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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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.

Sweet Potato Crisps

These sweet Potato Crisps make a delicious veggie snack and are great in the kids lunch box instead of boring crisps. It is a little hard to get them crispy but keep your oven low and wait until the edges are tinged with brown, but don’t let them go too far!

Sweet Potato Crisps

1 small sweet potato

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Heat oven to 160C fan. Slice the sweet potato thinly. The slices must be evenly cut so that they cook evenly. A mandolin is great for this. Toss with the olive oil and lay out on a lined baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 mins until crisp. Sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool.

Roasted Figs with Rosemary, Honey and Ricotta

Figs are back. An early sign of Autumn but a welcome one for me. These Roasted Figs can be put together in minutes and make a delicious, simple, quick and easy pudding.

Roasted Figs with Rosemary, Honey and Ricotta

Serves 3

6 figs

6 tbsp honey

2 tsp. very finely chopped fresh rosemary

150g ricotta

50g thick Greek yoghurt

2 tbsp icing sugar

½ tsp vanilla bean paste or the seeds scraped from half a vanilla pod

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Cut an X into the top of each fig and squeeze the figs bottoms gently to open up the tops. Trickle a little honey into each fig – reserve about half of it for serving – place in a tin and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Roast for 10-15 minutes, until hot and bubbling.

Beat the ricotta with the yoghurt, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spoon some of the mixture into the top of each fig and trickle on some more honey just before serving.

Oat and Almond Plum Crumble

I was just doing my Riverford order and thinking to myself, Riverford really should supply plums as this time of year, when I noticed that they did. So I got some!

Oat and Almond Plum Crumble

Serves 6.

650g plums

4 tbsp honey

For the crumble

130g plain flour

80g butter

40g light muscovado sugar

40g porridge oats

40g flaked almonds

Set the oven at 170C. Remove the stones from the plums and toss with the honey. Tip into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for a bout 10 minutes until the plums begin to break down. Tip into a baking dish. Meanwhile make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour till it resembles fresh breadcrumbs. Lightly rub in the sugar and then stir in the almonds and the oats. Tip the oat-and-almond topping on to the fruit and bake for 30-35 minutes till the crust is crisp and golden. The fruit should be bubbling round the sides. Serve hot, with cream or ice-cream.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

Once again failed to enter anything in the Cottenham Park Allotment Show last weekend. As always by the time I came back from holiday, all my veg were either overgrown – courgettes the size of marrows and French beans the size of cucumbers, or had been eaten, mostly by snails.  Didn’t even manage to enter the cake, chutney or jam categories as I failed to get the form in, in time.

We went along anyway just to get ideas for next year. This cake won first prize in the cake competition so I thought I would give it a try and very delicious it is too. In my opinion a close call to my Upside Down Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Cake. Must remember to enter next year.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

1 quantity roasted rhubarb (See below)

250g pack butter

150g pot ready-made custard (not the chilled kind; I used Ambrosia)

250g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g golden caster sugar

icing sugar, for dusting

Make the roasted rhubarb first, carefully draining off the juices before you let it cool. Butter and line a 24cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and thick. Add the eggs one by one until incorporated. Add the vanilla and custard and then stir through the flour and baking powder until creamy and smooth. Fold through the rhubarb. Bake for 40 mins until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for 15-20 mins more. It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then dredge with icing sugar when cool.

Roast Rhubarb

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse 400g rhubarb and shake off excess water. Trim the ends, then cut into little-finger-size pieces. Put in a shallow dish or a baking tray, tip over 50g caster sugar, toss together, then shuffle rhubarb so it’s in a single layer. Cover with foil, then roast for 15 mins. Remove foil. Give everything a little shake, roast for 5 mins more or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Leave to cool.

Thousand Island Slaw

When I was a kid one of the first things I ever learnt to make for myself to eat, apart from of course countless cakes and biscuits, was a salad that I recreated from Tootsies burger restaurant in Wimbledon village. They had the highly sophisticated, so I thought at the time, salad mix of red cabbage, grated carrot and most exciting of all – sweetcorn. I suppose that the influence had come from an American slaw, but to me it was revolutionary. And most exciting of all was there was a choice of four dressing. This was back in the day before the idea of “choice” was really embraced in restaurants. French Dressing, Vinaigrette, Blue Cheese or my absolute, total favourite Thousand Island Dressing. I loved the stuff! I still knock up “Thousand Island Slaw” as I have now named it using whatever I have at hand. My kids love it too!

