Bean, Pumpkin and Chestnut Chilli with a Very Special Secret Ingredient

Chilli is a regular feature in our household.  It is quick and easy to make, everyone (yes everyone) in my family likes it, it is healthy and low fat, you can make a truck load in just about the same time as it takes to make a normal portion so perfect for when all the aunts and uncles come to stay, you can jazz it up by serving with a nice salad and some garlic bread, it can be made in advance and either kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen…and the list goes on.  So why, I can hear you asking, am I messing about with something that is effectively a family dinner institution?  Well, I guess the answer to that is quite simply that I love to put my own spin on recipes.  This normally involves including more of what I like in a dish and creating an opportunity for myself to experiment with flavours.  I have to admit, it is a bit scary at first, but now I pretty much do it all the time.  The reward for being brave is creating a dish that you love which you might never have had otherwise.  There are of course times when it does not go to plan, but after a few swear words and deep breaths, I’m normally able to put it down to experience and take it in my stride.  I have every confidence that you will be able to do the same.

This recipe is the result of an afternoon of experimentation, and for want of a better expression, I think it has been a ‘roaring success’!  It’s vegetarian, because I don’t eat meat.  But fear not, I will also tell you how and where to add some meat because I know for some (my husband being one of them) chilli without meat is a crime.

Part of my motivation for this dish was in fact this months We Should Cocoa blog challenge set by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog.  The theme is ‘savoury and vegetarian’, and as with all We should Cocoa challenges, chocolate must be included.  I have got to say, this stumped me for quite a while, but then I remembered that special chocolate that had a whole TV series dedicated to it a couple of years back and which I have always wanted to try.  A little bit of internet research later and I found out I was thinking of Willie’s Supreme Cacao. It’s 100% cacao and although it looks like chocolate, it is not something you want to eat raw. I tried!!  The theory behind adding this to dishes, apart from it being cool, is that is adds a depth of flavour and chocolate compliments chilli beautifully.  So the very special ingredient in this chilli is cacao, but for the sake of ease, lets call it chocolate!  If you can’t get hold of Willie’s chocolate, some unsweetened cocoa powder will be a good alternative.

So go on, give this a go and impress everyone who will listen with your culinary knowledge (cacao, depth of flavour etc) and most importantly your willingness to try something a little bit different with splendid results.

Serves 2 adults and 3 children easily with a bit left over for kids tea later in the week

What you will need:

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans or leave this out and add a 500g pack of minced beef
  • 1 tin of black beans (or kidney beans if you can’t get black)
  • Half a medium pumpkin or 1 medium butternut squash cut into squares
  • 200g chestnuts (I brought mine in a pack)
  • 1 romano pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground paprika
  • 1 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp of grated cacao or 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 pint of vegetable stock
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 350g of tomato passata (about half a bottle)
  • Pinch of pepper for seasoning

  How to make:

  1. Preheat you oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.  Put your cubes of pumpkin into a roasting tray, sprinkle with olive oil and cook in the oven for 30-40 mins.  I like to roast pumpkin for most dishes as it brings out the sweetness and flavour
  2. Put your onions and garlic in a large saucepan and start to cook gently with a bit of olive oil.  Once soft, add the pepper.  Then add all the spices apart from the chocolate and cook for a further 5 minutes
  3. Now add beans/meat and cook for 5-10 mins (more like 10 mins if you have meat)
  4. Now add chestnuts, chopped tomato and passata and cook for 10 mins
  5. Add the vegetable stock and season with pepper.  Cook on a low heat for about 25-30 mins
  6. Towards the end of this cooking time, add the roasted pumpkin, and right at the end stir in the grated chocolate
  7. Serve with plain basmati rice

I’m also going to enter this post into the Fabulicious Food‘s Family Friendly Friday challenge.

PS:  Willie did not sponsor me to write this post

PPS:  There are still a few places left for my very first Bake Club evening, so if you live in the Sevenoaks area take a look at my Bake Club post for more info on how to book.

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07/02/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Family dinners, Savory Baking, Vegetarian. 10 comments.

A packed Lunch Made with Love

I’m an old romantic at heart.  My husband and I literally met by bumping into each other on the street.  It was fate that he got off the bus just as I was walking past with my pal, and for our eyes to meet.  It could of easily been a ‘sliding doors’ scenario as a minute later and we would have been heading off in different directions, lost in the crowds having never seen each other.  Obviously, I’m so glad it wasn’t, as 13 years later we have been married for nearly 7 years and have 3 wonderful children.

Our household is a pretty busy place as our children are still young and as a result I think it is easy to forgot the romance when real life gets in the way.  My husband and I are like ships in the night sometimes.  He works long hours and as a result so do I.  It can be a struggle to find time for one another when we are both exhausted at the end of the day,  but its so important.  This is why I try and do something special every year for Valentines.  I’m not a fan of the commercial side of Valentines day so it won’t be anything big or costly.   Just a little token of love.

