Squash in the Mac

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The weather has turned. The bright sun is lower in the sky, trees are beginning to become golden and the damp air smells of woodland and fires; Autumn in coming, which is happy news in this house.

Along with new smells and sights, Autumn brings a new season for pumpkin, squash and gourds. Vibrant orange, yolk yellow and stripy-evergreen veg starts to appear on the shelves in all shapes and sizes. It’s time to start racking your brain for recipes to keep up with the nobbly glut.

My pumpkin of choice this time was the old reliable butternut squash – and after going slightly pasta mad in our last food shop (‘did you mean to order ten bags?!’), some kind of butternut bake was on the agenda. Having pondered, I landed on a pumpkin mac & cheese spiked with hot chilli, surely the most Autumnal dinners there is. Serves 4.

Spicy Butternut Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

400g butternut squash
100g macaroni
40g butter
40g plain flour
100g strong mature cheddar, grated
200ml milk
1 birdseye chilli, finely sliced
Heaped tsp herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper
2 tbsps of sunflower or pumpkin seeds

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1) Dice your squash into bite sized chunks and toss in olive oil, salt & pepper and herbes de Provence – roast in the oven at 180c for around 25 minutes or until golden brown.

2) Meanwhile, drop your macaroni into boiling water and cook for 11 minutes – drain and leave to one side.

3) Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan, then add the flour. Beat into a paste over the heat for a couple of minutes. Using a whisk, gradually add the milk to the mixture. If lumps appear keep rapidly whisking until you’re left with a smooth sauce. Add the grated cheese and sliced chilli, and salt to taste. (Reserve some cheese to sprinkle on top).

4) Remove the roasted squash from the oven. Mix the macaroni and sauce together, and then gently stir in the squash. Tip into an oven safe dish and top with reserved cheese.

5) Put the dish back into the oven (still at 180c). It’s ready when the top has caramelised and is bubbling nicely. Serve straight away with the pumpkin or sunflower seeds sprinkled on top for a bit of crunch.

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Find me @lucyfoodsnaps…

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Dark & Stormy Coconut Melts

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Last night, having scoured the cupboards for something to satisfy my sweet-tooth and come up with a packet of slightly-too-hard dried apricots, I decided to do some ramshackle baking.

By ‘ramshackle’ I mean the kind of baking where you throw anything into the bowl, with no weighing or recipes, and hope it works out for the best. Whether this is brave or lazy is anyone’s guess, I was just peckish.

After raiding my baking cupboard and covering myself, the kitchen and the dog in flour, my Dark & Stormy Coconut Melts were born. Named after their intense chocolate flavour, these are the lightest biscuits this side of the Viennese Whirl.

Ingredients:
40g Cocoa
235g Plain Flour
5 heaped tbsps desiccated coconut
1 tsp Vanilla Paste
115ml olive oil
110g soft butter
110g demarara sugar
A handful of coconut to sprinkle

-Preheat the oven to 170c.

-Put the butter, oil and sugar into a bowl and make a paste.

-Mix in all the other ingredients making sure not to leave any lumps of sugar in the mixture.

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-Roll into walnut sized balls (probably around 20) and place on a lined baking tray.

-Put into the oven for ten minutes, then take them out and squash them gently with the back of a fork, so they flatten slightly. Do this quickly.

-Return to the oven for 5 more minutes. When they’re ready to take out, have a cooling rack ready. Move them on to the rack with a fish slice very carefully, sprinkle with more coconut and leave to cool. They are really delicate when hot, but once cool they will hold their shape.

These biscuits are light as a feather in texture and extremely chocolately, the best of both worlds. Similar to a Viennese Whirl, these could be sandwiched together with a coconut butter cream or a coffee ganache for an extra level of stormy decadence.

Enjoy with strong coffee…

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Find me @lucyfoodsnaps

A little bit of good news….

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Last week I got a lovely surprise, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to have a bit of a brag about it. It seems the lovely folk at Morrisons have taken a shine to this little blog of mine, and recently named it their Blog of the Month; and I’m thrilled!

I originally started writing the blog as a bit of a hobby for myself, in fact I didn’t even tell anyone for quite a while. But having now sent it out into the twitterspere and received some positive responses, it’s fair to say I’m here to stay.

So, having had a bit of a summer hiatus, I’m now back with a bang and will be uploading some foodie delights very soon :)

To take a look at what the yellow-clad chaps had to say about me (and a few other super bloggers), take a peek here – thanks again Morros!

Oh! The Judges Lodgings is looking lovely!

 

 

 

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I had two oh-so intense meetings in my diary today, so in between them I ventured into town and washed away the stress with a nice coffee at the Judges Lodgings. Having just had a £2.2m refurb, I also wanted to take a sneaky peak at what they’ve done with the place with all that cash, because I’m nosey like that.

…and the answer is; a lot! The pub has a totally new (and much improved) layout and had a lot of licks of paint to brighten it up. There is a much cleaner, cosier feel inside and the decoration is luxurious and special.

At the back of the bar is a new two-tier, ‘high-end’ beer garden, which is glorious in the sun. Instead of being confined to the downstairs there are now many more rooms open upstairs for you to choose from, and in every nook and cranny there is something interesting to look at (a wall of busts of judges, shelves of terrariums or a huge copper beer cylinder pumping just-brewed beer to the bar, for instance).

It’s a big shame that I only had time for a quick coffee, as the food that was being brought out to others around me looked good, and there was a lot on the plates to boot.

The only downside was that they only had instant decaffeinated coffee available as opposed to decaf espresso, and yet they still charged £3 for it, the cheeky swines. It tasted nice enough but I think in their shoes I might have brought the price down a touch.

Having said that, I’ll definitely be heading down there for a meal soon
and fully intend to spend some long sunny afternoons on their big sofas in the garden, too. It’s a very nice place to be.

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Morrocan Chicken in 15

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The weather is in my bad books today. I don’t know about you but when it’s grey and overcast I get blue and moody. Throw in a poorly pooch and lost bank card and you’ve got one grumpy blogger!

To remedy this woe-is-me situation I knocked up some Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Apricot Cous Cous. Instant sunshine and no more self pity. It’s my own personal Chicken Soup for the soul. Serves 2.

Ingredients:

4 chicken thigh fillets, diced
Tsp Cinnamon
Tsp Ground Ginger
Tsp Dried Coriander
Tbsp Hot Chilli Powder
Tsp Smoked Paprika
2 Cloves Garlic
Olive oil

2 Cups Cous Cous
Juice half lemon
Tsp Veg Bouillon
Handful of dried apricots
2 spring onions
As much chopped red chilli as you fancy
Few grinds black pepper

Sour cream
2 Lemon Wedges
Fresh herbs
More chopped chilli

1. Heat some olive oil in a griddle pan. Toss the diced chicken in all the herbs and spices and gently fry with the garlic.

2. Boil the kettle and pour it over the Cous Cous and Bouillon. The water should be 1cm above the Cous Cous. Cover with cling film and leave it to swell up.

3. Uncover the Cous Cous and add the spring onion, chilli, lemon juice, chopped apricot and black pepper. Stir through with a fork.

4. Plate up the cous cous and put the spicy chicken on top. Garnish with a wedge of lemon, sour cream, chilli and some fresh herbs

Having eaten this in front of a new ep of Nashville with a zingy candle burning, my mood has improved immeasurably. The stress of frantically searching for my bank card with a sick pup in the vets is a distant memory, thank gawd. And even better, he’s snoozing happily next to me.

This Moroccan Chicken tastes as colourful as it looks, takes 15 minutes to whip up and has cheered me right up! Woo!

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