Homemade red curry soup

I was scratching around my cupboards a while ago, trying to find something to scrape together for dinner. I knew it would probably be soup. We eat a lot of soup. Ask my kids.

But soup is just one of my all-time favourite easy, healthy meals – just chuck whatever veggies you can find into a pot with some seasoning, blend together and VOILA! Easy,healthy deliciousness!

Anyway, as I was throwing things in I realised that this particular soup might turn out to be something special, so I started jotting down approximate ingredients as I went, just in case (this made me feel very clever and organised – it was a nice feeling.) It turned out I was right – it was SO DELICIOUS that I knew I had to share it with you. As I never measure anything – and as individual tastes vary – make sure you taste and edit the soup as you go to suit your own family.

Red Curry Soup

Serves about 8 (but so yummy you’ll want to allow for seconds… 😉 )

  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 200g red lentils
  • 1 pint water
  • Head of garlic, roughly chopped
  • Knob of ginger (to taste), peeled and chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 3 tsp coriander
  • 4 tsp mild curry powder (my very favourite is Sainsbury’s own mild version)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper are my favourite choices)

Fry the onions and curry powder in a little oil (I use a high heat-tolerance oil like palm). Add the peppers, ginger and salt, and let them cook for a minute. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, water, lentils and garlic. Allow this to simmer for about 45 mins – until the lentils are cooked.  Add the remaining ingredients, then blend together using a hand blender. Remember to do a taste test, and adjust accordingly.  Serve and enjoy!

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Nettle Soup (honestly)

My mother-in-law recently made this DELICIOUS soup. It’s cheap and high in vitamin C, and even my brother loved it. My kids begged for more, and Prince even asked to have it for dessert instead of cake. Now that has GOT to be a winner.

Turn these stingers into something great!

Turn these stingers into something great!

Spring is the perfect time to collect lovely fresh nettles. So get your gloves on, take the kids foraging and follow this simple recipe.  Enjoy!

1 carrier bag of nettle tops
4-5 large potatoes, chopped
4 large onions, chopped
2 chicken stock cubes
2 pints water
Salt & pepper to taste

Collect nettle tops (wear rubber gloves!!) – break off about the top two inches of nettles (try to find some in a good location where dogs are less likely to have weed on them (ew), and preferably away from a main road where fumes will have polluted them). Bring them home and take off the leaves, discarding the stalk. Thoroughly wash and rinse the leaves, then set aside.

Chop and fry up onions in a large pot. Add chopped potatoes and cover with water, stock cubes and salt. Bring to boil then simmer until potatoes are cooked (around 5-10 mins if potatoes are cut small). Add nettle leaves and simmer for another 5-10 mins. Blend all ingredients together and serve!

(P.S.  In my experience, it might be better not  to tell your husband it’s made from nettles until after he’s tasted it… 😉

Possibly the best cookies in the world ever

Today the kids and I baked a new recipe: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Three cookie monsters!

Three cookie monsters!

They. Were. Amazing.

I found the recipe over at Ambitious Kitchen. They are easy to make, and the ingredients are actually pretty healthy. We used half molasses sugar and half demerara sugar, both unrefined (and therefore healthy… right?) The recipe calls for regular peanut butter, which I happened to have in my cupboard. We used it this time, but next time I will be using my usual wholenut version, which again is healthy. From the comments I read below the recipe this might require extra oats, but that is never a problem!

The baking process didn’t quite turn out as I had expected, but then I’m used to that. Happens every time I try to bake without my Mom. (On a side note, can we start an online petition for her to move back to the UK to help me bake?) The batter was really soft, and despite adding extra oats to try and firm it up, I still couldn’t really make the “dough balls” the recipe called for – ours were more like melting blobs.

Our cookie dough blobs - pre-cooking.

What the looked like before they went in the oven.

Also, when cooked they looked more like failed bread rolls than choc-chip cookies.

What they looked like after they came out the oven.

BUT. They tasted amazing, so who cares what they look like. And now that I’ve got your mouth watering, you can find the recipe (along with pictures of what they are supposed to look like) here. Go and enjoy!

