Sweet Roast Onion Soup

An easy, rich and comforting onion soup.

Living in the joys of a modern cohabitation relationship, it’s not that often I need to come up with a decent meal for one. By decent meal, I don’t mean a weekday breakfast or a cheeky sandwich, but an actual meal that I want to pay attention to without it ruining my day. But once in a while He isn’t here and I fancy a decent dinner to accompany my quality time with Detective Steve Holder my thoughts. When I’m not trying to destroy my weight loss goals, I like to run up this soup which is easy to make though not technically that quick due to the roasting time needed. I usually have all the required ingredients either in my cupboard or in my garden too so I don’t even have to interupt my Netflix time with a shops trip. It’s a rich, sweet and not even slightly naughty dinner that you could easily scale up for friends if you feel like sharing.

BoomBoom Sweet Roast Onion Soup

Roasted onions and garlic with rosemary for this recipe

Serves One
3 red onions
1 small head of garlic
1 courgette
5 button mushrooms
Sprig of fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
Fresh sage
Black pepper
1 heaped tablespoon of sour cream
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Peel the onions and cut the top off the garlic head, drizzle with rapeseed oil, and roast at 180 along with the rosemary for 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Roughly chop the courgette and fry in a little more rapeseed oil with lots of fresh black pepper. When softened, add the bay leaf, a few shredded sage leaves and the cooked onions (roughly chopped) and squeeze out the garlic from the head too. Give it a stir for a moment then add the nutmeg- literally just a pinch! Nowhere near even a 1/4 of a tablespoon, just a tiny amount.

Cover with boiled water and simmer with a lid on for ten minutes. As this is only a single serve recipe I get heavy with the herbs and pepper rather than use stock, but if you are scaling up then you can use vegetable stock. If you have a bottle open then by all means throw in a generous splash of red or white wine at this point.

While the soup is cooking finely slice the mushrooms and fry in a hot pan with some very finely chopped rosemary and sea salt until the edges start to crisp.

Allow the soup to cool slightly before blitzing with the sour cream then stir in the mushrooms. Season to taste and serve with a side of hot buttered toast to be enjoyed in your PJ’s with your phone on silent and your favourite TV boyfriend!

Variations- swap the sour cream for fat free Greek yoghurt if needs be or omit all together. If you don’t have the fresh herbs just add dried at the beginning of the soup with the courgette. 

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Ultimate Pasta Sauce

Fresh vine ripened tomatoes for the ultimate pasta sauce

I remember going to uni as a naive 18 year old and being utterly horrified by the general gravitation of my cohorts in academia towards jarred, mass produced and frankly horrible pasta sauce. I understood that they were cheap, and convenient, and easily stored at room temperature in the back of a cupboard where they were less likely to get pinched than they would from the communal fridge but still, come on guys, can’t we just make some pasta sauce?

They all thought I was mad. They probably still do. And maybe I am, but I was raised by a multitude of cooks who can all turn out a mega pasta dinner in their own way and they don’t do it with a tub of Dolmio. There are a lot of signature dishes out there. My Mothership does a veggie bolognese-ish spaghetti second to none. My Step Mum spent most of the 90s turning out the hands down best cannelloni that ever was (as a side note hey, Helen, what happened to this?!?!?!?!).  My Uncle taught me a fail safe arrabiata on a family holiday some years ago that I have never tinkered with and whilst I’m sure even my biggest kitchen heroes have sunk to the odd convenience packet in their darkest hours, they are also living proof that a scratch made sauce beats the doughballs out of any mass produced, additive riddled jar from Waitrose.

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Wilkin & Sons ketchup- the now-not-so-secret magic ingredient

At the risk of setting off the carbonara fans, I firmly believe that a solid tomato pasta sauce is something all cooks should have under their belt early on, like, certainly before they move out of their homestead to pick up bad habits in a shared halls kitchenette. So here’s mine- I’ll hold my hands up to say it isn’t quite as quick as unscrewing a lid and stirring but after much trial, error and penne based testing I can say this is easy and fail safe if you get half decent fresh tomatoes and the super special secret ingredient that is a bottle of Wilkin & Sons ketchup (you” thank me for this later if you’ve never tried it). This recipe makes enough for 4-6 healthy servings but it freezes really well so you can think of a huge batch as making the best of the long cooking time. I think it actually tastes better the day after you make it, but you can be the judge of that.

