Squash and quinoa cakes with apricot sweet chilli sauce

My husband loves sauces. He feels they usually make the dish and often says you can never have too much sauce. However, although you can buy a vast range of sauces ready-made, many contain very high levels of sugar and salt as well as a long list of preservatives so I generally prefer to make my own at home.  Sweet chilli sauce has long been a favourite for both my husband and me, but we tend to prefer the sour and chilli elements of it to the sweet and find many shop bought ones rather too sickly, as well as alarmingly lurid in colour. Therefore, I have experimented with many homemade version of sweet chilli sauce over the years which are lower in sugar and more tangy to suit our tastes. I have found fruit makes a wonderful base for a sweet chilli sauce: not only does the natural flavour of the fruit add a extra interesting dimension to the sauce but the fructose makes the sauce pleasingly sweet without adding any refined sugars, and the fiber makes it thick but not gloopy without additional thickeners.  I have made this version with either apricots or nectarines in the past but you can experiment with your favourite fruits: I would guess that peaches, mango or plums would also make good alternatives.

Squash and quinoa cakes with apricot sweet chilli sauce

Cooking time: 60-70 minutes ( if you prep ahead it is 30 of minutes cooking on the night)

Dietary info: vegan,  gluten free

Serves: 3 (4 if you serve with some sides – see the tasty twists for ideas)

Apricot sweet chilli sauce

  • 300g apricots, chopped into small chunks
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 50ml water
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Juice of ½ a lime

Squash cakes

  • 500g skinned and deseeded butternut squash
  • 25g Peas, defrosted if frozen
  • 25g Sweetcorn, defrosted if frozen
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 30g dried quinoa, cooked as per packet instructions
  1. Put all of the ingredients for the sweet chilli sauce,  except for the lime and lemon juice, in a saucepan and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until the  apricots have broken down to form a thick sauce
  2. Stir the lime and lemon juice into the sweet chilli sauce and set aside
  3. Steam the squash until it is soft enough to mash, about 15 minutes
  4. Cook the onion, chilli, salt and pepper together with a splash of water until the onion is soft and most of the water has evaporated,  about 10 minutes
  5. Roughtly mash the squash and mix in all of the other squash cake ingredients except for the cooked quinoa
  6. Take generous tbsps of the squash cake mixture and make into little patty shapes then coat in the cooked quinoa (I spread the quinoa out on a plate and dip each flat side of the squash cakes in it). Don’t worry if the quinoa coating is rather uneven
  7. Put the squash cakes on a non stick baking tray and bake at 170C fan for 20-30 minutes until outside is starting to go crispy. If you want the underside to be crisper them you can carefully turn them half way through
  8. Carefully take the squash cakes of the baking tray (they are quite soft) and serve with the sweet chilli sauce

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the saucer and store in a sealed container on the fridge for up to 6 days
  • Make the squash cake mixture (up to step 5) and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days
  • Cook the quinoa and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days
  • On the night,  shape the squash cakes,  coat in quinoa, bake them, heat through the sauce in a saucepan or the microwave until hot all the way through (2-3 minutes) and serve

Some tasty little twists…

  • As mentioned previously, you can use nectarines (or other fruit of your choice) instead of apricots to make the sweet chilli sauce
  • You can use panko bread crumbs to coat the squash cakes instead of quinoa for a crisper finish, but this is not gluten free
  • You can make this meal more substantial/ feed more people by serving with extra quinoa or rice (gluten free options), serve in buns like a burger and/or sweet potato chips (sweet potato chips are also a gluten free option)
  • Sweet chilli sauce is a wonderfully versatile sauce and you can use this one wherever you might use the more traditional version:
    • Use as a sauce for stir fries:
      • for an ultra simple meal stir fry 1-2 cloves chopped garlic and 2 tsp chopped ginger (both optional) in a tsp vegetable oil
      • Throw in some protein (tofu, tempeh or other vegan plant based protein for a vegan version, beaten egg for a vegetarian version or chicken, beef, or seafood for a non-vegan version) and stir fry until the protein is sealed and almost cooked through (usually 4-8 minutes depending on what you are using, if you are using eggs it is until they are lightly scrambled)
      • Then add a few handfuls of your favourite vegetables (e.g. beansprouts, chopped Asian greens, sliced peppers, tenderstem broccoli, baby sweetcorn, sliced mushrooms, mange tout, sugar snaps, aubergine, courgette or carrot batons etc.) and 3-4 tbsp of the sweet chilli sauce and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft enough to eat and the protein is fully cooked through. If you are using a mixture of vegetables you may not want to add them all at once, add them in order of how long they take to cook.
      • Serve with noodles or rice for a more substantial meal
    • Use the sweet chilli sauce to brush over vegetables, fish or meat before BBQing or grilling it, and serve with extra sauce on the side
  • For some of my other sweet chilli sauce recipes see Soy free stir fry with sweet chilli peanut sauce or Sweet potato crab cakes with sweet chilli sauce

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