Veggie Curry with Lentils recipe

This is a curry recipe with cabbage, and before you x out of this page, let me just say it’s neither smelly nor stringy. I must admit I was slightly scared of cooking cabbage; coleslaw is great, but I’m not a big bubble and squeak fan, so my main experience with cooked cabbage has been bland, smelly and limp. That being said, cabbage is really good for you, and I’m always trying to find new ways of forcing veg ingestion upon my children, so when they turned their noses up at coleslaw, I thought I’d trick them into the rest of the slaw. I bought a big bag of pre-shredded cabbage and carrot that you’re meant to add dressing to for coleslaw, but it ended up helping create to most delicious curry.

My daughter is my biggest food critic, but she’s also my biggest fan if I make lentils for dinner. At 4 years old, she’s determined to polish off any vegetarian meal I make, convincing me she’s going to refuse meat any day now. As long as I have a half an hour to allow the lentils to soften, I’ll make this type of dish for lunch or dinner. This particular recipe took about 45 minutes from start to finish, but I was faffing a bit. The depth of flavour that the spices and cabbage add are gorgeous – sweet and savoury, and a little bit creamy. I hope you’ll give it a try, even if you don’t think you like cabbage, because I was surprised by how sweet and tender it was in this curry.

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 You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon veg oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup crushed or diced tomato (tinned is easiest)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup dried red lentils (rinsed well)
  • 2–3 cups shredded cabbage (I used a coleslaw pre-shred with a bit of carrot)
  • 1 cup chopped coriander/cilantro (I use my scissors and just snip into the pot)
  • ½ teaspoon chicken (or veg) stock concentrate, or 1 dried cube
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4–6 cups of water to cover and periodically top up until the lentils are softened
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt

Veg curry ingredients

The method:

First things first: find a wide, deep pan and add the butter and oil over a medium-high heat.

Melting the butter.jpg

 

Once the butter is melted and the oil is warm, add your dry spices and give them a quick stir before adding the tomato and incorporating into the oil and spices. This will allow the spices to lightly fry without burning, and the tomato to reduce.

Add the chicken stock concentrate or cube and mix it into the tomato and spices; you’ll add water later, so don’t worry if it’s not fully mixed in.

Ensuring you’ve thoroughly rinsed the dried lentils, add these to the tomato mix and stir well.

Lentils cooking.jpg

Cover the lentil mixture with the shredded cabbage and add about 1 cup of your water. I find keeping a full kettle on hand the easiest for eyeballing the water additions. Reduce the heat to a medium-low while covered to save scorching the bottom.

Keep the cabbage on top without stirring it in and just cover it for about five minutes. This gives you the perfect chance to start your rice, or pull out the pita or naan for serving. I usually cook jasmine rice with chicken stock and a little garlic and herb spice, but that’s just because I like my rice to have flavour of its own.

Cabbage in the pan.jpg

Once the cabbage has wilted, and created some of its own water, give it a good stir to incorporate the lentils and check the water level.

Sprinkle in the brown sugar and add the coriander, and mix into the curry before adding about 2–3 cups of water, or enough to cover the mixture.

Incorporate the water before covering and allowing to simmer on medium-low heat for another 10–15 minutes. The cabbage will continue to reduce as the lentils soften, so you shouldn’t need more water, but keep an eye on your creation.

Once you’re satisfied with the tenderness of your lentils, reduce to low (or switch off the heat if you’re serving straight away) and add the Greek yogurt. This will mellow the spices and add creaminess to the curry.

Serve this over rice, or with toasted pita or naan bread.  Add a splash of lemon juice to your serving for a citrus burst and enjoy!

Closeup plated veg curry

Quickest Quiche Lorraine

Quiche is a brilliant breakfast. The savoury protein kick is just what the busy mom ordered. My husband is gluten intolerant – not just fad-style – but genuinely cannot indulge in a white flour crust. I am actually adverse to pie crust; I’ve never found it necessary and prefer to scoop out any filling I encounter. I understand many enjoy this mythical flaky, buttery crust that isn’t soggy or tasteless, so you’re welcome to use this filling recipe with a ready-made crust if you like. I prefer to go crustless. It’s faster, healthier and so much easier to serve!

