Recipe – A Winter Soup

Chock full of smoky andouille sausage, potatoes, kidney beans and kale, this soup is hearty, spicy and rather garlicky – in fact it’s just perfect served piping hot, with lots of crusty bread on a frosty night.

It’s also really simple to make if you’re able open a can of kidney beans, a packet of baby kale and a couple of cartons of organic chicken broth. Ready in under 30 minutes, it’s a great go-to soup when you’re in a rush. Having said that, I like to make it ahead and let it sit for a couple of hours because like most soups, the flavors improve with a bit of time.

I used all-natural Wellshire Smoked Andouille Sausages but any good andouille sausage will do and if you cant find them, try chorizo or polish keilbasa.

If you can’t handle this amount of smoke and garlic, here’s a delicious Tuscan Kale & White Bean Soup recipe that may seem similar on the face of it but the end result tastes entirely different.

A Winter Soup with Andouille Sausage, Kale, Potatoes & Beans

A WINTER SOUP

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

1 lb (1/2 kilo) of andouille sausages, sliced thinly

6-8 fat cloves of garlic, minced

1 lb (1/2 kilo) of canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 quarts (2 liters) of organic chicken broth

1 lb (1/2 kilo) of little red skinned potatoes, washed and left unpeeled, cut into small chunks

6-8 oz of fresh Kale (use ready washed baby kale if you’re feeling lazy)

1/4 cup of sherry vinegar

Black pepper and sea salt to taste

Action:

In a large heavy pan, cook the sausage until the slices are browned and they’ve released at least 2 tablespoons of oil. Transfer the sausage to a bowl using a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the rendered oil (if you don’t have enough, add a little vegetable oil at this point) sauté the garlic until its golden then add the broth and potatoes and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the drained beans and kale and simmer for 5 minutes, followed by the sliced sausage  – cook for another couple of minutes.

Check the seasoning and add salt and a grind of black pepper if you think it needs it.

Last of all,  stir in the sherry vinegar.

 

 

Posted in Made in Under 30 mins, Meat, Soups | 2 Comments

Recipe – Pecan Meringue Cookies

Whether you use these to sandwich clouds of sweetened whipped cream, serve them with your favorite ice cream, or simply nibble on them while you’re enjoying a nice espresso, you’ll love these little meringues.

As light as puff of air and with a nutty-spicy flavor, they’re crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle, making them utterly moreish.

If you can resist eating them all at once, they’ll keep well for a week in an airtight container at room temp.

Spiced Pecan Meringue Cookies

SPICED PECAN MERINGUE COOKIES

(Makes approx 20)

Ingredients:

3 large egg whites

3/4 cup (180ml measure) of raw pecans, lightly toasted

3/4 cup (180ml measure) of vanilla sugar

1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1.5 teaspoons of grappa or cognac (optional)

Action:

Preheat the oven to 300F / 150C and line a couple of cookie sheets with baking parchment.

Finely chop the toasted pecans. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until peaks form then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking until you have stiff glossy peaks.

Whisk in the spices followed by the grappa or cognac if using, then fold in the chopped nuts with a large metal spoon, using a cutting motion.

Pile heaped tablespoons of the meringue onto the baking sheet, spacing them about an inch (2.5cm) apart.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temp to 200F (93C) and cook for another hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely and be careful as they’re fragile! Eat them right away or stack them gently in an airtight container and store at room temp for up to a week.

 

Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts | 1 Comment

Recipe – Very Easy Indian Naan Bread

Once you realize how easy it is to make delicious naan bread at home in a matter of minutes, you won’t bother buying it again.

Piping hot and straight from the pan, they can be eaten plain or perked up with a little garlic and cilantro (coriander leaf); or perhaps some cumin or sesame seeds; brushed with a little saffron-soaked warm milk, etc…the options are endless.

If you’re going to eat them unadorned, you may be surprised to know they only contain two ingredients; self-raising flour and plain Greek yogurt.

