Shakshuka and Visiting the Dead Sea area of Israel

Our final leg of our Israel trip was to visit the Dead Sea. You can do a day trip from Jerusalem, but we felt it deserved more than a passing glance, besides there was quite a lot to see in the area.

We stayed on the Ein Gedi Kibbutz, which is located on the western shore of the Dead Sea, at the edge of the Judean desert. It was founded in 1953 with its primary focus on agriculture and tourism. The kibbutz is all lush and green owing to a natural water source that runs under it, but the neighbouring area is barren and desolate. There is a hotel within the kibbutz – but we stayed in an apartment at the top of Zahava’s house, who has lived on the kibbutz, with her husband, for over 30 years.

We booked through Airbnb, so it’s easy to find if you fancy going. She and her husband were wonderful hosts, who made us feel right at home. As it was an B&B, Zahava would arrive each morning with a huge tray of delicious food that set us up for the day. We ate on the veranda before the weather got too hot, overlooking the dead sea and Masada in the distance.

As we were based on the Kibbutz we also had all the facilities available to us – pools, tennis courts, running track, supermarket, as well as a restaurant in the hotel. (Its important to note that the Ein Gedi spa by the edge of the Dead Sea – is not located in the Ein Gedi Kibbutz or hotel, but nearby) One evening we also ate in the kibbutz part of the complex, which you would not be able to do if you were simply staying in the hotel. The calm rhythm of the kibbutz dictated out days. In the morning we would head out and explore and then come back and relax in the afternoon before a late afternoon hike in a wadi. The kibbutz is within the En Gedi Nature Reserve, where there are some truly phenomenal hikes.

It’s super hot here as it is the lowest part of the earth, so as well as carrying a lot of water, I also carry an umbrella and wear a swimming costume so that I can soak in every waterfall and pool we pass. Walking in 40 degrees, requires soaking in cold water as often as possible.

The wildlife is also pretty special here. There are a some venomous snakes – I only saw one at night on the perimeter of the Kibbutz, so it’s advisable to wear covered shoes when you are on the hikes.

We also saw lots of Nubian ibex – desert dwelling goats – clambering around precariously upon the slopes of the wadi. You need to be aware of sudden rock fall if they are climbing above you.

Historically the area is fascinating with huge swaths of tourists visiting spectacular Masada. Herod the Great built a large fortress on the plateau as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. He erected two palaces there between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Jewish Roman historian – Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, ended in the mass suicide of 960 people (the Sicarii rebels and their families) hiding there.

The fortress is huge and had impressive ways of redirecting and saving fresh water at the fort, along with swimming pools, cold pools and spas. The mosaics found by archeologist are beautifully intact.

To reach this city you can either take the snake path before sunrise or else use the cable car. It’s one of Israel’s most popular sights but as we were in one of the first cable cars of the morning we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

The other great magnet of the area is the Dead Sea itself due to its medicinal qualities. Sadly the sea has dramatically shrunk in recent years causing great concern. You can read more about this here.

When you go to the Ein Gedi spa you now have to get on a little train pulled by a tractor from the spa to the waters edge. In the 1980’s the water was right up by the spa itself.  Despite the notion that it is impossible to drown in the dead sea, this is a myth and there have been cases of people drowning. You need to keep on your back, not your front, and don’t attempt to swim.

Due to the high salinity, the water feels very heavy, kind of like bathing in salty olive oil,  so if you are on your front you can find it hard to turn on your back. It feels oily and you want to make sure you don’t get any water in your eyes or mouths. Thankfully the showers are in on the edge of the sea so that you can immediately wash the salty water off you as you get out. The medical qualities of the dead sea mud are also well known so make sure you slather yourself in mud (this is back at the spa itself) and then wait for it to dry before showering if off. Your skin will be glowing and you will be feeling pretty radiant.

The other must-see in the area is over in the West Bank – The Dead Sea Scrolls or the Qumran Cave Scrolls. It’s about 30 minutes from Ein Gedi Reserve and a good place to stop on your way back to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. There is an interesting museum there and you can hike all over the area, although those we saw hiking here had ropes and proper equipment so perhaps only for serious climbers.  The scrolls, which are ancient religious writings, were found by a shepherd in the 1940’s in 11 caves near the site of Qumram. You can see some of the caves in the photograph above.

