Roast Butternut Squash and Chilli Soup

I don’t really like butternut squash, I mean I would eat it if it was put in front of me, but then I would do that with a lot of food. I do, however quite like this soup, chilli and butternut are the perfect combo.

N.B. I don’t normally put vegetable ingredients in grams, a soup isn’t a cake, it won’t matter if the weights are slightly different for each recipe. I have, however, put the potatoes in weight because there are many variations of size.

Ingredients

 

1 1/2 butternut squash(es)

1 large carrot

2 medium (approx. 300g) white potatoes

1/2 large onion

1 large red chilli, quartered and deseeded, this might be labelled in a supermarket as medium heat

2-3 cloves of garlic, bruised (squash with the flat of your knife)

1 sprig of rosemary

1 bay leaf

a large dollop of creme fraiche

4 pints of stock

*I jokingly asked my mother whether ‘dollop’ was an official form of measurement, and she replied that a ‘dollop’ is 1 dessert spoon (not a desert spoon which is what I just wrote, dyslexia rules). A dessert spoon is a 10ml measuring spoon, or your bog standard spoon which you would eat with. A tablespoon is 15ml and is larger than a standard eating spoon, what you might think of as a serving spoon. Making sense? Probably not…*

 

Method

 

1. Halve the butternut, score it and place it in a roasting tin.  Drizzle over 2 tbsp of olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Place it in the oven to roast at 190C for about 45 minutes to an hour. Half way through cooking take it out and place the deseeded chilli and bruised garlic in the pan with the butternut, place back in for another 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven once it is soft and cooked through. Like so…

 

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2. Whilst that is cooling slightly finely chop your peeled potato, onion and carrot and sweat them in a pan with a bit more olive oil for about 5 minutes just to release some flavour. Add 4 pints of stock, I used chicken because we happened to have some lying around but vegetable stock is probably the best or if you don’t have any stock made then you can quite easily use boullion or another vegetable stock that you can get in supermarkets. Bring this to boil and add your bay leaf and rosemary sprig, turn to lower heat with the lid on and boil until the vegetables are soft.

3. Once the veg is soft scrape out the cooked butternut from it’s skin and add to the soup with the roasted chilli and garlic. Bring to the boil again for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and go whizzy whizzy whizzy with a stick blender until smooth. Stir in the creme fraiche, feel free to add some more if you want it creamier and season to taste (I had to use quite a bit of salt and pepper). Always remember to try your food before you serve, this avoids disappointment and also embarrassment if guests or family members start adding shed loads of salt.

4. If your soup has cooled too much whilst you were seasoning heat it up over a low light then serve in a bowl (duh, wouldn’t be much good on a plate), if you want add a tsp of creme fraiche on top with a bit of parsley or rosemary (but watch it, rosemary is a very woody herb that preferably needs cooking before it can be eaten, so cut it up small if you are eating it raw). Or you could garnish with a bit of finely chopped chilli and a drizzle of olive oil.

And voila! Warm, comforting, yummyness in a bowl. Now if it’s all the same to you I’m going to get back to watching X-files…

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Bocconcini, wiltshire ham and rocket pizza

I made pizza once at Leiths and it was the most fun afternoon there. So seeing as it was my day off I invited a friend round and we cooked pizza together. It is really quite easy, just make a simple bread dough for the base and dump on anything you like and chuck it in the oven and you’re done!

 

 

Pizza base ingredients

 

Makes 2 rather large deep pan pizzas (mainly because I couldn’t roll it out to thin crust…)

450g/1lb strong white bread flour

30g fresh yeast  (which you can buy from Morrisons or Sainsburys) or a 7g packet of fast action yeast.

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Pizza toppings ingredients

 

half a jar of pizziola sauce

4 Bocconchini or 1 ball of (decent) mozzarella

2 slice of wiltshire ham

a large handful of rocket

or

whatever you so desire!

 

Pizza method

 

Now if you haven’t made bread before this is the best recipe to start of with. You don’t have to use it as a pizza base, you can use it just a one rise plan loaf and it is rather fabulous.

1. Sift the flour and the salt together. Weigh out 225ml of blood temperature or luke warm water. In a little bowl mix the yeast with a small amount of the water, dissolving it. If using fast action then just add it in to the flour.

2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the oil, the yeast mix and the rest of the water. Mix together to make a soft dough and knead for about 5 to 10 minutes. This is to distribute the yeast and develop the gluten, which makes bread all springy. To test if the dough is ready make a slight indent with your finger and the dent should spring back out. Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm, but not overly warm, say in the airing cupboard or the boiler until it has doubled in size.

3. Once it has doubled in size, cut it in half and then using a rolling pin roll the dough into a rough circle, do the same with the other half.

4. Place the dough on a baking sheet or a pizza stone (actually your pizza stone should already be piping hot in the oven and you should transfer your pizza to it using one of those wooden shovel things).

5. Spread the base of the pizza with a pizziola sauce (you can make one, but I honestly think lifes too short and that I could easily buy one from Marks and Spencer). Then just put on top anything you want, I added bocconchini, which is baby mozzarella which we use at work and which I also bought from marks and sparks. I seem to seriously be bigging up M & S here, but their food is fantastic. I then added some lovely wiltshire ham.

