Recipe: Pumpkin Chilli

This chilli is a great vegetarian alternative to regular chilli. Although that's not to say that meat eaters won't enjoy it too. This is quick and easy to make with a tin of pumpkin puree. You can also use a homemade pumpkin puree or even butternut squash or similar.

Chilli's are a personal thing, feel free to add as little or as much cumin and chilli as you need.

Perfect to freeze, serve on its own, with rice or even as a jacket potato topper.

Vegetarian pumpkin chilli
(Recipe adapted from Julia's Album, serves 2-4)

1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
250g pumpkin puree (homemade or tinned)
250g tinned chopped tomatoes
180ml vegetable stock
1 tin kidney beans
1 tin cannellini beans
1 tbsp cumin powder
2 tbsp chilli powder
salt and pepper to season

In a large pan, cook the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the pumpkin, chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock and beans and stir together. Add half the spice, season with salt and pepper.

Taste your chilli and add more spice if needed.

Bring to the boil stirring all ingredients together to combine the spices.

Reduce to a simmer and cook for a further 20 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Serve in small bowls with some chopped spring onions to garnish.

N.B. this will make 2 large servings for dinner, or 4 smaller servings for lunch or if serving as an accompaniment.

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Review: Union Street Café, Southwark

On Friday, the work girls and I visited Union Street Café for late lunch. We'd been looking for somewhere in the Southwark area and hadn't even considered Gordon Ramsay's most recent offering. It doesn't look like much from the outside, and since its opening a year ago the initial buzz seems to have settled. But, curiosity got the better of us when an offer slipped into inboxes with a set lunch menu at £19 for two courses and £25 for three.

The restaurant looks much more attractive from the inside; a more sophisticated blend of warehouse utility that's come to be popular in a lot of places. On a Friday afternoon, I expected it to be a little more busy. One of only 3 seated tables at the time did however mean that the friendly staff were more than happy to patiently go through the menu for us.

As I'd heard, the menu can be a stumbling block for diners being mostly in Italian. After a quick translation we ordered our food and were recommended a bottle of Fiano Mezzogiorno. This was a crisp white with passionfruit notes, and the cheapest on the menu at £20.

To start, Neelam and I opted for the peperoni & bagnacauda. Peppers with a warm dip made from garlic, anchovies, oil and butter. A great starter if you want something light, and served warm during Autumn and Winter.

Deena went for porcini & sage fritti. Not something that looks too attractive but presented well on some fresh leaves and a wedge of lemon.

For the main course we all went for the same, risotto, pumpkin, smoked scamorza & red wine with a side of zucchine fritte to share. Again, not the most attractive of dishes. Although the girls weren't too convinced, we did all agree that the risotto was cooked to perfection. I found the sauce to be gorgeously creamy and the smoked scamorza gave a subtle caramel note. It just missed something fresh and more inviting. Although saying that, this is something I'd love to recreate at home during the winter months.

Then, my favourite part. We ordered three different desserts in order to have a try of each. Clockwise: torta del giorno (torte of the day), vanilla & grappa pannacotta & grapes and semifreddo al torroncino & hot chocolate sauce. The torte of the day was a pear frangipane; a little lacklustre and dry even with the ice cream. The pannacotta was perfectly wobbly and the grappa grapes cut straight through the sweetness. Lastly, my favorite, the nougat semifreddo was nutty, creamy and with the addition of hot chocolate sauce, perfect. 

I have mixed feelings on this place. There's no doubt the dishes were packed full of seasonal artisan ingredients. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful with the menu. The dishes were fresh and simple, just lacked a little something more.

We all agreed that perhaps it was a little overpriced for essentially what was a simple lunch menu. The atmosphere was very informal and relaxed which didn't really match with an almost untranslatable menu and a 12.5% (discretionary) service charge slyly added to your bill.

I'd be curious to return for dinner or to try their cocktails at the bar, or even just for coffee; just to help make my mind up!

For three people - three courses with wine and water, the bill came to around £111 with the discretionary service charge.

