Spicy Carrot Soup

I’m challenging myself to try and make better versions of stuff I haven’t been 100% happy with before, and use what’s in the house, (yes, I’m going stir crazy already).

I tried to make spicy carrot soups before and always thought the consistency was a bit weird. I think I have now cracked it. Adding a potato to the soup helps make it a much nicer creamier consistency. It’s still really healthy, and delicious served with big slabs of buttered soda bread (not as healthy given how much I enjoy butter).

Ingredients

1 Potato (cut into cubes)

4 Carrots (sliced)

1 Stalk of celery (chopped)

1 Onion (chopped)

1Tbsp Oil

1 Stock cube

1 Clove of garlic

1 Tsp Ground cumin

4-5 cm Piece of fresh ginger (grated), or 1 Tsp of ground ginger

1/2 Tsp Chilli powder (optional)

750 ml water

Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pot, and add the vegetables and dried spices, cook over a medium heat until the onion begin to turn clear
  2. Crumble in the stock cube and add the water. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, add the garlic and fresh ginger if you are using it
  3. Simmer for another 5 minutes, and check the seasoning
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a blender, or do what I did and use a hand blender to blitz the soup until you have a smooth soup

Chicken with Pearl Barley and Mushrooms, with Chicken Crackling (naughty but nice)

Worth the effort

This takes a bit longer than my normal recipes, but since we’re all stuck at home, time is the one thing we all have plenty of.

In my bid to use up what’s been hanging around my cupboards I found some pearl barley. I was craving carbs and since selfish wingnuts have cleared the super market shelves of rice and pasta this made a nice change. It takes a bit longer to cook, but is worth the time.

I used chicken thighs with the bones left in, and removed the skin to make “chicken crackling” . I know this is probably not especially healthy but sometimes a little indulgence does no harm, it’s not like you’re going to eat it everyday. If you want to give it s miss, this still makes a really delicious and satisfying meal.

Chicken crackling, baked and crispy from the oven.

Ingredients

150 Grams Pearl barley

4 Large chicken thighs

10 Grams Dried mushrooms

100 Grams Fresh mushrooms

1 Onion

250 Grams Spring greens (you can use broccoli, spinach or any other green vegetables you like)

250 ml White wine

250 ml Chicken stock

Large sprig of rosemary (finely chopped)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

1 Tbsp Oil

Large knob of butter

Salt and pepper

Dried mushrooms add a ton of flavour

Method

  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in a small amount of warm water
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a pan
  3. Roughly chop the onions and mushrooms. Add to the pan and fry until soft. Remove from the pan and set to one side
  4. Remove the skin from the chicken, and set to one side
  5. Add the chicken thighs to the pan and seal on both sides
  6. Add the barley, dried mushrooms and the water they soaked in, wine and stock to the pan. Cover with a lid, bring to boil and simmer over s low heat for 30-40 minutes (check the cooking instructions on the packet of barley, and cook for the recommended time
  7. Trim the chicken skin and flatten on a baking sheet before sprinkle with salt. Place another baking tin on top of the chicken skin to keep it flat and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees for 20-30minutes, or until golden brown
  8. if using Spring greens, remove the stalks and roll up the leaves, cut these into 2cm strips
  9. After 30 minutes of cooking, check on the barley, adding more water if necessary
  10. Add the garlic, rosemary, and spring greens to the pan, cover again and cook for a further 10 minutes until the barley is tender and has a creamy consistency, and check the seasoning (a bit like a risotto)
  11. Serve chicken and barley with shards of the chicken crackling, you can also crumble it across the dish

Corn Bread

Like everyone else I’m trying to limit how much I go out at the minute. Also because some people are being eejits and stripping supermarket shelves, I’m trying to work with ingredients I already have at home.

While having a look around the cupboard I found some polenta. I bought it to try a recipe for the Italian supper club and was not really a fan of how the Italian’s use it. However, it works well in the Soul Food staple of corn bread. The American version is too sweet for my taste, so I reduced the amount of sugar.

