This Easy Pumpkin Soup brings together the natural sweetness of pumpkins, squash or sweet potatoes with sweetcorn. I have flavoured it with fresh thyme, which combines well with all the main ingredients, and have resisted the urge to add chilli. When I first made it, I thought that maybe it would be too sweet and might a bit of chilli heat. However, I tasted it before I added any chilli and decided that it was pretty good as it was. It has a thick, rich sweetness – a culinary equivalent of being wrapped in a warm blanked – which I think is perfect in autumn when the days are getting colder.
Choose your squash!
This soup can be made either with pumpkins, when they are in season, but is just as good using other squashes (such as butternut squash) or with sweet potatoes. What you need is a main ingredient that has a natural, starchy sweetness which is enhanced by slow cooking. As you will see from the recipe, I also add a regular potato to the soup. I tend to do this with most of my soups as it adds a natural thickness and body to the soup.
How to separate corn kernels from the cob – a guide for the terrified..
I also use fresh sweetcorn in this soup. The first time I came across a recipe that involved taking the kernels off the corn cob I thought it would be hard to do. However, it is really straightforward if you stick to the following process. 1) Get a sharp knife 2) Cut off the thicker end of the cob so that you have a flat base 3) Stand the cob vertically on its flat base and cut downwards with your knife to separate the kernels from the cob 4) Work around the cob until all the kernels have been removed.
This Mushroom and Chestnut Soup is just the ticket on those cold, grey January days when you need a bowl of warming comfort food. It uses a combination of fresh and dried mushrooms which gives it an added depth of flavour. These are combined with sweet chestnuts which are a great flavour partner for mushrooms and also thicken the soup and give it a creamy texture – with no added cream!
You can use any kind of fresh mushrooms for this soup. I generally use a combination of the big, flat capped-mushrooms which have a strong flavour and smaller button mushrooms. The addition of the dried mushrooms, which are one of my favourite ingredients, is what really makes this soup special. They add a deep, savoury umami flavour which underpins that of the fresh mushrooms. Dried mushrooms are available in lots of supermarkets. I get mine from Tesco, which does great own-brand dried Porcini mushrooms but all major supermarkets have equivalent products and Merchant Gourmet also produces dried mixed mushrooms. You don’t need to add very many dried mushrooms to a dish – think of them as a condiment or flavouring – but they will have a major impact on the taste.
Ready-prepared sweet chestnuts can be found in most supermarkets. Merchant Gourmet produces a range of chestnut-products, including chestnut puree and whole chestnuts. There is no need to roast your own! Although traditionally associated with Christmas, I use sweet chestnuts throughout the autumn and winter, often combined with mushrooms, in soups, pies and sauces.
This soup resulted from me trying to find ways to use the flavour combination in my Mushroom and Chestnut Pies. I also developed a Creamy Mushroom Pasta sauce using the same ingredients which I use all the time, and is very popular with my children.
25 g butter (or vegan alternative) and 1 tablespoon of plain flour (optional)
Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan
Peel and chop the onion and slice the celery sticks finely. Add to the pan together with the dried mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. If you are using dried thyme, add it at this stage.
Cook very gently for around 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and sweet. Slow cooking caramelises the natural sugars in the vegetables and greatly improves the flavour of the soup.
Chop the fresh mushrooms and add to the pan together with the crushed garlic cloves. Cook for a further ten minutes.
Add the vegetable stock to the pan and bring to the boil.
As soon as the soup has boiled, take the pan off the heat and add the chestnuts.
Allow the soup to cool slightly and then blend until smooth using a food processor or hand-held blender.
Add the milk (or nut milk) to thin the soup to your desired consistency. If using fresh thyme, add it at this stage. Gently re-heat the soup.
If you wish, you can make a beurre manie which will thicken the soup and give it a creamier, silkier texture. To do this, you should mix a little plain flour with some softened butter to make a paste and add it to the soup and heat gently until it thickens.
Creamy Mushroom Pasta with Chestnuts – the perfect week-night supper
This Creamy Mushroom Pasta, with sweet chestnuts and caramelised onions, is just what I want at the end of a busy working day. It is savoury, full of flavour and, even better, is quick and easy to make and the sauce can also be made in advance.
