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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Lime, coriander and mint paneer with spiced chickpeas

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When the mood strikes, there is nothing quite like a hearty curry, but, with the weather hopefully on the up, sometimes you want a lighter version of your favourites so if this is the case then this is the dish for you. The idea behind this is that the chickpeas are coated in a sauce that doesn’t weigh it down so you can taste and appreciate all the ingredients. Paneer lends itself to pairing with a range of Indian flavours and I have kept this paneer fresh with herbs and the zing of lime.

If you can’t find garlic and ginger paste then substitute it with a garlic clove and a freshly grated piece of ginger. The paste is available in all good Asian supermarkets and is well worth buying if you come across it as it can be used in a wide range of recipes and takes the time out of having to make your own. There will be leftover toasted lentils but fear not; they are delicious sprinkled over salads or as a snack by themselves and will keep for several days if covered over.

Ingredients- serves 4
For the paneer
Block of paneer- cut into bite sized cubes
1 tbsp cornflour
1 small bunch of fresh coriander- finely chopped
1 small bunch of fresh mint- finely chopped
60ml olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
1 tsp salt

For the chickpeas and curry
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 red bell pepper- chopped
1 yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 small aubergine- chopped
1 sweet potato- peeled and chopped
1 can of chickpeas- drained and rinsed well
2 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp chilli powder or to taste
1 tbsp fenugreek
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
Salt to taste

For the crunchy lentils
Can of green lentils in water- drained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
Crushed chilli flakes- to taste

1.I started by toasting the lentils and chickpeas first so I could then concentrate on the other elements of the recipe. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan; pat the lentils as dry as you can after draining them, place them on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Add the salt, garlic powder and chilli flakes and toss to coat the lentils. Place in the oven and cook for around 15 minutes or until crunchy; you can move them around on the baking tray halfway during cooking if needed to ensure they are evenly toasted.

2. As the lentils are cooking, place the chickpeas in a deep roasting tray and add half of each of the spiced listed apart from the garam masala. Toss to combine and roast in the oven for 15 minutes at the same time as the lentils until they have started to gain some colour. Remove the chickpeas and lentils from the oven when they are ready and set aside.

3. To make the curry base, add a glug of olive oil a wide bottomed pan that is large enough to hold the curry in its entirety. Over a low heat, gently cook the red onion until softened and starting to turn golden; add the tomato puree and cook this out for another minute. Add the remaining spices apart from the garam masala and the ginger and garlic paste as well as approx. 200mls of water; stir to form a paste. Add in the vegetables and chickpeas and simmer until the sauce lightly coats them; if it gets a little too dry then add another splash of water or two.

4. For the paneer, mix together all the ingredients listed under the paneer section of the ingredients list; taste and adjust seasoning and/ or the lime juice to taste if needed. Toss the paneer cubes in a tablespoon of cornflour. Add a good glug of oil to a non- stick frying pan and add the paneer; fry over a medium heat until the cubes are golden and crunchy. Remove using a slotted spoon and blot any excess oil using kitchen paper. Add the paneer cubes into the mint, coriander and lime dressing and toss well to coat.

5. To assemble the final dish simple choose a large serving dish and spoon the chickpea curry onto it. Top this with the herby paneer and finish with a liberal sprinkling of the crunchy lentils. Add extra fresh mint and coriander if you like and serve.

Lime, coriander and mint paneer and spiced chickpeas- a lighter take on a curry for the summer!

Sweet potato, spinach and chorizo hash

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Let’s face it- who doesn’t love a good breakfast to start the day?! Well if this sounds familiar then this is the breakfast for you! This hash is absolutely packed with flavour and can easily be made for one, two or even a group; it also makes the most of ingredients that a lot of people will have in their fridge. In my mind, all good breakfasts involve an egg with a golden, runny yolk. Here I have chosen to bake the egg into the hash but feel free to serve it with a poached egg perched atop the hash if you prefer.

Ingredients- serves 2
Olive oil
1 decent sized sweet potato- peeled and cubed
1/2 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
100g chorizo- chopped
1 red onion- peeled and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced
1 small red pepper- finely sliced
Small bag of baby spinach- washed and shredded
1 red or green chilli
Fresh coriander- roughly chopped
2 eggs

1.Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Start off by deciding if you want to make individual hashes or one larger one and choose smaller pans or one big one. Heat a good glug of oil in the pan and add in the sweet potato chunks. Sprinkle over the ground spices and fry for a few minutes until the potato is softening and starting to turn golden.

2.Add in the chorizo, garlic, onion, red pepper and chilli;  continue to cook until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the shredded spinach and combine to ensure that it is distributed evenly and starting to wilt.

3. Use the back of a spoon to create a well for each of the eggs to sit in. Carefully crack each egg into a hole and back for around 10 minutes until the egg white has set and the yolk remains runny. Serve immediately with a liberal sprinkling of the chopped coriander.

Sweet potato, spinach and chorizo hash- now this is the way to kick off the day!

