Pigs in blankets and roasted sprout macaroni cheese

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‘Pigs in blankets macaroni cheese?’ I hear you cry! Why yes, you have indeed read the title correctly and I applaud you for making the most wonderful decision to click on it and read on to sate your curiosity. Now I love a Christmas dinner as much as the next, however, the trimmings are the best bit; think unctuous bread sauce, fragrant stuffing, bitter, yet most welcomed, sprouts and, wait for it, pigs in blankets. For this macaroni recipe I have taken elements of my favourite festive foods and melded them to make the ultimate festive indulgence so draw up your shopping list, fire up the oven and get cooking!

Ingredients- serves 6
For the sauce
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
2 tsp mustard powder
400ml double cream
400ml milk
60g parmesan
500g macaroni- cooked and drained well

For the rest
20g unsalted butter
2 large banana shallots- sliced
300g sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
12 cocktail sausages
6 rashers of streaky bacon
50g panko breadcrumbs

1. Get started by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Wrap the pigs in blankets by winding half a rasher of streaky bacon around each cocktail sausage and placing on a baking tray. Allow a slight overlap as the bacon will shrink back a little when cooking.

2. Clean and chop the sprouts and place on a separate baking tray. I cut larger sprouts into quarters and left smaller ones in half but you can do whatever takes your fancy; slices also work well but remember these will need less cooking time. Toss the cut sprouts in the olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper and roast at the same time as the pigs in blankets for around 20 minutes or until tender and until the sausages are cooked through.

3. Take a small frying pan or saucepan and melt the 20g of unsalted butter ready for the shallots. Cook on a low heat on the hob until the shallots are turning a light golden colour; remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Next up goes the sauce! In a large pan melt the 50g of butter and add in the flour; cook together to form a roux. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep stirring so no lumps form; if they do, then remove the pan from the heat and whisk the sauce until the lumps disappear. Simmer until the sauce thickens and then remove from the heat before adding the majority of the parmesan. Season to taste.

5. When the sauce, sprouts, sausages and shallots are cooked and ready then combine them all and stir well to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated. Add to the cooked pasta and divide between 6 individual ovenproof dishes or 1 large one. Grate the remaining parmesan into the panko crumbs and top the pasta; for a twist, you could crisp up some extra bacon and also add this to the crumb mix which is delicious too. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a simple side salad if you like.

Pigs in blankets and roasted sprout macaroni cheese- the ultimate festive treat!

Curried root vegetable soup with parsnip crisps

When the days are short and the nights are long there is only one thing for it- soup! A big pot of soup simmering away is the perfect answer to the dilemma of what to take to work for lunch in the week but is also great for a dinner if you want to make meals ahead for the coming week. This curried root vegetable soup is a classic which makes the most of seasonal vegetables whilst warming it with a little spice which complements the sweetness and earthiness of the roots. When prepping the vegetables try and make sure the chunks of carrot and parsnip are the same size but keep the swede a little smaller as it takes longer to cook. To keep things quick you can use a premade curry powder blend or make your own with a balance of ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger and chilli so you can make it to suit your tastes.

No soup is complete without a topping and this is no exception! Parsnip crisps are ideal for this and can be made by peeling an extra parsnip and ribboning using a peeler. Toss with oil and season. Place on a baking tray and bake at 160c/ 140 fan until crisp and golden.

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Ingredients- serves 6
Glug of vegetable oil
1 large onion- peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves- peeled and chopped
4 carrots- peeled and chopped
2 parsnips- peeled and chopped
1 swede- peeled and chopped
1 litre of hot vegetable stock
300ml milk
2 tbsp curry powder or to taste
Salt and pepper to season

  1. Start by heating a glug of oil in a large pan that will be big enough to fit the soup in. Gently cook the onion for a few minutes before adding the garlic and continuing to cook until both and softened.
  2. Add in the root vegetables and stir to combine with the onion. Cover the pan and allow to sweat for 10-15 minutes. Next up goes the hot stock and simmer for a few more minutes.
  3. Use a stick blender and blitz the vegetables until thick and creamy. Add in the milk, curry powder and season well to taste. Blend a little more if you like to you achieve a consistency you like; you can also add more stock or milk if you need. Serve in warmed soup bowls with crusty fresh bread and top with parsnip crisps.

Curried root vegetable soup- the perfect antidote to blustery autumn days!

Spicy winter roasted vegetables

This featured as a side dish the other night and it just had to be shared. The recipe makes use of seasonal vegetables and uses a gentle blend of spice to bring the vegetables alive! I used sweet potato, beetroot and red onion but squash and carrot would be equally delicious.

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Ingredients- serves 4 as a side 
2 large beetroot- cleaned and peeled
2 sweet potatoes- peeled
2 red onions- peeled
Glug of olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp runny honey

1. Preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Meanwhile chunk the vegetable into equal size chunks. Take each of the vegetable in turn and share the spice mix between them and place the beetroot and onion on one baking tray and the potato on another. This allows you to have more control over cooking time as the beetroot will usually take a little longer.

2. When the oven has warmed, pop the beetroot in and roast for 10 minutes before then adding the other tray in for a further half an hour. When the vegetables are nearly tender I took them out of the oven and drizzle the honey and tossed the vegetables to coat well before returning to the oven for the last 5 minutes of cooking.

These vegetables are a perfect blend of sweet, earthy and spicy which can be served with a simple chicken or fish dish. It could also be bulked out to make a more hearty meal in its own right by adding some crumbled feta and crispy shards of pitta bread. Finish with a sprinkling of dukkah if you like.

Ruby chard gratin

We’ve all been there. You go to the market and buy a glut of veggies only for some of them to end up in the fridge for longer than others. Never fear! This gratin makes use of leftover chard and spinach would also work well mixed in too. Serve with a meaty main meal or double the quantities to have it as a main meal with crusty fresh bread.

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Ingredients- serves 2 as a side dish
1/2 pack of chard- washed
25g unsalted butter
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
100ml double cream
100g Gruyere cheese or similar- grated
100g breadcrumbs

1. First of all make sure that the chard is well rinsed and preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Remove the leaves and cut any thick stems in half lengthways to it all cooks evenly. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the leaves for 2 minutes before adding the stems until softened. You could also steam them if you prefer. Remove the chard from the pan and blot with kitchen towel to absorb any excess water.

2. Take a small pan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the mustard and then gradually stir in the cream until all has been added. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes before taking off the heat and adding half of the cheese and season to taste. Gruyere works well but parmesan would also do the trick.

3. Get a small oven proof baking dish and place the chard on the bottom before pouring over the cream mix. Top with the breadcrumbs (panko go well here) and bake for around 30 minutes until bubbling and golden. I also popped some thyme on the top.

Chard gratin- a colourful celebration of this beautiful vegetable!