 

Boomboom Pasta Sauce

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1kg fresh plum or vine ripened tomatoes
1 white onion, very finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch chilli flakes
2 tbspns Wilkin & Sons tomato ketchup OR 1 tbspn tomato puree
1tbspn apple cider vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
Sea salt
Black pepper
Rapeseed oil for frying
Fresh basil leaves
Parmesan to serve (optional)

Fry the onions and garlic with the chilli flakes and oil on a medium heat in a sturdy, lidded and preferably non stick pan. When the onions begin to soften add the roughly chopped tomatoes- don’t faff about skinning them or separating out the seeds but do try to get the best quality you can afford, they are the backbone of this sauce afterall. Turn the heat down to low (barely a simmer), cover and cook for 30 minutes, checking regularly that it isn’t sticking to the pan however there should be enough liquid from the tomatoes to prevent this.
After half an hour, add the sugar and vingear and cook for another 15 minutes on low with the lid on. Add the ketchup or tomato puree now- I have to reiterate that the Wilkin and Sons ketchup is the super special secret ingredient here, I don’t know what they do with it but using any other ketchup will not cut it so if you can’t use W&S, go for a good quality puree instead. Give it another 10 minutes to simmer uncovered then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Ideally, in a wonderful world where you are super organised, leave the sauce to cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight to really mingle all the flavours together. In the real world, when you want to eat now and have better things to do than plan a pasta dinner a day in advance, add 2 tablespoons of shredded basil leaves, stir, then serve with your pasta of choice and a good shaving of parmesan.

Variations- hot heads can up the chilli levels with either more flakes or a finely chopped red chilli pepper.  At home I often add meatballs (lean pork or beef mince) at the same time as the ketchup/puree until they are cooked through, then serve immediately. You can use white or red wine vinegar instead of the apple cider.

The Skinny Thing- Banana Pancakes

Banana protein pancakes

I’m out for a treat lunch with some ladies today so a light breakfast option was in order. I always feel like a bit of a effort on breakfast at the weekend, as quite simply I have time to do something more than throw some PB on a bit of toast whilst simultaneously drying my hair and looking for my car keys.

So I thought I’d try these much touted, diet friendly banana pancakes because A- I have some bananas in the house and I can only eat them cooked these days (don’t ask). B- they are pretty low calorie and very low points on your Slimming World or Weight Watchers plan of choice. C- I have a shit ton of protein powder that needs using and I can’t stand drinking it. D- I hate myself a moderate amount for over indulging this week and this seemed likely to be a suitable punishment and reminder that all those 3pm kitkats are not worth having to eat fried egg and fruit on a Saturday.

I did not expect to enjoy these even a little bit.

Well, they aren’t the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Infact they were infinitely tolerable when one considers the mere 300 calories per serving and they didn’t take that much faff. I have to say though without the touches of the flavoured protein powder and my modest fruit n nut toppings, I think they would have just tasted like hot eggy banana which I’m pretty sure no one needs in their life.

Let me know if you try them out, or if you know how to make them better (unless this involves ice cream, because I’m already considering that).

Boomboom Banana Pancakes

Per person:
1 medium ripe banana
1 large free range egg
1 tablespoon protein powder- I use My Protein Vegan Blend Banana Cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
A few sultanas
6 Almonds
Dark agave nectar.

roughly 300 cals, 18g protein, 43g carbs (5g fibre, 20g sugar), 9g fat

Slice then mash your banana into a fine goo then beat in the egg and the salt. Add the protein powder by sieving it through a tea strainer if you can to avoid lumps. Beat it all together thoroughly- I promise you it is worth an extra minute to seek out and destroy the lumpy bits.

Heat a non-stick pan and add large tablespoons of the mix- this quantity should make 4 decent sized american-style pancakes. Cook for a minute until you can see the edges start to cook and they are solid enough to flip over.

Serve hot with the nuts, sultanas and a drizzle of dark agave nectar, and if you are on the skinny wagon REALLY watch how much of these you add as a casual over topping could put the calorie count up by half, or more.

Lastly, feel smug and saintly and less guilty later on when you demolish a baba ganoush flatbread plate

Have a great weekend.

Variations- a chocolate or peanut butter protein powder would probably work very well here or you could just use a tablespoon of flour for the same texture but a different taste finish. They really would make a good dessert with a decent vanilla icecream too!

Roast Carrot Hummus

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I think I’ve said before that New-Year-New-Youisms can bore right off for me, however I find myself in this early end of 2018 facing some needed changes in the kitchen, in particular by addressing my nutritional intake. Many sources agree that the end to my woes will come from more protein. About 25% of my daily intake of calories of protein, to be precise. That’s more than you might think, and not covered by my go-to vile vegan blend protein breakfast shake of choice. It’s not about dieting, it’s not about cutting carbs, rather it is about having cruddy weak leg muscles and utterly shit exercise recovery times. Need. More. Protein.

I am also blessed with a Mr who has let his winter culinary shortcuts get the better of him and subsequently requested a revision on our snack supplies, lest his current tummy expansion sneak into beast mode while no one is looking.

So we need more protein and less evil but still readily available snacks and we don’t have a budget (or inclination) to eat four chicken breasts and a head of celery a day each.  What then?

Hummus.

I bloody love hummus. I bloody love that it goes on all my favourite things- like toast and tortilla chips and carrots and I bloody love how easy it is to make a mass stash of it of a Sunday night and not have to worry about work snackage for me (or hometime binges from the fridge for Him) all week long.

For gym and slim types alike, chickpeas are packing in satiating protein and filling dietary fibre with bonus Iron, B6 and Magnesium levels. Tahini also adds about 5% protein by weight and also has a reasonable Iron and Calcium content. Yes, there’s some fat in there too, but I think we’ve stopped demonising that for a little while and I’m not asking you to eat an entire jar of sesame seed paste at a time. Unless you want to. Fill your boots. Plain hummus can get boring and strong, sweet flavours work well with the earthy umami of tahini and the sharpness from fresh garlic and lemon. Flash roasted carrots compliment it perfectly.

So here it is, my roasted carrot hummus, easy to make and keeps in the fridge for well over a week, perfect served from a little tub with some carrot sticks at your desk! I make roughly double the below recipe quantity to last both myself and his-self for a week of snacks and a bit left for Friday night. As with many nutritionally dense foods, hummus has a potentially high calorie payoff at up to 500 calories in a cup so watch your serving size if you are on a slimming mission.

Boomboom Roasted Carrot Hummus

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2 large carrots
Rapeseed oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin

1 400g tin of chickpeas
2 cloves garlic
1-2tbspns tahini
extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed lemon juice
sea salt
black pepper
fresh coriander leaf –optional

Hummus constitution is a thing of great preference, so I would urge you to tinker with the levels of tahini, lemon and olive oil you use until you find your groove with this one.

Peel and chop your carrots and toss them with the cumin then roast in a hot oven (200C+) for about 30 minutes until they are soft and just starting to caramelise. Leave to cool- don’t drain off the oil.

Very finely mince the garlic and add to a food processor with the drained chickpeas and the carrots wi ththe oil & cumin they were cooked in. Blitz to a rough consistency then add the tahini, lemon and olive oil about 1/2 tbspn at a time until you have your preferred result. I tend to use 2 tbpsns of tahini, half a lemon and 1 tbspn of olive oil to a single tin of chick peas.

Season with salt and pepper then stir through as much finely chopped coriander as you fancy, if you’re using it. Serve. Boom.

Variations- weight watchers can sub the olive oil for the chickpea water from the tin but this alters the taste signiicantly. You could swap the carrots for roasted white or red onions. 

Shakshuka. Sort of.

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shakshuka (sort of) ready to go in to bake

Last week I read a very amusing article on BS slimming fads and how almost all celebrity fronted diet books feature some kind of chilli spiked eggs for breakfast. I was thus reminded about my much mused but never materialised intentions to do some huevos rancheros for Saturday breakfast at some point in my life. It has to be said that eggs, tomatoes and a bit of heat is always going to be a winning combination, and by the very definition of there being protein and veg in there it is going to win points with almost all healthy eating regimes unless you’re a vegan with a nightshade intolerance. So although this might be overdone, it is hardly a surprise that this is such a solid performer for various chefs trying to sell you their recent waist reduction techniques.  The constant content bulker of Mushrooms On Toast (f*£% off!!!) in so many cookery books is far more irritating to my mind.

