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.

 

 

 

 

Spiced Nut Buckwheat Cookies

Does anyone else have days when they could just eat a whole packet of chocolate digestives? I certainly do, when I’m tired, William is cranky and I feel deserving of a treat I often feel like reaching for the biscuit tin. There are two major problems with this though. firstly, my biscuit tin actually doesn’t exist, I try not to buy food like biscuits or crisps as having them in the house means I would eat them! Secondly, a whole packet of chocolate digestives, great though it sounds, really never feels like a treat afterwards. I don’t ever deny myself food, and I hate reading terms such as ‘guilt-free’ or worse, the dreaded slimming world term ‘syn’. Food isn’t something to feel guilty about, and it certainly isn’t a sin. I think its really upsetting that people feel this way about food; for me, all food, healthy and not-so healthy, is something to be savoured and enjoyed, not labelled.

Having said this, I do enjoy eating healthily and love nothing more than being able to create delicious treats that provide some nutritional benefit as well as calories. The packet of digestives really doesn’t provide any nutritional value and for me this is what makes them not such a great choice. I also get far more pleasure eating something if I have made it myself, it feels more deserving.

This week has been incredibly busy with renovations in the barn. We are supposed to be moving into it by September and at the moment its a building site! Progress is being made, but as with all building projects, delays creep in. This is also the first renovation project we have undertaken whilst having William. It is making it much harder for me to help out as at the moment its not safe enough to let Will crawl around in. I have been trying to get some jobs done in the evening, once my husband is in to babysit. By 9 o’clock I’m ready to drop and love nothing more than a biscuit and a big ol’ cuppa!

These biscuits certainly fit the bill! They are crunchy around the edge with a slight cookie chew in the middle, and are so tasty. To make them suitable for babies I have modified a recipe that was given to me years ago. They are free of refined sugar, gluten and dairy, but none of this impacts the flavour, they taste just lovely and due to the nuts and buckwheat they are healthier than a standard biscuit. Buckwheat is related to rhubarb and is a complete protein, while nuts are a great source of vitamin E and healthy fats, brilliant for growing little ones. They are fast to make and cook in 10 minutes so they are easy to whip up when the need for a biscuity treat strikes. I’m still not suggesting you eat the lot in one go though!

Ingredients

This makes 12 medium sized biscuits or lots of smaller ones

  • 150g nut butter, I prefer to use cashew but almond works well too
  • 60g buckwheat flour
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1 medium egg
  • 30ml agave syrup or maple syrup
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/3 tsp ground nutmeg

Method 

  • Weigh the nut butter and place in a bowl, stir it until it becomes a smooth even texture
  • Add the egg and syrup, stir to combine
  • Add all the dry ingredients
  • The mixture should come together like a slightly shiny playdough
  • Grab the dough and place on a large square of cling film
  • Roll into a sausage using the cling film to seal together (shown below)

 

  • Place this in the fridge to firm up for 30 mins or so, you don’t have to do this but it does make the biscuits easier to cut
  • Since rounds off the biscuit roll and peel off the cling. Each biscuit should be around 0.3-0.5cm thick
  • Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes at 180 C. The biscuits should be golden and firming up with a little softness in the middle.
  • Leave to cool on their baking tray.

Roast Aubergine & Tomato Soup

img_6131-e1499974362467.jpg

Will has been really poorly with an ear infection. It’s the first time he has been properly unwell (thankfully) and it has been horrible. He had a fever that wouldn’t come down with painkillers and it worried me a lot. As a pharmacist, I thought I would be calm and controlled when my child was ill but if anything it makes me even more neurotic! I also, despite being surrounded by medicines every day, hate to give him things if I can avoid it, so when he was given antibiotics I was weirdly disappointed – a completely stupid emotion as within two doses he had perked up no end and his temperature was back to normal. There is such negative stigma attached to antibiotics and it’s completely unfounded; of course they should only be used when needed, but when they are needed they are incredible, life saving medicines that we should thank our lucky stars for! Although he has been feeling better, he still hasn’t been his usual bubbly self and its been upsetting to see.

Anyway, as I was feeling hopeless at making my little man feel better I focussed on what I could do, making him some soothing, nutritious food. Soup is my go-to food when anyone is ill. Its quick to make, comforting, healthy and can be eaten at literally any time of day. Soups have always been a regular meal in our house, but even more so since we became parents. I love to batch cook soups and freeze portions to have for lunches or late suppers. Its also great to have something that is quick to reheat and can be eaten with one hand (or put in a mug when you have a cluster feeding newborn)!

This particular soup is a firm favourite in our house. It really showcases summer vegetables so it is perfect for this time of year. The aubergine gives the soup a wonderful creamy texture which works beautifully to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes without having to add sugar. This soup is also able to make even the most tasteless, unripe supermarket tomatoes taste delicious. Although it goes without saying that the better your tomatoes, the better the flavour will be.

Soups are also a marvellous way of sneaking extra vegetables into children or babies. I spoon-feed Will food like this (my kitchen or my type A personality wouldn’t cope if he fed himself soup!) To encourage him to feed himself as well, I give him bread soldiers that have been dunked in the soup for him to chew on. I also added some live natural yoghurt to Will’s to give him back some of the good bacteria the antibiotics may have taken!

Any leftovers can obviously be frozen but this soup also works perfectly as a pasta sauce, two recipes in one!

Ingredients

  • 1 aubergine, chopped into chunks
  • 5 fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • pinch of fresh or dried oregano
  • pinch of mixed herbs
  • black pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Method

  • Chop the aubergine and tomatoes and place in an oven tray to roast with the dried herbs and a drizzle of olive oil
  • Roast them at 180C until they are soft and browning
  • Peel and finely slice the red onion and sweat in a saucepan on a  low heat until it is translucent
  • Add the oven roasted tomato and aubergine to the saucepan with the onion, rinse out the oven tray with some water and pour into the saucepan so you lose no flavour
  • Add the tin of tomatoes and a little water
  • Simmer for 15 minutes
  • Season to taste and blend, adding water until you reach your desired consistency.

 

This obviously isn’t an adult bowl of soup, but ours was eaten very late and I was too hungry for the camera!