Mains

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pistachio Pesto, Feta & Pomegranate Seeds

After finally tearing myself away from the Louis Theroux marathon that I seem to have embarked upon, I cooked up something special to mark the occasion. Roasted veg has to be one the most comforting things (apart from maybe pizza, but I’m trying to be healthy here!). This roasted butternut squash is really something, and is especially needed now we’re deep into the cold, wet Autumn, and I barely see any daylight anymore (sad face).

I don’t buy many food magazines at all (I already pay for the internet, which has gazillions more recipes!) but I did buy a couple of ‘Vegetarian Living’ magazines a while back, which is where this recipe is from. The first time making it had us screwing our faces up due to the sheer amount of cheese in the pesto, so I have reduced the amount of Parmesan to make it a bit more delicate and less overpowering.

There seems to be quite a lot of pesto when you spoon it over the squash, but I find that it allows a bit of pesto in every forkful. You can always play it safe, and add a bit more if you like later on. If you do have leftover pesto, it tastes great with a salad too!

I have to admit I don’t eat butternut squash aalllll that often, which is a shame because it is super good for you! It is low in calories (if that is what you are looking for), and really high in vitamin A. It has a high fibre content, which is great for heart health (yay!), and lots of vitamin B6, which is important in brain and nervous system function. I will stop there, don’t worry, but I could sing its praises for a little while longer.

Anyway, I’m going to retreat back under my blanket on the sofa now and watch Mr Theroux!

Ingredients:

Serves 2

1 medium butternut squash (approx 1kg)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g feta (approx.)
40g pomegranate seeds (approx.)

Pistachio pesto:
75g shelled pistachios
25g Parmesan, chopped into rough chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch coriander, leaves picked
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
2 tablespoons chilli oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 200 / 180 fan

2. Slice butternut squash in half lengthways and scoop out seeds. Rub/brush a little bit of oil over the top then season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pop in the oven on a baking tray for 45-50 minutes, until cooked through and charred slightly at the edges.

3. While the squash is in the oven, make the pesto. Add the shelled pistachios and parmesan to a blender and whizz until chopped and combined. Add some oil to bring it all together, then a but more, until it is loose enough to blend smoothly. Add the herbs, chilli oil and lemon juice and whizz it up again. Season generously with sea salt, give it one last blend, and taste. Add some more lemon juice or salt if you think it needs it. Chill in the fridge until the squash is ready.

4. When the squash is cooked, place on a plate and dress with the pistachio pesto, crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds.

5. Tuck in and enjoy! )

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Mains, Make-ahead

Cauliflower & Chickpea Malaysian Curry

I realised recently that I use a lot of coconut these days. Whether it’s coconut flakes in muesli or porridge, coconut oil in place of vegetable oils, or coconut milk in a whole variety of dishes, usually paired with lime, coriander or chilli (or all of them!). A little time ago I posted a recipe for sweet potato with coconut, pomegranate and lime, which only needs a teensy bit of coconut milk, and I found this recipe so as not to waste the rest of the tin!

I stumbled across a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for a Malaysian-style baked chicken curry, and, meat aside, it sounded really delicious!
When choosing the vegetables to substitute the chicken with, I didn’t want it too complicated, like I’d just thrown a bag of frozen mixed veg in there. Too many times now I’ve been out to a restaurant for what would have been a really lovely curry, only for that pleasure to be dampened by a rubbish mix of lank veg.
I’m not too picky when it comes to this, really! I chose cauliflower because I love the chunkiness in there, and chickpeas because, well, who doesn’t love a chickpea? It sounds more like the veg you might put in an Indian curry, but they really work great in this coconut-y curry too.

When we make meals in our house, 90% of the time we make sure there is enough for at least 6 portions so we can freeze the rest and save us a whole load of time in the future. This curry is another great one for that, as it makes 6-8 portions! We definitely need a bigger freezer! 
Another thing I like about this curry is that, because I make a big curry to give us more portions, I can put in a whole cauliflower and a whole can of chickpeas (or more if you want!). There is no wasted veg that will sit in the back of your fridge, rotting away, because you didn’t know what yo do with the rest, or you hadn’t incorporated an extra half a cauliflower into your meal plans. No waste = happy times!

