Pasta Free Butternut Squash and Beef Lasagne

Having some lean beef mince and a butternut squash to be used, I decided to create this pasta-free lasagne recipe. It’s also my WordPress anniversary today, hurray! So I gift you all this lovely creation as a celebration 🙂

Packed full of flavour, this lasagne is layered with slices of butternut squash between a mince sauce packed with sage, a deliciously cheesy and creamy white sauce speckled with nutmeg, and a sprinkling of pine nuts to finish.

This started off as a bit of a “let’s hope this works!” but turned out amazingly! I hope you enjoy it…

Ingredients (serves 4-5)

  • 1 medium to large butternut squash
  • Pine nuts (two handfuls)

Mince sauce:

  • 1 x 400g pack of lean beef mince
  • 1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x red onions
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic (depending on how big your cloves are and how garlicky you like it!)
  • 2 x tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1 x glass of red wine
  • 2-3 tps of dried sage, or a small bunch of chopped fresh sage
  • Salt and pepper

White sauce:

  • 85g butter
  • 85g plain flour
  • 750ml semi-skimmed milk
  • Grated cheddar cheese, a couple of big handfuls
  • 1 heaped tsp grated nutmeg

Method:

The first big job to do is tackle the peeling of the butternut squash! I find it easiest to cut in half first before peeling or simply cutting off the skins with a sharp knife. Once all the skin is removed, cut into thin slices.

Pasta Free Lasagne

After this it’s time to make the mince sauce. Brown off the mince in a large saucepan and then add the chopped garlic and onions to give them a bit of colour, and then add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato puree and let it simmer away and reduce for about 10-15 minutes. Add the seasoning and the sage to taste, simmer for a few more minutes before taking off the heat and setting to one side.

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Now you can make your lovely cheesy white sauce infused with nutmeg! Gently melt the butter in a pan and once melted whisk in the flour, then once combined, slowly pour in the milk whilst constantly whisking to get rid of any lumps. Keep whisking until you feel it thicken to a good consistency, then add the cheese and nutmeg and whisk until fully combined. Take off the heat.

It’s now my favourite (and definitely the most fun!) part, it’s layering time!

Pasta Free Lasagne (two pics)

 

Get a nice big dish, I opted for a nice heart shaped one, and start your layers! Firstly a layer of the mince sauce, followed by the butternut squash and topped with the cheesy white sauce. Repeat until you run out, ending with a white sauce layer. Top this final layer with some more grated cheese and the pine nuts for a lovely finish!

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Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius for 40-50 minutes until bubbling and browned on top, then dig in! 😀

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Butternut Squash, Chorizo and Asparagus Risotto

As I’m sure you can tell from my recipe archive, pasta is one of my all-time favourite dishes. I love all types of pasta in all shapes and sizes, but for me risotto is queen of them all!

What I love about risotto is that once you have mastered a basic recipe, this can then become your base to get creative – trying all kinds of different flavour combinations and ideas.

My usual risotto recipe is a spicy red pepper, chilli, tomato and pancetta, but I fancied trying something different. Hence this recipe was born! Even though this was the first time I’ve tried this particular combo, it worked a treat and was very successful with my flatmate!

Hope you enjoy it too 🙂

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 175-200g arborio rice
  • 2 white onions finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 large glass white wine
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 200-250g cubed chorizo
  • 1 small or ½ large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 bunches asparagus, cut into 1 inch long pieces, removing the woody ends
  • 50g butter
  • 50g grated parmesan cheese

Method:

Peel and cube your butternut squash and place on a large roasting tray with a covering of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a fan oven at 180 degrees celsius for 30 minutes until cooked and tender.

photo 1 (1)

Whilst the butternut squash is cooking you can start the risotto!

Put a large non-stick saucepan or frying pan on the heat to warm up whilst you finely chop your onions and garlic. Add a glug of olive oil to the pan and brown the onions, garlic and cubed chorizo for a couple of minutes.

Once nicely browned, add the risotto rice and stir constantly for another couple of minutes until the rice becomes translucent. Add the wine and stir until it’s nearly all absorbed.

