Squash, Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Last week, I did a Fig and Almond Tart, and this week I am doing another one, only this time it is savoury. I know some people panic at the word pastry, but I promise you this is a fool proof recipe and you can knock up the pasty in the food processor in a matter of minutes. This combination of pumpkin or squash with red onion and goats cheese is just a winner. Once again, any of a number of different squashes or pumpkins will do to replace the somewhat ubiquitous butternut squash. Feel free to experiment.


Squash, Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Serves 6 – Tart tin 10” / 25cm

For the pastry

175g plain flour

80g butter, cold and cubed

Pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

1 egg

For the filling

2 large red onions, peeled and finely slice

Olive oil

Small bunch of thyme, very finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

400g squash or pumpkin, peeled and cubed into 1cm cubes

250g hard goats cheese, cubed

½ pt double cream

3 egg yolks


Put the flour and butter for the pastry, and salt if using, in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss the cubed squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until soft and golden brown. Meanwhile sweat the sliced onions on a low heat with a little olive oil, the thyme and some salt and pepper. Cook down until beginning to caramelise. Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Get a round piece of greaseproof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until the pasty is very light golden brown. Mix the cream with the yolks and season with a little salt and pepper. Add the roasted squash and goats cheese and the onions. Pour into the tart case. Turn the oven down to 170C and cook the tart for about 20-30 minutes, until set and lightly golden brown.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


Sorrel and Lentil Soup with Crème Fraiche

Fresh Sorrel is also really difficult to get hold of. I tried growing it myself, but I chose the pretty red veined variety, rather unfortunately named Bloody Sorrel, and although it looks beautiful, it had a rather unpleasant taste. Good fresh sorrel should have a delicious tart, lemony tang. Here I have combined it with lentils and crème fraiche to make a delicious soup. Unfortunately, sorrel when cooked, changes from its vibrant green colour to a sludgy grey green, so it never looks that inviting, but give it a try. It tastes great!


Sorrel and Lentil Soup with Crème Fraiche

Serves 2

100g Lentils

1 clove garlic

1 red onion (finely chopped)

Glug of extra virgin olive oil

60g fresh sorrel (leaves stripped from the stems)

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cover the lentils with plenty of cold water – about 3 times the volume of the lentils. Add the peeled garlic clove and cook gently for about 20 minutes or so, until soft.  Meanwhile, sweat the onion in the olive oil over a low heat for 10 minutes or so. When the lentils are cooked, add to the onion with the water. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the sorrel leaves to the lentils, ensuring they are covered in water. If not, add a little more. Bring back to the boil and cook for a minute or two until the sorrel turns grey green. Remove from the heat and puree with a hand blender. Add enough water to get a nice consistency. Check seasoning. Serve hot with a big table spoon of crème fraiche in each bowl.


Braised Cime di Rapa with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

There are certain vegetables and herbs which are still quite hard to find in England and Riverford have a few of my favourites at the moment. The Cime di Rapa season has just started, which means that although there are no baby heads of broccoli attached as yet, being early, it means that the stalks are still so tender that you can eat it all. No need to strip the leaves from the stalks, just roughly chop the whole thing.

I know being a lesser found vegetable, people are often at a bit of a loss as what to do with it. Follow the link for more information from the blog I wrote on Cime di Rapa last year.


There I have made a recipe with pasta, but today I am giving you another equally delicious and easy one – Braised Cime di Rapa with Cannellini Beans and Garlic. This is lovely on its own, or served up alongside some grilled lamb or a piece of fish. You could add an anchovy to the garlic when frying, if you are an anchovy person. It adds a lovely depth of flavour. Or maybe a pinch of dried chilli to add a little heat.


Braised Cime di Rapa with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

300g cime di rapa

Malden salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely sliced

1 tin of cannellini beans

Pick through the cime de rapa and discard any really large, tough outer leaves. Cut off and discard the tough stalks. Keep the sprouting heads, any tender stalks and leaves. Wash the heads and leaves careful. Roughly chop. Blanch for 5 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain and lay out to dry. Squeeze out any excess water. Drain the beans.

In a heavy-bottomed pan heat a generous glug of olive oil and add the garlic slices. As the garlic is turning light golden in colour, add the blanched cime di rapa and toss for a minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Add the beans and stir through until hot.


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.


Anyway, they were delicious!


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.


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

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

Fig, Salted Almond and Bufala Mozzarella Salad

I get very excited about new produce from Riverford and so, I was thrilled to see that they are now supplying figs from Spain and I couldn’t wait to give them a try.


This is a super simple salad that we used to serve at The River Café. It is nothing more than an assemblance of fabulous ingredients, but when your ingredients and that good, you really don’t need to do very much to them. I added some salted Catalan almonds, which I always pick up when I see them because they remind me of holidays. (If you can’t find them, you can always make your own.)