This year there was no doubt that anything I do for Valentines was going to be homemade.  After making 6 Christmas hampers and being a self confessed baking addict, it was also going to be edible.  It had to be unique but also useful.  Cupcakes look pretty but were just not going to cut it, I’d make 12, he’d eat 1 and then have a sandwich!  Same with most other treats.  Then the idea of a valentines packed lunch came to me.  At the moment my husband buys his lunch spending far too much on a dry sandwiches,  but he has no incentive to make his lunch and I don’t have time ordinarily either.  A packed lunch made with love would be perfect.  I spent quite a while working out what I would make him.  A number of criteria had to be met including portability, deliciousness and thoughtfulness.  Below is what I came up with.  I hope it inspires you to do the same for your partner or for someone you care about this valentines.

For all the recipes I am giving you enough to make more than just one packed lunch.  No point going to all that effort if you can’t enjoy some of it too.  You could even invite a friend over for lunch on the day you make it all to join in with the enjoyment and impress by pretending that this is the sort of lunch you eat every day!

You can be as creative as you like in packaging it all up.  A ribbon and a tag would be a nice finish I think.

Blood orange, walnut and goats cheese salad with avocado hearts

This salad uses ingredients that I love and means you can justify buying lots of blood oranges which are amazing but only in season now for a short few weeks.

What you will need:

Salad

  • packet of ruby gem lettuce, or any other lettuce with red in
  • 100g goats cheese
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 50g walnuts chopped
  • 1 avocado (needs to be fairly large)

Dressing

  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp blood red orange juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp walnut oil
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • Small heart cookie cutter

How to make:

  1. Wash and chop your lettuce and arrange in the bottom of a Tupperware dish.
  2. Cut the ends off your oranges and then use a knife to cut off the peel and pith working from the top down and round the orange.  Cut into chunky slices and arrange on top of lettuce.
  3. Crumble a portion of the goats cheese and sprinkle on top of salad, then add some of your chopped walnuts onto the salad.
  4. Cut your avocado in half, skin and take the stone out then cut thin slices.  There should be the fat bottom bit on each slice.  Use this to cut out your hearts and place on top of the salad.
  5. Finally, to make the dressing mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl or dish then pour over the salad using as much as you think it needs

Sundried tomato, basil and cheese rolls

Keeping with the theme of valentines, I thought these rolls would be perfect as when the lucky recipient cuts into them they will find a gorgeous red inside.

Makes about 8 large rolls (freeze any you don’t use)

What you will need:

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 200g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 7 sundried tomatoes chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 sachet of 7g dried yeast
  • 75g grated cheddar cheese
  • 450ml hand hot water – not too hot or it will kill the yeast
  • Sunflower seeds for top (optional)

How to make:

  1. Put the flour, salt, tomato puree and yeast into a bowl
  2. Add water and mix with hands until a dough is formed.  Remove from bowl and knead for 10 mins.  Alternatively, use a dough hook on an electric mixer for 5-6 mins
  3. Use your hands to push the dough out flat onto your work surface and put cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil in the middle on top. Fold the edges of the dough back over the cheese, tomatoes and basil and then lightly knead for a few minutes until you think everything has been incorporated into the dough.  You might find that bits fall off as you go but don’t worry just pick up and place back into the dough and you will soon start to see that most it has been mixed in
  4. Once you feel the cheese, tomatoes and basil had been evenly mixed into the dough, put it back into the bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size
  5. Gently take you dough out of the bowl and gently knead to punch the air out of it and then make 8 or so small rounds of dough and place on a baking sheet.  Cover with cling film again and leave for another 30-40 mins somewhere warm.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas 6.  The small balls should have grown into bigger rolls.  Don’t worry if they are slightly misshapen, I think this adds the homemade appeal.  At this point I put a sunflower seed heart on top of my rolls and then placed them in the oven.  Feel free to miss out the sunflower seeds if you wish
  7. Bake for about 20-30 mins.  Timings will depend on the size of your rolls but you are looking for a crusty top and a hollow sound if you tap the bottom

Red velvet mini heart cakes with orange cream cheese frosting

I adapted this recipe from my Hummingbird Bakery cook book.  I used natural red colouring (mine was Dr Oetker), and found the silicone heart shaped bakeware in my local Sainsburys, (and I was extremely chuffed too).  If you cant find the heart moulds, small round cake tins would be fine as well.  I hope you are getting the red theme here folks 🙂

Makes 4 small cakes

What you will need:

Cake

  • 60 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 20 ml red food colouring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120ml butter milk
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

Frosting

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 50g butter, room temperature
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • A few sprinkle decorations of your choice. I used white chocolate stars and mini chocolate stars, both found down the baking aisle of my local Sainsburys

How to make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/gas 3). Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the egg and mix until incorporated
  2. In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, red colouring and vanilla extract to make a paste
  3. Add the paste to your butter, sugar and egg mixture and mix well
  4. Then add half the buttermilk and mix, then half the flour and mix, then the remaining buttermilk and mix and the remaining flour and mix
  5. Add the salt, bicarb of soda and vinegar and beat well for a couple of minutes.
  6. Pour mixture into your cake tine and bake for 25 mins until the top is slightly firm to touch and a knife comes out clean.  Take cakes out of their tins and leave to cool on a wire rack
  7. To make the frosting mix the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric whisk.  Add the cream cheese and orange extract and beat until smooth
  8. Ice your cakes with the frosting using a palette knife if you have one and then sprinkle our chosen decoration on top

Present on Valentines morning, and expect a few ‘nom, nom, nom’ texts throughout the day…for the sake of my lovely blog readers, my husband got his packed lunch early!

