Favourite Five Chestnut Recipes

Across Europe and the US, people have been out and about on the streets, frantically shopping for presents and visiting the sales. Many will be fuelled with piping hot chestnuts, roasted in barrels and sold by street vendors. The piping hot nuts are a Christmas tradition across the northern Europe and beyond. Chestnuts are a great ingredient for our home cooking too; whether in sweet or savoury dishes, they are a seasonal highlight.

Chestnut & Sage Soup – Sauté half an onion in a little oil and butter until soft and translucent. Add a few chopped sage leaves and a finely chopped clove of garlic, before 100g cooked chestnuts, a couple of chopped large potatoes and 1/2 litre of vegetable stock. After 30 minutes of simmering, whizz with the blender, then add 25ml of milk, reheat and serve topped with a few sliced chestnuts and crispy sage leaves.

Sweet Chestnut Purée – In a saucepan, combine 300g nuts, 220g sugar and 250ml water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-35 minutes until the majority of the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat, add a little vanilla paste, then strain the nuts (reserving the liquid). Whizz the nuts in the food processor until smooth, before adding the syrup slowly to get the right consistency. Chill and use to fill your next sponge cake.

Chestnut, leek, apple and Stilton crumble – This is based on a great recipe from Leiths Vegetarian Bible. Sauté an onion and a couple of leeks, stir a little flour into the mix, cook for a minute, before adding 300ml of stock. Add a 225g pack of chestnuts, a little thyme, and bring to the boil, simmering for a 15 minutes until the chestnuts are tender. Peel, core and quarter a couple of apples and add them and the chestnut mix to an ovenproof dish. Make a crumble from 110g flour and 55g butter, adding some Stilton into the crumble once made. Top the chestnut mix with the crumble and bake for half an hour at 190°C.

Chestnut Stuffing – A simple traditional stuffing for the festive bird (or just to have on its own). Mix a good sausage-meat with chopped chestnuts, an egg, some breadcrumbs, a little fresh sage, salt and pepper. Cook in the roast, or in a dish separately for half an hour.

Quince & Chestnut Frangipane Tart – Although a version of this tart was included in the Favourite Five Pear recipes; this chestnut version is great. Swapping the usual ground almonds for ground chestnuts gives it a lovely nuttiness and the perfumed quince is perfect for a cold winter’s evening.

Favourite Five Pear Recipes

Our little pear tree has been a real success this year. So small that there is no way it could support a partridge for a Christmas card photo shoot, it has had a really good crop of beautiful fruit. I’ve come to pears late in my life; as a child I always saw them as grainy, crunchy and not entirely appealing, but as an adult I’ve grown to appreciate the moment in time when a pear is a perfect sensuous fruit. There is little better than a perfectly ripe, juicy, pear just sliced and eaten; but they’re a brilliant ingredient too and appear in some of the family’s favourite dishes.

Roasted Roots, Pears and Lentil salad – Roasted pears are a warm, sweet, caramelized delight, and combined with earthy vegetables like beetroot and carrot, and nutty green lentils, make a super winter salad. This salad is an adaptation of the salad posted the other day, using pears instead of apples and blue cheese instead of goats cheese.

Gluten-free Pear and Chocolate Tart – This has become a big hit with my son and is made by both his grandmothers whenever he goes to visit, indeed one of them was the first to make it and it has been passed around the family and enjoyed by all. Having made a gluten free pastry case, the filling to this tart is made of quartered pears in a chocolate almond. To make the sponge, combine 125g ground almonds, 125g softened butter, 95g caster sugar and two eggs, before mixing in 185g warm melted chocolate. Place the quartered peeled pears in the blind baked pastry case, then pour in the filling. Bake for 45 minutes at 190°C.

Pear, Red Cabbage and Walnut Slaw – Fruit in slaws is a real favourite of mine. I love how apple adds a contrasting sweetness to my beetroot and carrot slaw. This version is a nod to the classic Waldorf salad. Combine shredded cabbage, thinly sliced pears, sliced celery and some roughly chopped toasted walnuts. Add a splash of cider vinegar to some mayonnaise, season, then add to the fruit and veg. Make sure the dressing is distributed evenly, then serve.

