Food Challenge Recipe 24: Succotash

This week’s recipe is Succotash, which I’ve only ever know as a Sylvester phrase ‘Sufferin’ Succotash’ or a lyric from Groove Is In the Heart by Deee-Lite. I never really knew what it was until I stumbled across the recipe in my trusty America: The Cookbook.

As huge fans of sweetcorn, I was Deee-Lited (geddit) to find out that succotash is a skillet corn side dish, and interested to learn that the word succotash actually comes from the Native American word for boiled corn. This is a West Virginian recipe, and is so simple to make. We made enough for 3-4 people as a side.

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You start off with 1 1/2 cups of fresh sweet corn kernels. I used this natty little corn stripping device I picked up off Amazon for G-Man’s birthday. It’s fairly effective, but feel free to use a sharp knife to trim your corn cobs. I used two, which gave us a little more than we needed but we used it all anyhow.

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I like to buy our corn cobs from Costco because you get these lovely colour variations in the kernels, and therefore variations of flavour. I can’t buy anything like this locally, and I wish I could because I know there are so many different types and colours of corn, I’d love to try.

Anyway, I digress. I chopped a small shallot and added this to a large frying pan (the recipe calls for a cast-iron skillet but I don’t have one of those) which already had warm olive oil in it.

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These were fried over a medium heat until translucent, for about five minutes. Then I added the corn, and cooked for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Next I added 3/4 cup of halved cherry tomatoes, a small can of drained butter beans (1 cup) – on this note I’ll mention this should be lima beans but I can’t find those anyway, and I’m assured that butter beans are the equivalent and though they don’t have the same green colour, should work as an alternative – and 90ml of hot chicken stock (use vegetable if you want to keep this vegetarian).

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All stirred up, I left this to simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point the tomatoes should be starting to break down.

I then removed the pan from the heat, and this is where the magic happened.

I stirred in 1.5 tbsp of butter (I used dairy-free Vitalite), 1/2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper (the recipe calls for a heaped tbsp of fresh chopped parsley, but I detest the stuff so left this out). I added the butter and lemon and tasted so I could compare flavour for the seasoning. The dish tasted nice, but didn’t wow me. But as soon as I’d added the seasoning and tasted again – pow! What an amazing flavour! It once again points out the importance of correctly seasoning your food!

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Despite it looking very ‘yellow’ toned, and this being due to the lack of real lima beans and parsley, to add some green colour, the flavour of this dish was incredible.

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It’s a bit like stew, but without the sloppiness but also had a grilled or charredness to it. The flavours all marry wonderfully and the tomatoes added some needed freshness. Everyone knows butter and corn goes wonderfully, but the shallots added some savoury notes which just worked so well.

I didn’t know what to serve this with. Ideally it would have been nice with a roasted chicken, I think, but I served it with breaded chicken steaks and roasted potatoes. This was mainly because I had been craving roasties and I’m pretty sure I would have had them with whatever I was cooking on this day…… Not the greatest combo. The succotash was definitely the star of the show.

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I’m certain this would have been the perfect accompaniment to a BBQ, so if you’re invited to one and need to take a dish, maybe consider this?

What’s perfect about this was that it was crazy easy to make, used some great ingredients, and packed an amazing flavour punch. I’ll definitely be making this again!

I give this recipe 10/10

Food Challenge Recipe 23: Barbecue Spaghetti

Today’s recipe is called Barbecue Spaghetti, though I have decided to rename it Buddy the Elf’s Spaghetti. If you can’t guess why, you’ll see soon enough….

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First of all, let me introduce you to my new friend, America: The Cookbook. This tome is home (ooh that rhymed) to an epic amount of regional recipes spanning the length and breadth of the American states. It’s almost 800 pages long, contains very few pictures and a hosts a whole lot of yummy goodness. I’ve already been through it and tabbed all the recipes I want to try. So expect to see a fair few dishes from this book, in the coming weeks.

I decided to try something simple for this week’s recipe, and barbecue spaghetti fit the bill – I had all the ingredients already and it looked easy and quick.

This recipe hails from Memphis, Tennessee and usually has pulled pork added to it, but as semi-vegetarians we decided to skip the meat.

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I started off by gathering my dry ingredients. 25g sugar (!), 1 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 paprika, 1/2 dried oregano.

Then I started my linguine (we don’t like spaghetti so we went with linguine, which I’d snapped in half before boiling, so it’s easier to eat) by adding it to a large pot of well-salted boiling water. You need to cook this according to the instructions on the packet.

