Week Nineteen

This week is of course Halloween, I presume that with Covid it won’t be Halloween ‘as we know it’, as I can’t imagine ‘Trick or Treat’ around the houses will work, even masked up?  I will miss the sound of whispers and scuffles on my doorstep as the fancy dressed shyly summon the courage to ring the doorbell! Although, I must admit that almost every year I forget that the day of Halloween has arrived, so there is always a last minute rush to buy sweets for treats, and then more often than not, I end up with left overs which of course I ‘have’ to eat!…When I was growing up (all those many years ago!), ‘Trick or Treat’ was not as popular as it is these days, we definitely didn’t decorate our houses, and our fancy dress costumes were simply old white sheets with eye holes! However, I can still remember the excitement of being allowed out after dark, with my friends, to knock on the doors of our neighbours and of the fun we had guessing which of our friends was under each sheet, as we all looked the same! Anyway, enough of nostalgia and let’s talk about this week’s menus which of course I am linking to the idea of Halloween…pumpkins, or to be more exact ‘butternut squash’…. 

This week’s first menu is Halloween Chicken with Butternut Squash Mash, a recipe by Nina Parker. The chicken is roasted with beetroot, it is a lovely autumnal dish. The colours, with the butternut squash mash, are very ‘Halloweenish’ – so it would be the perfect roast for you to make this week for your very own, at home, Halloween party! Menu Two is Butternut Squash Soup, this has to be the easiest soup recipe ever. There are no ‘bells or whistles’, it really is a very simple recipe; butternut squash is so flavoursome, you don’t need to mess around with it – sometimes simple is best! For this reason I am also sharing it on my MenuMistress @Uni page. Finally a very autumnal pudding, Apple Gingerjack, a lovely warming, slightly spiced, stewed apple pudding which just requires a dollop of cream – and the really good news is that it’s totally gluten free!

…Happy Halloween!

…Plus, there’s a new review on my Eating Out page – we recently enjoyed an incredible dinner at the fine dining restaurant, The Five Fields, Chelsea, SW3 …

Menu One

Halloween Chicken with Roast Beetroot & Butternut Squash Mash with Sage (Serves 4-6)

This is a delicious roast chicken recipe, the beetroot is cooked beneath the chicken and so becomes really tasty having soaked up the chicken juices. You must serve it with the butternut squash (recipe below), as its sweetness really compliments the earthy flavours of the beetroot, plus it makes the dish incredibly colourful! Despite its name, this roast chicken recipe is not just for Halloween, it is a winner throughout the colder months!

I found this recipe on Nina Parker’s website, she is the also the author of one of my favourite cookbooks, ‘Nina’s St Tropez’.

1 chicken, approx. 1.8kg

3 red onions, sliced

5 beetroot, cut into 6ths

20 garlic cloves, skins on, lightly smashed with the back of a knife

2  lemons, 1 quartered and the other juiced

Small bunch of sage

4 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Place a few of the smashed garlic cloves, the lemon quarters, and a few sage leaves in the cavity of the chicken.
  2. Put a little olive oil in a large roasting tin and place the chicken in the centre.
  3. Place the chopped beetroot, sliced red onions and the remaining garlic cloves around the chicken. Pour over the juice of the lemon, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper – mix everything around to get a good coating.
  4. Place in a preheated oven, 190’c fan, for 25 minutes then turn over the chicken, and return to the oven for a further 25 minutes.
  5. Remove the tray from the oven, stir around the vegetables – remove any that are cooked and place to one side covered with foil. Turn the chicken back over to crisp up the skin, placing in the oven for a further 15 – 25 minutes by which time both, all of the vegetables and chicken should be cooked.
  6. Serve the chicken with the roast beetroot, onions and garlic and mashed butternut squash with sage (recipe below).

Butternut Squash Mash with Sage (Serves 4)

This is a recipe which I found in Leith’s cookbook ‘How to Cook’. Roasting the butternut squash instead of simply boiling it, makes all the difference – the flavour is much more intense. The browned butter (buerre noisette) gives the squash a delicious nutty flavour. This is a great recipe to remember as a side for other dishes!

