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Winter Fuel

We are counting the days to Christmas and another eventful year once again! There’s that lovely nip in the air which adds to the happy vibes around. Our Christmas tree is up at home and I soon have to get down to some Christmas shopping.

The cool weather and all this love and happiness around calls for some warm cosy food. For me, its all about large one pot dishes of hearty hot goodness for the family to share.

I love the flavours from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern kitchen- simple fresh ingredients cooked with bags of flavour. My culinary philosophy emphasises on cooking with local seasonal produce. There are beautiful pumpkins, carrots , oranges and greens in the market these days and there are so many innovative ways in which you can prepare them. Roasting vegetables and meat in the oven is a great way to cook as you don’t have to keep hovering around the stove, the nutritional value remains intact and you get a lovely smokey charred flavour.

Here are some of my current favourite Mediterranean winter dishes that you must try making soon! They are vegetarian but you could add some grilled chicken or fish to them. Alternatively, enjoy them as an accompaniment to your meat or seafood dish

Roast Pumpkin, Saffron and Orange Soup

A boring pumpkin soup gets transformed into an orchestra of flavours!

What you need:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onions, cut in wedges

500 gm pumpkin, cut in wedges

1 tbsp chilly/Sriracha sauce

5-6 saffron threads

Zest of 1 orange

Water 500 ml (or more)

¼ cup coconut milk (or some cream)

Salt and freshly cracked pepper

¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Chilly flakes

2 tsp honey/date syrup

Fresh coriander/parsley

Putting it all together:

1. Preheat the oven to 220C fan. Line a baking tray with butter paper.

2. In a bowl, combine the pumpkin, onion, olive oil salt and a good grind of pepper and toss well. Bake on the tray for 25 mins till the veggies are soft and caramelized.

3. Boil 500 ml water with Sriracha sauce, saffron, orange zest, ½ tsp salt and pepper.

4. Bring to the boil and then add the pumpkin mix along with any oils from the pan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5-10 mins.

5. Remove from heat and cool for a bit then blend. Transfer back to the same pot and stir in the coconut milk and adjust the seasoning.

6. Combine the pumpkin seeds with the honey/date syrup and chilly flakes.

7. Pour soup into bowls, top with pumpkin seeds and some coriander or parsley.

Chickpea, Red Peppers and Coconut Stew

A powerhouse of rounded nutrition with delicate flavours. You can omit the chickpeas and add diced chicken or prawns instead.

What you need:

2 red peppers, chopped roughly

2 cups chickpeas, boiled

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Chilly flakes

½ tsp paprika (optional)

½ tsp cumin powder

4 tomatoes, finely chopped

4 tbsp tomato puree

1 cup water

¼ cup coconut milk

Some fresh thyme/rosemary

Handful of spinach leaves (optional)

Putting it together:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Toss the red peppers with some olive oil and bake for 30 mins.

2. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add ½ tsp chilly flakes to create a chilly oil. Add the onions and cook till soft and brown.

3. Add the garlic and cook. Add the chopped fresh tomatoes and tomato puree. Cover and cook for 5 mins. Add the cumin powder, salt and pepper.

4.Add the chickpeas and water with some fresh thyme. Cover and simmer for 20 mins till it all comes together.

5.Add sweet paprika if using. Season well with salt, pepper and some more fresh thyme.

6.Stir in the coconut milk. Add the roasted red peppers Adjust the chilly. Simmer for 5 mins. If adding spinach leaves, add them now.

Caramelized Sesame Carrot

What you need:

4-5 carrots, peeled and cut length wise

3 tbsp date syrup/ honey

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp sesame seeds

Some fresh thyme leaves

4 tbsp thick yogurt

1 tsp orange zest

Mixed nuts, toasted and crushed

Fresh parsley or mint

Putting it all together:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.

2. Place carrots in a baking dish or tray and drizzle with olive oil, date syrup, coriander, salt and pepper. Throw in some whole thyme leaves.

3. Roast for 20-25 mins till brown and caramelized.

4. Make the yogurt dressing with mixing yogurt, salt and pepper and 1 tsp orange zest

5. Drizzle the dressing over, with some sesame seeds and nuts and fresh parsley.

Burnt Garlic Greens

Do not waste the broccoli stems. They are full of nutrition.

What you need:

1 broccoli head, stem and florets

1 zucchini, cut in cubes

Full leaves of 1 Bok choy (optional)

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

Chilly flakes

Juice of ½ lime

Zest of ½ lime

Almonds, toasted and sliced

Putting it together:

1. Lightly steam or blanche the broccoli florets and stems along with the zucchini. This should take only a couple minutes as you want the veggies to remain crunchy.

2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and chilly. Cook till brown and add the veggies and coat well with the garlic chilly oil.

3. Cook on low heat for a minute .Add salt, pepper, lime juice and zest. Top with toasted almonds.

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