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

Save

Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie

Autumn is in the air and I am already craving for comfort food. The trouble about winter recipes compared to summer ones is they always take so much longer to cook. Gone are the warm evenings and just chucking something on the barbie.

Winter is all peeling, chopping, stewing and slow-cooking. What I like about this recipe from Jamie Oliver’s fabulous recipe book “Cook”, is that although it obviously needs hours to bubble away, the actual prep is really quick. There is no laborious and messy browning of the meat and the result is sensational. I usually make a double batch and put one pie in the freezer for a rainy day.

Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie

Serves 4

3 red onions

3 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

4 field mushrooms

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

olive oil

1 kg quality brisket or stewing beef, cut into 2cm cubes

440 ml Guinness (no lager, please!)

2 heaped tablespoons plain flour

150 g Cheddar cheese

170 g all-butter puff pastry (I used ready rolled)

1 large free-range egg

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.

Peel and chop the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery, slice the mushrooms, and pick and finely chop the rosemary. Heat a lug of oil in a large ovenproof pan over a low heat, add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up, add the garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms, then mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, and a pinch of sea salt and 1 level teaspoon of black pepper. Fry fast for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover.

Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the oven for 2½ hours, or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick, stirring halfway. A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the hob and reduce until the sauce thickens.

Coarsely grate the cheese, stir half through the pie filling, then transfer to a pie dish and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, dust a clean work surface with flour and roll the pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin (or use ready rolled like I did.)

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pie filling. Place the pastry over the top of the pie dish pinching or folding and tucking in the edges to seal, piecing the pie with a knife once or twice to let out the steam. Beat the egg, then brush over the top of the pie and bake directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked, puffed and beautifully golden. Delicious served simply with peas.

Squash Dal

Next up, a really comforting bowl of sunshine. I don’t know where the expression comes from, but this is food which hugs you from the inside. Not the least because not only lentils but surprisingly pumpkin or squash are really very good for you. Packed with vitamins, minerals and all sorts of thing that do you good. But more so, because it tastes so delicious, and that is bound to make you feel happy.

butternut-squash-dal

Squash Dal

2 brown onions

Coconut oil

200 g yellow split peas

800 g butternut squash or any other squash or pumpkin you like such as kobocha or crown prince

1 fresh red chilli

2 clove garlic, peeled and grated

Large knob of ginger, scrapped with a teaspoon and grated

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground (available from good Indian shops)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sea salt

Fresh coriander

Peel, finely chop and add the onions to a pan over a medium heat with some coconut oil. Sweat it down for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chill and spices and a teaspoon of salt and cook for a minute more. Add the split peas and cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, halve, peel and chop your squash into 2cm cubes, then add to the pan, top up with water if necessary and cook for a further 25 minutes, or until everything is soft and the liquid is reduced and creamy. Stir regularly during cooking, to ensure it is not sticking. Check seasoning and add salt to taste. Finish with some freshly chopped coriander. Serve with rice or poppadoms.

kabocha

Roast Butternut Squash and Red Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing

It is nearly Halloween and the fields are full of pumpkins so I thought I would devote this week purely to them. If you are passing any of the four Riverford’s farms celebrating “pumpkin day”, be sure to pay them a visit. Apparently it’s a real family friendly event with plenty to keep everyone entertained, including pumpkin carving, face painting, wildlife spotting, chilli stringing, Christmas food and drink tasters and plenty of organic refreshments. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it as I’m off to Sardinia for, hopefully, a little last sun before winter truly sets in. However, these pumpkin recipes, with their beautiful, bright orange colours, are full of sunshine too.

First up, a variation of salad from Ottolenghi.  Unusually for a Ottolenghi recipe it has surprisingly few ingredients in it (and I even managed to cut some of those down) and it is really very easy and quick. You don’t even have to peel the squash.

roast-butternut-squash-and-red-onion

I wanted to serve my version as a salad so I added couple of handfuls of wild rocket leaves. Remember you can use one of the many different varieties of pumpkin to replace the butternut squash. Try kabocha which also does not need peeling. Don’t forget that Riverford are selling a Squash Box right now with a selection of at least three different varieties for £9.95.

roast-butternut-squash-and-red-onion-salad-with-tahini-dressing-1

Roast Butternut Squash and Red Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing

1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges

2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges

50ml olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

3½ tbsp tahini paste

1½ tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp water

30g pine nuts

A couple of handfuls of salad leaves, such as rocket

A little extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt, mixed to make a salad dressing

Heat the oven to 180C. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water & a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency thin cream, adding more water or tahini as necessary.

Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.

To serve, dress the leaves with the salad dressing and scatter them on a large plate. Top with the vegetables. Drizzle over the tahini dressing. Scatter the pine nuts on top.

selection-of-pumpkins

Onions Baked in Cream and Parmesan

Finally, for this week, I gave the humble onion the star treatment. In this recipe you boil the onions first, until meltingly tender, before finishing them off in the oven with a good lashing of double cream and a generous sprinkling of parmesan. For some reason, I was fixated by leaving the onions whole, but although it looks very cool, it probably would have worked better if I had cut them in half after boiling them, but before baking.

peeled-onions-1

Anyway, they were delicious!

onions-baked-in-cream-and-parmesan

Onions Baked in Cream and Parmesan

6 medium onion

100ml double cream

Handful of freshly, very finely chopped rosemary

25g Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative), finely grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and trim the roots of the onions but leave them whole. Cook in a large pan of salted. boiling water for 25-30 minutes or until completely tender. A knife should insert easily.  Drain, reserving a little cooking water. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.  Season the cream really well with salt and plenty of black pepper and mix in 2 tbsp of the onion water. If you want to cut yours in half, then when the onions are cool enough to handle, slice each in half through the root. Lay the onion halves, cut side down, in a large baking dish with rosemary. Pour over the cream, scatter with the Parmesan, and bake for 25 mins until the cream is bubbling and the onions are just beginning to brown.

brown-onions

Leek and Mushroom Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf

I love leeks. Not the insipid, colourless and tasteless looking ones you get ready trimmed in the supermarket. I mean the ones that look like they have just been pulled out of a muddy field, in rolling, autumnal countryside. They seem as if they are as if they are as old as time, and indeed they are apparently mentioned in the bible.

This is a really quick and easy recipe. It is a one-pot-dish and what’s more, it is really good for you.

leek-and-mushroom-brown-and-wild-rice-pilaf-2

Leek and Mushroom Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf

I added coriander because I love it, but you could use another herb such as parsley and maybe a little drizzle of white truffle oil.

750mls vegetable or chicken stock (can be made with 2 good quality cubes)

200g brown basmati and wild rice mix (can be ready bought or mix your own)

40g butter

Glug extra virgin oil

2 large leeks, finely sliced and well washed

300g fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Fresh herbs – coriander or parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed large saucepan (with a lid.) Add the leek and a good glug of olive oil. Sweat down for about 10-15 minutes until they are just beginning to caramelise. Add the mushrooms and cook down once again. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir and then the stock. Cover with the lid and cook on a low heat for about 40 minutes.  Check once or twice whilst cooking and stir. When rice is tender, remove from heat. Stir in the chopped herbs and check seasoning.

Slit leeks