Roasted Aubergine and Lentil Soup

It was one of those situations, where I didn’t have a lot in the fridge and had to ‘jazz it up’ as I went along. I had one aubergine and just few cupboard basics. I never thought of adding aubergine to any of my soups before. “What a mistake-a to make-a”!  It works perfectly in a soup. I actually prefer it to potato. This soup is rich, earthy, with a subtle hint of spice, a good helping of garlic and gentle Mediterranean aromas. You can adjust the spice level by adding less/more chilli of course. The soup goes very well with these stout & honey buns.
Roasted Aubergine and Lentil soup
ROATED AUBERGINE AND LENTIL SOUP
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 aubergine, cubed

1 onion, finely chopped

1-2 carrots, depends on size, chopped

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of herbs of your choice (I had oregano)

1 teaspoon of paprika

pinch of sugar

1 cup of puy lentil

2 cans chopped tomatoes in its own juice or about 500gr fresh tomatoes, chopped

approx 3-4 cups of water/stock, depends how thick you like your soup to be.

2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar (optional)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced

1 chilli, finely chopped (optional)

salt and pepper to taste
parsley/seeds to garnish (optional)
Method:
1. Heat oven to 200C. Arrange the cubed aubergine in a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with some olive oil, mix well and roast for about 20 minutes or until tender and nicely brown.
2. Preheat the rest of the oil in a cooking pot, add onion and carrots and cook them for 5-7 minutes.
3. Then add the spices, herbs, sugar, lentil, tomatoes, water/stock. Bring it to boil, then reduce the heat, cover with the lead and cook it until the lentil is cooked.
4. When the lentil is cooked and tender, add the roasted aubergine to the soup, along with red wine vinegar, garlic and chilli. Season well with salt and pepper.
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Banana Bread with Chocolate & Walnuts

Banana bread is like a trusted family member you can always rely on. It is a delicious no fuss cake. Basically, if in doubt, bake a banana bread. And if it’s good just on its own, it’s even better with the addition of chocolate and nuts.

Banana and Chocolate chips bread

 

BANANA BREAD WITH CHOCOLATE AND WALNUTS

Ingredients:

2-3 (depends on the size) ripe bananas, mashed

180g caster sugar

2 eggs

140g softened butter

250g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

100g walnuts, chopped in pieces, plus reserving a few for decoration (optional)

100g plain chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 170C. Line the loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Mash the peeled banana in a mixing bowl first. Then add the remaining cake ingredients (except the nuts and chopped chocolate) and beat with an electric mixer until combined and smooth. Once combined add and fold in with a spatula the walnuts and chocolate.
  3. Pour into the prepared tin, decorate top with some walnut halves if you want, and bake it for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave it to cool slightly in the tin before transferring it onto a serving dish.

 

Thai Turkey Meatballs

Thai Green Curry is another successful recipe from Simply Nigella, a book which includes this recipe. Since the book came out, it’s placed itself comfortably into a spot in my regular rotation. Although, this recipe cannot pretend to be totally authentic (I don’t think turkey is much used in Thai cuisine), I love how flavoursome this curry is and the turkey meatballs just melt in your mouth. I love the spiciness and the coconut flavour in the curry, plus the smell of it is intoxicating.

Thai Turkey Meatballs

 THAI TURKEY MEATBALLS CURRY

Ingredients:

4 courgettes

500g turkey mince

3 spring onions – finely chopped

2 cloves garlic – grated

2cm piece of fresh ginger – grated

fresh coriander – finely chopped

1 tsp dried chili flakes

1 lime – zest and juice

1 tsp sea salt

3 tbsp Thai green curry paste

1 can (400ml) coconut milk

3 tbsp fish sauce

500ml chicken stock

350g sugar snaps

To serve:
small handful Thai basil leaves/fresh coriander (optional)
2 to 3 limes, cut into wedges

Method:

  1. To prepare the turkey meatballs, peel one of the courgettes and coarsely grate. Squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible then put in a large bowl with the turkey mince, the whites of the spring onion (reserve the green parts for later), grated ginger, garlic, chilli flakes and zest of the lime. Add seasoning and mix together by hand until combined. 
  2. Roll into equally sized meatballs, using a teaspoon of mixture as guidance and set aside. 
  3. Next, add the remaining green parts of the spring onion to a large pan with a couple of glugs of a flavourless oil and fry briefly.
  4. Add the Thai green curry paste, the cream from the top of the coconut milk and whisk together in the pan, before adding the rest of the coconut milk, fish sauce and chicken stock.
  5. Whilst you’re letting the mixture come to a gentle boil, peel the remaining courgettes, quarter each lengthways and then chop into 1cm pieces.
  6. Add the courgette pieces of the bubbling broth and then carefully place the turkey meatballs in the pan as well, being careful not to break them up. Once the pan has just started bubbling again, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on.
  7. Check the meatballs are cooked through, then add the juice from the zested lime and sugar snaps. Check the flavour and add seasoning, adjust as you wish.
  8. Cook for a couple more minutes then take off the heat. Serve with a bit more chopped coriander/Thai basil leaves and lime wedges for extra spritzing.

 

Cranberry and Chocolate Squares

It’s that time of year again, when you start seeing bags of fresh cranberries popping up in the stores. Most of us probably walk by these bags filled with bright red jewels without even pausing unless we are shopping for our Thanksgiving or Christmas meals. But there is no need to wait for the traditional meal to enjoy the benefits of these tangy berries. They are packed with Vitamin C, fiber, carbohydrates and antioxidants, supporting your immune system. I just like to snack on them raw. However, if you are not very keen on too tangy taste, try this bake and you’ll love them – sharp cranberries and sweet chocolate were made for each other.

Cranberry & Chocolate Squares

CRANBERRY AND CHOCOLATE SQUARES

115g butter

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

180g muscovado sugar (or caster sugar just fine)

150g self-raising flour

2 eggs

150g fresh or thawed cranberries

For the topping:

300ml sour cream

120g sugar

2 tablespoons self-raising flour

50g butter

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

about 75g plain chocolate, grated for topping

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20x20cm cake tin with butter and dust with flour.
  2. Combine the butter, cocoa powder and sugar in a pan and stir over a low heat until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs and the flour. Then add the cranberries and spread the mixture evenly in the prepared tin.
  4. To make the topping, mix all the ingredients, but the chocolate in a bowl, mix until smooth, then spread on top of the chocolate mixture.
  5. To finish, sprinkle evenly the grated chocolate on top and bake for about 40 minutes, or until risen and the wooden stick inserted comes out dry. Leave it to cool completely in the tin, then cut into 12 squares. Store in an airtight container.

cranberry-chocolate-layers

Cranberry and chocolate quares

Roasted Cauliflower & Aubergine with Lemony Tahini Dressing

Here is a great winter salad for your lunch boxes or an alternative side dish. You can literally roast any veg you like (butternut squash, beetroot, carrots, courgettes, red onion, etc.) In this instance, my chosen vegetables are cauliflower and aubergine.

Grilled Cauliflower & Aubergine with Green Lentil and Tahini dressing

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, AUBERGINE & GREEN LENTIL SALAD WITH TAHINI DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 cup puy lentil, cooked

1 small cauliflower head, separated into the florets

1 large aubergine, chopped into chunks

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons tahini

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 clove garlic, grated

2-3 tablespoons of hot water

spring onion and parsley to garnish (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Toss cauliflower and aubergine with olive oil, salt and pepper then spread out in an even layer on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until browned and tender, stirring half way through.
  3. Meanwhile cook the lentil according the instruction on the packet, if it’s not cooked already.
  4. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together tahini, lemon juice, zest, garlic and salt. Slowly add in the hot water until it’s reached the desired consistency. Stir in parsley and set aside.
  5. When vegetables are ready, serve on a bed of cooked green lentil and drizzle with tahini sauce. Serve warm or at room temp.

 

Broccoli Soup

It is one of the simplest but most comforting soups. There’s no waste with this soup. Use the whole broccoli head, including the stalk, to really make the most of this valuable vegetable. Top it up with crumbled blue cheese or a mature cheddar, or it is just as good on its on with crusty buttered bread.

Broccoli Soup

BROCCOLI SOUP

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

knob of butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek, sliced

1 carrot, diced

1 potato, diced

approx 1 litre  of vegetable or chicken stock

1 big head of broccoli,  finely chopped

100g any cheese you prefer, for serving (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat the oil and the butter in a large saucepan and then add the onions. Cook on a medium heat until soft. Add a splash of water if the onions start to catch.
  2. Add the leek, carrot and potato. Allow to sweat for 5 minutes under the lid.
  3. Then pour in the stock and add any chunky bits of broccoli stalk. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.
  4. Now add the broccoli and cook for a further 5 minutes. Carefully transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth. Taste for seasoning and serve.
  5. Serve with any cheese on top or just as it is.

 

Dutch Cookies – Speculaas

I did mentioned my all-time-favourite biscuits before, but this time I’d like to praise my NEW favourites – Speculaas, Dutch spiced biscuits. Traditionally served on the eve of the Feast of St Nicholas, in early December. However, we started to nibble on them late in October, on our trip to Holland. I grew up eating  Piparkūkas (Latvian ginger biscuits). I like them a lot, but I find Speculaas to be much lighter, wonderfully spiced and moreish.

These took just a litre bit longer to prepare, compared to my Clove & Hazelnuts Cookies, mainly due to arranging the almond flakes on them. But as a reward for your efforts, you’ll get a good amount of these beauties, depending on the size of your cookie cutters, of course!

Speculaas

SPECULAAS

Ingredients:

100g butter, softened

1 egg

250g plain flour

1 tablespoon cornflour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

flaked almond for decoration (optional)

Method:

Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, beat in the egg.

Sift together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, cinnamon, gender, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, plus a pinch of salt. Add it to the butter mixture and stir to form a firm dough. Shape it to the large, flat cake shape and place it to the fridge to chill for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment.

Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of cling film to approx 2-3 mm thick. Cut into any Christmas shape you like, transfer to the baking sheets, making sure you leave a gap between each shape. Decorate the tops with almonds, if using.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave on the trays for another 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Speculaas