Roasted squash, beetroot and carrot lentil salad

On a freezing cold November’s day the last thing on your mind for lunch is probably salad. The temperature drops and the mind naturally turns to foods laden with cream and cheese but this salad brings all the soothing flavours of autumn but without all the calories. This salad makes the most of seasonal vegetables and give an extra savoury whack with a tahini dressing. You can serve your the salad warm or at room temperature depending on your preference. The addition of some salty feta is also a welcome addition if you fancy. The added bonus is that the salad will keep covered in the fridge for a couple of days so it’s a perfect make ahead lunch for work too.

Ingredients- serves 4
1 pack of microwave puy lentils
1 butternut squash-peeled and diced
4 small beetroots- peeled and diced
2 large carrots- grated
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp tahini
8 tbsp warm water
Squeeze of lemon juice to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan whilst you place the diced squash on one baking tray and the diced beetroot on another. I tend to find that vegetables roast better on a shallower tray. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to each tray long with some salt and pepper; move the diced vegetables so they get a coating of the oil. Roast for around 20- 30 minutes or until tender.

2. Remove the vegetables from the oven and transfer thr squash and beetroot to separate bowls. This allows them to cool and stops the beetroot running into the squash.

3. Meanwhile microwave the lentils and also allow to cool. While that’s happening you can arm assemble the tahini dressing which is quite literally a case of combining all the ingredients and whisking well together.  Remember to taste as you go!

4. Finally toss the cooled vegetables, squash and lentils together and grate in the carrot for an added crunch. Finish with the dressing and serve.

Roasted squash, beetroot, carrot and lentil salad- a surefire way to brighten up the kitchen on a chilly day!

Asian chicken lettuce wraps

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When time is short in the week but the need for a satisfying but light dinner is high then this is the perfect go to recipe. It takes a matter of minutes to cook and will keep everyone happy. I have served the Asian style chicken with lettuce wraps but it is also delicious with rice or noodles so mix and match. You might also like to add an extra crunch by finishing it off with some peanuts or cashews.

Ingredients- serves 2-3
Small handful of Thai basil
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tbsp runny honey
1 large garlic clove- roughly chopped
fresh red chilli- to taste
Lettuce leaves to serve

1. Start by prepping the chicken; simply cut into small pieces and set aside.

2. Measure out all the remaining ingredients and make sure the garlic and chilli are also ready to go as once you start cooking it is ready in a matter of minutes. Combine in a small bowl.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces and fry until they are golden brown. Add the sauce into the pan and continue until cook until it has thickened.

4. Remove from the heat and finish with torn Thai basil leaves. Serve in a large bowl alongside the lettuce so everyone can help themselves and assemble their own wraps.

Asian chicken lettuce wraps- a speedy midweek dinner solution!

Breakfast strata

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At weekends when I have a bit more time on my hands I like to prepare a hearty breakfast to keep everyone going all morning especially if we have a busy day ahead. This breakfast strata ticks all the boxes when it comes to being a satisfying crowd pleaser. I have used a combination of vegetables and meat to keep everyone happy and these can all be made and cooled and kept until needed the next day. Similarly the custard can be made the day before, covered and chilled in the fridge to all you have to do is assemble it in the morning. Get reading and discover your new breakfast favourite!

Ingredients- serves 4

Olive oil

8 eggs beaten

250mls milk

30g mature cheddar- grated

30g parmesan (or Gruyere)- grated

100g day old white bread- cubed into inch chunks

150g kale- shredded

1 onion- finely chopped

2 garlic cloves- crushed or grated

250g chestnut mushrooms

6 good quality sausages

6 rashers of bacon- preferably unsmoked

1. Start by heating the oven to 200c/180 fan if you are planning on preparing and cooking this straightaway; if not skip to the next step.

2. Take a large frying pan and heat a glug of olive oil. Fry the bacon until turning crisp then remove from the pan and blot onto kitchen roll; roughly chop. Remove the skin from the sausages and crumble the sausage meat into the pan and fry until golden; remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and also blot.

3. Use kitchen roll to wipe out the pan before warming another glug of olive oil. Roughly slice the mushrooms and fry into their excess liquid has been removed and they are starting to get some colour. Again, wipe out the pan and heat more oil. Sautee the onion and garlic until softened and add the shredded kale. Gently cook until wilted. Remove and set aside.

4. Clean the pan and rub with a little oil to stop the strata from sticking. Layer half of the cubed bread then add in all of the kale, mushrooms, bacon and sausages. Finish with the remaining bread.

5. Crack and beat the eggs into a large bowl. Add in the milk, cheeses and season well. Pour the entire mixture over the bread ensuring it’s evenly distributed.

6. Bake at 200c/180 fan for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and golden. The strata is ready when a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the pan. Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Breakfast strata- or lunchtime strata… or dinnertime strata!

