Tag Archives: comfort food

Crab Chowder

This was inspired by a recipe in Olive Magazine but because we couldn’t be bothered finding string and didn’t read the recipe too closely it was made a little differently. We always thought chowder had to be really rich and creamy which isn’t really our cup of tea so when this recipe with a clear broth and then just a dollop of sour cream on top came along we had to try it! The result was vibrant, fresh yet still comforting because of the sour cream and the avocado slices on top. We made a simple white loaf packed with olive oil (based on our bread recipe) to have with this and it went perfectly. This also has to be one of the easiest meals – in 30 minutes you’ll have a pretty impressive bowl of food on the table!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • One small white onion/half an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and diced into small cubes
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • A bunch of coriander, stalks sliced and leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely sliced
  • 1-2 pints of chicken stock
  • 1 large tin of sweetcorn, drained
  • 1 tin of white crab meat, drained
  • 1 avocado, cut into thick strips
  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
  • Soured cream
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
Make sure you use a nice ripe avocado - it should be a little soft. This one was perfect!
Make sure you use a nice ripe avocado – it should be a little soft. This one was perfect!

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and when hot add the onion, potato, spring onions, coriander stalks and celery. Cook this together for about 1-2 minutes and then pour over the stock. Simmer for around 15-20 minutes or until the potato is tender. Add in the sweetcorn and the crab meat, stir through to heat and then add in half of the chopped coriander leaves. Spoon into bowls and serve with the sour cream, chilli slices, avocado, lime wedges and the rest of the coriander sprinkled on top.

Crab Chowder Done

We’re loving South American flavours at the moment, especially lime and chilli. This was so fresh and warming and definitely takes less than half an hour – perfect for perking you up after a hard day at work!

Spanish-Style Chicken and Chorizo Stew

Weather update: still flipping miserable. What you need is a warm, comforting stew to tuck into while the wind howls and the rain lashes… and we’ve got just the one! Chunky veg, chorizo and chicken that just melts in your mouth in a delicious tomato sauce. This is inspired by a pork and chorizo stew that we made in Spain but the pork there is something else, we couldn’t find anything to match up to it here so we went for chicken. Make sure you use chicken thighs in this – they are so much more suited to stews, casseroles and slow cooking, they’ll be beautifully tender. Now imagine yourself on a sun-drenched balcony, sipping a glass of Rioja as the sun just starts to set…

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 new potatoes, sliced
  •  red/green pepper, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • About a 10cm piece of chorizo, cubed
  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each cut into 3/4 pieces
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 heaped tsp plain flour
  • 1 carton of passata
  • Chicken stock (enough to cover – about 500ml)
  • 1 tin of butter beans (or any other beans you fancy!), drained
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of black olives – optional

To start with heat the olive oil in a large pan/casserole dish and add in the vegetables. Cook over a low heat for around 10 minutes until soft and slightly caramelised. Add in the chorizo and garlic and stir together until the beautiful oil starts to come out of the chorizo.

Chorizo on veg

Paprika on veg

After this time turn the heat up slightly and throw in the paprika, stir to coat all of the vegetables in it. Then whack the chicken in and immediately add in the flour. Cook all of this together, stirring almost constantly for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is lightly coloured all over. Tip in the passata and enough water to just reach the top of the meat and veg – they will squash down as they cook. Stir in the beans, sugar, salt and pepper and then cover and bring to the boil. Turn it right down to simmer and leave to cook for around 1-1.5 hours by which time the vegetables should all be soft and the sauce should be thickened slightly and coating everything beautifully. About 10 minutes before the end chuck in a handful of olives if you like them (we love them!).

Let's be honest... stew isn't *that* photogenic, is it?
Let’s be honest… stew isn’t *that* photogenic, is it?

We had ours with some braised cabbage but this would be lovely on its own, or with a big hunk of crusty bread!

Chicken and chorizo stew with cabbage

Cauliflower Soup

The idea for this came after we picked up a cauliflower at the Sunday farmers market after a gorgeous walk in the sunshine but had no clear idea what to do with it. We’re big soup fans so a soup was pretty quickly decided on but then we thought it needed a couple of toppings to really make it interesting! Fats once had a spiced cauliflower soup with toasted hazelnuts in a restaurant so we put them on the list and thought it would be a bit different if we kept the soup really simple and just had the spices in another topping – so a brown butter with plenty of spices was born! We’d never made cauliflower soup before, and certainly never made or had a topping like this, but it turned out so well – the soup was really velvety and creamy despite only having a dash of milk in it, and the toppings took it to the next level. Next time you’re craving some comfort food with a twist give this a try.

