Chickpea and Butternut Tagine

Pumpkin season is nearly over already! I know that they are available pretty much any time of year now, but there’s something special about seasonal ingredients–where’s the fun when you can get them whenever you want?

So while the winter nights are still chilly I like to make this tagine. It’s the perfect feel-good food. 

Lately I’ve been under enormous amounts of pressure what with deadlines at university, writing the for the student magazine, freelance work, work experience (which is amaze-balls!!!), trying to sneak some exercise whenever I can… it’s a lot. And when I come home, I just don’t want to spend loads of time cooking something wonderful–I want it at a snap of my fingers! If only that could happen… 

If like me you get home tired or don’t have a lot of time to cook, you can roast the butternut in the morning while you have your breakfast (but don’t forget to switch off the oven before you leave the house!) and then cook the rest of the recipe when you get home. Cooking the couscous and vegetables takes less than 15 minutes if you use canned chickpeas. 

Serves two as a main meal, four as a side
Preparation: 10 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins

350g butternut squash (1 medium to small squash), sliced in half mo0ns, roasted for at least 30 minutes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil (canola or coconut will do fine)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 small chilli, seeds removed
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained
1-2 tbsp red wine (optional but definitely worth a try)
a pinch of cayenne and cinnamon
a pinch of dried parsley, to garnish
100g couscous, dry
100ml boiling water

Pour boiling water over the couscous in a heat-proof bowl and let sit while you cook.
Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat. Gently fry the cumin seeds and garlic for 3-5 minutes, until browned.
Add the red onion and chilli and cook till soft (5 minutes approx). The onion should start to caramelise. 
Add the cherry tomatoes, chopped tomatoes and chickpeas, and cook for five minutes. Add the roasted butternut squash and a few tbsp red wine, sprinkle over the spices, and cook for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are mellow and tender. 
The couscous will by now have absorbed all the water. Fluff it up with a fork–not a spoon, I beseech you. That’ll only make it clump together in a most unappealing way. Serve the hot vegetables over the couscous and enjoy immediately. 

I hope this helps you glide through the week with ease and peace of mind! If you’ve any tips or recipes to make weeknight dinners a breeze, share them in the comment below 🙂

The Cookie Fairy

Pick ‘N Mix Couscous

The other day at Odeon I noticed they had a different sort of pick ‘n mix on sale: yogurt-coated nuts. Finally a healthy option available at the cinema, even though I couldn’t have it. But it’s a start, I guess.

And it inspired this spur-of-the-moment recipe. I had all the ingredients necessary in my cupboard to living up some boring old couscous and I’m sure I could do the same with rice, barley or quinoa. It makes a lovely side dish at lunch, or if you half the recipe you could even have it as a snack. I might even bring some to the cinema to nibble on during a film…

Super easy to pack and goes beautifully with some roasted butternut squash sprinkled with cinnamon. 

Takes 10-12 minutes to make

Serves two as a side dish, four as a snack

100g dry couscous
200-250ml boiling water
40g sultanas
40g dried cranberries
zest of an orange
1 tsp grater ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
25g pine nuts
25g cashews or almonds
grated nutmeg (optional)
ground cloves (optional)

Place the dry couscous in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Let it sit for ten minutes so the couscous can absorb the water. When this is done add in the rest of the ingredients, stirring with a fork, not a spoon, so as to keep the couscous fluffy.

The Cookie Fairy

Walnut & Basil Pesto Pizza with Roasted Pepper & Artichoke Hearts

Sometimes I’m unfaithful to my darling Almond Butter. I love her to bits, but occasionally I sneak off to meet up with Pesto and we make the most sinfully scrumptious meals, Gnocchi alla Genovese being my absolute favourite, but I could honestly smear this delectable paste onto just about anything. When I was still in high school my favourite lunch used to be a brown bread baguette with pesto cream cheese and cress. Hmmm. Maybe I shall recreate that one in the future… 

In the meantime, I have been spreading it on my pizza. It’s been a while since I’ve made pizza and I was looking to do something more special than just the regular tomato sauce and vegan cheese. (I’ve discovered an excellent new brand, by the way, called Vegusto; they have the most amazing melty cheese that tastes better than the real stuff. Beware, it’s highly addictive and will most likely not make it onto your pizza because you’ll eat it straight from the package.) So Pesto, Bell Pepper and Artichoke Heart all got together to have a party on my pizza base, and let me tell you, it was a blast. 

