Crispy Roast New Potatoes

I have never really got used to being a home cook. Too many years in the catering industry have left me unable to only cook for four people. Hence, I always over cater. New potatoes are something I often get a bit carried away with but no one in my family minds as I have found a super simple and delicious way to use them up.

I chucked some of these in the oven and some sausages too, before I went off to tennis the other night, with instructions to my other half to take them out and serve them up for dinner. “Daddy made the best potatoes ever”, exclaimed my kids on my return. And I have to say that he looked pretty pleased with himself!

Crispy Roast New Potatoes

These are best done in the oven as the longer they cook for, the better but you could saute them in a frying pan too.

Boiled New Potatoes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place a baking tray in the oven and pour a generous amount of olive oil onto the tray. Cut the cold new potatoes in half length-ways. When the oven is hot, tip the potatoes onto the hot tray. Arrange so that the cut side is faced down. Cook for about 25-30 minutes checking regularly. When the potatoes are golden brown on the bottom, flip them over and pull them into towards the middle of the pan pushing the less done potatoes nearer the outside edge, which is always hotter. Cook until all the potatoes are golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Grilled Butternut Squash with Goat’s Cheese, Crispy Sage, Pine Nuts and Rocket

I don’t know why I never thought of grilling butternut squash before. It works beautifully and looks fab too. This is a very simple salad that you could serve hot or cold.

Grilled Butternut Squash with Goat’s Cheese, Crispy Sage, Pine Nuts and Rocket

½ a butternut squash

100g Goats cheese

Couple of large handfuls of rocket (or watercress)

Small bunch of sage

25g toasted pine nuts

Extra virgin olive oil

Juice if half a lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the butternut squash into thin slices. Leave the skin on but remove the seeds. Season them with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Grill the slices on a very hot griddle pan or on a BBQ on both sides. Arrange on a large serving plate. Make a dressing from the lemon juice and olive oil, about one part to three. Season well and adjust to taste. Dress the rocket with some of your dressing and crumble over the goat cheese. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the sage leaves. Fry until they just change colour from green to pale brown. Remove the leaves immediately onto some kitchen paper with a slotted spoon. Scatter the sage leaves and pine nuts over the squash and drizzle with a little of the sage oil and serve.

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan Pasties

Particularly pleased with these little pasties. I thought they would be great after trick or treating to try and temp the kids away from all those sweets!

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan Pasties

You could use any variety of pumpkin or squash.

Makes 6-8 small pasties

2 packets readymade, ready rolled good quality shortcrust pastry

¼ a butternut squash, about 200g, peeled and cut into ½ cm cubes

1 medium red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

Small bunch finely chopped sage

75g grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 170C.

In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, onion, garlic, sage, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. Season well.

Using a bowl between 12 and 15cms diameter cut rounds of pastry. Spoon mixture into the middle of each, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. It is important to get as much filling in as possible but too much and you will not be able to seal the pasties. If necessary, moisten the edges of the dough with a little water. With cool hands, fold the pastry over and seal the edges well. (Use any crimping technique you like, just make sure it is well sealed. Brush all over with beaten egg.

Bake until golden and cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Pear Gingerbread Cake

For some reason I associate Halloween with gingerbread although I am not sure why! And I mean real gingerbread, not a biscuit but a rich, moist, sticky cake. I have been looking for a good recipe for years now and I am thrilled to say that this recipe is outstanding. The addition of pear is fabulous and the edges of the cake, turn to almost toffee.

I adapted it from an American recipe with cups as measures and the mixture is really runny which makes it rather worrying to bake. Make sure your tin Is big enough, keep your oven low and if the cake looks as if it is getting too brown, cover it with foil. Just keep going until it is cooked and it will be worth it.

Pear Gingerbread Cake

250g soft brown sugar

250g butter, melted, cooled

3 pears, peeled, cored, cut into 2cm slices

340g golden syrup

2 eggs

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, sifted

325g plain flour

3 teaspoons ground ginger

200g sour cream or crème fraiche

Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Lightly grease a 6cm-deep, 23cm (base) square cake pan. Line base and sides with baking paper.

