This year I’m hosting guests for Christmas dinner for the first time ever. Last year was a bit of a dry-run; I cooked for just the two of us, but the meal was just one part in a melee of excitement about spending Christmas in our own home for the first time, a short break which punctuated drinking Prosecco & taking family photos with the cats in the morning and drinking Negronis & watching Goodfellas in the evening (a fine tradition that everybody should adopt)
This year though, guests. That means hosting, structure, and an exponential amount of Christmas leftovers. Luckily they’re all vegetarian, so I’m not going to have to find a plethora of things to do to the rest of the Turkey once everybody realises that Turkey is naff. If you do happen to have a load of it lingering in the fridge on Boxing Day though, feel free to shred it and use it in this recipe. You can also add any leftover bacon, lardons or chopped up Pigs in Blankets to the side dish, go wild. For me though, this is a totally vegan meal. Who knows, it might go some way to making us feel better after whatever new Christmas Day tradition & cocktail pairing…
Massaman Thai Curry is my old reliable pal on Thai menus – often I’ll go off-piste and order eye-watering Papaya Salads, Sour Sausage heavy on the fish-sauce, and gag-inducing Century Eggs (only once), but when I want a guarantee of something I’ll enjoy, my ordering-autopilot steers me straight to the Massaman. It’s also the most festive of curries, sweetened with Palm Sugar and warmed with traditional spices like cinnamon and star anise, it shares a lot of DNA with things like Mulled Wine and Mince Pies. Read more
Halloween season might be over, and while your jack-o-lantern might have started sagging to the point where it looks like a melted Donald Trump waxwork, pumpkins are here to stay. For a while anyway. In fact, for the next month or so supermarkets are going to be flooded with all variety of bulbous, misshapen squashes. It’s tempting to buy them all and turn your kitchen into a harvest festival-backdrop from your Nan’s charity calendar, but what can you actually do with them?
Soup, DUH. It’s the best thing to eat at this time of year; it’s pretty much cosiness in liquid form, and it’s perfect for using up all of the bits of veg that’s been lingering for the past two weeks while you’ve been put off cooking anything adventurous by mild onset SAD. Squashes have some kind of magical molecular make-up which means they’re the ideal base for a soup – cook until soft and blend them, and they turn into a beautiful creamy puree, without requiring any dairy or fat to emulsify them.
The trouble is, while a little bit of squash is just-so sweet in a pleasantly bland way, it doesn’t lend itself to sustained enjoyment, say, over the course of an entire bowl. Spoon after spoon of the same flavour and texture can turn into a test of endurance and determination. Miso and Pumpkin are often seen in the same dishes on Japanese menus – the fermented funk found in small doses of miso plays with the dull, deep sweetness of pumpkin and adds a layer of complexity to the flavour.
Being such a strong flavour, miso could easily overpower this dish if it was the only savoury element, so I’ve used 3 parts vegetable stock to 1 part miso to prevent this. Apart from that, the base of the soup is very traditionally british – onions, carrots, celery, and sweet potato – with some orange zest grated in towards the end of cooking to add brightness.
To introduce a bit of texture before serving, I topped the bowls of soup with translucent-thin slices of red onion and jalapeño which I’d pickled in the juice of that orange to sweeten that initial burn, and some crumbled salty cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds. This recipe makes about a 8-10 portions so you’ll be eating it for a while – feel free to get creative with the toppings and vary things up.
1 large, deseeded Pumpkin (or 2 tins of prepared Pumpkin)
2 Celery sticks
2 Sweet Potatoes
4 Cloves of Garlic
1 deseeded Red Chilli
Zest of 1 Orange
1 Thumb of Ginger, Grated
Gently heat a good glug of olive oil in a large saucepan or stock pan.
Add the crushed garlic and grated ginger and heat gently to release flavour into the oil, then stir in the miso paste until heated gently.
Add the water and stock and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add all of the vegetables, roughly chopped, and simmer for around 30-45 minutes (if you're using tinned pumpkin, leave this out until a later stage)
When the vegetables are tender, blitz with a food processor until everything's smooth, (if you're using tinned pumpkin, stir it in now) and add back to a gentle heat and grate in the zest of one orange.
Remove soup from the heat as soon as it begins to simmer.
Well Pumpkin Spiced Lattes are trending on Twitter, I guess that officially means it’s Autumn now. The BBQ I bought at the end of June is sitting in the cellar, optimistically assembled but unlicked by charcoal flame. The only thing it’s possibly been licked by is the cat that has decided to sleep in it occasionally, completely ignoring the handmade cat-yurt we bought them from Etsy.