Pigs in blankets and roasted sprout macaroni cheese

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‘Pigs in blankets macaroni cheese?’ I hear you cry! Why yes, you have indeed read the title correctly and I applaud you for making the most wonderful decision to click on it and read on to sate your curiosity. Now I love a Christmas dinner as much as the next, however, the trimmings are the best bit; think unctuous bread sauce, fragrant stuffing, bitter, yet most welcomed, sprouts and, wait for it, pigs in blankets. For this macaroni recipe I have taken elements of my favourite festive foods and melded them to make the ultimate festive indulgence so draw up your shopping list, fire up the oven and get cooking!

Ingredients- serves 6
For the sauce
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
2 tsp mustard powder
400ml double cream
400ml milk
60g parmesan
500g macaroni- cooked and drained well

For the rest
20g unsalted butter
2 large banana shallots- sliced
300g sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
12 cocktail sausages
6 rashers of streaky bacon
50g panko breadcrumbs

1. Get started by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Wrap the pigs in blankets by winding half a rasher of streaky bacon around each cocktail sausage and placing on a baking tray. Allow a slight overlap as the bacon will shrink back a little when cooking.

2. Clean and chop the sprouts and place on a separate baking tray. I cut larger sprouts into quarters and left smaller ones in half but you can do whatever takes your fancy; slices also work well but remember these will need less cooking time. Toss the cut sprouts in the olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper and roast at the same time as the pigs in blankets for around 20 minutes or until tender and until the sausages are cooked through.

3. Take a small frying pan or saucepan and melt the 20g of unsalted butter ready for the shallots. Cook on a low heat on the hob until the shallots are turning a light golden colour; remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Next up goes the sauce! In a large pan melt the 50g of butter and add in the flour; cook together to form a roux. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep stirring so no lumps form; if they do, then remove the pan from the heat and whisk the sauce until the lumps disappear. Simmer until the sauce thickens and then remove from the heat before adding the majority of the parmesan. Season to taste.

5. When the sauce, sprouts, sausages and shallots are cooked and ready then combine them all and stir well to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated. Add to the cooked pasta and divide between 6 individual ovenproof dishes or 1 large one. Grate the remaining parmesan into the panko crumbs and top the pasta; for a twist, you could crisp up some extra bacon and also add this to the crumb mix which is delicious too. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a simple side salad if you like.

Pigs in blankets and roasted sprout macaroni cheese- the ultimate festive treat!

Black bean and sweet potato quesadillas

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I recently fancied something Mexican inspired for dinner but we were a little bored of the usual options of tacos, fajitas and burritos; as lovely as they all are sometimes you need a bit of a change and this is where this recipe comes in. Quesadillas are toasted tortilla stacks that can be filled with a whole host of ingredients but this is a vegetarian quesadilla recipe. Black beans are often overlooked but are really quite versatile and I find are perfect for a quick recipe like this. The sweet potato is used to balance the earthiness of the beans and the mix of spices whilst adding a lift to the overall flavours. I served this as a dinner but I think it would also be great as a hearty brunch.

In order to be able to use the bean chilli in a quesadilla it needs to be thick and a bit drier than you may usually make it if you were serving it with rice. So trust me and don’t be tempted to add too much stock otherwise it will ooze out of the quesadilla and make a right mess!

Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the bean chilli
1 large sweet potato- peeled
2 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- grated or finely sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
250g drained black beans
200ml hot vegetable stock
Dried chilli such as ancho or cascabel- optional
Fresh coriander- chopped
Salt and pepper
8 soft tacos
Cheddar cheese- grated

For the salsa
2 ripe avocados- peeled, stone removed and cubed
1 red onion- finely sliced or chopped
Baby plum tomatoes- finely sliced or chopped
Fresh coriander- chopped
Lime

1. Start by making the chilli. Peel and cut the sweet potato into small pieces; toss with half of each spice and a good glug of olive oil. Roast in a pre- heated oven at 180c/ 160 fan for around 10-15 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. Choose a saucepan and add another splash of oil. Gently fry off the onion until softening before adding the garlic and cooking for a further few minutes. Add the remaining spices and cook for another minute. Squeeze in the tomato puree and, again, cook for another minute.

3. Add the drained black beans and sweet potato to the pan and stir well to coat the with the spice mixture. Pour in the majority of the hot stock as well as the dried chilli (if using) and fresh coriander; bring to a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on the hob for around 15-20 minutes. Pour in the remaining stock if needed and continue to simmer until the chilli reduces down and thickens.

4. As the chilli is finishing off you can make the avocado salsa. Simply prepare the ingredients as per the instructions above and combine in a bowl. Add a squeeze of lime juice and season to taste. You can add a little chilli and some more of the fresh coriander if you like. Cover with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until needed.

5. When you are ready to assemble the tacos, heat a non- stick frying pan over a medium heat. Place a couple of the small tacos into it ready to dry fry. Divide the chilli and spoon some into the centre of the taco; use the spoon to spread it out a little but not all the way to the edges. Sprinkle over some of the grated cheese before placing another of the tacos on top. Use a spatula and gently press down. Dry fry until the bottom is golden; carefully slip it using the spatula and do the same for the other side. Continue until all the tacos and chilli is used. Serve immediately with the avocado salsa.

Black bean and sweet potato quesadillas- a perfect brunch or dinner to please a crowd!

Yellow king prawn and vegetable Thai curry

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When the urge for a curry strikes it can be tempting to choose an Indian curry without giving curries from other countries a second thought so step away from the naan breads and give this Thai curry a go instead! The curry paste is straightforward and can be made in a larger quantity than is needed and it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge so you then have it to hand for next time. I usually use medium red chillies in recipes so you have a gentle heat whilst being able to appreciate all the other ingredients but crank up the heat if you are so inclined!

Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the yellow curry paste
1 banana shallot- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- grated
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 red chilli- finely chopped
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp medium curry powder
Zest of 1 small lime
1 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil

For the rest
400g can of coconut milk
200mls vegetable stock
200g pack of deveined king prawns
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 piece of fresh lemongrass
Handful of baby aubergines- chopped
Handful of sugar snap peas- shredded
Small pack of tenderstem broccoli- trimmed and sliced if large
Baby corn- chopped
Juice of half a lime
Freshly chopped coriander
150g jasmine rice to serve

1. Make your paste first by simply combining all of the paste ingredients in either a pestle and mortar or a mini food processor. Bring it to a thick paste consistency.

2. In a wok or deep frying pan, add another tablespoon of oil and gently fry the paste for a couple of minutes until it starts to release its fragrance. Pour in the coconut milk and stock along with the palm sugar and lemongrass; bring to a simmer and stir to ensure the sugar is dissolved. Add the chopped aubergine. Continue to allow it to simmer for around 15-20 minutes so the flavour develops.

3. When you are happy with the base of the curry, add the remaining vegetables in and simmer to cook until tender. When the vegetables are close to being ready then add in the prawns and simmer until they turn a blush pink. When ready, finish with a good squeeze of lime juice and a helping of chopped coriander.

Yellow king prawn and vegetable Thai curry- because there are more colour curries than just red and green!

Chargrilled chicken, crispy prosciutto and nectarine salad

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Now I’m not usually a fan of salads with fruit in them but this little beauty has converted me! This chicken, prosciutto and nectarine salad is sure to become one of your staple summer salads when evenings are balmy, time is short perhaps or you’re entertaining and want a lighter option. The ingredients in this have been chosen to give balance; the salty prosciutto, the savoury cheese, sweet nectarine and some added texture from the toasted walnuts and it is all brought together with a dressing that could not be more straightforward so raid the supermarket and get cooking!

Ingredients- serves 2-3
Olive oil
2 large skinless chicken breasts
4 slices of prosciutto
Handful of walnut halves
2 ripe nectarines- stone removed and sliced into wedges
Small log of soft goat cheese
Mixed salad leaves such as sweet lettuce, watercress and rocket

For the dressing
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tsps Dijon mustard
1 tsp runny honey
2 tbsps lemon juice
Salt and pepper to season

1. If you want to get ahead you can make the dressing in advance simply combining all the dressing ingredients and mixing together well; chill until needed. Next up crisp the prosciutto by dry frying the slices in a frying pan over a medium heat. Remove from the heat when the prosciutto is crisp and slightly golden and set aside. Pop in the walnuts and toast for a couple of minutes before also setting aside.

2. Wrap the chicken in clingfilm and use a meat tenderiser or rolling pin to hit it out so each breast is around the same thickness so they cook evenly. Rub the chicken in a glug of olive oil and season well. Heat a griddle pan to medium- high and cook each breast for around 4 minutes on each side until you cooked through and the juices run clear. Set aside and allow to rest.

3. Add another glug of oil in the frying pan that you had cooked the prosciutto in. Heat to medium and add the nectarine wedges; fry until caramelised but still holding their shape.

4. Take a large mixing bowl and toss the salad leaves with a little of the dressing so the leaves are evenly coated. Add the prosciutto, nectarines, prosciutto and walnuts and combine well. Slice the chargrilled chicken and add. Serve on a platter so everyone can help themselves and finish by dotting the cheese over the salad; drizzle with a little more of the dressing and serve.

Chargrilled chicken, crispy prosciutto and nectarine salad- because sweet and savoury are a match made in heaven!