Roasted squash, beetroot and carrot lentil salad

On a freezing cold November’s day the last thing on your mind for lunch is probably salad. The temperature drops and the mind naturally turns to foods laden with cream and cheese but this salad brings all the soothing flavours of autumn but without all the calories. This salad makes the most of seasonal vegetables and give an extra savoury whack with a tahini dressing. You can serve your the salad warm or at room temperature depending on your preference. The addition of some salty feta is also a welcome addition if you fancy. The added bonus is that the salad will keep covered in the fridge for a couple of days so it’s a perfect make ahead lunch for work too.

Ingredients- serves 4
1 pack of microwave puy lentils
1 butternut squash-peeled and diced
4 small beetroots- peeled and diced
2 large carrots- grated
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp tahini
8 tbsp warm water
Squeeze of lemon juice to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan whilst you place the diced squash on one baking tray and the diced beetroot on another. I tend to find that vegetables roast better on a shallower tray. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to each tray long with some salt and pepper; move the diced vegetables so they get a coating of the oil. Roast for around 20- 30 minutes or until tender.

2. Remove the vegetables from the oven and transfer thr squash and beetroot to separate bowls. This allows them to cool and stops the beetroot running into the squash.

3. Meanwhile microwave the lentils and also allow to cool. While that’s happening you can arm assemble the tahini dressing which is quite literally a case of combining all the ingredients and whisking well together.  Remember to taste as you go!

4. Finally toss the cooled vegetables, squash and lentils together and grate in the carrot for an added crunch. Finish with the dressing and serve.

Roasted squash, beetroot, carrot and lentil salad- a surefire way to brighten up the kitchen on a chilly day!

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup

Autumn days mean curling up with a roaring fire, rain beating against the window and plenty of comforting food. It also brings the squash season and this means that butternut squash soup is hard to resist. This soup combines squash with sweet potato and parmesan which brings the sweetness into balance with the umami edge that parmesan brings. The rind of parmesan is a secret weapon in cooking so I always keep them in the freezer so they are on hand to use in soups, stews, risottos and pasta dishes. My added extra is a delicate hint of spice and a hit of roasted garlic. I have also used the squash seeds to create a crunchy topping that can be sprinkled over the soup to serve so don’t delay- get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4-6
1 large butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2 bulbs of garlic
2 white onions- chopped
1.5 litres of hot vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
1-2 rinds of parmesan

For the seed topping
Sea salt
Chilli flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Use a sturdy knife to cut the butternut squash in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and set aside for later. Use a knife to score the flesh. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Place the squash on a baking tray and the sweet potatoes in another one before drizzling both with olive oil and sprinkling with salt. Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until tender. The squash will start to caramelise at the edges and this adds to the flavour. Cut the tops of the garlic bulbs off and wrap in a foil parcel with some oil and roast until tender.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the seeds. Simply wash them and pat them dry. Pop them on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil, the sea salt and chilli flakes. Roast with the vegetables until the seeds are golden and crunchy. When they are ready, set aside and allow to cool.

3. Take a large pan that will be able to hold all of the soup. Heat a glug of oil over a medium heat and cook the onions until softened but do not allow them to colour. When the vegetables are cooked add the sweet potato and roasted garlic to the pan whilst you scoop out the squash before adding the flesh to the pan too. I then used a potato mashed to slightly break the vegetables down to make blending even easier later. Add the hot stock to the pan. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool until you are able to blend it. Blend until you reach the consistency you like. Return the pan to the heat, drop in the parmesan rinds and simmer gently. Simmer for at least an hour if you can so the parmesan has time to infuse. Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning according to taste. Serve in warmed soup bowls with plenty of fresh bread to dip.

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup- the perfect antidote to a blustery autumn day!

 

 

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry


In our household we love a great vegetable curry- often so much fresher and more appealing than their meaty counterparts. This curry is quick, easy and low of faff so no excuses for not rustling up a midweek feast! The ingredients here really need to speak for themselves so keep it simple! Of course, if you are a chilli fiend then add a little more here and there to suit your tastes but not so it drowns the sweetness of the squash. I have used spinach which is one of my favourites but this would also work well with kale. Sometimes I like a drier curry and in this case I usually halve the quantity of tomatoes and roast the squash a little beforehand to cut down on the cooking time. Squash which is roasted with some curry spices is delicious!

