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

Griddled Apricot salad

The sun is shining and the living is easy (just as long as you don’t turn the news on that is) yes folks, it’s summer. Or at least today it is. The soft fruit season is in full swing and you can’t move for berries, all kinds of plums, water melons,  peaches and late season apricots. They should be long gone but this year’s apricots are still around and seem to be all the better for their tardiness. Lee’s been lapping them up with baby rice and everyone else has just been eating them on a smash and grab basis although some (I’m looking at you Auggie) don’t realise that the stones don’t just go anywhere when you’re finished but you know these days in the grand scheme of summertime chaos a few apricot stones mixed in with the lego or down the sofa is small potatoes. Yes, I’m new to this 3 kids business but catching on/giving up fast .

When I’m not wondering how I’m going to survive the next 20 years, I’ve been playing around with all this apricot booty on the griddle pan applying a what’s good for peaches logic to them and it works. A light coating of olive oil first is all that’s needed and for this I find hands work best. The cooking process softens them up, carmelizing them on the outside and  making the flesh lovely and  jammy (overdo it and you’ll get mush so don’t leave them on too long – I find 2 mins is enough) and  you get those fab go faster stripes. Ok so I know that this isn’t an end in itself but it’s a major plus in my book…….. After that your options are both sweet and savoury.   Serve them with vanilla ice-cream and a few sprigs of basil (in thanks to Denis Healy this week – use asap!!!) and a drizzle of maple syrup for a seasonal dessert tonight. A glass of Sauternes would make this really special….

On the savoury side try a salad with some of Denis’ lovely lettuce, mozzarella and a lemoney basil oil. A dish that’s as  gorgeous as it looks. Summer on a plate……..

A salad of griddled apricots, fresh mozzeralla, toasted pinenuts with a basil and lemon oil

You’ll need:

Half a head lettuce carefully washed and torn into largish pieces

1 ball fresh mozzarella

8 ripe apricots

1 tablespoon pinenuts

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

The basil oil

A handful of basil leaves

4 tablespoons olive oil

pinch Maldon sea salt

1 tablespoon pinenuts

About 2 tablespoons lemon juice

First of all, toast all the pinenuts (2 tablespoons). Make the basil oil – wash and dry the basil leaves removing any tough stalks. Blend until smoothish with the oil, a generous pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon pinenuts. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice to taste then set aside.

Begin heating a heavy griddle pan. Spread some olive oil on a plate.

Apricots

Cut the apricots in half, place them face down on the oil  and flatten them slightly with the palm  of your hand. transfer  to the hot pan and griddle for about 2 minutes each.

Griddled Apricots

Turn them over for about 1 minute before removing them from the pan.

To put the salad together, toss the leaves with a little olive oil and balsamic and lay out on large plate. Drizzle the basil oil on top then slice the mozzarella and arrange this and the apricots . Finally, scatter the pinenuts over everything and retire to a sunny spot to enjoy your lunch.

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

Beetroot and halloumi salad

This week – another roasted beetroot salad. What can I say? I’m addicted. I’ve been making this one for the past few months and can safely say it makes a brilliant lunch. Gremolata is an Italian garnish of very finely minced garlic, parsley and lemon zest with olive oil usually used to perk up meat and fish and it really makes halloumi sing. Halloumi, if you haven’t  come across it before, is a tangy Cypriot cheese made with a mix of sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk that  is brilliant cooked (it has a very high melting point so it doesn’t fall apart like most varieties). It’s best eaten as soon as it’s cooked (2 mins on the pan will do it) so be sure you are ready to eat as soon as the salad is ready.

A salad of pan-fried halloumi and roasted beetroot with a gremolata dressing topped with toasted pinenuts (for 2)

You’ll need:

600gr beetroot roasted (see below for how to roast)

1 block halloumi cheese (about 200gr)

2 large handfuls of salad greens – rocket, baby spinach, lettuce or this week’s purslane all work well.

2 heaped tablespoons pine nuts

For the gremolata dressing

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1 heaped tablespoon pine nuts

A small handful  flatleaf parsley

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Maldon salt

Black pepper

Scrub but don’t peel the beets then bring to the boil in plenty of water. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes til just about tender. Drain them and allow to cool off before you peel, trim and cut them into large bite- size moons. Do make sure you cut them big as they’ll shrink by at least half in the oven. Toss in olive oil in a roasting tin and place in a moderate oven (Gas mark 5/180 degrees) for about 2 1/2 hours. Move them around every 50 minutes to ensure even cooking. When they’re ready let them cool while you get on with the rest of the salad.

Gremolata ingedients

To make the dressing gently grate half the lemon rind with a very sharp fine grater. Take care not to cut into the white pith as it’s  bitter and will spoil the taste of your dressing. Finely chop the garlic and parsley and combine with lemon peel. Add the juice of half the lemon, 4 tablespoons olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Toast all the pinenuts together in a dry pan til golden. Take about one third and chop them quite finely and add to the dressing. Season with crushed Maldon and black pepper.  Taste the dressing and correct the seasoning if necessary. You may like to add a little more lemon juice but this can also be done at the end when you’ve put everything together. Also, remember that halloumi is a very salty cheese so don’t go nuts with the Maldon.

To finish things off, divide the greens between 2 dishes and top each pile with half the beetroot then set aside. Cut the halloumi into slices about 1 1/2 cm thick. Heat a little olive oil in a griddle pan (a regular one will also do fine). Fry the cheese til golden on each side (about 2 mins). Place on top of the beetroot. Spoon over the gremolata dressing and finally, top with the rest of the toasted pine nuts. Serve and eat immediately.

We’ve got more purple sprouting broccoli this week which I’m thrilled about. I’m hoping to eat it with polenta, goat’s cheese and red pesto – one of my alltime fav dishes.

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

Breakfast mushrooms

This week’s flat Irish mushrooms are a great basic. Fried up in butter or olive oil then served on toast they make a brilliant 5 minute breakfast, lunch or snack. Stick them in a folded omelette with some cheese for something a little more substantial. Add some garlic, parsley and a dash of cream to the mix and you’ve got a pasta sauce. And of course they add brilliant flavour to any stew, soup or casserole. Last year’s superwarming chunky soup/stew with cabbage could be one to try seeing as temperatures are dropping.

I’ve been enjoying mushrooms for breakfast a lot recently. Baked in the oven then topped with wilted spinach and cheese they make a brilliant start to the day. This morning I tried some topped with toasted goat’s cheese and leeks cooked down in butter. with a splash of balsamic vinegar just to give things a little bite. Delicious.

Baked mushrooms with garlic, leeks and goat’s cheese (for 2)

You’ll need:

5/6 medium sized flat mushrooms or 2 large portabella with the stems removed

2 tablespoon olive oil

Juice 1/2 lemon

2 cloves garlic crushed

2 leeks trimmed of the tougher green part and washed

A knob of butter

100gr crumbled goat’s cheese

A small handful walnuts

Balsamic vinegar

Begin by mixing the oil, lemon juice and garlic with a little salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms darkside up on a baking tray then drizzle the oil mix over them. Place in a hottish oven (gas mark 5) for 12 minutes. Slice the leeks down the middle then into half moons. Heat a little butter on the pan and  fry the leeks with a pinch of salt for about 7-8 minutes til tender. Take the mushrooms out of the oven and top with the goat’s cheese. Toast under the grill til the cheese is soft with a golden crisp then finally top with the leeks, a drizzle of balsamic and a few broken walnuts. Serve hot on or with toast.

Of course you’ll need some orange juice with those mushrooms and this week sees the return of those great value 6.5k boxes of new season oranges. We’d be delighted to deliver a box with your next order so just give us a shout if you’d like some. They cost €12.

Have a great 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

Runner bean salad w spinach, feta,chorizo and pine nuts

We are getting into that in-between time at the moment and this week brings the first of the autumn’s butternuts and the Healy’s lovely Setanta potatoes but before we give way completely to the autumn there are still plenty of summer varieties coming in including Marc Michel’s wonderful tomatoes (yay!).

Amazing runner beans (they are at their absolute height at the moment) in from Denis Healy’s farm this week were the starting point for this week’s recipe. Chorizo is the perfect partner for most beans so that was a bit of a given (I’m powerless to resist!!). Our new supplier, Deirdre O’Sullivan  brought us the most gorgeous spinach (more teen than baby but very, very tender) so I used that as the base. I love Feta with chorizo so added some of that and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts added a nice bit of extra texture…

With chorizo you need quite a sharp dressing so I like to use sherry or red wine vinegar to cut through the fattiness of the pork. A drizzle of your best olive oil is all you need besides that. Serve this straight-up for lunch with some crusty bread or alongside a Spanish potato omelette or, some grilled fish or chicken.

A  salad with baby spinach and runner beans tossed with pan-fried chorizo,feta and toasted pine nuts

You’ll need:

250gr runner beans

150gr chorizo sliced thinly into rounds

150gr young spinach leaves (or any other salad leaves you prefer), washed and dried.

100gr feta cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts

3 scallions chopped

The dressing:

Olive oil

Sherry vinegar

Black pepper

Top and tail your beans and cut in half. Parboil until just tender then refresh in lots of cold water. Prepare your dressing by mixing 2 tablespoons oil with a tablespoon vinegar (I use less oil than normal because there’s all the oil from the chorizo that goes in too). Set aside the beans and dressing.

Heat a tiny drizzle of oil in a pan. Throw in the chorizo and fry over a medium heat until soft and beginning to crisp. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Heat another pan and toast the pine nuts til golden. To put the salad together, toss the leaves, beans and scallions together. Crumble in the feta  and add the chorizo along with about half the oil left in the pan. Dress and lightly toss. Taste and check for sharpness – I often add some more vinegar at the end. A grind of black pepper and you’re ready to serve.

Not sure what to do with this week’s butternut? Well, you could bulk out the salad above by cutting it into cubes, steaming or roasting it then throwing it in. I’d double the amount of dressing to balance things. It also makes brilliant soup – try it with Thai flavours (superfast and very easy) Parmesan and thyme (beyond moreish!) or roasted then topped with crispy chorizo and creme fraiche. (nuff said)

Have a great week,

Sarah