Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

When Autumn comes around and butternut squash comes into season I dig out this recipe. Its warming, filling and looks and tastes like Autumn.

To serve 4 - 6 (depending on how big a portion you want), you will need:

1 butternut squash
1 clove of garlic
1 large/2 small red onions
1 large red pepper
1 cup of red lentils
1 litre of your stock of choice (I use one chicken stock cube to make mine, but if you want it to be vegetarian friendly use vegetable stock)
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper

You will also need a roasting tray, a large saucepan and a blender (as well as extra basic kitchen equipment)

Start by chopping your butternut squash into smallish cubes. Its quite tough so the bigger your chopping knife, the easier it is. Once you've gone through the gruelling job of cutting it up, place the squash into the roasting tray, drizzle with some olive oil and season with some salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven, pre-heated to 200 DEGREES C for between 25 - 35 minutes, until its beginning to soften.

Meanwhile, gently heat some olive oil in your saucepan. Crush or finely cut up the garlic and add to the pan, followed by the onions, chopped into cubes. Cut the red pepper into cubes and add to the pan and then leave to slowly cook. Prepare the stock so its ready to add when needed.

Once the butternut squash is ready, add it to the pan and give it all a bit of a stir. Pour in the stock, making sure the pan isn't too full, because the soup needs to boil, and then add in the lentils. Also, add a pinch of salt and pepper to season to your liking (I like about a teaspoon of black pepper and I sometimes add a pinch of chilli flakes for a bit of heat).

Turn up the heat and wait for the soup to come to the boil, before turning the heat back down and leaving to gently simmer for about half an hour. When its ready, the lentils will be slightly yellow, soft and will have grown a lot in size.

Grab your blender, I like to use a hand blender so you don't have to transfer the soup out of the saucepan, and give it a good blend until you're left with a thick, orange soup and there are no chunks left.

Without a doubt this is my favourite soup. Its easy to make, smells (and tastes) incredible and is really satisfying. Perfect for an Autumn day when you've got a bit of a cold.


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Weekend at The Plough - Harborne, Birmingham

Last weekend I was lucky enough to dine out twice at The Plough, which for a student with a fairly restricted budget, was a major treat. After my trip there at the end of last year (read all about that here) I was desperate to go back and try the rest of the menu.

On Saturday I headed to The Plough for brunch. I'm a big breakfast lover. I'm a morning person and never miss breakfast, so eating out for the first meal of the day is one of my favourite things to do, and after examining The Plough's brunch menu I was very excited. (By the way I find breakfast and brunch to be pretty similar - either way I always end up having a bit of lunch and I guess the only real difference is that you go out later for brunch).

I decided to go for a smoothie, I think it was made with strawberry and mango.

If I really think about it, it was probably a bit overpriced but it was yummy and we went out for brunch to celebrate my friend's 21st birthday, so as it was a special occasion I decided to splash out a bit. When I looked at the menu the coconut milk porridge jumped out at me and I'm not really sure why. I don't particularly like coconut but I think seeing as it came with honeycomb and mango that was what swayed me. I'm very glad I ordered it though.

The portion size was spot-on and as well as coming with a few chunks of mango, it was also served with a mango purée which was delicious.

The porridge was really tasty and I will definitely make porridge with coconut milk in the future for a a bit of variation. Everyone elses food looked really good as well, in particular the pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.

On Sunday my parents came up to visit so we went to The Plough for Sunday lunch. We all had the roast.

It was massive! I went for beef, which was served pink, and there was loads of it. I hate going out for Sunday lunch and only being given one small slice of meat but this is not something to worry about at The Plough. The beef was really tasty and seasoned with a fair amount of pepper. I found the roast potatoes to be a bit too salty for my liking but they weren't so salty I found them inedible. The Yorkshire pudding was good and the veg was great too (peas, red cabbage and swede mash).

It's not cheap but you definitely get your money's worth and it's all really good quality. My only niggle is that the potatoes were a tad too salty and I would've prefered more gravy, but I guess I like to drown my plate in gravy so most people would probably find it to be an adequate amount. It's the perfect place to go when parents come to visit, if you want to splash out for a special occasion or if you just love great food and money is no object.

I'm yet to try the burger so I guess I'll have to go back soon!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Gourmet Burger Kitchen - The Mailbox, Birmingham

Although on the whole I do prefer independent restaurants, I do enjoy going to a chain every now and again, especially if they focus on burgers. Generally burger chains tend to be pretty darn good. I haven't been to GBK a huge amount in the past but after going last week for a catch up with a friend I was reminded how good it is.

As you will know if you read this post I'm obsessed with avocados, and bacon and avocado is one of my favourite combinations. Naturally I went for the avocado and bacon beef burger.

It was a pretty big burger, but not so giant that eating it is a massive challenge. It came with the usual salad in burgers, as well as a burger relish that I think was a bit mustard-y. I'm not a huge fan of mustard but it wasn't too strong and just complimented the burger wonderfully. I had mine cooked medium-rare. I love it when places give you the option of how you'd like your burger cooked as I think the main way burgers are ruined is when they are well done.

My friend went for the cheeseburger (which she enjoyed) and we shared a side of sweet potato fries, which came with baconnaise. The fries were a good balance of crispy and super soft and I will definitely be having baconnaise again. We also got a free portion of garlic mayo that I got from downloading the GBK app.

Having satisfied our savoury cravings we decided to get a couple of milkshakes to round off the meal. This was one of the best decisions ever.

I got the honeycomb milkshake and it was massive. I couldn't quite finish it because it was pretty rich, but in no way sickly as a lot of milkshakes are. It had a lovely, caramel-y flavour with pieces of honeycomb in it and wasn't overly thick or sweet. The only word to describe it is perfect.

I wouldn't say the burgers at GBK are amazing or outstanding, but they're pretty good and the menu is pretty vast so you're bound to find something you like. I will definitely go there again (especially as they do student discount), if not because of their burgers but because of their milkshakes.