So faced with lots of veg ends in the fridge and two leftover wraps I thought I would rustle up a sort of brunch yesterday to fuel a perilous shopping trip into the Mordor of these lands also known as Clacton. I did not have the makings of a huevos rancheros, but I did have a hefty casserole dish recently donated by the Mr’s Step mother drying on the side which reminded me of some kind of baked eggs and peppers thing I had half watched The Hairy Bikers make on telly once. I didn’t google it. I just threw it together, and in fairness I think it was a reasonable re-creation though not strictly speaking traditional. But hey, it is a multi cultural world we live in. Melting pots and all that. After some time I turned out a reasonably impressive and herty breakfast that the Mr declared as ‘bloody perfect’. This is high praise indeed as he puts ‘breakfast’ in the top five of his List Of Important Things most days. Possibly top three.

So here it is, great for a lazy Saturday, packed with nutrients, low fat and high flavour and I don’t care what you think about the tortilla bit, it was all I had available. And it was really nice.

Boomboom Sortofshakshuka

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sortofshakshuka, served on a toasted seedy tortilla

Serves Two, less than 500 calories per serving
4 free range eggs
1 white onion
4 vine ripened tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 cups curly kale
Chilli flakes to taste (or 1/4 tsp cumin seeds)
1 tbspn Apple cider vinegar
Splash of tomato juice
2x seeded tortilla wraps
Salt and pepper and hot sauce to serve
Rapseed oil or cooking spray
0% fat Greek Yogurt (optional)

Heat the oven to 190 degrees.
Roughly chop the onions and fry in the rapseed oil or spray with the chilli flakes (or cumin seed to go traditionally Tunisian) for a few minutes until the onions start to soften. Add the tomatoes and chopped peppers and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the vinegar then cook for another minute. Finally add the kale and a splash of tomato juice and cook through until the kale is just starting to noticeably wilt. You don’t need a lot of tomato juice- literally just enough to moisten everything but not enough to make it a proper sauce.
Transfer this into an ovenproof dish that you rescued from your In Law’s kitchen clear out- the mix should fill the dish without being spread too thinly. Carefully crack your eggs directly on to the mix, season well with salt and black pepper then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes (check after 15 to avoid over cooking the eggs).

When the whites are opaque and the yolks cooked to your liking (I like them just on the verge of runny) take the dish out of the oven and set aside.

Heat a large, non stick frying pan on the hob and use this to toast your tortilla wrap for a minute on each side- they should be just starting to brown in parts but not stiffening up too much.

Line a plate with your toasted tortilla and spoon the veg and eggs on top, season well and serve with some good quality hot sauce and a dollop of fat free Greek yoghurt on the side just to really confuse things.

Variations- lose the wraps if you’re off the carbs or serve with sour dough toast instead. If you don’t like it spicy use the cumin or some garam masala instead. Green peppers instead of red and yellow will give a bit more bite to the mix and you could swap the kale or chard or even fresh spinach but in this case don’t cook the spinach through literally just stir it through the rest of the veg before the eggs go on. 

Cheat’s Cheesecake

Saturday night dessert action, best served with a juicy red and some Brookyln 99

Back in the days when we still cared what we thought about eachother, the Mr and I used to frequently take a Saturday Cookbook challenge and spend a bit of time mulling through my millions of cookbooks to pick a mildly tricky recipe to prepare for eachother for dinner. Awww.

It’s been seven years. We don’t really do that anymore.

This weekend though I found myself inspired by St Gizzi of Erskine with a chorizo meatball thing and decided that we would once more Make The Effort and do A Nice Dinner for which he would be in charge of dessert.

The morning went on, he read no books and he bought no extra ingredients at our German discount supermarket of choice when we went shopping. I wasn’t mad. I really wasn’t, because I made a storming dinner for myself as well as him, and we have a mortgage now which is too much hassle to get out of over a skipped apple tart and ice cream.
This doesn’t mean I missed the chance to smugly point out, after my bonza pasta efforts, that he hadn’t bothered to make any dessert and therefore I was winning at our relationship this weekend despite having a sore leg and a bit of a headache.
He looked at me. He looked at the telly. He looked at me again, then he went into the kitchen.
In less than 20 minutes time I was presented with what will go down in history as Jim’s Cheat Cheesecake. Sweet, rich and poshly presented in a little tumbler. It was bloody lovely. And he didn’t really think about it at all.

I hate him.

Cheat’s Cheesecake

Really quick, really simple, really lovely dessert.

Serves 2
250g quark (or other soft cheese)
4 stem ginger cookies
100g good milk chocolate
1 tbspn dark agave nectar
Tumblers or coffee cups to serve

Melt the chocolate over a bain marie. Smash up your biscuits into small pieces and put into the base of the tumblers. When the chocolate is melted, pour most of it into the tumblers (reserving about 2 good tsps) and mix with the broken biscuits then put the tumblers straight into the freezer.

