Mexican Chilli Soup with Cheese Quesadillas

A comforting soup flavoured with four different types of chillies, served with grilled cheese Quesadillas.

This is essentially soup and sandwiches – comfort food, Mexican style.

The soup is flavoured with four different chillies – Ancho, Guajillo, Chipotle and red chillies. The soup is rich, Smokey and very delicious with its flavour coming from a wonderful paste made from pan roasting the chillies along with tomatoes bell peppers, garlic, onions and spices.  Charring these in a pan before blending makes such a difference and really brings the flavours to life. Diced carrot and celery are fried, stock is added, then the paste followed by a good simmer. Before serving diced bell peppers, more sliced red chillies, diced onion and some fresh coriander leaf are added to give the soup texture and freshness.

The Quesadillas are the perfect accompaniment and very easy to make – just don’t tell anyone how easy! They can be made in minutes, and eaten even quicker.

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Soup gives 4 portions

Quesadillas recipe for 2 persons

Cooking time 40 minutes

 

Ingredients and Method

For the Mexican Chilli Soup

1 stick celery – dice

1 medium size carrot – peel, dice

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

4 tomatoes

3 small white onions – leave whole with skin on

1 ancho chilli

1 guajillo chilli

2 red chillies – thinly slice one chilli, Set aside in a bowl

4 cloves garlic – leave skin on the cloves

1 orange bell pepper – dice half the pepper, set aside in a bowl

1 red bell pepper – dice half the pepper, set aside in a bowl

1 red onion – dice, set aside in a bowl

Generous handful of fresh coriander – keep a few stalks aside and roughly chop the rest

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp chipotle paste

1/2 tsp oregano

4 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1.5 litres chicken stock

Method: Start by warming a large flat pan or griddle over a medium heat. Place the tomatoes, garlic, the chillies, half the bell peppers and onions on and dry fry until they become slightly charred, for approx. 7-8 minutes, turning halfway through. Add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and dry fry until the spices become aromatic.

Remove the contents from the pan, add the spices to a food processor and leave the rest on a chopping board to cool for a few minutes. Once cooled remove the skins from the garlic and onions, but leave the skins on the peppers and tomatoes. Add everything to the food processor along with a few coriander stalks,  1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp chipotle paste, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp oregano and 4 tsp brown sugar. Blitz until a smooth paste is formed, make sure you blend it well as the smoother the paste the smoother the final soup.

Add 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil to a deep soup pan over a medium heat, once hot add the diced carrot and celery and fry for 4-5 minutes until softened. Next add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Now add the paste and stir well, bring back to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Complete the soup by adding the diced bell peppers, onion and sliced chilli then simmer for a further 5 minutes – enough to heat these through but not so long that they loose their texture. As a final step add the chopped coriander and stir through. The soup is now ready to serve.

For the cheese Quesadillas

4 corn tortillas (2 per person)

Canola oil – in a spray or ramekin with pastry brush

2 handfuls of sweetcorn

2 medium tomatoes – diced

1 small red onion – diced

Handful of coriander – roughly chopped

150g strong cheddar cheese – grated

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Pinch of sea salt

Garlic mayonnaise – optional, to serve

Barbeque sauce – optional, to serve

Method: Begin by pre heating your oven to 170°c, and warm a flat frying pan over a medium heat.

In a large glass bowl, mix the tomatoes, sweetcorn, coriander leaf, ground coriander, ground cumin, smoked paprika, salt and cheddar cheese.

Spray one side of the corn tortillas with canola oil then heat the tortilla on that side until golden, remove and repeat with the rest of the tortillas.

Assemble the quesadillas by spooning the mixture on the non cooked side of the tortillas then like a sandwich place another tortilla on top. Place the assembled quesadillas on a baking tray and heat them through in the oven for approx. 15 minutes, until the cheese in the mixture melts – this could be slightly quicker or slower depending upon how big the tortillas are and how much filling you have added.

