This pasta recipe has practically written itself. I think this has been one of my busiest weeks so far, and one of the most productive, though not in terms of work. I’m really behind on my writing course work, so unfortunately I have to try to remedy that all day tomorrow. I won’t be able to finish everything but I have allotted the whole morning to that. Tough. But now we have aircon units in the office so at least I can continue working even through the afternoon heat. *Pumping fists in the air*
It’s been a fab Friday so far though. There’s a lovely cool breeze around. I spent my morning, taking a mountain of glass jars and bottles to the recycling bins down the road, then I caught up with an old friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in ages, spent more than two hours talking about everything under the sun over a nice meal, squeezed in a little veggie shop while comparing notes on various recipes,
I also bought a new lime coloured dress…Shh and returned home right after lunchtime. Life is good.
Continue reading Butternut squash Lasagne (#PastaFriday)
If you know me personally you will have no doubt as to how much I miss our years in Surrey. Please don’t think that everything was plain sailing; nothing in the real world is totally charmed. We had our ups and our downs, but one thing’s for sure – the kitchen space in our tiny flat was my refuge. There were times when I cursed its size (for years I wished for a larger space as I was constantly running out of workspaces) but now that this wish is granted I do tend to feel lost. I was saying that to my beautiful Mum this morning. She understood.
Continue reading Roasted Butternut Squash with Broccoli and Feta
Autumn is my favourite time of year. Not only because I get to snuggle up in coats and scarves, but also to cook loads of seasonal dishes. I love butternut squash with everything; even it’s orangey-yellow colour reminds me of the autumn leaves falling from the trees. This recipe is for a home-made curry. It is warm, with plenty of depth from the spices, especially the cumin, which I don’t use often. I used whole or seed spices whenever I could and crushed them with the salt and garlic just because I happened to have them in my pantry. Of course, feel free to replace them with powder. Some say that it’s not the same, and although I believe that whole spices in general taste better (because they seem to stay fresher for longer in proper storage), I use powder all the time. The more you use your spices the more you replace them, so the fresher they will be for your cooking. Remember that you can use pumpkin and even sweet potato instead and if you want this to be a vegetarian dish all you have to do is to use vegetable stock. I prefer to use chicken stock here but please use whatever you want. Serves 4-6. I know this is quite a long list of ingredients but I love this curry and thought you might like to try it. You will need:
- 900g butternut squash, peeled and cubed (approx. 1)
- 250g carrots, peeled and cubed same size as the squash (approx. 2)
- 250g potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons course salt*
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 400g tin polpa di pomodoro**
- 1 to 2 teaspoons chilli flakes, to taste
- 1 large tin of coconut milk (approx. 400g)
- Fresh coriander for garnish and freshness (optional)
- Rice and naan bread to serve
Before you start: crush the garlic, cardamom seeds, peppercorns, salt and coriander seeds in a bowl with a little drizzle of olive oil and mix well. Although I’m not a fan of too much salt, here you do need this because of the sweetness of the vegetables and the coconut milk which you will add later. If you think you will need less, then use just a teaspoon and add salt later during your final tasting just before you serve.*
- In a large shallow pan heat the olive oil and add the onion. When this is slightly softened add the vegetables and the crushed spice mixture. Stir well. Cook for around 5 to 10 minutes and add the stock.
- When the stock comes to a boil, turn the heat down and leave to simmer for around 30 minutes until the vegetables are completely cooked (though still whole and not a mush) and the stock has been slightly reduced. Add the tomatoes. (You could throw in some fresh cherry tomatoes cut in half.)**
- At this stage add the chilli flakes or chilli powder, mix and taste the curry. Pour in the coconut milk and taste it again. Don’t let the curry come to a boil again. You just need the coconut milk to heat through. Garnish with fresh chopped coriander and serve immediately with rice and naan.
I won’t say that this is better than the stuff you get in jars at the store. I use them for convenience myself when I need to cook something really fast. But something made from scratch is so much more satisfying when I have the time. So, take your time, enjoy and tell me what you think.
Also I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, especially to my American friends. I’ll bring out the cranberry sauce just for you.
