hen I was at sixth form, I also worked three jobs (ish), and dreamed about all the free time I’d have as a grown up. Monday to Friday was sixth form – although around half of that time was sitting in the common room, or taking trips to Tesco in free periods – and Friday afternoon was cleaning for a family friend. Weekends in retail. Half-terms split between retail and a part-time feature writing job at a local magazine. Monday to Friday, nine to five, sounded glorious.
How adorable, right?
Now, it’s all busybusybusy, hours flying by before we can even stop to think how we’re spending them (the tube. The tube is where we’re spending them). And it’s for this reason that I’ve become a cheat in the kitchen, relying on recipes that can be made in a big batch and easily tweaked and recycled across multiple nights. For months, this was big bubbling pans of chili, made often enough that it became a flat joke. The holy grail of lazy home cooking? Big batches that can be frozen, and reheated fairly quickly. Read More
h September. The month of new beginnings and shiny shoes, golden leaves and apple pies. So many years after leaving school, September still feels like the start of something – and the changing of the seasons brings with it a plethora of culinary goodies in deepest orange and darkest blue.
This month, we kiss goodbye to plums, blueberries, and Bramley apples, and we welcome in, among so many others, blackberries, kale, and squash. Read More
What I’ve done there is create possibly the worst food for me. Not in terms of nutrition or expenditure, but just because I have a bit of a lisp. And every time I take this into work, I’m forced to reply to queries as to what it is with a whole load of “th”s.
In every other way though, this soup is very, very good.
It’s no surprise to anyone that I get a bit giddy with food, and that the gourd family is the prime object of my affections. So when I spotted that New Covent Garden’s soup of the month was pumpkin, Stilton, and sage, I snapped it up and greedily snaffled it before they’d even announced it on social media.
And then I wanted more. Due to being A) inquisitive, and B) not made of money, I worked out the ratios from the packet and went on to make the best soup ever. The first time I used part butternut and part harlequin, but the second time was pure butternut and it was every bit as tasty. In fact, I’ve gone on to buy 3 more butternut squashes so I need never run out of them. Yep, I got weird looks at the checkout. Squash panic-buying is totally a thing.
The sweetness of butternut, the savoury touch of sage, and pure cheesiness from the Stilton combine to make a soup that’s truly comforting. A hug from the inside. It also doubles up perfectly as a sauce for pasta.
Additionally, it’s pretty cheap. One batch will cost less than £4* and provides six servings, which really puts the price of supermarket tubs of soup into perspective. If you chop the vegetables smaller, it’ll require less cooking time and therefore less fuel, too. It’s happy to be frozen, so can be made in advance and defrosted when you get out of the rain and need something quick, comforting and delicious. (I recommend these soup and sauce bags from Lakeland, which can stack in the freezer and be washed and reused.)
*Probably far, far less than this – I’m going by estimations and Waitrose prices. Read More
This is a dinner that melds a few of my current obsessions perfectly. First up, the butternut squash – technically, it’s not in season any more, but still I can’t get enough. When I went to London’s Borough Market (more on that later), there was squash everywhere, which I feel totally validates the fact that I’m always thinking of new ways to use it. It’s a classic autumn vegetable, and great for veggie dishes too in place of meat.
Secondly, risotto. Before my flatmate and I moved here, I’d never made risotto. It felt like one of those things that was a total pain to make – the whole “standing over it while it cooks thing” was off-putting, and the abundance of “easy risotto” recipes on the internet reinforced the idea that normally it’s just too much hassle. Um, guys – risotto is easy and amazing. There’s seriously no reason to be scared.
And finally, butternut and bacon. When I talked about New Covent Garden soups, I forgot to mention this combo, but it really is something to obsess over. Smoked bacon especially goes so, so well with the sweetness of the butternut. Yum.
With all that in mind, this risotto kind of had to happen. And so, on a night when I was craving something warm and comforting after long days at work and armpit-filled tube journeys, it did. I’ll never look back.
Serves 2/3 people, depending on how greedy you are!
500g butternut squash, cut into 2cm chunks
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 rashers of bacon, cut into strips about 1cmx3cm
200g arborio rice
50g soft cream cheese
1 litre vegetable stock
Splash of olive oil
1) Pop butternut chunks onto a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and shake over some paprika. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until soft.
2) When there’s about 15 minutes left on the butternut, drizzle a hot pan with olive oil, throw in garlic, onion and celery. Stir. Place the lid on, and allow to sweat until just starting to soften.
3) Add the strips of bacon, and when just cooked, add the rice to the mixture. Stir well so that the rice is coated with all the juices, and start to add vegetable stock one ladle-full at a time, stirring constantly.
4) Keep adding stock until rice is tender.
5) At the last minute, throw in the spinach, roasted butternut, and cream cheese. Stir well, and you’re ready to rock!
There are some weeks when you just need to give yourself an easy life, weeks when the best thing you can do is make enough food for five nights of dinners and then forget about cooking for a while. The kind of thing that you can put in the microwave, safe in the knowledge that by the time you’ve kicked off your shoes and unwound your scarf, stashed your handbag away and eaten a cheeky biscuit, that microwave will ding! at you and deliver something delicious.
This week has been one of those weeks, and this soup has been that dependable dinner. In the past seven days, Lizzi and I have moved in together, bought everything we need for our flat, and started off on new life adventures (I started a new job, and Lizzi started at Leiths School of Food and Wine). It’s scary, and it’s wonderful, and we’re loving every minute.
But at the end of the working day, after half an hour jammed into a tube carriage, with your nose alarmingly close to a stranger’s armpit, nothing could be more comforting than something warm and sweet. Luckily, this butternut, honey, and sage soup is just the ticket.
1 medium butternut squash, cut in half lengthways and seeds removed
1 tbsp honey (or 2, if you’ve got a sweet tooth)
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
6 sage leaves
1 medium onion
3 cups/750ml chicken or vegetable stock (use only 2 cups/500ml if, like me, you prefer your soup thick)
Salt and pepper to season
1) Place butternut squash halves, garlic slices, and 3 sage leaves, torn into halves, in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in pre-heated oven (180C) for 45 minutes, or until the butternut is soft.
2) While the butternut roasts, dice and fry your onion in a casserole dish until it is soft and just about turning golden. Turn down the heat and add the honey, stirring to ensure an even distribution. If you reach this point long before the butternut is due to cook, turn off the heat and leave the onion to stand – the honey doesn’t need to cook.
3) When roasted, remove the skin from the butternut – it should come away quite easily – and add to the pan with the garlic, and sage. Add stock (use 2 cups rather than 3 if you prefer your soup thick), and the remaining sage leaves, torn, and blend until smooth, using a hand blender. Season to taste.
I’d recommend you serve it up with warm homemade bread with lashings of butter!