For this recipe, I use greased ramekins to create easy portions and cut down on the baking time. You can fill a pie dish instead, but you’ll need to double the baking time and possibly cover with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent it burning on top. I use Canadian bacon, pre-cooked rounds of back bacon that are easy to chop into pieces and fry off to add some flavour. You could easily use turkey bacon or ham to keep it lean, or back or streaky bacon if you have the time to cook it first. By using pre-cooked bacon, I only need a minute to give it some colour and it’s ready for the quiche.

In the spirit of super fast, I also use frozen chopped broccoli. I let it thaw for a minute before adding it to the bacon pan to help the remaining water evaporate and keep the quiche getting too soggy. Trust me, this added step will add flavour and firmness to your tart, so don’t skip this for the sake of one frying pan.

This is the perfect weekend morning dish to go along with some fresh fruit and toast, or you can make some extras for a quick midweek warm up. My kids love this, and my husband appreciates the lack of crust as much as I do. Give it a try and you’ll see why!

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You’ll need:

  • 4 ramekins greased with a tab of butter each
  • 8–10 eggs
  • ¼-–½  cup chopped broccoli (I use frozen)
  • ½ cup chopped, cooked bacon (I use Canadian bacon rounds)
  • ½ cup shredded cheese of choice (I prefer a sharp cheddar)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder (I use a garlic and herb blend)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

The method:

Pre-heat your oven to 190C/375F.

Measure out your broccoli and set it aside to begin to thaw.

Quiche Lorraine ingredients.jpg

Chop your bacon into small pieces and add to a warmed pan over medium heat. Allow the bits to lightly fry for about a minute.

Add the slightly-thawed broccoli and allow to thaw further with the bacon. Allow any moisture from the broccoli a chance to steam off. This usually only takes two or three minutes.

Place your ramekins onto a baking tray and add a tab of butter to each before putting them into the oven.

Butter to grease ramekins

Break your eggs into a nice large bowl and scramble them well before adding the splash of milk. Beat in the dry spices and set aside.

Remove the ramekins from the oven and give them a little swirl to spread the butter around the edges.

Layer a bit of bacon and broccoli into the bottom of each ramekin before pouring the egg mixture to cover the bits.

Add a pinch of shredded cheese to the top of each quiche and use a fork to gently push down slightly below the egg.

Quiche Lorraine ready for the oven.jpg

Slide your baking tray of quiches into the oven for about 20 minutes. Depending on the size of the individual ramekins, it may take slightly longer. Once the quiches are puffing up, they’re only a few minutes from finished.

Allow the quiche to cool for about 5 minutes after removing from the oven, they may sink slightly, but no worries. The individual quiche can be served with or without accompaniments – sometimes they never make it to a plate! Enjoy!

Forkful of Quiche Lorraine.jpg

Sparkly Mummy

Porky Pie recipe

Comfort food is delightful in the winter, when jumpers and jackets cover their calorific side effects. As we enter Spring, however, I try to lighten our meals a little, in anticipation of shorts and vest tops. This recipe is a mid-week crowd pleaser; not cottage, not shepherd’s, but porky pie. It’s a quick, healthy meal that doesn’t take more than 30 minutes from fridge to table.

Ground pork is lovely and lean, but still has fabulous flavour if you give it a chance to brown. I add chopped mushroom to the meat to add volume, texture and flavour, but the kids would never know it! This is a gluten-free recipe that could be vegetarian if you use Quorn instead of meat. The usual carrots and peas add even more veg, texture and freshness to this delicious favourite.

My kids aren’t fond of white potato mash – they prefer sweet potato, so I’ve made this with sweet potato mash many times and it’s wonderful. This recipe is more traditional, with white or yellow potato mash on top, but if you’re really pressed for time midweek, you can use instant mash potatoes to top the meat. This saves peeling, boiling and mashing yourself, and only involves the kettle and a bowl. For families with less pernickety children, the instant mash is a real timesaver, and adding a little dollop of crème fraiche or soured cream makes all the difference for the taste. The pork gravy tastes amazing no matter how you top it!

Porky Pie recipe.png

You’ll need:

  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chopped brown mushroom
  • 1 cup chopped or grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon chicken stock concentrate, or ½ cube dried chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas
  • Optional 1 additional tablespoon Worcestershire sauce near the end
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of white potato mash (if not using instant)
  • 3-5 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional ½ cup shredded cheese

The method:

If you’re making your own mash, get a pot of water on the cooker to bring to the boil, and wash and quarter your potatoes so they’re ready to add to the water straight away.

