Curry butternut squash soup

I’ve always loved pumpkin, likely because it used to be kind of exotic where I grew up (obviously nowadays is a different story). It’s always fascinated me how there can be so many different types, and their colour and shapes are simply the epitome of autumn. And when I moved to Germany, where autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons, it felt like everything was coming together. If you don’t believe me, have a look at these autumnal shots I took on one of my most recent walks with G.

 

I’ve been a fan of Jamie Oliver since what feels like always. I love his style of cooking, so laid back, fun and enjoyable; it’s something I can very much relate to. So when I found his recipe for butternut squash soup with sage it automatically became a staple in my kitchen. However, as I’m ever-expanding my cooking skills and recipe book, I came up with this slightly time consuming but very much worth the trouble butternut squash soup.

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Lovely roasted garlic

This should be enough for 2 hungry people:

  • butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced
  • 1 heaped tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp honey
  • handful of fresh coriander
  • pinch of cumin
  • 3 tsp curry powder
  • 1l / 4 1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • sweet paprika powder
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  1. Start by washing the butternut squash and halving it, take out and discard the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and some salt and put it chopped side down in the oven for at least an hour at 200ºC. I do it in the morning as soon as I wake up, as it takes me roughly an hour to get ready for work. That way, right before I leave, I turn the oven off and leave it until I get back. You can also do it the night before you plan to make the soup. The longer you roast it, the better it will taste.
  2. Once the squash is roasted, take it out of the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Then peel it and leave it to rest.
  3. Heat up a pan on low, throw in a heaped tablespoon of butter and drizzle some olive oil until it starts to sizzle. Then add the onion and caramelize for about 20 minutes. Once it’s transparent and very soft, add the honey and leave to caramelize for another 10 minutes.
  4. Blend the fresh coriander, the curry powder and the cumin with the stock.
  5. In a big pot (not hot!) throw the squash and add some of the stock. Blend and keep adding stock until you reach the desired consistency.
  6. Add salt, pepper and sweet paprika powder to taste, the fresh ginger and blend again. Heat it and gobble up!

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BONUS TIPS:

  • Extra chopped coriander and/or lemon juice add an extra zest to this already amazing soup.
  • Substitute half of the vegetable stock for coconut milk, for extra silkiness.
  • Zingy creme frâiche is also a good addition. I do love me some creme frâiche!
  • If you’re a garlic lover like me: roast some garlic in the oven with a bit of olive oil and blend in as well!

Basic caramel sauce – with candy thermometer

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Here is another wonderful recipe perfect for Autumn – although let’s face it, caramel is wonderful anytime of the year!-. It was only a few years ago that I first tried making caramel. The first batch without a candy thermometer must have been beginners luck, because it turned out absolutely perfect. So I naively convinced myself that was it, I had mastered the art of caramel where so many others had failed miserably – no holding back on my chuffiness here -. It wasn’t until I tried a second time, that I realized it wasn’t all perfect in my little unicorn land. It cristallized, it crumbled, it burned on the bottom of the pot, it was a sugary mess. And then my bestie came to the rescue! She bought me a candy thermometer for Christmas, and ever since then I haven’t had a failed batch of this creamy sugary goodness.

So my first and most crucial piece of advice to you if you want to embark on this adventure of caramel making is: purchase a candy thermometer! You won’t regret it. I know there are plenty of recipes out there that don’t use one, but it’s such an imprecise science that it just doesn’t work for me. If it does for you, go you!

  • 200g / 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 120ml / 1/2 cups cream (minimum 30%)
  • 90g / 1/3 cups butter at room temperature
  1. Pour the sugar in a tall pot with some water, so the consistency will be that of wet sand. The water will evaporate with the heat anyway, so don’t worry too much about the amount. At this stage just leave the sugar to heat and do it’s thing, don’t fiddle with it, don’t brush water on the sides, just leave it alone! Trust me on this.
  2. Heat at medium high until the candy thermometer marks around 300ºF, then take off the heat.
  3. In a separate pot, or in the microwave, heat up the cream but don’t bring to a boil.
  4. Add the butter to the sugar and stir until completely dissolved. You can put it back on the stove if you have trouble melting the butter, and take it back off as soon as it’s all well mixed.
  5. Add the cream carefully, it will bubble up. Stir with a metal whisk until smooth.