 

I am going to leave you with a classic Israeli dish that is found throughout the Levant. Shakshuka is a delicious breakfast dish – although of course you can eat it at any time of day. It is basically poached eggs in a spiced tomato sauce with crumbled feta and parsley or coriander sprinkled on top. Everyone has their version but this is mine. It’s a big hit in my house and is super straight forward and easy to execute. Perfect for a filling breakfast before school/work as it takes 15 minutes to make from start to finish.

Shakshuka

serves 4-5

2 tbsp oil

1 white onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 sweet red pepper (these are the long ones, but bell peppers are also good), sliced lengthways and then finely sliced crossways

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp smoked paprika powder

1 tsp salt

1x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, chopped in the pan

3 large fresh tomatoes, finely diced

50ml water

4 eggs (or 5/6 depending on how many you are feeding)

To serve

1 handful of crumbles feta

1 handful of fresh coriander

 

  1. Heat a deep frying pan and add the oil.
  2. When hot, add the onions followed by the garlic and gently heat. After a couple of minutes, add the pepper, salt and spices. Move around the pan to soften for a further couple of minutes.
  3. Add both the tinned and fresh tomatoes and stir in well.
  4. Add the water and simmer to allow all the ingredients to soften and infuse. Leave for 8 minutes so that it thickens.
  5. Make a hole in the mixture and break an egg into this hole. Repeat, leaving a good gap between each egg.
  6. Place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer on a moderate-low heat for 3-5 minutes, by which time the eggs should be cooked but still soft. Leave for longer and increase the heat if they have not cooked sufficiently.
  7. Just before serving, scatter the feta cheese and fresh coriander. Spoon onto plates with some flatbread or sourdough to mop.

 

 

 

 

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Simple Egg Curry

Oh boy it’s hot in the UK (whole of Europe in fact). I am literally melting.  It’s giving me good practice however, for when I go to the Dead Sea in a few weeks and temperatures there are in the 40’s. I seem to be downing gallons of my delicately spiced watermelon gazpacho – and fresh cold salads, but cold food aside, I do love to eat hot food too and my egg curry is the perfect simple dish to make for an evening meal. I have a couple of other egg curries on my blog – a Bengali egg curry – very similar to this one but with less spices, and a Sri Lankan egg curry. I adore egg and probably eat one most days, either for breakfast or lunch. This is a nice alternative paired with some rice or flat bread.

Whilst I was staying with friends in the countryside last week I cooked them an Indian vegetarian supper and the egg curry went down a treat. I accompanied it with marrow dal, Sri Lankan beetroot curry and a potato and cabbage curry – something similar to this.

Right I’m off for an iced coffee. Stay cool folks, factor up and wear a large hat.

 

 

Indian Egg Curry

9 boiled eggs, shells removed

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 white onion, blended into a puree

1 tbsp garlic ginger paste

4 large tomatoes, blended into a puree (or you can use pasata/blended tinned tomatoes)

2 bay leaves

4 cloves

1 piece of cinnamon bark

3 green cardamom

1/2 (half) tsp turmeric powder

1/2 garam masala

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

50ml water

1 tsp salt, to taste

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

 

  1. Using a hand blender, first blend the onion into a smooth puree and then place in a bowl. Repeat with the tomatoes placing in a separate bowl.
  2. In a pan, add a little oil, and gently bronze the hard boiled eggs then place to one side. Be careful that the oil does not spit. Keep on a low heat.
  3. In the pan that the eggs were in add a little more oil if needed and bronze the onion puree. This takes about 10 minutes. Move it around the pan from time to time so that it does not burn.
  4. Once the onion has bronzed, make a little space, add a little more oil and add the garlic ginger paste. Move around the pan and then add the cloves, green cardamom, bay leaves, turmeric powder and cinnamon bark.
  5. Add the puree tomato and some of the water to create more of a sauce and allow to simmer away for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the garam masala and Kashmiri powder and more water if needed – I like to have a more saucy sauce.
  7. Add the salt and taste to check the balance is right.
  8. Gently add in the eggs and cover in the sauce. Simmer for a further couple of minutes.
  9. To serve add some fresh coriander.

