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

It’s freezing. It’s been raining. The time for  mashed potato is upon us. Am I right? I am. Yeah, my kids and husband will gladly hoover up epic amounts of cous cous and quinoa during the rest of the year but when we get to this kind of deep winter it’s mash that really gets them excited. My mother, who has no truck with my weird grains (“but cous cous isn’t really food is it?……….and what’s quinoa?????????!”)  likes to give me knowing glances as they lorry into a third portion of shepherd’s pie.

Last week’s cabbage and spuds said colcannon to me from the start ( jeans can stretch!)  and as it was a week night I wanted to keep things really simple and just make one dish. Adding some smoked Gubbeen chorizo (you can get it in Sheridan’s and it’s well worth tracking down if you’re round town) not only takes an Irish classic to a whole new level it makes a meal out of this humble dish. If you want to go further, this version will make a simple piece of grilled fish sing.  A side of broccoli or romanesco lightly steamed then tossed in garlic and chilli and you’ll be practically taking things to dinner party level…..
Colcannon with smoked Gubbeen chorizo

You’ll need:

600gr potatoes

250 gr cabbage washed and finely shredded

1 large onion finely sliced

Milk

Olive oil

Butter

150gr chorizo (smoked Gubbeen if you can get it), sliced finely and cut into half moons.

Peel the spuds and cook in boiling salted water until tender. While the potatoes are cooking heat a large knob of butter on the pan with a drizzle of olive oil.  Sauté the onion gently until soft and caramelized. Throw in the cabbage and fry until wilted.

When the spuds are cooked, drain then mash til super creamy with a generous knob of butter and a dash of milk. Season well with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Heat a little oil in a pan, throw in the chorizo and fry until crispy. To finish off, stir the onions, cabbage and half the chorizo into mash. Top with the remaining chorizo and serve.

Enjoy x

 

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.

I never get colds and am so under the weather. A couple of  trips out in the torrential rain to get Dan have done me in. Auggie thought I had to be kidding, couldn’t we just leave him there? Only Lee was safe playing with his butterfly, eating his book, safe in his mobile hothouse. Unlike the others he loves being under that plastic pram cover. Auggie tries to get in beside him and is given short shift by Lee. Nice try kid, I’d be in there myself if I could….

The upshot is that our oven is now on every afternoon warming the kitchen and cooking dinner.We’ve been too busy drying off to faff around chopping veg for soups so I’ve been roasting up whatever’s around whole or halved. Yesterday it was leeks, butternuts and carrots in olive oil with rosemary. I then browned a handful of pancetta in the soup pot, adding hot stock, and a handful of red lentils then roughly chopped up the roasted veggies and throw them in. You let things simmer for about 15 minutes then blend to the texture you like and season to taste. That was dinner sorted while everyone dried off and had hot chocolate.

Fruit is another thing that’s magic done in the oven and at this time of the year you get a lovely mix of end of summer and  start of autumn varieties. At the moment plums don’t have the sugar of the high summer varieties but they work beautifully baked with pears. I also love some dried figs in there too but fresh are obviously wonderful but they can be trickier and pricier to track down.
A few weeks ago there were still peaches and nectarines around and and they work really well in this recipe. You can do this kind of dish in under an hour but like most roasting, it tastes better if you give it plenty of time. An hour and a half plus will give you super-sticky, almost chewy fruit gently spiced that’s aching for a dollop of cream.ice-cream or greek yogurt and maybe a handful of crumbled biscuits. We had some with a cheese cake last night and it was as good as it sounds.

Slow baked spiced fruit

You’ll need:

3 large red firm plums (or 5/6 small ones)

6 dried figs

4 medium firm pears

1/2 glass red wine

3 heaped tablespoons light muscovado sugar

The spices

1 cinnamon quill

4 pieces mace

7-8 peppercorns

1/4 teaspoon  ground ginger

4 star anise

Small pinch ground cloves

Peel, core and quarter the pears.  Halve  the plums removing the stones. Place in an ovenproof dish along with figs and cinnamon quill. Mix the rest of the spices with the wine and sugar then pour over the fruit. Cover the dish with tinfoil and  bake for 30 minutes at Gas mark 5.Remove the foil and gently turn the fruit over to make sure all sides get coated in wine then return to the oven and bake for a further hour or so until the liquid has reduced to a sticky caramel.  Eat warm or at room temperature.

roasted parsnips and beetroot w goat's cheese
It mightn’t look like it today, but summer is on the way and this week we had what I reckon might be the last of the parsnips so I thought a dish with them was in order. Like all roots, they are beautiful roasted especially with a drizzle of honey and maybe a splash of balsamic. Do them with beets and carrots and you have a gorgeous  side that will do any roast proud.

More usual in our house though, is the vegetarian route and last night was no exception – I made honey roasted beets and parsnips then a lightly dressed warm lemon cous cous salad with toasted sunflower seeds and some baked goat’s cheese .It’s a combination that’s easy to prepare and always goes down a storm.

I think the best way to go is to  boil the vegetables first (separately or everything will go pink and it is nice to have the 2 colours) so the roasting doesn’t take too long. This way, once the veg is in the oven you’ll have enough time to do the cous cous, slice the goat’s cheese and of course have at least one glass of wine.

Roasted parsnips and beetroot

Balsamic Roasted Beetroot and Parsnips (for 2)

You’ll need:

600gr Parsnips

600gr Beetroot

Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Honey

Start with your beetroot as they’ll take the longest. Wash but don’t peel them or all their lovely colour will leech out. Cover in water and bring to the boil then simmer til done (ie until you can easily stick a knife through them). This will take anything from 40 minutes to an hour for really big bulbs. When they’re ready take them off the heat, drain and allow to cool slightly. Peel and cut each Beetroot into quarters or eighths depending on the size.

While the beetroot are cooking, you can get on with the parsnips. Wash, peel and cut into chunks or lengths. Boil in salted water until tender (this should take about 15 minutes).

When the vegetables are ready, heat your oven to Gas mark 6 or 200 degrees and warm some olive oil on 2 non stick baking trays (roast the veg separately too to avoid turning the parsnips pink). When the oil is hot, add your veg along with a generous drizzle of honey.  Toss well then put in the oven. After about 25 minutes toss again to make sure things cook evenly. Return to the oven and roast for another 25 minutes, then add a dash of balsamic vinegar, toss and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or until everything has carmelized nicely. Season with salt and pepper and they’re ready to serve.

The Cous  Cous and baked Goat’s Cheese

You’ll need:

Cous Cous

Sunflower Seeds

Lemon Juice

Olive Oil

2 rounds Chevre Goat’s Cheese about 1 inch thick

Rosemary or thyme

Olive oil

Prepare enough cous cous for 2 and dress with some nice olive oil and lemon juice. Toast some sunflower seeds on a dry pan and throw them in.

The baked goat’s cheese is simple -drizzle with olive oil and top with herbs (I used thyme) then bake the rounds on a tray for about 8 minutes. When you think the veg is starting to caramelize, throw them into the oven and everything will be ready together. If you want to make things really special marinate the cheese in oil with some rosemary and thyme a la Alice Waters. This can be done the day before and really brings up the flavour of the herbs in the cheese.

In case you were wondering……..

The leaves in your bag with white stalks are pak Choy and they should be steamed or stirfried with garlic and ginger. The other leaves are  baby(ish) Wicklow spinach 

Hope you enjoy the recipes, have a great week,

Sarah