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Poached Pears – Such a simple dessert, but one which really enhances the flavour. Combine 3 cups white wine, 3 cups of water, a knife tip of vanilla paste and 3 cups of sugar to make a poaching liquid. Warm the poaching liquor, peel the pears and place in the saucepan. Use a piece of baking parchment to form a lid and poach for 10-15 mins (depending on how ripe you fruit is). When soft, take off heat and serve immediately, or pop in the fridge with the poaching liquid until needed. Super as a pudding, but equally good on top of your breakfast porridge.

Pear Frangipane Tart – I love frangipane, and it goes brilliantly with pears. In the past I have used ground chestnuts instead of the usual almonds, giving it a slightly sweeter nuttiness. Use just pears, or combine with poached quince for a more autumnal decadent tart.frangipane tarts (2)

 

Favourite Five Pumpkin & Squash Recipes

Last weekend we went to the Slindon Pumpkin Festival, enjoying the amazing display produced using these autumn fruits. Nothing says autumn more than a pumpkin or winter squash. They echo the changing colours of the foliage of our trees; transforming from the green of the summer to the blue-grey, orange, cadmium, gold, and yellows of autumn. As an ingredient, they bring an earthy sweetness, bringing a warming richness to a plethora of dishes. I love them and never manage to grow enough on the plot, despite annual attempts to have vast numbers of plants. Still, with the various pumpkin and squash I do grow, I like to make these Favourite Five dishes.

Blue Cheese, Squash and Rosemary Gnocchi – I love the pillowy lightness of good gnocchi. They’re soft and go brilliantly with the punchy flavours of squash, blue cheese and rosemary. Simply roast the squash and a few quartered red onions, combine with blue cheese and rosemary and mix into cooked gnocchi. For more details check out this post.

Butternut Squash Soup – Soup is perfect for this season, and simple to make. Heat some olive oil and throw in a finely chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary leaves and a a few chilli flakes. Cook for ten minutes, until the veg is sweet and soft. Add in the peeled and chopped squash, a litre of good chicken stock and simmer for roughly half an hour. When the squash is tender, remove from the heat and whizz in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a few crispy sage leaves on top.

Pumpkin Risotto with Sage and Walnuts – Start by making a simple risotto bianco, before adding pumpkin purée to the rice during the last few minutes. In a separate pan heat some butter until frothing, adding a few sage leaves until they are crispy. Remove and add some chopped bacon and walnuts, frying until nicely coloured. When the risotto is almost finished, take off the heat, add a good knob of butter and some Parmesan, put the lid on and leave for a few minutes. To serve, ladle out the risotto and top with the walnuts and bacon, and the crispy sage leaves.

Roasted Squash and Puy Lentil Salad – Roast a squash, cut into 2cm cubes, with rosemary and garlic for 30 minutes until soft and just starting to brown. Meanwhile, cook some Puy lentils and then mix with mustard and honey dressing. Toss lentils with the squash, season and serve, with the addition of a few toasted walnuts.

Roasted Pumpkin Purée – Peel and cut your pumpkin or squash into large chunks and place in a roasting tin. Toss with olive oil, a few sprigs of rosemary and a couple of cloves of garlic. Roast in a medium oven for 40 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Peel the roasted garlic and whizz the contents of the roasting tin, seasoning as required. Delicious as an accompaniment to sausages.

Favourite Five Apple Recipes

favourite five Apples, and specifically British apples, are my favourite fruit. I love the variety in flavours that apples bring, from sweet and juicy, to crisp and sharp. I think that there is no better apple than a British one, so always have a self-imposed break from apples once the supplies of home-grown fruit runs out. I don’t see the point in importing foods which we grow so well anyway. Seasonality also has the advantage of allowing my palate to enjoy the plethora of other fruits available, and truly appreciate the first apple of the year. We have a really early apple tree (Beauty of Bath), so the first apple of the season is always one of our own and munched during the summer holidays. But, whether Cox, Russet, Windsor, Bramley, or any other of the 1,900 different varieties of apple trees held at the National Fruit Collection in Kent, they are a super ingredient for either sweet or savoury dishes.