Union Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Recipe: Focaccia

This may look like a lot of focaccia for one recipe but I've scaled it up in order to make some personal ones for loved ones. It was a good excuse to use some of the goodies I took from my Dad's vegetable patch earlier in the week. Mainly the rosemary...I made the train home smell very pleasant.

I also have a lot of peppers and chilli which I plan to make into chilli jam, a family favourite.

Here I made a classic rosemary focaccia with lots of oil and salt, and a few onions. The other two were more a case of throwing whatever I could find. 

(Makes three 7" individual focaccias or a giant one to 'share', alternatively half the ingredients to make a more regular size)

700g strong white flour
16g salt
6g instant yeast
approx. 500ml lukewarm water
3tbsp oil
toppings of choice

Stir the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

Gently add the water, mixing well with your hands. The dough should become smooth and sticky after working it for 7 minutes.

Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight to prove. The next day, take out of the fridge and leave to acclimatise at room temperature for 30 minutes. Alternatively, set aside and prove at room temperature until the dough doubles in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

Stretch and fold the dough to knock out some air and leave once more for 50 minutes.

Shape the dough to desired shape/size on a floured work surface. Or, if like me you like to make as little mess as possible, press into a sandwich cake tin. Poke your fingers through the surface for air holes. Sprinkle with oil, scatter with toppings and season.

Bake at 200 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes.

And just for fun(ish)...

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Recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

I'll make pretty much anything to use up what's lurking around in the cupboard or fridge. I hate to waste food. Usually this involves some form of dinner which, in my family, is known as an 'around the world dinner'. By this, you can expect any combination of leftovers of all sorts of cuisines.

I couldn't quite face eating a bag full of sweet potatoes to myself this week so set out to find a suitable use for them. After making a few pumpkin cakes with cans of Libby's last year I was keen to try sweet potato and see how they compare.

This sweet potato cake is slightly more dense than the pumpkin ones I made last year and has much more flavour. But, if you do have a can of Libby's pumpkin purée hanging around, you can substitute with the same quantity.

Spiced sweet potato cake with marshmallow frosting
(Recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

680g sweet potatoes (approximately 2-3)
115g unsalted butter, room temperature
190g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves, or mixed spice

Marshmallow frosting:

3 large egg whites
180g golden caster sugar
pinch pf salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Prick the sweet potatoes all over and roast in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 - 45 minutes. They may need a turning a few times. Once cooked they'll be soft and look a little deflated. Leave to cool completely. If you're baking in advance, leave them in the fridge for up to 3 days, otherwise give them plenty of time to cool before moving onto the cake.

Heat the oven to 170 degrees and grease and line an 8 - 9 inch round springform tin, or an 8 - 9 inch square tin.

Peel the sweet potatoes and mash until smooth (don't be tempted to blitz in the blender, your mix will be too loose).

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs in one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.

Gently fold in the sweet potato, followed by all the dry ingredients. Continue until well incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top with a knife and bake for 35 - 40 minutes. Once baked, a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

To make the frosting, add the egg whites, sugar, salt and cream of tartar to a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water. Whisk for approximately 3 minutes, until the sugar has fully dissolved. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and continue to whisk with an electric mixer for a further 4 - 7 minutes on a high speed, until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

To decorate, spread a thin layer of the marshmallow onto the cake with a palette knife or spatula. Then, with a piping bag or sandwich bag, pipe small dollops over the thin frosting layer. With a kitchen torch, lightly brown the marshmallow dollops until browned.

Find my recipe for sweet potato brownies here if you'd like to try them another way.

Alternatively, you could substitute the same quantity of pumpkin for sweet potato in my spiced pumpkin mini cakes or in my pumpkin praline cake.

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Review: Dip & Flip Burger

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This discovery may be a few weeks late, but let me assure you its completely worth it.

When it was supposedly still summer, by that I mean a day of rain storms, Boy and I popped off to see a film at the pop-up cinema in Battersea Power Station. I believe the cinema has since gone so we won't worry about that, but there was a whole host of different food vendors to explore.

