Tag Archives: how to

Creamy Parsnip and Squash Bake

SERVES  8    PREPARATION TIME: 30 minutes + cooling    COOKING TIME: 1 hr 10 mins

Easy to prepare

INGREDIENTS

425 mls / 15 fl oz  (approx 2 US cups)  double (heavy) cream

1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped

2 thyme sprigs, one stripped of leaves

butter, for greasing

500g / 1 lb 2 oz parsnips (about 4 large)

500g / 1 lb 2 oz butternut squash (about 1/2 a large one)

25g / 1 oz Gruyere cheese, grated

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Method

Place the cream, onion or shallot and the thyme sprig in a small pan.  Slowly heat to just below boiling point, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Strain, discarding the onion and thyme.

Heat oven to 160C  / 325F  / Gas 4  /  (Fan oven 140C  /275F).  Rub the bottom and sides of a gratin dish measuring about 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 in) with butter.  Peel the parsnips and trim the ends.  Peel and scoop the seeds out of the squash.  Thinly slice the vegetables.

Layer the parsnip and squash in the dish, pour over the infused cream, then scatter with the thyme leaves and Gruyere cheese.  Bake for 1 hour until golden and a fork slides easily into the veg.

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Get Ahead:  Leave the bake to cool, then cover and place in the fridge for up to 2 days.  To reheat, place in a 220C  / 425F  / gas 7  (fan 200C / 400F) oven for 15 minutes.  If the top starts to brown more than you’d like, cover with foil.

This recipe first appeared in the December 2007 Christmas edition of BBC Good Food magazine

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Back then

Back ‘when I were a girl’ (said in a Yorkshire accent) I used to travel a lot with my parents.  Commercial air travel was still relatively new and I clearly remember how when we’d see air crew walking through the airport their heads were held high with pride, and everyone looked admiringly at them.  Have you seen the film ‘Catch me if you can’?  Well, if you weren’t around in the 1960s to see what I’m talking about for yourself, that film shows you pretty much what it was like to be air crew then.  It was the coolest job – seriously, those people were mini gods.  I remember having ambitions as a little girl to be an air hostess. I  have to tell you, however, that every time I said so to my mother that she would quickly retort: ‘You want to be a trolly dolly?  Really?  Ooh no, I don’t think so!’ (I did secretly keep on dreaming though).

A couple of months back an ad  for Virgin Airways was released on TV and it plays on this nostalgia because they are currently celebrating 25 years as an airline.  When we fly anywhere long distance nowadays I am of course swayed not only by price but by the convenience of the destination airport for us, plus those all important airmiles.  Still, I  have to say I have a tremendous soft spot for Virgin and will use them whenever I can.  This is partly because I have huge admiration for Richard Branson but mostly because Virgin were once incredibly generous with us.  You see we took the girls over to the States one year on an ‘all in’ Virgin holiday and to cut a long story short, our holiday fell short of expectations.  Nothing totally horrendous, just really not what we had expected.  When we got back I wrote to the company to say how disappointed we’d been, not thinking that I’d ever hear anything back from them.  Well, far from it.  A short while later I received a letter of apology and – here’s the thing –  a full refund for the holiday.  I was, and still am, blown away by this generous attitude, so is it any wonder that Richard Branson (already a business hero of mine) rocketed right up in my estimation?  It was probably also a clever business move on their part because over the years I’ve missed absolutely no opportunity to extoll the many virtues of Virgin.  There is no better advertisement than a totally smitten customer.

Here’s that wonderful ad … and they really couldn’t have picked a better piece of music because it’s one of my all time favourites ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. ‘ Ah them were the days’ (she said, back in her Yorkshire accent).

