmer for about 20 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes, the stock, the sweetcorn and the red lentils and leave to simmer again for a further 20 minutes. Taste and see if it needs any more chili. Add the kidney beans and the dark chocolate, broken up into pieces. Simmer again for a further 20 minutes, this time with the lid off. Season with ground black pepper (you may not need salt depending on how salty the stock cubes are), and a squeeze of lime juice.
Are yellow split peas chana, or something else? I always thought chana meant chickpeas, so I’ve gone with the full English description, but I’m happy to be corrected. Having read several recipes for dal, I took inspiration from Madhur Jaffrey’s seminal work “Indian Cookery” for the techniques and then just used the spices and ingredients we had in the cupboard.
250g yellow split peas
1 litre water
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter), or neutral vegetable oil if you want it vegan
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 dessertspoon lazy chili
1 dessertspoon lazy garlic
1 dessertspoon lazy ginger
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds or cumin seeds
1 small onion or 2 banana shallots, cut in half and chopped into thin half-moon slices
Salt to taste
Rinse the split peas well in cold water, then put in a saucepan and cover with 1 litre of cold water. This will seem way too much, but you’ll be surprised at how much the peas absorb as they cook. I don’t put salt in the water as it sometimes makes the peas tough, and you want them to be mushy and creamy. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour on a low heat. If it looks like the water is all absorbed, add a bit more. Stir it occasionally and, if you’re feeling energetic, mush the split peas against the side of the pan as they break up.
Take the split peas off the heat and leave to one side. In a frying pan, heat up the ghee or oil and add the mustard or cumin seeds and move them about until they start to pop. Then turn down the heat a bit, and add all the other ingredients except the salt. Stir it all about and let the onions/shallots cook until they are soft and slightly catching at the edges. Add the split peas to the frying pan and stir through the onion/shallot mixture, until the mixture is bubbling. Add salt to taste. If it looks too dry and solid, add a couple of spoonfuls of boiling water. It should be a soothing, creamy, slightly sloppy mixture. Serve it hot.
This dal works as an accompaniment to other curry dishes, and if you use neutral vegetable oil it is vegan. It becomes a complete meal if you serve it with rice and a hard boiled egg. If you find you have some left over, it keeps well in the fridge for a few days in a covered container. You may need to add more water when you reheat it to get the creamy texture back.
Sam is getting more adventurous with his cooking, and wanted to try a Moroccan-inspired dish. This is what he made – heavily influenced by the chicken tagine served at Leon.
1 large onion
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic puree (or smoked garlic puree if you can find it)
1 tablespoon ras-el-hanout spice mix
8 small chicken joints, on the bone for preference (thighs are perfect for this, or you can buy a whole chicken and joint it yourself – there’ll be plenty of meat left over on the carcass to make stew or soup)
a few strands of saffron (optional)
half a litre of chicken stock
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
4 large preserved lemons or 8 really small ones, enough for about 60g of rinds
50g green olives, stoned and chopped
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
salt and black pepper
Peel and chop the onion into thin half-moon slices. Heat the oil in a large saute pan or casserole dish, and saute the onion in the oil over a medium heat until it is soft but not coloured. Add the garlic puree and the ras-el-hanout, stir it about and enjoy the lovely aromas of the spices as they heat up. Put in the chicken pieces – you should really take the skin off . Then add the chickpeas, the saffron and the stock and let it come to a simmer. Leave it simmering for about ten minutes.
Take the preserved lemons and cut them in half. Scoop out the flesh and pips and discard them, then slice up the rinds and add them to the pan along with the chopped olives. Keep the pan simmering for another ten minutes.
Finish off the dish by adding the creme fraiche. Stir it in and then turn up the heat a bit to reduce the liquid a little – this should take another ten to fifteen minutes.
Incidentally if you use big chicken breast fillets or larger joints, you will need to increase the cooking time to ensure the chicken is cooked through. Chicken should never be pink!
When you are ready to serve, season it with salt and pepper (it may not need salt because of the stock and the olives) and garnish with some chopped coriander leaves (cilantro to our friends across the Atlantic). This dish can be served with couscous or rice, and it goes well with dark green vegetables such as broccoli or wilted spinach. You could also try a mixture of traditional Moroccan braised vegetables such as carrots, courgettes, squash, aubergine and green cabbage.
So named by family friend Eric, who is renowned for his taciturnity. However, he got very animated about this piccalilli, and declared it to be bloody brilliant. High praise indeed, from a man of few words.
1kg mixed vegetables, washed and peeled as necessary. Essentials are cauliflower (white or romanesco), green beans, and shallots or small silverskin onions. The rest can be made up of sweetcorn, fresh peas, red peppers, courgettes, carrots, green tomatoes. The more colourful the mixture, the better.
50g fine salt
10g ground turmeric
10g English mustard powder
15g yellow mustard seeds
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
600ml cider vinegar
200g granulated sugar
The most time consuming part of making piccalilli is cutting up the vegetables. You need to make sure that the pieces are quite small and of an even size. Once you’ve got your kilo of chopped veg, put them in a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Mix it in well and leave the bowl, covered in a cloth, overnight. This will help to ensure that the vegetable pieces stay crunchy. The next day, rinse the veg in ice-cold water to get rid of the salt, and drain as much of the water off as you can. The veg need to be quite dry or the resulting sauce will be watery. Put the cornflour, turmeric, and all the other spices in a big jug and mix them to a smooth-ish paste with some of the vinegar. The rest of the vinegar goes into a large saucepan to be heated up with the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the vinegar and sugar mixture to the boil, then pour some of it over the spice paste and mix it well, then pour the spice paste and vinegar mixture back into the pan and bring to the boil again. Keep stirring it until it thickens. This should take about five minutes. Take the pan off the heat, and then you’re ready to mix in the drained vegetables. Stir all the vegetables around until they are all coated with the spicy sauce, then pack them into sterilised jars, making sure there are no air pockets. Seal the jars with wax paper discs to cover, and acid-proof screw-on lids. This piccalilli can be eaten straight away but improves after about 4 weeks maturing in a dark cupboard. It’s excellent with cheese, cured meats, pork pies, roast beef, sandwiches, anything that benefits from a mustardy, crunchy hit. I have been known to eat it from the jar with a spoon. It’s also vegan, containing no animal products (but it tasts so good WITH animal products…!).
