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

Fresh Chilli-and-Lime Coated Chicken

I’m not a huuuuge meat eater, I eat like a vegetarian most of the time but when meat is on the menu I definitely can’t resist. Using my new best friend, the mini-blender, and a bunch of random ingredients in my fridge that happened to combine perfectly, I made for myself and The Boy these roasted chicken legs with a chilli and lime dressing, served with brown rice and broccoli. It was a night of simple and easy cooking that gave a lot in flavour.

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I can’t even remember the last time I had chicken before this but I for sure need to re-create this recipe soon! If you guys want to try it out here’s what I did:


Fresh Chilli-and-Lime Coated Chicken, with Brown Rice and Broccoli

Prep Time: 15m    Cooking Time: 40m

Ingredients

2 chicken legs (or breast or thigh etc)
1 small broccoli
Bunch of coriander
Juice of 1 lime
2 fresh green chillies (more or less depending on how hot you can take it!)
2 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the rice: in this case I had frozen rice in the freezer from the last time when I made way too much so I just defrosted and heated it up in a pan. Otherwise, I normally use the ratio of 1 cup of rice per 2 people, cover with 2 cups of water and cook on a medium heat for 20-30m.

Method

Set the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and pre-heat for 15m.

Remove the coriander leaves from the stalks and place in the blender, along with the juice of the lime, chopped-up chilli and garlic, the oil and seasoning. Blend until you have a paste. Place your chicken pieces in an oven-safe dish and pour the paste over them, covering well. Naturally some of the mixture will slide off in the cooking process but it’s no biggie, I just scoop it up and serve alongside when it’s all cooked.

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Cook the rice accordingly; for the broccoli I personally prefer a crunchy, hard texture rather than a sopping wet, overcooked veg. All I did was wash the broccoli, remove the stalk, cut off the florets and place them in the pot of rice (once the rice was thawed and fully heated up) with a cover on for 5m until serving. This still heats them up whilst leaving a perfect bite.

And dinner is served 🙂

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Stuffed Pepper Pots

So I made these Stuffed Pepper Pots during the week for dinner, and they were uh-mah-zinggg. You definitely know it’s a winner if you can get a boy to wolf down a vegetable stuffed with vegetables!! It was really simple and full of healthy ingredients. It’s also gluten-free for all you fussy eaters and depending whether you omit/substitute the meat and cheese, it can be vegan too.

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Love these colours! I only used two bell peppers but the stuffing mixture was so much that I easily could have made all four.

Ingredients

Bell peppers
Quinoa
Feta cheese
Sliced ham
Mix of grated veggies and sliced courgette
Seasoning – black pepper, chili powder, lemon juice (I don’t like to add salt to my food, plus there is already salt in the cheese and meat).

Method

Slice the stalks off of the peppers and put to one side as they will later serve as the ‘lid’ to your ‘pot.’ Gentle scrape the seeds out from inside the peppers and discard. Drizzle oil on the skin and place in a hot oven for about 10m on 200C so they start to soften a little.

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Meanwhile, in two separate pans, start cooking the quinoa and vegetables. I’m not big on measuring quantities so make a reasonable estimate as to how much you require, plus the amounts of both will vary depending on the size and amount of peppers you have. Once they are cooked through, mix together in one pan and add your seasoning. The mix of chili with lemon or lime goes together makes for a really nice burst of flavour, otherwise I find quinoa to be quite bland!

Remove the peppers from the oven and start layering the fillings with quinoa and veg, feta cheese and ham. I would’ve preferred diced or shredded chicken but a) we didn’t have any and b) even if we did I would’ve been too lazy to cook it!! #reallife

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With the lids on, place back in the oven for 5-10 mins on 200C so the cheese starts to soften and melt and it all becomes goddamn irresistible inside.

Ta-da! Super easy right?

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When life gives you pumpkins, make soup!

There are only 10 days remaining of our beloved October which in recent years has become almost as anticipated as Christmas…almost.

Orange-mania reveals itself in a myriad of ways; drifting through an endless carpet of fiery-hued, burnt leaves as we make our way to Starbucks, pepping ourselves up with an obligatory Pumpkin Spice latte. Where to next? The market of course, because what if there’s no more actual pumpkins left to carve?!

Well, the last point doesn’t really apply. We bought our little potiron about 2 weeks ago at the market and have only just got round to cutting, carving, scooping and souping. Let’s be honest, as much fun as it is to express our sadistic artistic skills on these little guys, it still takes a lot of time and effort. But in the end it’s all worth it when this…

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…transforms into this!

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And then this!

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After The Boy scooped out all the fleshy insides, he chopped it up along with one and a half carrots, two medium-size potatoes and two onions. We left it all to boil in a pan of water (just over a litre), infused with a bouillon (stock cube) and bay leaves. Once all the veggies became soft enough, it was left to cool for about 30m and then placed in the blender with some seasoning and crème fraiche. Optional spices: cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg. One thing we forgot to add was a garnish of chopped hazelnuts for added texture but will be incorporating that tonight as there’s plenty of left-overs.

Enjoy, bisous!

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!