Baked Pears with Honey, Cinnamon and Toasted Almonds

 

Mind-blowingly easy, yet pretty enough to whip out when friends come over for dinner – these baked pears are a fantastic, easy recipe to keep tucked away for autumn evenings.

Ingredients (Serves 6):

6 pears (I used Sweet William in the photos but it doesn’t matter as long as they are perfectly ripe)

50g salted butter

6 tbsp clear honey

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbs flaked almonds

Method:

Line a decent sized baking tray/dish with baking parchment and preheat your oven to 180c.

Wash and halve your pears, leaving the stalk in on one side and removing the seeds with either a teaspoon or a melon baller – do this carefully so that you end up with nice, neat little wells in the centre of the fruit. Then take a sliver off of the back of each half with a knife so that they lay flat on your baking tray.

Toast your almond flakes in a dry pan until they are blonde rather than brown – they will continue to cook in the oven so you just want to get them started, let them cool.

In the meantime, divide the butter into six pieces and put one into the well of each of your pear halves, then drizzle with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon (use your cinnamon to taste – if you like a stronger flavour then add more) and the toasted almond flakes.

Bake for 25-30 minutes and serve with vanilla ice-cream, an air of breezy accomplishment and another glass of wine…

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Strawberry and Ice-Cream Sodas

I still can’t believe our luck with the wall-to-wall sunshine this Summer and as it’s almost the end of term, this Strawberry Ice-Cream Soda is the perfect reward for all that hard work. I made this for my kids this week – it went down a storm and as it takes no time at all to make, I’m giving it an A+

Ingredients:

250g of strawberries (for the sauce) plus an extra handful to decorate

Vanilla Ice-Cream

Ice Cream Soda

Ice

 

For the strawberry sauce:

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp icing sugar

250g strawberries, hulled and chopped

A couple of drops of vanilla essence

Bring the water and sugar to the boil in a small pan and add the strawberries. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes until soft and add vanilla. Puree using a stick blender and set aside to cool.

 

Method:

Chop a handful of strawberries and line the bottom of your glass with a few, then add a generous handful of ice and another layer of chopped strawberries. Drizzle with strawberry sauce and fill almost to the neck with cream soda. Finally top with two scoops of vanilla ice-cream, some more sliced strawberries and a last drizzle of sauce.

Serve to your children, straighten your sunglasses and bask in rapturous applause before gently moving them out into the garden in case they spill strawberry sauce all over the floor…

 

 


Carrot, Apple and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Christmas has been and gone and it really was lovely, but we are nearing the end of January now (which, for the record always feels about six weeks long) and as we tick over into February, I am always desperate for Spring to arrive. I have spent much of this month wondering when the days will get longer (soon), when will we start walking to school in warm early spring sunshine (er, that’s never happened) and when will Winter runs not be spent soaking wet, freezing cold and fighting gale force winds (hmm, again…).

As a small time food blogger with all the patience of a three year old, one of my ’issues’ with this time of year is the lack of daylight (first world problem anyone?) – that orangey-yellow pixelated light that is cast over all photos taken after 3pm drives me a bit mad, which is silly really because all moaning aside, Winter is beautiful –  particularly in this part of the world, where the low light over the sea gives the waves that amazing off white hue, and the shops are full of glorious root vegetables and greens. Plus, Winter was made for slow cooking, baking, soups, stews and feel good food and there is nothing not to like about that…

Below is the recipe for my current favourite soup – carrot, butternut squash and apple with thyme. I like it with a slab of warm, buttered sourdough and at least three holiday magazines. It’s dead easy – let me know what you think.

 

1 x small butternut squash

7-8 decent sized carrots

2 apples (whatever is loitering in the fruit bowl)

Fresh thyme

1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)

Vegetable stock – 600ml

Salt and pepper to taste.

Creme fraiche

 

Halve and drizzle the squash with olive oil before baking in a low oven with a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf – time will vary depending on the size of the your squash.

In the meantime peel, chop and boil your carrots and apples in the vegetable stock, making sure to add the apples towards the end of the cooking time.  

When everything is cooked, add in your roasted butternut squash and some more thyme before whizzing everything up in a blender. At this point you might want to add more stock or water depending on how thick you like your soup – I like mine quite thick. Season to taste, sloop into a bowl, then shake on some thyme leaves and a good sized spoonful of creme fraiche.

Best enjoyed after a freezing cold dog walk while someone else is bathes your sodden, muddy dog.

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My Top Ten Christmas Foods

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog. Spending the best part of 2017 studying, working, looking after my family and trying to start a food blog from scratch, has been brilliant but exhausting and something had to give. Thankfully, every time I count the children and pets they all seem to be there and it was worth it – I passed my course! However I’m back now – fresh(ish)  faced and about to replace studying with marathon training. At least I’ll be hungry.

The utterly brilliant thing about December is the fact that officially – CHRISTMAS HAS ARRIVED!!!! I love Christmas, all those twinkling lights cutting through the fug of winter, the planning, list making, self gifting (just me?) and dragging the Christmas cookery books down from the shelves to pour over (honestly – if you haven’t bought Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles yet, why not – it’s amazing!)

Anyway, enough with all the wittering and without further ado  – here are my Top Ten Christmas Foods….

Mince Pies – I hated mince pies as a child but I love them now, cold with custard, warm with ice-cream or on their own with a cup of tea or better still, some mulled cider. My current obsession is Richard Bertinet’s variation, with frangipane topping the mince pie – they are only improved by adding a huge dollop of clotted cream. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Bath and have the Bertinet bakery close to hand (me neither) then the recipe for these little beauties is here.

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Cheese – Who doesn’t love a cheese board? Hands down, one of the best parts of Christmas food shopping is choosing and going completely overboard on the cheese selection. I can’t do without a roof of the mouth stripping stilton (preferably potted), an oozy brie and a creamy blue – the Blue Boy from Country Cheeses in Topsham is out of this world.

Figs – I don’t know why, but I definitely think of figs as a classic Christmas food – wrapped in bacon as a canape, served sliced with cheeses, in chutney, dried and used to liven up a Christmas cake or even as an interesting addition to mincemeat, they are incredibly versatile and always well received. We’ll be serving Hillside’s Fig Chutney with some squishy blue cheese this year..

Turkey – We sometimes have a rib of beef for Christmas for a change, but if I’m honest it never feels quite as festive. Plus, the leftover possibilities with turkey are endless and nothing goes as well with pigs in blankets (which obviously are a compulsory Christmas foodstuff). I also really enjoy the ceremony of visiting the butchers, discussing my wishlist and placing the order. For the past three years we have had a Turkey Bomb from the Butchers at Darts Farm and I will be ordering the same again this year. Boned and rolled with a choice of stuffings (I love the cider, apple and sage) and covered in bacon it looks great, takes the pressure off the prep work on the big day and tastes amazing. See what I mean here.

Pate – We make a lot of it at this time of year and I don’t think a Boxing Day buffet would be the same without it. My husband and I differ in our opinions on this. He likes his as coarse as possible and I prefer smooth – he does make a cracking mackerel pate though and we are both in agreement that this recipe for chicken liver pate by Delicious magazine is a winner.
Sprouts – It’s a bit of an obvious choice but honestly, I just LOVE them. Cooked with bacon, chestnuts or both, roasted with parmesan or just steamed and served as they are. And let’s not forget sprout tops – I like them best gently steamed with butter and pepper, served with some really good sausages and garlicky mash. 

Christmas Eve canapes – I love Canapes, partly because nothing goes with canapes quite like a glass of fizz and well, any excuse. But also because they are as easy or difficult as you want them to be (each to their own, but I have yet to taste a supermarket canape that wasn’t just a little bit greasy or artificial tasting). Nigella’s mini sausages in Soy and cranberry have been my go-to for years and more recently the salt baked new potatoes from Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, halved and served with a blue cheese and goats curd dip and ribbons of smoked trout are a favourite. See pge 412 in the book.

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Lebkuchen – The problem with Lebkuchen is that I make it, and then spend the next three days unable to walk past the kitchen without shovelling a piece in. Horribly moreish and so pretty, this German gingerbread-biscuit hybrid is a truly Christmassy addition to my list.  Make your own with this recipe here. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Leftovers – As an adult, I think leftovers might be the best of Christmas foods and I always order a big enough turkey and ham to give plenty. From bubble and squeak in the morning with a perfectly poached egg and and streaky bacon, to the inevitable turkey and leek pie to sweep up what’s left before we move on to New Years Eve. This year I’ll be turning my leftover turkey into this pie from Jamie Oliver. 

