Roasted butternut squash soup

This soup is super tasty, and also pretty easy to make. Even though a couple of chillies are used, it’s not at all spicy. Butternut squash gives the soup a wonderful, sweet taste. This velvety soup is perfect for the approaching winter.

1 butternut squash
2 onions
1 garlic clove
2 chillies (I use green chillies)
900ml vegetable stock (I use Bouillon powder)
100ml double cream
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
black pepper and salt to taste

1. Peel and chop the butternut squash, and discard the seeds. Preheat oven to 180°C (355°F). Place the pieces in an oven dish, and sprinkle half of the oil on the pieces. Roast for 30 minutes. Half way through, turn the pieces.

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2. While the squash is in the oven, put the rest of the oil and the butter in a pot. Peel and chop the onions to large pieces. Cut the chillies in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds and the pith. Finely chop the chillies and peeled garlic. Place onions, garlic and chilli in the pot, and fry on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring, until the onions are soft and translucent.

3. Once the butternut squash pieces are done in the oven, add them to the pot, together with the hot vegetable stock. Let cool for a while, before whizzing into purée.

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4. Pour back into the pot, reheat, add the cream and season to taste.

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Homemade chicken stock

I take great pride for making most things from scratch. I would say a general rule is that homemade is always much tastier and healthier, whatever it is. Please don’t be put off making your own chicken stock even though it does take quite a while to make; after the initial steps it won’t need much attention from you, and you can use the remaining cooking time doing other things. The absolute key to a good, flavoursome stock is bones. You must, must, must use chicken on the bone, and for richer flavour you do also want to ensure you have some meat. I usually use chicken legs, drumsticks and wings. Once the cooking of the stock is finished, you can  remove the meat off the bone and use it for other meals. Once cooled, I freeze the stock in portion sizes. Since I started making my own stock, I hardly ever use shop bought ones anymore, those are now in my cupboard merely for back up for when I’ve run out of my own. I often make a double batch of the recipe, as it does take quite a long time to make.

1 chicken leg
475g chicken wings
500g chicken drumsticks
3 liters water
1 celery stick, chopped into big pieces
1 carrot, chopped into big pieces
1 medium onion
~15 black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp sea salt
~~~~~
I sometimes make a Chinese variation, and replace the celery, carrot, onion and bay leaves (use the other remaining ingredients) with

1 thumb size piece of root ginger, sliced
4 spring onions

1. First, place the chicken and water in a large pot, and bring to simmer. Bare in mind that for the best results, the stock shouldn’t boil at any stage, only simmer.

2. ‘Scum’ will start coming to the surface of the stock. Keep skimming this away, however don’t stir or disturb the stock otherwise. I use a slotted spoon for this. At this stage, it’s important to give the stock attention.

3. Once there is no more scum rising to the top (this can take about half an hour), you can add all other ingredients. Then cover with lid, and set the temperature to a low simmer, making sure it doesn’t boil. Cook for 3 hours.

4. Strain the stock through a sieve. I tend to also use muslin, to get rid of even finer impurities.

5. If freezing some of the stock, let it cool. Portion into containers, and put in the freezer. Work through all the wings, legs and drumsticks (by hands) to remove all the meat. If not using straight away, freeze in portion sizes. You will get quite a lot of meat out of them, don’t waste them!

Moussaka

Greek food somehow seems to often get forgotten in my kitchen, as well as when dining out. There is no particular reason for it, but it just doesn’t seem to be an obvious first choice. Apart from moussaka that is, which is a dish I make quite regularly.

3 aubergines (eggplants)
~~~~~
2 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 green peppers
bunch of parsley
50ml olive oil
25g butter
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp oregano
1 dl tomato puree
4 dl water
500g minced lamb
~~~~~
3 dl milk
2 1/2 tbsp plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs

1. Finely chop onions and parsley. Cut the green peppers into small pieces.

2. Fry the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the chopped green peppers and parsley, squeeze in the garlic and fry for 5 minutes.

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3. Add butter, salt, pepper, oregano, tomato puree, water and the lamb. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the taste, add more salt and pepper if required.

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4. Mix the flour with the milk, and heat until the mixture thickens. Pour the eggs in whilst mixing, and season with salt.

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5. Cut the aubergines lengthwise, to about 1cm thick slices. Use half of them to layer bottom of an oven casserole dish. Add the lamb mixture, and put a layer of aubergines on top. Pour the white sauce over everything.

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6. Cook in preheated oven 190°C / 375°F  for 45 minutes.

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Scones

Scones are very British, and traditionally eaten with afternoon tea. Go anywhere for your high tea, scones will be served after your finger sandwiches, before the cakes. You will usually have a selections of ones without raisins, and ones with them. I personally tend to prefer the ones without. I’m a big fan of using buttermilk in baking, and I do use them for scones as well. Scones are traditionally served with some jam and clotted cream (I normally prefer whipped cream). There is a long standing debate about whether the jam goes on first, followed by the cream, or vice versa. One thing is for sure: they are indeed very easy to make, and you will be wondering why you never made them yourself in the past!

makes about 10-12

350g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter, cut into small pieces
180ml buttermilk
~~~~~
clotted / whipped cream
jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F (fan).

