Sweet Potato, Leek & Rosemary Soup

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Deliciously thick and comforting, this soup is perfect for a winter’s evening.

I’m a little bit obsessed with soup at the moment. It is so quick and easy as I have a soup maker that not only cooks the soup, but then blends it if you want a smooth soup. Fresh, tasty soup in 21 minutes – perfect.

Making soup is so much better for you than buying tins or fancy soups from the chilled aisle in the supermarket. I know you can get ‘light’ or low calorie soups in the shops, but when making them yourself is so easy, why buy them?

I was looking through Pinterest, as I seem to spend half my life doing, and saw a pin for Sweet Potato, Leek and Rosemary Soup. The suggestion of the flavour combination was all I needed and I set about to create my own recipe using those three ingredients.

I use my trusty soup maker, but you can always make this in a standard pot. Just cook until the vegetables are tender and then blend using whatever you have whether that is a blender or a stick blender.

The quantities below are for two portions simply because I can only fit between 2  – 3 portions worth in my soup maker. I think cooking smaller quantities can be a good idea because if you make a big batch you either sicken yourself by eating it for days on end or freeze it. Don’t get me wrong, I still make soup and freeze it because it’s great to have when you haven’t had time or the ingredients to make it from scratch. But by making smaller batches, I now have lots of different flavours of soup rather than loads of one flavour.

My boyfriend isn’t usually the biggest fan of soup. He likes it but he would never opt to have it instead of a sandwich for example for lunch. As this was my first time making this recipe, I asked him to try it and I have honestly never seen him so excited over a savoury dish I have made. He wanted to eat some there and then (even though he had just had his lunch); and was distraught when I said I was going to freeze it. Over the next day or two he ended up eating all of it so I didn’t get a look in! He really liked it when soup is thick and the sweetness of the sweet potato are what makes him like this soup so much.

350g sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 leeks (approx 200g), sliced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
300ml semi skimmed milk
500ml water
1 vegetable stock pot
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

  1. Chop up all of the vegetables and add to your soup maker/pan with the rest of the ingredients
  2. If using a soup maker, set to the smooth setting and leave the machine to do the work
  3. If using a pan, cook until the vegetables have softened and then blend using a stick blender or pour into a blender to blend until smooth (could I have said blend any more times!)
  4. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a little bit more water until it is the thickness you like

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Rhubarb Crumble

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Not pretty, not fancy but a really tasty and comforting pudding. This is a perfect recipe for a cold winter’s evening.

I’m sure people will tell me that you can make crumbles look pretty but that isn’t what I want from my crumble. They remind me of home cooked meals which are rustic and simple and above all else; delicious. Part of a crumble’s charm is when the rhubarb escapes from under the crumble topping and bubbles up so don’t worry if this happens!

This rhubarb crumble uses rhubarb from my Boyfriend’s Nan’s garden. When she gave it to me, I didn’t to use it immediately so I cleaned it and cut it into roughly 5cm lengths. I then bagged it up and froze it ready for a later date. That later date came when Rien’s Nan was coming to stay for the weekend, so what better time to make a rhubarb crumble?!

The recipe is by Grey Wallace from the BBC Good Food website.

500g rhubarb
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp port 

Crumble topping
140g self raising flour
85g butter
50g light brown sugar

  1. Cut the rhubarb into thumb length pieces and add to a saucepan along with the port and sugar

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  1. Cover and simmer the rhubarb on a low heat for 15 minutes. Taste and add some more sugar if it isn’t sweet enough

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  1. When the rhubarb is soft, pour it into a medium baking dish

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  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC or 180ºC fan
  2. Make the topping by putting the flour and butter into a bowl and rub the ingredients together with your fingertips until you have a soft crumbly texture

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  1. Add the sugar and mix together with your hands. Scatter the crumble topping over the rhubarb and bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown

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No-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

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Gloriously indulgent and pure peanut butter chocolatey goodness. These bars will change your life.

Ok so maybe that was slightly dramatic, but they will mean you don’t need to buy Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups again! These bars are everything you want when you get the craving for peanut butter and chocolate. You will find it incredibly hard to have just one!

This recipe is from a fantastic blog  which I have featured before – Sally’s Baking Addiction. Make sure you go and have a look at the recipe on her blog as there is a video showing you exactly how she makes them. I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly by using digestive biscuits instead of graham crackers and milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate. Here in the UK we do not have graham crackers, so digestives are our closest alternative. The chocolate was simply because I like milk chocolate more so feel free to use which you would prefer.

