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.

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.

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.