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!

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Montezuma’s hash

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If you Google ‘Montezuma’ you will enter into an ancient world and boost your knowledge somewhat but it will do nothing to sate your appetite. This recipe was born out of a fancy for an easy breakfast one weekend and making the most of a few ingredients that needed a bit of love which lent themselves to a Mexican inspired dish hence the slightly obscure name (got to be creative, right?). The hash includes flavours which are sweet, spicy and savoury to create a moreish meal that will certainly set you up for the day ahead. But why stop there? It would also be perfect for a light dinner.

Ingredients- serves 2-3
1 large white potato- peeled and chopped
100g chorizo- chopped
1 tsp each of ground coriander, ground cumin and paprika
1 red onion- finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
2 vine tomatoes- deseeded and finely chopped
1 mild green chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
2-3 eggs
1 large ripe avocado- peeled and cubed
Fresh coriander

1. Bring a medium pan of water to the boil and preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan whilst you peel and chop the potato into chunks. Add salt to the pan and boil until the potatoes are par boiled; drain and set aside.

2. Take a large frying pan that is large enough to fit all the dish in and that has an ovenproof handle. Heat to medium high. Dry fry the chorizo before removing from the pan and setting aside for later. Toss in the potatoes and fry them in the chorizo fat until tender and coloured.

3. When the potatoes are nearly ready, add the onion, garlic, ground coriander and ground cumin to the pan; continue to cook until the onion is softened. Return the chorizo back to the pan. Stir through the tomato as well as half of the green chilli and cook for one more minute.

4. Use a spoon to create two or three wells in the mixture and crack an egg into each. Bake in the oven until the egg whites are set but the yolk is runny.

5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the avocado cubes so they start to slightly warm through on top of the potatoes. Scatter the fresh coriander, remaining green chilli and paprika to finish. Serve immediately.

Montezuma’s hash- a breakfast feast fit for a king!

Chilli beef brisket loaded nachos

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Now here is a feast that is fit for a Friday, Saturday, Sunday… or any day for that matter! Beef brisket is my favourite cut to use for a chilli as it holds the flavours of the spices amazingly well and slow cooks like a dream so you are left with a melt in your mouth chilli. I have kept the chilli recipe as simple as possible so it will be perfect served with a range of things from nachos to rice but feel free to use it as a base and add in extra vegetables or beans. Play around with your choice of chillies; I used ancho and chipotle morita to add a kick of heat whilst also adding a wonderful smokiness. If you prefer your chillies a touch milder then use whatever chillies suit you.

Ingredients- serves 4
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 beef brisket- approx. 500g
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp each of ground cumin, coriander and oregano
1/2 tbsp each of paprika and cayenne pepper
Dried chillies such as chipotle morita and ancho
400ml hot beef stock
400ml passata
Salt and pepper

For the nachos
Lightly salted tortilla chips
Salsa, guacamole and soured cream
Fresh jalapenos
Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese as much as you dare!
Fresh coriander

1. Preheat the oven to 150c/ 130 fan. Choose a large, lidded, heavy based casserole dish and heat half of the oil over a medium- high heat. Season the brisket and brown it on all sides before removing from the pan. Drain off any excess fat and add a little more vegetable oil. Lower the heat and fry the onion and garlic together for a few minutes until softened.

2. Sprinkle in the spices and herbs and stir well to combine with the onion and garlic. Cook for an additional minute or two. Pour in a splash of the beef stock to remove any pieces of onion that may have caught to the pan slightly. Add the remaining stock and passata along with the dried chillies; bring to a simmer and add the brisket back to the pan. Pop the pan into the oven and cook for around 3-4 hours or until the brisket is meltingly tender. If the chilli looks like there is still a lot of liquid you can either remove the lid and continue to cook it or put it on the hob and simmer to reduce and thicken.

3. When ready to assemble the nachos, simply use two forks to pull the brisket apart. Take an ovenproof dish and layer with tortilla chips, salsa and some sliced fresh jalapenos. Sprinkle a little cheese before repeating. Add the chilli on top of the seond layer of nachos, add more cheese and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 200c/ 180 fan until the cheese is bubbling and melted. Finish with a handful of freshly chopped coriander and some more fresh jalapeno.

Chilli beef brisket nachos- ultimate comfort food perfect for a quiet night in or a party!

 

Smoky, spicy roasted chickpeas

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Picture the scene: you’re at home, working for the day perhaps, and your stomach starts rumbling mid- afternoon but, alas, there are no snacks in the house! What are you going to do? Make these smoky and spicy roasted chickpeas of course! In a time where people are more and more health conscious and it’s all about getting your five a day, it can be hard to think of delicious and nutritious snacks but look no further! This is a cheap, easy and relatively quick snack to make that can be made in advance and stored so it is on hand for whenever hunger pangs take hold. If you’re eating them hot from the oven, a little squeeze of lemon juice also lifts the flavour so do give this a try!

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Ingredients
1 tin of chickpeas in water
Olive oil
Smoked or normal sea salt
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take the tin of chickpeas and drain them well. Rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry using kitchen roll. Place on a single layer on a baking tray.

