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.

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.

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.

Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing

I love the sweet and sour combination of this crunchy salad. Adjust the dressing until you have the perfect balance.

Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing

You can use any cabbage in this salad even red cabbage works.

For the Thai Peanut Dressing

2 tbsp creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from one lime

1 tablespoon soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)

1 tablespoons sugar

1-inch square piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Nam Pla

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

For the Salad

½ pointed cabbage, shredded

3 carrots, peeled into ribbons

1  cucumber, halved lengthwise, de-seeded, halved lengthways again and chopped into 1cm chunks

1 cos lettuce, sliced into 1cm slices and broken up

2 medium spring onions, thinly sliced

1 bunch freshly chopped coriander

For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth. Use to dress the vegetables and serve straight away.

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.

Chicken & Courgette Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Coriander

Now you have made your Preserved Lemons in Salt you are going to want to use them!

 

Chicken & Courgette Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Coriander

Olive oil (or Argan oil if you have it)

1 kg of free-range skinless chicken thighs

1 heaped teaspoons of Ras-el-Hanout (Barts is excellent)

2 onions, finely chopped

2 large courgettes, very finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Large pinch of saffron

½ a large preserved lemon, seeded and chopped

One bunch coriander, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a tagine or large saucepan with a lid. Fry the chicken until all sides begin to brown. Remove and add the onions.  Scrape to remove all the nice bits of crispy chicken from the bottom of the pan. Cook for onions for 10 minutes until soft and just about to brown.  Add the courgettes and a large pinch of salt and cook down slowly for about 25 minutes until completely collapsed and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic, the Ras-el-Hanout, the cumin and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Fry for a few minutes to release the spices. Add the chicken back to the pan and ½ pint of water and the saffron. Bring briefly to boil, reduce the heat right down and cover, but leave a crack for steam to escape. Simmer over low heat for thirty minutes or more. When the chicken is cooked, check the sauce. Add the preserved lemons and the coriander. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with Cous Cous.

Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing

I love leeks. There is something so humble about them and yet this Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad gives them an air of sophistication.

Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing

Serves: 4  I think this would be particularly nice with smoked fish.

410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Large leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced

10g Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp Cider vinegar

A pinch Caster sugar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and a good pinch of salt. As soon as the leeks begin to soften, turn down the heat fairly low and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are soft (don’t let them take on any colour). Add the beans and toss together until heated through. Take off the heat; stir in the parsley and plenty of black pepper.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, sugar and remaining oil and season well. Stir into the pan of warm leeks and beans.

Golden Beetroot, Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Baby Spinach and Toasted Walnut Salad

When I went to work in California back in the 90’s it was a revelation of the importance of ingredients. This concept, of not merely buying but “sourcing” was only just beginning in London at the time, but in California everything was obtained from specialist suppliers.

What a long way we have come with every menu in town listing artisanal this and rare breed that. Anyway, one of the ingredients I was most excited about seeing all those years ago was all the different varieties of beetroots in the farmers market.  Deep golden yellow, creamy white, deep purple and even pink and white striped. So it brought back memories when I saw that Riverford where now growing bunched golden beetroot and this recipe is in honour of them.

Golden Beetroot, Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Baby Spinach and Toasted Walnut Salad

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A couple of handfuls (about 70g) baby spinach leaves

450g beetroot, any colour, roasted, peeled and cut into wedges

150g soft goat’s cheese, crumbled

75g toasted walnuts

To roast beetroot, scrub and wrap individually in tinfoil. Roast in the oven at 180C for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserts easily. Leave wrapped up until cool. Unwrap and slip off the skins with your hands.

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard together in a small bowl. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the spinach in a bowl. Add half the dressing to the spinach mixture and toss well. Divide among 4 serving plates (or leave in the large bowl if desired), then scatter with beetroot, goat’s cheese and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve immediately.

Save

Beetroot, Lentil, Halloumi and Parsley Salad

This is a salad my brother made a few weeks ago for lunch and I had been meaning to get round to sharing it with you. It is very good. Halloumi, beetroot lentils and parsley  is a particularly good combination and with the lightly pickled onion and the zestyness of the lemon it becomes something quite special.

Beetroot, Lentil, Halloumi and Parsley Salad

200g Puy lentils

2 lemons

1 red onion, finely sliced

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

250g beetroot, roast, peeled and chopped into chunks

1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

250g pack halloumi, cut into 8 slices

To roast beetroot, scrub and wrap individually in tinfoil. Roast in the oven at 180C for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserts easily. Leave wrapped up until cool. Unwrap and slip off the skins with your hands.

Cook the lentils in a pan of boiling water for 20-25 mins or until just done. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from one lemon into a bowl. Add the onion and scrunch together with a pinch of salt to pickle slightly. Set aside.

Finely zest the remaining lemon and set aside for the halloumi. Squeeze the juice from half of it into a jam jar or jug. Add the oil with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper– shake well and set aside. When the lentils are ready, drain and tip into a large serving bowl with the chickpeas. Toss with the dressing straight away, then toss through the beets, parsley and drained pickled onions.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the halloumi for 1-2 mins each side or until golden brown. Toss with the lemon zest, then place on top of your salad to serve.