This is actually surprisingly quick to make and I normally have some or most of these ingredients in the kitchen so it’s a great recipe to keep coming back to. My squash and chickpea tagine is a great way to use up some spices and a few tins from the cupboard. The fennel and paprika aren’t perhaps the most traditional tagine ingredients but I really think they add to the sweet squash and earthy chickpeas. If you roasted the squash before adding it I think it would be even tastier. Try and find apricots that aren’t completely dry, when they’re still a little soft they have a beautiful honeyed flavour. A few toasted flaked almonds on the top would give a lovely crunch to the dish.
I think I’m part Italian. More likely, I like to think I’m part Italian. The reason for this recent realisation is that Italian food is the food I crave the most; when I’m looking for inspiration I invariably turn my attention to that most wonderful of countries. Pasta is the obvious Italian ingredient to inspire meals but the rice dishes, salads, marinades, stews, cheeses, meats and sauces always make me feel like I’m having a little Italian getaway in my own kitchen. This ragu and aubergine pasta bake was inspired by Rick Stein’s recent series: Long Weekends. I’m sure my recipe is very different to theirs, I’m bound to have forgotten some ingredients or added others, but the principle is the same; great big, hearty portions of food. It’s worth getting hold of some fontina cheese for this pasta bake (more on that later).
I won’t lie to you. This is not a dish that’s light on calories. But my word it is worth every one of them. My fennel and sausage ragu is exactly what the doctor ordered for mid-February. It’s full of good, hearty ingredients and it can’t fail to cheer you up from the inside out on a chilly evening. This dish is all about the sausages; the better the sausages you can get your hands on, the better the finished dish. Head to your local farmers’ market, butcher or farm shop to get hold of something spicy and Italian, they may be a little more expensive but trust me, you won’t regret it.
This is, probably, one of my absolute favourite meals I have ever made. Not only does it look glorious (excuse self-praising) but it is absolutely delicious. A vegetarian fish and chips if you will; a real rival to that classic seaside dish using halloumi instead of fish. With my recipe there is no crispy batter, however, the outside of the halloumi gets all crispy and wonderful so you really don’t miss it. Plus, as there’s no deep fat frying involved it’s much more suited to a weeknight dinner as there’s no faffing around.
I made this stew on New Year’s Day. I can’t think of many things as warming and comforting as a big bowl of slow cooked food. My beef stew with horseradish dumplings was made up of almost everything I had leftover in my fridge and cupboards; happily simmered away with some beef shin. A delicious, make-the-most-of-everything, homely stew for four people. Trust me on the ingredients; one or two may sound a little out of place but they really add to the dish.
You will need (for four):
When I’m thinking of ways to treat myself in the middle of the week I like to try and make my life as easy as possible. I prefer to make things where everything is cooked together, or use the same tools. For example I would always try to steam any vegetables over potatoes or pasta that I’m cooking, or if I’m roasting something I try to put everything in the oven. That’s what this meal is all about; grabbing a few bits and bobs from around the kitchen and lifting a meal into something delicious. So, instead of going for a standard fillet of fish, I tried the Lemon and Cracked Black Pepper Lightly Dusted Cod from the Birds Eye ‘Inspirations’ range and works so well with sticky balsamic roasted veggies.
There’s always a pack of lentils in my kitchen cupboards. Sometimes more than one; the quick cooking red variety to throw into soups, the big fat yellow ones for making dahl and the more elegant puy for making a wholesome side dish or salad. The mealy, earthy taste and texture that comes from a lentil is part of its charm; the fact that they are so humble but so versatile and filling is why I always find myself with lentils on my plate at least once a week. This dish of lentils and chard was served alongside some simply griddled chicken but it was so good that I think it’s perfect as a meal on its own.
Sometimes the vegetables that arrive in my veg box are so stunning that it (almost) seems a shame to eat them. We all know that a romanesco cauliflower is mathematically wonderful and who can say no to a green lemon when it’s yellow inside and full of juice. A bunch of purple spring onions turned up on my doorstep and I knew simplicity would be the way to make the most of them; bold flavours from few ingredients. Chorizo Hash with Purple Spring Onions was certainly the way to go.
You will need (for two):
I tried something similar to these Mexican black beans at a restaurant a few weeks ago. They were so tasty and I loved the frugality of them that I really wanted to try and make them at home. Attempt one tasted fine but the texture was all wrong, attempt two was an improvement but the spicing wasn’t quite right. By the third attempt I’d got it; tasty, slightly spicy, cheap and easy to make. Does it get much better?
You will need (for 2):
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed £0.65
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed £0.10
- 1 small chilli, halved £0.15
- 150ml chicken stock (you could use vegetable stock to make these vegetarian or vegan) £0.30
- ½ tsp ground cumin £0.05
- ½ tsp smoked paprika £0.05
- oil for cooking £0.10
- salt and pepper £0.05
- fresh coriander, chopped £0.30
- Rice to serve £0.30
Total for two: £2.05
Heat a little oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and add the garlic. Fry for a minute or so and don’t let the garlic catch. Add the chilli and spices and keep everything moving.
We were about halfway through this meal when the OH turned to me and said, “This is the best dinner we’ve ever cooked”. High praise indeed. Although I once baked a whole cabbage and anything would be an improvement on that. Chicken enchiladas always remind me of my University days. My friend Kathryn and I would convince ourselves we could definitely eat four people’s worth of enchiladas. We’d cook it all up and be full after just half of the available enchiladas, look at each other and say, “Next time, we’ll just cook half ok?”. We never learnt. I haven’t made enchiladas since then and I thought it was high time I made some proper ones.