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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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.

Feb 2013 115

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

Chestnut mushroom salad

Summertime is here!!!!! Like any self respecting Irish person I got sunburnt on the first day- A 20 minute walk at 10.30 in the morning and that was it – bright red around the neck. The kids were all factor fiftied up and I thought I’ll be grand with a bit of hastily applied vintage factor 20 (that 50 does leave terrible stains on clothes) and since then I’ve been wafting around swathed in scarves trying to work a Berber chic look but mostly looking a bit overdressed. Just as long as I don’t set fire to the scarves or myself at tonight’s barbecue. Did I just casually say “tonight’s barbecue”? Like we live in Australia? Yes I did.

Most veg tastes great from the barbecue especially if you can rustle up an aioli to go with them so I’m not worried about planning things too much. I’ve got more important things to think about like which nail varnish I’m going to paint my toenails when I’ve finished this. Lee is now napping on a semi regular basis of a morning and I don’t know myself.  Some pan con tomate (Catalan style toasted bread rubbed with tomatoes) is always great and a brilliant filler upper if everyone’s hungry before things are ready.

I’ll definitely be doing some of last week’s fennel. I would bet one of my children (washed and returned by um ….next Friday…ish) that quite a few of you have some of it still lurking at the back of the fridge so do give it a try.  Carrots with curry spices are also great. Today’s artichokes can be trimmed back a bit then drizzled with a little olive oil and wrapped in tin foil. Sit them on the  outer edges of the grill to steam slowly while you do everything else. Eat dipped in your nicest olive oil, butter or aioli.

This week’s chestnut mushrooms are great for skewers with cherry tomatoes and halloumi which I love  drizzled with pesto or just a spritz of lemon juice. They also make great salads. I’ve currently got  mine marinating in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and parsley. The mushrooms “cook” in the dressing and all the ingredients blend nicely.  To serve, you just top with some Parmesan shavings and smoked paprika. A dish of toasted pita and it’s off to the garden with me. Paul has the kids today because I am officially “working” so not a word……

A fresh chestnut mushroom salad with lemon, Parmesan and smoked paprika

You’ll need:

300gr chestnut mushrooms wiped and sliced

A handful Parmesan shavings

Smoked paprika

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons olive oil

Juice half lemon

A dash of balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic very finely minced

A handful parsley finely chopped

chestnut mushrooms

Combine all the dressing ingredients adding a pinch of salt. Pour the dressing over mushrooms and mix well. Set aside for a few hours – at least 2. To finish off, check the seasoning adding a little more salt and lemon juice if necessary then top with a pinch of smoked paprika and a handful of Parmesan shavings. Serve with toasted sourdough or pitta bread.

Have a brilliant week,

Sarah

 

Fresh garlic and rainbow chard gratin

Yes folks, the summer is coming (are you listening weather gods? The summer IS coming) but it’s a little, ahem,sluggish (hailstones??????????) in asserting itself. It’s way too chilly for May and what about all that rain? If only I could make frizzy hair work…

The cold prompted me to plan a whole day’s cooking based round the oven yesterday. The house is warm and smells amazing. I’m slow roasting lamb shanks a la Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall with olives and white wine . He calls for Gas mark 3 for 2 hours but I’ve dialled this down and am going for an all dayer on Gas mark 1. I also have a tray of slightly over the hill tomatoes roasting away with oregano and chilli. Again, these guys will be in for most of the day but we’ve just had a few of the more done ones for lunch). Earlier on I made this week’s fresh garlic and rainbow chard gratin in from Denis Healy’s farm, in Wicklow which was set off nicely with the tomatoes.

Fresh garlic is mild, tender and almost onioney so you use lots more of it than the regular kind. It’s lovely in omelettes and fritattas and gently fried with chilli will make a great pasta sauce. The rainbow chard is a favourite of mine. Tastewise, it’s like spinach but you get all those lovely colours as a bonus. I tossed the two in olive oil until tender then layered them up with some finely sliced spuds, grated cheddar and Pecorino. Yes, it was as tasty as it sounds.

Fresh garlic and rainbow chard

Fresh garlic and rainbow chard gratin

You’ll need:

1 bunch rainbow chard

1 bunch fresh garlic

Olive oil

1k potatoes

200 ml single cream

200 ml milk

Salt and pepper

100gr cheddar cheese grated

75gr Pecorino cheese (Parmesan will also do)

Begin with the spuds – peel then slice them thinly (about 2 mm thick) If you have a mandolin this works brilliantly for this. Put them in a pot of salted water and bring to the boil and get on with things.

Fresh garlic

Wash and trim the garlic. You can keep the green parts. Roughly chop it all and begin to sweat in a generous glug of olive oil. Wash the chard and chop the stems to lengths about 1 cm long. After about 5 minutes you can add these to the pan. Shredded the chard leaves and add this to the pan after a further 5 minutes. Toss everything together until the chard wilts then take off the pan and allow to cool down a bit.

When the potatoes have come to the boil, drain them and set aside. Combine the milk and cream adding a generous pinch of fine salt and lots of black pepper.

To put the dish together lightly grease a  gratin dish with some olive oil and add a layer of potatoes (about 1/5 of what you have). Follow with about 1/3 of the chard and garlic and 1/4 of your cheese.

Fresh garlic and rainbow chard gratin

Continue layering like this ending with a layer of spuds and a final sprinkling of cheese. Pour over the cream and milk then cover with tinfoil and put in the oven at Gas mark 5 and bake for about 50 minutes removing the tinfoil after the first 25 minutes. It’s ready when the spuds are super tender and the crust is golden. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

As I mentioned rainbow chard makes lovely fritatta. Try this recipe with Parmesan if you want to give that a try. Or there’s stirfried with lemon, chili and garlic which makes a great sidedish.

Have a great weekend,

Sarah

Chicken with spinach

Absolutely everyone loves a curry. It’s weird -people who won’t eat local food in places like Spain and Portugal will all eat curry. In our house anything curried goes down a storm even with the kids who moan about the tiniest bit of ginger making their juice “too spicy!”. And it doesn’t have to be fancy either. Got loads of random stuff at the back of the fridge and don’t fancy soup? Make curry instead. Now, I’m no expert and most of my curries are, shall we say, on the not very authentic side but somehow they always seem turn out ok.

From some cooking I did alongside an Indian girl in Barcelona I know that a good way to start is with lots of slowcooked onions which is pretty much how I start most dishes. I sweat these in plenty of rapeseed or coconut oil over a low heat til they start to go mushy then throw in lots of garlic (not only because it tastes good but because it’s so good for you). Keeping cooking until the garlic softens then add a pre-mixed curry powder (I’m currently working my way through a tin of Madras but it’s whatever you fancy) along with a little chilli for extra fire. Normally I then throw in a few chopped tomatoes (a tin will also work fine) and cook these down a bit before adding some coconut milk (told you this wasn’t kosher!)

While all this is going on, I’m furiously peeling and chopping what, in any other dish would be a waaaay too random selection of veg – parsnip, carrot,cabbage (red, white and green) celery, fennel, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, spuds……pretty much anything works. In they go and I’m onto rinsing a tin of chickpeas. These get thrown in with some water or stock then it’s sit back and let things cook. If I’m using greens, they go in at the end as do courgettes and broccoli (they go to mush otherwise) and I’m also partial to a handful of sultanas at this stage. Serve with rice and some chutney and pickles – we’re enjoying a lime one from M&S at the moment that one of you recommended (thanks Penelope). Easy, peasy, lasts well in the fridge and it rocks the next day for lunch with flatbread.

When it comes to the real thing, I’ve always found Indian food to be such a complex mix of spices and flavours that unless I pay very close attention to a recipe book I usually don’t have a clue where to start so I tend not to bother with it unless I’ve got lots of time (so that means never at the moment). Plus, there are usually so many spices required that I’m frustrated before I start (when I’m ready to cook, I’m ready to cook). Paul is the one with the patience/OCD tendencies for all that assembling of ingredients and precision grinding of spices. He also does a mean matchstick of pretty much any root veg but I warn you – bring snacks because dinner’s at midnight.

Recently, Indian cooking guru MadhurJaffrey completely changed this for good when she brought out Curry Easy, a book that seeks to do the previously unthinkable – simplify and speed up Indian cooking. She says herself that over the years (she’s now in her seventies) her cooking had changed and that some of the processes she’d previously considered essential she has recently discovered can be done in different ways. So, instead of cooking for hours  there’s lots of marinating to really let the flavours sink in before you even start. There are also fewer spices (well, usually 6 or 7 but not the 10 -15 that you find in her other books) so there’s less faffing around. I feel like I’m starting to understand how to build Indian flavours without a recipe and I find myself using more in other cooking.

We’ve been cooking our way through this book for a while and everything we’ve made has been amazing. First of all, we tried the Chicken Karhai with Mint which involved marinating everything overnight then simply frying it up and it was superb. We served it alongside Aubergines with Tomatoes which were also great. After that we were hooked. Standouts so far have been Chicken with apricots, Masala fish steaks and the green lamb curry.

spinach leaves

I have earmarked this week’s spinach in from Denis Healy in Wicklow for one our favourite dishes from the book which I’m going to share with you –  Chicken with spinach.  I haven’t changed anything except lower the quantity of oil used. It’s very quick and fantastically moreish.This recipe feeds 2 with leftovers.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Chicken with Spinach

3 chicken legs separated into drumsticks and thighs weighing about 1k in total

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion roughly chopped

2.5cm/1 inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 tablespoon sweet red paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons olive/ rapeseed oil

1 x 5cm/2 inch cinnamon

4 cardamom pods

150g/ 5 oz spinach, chopped

Spread out the chicken pieces and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and lots of black pepper on both sides

Put the onions, garlic, ginger, paprika and cayenne in the food processor and chop all the ingredients as finely as possible taking care not to allow things to go to mush.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. Add the cinnamon and cardamon letting them sizzle for a few seconds before adding as much of the chicken as will fit in a single layer. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides then remove to a bowl leaving the spices behind. When all the chicken is cooked add the onion mix to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated taking care to stir as you go so thing don’t stick and burn. Add the spinach and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the chicken, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 12oml/4 fl oz water. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat then gently simmer for about 30 minutes. Any excess fat can be removed before serving with boiled basmati and nan bread

Enjoy!

This week  there’s also celery in our selections and I notice how Guardian columnist Yotan Ottolenghi has been using the leaves and inner tender stalks for salads a lot recently. Last Saturday’s Avocado, radish and celery salad with spiced croutons and lime is on my to-make list for this week – sounds fab right? Our larger bags have radishes from the Healys and I’m hoping to secure enough for all our bags next week.

Have a brilliant week,

Sarah

 sweet potato soup

Ok,  it’s not pumpkin but sweet potatoes are about as seasonal as you can get right now and very similar so you can try this one with any leftover pumpkins you have around. This soup is just perfect for this time of year. Warm and comforting, very moreish and almost filling enough to be dinner – if it’s not enough a cheese course afterwards will sort things out or there’s always the trick or treat bag……..

Pumpkin ghosts

Bacon is a brilliant foil for sweet potato. You get that lovely balance of sweet and salty. I added in a Parmesan rind for an extra savoury hit and I think that that’s what makes it so satisfying. I’ve been growing sage (is it me or is this one of the slowest growing herbs ever??) and decided to add a few leaves into the pot then fry some more til crunchy for the top. These really make it along with a little drizzle of sour cream. If you don’t have sage no worries, some toasted pumpkin seeds make a great topping too. All in all, most satisfying and ready in a decidedly unscary 30 minutes.

Sweet Potato soup with pancetta topped with crispy sage and sour cream (enough for 2-3 hungry people or 4 as a starter)

You’ll need:

Olive oil

2 onions roughly chopped

100gr pancetta or streaky bacon chopped

600gr sweet potato peeled and cubed

6 or 7 sage leaves

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

1 Parmesan rind roughly 4cm x 4 cm

To garnish:

10-12 sage leaves

Vegetable oil for frying

A little sour cream

Begin by heating a generous glug of olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and let them fry gently for about 2 minutes before throwing in the bacon. Continue cooking over a low to medium heat until things start to really soften and change colour. If you haven’t already prepared them, this is the time to get the sweet potato ready. When the bacon and onions have nicely darkened to a lovely golden brown tip in the sweet potatoes and sage leaves. Stir everything together and slightly brown the sweet potatoes before pouring in the stock. Season with a generous pinch of salt, add the Parmesan rind then bring everything to the boil. Lower the heat then simmer for about 20 minutes until the spud has softened. Take off the heat and let things cool down a bit before blending til smooth. Check the seasoning, adding black pepper, more salt if you think it needs and even a squirt of lemon juice if feel a little kick is called for(up to you).

To finish

Heat a little vegetable oil in a small pan. Fry the sage leaves til crispy. Drizzle a teaspoon of sour cream on top of each soup bowl then finish with a few sage leaves.

Celery…..

This week all our bags have a head of celery from Marc Michel’s Organic Life farm. It’s not everyone’s favourite I know, but it is brilliant behind the scenes flavour builder in soups and stews. Chop a few stalks and fry it up with the onions when you start (and that goes for this week’s recipe top) for a more rounded finished dish.

It’s lovely in a simple salad with walnuts and  Parmesan shavings dressed with lemon juice and olive oil but if you want something a bit more robust the recipe I posted last year for a stew with chorizo is so tasty I promise it will convert any celery hater.

Have a brilliant Hallowe’en,

Sarah