Pumpkin and White Bean Stew

I love the tiled mosaic picture option on WordPress, I might be super late to the party on this because I haven’t blogged in months but better late than never right? Right. Also thanks Louis for trying to help me with picture props, you’re a pal! ❤

So yes, I went there. Pumpkin already. Or maybe I’m late to this again? I don’t want to wait until October to get orangey with my alliteration. Plus last weekend we bought about 10 different types of squash so I guess we need to get this baby rolling. I can’t complain though – finally, crisp winds are blowing, I actually wore full length pyjamas to bed this weekend and just got up mid-typing to close the windows. I feel the seasonal change coming and couldn’t be happier. (I can also postpone the leg wax for another week, winning on all fronts).

The ingredients in this stew are only pumpkin and white beans (OK and onions and garlic but that’s a given). I was planning on mixing some bacon bits but I forgot to add them to the shopping list and in the end I didn’t really care. I knew this would taste bombastic without them and guess what, I was right. Concerning the beans, I’m a soak-for-24hrs kind of gal. I have absolutely no problem with using canned beans/lentils etc, it’s just I hate the slimy preserved brine they come in. Even after washing it off, I find the beans have too much of a mushy texture for my liking so I prefer to use the soaking method. Obviously this means planning the meal one day in advance but it’s worth it.

A seperate note on the spices used: I’m a huge fan of the Apples Under my Bed blog by Heidi, and a long time ago I was reading a recipe for a tomato sauce where she swears by adding a star anise. So I tried it and and became hooked. I wouldn’t necessarily use it for pasta sauce, but in this kinda of hearty, wintery recipe I think it is essential. Just one star anise with all the rest adds enormous amounts of flavour, really worth a try!

Ingredients                  Prep. time (excl. soaking time – 30mins)                Cooking time – 2hrs

2 cups of dried white beans, soaked in water for 24hrs.
500g sugar pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
100ml passata
1 star anise*, 1 cinnamon stick* (about 5cm long), 3 bay leaves*,  2 long pepper sticks,* salt, pepper, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp paprika
*to be removed before eating

1. Soak the beans for 24hrs in cold water (leave an inch of water above the beans, they will expand). Once ready to use, dispose of the water, put the beans in a saucepan with fresh water and boil for 15m. This is to evacuate any toxins in the beans!

2. Drain the beans a second time and put in an oven-proof dish, preferably with a lid. If like me, life somehow didn’t equip you with a Dutch oven, cover your dish with tin foil. Again add enough water to cover the beans + 1  inch above, add salt & pepper and leave in the oven for 50mins at 180°C.

3. Meanwhile, peel the pumpkin and chop into inch-sized pieces. Chop the onion and garlic, add to the pumpkin in a bowl. Mix with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika. When the beans are done, remove from the oven and add the pumpkin mixture to the dish, as well as the passata and the spices. This might make your dish veeery full so be careful putting it back in the oven (tin foil removed this time.) Leave to cook for a further 50mins.

4. Once it’s done, you’ll have a warming thick stew that is absolutely packed with flavour. Eat with crusty bread, a glass of red and enjoy in front of a film. These quantites will leave you with plenty to serve at least 5 people, otherwise you’ll have enough for left-over lunches and dinners. We love making life easier for ourselves right?

Aman x

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Summertime sadness? Somewhat uncertain

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Talking about the weather is generally seen as a time-filler; that awkward smalltalk you’re forced to engage in with the granny at the busstop, waiting for your number to pick you up. But in their way, climatic conversations kinda make the world go round – we like to share what we got up to during our weekends in the sun, complain endlessly when we’re caught in the rain and leap for joy when school is cancelled because of the 2cm of snow on the ground (#onlyinEngland). And doesn’t the weather have a natural impact on our food choices? People try as much to eat seasonally, swapping their strawberries for pumpkin as soon as the first auburn leaves crackle underfoot. BBQ in November? I don’t think so.

