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Warming, comforting, creamy potatoes.

Contributed by our volunteer resident foodie.

So this week I decided to write about rather underappreciated potatoes. I absolutely love a good potato. Cooked in the right way they don’t have to be the enemy either. They do contain sugars but did you know if you are dieting or trying to control your weight that the smaller ones contain less sugar? I found that interesting anyway. Right so a few health benefits for you all first. As much as I love talking about food, I also studied health and nutrition years ago and I love seeing what all of our amazing vegetables can do for our bodies.

*source of vitamin c (great in the winter where everyone and their granny is walking around with the sniffles) 

*good source of fibre which is good for the digestion

*they contain potassium which can help reduce blood pressure 

*contain b vitamins

*contains tryptophan which is an amino acid that can calm you down and help you sleep. As I wrote this I’m trying to justify a big bowl of chips with salt and vinegar for a midnight snack, dear lord

*They have no cholesterol in them so cooked properly can be good for the heart

*they include zinc, phosphorus and complex B vitamins that are good for neurological health

And finally…

*they are rich in calcium so good for your bone health. 

So now a few recipes.

Twice Baked Potatoes.

This is an absolute childhood favourite of mine and I forgot about them until recently. If you are dairy intolerant like me then you will know what substitutes work for you. You will need:

*potatoes, large enough to bake

*butter or spread

*a little milk

*your favourite melting cheese (like a cheddar, gruyere, parmesan if you feel fancy, brie, just anything you fancy, or whatever you have in the fridge ready) 

* spring onions or chives sliced finely

1. Simply bake your potatoes as you would normally and when soft and fluffy on the inside set aside to cool for a while until able to handle or if you are like me and impatient when you are hungry use a dish towel for stage two. 

2. Cut the potatoes in half and scopp out the middle into a bowl. Put in the butter, seasoning, cheese and spring pinions into the bowl as well and mash them all together. I just use a fork for this because I don’t want proper mashed potatoes inside but whatever you prefer is fine. If the mixture is a bit dry add a dash of milk into it. But do remember the cheese will melt so not too much milk.

3. Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins. Top them with extra cheese if you like. Pop them back into the oven until they are piping hot and bubbling and oozing with cheese and begging you to take them out the oven. (can anyone tell I really missed these potatoes?) serve as they are or with a side salad if you are feeling healthy. Although baked beans are a great comfort food option for this that are high in protein and fibre so not entirely bad for you. It’s November, sometimes comfort food is what you need. Your belly will thank you, and me!!!

Homemade Chips (Oven baked)

*potatoes such as king Edwards or maris pipers. Peel if you want to and chop into the size of chips you want to eat. 

*oil

*salt 

Now I know that seems really simple but it’s the cooking method that makes these so lovely. I have tried so many methods to get perfect chips that don’t stick to the oven tray and these are the best. 

1. Boil the kettle and place a pan on the hob with a little salt in it. Put the oil in a large oven tray and a place in a preheated oven. 

2. Place the potatoes into the boiling water and add the boiled water and rutern to the boil. For chunky chips let them boil for 3-4 mins but if you are doing skinny chips/fries, reduce this to about 2-2 and a half minutes. 

3. Drain the potatoes and spread out in an even layer on to either kitchen paper or a clean dish cloth. Let them steam until they are dry. This part is very important to get a golden crispy chip with a fluffy centre. 

4. Remove the tray with the heated oil and tip in the dried potatoes into it and mix thoroughly. I like to season them with a little salt now. 

*Please remember to tip these away from yourself because the oil should makes the chips sizzle as soon as they hit the pan. The oil can spit a bit and I can tell you from bitter experience that oil at that temperature splashing onto your eyelid at that temperature is not an enjoyable experience and you will probably look like you are winking at strangers for a few days while the burn heals.

5. Put the tray back in the oven for about 15-20 mins checking and turning half way through.

6. Serve with whatever you fancy. I’ve been known to just eat a bowl of these with ketchup but you could make your own chicken goujons with this. Gammon egg and chips, sausage and chips, burger and chips, anything you want to put with them. I love a homemade chilli with these chips and some cheese sprinkled over the top. Yummy. 

Potato and leek soup basic recipe

I’m going to write out my ingredients and the basic recipe I use that is totally dairy free but I will add some notes at the end for different ways to serve this. 

*floury potatoes like maris piper or kind Edward’s, peeled and cube

*veg or chicken srock

*onion, diced

*leeks, cut in half lengthways then rinsed thoroughly in case there is any dirt trapped between the leaves

1. Throw all the veg and stock into a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 mins until the potatoes are tender and the onions are cooked through. 

