Tag Archives: butternut squash

Butternut Squash Macaroni

We picked up a copy of Gennaro’s Italian Home Cooking recently to expand our repertoire of Italian classics. This book is all about BIG cooking – most of the recipes feed 8-12 people so we’ve had to scale things down a lot! This recipe jumped out at us as, even though we’re inching towards spring, we’re not quite ready to give up our beloved butternut squash yet. You can use any pumpkin or squash for this dish. His recipe made 8 servings so we decided to make half and freeze half of what we made, and we are so glad we did. We made a pretty special mac and cheese with the other half – unfortunately this was so exciting that we forgot to take photos!

Ingredients – serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1-2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/2 butternut squash (about 500g clean weight), cut into small cubes. We cubed all of our squash and froze half so we have that to look forward to sometime too!
  • Salt & pepper
  • A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 250g macaroni
  • (optional: a few drops of white truffle oil)
The truffle oil is sort of (but not really) optional
The truffle oil is sort of (but not really) optional

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and when hot add the chilli, garlic and rosemary. As soon as the garlic starts cooking add the squash/pumpkin cubes and stir well to coat in the lovely flavoured oil. Season well with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley. Turn the heat right down and cook gently for around 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the squash is almost cooked.

Chopped Squash

Add the stock in, turn the heat back up and bring to the boil, then tip in the macaroni and turn down to a simmer. Cook this until the pasta is al dente, stirring frequently. You may have to top up the water a little, we didn’t need to. This is where Gennaro’s recipe ends but we decided to make this dish just a little more luxurious! Serve onto warmed plates or bowls and if you wish, add a couple of drops of white truffle oil to each plate – pure decadence! The truffle made this dish for us, we tasted some of the reserved pasta in the pan which we froze and we definitely preferred the truffled up version. Serve with a side salad, we had ours with a lemon vinaigrette to cut through the richness of the truffle.

Squash macaroni cooking

This is such a lovely dish, we can totally imagine it being brandished with pride for a huge Italian family! It’s a nice trans-seasonal dinner too, it’s still quite wintery but not too heavy, perfect for these chilly spring days.

Squash Macaroni Done

Cumin-roasted Squash and Lentil Soup with “Tabbouleh” Dumplings

Soup is one of our easy meals, it usually takes less than half an hour – an hour at the most – and is a case of chuck it all in a pan (occasionally roasting it first)! This one is a little different though. It’s from the February edition of Olive and it is a bit faffy. Not one to attempt as a first soup recipe or if you’re tight for time! It is delicious though and we will definitely make it again. It probably seemed like more work than it was because we also baked two loaves of bread and made stock from a guinea fowl carcass at the same time – our little kitchen was working hard last night!

The soup itself is a lentil based soup with chunks of roasted butternut squash, chopped, fresh spinach and pine nuts and is flavoured with lemon and cumin. The real star of the show is the dumplings, Bird especially could probably just eat a whole bowl of these! They taste like tabbouleh in dumpling form which can only be a good thing. They are made from finely chopped onion, fresh herbs, cracked bulgar wheat, flour and a tiny bit of suet. Absolutely gorgeous! Fluffy, light and full of flavour, we’ll be making these again to go on lots of different soups.

Brown lentils are surprisingly photogenic! Photobombed by rosemary from another recipe...
Brown lentils are surprisingly photogenic! Photobombed by rosemary from another recipe…

Firstly cube the butternut squash into small cubes, coat in oil, seasoning and ground cumin and roast in the oven for around half an hour, turning once, until soft and lightly golden around the edges. Put half of this into a clean saucepan along with the lentils, the recipe suggested Puy but we had brown in so we used them. Cover with chicken stock, bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for around 40 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.

Squash for Soup

Meanwhile start making the dumplings. Bring a pan of weak chicken stock to a gentle simmer. Mix together equal weights of plain flour and cracked bulgar wheat, half the weight of suet and finely chopped onion along with coarsely chopped fresh parsley, coriander and mint. Season this mixture well and then bring together with cold water to form a dough. Like all dumpling mixtures it will be sticky so keep your hands well floured throughout! Roll the dough into small balls – slightly smaller than a golf ball – and then drop into the simmering stock to poach. You may need to cook these in batches as they need some room to move. They will take around 20 minutes to be perfectly fluffy.

Tabbouleh flavours in dumplings? Yes please!
Tabbouleh flavours in dumplings? Yes please!

Dumpling mix 2

After this time your dumplings should be just about ready and your soup should be too, using a stick blender give the soup a quick whizz up – you don’t want to puree it, you just want to thicken the liquid by breaking down some of the lentils and squash while still leaving most chunky. Then add in the rest of the squash you reserved and a couple of big handfuls of roughly chopped fresh spinach. Let this wilt in then stir in lemon zest and juice and toasted pinenuts. Serve up the soup and top with some pine nuts and the delicious dumplings!

Cumin Squash Lentil Soup Done

Would we make this again? Probably! It was delicious, but we would save it for a day when we didn’t have quite so much to do at the same time. We’ll also definitely be taking inspiration from it, those dumplings would be delicious in a delicately spiced chicken broth while the addition of toasted pine nuts to soup was a lovely one which we haven’t tried before. If you’ve never checked out Olive then you definitely should, we get tons of inspiration from it and their recipes nearly always work perfectly!