Unlike Hugh’s curry, this one doesn’t require any browning or baking. Phew! Just one pot on the hob – perfect.

I just wanted to say – I had no idea how to photograph this! I like the first image, but it isn’t like any of my others. It was frustrating! Meals like curries, soups, stews and chillis aren’t very photogenic. Annoying! I tried my best. It tastes good, anyway!

Ingredients:

2 heaped tsp cumin seeds

2 heaped tsp coriander seeds

1 heaped tsp fennel seeds

2 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp ground fenugreek

1 large (or 2 smaller) onion(s), peeled and roughly chopped

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large chilli, roughly chopped

1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

400g tin chopped tomatoes

400ml tin coconut milk

1 cauliflower head, cut into florets

1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Basmati rice, to serve

Directions:

1. If you want, dry roast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a pan for a few minutes, until fragrant. Pop them in a pestle and mortar and grind into a powder, then mix them with the turmeric and fenugreek.

2. Add the chopped onion, chilli, ginger and garlic to a food processor, and blend to a coarse paste. You will probably need to scrape the sides down a couple of times to get it all blended nicely.

3. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the spices and cook for a minute or so, then add the onion paste and cook for about 5 minutes, until the paste has softened, stirring constantly.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, cauliflower florets and chickpeas to the pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer with the lid on for about 25 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked but not too soft. Stir frequently to stop it sticking to the bottom, and add a bit more water if needed.

5. Top with coriander leaves and serve with basmati rice.

 

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Mains

Garden Pea & Sweetcorn Fritters

Forget fritters in their traditional sense: deep fried, unhealthy, batter-covered ‘things’. Eeugh! These are light, delicate fritters that won’t leave you feeling greasy. Also, another staple from the Royal-Smith household! To be specific, these are our Tuesday night regulars. Creatures of habit, I guess!

Other regulars in our house are ‘Soup Monday’, ‘Bean Burger Wednesday’ and ‘Bean Fajita Friday’. Thank god for ‘Try Something New Thursday’, otherwise I would obviously run out of recipes after ‘Treat Yourself Sunday’.
I tend to try new recipes on Thursdays, then if I want to make something for the blog, I will shift around meal plans etc etc to fit it in some time on a weekend. So far that has worked out quite well, and I don’t see why it won’t carry on like that. I’m sure other people probably have a better system, but, not me!

This Thursday I will be trying some new food, but not at home! Liam and I are going to a gig in Camden at the Green Note, a cosy little jazz/blues venue that sells vegetarian food. We first went this year, when I took Liam on his birthday after his afternoon tea treat! Since then, we haven’t stopped listening to the band we saw, so we are looking forward to going back. We also know now how amazing the food looks, so we are saving our stomachs for that instead of pigging ourselves on posh sandwiches, cakes and scones  like last time.

These are slightly adapted from the broad bean and sweetcorn fritters (you can guess the main adaptation) from my favourite recipe book at the minute: Honestly Healthy. I am craving the new book, Honestly Healthy For Life. Maybe I should stop being such a tight-arse and buy it, instead of wishing away the days until Christmas.

We love to serve these fritters with a salad of spinach, cucumber, avocado and feta, and they make a wonderfully scrumptious and healthy dinner.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 large eggs

100g frozen garden peas, thawed

100g frozen sweetcorn, thawed

50g (roughly 1/3 cup) rice flour (if you don’t have this, you can use plain flour)

1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

Handful of coriander, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the thawed peas and sweetcorn and mix.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Season with the salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a pan. Don’t heat it too hot though! A low-medium heat will be best, otherwise the outside will cook too fast and it won’t flip very easily at all! (That is what happened to the fritter in the top right of the picture above – oopsie!) 

Add a spoonful of the mixture to the pan and roughly flatten it out so you have 1 layer of peas/sweetcorn. Cook for a couple of minutes and then flip over and cook for another minute or so.

Enjoy with a salad and dress it with some balsamic vinegar (our default dressing – it is so easy!) Yummy!

