There’s definitely a chill in the air. I’m not sure where summer went exactly but I’m fairly confident it ain’t coming back. It was 7C this morning when I woke up (at an ungodly hour for some reason). Is it just me or has this has been one of the worst summers in recent memory? I’m normally quite strict about turning on the heating before 1st of October, but that went out the window last night. When it comes to food, though, I don’t feel quite ready to switch to hearty beef stews, pumpkin soup and large glasses of red wine. I’m still clinging on to lighter, fresher dishes, at least for the time being. This recipe is basically a transitional piece, perfect for when the sun still feels quite warm once the day gets going, but it may well rain later. It’s the food equivalent of a trench coat. But maybe in a bright colour.
This lighter take on a classic chilli is made with chicken and lots of fresh green veg, chilli and lime. A bit of heat and freshness in a bowl! Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, this is a super simple and quick supper and a perfect way to use up any leftover chicken.
Summer Chicken Chilli
serves 2 with leftovers
You will need:
1 green pepper
1 whole green chill
1 clove garlic
1 banana shallot
1 lime, juice and zest
1 small bunch coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
300g cooked chicken, shredded
1 L good quality chicken stock
1 tin butter beans, drained
150g asparagus tips, cut into bite-size pieces
100g peas, fresh or frozen
100g broad beans, fresh or frozen
spring onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
lime wedges, to serve
tortilla crisps, crumbled, to serve
1. Begin by blitzing the pepper, chilli, garlic, shallot, lime zest and juice in a food processor or mini chopper along with the stalks from the coriander. Whizz to a chunky paste. Heat the oil in large saucepan and add the paste, stirring over a medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant.
2. Add the chicken and stir for a further couple of minutes to combine. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the butter beans, peas and broad beans and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
3. Divide into bowls and top with the spring onions, avocado, a little coriander, crumbled tortilla crisps and lime wedges.
As I’ve mentioned before, I do love a pumpkin. Few vegetables signify a season quite as well. And, yes, I know this may in part be to our ever-expanding americanization, but I don’t mind so much in this instance. I know that the Yankee abduction of our seasons and traditions over here in Europe is often no more than a marketing ploy, but I’ll happily buy into a pumpkin fad. And anyway, they are the ultimate frugal veg because you can get so much out of them- a bargain rather than a frivolous, unnecessary splurge. So take that, Hollywood.
So every year, I buy a pumpkin and I cook with it. This year, I managed to get three decent recipes and meals from 1 medium sized pumpkin. Here are two with the final one to follow.
It may well be the case that every shop in town thinks it’s Christmas Eve already, judging by the abundance of glitter and flashing lights. And yes, most pubs, restaurants and cafés have been touting for your staff do business since July. Sure, John Lewis has started screening it’s Yule-themed advert (not a patch on last year’s, by the way). But, in my rather stubborn book, it’s still very much autumn. After all, the yanks have only just celebrated Thanksgiving and that’s the most autumnal holiday there is (apart from Halloween, of course).
So I’m still stuck on root vegetables and making the most of them. Pumpkin in particular, at the moment, as I managed to track down a can of pumpkin puree (not as widely available here as it is in the States). I wanted to make the most of it, without resorting to making a whole pie, so did a bit of experimenting.
I’ve also recently made some celeriac soup with chestnut and sage gnocchi and scones with parsnip, cheddar and cracked black pepper. Proof if you ever needed it that these knobbly, rather ugly looking vegetables are capable of beautiful things.
You will need:
225g Self raising flour
pinch of salt
30g butter, diced
1 large parsnip, coarsely grated
60g strong cheddar cheese, grated
150ml + 2 tbsp milk
1. Preheat the oven to 200C
2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.
3. Rub in the cold butter until the mixture is breadcrumb-like.
4. Add the grated parsnip, 50g of the grated cheddar and a good deal of ground pepper.
5. Make a well in the mixture and add 150ml of the milk, stirring to form a sticky dough.
6. Turn onto a floured work and knead until just smooth. Form/cut about 10 mini scones or 6 large ones, using a cutter, ramekin or glass (whatever you have to hand).
7. Transfer to a floured baking sheet and brush with the remaining milk. Sprinkle with a bit more of the grated cheese and a little cracked black pepper.
8. Bake in the top section of the oven for about 20 minutes, until risen and golden. Serve immediately with lots of butter.
Celeriac Soup with Chestnut and Sage Gnocchi
You will need:
For the soup:
1 onion, sliced
1/2 celeriac, peel and chopped roughly
1 clove garlic, minced
some torn sage leaves, to serve
For the gnocchi
500g spuds, peeled and cut into chunks
1 egg yolk
15 g Parmesan
100g plain flour
20 g butter, softened
100g chopped chestnuts
handful sage leaves
1. Add the chunks of potato to a large pan and cover with water. Add a bit of salt to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the chunks are completely cooked through and mushy.
2. Meanwhile, slice the onion and fry in a little oil over a low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Once the onion is cooked and slightly translucent, add the chunks of celeriac and minced garlic. Cook for a further minute or two, stirring constantly.
3. Add enough stock to the pan to cover the vegetables. Simmer over a low heat until the celeriac is just tender.
4. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and return them immediately to the dry pan. Put back onto a low heat to completely dry them out, taking care not to burn them. Remove from the heat and mash thoroughly or add to a food processor and blitz until smooth.
5. Mix in the egg yolk, cheese, butter and chopped chestnuts (if you are using a food processor you can add them whole) until thoroughly incorporated. Season liberally with salt, pepper and chopped sage leaves.
6. You should now have a sticky dough. On a floured work surface, roll out sections of this dough into long sausages, about 2cm in diameter.
7. Using a kitchen knife, cut off small chunks of the sausage so that you have little oblong gnocchi shapes.
8. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the gnocchi in batches. Once they float to the top of the pan, they are done- this should only take a few minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to some kitchen roll to dry. You can use the gnocchi straight away or cool and freeze for later.
9. To serve, drain the celeriac, but hang on to the stock. Puree the vegetables with a stick blender and return to the pan, adding in the reserved stock until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
10. Heat a little olive oil in a small frying pan and fry 3-4 gnocchi per serving, flipping and moving them around the pan constantly. They should begin to colour a bit and form a slight crust.
11. Serve the soup in hearty bowls and top with the gnocchi, some torn sage leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. The gnocchi are also delicious served on their own with a bit of sage flavoured butter and lots of Parmesan.
Pumpkin Garlic Knots
(Recipe from the Handle the Heat blog)
You will need:
230ml warm water
1 sachet (7g) fast action dried yeast
2 tbsp honey
100g pureed pumpkin (from a tin)
2 tbsp + 70 ml olive oil
1 tsp salt
525g strong white bread flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano (or chopped fresh, if you have it)
1. In a small bowl, add the warm water and top with the dried yeast. Allow to sit for a few minutes, until slightly frothy, active and smelly.
2. Mix in the honey, 2 tbsp of the olive oil and pumpkin.
3 Mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients then pour in your wet ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until the ingredients start to come together.
5. At this stage, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
6. Lightly oil the large bowl and place the dough into it with a sprinkling of flour. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warmish place until it has doubled in size- this may take a couple of hours- be patient and try not to keep checking it as that is sure to drive you potty.
7. Preheat the oven to 220 C. Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and knock back slightly. Tear off small sections of the dough- about 2 tbsps worth each. Roll each section into a long sausage shape and tie into a knot. Place onto an oiled baking sheet and continue to work your way through the dough. You should get about 30 small knots.
8. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until golden. Meanwhile, combine the remaining olive oil with the oregano, sea salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Once the knots have come out of the oven and cooled slightly, toss them in this dressing mixture to coat. Leave to dry out a bit before serving. These are best when still slightly warm.
Pumpkin and Ricotta Pancakes
You will need:
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
grating of nutmeg
200 ml milk
100 g ricotta
100g pumpkin puree (from a tin)
1. Combine the baking powder, salt, flour and spices in a large bowl.
2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, ricotta, puree and eggs until smooth and a bit frothy.
3. Make a well in the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients, beating to incorporate fully. It will make for quite a thick batter.
4. Heat a large frying pan with a little bit of oil. Add a wooden spoon-full of batter to the pan, swirling to flatten a bit. Once small bubbles begin to form on the tops of the uncooked side of the pancake, flip and cook for a further 30 seconds- 1 minute.
5. Keep warm whilst you make the remaining pancakes. Serve with lashings of maple or golden syrup.
I had a cold last week, which left me full of snivels this week. Summer colds don’t make any sense to me whatsoever, but because I haven’t been ill in ages, I suppose it was rather overdue.
Is it starve a fever, feed a cold? I can never remember. To be honest, when I’m ill, I seem to be hungry all the time either way, but all what I want is quite simple, nourishing food. Chicken soup is, of course, my first port of call, preferrably with plenty of buttered crackers. I made this lemony version for dinner to satisfy my craving for that bland simplicity. It’s incredibly light with a very clean and refreshing palate- perfect to heal what ails you.
The broth can easily be made with any vegetables you may have lurking in your fridge- leek, spring onion, courgette, squash. I would avoid potatoes, though, as they will make the soup a bit too starchy. I’ve kept the seasoning quite simple, but if you were feeling adventurous you could add juniper berries, fresh or dried herbs or to spice things up, chilli, ginger or lemongrass (which would be gorgeous, I’m sure).
Lemon and Chicken Broth
You will need:
2 carrots, peeled
1 1/2 white onions
2 garlic clvoes
1 large parsnip
2 bay leaves
salt, pepper corns
6 chicken thighs and/or legs
1 packet rice noodles
juice of 1 lemon
handful of mint
1. Place 2.5 litres of water to boil and add the roughly chopped carrots, onions, garlic and parsnip. Bring to the boil and add the bay leaves, salt and a tablespoon of peppercorns. Reduce to a gentle simmer.
2. In the meantime, roast the chicken. Strew with salt and pepper, a little olive oil and place in a 180 degree preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the juices run clear.
3. Once the chicken has cooled a little, de-bone and chop the meat into smaller pieces. Place to one side. Add the bones and a little of the chicken fat to the pan. Simmer for a further 20-30 minutes, until your broth has a light, chicken-y flavour.
4. Strain the broth and return to the heat, discarding the veg and chicken bones. Add the cooked chicken pieces and juice of half the lemon. Cook the noodles according to the packet’s instructions.
5. Add the noodles to the broth and spoon into soup bowls. Serve with another squeeze of lemon and some torn mint.