Mushrooms and sweet chestnuts are great flavour partners and are two of my favourite ingredients. The savouriness of this dish is enhanced by using both fresh and dried mushrooms. You can use any type of dried mushroom in this recipe – most of the supermarkets sell a range including porcini, shitake and mixed. They add a real depth of almost meaty flavour to recipes that do not contain any meat! Ready-to-eat sweet chestnuts are also available widely in supermarkets. They are inevitably associated with Christmas but I use them all the year round. They have a sweetness and also a soft but firm texture that is fantastic in all kinds of savoury dishes.
Due to its deep savouriness, this dish is a great one to serve to meat-eaters. In addition to its flavour, it also has a good range of textures and a good “mouth feel” which means the lack of meat is not likely to be noticed! There are several variations that you can make to this recipe depending on your dietary preferences.
Vegetarian – I include anchovies in my recipe but, if you are vegetarian, you can leave them out. You may just need to add a little additional salt to the sauce.
Vegan – You can replace the butter with an additional tablespoon of oil, omit the anchovies and the cream. In order to make the sauce creamy, crush one third of the chestnuts into a paste and stir this into the sauce.
Healthier – Replace the butter with an additional tablespoon of oil and omit the cream. As above, crush one third of the chestnuts into a paste and stir this into the sauce.
You can use any kind of pasta to make Creamy Mushroom Pasta. I generally use a shorter pasta such as gigli (I love gigli!) or penne but I’ve made it with pretty much every type of pasta depending on what I have in my cupboard at the time.
This Creamy Mushroom Pasta with Chestnuts is the perfect week-night supper.
25 g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
a handful of dried mushrooms (any kind)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tin of anchovies (optional)
485 g fresh mushrooms
180 g pack of peeled chestnuts
2 tablespoons of double cream
Salt and pepper
350 g pasta
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan.
Peel and finely chop the onions and add them to the pan. Crumble the dried mushrooms and add to the pan. Cook over a low heat for around 15 minutes until the onions are sweet and caramelised and the dried mushrooms have softened.
Peel and crush the cloves of garlic and roughly chop the anchovies. Add to the pan.
Finely chop half of the fresh mushrooms and slice the other half. This gives some variety in texture to the pasta sauce. Add the fresh mushrooms to the pan.
Cook for ten minutes until the fresh mushrooms are cooked through.
Roughly chop the peeled chestnuts into large chunks and add them to the pan.
Stir in the double cream and heat for a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Chop the parsley and stir into the sauce. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as required. You may not need to add salt as the anchovies will add saltiness to the mixture.
In a separate pan, heat water to boiling point, add the pasta and cook according to instructions on the packet. When done, drain and stir in the mushroom and chestnut sauce.
If you want to make this a vegetarian recipe, you can omit the anchovies. Just make sure that you add a little salt to the sauce to compensate for the loss of their saltiness.
If you want to make this a vegan recipe, you can replace the butter with an additional tablespoon of oil, omit the anchovies and the cream. In order to make the sauce creamy, crush one third of the chestnuts into a paste and stir this into the sauce.
If you want to make this a healthier recipe, replace the butter with an additional tablespoon of oil and omit the cream. As above, crush one third of the chestnuts into a paste and stir this into the sauce.
A brilliantly easy and versatile recipe that can be made into a side, a salad, a dip or a sandwich filling!
Spiced Carrots with Honey and Lemon. Just the description makes my mouth water. The carrots are slow-roasted in the oven to bring out their earthy sweetness. Then they are tossed with warm Middle Eastern spices – cumin, cinnamon, paprika and cumin – and tossed in a garlic, lemon and honey dressing. The result is a flavour sensation – spicy, zesty and sweet.
And even better, these Spiced Carrots can be finished to make one of three different types of dish – a side-dish, a salad or a dip – all with the same punch of flavour. If you serve the carrots warm, they make a great side-dish to accompany a meat, fish or vegetarian main course. If you allow them to cool to room temperature, they make a fantastic salad. Finally, you can blend the carrots to make a dip which can be served with crusty bread or used as a sandwich filling.