The recipe also calls for butter milk, which I didn’t have. No problem, just add a good squeeze of lemon juice to ordinary milk for the same effect (the acid in the butter milk/lemon juice helps the chemical reaction that makes the bread rise)

I serve this with chilli, but it’s also good served alongside soups. An American friend of mine also uses left over corn bread, crumbled up over casseroles to make a crunchy topping when baked in the oven. This also freezes really well.

115 Grams Cornmeal/fine polenta

150 Grams Plain flour

1 Tsp Sugar

1 Tsp Salt

1.5 Tsp Baking powder

0.5 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

2 Eggs

350 ml Butter milk (or semi skimmed milk, with a good squeeze of lemon)

50 Grams Butter

1 Onion (finely sliced)

Extra butter to grease the baking tin

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees, grease a round 23cm cake tin
  2. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and fry the onion until translucent, and allow to cool
  3. Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl
  4. In a separate bowl combine the the eggs, butter milk, and fried onions (including the butter the cooked in)
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well until any large lumps are gone. It’s quite a wet mixture so don’t panic
  6. Pour the mix into your greased baking tin, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check with a skewer or toothpick and when it comes out clean, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes

Sausage and Apple Pie

In my quest to stop food hoarding I’m trying to work through stuff hiding in my freezer. I found a pack of sausage meat that had been been hanging about the freezer since Christmas.

I don’t usually buy sausage meat but the addition of caramelised onions and sweet apples make a scrumptious combination. I’ve included details of home made pastry, but you can use ready made short crust pastry if you prefer.

Ingredients

Pastry

255 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter (cut into small cubes)

Cold water

1 Egg (beaten)

For the filling

450 Grams Sausage meat

2 Apples (cores removed, and cut into small chunks)

2 Onions (finely sliced)

1Tsp Dried thyme

1 Tbsp Oil

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the flour and butter to a food processor and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs (you can use the po”rubbing in method”, but a food processor is quicker
  2. Gradually add cold water to the mix until it comes together to form a ball. Wrap in cling film, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
  3. Add oil to a frying pan, add the onions and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes until browned. Allow to cool
  4. Add the fried onions, thyme, chopped apples, salt, pepper and sausage meat to a bowl. Combine the mix with you hands until all the ingredients are evenly distributed
  5. Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut approximately a third off and set to one side. On a floured surface, roll out the remaining two thirds.
  6. Grease a loose base pie tin, and then line the tin with the rolled out pastry
  7. Add the filling, and then roll out the remain third of the pastry to form a lid
  8. Brush the edges of the pastry lining the dish with the beaten egg. Lay the pastry lid on top and trim any pastry hanging over the edge of the tin with knife. Crimp the edges of the pie with a fork
  9. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg, and cut some slices in the lid to allow steam to escape
  10. Pre heat your oven to 190 degrees, and add a baking sheet to heat as well. Put the pie dish into the baking sheet and bake the pie for 50 minutes.
  11. Allow to cool on the tin for 5-10 minutes before removing from the tin

Keema Curry

It was the week before payday, and I was scanning round the kitchen for what I could make for dinner. I was lucky enough to find some minced lamb and frozen peas in the freezer.

This is may not be 100% authentic, but tasted great. It was even better the next day. A good spice cupboard can transform anything into a brilliant meal.

