A Hearty Corned Beef Soup

 Corned Beef Soup

Corned Beef Soup by The Fat Foodie’s Mum

The weather’s been overcast and freezing for days now, requiring us to put the heating on to combat the thick layer of thorn-like crisp frost that’s coating the world outside. It seems weird to feel so chilly when it’s only late November, but the other day I decided something warming would have to be on the cards for lunch after nipping out to bring in my frozen washing (which I had to break as if it was made of strong cardboard in order to fit it back in the washing basket).

I had a rummage around in the fridge and cupboards, but no inspiration struck. However, a glance in the freezer unearthed a carton of Mum’s family-famous corned beef soup, a hearty meal-in-a-bowl that’s guaranteed to warm a person up from the inside out. As Mum would say, her corned beef soup is a soup that really ‘sticks to your ribs’.

I remember having this soup one evening in late autumn when I was a young teenager. We lived in Dumfries and Galloway (the part of Scotland with the highest rainfall level on a yearly basis) and on this particular day my Dad had swung by in the car after he’d finished work to pick me and my brother up from school on his way home because the rain was so heavy that it was falling to the pavement and then bouncing back up to knee level. After relishing the warmth of the car we arrived home and, after changing out of our sodden school uniform and getting into our nightwear and dressing gowns, we joined Mum and Dad in the kitchen for dinner. The relief and excitement I felt when I realised that we were having Mum’s amazing hot corned beef soup for dinner was overwhelming and I remember feeling sorry for some of my friends whose fathers demanded a full, roasted meat-centric dinner every evening and being wholeheartedly grateful that I was blessed with a family that could come together over a simple cooking pot full of soup.

Corned beef soup is really easy to make and it’s packed full of flavour. You can adapt the vegetables to suit whatever you have on-hand to use up in the fridge. For instance, if you have them to use up, turnip, leeks and parsnips work well in this recipe. It’s perfect served with a generous slice (or two) of nice, fresh, yeasty bread slathered in plenty of good salted butter.

As a rule, I don’t really like brown sauce, but in this case I can highly recommend adding a little dollop of HP Sauce to your bowl, as evidenced in the photo, because it adds a lovely deep, fruity, vinegary note to the soup. Regardless of whether you add the HP sauce to your bowl or not, as my Mum would say, after a bowl of this soup ‘your cockles will soon be warmed up’.

Ingredients:

2 tins of good quality corned beef

3 large carrots

3 potatoes

2 or 3 Oxo cubes (to taste)

1.5 litres of hot water

Method:

Chop up your vegetables into bite-sized pieces (or grate them) and put them in a large soup pot.

Add enough hot water so it just covers the vegetables and bring to the boil.

Chop up your corned beef and add it to the pot.

Simmer gently until your veg is cooked and then add the stock cubes one at a time, tasting after stirring each one in to make sure you don’t over-season the soup. (You might not need all 3 stock cubes, depending on your personal taste.)

After simmering it for a wee while longer serve it with good bread and butter.





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Falafel (serves 4)

Falafel made by The Fat Foodie

Falafel made by The Fat Foodie

I was looking through my Happy Pear cookbook the other day to find a recipe of theirs that I hadn’t yet cooked and I came across their version of falafel. I had some lovely Mediterranean herb wraps from Morrison’s in the house which needed used up so I decided to give this a go. This is definitely the easiest recipe for falafel I’ve ever encountered. You don’t even need to fry them, you just whizz all of the ingredients together in a food processor, mould them into balls, and then pop them in the oven to bake for 20 mins or so.

Argos recently did a promotion and I received a £10 gift voucher as part of the offer, so I decided to treat myself to a food processor. I’ve always resisted buying one because I’ve never thought I’d really use it, but I have to be honest and say that it’s made my cooking a lot easier, particularly when preparing dishes which have lots of vegetables or pulses in them. I did quite a bit of investigation into the machines before I settled on my chosen one, but all of the features and customer reviews led me to purchase the cheapest one on sale (an Argos budget Cookworks one) and I’m really happy with it.

The reason for this slight digression is because I wanted to stress that with the aid of a food processor I made the falafel in under 10 minutes. The hummus took another 5. For me, that’s £25 well spent. (I’ve also used it to make cakes and biscuits and the results have been excellent.)

As you can see in the photo, I served the falafel on Mediterranean wraps and accompanied them with beetroot hummus and a carrot salad. This combination resulted in a hearty, but light and fresh, wrap which was filled with a myriad of textures and tastes. I also had the beetroot hummus for lunch the following day on a piece of toast with diced avocado and it was divine. As far as I’m concerned, long live the Happy Pear!

