Butternut Squash Houmous 

I’ve been rather silent this week as we are currently in the middle of renovating the barn we are moving into. We only have 4 weeks to finish it so it’s been rather hectic! At the moment it’s seems miles off being finished but I’m assured it will be ready on time! All our spare time has been spent painting, sanding and doing general donkey work to speed the job up. I wouldn’t mind moving into a house that wasn’t finished a few years ago, but now we have Will I am much more anxious that things are finished. Busy baby who is furniture cruising and into everything plus building site- no thank you! In fact, the whole moving with a baby scenario is bonkers. Filling one box takes hours as Will likes to play boo/needs a feed/doesn’t want to pack! Every night I look at the house and wonder what I can actually pack- babies need a lot of things every day, it’s all going to have to be packed at the last minute.  I certainly haven’t stopped cooking though! If anything I’m cooking more as I find it a brilliant way to relax. 

I have made this particular recipe for years and years, but have avoided sharing it for one reason and one reason alone – the spelling of the word ‘houmous’! There are SO many versions out there and I simply wasn’t sure what to write. Then I made it the other day and Will was such a huge fan of it that I decided to bite the bullet, choose a spelling and share the recipe. 
Houmous features in our weekly meals quite often, I find it handy to keep in the fridge to add to sandwiches, salads or as an impromptu snack. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but having healthy snacks to hand really ensures I make better food decisions (most of the time – sometimes I still decide that a ginormous bar of cadburys whole nut is completely necessary)! 

While there is very little wrong with some shop bought versions, homemade really does taste better. I use my nutribullet to blitz the ingredients making it both quick and low on washing up (vital in my kitchen).  It can also be made from mostly store cupboard ingredients. 

Houmous is also an excellent food for babies and children. This version is full of protein and fibre from the chickpeas, and the butternut squash adds a lovely sweetness that children love. They can scoop it with their favourite vegis or breadsticks and it’s completely free of salt, stabilisers, preservatives or other unnecessary ingredients the shop bought offerings include. 

I have substituted the squash for carrots or sweet potato in the past, but the squash is my favourite. 

Ingredients

  • 400g butternut squash, in cubes
  • Half a can of chickpeas 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, skin on
  • 2 Tbsp tahini 
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 40ml extra virgin olive oil 
  • Sprinkle of smoked paprika

Method 

  • Peel and cube the butternut squash and roast in in a little olive oil with the garlic cloves until it is soft and browning at the edges (about 30 minutes)
  • Squeeze the garlic cloves to remove ththe sweet cooked garlic from their skins and place in the blender with the squash 
  • Drain the chickpeas and add them to blender with the lemon juice, tahini and olive oil. 
  • Blend until you have a textured paste 
  • Pop in th fridge to chill completely 
  • To serve I like to drizzle it with some more olive oil and some smoked paprika.

This is perfect with crudités or breadsticks as well as being great in wraps or as an accompaniment to a salad. It keeps in the fridge for 3 days if covered, although it’s normally eaten before this in our house! 

Well, that was my little break, now it’s time to choose bathroom tiles! 

Apple Crumble Bites 

Will was born last summer and this meant I started weaning him in January- the 25th of January to be exact. Someone bought us a baby record book and I have thanked them so many times as I have written so much down that I would otherwise have forgotten in my sleep-deprived new Mum fog! I loved the process of introducing him to food, both as purees and finger foods, but I really struggled with fruit. Winter fruit in Britain is awful, or I should say winter fruit in Britain that babies can eat is awful! I tried, on a number of occasions to buy melons or strawberries but buying these fruits out of season is a futile exercise – they tasted of swede! It seemed that the only fruits on his menu for the first month or two were apples, pears and dried fruits such as figs, prunes and apricots.

The other problem with winter fruit is that its not that suitable to eat as finger food. On numerous occasions I bought pears that actually went off before they became soft enough for my little one to gum, and raw apples were definitely not going to be suitable. Inspiration finally struck when I was making a crumble for a family lunch. It occurred to me that aside from at the sugar that most crumbles are filled with, it was a pretty baby-friendly pudding. I decided to deconstruct it and these apple crumble bites were the outcome.

