Thanksgiving Pumpkin

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Although technically not celebrated in this country, it’s true that turkey day has gained some popularity in recent years even on this side of the pond.  Perhaps partly due to our fascination with all things American and partly out of jealousy for those two whole days extra holiday that they get stateside.  We could really do with a bank holiday in the autumn months! 

I don’t doubt that part of it is to do with the dreaded (or anticipated?) Black Friday sales, an American import I’m particularly grateful for this year as we’ve recently received keys to our new place.  We don’t have a washing machine or a hoover, so the discounts will come in handy, even if it means stepping off the high ground and begrudgingly taking part in the frenzy this year (albeit online). 

There’s also been an uprise in the fascination for all things pumpkin – spiced lattes made a comeback around halloween this year and I’ve also seen recipes for soups and pies floating about.  So while few over here will want to go the whole hog and have turkey in November (the brits save that for Christmas day), pumpkins are a different matter.  Here are a few of my favourite ways to use up the popular squash and I should mention too that all of these would work equally well with the Butternut, Harlequin and Kaboucha varieties too.

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Cheesy Pumpkin Scones
Makes 6

You will need:
175g peeled pumpkin, coarsely grated
120g strong hard cheese, like cheddar or Wensleydale
200g self raising flour, sifted
5 spring onions, chopped
1/4tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp milk

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5 and lightly oil a baking sheet.  Place the grated pumpkin into a bowl with 80g of the cheese.  Add the flour, spring onions, paprika and salt and stir to combine.

2. Briefly whisk the egg and milk together in a measuring jug and then slowly add to the dry ingredients, mixing all the while.  You should end up with a sticky dough.  Tip this out onto a floured work surface and use the palms of your hands to bring it to gather to form a smooth round.

3. Transfer to the baking sheet and reshape a little if necessary.  Using the back of a knife, press into the dough, creating the indents of six triangles.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and dust with a little extra flour.

4.  Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown.  Repeat the indenting process if necessary, then leave to cool on a wire rack.  Serve as they are, with plenty of butter or use to dip into a bowl of soup.

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Roasted Pumpkin with Kale, Burrata and Sumac
Serves 4

You will need:
750g pumpkin, cut into cubes
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
150g kale, roughly chopped
150g burrata
1 small bunch mint, leaves picked and torn

 Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.  Place the cubes of pumpkin onto a large oven tray and drizzle liberally with oil.  Sprinkle over the sesame seeds, sumac and chilli flakes and season generously with sea salt and black pepper.  Use your hands to mix everything together to coat the pumpkin cubes evenly with all the ingredients.

2.  Place the pumpkin in the oven and roast for 25-30 mins, until golden and cooked through.  Meanwhile, blanch or steam the kale until just tender.  Drain completely and pat dry, then drizzle with a tsp of olive oil and toss to coat.

3.  Add the pumpkin to the oven tray for the final 10 minutes of cooking, just to allow it to crisp up a little.  To serve, transfer the pumpkin and kale to a plate and tear or spoon over bits of the burrata (depending on how soft).  Drizzle with a little extra olive oil, scatter with the mint and serve immediately.

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Honeyed pumpkin and ricotta loaf cake with muesli streusel

You will need:
For the streusel
75g butter, softened
50g light muscovado sugar
25g oats
1 tbsp plain flour
3-4 tbsp mixed nuts and seeds, like peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds

For the cake
350g self-raising flour
100g light muscovado sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
50g cooled melted butter
75g honey
1 large egg, beaten
150g ricotta
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
250g grated pumpkin

Method:

1 . Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 5.  Butter and line a 900g/2lb loaf tin.  Start by making the streusel.  Beat the butter and sugar tougher, then add the oats and flour mixing to combine.  Finally, add the nuts and stir to form a crumbly consistency.  Set aside.

2. To make the cake, combine the flour, muscovado and ginger in a small bowl.

3.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter, egg, honey, ricotta and vanilla essence (if using).

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until well combined, then fold through the grated pumpkin.  