I served the curry with homemade brussel sprout bhajis which are a great twist on the traditional onion version. They are quick to make and they also freeze well (if there are any left of course!). See here for the recipe: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-px. Why not make it part of a vegetarian curry feast and also make a side of paneer shashlik which I absolutely love. Check out the recipe here, it’s so simple: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-j9.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Half a butternut squash
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 fresh red chilli- roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped
1 red onion- chopped
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
200g chickpeas- drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Start off by prepping the butternut squash. I will happily admit it, I hate cutting squash but fear not, I have a trick up my sleeve to take the work out of this task! Simply place the squash in the microwave for a couple of minutes, remove and place on a sturdy board ready for chopping The heat will slightly soften the squash and it makes it much easier to remove the skin so give it a try! Remove the skin and cut into bite sized chunks before setting aside.

2. Next, you need to make the curry paste. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, chilli and garlic to a pestle and mortar with a splash of water and work it until if forms a paste.

3. Heat a small glug of oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the red onion for a couple of minutes until softening. Add in curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant- keep it moving so it doesn’t catch. In goes the cubes of squash next! Stir well to ensure the paste coats each cube of squash before adding the chickpeas, again, making sure they are well covered. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is tender and the sauce is thickened. Towards the end of cooking add in the baby spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve with your choice of side such as chapatti or simply enjoy it as it is with a final flourish of freshly chopped coriander.

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry- a spicy offering to keep you warm this winter!

Butternut squash, sage and ricotta lasagne

The sweetness of the squash, fragrance of the sage and creaminess of ricotta are a divine match. The flavours need very little to bring the best out of them so keep the ingredients as simple as possible so you can taste each element. The secret twist to the creamy ricotta filling is a good helping of sweet roasted garlic which really takes it to another level. Ovenproof dishes come in such a range of shapes and size so, before you cook the lasagne sheets, try to work out how many sheets you need to fit yours. I always cook a couple of extra sheets in case they tear. The filling also works with cannelloni.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the lasagne filling
1 butternut squash- cut into cubes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3-4 garlic cloves- kept whole and with the skin on
Handful of fresh sage
250g ricotta
Ground nutmeg
Lasagne sheets

For the béchamel sauce
500ml milk
1 onion- halved
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
50g butter
50g plain flour
Parmesan to top

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160fan. Place the cubes of squash on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss the cubes and add in the garlic cloves so each is coated in the oil and roast until tender. When it is ready, a knife will easily sink through the cubes. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Whilst the squash is roasting you can get started on the béchamel sauce. Secure the bay leaves to the onion halves using the cloves- this way you don’t have to go fishing around the saucepan to find the cloves later on! Add the milk to a small pan and bring to a boil before removing from the heat and allowing the flavours from the bay and clove to infuse for around 20 minutes.

Take another pan and melt the butter and flour together until a paste, or roux, is formed. Remove the onion, clove and bay from the pan containing the milk and slowly add the milk to the pan with the roux. Keep stirring so lumps don’t form! Simmer and stir until it thickens before removing it from the heat ready to pour over the lasagne.

3. Stir the ricotta through the squash cubes so well combined. Finely chop the fresh sage and add to the bowl along with 1tsp of ground nutmeg; use fresh nutmeg if you can. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit you. Set the mixture aside whilst you prepare the lasagne sheets. Don’t worry if the squash starts to break up; I sometimes mash down half of the squash and leave the other half in cubes to add a different texture and make smoother. Squeeze the tender roasted garlic from their skins and mix through well.

4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the lasagne sheets to cook, a few at a time so the pan does not become overcrowded. Cook the sheets until parboiled- you can cook them without parboiling but I think this really does make a difference. Nobody wants to find chewy pasta in their mouthful!

5. Now to assemble the lasagne. I spoon a little of the béchamel sauce in the bottom of the ovenproof dish to stop the pasta sticking when baked. Lay sheets of lasagne to cover the bottom before adding a layer of the butternut squash filling. Add another layer of pasta and repeat until the filling has been used up and finish with a layer of pasta.