2. Measure together the flour and sugar, and mix. Add the butter pieces. Rub together, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the buttermilk, and mix together into a dough.

3. Place the dough on a floured surface. I tend to cut the dough into half, to make it easier to handle the dough when making the scones. Shape it into a ball, and flatten with your hand. Finish flattening with a rollin pin, until about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick. Cut out the scones. I use a glass that is about the size I want the scones to be, about 5cm (2 inches) in diameter. Repeat with all the leftover dough, to use it all.

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4. Place on a non stick baking paper and baking tray, and bake for about 12 minutes. After the time has passed, you can check they are cooked through by piercing one with a metal pin. If nothing sticks to the pin, they are cooked.

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5. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut in half and fill with jam and cream.

My weight loss journey series: vol 7 – Problem of becoming complacent

It has been a couple of months since my last post. My weight has only been creeping down a little bit, before coming to a halt. Currently my total weight loss stands at about 13kg (28.66 lbs).

The weight aside, how about my waist measurement? To my amazement, it has gone down by 10cm (4 inches), however, it only became reality in it’s all glory when I put the old measurement around my waist. Only then I realised how much it actually means! My husband found it difficult to believe the starting measurement was correct, as did I, as it looks like such a big difference. So even though the weight hasn’t moved down by a lot in the recent months, there still has been some amazing development.

Now, what are the reasons why I haven’t been able to shift the weight as according to my targets in the recent months? I hold my hands up and say it’s because of my own doings.

I’ve become complacent because of my to-date success, and very relaxed with my diet. As the scale is showing great numbers as opposed to the starting weight, as well as the tape measure, and I’m wearing smaller size clothes, I’ve become happy about the current weight, and have taken my eye off the ball.

As I’m not anywhere close to where I should be, I must get back to being strict again. It’s not always easy. As I’m on a journey that takes a long time, it’s hard to keep going. My journey has been knocked back by a few months, which means it’s now going to take a lot longer for me to reach my targets, however I’m still determined to get where I want to be.

Hopefully in my next post I have regained some new energy and have been able to get another kick-start.

Butternut squash tortellini

I don’t often cook full vegetarian meals (I should try to do it more), but at the end of the day, as long as the food delivers on flavour, it doesn’t really matter what it is. These vegetarian  tortellinis filled with butternut squash definitely do just that.

Serves 4
1 butternut squash
250g fine white wheat flour (00 grade is best)
2 large eggs
3 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 onion
50ml double cream
50ml pine nuts
1tbsp olive oil
salt
black pepper

1. Peel and cut the butternut squash into cubes. Place half in a pot with two cloves of garlic and the thyme sprigs. Cover with a lid, bring to boil and simmer until soft (around 20-30 minutes), drain the liquid in another pan, saving it for later.