The apple is baked and therefore soft enough for young babies to gum or chew, whilst the crumble coating is sugar free yet delicious and turns the humble apple chunk into a really tasty pudding or snack. These have now become a staple make in my kitchen. I offer them to Will on their own, or as an edible spoon with a yoghurt or fruit puree dip. My husband and I enjoy them with yoghurt and maple syrup, on top of rice pudding (amazing) or even with a bowl of warm custard! They are lovely warm or cold and keep well in the fridge for 48 hours.

The ingredients you need are limited, they are fast to make and healthy. They also increase the nutrient and calorie content of fruit for your little one- always good as they need plenty to keep them growing!

 

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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsps rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste, you could also use ginger)
  • 2 apples

 

Method

  • Peel and core 2 apples and chop each apple into 6 chunks
  • Place in an oven tray and pop in a preheated oven at 180c
  • In a small bowl combine the oats, ground almonds and cinnamon
  • After 5 minutes pull the apple out of the oven- it should be warmed through and ever so slightly damp, this will ensure the dry ingredients stick to it.
  • Ensuring the apple isn’t too hot to touch, coat each slice in the dry ingredients and place on a lined baking tray or a cupcake tray.
  • Bake at 180c for 15 minutes until the apple feels soft and the crumble coating is golden.img_6236

 Now that summer fruit is available I have been making these less. But I made them again the other day as the weather has turned really damp and grey here and we were all in need of something cozy for brunch. I fell in love with them all over again and had to share them with you.

What are your favourite ways to use apples? I’d love to hear!

 

Very Vegetable Chilli Con Carne

I think lots of people assume that because we live on a beef farm, we eat roast dinners every day. This couldn’t be further from the truth in our case; my husband and I often eat vegetarian meals, or meals that contain very little meat. In most of my cooking I aim for quality of meat over quantity. I try to by local, organic meat wherever possible. We are lucky to have an excellent butcher in the next village to us who supplies meat from local farms. I like to know where my food has come from and I do find the flavour to be superior, especially with minced meat. Minced beef that you get in a supermarket is okay, but I do find it lacking in any meaningful flavour. I would much rather buy beef and have it minced by the butcher in front of me. It can be more expensive but that is precisely why I choose to use less of it.

This recipe is a perfect example of just that. It won’t win any prizes for Mexican authenticity but its a delicious nutrient-dense powerhouse. It is also a brilliant way of sneaking extra vegetables into fussy eaters –  there are no less than 8 vegetables in this chilli!

It also makes a wonderful meal for babies or children. It can be blended or pulsed for those who are eating purees. If you can handle the mess utter carnage, you can feed it as finger food alongside flatbreads to dunk/scoop, or you can load spoons of it and hand them to your little one. However you choose to feed it, this chilli is packed with iron, protein and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals needed for their growth and development. I tend to pulse this for Will and add a spoon of full fat yoghurt to it, adding a little calcium hit and making it creamier.

I tend to make this with flatbreads (the most versatile bread dough) or simply with brown rice. Its also rather delicious on its own, in a bowl in front of the TV after a busy day!

Ingredients 

This quantity serves 6 people easily. I tend to cook in larger batches and freeze portions  for busy days. 

  • 500g lean minced beef
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled & chopped
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • 1 tin of pinto/kidney beans
  • 2 courgettes, grated
  • 1 large handful of chopped spinach
  • 1 1/2 peppers, deseeded & chopped
  • 6 tablespoons of lentils, red, green or puy – or a mixture of all three
  • A little oil for softening the onion and garlic

Spices- this is just a guide, its what I like to add. I remove Will’s and then add the chilli to just the adult portions, but it really is up to you.

  • 2 Tsp ground cumin
  • 1Tsp paprika
  • 1Tsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tsp chilli powder

 

Method

  • Brown your minced beef in a wide base frying pan
  • Finely chop the onion and garlic and sweat in a large saucepan using a little oil (I use olive oil) on a low heat. You don’t want them to colour, just soften.
  • Grate the courgette using a coarse grater
  • Chop the peppers finely
  • Once the onion and garlic have softened add the spices (except the chilli if making this for little ones) and stir on the heat until the aromas are released
  • Add the beef to the saucepan, as well as the peppers, grated courgette and lentils
  • Add two tins of tomatoes and one tin of drained beans
  • Add roughly a pint of water
  • Simmer on a low heat for around 45 minutes with a lid on. After this time the  lentils should be cooked and the sauce reduced slightly.
  • Before serving add the chilli if you haven’t already and the handful of spinach.