Cauliflower

Ingredients for the soup – this made enough for about 3 portions but it would freeze really well:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, most of the stalk discarded and chopped into florets
  • Enough chicken stock to cover, around 500ml
  • About 100ml of milk
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the toppings:

  • 2 tbsp of chopped hazelnuts, lightly toasted
  •  1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp nigella (black onion) seeds
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander

To make the soup simply heat the oil in a large saucepan then add in the onions and turn the heat right down. Cook for a couple of minutes until they are a little translucent – do not allow them to colour as you want this to be a pale soup. Add in the potato and the cauliflower, stir to coat in the oil and then add the stock. Bubble away for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, take off the heat, add the milk and then blend with a stick blender adding seasoning to taste. And that’s it! Pretty nice so far but you want to take it up a notch…

Using the frying pan you used to toast the hazelnuts toast the mustard seeds and nigella seeds together over a medium-low heat until they start popping and then put them to one side. Add the butter to the hot pan and let it bubble up and turn a beautiful brown colour which will further intensify the hazelnut flavour. Once this has happened tip in a small pinch of salt, the ground spices and the toasted seeds, swirl together for a second and serve right away, with the toasted hazelnuts, on top of the soup.

It tastes a lot better than it looks... honest!
It tastes a lot better than it looks… honest!

How easy was that? So delicious and a bit of a change from the usual.

Pimped Baked Potatoes 2 Ways

Hands up who remembers those soggy baked potatoes with beans and plastic cheese in a polystyrene box that you got at school? We certainly do. This is a world away from that and one of the easiest meals ever to knock up, just whack a couple of potatoes in the oven, go and relax with a cup of tea and an episode of something, come back, spend about 15 minutes actually cooking and you’re done! There are two different ways to have them here, one is twice baked with bacon, onion and cheese and the other has the most delicious smoky, spicy baked beans and is topped with a bit of sour cream. These beans would be even more amazing with some avocado on top, we did have one but sadly it wasn’t ripe enough to use. This might not be one to impress your friends with but on a cold, miserable evening you really can’t beat this sort of comfort food.

Ingredients for two people

  • 2 large or 4 small potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 1-2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • Cheddar, grated (as much as you like!)
  • 1 heaped tsp of chipotle pasta
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tin of baked beans
  • Sour cream and salad to serve

We’re sure you don’t need telling how to bake potatoes but prick them with a fork a few times, rub with olive oil and salt and bang them in a preheated oven at about 190ºC. Ours were fairly dinky and took just under an hour but if yours are bigger then have the oven slightly cooler and cook them for about an hour and a half. You could be cheaty and cook them in the microwave but if you do then please put them in the oven for 10 minutes at the end to let them get a little crisper, they’re too sad otherwise!

When the potatoes are not far off cooked whack the finely diced onion and bacon in a small pan and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until the onions are really soft and slightly caramelised. Then tip half of this mixture into a bowl, leave the rest in the pan but take it off the heat for a moment. Take half of the potatoes out of the oven, cut in half and scoop out most of the flesh leaving just a little around the edge so the skins hold their shape. Put this in with the bacon and onion mixture in the bowl and add the cheddar, you can use as much or as little as you like, we only put a small handful as ours was very strong. Mix all of this together and then pile it back into the skins and grate a little extra cheese on top. Put these back into the oven on a baking tray just for ten minutes for the cheese to melt.

Empty potatoes

Cheesy potatoes full

Put the remaining bacon and onion mixture back on the heat and add in the chipotle paste. Using 1 heaped tsp made this fairly spicy so adjust to your taste. Cook this in for a few seconds then add the smoked paprika and the tin of beans. Let all of this heat together for around ten minutes while your cheesy twice-baked potatoes in the oven finish getting gorgeously gooey and then serve up! Pop a dollop of sour cream on top of the spicy beans to cool things down a bit and we had a salad dressed with a balsamic dressing.

Bacon, onion and chipotle

One of the easiest midweek meals, not the quickest, but minimal effort and so delicious!

Baked potatoes

Posh Sardines & Tomatoes on Toast

This will be our first ever breakfast/brunch post! We’re always posting pictures of our delicious brunches on our instagram, so we thought we’d share some inspiration with you. It doesn’t take much effort to make sardines on toast quite special! It’s also healthy and nutritious and pretty cheap. We served ours on fresh home made bread, using our usual recipe, with some added Three Malt and Sunflower Seed flour – delicious.

Three Malt and Sunflower Seed Bread

For 2 servings:

  • 4 slices of bread, toasted (I’m sure you guys can figure this out!)
  • 200 g cherry/baby plum tomatoes
  • 1 60g tin sardines (in tomato sauce/olive oil)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil (optional)

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Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Half the tomatoes and add to the pan, and season well with salt and pepper. Cook until they are starting to soften, and then add a splash of water and the balsamic vinegar. Once they’re nice and soft and have started to form a sauce, add the sardines, making sure that any bones have been removed. Chop the basil and add it to the pan, if you want to. Heat through for a couple of minutes and then serve on top of the toast.

Sometimes the simple things are the best

This is probably one of the shortest recipes we’ve ever posted. But sometimes all you need is a bit of inspiration! This is delicious with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, or just a nice cup of tea.

Cranberry, Orange and White Chocolate Muffins

Just a quickie here, these mini muffins were whipped up for Bird to take into work for her belated birthday cake and they all disappeared very quickly! There is still a hint of the festive with the cranberry and orange combination, but cranberry and white chocolate is a classic that takes some beating. This recipe made 22 mini muffins (fairy cake sized cases) and would probably make 12-14 standard sized muffins.

Ingredients

  • 300g self raising flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 170g unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence!)
  • 200ml milk, we used semi-skimmed
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped into small squares
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • zest of half an orange

White Chocolate, Orange and Cranberry

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar. In a jug mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture into the bowl and mix together being careful not to overmix. Add the melted butter, again mix gently and then fold in the chocolate, cranberries and orange. And that’s the mix done! Easy peasy.

Muffins in Cases

Spoon the mix into cake cakes in a muffin tin (or use 2-3 cases inside each other on a baking tray if you don’t have a muffin tin) and place into the oven. Ours took around 15-18 minutes to be light golden on top and baked through but if you’re making these full size then they will take longer, around 25 minutes probably. Take them out, leave them to cool and then dive in! Or if you’re saintly like us, feed them to your colleagues while they complain about January dieting. The perfect antidote to the worst Monday of the year!

That'll be what, 2 servings?
That’ll be what, 2 servings?

Beef and Ale Pie

This is a classic recipe – beef and ale are a perfect combination, and make for a wonderfully rich and delicious pie filling. We’re using shin of beef here, which can be a bit tough if you don’t cook it nice and slowly, but it’s absolutely packed with flavour. We had no worries about cooking it too fast as we stewed it over a whole weekend – about 12 hours altogether – in our slow cooker, but you don’t have to be that leisurely! It’s served with some deliciously mustardy leeks and lovely kale.

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 250 g shin of beef (or any other diced cut of beef)
  • 500 ml dark ale
  • 100 ml beef stock (use a whole stock cube)
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 5 pickling onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 small turnips
  • 3-4 new potatoes/1 large potato
  • Pinch Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250 g puff pastry (we used shop-bought pastry that we keep in the freezer)
  • 1 large leek, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 100 g shredded kale
  • Seasoning

Pie Veg Chopped

This has to be one of the easiest recipes ever – to get the filling going, cover the beef in the flour, and then put all the ingredients up to the bay leaves into a large casserole dish (or better yet, a slow cooker), bring to the boil and then turn down to a very low heat for at least 3 hours – the longer the better! Stir it occasionally and make sure that it doesn’t reduce too much – you want it to be a silky consistency.

Silky Pie

Once the filling is cooked, you can optionally take out the meat and pull it apart, to ensure it is spread evenly throughout the pie.

Meat Pulled Apart

Roll out your pastry so that it will cover your pie dish – it should be about 1 cm thick. Brush around the edge of your pie dish with a bit of beaten egg to ensure the pastry sticks. Put your filling in the dish and lay the pastry over the top, trimming any excess and pressing around the edges with a fork to make sure it sticks down. Brush the pastry with egg for a nice golden colour – we mixed our egg wash with a bit of mustard, which was amazing! Make a hole in the middle of the pastry with a knife to let any steam out. Put this in the oven for about 20 minutes at about 180 ºC, or until the pastry is golden-brown.

Pie Before

Pie After

To cook the leeks, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the leeks. Once this has started to sweat down, add the mustard and continue to cook until they’re completely softened. Braise the kale along with a bit of seasoning.

Pie Done

If you’ve timed it right, everything should come together perfectly! Serve with a pint of good ale.

Pea and King Prawn Risotto

We know that it’s almost the middle of December and it’s pretty chilly around here. And we know that this is much more of a summer dish, but risotto is pretty comforting all year round and sometimes you don’t feel like a heavy dinner. Pea and prawns is a classic combination – we kept this light, it has no cheese in it and the peas and prawns are only added at the end so the risotto is subtly flavoured with white wine and lemon zest and then the burst of freshness comes from the chopped herbs at the end. You could stir in some crème fraiche or soft cheese at the end to add extra richness but we found that ours was creamy anyway just from the starchyness of the rice.

If you manage to serve this with a little more delicacy than we did then this could make a very elegant course for a dinner party. This recipe would make plenty for 4-6 people as a starter but like the pigs we are we ate the lot!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion or 2 shallots, very finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 200g Arborio rice (or other risotto rice)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • About 1.5l of weak chicken stock (we used 1 stock cube in total)
  • 3-4 pieces of lemon zest
  • Frozen peas, as many as you like – we used about 200-300g
  • Raw king prawns, either frozen and defrosted or fresh
  • Mixed soft herbs, we used mostly parsley with a little mint and dill, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to season

Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan/skillet. Add the finely chopped onion/shallot and the dried thyme and cook over a very low heat for around 10 minutes until completely translucent but not coloured. You’ll need to keep a fairly close eye on these and stir them regularly as you don’t want them to stick or colour. Stir in the rice after this time and cook in the butter for a minute or so, then pour in the white wine and add the lemon zest. Season lightly at this stage.

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Keep stirring until all of the wine has been absorbed and then start adding the stock, ladle by lade, stirring regularly and not adding the next ladle until the previous has been completely absorbed. This process will take about 30-40 minutes until the rice is cooked so after about 20 minutes tip the frozen peas into a bowl and cover with boiling water to defrost. Let them stand for a minute or so and then drain and add to the risotto.

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Taste the rice to check it is cooked but still with some bite and when you’re happy with it add the prawns, these should take around 2 minutes to turn beautifully pink, you don’t want to overcook them! When they’re ready stir in most of the chopped herbs and adjust the seasoning. Serve up and sprinkle with the remaining herbs and salad if you wish.

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Enjoy! We love making risotto, some people find it a faff but we find it very relaxing just taking the time and care over it, and you’re rewarded with such a lovely meal!

Rich and Creamy Lasagne

Lasagne is a bit deceptive – you think “Ah just a bit of meat sauce here, some cheese sauce there, bit of pasta, job done!” but it takes a bit of love and care to get a really good lasagne. And some days there really is nothing better than a really good lasagne! This one is a proper stick-to-the-ribs-er, a slowly reduced sauce made with a mixture of pork and beef mince, red wine and herbs, and a smooth cheese sauce with an extra cheesy layer on top! Bird made this while watching Lady & The Tramp… maybe it added a little Italian flair?

Ingredients for the meat sauce

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1-2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 125g pork mince
  • 125g beef mince
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • 1 carton/jar of passata
  • Salt and pepper to season

Ingredients for the white/cheese sauce

  • 1.5  tbsp butter
  • 1.5-2 tbsp plain flour
  • Around 1 pint of milk
  • Grated cheese, we used cheddar but parmesan would be lovely too – as much or as little as you like!

Other ingredients

  • Lasagne sheets
  • Salad to serve

To start make the meat sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan/wok and when hot add the onion, carrot and celery. Let these sweat down for around five minutes and then add the garlic and herbs.

Lasagne veg

Cook for a further 10 minutes until everything is softened but not coloured. Add in the meat, breaking it up a bit with your hands as you do so, and then the stock and the wine.

Lasagne sauce

Let the meat brown slightly, then tip in the passata, stir, season and leave to bubble on the lowest heat possible, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Ours took the best part of an hour to fully reduce, you want to be able to draw a wooden spoon through it and be able to see the bottom of the pan cleanly otherwise your lasagne will end up as a big sloppy mess!

To make the cheese sauce simply make a roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan – once melted throw in the flour and stir together to form a paste (the roux). Cook this for a few minutes over a low heat, stirring continuously and then start adding the milk. If you wanted to make this the fanciest, best lasagne you could ever dream of them you could heat your milk with a bay leaf studded to an onion with a clove and some peppercorns for extra flavour but it still tastes amazing without all of that faff. Keep slowly adding the milk making sure it’s completely combined before adding the next lot. Now cook over a low heat, stirring continuously until it has thickened, then switch the heat off. Now it’s time to add the cheese! We like to have the sauce in the layers not be too cheesy, so we only added a small handful to start with and stirred it in to melt.