Sprinkle 100g sugar over base of prepared pan. Pour 80g of the melted butter over sugar. Arrange pear slices in a single layer over butter and sugar.

Place remaining butter in a large bowl. Whisk in syrup, eggs, soda, flour, ground ginger and remaining sugar. Stir in sour cream. Pour batter over pears. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Stand for 10 minutes. Turn out on to a platter. Serve.

Cauliflower, Bacon and Potato Gratin

Kids on half-term means endless meals to cook. Quick and easy, packed with veg, hot and filling is key. This ticks all the boxes.

Cauliflower, Bacon and Potato Gratin

Serves 4

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

200g smoked streaky bacon

2 large onions, sliced

800g potatoes, thickly sliced

1kg cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

150g medium-mature cheddar or Gruyère, coarsely grated

250ml double cream

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon for 5 mins until really crispy. Add the onion and sauté for 12 mins until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, tip the potatoes into a large pan of salted water, making sure they are well covered. Bring to a gentle boil, then add the cauliflower and cook everything for 6-7 mins until both are tender. A knife should easily insert into through the potatoes but don’t overcook or you will have mash! Tip into a colander and drain thoroughly.

Pour the cream in with the onions and add the cheese. Season well with plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tip in the potatoes and cauliflower and carefully stir. Tip the whole lot into a gratin dish and bake for 30 mins until bubbling. Remove from the oven and set aside for 1 min to rest. Serve straight from the dish with a crisp green salad.

Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

It is squash time of year again and you just know you are going to be inundated with them. This is really the simplest way of dealing with them. No need to skin them, it all goes in, even the seeds. Eat it on its own, as a side dish or chuck into salad, pasta or soup.

Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

1 large squash, whatever you have got

1 pinch dried red chilli

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 large handful fresh sage leaves

1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Halve the butternut squash, remove and reserve the seeds, then cut the squash into slices or chunks with the skin left on and put in a bowl. Add the whole sage leaves, the pieces of cinnamon, a pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper and enough olive oil to rub the whole lot over all the squash pieces so they are well covered. Place the squash in one layer in a roasting tray. Sprinkle over the seeds, cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the skin of the squash is soft, then remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes until the squash is golden and crisp. Remove the cinnamon.

Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds, and Parmesan

When you get to my age and you have been cooking as long as I have, it is really hard to find recipes that are fresh, exciting or different but this simple celery salad is really quite stimulating. I’m not even that keen on fruit or nuts in savoury dishes but the celery, lemon and the chilli really balance out the sweetness. It made a very tasty lunch!

Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds, and Parmesan

Serves 2

½ cup/large handful raw almonds with skins

8 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal, use leaves too

6 dates, pitted, coarsely chopped

Zest of one lemon plus 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chunk of Parmesan, shaved

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Very small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Toss almonds, celery, celery leaves, lemon zest and dates in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil together well. Add a small pinch of chilli flakes and mix through the salad. Serve with shavings of parmesan.

Mediterranean Vegetables Roasted with Lemon, Yogurt, Tahini & Pomegranate

You may think you have heard and seen this recipe in many guises before but don’t judge a book by its cover. This is a really interesting version in a few ways. First of all, the use of whole lemon just chopped up and roast with the veg. I showed you how to make preserved lemons the other day but this is even more simple. Secondly the tahini dressing which I would have been tempted to drizzle on top of the veg, here is used as a base to the vegetables, more like polenta or mash. It turns a plate of roast veg into a proper lunch.

Finally, the fact that the chickpeas are used twice, once in the dressing but the bulk of them are roast with the veg and the resulting crispy morsels add great texture and interest to this dish.

Mediterranean Vegetables Roasted with Lemon, Yogurt, Tahini & Pomegranate

You can use any combination of veg you like. A combination of root vegetable would work well.