In between rain storms and roaring thunder, we ducked in and out of the stalls to see what was on offer. I had my heart (and stomach) set on a burger so set out to find something that tickled my fancy. There were a few of the more well-known burger vans, one in particular we were keen to try, but with the chef standing there flexing his muscles and chatting to a friend I decided against it.

We went for Dip & Flip, mainly after eyeing up the grills and seeing the sheer size of the burgers! And it did not disappoint, this was without a doubt the most juicy and moist burger I've ever eaten. Possibly the messiest also.

The 'Dip' side of Dip & Flip menu comprises of an American French Dip, a hot meat sandwich where thinly sliced cuts of meat are served with a cup of jus-based gravy. And the 'Flip' side, burgers served with gravy!

The 'Dip & Flip burger' comprises of a cheese burger, topped with sliced roast beef and gravy, ketchup, mustard, cabbage and pickles. The patties are thick, well-seasoned and juicy. The brioche-type bun miraculously manages to retain its shape with all the gravy.

And its worth noting that the staff were incredibly polite, helpful and attentive when ordering. I may have gone back for more napkins with gravy down my dress, but they assured me I wasn't the first gravy victim!

If you fancy giving it a try, their restaurant can be found near Clapham Junction Station, find out there info from urbanspoon below.

Dip & Flip on Urbanspoon

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Recipe: Rye Caraway Bagels

This week I decided to go back to basics. When first starting this blog my intention was to learn to bake at home. I had a long list of everything I wanted to try and over two years on there's still so much I feel like I haven't covered.

Top of said list, bagels. The recipe is from Ruby Tandoh's first baking book, Crumb, which is full of simple, unpretentious home bakes and great flavour combinations.

Rye caraway bagels
(Makes 8, recipe from Ruby Tandoh's Crumb)

325g strong white flour
125g dark rye flour
7g instant dried yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
250ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp caraway seeds
Flour or polenta, to dust
2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
30g poppy seeds
Oil, to grease

Mix together the flours and yeast in a large bowl. Add the salt and sugar, followed by the water and oil. Combine well with hands or on a medium speed with a dough hook in a stand mixer. Continue to knead for 10 minutes (on a low speed if using a stand mixer). The mix should be much less sticky than regular breads. Gently knead in the caraway seeds before covering the bowl with cling film and leaving to prove for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Turn out the risen dough, divide into 8 and shape. To shape into bagels, roll into a ball, push your finger through the centre and twirl around your finger to widen the hole. Dust a baking tray with flour or polenta, place the shaped bagels on and leave to prove for 30-45 minutes at room temperature. The bagels should have risen to almost 1 1/2 times their size.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180 degrees and bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the boiling water and turn down to simmer. In small batches, cook the bagels in the water for 60 seconds each side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto well-greased baking trays.

Mix together the 4 tbsp of water and salt and brush over the bagels. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake for 25 minutes.

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Recipe: Slow-cooker Chilli Con Carne

Another week, another slow cooker recipe. I made this for my Mum when she came over for dinner last week and it went down very well with a glass of wine. You may notice that its quite a hefty amount of chilli, it is, so feel free to half the amounts if needed.

The preparation for this took all of 10 minutes; some quick chopping and a few minutes to soften the onions and brown the mince. If you want to make this on the stove instead of the slow cooker, keep covered on a low heat for 35-45 minutes.

Slow-cooker chilli con carne
(Recipe slightly adapted from Lakeland, served 6)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1kg minced beef
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
250ml beef stock
squeeze of tomato paste
2 x tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 x tins kidney beans, rinse and drained
2 peppers, chopped
6 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

In a large frying pan, heat the oil; cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the beef, cumin and chilli and cook until the beef has browned. Add to the slow cooker and add the stock, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and oregano; stir well. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Add the beans and peppers and cook on high for 30 minutes, until hot. Season and serve with rice and a sprinkle of coriander.

