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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Scandinavian pickled cucumber

Scandinavian pickling is sweeter than what you would normally expect from pickled vegetables elsewhere, but nevertheless very tasty. You can of course pickle a variety of vegetables, rather than just cucumbers. I often make cucumbers and radishes. They are also ready within a couple of hours so even if you haven’t been very organised with the planning, can easily make them for your meal. This recipe is for light pickling solution, meaning delicate vegetables requiring short pickling time, for example vegetables with higher water content. Good general rule is vegetables you would eat raw.

125ml apple cider vinegar
125ml water
75g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 juniper berries (dried is fine)
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
~~~~~
1/2-1 cucumber
4-6 radishes

1. Boil all solution ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved (couple of minutes), then let cool.

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2. Thinly slice the vegetables. For this kind of slicing, I tend to use mandoline, as it will give you equally thin slices. On my mandoline I used level 0.5 for the radish, and 1.5  for the cucumber.

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3. Place the vegetables in a ceramic or glass bowl (metallic one can affect the flavour). Pour the cooled solution over the vegetables, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

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Plum and custard tart

I don’t bake and make dessert often enough, so I’m consciously trying to make more of an effort with this. I love this plum custard tart, and I think this would also be excellent with other fruits, such as figs. This is currently one of my favourite things I’ve been making quite a lot.

Pastry
200g plain flour
1 tbsp caster  sugar
1 tsp baking powder
125g butter, plus a samll extra piece for greasing your baking tray
1 egg
2 tbsp double cream
~~~~~
400g fresh plums
~~~~~
Filling
170ml double cream
1 egg
75g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence

1. Prepare the plums by quartering them. Discard the stones. I find the easiest way to get the stones off is to cut the plums with a knife placing the knife on top, pushing it in as far as it goes until it reaches the stone, then running it around the full way, until you reach where the knife started from. Do the same again in a way that it makes a cross at the top. This way the cut will be quartering the plums. You can then twist the pieces off, and cut the stone off the piece it has stuck to.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F (fan). Grease your baking tray with butter.

3. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl, then rub in the  butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

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4. Mix the cream and egg together, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir together until mixed into a dough.

5. Place the dough into the baking tray, and shape it equally to cover the tray. Arrange the plums on top of the pastry.

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6. Bake for 25 minutes. During the the baking time, beat together the cream, sugar, egg and vanilla essence.

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7. After the 25 minutes baking time, remove from the oven. Pour the liquid over the plums and bake for a further minutes until set.

8. You can serve the tart warm or cold.

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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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Apple pie

There are probably as many apple pie recipes, or variations of recipes, for this favourite dessert of many nations, than there are chefs and home cooks. The below recipe is one I like. Some people prefer more filling to pastry, some like more pastry. I think this recipe gives you enough of both.

Pastry
225g butter, room temperature

50g caster sugar, plus a little bit extra for sprinkling on top
2 eggs
350g plain flour
~~~~~
Filling

1 kg Bramley apples
150g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp plain flour

1. Prepare the pastry first. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until mixed. Add one whole egg, and one yolk, and save the remaining egg white for later. Beat together for one minute.The mixture will look a little bit like scrambed eggs at this point. Then add the flour little by little. Tip the dough onto floured surface, and finish working the dough by hand. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 45 minutes.

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2. Whilst the dough is in the fridge, prepare the apple filling. Quarter, core, peel and slice the apples. You want the slices to be quite thin, about 5mm thickness. Lay on a baking paper, and cover with paper towels. Let dry for about 30 minutes.

3. Mix the sugar, cinnamon and flour for the filling. Use big enough bowl, to be able to fit the apple slices later.

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4. Heat the oven to 170°C / 340°F. Cut 2/3 of the dough for the base, leaving the remaining third for the lid wrapped. Roll the base out, to be big enough to cover the pie tin, with a slight overhang. It may be a good idea to place the dough between two non-stick baking paper sheets when rolling it. Place into the tin, and roll out the lid.

5. Pat the apples dry, and put into the bowl with the sugar – cinnamon mix, and mix together well, so that all the apple slices are coated with the mixture. Tip it all onto the pie tin. Wet the pastry rim with water, using your fingers. This will help the lid to stick. Place the lid over the apples, and press edges together with the base. Stab 5 slashed with a sharp knife, and brush with beaten egg white. Sprinle with some more sugar, and bake for about 45 minutes.

6. Once baked and golden brown, let rest for about 10 minutes.

 

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.