Which brings me to something I’ve been pondering today – am I sad to see summer go? It came so late here in Paris, where normally even in late-May you’d see les femmes chics getting out their espadrilles. But we were weighed down with a seemingly endless cloud of humidity and tropical wetness that drove everyone insanely crazy. After a few weeks then stuck in a heatwave, we’re now in a kind of limbo of will-it-won’t-it. Today we went to Les Fermes de Gally to pick some fruit and vegetables, trapped under a grey sky yet dripping in the thick moisture. I need weather that is actually going to commit – autumn, I’m waiting for you with arms wide open.

*Apples, variety of squash, squash blossoms (so excited to cook with these!), green peppers, apples, carrots and salad all hand-picked this morning by us at Les Fermes de Gally.

Weekend break in Normandy

This weekend we went to Normandy in the north of France for an impromptu weekend away. A friend of ours was staying there and invited us up, and as I’d taken the Friday off work (just because I wanted to), it was perfect timing. We were in a small village/town called St Maurice en Cotentin which took 3 1/2hrs to drive up to.

The idea of a stay-cation really appeals to me – firstly, there are so many interesting places to see in France apart from Paris. A few weeks ago we spent a week in Bordeaux and it was lush to be able to visist wine country at St. Emilion and be able to go to the beach in the space of an hour! Secondly when you don’t have oodles of cash to spare but want a break, why not see more of the country you’re in? There’s always going to be something to surprise you.

We drove up on Friday early afternoon and arrived around dusk. For Normandy we were surprised it was so warm but clearly not complaining! Saturday morning we all went to the local market to buy some goodies for a home-made lunch that Louis made sous-vide. For starters we had chicken enrobed in a spicy coating with grilled peaches, salad and mozzarella; the main was salmon cooked with vanilla pods and mini leeks, and for dessert there were a selection of mini pastries from the boulangerie (I didn’t take photos of everything though, too busy eating!)

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As the sun was shining bright and we had Pokémons to hunt, we took a trip to the beach in the afternoon. The tide was low so there was a lot of bare, wet sand around. We sat for a few hours on the dunes though, shooting the breeze and all that jazz. Good times. You could actually the coast of Jersey from where we were! Or maybe it was Guernsey.. Anyway, in the evening we went to see a firework show in one of the local towns. I have never been that close to fireworks in my life – the lights were blinding, the bangs definitely deafening and we all had bits of cardboard from the explosions scattered in our hair 🙂 it was a beautiful sight though!!

Sunday was very chilly and drizzly, so I guess we got the best of both worlds. We spent the morning at the Maison des Biscuits, literally the ‘house of biscuits’, which is a speciality shop selling cakes, biscuits, chocolates, jams, preserves, local beers, honey etc. I bought a small box of chocolates to share with my colleagues at work, whereas Louis bought €50 worth of meringues and biscuits!!! The thought of all that sugar literally makes me cringe, I have no idea how we will ever get rid of them! All in all though it was a pretty sweet weekend, (no pun intended :P), and the intense change of landscape was so relaxing. I didn’t grow up around the water so it’s never been something I miss but I guess that makes it all the more lovely when I get to spend a few days in its presence. (Plus I got to top up my tan which I wasn’t expecting, bonus!)

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Aman x

Roasted pumpkin spiced cupcakes with festive frosting

How much orange have you guys been getting in this October? Yknow what I mean – pictures of golden and fiery-hued leaves scattered on the ground, the formidable latte, pumpkin-carving, Halloween costume prep…the list goes on!

The last time we visited Fermes de Gally we picked up about 4 little sugar pumpkins and one huge butternut squash. I’ve slowly been using up the pumpkins for soups mainly but all this week I’ve had my eye on the last one to make pumpkin cupcakes. These turned out so much better than I thought – I wasn’t expecting the flavour of the pumpkin to come out that well but it had a rich, warming taste alongside the spices.

