Root Cause

It may well be the case that every shop in town thinks it’s Christmas Eve already, judging by the abundance of glitter and flashing lights.  And yes, most pubs, restaurants and cafés have been touting for your staff do business since July.  Sure, John Lewis has started screening it’s Yule-themed advert (not a patch on last year’s, by the way).  But, in my rather stubborn book, it’s still very much autumn. After all, the yanks have only just celebrated Thanksgiving and that’s the most autumnal holiday there is (apart from Halloween, of course).

So I’m still stuck on root vegetables and making the most of them.  Pumpkin in particular, at the moment, as I managed to track down a can of pumpkin puree (not as widely available here as it is in the States).  I wanted to make the most of it, without resorting to making a whole pie, so did a bit of experimenting.

I’ve also recently made some celeriac soup with chestnut and sage gnocchi and scones with parsnip, cheddar and cracked black pepper.  Proof if you ever needed it that these knobbly, rather ugly looking vegetables are capable of beautiful things.

Cheddar, Parsnip and Black Pepper Scones
(adapted from the Leith’s Cookery Bible’s classic scone recipe)

You will need:
225g Self raising flour
pinch of salt
black pepper
30g butter, diced
1 large parsnip, coarsely grated
60g strong cheddar cheese, grated
150ml + 2 tbsp milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 200C

2.  Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.

3.  Rub in the cold butter until the mixture is breadcrumb-like.

4.  Add the grated parsnip, 50g of the grated cheddar and a good deal of ground pepper.

5.  Make a well in the mixture and add 150ml of the milk, stirring to form a sticky dough.

6.  Turn onto a floured work and knead until just smooth.  Form/cut about 10 mini scones or 6 large ones, using a cutter, ramekin or glass (whatever you have to hand).

7.  Transfer to a floured baking sheet and brush with the remaining milk.  Sprinkle with a bit more of the grated cheese and a little cracked black pepper.

8.  Bake in the top section of the oven for about 20 minutes, until risen and golden.  Serve immediately with lots of butter.

Celeriac Soup with Chestnut and Sage Gnocchi

You will need:

For the soup:
1 onion, sliced
olive oil
1/2 celeriac, peel and chopped roughly
1 clove garlic, minced
salt, pepper
chicken stock
some torn sage leaves, to serve

For the gnocchi
500g spuds, peeled and cut into chunks
1 egg yolk
15 g Parmesan
100g plain flour
20 g butter, softened
100g chopped chestnuts
handful sage leaves
salt, pepper


1. Add the chunks of potato to a large pan and cover with water.  Add a bit of salt to the pan and bring to the boil.  Simmer until the chunks are completely cooked through and mushy.

2.  Meanwhile, slice the onion and fry in a little oil over a low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pan.  Once the onion is cooked and slightly translucent, add the chunks of celeriac and minced garlic.  Cook for a further minute or two, stirring constantly.

3.  Add enough stock to the pan to cover the vegetables.  Simmer over a low heat until the celeriac is just tender.

4.  Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and return them immediately to the dry pan.  Put back onto a low heat to completely dry them out, taking care not to burn them.  Remove from the heat and mash thoroughly or add to a food processor and blitz until smooth.

5.  Mix in the egg yolk, cheese, butter and chopped chestnuts (if you are using a food processor you can add them whole) until thoroughly incorporated.  Season liberally with salt, pepper and chopped sage leaves.

6.  You should now have a sticky dough.  On a floured work surface, roll out sections of this dough into long sausages, about 2cm in diameter.

7.  Using a kitchen knife, cut off small chunks of the sausage so that you have little oblong gnocchi shapes.

8.  Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the gnocchi in batches.  Once they float to the top of the pan, they are done- this should only take a few minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to some kitchen roll to dry.  You can use the gnocchi straight away or cool and freeze for later.

9.  To serve, drain the celeriac, but hang on to the stock.  Puree the vegetables with a stick blender and return to the pan, adding in the reserved stock until the soup reaches your desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper.

10.  Heat a little olive oil in a small frying pan and fry 3-4 gnocchi per serving, flipping and moving them around the pan constantly.  They should begin to colour a bit and form a slight crust.

11.  Serve the soup in hearty bowls and top with the gnocchi, some torn sage leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.  The gnocchi are also delicious served on their own with a bit of sage flavoured butter and lots of Parmesan.  

Pumpkin Garlic Knots
(Recipe from the Handle the Heat blog)

You will need:
230ml warm water
1 sachet (7g) fast action dried yeast
2 tbsp honey
100g pureed pumpkin (from a tin)
2 tbsp + 70 ml olive oil
1 tsp salt
525g strong white bread flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and ground black pepper 

1 tsp dried oregano (or chopped fresh, if you have it)

1. In a small bowl, add the warm water and top with the dried yeast.  Allow to sit for a few minutes, until slightly frothy, active and smelly.  

2.  Mix in the honey, 2 tbsp of the olive oil and pumpkin.

3 Mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl.

4.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients then pour in your wet ingredients.  Beat with a wooden spoon until the ingredients start to come together.

