Sweet potato gratin

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Sweet potato gratin
(serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish)

1 large sweet potato
1 red onions
75g feta
1 red chilli
250ml vegetable stock
2 heaped tsp dried thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2. Peel the sweet potato and the onions and slice them on the thinnest setting on a mandoline. De-seed and chop the chilli as finely as you can.

3. Place a layer of sweet potato on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with a thin layer of onions and sprinkle on a little bit of crumbled feta and chilli. Continue to layer up the ingredients, finishing with a layer of sweet potato on the top, but reserving some feta.

4. Stir the dried thyme into the hot vegetable stock and pour over the gratin. You don’t want to much liquid, just enough to cook and steam the potato, so you might not need all the stock.

5. Bake for 20 minutes before adding the remaining feta and cooking for a further 5-10 minutes.

 

Winter Warmers

Spring is definitely on the way here in Yorkshire, but there is still a chill in the air and it’s nice to spend cosy evenings with the heating on enjoying being indoors. Here are a couple of suggestions for hearty treats.

Leek and Potato crumble (serves 2)

1 large onion
3 leeks
2 medium potatoes
150ml milk
75g butter
125g plain flour
30g cheddar cheese
1 tsp paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Slice the onions and leeks. Peel the potatoes and dice into small cubes.

3. Put in a pan with the milk and 25g butter. Cook over a medium heat, stirring until the butter melts. Cover and allow to cook until the veg is softened.

4. Blend 25g flour with 4tbsp cold water and stir into the veg. Cook for 3 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season as needed.

5. Meanwhile dice 50g butter and rub into 100g flour to make crumbs. Mix in the cheddar and paprika.

6. Tip the vegetable base into an ovenproof dish and top with the crumble. Cook in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until the crumble is golden brown.

Hot buttered Rum (serves 2)

My Dad and his partner bought me some little bottles of Rum back from their recent Caribbean cruise and I wanted to try doing something different with them.

25g butter
3tsp soft brown sugar
Orange peel (use a potato peeler to cut a few long strips of peel)
100ml Rum, spiced rum works particularly well.
2 cinnamon sticks
300ml boiling water

1. Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan with a strip of orange peel.

2. Stir in the Rum and boiling water.

3. Serve with the cinnamon stick to garnish.

Vegetarian Jambalaya

This is a really tasty recipe that’s easy to throw together and full of big flavours.

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Veggie Jambalaya (serves 4)

1 finely chopped onion
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
2 celery sticks, finely diced
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
A splash of oil
350g long grain rice
1 tsp chilli powder
3 heaped tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
900ml vegetable stock

Optional but recommended
Some diced sweet potato or butternut squash
One tin of red kidney beans, drained

1. Heat a splash of oil and cook the onion, garlic, pepper, celery and chilli in a frying pan. Cook for around 5 minutes until softened.

2. Add the rice to the frying pan, along with chilli powder and tomato purée and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add the dried thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper and the stock. Add the diced Squash/sweet potato and red kidney beans. Bring to the boil.

4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes with the pan lid on. Stir occasionally.

2017 so far – the year of Chocolate?

The start of 2017 came with a trip to London to see the stage show Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I also indulged my sweet tooth with a trip to Fortnum and Mason for cream puffs (expensive but amazing!), a Baileys Hot Chocolate on the Carousel Bar at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and a Red Velvet cupcake from the Primrose Bakery.

(I forgot to take a picture of the cupcake, but I DID take a picture of the delicious Bermondsey Porter Cake that I had from Peyton and Byrne when we popped back to London to see The Lion King a month later.)

On returning to Yorkshire, I went with some friends to see The Witches in Leeds.

