Tag: dinner

Saturday Morning in the Dogpatch

On Saturday morning we got in the car and headed across town to the Dogpatch, an area we haven’t explored yet. We had read about the opening of The Minnesota Street Project a couple of weeks ago,  and were keen to have a look. A old warehouse is now a gallery and studio space offering ‘affordable and economically sustainable spaces for art galleries, artists and related nonprofits.’ Check out their website to read more, or if you are in San Francisco, head on over. It is a beautiful space.

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I would also recommend going for lunch at Piccino afterwards, it was absolutely delicious and they have highchairs that screw onto the bar. Three happy Hewitts indeed.

Now a recipe, or more just an idea. We eat this meal a bit, especially in the warmer months. It is so easy and quick to put together, but packed with flavour and fun to eat.

Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hummus and Salad
Serves two

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Mix together some ground/minced (depending on what country you live in) lamb with salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of garam masala. Roll into balls, about half the size of a golf ball. Fry in some oil on a hot heat, moving around every couple of minutes.

Chop one tomato, three radishes, half a peeled cucumber, 1/4 small red onion and some fresh parsley and mix in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar.

Once the meatballs are cooked through- this shouldn’t take very long- place on a dish that has a thin covering of hummus and sprinkle some roasted pine nuts over the top.

I like to serve this with some greek yoghurt made better with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and fresh mint, plus some grilled pita bread, hot sauce and a cold beer.

Perfect for the balmy weather San Francisco has been having lately. Long may it continue!

 

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A fresh look for spring

With spring in the air and finally at the market, plus our move into the new apartment and Lilias turning one in a couple of weeks (!!!) it feels like a everything is refreshing and new things are happening. So I cut my hair short again, and then followed up by redesigning the blog.

It is coming up two years since we moved to San Francisco and I started this blog. I felt like things needed an update so I called on a certain someone with some rather fabulous design skills, Catherine.  An old English student of mine and a good friend’s little sister, Catherine quickly became a good friend to me as well. After talking to her about the blog, she very kindly did the calligraphy for the header. Isn’t it gorgeous? Thank you Catherine x

I am starting off with a fresh, spring salad as per Catherine’s request. It is crunchy and zingy as well as being strangely comforting. We ate it warm, but I think leftovers the next day would be pretty good too. Pity there weren’t any…

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Spring Noodle Salad
Serves four

Soba noodles (according to appetite)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame beans
Small bundle of asparagus cut into quarters
Four spring onions finely sliced
A handful of snap peas cut into thirds
A large handful of fresh coriander
1 lime
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt
A small handful of peanuts
3 tbsp of sesame seeds

Cook the soba noodles according to the instructions and put aside in a large bowl.

Gently fry the finely sliced spring onions in a little sunflower oil until softened, then add the parboiled asparagus and edamame beans to fry for a few more minutes. When these are cooked but still have some bite, add them to the noodles with the roughly chopped coriander, the juice of the lime, sesame and sunflower oil, rice wine vinegar, salt, peanuts and sesame seeds. Toss it all together and eat while it is still warm. I would recommend an accompanying cold beer for balance.

We added hot sauce to ours afterwards because we were eating with Lilias, but you could definitely add the chilli at the beginning when you are frying the spring onion.

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My next post is an easy rhubarb and strawberry cake because you have to enjoy both the sweet and the savoury sides of spring. Also because anything with rhubarb makes me happy, especially if you can eat it with a cup of tea.

The Best of the Season

Yesterday I went to buy food for dinner and my neatly written shopping list stayed in my bag. I just couldn’t walk past the bright and sweet smelling citrus. Grapefruit, pomelos, mandarins, satsumas, clementines, limes, lemons, and oranges lay bathing in the late afternoon sun. While Lilias enjoyed the free apple pie samples they were giving out, I quickly came up with a new idea for dinner. We would have a citrus salad and it would be fresh and zingy, both sweet and bitter. Maybe a piece of fish on top, in which case fennel would work well. And we would need something green with that, baby spinach? No, some sprouting broccolini would be perfect. And surely there is some coriander in a jar on the window sill…

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Citrus Salad with Pan Fried Fish
Serves two

1 ruby red grapefruit
2 mandarins
Half a big bulb of fennel, or one small one, plus the fronds
A handful of coriander leaves
1 spring onion
A bunch of sprouting broccolini
A good glug of olive oil
Salt
2 pieces of firm white fish (I used ling cod)
Butter for frying

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Blanch the sprouting broccolini and put aside to cool. Carefully peel the grapefruit and mandarins and finely slice them, the grapefruit cut in half and the mandarins as perfect circles. Finely slice the spring onion and the fennel bulb, leaving the feathery fronds to garnish the fish at the end. Put it all in a bowl with the olive oil (it will make a difference if you use good stuff for this recipe), a good pinch of salt and the coriander leaves. Toss to combine.

Fry your fish in some butter, and while it is cooking, arrange the salad on two plates. When the fish is just cooked through, add it to the top of the salad and garnish with the fennel fronds.

It is the perfect meal for a hot evening (thanks San Francisco for this mid winter heat wave) or to cheer up a dark and cold day. Especially with a cold beer or a crisp glass of wine.

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Menu Planning and Spaghetti Fridays

I am not a planner. Life can take me where it wants, and that is just fine. I feel this way about cooking as well, never having been one to plan what I am going to cook at the beginning of the week and do one big shop in preparation. Part of my day with Lilias is going to the deli/market/grocery store a few blocks from us and choosing something to take home and make for dinner.

But lately I have been in a rut. A very deep one that has made me not look forward to either the shopping or the cooking. I don’t know whether it is because we used to eat out quite a bit at exciting and inspiring cafes and restaurants and I got ideas from them? Or that now I have a nine month old to think about cooking for as well as us? But I felt like I was making the same stuff over and over. And not enjoying it.

So I decided to do the unthinkable. Menu planning. Sitting down in the weekend with cookbooks and planning what we are going to eat for the week. And I have to say, it has been working a treat! It means I actually cook to a recipe from cook books I may not have looked at for a while, I can look at the week as a whole and make sure we are eating a variety of foods, there is no waste of food that looked good at the market and then was never actually used, and it means I am trying a whole lot of new recipes in the kitchen. I don’t know how long I will keep it up, but for the moment it is getting me out of the rut.

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I still cook seasonally by only picking recipes that use ingredients that I know I can find at the market at the moment. And if something looks really good when I am out, I will pick it up and find a way to incorporate it into that night’s meal. It has been making things a whole lot easier and given me more time for adventures further afield with my little Lilias. We have been loving going for long winter walks on the beach- there is something so beautiful about a grey cold day and a stormy looking ocean. Makes me not mind the cold wind in my face and leaves both of us feeling fresh and new and ready for a big dinner.

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I may be cooking all different styles of food from all different cook books, but it is nice to come back to your favourites. So on Fridays? Not going out for an after work drink and getting home at 3am, nope, those days are over… for now. Instead? Spaghetti alla puttanesca. Red wine. Bliss.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Serves four (or two very hungry people)

A very generous pour of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 dried peperoncino/ generous pinch of chilli flakes
5 anchovy fillets
400g red, ripe tomatoes or 1 tin tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g pitted black olives
1 large tbsp capers
roughly chopped parsley
spaghetti

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Firstly, pour yourself a glass of wine and put your pasta water on.

Put the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped anchovies and chilli into a frying pan over a very gentle flame to let the garlic soften and anchovies melt down into the oil.

Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes if you are using fresh ones, otherwise open the can and add them to the pan. Raise the heat a little so the pan reaches a bubbling simmer and then finally add the capers, tomato puree and the olives.

By now, the water should have come to the boil. Salt generously and add the spaghetti.

Allow the sauce to bubble away and reduce a little and then add the parsley and finally the cooked pasta.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Buon appetito and have a good weekend x

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And I’m Back

I have spent a while considering Flowers in my Hair and whether I should get back into it, going back and forward trying to decide if it is something I want to do. I have been reading far more of other people’s blogs recently, and with that, I have been made aware of the over saturation on the internet. I mean, is it really necessary to have another food/this is my everyday (rather mundane) life for you to read about? I feel it is rather narcissistic for me to believe you would even want to read about what I have been doing and cooking in my little San Francisco apartment.

But I have had some words of encouragement from good friends, a few writing projects started and planned for the coming months, and it has got me wanting more. I have a gap to fill being at home with Lilias and not working. Plus it feels like spring here, the blossom is coming out, the air feels soft and warm and the days are getting longer, just the right time to resurrect the blog and make a fresh start. Isn’t that what this season is all about?

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I will begin with dinner last night- a risotto made with really good chicken stock from the carcass of the chicken used for pollo alla cacciatore the night before. It comes from Jamie’s Italy, with a few alterations because I am the worst at following a recipe.

Fennel and Ricotta Risotto
Serves two with leftovers, or four as a starter

1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 big bulb of fennel, or 2 small bulbs
2 celery stalks
1/2 onion
1 large cup of risotto rice- about 200g
1 glass of white wine
Chicken stock – about half a litre
chilli flakes
4 tablespoons of ricotta
1 lemon
parmesan
olive oil
salt and pepper

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Start with a couple of splashes of olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic until softened, then add the fennel seeds and sliced fennel (save the feathery tops for later). Add a pinch of salt and pepper, pop the lid on and it turn down low. Now gently fry the finely diced onion and celery in olive oil for about 10 minutes. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and fry until it is slightly translucent. Next add the glass of wine and stir until the smell of alcohol has disappeared and the wine absorbed.
You can now start adding the stock (I used chicken stock, but you could use vegetable stock if you wanted a vegetarian recipe) bit by bit, little by little. The more you stir, the creamier it gets. Continue until the rice is soft, but still has a bit of bite. Remove from the heat and stir in the ricotta, zest of the lemon and lovely, sweet fennel mixture. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This lets the rice get really creamy and thick and all the flavours will jumble up together. Check the seasoning and balance the flavour with as much lemon juice as you feel it needs to work with the fennel. Divide between your plates, sprinkle over your finely sliced fennel tops and dust with the chilli flakes and grated parmesan.

While the baby sleeps, we eat

Lilias Madeline arrived early on Wednesday the 15th April. A San Francisco spring baby with a raging appetite, legs and arms always on the move, she has won us over completely. Her smiles and giggles are enough to make up for her disdain for sleeping during the day and she never fails to make us laugh with the faces she pulls.

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Her arrival has meant a return to basics in the kitchen. Meals that can be thrown together quickly, or put together earlier in the day to slowly cook in the oven over hours at a low heat. The first few months it took hours to get her down at night- rocking, feeding, crying (sometimes me as well as her) until finally she was out around 10pm, when we would eat something quickly before falling into bed ourselves. Recently though, I have managed to have her in bed and asleep by 7.30, perfect timing for me to prepare dinner and feel like a normal person.

Last night we celebrated a sunny couple of days and a baby who went down to sleep without crying for the first time ever, with a crisp, cold glass of white wine and spaghetti alle vongole. This is a dish I first really had with my friend Marco on holiday in Naples. He told me I had to order it, and so I did. It was divine. This one I made wasn’t bad either.

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Spaghetti alle vongole
Serves four

1kg clams
Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
Pinch of chilli flakes
10 cherry tomatoes
Small bunch of fresh parsley
Glass of white wine
Spaghetti
Salt and pepper

A couple of hours before dinner, put your clams into the sink with cold, salted water. This will clean them and remove any sand. When you are ready to get started, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Finely slice the garlic and parsley stalks, and quarter the cherry tomatoes. (Side note, it is very controversial topic in Italy whether you should use tomatoes in this dish or not. I personally think that the sweet and fresh taste they bring is the perfect compliment to the salty, fleshy clams, but it is up to you.) When the water comes to the boil, salt it well and cook your spaghetti. Now glug a generous amount of olive oil into a pan with a lid. Add the garlic, and fry gently until it has softened. Next add the tomatoes, chilli and parsley stalks and fry for a few minutes. Last add the clams and the glass of wine and put the lid on. It will begin to steam and spit, so give it a good shake so that everything gets cooked. (I was using quite large clams, so they obviously took longer to cook. If you are using the smaller sweeter ones – better for this dish – cook them closer to your pasta being done.) You will know it is done because the clams will have opened and the tomatoes softened and broken down. If any clams do not open, throw them out. Drain the pasta and stir it into the clam mixture when it is still almost, almost cooked so that it soaks up the salty juices from the pan to finish. Roughly chop the parsley and stir through.

You are ready to pour a glass of wine, dish up and take a break from reality pretending you are back in Italy on a balmy summer’s evening. Or just a proud mother in San Francisco with a happy, sleeping baby.

Pasta primavera

This is my version of pasta primavera, or springtime pasta. A deliciously easy way to enjoy all the fresh green things that this season has to offer us. With cheese. Obviously.

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Pasta Primavera

Olive oil
1 big garlic clove
A bundle of asparagus- try and find the young skinny ones
2 spring onions
A handful of baby spinach
About 8 basil leaves
A handful of freshly podded peas (or frozen ones if you can’t find the real deal)
Juice of half a lemon
A ball of mozzarella di bufala (or feta if you prefer)
Salt
Pasta of the short variety

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Start with golden, grassy olive oil in a frying pan. Add a fresh garlic clove and two spring onions, finely sliced, and a bunch of tall, skinny asparagus cut into fives. Slowly and softly fry these.

Next add your dark green baby spinach leaves, a squeeze of lemon, then the basil and finally the freshly podded peas. These only need a minute to bring out their colour and sweetness all ready to burst with sweet flavour in your mouth.

