It’s time for soup. I’ve been in denial for a while but several chilly cycles through the drizzle then this morning’s trudge with pram through the pouring rain have convinced me. This week it’s with butternut, very seasonal and very appropriate given the pumpkin  frenzy that is Halloween weekend. I roasted it with leeks and a little thyme then brought it to the boil in veg stock with some softened garlic. Easypeasy. It’s absolutely great like that – perfect for warming your bones on a miserable day like today. But as usual my greed prevailed,  so I tossed a little chopped chorizo on the pan and threw it on top with a little dollop of creme fraiche- even nicer!

Roasted butternut and leek soup topped with crispy chorizo and creme fraiche – this makes 4 decent sized bowls

You’ll need:

800gr peeled butternut cut into large chunks

2-3 leeks

A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of the dry kind

4 cloves garlic

Olive oil

1 litre stock – I used Marigold but you could use chicken

A large thumb size piece of chorizo

A little creme fraiche – greek yogurt or sour cream will do just as well

Prepare the leeks for roasting by trimming the green parts,  then washing what’s left and slice it into rounds about 2 cm thick. Toss in a roasting tin with the butternut and thyme in a little olive oil. Stick in the oven and roast in a medium oven Gas mark 5 or 6 /180 degrees for about 40 minutes. Toss everything about half way through to ensure an even roasting. Then heat a little olive oil in your soup pot and saute the garlic until nice and soft and add the roasted veg. Add a generous pinch of salt and keep cooking for a  minute or two while you heat the stock. When done add to the veg mix then bring everything to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend until nice and smooth. Add plenty of black pepper, stir well then taste to check the seasoning. If you’re happy the soup is made.

To finish, finely slice the chorizo into rounds then cut these rounds in half. Heat a drop of olive oil on a small pan then add the chorizo. Fry until just about crispy then take off the heat immediately. The oil stays hot for a while and continues to cook the chorizo so be quick. Put the soup into bowls then top each one with some chorizo and a little dollop of creme fraiche.

As well as tasting great, this  week’s bunch of thyme has lots of medicinal properties that help when you’re feeling coldy as everyone seems to be at the moment. We use it to make tea with lots of lemon and honey and it always seems to hit the spot.

Thyme tea with lemon and honey

Bring 4-5 sprigs of thyme to the boil in about 350 ml water (about enough for a large cup and then a little more for a top up) then simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain into a cup then add the juice of half a lemon and a large teaspoon honey. Feel better already!!


Carrots and mushrooms

April 20, 2009

From Margaret …some Carrot recipes

Carrots go well with cumin and orange and thyme. They are good cut into batons then put in tinfoil and oven roasted with cumin and butter and orange juice (or white wine or stock). They need about forty minutes in a moderate oven. Serve as a side dish.

Another nice idea is carrot, cumin and orange soup. At this time of the year I like to grow lovage and add some but thyme is also good.
An Indian style salad with popped mustard seed, grated carrot, chile, oil and raisins is always welcome. If watching the carbs substitute fine strips of carrot or courgette for pasta or noodles.

I roasted some carrots with onions blitzed them and made a risotto. This recipe would be good with any root veg (roasted parsnip with rosemary) or with roasted peppers (and a basil maybe) or butternut squash(and thyme) or aubergine (add plenty of lemon and cumin). If you are having a busy week roast the veg in advance at the weekend when you have the oven on anyway. Puree while still hot and use for risotto or as a side dish or a souffle or in a veg tart.




roast carrot risotto
400g of carrot peeled and sliced thinly
1 onion peeled and roughly chopped
50 ml olive oil
1.2-1,5 l veg stock
150g butter
2 cloved garlic peeled and finely sliced
400g risotto rice (I prefer carnoroli)
1 bay leaf
4 tsp fresh thyme leaves(or dried)
2 tsp fresh tarragon leaves (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
finely grated rind and juice of two lemons (optional)
parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 200. Put carrots onion and olive oil in roasting dish and roast till golden – about 25 minutes. Finely chop or blitz in food processor. In a heavy pot saute onion and garlic in butter stirring gently till softened. Add rice turn up heat and fry for a minute stirring well. Add herbs and season, then carrots, lemon zest and juice and mix well. Then start adding stock bit by bit as normal for risotto and cook until the rice is done.
Serve with parmesan. If you are a forager like me add some wild leek/garlic to garnish (you will spot in the parks and in gardens now a white star shaped bluebell type taste …unmistakable)

Serve with salad

This is adapted from a Peter Gordon recipe for arancini

Arancini is leftover risotto made into balls dipped in breadcrumb and egg and fried . Personally I would never make a risotto from scratch for arancini but if you have the patience… Make extra and use leftovers….

