Butternuts for roasting

This week I’ve got the last of this season’s butternut squash. After this any of the stuff you see around is most likely to be from another hemisphere. I love  butternut but not enough to have it make a journey from Argentina. If you haven’t cooked it before, butternut squash makes all kinds of wonderful soups, gratins and stews. It’s also great served on its own (roasted, boiled, steamed or fried) then dressed with a little sea salt, olive oil and the tiniest dash of balsamic vinegar.

Flavourwise, its earthy and quite sweet (which makes it a great weaning food for babies) and goes very well with garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, chiles, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley, sage and orange. Most recipes call for just the flesh and getting the skin off does look daunting but it’s not really. I find the best way is to quarter it first and then peel. After that, take out the seeds and stringy bits and cut the flesh as required. And what a lot of people don’t know is if you roast your butternut the skin ends up soft enough to eat which makes things even easier.

One of the simplest ways to cook butternut comes from a friend who reckons she got the recipe in New Zealand.You basically cut your butternut in half and stick in the oven so it really couldn’t be less labour intensive…..

Sweet roasted Butternut

You’ll need:

Butternuts (of course!!!!)

Butter

Brown sugar

Sea salt

Cinnamon or chili

Clean the skin and cut the butternut in half, then roast it softside up for 20 minutes. Turn it over and smear the flesh with butter, brown sugar, a generous pinch of sea salt and either a pinch of cinnamon or chili.

Butternuts with sugar and cinnamon

Return to the oven and roast for a further 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of your squash or until the flash has caramelised.

This is fantastic served with lamb, pork or some baked feta cheese with a cous cous salad dressed with olive oil, toasted pine nuts and plenty of chopped rocket or flatleaf parsley.

Roasted butternut

With the weather so horrible it had to be soup today and I made one of my favourites –  butternut, with Parmesan and thyme. It’s quite a simple recipe but it gives knockout results. I’ve served it on Christmas day it’s that good. The sharp salty tang of the cheese combines with the thyme to give an almost meaty flavour that’s incredibly moreish. There’s a little cream in there too which means it’s nicely filling aswell.

Butternut Soup with Parmesan and Thyme (for 2 as a lunch or 3 as a starter)

You’ll need:

500gr peeled butternut

60ml olive oil

1 small onion chopped

4 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

750ml vegetable stock (as usual I cheat and use Marigold)

2 tablespoons double cream

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan and some Parmesan shavings for garnish (make these with your veg peeler)

Sour cream for garnishing at the end – not absolutely crucial and some regular cream or yogurt will also do fine

Heat the olive oil in a pot over a lowish heat then very gently sweat the butternut for about 5 minutes then add the onion, garlic and thyme. Continue cooking gently for another 10 minutes. Turn up the heat a little and add the vegetable stock in 3 stages stirring well between each addition. Bring everything to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer, season with salt and pepper then cover and continue cooking for a further 25 minutes.

Butternut soup

To finish the soup off add 2 tablespoons of double cream and the grated Parmesan. Check and correct the seasoning if necessary then cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blending until smooth adding a little more stock if necessary to get the consistency you want. Before serving reheat and garnish with a drizzle of sour cream if you have it and some Parmesan shavings. Don’t forget that soup freezes really well so it’s worth making a double or triple quantity you can use spuds and/or carrots to make up any shortfall on the butternut front.

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Hey there,

It’s that time when courgette fatigue starts to set in so I got to casting around for something different to fill our bags this week. Duncan Healy suggested a squash they’ve been growing which he reckoned were good for stuffing. They’re the Crooksneck variety so they look quite cool.

