Moroccan parsnip soupThis week brings the first of this season’s parsnips which for me always mean autumn. A member of the carrot family, they are sweet with a gorgeous earthiness so they work really well with things like butter, garlic, parsley, potatoes, honey, curry, cinnamon and nutmeg. They can be boiled, pureed, mashed and deep-fried but I think roasting really brings up their lovely flavour and it really couldn’t be an easier way to go. Simply peel and cut them into even-sized chunks then heat some olive oil in a roasting tin. Toss in the parsnips and roast for about 45 minutes. As you’d expect, these are brilliant with an roast dinner but you can also use them with veggie meals like say, a spiced (try cumin, chilli and garlic)  cous cous. My recipe this week is for a warming Moroccan style soup with cumin seeds, Harissa and lots of garlic (great for fighting oncoming colds as the weather starts to turn wintery). Harissa, if you haven’t had it before, is a thick spicy Moroccan chilli paste you get in Middle Eastern shops and good delis. This soup has heat but won’t blow your head off. We all had it for dinner last night and the kids ate it quite happily. If it’s more fire you’re after just add more Harissa.

Moroccan style soup with parsnips, chickpeas and Harissa served with garlic scented toasted breadcrumbs

You’ll need:

1 medium onion

Olive oil

2 medium carrots (roughly 200gr)

2 medium parsnips (roughly 250-300gr)

2 bay leaves 5 cloves garlic roughly chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2L vegetable stock (Marigold as always unless you make your own)

1 tin chickpeas Harrissa To garnish;

A handful breadcrumbs

1 clove garlic

Olive oil

Begin by chopping the onion then throw it into a pot with a generous dash of olive oil. Sauté over a lowish heat and get on with dicing the carrots and parsnips. Throw these into the pot along with the bay leaves. Add a little more olive oil if you think things might burn,  then cook everything for about 5 minutes.  Add the  garlic and cumin seeds. Keep things cooking for another 5 minutes stirring well to make sure nothing burns. Add the stock, chickpeas (rinsed and drained), 2 teaspoons of Harissa paste and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to the boil then cover and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes.
Just before you serve prepare the garlic breadcrumbs – fry a clove of garlic in some olive oil over a low heat for a couple of minutes, remove the garlic and add a handful of breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown over a low heat. Sprinkle on top of the soup and serve.
Variations: Most veg works in this kind of soup,  you could throw in some diced red pepper and fresh or tinned Tomatoes would be great as well. Some fresh parsley or coriander is lovely on top too.
Have a great weekend,
Sarah

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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It happens. They get left in the bowl and sudddenly it’s too late, no-one wants them. Don’t throw them out they’re are great for all kinds of things. Smoothies are an obvious and super fast approach. Yogurt, milk, a little ice if you like (I don’t) and you’re set. A lot of recipes specify a sweetener but you really don’t need one. A handful of berries, dollop of  tahini, peanut, or any other nut butter along with  also makes this very special.

At the moment the whole back to school thing has me in a spin, scrambling around trying to remember mid-afternoon snacks that tide kids (and sometimes grown-ups) over till dinner (while trying to figure out what’s actually for said dinner….) Smoothies are perfect and this one is very popular at the moment….

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Super-healthy Chocolate Banana Smoothie

You’ll need:

200ml milk

2 dollops yogurt

1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder

2 tablespoons flaxseed oil (brilliant source of Omega 3 oils)

1 heaped tablespoon flax seed (for fibre)

1 large ripe banana

Put everything in a blender and blast til smooth. Serve cold.

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The other great way to deal with old bananas is of course banana bread. For portability muffins are a good way to go. Same mixture different mould and slightly less time in the oven. Lately I’m on a coconut buzz so instead of the usual walnuts there are coconut flakes in this recipe. To plump up the sultanas I soak them in my fav Bengal Spice tea but you can use regular or any other kind you like. These muffins (or buns if you want to make something a little more manageable sizewise) will keep for a few days in an airtight tin.

Banana and coconut muffins

You’ll need:

100gr butter room temperature

100gr moscovado sugar

150gr wholemeal flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 large eggs

2 teaspoon cinnamon

A pinch of allspice if you have it

A pinch of salt

250gr really ripe bananas

100gr flaked toasted coconut

100gr sultanas

Anything from an hour to 15 minutes before you begin put the sultanas into half a cup of tea in a pot. Bring to the boil then simmer until most of the water has evaporated. Allow to cool down while you get on with everything else.

Sieve the flour, cinnamon, allspice, baking powder and salt together and set aside. If the butter isn’t nice and soft stand it in the mixing bowl in a basin of hot water for a few minutes then cream it with the sugar til pale and fluffy. Add an egg and continue beating til fully incorporated. Add about half of the flour, beat then add the other egg, beat well then add the rest of the flour.

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Mash up the bananas and beat them into the mixture then add in the sultanas followed by three-quarters of the coconut. . Mix well then spoon into moulds and top with the rest of the toasted coconut which goes deliciously chewy in the oven.

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Bake  at Gas Mark 5/190 degrees for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

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No, you aren’t seeing funny your potatoes really are blue! Well, purple actually. Deep purple. When you cook them they turn blue.  I thought that apart from blueberries, blue food didn’t really exist except in Willy Wonka’s world. Turns out it’s very good for you – the blue part is a powerful antioxidant.

Over the weekend we boiled, mashed and fried them and here’s what we found…

Boiled and mashed – tasty but a lot of the colour leeches out and you’re left with a kind of grey. It’s a  Farrow and Ball grey but that doesn’t really help at the dinner table……… To balance things out, I fried up some scallions in butter and stirred them through the mash and topped everything with cheddar and toasted the dish under the grill til golden which improved appearances a lot.

Fried – Way more successful colour-wise especially as I left the skin on so we got a 2 tone effect.  These went down a storm with some fish on Friday evening then on Sunday I used some to flesh out a salad. I love fried things with salad and it’s perfect for late summer…

A Cashel Blue Salad with walnuts and a honey balsamic dressing topped with blue potato chips

You’ll need:

A small head of lettuce

A couple of scallions finely chopped

A handful walnuts

75gr Cashel Blue (or any other blue cheese salad your prefer)

1 small pear chopped

3 Salad blue potatoes scrubbed and and thinly sliced ( 1 1/2 mm thick)

Oil for frying

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon runny honey

1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil for oil for frying the potatoes in a pan then add the potatoes then fry over a medium heat til golden (about ten minutes). While the potatoes are frying, wash and dry the lettuce. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and set aside. Add the scallions, pear, walnuts and blue cheese to the lettuce.

When the potatoes are ready, take off the pan and drain on some paper. Dress the salad. Top with the fried potatoes and serve immediately. Enjoy x

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High summer means basil and while sometimes our homegrown stuff doesn’t get enough sun to compete with its Italian cousins this year that’s not a problem – Yay!!! It’s hard to resist making pesto the first time I get basil each year(I hate the stuff in jars) so that’s what I did last night. To get over the pine-nuts costing more than gold problem, I used toasted sunflower seeds instead and they were just grand (and way more local as pine nuts usually seem to come from China which seems like a long way to me). Obviously pasta pesto makes a grand dinner in itself and it was hilarious watching not so baby (18 months already!!!!)Lee shoveling spaghetti into his mouth like a walrus last night but basil is a natural bedfellow for this season’s peaches so I couldn’t resist a salad as well.

I decided to use beet greens as a base and if you’re not familiar with these guys you’re in for a treat. You know the way beetroot is soooooooo good for you? Well, the leaves are actually better for you than the actual beets. Yes! But you have to get them fresh so use them today rather than than let them wilt as they will quite quickly. The colour is amazing – gorgeous ruby stems with dark green leaves so they make everything look fab. Throw them into any salad or juice as soon as you can – your body will thank you.

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Back to our salad – I chopped up the leaves and stems pretty finely, tossed a handful of  toasted sunflower seeds through them along with some goat’s cheese and chopped peach. The dressing was simple, olive oil and white wine vinegar (3:1) then a drizzle of honey over everything just before I served.  Delicious.

Toasted sunflower seed pesto (this will make enough for the salad which serves 2 plus a decent size bowl of pasta for one)

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You’ll need:

60gr basil

3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped

5 tablespoons olive oil

a generous pinch coarse salt

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Begin by toasting the sunflower seeds till golden then set aside to cool down completely. Take the basil leaves off the stalks and put into a mortar along with the garlic, olive oil, salt and sunflower seeds. With a pestle pound  to  your desired consistency then stir in the cheese. Needless to say, normally I’d be using a hand blender for this sort of thing if I could but with this kind of quantity you don’t quite have enough to go electric so scale up if you can. Store in a jar under a layer of oil for up to 2 weeks (but it won’t last that long!)

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A salad of Beet greens, peach, goat’s cheese and pesto and toasted sunflower seeds

You’ll need:

1 Bunch beet greens

1 ripe peach

120gr goat’s cheese

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds lightly toasted

Olive Oil

White wine vinegar

Honey

A generous dollop of pesto (as above)

Finely chop the beet greens and stems then wash and dry everything. Peel and chop your peach. Combine the seeds, greens, stems, and peach. Crumble in the cheese. Lightly dress with oil and vinegar. Top with the chopped peach and a generous dollop of pesto. Finally drizzle with a little honey and serve. Summer is served. 🙂

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

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Hi there,

This week’s aubergines make great pastas. The trick is to cook them slowly so they sweeten up nicely and any bitterness dissipates. They end up achingly mellow and tender. Tomatoes are an obvious cohort and  really you can’t go wrong with this combination. The sauce below takes a little time but it couldn’t be easier and you will be generously rewarded with a super moreish result especially if you track some basil leaves down and scatter over the finish dish for a final heady perfume. Yum yum yum!!!!!!!!!!!

I should also say, by the way, that this is stellar with any simple pan-fried fish or meat.

Aubergine and Basil Pasta

You’ll need:

2 medium small onions

1/2 head garlic

300gr aubergines (about what you have in this week’s bag)

1-2 tins tomatoes (this is a moveable feast. 1 will make enough for 2-3 people and 2 will feed up to 6)

Olive Oil

A handful of basil leaves

Roughly chop your onions and saute over a low heat in plenty of olive oil.  Dice the aubergines add to the pan.  Toss everything well adding more Olive Oil to stop things sticking. Keep things moving and when the aubergines start to soften and turn a golden brown you can throw in the garlic and a little more Oil if you think it needs it. Allow the garlic to completely soften then add the tomatoes, a generous pinch of sugar (takes away any bitterness that you might get from the tomatoes) and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat a little and cook for another 20 minutes (30 if you’re using 2 tins of tomatoes).  Serve with the pasta of your choice and some Parmesan or Pecorino and some torn Basil leaves.

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The gorgeous Red Russian Kale in your bags this week was grown for us by Mick Gordan and it’s absolutely packed full of nutrients. Have it  steamed, stir-fried (with lots of garlic)  or boiled. If you want to try something special, chorizo and kale are a match made in heaven and  Nigella Lawson’s kale with chorizo topped with a poached egg is the perfect example. It’s lunch, dinner or tea in 10 minutes and it couldn’t be any moreish, a complete treat. The chorizo secretes its lovely spicy oil when gently fried and this is your sauce.You simply  wash and shred your Kale, then slowly fry small slices of Chorizo in a teeny drop of oil for about 5 minutes releasing the oil. Poach an egg, toss the Kale with the chorizo in the pan then serve on a plate topped with the egg (runny yolk of course because adds lovely richness to the dish. Serve it straight up or with crusty bread.

In between the showers, this week’s peaches will be perfect on the barbecue – split them in half, barbecue then serve with some mascarpone whipped with cream and spiked with a little vanilla.

Have a brilliant  long weekend,

Sarah

New Potatoes, french beans and pesto

 

This is the kind of thing you might be served in the south of France in the summer and everything points to a south of France style weekend (woohoo!!!). It’s a cinch to throw together and all the ingredients are to hand and most of all it’s really tasty. Enjoy.

New Potatoes and french beans with pesto (for 2 as a main)

You’ll need:

1k New potatoes

150gr French beans

For the pesto:

A large handful basil with the tougher stalks removed

3-4 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped

3 tablespoons pinenuts

A generous pinch Maldon salt

3-4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (vegans can skip this as I did recently and it tasted just as good)

A generous slug of your best olive oil

First of all wash your potatoes and drop them into boiling water. If there’s a variety of sizes start with the bigger ones then add the smaller ones after a few minutes so they’re ready at the same time. Top and tail the beans then steam for about 3-4 minutes. Be sure and keep them al dente. When they’re done rinse in cold water and set aside.

To make the pesto put blend the basil, oil, garlic and pinenuts with a handblender. Don’t make it too smooth, a bit of texture is nice. Finally stir in the cheese and salt. Taste and add more oil or salt as needed.

When the potatoes are ready, let them cool down a bit then roughly chop the larger ones and mix with the beans. Top with a dollop of pesto and lots of black pepper.

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah