Thursday, 28 October 2010

Pumpkin Fest Part Six : Pumpkin, Prawn and Pak Choi Curry

Althought it seems my love for this season knows no bounds, I admit there are a few drawbacks. Here in the UK it is awfully rainy and grey, and it seems to have got very cold much earlier than last year which has brought above a wave of colds and flu bugs. But as usual I like to may light of a bad situation, so a blocked up nose to me means that a nice hot bowl of curry and rice is required so the spice can blast away the illness.

I have however mentioned before that I cannot stand too much spice, I tend to choose fragrant and creamy over fiery, so Thai curries are some of my favourites. I know that I have not made my own spice mix here and this seems a bit naughty, but I am lucky enough to live in a town with a large Chinese community so I can buy big tubs of authentic curry paste from one of the four Asian supermarkets within walking distance of my flat (along with anything else that catches my eye, whether I know what it is or not...).

Every supermarket now sells Thai curry pastes too which you could also use, be it red, green or yellow - I went for green as it my favourite and added a little more ginger of the ground variety. I love ginger so much, I would perfume myself with it if I could.

So if you're feeling a little under the weather and need to blast away the cold, or if you are just a curry fan like me, do give this one a go, it's so easy to prepare you would be silly not to. You really don't need to stick to my quantities as this is just how I like it, you can add as much or as little of everything as you'd like.

Pumpkin, Prawn and Pak Choi Curry
Serves 4 as a main meal, along with some basmati or jasmine rice

1 tbsp olive oil
3 red onions, cut into chunks
3-4 tbsp curry paste (depending how spicy you like it)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
650g roasted pumpkin, cut in largish chunks
1 pack/175g baby sweetcorn
400ml coconut milk (I used canned)
250g king prawns, fresh or defrosted from frozen
200g pak choi, leaves seperated

In a large pan cook the olive oil, red onions, curry paste and ground ginger (if using)
over a medium heat until fragrant - 2-3 minutes. Add the pumpkin chunks and baby sweetcorn, cook for a further 5 or so minutes and then add the coconut milk, stir and cook with the lid on for around 10 minutes.

Next add the king prawns, stir them in and put in the pak choi leaves in a layer on top of the curry. Put the lid back on the pot and cook for a further 5 minutes. By now the pak choi will have wilted and you can gently stir them into the curry.

Ladel into bowls and serve with rice and, if you would like, an ice cold beer to combat the heat.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Pumpkin Fest Part Five : Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting - The Inky Kitchen

Pumpkin cupcakes! I know that to my English readers this may seem a little odd as we don't tend to use pumpkin in sweet dishes very often, but to make them easier to imagine, they taste a lot like carrot cake. Moist and deliciously spiced with ginger and cinnamon and more, the cream cheese frosting is to die for and the added splash of bourbon seems to intensify the sweet spicing to perfection.

It's a real shame that pumpkin isn't readily available in the UK other than at Halloween, as these really are one of my favourite cupcakes of all time. Oh well, I shall make do with carrot until I run away to the US to live in my Victorian porched wooden house in the South... one day, I hope...

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting - The Inky Kitchen

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from a recipe by the genius that is Martha Stewart
Makes 12 standard American sized cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients
125g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of ground allspice
pinch of ground clove
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
110g light brown sugar
50g dark brown sugar
50g caster sugar
2 eggs
220g pumpkin puree

Frosting Ingredients
125g full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
25g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp bourbon whiskey
1 tsp vanilla extract
300-400g icing sugar

Cupcakes Method
Preheat oven to 180 C / 360 F. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake cases.

Sift the flour, baking powder and soda and all the spices into a large bowl and stir until evenly combined and then set aside - you don't want any pockets/lumps of spices in the batter.

Beat together the butter and three sugars until fluffy and then mix in the eggs until just combined. Add half the flour mixture and beat again gently, then add the pumpkin puree. Mix until thoroughly combined and then beat in the second half of the flour and spices.

Divide the batter between the cupcake cases and bake in the preheeated oven for between 20-25 minutes. They are ready when they have changed to a dark amber colour and spring back to the touch.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes in the tray before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting Method
Gently beat together the cream cheese and the butter with the vanilla extract and bourbon until well combined. Now mix in the icing sugar a little at a time until you reach the right consistency - if you run a fork through it the indentations should stay - you may not need all the sugar.