2. Peel and chop the onion, and place in the same pot the squash was cooked in, together with the olive oil. Heat and fry the onion for a few minutes. Squeeze one clove of garlic in, and fry for another minute or so. Remove the thyme sprigs and whole garlic cloves from the cooked butternut squash pieces, and add the butternut squash to the pan. Stir together, and set aside to cool.

3. Bake the remaining half of the squash pieces in a preheated oven 180°C/355°F for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

4. Prepare the pasta.  Measure the pasta flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and pour the eggs in. Then, starting with a fork, break the eggs and little by little mix the eggs with the surrounding flour. Once the dough gets firmer, move onto kneading by hand.

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5. Once cooled, prepare the filling. Put the boiled squash pieces,  fried onion and garlic in a blender. Add half the cream and half the pine nuts, then blitz together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Cut the dough into four pieces. Repeat the next stages with all pieces. Roll the piece to a cigar shape, then flatten the piece with your hands, and roll through the pasta machine, on the widest setting. Fold the dough over in half, and roll through the same setting again. Then reduce the setting to the next, and roll through. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. I would say from 7 down to 2 should be fine.

7.  Cut your pasta. Brush half of the pasta round with egg, and add the filling (make sure it’s cooled). Fold the other half of the pasta over, and close with your fingers, pressing the pasta firmly together. Make sure you don’t leave air in.

8. Boil a large pan of water, with a generous amount of salt. Add the tortellini to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.

9. Bring the saved cooking water of the butternut squash to boil in a separate pot. Reduce to about half. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add 25ml double cream. Mix the oven roasted squash pieces into the sauce.

10. Serve the tortellini and the sauce together with the rest of the pine nuts sprinkled on top, and with some pea shoots and grated parmesan cheese.

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Restaurant review: Adam Handling Chelsea, London

My husband and I have been fans of Adam Handling ever since he was on Masterchef UK back in 2013 (he came second, however we always thought he should’ve won). He was back then, and still is, an exciting chef, someone whose career one wants to follow. He has quickly built an empire of restaurants and bars, and I suspect he’s only getting started. We were delighted when we learned he was opening a restaurant in Chelsea (or should I say Knightsbridge), simply called Adam Handling Chelsea. Adam has a great eye for detail, is experimental and creates great flavours, and even holds a few surprises up his sleeves.

For those who haven’t read my reviews before, my rating is from 1 to 5, however hardly any place has gotten the full marks from me. 1-2 would be somewhat disappointing, 3 would be good, and 4 very good. 5 would be exceptional, and is only reserved for the few, very best places.

We made our reservation few weeks in advance. Two days before our booking we were contacted by the restaurant that they now had a private event in the restaurant, however we could still have our lunch at the lounge area. This was at first somewhat disappointing, because we had really been looking forward to seeing the restaurant. It has to be said that the all of the staff were very professional in the way they dealt with the situation. We decided to still go ahead, as the food was still the restaurant food.

Because of the whole situation, we were being offered a 4-course menu complimentary. We had, however, been planning on the 7-course Tasting Menu since we made our reservation. The staff and the kitchen were kindly very flexible and accommodating to our wishes, and we were able to go for the Tasting Menu.

After our lunch, we were able to go and see the actual restaurant too, and look forward to eating there next time, it’s a lovely and beautiful space.

The bar and the restaurant both have a great feel to them. Smart and sophisticated, and at the same time they don’t feel pretentious, but relaxed and comfortable. The staff looking after the bar and the restaurant were great, and very welcoming.

First we were served sourdough bread and little doughnuts filled with béchamel sauce, topped with parmesan cheese and truffle. The doughnuts were soft and fluffy, and the taste was nice. The sourdough was nice and soft, and just as it should be, and as in all my reviews, there is always the butter test, which Adam Handling Chelsea passed with flying colours. The normal butter, as well as the chicken butter were both beautifully soft (there are not many things I hate more than hard butter that’s impossible to spread on fresh bread). I didn’t, however, get the chicken flavour from the chicken butter.

Next came the Amuse Bouche of foie gras mousse filled cigars (loved the flavour of this), and crab ‘tarts’. The foie gras mousse was subtle in flavour, however, wonderful. The crab flavour in the tarts was quite strong, and I didn’t taste much anything else.

First actual course was scallop ceviche with fermented tomato, kohlrabi and yarrow. It was very nice, the kohlrabi was wonderful. Personally I prefer cooked scallops, I find the raw ones somewhat bland in taste. Paired wine was creamy rather than sharp, and was nice, easy drinking wine.

Second course was butter-poached crab, carrots and sorrel. The carrots were prepared in two different ways. The pickled, grated carrots were quite overpowering, perhaps a little too sharp on the vinegar. Otherwise the dish was great. The crab meat itself was beautiful, soft and moist, and very subtle in flavour. The white sauce worked perfectly with the crab. Paired wine was easy drinking, and not as sweet as you would often think Riesling would be. It was creamy and buttery, but with some sharpness to it at the same time.

Third course was veal sweetbread, morels, peas and wild garlic. I loved this dish, it was the best one until that point. I find that with sweetbread you won’t always know whether it’ll be good or not. I’ve certainly had some that weren’t great in the past, and a couple of times when it has been cooked really well. I would say this was the best sweetbread I’ve had anywhere. The flavours as well as the texture of the sweetbread were great (yes, I’ve had sweetbread in the past where the texture was off putting). For me, this dish was one of the best of the whole meal. My husband felt this was a little bit too salty. I didn’t think so, and I’m usually the one who finds food more salty than him. All the flavours were perfect together. Paired wine was great: I’m a fan of oaked white wines, as they have more complex taste, like this had too. A wine we would go and buy for home.

Fourth course was John Dory, broccoli puree, cuttlefish, oscietra caviar and whey butter. The fish was cooked really well, and the flavour of the fish as well as the broccoli puree were really good,  however there was an overpowering bitter taste, which we thought might have been coming from the orange peel (finely grated), however not sure if that was the source. We both agreed this was our least favourite dish of the meal, and we probably wouldn’t order it if it was an option on the a la carte (it’s not). Paired wine was a more full bodied white wine, with a lot of character, another one we would definitely buy for home. The wine also had an interesting flavour development, getting a bit of a liquorice flavour.

Fifth course was Wagyu beef. I’ve had Wagyu beef before, however this was the best of them so far. The meat was served medium rare which was perfect, and the pieces of meat really showcased what the hype about Wagyu is all about. The meat was unbelievably tender and velvety, and melted in the mouth. This was my husband’s favourite. He originally had reservations because of the pickled cucumber (because of the too sharp pickled carrots with the crab dish), however the cucumber was fantastic. The flavour of the blue cheese and celeriac purée might be something to divide diners. I thought the pickled cucumber, the blue cheese and celeriac flavour together with the gorgeous beef all married together perfectly. Paired wine was fruity and full bodied on the nose, and the taste was dry and sharp with tannins. On the palate, the taste of the wine goes away quite quickly.

Sixth course was the first dessert of yeast parfait, earl grey ice cream, pickled granny smith, honey and star anise beignet. The dish was excellent, and all the flavours went together very well, however I didn’t get the star anise taste from the beignet. Paired wine was floral and sweet.

Seventh course, and the last of the desserts, was compressed cucumber, burnt basil and dill. These ingredients were joined with white chocolate ice-cream. The dish was wonderful. All the ingredients and flavours worked together really well, building a really tasty and fresh dessert. The dish was paired with a fresh, subtle flavoured sparkling wine.

Everything was followed by petit fours, all of them nice, but if you want to save the best till last then eat the little chocolate muffin last.

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I can see this restaurant becoming very popular.

Rating: ★★★★☆