Butternut squash, mustard and Gruyere gratin

I love anything that has cream, cheese and vegetables in it and you might want to think about changing up your Thanksgiving meal by adding this to the repertoire.I highly recommend it.

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A small knob of butter (1 tbsp)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
10 decent sized-sage leaves
10 fl oz pot double cream
6 fl oz whole milk (or use cream instead for an extra luxurious dish)
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, quartered and thinly sliced (about 2lb 2oz prepared weight)
1/4 tsp hand grated nutmeg
8 oz Gruyère, grated

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions and cook slowly over a low-medium heat, stirring every now and then, for 10-15 mins until golden and soft.

Meanwhile, put the garlic and half the sage in a saucepan, add the cream and milk, and heat gently, not allowing the mixture to boil, for 5 mins. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 mins, then fish out the sage and garlic. Stir in the mustard and season well.

If cooking straight away, heat oven to 350 F.
Layer the squash slices, (sprinkling a little grated nutmeg on each layer)the onions, most of the cheese and the infused cream into a large baking dish, finishing with a layer of cream. Once you’ve used the ingredients up, scatter with the remaining cheese and put the remaining sage leaves on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 mins.

Uncover the dish and increase the heat to 400 F. Cook for a further 20-30 mins until golden brown and tender all the way through. Leave to cool for 10 mins before serving.

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Dreamy sweet onion bisque

I had this soup at the Capital Grill at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville recently and thought it was the best soup I had ever tasted. (If you read the ingredients you can see why!)They gave me the recipe and I was blown away by how easy it was to make. You MUST allow the 5 hours for the onions to sweat as that is the secret of the velvety sweetness the soup has. The toasted brie sandwich segment dropped it, plus the bacon and chives take it to even headier heights!

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4 to 8 servings.

10 large sweet Vidalia onions
1lb Plugra butter
1 qt heavy cream
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Smoked bacon, crumbled. Get really good quality bacon for this, chop it and saute until crispy
Freshly snipped chives
Brie grilled cheese sandwich

Peel and chop the onions into 1 inch chunks. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter until it becomes foamy and add the onions. Add about 1 tbsp of salt at this point and stir to combine all of the ingredients in the pot and continue to cook for 5 hours until they have completely softened and exuded the majority of their moisture.
Keep in mind that you really don’t want to get any color on the onions during this process so if you see it happening, lower the heat more.
After the 5 hours, add the cream and just heat it through gently.
When everything is hot and combined, you need to puree the soup in a good quality blender. If you want that really velvety texture, pass it through a fine mesh strainer or a mouli after blending it but this is an optional step.

Season with salt and pepper, pour into the bowls and garnish with some smoked bacon, chives and a triangle of Brie grilled cheese sandwich.

Lentil and Garbanzo Bean Salad with Feta and Tahini

Another lovely tasty and healthy meatless salad. Enjoy!

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Lentils

Scant 1 cup dried green lentils (Puy or Casteluccio, if you can find them) picked and rinsed over. (or buy the vacuum packed cooked lentils in the supermarket and skip this whole cooking stage)
2 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
2 fresh sage sprigs
2 tbsp olive oil

For the dressing and salad
2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 large garlic clove
Salt (Maldon or another flaky sea salt if you’ve got it)
2 tbsp well-stirred tahini paste
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
2 tbsp plus 2 teaspoons olive oil

1 and 3/4 cups drained garbanzo beans (chickpeas,from a 15-ounce can)
1/2 small preserved lemon, pith and flesh discarded, rind finely diced (optional)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
A handful of cilantro or flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1/4 cup Greek feta cheese
1 1/2 tbsp raw sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan until a shade or two darker

Make the lentils: Put the lentils, garlic, sage, and olive oil in a small pot, along with 2 cups cold water, and set it over medium heat. Let the water come to a simmer (not boiling), then turn the heat to low and cook the lentils in a very gentle simmer just until they are tender (about 25 to 30 mins and you might need some extra liquid near the end) Take the pan off the heat and let the lentils cool a bit before draining them. Pick out and discard the sage and garlic. You’ll have about 2 cups cooked lentils.

Make the dressing: Mix together the ground coriander and cumin in a small bowl. Mash the garlic clove to a paste with 1 tsp salt (use half as much Kosher salt, even less table salt) on a cutting board or in a mortar. In a small bowl for your dressing, combined the mashed garlic, tahini, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, 1 tsp of the ground coriander-and-cumin mixture and 2 tbsp water. Stir well, then taste. Add more lemon if desired.

Assemble the salad: Place onion slices in a medium bowl and break them up with your fingers. Sprinkle in two good pinches of salt, then two teaspoons of lemon juice, two remaining teaspoons of olive oil and the cilantro or parsley. Toss well, then crumble in the cheese and gently toss again.

