an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

deseeding pomegranates is feminine & erotic, unless you hit them with a wooden spoon...


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Butternut squash and onion tart

Every time someone mentions Waitrose to someone I know, they quote the late Alan Coren’s observations about Sainsburys:

“The best thing about Sainsburys is that it keeps the riff-raff out of Waitrose.”

Personally, I think this is a load of nonsense. People may decide that they are in the ‘elite’ because they decide to pay more for vegetables and loo roll, but that doesn’t mean anything about anybody else.

Saying that, there are some very nice things in Waitrose, and their avocados are nearly always perfect. They also do excellent free recipe booklets every season, and this recipe is from the autumn book.

This tart/pie was very tasty, but probably would have been tastier if I had made my own pastry – meh. I’m still a bit scared of making my own pastry. Its silly really, but then I’m not as scared of spiders as I used to be. So it seems ok in balance.

Another good thing about using ready made pastry is that this dish then becomes something relatively speedy, of the weeknight supper variety.

Serves four, assuming that everyone will want a corner piece, with leftovers


1kg butternut or coquina squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
75g cream cheese (low fat or tofutti is fine)
½ or ¼ chilli powder
2 tbsp fresh thyme, leaves only
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
Handful pine nuts (optional)
(Guiltily) 1 sheet shortcrust pastry, defrosted if frozen (they are just over 200g)


Boil of steam the cubes of squash for approx 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and mash them with the cream cheese, chilli, thyme and seasoning. Set aside to cool down a bit.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, 180 with fan.

While the squash is steaming, fry the onion slices in olive oil with a pinch of salt over a medium heat, for 7-10 minutes until softened and golden. If using, add the pine nuts to the pan for the last few minutes.

Stir two thirds of the fried onions (and pine nuts) into the mashed squash, reserving the remainder for artful scattering.

Unroll the pastry sheet onto a baking tray. Lightly score a border in the pastry, roughly 3cm from the edge. Dollop the cooled squash mixture into the pastry (within the border), and artfully scatter the remaining fried onions over the top. 

Fold the pastry edges over the filling to make a snug little frame, and bake the tart for 30 or so minutes, until golden.
When I make this again, I would probably brush the pastry with a bit of milk or egg to make it shine.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Cavolo nero risotto with sweet roasted carrots

Adapted from For the Love of Food by Dennis Cotter

For the Love of Food is a really fun and very bonkers vegetarian cookbook. I really recommend it for creative and adventurous cooks who want to push the boat out. I have simplified this recipe from the original, but its still one of the most involved things I have made in a long time. I don’t usually make things that involve so many pots and pans, but it really was no trouble at all.

I normally find following recipes very tricky, because I’m not very good at concentrating, or doing what I’m told. I saw this hanger trick on a Buzzfeed a while ago but this is the first time I tried it. It worked really well and having something to prop the book open, right in front of my face made it a lot easier to follow the recipe.

As you all know by now, I really love risotto. This is the best risotto I have ever made, in terms of texture (they are all really good in terms of flavour). I have never been sure of the correct ratio of rice to liquid, and this one nails it.

I’ve always wanted to make something with cavolo nero because it just seemed so fancy. Really its just black kale, in Italian. I have used less cavolo nero than specified in the original recipe, because that was how much cavolo nero I had. I think it worked well, it might have been overly cabbagey and murky/pond-like otherwise.

The carrots might seem like overkill but its nice to have the contrasting texture and complimentary flavours. Lightens the whole thing up and the orange looks really pretty.

Serves four. This tastes a lot better if served straight away, rather than re-heated.


1.3 litres vegetable stock (I used a stock cube)
200g cavolo nero, stalks removed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eshalion shallots, or one medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, bashed a bit and finely sliced (cabbage and garlic are best friends)
300g risotto rice (I used Arborio)
125 ml dry white wine
50g butter (this is a lot less than the recipe suggests)
70g parmesan style cheese, grated. It is really hard to find vegetarian parmesan style cheese, but I recently discovered that the Sainsburys basics version is vegetarian, and it works very well here.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the carrots
200g chantenay carrots (or just small carrots), topped and tailed and cut in half lengthways
Zest and juice of half an orange
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp agave syrup
1 generous sprig of thyme (not vital - if you happen to have some knocking about)
Generous pinch of salt, preferably sea salt flakes


For the carrots:
Preheat the oven to 200c (or 180 with fan).

Arrange the carrots in a shallow-ish pyrex or small roasting tin, so that they are more or less in one layer, but snug. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until caramelised at the edges, and cooked through but not too mushy.

For the risotto:
Bring the stock to a boil, add the cavolo nero and cook for two minutes. You may have to do this in batches. Remove the leaves from the water (keep the stock at a simmer for the risotto), shaking off as much stock as possible. Squeeze the leaves dry and shred them finely. It will smell a bit cabbage-water and horrible at this stage, but will get better.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large-ish saucepan over a medium-low heat. Fry the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes, and then add the rice and toast for a few minutes more.

Add the wine and simmer, stirring constantly until it is mostly absorbed.

Add one ladleful of the hot stock at a time, stirring until it is completely absorbed before adding the next one. This whole process should take about twenty minutes, until the rice is cooked but a little al-dente, and most of the liquid is absorbed.

Towards the end of the rice cooking process, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, and sauté the shredded cavolo nero for about five minutes, until it stops smelling like cabbage-water and starts smelling delicious.

Add the cavolo nero to the rice when it is done, along with the butter and about two thirds of the cheese. Taste the risotto and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the risotto in shallow bowls, sprinkled with the extra cheese, garnished with a few carrots.