butternut squash curry
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Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

This has been a great couple of weeks for festivities. Diwali, Halloween, Day of the Dead last week, and Guy Fawkes coming up. It certainly takes the bite out of the impending Winter!

I always like to celebrate anything like this with food if I can, hey, I don’t need an excuse I know, even if it’s just for me, or, better again with friends. Last week was busy but I did sneak in a dish that would in some way cover Diwali and Halloween, well, kind of.

Diwali being a Hindu festival is all about vegetarian food, particularly curry, snacks and sweets. As for Halloween, well, Halloween is about spooks and scary things, but also pumpkins, so I thought, why not make a veggie curry with pumpkin in? Or, in this case, butternut squash.

I had an ulterior motive, I felt I needed a few veggie days, or veggie meals at least. I usually have quite a balanced diet but lately I’ve been buying lunch out alot more than usual, and as I work so near to delicious Brindisa, my diet has been leaning heavily on the meat side. So, beans, veg, tomato and coconut seemed like a good alternative to a chorizo stew!

It’s very easy and very light. I made this on a weekday evening and it was absolutely manageable. The measurements are loose as always, feel free to experiment, it’s more about the spices and the flavours in the sauce. I used a small butternut squash about 6-8 inches high. The spice blend is very basic. I just used what I had in my cupboard. It works, though!

This will serve 4. I served it with steamed basmati rice. It keeps well, indeed like most tomato based dishes, tastes better the next day.[Read more]

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Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Buffalo Ricotta

I wasn’t going to blog this dish. As I keep saying, and I am sure it’s getting dull by now, my cooking lately has been haphazard, last minute and subject to me destroying pots and sustaining injuries. This is fairly normal behaviour, certainly on the injury front, but you know you’re cooking too late when you put some rice and lentils on the hob and then walk away like it never happened, wondering 10 minutes later, what is that burning smell? Sheesh.

Worry not, I have been eating well, and I am certainly not fading away. I am completely spoiled for choice at lunchtime, from Brindisa stews and sandwiches, to Moro’s spiced lamb, Sporeboys risotto, Gujarati Rasoi’s wonderful veggie curries and Ginnan’s chicken katsu curry. That’s but the tip of what’s available in Exmouth Market. The evenings are another story, they have been busy, and I am not complaining, it’s good to be busy, but I have been missing those stolen kitchen hours here and there poking in cupboards and making something new.

So, to rectify, and also in an attempt to fight the descent of a cold, I did some cooking last week, a little not a lot. Just some quick lunches and salads with some very fresh colourful food in. Salads with peashoots and enormous heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins for tis the season, and some random dishes created from what I’ve been stashing in the fridge and cupboard over the last few weeks. Last night I made one such dish and it was really nice. I decided not to post it though as I took a photo in passing, and it was crap, and I wasn’t much in the mood for styling.

MY! What a long rambling story. I am gettting there, promise!

So, I sat down to eat it, and I thought, this tastes nice! The creamy orzo played nicely with the sweet and caramelised butternut squash and the crispy sage taunted all of it with it’s butteriness. It was lovely! And I ate lots.

So, how do you create this wonder of a random dish? The quantities are flexible and I would encourage you to experiment. I fried an eschalion shallot and one clove of garlic, finely chopped, 2 slices of pancetta and 200g peeled and diced butternut squash for about 7-8 minutes until the butternut squash is cooked.  Add 2 tablespoons of ricotta, I used buffalo but cows is fine. Then add a few handfuls of washed and chopped spinach and 100g of cooked orzo (cooked according to packet instructions) and cook until the orzo is warmed through and the spinach cooked but still bright green. To crown it, shred and fry some sage in butter, and when crispy, stir through and serve.If I had them toasted pine nuts would have been a lovely addition.

This eats well hot or cold. Enjoy!

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Leftovers on toast

Leftovers on toast

Leftovers on toast

Wandering home weary after a long day, the thought of the kitchen can be quite dispiriting. Even for me, a person who loves spending time in that room eating and playing with ingredients. Today was one of the very rare days that I just didn’t have the energy and after a long day in the office, I was only fit for laziness, so, I invested in a block of nice goats cheese and some red wine, and on my journey home I resigned myself to a pleasant end of evening tucking into both.

But then, I got home, and on opening the fridge remembered something I threw together yesterday and had a bowl of stored in the fridge: a very quick pancetta, chorizo, chickpea and spinach stew. Ridiculously easy and quick, I sauteed about 60g each of pancetta and chorizo, added half a tin of chickpeas, and a couple of handfuls of spinach at the end. The joy when I spied that bowl, all I did was reheat it with a little cream for moisture and luxury and ate it on a couple of slices of toasted ciabatta. Toast! Ah toast. Really, there’s some days that you really can’t beat it and today is one for me.

I’m happy now. And I’m tucking into that cheese with a glass of that nice red wine :)

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Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach

Yum scrum! Spiced chickpeas with spinach. The humble chickpea, small and nutty, packed full of protein and fibre. So tasty and cheap, I bow before thee. I first had chickpeas in a youth hostel in Rome many years ago, at the tender age of 19. A fellow youthful traveller was eating them out of a tin that he had hacked open with a swiss army knife, I was curious and had to try. I’ve never looked back.

I love chickpeas, whether they are in dips, stews or curries. In salads with cheeses, herbs and tomatoes. I like them baked as a snack or spiced in a pitta. Like all pulses, it is worth making the effort soaking dried ones over night and cooking them until tender, if reasonably fresh, usually for an hour or so. There’s no comparison for me between dried and tinned – the texture of those cooked from dried is so much better, firm to the bite, rich in flavour and not waterlogged like tinned.

Earlier this week, I soaked and cooked off a big bag of dried chickpeas, and, for that evening, spiced about 2 tins worth with spinach and froze the rest. It’s a quick dish with tasty results. This will serve 4 and is good served stuffed in toasted pitta bread. [Read more]