Spicy squash stew (£100 challenge, day twenty)

Finally got up the courage to hack open the pumpkin my mum gave me last weekend. Anything that big is daunting, not only because I worry about being able to use or process it before it goes bad, but things with thick skin requiring removal always seem to lead to minor injury for me. This time was no exception; I thought I was being careful and still managed to peel my thumb a bit along with the pumpkin! Oh well, it doesn’t hurt at the moment so is nothing serious.

With the last of the lentils, around 1/6 of the pumpkin and one of the remaining courgettes (so this has both summer and winter squashes in it), along with another of the red chillies given to me, I made a super warming autumnal stew.

white bowl half full of mostly orange-tone stew, garnished with fresh green coriander, on a blue tablecloth

I’m not sure the recipe is going to be much use to people who like measurements, but here goes anyway!

Spicy squash stew

Ingredients:

2 onions, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon cooking oil

1 tin tomatoes

1 red chilli

1 big clove of garlic

dried red lentils – maybe 2/3 cup?

a medium-large courgette

about 1/6 of a medium pumpkin

Seasoning to taste – I used a couple of spoonfuls of Marigold bouillon powder

Fresh coriander leaves to garnish.

Method:

Heat oil in medium-large saucepan, fry cumin seeds for a minute, add onion and lower heat, sweat them until softened. While that’s happening put tomatoes, chilli and garlic in blender and whizz until smooth. Add to saucepan. Fill tomato can with water then pour that into blender so as not to waste any of the spicy tomato goodness. Briefly turn blender on, then pour liquid into saucepan. Add lentils, turn up heat until bubbling then down to simmer. Start chopping up the pumpkin into bite-sized pieces after taking the skin off (hopefully of the pumpkin, not yourself!). Add them and whatever seasonings such as salt and pepper, stock cube, etc. you are using. Chop the courgette into bite sized pieces and add that too. Simmer until everything is cooked (probably about 12-15 more minutes) and serve garnished with fresh coriander.

I enjoyed this very much, it’s light yet filling. I had planned to have a sandwich on the side but didn’t need one in the end. There are probably about 3-4 servings left in the saucepan as well.

Now I just need to think of what to do with the remaining pumpkin. If anyone has any suggestions or recipes please let me know!

pumpkin cut open to show seeds

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Midweek miscellany

My goodness, it’s been a bit of a rubbish day on the weather front! I had a lot on at work today, and I’d left my purse at home, and didn’t want to go back home for lunch so I was reliant for sustenance on the contents of my desk drawer.

I always start the day at work with almonds and a cup of coffee. I don’t usually feel like eating breakfast and almonds are small in volume and snackable, and relatively good in terms of protein and vitamins and minerals and all that. Also they’re quite cheap. A bit later in the morning I had some Finn Crisp thin rye crackers. These are one of my favourite snacks! So crunchy, with a surprisingly big flavour for something with such a short list of ingredients. Check ’em out – http://www.finncrisp.com/crispbreads/thin-crisps/ (I am in no way affiliated with Finn Crisp, I just really like these).

Since the weather was so yuck, it’s definitely a warm-comforting-something-in-a-mug day. Given my limited options, I improvised some hot chocolate

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Yes, I do have the remains of a kilo of chocolate chips at my workplace. And I keep a jar of cinnamon on my desk drawer. As you can see, the chips have a bloom on them, from the 2 weeks we had this summer where the weather was actually hot. Fortunately that doesn’t affect the taste at all. 

I decanted a handful of chips and a sprinkle of cinnamon to my mug and then filled the cup about a third of the way up with boiling water from the water heater, stirred vigorously then topped it up with more water.

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This would have been a lot nicer with soya, coconut or hazelnut milk, but even with just water it did cheer the day up a bit. Here’s the view I enjoyed while I drank my chocolate

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When I got back from work I was really in the mood for something savoury and warming. A short while ago, I started discovering heavily discounted cans of chestnut puree, so I stocked up on them, but then couldn’t find quite the right recipe to showcase their smooth, light texture and mellow flavour (they are a key ingredient in my family’s traditional Christmas pie, but it’s not quite time for that yet!). I did see quite a few suggestions for either pairing with butternut squash or mushrooms in a soup though, so I had soup in mind and it was the work of moments to chop and fry up an onion and a stick of celery and then add half a can of chestnut puree, a crushed clove of garlic, some bouillon powder and a couple of spoons of tomato paste and top it up with hot water then bung in a roughly chopped courgette. As soon as the latter was done, into a bowl and then down my gullet it went!

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The chestnut works as a great thickener in this soup, although the flavour was pretty well swamped by the celery, I’d probably cut that down or out if I made something like this again.

Last and probably the ugliest thing I made today, some tropical jelly with gooseberries in (frozen a couple of months back), using up something I found in the bargain bin of the local healthfood shop. Love this stuff! The addition of fruit stops it from just being empty calories too! 

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Thinking about possible Wednesday MoFo themes, one of my tentative ideas had been Wibbly Wednesday. It also seemed like a potentially appropriate-looking thing for a Halloween party in a few weeks time. 

I boiled a pint of water, added it to 165g frozen gooseberries in a little pan then brought it to the boil again. The idea was to just cook the gooseberries a little bit so they didn’t burst so I only boiled them for about a minute and some came open anyway but never mind. 

Here’s the rather repulsive looking result! In a strange way, I’m quite proud of it. If it was just set in a bowl you could probably tell a small child that it was giant frogspawn and get them to believe you.

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Wholefood Wednesday (I know, I know, terrible title. Sorry!)

Sorry to say that I was slightly at a loss for a Wednesday theme, so this is just what I had for lunch. It also doesn’t really fit into my overall frugal, locally gathered theme as one of the ingredients is red quinoa, however I did buy the quinoa at my local independent wholefoods co-op, so that’s… erm… B+ for effort?

Earlier this week I promised to post later about the kindness of someone I work with. On Monday morning I arrived into the office (where my main job is based) and found these on my desk Image

– runner beans from the garden of one of the managers in my team. Free produce is always a good start to a day.

Some I ate last night, sliced and added to leftover cauliflower curry, and I’ve added some more to today’s lunch, which is a warm variation of a salad I make regularly.

Warm Courgette and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

Red quinoa, cooked – approx 2/3 cup

A small-medium onion, chopped

Runner beans, sliced (a small handful, say 6-7).

1 tsp cooking oil (olive was the closest to hand so I used that)

A medium sized courgette, grated

A yellow pepper, chopped 

(grated carrot and/or beetroot are really nice additions to these kinds of salads as well. A bit of lettuce doesn’t go amiss either)

Lemon juice

Garlic, 2 cloves, or to taste

Root ginger, grated, about a heaped teaspoon.

Salt

Cayenne pepper (couple of shakes)

Marinaded tofu (optional)

Some nice fresh tomatoes

Hot sauce, a few shakes

(Some mustard would have been nice in the dressing too. And some sesame oil if you’re not going to add the tofu).

 

Method:

Cook quinoa in double the volume of water in a saucepan (I cooked a cupful of dry quinoa so I would have leftovers for something else). Bring to the boil then simmer with saucepan lid on for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave in the pan while finishing preparing the veg.

While quinoa is cooking, in a smaller pan, fry up the onion for a couple of minutes, add the chopped beans and a sliced clove of garlic and a pinch of salt and fry for a couple more minutes. Add about a tablespoon of water and cook for about 5 more minutes, just to soften up the beans. Turn off heat and leave in pan.

Make dressing from juice of half a lemon, a crushed/grated clove of garlic, finely grated ginger, pinch of salt, a little cayenne (about 1/8 tsp, maybe?). Pour over the bean/onion mix in the pan and stir it up.

Grate the courgette and put it in a medium mixing-sized bowl. Add in the chopped pepper, then add the bean mix and some quinoa – I added about 2/3 cup, cooked.

I had some firm tofu in the fridge I’d previously marinaded in more lemon juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, a dash of maple syrup, fresh grated garlic and root ginger and a pinch of dried 5-spice mix, so I thought I may as well have some of that as well, and it was finished off with a few ripe cherry tomatoes.

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I tasted this, thought it could do with some hot sauce, which I added. Then I scoffed the lot!

Sorry if this isn’t very useful because the recipe is a bit vague. I really wanted to get a courgette salad into my MoFo though, as I’ve been enjoying variations enormously during the season, while they’ve been arriving regularly in my (now sadly defunct) weekly veg-bag delivery. Grated courgette makes such a nice, light base for a salad and because it doesn’t really taste of much is the perfect foil for loads of other ingredients. It’s also surprisingly full of vitamins. This is the first time I’ve added in quinoa, and obviously that and the tofu ramp up the protein, but without either of those, the courgette salad still makes a lovely accompaniment to a meal.

Oh, and I suppose there was an element of frugality because I saved heat cooking more quinoa than I needed. If you have any suggestions for cold quinoa please comment and let me know!