Autumn means stews, soups and curries – reliable, comforting recipes to warm you up without abandoning all dignity and putting a onesie on, or having to get a Wonga loan out to fund a hours worth of central heating. Earlier this week I made my first stew-dish of the Autumn, an Indonesian Fish Curry from John Torode’s new book (Torode’s the one off Masterchef who didn’t get savaged by Charlie Brooker), and it ticks all the boxes for an Autumn and Winter warmer – a reassuring hug in a bowl, but with a lip-biting bit of spice, and it’s quick and easy enough to make and eat before the windows turn pitch black and you surrender to bed at 6:30pm.
Fry 3tbsp Red Curry Paste in a pan with 1tsp Paprika and 1tbsp Coconut oil. Stir in Half a tin of Coconut Milkand simmer for a few minutes. Add the other Half a tin of Coconut Milk and then half-fill the tin with Water and add that, then add Ten Kaffir Lime Leaves and simmer for a few more minutes. Add your fish to the curry sauce – I used 2 White Fish Fillets and a Handful of King Prawn – as well as Cherry tomatoes, a pinch of salt and the juice of a lime. Cover the pan and leave to cook for a few minutes.
Meanwhile add a handful of Beansprouts and a few stalks-worth of Mint leaves into bowls – when the fish is just cooked, spoon the curry into the bowls while it’s still piping hot – the residual heat will soften but not overcook the beansprouts, and release the flavour from the mint leaves.
I guess Autumn isn’t all that bad if having to put up with a few dreary mornings and manky leaves on the pavement means getting to eat this kind of thing several times a week. And it won’t be long until Greggs bring back the Festive Bake…
This one’s a very quick one, but I thought it was worth posting as it’s taken me ages to put together a recipe that works for me. I’ve tried dozens without much success – the fritters either don’t bind properly, they’re too wet, too dry, or just not the right consistency. The trick is to use egg and polenta or cornstarch as a glue to hold everything together, and to not be shy when it comes to the amount of oil you fry them in so they caramelise on the outside a little – so use something healthier like Coconut Oil.
This is a good for using up leftovers as they can be padded out with finely sliced greens or whatever vegetables need using up – like a fancy bubble and squeak. If you’re a gannet like us though and leftovers are a rare sighting in your house, it’s worth deliberately making too much sweet potato for tea one night, and then keeping it to make these for brunch or as a side with your tea Read more
Hey guys, are you sat down comfortably? Good, because I’m about to drop a couple of universal-truth bombs on you:
1. Chicken Wings, when made well, are one of the greatest, most fun things you can eat – no question about it.
2. Chicken Wings, when made at home, are an unequivocal disaster of poor seasoning, flabby skin and questionable wet meat.
To make them properly you need a decent quality of chicken that supermarkets generally don’t provide, maybe a smoker if you want to get really fancy, and an industrial-grade deep-fryer to crisp that skin up just right and make it taught against the meat – if the oil’s not hot enough then they end up half-fried, half-confit, and all bogus.
Bearing in mind all of these obstacles, you might want to consider a different vehicle for transferring hot sauce from a plate to your mouth – that’s where cauliflower comes in. Cauliflower is getting a lot of Buzzfeed/Pinterest love recently for its versatility as a replacement for various things – rice, flour, pizza bases etc – and it also happens to do a much better chicken impression than any of the Bluth family.Read more
I’d been working on this Vegan Shepherd’s Pie recipe for a few weeks, ever since my fiancee decided that she was going to be a vegetarian again, which, in the wise words of Jules from Pulp Fiction, pretty much makes me one too. Since that decision was made for me, I’ve been trying to find/create meat-free, vegetable and pulse-heavy recipes which are enjoyable to eat rather than comparable to self-flagellation (self…flageolation?)
As unlikely as it sounds, a handful of my friends have “strict ethics” and “a moral code” (whatever that is) which stipulates that they don’t eat meat either, so when they came round for Sunday lunch last week I couldn’t rely on my foolproof hosting method of cooking a big cheap cut of Beef or Lamb until it becomes delicious – so this recipe was my go-to.This was the second or third attempt at it and the one that I was most happy with – the combination of mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and flageolet beans gives a satisfying hearty sense of substance with an umami flavour that gives lamb a run for its money, and the smashed root veg topping is a lot more interesting than regular mashed potato. Read more