I will often make a big batch of this recipe and use it as either a side-dish or salad for our family supper. The remainder is then blended into a dip which is used for working-at-home lunches or used as a sandwich filling for school lunch boxes.
This recipe is based on the Moroccan Spiced Carrot Dip from the wonderful Riverford Organic Farm. I use a bit more honey and ground ginger rather than fresh but the zingy flavours are all theirs! The recipe section of their website provides lots of inspiration about creative ways to use their fantastic, organic vegetables.
A brilliantly easy and versatile recipe which combines slow-roasted carrots with warm Middle Eastern spices and a garlic, lemon and honey dressing. It can be made into a side-dish, a salad, a dip or a sandwich filling!
800 g fresh carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 garlic clove (crushed)
1 tablespoon runny honey
Juice of one lemon
Set your oven to 200 C/Gas Mark 6
Peel the carrots and chop into disks about 3 mm thick.
Put the carrot disks onto a baking tray. Add the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake the carrot disks in the oven for around 30 minutes until they are soft and slightly brown at the edges.
Remove the carrot disks from the oven and roughly mash using a fork.
In a large bowl, mix together the cumin, cinnamon, paprika, ginger, crushed garlic clove, honey and lemon juice.
Add the roughly mashed carrots to the bowl and stir to combine.
This is a very versatile recipe. It can be served warm as a side dish. It can be served at room temperature as a salad. Or you can put it in the blender and create a dip or a sandwich filling!
Keywords: carrots, spices, salad
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Easy and healthy Roasted Beetroot Salad with Yogurt and Tahini
This easy and healthy Roasted Beetroot Salad combines the earthy sweetness of beetroot with creamy Greek yogurt and the nuttiness of tahini. It also looks very attractive as the beetroot juices colour the yogurt a pretty pink and this with the dark red beetroot chunks. I recommend this recipe if you are trying to convert a confirmed beetroot-hater. Often those who claim to dislike this delicious and healthy vegetable have only eaten it when it is chopped into tiny chunks and doused in strong vinegar. If you are beetroot lover, have a look at our recipes for lovely sweet-sour Beetroot Tart and Beetroot Soup with Coconut.
Roasting the beetroots concentrates their flavour and, although it takes around 40 minutes, once they are cooked it takes only a few minutes to assemble the salad. If it is more convenient, you can roast the beetroots the day before you want to eat the salad. I am a big fan of roasting vegetables as I think it improves the flavour and retains the nutrients. Roasting is also a very easy way to cook as you just put them in the oven and leave them to it.
Tahini, which is a paste made from roasted sesame seeds, complements the flavour of the beetroot. It is used in hummus so, even it you have never used it in cooking, you will be familiar with its flavour. It is full of minerals and is healthy as well as very tasty!
When you are entertaining, I think offering a range of different types of salads, to which guests can help themselves, is a great option. Everyone can choose what they like (and come back for more!). This Roasted Beetroot Salad is fantastic in a mix which might include Broad Bean Salad and Roasted Pepper Salad plus a crisp green salad.
This Roasted Beetroot Salad combines the sweetness of roasted beetroot with creamy Greek yogurt and nutty tahini. Once the beetroot have been roasted, it can be assembled in minutes.
4 small raw beetroot
300 ml Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
Set your oven to 180 C, 350 F or Gas Mark 4.
Wash your beetroot and loosely wrap each one in kitchen foil. Place the wrapped beetroot on an oven tray. Roast the beetroot in the oven for around 40 minutes until soft. Remove the beetroot from the oven and allow to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins using a sharp knife.
Chop the cooked beetroot into chunks of approximately 1 cm.
Put the Greek yogurt, tahini and crushed garlic clove into a large bowl and mix well. Add salt to taste.
Add the chopped beetroot chunks to the mixture in the bowl and stir to ensure that it is coated with the yogurt dressing.
You can use full-fat Greek yogurt or one of the varieties that is lower fat. I generally use the 5% fat version rather than the 0% fat version.
This salad can be served either warm or at room temperature. It can be made in advance and keeps well in the fridge for two or three days.
Keywords: beetroot, yogurt, tahini, salad
Loved this recipe? You may also like the following recipes. Or checkout the Recipe Index.