Toss the lentils with the drained chickpeas, preserved lemon rind (if using), and 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (use half as much Kosher salt, even less table salt) in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the tahini dressing and toss it all together really well, then stir in the onion-feta mixture.

Arrange the salad in bowl or platter. Sprinkle the mixture with the sesame seeds and some of the remaining spices. Serve

Hot mustard lentils with beets and spicy sausage

All my favorite ingredients on one plate. Such a lovely mixture of flavors and textures and so good for you too.

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Serves 4

1lb 2 oz raw beets (beetroot)
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1lb of lamb Merguez sausages or another spicy sausage of your choice
2 x 8oz pouches of the ready-cooked Puy lentils
3 oz watercress, stalks removed
FOR THE DRESSING
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Colmans English mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 350 F. Top and tail the beets, then peel and cut into wedges.
Put the beets in a roasting tin, drizzle over 2 tbsp of olive oil and toss with the onion, garlic and caraway seeds. Roast for 45 minutes until the beets are tender and the onion is sticky and charred.
In another roasting pan, put in 2 tbsp olive oil and the sausages. Put these in the same oven about 10 minutes later, roasting for about 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. (Alternatively, broil the sausages until golden brown on all sides)

Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients. While the beets are still warm, toss with the lentils and dressing.
Add the watercress and serve with the sausages.

Sweet herring salad with apple and dill

This is so refreshing and tangy and a lovely way to start a meal.

Serves 4 to 6

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tart apples, like Granny Smith, cut into thin slices, or bite sized cubes
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill weed
2 x 8oz jars pickled herring, drained and cut into bite sized pieces
chopped chives for garnish, if you fancy

Combine the sour cream, yoghurt, lemon juice, sugar, sliced onions that have been separated into rings, apple and dill.

Alternate herring and sour cream mixture in layers in a dish.

Cover and refrigerate for 5 hours or more.

Serve very cold

Great caramelized onions in your slow cooker

Now you can do a heap of caramelized onions and not have to watch them incase they burn. Do far more than you need, and freeze them in small containers for up to 3 months. Perfect!

Makes several cups

5 large yellow onions
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or melted butter, or a mixture of the two
1/2 tsp salt
Optional: 1/2 to 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

You will need a 4 to 6 qt slow cooker

Thinly slice all the onions;  Peel and thinly slice all of the onions into half moons. Transfer all the onions to the slow cooker. The slow cooker should be 1/2 to 3/4 full.

Toss the onions with the olive oil;  Drizzle the olive oil/melted butter, the salt and the fresh thyme, if using, over the top of the onions. Toss evenly to coat all the onions with a thin glaze of oil

Cook for 10 hours on LOW; Cover the slow cooker and cook for 10 hours on LOW. If you’re around while the onions are cooking, stir them occasionally – this will help them cook more evenly, but isn’t strictly necessary.
After 10 hours, the onions will be golden-brown and soft and they will have released a lot of liquid. If you like them as they are now, stop cooking and pack them up.

Optional, and worth it – cook for an additional 3 to 5 hours with the lid ajar; If you’d like jammier, more concentrated onions with a deep color, continue cooking for another 3 to 5 hours on LOW. Leave the lid ajar so the liquid can evaporate.
Check every hour and stop the cooking whenever the onions reach your desired doneness and taste good to you

 

Roasted pesto, parmesan vegetable traybake

Yesterday, I did another traybake. I was on my own so decided to cut up a whole pile of vegetables, toss them with a container of pesto sauce from Trader Joes, lots of garlic, and when they were 3/4 through with the roasting, I threw at least half a container of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over everything and roasted it till it was all melted and browned.
It was divine and so healthy!

Preheat oven to 350 F

Vegetables

 You can choose whatever is in your fridge, but I used;
3 leeks, sliced into 1 inch slices
1lb Brussel Sprouts, trimmed
1/2 large cauliflower broken into florets
2 large red onions, cubed into 1 “ pieces
2 Delicata squash, unpeeled and cubed into 1” pieces
2 zucchini, cut into 1 “ slices

6 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 container Trader Joes pesto sauce (8oz)
6 oz (at least) grated Parmigano Reggiano

Put all the vegetables into a very large bowl then season well and add the garlic and pesto sauce.

Mix together well with your hands and tip all the contents out onto a large baking tray with shallow sides, like the one in the picture.

Roast the vegetables for 25 mins then turn all the vegetables to avoid burning and continue to roast for another 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with plenty of grated cheese and return to oven, turning the oven up to 400F for another 15 to 20 minutes until toasty and melted.

Serve on it’s own, or with a salad