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Thai Butternut Squash Coconut Noodle Soup

This soup is so good, that people will do anything to get their hands on it. This isn’t an exaggeration – a portion of this beautiful Thai inspired soup destined to be my lunch one afternoon went missing, tub and all, from my office kitchen. To this day we don’t know who ‘soup thief’ is – who, in turn also stole a sandwich at the same time – and I never saw that tub again. It’s all excitement at my work, I tell you.

Before it was stolen, it began life in a large Le Creuset pot, filled with lightly spiced cubes of butternut squash, creamy coconut broth and spindly lengths of vermicelli noodles. Handfuls of not-so-authentic spinach are stirred through right at the last minute, to wither slightly before being ladled into bowls and topped with fresh mint and a twist of black pepper. It’s so simple, warming and full of goodness, that I can almost forgive the soup thief for their crime. If they were after a hug in a bowl, that is indeed what they stole.

Washed Spinach in a Colander

I came across this recipe a few months ago, going through back issues of delicious magazine in search of some new dinner inspiration. The original recipe cites two servings, but I believe you can stretch it to three easily or four for lunch-sized portions. If you eat a gluten free diet, this is a perfect new recipe for you – just ensure you use gluten free stock cubes and that your noodles have been packaged in a gluten-free zone. You can also make it a little more authentic with pak choi leaves, but I like the simplicity of spinach – plus its cheaper. Filling enough to be made on a weeknight for dinner then packaged up for office-based lunches, it’s the perfect way to ensure you have a meal filled with goodness whilst sitting at your desk. I’d probably advise some sort of Ross Geller-inspired ‘my soup!’ sticker on the Tupperware though, just to avoid causing a scene if it does go missing.

 Adapted from delicious. magazine December 2011

 

You Will Need

2 tbsp thai red curry paste

450g butternut squash (around half), diced into 1cm pieces

400g can of full fat coconut milk

400ml vegetable or chicken stock

2 nests or one long sheet of dried vermicelli rice noodles

100g fresh spinach (or two heads of pak choi if you’re feeling authentic, leaves shredded)

Salt and pepper to taste

Mint leaves and cracked black pepper to serve

Vermicelli Rice Noodles

Place a large stock pot over a medium heat and once hot, add the curry paste and fry for a minute. Add the squash cubes and stir to coat with the curry paste, cooking for 2 minutes. Cover the squash with the contents of the coconut milk can and the stock and stir to combine. Simmer for around 20 minutes until the squash is tender.

Stirring Spinach into Thai Butternut Squash Coconut Noodle Soup

With your hands, break the noodles into smaller chunks and add to the soup, stirring to combine and cooking for three minutes. Add the chopped spinach and stir through until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste then remove from the heat. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with cracked black pepper and mint leaves.

Thai Butternut Squash Coconut Noodle Soup

 

Sour Orange and Spice Almond Gluten Free Cake

A couple of weeks ago a bought a net filled with bright orange satsumas. Perfect little squashed ovals of sunny delight, bursting with sweet flavour that could be devoured at my desk as part of my resolution to quit my love affair with the office vending machine.

But instead of the sweet fruit I had devoured by the bucketload before the New Year, this bundle was lip-puckeringly sour – the type of sour that builds over the bridge of your nose and spreads across your face like a wave of heat. I would turn red with every slice, the skin impossible to separate from the pith, sending peals of juice squirting over my desk with every attempt. I wanted to throw the lot away but I just couldn’t resign these satsumas to the bin, no matter how awful they were. So I made a cake.

Sour Orange and Spice Almond Gluten Free Cake

It may seem like an odd start to a recipe – boiling the sourest oranges imaginable with a pinch of cloves before blending into a paste, but it’s rather therapeutic. Filling my kitchen with the sweet scents of orange and clove, it was like Christmas-but not quite had re-arrived in my flat. Blended into a chunky paste and mixed with the gluten-free fanatic’s favourite almonds, those sour-as-hell satsumas were transformed into the softest, pillowy sponge – sticky from the fruit but balanced by the nuts. Sweet spice lifts each slice with warmth without the hot flush the fruit on its own would bring. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – baking is just like magic.

 

Adapted slightly from Nigella Lawson

 

You Will Need

3 satsumas or clementines, sour if they need using up

4-5 cloves

250g ground almonds

225g caster sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp mixed sweet spice (I used a pumpkin pie spice)

1 tsp baking powder

A few pinches grated nutmeg

6 eggs

2 handfuls blanched almonds


Place the oranges in a heavy bottomed pot with the cloves, cover with water and bring to the boil, leaving to simmer on the hob for two hours. Meanwhile, blitz the ground almonds, sugar, sweet spices and baking powder together in a food processor to make the mix super fine and to remove lumps.

boiling sour oranges

Once the fruit has been cooking for two hours and is soft, drain the fruit and leave to cool. Cut into pieces and remove the pips then blend in the food processor to a paste. You can keep some chunks for texture or blend until like fine marmalade – the choice is yours.

six eggs cracked into a bowl

Preheat an oven to 190oc/170oc fan and grease and line a 7 x 7 cake tin. In the bowl of a stand mixer – or a large bowl if mixing by hand – whisk the eggs until starting to foam, then beat in the almond and sugar mix. Tip in the orange paste and beat before pouring the batter into the cake tin, levelling with a spatula and dotting with the almonds.

Sour Orange and Spice Almond Gluten Free Cake

Place in the oven to bake for 1 hour. The cake will start to brown quite quickly, so cover with tin foil after around 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing the baking parchment and cooling the cake completely on a wire rack. Cut into 9 squares and serve, ideally with some crème fraiche or natural yoghurt.

Sour Orange and Spice Almond Gluten Free Cake