Back to baking. This is the first recipe I tried from Baking Made Easy. It’s also one of the reasons I bought this book. Now if you read one of my previous entries you will know the story behind this, so I won’t bore you again with it. What I will say is that recipes on television almost always look better and/or easier than in real life, and this was one of those instances. However I must say that with some little tweaks here and there these muffins will be some of the best you’ve ever tried. I really really like them. They are also the first sweet and savoury muffins I ever tasted or made. I think this is also one of the rare occasions where I used self-raising and wholemeal flours, but you will see more of these in future posts.
The usual note before we start: Lorraine’s recipe calls for pumpkin. Now I guess this will be ideal for my Maltese friends because you can find pumpkin all year round in Malta. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) In the UK it’s only in season in October/November, so I made these muffins with butternut squash instead.
I also would suggest to roast the pumpkin or butternut cubes on a baking tray, whichever one you choose. Please do not boil or steam them because you will end up with soggy muffins (I was about to write “soggy mess” there for a minute.) You want to dehydrate them first. Take my word for it: I really wished I did that for my first batch!
This batter will yield around 12 muffins. Do not worry if they will not rise while baking – they are not being temperamental, they are meant to be somewhat flat. You can substitute the bicarbonate of soda with more baking powder if you like. Ms. Pascale uses fresh rosemary. I had to use the dried version.
- 180g self-raising flour
- 130g wholemeal flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tablespoons dried rosemary, finely chopped
- 240g pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 0.5cm cubes and dry-roasted
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 100ml plain yoghurt
- 275 ml milk
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 60ml vegetable oil
- 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and insert 12 paper cases into your muffin tin. You could also cut squares of baking paper and push them into each hole. The finished product will look like you bought them from a pastry shop.
- In a large bowl sift both flours, the baking powder and bicarb, and stir in the rosemary.
- In another bowl put 160g of the pumpkin/butternut cubes, eggs, yoghurt, milk, honey and vegetable oil and stir until well combined.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and use a large spoon to mix: not more than 12 mixes. It’s important not to over-mix as you will end up with a dense muffin at the end. Leave the mixture to stand for 5-10 minutes.
- Then pour the mixture into the individual muffin cases. Now sprinkle the remaining pumpkin or butternut cubes and the pumpkin seeds onto the batter. Bake for 25 minutes at which point always insert a skewer at the centre of the muffins to check if they are cooked.
These muffins taste great at any time of the day!
What a long recipe title this is! The story behind this is simple enough though, with some simple steps. It goes like this:
Step 1: Buy Nigella Book.
Step 2: Read every page intently and stick post-its to every page.
Step 3: After careful consideration choose 1 recipe…yes…just one. O-N-E I said!
Step 4: Run to the market & fill your bag with veggies for…what…20 recipes???
In the end one recipe made it through, and it’s amazing. In my view, you really cannot avoid using blue cheese, but since it’s not my recipe I can tell you that Nigella suggests some substitutions (Cheshire or Wensleydale cheese for those in the UK, or maybe some ricotta salata if you’re in the Mediterranean). Instead of butternut squash you can easily use pumpkin. So here’s the recipe with my variations. Go on…invite 4 friends for lunch and try this out. They will love it and so will you. You need:
- 1 large butternut squash (or 800g cubed pumpkin)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons mild olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons red wine or red vermouth
- 125 ml water
- 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons dried sage
- 100g pine nuts
- 500g fresh pappardelle (tagliatelle will also do nicely here)
- 125g blue cheese
- Peel and cut the butternut squash or pumpkin into approximately 2cm cubes. Gently fry the chopped onion in the olive oil (into a pan that is big enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta in the final stage of cooking). Add the paprika when the onion turns golden in colour.
- Add the butternut (or pumpkin) cubes and butter into the pan and stir well. When the butternut squash is completely covered with the onion and butter add the wine (or vermouth), water and red wine vinegar. Let the ingredients bubble for a minute or so, put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the butternut squash is soft but not falling apart. Add the dried sage during the last few minutes.
- In the meantime cook the pasta as per packet instructions and lightly toast the pine nuts. Tip the nuts in a container and let them cool. Don’t be a klutz like me and burn the pine nuts! Keep an eye on them at all times.
- Check the sauce to see if the squash is tender. If not let it simmer for another few minutes. Add a pinch of salt for extra seasoning but not too much. When pasta is cooked add this to the sauce and mix thoroughly.
- Serve either in one big serving dish or in 4 individual portions. Crumble in the blue cheese and sprinkle the pine nuts.
Enjoy it – you will want more!