Tag Archives: Comfort Food

30 Things to Eat Before You’re 30

I’m going to be 30 tomorrow and Charles will be too at the beginning of July. I’ve just treated myself to a MacBook (which is how we’re getting a chance to post some content for you again – sorry about the absence but my old Toshiba finally gave up when Cress pushed it off the sofa and bent the charging cable), and it’s got me thinking about that whole bucket list caboodle. But instead of writing you a list of 30 things to do before I’m 30, it’s going to be 30 things to eat before you’re 30 (I mean, it is a food blog, right?!).

30 things to eat before you're 30

1.A Deep Fried Mars Bar People give these such a hard rap, but really you ought to try one. For some reason they’ve become synonymous with ‘Scottish’ cuisine as if we’re all wandering around with them on a Friday lunch time, but I’d be surprised if the average Scot has had more than three in their lifetime, if any. That said, it’s not to be missed. If you’re down with eating ready salted crisps at the same time as a square of Dairy Milk, you should really order one of these bad boys. It’s like that, only hot, and meeting in the middle. Do it. Just do it.

Deep Fried Mars Bar
Photo Credit https://theculturetrip.com

2. Lobster Weirdly, this was Charles’ suggestion. I say weirdly because he is both too tight to actually buy lobster and allergic to fish (apparently) so he won’t be taking part in this one. My Mum, loves lobster. It was the ultimate in 80s decadence. But it’s all a bit too much for me. If you want to cook it properly, you have to be prepared for the wriggling in its bag in the car, the going in the freezer, the squealing and then the decapitation, and after all there’s the removal from the chill, trying not to cut yourself and then attempting to serve it up as something halfway to pretty. In any event, I find it all a bit too sweet and rich. Nevertheless, it should be on this list because, really, it’s for you to make up your own mind about.

3. Caviar Again, this is Charles’ pick, although I’m not sure either of us has had it. It has such a highly regarded cultural status, though, that really we ought to give it a go. Like lobster, it’s a foodstuff that has made its way into common speech so you should at least taste the stuff, right?

4. Snails Tastes like chicken, looks a bit like mussels, generally in a creamy sauce. Do the French actually eat snails or are they just something they can flog to tourists for top dollar?

5. A T-Bone Steak This is another pretty 80s one. Part fillet steak and part sirloin with a bone in the middle, it’s verging on an average supper for Desperate Dan. My Grandad was always keen on the idea of one of these, but surely if one part of the meat is cooked well, the other steak will be all sorts of wrong? Definitely man food.

6. A Really Good Chocolate Cake There’s chocolate cake and there’s chocolate cake and if you’ve had a really good one, you’ll know it. I spent years trying to perfect my recipe and I reckon it’s getting there. You should always have a knockout chocolate cake up your sleeve.

Chocolate Cake

7. A Hendricks Gin & Fever Tree Tonic ‘Nuff said.

8. Freshly Picked Watercress I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly had watercress but Charles and his Dad rave about it. They’re from the South East of England and apparently there was once a watercress farm (?) nearby where they would be able to pick up bags of the stuff, fresh as you like, and apparently it was pretty unmissable.

9. Hot Smoked Salmon on Oban Pier This, clearly, is one of mine. My auntie and uncle used to have a holiday home on the bank of Loch Awe, nestled in the foothills of Ben Cruachan. Spectacular views, barely any TV or mobile reception and 20 minutes from the nearest Tesco. One of the highlights was a Saturday trip to Oban, where there was the most fabulous fresh fish shack on the pier. They sold tremendous langoustines, dressed crabs an wriggly lobsters, but what In remember most is being introduced to hot smoked salmon there. The texture is totally different to regular smoked salmon, given that it’s been cooked and smoked at the same time. It’s beautiful. Although I’m not sure it would taste quite the same if you weren’t pulling your coat up past your ears to ward off the drizzle while watching the ferry come in.

10. Lardy Cake More Englishness here. It’s some sort of risen bread bun type substance, packed with lard and dried fruit. Apparently it’s delicious and best eaten on the first day before it turns stale and while the edges are still crisp. I’m yet to try one, but apparently they’re much healthier than they sound….