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Too effing irresistible

Ingredients

1 sugar pumpkin – weighed in at just under 500g
Powdered cinnamon or 4 spices – between 4-5 tablespoons
220g plain flour
5g baking powder
100g powdered brown cane sugar (the frosting will be quite sweet to compensate)
2 eggs
120ml olive oil (I put abit too much in, so added 2 tablespoons of honey to mask the taste)

Method

Peel and dice the pumpkin. Place in a roasting dish with a drizzle of oil, and about a tablespoon each of brown sugar and cinnamon on top. Roast in the oven for 20m or until soft on 200C.

Beat the eggs, sugar and oil. Add to the flour, cinnamon/4 spices and baking powder. When the pumpkin is ready, mash well and add to the mixture.

Divide the batter into cupcake cakes and bake for about 15m on 200C. Allow them to cool completely before piping the frosting, otherwise it will just melt into a big mess.

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Winter light is not my friend…

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Frosting

200g of cream cheese
50g of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
300g powdered sugar
Red and yellow food colouring

Method

Beat all the ingredients together using an electric whisk. Divide the mixture in two, adding the food colouring to one half. This will produce a lovely orange tone leaving the other natural. Leave both bowls in the fridge for at least 30m to firm up before piping.

When ready, scoop the mixtures into separate piping bags with a nozzle of your choice, and get to it! I Youtubed a bunch of videos to get an idea of what I wanted and am really pleased with the patterns!

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Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

When I was at school, I remember one of my teacher’s telling us that she lived without an oven in her apartment during her 20’s. It simply didn’t come included. I thought, ‘What the hell is she talking about? How can you possibly survive without making food in the oven, without roast chicken, jacket potatoes, PIZZA?!?!’

Then I moved to France, and and lived that nightmare first hand (as well as having to use a communal toilet in the corridor instead of having one in my own room…that’s for another time though).  Not being able to cook with an oven was definitely a pain at times but surprisingly easier than I imagined. I mean how often am I actually going to cook a roast? Exactly. Potatoes in the microwave, pan-frying chicken and salmon instead of grilling, it wasn’t really a problem.

In my second year however I moved into a much bigger, more modern apartment which instead of a microwave…had an oven! I was over the moon, seriously. Beouf bourguignon, cherry clafoutis, roasted vegetables, M&M cookies, etc yum etc. Now I’m in my third year here, and after moving in with the boy, I think you can already guess the pattern forming… Yep, stuck with that darn microwave again.

After getting so used to cooking more experimentally in my previous abode, it is definitely frustrating going back (again) to basics and trying to cook healthy, imaginative meals when you’re so limited with equipment and space. At least this time around it’s a microwave-oven so I can play around sometimes and get creative. For example, this lovely tomato and mozzarella tart I made last night.

I was sceptical at first that it would turn out to be anything but a disaster but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. I used shop-bought pastry, and after covering the tray and poking a few holes (my favourite part ha!) to prevent it bubbling up, I pre-baked it for about 5mins on 200C.

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Then I started slicing the tomatoes ready to layer once the pastry was done. In the end I only needed two toms because the dish was pretty small. Before layering, I spread some Dijon mustard over the pastry to give the tart some bite. I sprinkled thym and about a tablespoon of olive oil over the tomatoes, as well as seasoning and adding a few bay leaves for extra aroma, then popped it back into the micro-oven for 20m again on 200C.

I was left with a reel of pastry trimmings due to my baby baking tin, so as I was waiting for the dish to cook I decided to get artsy and do what all people do with the left-overs: cut out some leaves. Ta-da!

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With the rest of the pastry, I wrapped it up and put it back in the freezer – with enough left-over dough, I’ll be able to make another tart!  After the 20m was up I then added mozzarella and also sliced some ham into the mix just to use up things in the fridge. I placed my pastry leaves on top, (that was just for my personal kicks; they’re honestly better suited when making a pie for example, and there is a layer of of pastry on top as well as underneath), and baked again for only 10m on 200C.

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I was really happy with the end result and given we have another roll of pastry waiting to be used, I might make a chocolate and raspberry tart as the boy has been asking non-stop for one! I hope you enjoyed reading and for anyone else out there stuck with a darned micro-oven, you got a friend.

Bisous!