Apart from how amazing these bars taste, they are also fantastically easy to make and you don’t even need an oven! Don’t get put off by the simplicity of the ingredients, they really do taste like Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. I was more than slightly dubious about the digestive biscuits as I thought there was no way biscuits would provide the right flavour or texture. I was definitely pleasantly surprised!

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115g salted butter, melted
1 cup (approximately 120g) digestive biscuits, crushed
120g icing (powdered) sugar
185g + 30g smooth peanut butter
180g milk chocolate

  1. Line a 20x20cm baking tin with parchment paper
  2. Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave and set aside. Blitz the digestive biscuits in a food processor into a fine crumb and add to the melted butter along with the icing sugar and 185g peanut butter

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  1. Spread the mix evenly onto the bottom of the prepared tin
  2. Melt the chocolate along with 30g peanut butter in  heatproof bowl in the microwave making sure you check and stir the mix often

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  1. Pour the melted chocolate and peanut butter mix over the biscuit base and smooth out evenly

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  1. Allow to full cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Cut into small squares and enjoy!

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Yorkshire Puddings

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So incredibly big, fluffy and delicious! These are so quick and simple you will never use ready-made Yorkshire Puddings again!

I came across this recipe as a video that came up on my Facebook timeline. The recipe is from Pinch of Nom: Slimming World Recipes so I thought I definitely had to try it if it was a healthy Yorkshire! So I made the extremely easy batter and they turned out great – so light and fluffy. I then wanted to work out just how healthy they were because I don’t use Slimming World so didn’t know what 1.5 syns meant. After working it out, each Yorkshire Pudding has around 65 calories; so not really that healthy.

I then asked my Mum how she makes her Yorkshires which was interested in itself. She learnt how to make them from her Mum and doesn’t measure ingredients but makes the batter by eye. Hers are always fantastic, but I need something with measurements to make sure I get it right as I don’t have the years of practice my Mum has. She did say that her recipe only uses one egg and not two and she uses oil instead of spray oil. Simply changing to spray oil would reduce the calories significantly which is always a good thing!

After speaking to my friend that does use Slimming World I found out that they are considered a good option because eggs are ‘free’ or something like that so you don’t count them therefore the Yorkshires are a healthier option in their diet.

Ignoring whether they are healthy or not, these Yorkshires are delicious. A lot of the frozen and ready made Yorkshires you can buy do have fewer calories but they tend to be smaller and in my opinion thinner and crisper instead of light and fluffy. Personally I would rather have one of these Yorkshire Puddings every now and then rather than a ready made one more frequently. Try these and you will definitely understand why!

This recipe makes 4 Yorkshire Puddings.

spray oil 
30g plain flour
2 eggs
pinch of salt
75ml semi-skimmed milk

  1. Spray a muffin tin with the oil and heat in the oven at 210ºC until the oil foams
  2. Add all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth

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  1. Pour the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 10 mins at 210ºC and then reduce to 190ºC for 5-10 minutes until golden and fluffy

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Flourless Chocolate Cake

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This cake is incredibly chocolatey and deliciously rich – the perfect cake for any chocoholic!

What initially drew me to this recipe is that it keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Now I know that sounds like a really stupid reason to want to make a recipe, but I was looking for something to make for a family BBQ. I’d never catered for 20 people before and didn’t want to leave everything to the last minute and get myself in a bit of a flap. So when I saw that this cake would keep well in the fridge for a week I thought it was perfect. And it was chocolate which is always a winner.

This cake is very dense. As you can see from the photo it doesn’t have a crumb-like texture at all. This also makes is very rich so although it is delicious, I would recommend a modest slice and to not leave out the raspberries and cream which help cut through all of the chocolate.

I came across this recipe in Delicious magazine, but unfortunately cannot find the recipe online to link to. This is not my own recipe and I take no credit for it 🙂 (but I do definitely recommend making it!).