You’ll definitely need a heavy-based pan and cast iron is perfect as you want the pan to be smoking hot.

Here’s a link to a number of great Indian recipes that are crying out for freshly baked naan bread that can be substituted for rice – or maybe like me, you’ll enjoy them both.

Easy Indian Naan Bread with Garlic & Cilantro

EASY INDIAN NAAN BREAD WITH GARLIC & CILANTRO

(Makes 10 Naan)

Ingredients:

3 1/3 cups (790 ml measure) of self-raising flour (to make your own, combine 4 cups of all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt. Sift the ingredients together)

1 1/2 cups (355ml measure) of full fat Greek yogurt

1-2 tablespoons of water

A little vegetable oil or spray

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons of cilantro (coriander leaf), chopped

A pinch of sea salt

Action:

In a large bowl combine the yogurt and flour and mix them together until you have a workable dough. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water if it’s too dry, then knead it well until you have a smooth ball.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface, divide it into ten and flatten each piece, rolling them out one at a time until you have a circle measuring about 6 inches (15cm) across.

Heat up your pan or griddle until it’s very hot and spray or brush lightly with a high-temp cooking oil.  Place a rolled out dough circle in the pan (you may need to adjust the heat as you’ll want some scorched patches rather than a total cinder) – give it about 2 minutes and flip it over. While the second side is cooking, brush the cooked side with a little oil then sprinkle it with garlic, cilantro and sea salt. If you want plain naan, just give it a couple of minutes each side without any tweaking.

After topping it with whatever you prefer and as soon as the second side is cooked, flip it over again and give it another 30 seconds to sear those flavors into the naan.

Keep them covered in a warm place while you cook the rest or serve them immediately, one at a time.

 

Posted in Indian & Asian Cuisine, Made in Under 30 mins | 1 Comment

Recipe – Monkfish Curry

The monkfish is a frightful looking creature with a massive head and lots of sharp teeth, so it’s a good thing that most places only display the filleted tail piece. On the other hand, monkfish is delicious with a firm, almost lobster-like flesh and no fiddly small bones to deal with.

Whenever I see freshly caught monkfish, I’ll buy it. It isn’t frequently available in Colorado and is rather expensive but well worth it. I remember when it first appeared on the fishmonger’s slab back in the UK and was presented in it’s entirety (as they did back then), it was the stuff of nightmares.

People would shudder and give it a wide berth, so initially it was incredibly cheap. However, once the fishmongers got smart and realized that by removing the face-from-hell and presenting just the lovely firm tail meat instead, it sold like hotcakes, pushing the price through the roof. Sadly it’s now somewhat over-fished and as they’re a deep sea dweller, trawlers did a lot of sea-bed damage dredging for them.

If you’re lucky enough to find it, here’s a lovely simple curry recipe. All you’ll need is some plain boiled rice and perhaps a vegetable or fresh relish on the side. If you’re looking for inspiration, there are plenty of ideas here in my Indian and Asian Food section. 

Monkfish Curry With Coconut Milk

MONKFISH CURRY

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1 3/4lbs (800g) of monkfish fillet, cut into 2 inch (5cm) chunks

4 large tomatoes peeled and seeds removed

1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds

2 fresh curry leaves

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric

7 fl oz (200ml) of hot water

1/2 a teaspoon of amchur (mango powder), optional

1 teaspoon of chili powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

4 teaspoons of ground coriander

3 1/2 fl oz (100ml) of coconut milk

Sea salt to taste

Fresh chopped cilantro/coriander leaf to serve

Action:

Rinse the monkfish under cold running water and drain. Finely chop the peeled and de-seeded tomatoes and set aside.

In a heavy sauté pan with a lid, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan over a medium heat, then add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds start to pop, add the fenugreek seeds followed by the curry leaves, ginger and sliced onion. Cook until the onions are golden, stirring occasionally.

