Sweet Potato Soup

Winter is now in full swing. This, combined with me working from home full time now, means I’m drinking a lot of soup for my lunches! Homemade soups are simple to make, and are a great way of using up leftover vegetables. This sweet potato soup is lovely and warming due to the ginger and smoked paprika which also gives it a lot of flavour (there’s nothing worse than bland soup!). It goes well with a side of crusty bread.

This soup also freezes well. Simply portion up the soups into plastic containers or bags and place in the freezer. Leave to defrost overnight in the fridge when you want to use them.

Ingredients:
Serves 2
Overall time required: 30 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 15g butter
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4cm fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 350g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 450ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • tablespoon soured cream, to garnish (optional)
  • handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped, to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Place your olive oil in a deep saucepan, frying pan or wok on a medium-high heat. Add your onion and cook for 2-3 minutes then add the garlic and ginger and reduce the heat to low.
  2. Add your carrots and sweet potatoes to the pan and add the smoked paprika, salt and pepper and stir.
  3. Pour in your chicken/vegetable stock and cover the saucepan and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and place your mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. You may want to leave the soup mix to cool slightly before adding it to your blender, depending on it’s material. If the mixture is quite thick, you can add a bit of water to thin it down.
  5. Serve with soured cream and parsley to garnish.

Mushroom and truffle risotto

I am mildly obsessed with truffle! Until now it was something I mostly ate in restaurants in pasta dishes (usually with a hefty price tag!), however my friend gifted me some truffle oil over Christmas, so I’ve been getting that lovely truffley flavour in my home cooked dishes. My favourite so far is this mushroom and truffle risotto, it also makes your kitchen smell amazing. If you don’t have access to any truffle oil, you can just make this a mushroom risotto and it still tastes great!

Ingredients:
Serves 2
Overall time required: 30 minutes

  • 25g butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 200g arborio rice
  • 125ml white wine
  • 450ml chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if vegetarian)
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 3-4 portobello mushrooms, to dress
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons truffle oil
  • 25g cheese – I like to use cheddar, comte or gruyere

Method:

  1. Boil your rice according to the instructions on the packet, or boil in 200ml water in a saucepan for 10 minutes.
  2. In a frying pan, fry your onion in the olive oil on a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the diced mushrooms and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add your garlic then turn the heat down to a medium-low.
  3. Pour in your white wine and then add your cooked rice. Whilst continually stirring, add your chicken stock in small increments. You basically want to add more stock when the risotto starts looking dry and then continue to stir.
  4. Meanwhile, in another frying pan (you can use a dry pan if non-stick, otherwise add a dash of olive oil), add your portobello mushrooms and fry on a medium low heat. Season with salt and pepper and flip over after 4-5 minutes and cook the other side. Once cooked, set aside to dress your risotto at the end.
  5. Add your cheese to the risotto mix and stir until melted through. Then add the truffle oil and parsley. Serve with your portobello mushrooms on top.

Kerelan Prawn Curry

I absolutely love South Indian food, their creamy coconut curries are delicious. In this recipe I’ll show you how to make your own curry paste from scratch. It’s a little bit time consuming and you’ll need to get a couple specialist ingredients (all can be found in large supermarkets though, or local Indian shops), but the effort is worth it as you’ll end up with a fragrant, authentic curry paste. You can also batch prep your paste and freeze it into portions to be used later.

Ingredients:
Serves 2
Overall time required: 1 hour

  • Olive oil
  • 2 red onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 tomatoes or 8-10 cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 12–14 peeled raw king or tiger prawns (if you don’t eat seafood, use 2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, or 1 aubergine)
  • 1 tablespoon plain yoghurt
  • flaked almonds, to garnish
  • Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 8cm piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 heaped tablespoon tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste

Method:

  1. First make your curry paste. The paste seems really time consuming to prepare, but you can batch prep the paste and freeze portions to use at a later date. You can either use a pestle and mortar or a small food processor. Add the coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, ground turmeric and a pinch each of sea salt and chilli powder to a pestle and mortar or food processor.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a small pan on a low heat and add the mustard seeds and fry until they start to pop. Transfer to your pestle and mortar/food processor and pound/blend. Roughly chop your garlic, ginger and chillies and add to the paste until smooth. Mix in the tomato purée and tamarind.
  3. Start prepping your curry. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add your red onion to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, add the curry paste and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the fresh tomatoes and cook on a low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the coconut milk and gently simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the prawns (or your chicken or aubergine). Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the prawns are lovely and pink and just cooked through. If using chicken you will have to cook it for a bit longer (5-10 minutes)
  6. Turn off the heat and add the yoghurt.
  7. Garnish with the flaked almonds, coriander leaves and extra yoghurt. Serve with rice or naan.

Chocolate dipped Pistachio Shortbread

Pistachio shortbread is such a great teatime treat, it’s buttery, crumbly, sweet and a little bit salty. Plus, this recipe is really easy and quick to make – it’s all made in one bowl so there’s minimal washing up and there’s no need to chill the dough in the fridge like other biscuit recipes.

Ingredients:
Makes 24 cookies
Prep time: 30 minutes

  • 230g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 280g plain flour
  • 100g shelled unsalted pistachios, finely chopped (in a food processor for ease)
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • pinch of sea salt

Method:

  1. Line two 9 inch circular cake tins with baking parchment, leaving a slight overhang so you can easily remove the shortbread, and preheat your oven to 160C.
  2. Using an electric whisk, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy, for around 1 minute.
  3. Add the vanilla, salt and flour until combined.
  4. Stir in 65g of the pistachios until evenly spread through the batter.
  5. Divide your dough in half and place in the cake tins and press down with your hands or the back of a spoon, you want these to be nice and compact so that the shortbread doesn’t crumble.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the shortbread from the pan and cut into 12 slices, as if you were slicing a pizza! I would save the baking parchment, as you can place your cookies on these after dipping in the chocolate.
  8. Bring a saucepan of water to boil and leave to simmer. Place your chocolate in a glass bowl on top to melt it, continuously stirring. Dip the edges of the shortbread in the chocolate and then immediately in the pistachios, sprinkle some sea salt on each cookie and leave the chocolate to set.

Christmas Rocky Road

Rocky road is one of my bakes that always goes down really well! It’s usually gobbled up in minutes whenever I put it out – which probably has something to do with the rich, buttery biscuit base and lots of chocolate. Yum. This time I’ve put together a rocky road with a Christmas twist, the biscuit base is a mix of warming ginger nut biscuits and digestives, plus a white chocolate drizzle for a snowy look.

I decorated mine with McVitie’s mini gingerbread men, and some christmassy sprinkles and M&Ms, but feel free to use any Christmassy decorations of your choice.

Ingredients:
Makes roughly 20-25 rocky road squares
Prep time: 25 minutes

  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 100g Milk Chocolate
  • 100g White Chocolate (this should be a ‘best for baking’ type of chocolate, to avoid curdling)
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 80g digestive
  • biscuits
  • 80g ginger nut biscuits
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • A handful of Christmassy cake decorations
  • 50g M&Ms

Method:

  1. Line a square cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Melt your dark chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over a low heat. 
  3. Place your digestive biscuits and ginger nut biscuits in a sandwich bag and smash with a rolling pin until the biscuits are around the size of 5p pieces. Add these to your saucepan and stir until all the biscuit pieces are covered in the chocolate mixture. Add half of the marshmallows to the mixture and stir so they are mixed together.
  4. Pour your mixture into your baking tray and pat down firmly with a wooden spoon. Add a few more marshmallows on the top but make sure there are still some left over for the topping.
  5. Bring a saucepan full of water to boil. Melt your milk chocolate in a glass bowl over the saucepan. Once melted, drizzle over your biscuit mixture in the cake tin, covering with a full layer of milk chocolate.
  6. Melt your white chocolate. Drizzle over your mixture in the cake tin to create a marbled effect.
  7. Add your cake decorations and M&Ms over the top. 
  8. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until hard. 
  9. Cut your Rocky Road into small squares and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (if they last that long!!)