I was feeling inspired to work on some sweets of my own (not ones laced with Formula 86 or with the ability to transform you into a blueberry!) and, luckily, for Christmas I received a copy of Hope and Greenwood’s Sweets Made Simple. I decided to have a go at English Almond Butter Toffee. I’ll definitely make this again. It was a bit of a challenge, but it was so tasty and moreish.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne

When you have a food blog, you want to add recipes that are delicious, but they also need to look good in a photograph too. I’m not the best photographer (and when I’ve made something I generally just want to get on with eating it, not spending ages photographing it!). I’ve also found that some dishes just don’t look great. This recipe is one that is tasty, but just not pretty to look at.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne (serves 2-3)

1/2 large butternut squash, chopped into 1cm cubes
2 small onions, chopped into 2cm chunks
Olive oil
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tsp Italian dried mixed Herbs
150g Spinach (I often use frozen)
100g butter
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
100g plain flour
Ground black pepper
650ml of milk
10 lasagne sheets (fresh is good if you want it to cook quickly, but dried sheets are fine if you don’t mind waiting longer for your lasagne to cook)
50g vegetarian Parmesan style cheese

1. Preheat oven to 200°C.

2. Roast the Butternut Squash and onion, drizzled with oil, in the oven for 25 minutes until cooked through.

3. Heat the tomatoes, herbs and spinach together in a pan to make a rustic sort of tomato sauce. Stir in the butternut squash and onion.

4. Make the white sauce by melting the butter with the sage leaves. Add the flour and the ground pepper, to taste, and whisk to form a smooth paste. Allow to cook for a further minute. Slowly add the milk a splash at a time, whisking into combine before adding more milk. Put the sauce to one side.

5. Assemble the lasagne by layering the sheets of pasta, tomato sauce and the white sauce. Top the lasagne with the vegetarian parmesan.

6. Bake for 25 minutes if using fresh lasagne sheets, or around 45 minutes if you are using dried pasta.

I’ve also found that I can make an allergy friendly version of the white sauce using dairy free spread (Vitalite), gluten free plain flour and a milk substitute (Koko). In this instance I would also use dairy free cheese instead of the vegetarian parmesan.

Baileys Popcorn

This is a grown up popcorn, ideal for a party or a film night with the girls.

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Baileys Caramel Popcorn

125g popcorn, unpopped
Frylight cooking spray
100g caster sugar
50g liquid glucose
100g butter
120ml Baileys
2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

1. Start by popping the popcorn. I store my unpopped corn in the freezer as I read somewhere that this makes the fluffiest popcorn. It also seems to help with making sure as many kernels pop as possible. I pop my popcorn in a lidded glass bowl in the microwave. I spray Frylight over the kernels, cover with the lid and set the microwave for 2 minutes. If the popping hasn’t slowed down by the time the microwave pings, I add another 30 seconds, and keep doing this until most of the kernels look to have popped.

2. Spread out the popcorn in a single on a large baking tray or trays. I use a silicone sheet instead of baking paper or foil here to line the baking tray, like the sort you can use to line the bottom of your oven. You can then start preparing the caramel coating. In a pan, gently heat the sugar, butter and liquid glucose, stirring until it combines and the butter is melted. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the temperature up and heat for 2 minutes. The mixture will become a caramel colour. Keep an eye on it but don’t stir it.

3. Add the Baileys, watch out in case it spits when you tip it in. Mix thoroughly to combine, it may take awhile for the caramel and Baileys to combine to a smooth consisteny, and keep on the heat for 2 more minutes.

4. Remove from the heat. Add the Bicarbonate of Soda. The mixture will fizz up, give it a good stir to mix it thoroughly. Tip it over the popcorn and mix the popcorn around with a spoon to make sure it is all coated. This will take a few minutes to get an even coverage.

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5. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Bake the popcorn for 20 minutes until the caramel has just started to crisp up. It will take on a deeper brown colour on baking. Allow to cool before serving.

Love is … Chocolate Chilli mug cake

Mug cakes cooked in the microwave were really popular last year, which I found amusing as we’ve made cakes in the microwave at our house from being children. My sister’s favourite was chocolate sponge, mine was golden syrup sponge. I thought I’d update the flavourings with something she likes as an adult; chocolate and chilli.

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Chocolate and Chilli Microwave Mug Cake (serves 1)

30g chocolate
25g butter
1 tsp chipotle Chilli powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
5 tbsp self raising flour

1. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave in a large mug, heating slowly and stopping to stir frequently, so the chocolate doesn’t burn.

2. Mix in the remaining ingredients, stirring well.

3. Microwave for 1.5 minutes.