Category Archives: Dinner

Pumpkin: it’s not so bad

Thai pumpkin and noodle soup - with an egg

I didn’t like pumpkin until July 2007. I can pinpoint the month and year because that was when delicious. featured a recipe for pumpkin, sage and ricotta lasagne. For some reason I was drawn to it, despite having never wanted to eat pumpkin before. I made it and loved it, probably in no small part because of all the cheese, and I started to think maybe I was wrong about pumpkin; maybe it wasn’t disgusting. So I experimented with other pumpkin recipes. As long as the pumpkin is blended and mixed with other things, I like it. Big chunks of pumpkin still gross me out. They’re so squishy and kind of weirdly stringy… bleh.

Last winter I made pumpkin soup for the first time. My mum thought this was unfair – I’d refused to eat it when I lived at home, so she didn’t get to make it. But she did tell me that you could also put coconut milk or cream and coriander and chilli in it to make a Thai-flavoured pumpkin soup. And finally, three weeks ago when I planned to make pumpkin soup but didn’t want to go to the shops to buy cream and realised I had all the Thai stuff in the house, I decided to give it a try. I was pretty pleased with the results, but I decided it needed noodles. I also thought it would be good with soft boiled eggs and fried shallots. This was inspired by Alice Hart’s recipe for sambal telur in the June 2011 issue of delicious.

This is hardly authentic Thai – to start with, I used a jar of Thai curry paste. Also, I’m pretty sure sambal oelek is Indonesian, the eggs are from a Malaysian recipe, and soba noodles are Japanese… So I’m not quite sure what the best name for it is. It’s kind of a Thai(ish) curry-flavoured pumpkin and noodle soup with an egg. My boyfriend gave me two options for the name: ‘journey to the centre of ecstasy’ (he really likes this soup), or ‘soup egg noodle’. I think I’ll go with the second one, the first one is a lot to live up to.

Soup egg noodle
Serves 4

3 tomatoes
2 tbs vegetable or peanut oil
5 garlic cloves, finely diced
3 cm piece of ginger, finely diced
1 green chilli, chopped (with seeds)
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 tsp chopped coriander roots
1 kaffir lime leaf
1 tsp red curry paste
1 tsp sambal oelek (Indonesian chilli paste – leave this out if you don’t want it to be hot)
1 tsp tamarind paste
800 g Jap pumpkin, cut into chunks, skin removed
1.5 L vegetable stock
juice of half a lemon or juice of one lime
1 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs chopped coriander leaves (and Thai basil leaves if you have some)
270 ml coconut cream
180 g soba noodles
4 eggs
fried shallots, to serve

Cut a shallow cross in the base of the tomatoes (ideally it should just cut the skin). Place the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for a couple of minutes, then pour out the hot water and replace it with cold water. Leave for a couple of minutes until cool. Carefully peel off the skins and cut the tomatoes into wedges.

Put oil, garlic, ginger, chilli, coriander roots, onion and kaffir lime leaf in a large pot over medium heat. Cook until onion starts to soften. Add curry paste, sambal oelek and tamarind. Stir for a minute, then add the tomatoes, pumpkin and stock. Simmer until pumpkin is really soft – about half an hour.

While the soup is simmering, cook the noodles and eggs. For the noodles, follow the instructions on the packet – usually this just means add them to boiling water for a few minutes then drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

To cook the eggs, put them in a small saucepan (that has a lid) and cover them with cold water and bring to the boil. As soon as the water has boiled, cover the pan with the lid and leave it to stand for 6 minutes. Pour out the hot water and fill the pan with cold water. When the eggs are cool enough for you to handle, carefully peel the shells off. Set the eggs aside with the noodles.

Add lemon or lime juice, sugar, coriander leaves and coconut cream to the soup and stir until combined. Remove the soup from the heat and blend until smooth.

To serve, divide noodles into four bowls (you might need to rinse them in cold water again if they’re stuck together). Place an egg on top of the noodles in each bowl, and then pour over the soup. Top with fried shallots.

Onion bhaji

Onion bhaji

I haven’t blogged in a while. While this is largely because of laziness, it’s also because I’ve been busy chasing a recipe around the internet, tracking it’s changes over time and over blogs, and this has taken up a bit of time and a lot of brain space. It’s part of my masters, and hopefully I’ll write something about it soon.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe for onion bhaji.

Both times I’ve made onion bhaji I’ve served it with dhal and rice. This is really just to maintain some sort of pretense that I’ve made a proper dinner. If I didn’t feel like I have to act like an adult at least some of the time, I would happily eat a whole plate of onion bhaji and leave the dahl. It’s not that I don’t like dahl, it’s just that it’s not fried onion, so, well, it’s just not as good. I’ve made it with dahl with spinach and red lentil dahl with spinach. I preferred the red lentil one, and it was also quicker to make.

Onion bhaji
Slightly modified from the The Cook and the Chef recipe.
Should serve at least four…

1/2 cup plain flour
200 ml plain yoghurt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
Pinch of salt
4 onions, sliced into rings
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaf
1 green chilli, chopped
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Whisk yoghurt, flour, spices and salt together until combined. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter. Leave in a warm place for a few hours.

Add onion, lemon, coriander and chilli to the yoghurt mix and stir until combined and onion is evenly coated in batter.

To fry, I heat about 5 cm of oil over a high heat in the tallest big pot I have. I use a tall pot so the oil doesn’t spit out as  easily. Here it is, the one at the front:

Frying onion bhaji

When the oil starts to look really thin and I can see small bubbles, I (very carefully) slip tong-fulls (is that even a term?) of the onion mixture in. The tongs seem good because the excess batter comes off in the bowl, and I can then use them to turn the onion over in the oil so they cook evenly. Fry until dark golden brown, which doesn’t take long, and then scoop out the bhaji and place on a plate covered with paper towel to drain the excess oil. The whole procedure is a little terrifying, to be honest, what with the hot oil and my habit of hurting myself in the kitchen, but the reward is awesome. Especially if there is enough left over for me to make an onion bhaji and dahl bento for lunch:

Onion bhaji and dahl bento

Vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise, or thereabouts

Vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise

My boyfriend is vegetarian, but I’m not. This doesn’t actually cause any problems, it just means that when I cook dinner it’s almost always vegetarian. But when we go out, I almost always order meat. When they bring out our meals, wait staff almost always assume the meat is for him, not me. Is it really that unusal for a boy to order something vegetarian and a girl to order a steak?

Anyway. I made this dish once because I was hungry and spaghetti with a tomato sauce wasn’t going to cut it, so I threw in some lentils. And the result is something that approximates spag bol. If you give it to someone who hasn’t eaten meat for more than 10 years, they’ll believe you when you tell them that it’s almost exactly like spag bol. But tricking vegetarians isn’t the only reason to make it – it also happens to be tasty and filling. And cheap, which is important for a poor student like me.

Vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise
Serves 4. It should probably serve more, but we’re greedy.

This recipe really isn’t exactly what you’d call ‘precise’. I think I change it a bit each time I make it. You can throw in other vegetables too, like carrots, celery and mushrooms. It’s pretty hard to get it wrong.

about 1/3 packet of tubular spaghetti (it really is better with the tubes)
a tablespoon or so of olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
a couple of teaspoons of oregano
a couple of teaspoons of dried chilli flakes (depending on how hot you want it)
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
about 1/4  cup of red wine
about a cup of vegetable stock
a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tins of brown lentils, rinsed and drained
100 g fetta, crumbled
handful of parsley, chopped finely

Cook pasta according to packet instructions.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Cook onions and garlic until soft. Add oregano, chilli, bay leaves and salt and pepper and stir for a few seconds until mixed through. Add wine, stock, tomato past and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the simmer for a few minutes. Add the lentils and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and spag bol-ish. This takes a few minutes. Add cooked, drained spaghetti and mix the lentils through. Stir through the fetta and parsley.

Sometimes we have this with extra cheese, which is really not necessary, but good nonetheless. I find that in pasta, as with in life, you can never have too much cheese.

Potato and leek soup

Potato and leek soup

The world (by which I mean, the internet) probably doesn’t need another recipe for potato and leek soup. But it can suck it, here’s mine anyway. This follows from my previous hi-larious potato henge post.

Potato and leek soup is pretty much the best thing about winter. My recipe, or rather, the way I throw it together, changes regularly, but I think I’ve finally settled on the best version. I’ve tried it with cheese, with cream, with cheese and cream, and in the end the best version has soy milk and no cheese; it’s actually almost vegan. But seeing as I’m not vegan, I put butter in it. And wine, which seems to be a bit iffy in terms of vegan-ity.

Potato and leek soup
Serves at least four.

50 g butter (salted/unsalted, it doesn’t matter)
1 tbs or so of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 leeks, chopped into rounds (doesn’t really matter if the bits are a bit chunky)
6 big potatoes, peeled, chopped into chunks (by big, I guess I mean fist-sized… I try to get the biggest ones possible so I don’t have to do as much peeling)
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup white wine (I use the cheapest bottle of sauvignon blanc I can find)
6 cups (1.5 L) vegetable stock
bunch of parsley, chopped
2 cups soy milk

Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat until butter is melted. Add leeks and garlic and cook gently until softened. Season with salt and pepper and add oregano.

Add the potatoes, wine and stock. Cook until the potatoes are soft. I usually leave them for a while, at least half an hour, so it’s easier to blend them.

Add parsley and soy milk. Take the pot off the heat and use a hand-held stick blender (I really don’t know what to call these things, I call it a ‘thingy’ or a ‘whizzer’ and mime using one so people get what I mean). You could also blend it in batches in a regular blender.  Whiz until smooth and your done. I put sour cream in this one, other times I put some crumbled fetta on the top. But it doesn’t really need anything. Serve with toast.

A royal feast

This post is a bit late (blasted uni assignments), but here it is anyway.

The wedding the other week seemed like a good reason to put together a theme dinner. Realistically, I’m a republican, and I’m not the kind of girl who dreams about fairytale weddings and being a princess, but I do have an interest in cultural events, especially ones on this scale. I did perhaps also want to see the dress – I’m only human.

I’m pretty sure this is what it looked like on the Queen’s kitchen bench when she was deciding what to serve guests at her lunchtime reception:

Preparing for the royal feast

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