For the Mothers – getting kitchen creative this weekend. 

Mothers’ Day is here again and as my culinary adventuring all stems from my Mum’s kitchen, I usually like to make her something she’ll appreciate. 

I have also been wanting to test out a butternut squash lasagna idea that’s been forming of late, so it seemed the ideal opportunity!

Ok my first dilemma was whether to go exclusively for squash and ricotta which was the original plan, but with the addition of my Dad and boyfriend joining I felt I might need to add some meat in to the equation. Dilemma number two was whether or not to make my own pasta sheets…I opted against, I know I could have done it, but less time rolling out meant more time with my Mum (which is what Mothers’ Day is all about after all!).

(the following feeds 8 easily)

Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squash
  • 1/ 2 roast chicken 
  • 200g spinach (n.b. you could definitely add more spinach I would say this ended up being a bit on the stingy side)
  • 1 pot ricotta
  • 2 balls mozzarella
  • 2 pints milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • Butter
  • Flour (about a handful)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 25 lasagna sheets
  1.  Halve and de-seed your squash, lightly season and oil/butter. Roast until soft and the skin slightly charred. (around an hour,  I did it the night before when I roasted the chicken).
  2. Add the milk to a saucepan, with a knob of butter, a handful of flour, a pinch of salt and pepper and bay leaves. Turn on a medium heat and whisk while simmering to thicken. (it will coat the back of a spoon). Take of the heat and leave to cool. 
  3. Shred the chicken 
  4. Wilt the spinach and mix with chicken, set aside. 
  5. Once your squash is cooked and cooled enough to handle, you can peel off the skin (it should be quite easy, but don’t worry about a bit of skin it is quite soft at thus point and won’t hurt anyone). Mash with a fork and mix in the ricotta. Salt and pepper to taste. 
  6. Get a pan of hot water and start adding your pasta sheets, a few at a time to soften slightly. 
  7. Stir the double cream into your cool white sauce.
  8. In a large baking dish cover the base with white sauce and a layer of pasta.
  9.  Spread half the squash mix over this, some mozzarella and a ladleful of white sauce. 
  10. Add another layer of pasta, half the chicken and spinch mix, mozzarella and white sauce again. 
  11. Repeat 9 and 10 again.  
  12. Top with a final layer of pasta the last of the mozzarella and the remaining white sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and you’re ready to bake! 
  13.  Pop in the oven, at around 200c for 1 hour. ( I did read once that it’s best to let your lasagna sit before baking, for a couple of hours, and I layered mine in the morning before going out for the day -but I don’t know that it’s overly necessary). 

I served mine with garlicky, buttery broccoli and steamed asparagus. 

I was very happy with the outcome, the squash was sweet and filling, and to be honest the chicken was pretty unnecessary except for pleasing carnivores. I think I will definitely remake without chicken and with more spinach. 

Let me know what you think, sacrilege or scrummy?

What did you have this Mothers’ Day? 

Potato, Pea and Spinach Curry – comfort food for the work weary! 

I don’t know about you folks, but when I’ve had a long day I come home, and want to eat everything in sight! 

One of my favourite go to weekday dinners is a veggie curry, it’s great for using up whatever is in your fridge, it’s filling, and actually really healthy! 

I started using Abel and Cole recently, to introduce a bit more variety to the vegetables I eat on week to week basis (it’s a weekly home delivery subscription for fruits and vegetables mainly). This week it included among other things, potatoes and baby Spinach so I opted to for Potato, Pea and Spinach Curry with Cauliflower Rice. (I still had half a cauliflower from the previous delivery, so why not!) 


Recipe as follows:

  • 2 medium white Potatoes
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 handfuls of Spinach (baby in this case but whatever you have)
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 white Onion
  • 200mls coconut milk
  • Fresh ginger 
  • 1tbsp curry powder
  • 1tsp Chili powder 
  • 2tsp garam masala 
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 Ltr Vegetable stock 
  • Salt 

Finely slice your onions.

Grate or finely mince around 2cm of ginger

Sautée together in a medium pan til onions soften. (I just used a small knob of butter).

Chop the potatoes (both kinds) into big chunks (2/2.5cm cubes).

Add spices to your onions cook and stir through, cooking gentle for 1 more minute.

Add the potatoes and half the stock, cover and simmer fir 10/15 minutes.

Check your curry periodically, if your pan starts to become dry, add more stock to keep the sauce gently bubbling (it doesn’t need to cover the potatoes).

Once your potatoes seem to be getting soft (around 15 minutes) you can add the peas and coconut milk. 

Pop the lid back on, it will need another 10 minutes(ish)

In the meantime I was preparing my cauliflower rice, this would be great with chapattis or regular rice as well though. (I whizzed up half a head of cauli, minus the leaves) lightly sautéed again with minced garlic and then dropped a little hot stock – maybe 1/2 tablespoons -and popped the lid on and let it steam through for 5 minutes.

Your curry is ready when the sauce looks rich and thick and the potatoes are soft all the way through.

Taste it for salt/spice, add your spinach leaves and stir ’til wilted. 

Then serve and devour! 

I found the sweet potato to add an extra dimension with it’s creamy texture and (obvious) sweetness. And potatoes for me are a great carrier for the layers of flavours in curry dishes. It was rich, filling, not oily and had a gentle but not overpowering heat.

Overall it was what I wanted, so I will chalk it up as a success. This was unintentionally vegetarian and vegan friendly, so a good one to remember if you are not veggie yourself but are ever cooking for someone who is, it’s filling and flavoursome for everyone!

Do you have any curry concoctions I can try? 

Or any suggestions to improve this one! (if I had fresh chillies in the house I definitely would have tossed one or two in)

I hope you enjoy 😄

Finding Refuge in Food.

Happy weekend foodies all! 

Normally my days off are spent cooking food (and there has been plenty of that too!) But this Saturday there was time to squeeze in a girly lunch as well.

My lunching partners and I all live in different places so we have a little rotation, and this time we were in Manchester – My friend recommended newly opened The Refuge by Volta (in The Principal, formerly The Palace Hotel).

It was a lovely setting, blending the modern and quirky Manchester vibe with the pre-existing grandeur and art deco features.

The Winter Garden is where I met my friends, a light and airy atrium with comfy sofas, rattan chairs and trees (alas artificial, but still a nice touch) it’s the ideal spot for gin drinking or afternoon tea.

We were shown to our table in the restaurant by cheerful staff, and our waiter was throughout pleasant and solicitous but quite genuinely so. 

After a lot of deliberation (there were far too many mouth-watering options) we went for the following from the Voltini (small plates).

Smoked Feta and Beetroot Dip

Crispy Lamb Shawarma with Harissa 

Radicchio and Orange Salad

Seabass with Pine Nuts

Mutabal with Flatbread 

Broccolini with Garlic Crumbs

I can tell you now, it was delicious. The lamb was possibly my favourite light and succulent with just the right heat coming through the harissa. The Mutabal and Beetroot Dip were moreish and vibrant.

Even the Seabass which I typically don’t love was perfectly cooked and had me helping myself to more.

Naturally after a very successful first course the only option was to give the desserts a try (we had shared six plates between three, they recommend three per person so although I felt that was enough to satisfy, I did have a little room to squeeze in something sweet). 

We ordered the Pear Tarte Tartin with Espresso Crème Anglaise and the Orange Blossom and Honey Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Ricotta.

Perfection. The Tarte Tatin was crisp, the pears golden with that slight caramel chew and the Crème Anglaise was complimentary not over-powering. The Polenta Cake was moist and flavoursome, a good blend of textures, the citrusey hints an excellent way to round out the meal.

I will definitely look forward to going back again and recommend the place to anyway who is wanting a place to enjoy with a fellow foodie. 

Last but not least I feel like I need to give a little shout-out to the Espresso Martini we finished with, it was spot on, rich, smooth and not too sweet. 

Where have you eaten recently? Let me know your recommendations as I’m super excited to try somewhere as good :).