Couronne

We like a challenge, so, upon flicking through recipe books to find inspiration for last weeks menu our eyes were drawn to a beautiful work of buttery art in Paul Hollywood’s “Bread”. Before the latest season of The Great British Bake Off we (and probably most of the nation) would have never heard of a couronne. Now however we know that a couronne is a round treat made of soft, rich, buttery dough, which is usually sweet and stuffed with dried fruit or similar. The recipe we came across was for a savoury one, still rich, still buttery but filled with prosciutto, basil and oozy mozzarella – you can find the recipe here. It was lust at first sight and we put it straight on the menu for Saturday. We’ve made two enriched doughs before – challah and cinnamon buns so this is still fairly new ground for us. The dough is made entirely in a mixer with a dough hook because it’s so sticky and hard to work by hand, mainly due to the huge amounts of butter! This has a whole pack of butter in it. Hello cholesterol problems! But as an occasional treat it’s fine, and it’s so tasty that you have to think “sod it!”.

We’re not saying this is the easiest bread in the world, probably not the best choice for your first foray into yeasted bakes, but we’re by no means experts and it turned out beautifully! Bread, and especially enriched doughs, are seen as really scary by some people (i.e. us, just over a year ago!) but it’s one of the most therapeutic ways to spend an hour or two and you get something really delicious at the end of it. Anyway, enough wanging on, on with the main event!

First up: the dough. Your butter must be soft for this so we used an old Mary Berry tip (cheers Bezza!) – cube your butter and place in a jug/bowl of lukewarm water to soften it. The water shouldn’t feel particularly warm to the touch otherwise you’ll end up with a bowl of melted butter and water, just slightly warm. The strong white flour is placed in the bowl of a mixer with yeast and salt, and then milk and eggs are added. Use the dough hook to combine these and then, while it’s still running, slowly add the butter. This should take at least 5 minutes but ours took about 15 because our mixer isn’t the sturdiest! Once all of the butter has been added and there are no large streaks of it take it out and leave to rise in a large, oiled bowl for at least 1-2 hours until doubled in size.

Getting nice and stretchy.
Getting nice and stretchy.

When it has risen tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Don’t knock back, just roll out to a large rectangle (about 50cm by 30cm and about 1.5cm thick). Now’s the time to put the toppings on – we followed the recipe but because this one was a success we now can’t stop dreaming up new fillings! Anyway, for this one lay the strips of prosciutto over the dough trying to cover as much of it as possible. Then tear the mozzarella over and lastly tear the basil leaves over. Roll it up starting from a long edge so you have a large sausage of dough with the filling swirled in the middle. Now comes the slightly tricky part; slice the dough lengthways down the sausage and then grabbing the ends tightly twist it quite tightly so that you end up with a rope-like structure with most of the filling on the inside. Coil this into a circle and place on piece of lightly oiled greaseproof paper on a baking tray.

Couronne With Fillings

Couronne Before Baking

This beast then needs to prove for an hour or two until roughly doubled in size again. Preheat the oven to 200°C after about an hour of rising. When you’re ready to bake brush the couronne with a beaten egg and sprinkle on some grated parmesan, and pop in the oven for around 25 minutes. After this time you should be greeted by a golden monster, complete with oozy cheese! Leave it to cool for at least 20-30 minutes, it will still be warm after this time but not boiling hot.

Phwoar!
Phwoar!

We had ours served with the salad that was suggested in the book with spinach, roasted butternut squash, goats cheese, olives and spring onions and we added our own little crunch with toasted pinenuts. This was a brilliant dinner, it would be ideal for when friends are over too and what an amazing impression it would make when it landed on the table! We also had the couronne with tomato-based soups later in the week which was lovely too.

Bread filled with cheese, covering in cheese, served with cheese... what could be better?
Bread filled with cheese, covered in cheese, served with cheese… what could be better?

So give yourself a day when you’ve got time to give this recipe a bit of love and attention and give it a go, it’s so worth it, we would say for the sense of pride alone but the cheesy delight that you end up with isn’t bad either!

 

Quinoa Stuffed Butternut Squash

We’re back with one of our favourite autumn ingredients again – butternut squash. Bird stopped by the market again after ballet and couldn’t resist a huge squash (and this absolutely giant cabbage which we used in about 6 meals!).

What a beast!
What a beast!

We decided to stuff the squash with quinoa as we enjoyed the quinoa stuffed vegetables we made a month or two ago so much. We chose to spice up the stuffing with some chorizo and dried chilli flakes, adding courgette and spinach for some fresh greenery. We then topped them with a little smoked Applewood cheese which matched the smoky paprika flavour of the chorizo perfectly. This is one of those meals that can tick away nicely on a weekend afternoon and will make 4 portions – we had it for dinner and then lunch later in the week, but if you’re just cooking for yourself you would have a couple of dinners and lunches for about an hours work!