 

Stay happy,

 

Alice x

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Mains

Aubergine, Courgette & Mozzarella Stacks

There aren’t many things better than a warming, comforting, beefy meal, and I love these aubergine, courgette & mozzarella stacks because they bring about those feelings of comfort that we all love to get from food, while still being healthy. To quote Liam, ‘There’s nothing comforting about a slice of cucumber and a radish’. I have to agree, so it is sometimes good to find healthy food that gives you that feeling of satisfaction. This is one of those meals for me.

I find these stacks quite aesthetically pleasing, in the only kind of way that anything that oozes tomato sauce and cheese out of its sides can. If you look past that though, the orderly layers make them quite easy on the eyes. It is probably my love for order and rules that draws me to this. My mother loves to remind me that when I was younger I would line my crayons up so all the bottom edges were level with each other. Meals like this were made for people like me. But don’t worry, you don’t need a high level of obsessiveness about lines to assemble these, I just like to pretend I do.

One little note on assembly though: When scooping a big dollop of your scrumptious, fresh tomato sauce onto each layer of aubergine, just remember that you need some left for the top! The sauce will stretch that far, easily, but you might have to reel in your first estimation of sauce quantity. I find a dollop (maybe a tablespoon or so?) in the middle of each aubergine is plenty, as it will squish out towards the edge when you add the layers above.

The tomato sauce recipe seems to pop up in loads of meals in our kitchen. It is really robust, and you can always come back to it when you need a tomato sauce for anything else. I actually got the recipe from Paul Hollywood’s book ‘101 Great Breads’, where it is the sauce to top one of his pizza dough recipes. In the original recipe he adds 1 teaspoon of caster sugar though, which I have left out. I’ve made this sauce many times now, and I can honestly say it tastes great either way, so why add sugar when there is no need? Exactly…

I’m always for eating foods and meals with a far ranging set of health benefits, so the combination of the vegetables, tomato sauce and cheese here is a really great one. There are loads of antioxidants in the aubergine, courgette and tomatoes, as well as lots of fibre and low levels of saturated fat. In the cheese, there is actually a whole host of beneficial vitamins and minerals, and obviously calcium! I like getting my quota of fats from foods such as nuts and cheese, instead of naughty foods that also are also rammed full of processed rubbish and sugar.

These aubergine, courgette & mozzarella stacks will keep in the fridge for a few days. Liam and I like cooking these at the weekend and then saving some stacks in the fridge for really quick mid-week meal. Just preheat the oven, as below, and reheat for 15 minutes, until warmed through.

I hope you have as much fun making these as I did! ha!

Makes 6 stacks!

What you need:

2 smaller aubergines (see my ingredients picture) or 1 very large aubergine, cut into 18 equal slices. I think 2 smaller, rather squat aubergines works better because the circles you slice will be larger and more even!

1 large courgette, cut into approximately 18 equal slices

125g ball of mozzarella, ideally cut into 12 slices

Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan), for grating on the top of the stacks (you can get a vegetarian version of this cheese at health food stores, such as Holland & Barrett.)

For the tomato sauce (by Paul Hollywood):

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 x 400g tin plum/chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

2 bay leaves

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, to season

 

What you do:

First, get started with the tomato sauce, then prepare everything else while this is simmering away.

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the remaining tomato sauce ingredients. If using tinned plum tomatoes, break them up in the pan. Stir everything together and leave to simmer over a low-medium heat for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remember to remove the bay leaves before using the sauce.

Now prepare and cook the veg:

Slice the aubergine(s) across the width, into 18 slices, approximately 1cm thick (see image). Cut the courgette into 3 equal pieces, then slice each along the length into approximately 6 equal pieces (again, see image!) For each stack you need 3 slices of aubergine, and at least 3 slices of courgette (the number of courgette slices is not so important, as you can place multiple slices in each layer).

I find it helpful, now, to arrange the sliced aubergine and courgette into stacks. You can see how your slightly different-sized slices of veg will pair together. The order I like is: aubergine, 2x courgette, aubergine, 1x courgette, aubergine, at this stage.

