butternut squash and bulgar wheat casserole

Are we still in squash season? I’m not sure. But if it’s still about, I’d highly recommend this stew, which is also perfect for using up the remains of that packet of bulghar wheat that’s moved from home to flat to flat to home with you over the past 5 years (just me? fine then. potentially you could substitute with couscous and cook for a little less time, but on your own head be it.)

2014-10-23 13.24.25(serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp paprika
225g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 red pepper, chopped
550g butternut squash, peeled and chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
200ml red wine
300ml vegetable stock
75 g bulghar wheat
Optional: 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt and some grated cheddar to serve

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, and soften the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes
  2. Add the cumin seeds and paprika and cook for a further 2 minutes
  3. Stir in the sweet potato, red pepper, and squash, and toss with the onion and spices for 2 minutes
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, red wine, and vegetable stock, season, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the bulghar wheat, cover with a lid, then simmer for 15 minutes more until the vegetables are tender, the bulghar wheat is cooked, and the liquid has been absorbed.
  6. Serve with yoghurt and cheddar if you want.



red velvet cake

Fine, so everyone is completely over red velvet cakes. They’re also hard to photograph without ruining the moment of partaking of said cake, so this one pre-icing will have to do you. Now, in the past I’ve not been a fan of these (and they also normally need vinegar, which needs judicious addition), but this recipe by Lorraine Pascale is tasty! The icing is mainly butter-based but with a little cream cheese to cut into the sweetness rather than overpower it completely.

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(23cm cake – x2 layers)

350g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
350g caster sugar
6  eggs
½ tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
50ml red food colouring (or less if you’re using gel – I used a 35ml bottle of dye plus half a tsp of potent gel and the colour came out well)

  1. Grease and line your cake tins if they’re not silicone.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  3. Gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla, and half the flour.
  4. Add the remaining flour, cocoa, and baking powder, and beat to mix.
  5. Stir in the food colouring.
  6. Divide between 2 tins (*or do it in one higher-sided tin and bake for slightly longer then cut in half) and bake at 180oC for 45-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

cream cheese buttercream

250g butter, softened
600g icing sugar
75g cream cheese

  1. Cream together the softened butter and icing sugar in a very large bowl until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the cream cheese

Sandwich the cakes together with 3 tbsp buttercream then cover the top and sides.

veggie fries – courgette, carrot, beans

Sometimes in life there are courgettes to be eaten and nobody that likes courgettes about. I don’t really like courgettes, but figure that I shouldn’t limit my choices any more than I already do with meat avoidance. So apart from pea and courgette fritters, which I love, these are another tasty way to use them up. I may use less chunky breadcrumbs next time though…

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2 courgettes
1 egg white
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp cornflour (makes these crispier)
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 220°. Grease a baking tray.
  2. Cut courgettes into 3-inch sticks.
  3. Whisk an egg white in a small bowl, and add milk.
  4. Combine parmesan, cornflour, and seasoned breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.
  5. Dip courgette sticks into egg mixture, and then roll in breadcrumb mixture then place on baking tray.
  6. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown.


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Bonus recipes: slightly less-messy fries:

Carrot: Toss thick slices of carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook at 200oC for 12 minutes or so.

Green beans: If using frozen, leave at room temperature for a few hours to defrost and dry with some kitchen towel. Grease baking pan then evenly distribute beans. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and parmesan-style cheese over the top. Bake at 215oC for 15 minutes or so.


kale pesto

I like to think that now we’ve* moved on from kale smoothies, kale has now passed into the mainstream. And after making a kale-pan mix for lunch one week (recipe upcoming), I had some left without knowing what to use it for. So I decided to make this with the leftovers in order to preserve it for a bit longer – it makes enough for a couple of jars, or a larger jar + some frozen in an ice-cube tray. Also, I didn’t have any pine-nuts but sunflower seeds seemed to work just as well.

(*non-personal we; the colour always freaked me out)

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60g sunflower seeds
60g kale
60g grated parmesan substitute
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
2 tsp maple syrup
4 tbsp olive oil
pinch chilli flakes
salt + pepper

  1. Whiz everything in a food processor until it’s all broken down. Add water if it needs to come together (though I abstained at this stage and added water when making things with it).
  2. If not using immediately, pour into a jar and top with a thin layer of olive oil.