2. Drizzle over a good amount of olive oil, about a tablespoon should do, and toss to coat the chickpeas. Sprinkle over the chilli, cumin and coriander before finishing off with a good pinch of sea salt. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes, checking them from time to time and tossing. Some chickpeas will have more moisture in them than others so these may take slightly longer. Just be careful the spices do not catch or burn so keep your eye on them! Adjust salt to taste. Serve warm from the oven or allow to cool and store in airtight containers until you want them.

Smoky, spicy roasted chickpeas- give your snacks an overhaul this year!

 

Ginger, garlic and chilli king prawns

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The other night time was short and I did not want to slaving away over a hot stove for too long so cue a quick prawn dish! I had a rummage in the fridge and cupboards and knew I was off to a good start when ginger garlic and chilli leapt out at me. King prawns have to be one my favourite things and are always handy to have in the freezer for a quick fix. I recently got bought a box of weird and wonderful ingredients for Christmas and this included sweet potato vermicelli noodles so this was the perfect opportunity to try them. They are much like glass noodles and have a firm texture which is a great contrast to the tender prawns. I kept the noodles simple and stir fried them with some beansprouts and a touch of soy so as to make sure the prawns were the star of the show so read on and get some quick dinner inspiration…

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw king prawns- deveined
2 tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp cornflour stirred into 2 tbsp water
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- peeled and grated

1. Take a small pan and add the dark soy, rice wine and cornflour in water. Heat over a medium heat for a minute or two until if starts to simmer. Pop in the chilli, garlic and ginger and continue to simmer until the sauce is thick and glossy.

2. Lower the heat and add in the raw prawns; toss to coat in the sauce. Cook for around 3-4 minutes until pink and cooked through. Serve immediately.

Spicy Szechuan shredded chicken

After cooking a roast dinner the other day I had a lot of leftover chicken that was calling out to be finished up and this is where this simple but spicy Szechuan shredded chicken comes in. Szechuan pepper is a wonderful ingredient that is well worth using if are not familiar with it and have not cooked with it. It brings a warmth along with citrus notes that really lift a dish. I also served this with homemade spring rolls and salt and pepper prawns for a midweek feast.

As I say I used leftover roasted chicken for this however you can roast chicken thighs or legs in advance if you don’t have any spare; avoid breast meat if you can as it tends to dry out quickly. I have purposefully left the chicken quantities more vague than usual- I often struggle to eat much meat in a meal however when it came to this I couldn’t help but have seconds…and thirds… Just remember that leftover beef would also work a treat! Cashews are also a welcome addition if you like too.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Roasted chicken thighs or legs- 1-2 per person depending on appetite
1 tbsp cornflour
Red and yellow bell pepper- chopped
Handful of unsalted cashews
2 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- grated
1 tsp Chinese chilli oil
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp water with 1 tsp cornflour mixed in

1. Start by heating the oil in a wok to medium. Shred the chicken into pieces and toss in the cornflour. Begin to fry off in the oil and stir from time to time. You want chicken which is golden and starting to crisp up in places. When just crisping up, add in the chopped pepper and cashews; stir well.

2. In the meantime, combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Choose a small pan and simmer the sauce until thickening and glossy. Tip into the chicken and toss to coat. Serve immediately with rice or noodles.

Spicy Szechuan shredded chicken- love your leftovers with this super speedy midweek meal!

 

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup

Autumn days mean curling up with a roaring fire, rain beating against the window and plenty of comforting food. It also brings the squash season and this means that butternut squash soup is hard to resist. This soup combines squash with sweet potato and parmesan which brings the sweetness into balance with the umami edge that parmesan brings. The rind of parmesan is a secret weapon in cooking so I always keep them in the freezer so they are on hand to use in soups, stews, risottos and pasta dishes. My added extra is a delicate hint of spice and a hit of roasted garlic. I have also used the squash seeds to create a crunchy topping that can be sprinkled over the soup to serve so don’t delay- get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4-6
1 large butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2 bulbs of garlic
2 white onions- chopped
1.5 litres of hot vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
1-2 rinds of parmesan

For the seed topping
Sea salt
Chilli flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Use a sturdy knife to cut the butternut squash in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and set aside for later. Use a knife to score the flesh. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Place the squash on a baking tray and the sweet potatoes in another one before drizzling both with olive oil and sprinkling with salt. Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until tender. The squash will start to caramelise at the edges and this adds to the flavour. Cut the tops of the garlic bulbs off and wrap in a foil parcel with some oil and roast until tender.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the seeds. Simply wash them and pat them dry. Pop them on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil, the sea salt and chilli flakes. Roast with the vegetables until the seeds are golden and crunchy. When they are ready, set aside and allow to cool.

3. Take a large pan that will be able to hold all of the soup. Heat a glug of oil over a medium heat and cook the onions until softened but do not allow them to colour. When the vegetables are cooked add the sweet potato and roasted garlic to the pan whilst you scoop out the squash before adding the flesh to the pan too. I then used a potato mashed to slightly break the vegetables down to make blending even easier later. Add the hot stock to the pan. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool until you are able to blend it. Blend until you reach the consistency you like. Return the pan to the heat, drop in the parmesan rinds and simmer gently. Simmer for at least an hour if you can so the parmesan has time to infuse. Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning according to taste. Serve in warmed soup bowls with plenty of fresh bread to dip.

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup- the perfect antidote to a blustery autumn day!