At this point you need to make sure the heat is set so it’s simmering moderately (but not to vigorously!). Have your litre of vegetable stock at the ready and add one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until the majority of the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle. N.B. The consistency once absorbed should be thick and sticky.

This process will take around 20-30 minutes and can be quite tough on the arm – but don’t give up, the end result is worth it!

(Test the rice after about 20 minutes to see if cooked through and soft – if it is not soft when you have used up all the stock then make up some more to add.)

Once the butternut squash is ready, add this to the risotto mixture along with the asparagus, and cook for another 5 or so minutes until the asparagus is tender.

Risotto (2)

Once you are certain all the excess liquid is absorbed and everything is fully cooked through, take the risotto off the heat and stir through the parmesan and butter, along with a generous grinding of salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly until the butter and cheese is totally melted and incorporated into the risotto.

Risotto 3

Serve in nice big pasta dishes and enjoy with a nice glass of vino! 😀 Yumbola!

Bon Appetit!

Bon Appetit!

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Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

On a nice sunny autumnal Sunday I decided to use the remaining butternut squash up in a soup – I find this soup a great winter warmer and I can’t get enough of it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

N.B. – I find with soup a lot of it is down to preference – many soups can be made thin, think, chunky or smooth whilst all using the same ingredients, so please feel free to adapt my below recipe to suit your needs if you prefer it a different way !

Soup Ingredients (makes 10 portions)

  • 2 medium and 1 small butternut squash
  • 4 pints of chicken stock (two cubes)
  • 3 large onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 ounces of butter
  • 2.5 tsp cumin seeds (or powder)
  • 5 tsp red chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Toppings (for 1 portion)

  • 3-5 slices of pancetta (depending on how much you like it!)
  • A fine shaving of parmesan
  • A swirl of smoked rapeseed oil
  • Additional salt and pepper

Method:

Firstly, you either need a very sharp large knife, a strong man, or both! 😛 Slice your butternut squash length ways into quarters, place on a couple of large baking trays and brush with olive oil. After this, scatter across a generous helping of salt and pepper along with the chilli flakes and cumin seeds.

N.B. – I used dried red chilli from my garden for this recipe, which tend to vary in hotness, but are pretty powerful none the less! However you can buy chilli flakes by the jar, which are generally a medium hotness – sometimes it will say on the jar how hot they are also – so keep your eyes peeled if you are not good with too much spice!

Once your butternut squash are prepared with the spices, place the trays in the oven (180-200 degrees celsius) for about 40 minutes. (If your butternut squash quarters are quite thick they may take slightly longer to cook.)

Whilst your butternut squash is nicely roasting, prepare your garlic and onion, by finely slicing. When your butternut squash is tender when inserting a fork it is ready, take out and leave to cool for a few minutes. Once cool, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the skins, and put it to the side in a large bowl and mash into small chunks using a wooden spoon ready for the next stage.

Butternut squash soup.5

Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat until melted, then cook the onions and garlic in the butter until soft. Next, add 4 litres (or less if you like a thicker soup – but remember this will mean it won’t feed as many people!) of good quality chicken stock. I find the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot Gel nicely intense and flavoursome.

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Heat until simmering, and then add the butternut squash. Let it heat up gradually until simmering again, and simmer for 5 minutes. Take your soup mixture off the heat and spoon into a food blender – you may need to do this in two stages! Blend until smooth, and put your finished soup altogether into a large casserole sized dish, giving a final mix and taste – adding more salt and pepper if needed.

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When you are ready for your own bowl of soup, reheat an individual portion either in a saucepan on the hob, or in the microwave for about 3-6 minutes. Whilst your soup is heating, grill or fry your pancetta until crisp, then fold in kitchen paper to get rid of any extra grease.

When your soup is ready, grate a small amount of parmesan over the top, grind over a little more salt and pepper, add a swirl of smoked rapeseed oil and place or crumble your pancetta on top – and voila!

