Homemade peanut butter

Ok, so I realised I’ve been a bit of an eejit (no rude comments please!).

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about peanut butter: Palm oil, rainforests and also the cost of it in the shop. In my local supermarket the cheapest peanut butter to only contain peanuts (and no palm oil) is about 3 times the price of the basic, cheap peanut butter. Now that’s a huge difference for only ~12% more peanuts per jar!

But the other day I had an “ah ha!/can’t believe I didn’t think of that before” moment. Make my own! Seriously, how did peanuts + food processor = peanut butter not occur to me before? But anyway, I digress.

I bought a packet of own brand roasted and salted peanuts, which cost even less than the cheapest peanut butter.

Ingredients

200g bag of peanuts
2-3 tbsps oil (vegetable/coconut/etc)

First of all I washed them to strip off most of the salt, then scattered them on a baking tray and roasted them for a few minutes to intensify the flavour.
Once they had cooled slightly I tipped them into my food processor and blitzed them until they had a fine, crumb-like consistency.

With the food processor still running I began slowly drizzling in the oil, which was necessary to lubricate the mixture in my home machine. Every so often I stopped the machine and scraped the sides to make sure no big bits were missed.

Once the mixture was at the desired consistency I simply turned off the machine and spooned the mixture into a clean jar.

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The whole process took maybe 15 minutes, so it took less time and money than a trip to the shop to buy some. And I know exactly what’s in it. I call that a win!

All in all I’m glad I had my ah ha moment, even though I feel like a numpty for not thinking of it sooner!

Chunky Tomato Soup

For some reason my little man has been obsessed with soup recently. To the extent that we had bananas and custard for pudding the other day and he insisted that it was “nana soup”!

So yesterday we took a trip to the shop and gathered all the ingredients for some yummy tomato soup:

Ingredients

1kg tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
1 large onion
1l veg stock
250ml/1 cup Passata
Fresh basil
Salt and pepper

First boil the kettle and put the tomatoes in a large bowl or pot. Pour the boiling water over the tomatoes to blanche them, this will make removing the skins much easier. Put to one side and leave while you chop up and fry the onions and garlic in a large pot.

Once they are fried, add the veg stock and leave to simmer while you prepare the tomatoes. Lift them one at a time from the hot water. You may find that the skins on some of the tomatoes have already burst in the heat, if not then use the tip of a sharp knife to get it started, then peel off the skins and discard. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the stock.

Pour in the passata, and give it a good stir. Cut up, or rip by hand, about half a dozen fresh basil leaves, add, and season the soup to taste.

Add more fresh basil just before serving, and eat with some crusty fresh bread. Enjoy!

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Easy Peasy Pea Soup

Ever buy a really disappointing bag of frozen peas? I did the other day, and after having some with dinner I immediately knew I didn’t want to eat the rest of the bag like that. They were what my mum would call “chucky”, very hard on the outside and not much flavour. This was a slight problem as the bag was over a kilo! But no matter, as I decided to make the remainder into pea soup instead.

Ingredients

4 large cloves of garlic
1 large onion
2 large carrots
Spinach (we have frozen spinach as we never get through the fresh stuff fast enough to justify buying it. It comes in portion sized blocks and I used 6 of them. So if you wanted to use fresh I would guess at 300/400g)
1kg frozen peas
1.5l vegetable stock
Mint (fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper

It was very simple to make: I fried the garlic and onion until soft, diced and added the carrots, made up the stock using 4tsps bouillon powder and 1.5l water, added it to the pot, put in the spinach and peas and brought it to the boil. I turned it down to a simmer for about 15 minutes and then whizzed it up with the hand blender.

Then came the only chef-y bit. I passed the soup through a sieve and into another pot to get rid of the hard pea skins that made them disappointing in the first place. It was a bit fiddly, but if you use the back of a ladle to swirl the soup around the sieve then it goes through much easier.

I then returned it to a low heat, added 2tsps dried mint, salt and pepper, gave it a good stir and it was ready. And from very disappointing beginnings the peas made a lovely tasty lunch!

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Lemon and Broad Bean Risotto

Just to prove I don’t always just eat sweet treats, here is a delicious risotto recipe that doesn’t need butter, cream or cheese to make it tasty.

This recipe will make enough to serve 4 people, and goes very nicely with a side of fresh steamed brocolli. It takes about 20 minutes to make (longer if you add extra shelling time as I’ll explain!)

Ingredients:

  • 300g risotto rice (I use arborio but carnarolli works too!)
  • 1l vegetable stock (I just make it up using a stock cube and boiling water – quick and easy)
  • 1 lemon, you’ll need the rind from the whole lemon and juice from half of it. Unless you like it really lemony like I do in which case just whack it all in there! If you are out of fresh lemons you can use juice from a bottle but it doesn’t give quite the same zingy taste.
  • Broad beans (there’s no fixed amount, do as many or as few as you’d like!)
  • Oil for cooking
  • About 1 tsp parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The first thing to do is prepare your stock so that it’s hot and ready to be used, either by the boiling water and stock cube method or any other way that works for you! It needs to be hot though.

To prepare the risotto heat a little oil in a saucepan (I use sunflower or rapeseed oil) and when it’s hot add the dry risotto rice, stirring for 15s or so until all the rice is coated. Note: If you want to make this recipe even healthier you can use a few tablespoons of the stock to fry the rice in, instead of the oil.

Once the rice is completely coated add some of the stock. To make risotto ‘properly’ you add the stock a little at a time, stirring continuously, and don’t add more liquid until the last lot has been absorbed. This makes it beautifully creamy and stops it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. I find that about 1/5th of the liquid at a time works well.

Now for the broad beans: I’m going to take this opportunity to admit that I am a self-confessed broad bean snob and I really only like them if they have bean double-shelled as I think they’re too tough and not nearly as nice otherwise. So usually I coerce my husband into helping with the shelling. If we have fresh beans you do this first then add to the risotto to cook them. If you are using frozen then partially cook them first, drain and run under the cold tap to stop them cooking further, shell, then add to the risotto to finish cooking. The beans should be added about half way through the cooking time.

Once you’ve added about 4/5th of the stock to your risotto (still stirring continuously!) it’s time to season it. Add the lemon rind, juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Make sure you have a little taste to check the seasoning is to your own taste though, remembering it’s easier to add extra than try to remove it!

Add the last of the liquid and keep stirring until the grains of rice are soft in the centre, then serve and enjoy!

Variation: this recipe works equally well with peas, as I find I usually have them in the freezer but not always broad beans 🙂 Or you could use sweetcorn but for that combination I find it tastes better with less lemon.