Squash and kale daal

With autumn upon us it sees the return of squash and kale in my kitchen on a regular (and borderline obsessive!) basis. Squash and kale daal is not exactly an authentic Indian recipe however it is absolutely delicious.The combination of the two adds sweetness, earthiness and even more vibrance to the daal. Spinach is often an addition to daal but this is my autumnal twist on it. The base of the daal is very simple and the spice mix is added later on in the cooking process so the ingredients come alive. I have kept the spices whole to add bursts of flavour however you can lightly bash them with a pestle and mortar before frying if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 4
400g red split lentils
Vegetable oil or ghee
4 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- quartered
1 tbsp turmeric
1 small butternut squash
200g black kale
2 shallots
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp ajwan seeds
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2-3 dried Kashmiri chillies- roughly chopped
Freshly chopped coriander for serving- optional

1 Kick off by rinsing the lentils in cold water. Place on the hob in a large pan and cover the lentils with water. Bring the water to the boil before lowering to a simmer. Skim off any scum that forms on the surface of the water. Add in the garlic, ginger and turmeric. Simmer the lentils for 1- 1 1/2 hours until the lentils have softened.

2. When the lentils are about 20 minutes away from being tender and creamy, peel and chop the butternut squash into small chunks. Wash and roughly chop the kale and add, along with the squash, into the pan.

3. In a separate pan, heat the oil or melt the ghee, depending on which you prefer. Slice the shallots and fry until turning golden. Pop in all the other spices and whole chillies; fry until colouring and releasing their flavours. Tip the spice mixture into the lentils and stir through. You may also like to hold a little back to use as a topping. Serve the daal in warmed bowls and sprinkle over some freshly chopped coriander if you like. Also serve with chapattis on the side.

Squash and kale daal- a hearty, vibrant dish for a chilly autumn day!

 

 

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Paneer, split pea and spinach curry

Paneer is a firm Indian cheese which is one of my all time favourite things to use in a curry. It holds its shape when cooked and takes on flavours perfectly. Paneer is also a good way of introducing even the most avid meat fan to vegetarian curries. I have used an old faithful curry paste blend that works well every time. I started the curry off the day before so the paneer had plenty of time to marinade however a couple of hours ahead would be fine if you don’t have the time. This curry is gently spiced so you can taste each element however if you want to ramp up the heat then go ahead by adding more chilli powder, or fresh chilli if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the curry paste
2 tsps of the following: ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder, turmeric
1 tsp amchur (mango) powder
1 tsp garlic puree or 1 crushed garlic clove
1 tsp ginger puree or 2cm piece of grated fresh ginger

For the rest of the curry
150g yellow split peas
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 block of paneer approx. 200g
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 tsp black onion seeds
6 plum tomatoes on the vine- chopped
100ml hot vegetable stock
100g baby spinach- shredded
Handful of fresh coriander- chopped

1. Get going on the curry paste by simply combining all of the listed ingredients with a splash of water to bring it together to form a relatively thick paste. Cut the block of paneer into chunks which are around an inch in size. Take half of the paste and add into a bowl with the paneer and ensure it is well coated. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

2. When ready to cook, the split peas need preparing before you get going with the rest of the curry. Place them in a large pan and add 400ml of water straight from the tap. Bring the pan to a boil, add the split peas, lower to a simmer and cook for half an hour until the split peas are tender. Keep checking the split peas as some may need slightly longer depending on the variety and size you use.

3. Meanwhile take a large wide bottomed pan (preferably non- stick!) and heat half of the vegetable oil over a medium to high heat. Take the marinated paneer and fry until it gets a little colour; turn the pieces regularly so the spice marinade does not catch. When they are golden, remove from the pan and set aside. If there are any pieces of marinade that have burnt onto the pan then give it a quick rinse as you will need to use this again.

4. Heat the remaining oil over a low to medium heat and cook the red onion gently. I always take plenty of time over making the base of my curry so the flavours develop. Cook the onion until translucent but ensure it does not colour too much as this can make onion taste bitter. When the onion is a minute or so away from ready, toss in the black onion seeds and finish off together. Spoon in the remaining curry paste that you reserved and cook gently for a few minutes.

5. Take the chopped tomatoes and add into the pan making sure they combine well with the onion mixture. Simmer until the tomatoes are reducing and thickening. The time this takes depends on the size of the tomatoes and how juicy they are but be patient as slowly cooking the tomatoes base will make all the difference.

6. When the split peas are cooked and tender, add these to the pan along with the paneer. Cover the pan and simmer again until hot and until the curry is the consistency you like. Along the way you may find that you want to add a splash of stock if the split peas get a little dry but, again, this depends on how juicy the tomatoes are. For the final few minutes of cooking, stir through the shredded spinach and finish off with some freshly chopped coriander. Serve the curry with your choice or rice or bread such as chapatis and enjoy.

Paneer, split pea and spinach curry- ‘the best curry you’ve ever made’ was the quote from my fellow diner so it must be a winning combination!

Spiced lamb kofta with quick pickles and yogurt dressing

When the sun starts coming out, minds start turning to BBQ weather and when the first opportunity will be to eat al fresco. Well fingers crossed this will happen very soon but in the meantime there is no reason you can’t enjoy these lamb kofta indoors. Kofta are easy to make and children can also help out! I served the lamb kofta layered on warmed flatbread along with pickled cabbage, carrot and chillies drizzled with a cool, refreshing yogurt dressing. I will admit that I did use shop bought flatbreads on this occasion to save time but feel free to make your own if time allows.

I have separated the recipe into its constituent parts so you can plan ahead. the dressing and pickles can be made ahead of time. The dressing can sit in the fridge overnight but I would tend to make the pickled carrot and cabbage on the day so they retain some crunch.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the kofta
400g lamb mince- I used 20% fat mince
1 small red onion
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp chilli powder (optional)
Large handful of fresh mint leaves- finely chopped
Salt and pepper to season

For the pickles
1 small red cabbage- shredded
1 large carrot- grated
3 tbsp.white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
Jarred mild to medium green chillies

For the yogurt dressing
100ml plain Greek style yogurt
Handful of fresh mint leaves- finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1/2 tsp salt

1. Get started by making the dressing. All you need to do is combine all the ingredients, cover and leave in the fridge  until you need it. Simple!

2. Again, the kofta recipe itself is also straightforward. Take a pan and a very small amount of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Remove from the heat and cool. Take the mince and add the spices. mint and seasoning to it. Chilli can be added if you like a bit more heat but it is delicious without so you can taste each spice. When the onion and garlic mixture is cool, add this to the mince and use your hands (clean of course!) to squidge and squish it until firm. Cover and place in the fridge for half an hour whilst you do the pickled veg.

3. I pickled each vegetable separately so each retained its colour. Take two bowls and add the cabbage to one and the carrot to the other. Add 2 tbsp white wine vinegar and 1 tbsp sugar to the cabbage and 1 tbsp vinegar and 1/2 tbsp to the carrot. Mix well to combine and set aside for at least half an hour; stir from time to time.

4. When you are ready to get cooking simply shape the kofta into small balls or sausage shapes; make sure they are as unform in shape and size as you can so they cook evenly. Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the kofta and cook for around 10 minutes until golden on the outside and cooked through. Sometime I like to start them off on the hob and then finish them in the oven which also frees a bit of hob space up if you need it. For this heat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan and cook to finish them off.

5. Now for the assembly! Take 4 flatbreads and reheat either in a dry, hot pan or griddle. Place one on each person’s plate and layer with the pickled vegetables, kofta and yogurt dressing. This is perfect for feeding a crowd as everyone can load up their own flatbread as they like. A little crumbled feta is also a delicious addition!

Flatbreads loaded with spiced kofta- roll on BBQ season!

 

Spicy Middle Eastern chickpeas with feta

When the weekend comes around again, spend a little time preparing a delicious breakfast or brunch- after all, you’ve earned it following a busy week! This spicy chickpea dish was inspired by the flavours of the Middle East to give a hearty and satisfying start to the day but would also be perfect for a dinner. If you have any leftovers, these can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days and can be enjoyed at lunch the next day.

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Ingredients- serves 3-4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
1 red or yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 tbsp harissa
400g soaked chickpeas- rinsed and drained
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls of baby spinach- washed, drained and roughly chopped
50g feta
1 tsp chilli flakes- optional

1. Kick off by heating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan, or similar, and heat the oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and pepper together until softening nicely. Add in the ground cumin and coriander as well as the harissa. Stir well so the spices and harissa coat the onion mixture; cook for a further minute.

2. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan and combine well. In next goes the tinned tomatoes. Simmer the chickpeas for a few minutes until the sauce is starting to reduce and thicken slightly before adding the spinach. Cook until it wilts in the sauce and can be evenly distributed throughout it. Crumble over the feta and a sprinkling of chilli flakes if you want a but more spice and pop in the oven. Leave it until the feta warms through and starts to melt a little. Serve with crusty fresh bread and dive in!

Middle Eastern inspired chickpeas- spice up your day!

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry


In our household we love a great vegetable curry- often so much fresher and more appealing than their meaty counterparts. This curry is quick, easy and low of faff so no excuses for not rustling up a midweek feast! The ingredients here really need to speak for themselves so keep it simple! Of course, if you are a chilli fiend then add a little more here and there to suit your tastes but not so it drowns the sweetness of the squash. I have used spinach which is one of my favourites but this would also work well with kale. Sometimes I like a drier curry and in this case I usually halve the quantity of tomatoes and roast the squash a little beforehand to cut down on the cooking time. Squash which is roasted with some curry spices is delicious!

I served the curry with homemade brussel sprout bhajis which are a great twist on the traditional onion version. They are quick to make and they also freeze well (if there are any left of course!). See here for the recipe: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-px. Why not make it part of a vegetarian curry feast and also make a side of paneer shashlik which I absolutely love. Check out the recipe here, it’s so simple: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-j9.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Half a butternut squash
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 fresh red chilli- roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped
1 red onion- chopped
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
200g chickpeas- drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Start off by prepping the butternut squash. I will happily admit it, I hate cutting squash but fear not, I have a trick up my sleeve to take the work out of this task! Simply place the squash in the microwave for a couple of minutes, remove and place on a sturdy board ready for chopping The heat will slightly soften the squash and it makes it much easier to remove the skin so give it a try! Remove the skin and cut into bite sized chunks before setting aside.

2. Next, you need to make the curry paste. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, chilli and garlic to a pestle and mortar with a splash of water and work it until if forms a paste.

3. Heat a small glug of oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the red onion for a couple of minutes until softening. Add in curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant- keep it moving so it doesn’t catch. In goes the cubes of squash next! Stir well to ensure the paste coats each cube of squash before adding the chickpeas, again, making sure they are well covered. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is tender and the sauce is thickened. Towards the end of cooking add in the baby spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve with your choice of side such as chapatti or simply enjoy it as it is with a final flourish of freshly chopped coriander.

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry- a spicy offering to keep you warm this winter!

Persian style spiced lamb shank stew

Middle Eastern spices and the richness of lamb are a marriage made in heaven so get cooking this slow cooked lamb shank stew. The flavours are fresh, warming and fragrant so, if this is new to you, this is a great way to try them. I have opted for a balance of spices such as cumin and coriander which bring dishes to life. Give yourself plenty of time for this to slow cook in the oven to allow flavours to develop.

Seeing as it’s autumn and the nights are now cold and dark, I have added colour by serving this with mixed vegetable cous cous but it would be just as delicious with saffron rice.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the stew
Glug of vegetable oil
2 lamb shanks
1 large red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or sliced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
1/2 ground cardamom
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
300ml good quality beef stock
Handful of dried apricots- halved if large

For the cous cous
Glug of vegetable oil
200g cous cous
Approx. 300g mixed vegetables e.g. aubergine, red onion, courgette
Pinch of saffron
Fresh coriander- chopped

1. Start by preheating the oven to 140c/ 120 fan. Take a large pan with a well fitting lid and add a glug of oil over a medium to high heat. You need to brown off the lamb shanks so they are golden all over; this will add to the flavour later so don’t rush this. Make sure they are golden all over and remove from the pan; set aside.

2. If you find a lot of fat has come out of the lamb shanks then drain a little off so you have around 1 tbsp left. Lower the heat to medium and cook the onion and garlic until they soften but not colour. I add a pinch of sea salt at this stage to season but do remember to check the seasoning as you go and adjust to taste. Add in the spices and cook for a further minute or two. Stir to ensure that they spices coat all the onion well.

3. Pour in the tomatoes and stock before adding the shanks back to the pan. Bring to a gentle boil before covering with the lid and placing in the preheated oven. Cook on a low heat for 2 1/2- 3 hours; when the lamb is ready it will come away from the bone really easily. At 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time the apricots need to be added; if they are put in at the start they will disintegrate but if you put them in near the end they add a wonderful sweetness.

4. When you are nearly ready to eat, start making the cous cous. This could not be easier! Take the vegetables you have chosen and dice so they are in pieces that are easy to mix through the cous cous. Add a small amount of oil in a pan and gently cook the vegetables. Vegetables such as onion, squash and aubergine go well with the richness of the lamb. Season and remove from the heat. For the cous cous, boil a kettle and, in a measuring jug, add some water and the strands of saffron. Pout over the cous cous to cover it and place a tea towel over the top to allow the cous cous to absorb the water. Fluff with a fork and add a drop more water if you need. Toss through the vegetables, a liberal sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander and it is ready to serve with tender lamb.

Delicately fragrant Persian style spiced lamb shank stew- a true winter warmer!

 

 

 

 

 

Pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck breasts with spiced pilaf

Treat yourself to taste of the Middle East with this pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck. It gives the perfect balance of sweet and sour which is matched with a lightly spiced bulgur wheat pilaf style side. Pomegranate molasses are punchy and should be used with care but it is well worth a try if you have not used them before; they can be found in any good supermarket.

I paired the duck with a delicate pilaf with aubergine, onion and tomato with spices and herbs but get creative. A sprinkle of pomegranate seeds through the bulgur would also be great. I sourced the duck breasts from http://www.ixhillfarm.co.uk which were plump and packed with flavour. This is the perfect time of year to add duck to your menu!

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the duck breasts
2 duck breasts
1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp. runny honey
Pinch of ground cumin (optional)

For the pilaf
80g bulgur wheat- rinsed and drained
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 small aubergine- finely chopped
3 plum tomatoes- deseeded and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp pepper paste
Handful of fresh coriander and parsley- chopped

1. Start off by removing the duck from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for around half an hour. Take a sharp knife and slash the skin of the breast a few times. Combine the pomegranate molasses, honey and cumin and rub into the skin side of the duck. Preheat the oven to 220c/ 200 fan ready for later. Take a large non-stick frying pan and heat to high; add the duck breasts skin side down in the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes before turning and searing for a further minute- the skin will caramelise and start going a gorgeous golden colour. Remove from the pan and cook in the oven for 10 minutes for rare and around 15 minutes for medium. When it is cooked to your tastes, allow to rest for around 10-15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, get started on the bulgur wheat. This can also be done in advance whilst the duck is warming up to room temperature. Place the rinsed wheat in a pan and add 600ml of cold water; bring to the boil before covering and simmering for 15 minutes until tender. You often need to drain a small amount of excess water after cooking.

3. Take a frying pan and add a small splash of oil. Cook the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until starting to soften before adding the aubergine. Cook for a further few minutes before adding the tomatoes, cumin, coriander, pepper paste and season well. Remove from the heat and add to the cooked bulgur wheat. Add the chopped fresh herbs and taste- adjust the seasoning to taste. You may need to add a little more spice if you like as the water content in the wheat can absorb a lot of the flavour. Keep warm until the duck is has rested and is ready to slice.

Serve the bulgur wheat in a bowl with the duck slices arranged over the top- sprinkle with some herbs if you like.

Pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck with pilaf style bulgur wheat salad- a flavoursome taste of the Middle East! Who could resist this?…

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