2. Check the seasoning. I love white pepper in this soup but if you prefer black then just use what you like. Ready to serve. 

OK so a few little tweaks for this basic recipe. 

1. If you don’t want large chunks in your soup but don’t want it totally smooth just use a potato masher and mash some of the potatoes up. You can choose exactly what texture you would like this way. 

2. If you want a completely smooth soup just use a hand blender or food processor and liquidise it until its as smooth as you like it. 

3. You can add some milk or cream through the soup for a richer taste.

4. If you opt for a completely smooth soup and you have friends over for lunch or dinner just swirl a little cream around the soup before serving, or some crunchy croutons or chives. Or all three if you fancy. This just makes a 4 ingredient basic soup that is stress free to cook look a little bit more fancy. They will never know you haven’t slaved over the cooker for hours.

5. This is a little summer twist I love. For this I don’t use the floury potatoes, I replace this with beautiful little baby potatoes and I don’t mash or blend them. You can still add a little cream or milk but this is such a lovely light summer soup, packed with veggies and the great thing is with the baby potatoes you don’t even need to peel them so it’s even quicker. 

My twist on a Spanish omelette 

So my food is generally very low fat unless I’m doing something fancy for other people but I do that rarely do that these days because I get food envy because I can’t eat it. I can taste it but not enjoy the whole meal. So these potatoes are not fried for 15-20 mins in the normal way a Spanish omelette would be. You can even use leftover cooked potatoes and only leave them in the oven until they crisp up and are golden. 

*either baby potatoes chopped into cubes or bigger potatoes peeled and chopped into cubes

*oil

*eggs

*milk (optional) 

*onions, thinly sliced

*herbs (optional) 

1. Preheat the oven and get a tray large enough to fit the potatoes in an even layer. 

2. Put the potatoes in the pan and drizzle with a little oil, you don’t need too much. Season the potatoes and if you want to add any dried herbs then do so, Ross it all around and make sure all the potatoes are evenly covered.

3. Roast in the oven for about 20 mins until they are tender in the centre and crispy on the outside. Turn half way through if you want but I generally just give them a little shake half way through to make sure they are not sticking. Don’t worry if they do stick, the crunchy bits are even more tasty. Take them out and set aside. 

4. Gently fry the sliced onions in a little oil, in a large frying pan, until soft but not coloured then add the potatoes in and mix it all together.

5. Whisk the eggs and add milk and seasoning if u wish. I use a splash of water to loosen up my eggs a little instead of milk. These eggs can really take a lot of pepper for my family but if you don’t want much just leave it out. Add the mixture to the potatoes and onions and mix everything together. I like to make it almost like scrambled egg then before its fully cooked through I will let it set. 

6. Make sure the potatoes and onions are evenly distributed then the end is totally up to you. 

 *if you want a slight crust on the bottom lower the heat and just leave it until the egg has set completely. 

 *if you would like to finish the top of this cooking quickly you can put it under a grill set at high. This will probably only take a couple of minutes 

 *if you want to let the eggs set in the residual heat of the pan just over the pan with either a lid, or some tin foil and a clean dish towel and turn the heat off and leave for about 10-15 mins. 

This dish is really nice right out the pan hot, warm or cold. 

I like to cook this the night before and leave in the fridge for a protein packed breakfast in a hurry. 

It’s also nice to do this and take for a lunch on the go or a picnic (in summer of course unless you like a November picnic.) 

It’s a nice light lunch or dinner served with a simple salad or try it as part of a tapas, finger food kind of dinner. You can add cheese, cooked meats, grilled artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives… I could go on but that with some crusty bread is a great little entertaining platter. Just open the fridge and see what you have available, it’s a very versatile little trick to have up your sleeve. Also very cost effective. 

So I hope that your November is going well so far and hopefully a few of these recipes will give you a little inspiration for another week. If anyone has any suggestions of things they would like to see in my blog please feel free to leave a comment and I will do what I can. As I’ve said before all of my recipes are mine and have been adapted for my dairy free and low fat health issues. But I really don’t mind throwing in some recipes I used to be able to eat, and totally loved. Stay safe everyone 


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Comforting foods for those shorter darker nights.

So on the cold November nights I’d like to focus on squashes and pumpkins. With Halloween being over I’m pretty sure all the pumpkins are being sold off much cheaper so I’ve come up with a few recipes that I really love. I do all my recipes dairy free so if you are like me you will know the dairy alternatives that agree with you and you can just substitute them in. I’ve also done these recipes vegetarian but I’ve added little notes where you can bring in some meat if you like meat and want a protein boost. But firstly I thought I’d do my usual and give you just some of the health benefits of these lovely veggies.