Lardy Cake
Photo Credit: www.goodtoknow.co.uk

11. A Krispy Kreme Doughnut You can love these, hate them, or feel something in between towards them but you really should try them. They’re synthetic, often too sweet and must be eaten fresh, but they’re an American import so we Brits have to go made for them. Our favourites are the Original Glazed, Lemon Meringue and Lotus Caramel Biscoff.

12. A meal at a Michelin Starred Restaurant Charles has got me convinced that this would be somewhat disappointing. And he probably has a point. Overpriced, notoriously small portions, and you can’t always pick what you want to eat. Still, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. Surely it’s a life experience you really need to be open to?

13. Lasagne in Rome If you thought you knew lasagne (no matter how delicious your homemade or favourite restaurant’s version is) you won’t know proper lasagne until you’ve eaten it in Italy. It’s a food cliché in some ways, but come on – homemade pasta sheets, Italian tomatoes, cheese and fresh herbs – what’s not to like? Interestingly, the version I had in Rome was constructed with about a dozen layers of pasta and hardly any sauce at all – it was carbalicious and just shows you really need to go back to the source with some things. Interestingly, the best thing I’ve had to eat in Italy was a wild boar ragú pappardelle in Florence….

14. A Proper French Baguette If you’ve ever spent some proper time in France, you’ll be overwhelmed by just how seriously the French take their bread. It’s like a religion and it’s glorious. Fresh every day from the local baker, or from the supermarket at a push (although French supermarkets are a million miles from the ones we’re used to, stocked with shelves of beautiful fresh bread, brioche, pastries, delicate patisserie and exquisite lemon meringue pies. even service station sandwiches are something to behold. What you don’t realise, however, is that the French rarely eat actual proper baguettes (which are much narrower and crispier than the ones we’re used to here), but rather gravitate towards flutes which are broader, longer and have much more soft bready insides than their more famous cousins. And don’t start me on French butter……

French Baguette
Photo Credit: www.Food52.com

15. Any Sort of Portuguese Pastry We’re getting into a bit of a travel theme here, but to be honest you really do need to travel to broaden your gastronomic horizons. I spent a couple of days in Portugal with my Mum a couple of Novembers ago. It was grey, wet and unbelievably cold due to a bitter wind blowing in from the Atlantic. but their Port houses are excellent and one thing I wasn’t expecting was just how good their pastries are. We went in search of shelter from the rain and a hot drink and stumbled into a cafe. Their coffee is strong and short – much like a Turkish coffee  – and it takes some getting used to, but I could eat their pastries all day. I know Portuguese custard tarts are pretty famous, but it doesn’t stop there. I had the most divine almond croissant that wasn’t quite a croissant type affair – powdered sugar on top, flaky and buttery and stuffed with almond paste. Don’t visit Portugal without trying at least a couple of their pastries. And their Port of course…

16. Greek Souvlaki Ok, a pause in the globetrotting (although my most memorable Greek food was a red snapper dish at a marina restaurant). Souvlaki looks and tastes wonderful, provided you like pork, bread and yoghurt, you’re in. I’ve made it a couple of times and it always seems a bit odd trying to make the meat turn white with vinegar and lemon juice, and it doesn’t seem like you’re packing in much flavour, but it is typically Greek with lashings of oregano, a skewer and a yoghurt dip. Try Aki’s Kitchen’s recipe for starters.

17. Your Own Homemade Bread You couldn’t expect a list of 30 things to eat before you’re 30 without your own homemade bread, surely? Bread making can take some time to master, but it’s so worth it. Try it on a rainy day and fill your home with the heady scent of fresh bread, then rip it open, barely cool enough to touch and load it up with butter and jam. Just try it. It’s a very satisfying experience. There are many things that just aren’t the same (even from a bakery) than making your own and gobbling them up fresh, and bread has to top that list.

homemade bread

18. A Spaghetti Sandwich This is probably not for everyone (or even for many!) but one of my childhood favourite lunches or snacks was a couple of slices of cheap white sliced bread, buttered and loaded up with hot Heinz spaghetti (you know the stuff that comes in a tin in that bright orange sauce?). It’s messy, it’s childish, it’s fiendishly unhealthy, but by gosh it’s moreish.