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They have a lovely knobbliness on the outside plus the colour, as you can see, is pretty glorious….. As with all squashes you can eat the skin, which is of course packed with fibre, but you’ll need to par-bake without the filling first to get everything cooked to perfection. This procedure can be followed for pretty much any variety of squash and the stuffing is a movable feast so if you don’t have quinoa try brown rice or cous cous, instead of fennel a couple of good sized onions would do fine, pumpkin seeds will easily replace the walnuts and the goat’s cheese can be dismissed and replaced with feta. However…….. the combination below does work very nicely and the caramelized fennel leaves the filling lovely and moist and the lemon sounds a light summery note. The quinoa does its fluffy yet crunchy on top thing that I love and the goat’s cheese goes with everything as do the parsley and walnuts. Give it go – you can make it ahead of time as I did again today when I was doing some bread and reheat later, it doesn’t suffer for it.

Stuffed Crooksneck Squash with quinoa,  caramelized fennel, walnuts and goat’s cheese

You’ll need:

1 Crooksneck Squash

1/2 cup quinoa

1 medium sized fennel

Olive oil

A handful walnuts

1 lemon

100gr crumbly goat’s cheese

A handful parsley

Well ahead of time (at least an hour or two) soak the quinoa in 3 times or more it’s volume of water. This gets rid of any bitterness and also makes it faster to cook and easier for your body to digest.

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When you’re ready to start cooking, cut the squash in two, slicing length-ways down the side. Using a spoon remove the seeds from the centre leaving a nice dip for you to stuff. Rub each half with oil inside and out then rub the inside with a little salt. Place in a baking tray. Pour in 1/4 inch of water and place in a hot oven (Gas mark 5) for 30 minutes and get on with making your filling.

Trim and finely dice your fennel. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a pan, add the fennel and gently sauté until golden and very tender. While the fennel is cooking, you can prepare the quinoa (if you have any leftovers in the fridge by all means bring them forward – you’ll need about  3/4 cup of the cooked stuff). Drain the quinoa and add 3/4 cup of fresh water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, lower to a simmer and cook gently until all the water has evaporated and the grains are soft and fluffy. This should take about 5 mins. When this is done, take the pot off the heat, stir and set aside to cool.

Roughly chop the walnuts and more finely chop the parsley. Add these both to the quinoa. Stir in the fennel. Grate in about half of the lemon rind taking care to avoid the pith. Squeeze in the juice of about half the lemon. Crumble the goat’s cheese and add that to the mix along with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a little salt.

When the squash is ready take it out of the oven and divide the stuffing between the 2 halves. Return to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes.

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Eat with a green salad – Marc Michel’s gorgeous lettuce or spinach and some toasted pumpkin seeds would be perfect. Lunch is served 🙂

Can’t find quinoa? We’ve got it and bring it with your veggies next week. Order here and this wonder grain(more amino acids than you can shake a stick at!) is yours.

Have a brilliant week,

Sarah

Feb 2013 124

Hi there,

It’s been a while and I’m sorry. We’ve been very busy and despite great plans each week to write recipe I just haven’t been able to get near the job. Sometimes I haven’t even cooked that much. Paul has fed me random things (I even ate dahl from a plastic bag I’d previously poured scorn on and was grateful)  when I arrive home late at night.

Home Organics is growing  and it’s been all hands on deck. As exciting as it’s been, I’ve missed my kitchen. I made this week’s dish the other day and it’s everything I love in a winter dinner – gutsy and warming. A drizzle of leftover creme fraiche which I had in the fridge made it and because I’m greedy, I sheved a little Parmesan on aswell – yum!!!

It’s a cinch to make with very little chopping or at least little enough for me to be able to play chasing with  Lee (now 1!!) who has morphed into a speedy bug able to go from the kitchen to the top of the house in jig time. Yes, hanging out in the kitchen rocks 🙂

Fennel, blood orange and chorizo stew

Feb 2013 108

You’ll need:

500gr fennel trimmed and  diced into pieces about the size of 2 euro coins

200gr chorizo thinly sliced

1 blood orange

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Sugar

Salt and pepper

1k spuds peeled and chopped into large bite-sized pieces

To garnish: Creme fraiche and/or Parmesan shavings and some chopped chives

Begin by heating some olive oil in a deep pan. Add the fennel then fry over a lowish heat until nicely golden. This will take about 20 minutes or so. Add  the chorizo and fry everything until it has released all its lovely oil.