Ingredients (for 1 very large butternut squash):

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 50-100g chorizo, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 small courgette, finely diced
  • 5-10 sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 50g quinoa
  • 200ml chicken stock or boiling water
  • Spinach (fresh or frozen, we used 3 blocks of frozen)
  • Cheese (any good melter will do)

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Preheat the oven to 180°C. Using a large, sharp knife slice the butternut squash lengthways and then scoop out the seeds. Stab the squash a few times in the middle with the knife, not going all the way through, to help it cook quicker and then brush with a little olive oil. Pop them in a large roasting dish and whack them in the oven to cook. They should take about 30-45 minutes to cook depending on size, they’ll be ready when the flesh is soft all the way through. Meanwhile heat 1tsp of olive oil in a small saucepan and add the chorizo.

Chorizo sizzle

Let it sizzle away until slightly crisp, then add the chilli flakes, the sun-dried tomatoes and the courgette. Stir these to coat in the oil, add the quinoa and do the same until it starts to pop. Pour in the chicken stock and add the spinach if you’re using frozen – if you’re using fresh then wait until just before it’s cooked so you don’t lose all of the goodness. This will need to cook for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to start with and more frequently towards the end as the liquid is absorbed so that it doesn’t stick. Have a little taste at this stage and season it with salt and pepper to your taste.

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Once the squash is cooked and the quinoa mixture is ready take the squash out of the oven and (carefully because it’s hot!) scoop out most of the flesh, just leaving around 1 cm around the edge to keep the shape. Mix this flesh with the quinoa mixture and stuff back into the squash. Top with a small amount of grated cheese and then put it back in the oven for 15-20 minutes to let it all cook together and for the cheese to melt.

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Serve with salad and enjoy! This makes a brilliant lunch when cold, if anything you can taste all of the flavours even more.

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Coming Soon! Autumn and More…

It’s been a while! A week by my reckoning. Sorry we haven’t been posting, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been cooking – we’ve got some real treats lined up for our next few posts. Autumn is well and truly here in Bristol, so that means comfort food – stews, soups and squash are most definitely on the menu! Here’s a sneak peek…

Autumn Preview

Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and Sage Risotto

Carrying on with our autumnal meals, this really does taste like autumn on a plate to us! Squash obviously is an autumn treat, and paired with the nutty brown butter and the earthy bittersweet sage leaves it is exactly what you want after digging out your scarves and hats and kicking some autumn leaves around (or the less romantic but more accurate long-day-at-the-office that we were recovering from!). Risotto does take time and love but it’s so worth it for a plate of that oozy, sticky, delicious rice.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 5-6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 butternut squash, mostly diced into roughly 1cm cubes, but with some of the round end reserved and cut into slices
  • 200g arborio rice (or other risotto rice)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • About 1.5l of chicken stock
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take half the butter and add it to a wide pan over a medium heat. Let this cook until it turns a brown colour and smells nutty, then add half of the oil to stop it burning any more and the finely chopped onion. Turn the heat down to low and gently sweat the onion for around 5 minutes until it is softened and turning translucent. Shred all except 2 of the sage leaves, add to the onions and cook for another minute.

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Then tip in the chopped butternut squash and let it cook for around 10 minutes stirring regularly. Once the butternut squash has had around 10 minutes in the pan, throw in the arborio rice and stir around to coat in the oil, cook for 1 minute.

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Then chuck in the wine, let it all bubble up and absorb into the rice and then you can start adding the chicken stock. This has got to be done slowly, don’t add more than a glug/ladleful at a time and make sure that it has all absorbed before adding more. Keep stirring it as much as possible, beating up the rice encourages all of the gluten to come out which is what makes it gorgeous and oozy. Keep adding and stirring, and also sipping at your glass of white wine (you only used a glass in the dinner… it would be rude to waste it!).

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Meanwhile take the remaining sliced butternut squash, coat in the remaining oil and then place in a roasting tin in the hot oven. After the slices of butternut squash have had 10-15 minutes in the oven flip them over so they get golden on both sides, if they’re done long before the risotto they’ll keep warm in the oven, just turn it off and leave them in there. Our risotto normally takes at least 45 minutes of slowly adding stock and stirring, most recipes seem to suggest more like 20 minutes but we’re evidently very chilled out (it could be the wine). Anyway, keep testing it once it’s looking puffed up and close to cooked, you want the rice to still have a bit of texture and bite but no crunch! At this point take the remaining butter and brown it in a little saucepan and then add to the risotto – this may seem unnecessary seeing as you started off with brown butter but it’s such a great flavour which can get lost otherwise. Throw in as much or as little parmesan as you fancy and stir it over a low heat to melt in.

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The final step is to heat the remaining oil in the same pan you used for browning the butter, and once it’s shimmering throw in the 2 sage leaves you kept, letting them cook for about 10 seconds per side. Take them out and drain on a piece of kitchen paper – once they’ve drained and cooled slightly they will be very fragile sage “crisps”! So whack the risotto on a plate, top with the golden, roasted slices of butternut squash and delicately plonk the fried sage on top, and enjoy!  This dinner is like a big fluffy-jumper-cuddle on a plate, and can easily be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock and the parmesan with a veggie-friendly cheese!

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