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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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!

 

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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!