On the weekend, I went on a bit of a cooking spree and by the time I was done, I didn’t have any energy left to blog the recipes! Now that I’ve made a full recovery, I’d love to share them with you. They were all amazing, but my personal favourite was the red lentil & sweet potato soup – extremely easy to make, tasty to eat and best of all, autumn-friendly.
My mom and I flipped through the Fall issue of Food & Drink and selected three dishes to make for dinner on Saturday.
A main: Chicken & Pumpkin Curry
A side: Maple-glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Whisky
And a dessert: Buttery Cinnamon Cake with Apple Compote & Whipped Cream
After we selected our dishes, we set out to acquire our ingredients. Most of them were already on hand (have I mentioned how much I love my mom’s kitchen?!) but we didn’t have any pumpkins – kind of a key ingredient for the curry.
So we took a two-minute drive out of town to a family farm that is best known for its pick-your-own strawberries in June. Turns out they also have a pretty happenin’ pumpkin patch:
Bird House Gourds – who knew?
Our sweet little pie pumpkin! (I’m gonna eat you….)
Back in the kitchen, we started with spices: We sauteed 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tbsp mustard seeds and ½ tsp whole cloves in oil over medium heat for one minute. Then, we added two chopped onions and continued to sauté, stirring occasionally for 7 minutes.
Next, we added 2 tbsp minced ginger, 2 tbsp curry powder, ½ tsp dried thyme, ½ tsp hot pepper flakes and ½ tsp salt and sautéed for 2 more minutes.
By this point, the kitchen is smelling pretty awesome.
We threw in five (recipe called for six, but we had more than enough) chicken breasts and the whole pumpkin, both cut into 1-inch thick chunks, stirring well to coat with spices.
Also added 3 cups chicken stock and 1/3 cup rolling-pin-and-ziploc-bag crushed peanuts. We brought the mixture to a simmer, then reduced heat to low, covered and forgot about it for 30 minutes.
Once the chicken was cooked through and the pumpkin was nice and tender, we used a slotted spoon to transfer all of the chicken and most of the pumpkin (leave about 10 chunks) to a large dish. Then we cranked the heat up high and boiled the sauce, stirring lots and mashing up the pumpkin chunks, for about 10 minutes. You want the sauce to thicken up some.
At this point, we ditched the cinnamon sticks and as many cloves as we could spot, then poured in about 1/3 cup of lime juice, poured the sauce over the chicken and pumpkin and sprinkled ¼ cup crushed peanuts on top.
We served this over a bed of white rice. My family did not grow up on curry and yet 99 per cent of them said they really enjoyed it (One of my brothers couldn’t handle the spice…).
Next, we tackled the Brussels sprouts. This was a really fast and easy dish. We just boiled 4 cups of sprouts:
Then added ¼ cup chopped cooked bacon (we cooked extra at breakfast so this part was already done – we just heated it up for a few minutes), 1 tbsp whisky and 1 tsp maple syrup. We left it over medium-low heat to simmer, stirring to coat, for about 2 minutes. Then we seasoned with salt and pepper. Done!
After over an hour in the kitchen, it was finally time to eat!
Balancing out the spread were two other side dishes: cooked carrots (fresh from my grandparents’ veggie garden!) and my grandma’s legendary coleslaw.
Even with all this delicious food, we made sure to leave room for dessert!
I had baked the cake and prepared the apple compote earlier that afternoon, so all we had to do was heat, add an easy glaze to the top and scoop a nice dollop of whipped cream on the side.
For this recipe, it’s probably more helpful to break down each step:
1 ½ cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (I used vanilla yogurt – all we had on hand)
Preheat oven to 350. Grease pan (9-inch springform or rectangular).
Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar with a mixer until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until blended. Stir in flour mixture alternately with yogurt (3 additions of flour, 2 additions of yogurt). Spread into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for approx. 45 minutes (I took it out after 40). Let cool on rack at least 30 minutes.
4 large red-skinned apples, diced, not peeled (you can peel if you want)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch ground ginger or cardamom (I skipped this)
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla
Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often for 5 minutes or until apples are tender. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve warm with slices of cake.
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
Pinch ground cinnamon
2 tbsp water
Combine sugar, cinnamon and water in a bowl, stirring to dissolve sugar. Brush top and sides of cake with glaze and serve warm.
The next day, I was still itching to try out a soup recipe that several coworkers had already made and raved about. And let me tell you, it lived up to all the hype.
Red Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup:
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
3 cups peeled and chopped sweet potatoes
¼ tsp chili flakes
1 tsp ginger (Skipped this step – out of ginger)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup red lentils
5 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup whipping cream (optional – I didn’t use any)
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp maple syrup
Heat 2 tbsp oil in pot over medium heat. Saute onions for 2 minutes. Add onions and sweet potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add ginger, chili flakes and cinnamon and sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add lentils and stir to coat with oil.
Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until veggies are soft and lentils have exploded.
Puree soup in a food processor. Return to pot (this is where you’d add the whipping cream) and season with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice and maple syrup. And you’re done!
Yep. The time has come to purchase my own food processor. I must make this recipe again (and again) through the fall.
Phew. Writing this post took almost as long as cooking all this food combined. Signing off for the night…