Autumn veg – photo M. Wright

They are high in vitamins A, B6 and C. 

They contain foliate which makes both red and white blood cells. Full of fibre. They contain magnesium which is an anti inflammatory and fights depression (great for the winter when it’s so dark), and they also contain roboflavin which is good for our energy supply so even better for the winter when we aren’t getting as much vitamin d from the sun. They contain phosphorus which filters out the waste in the kidneys and potassium to reduce blood pressure. And the last little nugget of information because I promise to keep these parts short, they contain manganese which is helpful for bone strength and it helps to process fat and carbohydrates. So that’s the health part out the way, let’s get on to the important stuff, the eating. 

Squash and rocket soup

*any yellow fleshed squash, pumpkins are great, peeled deseeded and chopped into cubes

*1or 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

*I large onion, peeled and chopped

*oil (butter for a creamier taste but its optional) 

*chicken or vegetable stock

*bag of rocket/baby spinach also works

1. Gently heat the oil (and butter if using) add the onions, squash and garlic and stir. Do not harshly fry. Do this for 5-10 mins ensuring nothing gets colour, we are just starting off the cooking process. If you are in a rush and want to skip this part that’s fine, it still works but this first stage really does give a better taste, I’ve tried both ways. 

2. Add chicken or veg stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer adn simmer stirring occasionally until the squash is tender. When it falls right off a knife when you Pierce the centre you will know its ready. Turn off the heat. 

3. Add a quarter to half of the bag of rocket or spinach. This will wilt naturally in the heat of the soup so there is no need to boil again. Now it seems like you are not putting much in right now but I added too much once and made green soup. But if you can deal with that then trust me it still tastes gorgeous. 

4. With either a hand blender or your food processor liquidise the soup until completely smooth. It will go a bit darker because of the greens in it but if you have judges your amount of spinach or rocket it should still have a dark orange colour. I’ve added too much and it looked like I’d been down to a swamp for lunch. 

5. Return to a very gentle simmer, the lowest heat you can and use the remaining leaves to add some texture. They will not take long to wilt down at all. Check the seasoning and adjust to your taste. Ready to serve. 

Risotto

For this one if you would like meat in this just gently fry off, steam or bake some small slices or chunks of chicken. This can just be added to the risotto 5 mins before the cooking is complete just to warm back through. 

*oil *onion, finely diced

 *1 or 2 cloves of garlic crushed

 *white wine (optional)

 *chicken or vegetable stock

 *finely grayed parmesan

 * squash, finely diced (I love butternut for this risotto)

 *either risotto (arborio) rice or pearl barely. If using pearl barley just cook the grains a little longer than rice as it takes longer to soften but its a great way to get grains in your diet as well. 

*fresh basil to serve 

1. Very gently fry the onions in the oil making sure not to colour. Then add in the garlic stirring and making sure nothing colours or burns. When the onions r softened its time to move on.

2. Stir in the rice or barley and make sure its coated with the oil and onion. If using white wine add now and let the alcohol cook out for a couple of minutes. It’s important with any risotto to stir as much as possible to stop any sticking. 

3. Add in all the squash and make sure that is coated in all the mixture. 

4. Add a ladle of you stock and keep stirring until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue this process with stock and stirring until the rice or barley looks like it won’t absorb more liquid. You can check a grain anytime you like to see if it is cooked to your liking. Bit usually this process takes me around 20 mins for arborio rice. 

5. Once you are happy with the way the rice or barley is cooked take it off the heat and add the parmesan, stir until completely melted. Check the seasoning. I very rarely need to add much salt if any because the stock and parmesan is quite salty but freshly ground pepper is lovely. And I can never resist the chance to use fresh basil in any of my food, it truly is a beautiful herb. But if you don’t fancy that or you can’t find any, the risotto will be just lovely as it is.

Squash curry

This one I’ve quite often left in a slow cooker all day. I haven’t cooked a thing and just thrown it all in the slow cooker and left in on low for about 7 or 8 hours, stirring every hour or two, it just takes care of itself and its so comforting to come back on a cold winter night and smell a beautiful curry ready to just devour. 

*chicken, beef, pork or lamb diced can be added to this in stage 1. 

*any squash, cut into chunks

*onion, diced 

*garlic, crushed (I like mine really strong with garlic but 1 clove would be just fine) 

*tinned tomatoes 

*tomato puree

*chick peas, tinned

*garam masala spice mix or paste

*oil

*spinach 

1. Heat oil in a pan and sweat off the onions and squash (meat if using) for about 3-5 mins. Add the garlic and tomato puree and mix for 20-30 secs. I like to add my tomato puree to any sauce before I ever add tinned tomatoes because I find adding it at the end can leave a bitter taste. This way the tomato puree has a chance to cook off a little. 