Beat the quark with the agave until it is smooth then pour this into the tumblers and top with a splodge of the remaining chocolate. Put them back into the freezer for five minutes then serve to your girlfriend, taking careful effort to watch all of the smug drain right out of her.

variations- you could use any soft cheese for this; if you don’t have agave use icing sugar to sweeten; any crunchy biscuits would work for the base layer. 

The X(mas) Files: Grow Your Own Christmas Spirit!

xmas pudI assure you that I am not your irritating facebook friend constantly posting about how many weeks/Saturdays/nanoseconds are left to pass until we can crack open our advent calendars. However, there are certain activities of yuletide prep which really need to begin in this the final quarter of the year and if you’ve got a decent pear crop, my Christmas Spirit is one of them.

Like pretty much everything this summer, the pears in my garden have matured early and thanks to several weeks of classic British summer washout they are of good size but still, as last year, harder than a concrete cage fighter. I did three things with them last year. Firstly, after a minor brush with fame getting read out on Saturday Kitchen tweets, I took on some telly chef advice and pickled the best part of three kilos of my rockhard green babies and put them up for Christmas. I mostly followed this recipe from Saint Delia of Smith but put in about three times too much pepper by happy accident. They were pokey and sweet and went wonderfully on the boxing day cheese board, so it’s worth a look if you have your own crop to process.

The rest of them got made into an unsuccessful puree and the bulk of my Step Father’s Christmas bottle. He’s an awkward sod to buy for, because he generally doesn’t know what he wants and the Mothership gets fed up of asking him so on gifting occasions I tend to steer unguided towards obscure sci fi books and lesser contemplated consumables around themes of coffee, booze or marmite. I often remember him enjoying a sneaky tip of Benedictine back in the halycon days of us all living in the same house, and got into my head that I was going to make him some kind of sweet, spiced vodka for his stocking last year. What I made was absolutely NOTHING like Benedictine, mostly as I am not a monk with a secret recipe, but I did come up with a pretty winning and distinctly Christmassy home brew that will warm many a cockle of a cold winter’s eve. So if you’ve got a spare pear, so to speak, you might want to give this a go but get it started in the next 2 weeks for maximum infusion time.

Boomboom Christmas Spirit

1 bottle mid-range vodka
2 large conference pears
1 teaspoon of orange or lemon zest
1 vanilla pod
2 cinammon sticks (one now, one later)
6 cloves
4-6 tbspns Golden granulated sugar depending how sweet you take your tipples.
5 Cardamom pods
A 1l mason jar
Decorative bottle to decant

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Pear infused Christmas Spirit in process

Start by thoroughly cleaning and drying the mason jar- the combination of vodka and sugar will keep most microbial growth at bay but it still pays to give the glassware a really good clean and a very hot water rinse before you get started. Same goes for the decanting bottle in December.
Start to fill the jar with the spices and sugar (you can add more later if you don’t love the first taste test so less is more at this point).  Split the vanilla pod, crack the cinnamon stick in half and gently press the cardamom pods to crack the outer skins and allow as much surface area as possible for all those aromatics to seep into the vodka. The cloves can go in whole.
Wash the pears gently but thoroughly in cold water and cut off the very ends. With a sharp knife, score through the skin from top to bottom three times around the pear, then add to the jar. Chuck in the zest then fill the jar up with vodka. As always, don’t fall into the trap of budget cooking vodka use something you could stand to drink! Russian Standard or Smirnoff at a minimum please. Seal the jar, give it a very gentle jiggle then put it somewhere cool and dark to contemplate its destiny for a couple of months.

Continue to jiggle the bottle daily for a week, then once a week until early December, when you should take a little taste test and add more sugar if required. It will start to darken over time and should be a golden yellow after about 8 weeks. Don’t be put off by the pears starting to look a bit manky by this point and do not be tempted to open the jar or taste it before this- you really want to minimise oxygen exposure. If you want to sweeten add a table spoon more of sugar, shake, then leave for another 24 hours to taste. If this is not required, strain the liquid through muslin or a very fine metal mesh sieve and decant into a clean bottle with another, intact cinnamon stick for some pretty factor. Put a ribbon around it and give it away to be served over ice or in a martini. Merry Christmas!

Variations- you could try this with gin  using a very plain dry London gin like Gordon’s however I would leave out the cloves and vanilla.