19. A Cheese Toastie This is probably one of those things that people will surprise you by saying they’ve never had before, but surely it’s the most basic comfort food. With good bread or bad bread, fresh bread or stale, cheap cheese or luxurious cheese, this is always going to be a winner in my book. Bonus points if you drizzle on some worcestershire sauce.

20. A Dominos in the car It’s not really proper pizza but it can be ruddy delicious. Eaten in the car on the way home from a long day in the city when you’re starving and a little bit chilly, it tastes even better. Or when you’re in the office on a bank holiday and you decide to treat yourselves. Bonus points if you plump for the garlic dip.

21. A Proper Burger Whether you make it or eat it somewhere where they make them properly, a real, honest burger is hard to beat. It needs to be made with good beef so you can serve it up rare, and it should ideally come with bacon, cheese and maybe an egg, a brioche bun and really good chips. Ooh and onion rings. If you eat out and they won’t serve your burger rare, they’re making it with poor quality meat – get out of there!

22. A Freshly Picked Tomato I can’t stand tomatoes, but apparently they taste best when they still smell like the vine and they’re slightly warm from the sun. This one suppose you either grow your own or know someone who does.

Freshly picked tomato

23. Homemade Pasta I used to be fairly scathing about fresh pasta, but if you make your own it’s an entirely different beast from the shop bought variety. Ravioli stuffed with your choice of filling, or spaghetti cooked in a buttery, white winey, herby sauce with a little chicken stock – and it really isn’t as hard to make as you would think. You do need a pasta machine though.

24. Your Own Victoria Sandwich Much like a really good chocolate cake, a freshly made Victoria Sandwich stuffed with tasty jam is a thing to behold. Learn how to make your own and you can whip one up whenever you fancy.Victoria Sandwich25. A Freshly Baked Scone See above…. Make them big, make them fluffy and add whatever you fancy (sultanas, cheese, cherries, chocolate..), spread thickly with butter and jam or dollop on some clotted cream. Now pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey

26. An Extreme Steak Sandwich Steak sandwiches used to be in my regular rota when I live on my own. You need a decent ciabatta or baguette, in my opinion. Minute steak works if you have a screaming hot pan. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with fried onions. Charles reckoned the CAU version is about the best you can get.

27. A Meatball Sub The meatball sub is iconic – and after hearing about them on Friends (you know Joey was mad for those) I couldn’t rest until I’d made one, complete with marinara sauce and melted cheese. I’m sure it’ll be on the list if we ever make it to New York.

28. A McDonalds Everyone knows someone who claims to have never had a McDonalds. I could go years without having one and be perfectly ok about it, but really you need to try a cheeseburger, Chicken McNuggets and a McFlurry at some point in your life. Rumour has it that you get fresh fries if you ask for them unsalted.

29. Eggs Benedict This is the king of breakfasts for me. In fact anything with a muffin and poached eggs is pretty excellent, throw in some bacon and you’re right on the money.

30. Exactly What You Fancy, When You Fancy It Tonight, I made burgers and garlic bread pizza. Because we fancies it and we had the materials and ability to make such a thing. It was epic. And that’s what life’s all about.

Garlic Bread Pizza

Cheers, guys!

(Leftover) Turkey and Ham Pie

I make this (leftover) turkey and ham pie every year to use up leftover Christmas turkey and ham, although it’s just as good with leftover roast chicken.  The Ham can be substituted for bacon, and you can even add sliced mushrooms and/or sweetcorn.  It’s ridiculously simple, you can make it in advance, and it’s sure to impress.  It is a little calorific though! You can switch the double cream for creme fraiche – we just had some to use up.