Serves 4-6

500 Grams Lamb mince

400ml Tin of tomatoes

250 Grams Frozen peas

1 Onion (Finely sliced)

2 Cloves of garlic (Minced)

4cm Piece of ginger (Grated)

1Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Tsp Cumin

1Tsp Chilli powder (optional)

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

1 Tsp Gram Masala

1 Tsp Nigella (onion) seeds

1 Tbsp Oil (flavourless, like sunflower)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced onion, cook for about 15 minutes, stir as needed until caramelised (this adds loads of flavour)
  2. Take onions out of the pan and set to one side. Add the Nigella seeds to the pan cook for a for 2 minutes or until you hear them popping. Take care not to let them burn. Remove from the pan and a side with the cooked onions
  3. Add the lamb to the pan along with the other spices, and continue cooking and stirring until the lamb is browned
  4. Add the peas, tomatoes and onion and Nigella seeds to the pan
  5. Simmer for 15 minutes, adding some water if it’s getting too dry.
  6. Serve with rice or flat breads

Gnocchi Mac n Cheese

Normal mac n cheese I think we can all agree is a thing of beauty!

I had a friend coming for lunch and was doing my usual scoot around the fridge to see what I had, and came up with this. I’ve added some vegetables to help lighten it up, as well as add flavour and texture. But if you feel that you want pure filth (and hey doesn’t sometimes), you could leave them out or substitute them for other veggies you like, sweetcorn works well in this too.

This makes a great week night dinner, and is quite happy to live in the fridge for a couple of days (if it lasts that long).

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

500 Gram Bag of ready made gnocchi

50 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

1 Onion (sliced)

1 Red pepper (sliced)

1 Green pepper (sliced)

50 Grams Green beans (canned/frozen)

2 Tbsps of Chopped Parsley (optional)

1 Tbsp Oil

25 Grams Butter

25 Grams Flour

250ml Milk

50 Grams Grated cheese (I used a mix of cheddar and mozzarella, but use what you prefer or what you have in the fridge)

50 Grams Breadcrumbs (optional, I always keep a bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer, it’s a cheap, quick and easy way to add a bit of crunch to dishes)

Method

  1. Cook the gnocchi as per the instructions on the packet, then drain and set to one side.
  2. Add the oil to a pan and over a medium heat cook the vegetables until softened
  3. Put the gnocchi and vegetables in an oven proof dish, and pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees
  4. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour to make a smooth paste over a medium heat, stir in the milk gradually to avoid lumps.
  5. The sauce will start to thicken as it cooks, reduce the heat and let the sauce cook out for another five minutes or until it no longer tastes of flour. Stir in half the cheese and mix until it has melted
  6. Add the sauce to the gnocchi and vegetables, and mix until well combined. Cover with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs if your using them
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on how brown you want the topping to be

Rumbledethumps

This recipe comes from one of my co-workers Ruth. She knows I love a good recipe and was kind enough to share this. It’s one of the things I like about food. Everyone needs to eat, and everyone has a favourite food. Many of my recipes come from people who just wanted to share something they really enjoyed.

This is a traditional Scottish recipe, and was probably developed to use up left over vegetables. I wasn’t that organised so I made this from scratch, but if you plan ahead and have left over veggies then this can be really quick to make. The name supposedly comes from the fact that cabbage and turnip can make some people a bit “windy”. Rumbledethump refers to the noises they may make. Thankfully this wasn’t my experience.

Rumbledethumps are traditionally fried, I oven baked these to make them a little healthier.

These make a great side dish or are delicious served with a fried egg.

Makes 8

Ingredients

500 Grams Potatoes (peeled and cubed)

200 Grams Turnip (peeled and cubed) – in England this is known as swede, but in NI we call it turnip)

1/2 Onion (finely sliced)

125 Grams Cabbage (finely sliced)

1 Egg yolk

50 Grams Cheddar cheese (grated)

2 Tbsps Oil

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Cook the potatoes and turnip until soft, drain and mash roughly before allowing to cool
  2. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to a pan and gently fry until soft, allow to cool
  3. Combine all the ingredients (except the remaining oil), in a bowl. Check the seasoning, I found this recipe needed quite a lot.
  4. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Get your hands into the mixture, and make 8 equal sized patties.
  5. Set the patties onto a greased baking sheet. Brush with the remaining oil and bake for 25-30mins