Finish the dish off with some creamy mozzarella di bufala broken on top and another drizzle of olive oil. This dish works best with a shorter pasta and is delicious cold for lunch the next day.

I added chilli flakes to the olive oil at the beginning of the cooking process, which is, like everything in cooking, entirely optional. I am just doing anything in my ability to encourage this baby out of me and into the world. Tonight? Super spicy tacos from the hole in the wall round the corner. Wish me luck!

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Pasta for a misty evening


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I have been somewhat absent of late. A few weeks cooking for one while Ollie was in China for work, a trip home to New Zealand for a friend’s wedding, work and trying to get ourselves sorted for the baby’s arrival in just 7 ½ weeks (all going to plan), has meant I have not been snapping and blogging what we have been doing or eating. But here I am with a recipe for you.

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We had a weekend of unseasonably warm weather, 24 degrees, sunny, no wind and the smell of spring in the air. This meant wandering around the city with visiting friends, iced coffees, picnics in the park and a few new freckles. A lovely way to be welcomed back to the city after twelve days of sunshine, friends and family back home.

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We have also been welcomed back by the citrus stand at our local Farmer’s Market. They are currently laden with tangerines, clementines, mandarins, blood oranges, pomelos and grapefruit. Every Sunday we come home with bags of fruit, peeling and eating with sticky fingers and then watching my tummy go crazy when the sugar hits the baby. The big bowl of citrus and the sunny weather called for fresh and tasty things to eat when our friends came for dinner on Monday night. We enjoyed a quinoa, baked salmon, blood orange, fennel and pomegranate salad with fresh bread and cold white wine, followed by an orange and coconut cake that is so easy to make, I must blog it soon.

And then the mist rolled in. The temperature dropped and we were plunged back into winter. At work yesterday, all I could think of were hearty winter meals to sustain and warm us. I decided on a broccolo romanesco pasta with lots of parmesan, and perhaps some sausage meat too. May not sound glamorous, but it was perfect.

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Pasta broccoli e salsiccia
Serves four

I head of broccoli romanesco
4 small breakfast sausages
4 cloves of garlic
Chilli flakes
4 anchovies
Splash of white wine
Olive oil
1 packet of short pasta such as rigatoni or fusilli
Parmesan cheese

Take your beautiful, spiralling head of broccoli romanesco, break it into florets and then wash. Cook these in a pot of boiling water until tender. While these are cooking, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a pan with the chilli flakes, anchovies and the whole, peeled garlic cloves. Remove the sausage meat from the casing so you have little bits cooking in the tasty oil, flavoured with spice and salt. When the florets are tender, fish them out and add them to the sausage. I added a splash of wine at this stage, simply because we had a bit left over that wasn’t enough for a proper glass and was looking lonely. Smush most of the broccoli with the back of your wooden spoon so you have almost a pale green sauce with a few whole florets and the little bits of sausage meat within. Cover and leave on a very low heat while you cook your pasta in the broccoli water according to the packet instructions. Combine the pasta with the sauce and plenty of parmesan and dish up.

Quick to make and absurdly tasty.

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Make-Me-Better Citrus Salad

Since returning from New York, I have been holed up in the apartment moving from my bed to the sofa and back to bed again. Pregnancy seems to mean that a cold that would last a few days is stretching out over a whole week with no signs of letting up. With the extra time off work, we have been making hearty and wholesome meals, slow cooked lamb shanks in tomato with pasta, a Moroccan tagine with plenty of spices and chickpeas, and lots of fresh and crunchy salads in the hope of a miraculous recovery. This one is a zingy citrus salad using the best of the Californian produce- there seem to be at least twenty different citrus fruits for sale at our local shop. Please excuse the iphone photos- finding the proper camera seemed more effort than it was worth!

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Make-Me-Better Citrus Salad

Flesh of 1/2 a pomelo
2 small blood oranges, sliced
Seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate
1 bulb of fennel, finely sliced
Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
Rocket
1 cup quinoa
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
Salt

For the chicken
2 chicken thighs
1 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Olive oil
Salt

Start by making up a paste with the spices and oil. Rub this all over the chicken and pop in the oven for about twenty minutes at 180. At the same time, cook your quinoa- it should take about 20 minutes too. While these are cooking, you just need to combine the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl. It is just the pomelo that takes time as you have to get the flesh out of each individual segment. I waited for the quinoa and chicken to cool before combining with the rest of the salad and a simple lemon, salt and olive oil dressing. The result was fresh and tasty, an easy way to brighten a dark winter evening. Although, I imagine it would be even better with a glass of rosé in the summer sunshine…

 

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Happy Fall Y’all

The changing season may not be as evident here in San Francisco as other parts of the US, but leaves are turning, darkness arrives earlier every day and there is new autumnal fruit and vegetables at the local farmer’s market. Blushing apples, pears, pumpkins and squash. Leading up to Halloween the pumpkins started taking over- pumpkins in piles at the market, in window displays, carved or whole on doorsteps. Pumpkin spiced everything appeared on menus, as well as in coffees and other places pumpkins don’t belong. But it made me start thinking of ways I like to eat pumpkin and decided to have a few friends over for dinner to celebrate pumpkins and the arrival of autumn.

 

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I bought four different pumpkins and squash at the market to see what they were all like and made two meals out of them. (I love it when you can prep once, eat twice- speaking of which, my favourite blogger has just done a series for The Guardian which is about exactly this. She is an English woman living in Rome and her recipes are so fantastically Roman. I love them and whole heartedly recommend the braised lentils two ways.) Anyway, from these pumpkins I made ravioli di zucca for the autumn dinner with friends and then a spicy Thai pumpkin soup for Ollie and I to have on the Sunday night. PLUS I put the off cuts from the pasta in the freezer and we had these with a beef sugo a week later.

 

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Ravioli di Zucca

For the filling
A variety of pumpkin/squash (I am still trying to work out the difference and how this compares with our NZ naming of this family of round orange vegetables) enough to cover a roasting dish
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
Half a grated nutmeg
Butter
Salt and pepper
A splash of cream
6 sage leaves, finely chopped

For the pasta
5 cups of flour, tipo 00
5 large free range eggs

For the sauce
A big lump of butter
A handful of sage leaves

Peel, seed, cut into cubes and roast the pumpkin at 180 for about 40 minutes or until it is well cooked.  While this is cooking, finely dice the onion and garlic and  fry in plenty of butter until very tender. When the pumpkin is ready, add it to the onion and garlic with the grated nutmeg, finely chopped sage leaves, cream and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Mush it up with a fork so you have a smooth filling with all the flavours combined.

Now start with your pasta dough- you just need 1 cup of flour and 1 egg per person. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs. Whisk the eggs with a fork, and when they are mixed, slowly bring in the flour until you have a dough. Now you can take out and unwanted anger on the dough as you knead it for at least five minutes. You’re aiming for a smooth and silky consistency. Cover with flour, glad wrap and leave in the fridge for half an hour.

This now gives you time to realise that your guests are due to arrive, quickly clean up the apartment, open a bottle of wine, and pretend that it was your intention all along to be rolling out pasta when they arrive rather than be organised beforehand.


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Making pasta is best when you have two people involved, one to do the rolling and one to do the ravioli making. The roller wants to work the dough through the machine down to the smallest setting, making sure the pasta is well dusted so it is easy to manipulate and doesn’t stick. The ravioli maker wants to put about a teaspoon of mixture evenly spaced down half of a sheet of pasta- you should be able to fit two across. Then fold the other half over top and tuck the little pumpkins into bed, pressing down so that all the mixture is sealed in. You can now cut them with a knife or use a ravioli or cookie cutter to make them into ravioli. Keep on doing this until you have used all your pasta and you have a plate of beautifully dusted ravioli ready to cook. The dusting part is really important, there is nothing more frustrating than all your hard work sticking together.

 

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These will only need 4-5 minutes in boiling, salted water to cook. While they are doing this, melt down a big hunk of butter and fry the remaining sage leaves until they are nice and crispy. Drain the ravioili, plate up and pour over the burnt sage butter. Buon apetito!

 

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And then the next day…

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Olive or sunflower oil
One onion
Four cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
2 carrots
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1Tbsp of chilli flakes
The other half of the roasted pumpkins that you didn’t use for ravioli
200mL Coconut milk
100mL stock or water
Fresh coriander and natural yoghurt to serve

 

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Coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot with plenty of oil and add the spices so that you have a delicious paste to start your soup. Add the roughly chopped onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook on a gentle heat for about 15 minutes. Add the pumpkin coconut milk and stock and simmer for at least 15 minutes to combine the different flavours and textures. Use a mixing stick to blend it all together, or if you don’t have one, transfer to a blender. It is up to your personal preference whether you like to keep this chunky or blend until it is smooth. Simmer for ten minutes longer to make sure they flavours have all mingled together in a delicious way and then serve in deep bowls with fresh coriander (and natural yoghurt should you wish) and toasted bread or naan breads.

 

 

A perfect Sunday night dinner for when it is cold outside. Happy fall y’all.