Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curryHappy new year! It’s been a while since my last post, which isn’t just because I spent the Christmas break sitting around playing video games and stuffing my face with mince pies (I totally did, though). I haven’t really baked anything new in a while, so I thought I’d make my first post of 2016 all about this delicious and super healthy sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry I made tonight – perfect for those well-intentioned new year’s resolutions.

This is another variation on my staple curry recipe, with some small tweaks to tip the spicing towards a heady note. I made a similar curry for my other half a while ago, and he was obsessed with the clove flavour coming through from the garam masala (which I make myself). My current garam masala blend isn’t quite so clove-y, so I’ve added some ground cloves to this recipe, along with extra ground cumin.

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry
The great thing about this recipe is how flexible it is – you can swap out the sweet potato and/or carrot for butternut squash or standard potatoes (top tip: red potatoes work best in curries, as they seem to soak up the flavours better than the white variety), leave out the spinach if you don’t have any to hand, throw in some split yellow lentils or even chickpeas instead of the red lentils… Just adapt it to whatever you have in the kitchen!

Did I mention that this curry is super healthy? Yes? Well, I’ll say it again – this is so good for you. I’m pretty sure you get your five a day with this recipe, and the vegetables are packed with all sorts of lovely vitamins. If you stick to my measures, the curry itself clocks in at around 400 calories, with yogurt and whatever carbs you fancy (chapatis or naan are ideal, but rice works fine as well) adding a bit extra on top. I had a mini naan from Tesco with mine (I couldn’t quite face making chapatis after my first day back at work!), which only added 127 calories to the total.

Do give this a go if you want something comforting during the winter months, but without the fat. I promise that it’ll cheer you up! In the meantime, I’ll think about something interesting to bake for the next post… all suggestions are welcome!

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry
Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry recipe

Serves 2, easily doubled

Approx. 400 calories per serving, not including rice/bread

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 small white or red onion, chopped
  • 1 thin green chilli, finely chopped
  • a 1-inch cube of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 0.25 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 80g red lentils
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered, or 1-2 larger tomatoes, chopped
  • 160g frozen spinach (or approx. 100g of fresh spinach)
  • 0.5 tsp ground cloves (or 4-5 whole cloves)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • yogurt and rice/chapattis/naan, to serve

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. If using whole cloves, add those too.
  2. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the chopped onion and fry gently for a couple of minutes, being careful to not let the seeds burn.
  3. Add the green chilli, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder and turmeric and cook – still very gently – for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  4. Stir in the sweet potatoes, carrot, red lentils and tomatoes.
  5. Pour in enough hot water to just about cover the contents of the pan and bring to the boil, before putting a lid on the pan and simmering on a low heat for 20 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, and top up with water if required (but try not to, as the spinach will release water anyway).
  6. Add the spinach and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Take the pan off the hob and stir in the ground cloves, ground cumin, garam masala and coriander. Season with salt to taste.
  8. Remove the whole cloves if you used them (but don’t worry if you can’t find them – just warn any guests!). Serve with a dollop of yogurt and naan, chapattis or rice as desired.
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Chocolate orange carrot muffins

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
It’s been hot, hasn’t it? Some of the last few days have definitely been too hot for any kind of baking activity, but luckily for me, I was able to knock out these chocolate orange carrot muffins last Sunday, when it wasn’t as sweltering as it has been.

I was feeling inspired by the lovely mini carrot cakes I had at Luis Troyano’s afternoon tea the previous week and wanted to make something carrot-y. So, I found a recipe for carrot and orange muffins online and adapted it to add the chocolate.

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
All I really did was add a bit of cocoa powder and some milk chocolate chunks that needed using up – but that definitely did the trick! The resulting muffins were incredibly light (thanks to the carrot) and flavoursome (thanks to the cocoa and the zest of two oranges).

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
What I really like about these muffins is that you can see the grated carrot within them – and they could easily be mistaken for shreds of orange zest! I left in the cinnamon from the original recipe, and I’m glad I did, because it added an extra dimension to the flavours.

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
We finished these off in around 3 days and I didn’t feel particularly guilty about it – I reckon these were around 200 calories each. Definitely not as decadent as my usual triple/quadruple chocolate chunk muffins, but just as delicious!

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
Chocolate orange carrot muffins recipe

Adapted from this recipe on the Olive magazine website.

Makes 12 muffins

  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 75g milk or dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • 100g carrots, peeled and grated
  • 75g butter, melted

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190c/fan 170c/gas 5. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases or squares of baking paper.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder, chocolate and salt in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, zest, juice, carrots and butter.
  4. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until risen.

Afternoon tea with GBBO’s Luis Troyano

Luis Troyano afternoon tea
You might know from some of my previous posts that I’m a massive fan of Great British Bake Off – and that I was a particular fan of finalist Luis Troyano in last year’s series.

I absolutely loved his attention to both visual detail and flavour (check out my attempt at one of his recipes), and was ever so slightly disappointed that he didn’t win. However, he’s still baking and has a book, Bake It Great, coming out in August.

I was rather delighted when he announced that he would be holding a special afternoon at the Stockport Plaza (a beautiful old cinema conveniently close to my area) to promote the book. Of course, I just had to get a ticket!