5.  Pour into your prepared loaf tin and scatter over the streusel mixture, pressing a few of the nuts into the batter.  

6.  Bake for an hour until golden and cooked through when tested with a cake tester.  If the nuts are going very brown towards the end of the cooking time, cover with tinfoil and continue baking.  Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and spreading with plenty of butter.

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Of course, you don’t have to use fresh pumpkin at all and you certainly don’t have to make your own pumpkin puree to make a decent pumpkin pie.  My local deli has started selling tins of pumpkin puree, once quite difficult to find even in London, so I nabbed a can for these cookies with pecans and brown butter frosting (is there a better kind of frosting?  I’m not convinced there is…).  This recipe is adapted from the second Magnolia Bakery book.  Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, these are super easy.  

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies with Brown Butter Frosting
Makes about 45 cookies

You will need:
For the cookies
350g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
4 tbsp vegetable oil
130g dark brown sugar
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
250g pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g chopped pecans

For the frosting
220g icing sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp butter

Pecan halves and cinnamon to decorate (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 and line two baking sheets with parchment.  Place the flour, baking powder, salt, spices into a small bowl and mix to combine.  

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar before beating in the eggs, pumpkin and vanilla.  Gradually add dry ingredients to the liquid ones, staring constantly to form quite a wet batter.   Finally, stir in the pecans.

3. Drop the dough onto a lined baking tray in rounded spoonfuls and bake for 12-15 min, until golden coloured and risen.

4. To make the frosting, combine sugar, milk and vanilla in small bowl. Cook butter until lightly browned, 3-5 min, making sure not to burn it. Then remove it from heat, add other ingredients and beat until smooth and creamy. Cover until ready to use.

5. When cookies are completely cool, spread or drizzle the frosting onto them. Decorate with the pecans and/or a sprinkle or two of cinnamon, if you like.  Serve with a tall glass of milk.

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Fancy figs

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So I woke up this morning to rain and wind battering outside.  Autumn is in full swing and I feel like it’s already just a matter of time before Christmas.  How did that happen?  Meanwhile, it’s been a busy time in my kitchen with a heavy work load seeing my already bursting cupboards fill up even more in a whirlwind of shoots and recipe testing.  I also recently worked with chef Valentine Warner on some lunches for furniture makers Another Country, which was full on but great fun. 

When there’s been a spare moment, I’ve been trying to make the most of Autumn produce as it is probably my favourite season for fruit and veg.  There’s something so exciting about the deep colours and flavours at this time of year.  It also lends itself particularly well to hunker-down comfort dishes, the perfect excuse to indulge.  In particular, some purple and green figs in local Turkish greengrocer’s caught my eye.  Their honeyed flavour is incredibly versatile in both sweet and savoury dishes so I’ve been making the most of them in puddings, jams and a steak salad.  I’ve actually been hanging on to some of these recipes for a little while, since last year in fact, but wanted to re-test them and take a few new (better) snaps.  I hope they are worth the wait. 

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Steak, fig and rocket salad
Serves 2

You will need:
1 rump steak
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 ripe figs
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bag of rocket
1 chicory bulb, leaves torn
50g walnuts, toasted
parmesan, shaved, to serve

 Method:

1.  Begin by marinading the steak.  Mix together the chopped leaves from 1 rosemary sprig with the garlic, a generous pinch each of sea salt and cracked black pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil.  Rub all over the steak, cover and leave in the fridge for about a couple of hours. 

2.  Meanwhile, make the dressing.  Scoop out the flesh of two figs and mash with a fork.  Mix with the remaining oil, rosemary, red wine vinegar as well as some salt and pepper.  Set to one side.

 3.  Preheat the grill and chop the remaining figs into wedges.  Drizzle with a little balsamic, season with salt and pepper and cook until starting to caramelise.  Heat a grill pan until scorching hot before adding the steak.  Cook for between 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on your preference.  I like my steak still crawling, so I’ve gone for the lower cooking time.  Leave to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. 

4. To serve, toss the rocket and chicory with the dressing, figs and toasted walnuts.  Divide onto two plates and arrange the steak on top, scatter over some shaved parmesan and drizzle with any remaining dressing.