250g unsalted butter
300g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
5 medium eggs, separated
250g caster sugar
125g ground almonds

To serve
Cocoa powder for dusting
Raspberries
Double cream

  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan) and line a 23cm spingform tin
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until the butter starts to turn brown and smell like biscuits

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  1. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and then whisk in the egg yolks. Transfer to a large mixing bowl

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  1. Using a stand or hand held mixer, whisk  the egg whites to soft peaks. The peaks should droop when the beaters are removed

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  1. Mix the sugar and almonds into the chocolate mixture and then using a large metal spoon, fold in the egg whites

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  1. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes until a cocktail stick pushed into the cake comes out clean

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  1. Allow to cool completely in the tin and then chill until needed

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  1. Just before serving, dust the cake with cocoa powder and scatter with fresh raspberries. Serve with double cream

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Guacamole

 

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Healthy, fresh and a great accompaniment to so many things. This is my sister’s favourite guacamole recipe that is really quick and packed with great flavours.

My sister, Ally, is definitely a fan of avocado. She had this tasty guacamole when she went to Wahaca in London and raved about it. She then ‘Mexican Food Made Simple’ by Thomasina Miers so she could make the guacamole herself as well as other tasty recipes.

Ally made this recipe for our Mexican Feast we cooked our Mum for Mother’s Day (I’ve been meaning to blog this recipe for a while as you can see!). The guacamole went perfectly with the nachos, chilli con carne and quesadillas we made as part of the feast.

Avocados are packed with healthy fats, vitamins and fibre which makes guacamole a perfect healthy snack.

1 – 2 green chillies, finely chopped
½ red onion, very finely chopped
1 small garlic clove
1 – 2 tsp sea salt
3 ripe Hass avocados (the dark green bumpy skinned ones)
juice of 1 – 2 limes
small handful of coriander, chopped
1 ripe tomato, de-seeded and diced 
freshly ground black pepper 

  1. Test the heat of your chillies by biting the tip off one. If they’re quite hot you may want to use less or remove the seeds
  2. Put a quarter of the onion, the garlic, half the chili and salt into a both and mush with a fork
  3. Remove the stones from the avocados and scoop out the flesh and add to the bowl with the roughly mashed ingredients. Mash the avocados adding half of the lime juice as you go. When you have a good rough texture, add in the rest of the onion, lime juice and chillies along with the coriander and tomato
  4. Season with plenty of black pepper. Taste the guacamole and add more lime juice, salt and coriander if needed

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Slow Cooker Fiesta Chicken

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Melt in your mouth chicken packed with loads of delicious flavours; this dish is quickly becoming a new favourite!

My sister has been trying to convince me to get a slow cooker for a long time. I was reluctant because in my head I thought it was cheating and taking out some of the fun of cooking. Obviously I was wrong! She bought me one for my birthday after finally giving in and saying I would give one a go – and now I love it!

The first thing I attempted to make were cinnamon rolls. They really didn’t turn out well at all! However this wasn’t the slow cooker’s fault but mine as the part of the recipe that specifically warned me to be very precise, I wasn’t. I decided to leave the desserts alone for a while and focus on savoury dishes.

I’d seen a few recipes using chicken and Mexican flavours so used them to create my own interpretation which I decided to call Fiesta Chicken! My main inspiration came from one of my favourite bloggers over at Skinny Taste. I tweaked her Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken recipe.

This recipe is really flexible. Add more of what you want, less or none of what you don’t and make it your own. I happened to have some chicken thighs and a couple of breasts in the fridge so I decided to chuck them both in. I love chicken thighs as they have so much flavour but until recently I have always tended to buy breasts. Since I’ve got a chest freezer I now go a little crazy and buy thighs in bulk and have a mass de-boning session. Last week I de-boned approximately 80 thighs ready for BBQ’s. They are definitely me favourite cut of chicken but use whichever you fancy!

I used a combination of chilli powders that I have bought on my trips to Borough Market. Don’t let not having them put you off making this dish! Use whatever you have – chilli powders, cayenne pepper, paprika etc. and add more if you like a bit of heat. The quantities in the recipe below are more to add flavour than heat, so adjust as you wish. I added a tin of flame roasted mild green chillies which I bought from Tesco maybe a year ago. I’d seen a few American recipes where they included tinned tomatoes with mild green chillies, so when I saw the tin of chillies in the World Food’s aisle I bought them. This recipe was finally a reason to use them! You’ll notice I haven’t included them in the recipe though as since making this dish, I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. I’ve even searched online for them and it seems you need to order them from America which isn’t the cheapest option, so I decided it was better to miss them out, however sad this made me feel.

