I love autumn, it truly is my most favourite time of the year. Cold enough to snuggle up, wear layers and stay indoors, but still mild enough to invite people over for dinner (and wine) and guarantee they’ll come (by January you have to promise me an insane feast to get me to leave the house). Also I think food is at its peak. Spring and Summer are strong contenders, I know, but I love nothing more than the flavours, colours and textures of autumn. Pumpkins, squashes, mushrooms, orchard fruits, cabbage, kale, game… It combines a lot of my favourite things, including a natural desire to slow cook everything and fill the house with warm and spiced smells.
This bowl of goodness was created for Ma and Pa Socratous. On a recent trip up north they ate something similar and have been trying to find a recipe for it ever since. With no such luck I decided to write one for them based on what I know: that it had sweet potato, chickpeas, spinach and a generous amount of cumin. And that they both loved it. (I can only hope that this soup does the original one justice, as it is pretty rare for my folks to like the same thing!)
With its natural sweetness and creamy texture sweet potato makes a fantastic base for soups. And it works incredibly well with the rest of these ingredients creating a hearty yet wholesome soup, with a North African/ Middle Eastern feel. It’s wheat/ gluten and dairy free, and a great fertility boosting dish. Heck its a great everything boosting dish!
If you like your soup a little chunky, try mashing it with a potato masher, or only blitzing it a little.
SWEET POTATO, CHICKPEA AND SPINACH SOUP
- 2 onions, peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
- Olive oil
- 1.5 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 – 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
- A tin of chickpeas, drained
- A tin of reduced fat coconut milk
- 800ml vegetable stock
- Around 800g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 150g spinach, washed well
- A handful of coriander, washed
- A juicy lemon
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large non-stick saucepan on a medium-low heat and add a lug of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute for around 10 – 12 minutes until soft and sticky, but not coloured. Add the cumin, coriander and chilli and fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Pour in the stock and coconut milk, and add the chickpeas and chopped sweet potatoes. Gently bring everything to the boil, season well, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for around 15 minutes, or until your potatoes are soft and completely cooked through. Add the spinach and coriander and cook for a couple more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and using a stick blender, blitz the soup until smooth. If the soup is a little on the thick side add a little more stock or water until you get to the texture and thickness that you like. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir through. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve.
I’m starting to write more of my own recipes again, but this is one that caught my eye a few months ago when I was religiously working my way through a mound of cookbooks. It is from the fabulous Honey & Co book, a lovely book filled with delicious Middle Eastern treats from their Central London restaurant.
This recipe attracted me as it sounds like nothing I have ever tried before. It is very simple to follow and quick too (perfect midweek dinner). In the intro the authors describe it as a lighter version of a shepherd’s pie, to which I wholeheartedly agree. It isn’t stodgy, and goes wonderfully with salad and pickles. Definitely a recipe I will be making again and again.
As much as I would have loved to have shown you inside this dreamboat of a recipe ain’t a looker. It’s aaaaaall about the flavour.
LAMB SINIYA (from the Honey & Co cookbook)
I made two alterations when I made this the second time. One being that I added chopped baby spinach to the base, as I like to get greens into our diet whenever possible, and it is a very beige recipe (works a treat). The second being instead of pine nuts on top I sprinkled crushed sesame and coriander seeds. Purely because my husband has a nut allergy, and also I love the flavour.
Serves 4 – 6 (very easily halve-able)
- 1 small cauliflower, broken in to florets
- 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 500g minced lamb
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground
- 2 tablespoons baharat spice mix (or Lebanese seven spice mix)
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 5 balls of frozen spinach or 150g chopped baby spinach (my added extra)
- 200g natural yoghurt
- 200g tahini
- 2 large eggs, free range or organic
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts (or sesame and coriander seeds)
- 1 tablespoons chopped parsley, to serve
Place the cauliflower in a saucepan with a litre of water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 – 6 minutes until the florets are soft. Drain and place in a shallow casserole dish (about 22cm in diameter).
Fry the onions on a medium heat in a frying pan with the oil and half a teaspoon of salt until the onions start to go golden. Add the minced lamb and another half teaspoon of salt, increase the heat to high and use a spoon to break the meat into small pieces. When the lamb starts to brown, sprinkle on the ground fennel and baharat spice mix and cook for 3 – 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and spinach (if using) and continue to cook and stir for around 3- 5 minute or until the spinach has cooked down. (If using frozen spinach it may take a little longer). Spread the lamb mixture around the cauliflower. You can prepare this stage up to a day in advance – just cool, cover and store in the fridge until needed.
Preheat the oven to 180/ gas mark 4.
Mix together the yoghurt, tahini, eggs and lemon juice. If the mixture is very thick, stir in rough water to loosen slightly, a couple of tablespoons perhaps – the consistency should resemble thick yoghurt. Spread the topping over the lamb in the dish. Sprinkle the pine nuts (or seeds) all over and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes or until the tahini looks set and slightly golden. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.
NB: if you can’t find baharat spice mix, have a go at making your own.