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Shallot, Pumpkin and Red Pepper Soup with Candied Shallot and Pumpkin Seeds

For the soup: 4 red peppers, deseeded and cut into quarters, 30g butter, 1 tbsp rapeseed oil, 6 shallots, diced and peeled, 750g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2cm pieces, 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed, leaves of one sprig of thyme, 1.2 litre good vegetable stock, 100ml double cream (optional), sea salt and black pepper. For the candied shallots: 250g unsalted butter, 1/4 tsp of cumin seeds, 8 (250g) shallots, peeled and sliced, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp paprika, 1 tsp honey. To serve: 2 tsp chives, finely chopped, 30g pumpkin seeds, toasted, 120ml low fat crème fraiche.

1. Place the peppers skin side up, on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the skins are charred. Remove from the oven and place in a bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to cool. Once cool, peel off the skins, and reserve the flesh.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter with oil in a large, heavy based saucepan. Add the shallots, pumpkin and red chilli, season with sea salt and black pepper and sweat the vegetables for 5-10 minutes without browning. Add the garlic and thyme and cook on a low heat for a further minute. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add in the red peppers and cook for a further 5 minutes.
3. For the candied shallots, melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat, add the cumin seeds and shallots and fry until soft. Add the ground cumin and paprika and cook the shallots for a further 1 minute, stirring the shallot mixture all the time to prevent burning. Fry until caramelised for approx. 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with sea salt and stir in the honey.
4. Blend the soup in a food processor or with a hand blender and adjust the seasoning to taste. Return to the pan, if a little thick add more stock and if you wish, stir in the cream. Gently reheat the soup and ladle into warmed bowls. Place a spoonful of low fat crème fraiche in each and sprinkle with the chives, toasted pumpkin seeds and candied shallots.

Butternut Squash, Shallot & Butterbean Casserole

1 medium butternut squash (approx 600-800g), cut into 2.5cm chunks (leave the skin on for added texture), 12 shallots, peeled and left whole, 6 sage leaves, roughly chopped, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, crushed, 1 heaped tbsp flour, 175ml white wine, 1 tin butterbeans, drained and rinsed, 400ml vegetable stock, 2 tbsp sundried tomato paste. For the dumplings: 200g self raising flour, 100g vegetable suet, 2 tsp dried mixed herbs, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 5-8 tbsp cold water‍.

1. Place the butternut squash and shallots in a roasting tin along with the olive oil, sage leaves and a good grind of pepper and salt to taste. Roast in a hot oven (220°C/Gas 7) for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tinged with colour at the edges.
2. Whilst the squash and shallots are cooking make the dumplings by combining all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add enough cold water to bring it together to make a soft dough. Shape the dough into 8 small balls and set aside.
3. When the squash and shallots are cooked, remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 180°C/Gas 4.
4. Add the flour to the roasting tin, stirring to coat the vegetables and soak up all the roasting juices. Add the garlic and white wine to the roasting tin, scraping the bottom to release all the sticky caramelised bits.
5. Transfer to an oven proof casserole and add the beans, sundried tomato paste and enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables. Give everything a good stir, Bring to the boil and cover. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
6. Remove the casserole form the oven and carefully add the dumplings so they float on the surface. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes until the dumplings are crispy on the outside and fluffy and cooked through on the inside. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes and green beans.

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