Makes one 20cm pizza

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

1 packet of pizza flour (available in supermarkets)
125ml warm water
1/2 red bell pepper, finely sliced
1/2 can artichoke hearts
1 serving of pesto (see below)
nutritional yeast for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Prep all your ingredients and set aside. 
In a bowl combine the pizza flour and warm water with your hands, or use an electric mixer to keep your hands clean. Spray some oil on a clean surface. Flatten the dough onto the oiled surface with your hands, then roll it out with a rolling pin until is quite thin and has a diameter of 20cm. Transfer the pizza base onto a lined baking tray. 
Spread the pesto over the base, top with the vegetables and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. 

Walnut Basil Pesto

Prep time: 15 minutes total

1 big handful of fresh basil leaves
75g walnuts, soaked in water for 10 minutes
1 + 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
75ml olive oil

Process all ingredients in a blender or food process until it has the texture of a slightly grainy paste. Store in a jar in the fridge or use immediately. 

The Cookie Fairy

Minestrone Soup

Much soup was consumed when I was on holiday in Ireland. I blame–or maybe thank?–the weather for rekindling my love of soup: the seemingly constant drizzle and damp cold penetrate the very marrow of your bones, like it’s trying to turn you into the Snowman. Before you know it, you can hardly bend your little finger anymore and your nose begins to resemble a carrot. 

The antidote to this snowmanitis? Soup

A big bowl of luscious, steaming, fragrant soup, melting your snowy outer layers simply with its glow of health and wholesomeness. Can you tell I’m smitten? 

Minestrone has sneakily crept up in my diet more and more frequently in recent months and I now welcome it with open arms. Because of the pasta it counts as a full meal (although any soup counts as a full meal for me, since I always enjoy it with a big ol’ chunk of bread and double the amount of soup a regular person would have) that you can serve at home or at work if you bottle it in a thermos. What’s not to love?

Serves 4
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

200g any wholewheat pasta shape
1 red bell pepper
2 cans of plum tomatoes
1 courgette, sliced
750-800ml vegetable broth (or 800ml hot water mixed with 1 cube veg stock)
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 small chilis, deseeded and chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
200g carrots, sliced
200g mushrooms, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
Pepper, to serve
Basil, to serve

Boil some water in the kettle while you prep the vegetables. If you are using a long type of pasta shape, place the dry pasta in a plastic bag and smash it up with a rolling pin to create smaller shapes. 
Cook the pasta for 10-15 minutes (or according to package instructions). 
In a separate pot cook the carrots, celery and onion for 10 minutes in the vegetable stock before adding the mushrooms, garlic, courgette, pepper, chili and tomatoes and cook for an additional 10 minutes with the lid on. 
Stir the cooked pasta into the vegetable soup. Serve hot with some pepper and fresh basil. 

The Cookie Fairy

Lentil & Veg Mini Shepherd’s Pie

A classic comforting meal for the last couple of chilly months ahead. It’s very hearty and keeps you full for long–you know what they say, if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

I made the pies with these beautiful carrots. You don’t have to pick different colours (I know it’s hard, if not downright impossible, to find these kinds in supermarkets) but it’s fun to try something a bit more special than your normal orange carrots. 

Serve with a boatload of boiled peas (my favourite! I could eat these all day long).

Makes 10-12 little pies, or 1 big one
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes, if multi-tasking, plus 20 minutes baking

4 medium carrots
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
approx. 200ml vegetable stock
100g puy lentils
a knob of vegan margarine
1/2 leek

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Bring vegetable stock to the boil in a large saucepan.
Finely chop all vegetables and simmer in the vegetable stock for 15 minutes until soft. The stock should have been absorbed by the vegetables after this time. 
Cook the lentils separately for 25 minutes (or according to package instructions).
Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes until soft, then mash (either by hand of with a food processor). Add a little bit of vegan margarine to make them buttery if you wish. 
Butter the ovenproof pie dish(es). Combine all the vegetables and lentils and spoon them into the bottom of the dish(es). Cover with the mash and bake in the oven for 20 minutes (slightly longer if you are making one large pie). 