Chocolate Orange Checkerboard Cookies

Chocolate orange and Christmas go hand in hand for me. These checkerboard cookies are fun to make and look so pretty! Plus if you have a mini chess set you could probably play a game or two on these. They’re buttery biscuits that taste a bit like shortbread but with loads of flavour.

Ingredients:
Makes approx 25 cookies
Prep time: 3 hours (including chill time in the fridge)

  • 250g butter, at room temperature
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, plus one egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange food colouring (I find the ‘gel’ or ‘paste’ food colourings work best – I used Sugarflair)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 385g plain flour
  • 35g cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Beat together the butter and sugar, either with an electric whisk or stand mixer.
  2. Add in your egg, egg yolk, baking powder and salt and beat again. Add in your flour and beat until combined.
  3. Divide your dough in half and place in separate mixing bowls. Ideally weigh your mixture and divide accurately.
  4. To one mixture, add your orange food colouring and orange extract and beat until combined.
  5. To the second mixture, add your cocoa powder and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  6. Place both mixtures in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes, this is just to make the batter easier to handle ahead of the next few steps
  7. Shape each mixture into a rectangular log (roughly 5cm tall and 15cm long) and cover in cling film. Make sure the logs are the same size. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour (or the freezer for 30 minutes)

8. Using a sharp knife slice the dough into thirds, longwise. Then turn the dough one turn and cut into thirds again. You will have 9 strips. Repeat the process with the other dough. You will have 18 strips total.

9. Lay 1 piece of orange dough, one piece of chocolate, and another piece of orange on a flat surface next to each other. Top the 3 strips with alternating colours. Repeat this in 3 layers so you have a square log. Press the dough strips together tightly, keeping the square shape. Repeat this with the remaining dough, you will end up with 2 logs looking like the photo below. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge again for 30 minutes (or the freezer for 15 minutes)

10. Preheat your oven to 180c.
11. Slice your cookies into squares around 1.5cm thick and lay on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 9-10 minutes.

Baileys Fudge

Bailey’s fudge is the ultimate Christmas fudge! It’s part chocolate, part Bailey’s (I put quite a lot in so each piece is quite boozy!). I love making fudge as a stocking filler for friends and family – they’re a great gift, or something nice to put on the dessert table. It really does take minutes to make, and stores well in the fridge for up to a month (if it lasts that long!) so it can easily be made ahead.

Ingredients:
Makes roughly 40-50 squares of fudge
Prep time: 10 minutes

  • 397g condensed milk (one can)
  • 600g chocolate (I used 300g dark and 300g milk but you can mix according to preference)
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 150ml Bailey’s

Method:

  1. Line a square baking tin with greaseproof paper. I used a 9in x 9in brownie tin which creates a decent depth for the fudge squares.
  2. Melt your chocolate and condensed milk on a low heat in a large saucepan, stirring continuously so it doesn’t stick to the pan.
  3. Once melted, add your Bailey’s and continue to stir. The liquid should start to be absorbed.
  4. Add your icing sugar and stir through.
  5. Pour your mixture into your tin and leave to set in the fridge for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight so it’s easy to cut and not too sticky!
  6. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month.

Pistachio Rose Energy Balls

Energy balls are such a fantastic snack – they are filling, tasty, and portable. Plus, they stay fresh for about 4 weeks when stored in an airtight container so can be batch prepped. However, I find that most recipes are hideously overcomplicated, requiring ingredients that can either be located in some niche health food store, or a long lost plant in a far corner of the earth. I’ve simplified the recipe using mainstream ingredients you’ll find in your local supermarket, but still taste great.

These energy balls mimic the Middle Eastern flavours you’ll find in baklava and other traditional desserts – pistachio, rose and cardamom – such a great combination. You’ll need a food processor for this.

Ingredients:
Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes 10 energy balls

  • 100g medjool dates, pitted
  • 50g pistachios, shelled and unsalted
  • 50g almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon rose extract (or 1/2 teaspoon rosewater)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons mixed seeds – linseeds and sunflower seeds are good options (optional)

Method:

  1. Place your dates and nuts into a food processor and blitz for 1 minute on a high speed.
  2. Add your rose extract, cardamom and honey and blitz again for 1 minute on a high speed.
  3. Remove the mixture from the food processor and place in a mixing bowl and stir in your seeds (if using these)
  4. Roll into balls using your hands. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.