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In a large frying pan I heated some olive oil and added 80g chopped frozen onions (I had these frozen ones left over from a previous recipe) and 75g sliced frozen peppers (again left over from a previous recipe) and cooked these down until tender.

I then added 1 cup (125ml) of barbecue sauce – now here’s where you need to choose your sauce wisely. I happen to live in a house which holds at least five or six different types of barbecue sauce in the pantry at any one time, so I was able to make a choice. Since this recipe already has chilli powder in it, I didn’t want a sauce that was too spicy, but this left only one sauce, which was already quite sweet. I would suggest going for something with mild spice (unless you like things very hot) and one that’s more on the vinegary side. This sauce was not, and I could tell we were basically cooking dessert at this stage….

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Nevertheless, I added the sauce along with the spices and sugar (eek!) and, after mixing, I left this to simmer and reduce for 10-12 minutes. I tasted this towards the end of the cooking time, and decided to add some more seasoning and more oregano to try to create a further savoury lift to the sauce.

At this stage you would add your pulled pork. I think adding some meat would have helped us along with the savoury notes it needed, but alas we skipped this step.

I added the cooked linguine and stirred it all up.

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In the photo it looks nice and almost Bolognese, but in reality it was spicy dessert. It was so sweet I needed to brush my teeth afterwards. The peppers and chilli did help a little, but still. I couldn’t even finish it all, which is very unlike me!

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Even if you have a very sweet tooth, you might still find this too much. Although, feel free to add some pulled pork to this and let me know otherwise. Or if you’re a Memphis native and love this dish, please let me know where I went wrong (other than leaving out the meat!).

I give this recipe 3/10

Food Challenge Recipe 21: Easy, Tasty, Stove-Top BBQ Chicken

G-Man and I love BBQ chicken but we’ve never made a BBQ sauce from scratch before, and when I saw this recipe and saw it was so simple, I knew I wanted to try it.

There are quite a few ingredients in this recipe, but they are all items you’d probably have or don’t mind stocking up to have in your store cupboard.

I made some potato wedges to go with this chicken. The recipe for the wedges was from the same place and told me to soak the chopped wedges in water for an hour before cooking. This step was totally unnecessary in my opinion.

I coated the wedges in spray oil, 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp of Italian seasoning. I cooked these at 200c (fan) for 40 minutes, turning half way.

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For the chicken, it couldn’t be easier. All the ingredients for the sauce go straight into a large deep frying pan, all together. Here’s what I added:

  • 3/4 cup of passata
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2.5 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch mustard powder

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Then I added 400g diced chicken breast, which was enough for two people, and one small diced red onion.

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I brought this to the boil and let it bubble on high for 20 minutes, turning the chicken over half way.

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The sauce will reduce down towards the end, so keep an eye on it, and if you need to add more water until the chicken is cooked, then do, but I didn’t need to.

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And that was it – so seriously easy!

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Not the most photogenic of dishes, but what it lacked in pretty, it gave in flavour!

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The wedges were tasty but I think they were a flavour too many with the chicken, so next time I’ll cook them with just salt and pepper on them to go with this.

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The chicken, however, was delicious. The sauce was exactly what I like from a BBQ sauce. Sweet, tangy, smokey but not too much of any of those. The tomato flavour wasn’t over powering, and it was seasoned perfectly! I was very impressed that something so simple was so full of flavour.

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I will definitely be making this again!

I give this recipe 10/10!

Food Challenge Recipe 20: One Pot Vegetarian Chilli Mac

This week’s recipe is another Mexican inspired one. I think this warmer weather has me thinking of hotter climates all over the world and all I want is spice and punchy flavour!

I found this recipe on Pinterest and I’ve tweaked it somewhat so that it tastes the way I like it. This recipe serves 3 people and is fairly filling. It required using some frozen chopped veg which I’d never used before, and tomato soup instead of passata to add depth.

I found a tomato and herb soup which didn’t have any dairy in, so I used this. It was 100ml less liquid than the recipe required so I made up the rest by adding to the required water volume.

Here’s what I did!

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I took 70g of frozen diced onion, 125g of sliced frozen mixed peppers and 4 medium mushrooms which had been diced, and soften them in a pan in some already warm olive oil. The recipe also called for 1/2 a mild chilli, diced. I can’t handle too much heat so I left this out.

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Once softened I added 120g of canned (rinsed) kidney beans, 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder and 1/4 tsp of ground cumin. I also added salt and pepper (but not too much because this could be tweaked later on) I stirred this around and then added 400ml of tomato soup and 250ml of water.

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I mixed this up and then added 180g of dry macaroni. You can use whichever pasta you’d like, but I just so happened to have some macaroni in my cupboard. I brought this to a simmer and let it cook for 15 mins, stirring regularly.

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At about 5 minutes before the end of cooking, I tasted the liquid and decided it needed more salt and 1 tsp of sugar to break the acidity. I also decided it needed a bit more depth and asked Gary to choose a BBQ sauce from his vast collection. I needed one which wasn’t too sweet, was a little vinegary and with a bit of smoke. I added 1.5 tbsp (approx) of this, gave it a stir and the flavour was just right.

At 15 minutes, the macaroni wasn’t cooked yet so I gave it some more time, testing it in 5 minutes increments and adding a little boiling water if I felt it was getting to dry. This macaroni seems to always need 10 minutes more cooking time when cooking it within a one pot dish, so I was prepared for this, but your pasta might cook faster.

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When I was happy with the ‘bite’ of the pasta, it was time to serve!

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I served mine with some grated lactose-free mature cheddar, but it would be equally nice with snipped spring onions or herbs on top.

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This was a super quick and really easy, hearty meal to cook. It even tasted great when I had the leftovers for lunch during the week.

I think I’ll be making this again!

I give this recipe 8.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 18: Sweet & Sticky Tomato and Onion Bake

You’ll probably have noticed an unintentional theme in my last month or so’s recipes. I mostly eat vegetarian food, and a lot of it focusses on tomato and basil maybe with potato thrown in there.

I’m lactose intolerant so can’t eat dairy and my husband has Crohn’s meaning there are a few things that have to be omitted from his diet, including red meat. We never ate a lot of that anyway, so that wasn’t a problem, but I thought it worth mentioning, just in case you wondered why I rarely include meaty or cheesy recipes!

This week’s recipe is one I found whilst scooting through recipe books on Amazon. I don’t know if you’re aware, but sometimes they publish full recipes in the image section of the recipe book. I use this to gauge whether I think I’ll like what’s included. But on this occasion I liked a recipe so much, I screenshotted it, and that’s what this week’s recipe turned out to be! I’m rubbish so I can’t remember the name of the book. I’ve looked but I can’t find it. If I do I’ll update this post!

Anyway, this recipe was for 4 people but I cut it down by half and it was the perfect amount for 2.

You start off with preparing 250g of baby onions. I couldn’t find baby onions so I used the same amount of small shallots.

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To prepare them, you pop them into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Then after about a minute, I pulled them out one by one with a slotted spoon and peeled the skins off. They just slipped right off! I’ve never prepared an onion in this way so I learned a new skill, and found it quite therapeutic!

I’d turned the oven to fan 190c already and lined a roasting tray with foil (for easier clean-up!) In hindsight I think, for my oven, 170c would have been a bit better.

I tumbled the peeled onions into the tray and then added 375g of cherry tomatoes and 375g of halved new potatoes.

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Then I drizzled about a tablespoon and a half of olive oil over the top and added salt and pepper, and gave it all a good mix.

This then went into the oven for an hour. You’ve got to stir it all around every 15 minutes to make sure the tomato juices get all up in every nook and cranny.

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After the hour was up, I added 200g drained and rinsed cannellini beans and a handful of fresh basil leaves and mixed it all together.

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At this point I turned the oven down to 170c as you can see the onions are already quite charred. Everything went back into the oven for 15 minutes more, and then it was served!

The recipe states to ‘make sure not to miss a drop of those juices’. There weren’t any juices in my pan, so I really believe the temperature of the oven had been too hot!

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Everything was cooked well, and you can still see the tomatoes have some moisture but if there had been some more moisture in the pan I think the beans would have been slightly more tender.

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I served this with some (probably too many) green beans, which added some clean greenness to the meal.

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This was a very good meal. The onions were sticky and caramelised, the tomatoes had deepened in flavour and basted the rest of the meal. The beans, though a little dry, added a texture and savouryness to the dish, and the potatoes soaked in all the lovely flavours from the rest. The basil added a great hit of fresh herby green.

I had thought we might want to add some balsamic glaze to this meal, but it wasn’t necessary. A simple, fresh and relatively healthy dish – we’ll be making this again (with only a tweak in oven temperature!)

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I give this recipe 8.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 17: Simple, Quick Pasta Sauce

I’m going to be straight with you, I was really stumped for this week’s recipe. I had no inspiration and after spending 2 days on Pinterest I gave up. But Gary made a good point – the pasta sauce we usually buy (just a stir-in tomato and basil sauce) isn’t available in stores any more for some reason and we’re struggling to find a sauce we like.

