Pumpkin Smoothie: The Unsung Pocket-Friendly Smoothie

Now and again, I find myself halfway through the day and hit by a sudden lethargy.  Sometimes it’s from being inside and sitting in one place for too long, which can happen quite often when you’re working as a freelancer.  Recently, the high pressure and warm temperatures that these crazy windy storms have been bringing hasn’t been helping either!  So, when I find myself in that situation, I turn to the kitchen for an energising kick and smoothies can be just the thing.

The problem with smoothies is the most commonly used ingredients are usually berries, which are generally expensive, or even very expensive (think blueberries).  This has often put me off making them.  Today, however, I decided to give it another go and came up with a new, very cheap and delicious recipe, which also conveniently uses the recipe I posted yesterday!

—-

Pumpkin Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients

170g (a small tub) plain yoghurt
75g frozen pumpkin puree balls (if you don’t have any, you can use room temperature pumpkin puree, but you will need to refrigerate it before drinking if you want it cold)
1 tbsp water
2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
A dash of nutmeg

Method

Put all the ingredients in the blender, except the sugar and nutmeg. I recommend using a jug blender for this, but if you don’t have one, you can use a hand held blender and a jug (you might want to let the pumpkin soften a little before blending it, in that case).  Blend until the pumpkin puree balls have disappeared completely. Taste and add the sugar and nutmeg, adjusting the amount to your personal taste.  Blend again briefly.  Serve.

—-

I really enjoyed making this recipe as it was so quick to make and tastes great.  I hope to be posting some more smoothie recipes soon, in sha Allah.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup: turning average into ‘ave more!

Once upon a time, I promised to share a recipe for homemade chocolate syrup, but the time went by and I never seemed to find the right moment to make it.  That was until last night when a chocolate cupcake experiment went a little wrong and I found myself looking for ways to jazz up a very average cupcake.  What better way to do this than with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce?  And so, here we are.

[Photo courtesy of my dear littlest brother]

I used this recipe exactly as I found it on another blog, but I’ll post the recipe here anyway.  There’s really no reason why you wouldn’t make this (unless you don’t like chocolate syrup, but really, how likely is that?) - it was a completely spur of the moment idea for me and still only took 10 minutes from start to finish!

—-

Homemade Chocolate Syrup from 52 Kitchen Adventures

Makes about 1 cup of syrup

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups caster sugar

1 cup cocoa powder

1 cup water

A pinch of salt

A couple of drops of vanilla essence

Method

Mix together the cocoa and sugar in a saucepan (not non-stick so as not to scratch it with the whisk).  Add the water, salt and vanilla and put over a medium heat.  Whisk the mixture until the cocoa and sugar is completely dissolved.  Leave to thicken slightly, mixing occasionally, for about five minutes.  Remove from the heat and pour into a jug or bottle.  Cool before storing in the fridge.   Serve with ice cream, pancakes, or even mixed into drinks for a chocolatey kick!

—-

I didn’t measure this with proper measuring cups, any cup will be fine.  All you need to do is make sure the ratio stays about the same.  I used a normal tea cup to make mine. 

Mushroom and white bean soup: it’s not pureed!

I really like soup.  It’s a perfect vehicle for showcasing delicious ingredients, it’s easy to eat (don’t underestimate this characteristic!), it’s a great chance to share some good bread, and it’s super simple to make!  Now, I know this is not always the case, but for me well it’s one of soup’s most attractive qualities.  This is particularly true with pureed soups, which is probably a major reason why I make them most of the time!  You don’t have to worry if it’s a little overcooked or you didn’t cut the ingredients in perfectly uniform shapes.  No one will ever know once you get the blender out!

Today, I decided to challenge myself (although this soup was hardly a challenge) and make a non-pureed soup!  Fasting is a great way to get yourself experimenting in the kitchen - it works on me anyway!  So, I rummaged around in my fridge and came up with this simple and quick mushroom and white bean soup.  Ok, it’s true that these are not the most challenging of ingredients so I may have cheated a little, but I ended up with something tasty and that’s what matters!

—-

Mushroom and White Bean Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 medium-sized mushrooms, chopped into large pieces

1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander powder, ras elhanout (optional), ginger powder

1/4 tsp each paprika, cinnamon

Salt, to taste

500 ml stock (or 1 stock cube made up with 500 ml water) - vegetable, or whichever you prefer

1 tin white beans (or 400g dried white beans, soaked overnight)

750 ml water, boiled

A handful coriander, chopped

Juice of 1/4 lemon

Method

In a saucepan, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and fry the onion and garlic on a low to medium heat for five minutes until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the mushrooms and fry for another five minutes.  Stir in the spices and salt.  Pour in the stock and leave covered to simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the beans, water and coriander and cook for another 10 minutes.  Pour in the lemon juice.  Serve.

