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.

IMG_0029

This dish is a current house favourite – It’s not just that the base notes never fail – coconut, lime ,coriander…… It’s the slurp factor – licensed! The kids will eat stuff in this dish that produce all kinds of agonies in other contexts.Aubergine? No problem! Scallions? Yay!!! It’s almost un-nerving…

I’m a huge fan of big warming Thai curries but during the summer it’s nice to lighten things up. Making a broth rather than a sauce keeps things lighter and keeping as many ingredients as possible uncooked really ups the freshness factor. In this dish the tofu is fresh –  cut into tiny cubes so it soaks up the flavour of the broth. Not frying really cuts down on time and heaviness. Fresh sweetcorn is next – it’s so good now full of milky sweetness. As with anything remotely Thai I’ve added loads of fresh coriander and some sliced scallion greens.

There’s aubergine but no, that isn’t raw it’s pan-fried in super healthy  coconut oil til it melts in the mouth. Delicious. When I was making this dish last night Lee had nearly snaffled half of it before I even got to put the dish together is how good it is.

I like to use rice noodles  but I imagine that buckwheat will start to feel like an option when things start to turn colder. It’s really up to you..

Seasonal Noodles with fresh corn, aubergine, tofu, coriander and lime in a coconut green curry broth (for 4)

You’ll need:

For the broth:

1 bunch scallions (white parts sliced, green parts set aside for later)

1/2 teaspoon green curry paste (more if you like things really firey)

2 kaffir lime leaves
2 teasoons Nam Pla (fish sauce)

3 teaspoon soy sauce

Coconut oil

1/2 tin coconut milk

1 litre stock veg or chicken

3 carrots finely sliced diagonally

IMG_0024

The rest:

1 Cob of Corn

1 Aubergine

1 slab tofu (pressed)

A decent sized bunch coriander

A couple of limes

Begin with the stock – finely slice the white part of the scallions and throw them in a wok or pot with some coconut oil and gently fry until soft and tender. Add the curry paste and fry for about 30 seconds before pouring in the coconut milk. Throw in the lime leaves, nam pla and soy sauce. Gently bring things to boil then add the stock and the carrots. Turn down the heat to a simmer.

IMG_0017

Prepare the tofu and veggies while the stock is cooking – Slice the corn off the cob and set that aside. Wipe the aubergine then dice into pieces about the diameter of 10 cent coin. Heat some coconut oil on the pan and fry the aubergine until golden and tender adding more oil if necessary as you go. Take off the pan and drain on some kitchen paper when they are done.

IMG_0014

While the aubergine is frying, stick on the kettle for the noodles and get them ready as per the instructions on the pack  (I use the ones that require soaking rather than boiling). Chop the coriander and slice the green tops of about half of your scallions (save the rest for something else)

To put the dish together – divide the stock between four large bowls, add the noodles, top with tofu, sweetcorn and aubergine then finally scallions and and a heap of coriander.  Yum!!!

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

IMG_0072

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

IMG_0041

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.

IMG_0046

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)

IMG_0029

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!)

IMG_0048

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

IMG_0011

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.

IMG_0301

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

IMG_0066

We are well into asparagus season so I thought I’d share our favorite recipe this year as so many of you got asparagus this week.   Like most of finer things in life simplicity is the way forward (I know I say this a lot but it is!!!).

A simple steaming, followed by a drizzle of olive oil or some butter, crushed Maldon…………… yum! Chop up your spears and toss them with pasta and Parmesan and a squirt of lemon for the ultimate in Italian refinement. Have them for breakfast week with eggs…….all they need is a creamy foil to really come alive.

I have a taste for the charred which I got years ago from a chef I worked with in Barcelona and I often cook my asparagus this way.

IMG_0059

Use a griddle pan getting it nice and hot. Add the asparagus turning them when they char. This takes a minute or two depending how hot the pan is. When you have your snazzy stripes, add a little oil and some crushed Maldon salt and shake the pan vigorously. Turn down the heat a bit and cover for a minute and allow the asparagus to steam a little and cook a bit more which should get them nicely al dente.