6. Pour the béchamel sauce over the lasagne and top with freshly grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and golden. I usually cover the lasagne for the first half of the cooking time and then remove the foil for the end but it will depend on your oven as to if you need to do this or not. Serve with a simple side salad and dig in!

Squash, sage and ricotta lasagne- a satisfying vegetarian pasta dish which is perfect for a midweek meal or special occasion!

Chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi

Chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi is the perfect way to make use of the new season vegetables and boost their flavour even more! Chard can be found in most supermarkets but can often be overlooked in favour of its better known friends such as kale and spinach. It’s flavour is akin to beetroot leaves but it is so versatile and just all the colours it comes in is incentive enough to pick up a bunch. I used butternut squash in this recipe but autumn is the time where there is an abundance of different varieties of squash so play around and experiment. Choose a sweeter squash for this recipe to balance the slight bitterness of the chard and the savoury goat’s cheese. I have used Carmarthen ham in this recipe which you can learn more about and order here: http://www.carmarthenham.co.uk. If you don’t use this then simply replace it with parma ham or omit for a vegetarian meal.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Glug of olive oil
1 large red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
Few fresh sage leaves- finely chopped
Small bunch of chard- leaves and stems separated
200g butternut squash- cut into dice
70g Carmarthen or parma ham
3-4 tbsp. crème fraiche
Small log of soft goat’s cheese
Pack of fresh gnocchi- approx. 400-500g

1. Start off by taking a large frying pan and heating a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add in the onion, garlic and sage and cook together until they are softening. I often add a small amount of sea salt to the onions to draw the moisture out and this works well. Take the diced butternut squash and add to the pan; cover and cook the squash until tender. This will usually take around 15-20 minutes but keep checking as it will depend on the freshness of the squash and the size of the pieces. Stir from time to time.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the ham; cut 50g of the ham into bite size pieces and reserve the other 20g. I then placed the reserved ham in a hot smaller frying pan and crisped it up before allowing to cool and cutting finely to sprinkle on the finished dish later.

3. For the chard, make sure the leaves have been separated from the tougher stalks as they need to be treated differently. Cut the stems into centimetre pieces and roughly chop the leaves. Quickly blanch the stems in a pan of boiling water for around 1 minute before plunging into iced water and then draining. Shocking the stems in cold water stops them from cooking further and also helps them to retain their colour. Add the cooked stems and the leaves to the pan with the butternut squash which should be lovely and tender. Pop in the squares of ham.

4. I find that fresh gnocchi can vary in texture and firmness a lot so I simply boiled the gnocchi for a minute and a half until starting to rise to the surface of the water before draining. While the gnocchi is boiling, add the crème fraiche to the pan with the squash and chard and stir well to combine. Tip the cooked gnocchi into the pan and combine so each piece of gnocchi is coated with the crème fraiche.

5. Lower the heat to low/ medium and give the gnocchi a few minutes to relax into the pan and combine with all the fresh flavours of the vegetables.Cut the goat’s cheese into small pieces and scatter in the pan. Cook for an additional minute or so to let it start to melt through the gnocchi. If you find the crème fraiche gets a little claggy then add a small splash of water to the pan and stir in well. Serve the gnocchi in deep bowls and add a liberal sprinkle of the crispy ham pieces on top.

Colourful chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi- a surprisingly light meal that’s packed full of flavour! I challenge you not to sneak a taste straight from the pan- just look at it…

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Kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi

Kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi combines many of my favourite ingredients in a light yet rich sauce to welcome in autumn in the coming weeks. Food should be colourful and vibrant and it certainly is! I have used a simple white sauce base with a touch of parmesan, garlic and red onion to lift and enhance the flavours of the vegetables but it would also be delicious with a mascarpone sauce if you prefer. Gnocchi is easy to buy and quick to cook and, as I baked it, I didn’t need to boil it before cooking so it’s even quicker!