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Summer colour and scent

I don’t really know why I decided to split my WordPress writing into two different pages but I did.  So there – it’s done.  This does mean, however, that when I spend time writing a piece for one site, I don’t really have the time to do the same for the other.  Can I just tell you therefore that I’ve just posted a wonderful (!) article on adding Summer colour and scent to your garden by using Summer bedding plants over at Gentle Voice.  Please visit and immerse yourself in my usual pearls of wisdom.  😉

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Rose Pot Pourri

Rose pot pourriValentines Day has been and gone and by now those beautiful red roses have begun to fade.  It’s a shame to throw them away when they can so easily be dried and used for pot pourri that will last for many, many weeks, if not months ahead.

The time to turn them into pot pourri is really just as the flower heads start to droop and the petals are dropping away because once removed from the stem, the petals are still colourful and beautiful.

There are a few methods for drying flower petals, two of which require patience, one of which is quick and easy.  Here’s the quick and easy method and all it requires is a few pieces of kitchen paper, a microwave and a small bottle of rose essential oil (a scent ‘fixative’ of orris root powder is an optional extra).

Method

Gently separate the petals from the stems and scatter them in a single layer on a microwaveable plate onto which you have placed a piece of kitchen paper.  Microwave on a medium setting for 15 seconds, turn the petals and microwave again for another 15 seconds.  The petals will become a richer, darker colour but shouldn’t be brittle.  I find that I can generally do one bloom at a time like this.

When they’re all done pop them in a plastic bag and scatter with a few drops of rose essential oil, close the top of the bag and gently toss the petals in the bag.  Then preferably leave the bag shut for half an hour or so before use.  Display in pretty, open containers around the house and top up the scent with more drops of essential oil as and when necessary.

If you want to make the scent last longer, you can add approx. one tablespoon of orris root powder per cup of petals just before you sprinkle on your initial dose of rose oil.  Orris root is simply a natural fixative, derived from the root of a species of iris, and can be obtained from many herb supply outlets.

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Marinating

Making a marinadeIn our health conscious world, fat in meat has received a bad press and is largely shunned by the consuming public.  The fact of the matter is that fat is an essential element in good meat, providing both flavour and moistness.

If you’ve bought a very lean piece of meat you may need to be careful how you treat it and cook it if you want to avoid chewing on something akin to shoe leather!  One way to help tenderise it before cooking begins is by ‘marinating’ it.  Marinating breaks down some of the fibres in the meat and the more acid the marinade, and the longer you leave it, the greater the effect.  Just bear in mind that the process draws nutritious juices out of the meat so don’t throw the marinade away once you’ve used it!  Either baste the meat with it as you are cooking or make an accompanying sauce out of it.

A marinade is typically a combination of three elements:

  • an acid ingredient, such as wine, sherry or vinegar
  • oil – infused oils such as chilli, garlic etc., olive, walnut and sesame oils – which help to impart flavour and retain moisture
  • seasoning –  from basic salt and pepper, to herbs, to spices, to other ingredients like honey, lemon, good old ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.

If you’re experimenting and making your own marinade just try to balance the three elements and use ingredients that are complimentary to the meat.  For instance, lamb and rosemary is a classic combination, pork works well with either sage or rosemary, and chicken with lemon and thyme.

The process is very simple: Put the meat in a shallow glass or pottery dish – not metal, because the acid ingredients may react with the metal and taint the food.  I find sturdy zip-lock bags very useful for marinating. Pour your marinade ingredients over the top and turn the meat a few times to coat.  (This is where a zip-lock bag comes in useful because you can just pop the whole lot in the bag, zip the top and toss the bag over and over a few times to thoroughly coat).   If using a dish, cover and then, whatever the container (including zip-lock) you need to put it in the fridge for the alloted time.  If your marinade doesn’t completely cover the meat, turn it every half hour or so.   Pork and poultry will take 2-4 hours happily in the fridge, red meat and game, 4-6 hours.

Marinating is not confined to meats.  Both fish and vegetables can be given the same treatment but bear in mind that fish, in particular, is a far more delicate meat and if you overdo the marinating time the whole lot could become mushy.  For fish and veg therefore I’d recommend just half an hour to an hour in the marinade.

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