So he found a recipe on the NHS website (did you know they had recipes?!) and it looked simple and quick so I thought I’d give it a go. Being from the NHS, the recipe had no salt or sugar in it and very little oil, so I adapted it a little so that it would actually potentially taste nice. Which is the point, right?

This was a recipe for 2 people’s worth of sauce.

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The only ingredients you need other than the pasta you’re going to put it on are:

  • 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion chopped as finely as you can manage (for me that’s not very fine!)
  • 2 tsp of garlic infused olive oil
  • 1 tbsp double concentrate tomato puree
  • a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, to taste
  • pepper, salt and sugar to taste (sugar is really important to take away the acidity of the tinned tomatoes)

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All good recipes start with frying an onion. I fried this off in the garlic oil until they were soft (but should have probably left them in a little longer than I did…. I was feeling lazy!)

Then you add the tin of tomatoes, puree and herbs.

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I mixed this all together and allowed it to simmer for about 15 minutes. I tasted this at the start of this time, seasoned and added sugar. I also tasted again about 5 minutes before the end and tweaked it a little.

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In this time you can cook your pasta according to the packet.

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The finished sauce was okay. But it was just okay. It needed more sweetness, and I should have fried the onion down a little more. It was fresh flavoured and the herbs came through. But I still had that creaky feeling on my teeth from the acidity of the tomatoes. I feel like maybe some stock and a bit more sugar would have helped that.

The recipe suggested this might also make a good pizza sauce, and I can see how that would work. I appreciated the speed of this recipe and the fact that you would probably have all of these ingredients in your cupboard anyway.

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I give this recipe 5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 15: Baked Cheesy Gnocchi

I’d planned to try my hand at making fresh gnocchi a few weeks back, but when I got around to it the recipe I’d picked was clearly wrong and all the others I’d seen took way too long to make for the dinner I had planned.

When I saw this week’s recipe I really wanted to give it a go, but didn’t have the time (or inclination) to make the gnocchi myself, so I just bought the packets from the fresh pasta section of the supermarket. Much easier!

This is another vegetarian recipe, and can be made lactose/dairy free dependent on the choice of cheese you make. The original recipe was meant to use mozzarella but I didn’t want any dairy in my dish, and I don’t like the texture of mozzarella anyhow.

I tweaked this recipe in some parts, but loved the fact that I was making tomato sauce from scratch because that’s something I’ve never done before. I’d like to do it again and tweak it some more, maybe add some different herbs in. This recipe makes enough for 4/5 so we had leftovers for another meal in the week.

Here goes!:

I started by finely chopping 1 red onion and roughly chopping 6 large ripe tomatoes.

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I sweated down the onion in 2 tbsp of garlic olive oil. I didn’t add the garlic cloves that the recipe asked for (4!) and used garlic infused oil instead, which I much preferred and had the desired effect.

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The I added the tomatoes and cooked them down until they started to break down.

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Once they’d started to break down, I added 1/2 cup of passata, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp of sugar and salt and pepper to taste.

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I then let this simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

When this was nearing the end of its time cooking, I put the fan oven on to 200c and cooked the gnocchi according to the packet.

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See the little blighters floating to the top!

Once everything was cooked, I tasted the sauce to check it was seasoned correctly, removed the bay leaves and stirred in a handful of torn basil leaves.

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And then I stirred in the cooked gnocchi.

Then I topped it with grated cheese and popped it into the oven.

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After 10 minutes the cheese was bubbling and melted!

I topped it with some more fresh basil and it was ready to serve.

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Although not very photogenic, this meal was delicious! The gnocchi was soft and fluffy and the sauce was really deep with flavour. The cheese had managed to melt down into the gnocchi and added a little salt to the flavour too.

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I was really impressed with this dish and will definitely be making it again – and definitely be making the sauce again to try with other things!

I give this recipe 9.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 13: Flapjacks!

The week I made these flapjacks it was my other half’s birthday and I had a week off. And he happened to request I made them – he loves flapjacks and I’d never made them before, but they looked pretty easy so I said yes!

For my American readers (you probably already know this, but….) flapjacks in the UK are not pancakes, but a baked sweet rolled oat-based square.

Happily, these flapjacks ended up being Vegan!

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I started with 175g of Vitalite (vegan sunflower spread) which I melted slowly on a low/medium heat.