 

 

6. Once you’ve added all your toppings place it in the oven at 230C/450F/GM 8 for 5 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 200C/400F/GM6 and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until all the cheese is melty and the sides of the pizza are nice and crispy. Once it’s out chuck a handful of rocket on and then all you have to do is eat and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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How to Poach an Egg

Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA lately folks, had a small amount of work to do (just cooking a mere 8 mains, 3 puddings and a giant birthday cake for 60 people, all in a days work). So my brother came home last weekend furious because everytime he tried to poach eggs it went wrong and he would end up with a boiling pan of egg white or just an egg yolk left. Whilst there are many ways to achieve the perfect poached egg, from the cling film method to buying those dinky silcone egg poaching basket things, I still maintain the best and most satisfying way to poach eggs is with a ladle and a pan of hot water.

I can’t believe I still enjoy making poached eggs seeing as in my last exam at cookery school we had to cook a 3 course meal, plus bread and the examiners could walk up to you at anytime and say right I want poached eggs and hollandaise in 15 minutes and you would have to drop what you were doing and do it. That exam was the worse 5 hours of my life and those 15 minutes the most stressfull.

But anywho, poached eggs, firstly you need to know about the 4 grades of heating water,

1st Poaching which is the lowest, where the occasional small bubble breaks the surface.

2nd Simmering where lots small bubbles break the surface,

3rd Boiling where lots of large bubbles break the surface,

4th Rolling Boil where big bubbles come to surface at the edge of the pan and roll inwards towards the middle of the pan. This is the hottest, be warned.

 

Ingredients

 

An egg

 

Method

 

1. First have a pan of boiling water on the stove, make sure it is quite a deep pan, you need quite a bit of space.

2. Next turn the heat down under the pan until the water is barely moving and is at a poach.

3. Next take the egg out of the fridge. Now for the perfect poached egg you need the freshest and coldest egg imaginable. Fresh out of the chicken would do but seeing as for most of us that isn’t possible then eggs which you bought that day would do. you can also try the fresh egg test:

Fresh Egg Test

Take a fresh egg and a not so fresh egg and place them both in a bowl of cold water. The fresher of the eggs should stand upright, whereas the not so fresh egg will lie on it’s side. Technically. Moving swiftly onwards…

4. Crack your fresh egg into a ladle. Using a slotted spoon stir your poaching water to create a vortex. Just when the vortex is disapating, carefully pour in your egg using the ladle.

5. Now, technically the vortex should gather the egg white around the yolk and make sure it all stays together. You can help it along using your slotted spoon if you think it isn’t working. Once that is done the egg kind of sits on the bottom of the pan and you have to leave it in there for 4 minutes to get a perfect runny yolk. Then just whip it out and it should be a perfect tear drop shape.

 

 

All you have to do is enjoy with a toasted english muffin, a couple of rashers of bacon and hollandaise dribbled over the top! Nom nom nom.

 

 

If you want to do loads at once you can actually part cook the eggs seperately for 3 minutes the same way as described above, then plunge them into cold water (to stop them cooking). Then once they’re all done you just put them all back into poaching water for another minute and ta dah! Poached eggs for 20 no trouble!

Anywho, I will tackle making hollandaise from scratch another day, for now, just use the bought stuff!

I’m now off to make some sticky toffee pudding cupcakes seeing as it is national cupcake week. I’m kinda over the whole cupcake thing though. Infact according to the Independent on Sunday scones are the new cupcake, which means I’m ahead of the times seeing as my very first post was on scones! Unbelievable, there’s a first for everything I suppose.

Ta ta for now!

 

 

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The Almighty Cheese Sauce

Is it bad that I can’t spell my own blog name? But then I can’t spell much so that’s not much of a surprise…anywho, it’s all about cheese today.

When stuck for something quick for dinner I always turn to cheese. Be it macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, a cheese sandwhich, or occassionally just a block of cheese (I’m not joking I have done this before and I didn’t even have the excuse of being drunk).

Anyway I’m going to tell you how to make a simple cheese sauce. These measurements make a coating consistency sauce, Leiths words, not mine, so if you want it thicker, use more butter and flour…I think.

Melt 20g butter in a pan, briefly remove from the heat and stir in 20g plain flour, return to heat again and cook for a couple of minutes (this is so it doesn’t taste of flour). This is called a roux. Remove from the heat again and veeeery graaadually stir 290ml (1/2 pint) of cold milk into the hot roux until you get a smooth liquid free from lumps. (If lumps do occur get out your whisk and beat until they vanish.)  Next place the pan back on the heat and stir continuously until the liquid thickens and starts to boil, then season with salt and pepper and add a cheese of your choice, though cheddar or gruyere seemes to be the best. I haven’t put down an amount because it depends on how cheesy you want it, but it tends to take quite a bit. If the mixture is too thick for you then just add a spot more milk.

And voila cheese in sauce form. My mum and I often eat this with a spoon, my dad says it’s like eating branston pickle out of the jar. I tell him to shush.

Now just pour over cooked cauliflower (or any other cooked ingredient that goes with cheese) and place in a 180C/200C oven for 20mins or so, or pour over cooked pasta to make macaroni cheese.

 

 

Happiness in a bowl for me (oh and I chucked in cooked bacon and sweetcorn to make it extra yummy)

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