Pipe or spread the frosting onto your cooled cupcakes and decorate any way you wish - I love the tiny chocolate pumpkins I found at my local supermarket!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Pumpkin Fest Part Four : Pumpkin, Pesto and Spinach Lasagna

Pumpkin, Pesto and Spinach Lasagna - The Inky Kitchen

Homemade lasagna is one of my favourite meals and I adore experimenting with different flavours and textures to make them a little more special. Lasagna made with strips of chicken, chopped tomatoes and basil layered between green spinach pasta sheets and topped with a creamy cheddar sauce is one of the best, but I also love meat free versions using courgette slices or a mixed mushroom and red wine filling.

This version just sort of popped into my mind on Monday while I was dreaming of dinner at my desk at work (an often occurance) . I wasn't sure that the pesto would work with the pumpkin, but I was darn well gonna try it and I think it's one of my new favourite combinations. I might even try it on toast at the weekend!

As you can see from the photos I topped my lasagna with some of the spicy roasted pumpkin seeds that I had made on Sunday, but they turned out a little more crunchy than anticipated so I won' be doing it again, although I may try grinding some up and mixing them with the breadcrumb topping next time...

I always serve lasagna with a simple lettuce and red onion salad with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil drizzled over - it cuts through and compliments the rich creamy dish perfectly.

Pumpkin, Pesto and Spinach Lasagna - The Inky Kitchen

Pumpkin, Pesto and Spinach Lasagna
Serves 4 as a main course

3 red onions, sliced fairly small
1 tbsp olive oil
1 heaped tbsp pesto
150g mushrooms, sliced
800g roasted pumpkin, in 1/2 inch cubes
50ml white wine
1/4-1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 box of lasagna sheets
500g wilted spinach (I used frozen that I defrosted in the microwave)
250g tub of ricotta cheese
120ml milk
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups panko or normal breadcrumbs
60g sharp cheddar, grated

Preheat the oven to 180 C / 360 F.

Fry the sliced red onions in the olive oil for a few minutes over a medium high heat and then add the pesto. Mix well and then add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for a further 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms have softened and then add the cubed pumpkin. Pour over the white wine, and then add the chilli flakes, salt and black pepper. Stir gently until everything is combined, reduce to a medium heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take a fairly large deep sided baking tray/dish and pour in the pumpkin mixture. Top with a layer of lasagna sheets and then cover them with the wilted spinach. Try to make sure it is spread out evenly, and then add the next layer of pasta sheets.

Put the ricotta into a bowl and add the milk and ground nutmeg, mix well and then pour over the dish of lasagna. Spread it out with a spatula making sure the whole lasagna is covered, then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove and sprinkle over the grated cheese before returning to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and burnished.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting and serving - I would suggest with a side salad and/or some crusty bread.

Pumpkin Fest Part Three : Savoury Pumpkin Scones / Pumpkin Biscuits

Savoury Pumpkin Scones / Biscuits

Just to clarify, the double recipe title is to cater to both sides of the Atlantic. In the US these delicious crumbly #rolls' are called biscuits, where as here in the UK I suppose we would call them savoury scones.

Either way they taste fabulous - especially halved, toasted and spread with a bit of butter for a lovely Autumn lunch or smothered with American style sausage gravy for a (very) filling dinner.

Click here for a great sausage gravy

Savoury Pumpkin Scones / Biscuits

Savoury Pumpkin Scones / Pumpkin Biscuits
Makes 15

250g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
20g cold vegetable shortening (such as Trex), cubed
60ml buttermilk
180ml pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 180 C / 360 F.

Mix the flour, baking powder and soda, garlic granules, cayenne, salt and pepper in a large bowl until thoroughly combined and then rub in the cold cubed butter and shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Mix the buttermilk and pumpkin puree in a seperate bowl and then add to the flour mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon until just coming together, and then transfer to a floured surface and knead a few times until you get a smooth dough - don't overwork it or your biscuits won't rise properly.

Roll out the dough to about 1 inch thick and cut into rounds using a 2.5 - 3 inch cutter. If you don't have one, just cut the dough with a knife into pieces roughly that size.

Place the cut outs of dough onto a lightly oiled baking tray and cook until risen and golden brown - between 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

The biscuits can be kept in an airtight container for about three days, or tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months. Let the biscuits defrost at room temperature and then crisp them up a little under the grill before eating.

Pumpkin Fest Part Two : Roasted Spicey Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Spicey Pumpkin Seeds - The Inky Kitchen

I'm not a fan of waste and would like to think I'm pretty frugal. It makes me feel oddly proud when I can come up with a use for something that would usually be thrown away, especially in the kitchen. Not that eating pumpkin seeds is my idea in any way, but I hope that this easy little recipe will encourage you to look for little ways to cut back on waste and save yourself a little money too.

And if you don't want to make these and will be throwing your seeds away, how about sending them to me? I think Pete and I could eat a tonne of these yummy little devils... next time I'm going to try adding some brown sugar to make them beautifully sweet and spicy!

Roasted Spicey Pumpkin Seeds - The Inky Kitchen

Roasted Spicey Pumpkin Seeds
Makes roughly 1.5 cups / 150g

150g pumpkin seeds, cleaned and dried
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 180 C / 360 F.

Place pumpkin seeds in a bowl and sprinkle over all the spices. Toss together and then drizzle over the olive oil. Mix again until all the seeds are coated and then spread evenly over a baking sheet in one layer.

Roast in the preheted oven for 20-25 minutes, tossing occasionally so they brown evenly. The seeds are ready when they have turned golden brown, be careful not to let them burn!

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly - I think they are best eaten still warm from the oven.

Store in an airtight container and consume within 1 week of roasting.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Pumpkin Fest Part One : Roast Pumpkin Puree

Ladies and gentlemen, it is once again my favourite time of year! The leaves on the trees are turning orange and amber, and so are the market stalls covered with lovely carrots, butternut squash and best of all... pumpkin!

Pumpkins are fab, you can carve them into scary faced lanterns, cook them up into delicious meals and baked treats - even the word pumpkin is wonderful! Start using it as a pet name for your boyfriend or girlfriend and watch their unimpressed faces try to work out if it's cute, or if you are in fact calling them a big spherical orange fruit (yep, it's a fruit).

As I have such a love for the 'punkin' and seeing as you can only buy them for about a month I thought I'd use the time wisely and cook up a whole weeks worth of pumpkin goodies, starting with what you will need to do to the pumpkin in order to use it for these recipes - including how to turn the seeds into a seriously addictive snack rather than throwing them out.

So read on, below is the starter recipe for the cubed and pureed pumpkin, and then every day for the next week I will be posting a new pumpkin treat for your culinary delight! If you are feeling especially lovely, maybe you can tell some friends about Pumpkin Fest too? :)

Roast Pumpkin - Pureed and Cubed
Quantities vary depending on the size of your pumpkin!

Ingredients and Utensils
One pumpkin
One large deep sided baking tray
Large sharp knife
Strong metal spoon
Bowl for seeds and pulp
Cold water
Food processor or potato ricer/masher or a strong fork
Ziplock bags or food tubs for storing your delicious pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400F.

Cut your pumpkin in half, and then into quarters, disgarding the stalk. You may want to get a big strong person to do this for you, or just take out a little frustration like I did.

Scoop all the seeds and pulp out into a bowl and then place the cleaned quarters cut side down on the baking tray. When all four pieces are in the tray, pour in some cold water to about 1cm deep and then place into the preheated oven.

The pumpkin will need to cook for anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of your pieces - they are ready when the skin has turned a dark amber colour and the flesh squishes easily when you push it with the back of a spoon.

When you have reached this stage, remove the tray from the oven and leave the pumpkin to cool until it is handleable. Remove the pumpkin flesh from the skin (I gouged it out with a spoon) and then either cut it into smallish chunks or puree it in the food processor. Don't worry if you don't have one, you can use a potato ricer or masher or even just a plain old fork, it just won't be quite as smooth.

I've stored my cubed and pureed pumpkin in big ziplock food bags and am keeping them in the fridge to use over the next few days, but if you would like to store it for longer you can freeze it for up to 3 months.


Don't forget to come back tomorrow for THREE more pumpkin recipes!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Nancy's Best Nachos With Mexican Pulled Chicken and Gaucamole

Nancy's Best Nachos With Mexican Pulled Chicken and Gaucamole - The Inky Kitchen

Well I don't know about your part of the world, but in mine it is feeling thoroughly Autumnul. It's dark now when I get up and dusky when I'm leaving work, and there's a sharp chill in the wind, not to mention the onflux of rain we have been hit with.

All these combined mean that now is comfort food season. I want big hot bowls of soup for lunch and carb-tastic tummy warming meals for dinner, and I want them to include some of my favourite fall flavours - pumpkin and squash, ginger, cranberries, apples, carrots and parsnips and nuts of all kinds just to mention a few.

Another of my favourite things to eat when the weather has turned brisk and grey is chilli, it warms you up from the inside out and has even been shown to promote a feeling of wellbeing, which is especially useful in a season where less sun = less vitmain d to keep your spirits up.

Nancy's Best Nachos With Mexican Pulled Chicken and Gaucamole - The Inky Kitchen

Now I can't stand anything too hot, I am a bit of a chilli whuss in all truth - I like the flavour of chilli more than the heat, and I think South American cooking does this the best. Mexican recipes often use dried chillies which are then soaked in hot water and usually blended into sauces or moles (no not the snuffly grey animal) which can have many many ingredients - as is often in foody cultures families have there own recipes which are handed down and are often a closely guarded secret.

Trying to decide what to make from the wide range of Mexican dishes was a tough one, so I tried to think of what I like to do when the weather turns that involve food and then it came to me - I love to cosy up on the sofa with Pete and Cleo eating something delicious and watching movies.

So what do you eat while watching movies, other than popcorn and naughty big bags of chocolates? Nachos! I know the ones at the cinema are foul, drippy plastic cheese and 'salsa' that looks like runny jam (bleugh!) but these babies will knock your socks off and are really not difficult or that time consuming to make. Of course they are pretty calorific (cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips...) but they are the perfect occasional treat for a movie night in with your friends.

Nancy's Best Nachos With Mexican Pulled Chicken and Gaucamole - The Inky Kitchen

Nancy's Best Nachos With Mexican Pulled Chicken and Gaucamole
Serves 4

Mexican Pulled Chicken Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small or 1 large red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 red chilli, seeds removed and diced very small
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt and ground black pepper
2 large chicken breasts, skin removed
1 x 142g can of tomato puree
the juice of half a lime

Guacamole Ingredients
2 ripe avocados, diced
1/2 red chilli, seeds removed and diced very small
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
the juice of half a lime

Nacho Ingredients
1 1/2 bags of slightly salted tortilla chips
100g grated mozzarella
100g grated cheddar
1 x 150ml tub sour cream
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander

Mexican Pulled Chicken Method
Fry the onions, garlic and diced chilli in the olive oil in a deep pan over a medium heat for two minutes, then add the paprika, cumin, oregano and s&p and cook for a further few minutes until softened and starting to crisp up slightly.

Add the two chicken breasts and cook until they are coloured all over, then add the tomato puree and pour on enough water to just cover the chicken. Put a lid on the pot and cook on medium high heat for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside for a moment. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook the sauce while you pull the chicken. This is done by taking two forks and literally pulling apart the meat so it looks shredded.

When the sauce has reduced by half add the chicken back to the pan and stir until everything is covered. Set aside and start to build your nachos.

Nacho Construction
Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F.

Spread the tortilla chips on a deep sided baking tray and then cover with the pulled chicken. Now take the two cheese and sprinkle them over the top so everything is evenly covered.

Bake the nachos for ten minutes until they are warmed through and the cheese is melted.

Gaucamole Method
Do this while the nachos are baking - just mix all the ingredients together and leave to one side for the flavours to develop for a few minutes.

Final Nacho Construction
Spread the soured cream over the hot nachos and then pour over the guacamole before sprinkling over the spring onions and coriander.

Serve with a cold Mexican beer and a good movie!

Nancy's Best Nachos With Mexican Pulled Chicken and Gaucamole - The Inky Kitchen

This pulled chicken can be used for many more recipes and is a great weeknight standby. Serve it in buns a la pulled pork sandwiches, roll into flour tortillas like a fajita, stir through some pasta or use in place of mince in a Mexican style lasagna.

The chicken can also be made in advance which would mean making these when guests are coming over would be a doddle - you'd just need the ten minutes of cheese melting and sauce daubing and you're there! Just keep the chicken refirgerated in an air-tight container, but use within a day of cooking - you can't be too careful with poultry.

Feel free to use different cheeses in this recipe too, I just used what I had on hand - the mozzarella is always good as you get the 'stringy' factor and it's nice and creamy against the tomatoey chicken.

Nancy's Best Nachos With Mexican Pulled Chicken and Gaucamole - The Inky Kitchen