Remove them from the oven, let them cool slightly then cut into quarters. As an optional garnish drizzle some garlic mayonnaise and some barbeque sauce  over them.

 

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Grilled Ras el Hanout Lamb Loin Chop, Toasted Almonds and a Moroccan bean stew

Grilled lamb chop marinated in Ras el Hanout spice, served on a Moroccan bean stew, garnished with toasted sliced almonds and a little coriander leaf.

If I ever open a restaurant, this would be on the menu for certain. I have always been a fan of Moroccan cuisine and visited the coastal resort of Agadir a few years ago, where my love of the food only grew. Grilled meats and stews are the backbone of Moroccan cuisine and the inspiration behind this recipe was the local food I sampled in Agadir.

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Serves two people

Preparation time 15 minutes (plus 2-3 hrs marinating time)

cooking time 15mins for lamb, approx. 95 minutes for bean stew

 

Ingredients and Method

For Lamb

2 Lamb loin chops – 150-200g each

2-3 tbsp. Ras el Hanout spice mixture

1 tbsp. olive oil – plus a little to brush on grill pan

Method: Place the lamb chops in a food bag, then add the olive oil and Ras el Hanout. Tie the bag, shake well then massage the spices into the lamb. Place in a fridge for 2-3 hours and take out 30 minutes before grilling to bring to room temperature.

To cook the Lamb, pre heat the grill pan on a high setting, once hot brush the grill with a little olive oil (so spices and lamb don’t stick to it and burn). Once olive oil begins to smoke add the lamb to the grill pan, sear the chops on all sides then reduce heat to medium. Cook the lamb for 12 minutes (for rare) to 14 minutes (medium) , turning every few minutes. It is important to grill the lamb on all sides – including the bone and fat side, this adds flavour and helps renders the fat to make the meat even more succulent. You will likely need to use kitchen tongs to hold the meat when grilling on bone and fat side. Once grilled rest the lamb on a plate for a few minutes before serving.

For the bean stew

235g cannoli beans – drain and rinse well under running water

3 small red onions

4 cloves garlic – remove skin

1 red chilli – remove stalk and seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp medium hot chill powder

1.5 tsps. sweet smoked paprika

6 tbsp. sliced almonds – half for paste half for toasting

2 tbsp. roughly chopped coriander leaf

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp dried parsley leaf

1 tsp dried coriander leaf

500ml stock

350ml water

300g passata

1 dessert spoon brown sugar

Black peppercorns – in mill for grinding

1 tsp vinegar

Greek Yogurt – optional condiment 

Method: start by making a paste to flavour the bean stew. Add the red onions, garlic, red chilli, chilli powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika and 3 tbsp. sliced almonds into a mini chopper/food processor and blitz into a smooth red paste. Heat 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil in a flat deep non stick frying pan then add the paste. Cook the paste for 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently, loosen with a few tsp of water if paste sticks to pan – make sure it does not burn.

Once the paste is cooked add the beans and stir through the paste until combined. Next add the rest of the ingredients – the stock, water, dried parsley, dried coriander, passata, brown sugar, vinegar and a generous amount of ground black pepper. Stir well until combined and heat through until it begins to boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Leave pan uncovered and let the stew slowly reduce for around 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the stew is reducing too slowly increase the heat slightly, if sauce has reduced too much simply add a little water to loosen it. The stew is ready when beans are softened and the sauce has reduced to a rich thick consistency.

To make the garnish simply toast the rest of the sliced almonds in a dry pan over a medium heat, turning frequently until the almonds toast and start to take on a golden brown colour. remove them from the heat and tip the almonds on to a plate. To serve spoon the bean stew on to the plate, place the grilled lamb in centre then sprinkle with toasted almonds and coriander leaf. Some Greek yogurt works very well as a condiment.

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My Ultimate Tomato Soup

My ultimate tomato soup – oven roasted tomatoes, garlic, chillies, red onion and Romano peppers give this soup the deepest of flavours.