A Simple Apple Pie – There is no better dessert than an apple pie. I like to use a combination of stewed apple and slices of apple in my pies. By stewing some of the fruit first with a little sugar, you get a soft sweetness with the addition of fruit with a bit of a bite. The joy of a pie is its simplicity, its fruit and a pastry top. The top can be puff-pastry, shortcrust pastry, homemade, or (dare I say it?) shop bought. Top the fruit with the pastry, give it a wash with egg white and a sprinkle of sugar and bake til golden. Serve with cream, custard, ice cream, even mascarpone.

apple pie

Apple & Blackberry Jelly -This is inspired by The Pig in Brockenhurst, where my son enjoyed an apple jelly at the end of a delicious meal. Its a simple dessert; so evocative of childhood, but also the waning of the summer and the coming of autumn. Take some apple juice and heat it with a little sugar (depending on how sharp the juice is). I use leaf gelatin, which needs three sheets to soft set 500ml of liquid. Prepare the leaf gelatin by soaking it in cold water for a few minutes, squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and stir into the warm juice until completely dissolved. Pour into small glasses and drop a few blackberries into each glass. Place in the fridge for a few hours until set.

apple and blackberry jelly

Apple Cake – This a deliciously moist gluten-free cake, based on one in Nigella’s Feast. I use whichever apples I have in the house to make the puree and often make too much, in order to enjoy it with porridge in the morning. The cake itself is a simple process, blitzing together the puree and eggs, ground almonds, caster sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, before pouring into the cake tin.

Pork Chops with caramelised apples and sage crème fraiche – This is a great way to serve pork chops or steaks. Start by frying two quartered and cored apples in 20g melted butter and a small spoon of light brown sugar. Cook for 5 mins, until golden and tender. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Add a little oil to the pan and cook four pork steaks for 5-6 mins per side, until cooked through and golden. Stir in 100ml Crème fraiche and 15ml chopped sage. Serve the pork with the apples, mash and perhaps green beans.

Waldorf Salad – Combine 1sliced apple, a chopped stalk of celery, 50g of walnuts and a handful of rocket in a bowl. Mix a little lemon juice with 1/2 tsp. of grain mustard, then stir it into 100ml of mayonnaise. Toss the salad ingredients in the mayonnaise and serve.

What’s in your favourite five apple recipes?

Favourite Five Tomato Recipes

favourite fiveTomatoes were one of the things I enjoyed in Sicily, the area around Siracusa is famous for a variety of cherry tomato which are the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. Back at home it’s harder to find the range of different varieties and flavours, but at least those picked straight from the vine are pretty good.

Simple Tomato Salad – Simply, tomatoes sliced or cut into chunks, seasoned with a little sea salt and pepper, with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.

Tomato, Lentil and Pesto Soup – A great way to get some additional protein into little ones diets, and show off the delicious flavour of tomatoes. If I have fresh tomatoes then I use fresh, but otherwise its a can of tinned tomatoes. Cook a chopped onion until softened and translucent, add a handful of red lentils and cook for a little longer, then pour in the tomatoes (chopped if using fresh). Add a little stock, then simmer for 15 minutes. Whizz the soup in a blender and serve with a spoonful of pesto on top.

hunters chickenHunter’s Chicken – A delicious stew for a colder day which gives the tomatoes a real intense flavour. The full recipe can be found here.

Roasted tomato and Pesto Tart – Cut some tomatoes in half, splash a little olive oil over them and season with salt and pepper. Put into a roasting tin and roast until softened and beginning to brown on top. Take some puff pastry and roll it out to a couple of millimetres thick, lightly score a border around your tart and prick the centre of the pastry to ensure a crispy base. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minute, until lightly golden. Spread pesto on the pastry base, then top with the roasted tomatoes.

Catalan Tomato Bread – Pa amb tomàquet, is the classic breakfast from Catalunya, but is also a great snack. Simply toast a slice of sourdough (cooking on a griddle pan is even better), rub one side of the bread with a garlic clove, then rub with a cut tomato so the flesh and juice are absorbed by the bread. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and sprinkle with sea salt before serving.

Favourite Five Raspberry Recipes

We have been overrun with raspberries at the allotment this year. The summer fruiting varieties are providing us with a delicious crop at the moment, and the autumn canes are looking like they will continue the harvest when they come to fruition in late August/September. The taste of raspberries is a very evocative one for me, harking back to picking raspberries at my Grandpa’s house; but its also a great one to put into foods, somehow being both sharp and sweet at the same time.favourite five Raspberry Smoothie – Raspberries go brilliantly in a smoothie. Just whizz a large handful of berries with a banana, a few spoons of yoghurt and a drizzle of honey. The resulting drink is perfect for breakfast, snacks, or as a speedy pud for kids’ teas.