After this, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and a spritz of lemon juice on them then some shavings of a nice hard cheese. Parmesan or Pecorino are obvious choices but a nicely matured Manchego also works really well. You don’t need loads just a little bit to add interest. As is it’s a picky starter to have while dinner is coming. This week’s recipe is what you do when you’ve got more people around and/or you want a proper starter. Serve the asparagus on a bed of Marc Michel’s amazing mixed leaves and add chopped walnuts and honey to the dressing.  Simple but really gorgeous and well worth doing to showcase one of summer’s most popular varieties………….

A salad of char-grilled asparagus with aged Manchego  on a bed of Wicklow leaves with a Walnut lemon dressing

You’ll need:

A bunch of asparagus

100gr mixed leaves – washed, dried and ready to go.

40gr aged Manchego (or Parmesan) shavings

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons olive oil

The juice of ½ lemon

A handful walnuts

A teaspoon of runny honey

Chop half the walnuts quite finely and the other half into small pieces and set aside for later.

Trim the tough ends of the asparagus – usually about an inch is more than enough. Heat a griddle pan. Add the asparagus and griddle until stripes appear then turn over and griddle on the other side. When both sides are done, add a little olive oil and a crushed Maldon to the pan and toss over the heat for a minute before turning down the heat and covering. Allow the asparagus to cook for another 2 minutes before removing them from the heat.

IMG_0062

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil with the lemon juice, honey and the more finely chopped nuts and a pinch of crushed Maldon. Lay the asparagus on the salad leaves and scatter the shaving of cheese on top.

IMG_0064

Drizzle the dressing over this then add the remaining more coarsely chopped nuts. Serve with some crusty bread and sunshine 😉

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

IMG_0074

This week we have more of Mick Gordon’s brilliant spring onions. In our house they’ve been working their way into pretty much everything we eat for the past few weeks – buckwheat noodles with tofu, coriander and peanuts for lunch yesterday. Another noodle salad with prawns, tons of  (Mick’s) spinach, coriander and a ponzu. rice wine vinegar and honey dressing a few nights earlier (no soy as we’d run out which I thought would be disaster but it turned out to be a blessing  as it made everything fantastically fresh and summery). Then today’s lunch of avocado with Marc Michel’s lovely lettuce, some leftover fish and yet another impromptu ponzu, honey dressing.

All I can say is, play around, don’t waste anything. Every bit can be used. Chop the green bits into any salad or use as a garnish (remember the darker the colour the better it is for you) and  the whites can be thrown into salads or minced into dressings. It goes without saying that a quiche or tart with these guys would be amazing. If you can’t bear the thought of dealing with pastry (or maybe I’m projecting) a fritatta is a good compromise as I suggested last week. Gruyere, goat’s cheese or a good cheddar are all good partners here……..

There are other ways to go……… our recent arctic temperatures had me looking for ways to get the oven on so I decided to roast up the onions and serve them with a sun-dried tomato and roasted hazelnut pesto. Yummmmmmmmmm! The pesto is beyond moreish and a cinch to make. Make a double quantity and keep in the fridge for sambos and dips. We brought a tub to Africa day yesterday and it kept everyone big and small happy.

After about 30 minutes in a hot oven the onions wilt to a soft, sweet luscious mess which is offset beautifully by the slightly spikey pesto. Serve with bread or wedges of polenta. Add some goat’s cheese and a green salad and you’ve got lunch or a light supper for two sorted.

Roasted Spring Onions with Sun-dried Tomato and toasted hazelnut pesto 

You’ll need:

1 bunch spring onions

IMG_0057

For the pesto

A handful toasted hazelnuts

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small handful parsley

1 clove garlic

A pinch of Maldon salt

Give the onions a clean then put on a baking tray, cover, drizzle with olive oil and place in a hot oven to roast for half an hour.

To make the pesto, roughly chop the garlic then blast with the other ingredients to a rough paste

IMG_0068

When the onions are ready, serve alongside the pesto with plenty of napkins for all the drips!

Have a brilliant week,

Sarah