I wanted to make a tomato soup which tasted differently to my other versions, which are quite heavily spiced. With this soup I oven roasted the vegetables and added them to a soup base of fried celery and carrot along with some stock and herbs. The result was a true tomato soup with a real depth of tomato flavour.

To accompany the soup I made some simple croutons out of a couple of slices of sour dough bread – rubbing the cubes in the same tray as the roasted vegetables helped imprint the flavour into the croutons.

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Gives two large portions

Preparation and cooking time less than 1 hour

Ingredients and method

2 sticks celery – slice thinly

3 medium carrots – peel, slice thinly

1-2 tbsp. olive oil – plus a little extra to drizzle on croutons

6 round tomatoes

3 small red onions

1 Romano pepper – remove stalk and seeds before roasting

1 large red chilli – remove stalk and seeds before roasting

4 cloves garlic – keep in skin for roasting (prevents it burning)

1 litre stock – chicken or vegetable

2-3 tsp brown sugar

salt and pepper

2 slices of sourdough bread

4-6 basil leafs

1 tbps chopped parley

2 bay leafs

Method: start by preheating your oven to around 200°C, space out the tomatoes, onions, chillies, Romano peppers and garlic on a non stick backing tray then roast for 15-20 minutes then remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a deep stock/soup pot warm 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil over a medium heat then add the bay leafs, celery and carrot. Fry for around 5 minutes until the carrots and celery begin to soften then remove from the heat. Once the roasted vegetables are cooled remove the skins from the pepper, tomatoes and garlic then add (along with the chilli) into the soup pan and return to the heat. Fry for a further 5 minutes then add the stock followed by the herbs (basil and parsley), bring to boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

As the soup simmers make the croutons – cut the sour dough into 2cm cubes then tip them on to the same baking tray used to roast the vegetables, rub the cubes of bread into the tray to absorb and juices or residue left from the roasted vegetables then drizzle with a little olive oil. Place in the oven at 200°C and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crispy, remove from oven and set aside to cook.

Remove the bay leafs from the soup then use a stick blender to blitz the soup until smooth. Add 2 teaspoon of brown sugar, a generous amount of black pepper and season with a little salt. Taste test and adjust seasoning to taste. Heat the soup through then ladle into soup bowls, adding a generous handful of croutons just before serving. Enjoy.

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Prawn, Sweet Peppers and Cashew Nuts

My version of the classic chinese take away dish using sweet bell peppers and honey to give the dish a delicious sweet taste. Green beans, onion and celery also give the dish some crunch. Like many Chinese dishes this is very quick and easy to cook.

Serve with your choice of rice or noodles.

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Prawn, sweet peppers and cashew nuts

For two people

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 5-6 minutes

 

What’s needed

12-14 Raw King prawns – peel, devein and butterfly

4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

Thumb sized piece of ginger – peel, cut into fine match sticks

1 tablespoon corn flour – dissolved in 50ml warm water

Dash of shaoxing  rice wine

1 tablespoon of honey

1 teaspoon of five spice

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

handful of trimmed fine green beans – cut into batons

handful of cashew nuts

1 stick of celery – cut into 2cm cubes

1 medium brown onion – cut into 2-3cm cubes

1 yellow bell pepper – cut into 2-3cm cubes

1 orange bell pepper – cut into 2-3cm cubes

Black pepper to season

1 tablespoon wok oil

Serve with choice of rice or noodles.

Get cooking

  1. Start by adding oil to your wok and heat till smoking hot. keep your hob on full heat for the whole cooking process, remove wok from heat when needed rather than reduce heat.

  2. Fry the chopped garlic and ginger for 1 minute. Remove wok from heat if required to prevent burning.

  3. Add the vegetables to the wok and stir fry for 1 minute. Then add the King prawns and continue to stir fry for 1-2 minutes

  4. Now add the corn flour (dissolved in water),  2 tablespoons soy sauce, a tablespoon of honey, dash of shaoxing rice wine and teaspoon five spice. Stir fry for 1 minute, until the sauce starts to bubble.

  5. Taste test – add more honey if more sweetness is required or more soy sauce if you require more seasoning. Crack a little black pepper through the dish.

  6. Serve with rice/noodles and enjoy.

     

 

Korean crispy Sesame chicken with fried chilli noodles

My take on Sesame chicken – Korean style.

Chicken marinated for 2-3 hours in dark soy sauce and sesame then coated in corn flour just before being deep fried. I used a chicken supreme breast with bone in to give extra juicy flavour, although you could use diced breast, wings, thighs or drumsticks if you wish. Don’t be concerned by the dark colour of the fried chicken, its not overdone, the dark soy colours the crispy corn flour coating.

Noodles are stir fried along with vegetables, ginger, garlic, gochujan (Korean fermented chilli paste) , honey, vinegar and dark soy sauce – they are so tasty they would be a great meal by themselves.

A rich sesame sauce completes the dish, made from Tahini, peanuts, gochujan, dark soy, sesame oil, garlic and vinegar. This is warmed through in a separate sauce pan then poured over the crispy fried chicken.

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Serves two people

Preparation 30 minutes (plus 2-3hrs marinating time)

Cooking time 10-15 minutes

Ingredients

For the fried chicken:

2 chicken breasts, bone in (I used chicken supreme cut- see above notes)

4 desert spoons sesame seeds

2 desert spoons sesame oil

2 desert spoons dark soy sauce

Vegetable oil to deep fry (approx 180०c)

Approx 75g corn flour (enough in a bowl to coat chicken) 

Use a food bag, put all the ingredients in and massage them into the chicken. Tie the bag and marinate in fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight. Remove from fridge at least 20 minutes before cooking to bring chicken to room temperature.

For the stir fried noodles:

1 tablespoon wok oil

6 trimmed broccoli spears

8 trimmed green beans (cut into 3-4cm lengths)

1 carrot (cut into thin matchsticks)

1 red chilli (thinly sliced)

6 baby corn (thinly sliced)

1 red onion (cut into thin strips) 

2 portions of cooked medium thick egg noodles

Handful of peanuts

Thumb of ginger (cut into very fine matchsticks)

2 teaspoon sesame seeds

1 desert spoon gochujan

1 desert spoon honey

1 desert spoon vinegar

2 desert spoons dark soy sauce

4 cloves garlic (crush, finely chop)

Place all of the chopped vegetables in a bowl ready to fry. In a separate bowl make the noodle flavour mixture – mix the ginger, sesame seeds, gochujan, honey, vinegar and garlic. Stir well until combined.

For the sesame sauce:

4 desert spoons Tahini paste

4 desert spoons peanuts

1 desert spoon gochujan

2 desert spoons dark soy sauce

1 desert spoon sesame oil

3 cloves garlic

1 desert spoon vinegar

Add all the ingredients to a mini blender and whizz into a smooth sauce ready to be heat through just before serving.

 

Get cooking!

You need a wok, pan for deep frying and a small saucepan to heat the sesame sauce.

  1. Start by pre heating the oil to around 180०c. Remove the chicken from the bag and roll in the cornflour ensuring the chicken is well coated. Place carefully in the oil and deep fry for 6-8 minutes until chicken turns dark brown and floats in the oil. Remove and sit on a plate with absorbent paper.
  2. Add a tablespoon of wok oil to the wok and heat on maximum hob setting until smoking hot. Add the bowl of vegetables and stir fry for 1 minute, keeping hob at maximum setting. Next add the noodle flavour mixture and stir fry for a further minute. Next add the noodles and stir through so the noodles are coated in the sauce. Stir fry for a further minute until piping hot.
  3. In a separate saucepan heat the sesame sauce through to the boil, stirring to make sure the sauce does not burn on the pan bottom.
  4. Place the noodles on serving plates, place chicken on top then pour the sesame sauce over the chicken.
  5. Serve and enjoy!