Updated: Jan 17
Six things I'll be cooking this month: two weeknight plates, two which are a bit more decadent, a brunch and a bake.
1) Squash Soup
The blush of summer fruits and the riot of green veggies we enjoyed over the summer already feel like a distant memory but there is still one defiantly colourful vegetable on our supermarket shelves: pumpkins and squashes. I'm not going to try and start reinventing the wheel here because a bowl of warm, smooth pumpkin or squash soup really can't be beaten.
Serves 2, plus leftovers for lunch
2 small squash - any variety
3 cloves of garlic
1 white onion
600ml chicken stock
rosemary and sage
paprika and chilli flakes
cream or creme fraiche
To make my soup, I chop the squash into wedges and put them on a big baking tray. I douse it with a glug of olive oil, season with salt pepper (and sometimes a little paprika and chilli flakes) and chuck in a few garlic cloves - skin on. I then pop it into a pre-heated oven at about gas mark 6 (200c) and roast it until soft. This usually takes about 30 -40 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice a white onion and soften it in a large saucepan with some chopped rosemary and/ or sage (I usually throw in a bit of carrot or celery too if I have some lurking in the fridge). When the squash is cool enough to handle, slip the soft orange flesh from its skin and add it to the pan with the onion. Squeeze in the caramelised garlic too. Cover it all with chicken stock and bring to the boil.
I use a stick blender to blitz everything until it's smooth and glossy, adding a little more water to let it down if it's too thick. You can also add a few dollops of soured cream or creme fraiche, or some double cream.
Put the soup back on the hob and bring it back up to temperature (but don't boil it, especially if you've added cream because it'll split) and then serve with chunks of buttery toast.
2) Seafood Orzo
I shared this recipe on social media last week but it makes it onto this list because I can't get enough of it at the moment. Firstly, it's delicious (I'm getting hungry just thinking about it as I write), secondly, it's all made in one pot so there's little washing up, and thirdly it's ready from start to finish in about 25 minutes. As far as weeknight recipes go, I'd say that's pretty much every base covered.
1 white onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, grated
6 large fresh tomatoes (or about a dozen smaller ones, or half a tin-ish), quartered.
a glass of white wine
orzo pasta - about 150g
olive oil (for cooking and for drizzling)
seafood of choice - I love prawns and squid!
As I said, this recipe is a one pan wonder. Ideally you'll need a high sided frying pan with a lid, but a large saucepan is fine too. Pop a glug of olive oil into the pan over a medium heat and get the onions softening down. Once they are starting to go translucent, add the grated garlic and give it a stir (the smell of onion and garlic frying in olive oil or butter has got to be one of the best smells in the world, hasn't it?).
Pour in the glass of wine, the tomatoes and the chilli flakes. Bring it all to the boil then reduce the heat and cook the sauce until the tomatoes have broken down and you have a chunky tomato sauce.
Add a little water to loosen the sauce and season to taste. You need the sauce to be quite sloppy because as the pasta cooks it will absorb some of the liquid.
When you're happy with the consistency of your sauce, get the pasta in. Stir, reduce the heat and put the lid on. Check the packet of pasta to see how long the orzo will take and leave it to cook in the sauce, stirring it regularly to check that the orzo isn't getting stuck to the bottom and that it's not too dry.
Before the pasta has finished cooking you need to add your seafood. The seafood you use will change how long it takes to cook. I used squid rings which only take about a minute to cook, whereas prawns will take about 4 minutes or so. Bear this in mind when you're cooking your pasta and make sure you add the fish at the right time as not to over cook the pasta. Orzo cooks very quickly and is pretty terrible when overcooked so probably best to err on the side of al dente!
Drizzle with some of your best olive oil and enjoy!
3) Hazelnut, Roast Pepper and Anchovy Relish from Diana Henry's How to Eat a Peach
My favourite cook book so far this year has been Henry's How to Eat a Peach. I love the way the book is organised into seasonal menus; I love the way in which Henry's writing captures the memories and pleasures which are tangled up in her cookery. For me, this is what the joy of cooking is all about.
Although there are numerous recipes that I'll be making from this book over the Autumn months, this recipe for nut relish is at the top of my list. I love making a little starter for our special weekend meal, or a little appetiser when we have friends over, and the deeply savoury flavours and the texture of this relish really appeal to me.
The recipe combines garlic, toasted hazelnuts, a tin of anchovies and roasted red peppers with parsley, olive oil and white balsamic in a pestle and mortar to create a textural dip for seasonal crudités such as chicory or Jerusalem artichokes.
4) (Leftover) Roast Chicken Pie
Pie is perhaps a bit decadent for a weeknight meal but this pie recipe is actually great for a Monday evening because it uses up the leftovers from your Sunday Roast. Just like with the soup recipe, there's no surprise ingredients here - just delicious brown things.
Half a large roast chicken - leftovers are perfect
4 rashers good quality smokey streaky bacon, cut into lardons
1 large onion, diced
1 punnet chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons plain flour
approx 500mls milk
pre-rolled puff pastry
Strip off as much meat as you can from your roasted chicken but discard the skin. Once you've thoroughly picked off all the meat, pop the bones in your freezer for another day when you've got time to make some stock for soups etc. Preheat the oven to gas 6 (200).
Warm the butter in a large pan until it starts to foam then add the onion and bacon to fry. Fry over a medium heat until the bacon releases it's fat and starts to crisp and the onions begin to soften and look dreamy.
Add the mushrooms. As the mushrooms cook, they will absorb a lot of the moisture in the pan and it will start to look scarily dry but don't be tempted to add any more fat or liquid, just keep everything moving so that it doesn't burn and eventually those greedy mushrooms will give up the moisture they've been hogging and everything in the pan will begin to look like delightfully squishy and brown. If you add liquid, you'll just dilute the flavour and trust me, you really don't want to dilute that smokey, savoury, earthy deliciousness.
Scatter the flour over and give it all a good mix. Still over a medium-high heat, begin to add the milk. Add it in about 100mls at a time, stirring thoroughly each time. Continue adding the milk until your sauce reaches the consistency of... baked beans (is that a weird comparison?). If it gets too sloppy let it bubble until it gets to the right consistency, equally if it's too thick, add some more water. You need to get the consistency of the filling just right so that it doesn't dry out in the oven. When you're happy with your sauce, add the shredded chicken. You might find that you need to loosen the sauce a little now you've added some extra bulk so add a splash more milk. Season to taste and spoon into your pie dish.
Pop the pastry lid on and crimp the edges, cut a small hole in the top and egg wash it.
Put it into oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the pasty is golden. Serve with steamed green veggies.
Tip - Put the pie dish on a tray because sometimes the filling can splurt out and it makes a horrible burnt mess on the bottom of the oven.
Kedgeree always hits the spot for a weekend brunch, especially when it's been a slow morning with some sore heads and you need something a bit stodgy, intensely savoury and a with a bit of a kick. In fact, kedgeree can also make a really satisfying weeknight dinner too.
Serves 2 hungry people
2 fillets of frozen smoked haddock (I buy packs of frozen smoked haddock from Lidl. Lots of their fish, including the frozen stuff, is responsibly sourced and MSC certified. Of course you can't beat fresh fish, but the whole point of this dish is that you can make it in your PJs so frozen makes sense here)
1 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
1 dessert spoon of curry powder/ paste
1 small mug of rice
chopped fresh coriander
Start off by poaching the fish. Ideally, for this recipe you need a wide, shallow pan with a lid, if you don't have this just use a good sized saucepan. Put the fillets of frozen fish into the pan and cover them with cold water. Put the lid on and leave them on a low heat to cook until they are just warmed through.
Meanwhile get another saucepan of water boiling, lid on, and dice the onion and garlic.
When the fish is cooked, remove it from the water and put it to one side. If the fish has skin on, take this off because nobody wants to eat flabby fish skin. Pour the poaching liquor carefully into a jug and put it to one side. Dry out the pan with a piece of kitchen roll and add a blob of oil and gently fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat. When they're softened, add the spice. Cook for a minute more then pour in the rice and stir it up so that every grain of rice is coated in the oniony spice mix.
Using the same mug you used to measure out the rice, pour in one and a half mugs of the reserved poaching liquor. Stir, lid on, reduce the heat, leave it completely untouched for about 8 minutes.
By now, the other pan of water should be boiling so dunk the eggs into the rolling water and leave them for somewhere between 4 and 5 minutes depending on the size of your eggs. When they're done, drain them and peel them.
When the rice has had 8 minutes, check it to make sure it's not drying out. Add a little more liquid if needed. Re-add the fish into the pan and put the lid back on. Let it all cook together for another 4-5 minutes. This will finish cooking the fish and the rice.
To serve, spoon the steamy, yellow rice and fish into bowls and top with the boiled eggs. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh coriander and enjoy!
6) Crumble and Custard Cake
This recipe was born one Monday, when I found myself with both leftover crumble topping and custard from Sunday lunch the day before. Never one to throw things away, I decided to make a cake. Part of the beauty of a recipe that is born of leftovers is that it lends itself so easily to being adapted to whatever you have at hand. No crumble topping - no problem, use porridge oats and chopped nuts instead; no plums - no problem, use apples or pears instead. Oh, and you can use whichever spices you like in it too. I'll be sharing the full recipe for my cake later in the month so keep an eye out!
Let me know if you make any of my October dishes by tagging @dottyinthekitchen, or drop me a message!