Heat a skillet pan over a medium heat and place in it a stack-worth of veg slices. You can brush the slices with oil if you want, but I don’t. Cook on each side until slightly charred and cooked through. Make sure the pan is not TOO hot because the veg will char on the outside but not cook properly all the way through. Place on a couple of layers of kitchen roll to soak up any excess juices.

Preheat the oven to 220 C (200 C Fan).

Assemble your stacks! I photographed each step here, so you can see the order in which I assembled mine. I put them together in the oven dish so there is no unnecessary transportation before they are cooked. Aubergine, tomato sauce, courgette, mozzarella, aubergine, tomato sauce, courgette, mozzarella, aubergine, tomato sauce, Parmesan!

Place in the oven for approximately 12 – 15 minutes, until the stack is warmed through and the cheese on top is lovely and golden brown.

Serve with a salad. I just throw together whatever is in my fridge/cupboard – usually some green leaves, red pepper, red onion, cherry tomato and cucumber, with balsamic vinegar splashed over the top.

 

I hope you like these beefy little stacks just as much as we do.

Stay happy!

Alice x

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Mains

Sweet Potato with Coconut, Pomegranate and Lime

We absolutely love sweet potatoes in this household at the minute. They appear on our plates in all sorts of forms, from cakes, patties, wedges or chunks, to just simply baked, with delicious toppings such as in this sweet potato with pomegranate, coconut and lime recipe.

When I was on my way home after buying the ingredients for this, I took a little detour. I went trampling through the grass and trees, following rabbits and butterflies. It was a well-needed vacation for my mind, really. Without the comfortable feeling of familiarity, it have my mind space to breathe. It is really good to do this every now and again! I took some photos on my tablet while I was frolicking through the greenery.

After all the wondering around I did (check the pictures!), I’d worked up quite an appetite! In this meal, I was wanting to experiment with sweet and savoury flavours, something that I don’t do too often. So this is different to a lot of the food that I eat, but definitely something that I’m going to have again!

As me and Liam both love sweet potatoes, we always seem to have one kicking around in our cupboard. Like an emergency potato, or something. Usually emergency food isn’t the most nutritious, but sweet potatoes are! They contain a high level of beta-carotene that is required for making vitamin A, which is important for eye health and the immune system, and they also contain loads of dietary fibre, helping to slow digestion and steady our blood sugar levels.

Even though the sweet potato has a tremendously higher level of beta-carotene than the white potato, it is generally thought of as an overall healthier version of the bog-standard white potato. However, from what I have read, they seem to be pretty similar in carb and fat stats. I think the differences in healthiness of each really comes into play when to take into account what you eat with them. For example, with a white potato, you eat baked beans, cheese and coleslaw, while with a sweet potato you may have a dollop of soured cream, or due to their flavour you might just eat it on its own. Or… with coconut, pomegranate and lime? I thought so.

Just a little note: You may want a slightly smaller sweet potato than the smallest one Sainsbury’s had when I went shopping (pictured!). I was feeling rather defeated only half way through eating. If you can’t find a smaller one, just bake a large one for two people, or save the other half for lunch the next day (always a bonus when something can feed you for more than one meal!)

 

This is what you need:

Per Person:

1 Sweet potato (approx 250g)

2 tablespoons (full-fat) coconut milk

large pinch of coconut flakes

1/8 to 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (your personal preference)

1 teaspoon coriander leaves

1/4 lime

A pinch of sea salt

This is how you make it:

Preheat the oven to 210C (190 Fan) and bake your potato(es) for approx 45 minutes (although if they are as big as mine, you will need longer) until soft inside

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then make a slit in the centre and mash the potato slightly with a fork

Add coconut milk, then coconut flakes, pomegranate, and coriander. Squeeze the lime wedge over the potato, then season with a pinch of sea salt.

Enjoy!

Stay happy (Give your mind some space – get friendly with the grass and trees!)