Serves 2

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 aubergine, diced

1 red onion, halved and cut into thin wedges

1 unwaxed lemon, ¼ chopped (skin and all), the rest juiced

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle (optional)

400g can chickpeas in water, drained

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp tahini

3 tbsp natural bio yogurt

seeds from ½ a pomegranate

fresh parsley or coriander, chopped

Heat oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 7. Put the vegetables and chopped lemon in a large flameproof roasting tin and drizzle with 1 tbsp oil. Massage into the veg so they are all well coated, and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then put the tin on the hob and fry, stirring, for 5 mins until starting to char. Stir in two handfuls of the chickpeas, sprinkle them with salt and roast the whole lot in the oven for 15 mins or so. Stir from time to time to ensure even roasting.

Put the rest of the chickpeas in a bowl with the garlic, tahini, yogurt and lemon juice and blitz with a stick blender until really smooth and thick adding a tablespoon or two of water to get it to the right consistency.

Spoon the yogurt tahini onto two plates and top with the roasted veg, pomegranate seeds and parsley or coriander. Drizzle of extra oil, if you like.

Apple Strudel

At this time of year, there seems to be apples everywhere. People keep on trying to give them to me, but I have got far more than I can cope with of my own. This delicious apple strudel uses loads of Bramley’s and will have you wanting all the apples you can get hold of!

Apple Strudel

750g/1lb 10oz Bramley apples, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced

1½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ unwaxed lemon, zest only

2 tsp lemon juice

100g/3½oz golden caster sugar

75g/2½oz raisins

95g/3½oz butter

40g/1½oz white breadcrumbs

6 large sheets filo pastry (or 10-12 smaller ones)

1 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Mix the apples with the cinnamon, lemon zest and juice, sugar and raisins. In a small frying pan, melt 20g/¾oz butter and fry the breadcrumbs until golden-brown, then add to the apple mixture.

Melt the remaining butter in a pan. On a clean, dry tea-towel lay a sheet of the filo and brush with some of the melted butter. If you have small sheets of filo then lay two side by side. Lay another sheet on top and repeat until you have used all of the filo.

Pile the filling along the length of the pastry along one side about 2-3cm/1in from the edge and using the tea-towel to help you, roll the pastry up to enclose the filling. Tuck the ends in and roll seam-side down onto the lined baking sheet. Brush with the remaining melted butter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden-brown. Leave to cool to room temperature and dust with icing sugar. Slice and serve with cream, ice cream or custard.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Gratin

Everyone knows I am always making vegetable gratins or all shapes and sizes, so it is a complete mystery to me why I have never before made a butternut squash variety. So, I put my mind to it and came up with the idea of putting a layer of spinach hidden in the middle.

Always trying to push the boundaries, especially time saving ones, just so I can share them with you, I experimented putting the spinach in raw and letting it cook in the cream I was really pleased with the result.

There is something so comforting about spinach and cream. Sort of nursery food. Just what we need as the nights draw in.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Gratin

I used baby spinach but I recon true spinach could work the same way as long as the stems where removed and it was quite small and tender. It would also have to be washed as true spinach can be gritty, and drained very well so that the gratin did not become watery.

1 large butternut squash

600mls double cream

100mls milk

3 cloves of garlic

Couple of sprigs of rosemary

2 large handfuls of baby spinach

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the cream and the milk in a large saucepan with the garlic and rosemary. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down and let the mixture boil away very gently for about 30 minutes. Make sure it does not boil over or catch on the bottom. Stir very now and then. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 170C. Peel the butternut squash with a knife. It is easier to do this if you cut it in half where the straight part of the squash begins to fatten.  Remove the seeds and cut the sqash into thin slices. I used a mandolin. Place half the slices in the bottom of a gratin dish. Add the spinach and cover with the remaining slices. Remove the cream from the heat and season really well with salt and plenty of pepper. Pour the cream through a course sieve over the gratin. Cover with tin foil and bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour, removing the tinfoil for the last 10 minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving

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