I also drizzled some truffle honey on my figs. I know this is not for everybody, but if you do like truffles then do check it out. Marks and Spencer stock a really great one for £6. But is you are not a truffle person, a drizzle of aged balsamic works well too. You could play around with the cheese too. I imagine that Burrata would be pretty amazing, but to tell you the truth, I find them just too rich! Tallegglio or even Gorgonzola would be delicious too. What ever you decide to add, I am sure you will agree, it looks beautiful and tastes great.


Fig, Salted Almond and Bufala Mozzarella Salad

Serves 2

Couple of handfuls of rocket

Few sprigs of fresh mint

Few sprigs

1 ball good quality bufala mozzarella

2 ripe figs

Extra virgin olive oil

Handful of salted Catalan almonds

Drizzle of expensive aged Balsamic or truffle honey

Sea Salt

Mix a little olive oil with a pinch of salt and dress the leaves. Pile on to a large plate and top with slices of mozzarella and fig. Scatter over the almonds and the herbs and drizzle with truffle honey or balsamic vinegar.


Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake

Pears can be a little tiring. They often seem to go from rock hard to too soft whenever you are not looking. It is so rare to catch them just perfect. This is a great recipe because it doesn’t really matter how hard they are. You just cook them in the caramel for a little longer and it the best pear cake I have ever eaten.



Firm Conference pears should work a treat here. Add a glug of Amaretto if you like or a little vanilla extract. You can replace the flour with gluten free flour and a teaspoon of baking powder.

Serves 8

For the caramel

25g Butter

25g Sugar

For the cake

225g unsalted butter, softened

190g caster sugar

6 pears, firm but not too hard, peeled, cored and quartered

3 eggs

115g ground almonds

115g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Grease a 20cm diameter, spring-form cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the sugar. When it starts to melt, stir and cook until a deep golden brown and beginning to smoke. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir to dissolve and add the pear quarters and return to a medium heat. Cook the pears in the buttery caramel for five to 10 minutes, until they start to brown and soften (the time taken will vary greatly, depending on how ripe the pears are). Tip into the bottom of your prepared tin.

Put the remaining butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the amaretto or vanilla if using. Add the self-raising flour and almonds and fold in gently (or pulse in the food processor.) Top the pears with the cake mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a knife pushed into the centre comes out clean.  Place the tin on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold.


Roast Chicken Breast with Mushroom, Thyme and Cream Sauce

When I think of Autumn, I think of mushrooms and unsurprisingly they are in all of the Riverford boxes this week.


This is a recipe I came up with for the family I cook for every week. When I was working as a chef in French restaurants, sauces could take literally hours to prepare, from the stocks, to the demi-glace, to the reductions. I don’t have time for that sort of cooking anymore, but I have discovered that sherry is a great way of cheating. You need an Amontillado or a medium dry one. I don’t know how, but it replicates the taste of a really well reduced stock with a wine reduction and when combined with umami rich ingredients such as chicken and mushrooms it transforms them into something really special. In short, they taste like a dish in a super expensive restaurant, which is always a treat, especially when it is really quick and easy.

I did a little bit of research and was very disappointed to discover that Heston Blumenthal had also worked this out and written whole essays on the subject but this is meant to be a time saving recipe so I won’t go into any more detail other than to say – it works!


Roast Chicken Breast with Mushroom, Thyme and Cream Sauce

I love this with just some Tagliatelle and French beans but the kids prefer sautéed potatoes. Serves 2

2 large chicken breasts, skin on

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Large knob of butter

250g mushrooms

10g dried porcini

1-2 cloves garlic, finely grated

Sprig of thyme, leaves only

150mls medium dry sherry

150mls double cream

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Place a heavy bottomed frying-pan (one that can go in the oven) on a medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil. Season the skin side of the chicken with salt and place skin side down on the pan. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper. The pan should not be too hot, as this give the chicken skin time to really crisp up. When deep golden brown and crispy, flip the chicken over and put in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes or so until firm and juices run clear.


Meanwhile, boil the kettle and cover the porcini in boiling water. Thinly slice the mushrooms. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven and put the chicken and any juices to one side to rest. Cover to keep warm. In the same pan, fry the mushrooms in the butter.  Be careful as the frying pan handle will still be hot. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and cook down until all the juices have cooked away the mushrooms start frying. Add a little oil if necessary. Cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and thyme leaves and fry for a minute more. Remove the porcini from their soaking liquid, making sure to keep it and finely chop. Add the porcini to the mushrooms and fry for a minute more. Add the sherry and the porcini liquid and reduce until syrupy. Add any juices from the resting chicken and reduce once more. Add the cream and bring back to the boil. Reduce until you have the consistency of single cream. You don’t want the sauce to be gloopy. Adjust seasoning. Return the chicken to the pan and serve.