 

You can make this in advance and keep it in the fridge. When ready to eat,  take out of the fridge and bring to room temperature and then gently heat in a pan. I have made it with 9 eggs so that we can have leftovers for another day. The quantities for everything else stays the same.

 


Smoked Salmon and Soba Noodle Bowl From Kelli Foster’s NEW book “Buddha Bowls”

I adore meals that can be eaten in a bowl, that are packed full of goodness and flavour. Going through my kitchen cupboards you will find all manner of bowls of different sizes and depths depending on what’s going in them. You can therefore imagine my delight when I came across Kelli Foster’s, new book “Buddha Bowls – 100 nourshing one-bowl meals”. Kelli is a food writer and editor for the daily food magazine on the web called ‘The Kitchn’ based in New York.  Buddha bowls are nothing new and the term has been banded around now for many years, along with “bliss bowls’, “nourish bowls” or “power bowls” but Kelli’s book is wonderfully original, with so many great sounding recipes that you actually want to cook. Turmeric-ginger cauliflower and lentil bowls, Moroccan-spiced chickpea bowl, chipotle sweet potato bowls, chicken kofta bowls, harissa chicken bowls, spinach and mushroom pesto breakfast bowl the list goes on. Making a decision on which to cook first is hard.

I opted to show you all the ‘smoked salmon and soba noodle bowls’ recipe as it is exactly the sort of thing that I make for myself and the family for lunch in the holidays or weekends. All the ingredients I already had in my pantry and fridge and it really is very straightforward to make. It’s super healthy and flavoursome so a win win.

At the beginning of the book Kelli has included a wide range of sauces to go with the various buddha bowls – for example chimichurri, creamy feta, essential pesto sauce with any herb of leafy greens, miso-ginger, tahini. The book is then split into chapters: breakfast bowls, fish and seafood bowls, chicken and turkey bowls, vegetable bowls, fruit bowls.

Photograph by Maria Siriano in the book Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster published by The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group

The recipes are all inventive, sound delicious and beautifully photographed. The ‘green goddess quinoa bowls with crispy tofu’ looked very appetising and will definitely be on the menu over the summer holidays for my family.

Photograph by Maria Siriano in the book Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster published by The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group

For those with a sweeter palate then the ‘blackberry millet breakfast bowls’ are perfect in the coming months when blackberry season is in full swing. I love overnight oats for breakfast so this will be a good one to try.

Photograph by Maria Siriano in the book Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster published by The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group

I also love the idea of the ‘quinoa and chicken taco bowls with cilantro (coriander to us Brits)- lime dressing. How divine sounding hey!

This book is bursting with ideas that the hardest thing you will find is actually deciding on which to opt for. It’s priced at £14.99 and $22.99 in the US and $29.99 in Canada but on one certain retailer you can pick up a copy for under £10 – click here.

I am running a competition until Sunday 5th August on my instagram where you can WIN a copy of the book by simply doing three simple things:

  1. follow me on instagram
  2. like my post with the salmon noodle bowl photo
  3. tag 2 friends who might be keen to win the book.

There will only be one winner and they need to be based in the UK. Good luck.

Smoked Salmon and Soba Noodle Bowls

serves 4 (gluten free)

4 tbsp (60ml) tamari (similar to soy sauce but contains little to no wheat)

1 tbsp (15ml) rice vinegar

1 tbsp (6g) freshly grated ginger

1 tsp (5mo) toasted sesame oil

1/2 (half) tsp honey

200g dry buckwheat soba noodles

1 cup (120g) shelled edamame

4 ounces (115g) thinly slices smoked salmon

1 medium seedless cucumber, peeled and julienned

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced

shredded nori (seaweed)

red pepper flakes

  1. First make the dressing by whisking the tamarind, rice vinegar, ginger, sesame oil and honey together in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions and then drain them and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Boil the edamame for 5-7 minutes until cooked, strain and rinse under cold water.
  3. Stir the sauce together once more and toss the noodles with 1 tablespoon (15mp) of sauce.
  4. To serve, divide the soba noodles among bowls. Top with edamame, smoked salmon, cucumber and avocado. Drizzle with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with nori and red pepper flakes. (I forgot the latter until after I had taken the photos!)

Absolutely delicious and super quick to rustle up. Enjoy.

NOTE: chilliandmint kindly received a copy of Buddha Bowls. All views and opinions are her own.

Sea Beet and Potato Curry

Recently I went on a lovely coastal walk on Mersea Island, which is off the Essex coast (it’s reached by a tidal causeway). I hadn’t planned to go foraging but when I came across sea beet growing in large clusters, it made sense to gather up two large handfuls to take home and cook into something interesting.

I do love to forage from time to time – not mushrooms mind you as they can be tricky to identify unless you are with an expert. Somethings are easier to recognise and sea beet is one of those. Disclaimer: If you are going to try to find some yourself please consult the internet for other sources to check on identification. John Wright’s book ‘Edible Seashore’ may also be a good book to take on your walks to help identify. It’s best to check with a few sources to be sure.

I thought the sea beet would lend itself well to a ‘sag aloo’ type dish (spinach and potato curry). It’s more robust than spinach and has a lovely earthy taste to it. It is in fact the wild ancestor to the beetroot, sugar beet and swiss chard and is called a host of names including sea beet, sea spinach, wild beet and wild spinach. In ancient times, the leaves and root of the sea beet were used to treat several diseases, particularly tumours. The juice is even good for treating ulcers apparently!

When you forage you need to wash and clean your ‘treasure’ properly in cold water. I rinsed the leaves three times to be on the safe side. I then roughly chopped the leaves and prepared the potatoes. This curry is a lovely way to include sea beet into your diet, but if you are not going near any coastal areas you can always use spinach instead.

I would love to hear from any of you who may have used this ingredient before? How did you cook it? Leave a comment in the comment box below.

Sea Beet and Potato Curry

1 tbsp oil

2 dried red chilli

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

pinch of asafoetida/hing (optional)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut roughly into 2 inch cubes

1 tsp salt to taste

2 large handfuls of foraged sea beet or around 260g of fresh spinach

2 tbsp water

  1. Heat the oil and then add the dried red chillies. Move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the cumin seeds. Let the seeds begin to fizzle and then add the turmeric powder and asafoetida (if using).
  2. Add the potatoes and cover them in seeds and spices and cook gently on a medium to low heat, stirring every now and then. Add the salt.
  3. After about 8-10 minutes, add the washed sea beet and fold in gently to the potatoes.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of water and allow the sea beet to wilt and the potato to soften completely. To check the potato has soften stick a sharp knife into it, if it goes in easily then they are ready. You may need to place a lid on the pan to help steam it, if the potato needs more time to soften,  which will speed up the softening. Add the remaining water if need.

Serve immediately with a dollop of yogurt and a wedge of lemon on the side. It also works really well if you cook my chana dal to eat along side it.

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Wild Garlic Scones

Continuing with the wild garlic theme for another week, (I hope you are not bored yet!) I thought you might like my recipe for wild garlic scones, which are wonderful slathered with a little butter and a cup of tea. Scones are ridiculously easy to make and are great to freeze and then reheat when you want to eat one of two. All my family love this delicious snack, and as you can freeze them, are perfect all year round. A taste of spring even in the winter!

Unlike my wild garlic pesto you actually need no more than a handful of wild garlic but will still get the wonderful flavour resonating through the warm scone. If you have more of a sweet tooth then you might want to see my sweetened scone recipe here.

To make and cook these little beauties takes no more than 30 minutes, so are quick to prepare a batch. My girls always love to get involved in the kitchen and making scones is very straightforward so fun activity to do together.

 

Wild Garlic Scones

Makes around 22 scones

350g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

85g softened unsalted butter, cut into cubes

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

1 handful of wild garlic, washed and finely chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp fennel seeds

175ml milk, gently warmed

1 egg, beaten to glaze

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and line a baking tray.
  2. In a large bowl sieve the flour and then add all the ingredients*, aside from the milk and the final egg to glaze.
  3. Mix together gently using your hands and slowly add the warmed milk to bind. Add a little more flour if it remains a little sticky.
  4. Flour your hands and the work surface and move the dough onto the surface. Flatten it with your hands and fold it over a few times. Use a rolling pin to flatten it to a thickness of about 3cm. Use the top of a small glass or a cutter to cut out the scones evenly.
  5. Place the scones at intervals on the lined baking tray so they do not touch. Brush the tops with the beaten egg.
  6. Once you have used up all the dough, place in the oven for 11 minutes exactly. Remove from oven and then either leave to cool completely and then freeze or eat immediately with some butter. YUM.

Note: *If the butter cubes are not super soft then add these first with the flour and baking powder and using your finger tips mix with the flour to create a crumbly mixture. Then add all the ingredients. 

If freezing, when you want to eat them simply defrost completely then heat in a very low oven for 2/3 minutes to rewarm the scones.

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Roasted Sweet Potato, Garlic and Smoked Paprika Soup

So hands up if you are as addicted to soup as me? I could, and almost do, have a bowl most days. Indian dal is very like soup and I often make one up for lunch – my red split lentil dal is a fav – see here.

Today however I wanted to show you my roasted sweet potato, garlic and smoked paprika soup. Anything roasted has that wonderful smokey flavour that is so addictively satisfying. This soup will warm the belly and soul with one spoonful (or preferably a whole bowl). The snow provided such a good backdrop the other day that I ran outside to take this shot. When I came to eating the soup later in the day I realised it was far too thick so I added more liquid. How thick or soupy you like your soup is up to you but just add the stock a little at a time until you have reached your desired consistency.

The whole family will love it and it involves minimum fuss so win win.

 

 

Roasted Sweet Potato, Garlic and Smoked Paprika Soup

5 sweet potatoes, cleaned and chopped into cubes (skin on)

1 whole garlic bulb

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter

2 stalks of rosemary, leaves only, stalk removed

1 tsp salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

1- 1.5 pint of vegetable stock, add more if you refer a less thick soup

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. On a baking tray place the cubed sweet potatoes and add the olive oil and smoked paprika and mix together so that the sweet potatoes are nicely covered. Add the whole garlic. Place in the oven for 40 minutes or until the sweet potato has softened.
  3. Meanwhile in a large casserole pan add the butter and a splash of olive oil and gently fry the red onion and rosemary for 7 minutes so that it has nicely softened.
  4. Remove the garlic cloves from the bulb, which will be all soft and gooey at this stage. Add them and the sweet potato to the main casserole pan and add seasoning and the vegetable stock.
  5. Using a hand whisk, blend until smooth. Add more boiling water/stock depending on how you like your soup consistency. I actually added a lot more water after this photo (above) was taken as it was too thick initially.
  6. Serve piping hot with some crunchy bread on the side. If you want to add a topping you could add a dollop of creme fraiche with a sprinkling of smoked paprika on top,  a little extra virgin olive oil or perhaps some roasted pine nuts.

If you try making this soup please post a photo on instagram and use the #soupmeuptoday so that I can see it.

 

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Spinach Soup with Lemon and Garlic Crumbs – Book Review of ‘The Flexible Vegetarian’ by Jo Pratt

A really lovely looking cookbook landed on my door step recently. The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt is a beautiful compilation of recipes to inspire us all along vegetarian lines whether you want a purely vegetarian meal or perhaps you want to adapt it to be more meat/fish friendly.

The cover is simple and effective with a handprinted aubergine on the front. Pretty adorable don’t you agree? ‘Flexible’, because it will appeal to everyone whether you eat meat and fish or not.  Whilst all the recipes are vegetarian there is a section at the bottom of the recipe giving you an alternative to include meat/fish.  For example, one recipe that jumped out of the page at me was the ‘fennel, pumpkin and green olive tagine’ – I mean how delicious does that sound? If you follow the ‘flexible’ option then she tells you what to do to make it a chicken tagine. So simple and yet rather effective. There are some really lovely sounding recipes ‘aromatic tea-smoked mushroom ramen’, ‘courgette fritti with goat’s cheese and truffle honey’, ‘aubergine and green been laksa’, ‘Turkish pie with spinach and aubergine’ to name a few. The recipes all look very easy to follow and are perfect for lunches or dinners.

Photography by Susan Bell from The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt, published by Frances Lincoln
Photography by Susan Bell from The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt, published by Frances Lincoln

I was craving greens so was drawn to the spinach soup. I am big fan of all green vegetables and when I initially saw it it reminded me of my Forentine Lemongrass  Soup that I put up on my blog when I started it over 6 year ago (excuse the dodgy photos back then) and my wild garlic, courgette and lemon soup with poached egg and crispy panko breadcrumbs I think the similarities probably start and end with the same colour. Anyway Jo’s spinach soup looked a perfect way to give my body a good dose of healthiness in one sitting. I like the fact that the crumb combined parmesan, crispy breadcrumbs, garlic and lemon zest – a bit of zing, salt and crunch rolled into one. YUM.

It took minutes to whizz together and provided a most satisfying lunch, but would  work equally well as a starter. Her ‘flexible’ option was to combine anchovy fillets to the crumb, giving the soup a more salty depth.

 

Spinach Soup with Lemon and Garlic Crumbs (By Jo Pratt from ‘The Flexible Vegetarian’

Serves 6-8

40g butter

1 leek sliced

1 bunch of spring onions (scallions), chopped

1 stick celery, finely sliced

1 medium potato, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf

1 litre vegetable stock

500g fresh spinach leaves

flaked sea salt and freshly group black pepper

to serve

1 tsp of  creme fraiche per serving, optional

 

For the crumbs

2 dry/stale piece white bread, whizzed in a food processor to create crumbs

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

olive oil

25g finely grated parmesan cheese

 

  1. Heat the butter in a pan and gently sauté the leek, spring onion, celery, potato and bay leaf for a few minutes and then place a lid on the pan to allow to sweat and soften  for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pan.
  2. Pour in the stock and continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes so that the potato has softened.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and then add the spinach and gently stir.
  4. Using a hand blender blitz until smooth and vivid green. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.
  5. In a frying pan add a glug of oil and then fry the crumbs so that they crisp slightly. Remove from the pan and mix with the lemon zest, parmesan and a little salt and pepper if required.
  6. Serve the soup in bowls with a scattering of crispy crumb mix and a dollop of creme fraiche if using.

The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt you can order here. It is published by Frances Lincoln.

 

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Miso Chilli Vegetable Noodle Broth – A Winning Winter Warmer

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Earlier this week in London it was snowing – well trying to snow – unfortunately we only a brief flurry, but with the cold winds outside I felt an urge to have some broth, packed full of vegetables and a chilli kick, to warm me up from the inside out. I also wanted to use ingredients I had to hand in the house that needed eating up.

The result was a cracker of a meal. I had not planned to make it into a blog post but a number of you requested the details of the recipe after I posted the photo above on my instagram page.

It was filling, warming and slurptastic. I urge you to give it a whirl. It took minutes to prepare so was no hassle at all to throw together. So here is how to make a similar broth.

Miso Chilli Vegetable Noodle Broth

Feeds 1 (or two if you are less greedy) multiply up as required

1 tbsp olive oil

5 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1/2 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced

3  chestnut mushrooms, coarsely chopped

4 cubes of frozen spinach (fresh is obviously fine as well, but add this later)

2 heaped tsp of hikari light miso paste

1/4 tsp garlic chilli

a handful of fresh green beens, chopped

boiling water to cover

1 egg, boiled

2 medium tomatoes, quartered

1 portion of udon noodles

2 tsp of fried red onions (optional)

the miso paste, garlic chilli paste and fried red onions I buy from Korea Foods it is so worth going to stock up on Asian condiments, noodles, produce etc.

  1. Heat the oil in a deep pan and then and add the sliced garlic, fresh ginger and mushrooms. Move them around the pan for a minute making sure they do not burn. Keep the heat low to medium.
  2. Add the frozen spinach followed by the miso paste and chilli garlic. Continue to move around the pan for 20 seconds and then cover with boiling water.
  3. Boil an egg to your liking – I like my egg hard so I leave it to cook for almost 10 minutes then run it under cold water to prevent it cooking in its residual heat.
  4. Add the quartered tomatoes and the udon noodles and let them cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Serve the broth and noodles into a deep bowl and scatter with fried red onions and half the boiled egg and place on top.

Slurp away and a warm inner glow will be released within you. This is happy food at its absolute best.

Try it, share it and and take a photo and link it to #chilliandminthappybroth

Can’t wait to see how you all get on. Use up whatever veg you need finishing in your fridge – I used green beans and mushrooms as this is what I needed to finish up and they worked really well.

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Culinary delights and inspiration over the Christmas period

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So my fridge – my relatively new fridge in fact (still under guarantee phew) – decides to die a dramatic death on 22nd December. Great timing. I mean it could have died in November or in the summer but no it decides to die just as I want to start cracking on with preparations for Christmas.

I will not let my fridge dampen my spirits however. On the bright side I have a freezer and a cold coal cellar so I am going to rise to the occasion and go back in time when freezers did not exist. I now have all the contents of my fridge in storage boxes with ice bags surrounding them. Some jars are in the garden in boxes in the rabbit hutch. Our rabbits passed away recently…..that’s another story….so there is room in the hutch away from prying urban foxes.

So I thought you might need some last minute inspiration of things to cook with turkey leftovers, meals after christmas and before new year and canapés etc. So first up is turkey, ham and leek pie. Very straightforward and a great way to use up the turkey and ham.

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On boxing day or 27th I will be cooking my crispy skin cod with white beans, padron peppers, spinach, dill and aioli. You can use monkfish or hake instead, whichever you decide it’s a lovely dish to serve after the filling fare of Christmas day.

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This wintery warm lentil and goats cheese salad with a fresh basil dressing will also be making an appearance. Slow cooked tomatoes are a favourite in my household and we are all rather fond of goats cheese. I also like the fact that is vegetarian, filling and incredibly tasty.

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Perhaps you have friends or family coming over for a glass of bubbles or mulled wine. Both these canapés are very straightforward and don’t take too much time to prepare. The pastry for the parmesan caraway biscuits can be made in advance and kept in the fridge. When you are ready to cook them you simply slice them thinly, lay them out on a tray and place them in the oven for around 10 minutes, or until they are lightly bronzed. Let them cool slightly and then they are ready to be devoured.

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The rosemary spiced walnuts are wonderful to snack on and are not too filling before the main event. We love them and I am sure you will too.

Whilst we are all very fortunate to have the love of family and friends around us at Christmas a great way to give a little back is reserving a place for a homeless person at one of the crisis shelters. £22.32 reserves a place for one person but also allows them to have:

 – a health check with a doctor, dentist and optician

 – shower, freshen up and clean clothes

– three nutritious meals including christmas dinner

-an introduction to Crisis’ year-round services for training and support for the future.

You can find out more and how to donate here. I think it is a wonderful charity and one that I support each year.

So that’s it from me for 2016. I wish you all a very merry christmas and a happy new year and I hope to be able to inspire you with some exciting recipes in 2017. Thank you for your continued support and readership, it means a lot to me.

Torie xx

 

 


Baked Spiced Squash and Potato Samosa, Curry For Change Campaign and Wandsworth Radio

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I love it when friends bring edible gifts, especially ones they have been handmade or grown. The other day I was given this gorgeous blue looking squash that my pal had grown in her vegetable patch in the Cotswolds. We are not too sure what it is exactly but our guess is pointing us towards pumpkin invincible (we liked the name anyway). It looked beautiful, so I let it sit around in the kitchen for over a week for us all to admire. Part of me wanted to spray it silver or gold and have it sitting by the fireplace over the christmas season, but then again I knew it would be delicious as a lot of care and love had gone into growing it, it would be a shame not to eat it such a gorgeous gift.

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I broke into it yesterday – it definitely won top prize on ‘hardest squash to break into’. It’s flesh was bright orange with seeds slightly puffier than your regular pumpkins. I removed the skin from a quarter of it and then diced it up small. The rest I covered and placed in the fridge to use on another occasion.

A lovely idea would be to incorporate the squash into some gnocchi itself – you could use my recipe for gnocchi here or incorporate it with some store bought gnocchi here.

My plan was to use the filling for some spiced baked squash and potato samosas. I was going on to Wandsworth radio later in the day to talk to presenter, Emma Gordon aka Mrs Stylist, about the charity ‘Find Your Feet’ and their ‘Curry For Change’ campaign and hosting your own supper parties to help the charity. In addition the plan was to talk about alternative christmas snacks, so thought the samosas and my Indian tomato chutney were perfect for the occasion. You can hear the interview here if you fancy hearing me on the airwaves.

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For those keen to get involved in the campaign they are really having a push next week (21st November). The charity is all about helping those who live in rural communities in northern India, Nepal, Malawi and Zimbabwe to help them ‘find their feet’ – rather than simply giving handouts, through acquiring training and skills that can break the cycle of poverty by setting up their own business to allow them to feed themselves and their families. The idea is that we host supper parties. Natco and Kingfisher beer sponsor the whole campaign and will send those who sign up here a spice pack, which invariable includes lentils and other exciting goodies. Kingfisher will also send a crate of beer to  drink at the event. You ask diners to pay what they would ordinarily spend on a curry take out and the money then goes to ‘Find Your Feet’. Natco then double the amount you raise.  It’s a simple idea that is a win win for all involved. You don’t need to be a food blogger to take part. Everyone young and old can give it a whirl – even my mother has expressed an interest to take part. The curry for change website also has lots of inspiring recipes to help you plan your curry evening. You may even see one of two of mine listed on their site.

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Back to the spiced squash samosas.

The good thing about these snacks is that they can be prepared and then frozen, pre cooking, and then when you are ready to bake them you simply place them in the oven for 20 minutes from frozen. So simple. I often like to prepare a chutney to go along with a street food snacks, such as samosas. You can see my recipe for Indian spiced tomato chutney here. It is very quick to prepare and stores in the fridge for a couple of days.

Folding the samosas is easier than you think. Place the filling in the bottom right hand corner and then fold the pastry over so that a triangle forms. Then you fold the pastry up along the line before folding over to the left hand side, continuing with the triangle theme. Just keep in mind that you need to keep folding in alternative triangles and using water or ghee to stick the sides together. There are more photos showing how it is done on my post about ‘beetroot, feta and cumin samosas’ – see here. I like to sprinkle the samosas with nigella seeds, also known as black onion seeds, equally you could sprinkle sesame seeds or even chilli flakes.

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 Baked Spiced Squash and Potato 

Makes 20

700g squash/pumpkin of your choice, cut into small cubes

1 large potato (250g), cut into small cubes

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp nigella seeds

pinch of asafoetida/hing

1 onion, finely chopped

1 birds eye green chilli, finely sliced

1 tsp ginger paste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

100g frozen peas

2 packets of Jus Filo Sheets 270g each

2 tbsp melted ghee

  1. First place the cubed squash and potatoes in a pan with boiling water and let them soften, which will take around 10 minutes. If they are still a little hard, allow them to cook for a little longer. Strain and place to one side.
  2. In a separate wide pan add the oil and then add the mustard, cumin and nigella seeds followed by the asafoetida. Allow them to move around the pan for around 20 seconds before adding the onion.
  3. Allow the onion to soften for around 8 minutes, before adding the ginger paste and fresh chilli.
  4. Add the squash and potato and cover with the spices along with the cumin and turmeric powder.
  5. Using a fork or potato masher, gently squash the squash and potatoes. You don’t necessarily want it as smooth as mash, but certainly soften from it’s cubed form.
  6. Add the frozen peas and place a lid on the pan for a few minutes, adding a little water if it is becoming too dry. Take off the heat and leave to one side.
  7. Take the filo pastry out of its packet and using one sheet cut into in two horizontally. With the remaining filo pastry cover with a damp cloth.
  8. Working quickly you want to place a spoonful of the filling in the bottom right hand corner of the pastry (see photos). Place a little the melted ghee along the left hand edge of the pastry. Bring the bottom right hand corner of the pastry up to the right hand side at a diagonal to form a triangle (see photos above). Fold over from side to side until you reach the top. Stick the ends with melted ghee and either place on a plate to go into the freezer or one some greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Sprinkle with nigella or sesame seeds.
  9. Work your way through all the filling until it has all been used up. Freeze any left over filo pastry.
  10. If you are cooking immediately heat the oven to 180 degrees. Once the oven is hot place the samosas into the oven for 20 minutes – or until they are nicely bronzed.
  11. Eat when they are nice and hot with either a spiced tomato chutney or perhaps some tamarind and date chutney

If you host a curry for change dinner I would LOVE to hear about it. Take a photo and tag #chilliandmint and #curryforchange on twitter/instagram.