2. Put in the spice mix or paste and stir do everything is completely covered. 

3. Add in the tinned tomatoes and the tinned chip peas ( their water is also fine to use to loosen the sauce) and stir until all mixed. 

4. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for around 20-30 mins if doing it vegetarian or with chicken. If I were using beef, pork or lamb for this though I would tend to transfer to an oven proof dish at this stage and put in an oven on a low heat for 1 or 2 hours covered. If at any point in either of these dishes it starts to go a little dry just add a little water. Once the squash is tender or your meat is cooked the way you prefer add in the spinach and stir. 

5. Take off the heat and and check for seasoning. If using the chickpea water in this recipe it may not need too much salt as the chick peas are usually in salted water. You will know what is right for your taste. As I live alone I will rarely do this and want to cook rice and naan breads just to waste them because I will never eat all that alone so my guilty pleasure is just toasting a pitta bread and getting a steaming bowl of this and dunking my bread in it. But whatever you like with a curry you can do. There are no rules. Apart from enjoy. 

Roast veg pasta (add chicken if you fancy but the veggie version is actually lovely) 

*oil 

*onion roughly chopped (red or white) 

*peppers, roughly chopped, any colours you like

*any squash, peeled and cubed

* tomatoes (cherry are lovely roasted) 

*courgettes, thickly sliced

*mushrooms, optional but add in the final 10 mins of cooking as they tend to shrivel if left a long time. 

*pasta, any kind you like. 

*parmesan (optional) 

*dried mixed herbs

Just a quick note on this if you are cooking for a large amount of people or if you just fancy doing a batch of this veg pasta to freeze for yourself for a busy day when u don’t have time to cook, just add one or two tins of tomatoes to a pan and tip all the roast vegetables in it to warm through, then add the pasta. Portion as you would like to store and this is a very cheap way to make the meal stretch much farther. 

1. Chop all the veg into roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Preheat the oven and get a tray big enough to get all the veg in a relatively even layer. 

2. Pour the oil over the top and season, sprinkle the dried herbs over the top and mix thoroughly. I find it therapeutic doing this by hand but if you like to use tongs or a spoon just make sure it’s all evenly coated. 

3. Put the tray in the oven for around 25-30 mins turning once or twice. If using the mushrooms just cut them into quarters and put them in for the last 10 mins.. 

4. While the veg is roasting and almost ready boil the pasta in salted water for 10-12 mins and drain. Mix all the veg into the pasta and serve sprinkled with cheese and chopped basil. Ready to be enjoyed. Can also be eaten cold. 

I hope one of these recipes tickles your fancy this week. I like to research my veg before I eat it so that I feel like I’m at least doing something good for myself in the day. I hope it’s been interesting. Have a fantastic day and take care all. M

Blog this week written by :

our Resident Foodie volunteer. :}


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Wee foodie blog for November 20 (by our foodie volunteer:)

Hi and I hope this finds you well. I decided that since times are really uncertain and it feels like all our decision making has been all but ripped from us it might be nice to think about the things we can control. So I’ve decided this month I’m gonna try and focus on what I can in my life. And my first thought went to food. As my health has dictated everything I eat I’ve had to find joy in making new ways to enjoy things I’ve always loved. Some have been disasters but some have been favourites for years.

Our delectable Scottish salmon.

For today I’m just going to leave a little list of fruit and veg that are all in season in November. I’m not saying go out and buy them all. As it goes with my taste I love veg, there is only one veg on the list I refuse to eat although I’ve tried all different ways with it and on the lists of fruits there is only one I would eat without screwing up my nose and acting like a big child. So pick and choose what u enjoy or go a bit wild and try something new. Google recipes that include it and you never know you might like it. I’ll try to include some recipes that I have found my family and I really enjoy. Take care.

Fruits : pineapple (first on the list because that’s the one I will eat), winter berries, bananas, carobs, persimmon, chestnut, apple, pomegranate, fig, prickly pear, sorb, pear, plum, grape….. Ok I changed my mind I love frozen grapes

Veg : chard, any kind of cabbage (white, red, savoy etc), swede, beetroot, parsnips (my nemesis), squashes especially butternut and pumpkins right now, potato, cauliflower, chicory, onions/leeks, beans, mushrooms especially girolles, endive, lettuce, pea, radicchio, horseradish, turnip, radish, rocket, celery, celeriac, spinach, artichoke, 

There are plenty more out there I’m sure but this was just a short list I found doing some research. I will try my best to pick just one and come up with some recipes and I’ll even research how good some of these wonderful in season fruits and vegetables are for us medically. Take care all.