“Vaghareli Makai” (Spicy corn with peanuts, lime, cilantro and mustard seeds)

This is a real gem from Heidi Swanson’s new book “Near and Far” What a stunning array of flavors!

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The original recipe called for “2 small red chiles” so you can use whatever kind of chile pepper you want, depending on how hot and spicy you like things. If you are avoiding nuts then use pumpkin seeds. To make it vegan, Heidi recommends using sunflower oil in place of the butter.

2 small red chiles, stemmed, seeded (if desired), and sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
One 1-inch (3cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)
1 ½ teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
3 cups (450g, about 3 large ears) fresh corn kernels
½ cup (60g) roasted peanuts
1 cup (30g) chopped cilantro
lemon or lime wedges
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1. In a mortar and pestle, or with a mini food processor, grind the chiles, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and salt to a paste.

2. Heat the clarified butter in a wide skillet. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring until they pop, which will take a minute or two. Stir in the corn kernels and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they just start to feel tender, which will take a couple of minutes.

3. Stir in the peanuts, half of the cilantro and half of the red chile paste. Cook for another minute then taste. If desired, for additional heat, add more of the chile paste and perhaps a bit of salt. Remove from heat and add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Serve the spiced corn over rice, or as a side dish, topped with the remaining cilantro and sesame seeds.

Have lemon or lime wedges handy for guests to add as they wish. Any leftovers can be reheated in a skillet with a little more clarified butter.

Middle Eastern zucchini fritters

I just love these and the combination of feta cheese, dill and mint takes the flavor so far above anything else.

These are lovely served hot or cold with tsatsiki. (yoghurt, cucumber, mint and onion)

 

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Serves 4

1 large onion, chopped coarsely
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 lb zucchini, chopped finely
3 large eggs
3 tbsp plain flour
3 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
8 oz Greek feta cheese. mashed with a fork
oil for frying

Fry the onion in 3 tbsp oil over a medium heat until it is soft and lightly colored. Add the zucchini and saute, stirring, until they too are soft.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with the flour until well blended. Add pepper (there is no need for salt as the feta is salty enough) and the herbs and mix well.
Fold the mashed feta cheese into the eggs, together with the cooked onions and zucchini.
Fil the bottom of a (preferably) non-stick frying pan with oil and pour in the mixture by the half ladle (approx 2 tbsp) to make a few fritters at a time.
Turn each fritter over once and cook until both sides are browned a little.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

Slow cooker spinach and artichoke dip

This couldn’t be easier and I highly recommend you go out and get a slow cooker, especially for around the Holiday times. I use it throughout the year. From the food blog called “Damn Delicious”

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Yield 8 servings

Simply throw everything in the crockpot (slow cooker) for the easiest, most effortless spinach and artichoke dip.

2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 oz sour cream
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz cream cheese, cubed

Place the artichoke hearts, spinach, sour cream, onion, garlic, Parmesan, milk, feta, mayonnaise, vinegar and pepper into a slow cooker. Stir until well combined. Top with cream cheese.
Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours.
Uncover and stir until cream cheese is well combined. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 15 minutes.

Roast pumpkin with cream, thyme and parmesan

It doesn’t come much better than this! Make sure you serve this as an appetizer with lots of crusty bread for dipping.

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3 1/2 lb pumpkin,like a Hubbard
11 fl oz heavy double cream
5 fl oz whole milk
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp thyme leaves
2/3 cup grated parmesan

Heat the oven to 300F.
Cut the lid off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and strands. Put the pumpkin on a baking tray. Meanwhile, heat the cream, milk, garlic and most of the thyme, with plenty of seasoning. When hot, pour into the pumpkin and stir in 2oz of the Parmesan. Put on the lid.
Bake for 1½ hrs, take from the oven, then turn up the heat to 400F.
Remove the lid, sprinkle with pepper and the rest of the cheese, then bake for 15 mins more until golden.
Scatter over the remaining thyme leaves. Scoop the tender pumpkin flesh into bowls with the cheesy cream and serve with crusty bread as a starter.

Free-form enchilada verde

This is from the magazine “Real Simple” and is like a Mexican lasagna so it’s much easier to assemble and serve

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Serves 6

4 cups (32 oz) store bought salsa verde
18 small corn tortillas
1 & 1/2lbs butternut squash, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 14.5oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 to 4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Toppings
Sour cream, chopped cilantro, sliced pickled jalapenos for topping

Heat the oven to 375 F
Spread 1 cup of the salsa verde in a 9 by 13″ baking dish and top with 6 tortillas.
Top with 1 more cup of the salsa, 1/3 of the butternut squash, 1/3 of the beans and 1 cup of the cheese, spreading evenly.
Repeat the layering two more times reserving the final 1 cup of cheese.
Cover with foil
Bake for 1 hour until the squash is tender. Uncover ans sprinkle with the reserved 1 cup of cheese.
Broil 8 inches from the heat for 4 to 5 mins until the topping is bubbly and browned in spots.
Remove and let stand for 15 mins and decorate with the toppings and serve

Grilled zucchini with ricotta and pomegranate molasses

This fast, simple but stunning side dish by chef Timothy Hollingsworth makes grilled zucchini so much more interesting. Featured in Food and Wine Magazine.

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Servings: 6

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 lbs medium zucchini or yellow squash, quartered lengthwise
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and Pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp loosely packed tarragon leaves, chopped

Put the pumpkin seeds in a small skillet over moderately low heat and cook, stirring, until toasted, 3 to 5 minutes.
Light a grill or use a very heavy ridged pan over a hot gas flame.
Toss the zucchini with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini over high heat, turning once, until charred and just tender, about 7 minutes.
Transfer to a work surface and cut into 1-inch pieces. Arrange on a platter and top with dollops of the ricotta and the toasted pumpkin seeds. Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the zucchini with the pomegranate molasses, garnish with the chopped tarragon and serve.