 

Chimichurri surf and turf

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Chimichurri surf and turf is the perfect meal for sharing with a table of friends and family and it really does take very little effort. The quantities of steak and prawns are merely a guide so adjust according to appetite! The chimichurri can be made in advance, covered and stored in the fridge until you need it. Chimichurri should have a kick whilst still being able to taste the herbs and other ingredients so aim for a perfect balance. Use the best prawns you can find and afford as the flavour will be unrivalled. Eating shell on prawns can be a fun but messy affair so provide finger bowls for your guests too.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley
Small bunch of fresh coriander
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot
1 fresh red chilli
4-5 tbsp olive oil plus extra for cooking
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2-3 sirloin steaks
16-20 tiger prawns- raw and shell on
Salad leaves to serve- I used rocket, spinach and watercress

1. To make the chimichurri, blitz the parsley, garlic, shallot, chilli, oil, lemon and vinegar in a processor so grab your pestle and mortar and give it a good old bash! Set aside until ready to use.

2. When you are ready to cook the steak, take a griddle pan and heat until smoking hot. Season and lightly oil the meat and cook to your liking. I allow 1 minutes each side for your average size sirloin for rare but cook according to your tastes. Remove from the pan and allow to rest.

3. Whilst the steak is resting, cook the prawns. Take a frying pan and heat a glug of oil. Cook the prawns until pink and cooked through. Use some of the chimichurri and toss well to coat the prawns. When the steak is ready, cut into slices. Take a large serving platter and scatter the salad leaves. Place the steak on the platter and spoon over some of the chimichurri before arranging the prawns around. Finish off with more of the chimichurri and serve immediately.

Chimichurri surf and turf- a treat fit for any occasion!

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!

 

Spiced chickpea and lentil burgers

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If you’re anything like me, over Christmas you have seen cooked and eaten enough meat to last a lifetime, so by the time January hits you are ready for a change andthis is where these spiced chickpea and lentil burgers come in! These bad boys prove that you don’t need a beef burger to satisfy you. They are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans so there is no excuse not to whip up a batch! These are gently spiced with a nod to Middle Eastern flavours but make them as mild or as spicy as you like. I served these with skin on potato wedges and an array of burger toppings such as salad (for the health conscious), harissa mayonnaise (for the spice lovers) and tzatsiki ( to cool and refresh).

This recipe does not use egg to bind the chickpeas and lentils however if you find the mixture needs a bit of help to come together then sprinkle a little flour into it. Work the mixture with your hands and it will bind perfectly well. An egg would make the already moist mixture too wet and sticky so don’t be tempted to add one!

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Ingredients- makes 4 patties
400g tin of chickpeas in water
400g tin of lentils in water
1/2 tbsp. each of ground cumin, ground coriander and chilli powder
Handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
Vegetable oil
Plain flour

1. Kick off by draining the tins of chickpeas and lentils and giving them a quick rinse. Place in a food processor along with all the other ingredients apart from the oil and flour. Blitz so the chickpeas and lentils are coarse and have retained some texture.

2. Lightly dust a chopping board or work surface with some plain flour. Divide the blitzed chickpea mixture into four and form patties. Place on a tray, cover them with cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour to firm up.

3. Take a non- stick frying pan and heat a good glug of vegetable oil over a medium to high heat. When the oil is warmed, place the patties in the pan and fry for around 10 minutes before flipping over carefully and frying for a further 10 minutes. Fry until golden and crisp. Serve in lightly toasted burger or brioche buns with all the trimmings.

Spiced chickpea and lentil burgers- all the flavour and not an ounce of meat in sight!

 

Honey duck with vegetable pilaf

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Pilaf is a spiced rice based dish that is common across the world and can be packed with a whole range of ingredients, from vegetables to meat to fruits and everything in between. I have used a vegetable pilaf here to pair with the richness of the duck which is glazed with honey and pomegranate molasses. Pomegranate molasses gives a sour edge so you have different layers of flavour running throughout the dish to give a balance.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the duck

1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 duck legs

For the pilaf
Glug of vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- crushed
150g long grain rice
1/2 aubergine- finely chopped
1 carrot- finely chopped
400ml hot vegetable stock
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
Handful of fresh coriander and parsley

1. Get started by seasoning the duck legs with salt. Combine the molasses, honey and oil and brush onto the duck legs so they are well coated; set aside. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for the duck later on.

2. Heat the oil for the pilaf in a wide pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic; cook until softening. Next up goes the aubergine and carrot and, again, cook until softening. Sprinkle over the spices and stir well to combine.

3. Pop the duck legs on a wire rack and cook for around 35-40 minutes until the juices run clear. The time may need to be adjusted depending on the size of the legs.

4. Meanwhile, add the rice to the pan and add the stock little by little as it is absorbed a bit like you do when you cook a risotto. Continue to do this until the rice is cooked and tender. `Check the levels of spicing as you go and adjust to taste.

5. When the duck is ready, rest it for a while to help the juices reabsorb which makes sure the meat is really tender. Finish off the pilaf with the freshly chopped herbs and serve.

Honey duck with vegetable pilaf- spice up your life!