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Billington's Brownies and #bakeface

"The bake face. The magnificent side effect of baking with Billington's."
A colleague asked me the other day if I enjoyed eating my own bakes...! Not to blow my own trumpet, but I do. As much as I love to share and bake for others, who wouldn't enjoy a batch of fresh out the oven, homemade brownies?

This is my excited #bakeface...
You can vote for my #bakeface here (voting closes 12.10.14)

If you fancy, upload your own #bakeface to and share with your friends to get as many votes as possible for the chance to win great weekly prizes like a Kenwood mixer!

Alternatively, keep reading for a recipe to make the ultimate fudgy, rich brownies.
Billington's Brownies
(Recipe from Billington's, serves 12)

200g unsalted butter
350g 70% dark chocolate, chopped into pieces
3 medium eggs
250g Billington's Unrefined Dark Muscovado Sugar
50g self-raising flour
100g Billington's Natural Glacé Cherries (optional)

Heat the oven to 190 degrees, and line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Whisk the eggs until pale and fluffy. Add the Dark Muscovado Sugar and whisk until thick. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture.

Sift in the flour and fold until the mixture is smooth. Mix in the glacé cherries.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until you see a paper-like crust on top. There should still be some movement in the centre of the tin.

Remove from the oven, leave to cool, then cut into squares.

Follow @BillingtonsUK and use #bakeface when sharing. and Billington's kindly sent supplies to make these brownies. Regardless, #bakeface is a brilliant, fun way of capturing those moments we all love!

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Nordic Cuisine with Martyn Meid

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Things got a little bit (more than) indulgent when I went to Miele's Nordic Cuisine Chef's Table with Martyn Meid last week. Martyn had prepared a 7 course tasting menu for us and each course was expertly paired with a different glass of wine by his sommelier.

I must admit, I was a little anxious when I received the invite in my inbox. The most Nordic meal I've ever eaten before would probably be from Ikea (if that even counts). On the night I was quickly swayed by Martyn's infectious passion for good, simple food. All his food is completely seasonal and organic. Utterly dedicated, he's one of those chefs who'll be up at the crack of dawn foraging or at a market for that day's ingredients. 
lobster, squidink, martynmeid, ink, nordic
To start we had lobster, squid ink, chicken jus, burnt onion, raw pumpkin, leek ash and edible flowers; served with a glass of Prosecco.
Next up, herring two ways; slow cooked in oil and pickled for 12 days. Served with pickled cucumber, tomatoes, dill and a linseed crisp made with potato starch; served with Aquavit.
This Norwegian Aquavit is a caraway-infused vodka, giving a strong liquorice flavour. Here the sommelier is telling us how its aged in oak barrels that are shipped around between Norway and Australia and back; they claim the rocking of the boat, sea air and temperature changes is the key to its great taste!
My favourite course of all, a hand dived scallop with milk and cauliflower and edible flowers; served with La Toledana Gavi di Gavi Vendemmia 201.
To cleanse the palette, and a little interlude, peach textures and dill; served with Fernlands Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2013.
Chicken, lobster bisque, salmon and lobster roe, mushrooms, edible flowers and chicken consomme on the side; served with Roaring Meg Pinot Noir 2013.
The 'Hunter' - duck, pearl barley, mushroom medley and potatoes drenched in a pork and duck creamy sauce; served with Chateau Musar Hochar, Bekaa Valley 2009.
To finish, a ricotta doughnut with vanilla Chantilly cream and peach apple kuzu jelly; served with Vistamar Moscatel 2013 Limari Valley - my favourite glass of the evening!

And there we have it! The evening was so perfectly relaxed and service so smooth I could've stayed to eat (and drink!) more. An intimate atmosphere like this is perfect for trying new things, especially in the company of some other fantastic bloggers and food-lovers!

Miele's showrooms in Central London and Abingdon host a heap of different food courses from bread making masterclasses, entertaining at home to chef's table evenings like the one I attended.

Find the run down of Miele's Creative Living classes here
                                               Martyn's restaurant, Ink here.

A big thanks to Hannah from White for the invite. She's kindly asked to include her Twitter page for other bloggers that would like to attend something similar!

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