Ideas for what to do with it

  • Home-made pizza topped with kale pesto, mozzarella, beetroot and veggie-parmesan (à la this recipe)
  • Pasta salad: mix some pasta water into the kale pasta then stir through pasta, beetroot, and goats cheese

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sweet potato-star anise soup


Now, I know not everyone likes the taste of aniseed. But I hope you do, because this soup is a delight on a cold winter’s day.

2014-11-23 18.19.44(serves 4)

2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 inches ginger, grated
3 star anise
1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
250ml water
125ml cream (single or double)
6 tbsp sour cream / creme fraiche / yoghurt if you’re desperate

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. When it foams, add the onion, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the ginger and the star anise. Add the sweet potatoes and stir to combine.
  3. Add the broth and water and stir well. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sweet potatoes are completely tender, about 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat then allow the soup to cool slightly. Remove the star anise pods and discard. Process the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until very smooth.
  5. Return the soup to the pot and reheat over medium-low heat. Season with additional salt and pepper as necessary. Stir in the heavy cream, if using.
  6. Combine the sour cream and remaining 1/4 teaspoon ginger in a small bowl, stirring until well mixed.
  7. Serve the soup in warmed bowls, topped with a dollop of ginger cream.


braised cabbage

A bit after the event, but I had this at Christmas together with the normal accoutrements and a bit of waldorf salad in place of the customary dead bird. But even carnivores can enjoy this – just don’t overcook it!

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(serves 6-8 as a side)

50g butter, plus extra to serve
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 red cabbage, cored and cut into irregular chunks
1 sharp eating apple, finely chopped
3 tbsp muscovado sugar
75-100ml balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp cranberry sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Soften in the butter for a few minutes, then stir in the spices and cook for one minute.
  2. Tip in the cabbage and sauté until shiny and well coated. Add the apple, sugar and vinegar, reduce the heat to low, stir well, cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  3. Stir in the cranberry sauce and cook for another 25 minutes. Season well and stir through a knob of butter before serving. You can also store it somewhere cool for a couple of days, then reheat to serve, if you prefer, adding the butter during the reheating.


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quick red chilli jam

I stumbled across 4 red chillis for 24p in a pre-hogmanay supermarket clearance aisle, so thought I could find a home for them in a nice preserve. This recipe was the quickest I could find that did not involve specialist ingredients like jam sugar (use an apple for pectin). It turns out quite liquid, but still relatively substantial. And tastes amazing spread on top of some Port Salut or cheddar cheese!

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(makes 1-2 jars)

4 red chillies
3 large cloves garlic
a chunk of fresh ginger (approx 3 cm cube)
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
200g caster sugar
50ml white wine vinegar
1 apple with holes punched into it

  1. Make a paste with the chillies, ginger and garlic (with a pestle and mortar or in the food processor).
  2. Add the paste to a pan with all the other ingredients and stir well.
  3. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the mixture for 25-30 minutes until thick and glossy.
  4. Remove the apple, then pour into a clean jar and keep in the fridge until you are ready to use it.


gin risotto

Left with a mystery bottle of gin under the Christmas tree*? I have the perfect way of using it up! When I announced I was making this, it was suggested that I might want to remove the rice, swap the lemon juice for a lemon slice, avoid vegetables, exchange vegetable stock for tonic water, and make the pan a glass. Tempting though that thought was, this did make it from intention to plate, and tasted good! Apart from the substitution of gin for wine, it pretty much is just a standard risotto, but the difference is interestingly tasty.

*true story, actually happened to us. Mum has bagsied it though…

2014-12-01 13.03.06(please excuse the slightly off-colour peas, this was on a re-heat which was still tasty but not quite as good as fresh!)

(serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 onions, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
250-300g rice
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp juniper berries, if you happen to have them
150ml gin
about 1.2 litres vegetable stock, kept hot in another pot
1 cup frozen peas
Other veg e.g. beans, spinach leaves
Half a cup of veggie parmesan substitute

  1. Heat up the butter and oil until it foams, then soften the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and stir it in to seal it. Stir in the herbs. Add the gin and stir until dissolved.
  3. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly, until there are only a few ladlefuls left. Add the peas and keep adding stock and stirring.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the parmesan then leave for a few minutes. Beat vigorously then serve in bowls with extra parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

fabulous fudge

Ever wonder why delicious fudge sold in foody markets is so blinking expensive? I have the answer: elbow grease. Having laid waste to my large confectionary-pan in my last salted-caramel excursion, I had to make two batches of fudge in my smaller pan. The first, I followed the recipe to a ‘t’… and utterly exhausted myself in doing so (my gym is the gym of life). Second time round, I thought I’d try and cheat as I’d come across another recipe espousing the possibility of using an electric hand whisk. It did work… just… but is a lot softer and less classic-fudge than I was going for.

This made a bunch of fudge (cut small ‘cos it’s so sweet), and hopefully its recipients will agree that it makes a lovely Christmas gift!

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(side-note: is there anything that gu-pud ramekins aren’t good for?)

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450g caster sugar
400g double cream
50g butter
1 tbsp glucose syrup
Handful chocolate chips (white for vanilla, or dark if you want chocolate fudge)
(Optional: 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, or let your imagination run wild with all the fudgy possibilities!

Equipment: sugar thermometer (I used a digital one bought cheaply from eBay); silicone pan (20x20cm)

  1. Place sugar, cream, butter, and glucose syrup into a large pan. Heat until the butter is melted, stirring now and again.
  2. Put the thermometer in the pan and increase the heat until it is at a steady boil. Continue bubbling, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 116oC (soft ball stage)
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to sit, undisturbed, for 5 mins, until the temperature drops to 110oC. Stir in the chocolate chips, vanilla if using, and a good pinch of salt.
  4. Keep the sugar thermometer in the pan and begin beating the mixture with a wooden spoon, quite vigorously, until the temperature cools to about 60oC. By this time the fudge will be really thick and will have lost it glossy shine. Remove the thermometer and continue beating for a few mins more.  Your arms will most likely be killing you by this point, but think of it as calorie-banking in advance of all the fudge you are about to eat.
  5. Before it sets completely, pour the fudge into the silicone pan and smooth over the surface. Leave to cool at room temperature overnight – don’t put the fudge in the fridge as it will become sticky and won’t set properly. Cut into bite-sized pieces and pop in a box to give as a present. Will keep, in a sealed container, for up to 2 months.


mushroom pâté

Oh world, so often you get between me and my blog. First there’s the lack of time to make things in the first place, then there’s the lack of light to be able to photograph well, then there’s the being too busy to actually upload the results. Maybe this’ll die a death eventually, but I still like my vision of having recipes I like collated in one easy-access location. Anyway, on with this post which is something I actually made ages ago. But could go down well as a Christmas starter, so opportune to post now.

You try photographing pâté prettily… it’s tricky. Trust me, though, this tastes better than it looks! I split this into 4 and had each portion with oatcakes for a portable and tasty meal.

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75g butter, plus extra melted butter to seal the pâté (no idea why, I’m going with BBC GoodFood on this)
600g mixed mushrooms, finely chopped (or pulsed in the food processor – you’re going to be using it anyway)
1 onion, finely chopped (ditto)
Juice of 2 lemons
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
150g ricotta
100g cream cheese (or mascarpone if you’re feeling fancy)
Salt and pepper

  1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and fry the mushrooms, onion and garlic for 10-12 minutes, or until soft.
  2. Add the lemon juice and place the mixture into a colander to drain away excess moisture.
  3. Blend half the mushroom mixture, the cayenne and nutmeg in a food processor until smooth.
  4. Fold in the ricotta and cream cheese along with the rest of the mushrooms.
  5. Pack the mixture into four pots (if using as portions for lunch), eight ramekins (if serving as a starter), or alternatively put it into one large air-tight jar (if you’re feeling crazy). Cover with a layer of melted butter. Set aside to cool completely.