Thousand Island Slaw

A selection of what you have to hand. I recon fresh sweetcorn would be lovely. Just boil the cobs and then cut down the husks to remove the kernels.

Pointed cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage etc. very finely shredded

Carrots, peeled and grated

Thousand Island Dressing

5 tbsp. mayonnaise

2 tbsp. tomato ketchup

Juice of half a lemon

Dash of tobacco

Mix up the dressing ingredients and adjust to your taste. Dress the salad and serve.

Courgette, Goat’s Cheese, Red Onion and Olive Pizza

Once again stuck for lunches for the kids?  Make up a batch of pizza dough below and they can top it with whatever they like leaving you free to do the same.

Courgette, Goat’s Cheese, Red Onion and Olive Pizza

For the pizza dough

500g strong plain white flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp salt

7g sachet fast-action yeast

2 tsp. sugar

325mls warm water

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing

For the pesto

40g fresh basil leaves

25g pine nuts

1 garlic clove, crushed

4 tbsp olive oil

25g finely grated parmesan, or vegetarian alternative

For the topping

2 medium red onions

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

200g soft, fresh rindless goat’s cheese (from a log)

2 medium courgettes

Oregano, fresh or dried

20 good quality black olives, pitted

Whisk the yeast, sugar, oil and water together. Add the flour and salt to a food processor. Add the yeast mixture and combine until the dough comes together. Allow to carry on for 5 minutes or so to knead the dough. Drop into a clean bowl (or the stand mixer bowl), cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/ gas 6. Peel the onions, leaving the root end intact. Slice each through the root into thin wedges. Put into a small roasting tin and toss with 2 tbsp of the extra-virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Spread out and roast for 20 minutes until tender and brown-tinged. Remove and turn the oven up to 250°C/fan230°C/gas 9, or as high as it will go. Place a baking sheet or pizza stone in the bottom of the oven to get super hot.

For the pesto, put the basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil in a food processor, then whizz to a coarse paste. Scoop into a bowl, stir in the parmesan, then season well with salt to taste.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, knock it back, then knead once more until smooth. Break off pieces of the dough, shape each piece into a ball, then roll each into rounds. Dust well with flour. Keep them around 10” as it is easier to work with.

Top and tail the courgettes, then cut them lengthways into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin. Drop them into a bowl and toss with the rest of the extra-virgin olive oil, the chopped oregano and some pepper. Don’t add salt until just before you use them, otherwise they’ll wilt and go floppy.

Flour a flat baking sheet and add a pizza base. Roll out again back into shape. Spread pesto over the surface, leaving a small rim clear round the edge. Top with the roasted onion wedges and twists of courgette ribbons. Scatter with goat’s cheese and the olives. Slide onto the hot tray or stone in the oven.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, turning the pizzas around halfway through so they cook evenly, until the crust is crisp and golden. Slide them onto a wooden board, cut into thick slices and serve.

 

Butternut Squash Falafel with Tahini Sauce

The thing I hate most about the school holidays, apart from having two squabbling children under my feet for most to the day, is having to produce endless lunches.  Weather permitting the best option by far is picnics every day. Kids are out of the house, so much more space, less mess and no clearing up. These falafel are great stuffed in a pitta with some salad. They are baked rather than fried, so healthier too. Add some hummus for the kids and chilli sauce for you.  Lunch sorted!

Butternut Squash Falafel with Tahini Sauce

1 small butternut squash

3 tins chickpeas

Small bunch of chopped coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cloves garlic, minced

45g gram flour

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoons tahini

Juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Peel butternut squash, cut in half, lengthwise, remove seeds and chop into bite size pieces. Toss the butternut squash with salt, pepper and olive oil and tip onto a backing sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Roast butternut squash until fork tender, 40-45 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place butternut squash in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add the chick peas and pulse until you have a course mixture. Add mixture to a large bowl. Add the coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, flour and cayenne to bowl and use your hands to mix until everything is evenly combined. Form the mixture into patties (however large or small your like) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of each falafel with a small amount of olive oil and bake falafel patties at 180 until browned on both sides, flipping once, 35-40 minutes.

Make the sauce while the falafel is baking. Mix all ingredients together the tahini and lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Add enough water until you get a drizzling consistency. Drizzle desired amount of sauce on top of falafel before enjoying and eat with salad or in a pita if desired.