—-

The simplicity of the ingredients does not reduce the flavour of the soup, but keeps it light and refreshing with the lemon adding just the right amount of acidity to balance it all out deliciously!

Crunchy Oat Topping: so yummy you’ll soon be piling it on everything!

When I decided to come up with this recipe it was actually to complete another recipe I had been planning to make.  I could post that one first, but it wouldn’t make much sense without this one so here we are.

This topping is super fast and easy to make and only includes four ingredients!  Once you’ve made it you’ll realise it can be used in so many ways and with a range of dishes.  In fact, my brother and I ate quite a bit of it on its own before we even realised what we were doing!

—-

Crunchy Oat Topping

Makes about 60g of topping

Ingredients

50g porridge oats

30g caster sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

25g butter

Method

Weigh all the ingredients in a small (preferably non-stick) saucepan.  Put the pan on a medium heat.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and all the ingredients are completely combined.  Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats start to brown.  Remove from the heat and empty into a bowl (or storage box with a lid if you plan to keep it for future use - this stuff is good enough to always have ready in the fridge, if you ask me!).  Allow to cool slightly before use as this will allow the caramel on the oats to harden slightly, giving that glorious crunch!  If you are storing it, allow it to cool completely before covering it.

—-

As I mentioned, this topping is delicious on all sorts of desserts.  Tomorrow, in sha Allah, I will upload the recipe that inspired me to try making this topping in the first place!  But for now, why not try it sprinkled generously on top of a Spiced Poached Apple?

Chick pea and bird’s tongue stew

I’m a big fan of the two main components of this dish.  I think it’s easy to guess why - they’re delicious, filling and a bargain!  I haven’t actually been cooking with bird’s tongue (also called “orzo pasta”, but I think “bird’s tongue” sounds so much nicer) for very long, but I always enjoyed it in my mother’s cooking and recently realised what a difference it makes.

This recipe does not have many ingredients, but makes a filling, tasty meal.  So, let’s get to it!

—-

Chick Pea and Bird’s Tongue Stew

Serves 3

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

Salt, cumin, ras elhanout, paprika

1 tomato, peeled and chopped

1 tsp tomato puree

1 tin (400g net, 250g dry) chick peas, drained

Water

100g bird’s tongue (orzo pasta)

Parsley, chopped

Method

Pour a little oil into a non-stick pan followed by the onion and garlic.  Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat until the onions are soft.  Add the carrot and spices and stir.  Fill the kettle and put it in on to boil.  Mix in the tomato, tomato puree and chick peas.  Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, then pour in the water until it reaches about double the contents of the pan.  Add the bird’s tongue and cover.  I advise you to stir it regularly as the bird’s tongue has the annoying habit of sticking to the bottom of the pan - that’s why I specifically mentioned that a non-stick pan is preferred.  Leave to cook for 20 minutes on a medium heat, or until the carrots are soft.  Add the parsley.

Serve with bread.

—-

The amount of bird’s tongue I have used in this recipe produces quite a heavy, thick consistency to the dish.  If you are looking for something a little lighter, you could half the amount of pasta used.

Irish Soda Bread

Since I have posted a recipe from my Algerian background, I thought it would only be fitting to represent my Irish heritage too with this quick and easy soda bread recipe.  I can’t say I have vast experience in bread-making, but that only proves that this bread really can be made by anyone!

This is quite a substantial bread, and is perfect for dunking into soups and stews.  Why not try a multi-cultural experience and serve this bread with Algerian hrira!

—-

Irish Soda Bread

Makes 5 rolls

Ingredients

450g plain (all-purpose) flour

5g (1 tsp) sugar

5g (1 tsp) salt

5g (1 tsp) bicarbonate of soda

350 ml laban (or buttermilk)

Method

Preheat the oven to 230 C (450 F, gas mark 8).  Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.  Add 300ml of the laban and stir quickly but gently until it is incorporated and the mix has become a rough dough.  If the mix hasn’t come together and there is still quite a large quantity of small, dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, add the rest of the laban and combine briefly.  Since the air in the UAE is drier than Ireland or other Western countries where most soda bread recipes are tested, I found that the amount of liquid was not sufficient when used here.  However, you should go by the feel of the dough.  Knead just enough to create a single, rough ball of dough.  Make 5 rustic balls of dough and place on a floured baking tray.  Press them down to about 1 inch thickness and cut a cross on the top penetrating halfway down the dough.  Put the tray in the oven.  After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 200 C (400 F, gas mark 6) and cook for another 15 minutes.  When finished, the bread should be nicely browned and make a hollow sound when the bottom is tapped.  Cool on a cooling rack.

—-

I’m looking forward to adding some extra flavourings to this bread and experimenting further.  But for now, it’s delicious simply served spread with butter.