Sam wanted to learn how to make paté, but we couldn’t find any chicken livers in the supermarket. So we made this instead.
200g smoked mackerel fillets
100g unsalted labneh (yogurt cheese: see previous labneh recipe) – or you could use low fat cream cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
Pepper to taste
Skin the mackerel fillets, and remove any really big bones that are still left in the mackerel flesh. Break the fillets up a bit and put them in food processor. Add the yogurt cheese, and most of the lemon juice, and blitz for about 2o seconds. You don’t need to do it for too long or it will go completely smooth; it’s nicer with a bit of texture. Season with freshly ground black pepper, and spoon it into a nice serving dish or pot. Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge.
I got a heart-shaped terracotta bread form as a Christmas present, so here is its first outing!
300g strong white bread flour
200g strong wholemeal flour
1 sachet fast action yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
100g hard cheese, finely grated
3 spring onions, finely chopped
a knob of butter for greasing the bowl
Tip the flours into a large bowl. Put the salt on one side and the yeast on the other, and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Add about 370ml warm water and the olive oil, then the chopped spring onions, and mix to a dough. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it for ten minutes. Put it into a greased bowl and cover with greased clingfilm. Leave it in a warm place until it has doubled in size. This should take about an hour. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. “Knock back” the dough and split it into eight or nine balls. Put the balls into the breadform with a bit of space between them, then set it to prove in a warm place for another 20 minutes or so. Then sprinkle the cheese (and any chopped spring onion you have left) over the top of the bread, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until it’s slightly golden, and sounds hollow if you tap the base of the bread.
1 ham stock cube dissolved in 1 litre boiling water
Put all the finely chopped veg in a large pan with the bayleaf and the oil, and heat gently, with a lid on the pan. This is called sweating your vegetables. After about 15 minutes the onions will be softened and transparent. At this point you can add the ham and the stock. Bring to the boil and turn down to simmering point. Then empty the tin of mushy peas into the pan and give it a stir. It’s ready when it’s all heated through. If it’s not thick enough for your liking, you can add some leftover cooked potatoes (if you want to add raw potato, peel one large potato and chop it finely and sweat it with the other veg right at the beginning). Season to taste with white pepper. Remove the bayleaf before serving.
This is the kind of soup which is very accommodating and will accept all manner of leftover cooked veg – although green cabbage, broccoli, and sprouts should be avoided as they stink when overcooked! If you have leftover veg you want to add, put them in at the same time as the peas.
Well not really, and not really a recipe, but it certainly helps you feel more human. It’s another Dutch speciality, uitsmijter, which literally means “thrower-out”, or bouncer. It’s traditionally served at the very end of a party as an untypically Dutch way of being polite and telling people to go home.
You will need:
Some nice sliced bread – typically white sliced but I like Vogel‘s sunflower & barley bread
Eggs – usually 2 per person, but depends on the size of your bread
A slice of ham
A slice of Gouda cheese (any hard cheese will do, including Cheddar or Edam, but young Gouda is the more authentic choice)
A bit of butter
A dessertspoonful of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan
Heat up the frying pan with the oil in it. Lay the bread on a plate – you can butter it but it’s not usual to do this in Holland, that would be a bit too profligate… Put the ham on the bread first, then the slice of cheese. It has to be this way round so that the hot egg can melt the cheese a bit. Crack the eggs into the frying pan and let them cook until they go brown and frilly round the edge. You can baste the yolks with the oil to get them to set slightly. When they are done to your satisfaction, lift them out of the pan with a fish slice and drain them on some kitchen paper before placing on the cheese/ham/bread you’ve already prepared. This is best accompanied by a large mug of koffie verkeerd and two paracetamol.
A success from the “oh no there’s nothing in the fridge” school of cooking. Feeds 4 – ish.
300g wholewheat spaghetti
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large tin chopped tomatoes
1 chorizo ring
handful of black olives, chopped
a splash of red wine, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, or whatever’s around along those lines
Put the spaghetti into a large pan of boiling water with the olive oil and pinch of salt. Meantime, chop up the chorizo into slices about the width of a pound coin and then cut the slices in half. Add them to a frying pan (no need for oil) on a medium heat, moving them about so they don’t stick and start releasing the oil. After a few minutes add the handful of black olives and empty the tin of tomatoes into the pan, stirring everything about. After a few minutes more taste the sauce and add red wine, or balsamic vinegar, or a pinch of sugar, or whatever you think it might need to brighten up the flavour a bit. Turn down the heat and let it all simmer together. Add some black pepper. Meantime test the pasta. Wholewheat normally takes about 10 minutes. When the pasta is ready, take a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and mix into your sauce. Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan with the sauce in it and mix it all together so all the pasta is coated with the sauce. Serve with grated parmesan to sprinkle over the top.