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Add the juice of the blood orange and cook for a minute then add the 2 tins of tomatoes and pinches of sugar and salt. Throw in the spuds.

Cover and then over a medium heat let the spuds cook and tomatoes cook down and reduce by about a half. When the potatoes are tender, check the seasoning adding as much black pepper as you want.

Serve topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, some Parmesan shavings and some chopped chives. A salad of this week’s spinach and some toasted pumpkin seeds would make a perfect side.

As you can imagine, this tastes fantastic the next day.

Enjoy xx

A soup for every day

January 28, 2013

Lentil soup

This is the soup we eat right through the winter. It’s very tasty, easy to make, nutritiuous,  you can make vast quantites of it to freeze or stash in the fridge and very importantly it’s super, supercheap. So what goes into this wonder lunch/dinner/snack? Well, pretty much anything, especially the kind of stuff that’s in season at the moment (leeks, onions and roots… lots and lots of roots) The base is red lentils which take the same time to cook as most root veg (20mins) and then it’s whatever’s in the fridge really. Before you leap here’s a few ground rules

First stage 

Start by gently frying your onions or leeks when they’re soft you add lots of garlic and some chilli . A bay leaf in the pot is also very good at this stage.

If you’ve got a pepper or some fennel  they can go in with the onions as it’s good to cook these guys until they’re really, really tender and this won’t happen if you add them later.

Next step

The spices also go in here and these, my friends,are up to you.  Some quick ideas that will never fail you are:

  • cumin seeds and/or cracked coriander seeds
  • any curry masala you like will work
  • your basic fresh chilli and ginger mix is always good and perfect for warding off colds and flus right now
  • A spoonful of thai curry pastes are a great quick fix and nicely followed up with some coconut milk when you add stock and lime juice when you serve

Let these cook for a minute or two (especially the chill and ginger) and add any mix you fancy of the following:

Sweet Potatoes

Butternut

Turnip

Carrots

Jerusalem Artichokes

Celeriac

spuds

Cauliflower

To this then add well rinsed red lentils. As a rule of thumb the ratio I use is for every 4 cups of veg I add a cup of lentils. Finally add stock – about a litre (Marigold usually) for every 5 cups of veg and lentils (ie 4 veg + 1 lentils) . Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and leave for about 20 minutes.

Finished

When everything is tender,blast with your blender til smooth. Serve topped with yogurt and toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds or drizzle with chilli oil or lime juice – whatever you like. Feel warmer immediately !!

Apologies for being so remiss on the recipe front of late – we’ve been very busy with the 8 week Healthy Eating Programme. Now that we’ve got everything up and running and things are a bit more settled I’ll be resuming normal service.

Have a great weekend,

Sarah

Celeriac gratin

Ok, so it’s properly cold now. Gratin weather has begun and what better way to start than with celeriac. I’ve gone all out today, roast chicken in the oven, next week’s cake recipe just gone in and a diet busting gratin with Gruyère and lardons is just out, crispy and golden. Yum!!! Auggie and Dan reckon it’s time for lunch. But you  just had breakfast guys and it’s celeriac, something you (Auggie) said you’d absolutely NEVER eat (gotcha!!!).Yes, this is perfect food for a cold Autumn day……..

A celeriac gratin with Gruyère and bacon

You’ll need:

1 head celeriac

100gr lardons or any bacon you prefer diced

100gr Gruyère grated

250ml single cream

500ml chicken stock

1/2 lemon

1 large handful breadcrumbs

Squeeze the lemon into a bowl of water and have on standby before you begin. Trim the celeriac of the gnarly outside part. Next, cut in half then slice as finely as possible dropping the slices into the lemon water as you go (this stops them discolouring).

Heat the stock  then transfer the celeriac slices into it and bring to the boil then simmer until just tender.

Fry the lardons in a drizzle of olive oil until golden.  Transfer the celeriac and remaining stock  to a baking dish and toss with the bacon and half the cheese. Add the cream and a generous pinch of salt and grinding of black pepper. Top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.

