Pork and Pear

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I haven’t been a big meat eater historically. In fact there have been many periods of months at a time when the only non-vegetarian thing I’ve eaten has been parmesan cheese. But I’m not vegetarian and as I’m trying to broaden my eating habits and diet, more meat is inevitably going to be consumed.

It feels wrong when the majority of the population are cutting down on meat consumption to be increasing my own but there we have it, and it’s not like I’m eating meat at every meal, or even every day.

But this was dinner today. Soften a sliced onion and a sliced (small, hard) pear in a little oil. Get a pan of water boiling for the rice and veg (what can I say – I cook them together because I’m a lazy cook and have to do my own washing up!). When the onion and pear are starting to soften, add sliced pork (mine was simply sold as trimmed medallions) and seal both sides. Start the rice cooking, add the sour cream (I used 50g) to the pork and simmer, adding seasoning to taste. I added a little slaked cornflour to thicken but I’m not really sure it did! Add a little water if necessary. Add the veg about five minutes before the rice is done.
Serve and enjoy!

Pork and Pear

Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal

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As a child my tastes were fairly unadventurous. Our diet was varied but very much based on standard British classics; shepherd’s pie, roast dinner, mince. Along with things like soup and baked beans. Perhaps I’m doing my hardworking mum a disservice but with two fussy children I don’t blame her for giving us things we’d eat.

As a teenager I branched out a little more and then I was lucky enough to go away to university. Now it seems to me that for most people, leaving for university is an opportunity to try new things in all walks of life, break free of previous expectations and routines. And mostly people tend to become more adventurous in what they’ll eat when they leave home. Sadly this wasn’t the case for me and my already somewhat limited repertoire shrank considerably. There were a number of reasons for this, but I don’t think I’ll go into them right now.

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Anyway, this is building up to me confessing that this is the first time I’ve ever made anything with Indian spices in it for myself (and pretty much the only time I’ve eaten them – aside from a very small amount of curry about eight years ago!).

This recipe seemed like a good place to start – I’ve been having a love affair with spinach recently, having discovered that frozen spinach is fairly cheap, always to hand and defrosts quickly into whatever I add it to. It also doesn’t feel like I’m eating extra vegetables but I am. Bonus! And I know that I enjoy sweet potatoes – mostly roasted, but probably any way they come really.

I found the recipe whilst browsing through the archives of Herbivores’ Heaven, which is a lovely blog; well written and interesting to read. The recipe was originally a BBC Good Food one, but is no longer available on their website. And I adapted it from what was given anyway to take account of the fact that I wasn’t sure whether I would like the flavour of the spices. Be warned, if you know you like spice then you probably won’t even taste the amounts given here! Even I didn’t think it was warm in terms of chilli heat so next time I’ll increase all of the spices.

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Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal
Place 50g red lentils, 1 finely chopped onion, 1/4tsp turmeric, 1/4tsp garam masala, pinch chilli flakes, 1/2tsp stock powder, 2 chopped tomatoes and 250ml boiling water in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add a chopped sweet potato (mine weighed 140g after prep, 225g before prep) and simmer for a further 10 or so minutes (I’m rubbish at taking note of timings!) then add the frozen spinach (70g), mushing it in well until it’s defrosted and distributed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
I served mine with basmati rice.

This was delicious – I loved the gentle spicy flavours with the colourful vegetables. There is some left over and I am very much looking forward to eating it at some point in the future and I will make it again too, always the sign of a successful recipe.

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I’m going to link into a few blog challenges with this one. Firstly Meat Free Mondays hosted by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes. This recipe is vegan and rather unusually for me, I didn’t miss the cheese that I usually add to everything I eat! I’m looking forward to trying more recipes like this. I’m adding it to Credit Crunch Munch with Helen and Camilla hosted this month by Baking Queen 74. Red lentils and frozen spinach are definitely economical. As my sweet potato was apparently best before *ahem* the 4th April, I think I can count this as an entry to No Waste Food Challenge! Hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary. And finally it will be an entry into the Spice Trail where the theme this month is Spice Mixes. I’ve not used garam masala before and really wasn’t sure of it when I opened the pot but added to all of the other ingredients it was really lovely. I’ll be using it again.

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Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Risotto

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Obviously, this isn’t a picture of roasted butternut squash and red pepper risotto – it’s mushroom and sundried tomato risotto. I decided that the photo of the former was not particularly attractive so there we have it; I will leave you to imagine what my bowl of sunshine yellow risotto with red peppers looked like.

Risotto is another of my favourite meals to have. I haven’t been all that adventurous with risotto, but regulars at my dinner table are mushroom risotto and courgette risotto, usually with sundried tomatoes added and occasionally bits of sausage or chicken, depending on whether the mood takes me or not.

This was a bit of a departure and featured roasted butternut squash (BNS because I’m lazy) and roasted red and yellow peppers (I roast these in batches and then freeze them – they’re really handy to have to throw into all sorts of meals and add colour and hopefully nutrients too!). And I added the sundried tomatoes too – I like their chewy texture, their flavour and I have quite a few in the cupboard to work through at the moment.

Preheat the oven, peel and deseed the BNS, rub with some oil and roast until tender. I wasn’t really paying attention to the timing for this but probably about 45 minutes at about 170C ish. I started roasting the BNS just before I started the risotto. Soften the onion (I used a red one because when I cut into my white onion it looked a bit weird) in some oil and then add the (risotto) rice. Stir until well coated with the oil and then when it sounds like it’s cracking a bit add some dry sherry. Add sundried tomatoes if you fancy. Add stock, stirring occasionally (it’s too much effort to stir all the time!) until the rice is soft to your liking. l don’t like al-dente rice so the 20-25 minutes on the packet is never long enough. Reserve some of the roasted BNS to cut into cubes to garnish and then add the rest of the roasted BNS near to the end, mashing it in well so that the pot turns golden. I added the roasted peppers close to the end of the cooking time but actually, next time I defrost and warm them through some other way because the stirring made them fall apart completely. Finish the risotto with a generous amount of grated parmesan.

Pretty successful though I still have a preference for mushroom or courgette! Out of interest my stock powder of choice is Kallo at the moment. It doesn’t contain garlic and I really, really don’t like garlic. So it’s a winning choice.

I’m going to link this to ‘Extra Veg’ a blogging challenge to encourage us all to add veg to our diets. I’m lucky that there are plenty of veggies that I really enjoy eating but this recipe would be a great way of getting more veg into your family meals! Hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary this month and founded by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

OK, I relent, photo is below….

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Risotto