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BONUS TIPS:

  • Add some salt to make salted caramel. I actually do this every single time!
  • Use on ice cream, toast, waffles or pancakes, even fruit (just yesterday, G used it to dip some apple slices and it was delicious!). The possibilities are endless!

Stuffed butternut squash

Autumn is here! And with it, fallen leaves, rainy days, shorter day-light hours, and EVERYTHING PUMPKIN! I’ve always had such a fascination with pumpkins and squashes, since they didn’t use to be that common where I grew up. As a matter of fact, I remember carving melons for Halloween instead, because pumpkins would be too difficult to find – and possibly expensive-. I have to give the credit of that idea to my mum, who was always finding creative ways to entertain me and my friends at parties. And as much as I love the summertime – that’s the summer child in me, born end of July in the Mediterranean – I go nuts as soon as I see the first signs of autumn available in the supermarket!

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So here goes: my first autumn-y recipe (and there’ll be many more to come!)

  • one butternut squash
  • 500g minced meat (I used beef)
  • 1 big onion or 2 small ones
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt and pepper
  • sumac
  • sweet paprika powder
  • rosemary, sage, or any other herb you might like
  • grated cheese
  1. Wash the butternut squash and slice in half. Roast in the oven at 200º for about an hour, or until a fork can go through the flesh without resistance. Let cool enough to handle.
  2. Slice the onion thinly and caramelize.
  3. Brown the garlic clove in with the onion, and pick it out before it burns. This will give it flavour without it being too overpowering.
  4. Add the mince to the onion together with the sumac and sweet paprika powder, season to taste and cook to medium. Turn the heat off. If you don’t like your meat medium, it will continue cooking later in the oven, so don’t worry about it!
  5. Take the butternut squash halves and hollow them out as if to make “boats”. Add the flesh to the mince and onion and roughly mix.
  6. Scoop out the mix and fill the squash, and add grated cheese on top. Put in the oven at 200º for another 10-15 minutes, and you’re good to go!

BONUS TIPS:

  • There’s a wide variety of cheeses you can use to mix this recipe up: gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, feta, old Amsterdam…
  • Same goes for the herbs and spices: sage and rosemary are my favourites for this recipe, but oregano also pairs very well, and so do cinammon and cumin.
  • You could also knock yourself out and add two teaspoons of brown sugar to the onion while it’s caramelizing. This will give it such a contrast of flavours!

Chicken mayonnaise

 

Another family treasure: the chicken mayonnaise or leftover mayonnaise. Or the how-to-make-leftovers-into-another-meal base recipe.

My dad used to make this a lot when I was little, and before him my grandmother, and before that my great grandmother. This is another one of those recipes that I’ve taken over by now. It’s perfect for the day after a chicken roast or a fish dinner. It’s also quite a fuss-free meal – my favourite!-. The face my brother and me would make when dad said we were having this for dinner said it all! It’s easy to make, perfect for hot weather, but still hearty enough for a winter meal as well. And the best is that you can put it together with a wide variety of side dishes, depending on how healthy you want to be.

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That seasoning tho… Here I used garlic powder, sweet paprika, salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice

You’ll start this recipe with the basic mayonnaise recipe that you can find here.

  • Homemade mayonnaise
  • Leftover chicken or fish, clean and without bones
  • Some olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, herbs and spices to taste
  1. Shred the leftovers by pulsing them in a food processor. Alternatively you can chop them up really small.
  2. Once you have a mince of sorts, pour one or two tablespoons of oil and mix well.
  3. Add the mayonnaise and mix together until it has a paste consistency, sort of a spread. I tend to add the mayonnaise a few tablespoons at a time, to make sure I get the right consistency instead of adding it all at once. It depends on how big the amount of leftovers is.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste, and any other herbs or spices you like.

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BONUS TIPS:

  • This is where you get creative. Curry and dijon mustard are two favourites of mine (not together though!). Basil, rosemary, cilantro, sundried tomatoes… Feel free to experiment, I’ll be happy to read your comments telling me what you discovered!

 

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Homemade mayonnaise

Mayonnaise, I find that there’s nothing like it – if it’s self made. For me, homemade mayonnaise is a comfort food. One of those things that I could always count on either my grandmother or my mum to be able to whip up in no time. I was passed on this torch when I was 14.

While my mum taught me the recipe over the phone, I very carefully whipped an egg yolk with some olive oil and made my very first batch of mayo ever.

One weekend, we were having some friends and family over at my dad’s, and one of my aunties mentioned my grandmother’s famous homemade mayonnaise. Everyone went “Ohhhhh yummmm” at unison. My dad asked me if my mum had taught me, and when my answer was no he shoved the phone on my ear to get cracking.
While my mum taught me the recipe over the phone, I very carefully whipped an egg yolk with some olive oil and made my very first batch of mayo ever. Everyone who was there that day said it was great, but the best compliment came from my uncle Jorge. He said it tasted exactly like his grandmother’s. And so the story goes: my great grandmother taught it to her daughter, my grandmother, who in turn taught it to her daughter-in-law, my mum, and thus the recipe was passed onto myself. I feel very proud to have been trusted with it, and ever so slightly reluctant to share it like this, but I won’t be selfish. It’s too good not to share and spread the love!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • one egg
  • olive oil (or any other good quality oil such as sunflower or rapeseed)
  • some salt and pepper, and lemon juice
  • garlic, fresh or powdered (optional)
  • a deep plate and a fork, and a kitchen towel
  1. Place the towel on the countertop, and the plate on top so it won’t slide.
  2. Separate the yolk from the white, and reserve the white in the fridge (see step 7).
  3. With the yolk in the plate sprinkle some salt and add one tablespoon of olive oil, and thoroughly mix with the fork in a circling motion. Make sure the yolk and the oil have mixed well before you continue each step.
  4. Continue adding one tablespoon oil each time, again making sure it’s completely mixed before adding anymore.
  5. If you add too much oil at once, tilt the plate to the side and try and scrape off the oil to use later. Don’t mix too much oil with the egg all at once or your mayo will separate. It can be hard to get it to mix again once it’s separated, it usually means starting all over.
  6. Repeat step 4 as many times as you can (there’s only so much oil one egg will mix with). If you see that it’s getting too oily, that’s your clue that the mayo is done. Eventually your mayo will get thicker, that’s another way to know that your doing it right.
  7. This is an optional step: retrieve the reserved egg white, and pour one tablespoon at a time, mixing it well with the mayo. This will soften the consistency and make it runnier. I like it more on the thick side, but my mum prefers it runnier. It’s just a matter of taste!
  8. Finally add salt and pepper to taste, and I personally love to add a dash of lemon juice – gives it a nice tangy kick-. Mix well and serve.

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Ready to eat up! It’s great with french fries, the way the Germans and Dutch eat them, with different types of salad, or you can use it to make one of my famous leftover mayo meals.

BONUS TIPS:

  • For those garlic lovers out there, join the club! If you have fresh garlic, you can mash it using a mortar and pestle, a garlic crusher, or just a sharp knife, and add it to the mayo to give it an allioli flavour. If you have powdered garlic, just add as much as you like directly to the mix.
  • If you want to make a bigger batch, you’ll need more eggs and oil. Just follow the recipe as is, and once you’ve finished a one-egg mayo, add more egg yolks and continue adding oil until your batch is big enough.

*Note: Some people might find homemade mayonnaise too “eggy”, and to those people I would say that they probably don’t really like eggs and should therefore stay away from real mayonnaise. Stick to the store-bought or whichever floats your boat!