This week coming my risotto will be with wild garlic, nettles and courgettes… yum and very healthy. Nettle tops are full of vitamins and minerals and make a good tonic. Get those gloves out and get picking !! Once the leaves are boiled the sting is gone. Puree and put thro’ risotto.

For a light supper or a lunchbox try carrot fritters.

For 2-3 people
3 medium carrots grated and then squeezed in a clean tea towel
1 egg beaten(or use 2 tbsp chickpea flour and water)
1 tbsp plain flour or potato flour
teaspoon cumin seed or cumin and caraway mixed (lightly toasted on dry frying pan)
black pepper
chopped red chile (optional)
Heat oven to 150
Put the finely grated carrrot into a bowl and season with pepper, Mix in all other ingredients. Roll into small balls with your fingertips. Or make into patties if easier.

Heat oil in a wok at about 3 inches depth. Carefully brown fritters on all sides then remove and dry on kitchen paper. Put on a roasting tray in the oven for 15 minutes.

Then make a sauce to have with them with either sour cream or greek yoghurt a squeeze of lemon and chopped coriander or parsley or dill…. Whatever beckons. They can be varied with added grated courgette or shredded spinach or pakchoi and eaten straight out of the oven with an indian style tomato sauce.

In your bag this week is also chestnut mushroom which would be good sauted and then on a pizza or veg tart with some goats cheese. Mushroom are also good cooked and mixed through a salad with greens and pine nuts…Or mushroom on toast with butter and grated parsley and a rasher.. or mushroom stroganoff.

Another option is to wilt some pak choi in a little oil then cook lightly with rice vinegar, sake and fish sauce (or oyster sauce) adding the mushrooms and a little water.

Butternut Squash

October 24, 2008

Hi everyone,

This week sees the return of Butternut Squash  which can be used to make 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, it’s 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

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. 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 Pinenuts and plenty of chopped Rocket or Flatleaf Parsley.

I hear it’s going to turn cold this weekend so soup is definitely going to be on the menu in our house. This week’s recipe is for one with Butternut, Parmesan and Thyme and it’s incredibly tasty, filling and guaranteed to warm……………

Butternut Soup with Parmesan and Thyme (for 2)

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 Thyme Leaves
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 before adding  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.
To finish the soup off add 2 Tablespoons of double Cream and 3 Tablespoons of 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 (use Spuds and/or Carrots to make up any shortfall on the Butternut front). Freeze in individual portions and then you’ll be able to bring it to work  where you’ll go straight to the top of the recession chic charts!

Roasted Butternut Squash is great in salads and this recipe is a meal in itself….

Warm Roasted Butternut Feta and and Cous Cous Salad (for 2)

You’ll need:
300gr of peeled Butternut per person cut into bitesized pieces
Olive Oil
200gr Cous Cous (I like the wholemeal kind as it has a lovely nutty flavour but it’s up to you)
1 small Onion finely chopped
A handful of Parsley (flatleaf if possible) roughly chopped
120gr Feta Cheese
1 Lemon
Balsamic Vinegar
Roasted Pumpkin or Sunflower seeds if you have them.

Put the Butternut on a roasting tray and with your hands smear about 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil on them then roast in a hottish oven (Gas mark 6 or 200 degrees) for about 30 minutes or until the pieces are soft and starting to caramelise. If you’d like a bit of a kick you can add a little finely chopped dried Chili to the Butternut before roasting.
While the Butternut is roasting prepare the Cous Cous. Most recipes suggest steaming Cous Cous or sitting it boiling water but I learnt a technique from a chef in Barcelona which I reckon works better than anything. Basically you roast the grains on a dry pan as you would seeds and when they start to turn golden brown you turn down the heat, add hot water and stir like mad until the grains have softened and the water is absorbed. After that, turn off the heat and continue stirring so the grains don’t all clump together adding a little Olive Oil. As the Cous Cous starts to cool down you can stir it less and get on with preparing the rest of your ingredients. This recipe calls for 200gr Cous Cous which is about 1 1/4 cups and I’d reckon on adding about 2 cups of water but it’s not an exact science. If you find that the water has evaporated before the grains are cooked add a little more and if you find there’s still water in the pan and the grains are cooked turn up the heat and and stir everything so the excess water evaporates as quickly as possible.
When your Cous Cous is cooked add the Onion, freshly roasted Butternut, crumbled Feta Cheese and Parsley.
To make the dressing, mix 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil with the juice of half a Lemon and a dash of Balsamic Vinegar. Add this to the salad and then adjust (you may find it needs more Balsamic) as needed. Top with some Pumpkin seeds or roasted Sunflower seeds if you have them.

Hope you enjoy the recipes,

Have a great weekend,