Spinach with roasted sesame dressing

All you need with this is some boiled rice and a lovely piece of fish or meat. It’s delicious as the nutty sesame flavors go so well with spinach

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Serves 4

1/3 cup white sesame seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
1/4 cup dashi stock
1 1/4lb spinach, trimmed
Bamboo sushi mat for rolling the spinach.

Toast the sesame seeds in a heated small frying pan, without oil, shaking the pan continuously until browned lightly and the seeds begin to pop. Remove from the heat, reserve 1 tsp for garnish. Blend, process or grind the hot seeds until smooth.
Combine the ground seeds with the sugar, soy sauce and dashi in a screw top jar and shake well until the sugar dissolves.

Wash the spinach well. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Immerse the spinach, drain immediately and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and retain the color.
Wrap the spinach leaves in a bamboo mat. Roll firmly, gently squeeze out the excess water. Cut the spinach into 1 inch lengths and arrange on a serving plate.

Just before serving, pour the dressing over the spinach. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with the reserved sesame seeds.

* You can also use chopped dry roasted peanuts sprinkled over as a garnish

Roast butternut squash stuffed with Medjool dates, cashew nuts and cilantro couscous

I just love winter food especially when it’s anything to do with butternut squash. This one is from Skye Gyngall and is gorgeous with such interesting flavors.

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Serves 2 and could easily be augmented

1 small butternut squash
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
a decent drizzle of olive oil
a good splosh of white wine
sea salt and ground black pepper

For the stuffing

6 oz instant couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 small leek, finely sliced
4oz cashew nuts
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cardamon pod, crushed open with the flat of a knife
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tsp hot curry powder
6 Medjool dates, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bunch fresh mint
juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves in a shallow roasting dish and sprinkle over the garlic slivers and thyme. Drizzle over the olive oil, pour over the white wine and season with salt and pepper.
Cover with foil and roast in an oven preheated to 350 F for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for about 10 more minutes until the squash is tender.
This may take a little longer depending on the size of your squash. Check it’s doneness as you would a potato and remove from the oven. Leave the oven on.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the stuffing.
Put the couscous in a bowl, pour over about 1/2 cup cold water or chicken broth and leave to soak.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the shallot, leek, cashews, mustard seeds, cardamon pod, ginger, coconut and curry powder and fry gently until the shallot is soft and the aroma from the spices is making you hungry!
Turn up the heat and add the couscous to the pan, stirring thoroughly.
Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10 minutes.
Stir again to fluff up the grains, then add the dates, herbs and lemon juice and season to taste.
Stuff the squash with the couscous and return to the oven for about 20 minutes.
Serve immediately

Beet, lentil and mint salad with pomegranate molasses and orange dressing

A stunning combination for a healthy, clean tasting winter salad.

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Serves 4 to 6

3-4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1 small leek, cut in half lengthways and sliced thin
1 small red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 oz Puy lentils
1 tbsp each of chopped rosemary, thyme and sage.
3-4 fl oz mirin
3 tbsp white miso
1-2 fl oz soy sauce
5 oz raw beets, peeled and cut into fine strips
A large handful of mint leaves, shredded
A couple of handfuls of baby wild arugula or rocket
About 4 oz Greek feta cheese to crumble over the top (Optional)

Dressing
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
4 tbsp Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
juice and grated zest of 1/2 large orange
3 fl oz (approx) of olive oil
pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the leek, onion and garlic and cook, stirring over a high heat until caramelized. Add the lentils, herbs and mirin and continue to fry for 4 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add enough water to cover lentils by 1 inch, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until tender (add a little more water if needed).
Remove from the heat and stir in the miso and soy sauce. Check the seasoning, adding more soy if needed, then leave to cool.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Toss the beets, mint and lentils together in a bowl with a generous slosh of the dressing. Add salad leaves and mix gently. Sprinkle over the feta cheese, if wanted.
Serve immediately

Dreamy sweet onion bisque

I had this soup at the Capital Grill at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville recently and thought it was the best soup I had ever tasted. (If you read the ingredients you can see why!)They gave me the recipe and I was blown away by how easy it was to make. You MUST allow the 5 hours for the onions to sweat as that is the secret of the velvety sweetness the soup has. The toasted brie sandwich segment dropped it, plus the bacon and chives take it to even headier heights!

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4 to 8 servings.

10 large sweet Vidalia onions
1lb Plugra butter
1 qt heavy cream
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Smoked bacon, crumbled. Get really good quality bacon for this, chop it and saute until crispy
Freshly snipped chives
Brie grilled cheese sandwich

Peel and chop the onions into 1 inch chunks. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter until it becomes foamy and add the onions. Add about 1 tbsp of salt at this point and stir to combine all of the ingredients in the pot and continue to cook for 5 hours until they have completely softened and exuded the majority of their moisture.
Keep in mind that you really don’t want to get any color on the onions during this process so if you see it happening, lower the heat more.
After the 5 hours, add the cream and just heat it through gently.
When everything is hot and combined, you need to puree the soup in a good quality blender. If you want that really velvety texture, pass it through a fine mesh strainer or a mouli after blending it but this is an optional step.

Season with salt and pepper, pour into the bowls and garnish with some smoked bacon, chives and a triangle of Brie grilled cheese sandwich.