Bake in at Gas mark 5/180 degrees for 40 minutes until golden.

This tastes great with just about any roast and also makes a lovely supper with a simple green salad.

A busy week meant I kept this dish very simple. It’s the perfect midweek supper. Lots of flavour and ready in less than half an hour. Green beans were the starting point then spuds for bulk and finally cherry tomatoes (colourwise I couldn’t resist!!!) completed the dish.

The fire and heat come from the chili and ginger then for the Indian flavour it’s equal parts coriander powder and turmeric and 1/2 the amount again of cumin seeds. It’s a mix that works with any veg and obviously you can dial the heat up or down by using as much chili as you want. Dried works just fine as well.

A simple curry with green beans and potatoes

You’ll need:

Coconut vegetable oil

1 thumbsize piece ginger peeled and finely chopped

4 heads garlic finely sliced

1/2 red chilli chopped (remove some or all of the seeds if you don’t like things too hot)

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

200gr (1about 12 cherry tomatoes )

About 300 ml vegetable stock

800gr potatoes

200gr green beans

With this recipe you need to have everything ready to go before you start so it’ s a little different to most of my recipes where you throw on an onion and mooch around preparing everything else as it gently fries. This one is more on the fast and furious side. You can do it as you go but you’ll need to be fast. The upside is that the dish is ready in about 20 minutes and you can’t say that about a lot of curries (well, mine anyway).

Right, so to get going have the garlic, ginger and chilli prepared as described above. Peel the potatoes and chop into large bitesize pieces. Wash the tomatoes and cut in half. That should do it for now.

Heat a generous dollop of coconut oil on the pan. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and gently fry for a minute or two before adding the spices along with a generous pinch of salt. Fry for another minute then add the tomatoes. Gently cook for a couple of minutes before adding the potatoes  and the stock. Cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes and while this is happening wash,  top and tail your beans. Now would also be a good time to put on your rice if you’re having some. Add the beans to the pan. Cook for a further 6 -7 minutes until the beans and spuds are tender.  Serve with rice and/or naan bread.  This recipe will easily feed 2-3 hungry people, 4-5 if you serve it with some daal.

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I think deliveries from Home Organics have converted more than a few of you to the joys of beetroot. Slow roasting has banished all those awful memories of pickled slices that used to feature in that abomination known as the Irish salad circa 1982.

But what about the leaves? Or beet greens as the Americans call them. You don’t see them that often because they don’t last that long. But if you do get your beets with the greens attached be sure and make the most of them. Not only are they delicious in all kinds of salads and completely gorgeous to behold, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For a super cleansing juice guaranteed to leave your insides gleaming try a few handfuls of the leaves (stems and all) with an apple, a piece of ginger and 2 of this week’s satsumas. You’ll feel like new.

This week’s recipe is so simple. I made it during the summer when we had a glut and I needed to make lunch fast. Beet greens can be bitter so I used a honey dressing with some balsamic for body and flavour. Lots of toasted seeds for crunch then a slab of baked feta as the main event. Ready in under fifteen minutes……

A salad of honey balsamic beet greens with toasted seeds and baked feta

You’ll need:

1 bunch beet greens

1 handful each of sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds

1 block feta (200gr)

Dried oregano

For the dressing:

4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon runny honey

Maldon sea salt

Heat the oven to Gas mark 5/190 degrees. Sprinkle the feta with a little oregano and a few grindings of coarse black pepper then drizzle lightly with olive oil. Wrap in tinfoil and place in the oven and bake for 10 -12 minutes until soft.

As the feta bakes, wash and dry the beets then chop the stalks into  1- 2 cm pieces then the leaves to whatever size pieces you’d like.

Roast your seeds by placing them on a dry pan over the heat until they start to change colour and you can smell them lightly toasting. As soon as this happens take them them off as the next step is burnt (this is the voice of experience talking).

Toss the seeds with the leaves then add the dressing. Top with the cheese and serve immediately.

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah