Monthly Archives: October 2012

Soups, spice and all things nice

Butternut squash and sweet potato soup

For those of you who haven’t noticed or who are fortunate enough to live in sunnier climates, it’s Autumn and getting cold in London. That means the coats, boots, hats, scarves and woolly jumpers are unearthed from the back of the wardrobes and in my world of food it means my blender once again becomes a much used cooking utensil to make deliciously warming soups.

For a long time I was a big fan of my home-made carrot and orange, and leek and potato soup. They saw me through many a cold evening in rainy Cork while I was at University, and  in turn my trusted blender was frequently used. When I moved to London I stupidly left that coveted kitchen utensil in Ireland which then saw it’s way into storage along with the rest of the family home. You may wonder why I never bought a new one – London being at the end of the day full of perfectly good blenders. The answer is I should have a good reason, but there is simply no reason, I just never bought one. So along with my shipment of books, bookshelf, hand mixer, teapot and other such like treasures, my blender finally found it’s way to London last June.

Enough about blenders and on to the food. My new-found soup, which has taken the place of my Uni soup for now is Butternut squash and sweet potato soup. Now, I know I have previously bemoaned the tediousness that is involved in trying to cut a butternut squash, but I have since found a solution of sorts. While on the train on the way back from a client meeting the other day, my colleague and I got talking about food – as you do. One thing led to another and we ended up discussing the butternut squash cutting techniques. My colleague who has a baby, provided me with a hugely valuable tip. Cut the squash in half or quarters and put it in the oven for half an hour to an hour and hey presto, it’s so much easier to cut. I’ve tried it myself and it works, no more impending casualties every time soup is on the menu.

Thanks to my Sri Lankan founded spice addiction I now add chilli, spice or Tabasco to most of my meals. Adding a bit of curry powder to the cooked onions before adding the chopped squash, potatoes, stock, milk and basil leaves gives the soup a gorgeously spicy kick. It only takes about 20 minutes for the vegetables to soften and then it’s time to put the blender into use.

Cauliflower and potato curry

Spices are not something I grew up with, however, I’ve developed a strong liking for them over the years. I’d never made a curry at home until last week when I thought it was high time to give it a try. The outcome, a pretty damn good – if I may say so myself – Cauliflower and potato curry. It was gorgeously spicy with chopped green chillies and curry powder. Cooked in a tomato sauce and garnished with  coriander, a dollop of natural yoghurt and warm Naan bread on the side, it was really delicious.

So my verdict on cold weather food is soups and spicy dishes are guaranteed to heat anyone up on a cold Autumn or Winter day!

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Cheese, Glorious Cheese – a few of my favourite cheese recipes

Cheese, cheese and more cheese

I don’t know if it’s my Dutch heritage or the fact that I grew up in the Irish countryside near a farm, but I am totally obsessed with cheese. I could eat it all day and it’s probably the one food I would never even consider giving up. Admittedly I am a few days late in writing this seeing British Cheese Week was last week, but better late than never I guess.

So with British Cheese Week over and Autumn really and truly setting in, I think a cheese post is in order.

Unsurprisingly I think my fridge at home is permanently filled with at least two or three different types of cheeses, none of which ever last long and dinners at my house are rarely cooked without some variety of cheese making an appearance. When it comes to choosing my favourite cheese recipes, well I could be here all day. However, I do have a few dishes that I never tire of cooking, or eating for that matter.

Melanzane Parmigiana

When I lived in Italy I naturally developed a partial liking for both parmesan and mozzarella, both of which the Italian’s are naturally the masters of making. Melanzane Parmigiana is one of my all time favourite Italian cheese concoctions and every time I eat out in an Italian restaurant I have to order this divine dish. Conveniently this is also exceptionally easy to make. Sliced griddled aubergine, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan and basil. It’s best eaten straight out of the oven with the golden crusted cheese still bubbling away.

Feta stuffed Butternut Squash

Next, not as cheese heavy but equally autumnal and delicious is a Feta Stuffed Butternut Squash. I discovered this gem of a recipe during one of my weekly perusals of Stylist magazine on the tube home. The most challenging part of this dish is cutting the butternut squash in half. If you’ve ever tried to cut a squash, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, if not, let me just say that it’s pretty tedious work and a big and very sharp knife along with some elbow grease is needed. Once you have managed to halve the squash and hollow the flesh out for roasting, this delicious dish is easy to finish. Topped with crumbled feta, sun dried tomatoes, roasted pumpkin seeds, a fried onion and fresh basil, this is really and truly gorgeous and it looks pretty amazing too, definitely one to impress your friends with.

Double cheese mac and cheese

Last but not leas, the ultimate cheese dish and the one I never get tired of; mac and cheese. I used to never eat this out as I was always of the mindset that I could make this quite easily and better at home. That’s until I tried Soho based Spuntino’s creamy bread crumbed mac and cheese with a drizzle of Tabasco, and Anna Mae’s spicy jalapeño mac and cheese. Saying that I’m still a massive fan of my home made double cheese mac and cheese which I make with ricotta, chives, sun dried and tomatoes, whole grain mustard and melted cheddar on top. It’s gorgeously cheesy and on a cold rainy October evening with a good film on TV, well it’s perfect!

Oddly enough, my biggest challenge with making mac and cheese recently has been finding chives. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to find chives in West London, but it turns out all the local supermarkets and Lebanese and Moroccan food shops in my area only sell chives sporadically, and typically whenever I need them they are nowhere to be found. Luckily we have some rather weedy looking chives growing in our garden, a fact I keep forgetting whenever I need them.

The above are but a sample of my favourite cheese recipes, I’d love to hear about any amazing cheese dishes which you have that you think I absolutely have to try. And if it’s a cheese challenge you’re interested in, well bring it on!

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