September 27, 2009

Chorizo, Sweet Potato & Butterbean Soup with Feta & Thyme Toasts

The Summer has officially ended and the belly warming food season has begun! I thought I would kick things off with this deliciously warming soup.

This chunky soup (or stew if you like) is everything you could possibly want on a chilly Autumn night. Made mostly from store cupboard ingredients, it is simple, hearty, healthy, and full of flavour.

Chorizo and beans are made for each other, but by adding tomatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes as well as crispy feta toast to the dish, a mouth watering combination is created.

I love the addition of sweet potatoes in this soup. Their natural sweetness is a wonderful contrast to the somewhat spicy chorizo. Butternut squash would also be very good. For this recipe, I like to roast the sweet potatoes first and add them to the soup near the end. This way they don't break into a soggy mush. This may be OK for some recipes but here, the soup is already quite thick. You can even throw in some greens if you like. Maybe some Swiss chard or kale would be good?

Either way this soup is not to be ignored. So, get your comfy's on, pour yourself a glass of wine and get ready for some belly warming yumminess!

Serves 4

For the soup:

150g dry-cured Spanish chorizo, skinned and roughly chopped
1 14 oz can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
60ml white wine
400ml chicken stock
1 large sweet potato
1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbls tomato paste
2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp sugar

For the feta and thyme toasts:

4-6 slices of ciabatta or french baguette about 1/2 inch thick
4 heaped tbls crumbled feta cheese
2 tbls olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 375F

Scrub sweet potatoes. (No need to peel). Cut into 1-2cm chunks and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes. Turn and cook for a further 15 minutes or until crisp and browned.

Heat 1 tbls olive oil in a large pan and fry chorizo until it starts to crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside onto a paper towel. Add onion to the pan and cook until just softened. Add the garlic and paprika and cook for a further 30 seconds or so. Add chorizo back to the pan followed by the white wine, scraping up any crispy bits . Once the wine has evaporated add the stock, tomato paste, tomatoes and sugar. Season and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Add butter beans and cook for a further 5- 10 minutes. Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes and serve.

About 10 minutes before the soup is completed, prepare the feta and thyme toasts. Mix together the olive oil, feta, garlic and thyme until creamy. Spread equal amounts onto each slice of bread. Place under a preheated grill or broiler for 2-3 minutes or until crisp and golden. Serve with the soup.

September 20, 2009

Goat's Cheese and Red Pesto Chicken

Chicken, prosciutto, pesto and goat's cheese. Need I say more? OK, maybe a little...

I make this deliciously simple dish over and over again. It is near effortless, healthy and satisfying. And in my mind, anything that delivers maximum satisfaction with minimum effort is worth sharing.

I have prepared this chicken at times using red, green, or walnut pesto as well as mixed olive tapenades, all of which are delicious! However, for today's recipe I have chosen red pesto. Out of all of my previous variations, this is my favorite. Enjoy!

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts
100g soft goat's cheese
2-3 tbls good quality red pesto
4 slices prosciutto

Preheat oven to 400F

Mix the goat's cheese and pesto together until well combined.

Cut a slit into the side of each chicken breast and fill with the goat's cheese pesto mixture. Wrap two slices of prosciutto around each chicken breast. Season and place onto a lightly greased baking tray. Cook for about 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with roasted vine tomatoes.

September 13, 2009

Mini Banoffee Pies

Banoffee pie, (a combination of the words"Banana" and "Toffee") is a true classic. It also happens to be one of the easiest desserts to make! A little bit of boiling, crushing, slicing, whipping and voila, you have yourself a culinary delight!

Sweetened condensed milk plays an essential role in the making of banoffee pie. After boiling it for several hours the milk caramelizes and turns into a wonderfully rich Dulce de leche. This is the yummy toffee like filling that banoffee pie is known for.

Boiling an unopened can of milk may alarm some people; however, I can tell you that this is a safe and normal part of the banoffee making procedure. Having said that, do use extreme care when doing this. Make sure you completely submerge the can of milk in water. Never let the water evaporate below the can of milk. And keep topping up with water when necessary.

As delicious as this popular pie is, it is known for its "rich" reputation. It's sweetness can be somewhat overpowering. A lot of the time I struggle just to finish a small piece. So, I decided to make baby banoffees! A crisp buttery base with a gooey caramel filling, sliced banana and fresh whipped cream... all in one bite! Perfect!

Try these babies with some freshly brewed coffee. Delicious!

Makes about 15 mini pies, with plenty of leftover caramel for ice cream!

200g Walkers shortbread or any other good quality shortbread
50g butter, melted
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1-2 bananas, sliced
Small carton of heavy whipping cream / Double cream
A good chunk of Cadburys milk chocolate, grated

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Peel the wrapper from the can of milk and add it (unopened) to the boiling water. Reduce heat slightly to a slow boil. Boil for 2 1/2 hours. Topping up with water when necessary.

Preheat oven to 325F
Crush the biscuits in a food processor into fine crumbs. Add butter and whiz again until well combined.
Press the biscuit mixture into greased mini muffin or tart pans. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and then chill until firm.

Whisk whipping cream until nice and thick and refrigerate until needed.

When the milk is ready, remove from the water and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, open and stir well.

Carefully remove tart shells from the muffin pan. Place a small spoonful of the caramelized milk into each tart shell. Top each one with a slice of banana.

Add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate.
Serve immediately or chill for up to 24 hours.

September 6, 2009

Coconut Dhal

Dhal has to be one of my all time favorite Indian dishes. It is impossible for me not to order this popular dish when dining at an Indian restaurant.

Dhal can be eaten as a main dish served with rice or naan bread. It also makes a wonderful accompaniment to a wide variety of other Indian dishes, especially dryer dishes such as biryiani or pilaf.

Dhal is always a popular addition to my Indian feasts. Not only is it delicious and easy to make, it is also incredibly nutritious. Lentils are a great source of inexpensive protein and are high in soluble fiber and iron.

This recipe is a particular favorite as the addition of coconut milk makes an interesting digression from the more traditional versions of dhal.

The variety of spices added to dhal at the end of cooking is commonly known as "Tarka" or "Tadka." A variety of ingredients such as fresh or dried chilis, onions, garlic, cumin or mustard seeds are fried in a small amount of oil or ghee and then added to the dhal before serving to impart flavour.

Any leftover dhal is great for lunch the next day spread on pita bread topped with a tomato, cucumber and onion salad. Yum!

Makes 4 Servings

Dhal :
250g red lentils
400ml coconut milk ( light is fine)
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp tumeric
1tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Put all the above ingredients in a pan. Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring every now and then.

1 onion sliced
1 garlic clove sliced
Handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)
3-4 tbls olive oil

Fry onion and garlic in oil until nice and crisp. Add the coriander and mustard seeds and cook for a further 30 seconds or so. Pour mixture over the lentils. Garnish with fresh coriander.

Recipe adapted from BBCGF.