Add the turmeric powder, sauté to combine then add the chopped tomatoes and hot water to the onion-spice mixture, followed by the chili powder, cumin and coriander.

Turn up the heat so that it starts to boil, then partly cover with the lid and reduce it to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the fish, stir to combine and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring gently.

Finally, add the coconut milk and sea salt to taste and bring it back to a gentle boil. Stir until the fish is cooked, about 4 minutes,  then take it off the heat.

Check to see if it needs more salt and sprinkle with chopped cilantro / coriander to serve.

Like most Indian dishes, this freezes well.

Posted in Fish, Indian & Asian Cuisine | Leave a comment

Recipe – Spicy Shrimp Vol-au-Vents

These tasty little appetizers came about by accident when I purchased frozen puff pastry vol-au-vents thinking I was buying frozen puff pastry sheets.

I’m happy to admit to always having frozen puff pastry in my freezer; to make it from scratch is laborious and the frozen stuff is really good, especially if you can find it made with butter. It comes in useful for all sorts of things that just need a puffy little golden tart base, or in this case, a pastry container.

Vol-au-vents were quite a trendy hors d’oeurves back in the 60’s and 70’s with their hot, creamy fillings of mushrooms, ham and cheese, smoked fish pate and of course, shrimp. Back then they were rather bland with a plain white sauce holding the contents together and as I recall, the shrimp ones were usually made with peas. Very few of us in the UK knew what ‘Cajun’ meant, let alone getting our hands on Cajun spices.

If you can find crawfish tails then even better as this is adapted from an Emeril recipe. As I had shrimp in the freezer and shrimp and crawfish are closely related, I felt it would work. Adding a splash of fine cognac didn’t hurt either and if you can find a good seafood stock, even better!

So these little shrimp-stuffed vol-au-vents became a happy nostalgic accident as I had all the ingredients and am forever practical, hating waste. A bit of a trip down memory lane for some people…or perhaps not, depending on your age.

Either way, these are really good.

Spicy Shrimp Vol au Vent

Spicy Shrimp Vol-au-Vents

SPICY SHRIMP VOL-AU-VENTS

(Makes 6 as an appetizer)

Ingredients:

One package of 6 frozen puff pastry vol-au-vents

2 tablespoons of  unsalted butter

2 tablespoons of all-purpose (plain) flour

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of finely minced garlic

2 cups of good seafood or chicken broth

1/4 cup of brandy

1 pound of raw cleaned and peeled shrimp or crawfish

1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning

1/4 cup of heavy cream

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

A pinch of cayenne

1/4 cup green/spring onions or chives (green part only), chopped

Action:

Put the pastry shells on a baking sheet and bake according to the package directions until they’re puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack. Once cool enough, pull the tops off (you’ll use those later), remove any excess of soft pastry inside and discard it. You want lots of space for the filling.

Warm them in the oven before adding the filling.

For the shrimp filling; in a large saute pan melt the butter until foaming then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have a pale ‘roux’. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. It will absorb the flour and butter roux, then add the cognac and boil it off quickly before slowly whisking in the seafood or chicken broth.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 25 minutes until thickened, whisking every minute or so.

Now season the raw shrimp with the Cajun seasoning and add them to the sauce. Cook stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the cream, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper. Continue to stir and cook for one more minute before finally adding the chopped scallion (spring onion) greens. Stir together and cook for one more minute.

Divide the shrimp sauce between the warmed vol-au-vent cases and balance a pastry ‘hat’ on top of each.

Serve right away.

 

Posted in Fish, Made in Under 30 mins, Salads & Appetizers | 2 Comments

Recipe – Easy Pumpkin Dulce-de-Leche Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline

A lovely seasonal ice cream that doesn’t require an ice cream maker and only takes 5 minutes to assemble – plus freezing time of course.

Serve it alone, perhaps with a sprinkle of praline (instructions for making praline below) or with a traditional Thanksgiving dessert such as pecan pie.