Choose a nice wide pan for browning your meat and bring it to a medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions, ground pork and Worcestershire sauce and mix together, breaking up the meat and distributing the onions and sauce.

Leave the meat for a good 2 minutes to allow one side to brown deeply. Resist the temptation to stir as you want the flavour to stick. This is a great time to chop mushrooms and carrots.

Add the dry spices to the meat before your next stir and coat the meat before leaving it for another 2 minutes.

Add your chopped mushroom and carrot once the meat is mostly browned and mix into the mixture well.

Next, add the chicken stock and tomato paste, and perhaps a splash of water to help dissolve, but the meat and veg will have produced a bit of liquid to help stir into the gravy.

Porky Pie filling

Add the frozen peas and distribute into the mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Allow the mixture to simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, whip up your mash with either the kettle water and packet, or the boiled potatoes you’ve drained in the sink. If making from-scratch mash, I add the boiled potatoes back to the pan with the butter and use a fork to smash. I add 1% milk, and salt and pepper to taste. The handful of shredded cheese is optional, but adds colour and creaminess.

After about 10 minutes, taste the pork and add one more splash of Worcestershire to taste. I love the flavour, so add that last minute splash before it goes into the oven. You’re fine to use salt and pepper to taste if you prefer.

Pour the meat mixture into the bottom of a baking dish (I use a square non-stick) and cover with your mash.

Spreading potatoes on porky pie.jpg

Slide the pie into a preheated oven at 200C/400F for about 15 minutes. It doesn’t take long for bubbles, so an additional baking tray underneath is advised. Allow the pie to cool slightly before serving and enjoy!

Porky Pie close-up.jpg

Sparkly Mummy

Gorgonzola Potatoes recipe

As a parent of two young children, I am mindful of the foods they eat, and the types of processed foods and chemicals that come into their diet. I try my best to cook from scratch, so I know how to pronounce the ingredients, and so my kids can see their mum using ingredients instead of packets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not nearly perfect, and of course there are days that require a fast food emergency or a frozen pizza hail Mary. I try to minimise the chances by cooking baking trays of food that can be used and reused and frozen and reused later. This dish is a great example.

Served with a roast for a large crowd, or served with Polish sausage for a quick midweek meal, this is an easy dish that tastes extravagant. Using baby potatoes cuts the cooking and prep time, and my flourless cream sauce is gluten-free and fail proof. I strive to incorporate grown up flavours into my recipes. Even though they’re geared towards my 4- and 6-year-old, my husband and I still have to eat dinner! I find introducing the kids to more complex flavours, like stinky cheese, is best done in stages. With this in mind, please feel free to up the stinky ante and go for all gorgonzola in the recipe, but I’ve done a 50/50 with a sharp cheddar to mellow the blue cheese.

This recipe takes just over an hour, but it’s broken up with waiting for the potatoes to boil, and later the oven takes over. As a busy mum, I manage this midweek around washing up, potty breaks and sibling rivalries. The cheese sauce is so simple, and I can walk away from it if I have to without fear of burning. I cook gluten-free meals for my husband, but I’ll never go back to a flour-based sauce again after adopting this method. We like this with kielbasa and steamed broccoli, but it can be served with any number of meat/less varieties. I usually pop the sausage into the oven below the potatoes so they finish together, and it’s scrumdiddlyumptious. Hope you like it!

Gorgonzola Potatoes.png

You’ll need:

  • Large pot 1/3 full of water (approx. 1 ltr)
  • 15-20 baby (new) white and/or red skin potatoes (I half-filled a 9×13 glass baking dish)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 ½ cup chicken stock (I used a teaspoon of concentrate dissolved into water)
  • 1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups single cream (or half & half)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Large baking dish to single-layer the potatoes in the sauce

The method:

Bring to the boil a large pot full of the potatoes and water. Allow to boil for 10-15 minutes until just soft, slightly beyond parboil.

Boiling the potatoes.jpg

If you’d like to use a second pot, you can start the cheese sauce now, but I usually get something done while I’m waiting and then reuse the pot while the potatoes drain and cool.