I’m also entering this into Cakeboule’s virtual valentines craft and bake competition 2012.  Looking forward to seeing all the other entries too.

20/01/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Homemade gifts, Savory Baking, Sweet Baking. 6 comments.

Cranberry, Hazelnut and Honey Granola

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and at Christmas time it is even more essential, especially if you have the task of cooking the Christmas dinner.  Energy will definitely be required.  However,  if your house is anything like mine, we get through cereal like it is going out of fashion.  I would hate to add up how much we spend a year on the stuff!  The grand total would no doubt cause my husband to choke on his mulled wine,  so I’m not going to actually add it up, but hopefully you get my point.  The other problem is that shop brought cereal often contains hideous amounts of sugar which is obviously not good for anyone, and most of all my children, who on Christmas day will have already eaten numerous chocolate coins and such like before 6.30am!  On Christmas day chocolate at what is effectively the middle of the night has to be allowed, but seeing them eat a healthy breakfast would certainly make me (and them) feel better.  Well, luckily for those of you reading my blog and empathizing with the cereal issues I have outlined above, I have a proposition for you.  The perfect solution is to make some homemade granola.  How can I say that so flippantly I hear you ask?  Well do read on as it will all start to make sense.

This fabulously versatile cereal hits the spot for a number of reasons.  Firstly, oats which are the main ingredient are as David Dickinson likes to say, ‘cheap as chips’ which is good news for your budget, and might actually help you save a few extra pennies towards the cost of Christmas.  Oats are also healthy and give ‘slow release’ energy, which is more likely to get you through to lunch without a sugar crash and the inevitable ‘Mr Tickle’ arm into the biscuit barrel that follows.  I’ve been there and done that many a time, especially after a bad night with the kids, so anything that might help kick this biscuit related habit is surely worth a try.  The other thing to say about granola is that is absolutely delicious, and can be used in a variety of ways including with milk, on top of yogurt, in the children’s snack box to nibble on and as a gorgeous unique gift to a loved one this Christmas.  Do what I did, make double the quantity and bag some up to give away, but keep the remainder for yourself :-).

The recipe I have used is taken from Nigella’s Christmas Cook Book.  A few minor alterations means that it has the, ‘homemade by Fleur‘ stamp, making it even more enjoyable I hope.  I have swapped the blanched almonds in the original recipe to chopped hazelnuts as I prefer them.  Feel free to do the same and make your own swaps too.  Add dried fruit or nuts that you like or have in the cupboard, go with what is in season or what is on offer.  The other change I made is to replace some of the honey for agave syrup.  Agave syrup is a little gem to have at hand, it is a substitute to sugar and honey but has lower GI and slower release sugars.  Most supermarkets or health food shops should sell it.  Here is what it looks like.

The last but by no means least point to make about this granola is that it will be my first ever blog challenge entry.  The Forever Nigella challenge hosted by Sarah at the brilliant Maison Cupcake blog has certainly caught my eye, and I am very excited to be submitting this blog post.  One of many more I hope.

So all that is left to say is put the ingredients on your shopping list and get baking.  This is a wonderful treat which the whole family will enjoy and appreciate.  Be careful though, if Santa finds out you have some of this in the house, you may have an extra guest for breakfast!

What you will need

  • 225g rolled oats
  • 60g sunflower seeds
  • 60g white sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 75g runny honey
  • 75g agave syrup
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 60g chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 60g flaked almonds
  • 50g raisins
  • pinch of table salt
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 150g dried cranberries

Makes enough to fill a 1.2 litre tin or jar, (3-4 small gift bags or 2 large gift bags)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c/355f/gas 3
  2. Put everything into a large bowl expect the dried cranberries and mix well with a wooden spoon
  3. Spread the mixture onto a couple of lined baking trays and bake for about 40-50 mins
  4. The mixture should be turned over about half way though, and even more if you think it needs it towards the end.  I set my timer for 20 mins then 10, and then 10 and turned it each time.  Keeping an eye on it like this should prevent it from burning, and instead result in a lovely golden crunchy cereal
  5. Once cooled mix in the dried cranberries.  My daughter actually helped me do this so I could take the picture!
  6. If using for gifts this will keep for several weeks bagged up and then placed in an airtight container.  If you have made it for yourself, keep in an airtight tin or jar

05/12/2011. Tags: , , , , , . Christmas baking, Homemade gifts, Sweet Baking. 5 comments.