Dulce-de-leche is available in most good supermarkets in cans but if you can’t find it, take a can of regular condensed milk and boil it in a large pan of water for 2 hrs. One cooled, you’ll have a wonderful caramel that works beautifully with desserts such as banoffee pie, etc.

Pumpkin Dulce-de-Leche Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline

Pumpkin Dulce-de-Leche Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline

EASY PUMPKIN DULCE-DE-LECHE ICE CREAM

(makes 10 good scoops)

Ingredients:

1 cup (240ml) of heavy cream, chilled

one 14 oz (400g) can of dulce de leche (or home-made, see above)

3/4 cup (180ml) of pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

A pinch of salt

Praline topping (instructions below)

Action:

Chill a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan in the freezer.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, dulce-de-leche, vanilla, cinnamon and salt .

In a separate bowl, beat the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Fold one third into the pumpkin mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining cream until it’s thoroughly combined.

Transfer the mixture to the chilled loaf pan, cover the surface with cling film, wrap in foil and freeze overnight before serving.

To make Praline:

In a heavy (preferably cast-iron) pan, combine equal quantities of whole raw hazelnuts (or almonds, pistachios, etc) and white sugar. Melt the sugar over a very low heat. The nuts will start to smell a bit toasty. This takes a while so don’t be tempted to crank up the heat.

Eventually the sugar will become a deep golden color and runny. When it reaches the runny stage, quickly pour the entire contents onto a large greased cookie sheet and allow it to cool and harden.

Once it’s hard, break it into pieces and grind it in a processor until you have a fine powder, or bash it with a rolling pin in a sealed plastic bag until you have very small shards – I keep both types in my freezer in little airtight containers.

You don’t need to defrost praline to use it. The shattered variety adds a lovely crunch to ice cream or as cake topping and the fine powdered praline is perfect for sweetening whipped cream or mixed into chocolate ganache for a decadent little truffle…that sort of thing.

Posted in Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts | 2 Comments

Recipe – ‘Youvetsi’ (Greek Lamb Stew with Orzo Pasta)

I love one-dish suppers, especially when they involve pasta of any sort.

There are many versions of Youvetsi, a traditional Greek recipe where orzo pasta is added to the stew at the very end. Purists will probably be up in arms about this not being 100% traditional as it’s relatively quick but my goal is to make food that tastes fabulous in the shortest possible time.

The combined flavors are wonderful with lots of fresh rosemary, a hint of spice and tender chunks of lamb simmered in a tomato-y sauce. I recommend using leg of lamb for the leanest cut but shoulder will also do very well.

The addition of fresh spinach gives you a healthy dose of green – just add more if this isn’t enough for you.

Youvetsi , Greek Lamb Stew with Orzo

Greek Lamb Stew with Orzo Pasta – ‘Youvetsi’

YOUVETSI – GREEK LAMB STEW WITH ORZO & SPINACH

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1lb (450g) of lean lamb cut into 2-inch (5cm) chunks

1 medium onion, finely chopped

A fat garlic clove, minced

A sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced

1/2 a teaspoon of ground allspice

2 bay leaves

14 oz (400g) can of chopped tomatoes

7 fl oz (200ml) of chicken stock

2 teaspoons of runny honey

A pinch of sea salt

7 oz (200g) of orzo pasta

4-6 oz (120g) of washed baby spinach leaves

3 oz (75g) of crumbled feta cheese to serve

Action:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy sauté pan or casserole with a lid and brown the meat in batches. Set aside. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until soft then return the meat to the pan, adding the rosemary, allspice and bay leaves. Stir to combine and cook for another minute or so over moderate heat.

Add the honey, salt, chicken stock and canned tomatoes with their juice then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to the packet instructions, drain and rinse under cold water. Add the orzo to the lamb stew along with the spinach leaves.

Give it a good stir to wilt the leaves then cover the pan and take it off the heat to rest for 3-5 minutes before serving with a sprinkle of crumbled feta.

 

 

Posted in Meat, Pasta | Leave a comment