Pickled Red Cabbage – I’m using this as a bracket for one of my favourite childhood memories. On Christmas day evening, our parents would lay out cold turkey and gammon sandwiches, salad, cheese and biscuits, pickled onions, gherkins and red cabbage (half of my twin sister’s plate would be red cabbage) and as an extra special treat – a glass of Tizer (I couldn’t tell you now what Tizer tasted of, but we LOVED it back then). Then we’d either play games or all settle down to watch E.T./The Goonies/Home Alone and work our way through the Quality Street tin. Bliss. Here’s how to pickle your own red cabbage.

So that’s it, my list of favourite Christmas foods and where they fall in my ideal culinary Christmas. Not sure about the Tizer though, that might be best left in the memory banks along with the year I ate my entire selection box before 5am on Christmas morning…

 


My favourite Autumn Foods

It’s no secret that summer is my favourite month and whilst the darker evenings and cooler weather do make me feel a bit sad, there is no denying that the silver lining is autumnal food. Berries, butternut squash, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and apples are among the highlights, plus from September it’s acceptable to turn all fruit into a crumble and smother it with hot custard which can only be a good thing.

So while I dig my wellies out of the cupboard and try and come to terms with cold, rainy dog walks, here are my favourite autumn foods. I’d love to hear what you look forward to eating at this time of year – let me know!

 

Blackberries

So versatile, so easy to find and a really lovely way to get kids involved in the kitchen – lots of our family walks end with a bit of blackberry picking before we spuddle home and turn them into whatever takes our fancy. Blackberries are staggeringly good with game but lately we have been making blackberry Friands – my current favourite recipe is here.

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Game

It’s probably the first thing that springs to mind when you think of autumnal food – and I couldn’t leave it off my list as game season is something I really do look forward to, however it deserves a post of it’s own so so it’s just a fleeting mention until the October blog.

 

Pumpkin

Gorgeous stuff – roasted with chilli, a rich addition for stews and amazing with sage and bacon as a soup. I like it in a bundt cake with dark chocolate and clementines – Nigella’s recipe here is a good one, I usually add the chocolate chips and switch out the icing for a clementine glaze.

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Stew

The stuff of childhood nightmares (especially if it was made with sausages – sorry mum!) but as an adult I love them. The more herbs the better and if it’s chicken then a huge dollop of dijon mustard always goes into the pot as well. I’ll be popping my own recipe on the blog soon so keep an eye out for it!

 

Leeks

We eat leeks a lot – as a base for many dishes,  baked in a cheese sauce with a roast dinner, with potatoes in a variation on the classic boulangere and lately we’ve been eating them poached with a pangrattato. Try it – they are absolutely delicious. Recipe here.

 

Root vegetables

Proper winter fodder – root vegetables lend themselves brilliantly to soups, stews, roasts, and absolutely anything that needs to be slow-roasted. We usually have a veg box delivered during the winter months and I love having a good dig through the box to see what we’ll be making that week. Try the Riverford website for a plethora of great recipes for your veg box contents

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Chestnuts

The ultimate autumnal side-kick! Chestnuts add depth, texture and a really delicious earthy flavour to stews. They are also an amazing partner with chocolate, cherries or pears. Try this chocolate and chestnut torte from Delicious magazine here.

 

Apples

Apples are so commonplace that I think we all take them a little for granted, however they are a cheap and delicious fruit that goes with so many things – perfect roasted with pork and parsnips and my personal favourite – tarte tatin. Raymond Blanc’s recipe here is the best I’ve tried. 

 

Mulled cider

Mulled cider is a real autumn treat and as we’re in Devon there’s no excuse not to use locally produced cider! Gorgeous on bonfire night with sausages, baked potatoes and s’mores – this recipe from River Cottage is cracking.

There is a lot more about autumn food to love – pies, crumbles, custard and soups – what’s your favourite?

 

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Horn & Cracker