Enjoy by the fire with a nice glass of wine 😀

Butternut squash soup.4

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Homemade Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Gnocchi

I say this about a lot of things, but I do really love gnocchi and have always wanted to try making it. So when I saw a mouth-watering recipe for sweet potato gnocchi on Pinterest I had to try it, so thanks go to this lovely lady: http://www.aidamollenkamp.com

As my garden is becoming overgrown with butternut squash, I decided to experiment further and add this into the recipe also, very daring on my first gnocchi attempt I know, but I was feeling brave! Plus Will was over for dinner that evening and I thought he’d make a good test dummy 🙂 I also added some pancetta and walnuts to the already delicious sauce, for some extra crunch. This idea I owe to one of my favourite local restaurants that has the best gnocchi I’ve ever tasted, called The Wellington Arms

Ingredients:

For the gnocchi:

  • 260g sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 130g butternut squash, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 30g finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 200-300g all-purpose/plain flour

For the sauce:

  • 1 handful of walnuts, halved
  • 6 slices of pancetta
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 to 15 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 shallots, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly shaved parmesan, for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

Method:

Gnocchi:

First of all, weigh out the right amount of butternut squash and sweet potato. It’s very hard to get exact measurements, so I would tend to go over as you’ll be taking the filling out of the skins once cooked anyway. The exact measurements don’t matter too much as long as you roughly have a 2:1 ratio of sweet potato to butternut squash, however I have put in the above measurements as a guideline.

Cut your sweet potato and butternut squash lengthways and place on a baking tray. Rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in an oven at 200°C for about 30 minutes. N.B. Depending on how big the butternut squash is this can take longer to cook, so I advise putting the butternut squash in about 10 minutes before the sweet potato to allow for the extra cooking it may need. Check half way through. Take out when you can easily insert a fork into the flesh, leave until cool enough to handle.

Whilst cooling, fry the walnuts and pancetta in a little olive oil until crisp, then put in a bowl, cover and set aside.

Once cool, scoop out the sweet potato and butternut squash flesh and put into a large mixing bowl.  Mash well with a potato masher until smooth, and then add the parmesan, egg, honey and salt. Give a final mash and then beat with a wooden spoon. Mix in the flour bit by bit, mixing along the way until it all comes together and forms a soft dough. It may seem like you’re adding a lot of flour, and depending on how old the sweet potato and butternut squash are, you may need to add even more flour, but don’t give up hope! As long as you remember to keep adding the flour and mixing in little bit at a time, you will eventually get there. The texture should be damp to the touch, but not so that it is sticky and gets stuck to your hand.

N.B. At this point you can section off half to freeze and it will keep in the freezer for a good few weeks. Or alternatively, if you are preparing ahead it’s at this stage you can cling film the dough and place in the fridge until half an hour before you wish to continue with the recipe.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a square (I used a rolling pin here, but make sure you put enough flour underneath so it doesn’t get stuck to the surface). I didn’t attempt to make any proper or fancy shapes, I simply used a sharp knife to cut rectangular shapes out of the dough, shaping as I went along, so I ended up with shapes like this:

Gnocchi.3

Be aware that the dough goes a lot further than you think, so I’d advice to make enough shapes as you think will feed you and however many people you are cooking for, then freeze the rest.

Now it’s time to cook your gnocchi and get your sauce on the go!

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, adding a generous sprinkling of salt to the pan. When boiling, add the gnocchi and boil for about 5 minutes until tender. You can tell when the gnocchi is ready, as it tends to puff out and rise to the surface. Once ready, take off the heat and using a slotted spoon, carefully place the gnocchi (trying not to carry water over) onto some greaseproof paper on your work surface. (N.B. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water)

Sauce:

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan melt the butter until foaming, add the sage leaves unti going crisp and then remove and set aside. Add the shallots and keep stirring the sauce until browning and letting off a nutty aroma. When the butter is brown and shallots cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar, add the gnocchi, the walnuts and pancetta along with the ½ cup of pasta water you reserved from earlier – then put back on the heat.

Gnocchi.2

Simmer until the sauce has thickened and the gnocchi has a nice glazed finish. Plate up, add lots of freshly ground pepper, and top off with some more parmesan and the crisp sage.

Voilà!

Voilà!

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