Raspberry Friands – I’ve only just discovered these recently, but they’re a great little cake. What’s more, they use raspberries from the freezer, so you can use up a glut you’ve frozen earlier in the year. Basically a mix of egg whites, ground almonds and sugar, they are also gluten free! To see the full recipe read the post I blogged earlier in the month.raspberries and coffee Raspberry & Blackcurrant Ripple Frozen Yoghurt – I love ice-cream and I’m a fan of frozen yoghurt too. Not possessing an ice-cream machine, I’m always reluctant to make it, but this recipe is a doddle. Combine  500g thick yoghurt, a knife tips worth of vanilla paste and 50ml maple syrup in a freezable container and freeze for 2 hours. Remove and pulse in food processor with 125g raspberries. Refreeze for a further 2 hours. Pulse the frozen mix again and pour back into the container, before drizzling blackcurrant cordial (I made my own last year, but you want a concentrated one) over the frozen yoghurt. Take a fork and move it through the mix, creating a ripple effect. Return to the freezer for another hour or so, remembering to remove it from the freezer 30 minutes before you want to devour it.

Raspberry & Rosewater Cake – Inspired by a cake featured in Bill Collison’s great book, Cook, Eat, Smile, this is a real summer treat, and my daughter’s favourite cake to make. Bake your usual Victoria sponge recipe, and then sandwich with a layer of raspberries and whipped cream (flavoured with a dash of rosewater). Ice the cake with a simple icing made of icing sugar and raspberry juice, allowing it to dribble down the sides. Top with a roses from the garden, or in our case from the allotment.raspberry rosewater cake Raspberry Cheescake Tart – Make or buy a sweet pastry tart case. Whip up a combination of mascarpone and cream cheese and use it to fill the pastry case. Top with raspberries and place in the oven to chill and the cheese to set.

How do you like to use raspberries? What about in savoury dishes?

 

 

Favourite Five Strawberry Recipes

Strawberries are one of mine, and my family’s, favourite fruits. They are beautifully sweet and their bright red colour always enlightens a plate. We grow them on the allotment and most of the fruit is usually eaten well before it makes its way into the kitchen. In fact it most often doesn’t even make it into a punnet! When they do get home, we use them in a range of desserts. Here are my favourite five recipes.favourite five

Strawberry Eton Mess  – A fabulous combination of cream, strawberries and meringue. Whip cream to stiff peaks, then fold in some of the strawberries whizzed with a touch of elderflower cordial. Break up some meringue and fold into the cream, followed by the remaining strawberries sliced. Pop into small glasses and top with a mint leaf and a couple of sliced strawberries.

eton mess

Elderflower Pannacotta with Macerated Strawberries – I’ve blogged the recipe for this recently, but its such a delicious dessert. The creamy and floral panna cotta combines well with the sweet and juicy strawberries. Macerating the fruit in a little elderflower cordial really heightens their strawberriness.

eledeflower and strawberry panna cotta

Frozen Strawberry Smoothie – A quick and easy way to use up strawberries which have become overripe. Just collect these strawberries and pop them in the freezer as you go along. When you’re ready for a cold smoothie, just whizz the frozen strawberries with a banana, a few tablespoons of yoghurt and a dash of honey. Serve with a straw. The kids always like a straw!

Strawberry tart – This is an adaption of the berry tart I blogged about last year, combining mascarpone cream in a pastry case and topped with sweet berries. For the filling, whip 500g mascarpone, 100ml single cream, 3 tbsp. sugar, a little lemon zest and a knife point of vanilla paste until its shiny. Evenly smear the filling onto a 28cm sweet shortcrust pastry tart case, then top with small strawberries. Glaze with a bit of strawberry jam warmed up.

Strawberry and Ginger Cheesecake – We make this with gluten free ginger biscuits, but any ginger biscuit will do. Crush 80g of biscuits and divide between 4 glasses. Beat 200g soft cheese, 200g yogurt, 4tbsp. sugar and a little vanilla paste together until smooth, before spooning over the crumbs. Chill until ready to serve. Meanwhile hull and slice berries and toss in a little strawberry jam, then place on top of cheesecakes and serve.

What ways do you use strawberries in your cooking?