1 large butternut squash (about 700-800g once peeled and cubed)

50g unsalted butter

A few sage leaves

  1. Peel, half and deseed the butternut squash, cut into 3 cm cubes and place in a bowl. Melt 10g of the butter and pour it over the squash, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Place in a roasting tin and roast in a preheated oven, 200’c, for about 45 minutes, until the squash is very tender – a knife should pass through very easily.
  2. Place the cooked squash in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Meanwhile melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. Cook over a moderate heat to a ‘buerre noisette’ – until it is a deep golden brown and gives off a slightly nutty aroma.
  4. Slice the sage leaves finely then add them, with the puréed squash, to the butter (buerre noisette). Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Menu Two

Simple Butternut Squash Soup (Serves 4)

This really is a straightforward recipe, no ‘bells or whistles’, it simply focuses on the lovely flavour of the butternut squash. You can use either vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Boullion Powder) or water. To serve, stir through a spoonful of créme fraiche and sprinkle with some chilli flakes and, if you fancy, as I often do, some freshly chopped sage. This is great served with either fresh crusty bread or gluten free ‘Oat Bread’ (recipe below).

1 butternut squash, about 700g when peeled and cubed

2 banana shallots, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

25g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

About 600ml vegetable stock or water (see note above)

Salt and pepper

To Serve:

Créme Frâiche

Chilli flakes

4 -6 sage leaves, finely chopped

  1. Peel, halve and deseed the butternut squash, cut into 3cm cubes.
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and garlic. Cook gently until softened but not coloured.
  3. Add the butternut squash, stir and pour over enough stock or water to just cover the squash. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until completely cooked  and very tender – a knife should pass through easily.
  4. To blend place in a food processor or use a hand blender (if you want a ‘looser’ soup add a little milk). Check the seasoning.
  5. Serve in bowls with a dollop of crème frâiche swirled through and a sprinkling of chilli flakes and freshly chopped sage.

Oatmeal Bread

425g rolled oats

A scant teaspoon of sea salt

2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons of mixed seeds

1 egg

500g natural yogurt

  1. Preheat oven to 200’c fan. Line a 900g/1Ib loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Mix together the oats, salt, bicarbonate of soda and mixed seeds.
  3. Whisk the egg into the yogurt. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Scoop the dough into the tin and bake for 50 minutes.
  5. Turn out of the tin and bake the loaf for a further 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Menu Three

Apple Gingerjack (Serves 6)

This is a great pudding from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, ‘At My Table’. Being gluten free, I often find it difficult to find wheat free ‘cosy, cake- like’ puddings but this recipe uses oatmeal for the topping so is totally gluten free! It is best served warm or at room temperature rather than hot – I’ve even eaten the leftovers cold for breakfast – delicious!!

I like to serve this with either double cream or clotted cream, but of course custard would be good too!

For the base:

15g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

750g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3cm chunks

For the topping:

200g Fine oatmeal (if required make sure it’s totally gluten free)

75g soft light brown sugar

4 teaspoons ground ginger, plus a extra ¼ teaspoon for sprinkling

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

250ml full-fat milk

125g unsalted butter, soft, cut into cubes

1½ tablespoons demerara sugar

Double or clotted cream, or custard (to serve)

  1. Gently melt 15g butter in a large saucepan (in which the apples will fit – not too heaped up), once melted add the syrup, stir well and then add the apples. Cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently , until the apples start to soften around the edges – have a fuzzy appearance. Pour into a pie dish.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the fine oatmeal, soft light brown sugar, 4 teaspoons of ginger and the bicarbonate of soda together, using your fingers to break up any lumps in the sugar.
  3. Using the same saucepan that you used to make the apple mixture, heat the milk and 125g butter together gently, until the butter is melted and the milk is almost at boiling point. Remove from the heat and, using a wooden spoon, stir in the oatmeal mixture beating until smooth – it will thicken a little.
  4. Pour the oatmeal mixture over the apples, spreading it out to cover them evenly.
  5. Mix the ¼ teaspoon of ginger with the demerara sugar and sprinkle over the top.
  6. Place in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, and bake for about 30 minutes until the apple is soft and the top has firmly set.
  7. Let it stand for about 30 minutes or more and serve warm at room temperature with double or clotted cream, or custard.

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