Pumpkin au Gratin

A simple but comforting bake of pumpkin, potatoes and cheese.

This works with many kinds of pumpkin and winter squash, including Butternut and Golden Hubbard – my current favourite. The inspiration came from Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book We have been making it for many years, adapting it to our own taste.

Serves four.

  • About 1 Kg pumpkin flesh
  • 400g or so of potato, peeled and chopped
  • A good lump of butter, or a mix of butter and olive oil
  • Two eggs
  • About 150g of grated Gruyère plus some Parmesan.

Boil the potatoes and pumpkin flesh until they are soft and drain them well. Add the butter/oil, the eggs and most of the grated cheese and mash them all together. Tip the mixture into an oven dish, scatter the rest of the cheese over the top with some dots of butter, to help it brown. Bake in a medium hot oven until the top is brown and golden.

Butternut squash has very thin skin which comes off easily with a peeler, but some pumpkins have quite tough skin. You can cut these into large chunks, take out the seeds and stringy bits and bake the chunks until they are soft. Then the flesh can be scooped out easily and added to the cooked potatoes for mashing.

From Joe Foster

Rahkomenakakku

A versatile Finnish cake with apples or other fruit.

This versatile recipe for an Finnish apple cake was published in 1978 by the Leeds branch of the National Childbirth Trust in a little booklet called Growing Up With Good Food. The booklet was a collection of recipes from Leeds mothers, edited by Catherine Lewis. We still occasionally use our old copy, now dog-eared and food-stained.

Rahkomenakakku has been a long time favourite in our family.

Fennel Baked with Parmesan Cheese

If you manage to grow good fennel…

I’ve only recently discovered how to grow fennel without it bolting while it is still small. The answer (for me) is to keep the carrot fly away from the plants by covering them with fine mesh netting.

I’ve tried several recipes for fennel, and my current favorite comes from our ancient copy of Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book. It is very simple, and simply delicious.

  • Some heads of fennel
  • Butter
  • Black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Quarter the heads of fennel and boil them in salted water until they are just tender – neither crisp nor mushy. Drain them and lay in a generously buttered oven dish. Grate Parmesan over them along with plenty of black pepper. Bake them at 200deg C until they are bubbling in buttery juice and the Parmesan is golden.

Joe Foster

Cauliflower

Two simple “Greek” recipes

Occasionally I manage to grow some good cauliflowers, and when I do I appreciate these two simple recipes. I call both of them “cauliflower a la Grecque” – my versions of French versions of real Greek cooking. They do actually taste very good even though they may not be strictly authentic.

Part of the trick of cooking cauliflower is to catch them just as they soften, but before they go mushy. Your nose can help here. You get to recognize the the change of smell when they are done.

Cauliflower Salad

  • A cauliflower, broken into florets
  • Olive oil: two measures
  • Lemon juice: one measure

Prepare a dressing in a bowl by whisking together the olive oil and lemon juice – just enough for the amount of cauli you have. Steam the cauliflower in a covered pan with just a bit of water until it softens, and drain it. Add the florets to the bowl and gently mix with the dressing. Serve either warm or cold.

Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce

  • A cauliflower, broken into florets
  • Tomato sauce

I like to make enough tomato sauce to have some left over for dishes like this. Tomato sauce made with onions, garlic and oregano works well, but other sorts are good too. Just add the florets to a pan with enough sauce to cover them when you mix them together. You may need to water the sauce down a bit to stop it sticking and burning. Cover the pan and steam until the cauliflower is just done. Serve hot.

Joe Foster

Courgette Kuku

Delicious way to use up courgettes!

Jenny Ward brought this amazing Persian dish to one of our autumn shows, where it was quickly polished off. Not only is it delicious, but it also uses up lots of courgettes – just the sort of recipe we need!

  • 500g of courgettes – in 5mm slices
  • 6 eggs
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Handful of dill and parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • Spice mixture:
    • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp olive oil

Fry the onions in 2tbsp olive oil until soft. Remove from the pan. Then fry the courgettes in batches until coloured and remove from the pan. Add more oil if needed. Whisk the eggs and milk in a bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients. Pour the mixture into the pan, and cook on a low light. Finish off under the grill to brown the top.

Jenny Ward

Spinach with Garlic & Ginger

An Indian recipe for spinach, this works with cabbage or kale, too.

I learned this wonderful way of cooking spinach so long ago I almost forgot where it came from. I think it was a Sikh friend who showed it to me, but it doesn’t just go with Indian cooking – and it works with other greens besides spinach. I like it with cabbage, and even kale sometimes. This should be enough for two people who really like their greens.

  • 200 g or 300 g spinach
  • knob of ghee or else cooking oil and a knob of butter
  • about 2cm of fresh ginger root, grated
  • clove of garlic, pressed or chopped fine.

Wash the spinach well and drain. Heat the ghee (or oil and butter) with the garlic and ginger in a pan until it starts to sizzle. Then throw in the spinach, still wet, and cover the pan. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is soft and smells delicious. With other greens you may need to add just a bit of water to stop it burning.

Joe Foster

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

JAs are delicious roasted, and as soup.

Jerusalem Artichokes are related to sunflowers so will grow tall and eventually have small yellow flowers.  The sprouts are brittle so take care not to break the growing tip when planting them. Its best to harvest them all in the autumn or over winter, and then replant each year – otherwise they get very congested. 


They are delicious roasted, and I like them as soup. Here is a simple recipe:

  • Peel the artichokes using a vegetable peeler or a teaspoon,  this is not absolutely necessary but makes a better coloured soup.
  • Fry gently with a couple of cloves of garlic in some oil or butter. Don’t let it burn. 
  • After a few minutes,  add enough water to cover and cook with a lid on for about 20 minutes until the artichokes are soft. 
  • Add a handful of parsley and liquidise to a smooth texture. I usually add milk to this,  I’m going to try oat milk next time.  

JAs contain inulin, a starch which encourages healthy gut bacteria but they can make you pretty windy, you have been warned!! 

From Rosie Hall

Borlotti Beans

I struggle to find things that work on my plot, but French beans Borlotti beans are my favourite…

I thought I would stick my oar in and recommend growing borlotti beans. I struggle to find things that work on my plot and have more failures than successes, but French beans and recently, borlotti beans are my favourite and make me happy!
 
Growing borlotti beans turn into lovely purple pods that start to look dried out at the end of summer and that’s when I pick them. Simmer the beans in water with a bay leaf, rosemary and garlic for about 30 mins, then add salt and let stand for 10 mins. Drain, add some olive oil and lemon juice and eat. They are creamy and tasty and you can eat them in salads, as a side dish or add them to a stew, whatever you fancy. So nice and so easy.
Angie Willshaw

Mexican Refried Beans

Frijoles refritos are easy to make, and Borlotti beans work really well.

Refried beans (frijoles refritos) go with lots of Mexican or Tex/Mex dishes, like quesadillas, huevos rancheros, burritos, or as a dip for tortilla chips. They turn out to be easy to make, and the Borlotti beans that many of us grow work especially well.

One cup of dried beans makes two or three cups of frijoles refritos, depending on how soft you want it.

  • one cup of dried beans
  • about 60ml (quarter cup) of oil or lard
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • two or three cloves of finely minced garlic
  • salt

Soak and cook the beans as usual. Drain them, but save the cooking water separately.

In a heavy frying pan, sauté the onions in the oil until they start to brown. Add the garlic, and sauté a bit longer.

Add a big spoonful of the beans, and mash them in well with the onions. Fry them for a while, then add some more beans and mash them in with the rest. Continue until all the beans are fried. This process causes a reaction between the starches and proteins in the beans (a Maillard reaction, if you want to know) which brings out the special flavour.

Now add a bit of the cooking water at a time, mashing it in as you  go, until you get the right consistency.  Make it a bit sloppier, actually, because they set firmer once they cool.  I like to make the dip version quite soft.

Salt the mixture to taste. Beans stand quite a bit of salt sometimes. Keep tasting as you go.

Joe Foster

Okonomiyaki

A Japanese favourite Okonomiyaki is a cabbage ‘pancake’.

A Japanese favourite Okonomiyaki is a cabbage ‘pancake’.  It’s really delicious and easy to make.  This recipe is an Anglo-Japanese version.  Whilst it’s not totally authentic, because it uses easily accessible ingredients, it’s still close to the original, and just as tasty.

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