I was so impressed with how tasty this recipe was and it was such minimal effort. I did find that there was too much liquid when I made it so I have reduced the amount slightly. That is the only thing I have found with slow cookers, because you are cooking with the lid on, they keep all of their liquid and it doesn’t evaporate. If you want to try and thicken the dish without using cornflour (or as well as) just take the lid off for the last 30 mins cooking to help some of the water evaporate.

The recipe below made enough for 7 large portions – 6 of which I will use for dinner and then I split the last one into two smaller portions for lunches.

approx 500g chicken
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp Mexican oregano
2 tsp chilli powder (I used a mixture of ancho, guajillo and chipotle)
1 tsp garlic powder
2 x 400g tins tomatoes
400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
340g tin sweetcorn, drained
1 pepper, sliced
300g chicken stock
3 spring onions, sliced
1 tbsp cornflour (if needed to thicken)

  1. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, oregano and the chilli powders

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  1. Add the tomatoes, black beans, sweetcorn, pepper, stock and spring onions to the slow cooker and stir to mix
  2. Lie the chicken on top of the ingredients and put the lid on the slow cooker

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  1. Cook for 10 hours on low or 6 hours on high
  2. 30 mins before serving, remove the chicken onto a board and shred using two forks. Return to the slow cooker and stir through

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  1. If there is too much liquid, in a glass mix the cornflour with just enough water to make a liquid and add this to the slow cooker and continue cooking for the 30 minutes
  2. Serve with rice sprinkled with grated cheese and spring onions

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Nutella Cupcakes

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If you’re a Nutella fan, you need to try these. They are full on Nutella goodness – especially with Nutella buttercream too!

I made these for my boyfriend’s sister and her now husband to try as they had asked me to make the cakes for their wedding. They had asked me to make some Nutella cupcakes for them to try so I went to trusty Pinterest and found this recipe on Love Life and Sugar. She is a massive Nutella fan too so she loved the Nutella cupcakes with Nutella buttercream but they didn’t decide to go with them for the wedding because they were definitely not for the just the mild Nutella fan.

217g all purpose flour
207g sugar
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
168g salted butter, room temperature
160g Nutella
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
120ml sour cream
120ml milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a cupcake tin with cupcake cases
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in a large mixing bowl
  3. Add butter, Nutella, egg whites, vanilla, sour cream and milk and mix on medium speed until all ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth
  4. Add the mix to the cupcake cases filling them approximately half way

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  1. Bake for 19-21 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs

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  1. Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so before allowing them to cool completely on a wire rack

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When cooled, frost the cupcakes. I’d recommend either vanilla buttercream or if you’re a real Nutella fanatic like myself, Nutella Buttercream.

 

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Vegetable Curry

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Not the most attractive of dishes, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in taste! Deliciously comforting curry packed with loads of vegetables makes this a tasty and healthy all in one dinner.

This recipe is so flexible and really lends itself to being adapted to what you like and how spicy you like it. It is a perfect meal to make when you have a few vegetables left over in your fridge that may not be at their peak freshness but you want to use them in a dish. You can use whatever vegetables you like, but for me the staples are potatoes, courgettes and cauliflower. My Mum used to make this for us and those were the vegetables she always used.

When I was making this curry for the first time in years,  I sent my sister a photo of my it bubbling away and her response was “it looks a bit boring, have you only got potatoes, courgettes and cauliflower in it?!”. Before she said that, I hadn’t even thought abut adding more vegetables as I was recreating what my Mum had always made us. So after my sister’s comment, I chucked other vegetables in and it was delicious. Since then I have added whatever I have had left in the fridge which means it is slightly different each time.

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As I hadn’t made this curry in years, when I did make it, it was the first time I had made it for Rien. I wasn’t holding out too much hope for him to be too enthusiastic about it as he is always a bit unsure about new meals to him. He really liked it but just had one suggestion that would make it even better – chicken. I should have seen it coming as he is the sort of person that thinks every meal should include meat. So the next time I made it, I added a couple of chicken breasts at the stage where I added the vegetables and tinned tomatoes. As the curry cooks for quite a while, some of the chicken broke up and almost became part of the sauce which I thought was really tasty. Although adding chicken completely changes it from being a vegetarian curry, it is really tasty and it’s still packed with lots of vegetables so it’s healthier than a typical chicken tikka masala!

