Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.


Gratin of Mediterranean Vegetables

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then,
Poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing,
Poor thing.

And if he has any sense he’ll make himself up a big batch of this winter-warmer. As the weather starts to take a turn for the worse, this is a great dish to throw together when you’ve just arrived home, wet and cold, from work. You can experiment with the filling too, using whatever you might have in the fridge to save yourself going back out to the shops in the cold! The quantities below serve 2-3.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Cut an aubergine into 1cm slices, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 15-20 minutes. Rinse to remove the excess salt and pat dry with kitchen paper. Peel a couple of tomatoes and cut into thick slices. Slice a courgette at an angle in 1cm slices.

Drizzle a baking dish with a few spoons of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle in some chopped spring onion and some chopped herbs (rosemary, thyme or marjoram are all lovely in this dish), arrange the aubergine slices alternately with the tomatoes and courgette. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle over some more herbs. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.

While the vegetables are cooking, make the crumb topping: melt a knob of butter in a pan and stir in about 50g of soft white breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool. When the vegetables are cooked, mixed some grated parmesan in with the buttered crumbs, sprinkle over the top of the vegetables, and brown under the grill before serving.


Sausages with Celeriac Puree and Braised Shallots

This is a slightly upmarket version of the traditional supper of bangers and mash. Try to source really good sausages for this dish – Hugo Arnold recommends using Toulouse sausages, who’s casing is made from caul fat. A staple part of the Irish diet, there is an almost innumerable amount of different regional variations and specialities of sausages. The greatest variety can be found in Germany, home to over 1,000 different types of sausages!

Peel a head of celeriac and roughly chop into equal sized chunks. Place in a saucepan of boiling, salted water along with an onion studded with 4 cloves. Cook until tender, drain, remove the cloves from the onion and liquidize the onion and the celeriac. Beat in 4 tblsp of olive oil and enough milk to form the desired consistency. Set aside and keep warm.

Fry 8 sausages in a little oil until cooked through and keep warm.

Put 450g peeled shallots in the same pan, coat throughly in oil, cover with tin foil, lower the heat and cook until tender, about five minutes. Remove and keep warm.

Drain any excess oil from the pan, add 300ml cider and reduce, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan until the liquid becomes a syrup.

Serve the sausages with the celeriac and the shallots, and pour over the cider gravy.

Bread of the Week – Irish Soda Bread

A traditional Irish Soda breads is one of the simplest breads to bake. It’s important to measure the bread soda meticulously – use a knife to level off the spoon if you don’t own measuring spoons.The bread soda acts as the raising agent by reacting with the lactic acid in the milk to produce CO2, which raises the bread. Like the Basic White Yeast Bread from last week, this recipe comes from the November 2011 issue of Food & Wine Magazine.

Preheat the oven to 185degC. Sieve 450g plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tsp bread soda and 2 tsp cream of tartar into a large bowl.

Cut 50g chilled butter into small cubes, then rub into the flour for about a minute. Pour in 350ml buttermilk to make a soft dough. If the dough is a little dry, add more buttermilk (or a sprinkle of flour if too wet).

Put the dough on a lightly greased and floured baking tray and shape into a large round. Score the top of the dough with a cross. Dust with a little flour and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. To check if the bread is done, tap it on the base. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready.

Banana and Cinnamon Cake

A rare treat, a guest contribution. The recipe and these photos were sent in by man of the people and friend of the stars Conor Sreenan. The recipe can be found on Nigella Lawson’s website here, and Conor tells me that he whipped it up in about 20 minutes. Knowing Conor’s exemplary character as well as I do, I don’t doubt him for a second. He also advised me that he substituted the plain flour for stone-ground wholewheat – sounds delish to me, I’m looking forward to Afternoon Tea in Conor’s house soon!

(clicky on images to embiggen…)


Beyond the Bottle – Goan Coconut Gobi

This recipe is a really economic way to use up leftovers from three staples of a baby’s diet – cauliflower, broccoli and green beans. Good work Mrs Feast who found the recipe and cooked a delicious dinner! Most of the other ingredients are store-cupboard supplies, so you shouldn’t have to buy too much to make this one-pot wonder. The recipe comes from the BBC website, and is a traditional Indian vegetable dish.

Pumpkin and Rosemary Muffins

These savoury muffins were a flavoursome accompaniment to the Pumpkin and Chilli Soup, as well as being an economic solution to using up leftover pumpkin at Hallowe’en! The baking paper cases can be a bit fiddly, but you can just use normal muffin cases if you prefer. Lorraine Pascale does use the word “scrumbunctiousness” to describe these in her Baking Made Easy book, which is a pretty good point of reference for their moist, light texture.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Cut out 12 squares of baking paper, approx 14x14cm each. Oil the muffin tin and push the squares down into each hole so the paper sticks up. The squares of paper have a habit of popping up out of the holes, which is OK for now as once the muffin mixture is spooned in the squares will stay down.

In a large bowl, sift 180g self-raising flour, 130g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp baking powder and half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda together, then stir in a good pinch of salt and 3 sprigs of rosemary, very finely chopped. Put aside the wholemeal husks that will be left in sieve, as these will be sprinkled over the top of the muffins.

In a medium bowl, mix 160g of cooked pumpkin (cut into .5cm dice), 2 lightly beaten eggs, 100ml plain yoghurt, 275ml milk, 3 big squidges of honey and 60ml vegetable oil – stir well until they are all combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and, using a large spoon and about 8 turns, mix all the ingredients together. It does not take much to over-mix muffins at this stage and although the end result will still taste sublime the texture will not be as tender. Leave the mixture to stand for 5 minutes, then spoon into the paper cases.

Sprinkle the leftover wholegrain flour, 80g of diced pumpkin, and a few pumpkin seeds over the muffins. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the muffins are risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cream of Pumpkin and Chilli Soup with Glazed Pumpkin Seeds, Croutons and Chives

I have two pumpkins to carve this year, so that means loads of tasty pumpkin flesh to make a variety of dishes for this Hallowe’en. First up is a pumpkin soup, from a recipe that appeared in the October 2011 issue of Food and Wine Magazine. Kashmiri Chilli is recommended for this dish, but you can use any mild chilli. This soup is quite hot and spicy, so adjust the amount of chilli as per your preference.

In a large thick-bottomed pot, melt 100g butter over a low-medium heat. Add the flesh from a large pumpkin (or two medium pumpkins) , a peeled and finely chopped clove of garlic, and 4 peeled and finely chopped shallots. Allow to sweat gently in the butter without getting any colour for about 6-7 minutes, or until the edges of the pumpkin pieces are starting to soften nicely.

Add 2 tsp of dried Kashmiri chilli, 2 tsp of ground coriander and 1 tsp turmeric powder and cook for a further minute. Add 1 litre of vegetable stock and cook for 5 minutes more.

Add 200ml cream, 30g grated parmesan and 1 tsp black pepper, then bring just to the boil and remove from the heat. Pour the soup into a food processor or whizz with a hand-blender to a smooth consistency.

Dry roast the seeds in a non-stick pan until just toasted. Cut a handful of stale bread into small cubes and gently fry in about 250ml of rapeseed oil (I used olive oil) until they’re golden brown, then season with fresh pepper and salt.

Pour the soup into bowls then sprinkle the top with croutons, seeds and finely chopped chives.