The Cookie Fairy

Mac ‘N Squash

So, those January blues… feeling them yet?

I had a really bad case of the January blues last year. When the sun came round early in March and we had that glorious month of sunshine and heat, I’d never felt better. To avoid that dip in my mood again I’m planning on filling the last winter months with lots of good food, fun activities and regular feel-good film nights. 

I know people often associate comfort foods with unhealthy ingredients; meals that leave you feeling bloated, sluggish and like you’ve swallowed an anvil. The sort of comfort food I’m talking about is more nutritious than that but still gives you the fuzzies when you need them most. 

Turn on the oven and switch on the fairy lights… it’s time to get cozy!

Serves 2 as a main meal, 4 with sides
Prep time: none
Cooking time: 10 minutes + 20 minutes

200g macaroni (or any pasta shape you have; I used wholewheat penne)
1 tbsp flour
1 generous tbsp vegan margarine
200ml non-dairy milk
4 tbsps nutritional yeast (nooch) + 1 tbsp to sprinkle
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mustard (optional)
1/2 can pumpkin puree, unsweetened
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. 
In a saucepan melt the margarine over medium to high heat, then add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine both (this creates what we call a ‘roux’.) Gradually pour in the non-dairy milk whilst continuously stirring. After a handful of minutes the sauce will begin to thicken. If it threatens to boil over, lower the heat a tad. 
You can now add the nooch, garlic powder and mustard to the sauce, stirring as you do so. When the sauce has thickened sufficiently, take the pan off the heat and stir in the pumpkin puree. 
When the pasta is cooked, drain the water but retain about half a cup of the cooking water, which you will stir into the sauce to bind it and thin it out if you have accidentally cooked it too long. 
Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir. At this point, you can serve the pasta if you can bear to wait no longer, but if you want a little more va va voom to your meal, pour the pasta and its sauce into a greased pie dish, sprinkle some nooch over the top and bake for 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180ºC. 

* The mustard gives the sauce a very cheesy flavour. If you want a milder flavour, omit the mustard. Additionally, if you do choose to use mustard, just use your favourite kind–I’m not too bothered about the whole English or Dijon thing. 
* Tip: keep stirring the sauce so it doesn’t burn or boil over. 
* If you’re still hanging on to Christmas and its trademark flavours, add less or no nooch at all and instead double the pumpkin puree and sprinkle a little bit of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves to the sauce. Omit the mustard, too. 

The Cookie Fairy

Gnocchi alla Genovese

I confess: this is where we go back to Nigella Lawson. I’ve steered clear of the Godess of Comfort Eating for several weeks now, but it is really time for her to make a come back. After all, now that we’re all reasonably well recovered from the New Year’s Eve hangover we’re having to face the dreaded New Year’s Resolutions and it gives us the heebie jeebies, so what’s a girl to do?

Pasta provides the answer, as always.

Well, gnocchi isn’t really pasta–it’s made of potatoes, which is why I have omitted the traditional boiled potatoes from this recipe. Nigella’s original recipe uses real pasta, adding pesto, potatoes, peas and green beans to the glorious dish. I wasn’t too keen on the whole double carb thing, and you don’t really need it, either, as the gnocchi are really the star ingredient here.

Serves 2 as a main, 4 with sides
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes

1 packet of gnocchi, 200g
two handfuls of frozen green beans
two handfuls of frozen peas
2-3 tbsp pesto (vegan pesto is always available in health stores, if not in a mainstream supermarket)
100ml soya cream (or non-dairy milk, if you can’t find any cream)

Steam the green beans and peas over a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. 
Pour the cream and pesto into a large pan to simmer. Add the gnocchi, stirring to cover them in creamy pesto sauce. Stir in the peas and beans, then serve while it’s still hot. 

This is honestly hands-down one of the easiest dishes I have ever made. It’s the perfect moreish weeknight dinner, when nothing but a bowlful of carbs and a creamy sauce will do. And since it contains vegetables, I deem it healthy… or healthy enough 😉 

The Cookie Fairy