Ingredients:

For the falafel:

2 tins of chickpeas (drained and mashed)

1/2 a fresh chilli (finely chopped)

50g coconut concentrate (the blocks you can buy)

2 tbsps ground flax seeds (aka linseeds)

2 tsps ground cumin

A small bunch of fresh coriander (chopped)

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

1/2 a red onion (diced)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

The juice of 1 lemon

50g toasted cashew nuts (finely chopped)

For the beetroot hummus:

5 cloves of garlic (minced)

3 tins of chickpeas (drained and mashed)

150ml lemon juice (approximately the juice of 3 lemons)

6 tbsps of light tahini

2 1/2 tsps salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin

9 tbsps water

1 or 2 grated beetroots (depending on how ‘rooty’ you want your hummus to taste. I used the vacuum-packed cooked, but not vinegared, ones.)

For the carrot salad:

Grate 2 large carrots into a bowl.

Sprinkle the juice of 1/2 a lemon over the carrots and mix in 1/2 a tsp of ground cumin and 2 tbsps of sunflower seeds.

Method:

To make the falafel:

Put your cashew nuts in a frying pan and toast them until they are lightly browned.

If you have a food processor just chuck all of the falafel ingredients into the mixing bowl without preparing them at all and blend until it’s mostly smooth. If not, prepare the ingredients as directed and then mix them all together in a large bowl.

Form little golfball-sized falafel patties and bake them in the oven for about 20 mins or until they’re golden brown.

To make the hummus:

Again, if you have a food processor just chuck all of your hummus ingredients into the mixing bowl and whizz together until smooth and blended.

If not, prepare the hummus ingredients as directed and then mash them all together in a large bowl.

Serve your falafel with wraps or toasted pitta breads, salsa, guacamole or avocado slices, hummus, tzatziki, cubes of feta cheese, salad or whatever takes your fancy.

Beetroot Hummus made by The Fat Foodie

Beetroot Hummus made by The Fat Foodie

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The Happy Pear’s Puy Lentil Coconut Dahl (serves 4-6)

Puy Lentil Coconut Dahl

Puy Lentil Coconut Dahl

This is without doubt the tastiest recipe I’ve cooked so far from either of The Happy Pear’s cookbooks. It’s incredibly easy to make and doesn’t take long to cook, but it is so rewarding in flavour. It’s packed full of rich coconut and works really well with the vegetables they’ve suggested.

Puy lentils are little French greeny-slate blue coloured pulses which are only grown in the Le Puy region of France. They’re considered to be the king of all lentils because they have a unique delicate nutty, peppery flavour.

The beauty of using Puy lentils is that they keep their shape upon cooking so, unlike a normal Indian red lentil dahl which pulps down into a paste upon cooking, the Puy lentils retain their body and unique texture. You can buy Puy lentils from most supermarkets now. I’m particularly fond of Merchant Gourmet’s lentils because I think they have a really good nutty taste, but any Puy lentil will do.

Yes, I’ll admit the ingredients list for this dish is long, but if you enjoy good hearty richly-flavoured curries, vegetarian food, or coconut I’d encourage you to give this recipe a go because it’s truly outstanding. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Ingredients:

3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

1 butternut squash (peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces)

3 large potatoes (peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces)

1 leek or 1 onion (finely chopped)

400g Puy lentils (or other green or brown lentils)

2 tbsps. oil

1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

2 ½ tsps. of salt

6 tbsps. of soy sauce

The juice of 1 lemon

1 head of pak choi (cut into bite-sized pieces)

150g cherry tomatoes or 2 normal tomatoes (cut into bite-sized pieces)

Spices:

2 ½ tbsps. ground coriander

2 ½ tbsps. ground cumin

½ tsp ground black pepper

2 tsps. ground turmeric

2 tsps. ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tsps. curry powder

1 tsp paprika (not smoked!)

A pinch of chilli powder or 1/3 tsp of chilli flakes

Method:

Put the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and once it’s hot, add the garlic and leek/onion and fry for 5 mins.

Add all the spices and fry for another 3 mins, stirring all the while. (If they start to stick to the pan, turn the heat down and add a little bit of water to loosen it.)

Add to the pan the butternut squash, potatoes, coconut milk, tinned tomatoes, salt, soy sauce, lemon juice, the lentils and 1 litre of water.

Simmer for between 30 mins to 1 hour, stirring regularly. (Basically it’s cooked once the lentils are soft when you bite them.)

Add the pak choi and fresh tomatoes to the pan and cook for another couple of mins. If you think the dahl is too thick then just add a bit of boiling water until it’s the consistency you’d prefer.

Season with salt and pepper as required and serve with naan bread or poppadums.

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The Happy Pear’s Puy Lentil and Coriander Bake (serves 6-8)

Lentil and Coriander Bake

Lentil and Coriander Bake

I’ve been dying to try this Happy Pear cookbook recipe for ages, but I’ve never had enough fresh coriander in the house to make it, so when I picked some up the other day I decided that it was time to try this bake. Let me tell you, it was sooooo tasty! It’s very hearty because it’s packed full of well-seasoned Puy lentils, but it’s not stodgy in any way and the large amount of coriander makes it taste incredibly fresh and keeps it surprisingly light.