5.  At this stage, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

6.  Lightly oil the large bowl and place the dough into it with a sprinkling of flour.  Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warmish place until it has doubled in size- this may take a couple of hours- be patient and try not to keep checking it as that is sure to drive you potty.

7.  Preheat the oven to 220 C.  Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and knock back slightly.  Tear off small sections of the dough- about 2 tbsps worth each.  Roll each section into a long sausage shape and tie into a knot.  Place onto an oiled baking sheet and continue to work your way through the dough.  You should get about 30 small knots.

8.   Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until golden.  Meanwhile, combine the remaining olive oil with the oregano, sea salt and black pepper in a large bowl.  Once the knots have come out of the oven and cooled slightly, toss them in this dressing mixture to coat.  Leave to dry out a bit before serving.  These are best when still slightly warm.  

Pumpkin and Ricotta Pancakes

You will need:
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
grating of nutmeg
200 ml milk
100 g ricotta
100g pumpkin puree (from a tin)
3 eggs


1.  Combine the baking powder, salt, flour and spices in a large bowl.

2.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, ricotta, puree and eggs until smooth and a bit frothy.

3.  Make a well in the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients, beating to incorporate fully.   It will make for quite a thick batter.

4.  Heat a large frying pan with a little bit of oil.  Add a wooden spoon-full of batter to the pan, swirling to flatten a bit.  Once small bubbles begin to form on the tops of the uncooked side of the pancake, flip and cook for a further 30 seconds- 1 minute.

5.  Keep warm whilst you make the remaining pancakes.  Serve with lashings of maple or golden syrup.

Berry Scones

Scones have become massive in Sweden in recent years.  I think they’ve come to stand not just for all things quaint and English, but for an easy, quick shortcut to wholesome domesticity.  You can, after all, throw them together in about half an hour.  But whereas over here there seems to be very little deviation from the classic recipe (apart from a debate about self raising vs plain flour and bicarb),  a quick search on reveals a plethora of varieties.  There are plenty of takes on the chocolate scone, as well as combinations like olive and sun-dried tomato, chili and Parmesan and even the (very Swedish) cardamon.  And on you can find recipes using flours ranging from rye to spelt and everything in between. 

I’m more of a purist so my recipe is pretty square, although it is nice to have a bit of variety on occasion.  The following recipe is the mildest of twists on the classic with roast berries lightly dotted through the dough in quite a subtle, but pleasantly surprising way.  And because scones are normally served with berry-based jams anyway, the combination of soft, sweet fruit and fluffy scone feels pretty natural. 

I roast the berries first to dry them out a little and intensify the flavour and then serve them with soured cream or Greek yogurt, for a bit of sour kick.  However, there is of course nothing at all to stop you lashing on the clotted cream.  And because the sweetness from the fruit is already there, you could even forgo the jam and save yourself getting involved in an argument over what accompaniment is spread on top first. 

Strawberry and Blueberry Scones
You will need:
225g/8oz self raising flour
pinch of salt
55g butter (very cold)
25g caster sugar 
150ml milk
1 free-range egg
Berries- I used strawberries and blueberries (a large punnet’s worth, basically)


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Slice the larger berries and lay onto a lined baking tray.

2. Bake the berries in the oven, until dried out and beginning to crisp- about 15-20 minutes.  But keep an eye on them!  They burn quickly.

3. Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter.

4. Stir in the sugar and milk.

5.  Once the berries are done, take them out of the oven and turn up the heat to 220 degrees C.  Leave to cool slightly before adding to the dough.   Gently combine to evenly distribute.

 6.  Knead the dough on a (very) floured work surface- it will be a pretty sticky dough, but you can add more flour if it is totally unworkable.

7.  Roll out the dough into a circular shape, about 2cm thick.  Cut out pie-shaped triangles, you should be able to get about 8 out of it.

8.  Brush the triangles with the beaten egg or milk if you prefer, to give them a nice sheen. Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden.

9.  Leave to cool slightly before tucking in.

Autumnal Harvest- part II

Part two of the harvest (and I’m really quite proud of these): Devonshire Apple Scones. So called because that’s where the recipe comes from, but in this case particularly apt as the apples were actually picked in Devon too. These are quite buttery and satisfying as they are, but what I’d really like to do when I make them again is to reduce the butter quantity by about half and maybe add another egg (albeit a small one). I imagine they will be a little drier that way, so I’d serve them with a little pot of whipped cinnamon butter on the side. Oh yes.

For 8-10, depending on how large you want them to be.

  • 8oz / 200g self-raising flour (wholemeal or white)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4oz / 100g cold unsalted butter
  • 2oz / 50g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 medium apples

Heat your oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas mark 5.

1) Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon.

2) Rub in the butter until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3) Core and peel the apples. Chop into cubes, as small as you can be bothered with. Add to the dry ingredients.

4) Beat the egg before adding it to the mix and stir. It will be a very dry and lumpy, but it will come together, I promise!

5) Shape 8-10 scones and place on a lined or non-stick baking tray, with a gap between them.

6) Bake for about 20 mins, then check and bake for another 5 minutes or so to get them nice and brown. Cool and enjoy!