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Goats milk, honey and thyme ice cream with fig ripple

 You will need:
4 egg yolks
100g honey
1 tbsp corn or potato flour
500ml goats milk
1/2 vanilla pod, split
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and roughly chopped
4 plump figs
50g golden caster sugar

 Method:

1. Combine the yolks, corn or potato flour and honey in a large bowl and mix until thick and creamy.  Slowly add in about 100ml of the goats milk and whisk to combine completely.  Heat the remaining milk in a large saucepan along with the vanilla and thyme.  When just coming up to the boil, remove from the heat and gradually, slowly, pour over the yolk mixture, whisking the whole time.  Discard the vanilla and pour everything back into the saucepan.  Heat very gently, until thick, custardy and clinging to the back of the spoon.  Allow to cool before chilling for at least 4 hours. 

2.  Meanwhile, scoop out the flesh of the figs and place in a small saucepan along with the caster sugar.  Bring to a boil before lowering the heat and allowing to simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until thick and syrupy – add a little water if necessary.   The fig should have completely broken down, but you might have to help it along a little with a fork.  Allow to cool completely. 

3.  Turn on your ice cream maker and churn the cool custard, following manufacturer’s instructions.  When the mixture is very thick, tip half into a plastic tub.  Spoon over half of the fig and ripple through.  Add the remaining mixture and repeat with the last of the fig.  Freeze for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight before tucking in. 

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 Chocolate and Fig French Toast
Serves 1 greedy person

You will need:
2 slices bread (naughty white bread is best here, or brioche)
1 egg
75ml milk
knob of butter
a couple of thin squares of dark chocolate
1 fig, flesh scooped out and mashed or a few tbsp fig jam

Method:

1.  Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl.  Spread one slice of bread with the fresh fig or fig jam and top with the squares of chocolate.  Sandwich with the second slice of bread.  Heat the butter in a large frying pan until melted and foaming. 

2. Dip the fig and chocolate sandwich in the egg and milk mixture to coat thoroughly.  Quickly transfer to the pan and fry over a low heat until golden on both sides and the chocolate has melted and is beginning to ooze out.  Serve straightaway. 

Chocolate Pear Tart with Saffron and Ginger

 
 

New Years seems a long time ago now, but given that I haven’t posted anything since the holidays, I thought it worth mentioning. I had a fantastic start to 2014 up in the Lake District, battling downpours but nonetheless finding a break or two between the clouds for brisk walks amongst the valleys and dales.  It is a brilliant place for a party, great for hunkering down, games, the aforementioned walks and, above all, eating.  There were about 25 of us and I was put in charge of pud on the big night itself (no pressure).  I went for a classic pear and frangipane tart, with plenty of boozy cream to go with, of course. 

So I’ve been thinking a lot about pears and tarts recently as well as sweet spices, like cardamom, ginger and saffron.  The tart recipe in this post was a bit of an experiment, but one that payed dividends.  A decadent dinner party pudding with ginger pastry, saffron poached pears and rich, bitter chocolate ganache.  I implore you to give it a go.

In other news, I was recently given a selection of syrups from Iceland.  These include birch-tree syrup, rhubarb syrup and a berry syrup.  It is very difficult to find anything out about these syrups online, mostly because all my search efforts seem to lead to the budget frozen supermarket chain, Iceland, and its online listing for Lyle’s golden syrup.  I’ll keep researching, but what I can tell you is that these little pots are a total joy.  I was particularly excited to try the birch syrup as I recently went to Scandinavian food event where I had birch sap sparkling wine by Sav, which was, incidentally, absolutely delicious.

With my birch sap syrup pot, I made a pear and birch spread for toast and cakes.  Fruit butters are really no more than purees and sound much fancier than they are.  But I do love the idea of making these as preserves and having a jar around just for when you fancy it.  This would make a great cake filling as well.  Of course, if you can’t get hold of birch sap you can simply use a high quality maple syrup.  I also grilled some pears, brushed them with birch tree syrup and then simply served alongside a simple cardamom yoghurt.  This actually makes a delicious, slightly unusual breakfast and is just the thing to ward against these wet days.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Spiced Pear, Coconut and Birch Butter

You will need:
5 medium pears, peeled
2 tbsp birch syrup (or good quality maple syrup)
pinch sea salt
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 200C.  Roughly chop pears and place on a baking tray. In a small bowl, mix together the syrup, salt, coconut oil and ground cinnamon.