Another great thing about this recipe is you make a big batch and freeze it. I freeze it in dinner sized portions for a quick week night dinner; but also individual lunch sized portions perfect for me to defrost and take in to heat at work.

I always serve this curry with mango chutney because I think it is one of the most delicious condiments ever made. As you have the potatoes, you don’t need rice but I like to serve it with some poppadoms to add a crisp texture to the deliciously comforting and soft vegetables in the curry.

Makes at least 4 portions

2 tsp sunflower/vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced

3 – 4 tbsp curry paste
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 – 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 courgettes, sliced
1 cauliflower, separated into medium florets
1 pepper, chopped
250g green beans
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
800ml vegetable stock
1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp pepper
Chopped fresh coriander to garnish (if wanted)

 

  1. Add the oil to a large pan over a medium heat. Once the oil has warmed, add the onion and garlic and allow to sweat for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn

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  1. Add the curry paste to taste and stir to coat the onions

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  1. Add all of the vegetables and stir again to coat them in the curry paste. Add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, vegetable stock and salt and pepper

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  1. Let the stock come to the boil and then reduce the temperature to medium and allow to gently bubble away uncovered for 1 – 1½ hours or until all of the vegetables are soft and the stock has reduced and thickened

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  1. Serve sprinkled with coriander, or not if you’re like me and don’t like it!

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Chorizo & Potato Quesadillas

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This recipe is one my sister, Ally,  constructed after a trip to Wahaca in London where she had a similar dish. She then used the flavours to make her own version which is delicious!

For Mother’s Day, my sister Ally and I decided to make a Mexican Feast as a more personal touch than taking her out for a meal. When I say we made a feast, I wasn’t exaggerating!  We made these Quesadillas, Nachos, Chilli, Carnitas, Chicken Tinga as well as Quacamole, Salsa and Mexican Sweetcorn Salad. We had enough leftovers for everyone to take goodies home.

Ally and I spent the majority of the day at my house making all of these delicious dishes. It was quite a tiring day and we definitely earned our beer; but we also had a great time in the kitchen together.

The quesadillas have become a favourite dish in my house. Although I don’t add the onions, I do add peppers and sweetcorn. My sister usually adds these when she makes them at home, but we didn’t for the Mexican Feast to keep them simple. One of the great things about this recipe is you can adapt it to what you like.

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The first time I made them without Ally, I ended up making enough quesadillas to feed a family of six or more! This is because as my sister made up the recipe, her method was ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’ so I had to work out quantities of ingredients. However  benefit of making too many is I found out they are absolutely delicious cold the next day. I chose to not re-heat them because I was at work and using the microwave would have made them sort of soggy I thought. Although when cold they obviously didn’t have the crisp tortilla like when they were freshly cooked, the filling’s flavours seemed to intensify and become even more delicious.

The quantities below make enough quesadillas for 3-4 people (depending on how hungry they are!) 

600g potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced

130g chorizo, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 x 198g tin of sweetcorn, drained
1 pepper, diced

150g cheese, grated
½ tsp chili powder (I use a combination of different chili powders)
salt & pepper to taste

1-2 tsp sunflower oil 
6 large tortillas 

  1. Peel and dice the potatoes and boil them until cooked through in salted water
  2. Add the chorizo to a frying pan over a medium heat. Keep stirring to allow the oils from the chorizo to be released and then add the onions

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  1. Allow the onions to soften for a couple of minutes and then add the potatoes and pepper. Cook for a few minutes adding the oil if it begins to stick

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  1. After a couple of minutes, add the sweetcorn, chili powder, salt and pepper and stir through. Leave to cook stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes before turning out into a bowl

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  1. Place one large tortilla in a clean frying pan over a medium heat. Scatter the tortilla with some of the grated cheese before topping with a thin layer of the potato filling. Spread the filling to the edges of the tortilla before scattering with more grated cheese

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  1. Place another tortilla on top and press down to squidge the filling right to the edges. By now the bottom tortilla should be browned and slightly crispy. Carefully flip the tortilla over so the bottom becomes the top. How you choose to do this is up to you! I get a large spatula and flip but you can always tip it out onto a plate and then flip it and slip it back into the pan
  2. Once flipped, allow the tortilla to cook for 1-2 minutes until browned and crispy and you can see the cheese has melted inside
  3. Turn out onto a board and cut into eighths. Serve with lots of soured cream

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