Drain the potatoes and allow to cool slightly for minor handling. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

I use the same pot to now melt the butter and onions and allow to lightly fry on a medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes.

Onions in the pan.jpg

Add the dry spices and fry with the onions for about 1 minute before adding the chicken stock.

Allow the chicken stock to reduce by a third for about 5 minutes over a medium high heat. 

Add the gorgonzola and cheddar and stir into the stock until it’s melted and incorporated, about 1-2 minutes.  

Add the cream and stir into the sauce, reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer for 3-5 minutes. Have a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Don’t worry if it looks like a little oily – as it reduces it will thicken up. Once the sauce covers only the mostly boiled potatoes, they will soak up the sauce so nicely (I promise).

While the sauce is reducing, the potatoes will have cooled and you can either use a cutting board, or my lazy method of toss and slice in the colander.

Cutting potatoes.jpg

Once you’ve halved (most of) the potatoes, gently transfer them into the cheese sauce to coat them well.

Pour the potatoes and sauce into a baking dish (greased if metal). If you’ve missed a couple of potatoes in the toss and slice, this is your chance to slice away before putting the dish into the oven. The baby potatoes are so creamy themselves, it’s nice to keep larger chunks, so I don’t go crazy. 

Gorgonzola potatoes going in the oven.jpg

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until golden on top.

My family love this dish, and it’s lovely to see them embracing stinky cheese. We had it this week with sausage and broccoli, then again with fish and peas. I’ll freeze a portion for easy midweek reheat, or it will go perfectly with a Sunday roast. I hope you find your favourite combination!

Sparkly Mummy

Tarragon Chicken with Mushroom and Spinach recipe

I don’t always have it in me to eat kid-type foods, so I make my kids eat grownup food once in a while. This is a recipe that can easily be used for a dinner party, but my kids really like it too! As with most of my meals, I try to hide vegetables and use mild spices. You can opt out of the splash of white wine if your kids are just not having it, but it really does add an acidity that cuts the cream nicely.

I like the fragrance of fresh tarragon, but dried works really well, and I even use a bit of the dry flake to top up the tarragon flavour at the end if necessary. I prefer to use my cast iron pan, to get good colour on the chicken, but your favourite browning pan will still work a treat. Try not to shift the chicken once you’ve placed it so that a nice rich colour develops, even if it’s only on one side. It’ll add to the flavour of the dish once you deglaze with the wine or water.

My house was smelling so good once I got started on this, and it only took 45 minutes from start to finish. A midweek feast, really, and easy with plain white rice to serve. I use my rice cooker with just a tab of butter and dash of salt to cook with the rice. The sauce from this recipe requires no additional flavour from the rice as it’s so rich and creamy.

Tarragon chicken with mushroom and spinach recipe.jpg

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh tarragon (2 tablespoons dried)
  • 1 cup sliced leek
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black or white pepper
  • 1 tsp dried garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • ¼ cup white wine (optional)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 cups single cream or half and half
  • 1 cup finely chopped white mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped spinach (I use frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
  • Serve with white or brown rice for four adult meals, 2 cups dry rice should do the trick

The method:

Warm your oil in a pan over a medium heat before adding the sliced leeks and a handful of tarragon leaves (no stems). Allow the leeks and leaves to lightly fry for about 1-2 minute.

Saute leeks and onions.jpg

Press the leeks to the side of the pan to clear the oil; you’ve now flavoured it for cooking the chicken.Tilted pan.jpg

Add the chicken breast, room temperature is best for getting good colour, and put the leeks on top of the breast so the chicken gets good contact with the pan and the leeks don’t burn.

Chicken in the pan.jpg

Allow the chicken to brown, try not to shift it, for about 3 minutes on each side.

Add a tab of butter and allow it to melt before adding the mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms in around the chicken to allow a light fry in the oil with the leeks and tarragon mostly on top of the chicken.

Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with aluminium foil.

Add the white wine or a bit of water to deglaze the pan; basically scrape everything off the bottom to save that flavour for your sauce.

Add the cream and combine, allowing it to come up to a light bubble.

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Add the chopped spinach and incorporate into the sauce.

tarragon-sauce-in-the-pan

Add the garlic, sugar, salt and pepper, and any dry tarragon you feel you need to taste.

