Kitchen Concoctions

I love cooking! Most of the time I love cooking … there are times when I am eternally grateful for the two genii who invented freezers and plastic freezer-and-microwave-safe boxes … and for learning to cook in a family of six and so still cooking too much and having to freeze 2/3rds of each meal … ahh, the bliss of being able to get a box out of the freezer, heat it in the microwave and still serve a home-cooked meal up to my husband!! Having said that, although L is fond of home-cooked food, he has no problem or complaints with me, from time to time, giving him pie and chips or chicken kievs and chips, as long as they are served with a mountain of at least 3 different types of veg! 😀 Although I much prefer cooking the food we eat myself, it is essential to know that there are other acceptable alternatives available when they’re needed … like when I have an essay due and L has to hand in an article for publication …

Occasionally I follow recipes or try out a new one. The rest of the time … I sort of make it up as I go along! I take bits from different recipes I’ve read, put them together, add ideas picked up from dishes eaten at friends’ houses, useful tips from long years of watching my Grandma and Mum cook … and put a dish on the table that is guaranteed to be more (or less?!?) successful!! 😀

All of last week I had been planning on trying out a new recipe for Friday night Date Night. I had this big butternut squash that my mother-in-law had given us and wanted to do something tasty with it. I drew a blank in my cookery books, so turned to the good ‘ol internet! I found a yummy-sounding dish and I was determined – this dish was going to be cooked to the letter of the recipe – no deviations, no additions, just the recipe! Then I read the comments on the bottom of the page, added by other people who had tried out the recipe … hmmm. Well, I reasoned with myself, I didn’t want to make a disappointing meal, especially when I had pre-warning of some of the pitfalls of this dish, just for the sake of being able to say I had stuck to the recipe … so, I’d just alter it according to the suggestions by other cooks … oh, but hang on, there aren’t any onions or garlic in the recipe, or the suggestions … NO ONION OR GARLIC?!?! Both L and myself love onion and garlic and food with strong flavours in, not to mention lots of good hot and spicy grub, so the mere idea of cooking a savoury dish like this without a mere hint of onion or garlic in the ingredients was … well, it was an unthinkable thought (and yes, that is a quote from Barchester Chronicles, added especially for the amusement of my sisters :)). So a few more things got added to the recipe … then I tasted it half way through cooking … and a few more things got added … It was thankfully a successful dish and L and I both enjoyed it – and are still enjoying the left-overs today! Phew!! 🙂

I am adding in a link for those of you who would care to see the original recipe. So here it is, my version of …


The finished dish!

1x large Butternut squash

2 tbsp olive oil

1-2x onions, chopped

2x big garlic cloves, chopped

500grams/1lb 2 oz/2.5 cups beef or lamb mince

1-2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried crushed chilli

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp dried mint

1 tbsp dried mixed herbs

1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1x 400gram/14 oz/1.5 cups chopped tinned/canned tomatoes

100grams/3.5 oz/3/4 cup couscous

5-6 uk fl oz/10-12 tbsp boiling water

1x beef or lamb stock cube

100grams/3.5 oz/3/4 cup feta (salad, greek) cheese, crumbled

1. Peel squash and cut into 1/2 cubes. Using 1tbsp of the olive oil, roast the squash in 180C (my oven is fan)/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 or so minutes, until soft, but not falling apart.

2. Meanwhile, heat the other tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet. Fry onion and garlic until soft and starting to brown. Add mince and fry for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through.

3. Add all herbs, spices, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, couscous, water and stock cube to pan and stir till all the couscous is mixed in. Remove the pan from the heat and leave for 10 minutes, to allow the couscous to cook.

4. Stir mix to fluff up couscous, then add the cooked squash and most of the cheese. At this point, add salt and pepper and any other seasoning you like, till it tastes right for you!

5. Transfer the mix to a large oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the rest of the cheese. Put under a medium-hot grill till the cheese is browning and bubbly. Yum!!

I think this should serve about 4.

This re-heats wonderfully and I’m guessing will last for a few days in the fridge.

Serving suggestions:

  • I served this with a crispy green salad.
  • To make it go further for more people, you could add another squash, or serve with warmed pita bread and houmous, as well as the salad.
  • Maybe it would taste good with steamed broccoli, carrots or green beans.
  • I meant to add chopped fresh coriander/cilantro along with the couscous, but forgot! 😀 Could taste good.
  • Also, you could add chopped dried apricots along with the mince and add some extra water when it comes to the couscous part.
  • Maybe serve with sour cream and garlic bread.
  • I’m sure the possibilities are endless! 😀

Did you try this recipe out? If so, how did it go?

What recipes have you been cooking recently? Share them with us in a comment, or put a link in a comment!


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