Archive for the ‘October’ Category

Sunday morning and James and I were up early in the freezing cold to make our way to Dunstable Downs (about an hour north of London) for a 10km gallop through the countryside. This was a pretty good effort for James who really doesn’t like running (even though he’s pretty speedy!), especially considering it was the second Sunday in a row that I’d dragged him along for a ‘fun run’.

This particular run; the Blacks Single Trail Track Run, although only 10kms felt a fair bit longer as we tried to keep our footing whilst flying across farmland and through woods, along the stunning Chiltern Ridge, down a few muddy hills and up one particularly nasty, near vertical one. We did feel pretty chuffed with ourselves at the end of it and as we were both ravenous by this stage, we spent the train ride back into London discussing our favourite topic – what we would make (my favourite topic) and eat (James’) for dinner!

Sunday dinners are a special, drawn out affair at Casa Kilburn. It’s pretty much the only night of the week we both get to cook together and have the time to plan and buy exactly what we want. Our local Queens Park farmers market just happens to be on a Sunday as well which is very convenient! And to prolong the weekend a bit longer, Sunday dinner is always accompanied by a bottle of delicious wine – usually Alpha Domus (a family favourite!) and followed by a decadent dessert.

Given the cold snap that had suddenly descended upon us and the leftover butternut squash and chorizo from the two soups I made a few days ago, a lovely hearty risotto seemed just the ticket. We also picked up some perfectly ripe plums from the market for dessert (more on that below).

I find Jamie Olivier’s risotto section in ‘Cook with Jamie’ the best guide for making risotto. It’s so simple to follow and I love how he shows you how to make the risotto base separately and then each recipe that follows just focuses on the second stage of adding the flavours of the day. So Jamie’s basic risotto recipe and an adaption of his roasted butternut squash risotto is what we made.

Jamie Oliver’s Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto (serves 4)

Ingredients for base risotto:
– 500ml/1 pint stock (chicken or vegetable as appropriate)
– small knob of butter
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– half an onion, finely chopped
– 2-3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
– 300g/12oz risotto rice
– 1/2 cup/125ml of dry white wine
– sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Roasted Squash and Sage final stage:
– half or 1 small butternut squash
– half a cinnamon stick
– half a dried red chilli
– sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
– olive oil
– 100g chorizo, sliced
– 375ml/3/4 pint of chicken or vegetable stock (as appropriate)
– 50g/2oz butter
– small knob of mascarpone cheese
– 1 handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
– bunch of fresh sage leaves
– extra Parmesan and crumbled Amaretto biscuits to serve

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out all the seeds and cut into quarters.

Grind up the cinnamon and chilli with a pinch of salt and pepper in a pestle and mortar. Place the squash into a baking dish or roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over the cinnamon and chilli mix. Gently rub the spice mix into the squash. Bake for around 30 minutes until the flesh and skin are soft to the touch. Set aside.

Now finely chop up the onion and celery and get started on the base risotto.

Heat the stock in a small saucepan. In a separate large fry pan, heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions and celery and fry very gently for about 15 minutes over a low heat, taking care not to let the veges colour or catch. When the onion and celery have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

The rice will start to sizzle and you need to keep stirring continuously from now on so it doesn’t catch. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring. There will be lots of steam and sizzling as the alcohol burns off, leaving just a lovely fragrance which will add depth and flavour to your risotto.

Once all the wine has been absorbed, add a ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding a ladle of stock at a time, stirring continuously. Make sure each ladle of stock is absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 10-15 minutes. You’ll know when the rice is ready as it will be soft with a slight bite to it – al dente – just like pasta. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.

So that’s the base risotto done. At this stage, if you have made the risotto in advance and have a while before you need want to complete the dish, spread the risotto out evenly in a large shallow baking tray/dish which has been lightly oiled in advance, cover and set aside. If you want to continue on and finish your risotto and serve immediately, then all you need to do is keep following the next steps which is the final stage of adding the flavours to the base.

Put a large saucepan on the hob and pour in  the risotto base and half of the second quantity of stock ready to bring back to the boil.

However, before you do this, wipe out the fry pan and put it back on a medium to high heat. Add the chorizo (no oil required as there is plenty in the chorizo) and the sage leaves and fry until crispy. Remove the sage and chorizo with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent kitchen paper (keep the chorizo oil in the pan for drizzling over the risotto before serving).

Now turn the risotto and stock back on to a medium to high heat and bring gently back to the boil. Break up the chunks of squash and add to the risotto. Keep stirring as it comes up to the boil. Then turn down the heat and simmer until almost all of the stock has been absorbed. Add the rest of the stock a ladle at a time until the rice is cooked (you may not need all the stock). Add the chorizo and sage. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Once all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked (you’re looking for slightly soft rice that still holds its shape and a consistency that is slightly runnier than you expect).

Add the butter, mascarpone and Parmesan cheese and stir in well to achieve a lovely glossy finish. Taste and adjust the seasoning again if needed. Cover and let rest for a couple of minutes – this is important to ensure your risotto is creamy and oozy, just as it should be.

Serve with extra Parmesan and a drizzle of chorizo oil and crumbled Amaretto biscuits.

I think next time I will play around with the rub for the squash. The cinnamon was nice, but we agreed that it was possibly a bit sweet for our liking when adding the crumbled Amaretto biscuits as well. In fact, we thought the Amaretto would be excellent in a rice pudding instead! And for rub, I think I’ll try smoked paprika or coriander seeds with the chilli next time for a slightly more savoury risotto. Obviously, the chorizo can be omitted for vegetarians or you can substitute for pancetta or smoky bacon.

Now, no one really has any room left for dessert after the above, but this plum and orange crumble is seriously good – you’ve got to try it! My friend Lucy and I made this in the very first week of our Leiths cookery course back at the beginning of summer and it’s been a hit ever since. We had some apples to use up as well, so I substituted half the plums for apples.

Leith’s Cookery School Plum and Orange Crumble (serves 4-6)

– 170g/6oz plain flour
– pinch of salt
– pinch of ground cinnamon
– 140g/5oz butter, cut into small cubes (straight from the fridge, don’t allow to soften or warm)
– 85g/3oz soft brown sugar
– 12 plums (or in my case – 6 plums and 4 medium-sized granny smith apples)
– zest of 1 orange
– additional 4 tablespoons of soft brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6

Start with the crumble topping. Sift together the flour, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Rub the butter cubes into the flour mix with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix through the first quantity of brown sugar.

Halve and stone the plums, peel, quarter and core the apples and place snugly in a small baking dish (a standard size loaf tin is the perfect size and gives you a nice deep crumble). Grate over the orange zest and sprinkle the second quantity of brown sugar over the top (this extra sugar is not really needed with sweet and ripe fruit, so depending on your own tastes feel free to leave it out).

Spread the crumble topping over the fruit. This recipe makes quite a bit of topping and I find that I usually don’t need it all when using the loaf tin, so I end up freezing about half of it for another time. But it’s entirely up to you, add as much as you want.

Put the dish in the center of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the mixture starts bubbling up round the edges of the dish.

Serve warm with creme fraiche, ice cream or yogurt. The salt in the topping really makes this crumble better than just your regular crumble and the addition of orange zest helps to counter balance the super richness from the sugar, butter and fruit.

Ahhh what a feast of comfort food, perfect for a cosy Sunday evening…and then we rolled off to bed…


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Curly kale is right in season at the moment and I wanted to make something with it which was a bit more inspiring than  just a substitute for a side of cabbage or the base of a green salad. So last night I made a soup starring this seasonal gem. Sophie Grigson’s Portuguese Caldo Verde to be precise. This traditional Portuguese soup is really tasty. Hearty and meaty from the chorizo, it got the thumbs up from my number one taste tester at Casa Kilburn (a humble soup getting a rave review from a typical red meat loving Kiwi bloke is no mean feat by the way!)

I’ve adapted Sophie’s recipe slightly by frying the chorizo first in its own oil which I think enhances the flavour, saving the oil from the pan to drizzle over the soup at the end which really lifts the flavour and adding a can of drained cannellini beans to bulk it up.

Portuguese Caldo Verde adapted from a recipe by Sophie Grigson

Ingredients (serves 4 generously):
– 450g potatoes
– 2 cloves garlic
– half an onion
– 225g curly kale
– 110g chorizo sausage
– 1 can cannellini beans (any beans, lentils or even rice will work equally as well)
– sea salt
– cracked black pepper

1. Peel and slice the potatoes, slice the garlic and chop the onion finely. Put all three vegetables into a large saucepan and cover generously with water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Then simmer gently with the lid on until the potatoes are tender.

2. Sophie says to mash the veges and liquid at this point but I found it easier to pour the liquid into a blender and blend to a smooth puree. Add extra water if needed to thin slightly if necessary.

3. Pour the soup back into the saucepan, taste and season really well with more salt and lots of black pepper. Bring back up to the boil.

4. While the soup is cooking, wash the kale, remove any tough stalks and chop up or shred thinly. Set aside.

5. Slice the chorizo and fry over a medium heat. You don’t need to add any oil to the pan as the chorizo contains enough of its own. Fry until slightly crispy. Remove and drain on absorbent kitchen paper. Save the chorizo oil from the pan.

6. Once the soup starts to boil, stir in the kale and chorizo, add the drained cannellini beans and simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Taste again and adjust the seasoning if needed.

8. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and drizzle with the reserved chorizo oil. Serve with fresh crusty bread.


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So I’m trying to find something positive about the fact that our fabulous British summer is fast coming to an end. Honestly though, I do look forward to the changes a new season brings. I remember visiting my sister who lives on the Gold Coast of Australia for the first time and after the fifth day in a row of endless blue skies and searing heat, I did (dare I say it!) find myself wishing for just one little cloud to make an appearance. I like changes in the weather, otherwise things become a bit monotonous.

Now I’m probably going to regret starting with the soup making this early on, but with all the ripe and abundant pumpkin and squash on offer is clear that they should to be taken advantage of. So here is a very simple butternut squash soup I made a couple of nights ago. It’s hearty, thick and chunky – just how I like it, although feels surprisingly light to eat.

Ingredients for 2 (generous with enough for seconds!):
– olive oil
– 1 clove garlic
– 1 leek
– 2 medium-sized potatoes
– 1 medium-sized butternut squash
– 1 litre chicken stock
– sea salt and cracked black pepper
– parsley

What to do:
1. Crush the garlic, chop the leeks and peel and dice the potato and butternut squash into small, similar sized pieces (smaller the quicker they’ll cook). Set aside.

2. Get your stock ready as per packet instructions if using a stock cube. I used fresh chicken stock that I’d made a couple of weeks ago and had defrosted during the day. The difference homemade stock makes to the depth and flavour is huge!

3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat and add the garlic and leek. Gently cook for a couple of minutes. Keep stirring so they don’t catch or brown.

4. Add the potato and squash and cook for a further couple of minutes.

5. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat, cover and gently simmer for half an hour or until the vegetables have completely softened.

6. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Now at this point it’s completely up to you how you like the consistency of your soup. I love thick and chunky, so I gently pulsed mine in my blender, taking care not to over blend. However, you may prefer to skip this step and leave the soup as is.

7. So all there is left to do, is pour into bowls, add a little extra cracked black pepper, some parsley to garnish and serve with fresh crusty bread. Yum!

Oh, also, some nice additions at the end – a drizzle of olive oil or even a small dollop of cream or sour cream. I’ve also had Nigella seeds in pumpkin soup before and they added a really nice, slightly oniony flavour. So wish I’d remember this wee gem last night! Oh well plenty more soups to come…

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