Add the chicken back to the pan with any juices from resting and allow to lightly simmer for about 15-20 minutes over a low heat. You can cover the pan if you feel like it’s reducing too quickly.

I use a rice cooker to make 2 cups of white rice to serve, so this is the perfect time to get that started. The chicken and rice should finish at just about the same time.

Check the largest/thickest piece of chicken after 15 minutes simmering to see if the juices are running clear. Once you’re satisfied the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat and serve over the rice.

Depending on how much sauce you want, you can allow this reduce further, or add a bit more cream to mellow the flavours for younger diners.

The mushrooms and spinach disappear into the leeks and tarragon, and the sauce is just lovely over the rice. It’s a pretty healthy meal, really, and gluten free! Enjoy!

Sparkly Mummy

Roasted Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry recipe

This a great detox dish if you’re fed up of heavy meals and roasts after Christmas. It’s naturally sweetened by the roasted sweet potatoes, and brightened with lemon or lime juice. My daughter happily scoops up this dinner with her tiny 4-year-old hands, relishing every bite. She even asked for it for lunch, declaring she hates sandwiches and needs lentils and rice. It is a perfect combination for young eaters – easy to eat independently once mummy mixes it together so the rice is coated.

I like the texture and sweetness that oven-baked sweet potato adds to this recipe, and the kids do as well. I’m usually the kind of cook that likes a one-pot meal, but the added baking dish is totally worth it for this. The bonus in the winter is the warmth to be gained from 45 minutes of a high temperature oven. Yes please! This recipe includes carrots, sweet peppers and peas in the rice, so it packs a veggie punch. No meat here, but you could add some tandoori chicken from my previous recipe if you feel like you need it. Lentils provide plenty of protein, though, so we don’t miss the meat. Serving it with a bit of Greek yogurt also adds protein, and creaminess!

I must admit that I don’t measure my spices – I add in dashes – so the measurements in the recipe are approximate. You can use a tandoori spice mix, garam masala or a curry powder that you like instead, but the below spices are those that I find work best with this recipe, so I dash them in. If you prefer, you can add about 1 tablespoon of your mix of choice instead of those below, but I encourage you to try your hand at a bit of dramatic flair and pinch, dash or sprinkle right into the pan.

This is best served with rice; I use jasmine rice because you don’t need to rinse it and it’s a straightforward 1 rice to 2 water ratio. For curry, I like to add frozen peas and a dash of Chinese Five Spice to cook with the rice for the aromatic favour it adds. Whether using a pot or rice cooker, I recommend layering the frozen peas first, then a tab of butter and sprinkle of five spice, then the rice and lastly the water. It saves the rice from burning to the bottom if, for a multitude of mom reasons, you can’t get to it right on time.

Even on its own, this lentil dish is delicious and can be spiced up with chili for braver tastebuds. My kids like it mild, so I don’t have chili here, but feel free to add it to taste.

Sweet potato and lentil curry vertical.jpeg

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil of choice, high heat tolerant (olive oil isn’t recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or veg oil
  • 1 medium chopped white onion (about ¾ cup if using frozen)
  • 1 cup/1 medium finely chopped or grated carrot (I use a cheese grater)
  • 1 cup/1 medium finely chopped bell pepper (yellow hides really well)
  • 1 cup rinsed red lentils (or yellow, but please rinse well)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika powder
  • 1 cup roughly chopped coriander/cilantro (fresh is best, but use less if using those little tubes…)
  • 3+ cups of warm water (additional water to top it up as needed to soften lentils)
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (optional, but adds creaminess)
  • If serving with rice, I use 2 cups jasmine rice, 4 cups water, 1 cup frozen peas, a tab of butter and a dash of Chinese Five Spice.

The method:

Begin with preheating your oven to 400F/200C for the sweet potatoes.

Peel and chop the potato into roughly the same size pieces for even cooking and add to the tray.

Toss the potatoes in a bit of oil and cover with aluminium foil for the first half of the baking time (20-30 minutes).

In a large skillet, add the ghee or oil, onion and carrots, and lightly brown over a medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.

Measure and rinse your lentils, ensuring the water runs clear through a sieve. Add the lentils and the peppers to the onions and carrots.

Add your dry spices and coriander to the mixture. You can use a premixed dry curry spice if you prefer.