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Then I added 175g of soft brown sugar, and 175ml of golden syrup.

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You’ve got to heat and stir this until all the sugar grains are dissolved.

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Then you take this off the heat and stir in 350g of porridge oats.

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I stirred half the oats in to coat and then the other half, just to ensure everything was coated properly.

I then pressed the mixture into a 20×20 cm pan which has been lined and greased, and pop into an oven at 150c for 25-30 mins.

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The top will be turning golden brown. I left the bake inside the tray until it was completely cool. At which point lifted the whole thing out using the sides of the paper, and I cut it into squares. I made about 16 squares.

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These flapjacks passed my husband’s taste test, and he even took some into work for his vegan workmates to enjoy! Being dairy-free I know what’s like to have to pass on all the goodies people bring into work, so it’s always nice to be able to say yes to a sweet treat now and then!

I give this recipe 10/10!

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Food Challenge Recipe 12: Butterbean, Chickpea & Butternut Squash Stew

Despite the weather becoming more spring-like, it’s still chilly, so for this week’s recipe I chose something that encompassed fresh produce and flavours but was still hearty and warming.

Enter the butterbean, chickpea and butternut squash stew! The actual title of this recipe was SPICY butterbean, chickpea and butternut squash stew, but for reasons you’ll understand shortly I was forced to adapt.

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You start with three humble ingredients, a small butternut squash, two red onions and a leek. The onions are wedged, leek sliced on a slant and the squash chopped into 2cm cubes.

This recipe is for 4 people so you need a bigger pot than I have, but alas I only learned this later on….

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The chopped veg goes into your pot with some warmed olive oil (1 tbsp) and 2 tsp of smoked paprika. These cooked down for about 10 minutes.

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I then added 1 tin of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice – this was meant to be chopped tomatoes with chilli but I couldn’t find it ANYWHERE – and 450ml of vegetable stock. This simmered for 15-20 mins. During this period, I tasted, seasoned and added 1 tsp of sugar (which wasn’t in the recipe) to offset the acidity from the tomatoes. I also added 1/2 tsp of mild chilli powder, but I think I could have added more. Next time!

I drained and rinsed 1 400g can of chickpeas and 1 of butterbeans.

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These were stirred into the pot along with what was meant to be 200g of fresh spinach, but this was when I realised my pot wasn’t big enough. So I added the leaves in stages until they wilted down, and managed to put most of it in before giving up!

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This simmered for about 10 minutes before serving!

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Despite needing a little more heat from the chilli, I really enjoyed this. The flavours from all the veg were present and fresh and the beans made for a comforting stew. I don’t think it needed the amount of spinach the recipe asked for, so it was probably a good thing that I didn’t add it all! And next time, I’ll use a bigger pot!!

Because this makes enough for 4, we have it again later this week, and I’m looking forward to it!

I give this recipe 7.5/10!

Food Challenge Recipe 11: Smoky Spanish Chicken, Patatas Bravas & Aioli

The last of my Gousto recipes, and this was the one I was least fussed about. I liked the idea of making the Patatas Bravas but I knew I’d be taking out some of the ingredients (parsley and coriander, due to personal preference) so I assumed it would lack a little something it was meant to have due to this. I was wrong.

This recipe starts with cubed potatoes, oiled up (I used sunflower spray) and salt and peppered, then popped into the oven for 25-30 mins.

I also sliced up a red and yellow pepper and a red onion, drizzled these with olive oil and some salt and these went into the oven for 20 minutes.

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Next I dissolved 1 tbsp of tomato paste into 200ml of boiled water and a sprinkle of chilli flakes. I diced a tomato and popped this into a pan with warmed oil in, added a pinch of salt and sugar, for about 4 minutes over a medium heat. The tomato had started to break down and at this point I added the liquid I had just made. This boiled down for another 4 minutes.

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I then took a large chicken breast, which I had cut into 4 equal goujons and dredged these into 2 tsp of smoked paprika, 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of salt, all mixed up.

Then I pan-fried the chicken in a pan which had a little warmed oil in. This took about 5 minutes on each side.

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I combined a chopped garlic clove with 135ml of mayo, 1 tsp of water and a pinch of salt in a bowl, creating an aioli.

At this point everything was ready to be put together!

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As much as it’s not crazy photogenic, this was delicious. The tomato sauce and mayo was layered on top of the potatoes. This was the star of the show. The chicken was moist and delicious and the roasted veg was full of fresh flavour.

I’ll be making this again – plates were clean by the end and bellies were happy!

8.5/10 for this recipe!