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Ingredients- serves 4
500g fresh gnocchi
Olive oil
75g cubed pancetta
2 cloves of garlic- crushed
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 small butternut squash- cut into small dice
200g bag of kale- washed, tough stalks removed and shredded
Small handful of fresh sage- finely chopped

For the white sauce
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
250ml double cream
250ml milk
75g freshly grated parmesan

1. Get started by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan; you don’t want the oven too high so the vegetables and gnocchi don’t catch and burn. Take a large frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Fry off the pancetta cubes until turning slightly golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Use the frying pan again and cook the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften before adding the diced butternut squash. I fried the onion and garlic in the pan with the remaining pancetta juices for extra flavour. Turn the heat down to low/ medium and cook for a further few minutes. Add in the shredded kale, sage and cooked pancetta and cover the pan with a lid or foil. Cook down until the butternut squash is tender and the kale is steamed.

2. Meanwhile, you can make the white sauce. Take a medium pan and melt the butter and flour together over a medium heat. Mix together the cream and milk and gradually add to the pan; don’t rush it! If lumps appear, simply take the pan off the heat and whisk it until they disappear and continue on. When the sauce has thickened, take the pan off the heat, season and add half of the parmesan (the rest will be used as a topping for the gnocchi bake).

3. When the squash and kale mix and sauce is ready, take a large roasting dish and place the gnocchi in the bottom. Add the white sauce of the vegetables and make sure each piece is well coated before tossing through the gnocchi. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top and a drizzle of oil and bake for half an hour or until golden. I covered the dish with foil for the first half of cooking and then removed it to finish it off. Serve is warmed bowls and dig in!

And there you have it- kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi with a light creamy sauce. The perfect way to get in the autumnal mood! I mean, look, who could resist these colours in the pan?…

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Butter bean, butternut squash and chorizo crumble

Think of a crumble and most people would conjure images of a piping hot fruity creation but, oh no, not this one! This butter bean, butternut squash and chorizo crumble gives a range of textures and flavours that you will cook again and again.

I have given this a Spanish twist to enhance the flavours from the chorizo which marries beautifully with the gentle sweetness of the squash and the creamy beans. You could also add chicken if you wanted an even heartier dish or leave out the chorizo and add in some other vegetables to make it vegetarian. Supermarkets are becoming quite handy in helping out with shortcuts too so if, like me, you can’t stand having to cut a solid butternut squash you can buy ready peeled squash which is great to have when time is short.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the filling
1 large white onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed or finely chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne
1 red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
100g chorizo- chopped
Small butternut squash- cut into small cubes
1 large red pepper- chopped (or alternatively you can use the ready roasted jarred
peppers)
Tin of butter beans- drained and rinsed
Jar of passata- approx 400ml
200ml vegetable stock

For the crumble topping
100g plain flour
50g unsalted butter- softened
Seasoning
Manchego cheese- as much or as little as you like

1. To get started add a splash of oil to a large pan and gently sweat the onions and garlic. You are looking for gorgeously softened onions which are beginning to get a little colour. Pop in the spices, chilli (if using) and chorizo and cook out for a further couple of minutes so they release their flavour and the chorizo begins to colour. The chorizo enhance the smoked paprika even more!

2. I then add the cubes of butternut squash and red pepper. Stir well so they get a spicy coating and cook for a few minutes. Pop in the butter beans and, again, stir through. Next goes the passata and stock, season and bring the pan to a simmer, cover and leave for 15 minutes before then removing the lid and simmering for a further 15 minutes. If you have left your chunks of squash a little larger then 20 minutes followed by another 20 minutes may be needed but give it a check as you go.

3. Whilst that is cooking away and then sauce is starting to reduce you can make the crumble topping. I have kept this as simple as possible but you could substitute it with a breadcrumb topping if you prefer. Simply take the softened butter and add to a bowl with the flour and rub between your fingers; this will form a crumb. Season and add some grated manchego cheese if you like.

4. When the passata and stock has reduced down spoon the mixture into either one large ovenproof baking dish or individual ones if you prefer. If you are a cheese fan then you could always add small chunks of any leftover manchego cheese to the mixture so this will melt as it bakes. Sprinkle over the crumble topping and bake at 200c/ 180fan for around 20- 30 minutes until the topping is golden. Serve with crusty bread or a simple side salad.

Butter bean, squash and chorizo crumble- a vibrant dish to brighten up any day!

P.S. If, like me, you made too much the leftovers as just as delicous! I added spinach and cooked it so it wilted and served it with pan fried white fish for a variation.