Cauliflower Cheese Bake

It’s cauliflower mayhem at my parents’ house at the moment, with about 10 being ready in one day! I know the poor old cauliflower tends to be cast down the list of tasty veg, however last summer my Mum invented a fab cauliflower bake that made me see the humble cauliflower in a brand new light! Now that I am an “independent adult” living in my own place I thought I’d try my own cauliflower bake for myself and my flatmate one evening which we both really enjoyed, I hope you enjoy it too 🙂

Ingredients: (serves 2 hungry people)

  • One large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 large potatoes suitable for mashing (I use half normal and half sweet potatoes for a little extra sweetness, but it still tastes delicious with just white potatoes)
  • 1 packet of pancetta cubes (about 200-250g works wells)
  • 1 white onion
  • 1-2 large tomatoes (I only had cherry tomatoes so had to improvise!)
  • Salt & pepper
  • A handful (or two, or three…) of grated cheddar cheese

Cheese sauce:

(You can always increase the quantities of the below to make it saucier if you fancy!)

  • 500ml milk
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 50g butter
  • 100g strong cheddar, grated (I used cathedral city mmm)
  • 1tsp mustard (I used wholegrain)
  • 1tsp mixed spices or cinnamon
  • Salt & pepper

Method:

Cut the cauliflower into sizeable florets and boil (in a little salt) until slightly undercooked, drain and put into a medium sized dish Cauli 1Cauli 4 In the meantime you can do the food prep of chopping up the onion, peeling the potatoes and chopping them into quarters. Cauli 2 Once this is done, put the potatoes on to boil (they should take 10-15 minutes on a medium heat). Whilst they are cooking the first thing to do is fry the onion and pancetta in a little oil until lightly brown, then leave to one side for later. Cauli 3 Now it’s cheese sauce time! But don’t forget to keep checking those potatoes! Once the potatoes are done you simply drain them, mash with a bit of butter and olive oil and leave with the lid on until later.

For the cheese sauce you firstly need to melt the butter in a saucepan, and then add the flour, whisking like a mad person whilst adding the milk bit by bit. Even if your arm feels like it’s going to fall off you need to keep whisking until the sauce starts to thicken and become smooth. Once it is at a consistency you are happy with, take it off the heat and add the cheese, mustard, spices, and a grind of salt and pepper, continuing to whisk until all combined. Cauli 5 After this, mix in the pancetta and onion, and then pour the sauce over the cauliflower in your oven dish, making sure the mixture is evenly spread. Cauli 6Cauli 7 Now you can spoon the mashed potato on top of the cauliflower cheese mixture, flattening with a fork to help make sure all little holes are covered. Cauli 9 Lay slices of tomato on top (big tomatoes work better if you have them – as you can see I did not!) Cauli 10 Then scatter another generous grating of cheese on top (along with a grind of salt and pepper) and you are ready to go! Cauli 11 Cook on the top shelf of your oven at 200 degrees celsius for 15-20 minutes until brown on top. Tuck in and enjoy! Cauli end result

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.

Butternut squash soup.1

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.

Butternut squash soup.3

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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