Hasselback Butternut Squash with Honey, Sage and Chilli.

My Instagram feed is looking a little orange lately, it comes with the territory during the autumn months with the abundance of root vegetables available and I love their comforting flavours. This roasted hasselback butternut squash has been making a regular appearance on our table lately and with good reason – it’s simple, fuss free and goes wonderfully as a side or as a main in it’s own right.

Ingredients 

1 butternut squash

1 tablespoon chopped sage

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

2 tablespoons honey

25g butter, diced

1 pinch salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 200c

Slice the squash lengthways before using a spoon to scrape out the seeds, then top and tail before peeling with a potato peeler – this is fairly time consuming but worth it to get a lovely smooth base. Then place them flat side down on a lined baking tray.

Using a sharp knife carefully cut very thin slits across the squash – making sure you only take the knife a third of the way down so as not to break them, you can score the rest of the way down the sides with the knife afterwards.

drizzle the honey over the top of the squash and rub it in with your hands to make sure it is completely covered, then evenly distribute the diced butter so that it soaked into the slits as it melts and sprinkle the chopped sage, chilli and salt over the top.

Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your squash, and serve. See – I told you it was easy!

 

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A Sage, Squash and Celariac Soup for blustery days.

Big batch soup cooking really signals the arrival of colder weather to me and today is no exception. After a muddy, windy run on the common this morning, I came home needing a warming bowl of soup. Packed with nutrients, this one is an all round good-egg. Feel free to add in any other root veg you have hanging around the kitchen.

 

Sage – a tablespoon, chopped.

2 medium butternut squash

500g celariac, diced

1 medium onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 carrots, diced

1.5-2 litres of veg stock depending on how thick you like your soup

Natural yoghurt to top

Nigella Seeds

Olive oil to drizzle

Crusty bread to dunk

 

Preheat oven to 180c

Top and tail the butternut squash, cut into quarters lengthways and lay flesh side up in a baking tray. Season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle the sage over the squash, then if there is any left in the pack, tuck a couple of sprigs into the sides of the baking tray. Roast for 45-50 minutes until tender.

In the meantime, sweat the celeriac, celery, carrot and onion with olive oil on a low heat until nice and soft. Season well and add the scooped out flesh of the butternut squash.

Add your stock and simmer for 30 minutes, then blend until smooth. Ladle into a bowl and add a swirl of natural yoghurt, a drizzle of olive oil and a good sprinkle of Nigella Seeds – and don’t forget the bread!

For best results, wear a fur cape whilst dishing up and mutter ominously that ‘Winter is coming’ as you place the soup in front of your guest.

 

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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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Shakshuka

Originating from North Africa, Shakshuka is a delicious combination of tomatoes, spices and eggs –  it’s an easy to make, grab all lunch, brunch or supper. There are many variations and I think like most recipes, you end up whittling a recipe down and tweaking it until it becomes your own version – one of the nicest things about cooking and baking.

So here is mine. It’s not particularly precise or formal and I like it best served on top of thinly sliced, cold chorizo so that the sauce warms it through. Add some rocket on the side and grilled sourdough rubbed with garlic and you’re all set. I’d love to hear your versions or tweaks, so do let me know in the comments.  

Ingredients

I tbsp olive oil

½ tsp cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic crushed

1/2 tbsp paprika

1 tsp brown sugar (this is to taste, so add more or less as you please)

2 onions finely sliced

2 red peppers finely sliced

2 tins chopped tomatoes

4 eggs

Salt and pepper to season

Parsley to garnish – a decent handful

  1. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan for a minute or so, before adding the oil, garlic, spices, chilli, sliced onions and peppers and fry at a low to medium heat until the onions and peppers are soft.
  1. Add the tomatoes and sugar, season and simmer gently in a covered pan for 20 minutes (during this time if needed, add enough water to keep the consistency more like a thick soup than a stew).
  1. Make four indents for your eggs in the tomatoes and gently crack them in. Cover the pan with a lid and leave for 4-5 minutes (don’t be tempted to lift the lid and keep checking – you’ll let all the heat out!). This when you need to to gather your sides, chop your parsley and char/toast your bread. When the eggs are cooked but still have runny yolks, sprinkle with the parsley.

Serve to the rapturous applause of your guests. Or, as is the norm in my case, the disgruntled sighs of your children who have yet to recognise that super noodles are not a substitute for actual food.

Horn & Cracker