Make the most of what could be nature’s most weighty fruit – the humble pumpkin.
I can’t recall where I found this recipe now, but I have a feeling that it was in a promotional recipe book. Wherever it was from (and I promise to dig through the mounting piles of paper in my room to find out!), it is fantastic. I made it for my boyfriend, and as an avid meat eater, he was probably a little unnerved to discover that it was vegan – if something could taste this good without meat and dairy, what else would turn out to be lies?! But yes, the wonderfully creamy texture of this dish has absolutely no connection with a cow, or a goat, if that’s your milk of choice. It is the pumpkin that takes centre stage, rather than sliced chicken, or meat. Along with tomatoes, it gives the stew a vibrant hue that is cosy and inviting. And just one mouthful confirms that it tastes as good as it looks – the smooth consistency is deliciously welcoming, whilst the hint of chili from the cajun spice lends warmth. Though October famed, pumpkins are actually seasonal throughout winter, coming in in September and at their best from October to December. Which makes it the perfect muse for this wintry stew, spicy and comforting for when it’s just too cold outside.
Ingredients, serves 3-4, (can be frozen)
- ½ pumpkin, deseeded, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 400g tin of plum tomatoes
- Tin of coconut milk
- Cajun seasoning – preferably one that has fennel included in it, such as Barts
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Fry the sliced onion in a drizzle of olive oil, until they begin to wilt. This should take around 8-10 minutes. Add in the sliced peppers, and stir until they begin to colour.
- Add the garlic to the pan, and fry until it begins to smell aromatic. Add the Cajun seasoning to taste, and stir thoroughly to ensure all the ingredients are coated in the spices. Season.
- Place the pumpkin chunks into the pan, and fry until they are softened a little. Then, add in the tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until the pumpkin is softened through. Serve immediately, with boiled potatoes or crusty bread for dipping!
Serve, listen, enjoy.
Fajitas are a wonderfully easy dish, made seemingly even easier with starter kits. The pre-prepared packets of tortillas, salsa and seasoning that “just need chicken!”, give the impression that making your own fajitas from scratch would be too difficult and too time consuming, and that simply isn’t true. Of course, making your own tortillas would take a little time (although I made them at school and they’re actually incredibly simple to produce…in fact, I may post the recipe for them on here at some point in the future) but the composition of spices to flavour the chicken, or vegetables, is made from store-cupboard ingredients in about 5 minutes. Plus, if you have these spices to hand in your cupboards, you are actually saving yourself money by making use ingredients you already own – a large pack of tortillas from a supermarket will set you back no more than a £1.50, whereas a full kit is more than double that.
This spice mix recipe gives a really intense smoked flavour; a rustic, earthy feel to the flavour that will emphasise with each mouthful “this.is.homemade.”.
For the spice mix:
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes (or less if you’re not into spicy food!)
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon of sugar
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- ½ crushed vegetable or chicken stock cube
- 1 clove of finely sliced garlic
For the fajitas:
- Bell pepper, sliced
- Red onion, sliced
- Mushrooms, quartered
- Baby sweetcorn, sliced lengthways
- Chicken breast, sliced (optional)
- Grated cheddar, to top, to taste
- Gather all the ingredients for the spice mix, and combine in a small bowl with a teaspoon. Ensure all the spices are well mixed – the overall colour should be reddy-orange, with flecks of white and green from the sugar and oregano respectively.
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Wrap the flour tortillas in silver foil, and place in the oven for 10 minutes until warmed through. Remove after 10 minutes, and keep warm.
- In a large frying pan, heat olive oil. If using the chicken, fry this first.
- Then, add the vegetables to the frying pan: the sliced onion first, followed by the baby sweetcorn and pepper. Add the mushrooms last, and fry until everything is tender and slightly browned.
- Sprinkle the spice mix over the contents of the frying pan, and stir well to coat everything in the spices. Fry for 5 minutes more to ensure the flavours permeate all the components.
- On a clear surface, place a flour tortilla fresh from the oven. Place a layer of salad in a vertical line down the middle of the tortilla, with a gap of 2cm from the salad to the edge of the tortilla at one end.
- Remove the pan from the heat; add some vegetables to the tortilla, resting them on top of the salad. Top with grated cheese, if using.
- Fold the bottom edge of the tortilla up the gap of 2cm onto the filling. Then take one side of the tortilla, and pull it over to the middle tightly, covering the bottom fold.
- Take the other side of the tortilla, and roll this tightly over to the middle also. Place the tortilla join-down on a plate, to prevent it unrolling whilst preparing the rest!
- Repeat this process for all the warmed flour tortillas, until the filling runs out. Serve with a scoop of rice, and enjoy!