The cinema really was a lovely setting. The afternoon tea was held in an Art Deco cafe/restaurant decorated in a tasteful yet simple style – very much like what you’d expect a classy tearoom would have looked like in the 1930s.

There were quite a few people already tucking into their cakes when we got there, but it was all very relaxed and friendly. We were shown to a table, and tea and three tiers of food loveliness appeared soon after we sat down. You can’t see them in the photo above, but the bottom tier had lots of finger sandwiches – egg, cucumber and salmon.

However, it was the sweet treats we were most interested in, and which Luis himself had made in their entirety. As well as the compulsory scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, there were chocolate brownies, Bakewell cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes, and blueberry cheesecake eclairs. YUM.

Carrot cake cupcake
After polishing off the sandwiches, we started with the scones, which were perfect – substantial yet extremely light. Then I moved on to the carrot cake cupcake, which was bursting with zesty orange and fruity sultanas and topped with a fantastic mascarpone buttercream. I’m so glad it was proper buttercream and not the overly sugary icing you usually get on cupcakes!

Blueberry cheesecake eclair
Then it was on to the blueberry cheesecake eclairs – choux pastry sandwiched with a cheesecake-y filling and fresh blueberries. This was so inspired – I’ve never thought of using cheesecake as a filling for eclairs, but it’s such a fantastic idea! The choux was very nicely made and not too heavy. Perfect.

Bakewell cupcake
Next, the star of the show – Bakewell cupcakes. My, these were so good! They looked pretty unassuming, but they were actually filled with delicious jam. The sponge itself was delightfully almond-y. So very good.

Bakewell cupcake
The recipe for these cupcakes will feature in Luis’s book – I know what I’m going to make as soon as I get my hands on it!

Chocolate brownie
Finally, it was time for the chocolate brownie (apologies for the blurry photo, but I was concentrating more on eating than on taking pictures!).

I was a bit worried I might not have room for everything, but going for a long run that morning seemed to increase my appetite quite a lot! I savoured every bite of this brownie – it was very chocolatey indeed, but balanced nicely against vanilla and salt, so it wasn’t too sweet and was scarily addictive.

As we ate, Luis made his way through the room and stopped to speak to everyone and answer questions, which I thought was nice of him. I asked him what was in the brownies, and my boyfriend fiancé praised the eclairs.

Luis then revealed his secret to making the perfect choux, which I can’t actually remember in its entirety now (it’ll be in his book, hopefully), but involved keeping it in the oven for as long as possible without opening the door before you’re supposed to, as that affects the bake. It was lovely talking to Luis, and nice to know that he’s every bit as approachable and kind as he seemed in the show.

All in all, we had a fantastic time and enjoyed all of the food immensely. I’m now hoping that Luis’s fellow GBBO contestant Chetna Makan has the same idea and decides to hold an event near me too…!

Re-bake: carrot cake

Carrot cakeI’m back! Not only have I finally moved into my new house, but it was also The Very Hungry Baker’s first birthday on Tuesday! You would think this calls for a super special celebration cake, but as I’m still lacking a fridge and some basic baking equipment/ingredients, I had to settle for something more modest but very pleasing – carrot cake.

This is a light take on the stodgier carrot cake you might be familiar with, as it uses sunflower oil in place of butter (hence why it was the perfect recipe for fridgeless me at the moment!). Raisins add a bit of interest, along with orange zest, cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg.

Carrot cake mixI had to make a couple of substitutions (as is always the case these days) – I used light brown sugar in place of light muscovado and had to top up the self-raising flour with 20g of plain due to running out of the former. Luckily, this didn’t affect the rise or consistency at all.

The cake is lovely and moist – the carrot flavour is there, but not too in your face, while the raisins and orange are delicious. The spices were barely there for me, but I’ve been ill recently so my tastebuds aren’t what they usually are!

Carrot cake 2The icing is just orange juice and icing sugar, but the cake would definitely work well with a more decadent cream cheese or buttercream topping if you’re not too bothered about calories!

The recipe

From BBC Good Food’s 101 Cakes & Bakes, and also on the BBC Good Food website here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3229/yummy-scrummy-carrot-cake

Re-bake: carrot, apple and raisin cake

Carrot, apple and raisin cake

Do you ever buy so-called ‘healthy’ cakes and other snacks aimed at weight watchers and end up disappointed at how flavourless they are? They might only contain 0.0000000000001g of saturated fat per serving, but they’re usually rubbish when it comes to taste. The solution? Make your own healthy cake – like this vegan-friendly carrot, apple and raisin cake.

I absolutely love this cake – it’s packed with fruit and, most importantly, flavour. Orange juice and zest give it an uplifting zinginess, while pumpkin seeds add a little crunch (and are also low GI). The fat comes from vegetable oil rather than butter (although I used sunflower oil) and there are no eggs – the moisture in the carrot and apple is more than enough to hold it all together.

Cut into 12 pieces, the cake has 1g of saturated fat and 207 calories per serving – which I think is brilliant considering how tasty it is! So if you are trying to lose weight, are vegan or generally don’t get on with dairy products, this is the cake to go for when you want to treat yourself.

Carrot, apple and raisin cake

The recipe

Taken from BBC Good Food 1o1 Cakes & Bakes, and also available online here (obviously grease the tin with something other than butter if you’re vegan or dairy-intolerant!).