Small kitchen diaries

I love food.  Love love love it.

When the big guy was dishing out culinary skills, he smacked me on the head with a wooden spoon and declared I would be not half bad in the kitchen.  And so it was.

Although I love a good cook book and spend many a happy hour slevering over recipes, I am alway keen to add my own twist to make things tastier, simpler or just to experiment.  Given my teeny tiny kitchen and some of the overly complicated recipes out there, this is a necessity to make my life a whole lot easier.  I’d say 95% of the time I have success and the other 5%, well, let’s just put that down to experience and move on.

My favourite thing in the whole world is a big fat juicy steak.  However, this is not so much a recipe but a carefully honed skill I am pleased to say I have mastered and perform, probably a bit too often.  But next to this I’d have to say my speciality are one pot wonders, the ultimate, small kitchen friendly, tasty and satisfying, soups and stews.  I recently realised the plates in my cupboard are barely used, as most my my meals seem to require a big ol’ bowl to contain whatever liquid lava is hosting my meat and veg.

So with this in mind I thought I should really keep a diary of my more successful creations and where better to put them than here.

Creamy spiced sweet potato and squash soup with lentils and coconut milk.

This could work with a lot of different veg combinations.  I used what I had left in the fridge and found it worked really well.

Roughly chop and cook a small red onion in olive oil.  Once soft add half a butternut squash, a carrot and a medium sweet potato, cut into small chunks.  Stir and once shiny season with salt and pepper, add a teaspoon of ground cumin, a teaspoon of mild curry powder, half a teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of chilli powder, a pinch of dried chilli flakes and a generous sprinkling of caraway seeds.  Stir and allow to cook for a minute or two then just cover the veg with veg stock.  While simmering cook a large handful of red lentils in a separate pot.  Once the veg is soft blend to a smooth consistency.  Drain the lentils and add to the blended soup with a third of a can of coconut milk.  Stir though then pour into bowl.  The recipe should be enough for 4-6 bowls.  Season to taste then drizzle a little extra coconut milk into each bowl.

Lovely served with buttered crusty bread, but to be a bit jazzy, this would work well with think and crispy fish cakes made from seasoned mashed potato, chopped chives, parmasan, and smoked haddock.  Bind together with a little egg then form into thin pates.  Dusk with flour and shallow fry for a couple of minutes each side and serve a big stack for people to much on as a side to the soup….or to dunk, if nobody else is looking.

 Magical chowder…

Saute one small chopped onion in olive oil with a sprinkling of thyme leaves. Once soft add one large Maris piper, or other floury potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes. Season well and allow to heat through before adding a good glug of white wine to the pan. Stir, allowing the wine to completely soak in before adding two teaspoon of plain flour. Stir though allowing the flour to cook off for a few minutes before adding one or two bay leaves. Gradually add some milk. Allow to thicken each time before adding more. Once the potatoes are half covered, season and put a lid on the pan. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. If sauce gets too thick, add some water.  Add a good drizzle of double cream to make sauce nice and rich, and season.  Add a handful of frozen peas. Chop a large undyed smoked haddock fillet into large pieces an layer on top of the potatoes and cook for a further 5 mins.  Add some chopped parsley, cooked prawns and a large handful of spinach.  Stir through- the fish will start to break up. Once the spinach had wilted it’s ready to serve! Check seasoning before piling into warm bowls. No need for bread, this is a monster or a meal!

 spicy Mexican bean soup

Easy peasy.  You can use almost any veg. I chopped a couple of celery sticks, a carrot, a handful of chestnut mushrooms, leftover green beens and an orange pepper into small cubes. Add to pot with olive oil and finely chopped garlic and saute. Once soft, add half teaspoon of smoked paprika, half teaspoon of chilli powder and a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin.  Stir through before adding a can of mixed beans, half a can of chopped tomatoes and half a pint of veg stock.  Season, simmer for 10 minutes then blitz with a hand blender, but leaving it nice and chunky.  Would be lovely served with grated machengo cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips for dunking.

 Puy lentil salad

Finely dice a couple of celery sticks and fry in oil with a crushed garlic clove.  Add a couple of handfuls of puy lentils, stir then cover in boiling water with some veg stock, a sprinkle of dried chilli flake, a bay leaf and ground pepper.  Once cooked, drain and rinse with cold wailer to cool down.  Take 4 or 5 thin raw asparagus stalks and chop into wee chunks, about pea sized and chuck in a bowl with the cooked lentils.  Add 4 or 5 chopped spring onions, a handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered and about 12-15 black olives chopped up.  Toss through and add what ever meat you fancy.  I had a slow cooked shoulder of pork, so I shredded and added some of that.  Season well then give a good lug of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a stir.

 Courgette and feta pasta

Cut 2 courgettes into large chunky bits. Toss in a roasting tray with olive oil, crushed garlic, a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes, seasoning and place in a hot over for 20 minutes.  In the mean time cook enough pasta shells for 2-4 people. In a separate pan make a simple béchamel sauce with butter, flour, milk and seasoning.  Once thickened add a handful of crumbled feta cheese and stir until mostly melted.  Drain the pasta once cooked and  mix a tablespoon of tomato puree through.  Later the bottom of an oven dish with the pasta.  Top with the roasted courgettes, followed by the feta sauce and sprinkle over some chunky pieces of feta.  Return to the over for 5-10 minutes until all nice and bubble with crispy bits on top.  Devour.

  1. yum yum yum! Might just have to try this one when the winter months come in her in Oz 🙂


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