Lasagne uncooked

Now you’re ready to layer. We started with meat sauce, then cheese sauce, then lasagne and so on finishing with an extra thick layer of cheese sauce! For the final bit of cheese sauce we stirred in a whole load more cheese and then grated some extra on top for a really golden-brown, cheesy topping. The lasagne will take about 45 minutes in the oven at 180C to become gorgeous and bubbly and golden.

Lasagne cooked

Take it out of the oven and let it stand for five minutes (the longest five minutes of your life!) and then serve with a salad and the rest of the red wine… delicious!

Lasagne served

Moroccan-style Spiced Vegetable Stew with Maneesh

We had originally planned to make this Moroccan-style roasted vegetable traybake and serve it with cous cous but Bird found herself with a bit of time on her hands. After a flick through Paul Hollywood’s “Bread” she decided to give Maneesh a go. Maneesh is a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with sesame seeds and herbs – basically a za’atar mixture which we’ve used previously with steak. Paul’s recipe can be found here.

The dough was really stretchy and sticky – very fun to work with!  We made half the amount in Paul’s book, he said his made 3 large maneesh but we managed to get 2 pretty huge breads out of half of the mixture. The vegetables were ridiculously simple – a mixture of bite-sized pieces of Mediterranean vegetables, roasted until slightly charred then smothered in chopped tomatoes, mixed with chickpeas and roasted for a further few minutes – often the simplest things are the best. This made a beautifully hearty dinner with enough vegetables left over for 2 lunches. It was lovely on it’s own but would be great with some meat, fish or cheese or could form one of many mezze courses to be enjoyed with friends!

Ingredients for 2 large maneesh

  • 250 g strong white flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 12 g caster sugar
  • 5 g instant yeast
  • 10 ml olive oil, plus extra for kneading and another 1bsp to make the za’atar paste
  • 180 ml tepid water
  • 2 heaped tbsp za’atar

You make this like a fairly standard bread dough. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast (adding the salt and yeast to opposite sides of the bowl at first), then add in 10 ml of olive oil and most of the water – you don’t need to bother rubbing in the olive oil like a regular loaf. Mix all of this together until you have a soft, smooth dough, adding the rest of the water slowly as needed. We used pretty much all of the water but you may not need to. Once it has come together tip onto an oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until really soft and elastic. Place it in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film to rise, it needs to at least double in size – ours took just over an hour near a warm radiator.

Maneesh with za'atar

Once it’s risen tip it out onto an oiled surface again and knock back, fold it on itself and make sure all of the air is out. Once done split the dough into two. Roll each piece into a ball and then roll out with a rolling pin to form a large roughly circular shape. Put onto a baking sheet lined with oiled greaseproof paper. Now mix together the za’atar with enough oil to form a thick paste and smear onto the maneesh, leaving a small border around the edge. Pre-heat the oven to 210°C (Paul says 230 but we found this a bit hot) and leave the maneesh to rest for 20-30 minutes while the oven comes to temperature. When the oven is ready pop the bread in, we did ours one at a time as they cook best on the middle shelf. They take about 10-15 minutes to cook, when they’re golden-brown they’re ready! Leave to cool, turn the oven down to 180°C and start chopping your vegetables…

Cooked Maneesh

Ingredients for vegetable stew

  • A selection of chopped vegetables, we used 1 aubergine, 2 peppers, 2 courgettes, 1 large carrot, 1 red onion, all cut into bite-sized pieces with the carrots chopped slightly smaller as they take longer to cook
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanout
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes – optional
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1-2 tsp pomegranate molasses – optional

Place all of the chopped vegetables in a large roasting dish and coat with the ras el hanout, sea salt, oil and chilli flakes (if using). Place in a preheated oven at 180°C. The whole dish will take about 1 hour to make, check on the vegetables every 15-20 minutes to move them around. After around 50 minutes they should be getting slightly charred and very soft so tip in the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and the pomegranate molasses. Cook for a further 10 minutes and it’s ready!

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

We cut our maneesh in half, served the spicy vegetable stew on half and placed the other half on top for dipping. This was a real success and the maneesh made it feel a lot fancier than it was – give it a try!

Maneesh and vegetable stew