Celery and Stilton Soup

Celery

Serves 2 to 3

This classic vegetarian soup is strong and rich and – here’s a bonus – dead easy to prepare.

45g butter
5 celery sticks, trimmed and diced
45g flour
700ml vegetable stock
300ml milk
Salt (not too much as the butter, stock and stilton are all salty too)
Ground black pepper
200g to 250g stilton, crumbled

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and when it is foaming add the celery. Sauté until softening, approx. 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Take the pan off the heat and slowly stir in the stock and milk. Return to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer until the celery is soft, approx. 15 minutes.

Once the celery is soft, take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool for 10 minutes. Use a stick blender to blitz the soup to a smooth, creamy consistency.

Return the pan to a gentle heat and stir in the crumbled stilton. Keep stirring until all the stilton has melted and been incorporated into the soup. Check the seasoning.

At this stage the soup can be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed.

Simple Chicken Vindaloo

Raw chicken thighs

Serves 4

The eagle-eyed amongst you will see this recipe is virtually identical to my simple pork vindaloo recipe. I’m giving it here because I know some people prefer chicken to pork.

I find that meat curries absorb spices more readily than chicken curries do, so chicken curries tend to be hotter. I add sweet peppers to this recipe to temper the heat.

I use Patak’s vindaloo spice paste, simply because that is the brand that my local supermarket stocks but I’m sure other brands will work just as well.

Be careful not to add too much salt at the start. Shop-bought spice pastes are quite salty to start with. You can always add more salt later but you can’t take it away!

My slow cooker has three settings – low, medium and high. I find I get the best results if I start it off on medium for one hour and then turn the heat down to low for the rest of the cooking time. If you don’t have a medium setting, just cook it on low from the start.

4 sweet peppers (mixed colours), deseeded and chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 chicken thighs (bones in and skin on)
3 onions, sliced
2 tsp minced garlic (from a shop bought jar)
2 tsp minced ginger (from a shop bought jar)
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 x 283g jar of Patak’s Vindaloo Spice Paste
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (I use Mutti pulped tomatoes)
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in a little boiling water
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons (at least) of red wine vinegar

Lightly oil the bowl of a 6.5 litre slow cooker and add the chopped peppers. (If your slow cooker is smaller, just scale down the ingredients.)

Heat the oil in a wide based pan then brown the chicken in batches, using a slotted spoon to remove each batch to a bowl once it is browned. Once all the chicken has been browned, add a little more oil to the pan if needs be then slowly soften and brown the onions, approx. 20 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the black pepper and vindaloo spice paste and stir fry for another minute, making sure the mixture doesn’t catch.

Add the coconut milk, tomatoes, stock, salt and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Return the pork to the pan and bring it all up to a gentle simmer.

Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker, give it a stir and cook on low for 8 hours. At the end of that time you may find a lot of oil has risen to the surface (the amount will depend on how fatty your chicken was). Skim off and discard the oil, then give everything a good stir. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning adding salt if needs be and adding cayenne pepper if you want to crank up the chilli heat.