2. Toss through the pears and  bake for about 30 min until golden and beginning to caramelise.  Cool thoroughly then blitz in a mixer or using a hand blender.  Spread over toast, muffins or stirred into your muesli for breakfast.  Will keep for 1 week in the fridge.  

 

 

This is a rich, decadent dessert.  Perfect to impress as it combines pastry making skills, pear-poaching and chocolate work (ganache).  However, it really is easy as pie to make and looks beautiful once you cut into it.  Definitely one for the grown ups, though, as the chocolate is bitter and the saffron aromatic.

Chocolate Pear Tart with Saffron and Ginger

You will need:
For the pears:
6 pears, peeled
100g caster sugar
100ml pear liqueur
200ml water
1/2 tsp saffron strands
2 slices ginger
1 strip lemon peel

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
pinch salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
150g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 egg yolks

For the ganache:
250ml double cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs

Method:

1. To poach the pears,  heat the pear liqueur and water in a large saucepan.  Add the sugar, saffron, ginger and lemon peel and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the pears and bring to a gentle simmer.  Top with the round of greaseproof paper and weight down with a saucer.  Cover and allow the pears to poach until just tender, about 30 minutes.  Lift out and allow to cool before halving and scooping out the core with a teaspoon. 

2. Meanwhile, make the pastry.  Sift together the flour, salt, sugar and ginger. Work in the cubes of butter until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency.  You can either do this by hand or in a mixer.  Combine the egg yolks with 2 tbsp of water and add about half of it to the flour mixture.  Work to a dough, adding more liquid if necessary.  Wrap into cling and flatten into a disc then chill for 30 min.  Roll out, line and blind bake the pastry case for about 20 min in a 200C oven. 

3. Place the chocolate in a small bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil and then pour over the chocolate.  Leave to stand for a few minutes, then stir to combine.  Add a few tsp of the saffron syrup to taste along with some additional pear liqueur, if desired.  Finally, stir in the eggs.

4. Preheat the oven to 180C.  Arrange the pears in pastry case then pour over chocolate ganache.  Bake 25-30 mins, until just set with a tiny bit of wobble. 

 

Leafy Greens

I recognise that my previous post was practically a love letter to the current season, so this post is going to be a bit more pessimistic.  This weather is a pain in the arse.  It is only me, or is it unusually cold and damp for this time of year?   I’ve just managed to get rid of a scratchy, chesty cough, but still feel quite run down.  

It’s a situation that calls for vegetables.  The iron-packed variety preferably in as virtuous a form as possible, not slathered in cheese or anything.  I’ll take this cavolo nero and bean soup, topped with a vitamin c packed gremolata to ward away bugs and nurse me back to health.  

Cavolo nero is cabbage’s stylish, Italian cousin.  Tall, dark and handsome, that kind of thing.  This soup recipe has been nicked from the Waitrose website. It is very much what I think of as a classic version of this kind of Tuscan-inspired, hearty potage and it tastes brilliant as well as being incredibly good for you. 


Cannellini Bean and Cavolo Nero Soup


You will need:


For the soup

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 medium tomatoes
150ml dry white wine
 800ml vegetable stock
1 bouquet garni
410g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
200g cavolo nero, thinly sliced
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large clove garlic, crushed

For the Gremolata
1 tbsp olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley

Method:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and fry until soft and beginning to colour. 

2. Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes. 

3. Add the wine to the vegetables and bring to the boil, then add the tomatoes, stock, bouquet garni and beans.  Simmer.  

4. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes, before adding the cavolo nero and leaving to cook for another 10-15 minutes. 

  
5. Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Combine the lemon zest, garlic and parsley then add just enough oil to make a paste. 

6.  Remove the bouquet garni and serve the soup with a sprinkling of the gremolata.  

And now on to another hearty, healthy vegetable that is also in season, but this time the recipe actually is slathered in cheese, I’m afraid.  But life would be pretty dull if it was virtuous all the time. 