Favourite bean recipes

After writing yesterday about the wonderful use of beans instead of meat, I have had some requests to share my favourite bean recipes with you. Since I very rarely work from a recipe, the measurements below are all approximated guesses rather than an exact science! If something looks too much or too little as you’re putting it in, go ahead and adjust it. My cooking is usually a trial and error process 😉

I heard once on Masterchef that beans take a long time to soak up flavour, so I tend to cook them gently and slowly making sure to add flavouring into the cooking water. I also find allowing them to sit a while even after cooking helps them to take on more flavour, and as they don’t lose heat quickly this is not a problem. However, the ultimate key to making tasty food, in my opinion, is to TASTE it. I usually do a taste test close to the end when I think it’s about ready. I then add extra flavouring or ingredients depending on what my palate says is needed.  My favourite ingredients for adding flavour to a dull dish are extra herbs, lemon or lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, molasses and ketchup.

So here are three of my favourite bean dishes: hummus, curry and chilli.  Enjoy!

Tasty Garlic Lemon Hummus

Chickpeas are so versatile. I’ve used them in everything from curries to cookies! Probably my favourite thing to do with them, though, is make a lovely strong garlic and lemon hummus. I’ve shared this recipe with you before, so I won’t repeat it here. However, as a note I have omitted the peanut butter from this recipe.  It makes it slightly thinner, but I think gives it an even nicer flavour. It does reduce the protein content, though, so you might want to keep it in for that reason.

Here is my delicious garlic lemon hummus recipe.

Easy Chickpea & Lentil Curry

Serves about 8 (could be doubled by cooking and serving with some wholegrain rice or quinoa)

  • 4 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 – 2 bulbs garlic (about 10-15 cloves), chopped
  • 4 potatoes, cut into fairly small cubes
  • 1 apple, diced OR 1 cup raisins
  • 200g dried lentils
  • 200g dried chickpeas
  • 200g frozen peas
  • Small chunk of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • Dash of lime/lemon juice
  • Curry powder to taste (my favourite is Sainsbury’s own mild curry powder)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (Himalayan pink salt or organic sea salt are my favourite healthy salt options)
  • Stock cube (optional)
  • Water
  • Desiccated coconut to top

Soak chickpeas overnight. Next day, add more water and stock cube or salt to chickpeas, then boil and simmer for about 30 mins. In another large pot fry onions & curry powder (I like to fry in coconut oil, as it has a high heat resistance and adds a lovely flavour to curries). Add tomatoes, potatoes, apple/raisins, lentils, peas, lime/lemon juice, ginger, coriander, salt, pepper and half the garlic. Add chickpeas in their water, and enough extra water to cover. Bring to boil, then simmer just long enough for lentils and potatoes to cook through. If there is too much excess water at the end, take the lid off and simmer for longer to reduce. Add the rest of the garlic and serve sprinkled with coconut!

Mild Mixed Bean Chilli

Serves about 6 (could be doubled by cooking and serving with some wholegrain rice, cornbread or wrapped in tortilla wraps).

  • 1 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 – 2 bulbs garlic (about 10-15 cloves), chopped
  • 500 kg mixed dried beans (I always include at a good portion of kidney bean in this. Other bean I tend to use are aduki, cannelini and mung.)
  • 100g frozen veg (sweetcorn is nicest, but I use whatever I have in the freezer)
  • Mild chilli powder to taste (if you are a spice lover you can, of course, substitute this for hot chilli powder)
  • 1/4 cup your favourite relish (tomato and chilli works very well)
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tbsp molasses (unrefined blackstrap is the best)
  • Dash of lemon/lime juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight. Next day, add more water, salt and some chilli powder, then bring to boil and simmer for about 30 mins. Separately, fry onions in more chilli powder.  Drain about half the water out of the bean pot, then add onions and all the other ingredients.  Simmer for about another 30 mins, then serve!

Have you got any good bean recipes? I’d love to hear them!

Vege-table

Here’s a tidbit of info about me: I love vegetables! And I love it when my dinner table is a vege-table.

Princess helping prepare our favourite fish salad.

Princess helping prepare our favourite fish salad.

Being a homemaker, I delight in cooking tasty, healthy food for my family, especially when I can do this on a budget. Vegetables are great in summer and winter, and I enjoy soups and salads all year round. Everyone knows they’re full of vitamins and minerals, but it’s not always easy to find yummy, easy recipes to incorporate them into your diet. So – here are two of my FAVOURITE vegetable recipes, which can be easily added to your repertoire of delicious vegetable meals.

I hope you enjoy using them to turn your table into a vege-table too 🙂

~

Super Quick and Easy Tomato Soup

INGREDIENTS:
1 Onion
6-8 Cloves of garlic
4 tins chopped tomatoes
Handful fresh rosemary (or about 2 tbsp dried)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Chop onion and garlic. Fry onions in a large pot. Add salt, pepper and chopped tomatoes, bring to boil and let it simmer for about 10-15 mins. Turn off heat. Wash and finely chop rosemary. Add garlic and rosemary to pot. Blend with a hand blender. Serve and enjoy!

~

My Granny’s Best Fish Salad

INGREDIENTS:
Large tin salmon or other fish
Canned beans (optional)
1 small onion (red is sweeter, though I personally prefer white)
3-4 small/medium potatoes
Various salad vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, sprouts, cucumber, apple, etc.)
Mayonnaise and natural yoghurt
Vinegar (red wine is my favourite)
Olive oil
Piri-piri sauce or shake (optional for extra heat!)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Chop potatoes into large bite-size chunks and boil (or cook whole and chop afterwards). Meanwhile, dice or slice the onion and put into a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and add two or three tablespoons of vinegar. Next, chop and add your vegetables except tomatoes (and tinned beans, if using) to the bowl. Add the tinned fish, drained, and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup (in total) of mayonnaise and yoghurt, (also add your piri-piri if using). Mix this all together. Now add the potatoes and tomatoes, sprinkle again with salt, and with pepper, and pour over about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix again. Lastly, cut up leafy vegetables (fresh spinach and rocket is a favourite here) and add to the bowl. Don’t mix them in until ready to serve, then toss and serve.

Homemade garlic hummus

My first experiences of hummus were not good ones. Pasty, dry chick peas blended up. Yuck! However, my stance on this dip/spread changed when my mother-in-law introduced me to garlic hummus a few years ago. Suddenly it took on a whole new – and much nicer – flavour! Since then I have grown to love it, and find it to be a great condiment to keep in the fridge and snack on with some raw vegetables or spread on homemade wholemeal bread.

I don’t think I have ever actually bought hummus from the shops; I prefer to make my own at home. This is partly for health reasons, because I first started making it when I lived in Canada, where all the hummus I could find had genetically modified ingredients. It is also partly just because I enjoy creating it to taste exactly the way I like it!

My first attempts at homemade hummus were made following a recipe I found in a Google search. Over the years I have changed and tweaked this to suit my own taste. For those interested, here is the recipe I now use:

Homemade lemon and garlic hummus

Ready to make homemade hummus.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 – 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (I use freshly ground)
  • 2 tbsp cold-pressed virgin olive oil
  • 4 – 5 large organic garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I use the juice of one fresh organic lemon and then top up with bottled lemon juice)
  • 1/2 tsp Nando’s garlic peri-peri sauce
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (wholenut gives the nicest flavour)
  • 1 tin organic chick peas

Method:

  1. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, peri-peri sauce and peanut butter into a blender (or a bowl/cup if you are using a hand blender).
  2. Peel and crush the garlic cloves using the flat side of a knife blade. Add them to your blender.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Drain about half the water from your chick peas. Add the rest of the water and the chick peas to your blender.
  5. Blend again until well mixed in.
  6. Pour the mixture into a Tupperware tub with a lid and refrigerate for about at least hour.
  7. Enjoy!

The finished hummus, ready to eat with some fresh vegetables.

Following this recipe will give you a very strong garlic hummus, so feel free to play around with the quantities and make it to your own personal taste. I always test a bit on my finger after mixing in the chick peas to see if I need to add more of any ingredient (note: the hummus tends to taste stronger after sitting in the fridge for a while, so do be careful). Fresh lemons add the nicest flavour, but can be a bit time consuming and expensive to squeeze, so I tend to use a mixture of fresh and bottled juice. Also, you can also use tahini instead of peanut butter, but I usually don’t have that in the house.  Another option is to make it without either of those.  I have done this and it still works, it just ends up a bit thinner.

Homemade hummus is a healthy and cheap choice. Because it is fresh, it’s free from preservatives, artificial flavours and other additives. I find it to work out about the same price as shop-bought hummus, though maybe slightly more expensive than non-organic varieties. Look around for deals on the ingredients to save money. I have found organic chick peas cheapest in Asda, although I suspect that buying dry and soaking your own would work out cheaper still. This is something I plan to look into when I get time.

My favourite way to eat hummus is as a dip with fresh veggies – white cabbage being my all time top choice. It is also nice as a spread on bread, or added to other meals as a flavouring. Some ideas I would like to try as varieties of this recipe are: using coconut oil instead of olive oil, and adding tomatoes and herbs instead of lemon and garlic. What other ways do you enjoy hummus? Have you got your own favourite recipes? I would love to hear more ideas for ways to enjoy this yummy, healthy condiment.

Nothing like kneading

I recently decided to change from buying store-bought bread to only having homemade bread. I’m not sure what first made me decide to do this. I think it was a combination of wanting to eat healthier, seeking to spend less money, and starting to re-watching Little House on the Prairie! The first thing I did was look at an old bread recipe book that was left in our old house by an elderly couple. It had lots useful tips and interesting information, for example:

  • Yeast is a living plant that gives off bubbles of gas, which is what causes the rising of the bread. There are different kinds of yeast used to make bread and you need to make sure to find out what kind you are using, and use it correctly.
  • Flour (especially strong bread flour) contains gluten, which stretches like an elastic network to trap the gas bubbles from the yeast. There are also different kinds of flour, with differing amounts of gluten.
  • Sugar (or honey) can be used to help activate yeast, as well as adding a nice flavour to the bread.
  • Different liquids can affect the bread in different ways. Milk makes a softer crust than water.
  • Salt adds flavour, but is also useful in helping to control the yeast’s action.
  • A ‘preliminary mix’ is useful for developing the gluten in your dough.
  • The best way to knead bread is to push it away from you, using the heel of your hands, and then fold it back over itself, turn a quarter turn, and repeat. Kneading should be done until the dough is smooth and elastic. Kneading done by hand should go on for at least 10 mins (yes, this is exhausting, but fun too!)
  • The dough needs to rise in a warm, draft-free spot. It should rise until doubled. A good test to see if it has risen long enough is to make about a 1/2 inch indent with two fingers. If it bounces back, it needs more rising; if the indent remains, it’s ready.
  • To get the dough out of the bowl easily, punch in the middle and pull the edges in, then turn out.
  • To test if it is ready to bake, gently touch the dough. It should feel light and springy.
  • To test if it is baked through, tap the loaf – it should sound hollow.
  • Cool bread on a wire rack.

After gaining this useful background knowledge on bread making, I checked out the recipes. There were many exciting varieties, but before getting adventurous I wanted to start with a basic wholemeal bread, suitable for everyday use. Unfortunately, there was no such thing! The closest recipe in the book was a part white/part wholemeal loaf, which used quite a few different ingredients – not what I was after.

Perusing my goal of a simple, easy and healthy wholemeal loaf, I called up my Granny! She has told me many times before that she can’t understand why she – and everyone else – doesn’t make bread more often, as it’s so easy. I also knew she only uses wholemeal flour. Over the phone I jotted down some quick instruction and ingredients. If you know my Gran, you know that she NEVER follows a recipe, or even measures her ingredients, so as you can imagine my directions were a little vague! Still, excited and determined I went ahead and followed them.

I loved the simplicity of the recipe from Granny – she uses just water, wholemeal flour and salt. Nice and cheap, nice and healthy. My first attempt at making a loaf was…. interesting! The dough was definitely too sticky, and I ended up throwing away about half of it which was stuck to my hands, my arms, the bowl, the board, and more! It was also too floppy to properly shape into a loaf, but I cooked it, and it tasted okay. I tried the recipe again another 3 times over the next week or so, each time with slightly different results. They all tasted okay, but none of them were easy to work with, which made the process very long (due to extended clean up time) and awkward. So I decided to turn to Google, and look for something which used Granny’s ingredients, but gave me more specific instructions!

As usual, Google had just want I was after. I found a few good-looking recipes, and have now made two loaves (well, almost – the second one is in the oven baking as I type!), with great success. The recipe I settled on and I like best is this one. Although it calls for sugar, I expect that could be left out. I haven’t experimented with it yet, as I wanted a few successful tries just following the recipe exactly so that I gain experience and know what the dough is supposed to look and feel like. I’m looking forward to trying out some variations soon, and will probably start with fruit bread and cinnamon rolls.  YUM!

Homemade Wholemeal Bread

Latest successful loaf of bread!

If you are thinking of making bread, all I can say is: DO IT! It’s fun, it’s healthy, it’s cheap (though you can buy ready-made bread at about the same price if you are buying the cheapest, but then that’s not healthy), and it’s really good exercise too! My arms are killing me today, but I look forward soon boasting bread making muscles as fine as Ma Ingalls 🙂

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