Spinach, Goats Cheese and Walnut Pasta

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A winter wonder to wow all the family!

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INGREDIENTS FOR 4

400 gm pasta of choice 

Olive oil and a knob of butter

An onion finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic finely sliced

200ml chicken or vegetable stock

200 gm of spinach uncooked

3 tbsp of crème fraîche

100 gm soft goats cheese

Tsp of chilli flakes

A handful of basil leaves torn

2 tbsp of chopped walnuts

Method

  1. Put your pasta on to cook.
  2. Heat a little olive oil and the butter in a large frying pan or wok
  3. Add the onion and sauté gently until softened then add the garlic. Fry for a minute. Pour in the stock .
  4. Add the spinach and cook  for a minute, then add the crème fraîche and stir in. Season with black pepper.
  5. When the pasta is cooked, drain well and add to the creamy mixture. Crumble in the goats cheese.
  6. Add the chilli flakes and the torn basil leaves, then the walnuts. Stir gently.
  7. Check for seasoning.

A fabulous dish for late autumn and you can play about with it as you wish. Use different greens – maybe rocket – maybe savoy cabbage finely shredded or even crumbled broccoli. You could use pine nuts too. Tis up to you!

But you MUST try it!

Sweet Squash and Goats Cheese Melt…

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A sumptuous simple starter to grace any table any time…especially in the throes of Autumn!

Autumn. Browns and golds speckle every roadside. Seasonal magic weaves its way into every household. Oranges and burnt umbers cascade form hedgerows. Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness descend upon each culinary heart.

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So it is that tonight after a simple carpaccio starter, I turn to a dish that one could use happily as a starter or a nourishing, warming main dish. Tis up to you. Tonight, this and the carpaccio were a marriage made in heaven. Enough with a fine bottle of shiraz to accompany it all.

I wanted to capture the season in a starter, a first course that yelled Autumn.

For 4 as a starter or 2 as a main dish

1 decent sized sweet potato

1 butternut squash

Olive oil

Fresh bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped

Black pepper and a little rock salt

2 slices of soft goats cheese per person

Ok, nothing complicated here. Peel both the sweet potato and the squash. Halve the squash and deseed thoroughly. Halve again each half and slice into pound coin rounds. Then quarter the sweet potato and do likewise.

Pop all the slices into a large dish and drizzle a goodly amount of olive oil over. Add the parsley. Grind over the mix some black pepper and rock salt. Stir and leave for about half an hour. 

Heat your oven to 180c for a fan oven or 200c for any other type. Add the potato and squash slices to a roasting tin, but one that they fit into happily without overlapping.

Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes until browning and a sharp knife will easily cut into them.

Remove from the oven and add the goat cheese rounds. Pop back into the oven for about 5 to 8 inures until you can see the cheese beginning to brown and melt.

Remove from the oven and serve on platters with warm crusty bread, and more olive oil if desired. 

This is a fabulous dish and one you could play about with, experimenting with different types of squash or cheese.

Keats would have loved this, I know!

The root of beauty…

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The root of beauty...

This wonderful rendition of the oft overlooked beetroot is by Bonnie Lalley and is the second in a series of joint ventures between us. I was brought up on pickled beetroot and it accompanied so many dishes in our house, from my mother’s succulent steak and mushroom pie to Lancashire Hot Pot to more frugal suppers of cheese or pork pie. It added an often much needed splash of colour to some otherwise overcast meals. Its deep scarlet hue always made me feel that here was something exotic in deepest, darkest Manchester – and yet it grew on all the allotments around without me then realising.

It is related to the splendidly named mangel-wurzel, used for animal feed, and the flavoursome veg, chard. And this root of joy has been around since the Greeks – Theophrastus referred to the cultivation of it 300 years before the birth of Christ in his botanical writings. It is descended from sea beet, a wild seashore plant, which grows around the shores of the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Europe and North Africa.

In the 16th century it was referred to as Beta Roman in cookery writing. In 1699, it was said that thin red slices of the boiled red beetroot were ‘ a grateful winter Sallet.’ In the same tome, by John Evelyn – ‘A Discourse on Sallets’, he noted that it was ‘by the French and Italians contriv’d into curious figures to adorn their Sallets.‘  Now there’s a challenge for you all!

The luxuriant deep purply red colour is due to the mixture of a purple pigment, betacyanin, and a yellow one, betaxanthin. And it stains incredibly well, as my mother used to remind me over and over again, lest I ever spilt any on her newly ironed tablecloth!

The leaves of this root – beetroot tops – are also now used more and more in salads and they are both a thing of beauty and also very, very tasty. They are also stuffed full of marvellous minerals and vitamins. Beetroot is a great source of fibre and folic acid. Olympians drink gallons of beetroot juice I am told.

This is truly one adorable vegetable. And Bonnie’s painting captures the royalty wrapped up in this remarkable root.

And so to finish – a recipe that shows it off to its best.

Roast Beetroot with Goat’s Cheese & Balsamic Vinegar

For 4

12 baby beetroots or 6 larger chaps
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil – the best you have
Balsamic vinegar
175 gm goat’s cheese
Handful of beetroot leaves – small ones
A good portion of rocket leaves

Bring your oven up to 230c. Wrap the beets in foil and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour for large ones – or 30 minutes for baby beets. In any case they need to be soft enough for a knife to go through them easily.

Once they have cooled rub the skins off and either keep whole if small or halve then or quarter the big ones if using. Toss in the olive oil.

Scatter your rocket and beetroot leaves on a serving plate.
Arrange the warmed beetroot on the leaves and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a little more olive oil. Pop a slice of goat’s cheese by each piece of beetroot and grind over some sea salt and black pepper.

Serve with more balsamic vinegar to taste and warm crusty bread.

Nothing vulgar about beta vulgaris.

It is the Queen of the root world.