Give it all a good stir to coat the lentils well with your spices, and allow them to lightly fry for about 2 minutes before adding the water to cover the lentils.

Reduce the heat to med/low, cover your skillet with a lid and allow the curry to soften. You want to be sure the lentils are covered, so you may need to top up the water occasionally. This should only take 20 minutes, but it depends on the lentils.

After 20-30 minutes in the oven, remove the aluminium foil from the sweet potatoes and finish uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until lightly-browned edges show off the natural caramelisation.

Roasting sweet potatoes.jpg

Once the lentils are just about the desired texture, the sweet potatoes should also be done, approximately 45 minutes all in. Remove the potatoes from the oven and add to the curry. The potato pieces will naturally break apart into the curry as you stir them into the mixture.

At this point, I’ve usually started my rice. There’s a lot going on with this dish, but it simmers away without needing attention, so there’s plenty of time to get the rice going in time for serving. The curry will happily bubble away, reducing to your favourite consistency.

The roasted sweet potato thickens the dish, so you can mix it thoroughly or leave larger bits – it’s up to you! If you like the added creaminess, you can also add the Greek yogurt to mellow the spices and sweetness. If adding yogurt, be sure the temperature is reduced and you just bring the curry back to a light bubble before serving.

We enjoy this with just a bit of rice and a nice big ladle full of lentils. My husband and I usually add a dash of chili flake or a spicy chutney, just for the heat. My daughter especially loves this curry, and doesn’t even need rice. I hope you give this a try and enjoy!
 

Sparkly Mummy

 

Caramelised Onion and Mushroom Stew with Pumpkin Pie Pudding recipe

Autumn has entered full steam, and with all the blustering leaves and windy rains outside, I like to fill the home with warm smells and full bellies. When I have a hankering for French onion soup, but I know I need to feed the kids, I go for this all in one stew that can be made with what I have on hand. You can easily caramelise the onions and mushrooms and then use them as a burger topper, base for a bolognese, marinade for chicken or just a chutney for sandwiches. Yesterday, I wanted to add some rump steak and baby potatoes I had on hand, rather than just adding beef stock to the sweet onions and mushrooms to make soup. The result was a sweet, savoury blend of creamy, tender potatoes and beef.

This is a one pot version that can be done with cubed chicken breast and broccoli with chicken stock in place of the beef, potato and beef stock for this recipe and it’s divine. As I mentioned, the caramelised onions can be used in any number of ways if you want to stop there: allow them to cool and store for up to two weeks in a sealed container in the fridge.

The pumpkin pudding is a crustless version that’s gluten free and baked in ramekins. It’s a five minute mix and into the oven; one of the easiest desserts ever. This time of year, I like to decorate the little pies with dark chocolate chips to make jack-o-lantern faces for the kids.

You’ll need:

  • 2 medium onions (I use one red and onion white)
  • 1 TB vegetable oil of choice
  • 1 TB salted butter
  • 1-2 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 cups sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 lb cubed beef
  • 10-12 Maris Piper/baby potatoes (I had some leftover from Sunday roast)
  • 1 tsp beef stock concentrate
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried garlic
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 1 cup single cream or half and half
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tin 425g pumpkin puree (available from American sections in larger supermarkets, or you can puree your own pumpkin)
  • 1 tin 396g sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 heaped tsp pumpkin pie spice (nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, salt)

The method:

Begin with slicing the onion into long strips and adding them with the oil to a wide pot over a medium heat. The onions will sweat and begin to brown after a few minutes of little stirring. Once they begin to brown slightly, try to stir more often so they don’t fry instead of sweetening.Chopped onion.jpg

After 10 to 15 minutes, you should begin to see them all browning, shrivelling and producing a lovely sweet aroma. You won’t need to add any sugar, these release their own natural sweetness that’s impressive.

Once the onions have produced a nice glaze, add the mushrooms and coat them with it. Add in the balsamic vinegar and tab of butter. Keep stirring until the mushrooms and onions are well blended.  onions-and-mushooms-cooking-down

The mushrooms stay nice and firm with this treatment, and make an excellent base for bolognese, marinade for creamy chicken, so a lovely burger topper if you stop here. I don’t blame you if the smells drive you to using this right now.

To finish the stew, add cubed beef and coat with the onion and mushroom mixture before allowing to sit and lightly brown. Depending on the quality of beef, I may reduce the temperature significantly at this point and add more water with the beef stock to tenderise.onion-mushroom-stew-ingredients-raw

Before the meat cooks through, add the beef stock, warm water to cover the meat and dry spices.

Next, add the potatoes to the watery pot. I used already cooked Maris Pipers I had on hand, but you can use raw potato if you quarter them and they cook quickly.  If you don’t want to fuss with chopping, you can add more water to accommodate the time to cook them through, no problem.  Allow the cooked potatoes to boil for at least fifteen minutes to warm through.

Allow the water to reduce by half, exposing the beef and potatoes, before adding the cream. Reduce the heat to avoid scorching, but allow the stew to bubble a bit before giving it a taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This shouldn’t take more than an hour from start to finish, with a prolonged simmer in the middle. I love meals that allow me to run after toddlers, maybe even get their bath in while it’s bubbling.  This was served with a dollop of soured cream, my daughter’s favourite.

finished-onion-mushroom-stew

For the pumpkin pudding, preheat the oven to 350F/180C and pull out a medium sized mixing bowl.

Add the pumpkin puree, condensed milk, eggs and dry spice, and whisk together until smooth. I usually use a rubber spatula or fork, but you can use a hand mixer for about a minute if you prefer.

Ladle or spoon the mixture into 6-8 ramekins, about ¾ full. No preparation/grease required.

Bake the pumpkin custard for 20-25 minutes, or until it begins to come away from the edges.

Remove the ramekins from the oven and allow to cool. If you’d like to decorate, use a handful of chocolate chips to fashion a jack-o-lantern while they’re still slightly warm. You can even let the kids help with this super easy dessert!

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Sparkly Mummy

Warming Beef Stroganoff Stew recipe

This is a recipe that I love to make if I’m craving soft, tender beef and a warm bowl of dinner. I like one pot, one utensil meals. Am I lazy? You bet.

My family are homebodies. I love an afternoon indoors with the children playing and a pot of stew stewing. I found some lovely beef steaks the other day on sale in my local grocery. I had thought of surprising my husband with a grilled steak dinner, but a rain and wind storm threw that plan right out of the window. Instead, I decided to stew up the beef with potatoes, carrots, peas and mushrooms. It’s the kind of stew that can be done midweek; if you only have an hour before dinner and can manage fifteen minutes to get it started, you’ll easily be able to walk away from it until you plate up.

If you’re not a fan of soured cream or crème fraiche to stroganoff the stew, you’ll still have a hearty, flavourful soup, but I think the creaminess and light tang accompany the potatoes perfectly. Traditionally, you’ll find pasta in a stroganoff recipe, but this is my one-pot, gluten-free, family-friendly version.

Warming beef stroganoff stew recipe

You’ll need:

  • 1-1.5lb beef steak (approximately two medium-sized steaks) cubed
  • 1 tsp veg or olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic granules or fresh crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp beef stock concentrate
  • 1 cup chopped onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 cup chopped/julienned carrot (approximately one medium carrot)
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms of choice (I finely chop so they disappear and the kids don’t know)
  • 1 cup petit peas (I use frozen)
  • 15-20 baby potatoes (small Maris Pipers)
  • 4 cups of water
  • ½ cup (or more to taste) soured cream or crème fraiche
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The method:

Using a nice deep pot over a medium-high heat, add the cubed beef, oil and dry spices. Coat the beef with the spices with a quick toss in the pot, and then allow the beef to brown deeply on at least two sides. If the bottom of the pot starts to stick a bit, don’t worry, that’s flavour that will come up with the water.

Once the beef is browned, but not cooked through, add the beef stock concentrate and a splash of water to dissolve. I do this right in the pot and add just enough water to allow me to loosen the concentrate.

Add the onion, carrots and mushroom to the beef and stock mixture and allow the onions to just go translucent; you don’t want the beef to cook completely.

Add the potatoes and peas, then cover with water.  Bring the water to the boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low, just enough to maintain a simmer. You can walk away from this for up to 45 minutes, checking occasionally to be sure it’s not sticking to the bottom or needs a top-up of water. I don’t bother peeling my potatoes, and only halve the largest, so I like to give this a while to bubble. If you are pressed for time, you can peel and cube the potatoes and halve the cooking time, but be careful they don’t turn to mash.

