My style TLC Spanish Chickpea White Bean Stew (vegan – or non-vegan)

I just love to feel comfy & warm – especially now that it’s cold outside. And I love to eat soups and hearty dishes when it’s that time of the year. So what do you get when you combine a soup with a hearty dish?: a comfort food stew!

Ingredients:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Chorizo (if you opt for the non-vegan version – cut it up a bit, so the juices can get out while cooking)

1 white onion, chopped

2 green Italian peppers, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

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optional:

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 big carrot, cut into quarters and then into fine slices

1 big potato, diced

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400g chickpeas (soak them in water overnight or use a jar of pre-cooked ones)

400g white beans (soak them in water overnight or use a jar of pre-cooked ones)

500-750ml vegetable broth (depending on the desired consistency – you’ll get some thickness from the beans)

salt

white ground pepper

about 2 TSPs smoked paprika spice (Spanish one, if possible – I really recommend using this one as it provides the needed smokiness for the vegetarian/ vegan version)

Pimenton de la Vera

Preparation:

Pour about 4 TBSPs of olive oil into a cooking pot, add the onions, the carrots and the smoked paprika spice to the cold olive oil, stir well and let them cook at high heat for about 2mins. Lower the heat to a medium heat and add the garlic, the chorizo (for the meaty version), your Italian peppers and the red bell pepper. Let it simmer for about 5-8 more minutes.

Now add 500-750ml of vegetable broth and the diced potato and bring to a boil. Lower the heat again, but make sure it keeps boiling. After 5 more minutes add the rinsed chickpeas. Boil on medium to low heat for 10 more minutes until the potato dices are fully cooked. Now add the rinsed white beans, let them heat up and season everything with salt and pepper according to taste, switch off the hotplate, but leave the covered cook pot on, so the taste develops. The stew will taste better the next day, as most stews do.

Spanish Chickpea Bean Stew

The Healthier Option: Unfried Sweet Potato Fries

Love sweet potato fries? Me, too! Since I had that delicious treat for the first time back in 2010 in NYC, I’ve always preferred them as a side or a snack whenever available. I’m not a huge fan of fried food usually, and I like it healthy so since they are in season over here at the moment, I thought let’s give it a go and bake them in the oven. And the result was oh sooo good! This is yet another super easy recipe and just perfect for a snack or as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 huge sweet potato or basically as many as you like or as many as your baking tray can hold 😉

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fleur de Sel or sea salt

Sweet Potato Fries

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan). Meanwhile peel the sweet potato(es) and cut it into evenly long pieces. Line out your baking tray with parchment paper and spread the sweet potato pieces all over it. Drizzle some Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used a pastry brush to glaze all sweet potato pieces evenly with olive oil) over them and season your fries with salt. If you like the taste you can furthermore season them with freshly ground black pepper.

Cook the fries during 20mins – if finely cut they shouldn’t take longer than that.

Recommendation: Serve them with some BBQ sauce – that is just an unbeatable combination!

Vegetarian / Vegan Cottage Pie

It’s winter in the Northern hemisphere and even for us people living in the Mediterranean it’s cold, and we long for hearty dishes that make us feel warm and comfort us through a cold evening. So what’s better than a delicious vegetarian (or even vegan) Cottage Pie?

Cottage Pie

Ingredients (for about 4 big servings):

vegetable oil

1/2 chopped onion

2 big chopped carrots

2 chopped garlic cloves

300 g Quorn Mince (alternatively [and vegan!] use several times washed, drained and crumbled firm tofu that you season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika spice, [add some mustard for the extra kick if you like] – for people living in Barcelona: you can buy frozen vegetarian mince at the Mercat de Santa Caterina)

gravy (use instant one or make your own: Fry some chopped onion (about 1/4) using 2 TBSPs vegetable oil until golden brown; sprinkle in about 1-2 TBSPs of flour and stir well until all flour clumps are removed. Cook while stirring well over a medium heat until the flour-onion mix is light brown. Add vegetable broth [about 250 ml or more depending on your desired gravy thickness], and keep stirring until your gravy is smooth and season with salt and pepper.)

about 100 g fresh or frozen peas

chopped chives and parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

For the mash:

3 big potatoes

butter or margarine

3 TBSPs of cream (vegan soy cream)

about 30 ml of milk (for a vegan version, use soy milk for example)

salt

pepper

ground nutmeg

Preparation:

Dice the potatoes and bring them to a boil. While they are boiling, heat up some vegetable oil (I recommend rice or sunflower oil as it has a rather neutral flavour) and add the onion and the garlic. Let the onion garlic mix cook over a medium heat and before it turns golden, add the chopped carrots. Keep stirring the vegetable mix from time to time to prevent burning. Incorporate the vegetarian / vegan mince and add more vegetable oil if necessary since it tends to soak up the oil quite quickly so you might need to add more. Season it with a bit of salt and pepper, but do not over season since you’ll later on add the already seasoned gravy, as well. When the mince veggie mix is cooked, add 250 ml of vegetable gravy and bring to a gentle boil. Add the frozen or the already cooked fresh peas and the chives / parsley mix, taste it and season more if necessary, and put aside when done.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (grill function).

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and add 1 TBSP margarine or butter and mash them up. Add the cream and milk until you reach your desired mash texture – it should be smooth but not runny / liquid. Season it with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg spice.

Add the vegetable mince mix to a big casserole dish and cover it with the potato mash. Use a fork to get the riffled top structure. Leave it in the oven until golden brown.

Cottage Pie Ready

Crème Brûlée – the classic version

Creme Brulee

Many people love it and yet think Crème Brûlée is a super complicated dessert to make. Of course, you need a few basic tools in order to prepare it correctly, but those are all things easy to access (ovenproof moulds, a small blow torch), and surely you can borrow them from one of your gourmet friends if you don’t want to purchase them. I made it quite a few times and it’s become my favourite dessert.

Starting with the ingredients (makes about 5-8 servings according to the mould size):

750 ml liquid cream (at least 32% fat content)

250 ml milk

200 g sugar

12 egg yolks

1 scraped vanilla bean

raw sugar to caramelise the cooked crème brûlée

Preparation:

In a big bowl mix all the ingredients. Make sure the sugar dissolves completely. Fill the liquid mix into ovenproof crème brûlée moulds or similar (small tapas dishes do the same trick) and put them onto a baking tray. Transfer the baking tray into the oven and fill it with water until the water mark around the little moulds is about 2cm high.

Cook during at least 1h at 100ºC in a fan oven. Check the crème brûlée after 1 hour by moving the moulds a little bit – it should wobble a little but not too much. It shouldn’t need longer than 1h and 15mins in the oven to cook.

Let the crème brûlée cool down and sprinkle some raw sugar over it, which you caramelise with the help of a blow torch (DO NOT use a lighter – that only results in nasty and painful burns).

Store up to 3 days in the refrigerator.