Polenta with Cavolo Nero, Spaghetti Squash, Parmesan and Sundried Tomatoes

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I stumbled across spaghetti squash the other day and thought it would be fun to create a recipe around it. Spaghetti squash lives up to it’s name in that once you have roasted it (I simply cut it in half length ways then added a dash of olive oil and salt and pepper) you use a fork to scoop out the flesh and it comes out looking like little spaghetti strands. You could easily substitute it for spaghetti in fact, although it tastes like squash and not pasta. Please note when you cut into the raw spaghetti squash it is slightly harder than your regular squash so do be careful when handling the knife.

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A great friend was coming over for lunch so I wanted to cook something straightforward, comforting and easy to assemble. The squash takes about 40 minutes in the oven, but does not need any attending to once it is in the oven. I opted for polenta (bramata) which takes a couple of minutes max to whip together. Any form of greens is always a great addition to any meal so I opted for cavolo nero, but you could easily use spinach, green cabbage, shard. I took a photo of all the ingredients but once I had thrown the dish together I realised it needed a splash of colour and one other flavour to bring it all together. So I opted for some sundried tomatoes, which completely lifted the whole dish. Also in my haste to photograph and then devour the meal, I completely forgot to place the crispy sage leaves on the top, so if you can try to remember to do this bit.

The dish came together so well and is perfect for this time of year, when the days are crisp and you come in from the cold. When you make the dish, photograph it and then use the #chilliandmint so I can see your efforts.

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Polenta with Cav0lo Nero, Spaghetti Squash, Parmesan and Sundried Tomatoes

serves 2

1 spaghetti squash, halved

500ml water

145g polenta bramata (course cornmeal)

45g parmesan, finely grated

25ml single cream (optional)

45g butter

4 cavolo nero leaves, finely chopped

salt

pepper

8 fresh sage leaves

3 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped

  1. Carefully cut the squash in two and place on a baking tray with a little olive oil and seasoning. Place an oven at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.
  2. Whilst the squash is in the oven, add a little olive oil to a pan and when it is hot add the sage leaves and allow to crisp up, which should take around a minute. Remove and place on kitchen paper.
  3. Wash the cavalo nero leaves and finely chop. Heat a pan and place them in the pan for a couple of minutes to allow them to wilt. Remove from the heat and place to one side.
  4. Once the squash is cooked (40 minutes) remove from an oven and using a fork take the flesh out of the squash. It will come away in strands giving it the name ‘spaghetti squash’.
  5. Roughly chop the sundried tomatoes and have the parmesan grated and ready to use.
  6. Boil the water in a deep pan and when it is boiling gradually pour in the polenta stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.
  7. Immediately add the parmesan, single cream (if using), butter, salt pepper to taste and stir. *
  8. To plate up place a generous portion of polenta on a plate then add some cavolo nero and place it in the centre followed by the spaghetti squash, a little parmesan, sundried tomatoes and the crispy sage**.

 

* The longer you heat polenta the harder it will become so take off the heat at the consistency you desire. Personally I prefer my softer.

**After the excitement of platting up and photographing the dish I dived into eat it, only remembering once I had eaten it that I had forgotten to put on the crispy sage.

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Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

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I often think that cauliflower gets a little overlooked as a vegetable, unlike its more ‘superfood’ cousin, the broccoli. Boiling it can be bland, like most things, but roast it and add a little spice and textures then you have a truly delicious treat. I wrote a piece a few years ago on the merits of the humble cauliflower here so do check it out.

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This recipe is quick, extremely tasty (ok I know I am biased), full of goodness and great as a lunch to take to work in a tupperware or as an evening meal. It can be eaten hot or cold so is hugely versatile. A slight chill is now in the air in London, although I am still hopeful for an Indian summer, so the warming cumin and cinnamon gives the dish autumnal comforting notes. The sweetness come from the cinnamon and the saltiness from the feta so no extra salt is necessary.

Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

serves 2 or 4 if serving with another dish 

1 cauliflower, chopped into florets and greenery removed

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

30g pine nuts, toasted

30g raisins or sultanas

1 small handful of fresh coriander

30g feta, crumbled

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (if using fan). In a large mixing bowl add the cauliflower florets and add the cumin and cinnamon powder along with the extra virgin olive oil. Mix gently with your hands so that the florets are evenly coated.
  2. Place on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes, so that the edges are nicely charred.
  3. Meanwhile heat a heavy frying pan and toast the pine nuts so that they begin to bronze. They bronze quickly so keep an eye on this. Add the raisins/sultanas to warm them and allow them to become soft. Place to one side in a bowl.
  4. Once the cauliflower is cooked add to a new mixing bowl and add the pine nuts, sultanas, coriander and crumbled feta. Toss gently and either plate up or leave to cool before adding to your lunch container.

I have also made this with prunes instead of raisins/sultanas, which works really well. Dates would also be another option.

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Coconut Infused Corn on the Cob with Cumin and Black Mustard Seeds

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Corn on the cob is one of those things that represents the beginning of Autumn for me, although this year we seem to be having a late Indian summer, which is a little bit surreal as the conkers are already falling from the horse chestnut trees. After the rains of last night the air remains warm and humid, the birds are singing and it almost feels like Asia. Whilst I love the traditional way of eating corn on the cob – with lots of butter and maybe a pinch of paprika and a squeeze of lime, I do rather like my Indian version, which makes a refreshing change.

 

 

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If you are using fresh corn on the cob it is hard, but not impossible, to cut through the cob to make 3 or 4 smaller pieces. Use a sharp knife and press down firmly. Once you have made an inroad into cutting it you will find that you can simply break off the section. Equally if you want to cook this dish all year round – which I do – you can use frozen sweetcorn which you can buy already chopped up into smaller pieces, which makes it a lot easier and even quicker.

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If you are having an Indian feast why not cook this dish alongside my laal maas or bengali chicken curry or perhaps bengali mustard fish curry or aubergine, peanut and tomato curry as well as a satisfying dal and perhaps some Indian greens. Equally if you are wanting a quick and light supper then this dish and a dal or vegetable curry would be perfect.

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Coconut Infused Corn on the Cob with Cumin and Black Mustard Seeds

Serves 4

1kg frozen mini corn cobs or fresh corn on the cob chopped into smaller pieces

160ml coconut milk

1 tsp salt

2 dried red chillies, broken into smaller pieces

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 fresh green chilli

1/2 juice of fresh lime

1 handful of freshly chopped coriander/cilantro leaves

1. On a medium heat place the sweet corn pieces, coconut milk, salt and dried red chillies in a large pan and place the lid on. If you are using frozen sweetcorn cook for 3 minutes and if you are using fresh cook for 10 minutes. Stir at intervals so that the sweetcorn pieces are nicely covered with coconut milk.

2. Meanwhile in a separate pan heat the oil and then add the cumin and black mustard seeds. Once they begin to pop after 20 seconds add the contents of the pan to the larger pan with the sweetcorn. Stir well.

3. Add the fresh green chilli, fresh coriander and lime juice and let simmer for a further 4 minutes with the lid off so that the coconut milk reduces slightly.

4. Serve immediately and pour the remaining liquid over the cob pieces so they soak up all the delicious flavours.


Embracing Autumn and Chutney Making

Autumn has definitely arrived here in England and I for one LOVE the season.

10 reasons to embrace autumn:

1) The dramatic burnt orange, golden and red leaves on the trees is breathtakingly beautiful and it always manages to impress me with its vibrant hue.

2) Kicking the crisp fallen leaves as you walk gives us all – old and young alike – that inner thrill.

3) Roaring fires to warm up by whilst drinking hot chocolate or warm apple cider.

4) Big warm jumpers to keep us roasty toasty. Everyone looks great in autumn fashion.

5) Harvest Festival, Bonfire Night, Halloween and everything that is associated with them.

6) Hearty comfort food such as casserole, stews and soups become regular staples.

7) The smell of woodsmoke – it has to be one of my all time favourite smells.

8) Foraging for blackberries, crab apples, rose hips, elderberries

9) Eating all the foods that are now in season: the above as well as, apples (cox, gala, spartan, egremont, russet), celery, endive, mussels, kale, fennel, spinach, beans, leeks, beetroot, swede, pumpkin, spring onions, carrots, turnips, cauliflower, squash cabbage (autumn, red, spring green, winter white and savoy), marrow, potatoes and parsnips

10) Making chutneys, pickles and preserves.

What do you like most about autumn? Don’t be shy, leave a message below.

Photo sourced by PicoCool 

Last year I cooked a huge batch of Kashmir chutney and sweet piccalill which made great little christmas gifts and recently I decided to make some pickled peach and chilli chutney. They were selling huge batches of peaches at the market so I thought that they would be perfect for this chutney. I tend to make double the portions of the amounts below as they last for up to 6 months so are easy to keep and store.

Pickled Peach and Chilli Chutney

Sourced from the Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew

Makes about 450g/1lb

475ml cups cider vinegar

275g light brown muscovado sugar

225g dried pitted dates, finely chopped

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground mace

450g ripe peaches, stoned and cut into small pieces

3 onions, thinly sliced

4 fresh red chillies, seeded and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

5cm/2inches fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 tsp salt

1.  In a large pan place the vinegar, dates, sugar, allspice and mace and gently heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Bring to the boil and then add the peaches, sliced onion, chopped chillies, crushed garlic, grated ginger and salt continuing to stir occasionally.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes – by which time the chutney should have thickened.

4. Spoon the hot chutney in steralised jars – either by boiling them in water first or putting them in the dishwasher. I place a waxed disc on top – waxed side down and then place the lid on top.

You need to store them in a cool, dark place where the chutney can mature for at least 2 weeks before eating. They will last up to 6 months.

Another great way to eat the chutney is with grilled chicken served in warm wraps or with ricotta or goats cheese and some crusty bread.

Taken just after point 2) above and before it has been cooking for 40-50 mins


Stuffed Tomatoes, but no stew!

Autumn is definitely here, although we had a few false starts over the last couple of weeks. The bronzed autumn leaves are scattered all over the grass and the winds are definitely picking up, a cold chill is certainly in the air. The deer in Richmond park have started rutting, which is always a sign that autumn has arrived. So it’s time for the winter coats to be dug out of the closet, dear readers, and the scarves to make an appearance.

With the new season brings a host of new and exciting produce to our tables. Root vegetables, greens, game, and fruits such as succulent figs. Its comfort food time, stews and casseroles and filling soups – I am getting excited thinking about the culinary possibilities in the months ahead.  So let us go forth and seek out the autumn offerings.  I hope to inspire and motivate you all into cooking some recipes you may have not tried before, that will warm your cockles and lift your spirits as the nights draw in.

This recipe is perfect for a light autumn supper or lunch and can be found in Clarissa Dickson Wright’s ‘Potty! Clarissa’s One Pot Cookbook’. It’s warming and hearty and if you omit the anchovy fillets then it is ideal also for all you vegetarians and vegans out there. It can be eaten on its own or with a piece of grilled fish on the side or in my case I ate it with some asparagus and melted butter!

Stuffed Tomatoes 

sourced from Clarissa Dickson Wright – ‘Potty! Clarissa’s One Pot Cookbook’

Serves 4

8 large tomatoes

125g couscous

1 tbsp olive oil

100g stale country loaf

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

bunch of spring onions, finely chopped

60g anchovy fillets in olive oil, mashed (optional)

30 g sultanas

handful of chopped parsley

1. Add boiling water to the couscous, as instructed on the packet. I normally use standard couscous, but for a change I used giant couscous and it worked a treat.  When it is ‘cooked’, if you are using normal sized couscous, add one tablespoon of olive oil to the couscous and stir it in with a fork to loosen it up.

2. Heat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade (170 degrees centigrade for a fan oven), or gas mark 5. Slice the ‘lid’ off the tomatoes and scoop out the interior and then mix the pips and juice into the couscous. Sprinkle a little salt into each tomato set them upside down to drain.

3. Crumble the bread (I use a hand whisk) and mix it with the couscous along with the chopped spring onions, garlic, anchovies (if using), sultanas and parsley.

Season to taste and then stuff your tomatoes and remember to place the lid back onto your tomatoes.

4. Place in a lightly oiled oven proof dish in the oven for 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

ps: for the really observant amongst you, I have intentionally only used 6 and not 8 (as the recipe states) tomatoes. I was feeding two adults and two children so thought 8 might be pushing it a little!