The recipe calls for carrots and green beans to be stirred through the lentil base, which breaks up the starchiness of the lentils and keeps each mouthful varied, and the addition of a layer of crisp, melted cheddar on the mashed potato topping really adds texture to the meal. I added 100g of soft cheese (Philliadelphia) to my mash because I had some in the fridge that needed used up, but I’d happily add it again the next time I make it because it made the potato much richer and really creamy.

I served this on its own in a bowl because I felt that it didn’t need anything at all to accompany it. At a push I might serve it with crispy potato wedges when I make it again (and I definitely will!). The recipe produces a large flat casserole dish worth of food, leaving lots of leftovers, but thankfully it’s a comforting meal in a bowl that’ll taste even better the next day.

Ingredients:

2 carrots (cut into bite-sized pieces)

150g green beans (cut into thirds)

250g potatoes (cut into bite-sized pieces)

750g sweet potatoes (cut into bite-sized pieces)

400g Puy lentils

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp of dried thyme

2 tsps salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

50ml soy sauce

100g Philliadelphia

150g of grated cheddar

For the pesto:

50g fresh coriander

3 cloves of garlic

1 tsp salt

100ml sunflower/vegetable oil

100ml water

Method:

Prepare the vegetables as directed in the ingredients list.

For the potato topping: Put the sweet potato and normal potato into a big pot filled with salted boiling water and put on the stove to boil. Simmer until they are tender and then drain. Add the soft cheese to the potatoes and mash them. Season with salt and pepper to your own taste.

For the lentils: Rinse the lentils and place them in a large pot along with the carrots, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, soy sauce, and 1 litre of hot water. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Cook for about 25-30 mins or until all the liquid has been absorbed by the lentils.

Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, gas mark 6.

Put your fresh coriander (the leaves as well as the stalks because the stalks have loads of flavour in them too) in a food processor, Nutribullet, or blender and add the garlic cloves, salt, oil and water. Blend until liquid.

Stir the coriander pesto through the lentils and add the green beans. Put in your casserole dish, top with the mashed potato and sprinkle the grated cheddar over the top.

Bake for about 25 mins or until the cheddar is nice and crisp and golden brown. And enjoy!

Lentil and Coriander Bake

Puy Lentil and Coriander Bake

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Delia’s Spiced Apple and Pecan Crumble Cake

Apple and Pecan Crumble Cake

Apple and Pecan Crumble Cake

A while ago, I was killing time before I started work and I picked up a bag of apples to take in for the staff room. After watching them sit untouched for two days I realised that they weren’t going to get eaten unless they were transformed into something a bit more appetising. As a result, I brought them home with me that night and the following day I transformed them into a spiced apple cake.

Years ago, my partner and I visited her aunt who served us each a delicious slice of apple cake to accompany our coffee. It was a really unusual cake because it had a crisp, crumbly, nutty topping. When I asked her for the recipe she admitted that it was, in fact, a Delia Smith recipe taken from her classic cookbook Delia’s Complete How To Cook.

As with all good cakes, the memory of it remained entrenched in my taste buds, so when I was searching for inspiration for something exciting to do with the excess apples I’d brought home this cake popped into my head.

Delia describes this as an apple muffin cake, but asks for a number of convoluted steps to be taken to ensure it rises with a light and airy muffin texture. I don’t have the time (or the inclination) for that. I just made it as I would with any normal sponge cake and it turned out just fine.

It’s a gorgeous cake, particularly if you serve it warm with ice cream, but it’s best eaten quite quickly because the crumble topping loses its crispness as days go by.

Ingredients:

350g diced apples (weight after peeling and coring)

75g sugar

175ml milk

110g butter

275g plain flour

1 tbsp plus 1 level teaspoon baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon

1 level tsp ground cloves

½ a whole nutmeg, grated

2 eggs

For the pecan crumble topping:

50g chopped pecans

75g self-raising flour

75g demerara sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

25g butter

A tbsp. or two of water

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, gas mark 5.

Grease, or line with greaseproof paper, a large cake tin.

Place the flour, sugar and cinnamon from the pecan topping in a bowl and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the chopped pecans. Add the water a little at a time until it just starts to clump together. Remember, you’re aiming for the loose texture of a crumble topping, not a dough.

In a separate large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and then add the eggs, milk, salt and spices and mix again.

Add the flour and baking powder and mix again.

Fold the apple pieces into the cake mix.

Pour the cake batter into your cake tin and then evenly sprinkle your crumble topping over the cake mixture.

Bake for a good 1 hour 15 mins or so. You’ll know it’s cooked when a skewer pushed into the very middle of the cake comes out clean.

Best eaten slightly warm with a dollop of whipped cream, crème fraiche, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Apple and Pecan Crumble Cake

Apple and Pecan Crumble Cake

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