The Ultimate Fish Pie

A fish pie is the ultimate winter comfort food. I’ve experimented with a few different recipes over the year, some of which really overcomplicate things with mixed results. I think I have come up with the perfect one – it’s very simple to make, doesn’t require masses of ingredients, yet tastes rich and creamy at the same time (and has a bit of a kick to it!).

The choice of fish and seafood I’ve mentioned in the ingredients is a suggestion, feel free to substitute these with your preferred fish. You could include squid for example, or any other types of fish fillet.

Ingredients:
Serves 4
Prep time: 30 minutes

  • 450ml fish stock (chicken or vegetable stock will also do)
  • 300g fish fillets, cubed (I use a combination of salmon, smoked haddock and cod)
  • 100g scallops
  • 200g raw prawns, peeled
  • 100ml white wine
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g butter
  • Dash of olive oil
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 50g plain flour
  • handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 200g potatoes
  • 80g cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Peel your potatoes and parboil them (roughly for 10 minutes and drain once complete). You don’t want them to cook through completely, they need to still be firm.
  2. Bring your stock to boil, and add your fish fillets for 1-2 minutes, until cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in your pie dish. Repeat with your scallops and prawns for 1 minute. Don’t overcook them, your fish will continue to cook whilst in the pie in the oven. Season your fish with salt and pepper.
  3. Add your wine, double cream and milk to the stock mixture and leave to simmer.
  4. Add the butter to a frying pan on a low heat then add your leeks. You can add a dash of olive oil to prevent the butter from burning. Add your garlic, some salt and pepper and leave to cook for 4-5 minutes. The leeks should be soft and buttery but not browned.
  5. Turn the heat to medium-high and cover the leeks with the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Start slowly adding your stock/cream/milk/wine mixture to the leeks and stir continuously as you do. Once you’ve added the whole mixture, leave to simmer for 2-3 minutes and then add half of your parsley to the mixture.
  7. Pour your creamy leek sauce over your fish in the pie dish.
  8. Slice your potatoes and position on top of the fish mixture, then season with salt, pepper and the rest of the parsley.
  9. Cook on 180C for 30 minutes. Remove, scatter your cheese on top and cook for another 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake

This no-bake Ferrero Rocher cheesecake is SO easy to make, yet looks and tastes fairly decadent so is great as a Christmas showstopper! There’s a biscuit base, some crunchy Ferrero Rocher pieces inside the cream cheese mixture, and a dash of Nutella.

I recommend using a springform cake tin or a tin with a removable base for this recipe, it just makes it easier to handle.

Ingredients:
Prep time: 30 minutes (plus overnight chilling)
Serves 10

Biscuit base:

  • 350g digestive biscuits
  • 200g unsalted butter

Cheesecake filling:

  • 500g full fat cream cheese
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 250g Nutella
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 350ml double cream
  • 12 Ferrero Rocher, roughly chopped

Decoration:

  • 10 Ferrero Rocher

Method:

  1. Crush your digestive biscuits. The best way to do this is either in a plastic bag and a rolling pin, or you can use a food processor.
  2. Melt your butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Once melted, add your biscuit mixture and stir until evenly coated with butter.
  3. Line your cake tin (springform or with a removable base) with baking parchment. lay your biscuit mixture over the base and pat down with the back of a spoon until smooth and compact. Leave to chill in the fridge whilst you make your cheesecake filling.
  4. With an electric whisk, whisk your cream cheese, vanilla and icing sugar together until combined.
  5. Add the double cream, and whisk on a medium-high speed until the mixture is stiff.
  6. Fold in your chopped Ferrero Rocher gently. Pour over your biscuit mixture in the cake tin then leave to chill in the fridge overnight (or at least for 4-5 hours).
  7. Once chilled, remove the cake from the tin, and decorate with your Fererro Rocher. You could also drizzle some melted chocolate or Nuttella over the top!