Slightly less close up of stew.jpg

Once the potatoes are soft and the broth has reduced by about half, add the soured cream/crème fraiche and turn off the heat. I probably use a little more than ½ cup, but my family all love soured cream on potatoes. The beef is so tender by now, it won’t even need a knife. I’ve shown the kids plate version and my warmer bowl of succulent stroganoff stew to tempt you. This is a simple recipe that absolutely oozes flavor, give it a go!

Sparkly Mummy

Potatoes ‘Bravas’ with chicken recipe

My husband is Portuguese South-African, and I’ve grown to love paprika in an unusual way. Chorizo is something special; if you’ve never tried cooking with this sausage, I encourage you to try this recipe and discover the joy. I try to find a good quality, hard chorizo, simply because most ‘cooking’ chorizo is incredibly fatty. If you can’t find any, don’t worry, the recipe calls for it optionally for depth of flavour.

potatoes-bravas-pinterest

This is a take on the Spanish patatas bravas: crispy cubed potatoes heavily spiced and fried. I try to keep midweek meals to one pot, and this is a good one if you add chicken strips/chunks to the pan. My kids are big fans of sweetcorn, so I always keep a tin on hand. With this dish, it adds a crunchy sweet freshness that curbs some of the spice. I usually drain the corn, but keep it room temperature and sprinkle on like a sort of veggie crouton.

If I don’t have a lot of time to stand at the stove, this is also a fabulous tray bake for about 40 minutes in a 180C/375F oven. I try not to use too much oil and salt, but you can use your judgement and taste buds for this quick, flavourful meal. It usually only takes twenty minutes to cook, if the potatoes are in small cubes, and it’s something I fall back on if I’m short on ingredients. Most are staples I have on hand, and it takes very little prep.

chopping potatoesYou’ll need:

  • 1 or 2 white potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/3 cup chopped red or white onion
  • 1/3 cup roughly cubed chorizo sausage (optional)
  • 2 tsp veg oil of choice
  • 1 or 2 chicken breasts sliced into strips
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 2 TB chopped tomato
  • Approximately 1 cup sweet corn

The method:

If you’re lucky enough to have found a lovely chorizo, start with slicing and quartering about a 1/3 of a cup and add it to the warming pan. I use a cast iron pan, but you can also use a wide-based pan that’s good for browning.  I keep the temperature around a medium-high while the chorizo warms and begins to run paprika juices – it smells amazing!

Add the onion and potato to the oil produced and stir until they are coated with the colourful paprika oil from the chorizo. Then add the veg oil and dry spices, coating the potatoes evenly before leaving them to brown.

spices and potatoes in the frying pan

If you aren’t using chorizo, add the oil, potatoes and onions all together with the dry spices and give it a good mix before leaving to fry over a medium high heat.

Stir infrequently to allow colour to form on all sides of the potatoes. If the spices begin to stick to the bottom, rather than adding more oil, try adding a splash of water from the kettle and gently scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula. This will also help soften the potatoes in the steam produced.

While the potatoes are softening, I slice up the chicken into small, even strips that will cook quickly. If you’re going for the tray bake, try to keep the chicken pieces a little larger so you can put everything in at the same time and they won’t be overdone.

Add the chicken to the potatoes before your next scheduled stir, and toss everything together to coat the chicken with the contents of the pot. Again, refrain from too much stirring so you’re sure to get good colour on most sides of the potato cubes and chicken.

raw chicken added to potatoesAdd the chopped tomato and give it another good mix-in. The chicken should be cooked after 10-15 minutes, and the tomato adds a bit of tenderising acidity.

You should be able to break a piece of chicken apart easily with your spoon, and the same again with a potato cube, after 20-25 minutes.  Drain your sweet corn, or slice from a fresh cob if it’s the right season.

Potatoes bravas in the pan

Plate up with a sprinkle of corn over the bravas, and enjoy! My kids don’t even ask for ketchup with this, because the tomato and spices in the dish keep it moist. The chicken stays tender and flavourful for the quick cooking, and I’m in and out of the kitchen in no time.  If I’m really pressed for time, I toss everything together into an oven tray and check on it for a stir every 15 minutes until it’s done. Either way, it’s a winner, winner chicken dinner in my house!

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Sparkly Mummy