Hamilton Squash

I went out for lunch the other day and had a very delicious stuffed butternut squash, which reminded me of a similar dish eaten many years ago courtesy of Jamie Oliver. It was so long ago, Jamie was pre-Sainsbury’s, pre-kids, pre-school lunch crusading and pre-paella controversy. Love him or hate, he does keep himself busy.

Anyway, I decided to dig out said recipe and cook it for a friend who was coming over for supper. She’s watching the calories too, so I thought this was a pretty healthy, but filling meal. We won’t mention the accompanying wine which, as we all know, is calorie-free on Friday nights.

It can be served on its own (I’m working on how to present it elegantly…will keep you posted) or as a side dish if you have more friends than me. Think of it as a risotto in its own serving case. I’m sure some fancy London restaurant wouldn’t bother with crockery and serve it as is, or on a piece of bark or something. I’m sticking to bowls and a smile.

Hamilton Squash


A smallish handful of dried porcini mushrooms
1 butternut squash, halved lengthways and seeds removed
Olive oil
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pummelled coriander seeds
A pinch or two of dried chilli flakes
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
5 sun-dried tomatoes
Salt and pepper
100g basmati rice
1/2 a handful of lightly toasted pinenuts

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 220ºC (200º for fan oven, but they do vary)

Soak the porcini for about 8 minutes in half a mug of freshly boiled water.

Using the sturdiest small spoon you can find (I actually use an ice-cream scoop — a proper one, not one with the half-sphere on it), score and scoop out some of the flesh the squash, leaving two hollowed-out halves.

fullsizerender-4Hamilton Squash







Because I’m too lazy to ‘finely chop’ the onion, I put the scooped flesh, the onion, garlic, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, the coriander seeds and the chilli flakes into a blender and blitz them, before frying them for about 4 minutes with a decent drizzle of garlic oil (plain olive oil will do, of course).

When they are softened, add the porcini with their soaking water and also the rice. Cook for a further 5 minutes before adding salt and pepper to taste.

Rub the skin of the squash with a little olive oil and place the halves on a large piece of foil. Stir the pine nuts through the mixture and then pack it tightly into the 2 halves of the squash. Press them together, like a big sandwich.

Wrap it in foil and bake in the preheated oven for about 1hr and 15 minutes.

As usual, I completely forgot to take a photo of the finished dish because I was too busy scoffing it. It’s not pretty, but it is very tasty.


Oven-dried Tomatoes

oven dried tomatoesI am a lover of tomatoes, in all forms, but I must admit I prefer them cooked.  And yes, I was one of those people who had sun-dried tomatoes with/on everything a few years ago.  I’ve been having a play with a few suggested recipes for a sort of DIY version and wanted to share.  There’s not a great deal of skill or cooking involved (perfect for me then!) and it is the sort of thing you have to fine-tune according to your own tastes and oven.  My oven is a fiery little beggar and cooks like a demon in the blazes of hell.  Yours might be somewhat more tempered or, if you are very lucky, you might have an Aga.  Something I fear will still be on my wish list when I hit 80.

Anyway, I made oven-dried tomatoes which, after many hours, delivered scrummy, squishy but still firm, tasty little scarlet morsels for me to throw into a salad with a carefree nonchalance that did not belie my impatient waiting for about 12 hours for them to be ready.

I used vine tomatoes, because I think they are more flavoursome.  I simply halved them and laid them in an oven-proof dish, flat side up. Then I sprinkled them with 1 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp salt.  Over this I had strewn about 1 tbsp dried oregano (but I might try fresh thyme next) and then drizzled them with about 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.

Having heated the oven to about 200ºC I popped them in and after 10 minutes turned the oven off BUT did not open the door until the next morning.  No, not even for a little peep.

Hey presto! Next morning I had my very own orbs of oily beauty to add to salad, pizza or just scoff as they are.  I added them to some salad leaves and chunks of torn mozzarella.  Then I add 1 tbsp of lemon juice to the leftover oil in the dish they cooked in and dribbled that over the salad.  We ate it with my homemade pizza until our bellies were about twice the size they should be!

oven dried tomato mozzarella salad

Bloody Good Chips…

home made chips

..OK, not rocket science, but my key to gorgeous home-made chips is cook ’em like roast potatoes.

Preheat 1-2 tbsp of oil in a hot oven (200°C).

Cut the potatoes into chunky chips (leave the skin on).  I go for anything from 1-2cm thick.

Par-boil for 5-10 mins, depending on thickness, then drain, allow to ‘dry’ for a minute and sprinkle with semolina (about 1tbsp).

Gently toss, just a little bit else they’ll break up and become mashed potatoes!

Bake for about 25 mins.  Serve in a stack if you’re feeling a bit Billy Bistro.  If not, just chuck ’em on the plate and watch them get scoffed!  I like a good grind of salt and pepper on mine and a splodge of mayo on the side, but you do it your way!


Sausage Rolls

WHY have I never made these before??  They are so scrummy and, as ever, easy to make!

Here’s what to do…
Finely chop 2 shallots, 2 large cloves of garlic and 2 sage leaves and saute in about 20g of butter.  Then in a bowl mix it in with 450g of sausagemeat and thyme leaves (from about 4 sprigs).  I cheated on the pastry and used pre-rolled puff pastry.  Cut the pastry sheet into two rectangles and arrange the sausagemeat mixture in two long sausages down the middle of each.  Then gently pull the pastry over the meat and sealed with egg wash.  Cut each one into 6 pieces and lay on a baking tray, seam side down.  Brush again with egg wash and bake at 180ºC for about half an hour.  Then wait for them to cool a little before scoffing the lot (or offer them to other people too if you are of a kindly disposition).

On my ‘Net Diary’ app I have worked out that it is 134 calories per sausage roll if you use the jus-rol light puff pastry sheet.  Just in case you’re counting….!