As we approach Halloween, all sorts of gourds and squashes appear on supermarket and green grocer’s shelves.  They are so beautiful, it’s almost a shame to eat them.  Indeed, my mother would often have a bowl full of different coloured and shaped squashes as decoration around this time of year, but I don’t recall her ever cooking with them. 



But they are in fact absolutely delicious, roast wonderfully and are particularly good stuffed with a chunky, cheesy sauce.  We had some Shropshire blue cheese in the fridge that was calling out to be used in this, but any strong blue cheese would work, really.  If you aren’t a fan, Parmesan or goats cheese make for good substitutes. 

Stuffed Globe Courgettes
(serves 2)

You will need:
2 globe courgettes
1 large portabella mushroom
1/4 leek or 1 banana shallot
olive oil
1 garlic clove
salt, pepper
rosemary sprigs
100g Shropshire blue cheese or other strong cheese
2 tbsp creme fraiche

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.  Cut the tops off of the courgettes to create ‘lids.’  Scoop and scrape out the flesh to create cavernous spaces.  Reserve the excess courgette.

2.  Finely chop the leek or shallot and portabella mushroom.  Fry the leeks/shallot in some olive oil before adding the mushrooms.  Saute for a few minutes while you chop up the inside bits of the courgette and mince the garlic clove.

3.  Add the garlic and courgette to the pan and keep frying.  Season with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary.

4.  Add 75g of the crumbled cheese and the creme fraiche and let bubble away over a low heat until all the cheese has melted.  Pour the mixture into the scooped out courgettes.

5.  Top with the remaining cheese and put the ‘lids’ back on.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Serve with a fresh green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette.

Plum Chutney

I love, love, love October.  The leaves!  The slight chill in the air!  The colours!  I know everyone raves about Autumn or Fall, to be all American about it,  but surely even the most cynical of seasonal apathists must take some pleasure in this time of year.

For me, it’s the autumnal harvest that does it- some of my favourite things come to bountiful fruition over this period.  Blackberries, apples, pumpkins and squash, leafy green kale, root veg, chestnuts, game.  It’s all good, hearty stuff for when the nights begin to draw in and there’s lots of brilliant (and some shamefully awful) period drama on telly.

Plums take centre stage in this post- wonderfully versatile in that they can be transformed into sweet, salty or spicy treats.  I think they are really delicious with rich meats or pungent cheeses in the form of a chutney.  The European plum is in season from August until the end of this month, so get pickling now. 

The delicious vanilla-scented upside down plum cake was actually one I made towards the end of the summer, as a treat to enjoy when we were queueing for the proms.  Make sure you caramelise the plums completely to get that gorgeous sticky crunch at the top.

Plum Chutney

You will need:

2 tbsp butter
5 large plums, roughly chopped
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp mustard seeds
100 ml honey or syrup
50 g sugar
1 red chili, chopped
50ml water
200 ml white wine
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper


Method:

1.  Melt the butter over a low heat and add the plums, onion, garlic and mustard seeds.  Cook for a few minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.

2.   Add the honey, sugar and chili and stir for a few moments.  Add the liquid ingredients and cook over a low heat for about 25-30 minutes.  The plums should begin to melt and thicken into a jam-like consistency.

3.  Season with salt and pepper before transferring to a sterilised jar and allowing to cool.  The chutney will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

Upside down plum cake. 

You will need:

450g plums
150g butter, softened
300g sugar
3 eggs
3 tbsp milk
270g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
3 tsp butter
1 vanilla pod
4.5 tbsp icing sugar

Method: 

1.  Put the oven on to 200 C and line and grease a loose-bottomed 20cm cake tin.  Halve the plums and remove their stones. 

2.  Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.  Add the milk. 

3.   Combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and slowly add to the mixture.

4.  Melt the 3 tsp of butter and add the plums.  Coat with the melted butter before adding the icing sugar.  Sizzle until the plums start to caramelise slightly.  Arrange in the bottom of the cake tin, cut side facing down.

5.  Pour the cake batter into the tin and put in the oven for 30-35 minutes.  To check if the cake is ready, prick with a cake tester- it should come out clean and the top of the cake should be slightly golden.