Alice x

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Mains, Make-ahead

Mexican Bean Burgers

I risk sounding like a broken record, but I’ve been such a busy bee lately. I thought that putting that final citation in my overdue 18-month report would let me breathe a huge sigh of relief, but it brought the fear of my presentation, fear of the viva, and all the lab work that has been put back while I have been writing. I thought that my now-empty weekends would feel like I was frolicking through a beautiful meadow, letting the fresh smells of freedom waft up into my nostrils, but instead I’ve been overcome with the need to see my friends and family that I’ve neglected for months, and the guilt that I still can’t find the time for all of them (I don’t even have that many people to see!). I’m sat here on a Saturday in the lab office, waiting for my cells to do their thing so I can go home and try to cling on to the remainder of my spare time*.

I should have known a PhD would be like this. After all, Liam has been through it, and, along with many others, has tried to warn me of the pains of a PhD student. Somehow I thought it would be different, but no! I have not escaped. Oh well, only another 16 months to go.
At least I can go home and tuck into a tasty Mexican bean burger!

*spare time to worry about not finishing enough work for my PhD,  not having enough time to see my friends, and not having enough time to blog (obviously the most important…)

Fry!

Mash!

Mix!

Shape!

Liam found this recipe on the Delicious Magazine website when looking for something that would feel satisfying enough for a Saturday night to keep us from reaching for the takeaway menu. A vegetarian burger fits the bill perfectly! Anything between two layers of bread tends to go down well, but we tend to try and avoid a carb-heavy diet most of the time. I can make an exception for this Mexican bean burger though, as it is rammed with healthy pulses and delicious toppings.
The tins of mixed pulses I use contain chickpeas, soya beans , black eyed beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans and adzuki beans. There’s a load of fibre and protein packed into each burger, and when topped with red onion, spinach, avocado and jalapeños (our favourite!), makes a wonderfully nutritious meal. I love topping mine with soured cream too!
I eat these in the satisfying knowledge that I’ve got a good portion of soluble and insoluble fibre for the day in there, which is essential for healthy heart and bowel, respectively. Soluble fibre is thought to be effective at lowering our cholesterol levels, while insoluble fibre helps with regularity (if you know what I mean) and keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
Aswell as being super healthy, they are super easy and super handy, as they can be cooked from frozen for a lazy weeknight treat!

To make them, this is all you need:

1 tbsp oil for frying (e.g. rapeseed oil)

1 large red onion (I only had small, so I used 3), chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)

3 cans (400g) of mixed beans/pulses, rinsed and drained

2 slices of wholegrain bread

1/2 lime, juiced

1 medium free-range egg, beaten

1 handful pf coriander, chopped

To Make:

1. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.

2. Add the garlic, chilli, cumin, paprika, cayenne, chilli powder (if using) and cook for another few minutes

3. Take off the heat and let cool slightly. If you haven’t already, you can drain and rinse the mixed beans/pulses now.

4. Pop the cooked onion/garlic/chilli/spices in a bowl with the mixed beans/pulses, and mash. Mash until approximately half is mushed up, and half still resembles beans. This will give it a nice texture.

5. Whiz up the bread in a blender until it resembles breadcrumbs

6. Add the breadcrumbs, lime juice, egg and coriander and mix it until everything is combined.

7. Shape into burgers of equal size. The size I make mine, I always seem to come out with 9, but you can make this mixture into slightly more or less, depending on your needs.

Don’t they look so appetising?!

If you want to freeze some, place them uncovered on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and pop them in the freezer. When they are frozen, portion them out into freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months (mine never last this long though because they are too tasty).

To Cook:

Fresh: Chill the burgers for 30 minutes in the fridge. Heat 1 tbsp additional oil in a pan, and fry for a few minutes on each side, until golden-brown.

Frozen: Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C Fan). Place the frozen burgers on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover the tray with tin foil and cook for 30 minutes. I usually flip mine over half way through, too. (If you are cooking sweet potato fries too, put the fries in the oven 10 minutes before the burgers, at the same temperature, and flip them over every 10-15 minutes.)

To Serve:

Serve in a wholegrain bun with spinach, red onion, avocado and jalapenos, and top with soured cream. To make it even more tasty, serve with sweet potato fries (it is definitely worth it!)

Stay happy (these burgers are sure to make you!)

Alice x

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