We had my father-in-law for supper and he was very enthusiastic about this little baby, and professed that I’d worked far too hard on it.  Little does he know how easy it is to put together.  In fact I quite fancy another one of these now….

Let’s dive in…

Turkey and Ham Pie

Turkey and Ham Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • A slosh of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tub creme fraiche or double cream
  • 1 Knorr chicken stock pot
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (ideally freshly grated)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • A couple of handfuls of cold roast turkey or chicken
  • Cubed ham or bacon, about a handful or two of that
  • 1 sheet ready roll puff pastry
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Start by slicing the leeks into narrow half moons. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the leeks. Cook them on a low to medium heat for around 10 minutes then add the wine and garlic.
  2. Cook those out and tip in the cream, then mix together. Add the seasoning, herbs and nutmeg and then the mustard and stock. Mix together and heat through.
  3. Add the chopped meat, and also some chopped mushrooms or sweetcorn if you fancy. Cook that all out for 10 minutes or so then see how the consisteny is. If the sauce seems a bit thin, mix the flour with a little water and pour a little in. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously and then check the consistency again. Repeat until the sauce is as thick as you'd like, then allow to cool completely. If you don't let the mixture cool it'll steam into the pastry and melt it from underneath.
  4. Tip the cooled mixture into a pie dish, casserole dish or pyrex dish.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180c fan.
  6. Cut the pastry to fit your dish, and use any scraps to make little decorations - I used a star cutter and twisted some strips for round the side. Beat the egg together and brush it round the edge of the dish. Place the pastry on top being careful not to let it dip into the filling. Press it down around the edges and cut a cross in the middle to let the steam out. Egg wash the top of the pastry and add the decorations then egg wash again.
  7. Put in the oven for half an hour or so and until the sauce is bubbling and the pastry has risen and turned golden.
  8. Serve up with some lovely veg and enjoy!
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And if you need to know how to roast that bird, we have some recipes for that too! Try our Clementine and Thyme Roast Chicken or Harissa Roast Chicken for something a little different.  If you want to try something really unusual, this Beer Can Chicken is really beautiful and can be eaten with salad in the summer, as well as taking about half the time to cook as a normal roast chicken.

If a pie isn’t your thing, this Chicken and Avocado Open Sandwich will use up your leftover roast chicken too.

Cottage Pie

Another page in the calendar has flipped over and the clocks have hopped back an hour, so it’s definitely time to dust off the casserole dish and make a hearty cottage pie. If you don’t know what a cottage pie is, it’s basically a shepherd’s pie, but made with beef mince instead of lamb – because for some reason or another, lamb and I just don’t get on.  The beef version is every bit as tasty, in my opinion, and it’s a little bit cheaper to make.

I’m sure most people have an old family recipe for cottage pie, or at least their own way of doing it, but I made one recently and thought I might as well throw my recipe into the ring.

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 large packet beef mince
  • 2 onions
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Knorr beef stock pot
  • salt and pepper
  • a pot of good mashing potatoes, such as Maris Pipers
  • knob butter
  • splash milk or cream
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • a few gratings of nutmeg
  • 200g mature cheddar

Instructions

  1. In a large frying pan on a high heat, brown off the mince in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan and risking it boiling. Colour = flavour! Reserve each browned batch in a bowl or plate to the side for the meantime.
  2. Finely chop the onions, grate the garlic and chop the carrots into quarter discs, and cook these off over allow to medium heat in the pan, until the onions have started to turn translucent.
  3. Transfer into a large saucepan or casserole pot and add the tomato puree. Cook that out for a couple of minutes, mixing into the vegetables.
  4. Add the mince back into the pot and add the herbs, cinnamon, Worcestershire sauce and stock pot, plus enough water to just cover the mince. Put a lid on the pot and allow to simmer over a low heat, stirring every now and then. If it's getting too dry, add a little more water, but we're not going to add anything to thicken it later, so don't go too mad.
  5. The amount of mashed potato you will need for the top will depend how big your casserole dish is and how deep you like your potato, so it's easiest to work that out by eye. Just start peeling and quartering your potatoes and stop when you think they'll make enough mash. It's not very scientific I'm afraid but it's how I do it!
  6. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender when prodded with a knife. Drain the water out then add the butter, cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mustard and mash until creamy and lump-free. That can be set aside with the lid on until you're ready to construct the pie.
  7. The mince should be given at least 45 minutes to simmer, but an hour and a half would be better.
  8. When you're ready to construct the pie, preheat the oven to 200c and grab a nice oblong or square oven safe casserole dish. Spread the mince into the bottom then carefully layer the mash on top, smoothing it out gently with a fork.
  9. When it's all nice and smooth, drag a fork through the top in furrows like a ploughed field. This helps to make the pie nice and compacted, but also gives the surface of the mash some texture, which will help it to crisp up in the oven.
  10. Sprinkle the cheese on top and then put back in the oven for at least half an hour, or until the mince is bubbling and the top is turning golden brown.
  11. Serve up with some lovely green vegetables and maybe some Branston pickle!
  12. Enjoy!
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If you liked this British classic, why not try Charles’ Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings?

Beef Kofta Feast

I may have told you this before, but there is nothing I love more than some sort of delicious meat served up with a dip or chutney, flatbreads and salad.  I don’t know if it’s the spice or the contrast in textures or the DIY element, but this mini feast has given me some of my very favourite ‘a little bit of what you fancy’ suppers.  These lovely little beef koftas are packed with flavour, and if you cook them just right they’re be deliciously juicey too. A great light alternative to a burger or a kebab, as well as being something a little different to make with that packet of beef mince.  You could even make mini versions to serve up with a dip at a party, if you were of a mind.

Beef Kofta Recipes

You will need (to make 4 koftas to fee 2 greedy souls)

500g beef mince

1/2 onion

clove garlic

2cm piece ginger

1/2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

black pepper

1/2 tsp dried parsley

dash Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp ground cumin

medium pot Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

dash lemon juice

pinch salt

salad vegetables of your choice

flatbreads or pitta – I used wholemeal pitta, which keep really well in the freezer

Wooden or metal skewers
Make Takeaway at Home

1 Chop the onion and grate the garlic and ginger.
Recipe Ideas using Beef Mince

2. Add the olive oil to a small saucepan over a medium heat.  Once it’s warm, throw in the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until translucent – don’t give it too much heat as you don’t want it to burn.  Set aside and allow to cool when ready.

Healthy Kebab 3. Bring the mince out to room temperature around half an hour before you want to use it if possible so it isn’t too fridge chilly.  Try to use good quality mince  – it’ll be less fatty, taste better, and be better for you – and a little goes quite a long way with all the accompaniments you’ll add in. Preheat the oven to 180c.

Light Dinner Ideas

4. Add the cooled onion-garlic-ginger mixture to your mince I a large bowl, then add the ketchup, mustard, parsley, 1 tsp cumin, pepper and Wprcestershire sauce.

How to Make Beef Koftas

5. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty here -just make sure they’re nice and clean in the first place.  Mix everything together well with your hands and you’ll be left with this lovely beefy mixture.

Barbecue Recipe Ideas

6.Now, grab your skewers!  I use wooden ones, so I make sure to soak them in water beforehand so that they won’t catch in the oven. Grab a quarter of the mixture and form it into a sort of thick sausage shape in your hand. Place the skewer in the middle then close your hand around the meat, squeezing it tightly onto the skewer.

Midweek Meal Recipes

7. Repeat with the remaining mince mixture and set the koftas out on a foil lined baking tray and stick them in the oven. They should take around 20 minutes, but check after 15 and turn over.

Supper Ideas to eat with Salad

8. Now put together a lovely, fresh, crunchy vibrant salad which will give a nice contrast to that meat, yoghurt and bread.

Recipes using Greek Yoghurt

9. Get your little pot of yoghurt ready.  You have two options here: do things properly and set out a lovely dip bowl for your yoghurt, or just mix it up in the yoghurt pot – which is what this scruffy girl went with (less washing up!). Epic spiced Yoghurt Dip

10. Chuck in the spices, salt and lemon juice, and mix, mix, mix.

Currid Yoghurt Dip Recipe

11. Remove the koftas from the oven when they’re ready to serve up.

How to Make Beef Koftas

12. Toast your pittas (a toaster works just fine) and serve everything up with plenty of napkins!

Tasty Healthy Meal Ideas

13. Enjoy your messy feast!

Chicken Shawarma

If you love street food, a bit of spice, juicey chicken and crisp salad, this one’s for you. Make it your own with your favourite salad items, a different bread, perhaps, or ditch the yoghurt for a chutney, but this is my favourite way to eat it and my ultimate comfort food.

This is such a satisfying supper, or even a weekend lunch for friends – perfect for putting all the extras in the middle of the table and helping yourselves. It is as delicious texturally as it is flavour-wise, and I know that when I’m in the mood for nothing else, this will do the trick.

chicken shawarma feast for one

You will need (to serve 2):

8 boneless chicken thighs

4 flatbreads, wraps or pitta (I used my own recipe flatbreads which add to the preparation time but make a real difference and can be made ahead of time)

A generous salad, such as lettuce, cucumber, ribbons of carrot, crisp peppers and avocado – something to add crunch and even more texture contrast

3 cloves garlic (or 2 if they’re very large)

Thumbsize piece ginger

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1/3 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp sumac (a lemony Moroccan spice you can buy in the speciality section of Tesco)

Dash lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Good glug olive oil

For the curried yoghurt (can be replaced by plain yoghurt, chutney or mayonnaise in a pinch):

150ml Greek yoghurt

Dash lemon juice

Pinch salt

3 tsp curry powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1. Prepare the chicken thighs by removing any fat and sinew – it’s easiest to do this with a clean pair of kitchen scissors. 
2. Grate the garlic and ginger into a medium sized bowl. Make the marinade by adding the dried spices, seasoning, lemon juice and olive oil.  how to marinate chicken 3. Add the chicken to the bowl and mix everything together. Add more oil if it’s too dry.  Set aside for as long as you can manage – at least a couple of hours, ideally, but if you’re short on time you can make your salad, yoghurt dip and set the table while the chicken soaks up the flavour. how to griddle chicken thighs

4.  Preheat the oven to 180c and put a griddle (or frying pan if you don’t have a griddle pan) onto a high heat on the hob. When it’s good and hot, place your chicken thighs onto the griddle, 4 at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan. I really enjoy cooking like this – the smell is gorgeous and you get lots of sticky caramelised edges. When one side is starting to catch, flip them over and repeat on the other side, then place on a baking tray for the oven to make sure they are cooked all the way through.

Meanwhile, mix the spices, salt and lemon juice into the yoghurt and that’s that ready for the table.  chicken shawarma recipe   5. Cook for about 20 minutes then remove from the oven. If you’re inexperienced with cooking meat , you may want to cut a piece open to check it’s cooked through. how to use up flatbreads  6. Serve up with the flatbreads, salad and yoghurt dip, and you have yourself the most wonderfully messy DIY sandwich. The flatbreads pictured are homemade (and so easy) but you can use wraps or pitta if you’d prefer something shop-bought. chicken shawarma recipe

Butternut Squash Risotto

The last few weeks have been a bit of a festive whirlwind with present-buying and wrapping sitting alongside Christmas baking and work, of course. But at last (hooray, hurrah) I’m off work until 29th December, so finally I have a chance to breathe.

Roasted squash risotto recipe

My first free evening was largely spent in the kitchen and on the floor wrapping presents, but I was feeling a bit more chilled than I have been and I’d bought a butternut squash at the weekend as an antidote to lots of meaty meals, so I thought I’d throw together a wholesome risotto for a bit of relaxation (yeah, I do actually find that sort of thing therapeutic!). This tasted so wholesome, comforting and filling without having to cook up any meat. You could so easily make this fully vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and if you use 80g of each vegetable, it can also make up 4 of your 5-a-day. Add whichever veg you fancy – it’s also great with roasted sweet potato.

Squash risotto recipes

As a bit of a warning, though, you’ll need about half an hour and a great deal of patience to make this dish. Once the liquid hits the rice, you’ll need to constantly stir it until it’s ready. Be prepared! I forgot about this part when I thought I’d be able to get a batch of mince pies ready for the oven at the same time!

How to make risotto
You will need:

Half an onion or a few shallots

1 clove garlic

Dash white wine or vermouth (optional but delightful; essential on a Friday evening)

80g carnaroli rice (or however much you care to pour in by eye – who has time for scales?!)

Chicken stock (a good cube dissolved in hot water and standing by or fresh if you’d like – I have a stock recipe coming soon)

A few florets of broccoli

Half a small butternut squash

Olive oil

A cupful of peas

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Salt and pepper

How to cook butternut squash

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200c, line a baking tray with tin foil and get ready to roast. Carefully cut the squash in half from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds. If you need a hand with how to tackle one of these beasts for the first time, there’s a quick rundown in my squash soup recipe. Once you’ve done that, place one half of the squash on the tray, sprinkle on the chilli and cumin, season and drizzle with oil, then shove it in the oven.

Chop the onion and garlic
2. Finely chop the onion and garlic.

Making a risotto baseI
3. Drizzle a little oil into a medium saucepan and place on a medium to high heat. Chuck in the onion and garlic and allow to soften, stirring every now and then.

Carnaroli rice recipes
4. Tip the rice into the saucepan to join the rice and stir around for about 30 seconds or so, until you hear the rice start to crackle and pop, then pour in the wine.

Winter risotto recipes

5. Cook out the wine until the saucepan is nearly dry. Now comes the stock. This needs to be added a ladleful at a time, cooked out whilst stirring the rice, then repeated. This process will take 20-30 minutes – risotto is traditionally served al dente, but I would recommend tasting it before serving up because home cooking is all about what you like. The stirring process is really important because it helps the starch to be released from each grain of rice, and it’s the starch which will give you a really creamy, unctuous risotto.

Why do you have to constantly stir risotto

6. About 5 minutes from the end, cut up the broccoli into fine florets and boil it up in salted water. When the rice is ready, add the broccoli to the saucepan, then stir in the frozen peas. A couple of minutes in the risotto should be enough to defrost and cook them.

Vegetable rice recipes
7. Check the squash. It should take 20-30 minutes to cook as well. It should be tender throughout and browning on the edges.

Easy squash recipes

8. Chop up the squash into chunks. You can remove the skin before or after cooking, but, like many vegetables, a lot of the nutrients the squash offers are in the skin, plus it turns sort of sticky and marshmallowy when roasted. So yes, you definitely can eat the skin on a butternut squash!

Can you eat the skin of a butternut squash

9. Serve up the rice and add the squash chunks on top so they stay crispy on the edges. Then enjoy! If you want this to be extra creamy, you could stir in a tablespoon of crême fraiche before serving, or even grate some Parmesan over the top, however that would seriously bump up the calories, and of course remove the dish’s vegan and vegetarian credentials, but the world is your rice bowl.

Roasted butternut squash risotto
I’d love to hear about your favourite risotto and your favourite way to prepare and eat butternut squash.

Vegetable Samosas

These are a bit cheaty, and a bit naughty, but the cheat sort of helps to stop them being entirely bad for you, if that makes sense, because it means using filo pastry instead of dense, floury, eggy pastry. 

  
You could of course use whichever vegetables you like best, but I picked potatoes, peas, onions and carrots because they are sort of traditional. In the same way, you can use whichever seasonings and spices you prefer. 

You will need, to make about 10:

1 onion

2 carrots

8 or 9 new potatoes or 2-3 larger potatoes

1 cup frozen peas

2 cloves garlic

Small knob of ginger 

Filo pastry

Medium knob of butter

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric 

1 tsp chilli powder

Salt and pepper 

You can make the filling in advance if you’d like, but you are dealing with vegetables so don’t let them sit for too long. I made the filling at around 2pm and allowed it to cool, starting the wrapping process at around 7pm. 

1. Slice the onions.

  
2. Peel and finely dice the carrots. Boil under just cooked. Then drain and set aside. 

  
3. Peel the new potatoes and boil them until just cooked. Drain and allow to cool, then cut into smallish dice.

  
4. Heat some groundnut oil in a pan. Add the onions and turn the heat down to medium to low. Cook out until translucent then add the ginger and garlic. Once those have cooked out, tip in the carrots and stir. 

5. Add in all of the spices and season well. 

  
6. Stir in and allow to h at through for a few minutes, then add the potatoes and repeat the stirring and cooking process. 

  
7. At the very last minute, add the frozen peas and stir until just thawed. The residual heat will continue to cook them. Set aside to cool.

8. If you’ve ever worked with filo pastry before, you’ll know to try to avoid a hot and dry environment, that you need to work quickly and that you need to keep moisture in. You could try laying it out on a damp tea towel, but as long as it isn’t too hot in the roo , the melted butter should keep it pliable.  Melt the butter then lay out the filo. Take a pastry brush and use it to lightly butter the first sheet all over, then cut in half – scissors work best for this. It’ll be much easier to work with and provide you with a neater finish if you use a whole sheet, but I was trying to keep the calories low.

  
9. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the vegetable mixture into the corner of one of your sheets and push into a sort of triangle shape. Then push your finger against the longest edge and flip over so that the pointe corner folds inwards.

  
20. Fold the edge in, then continue to fold and wrap the best you can. I admit that these didn’t turn out as nearly as I’d planned, but they were light and delicious so I’ll take that as a win! There are various tutorials on how to do this online, such as by forming a cone first then filling it, but I’m not that dexterous! Importantly, though, always remember to butter any piece you fold over so that it adheres well. 

  
21. Repeat until you have used up all the filling. Then quickly pack, seal and refrigerate any leftover filo. 

  
22. Preheat the oven to about 200C and line some baking trays with foil. Butter the samosas all over, on both sides, and place on the trays. Put in the oven and bake until nice and brown. This could take some time so be patient, and remember to flip over to brown the other side. 

  
23. Serve immediately with salad or vegetables and something to dip into, like chilli sauce, mango chutney or a spiced yoghurt. Once cook, you can refrigerate or freeze, and they are even better reheated the next day!

  

Sausage and Pepper Pasta

Leftovers and store cupboard recipes seem to be the order of the day just now (trust me, my bank account is a fan!) so here’s another of my favourite quick midweek meals which largely uses ingredients from the kitchen cupboard and freezer. Unfortunately, the only way to make these types of recipe work in a relatively fresh and healthy way is to add in some fresh vegetables, but they tend to be relatively cheap and easy to pick up at lunch time or on the way home. 

  
You will need: 

1 red pepper

1 onion 

1 clove garlic

1 tin chopped or plum tomatoes or passata

Salt and pepper

Oregano, parsley and basil, 1/2 teaspoon of each 

Pinch sugar

1tsp lemon juice

1tsp Worcestershire sauce 

2 sausages per person

Portion of pasta per person 

  
1. Heat a little oil in a saucepan. Slice the onion and pepper into fine strips and add to the pan. Add the crushed garlic and cook at a low to medium heat until softened. 

2. Add in the tomatoes and stir through. Add the seasoning, sugar, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Allow to simmer for as long as possible.

3. Put the sausages on a foiled tray in the oven and bake at 180C for around 25 minutes or until brown and cooked through.

4. In the mean time, put the pasta in a large saucepan, salt and cook until ready. Cooking time will depend on the shape of pasta you choose. 

5. When the sausages are ready, carefully cut into chunks and add to he sauce. Taste, and add further seasoning if required. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water from the pasta pot to loosen and emulsify the sauce. This really does make a difference! 

  
6. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce then mix through. I prefer to do it this way round to save getting two pots really messy, but make sure the pasta is well drained!

Buen Appetito!