Butternut squash and Stilton pasties

It’s the time of year when we crave comfort food – generally anything hot and carby. And it’s also the time of year for pumpkins and the like. So my recipe for butternut squash and Stilton pasties was perfect for this weekend. They’re super-easy and fun to make, and fun to eat too! They’re perfect for Halloween or bonfire night.

 

Ingredients

Butternut squash and stilton pasties

1 butternut squash

1 onion

200g Stilton

2 sheets of ready rolled short crust pastry

Oil

1 egg

 

Method

Chop the butternut squash into small cubes and add to a roasting tin (oiled) and pop into the oven on gas mark 5 for 10 minutes. Chop the onion and add to the squash, returning to the oven for another 40 minutes.

Cut the sheets of pastry into 12 squares (six squares per sheet). When the butternut squash and onion are cooked and cooled, add a desert spoonful to the middle of each square. Be careful not to overstuff as this can cause the pastry to tear. Add the Stilton, having chopped

To seal the pasties dip your finger in water and run it around the edge of the pastry square. Fold the square over the filling and fold up the edges, crimping together (you can use your fingers, and don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect, it will taste great and that’s all that matters!). Place on a baking tray and prick each pasty with a sharp knife before coating the pasties with the egg wash. Then pop them in the oven on gas mark 5 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy while hot – perfect for Halloween or bonfire night!

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Well-seasoned soup; perfect for winter!

We sold a lot of our homemade soup in Willow Bough last week. It’s not surprising with the cold weather and the promise – or was it threat?! – of snow. What I love about our soup is that it’s so easy to make and there are an abundance of different varieties you can make; it really is just a case of what your favourite vegetables are.

The two tips I give for making soup are: firstly don’t worry about how neatly or small you chop the vegetables.  It’s going in soup and will get blitzed at the end so it really doesn’t matter what they look like; and for the same reason, I always buy the supermarket economy vegetables for my soups.

Today we made curried parsnip soup and Edie, who was working with me, was keen to take note of the recipe for when she goes to university in September. She’s conscious of cost and making sure she gets her five a day, plus Edie is a big fan of parsnips cooked in any way, and so this soup will be perfect for her once she moves into student accommodation. As with all homemade soups you can make a big batch of it and store in individual portions in the fridge or freezer. It seems obvious but I’ve learned over the years that it can be easy to get out of the habit of being organised in order to eat well on a budget. And the cherry on the top is, that this soup is so tasty it really is a win/win recipe!

 

Curried parsnip soup

Recipe

A knob of butter

1 white onion

2 packets of supermarket parsnips

2 vegetable stock cubes in 2 pints of water

2 teaspoons of mild curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Milk or cream (optional)

 

Method

Chop the onion and sweat it in the butter in a large pan. Chop the parsnips and add, handfuls at a time, sweating them with the onions. Once the vegetables have softened add the stock and simmer for around 20 minutes. Once the soup has cooled down blend it with a hand-held mixer (or similar) and add the curry powder and seasoning to taste. The soup can be decanted into individual portion-sized containers and put in the fridge or even frozen ready to be enjoyed on a cold day!

 

Aligot; fabulous French fare!

This summer I was lucky enough to get away on a couple of European holidays to France and Spain. The first took me to spend some time with my parents at our home in the Aveyron; an idyllic little corner of France that’s rich in good food, wine and beautiful views. While it was a much-needed rest for me away from London life I couldn’t help but get my hands dirty in the kitchen. There are so many delicious foods in that part of the world and too many recipes to try out in just one week! But I gave it my best shot and over the next few weeks I’ll be bringing you stories of my culinary adventures in France and Spain as well as some super-yummy recipes to try for yourself.

I’ve been enjoying family holidays in France for as long as I can remember (my first holiday there was to the Pyrenees when I was just three months old) and been going to the Aveyron for over a decade now. And the first Aveyronaise food I fell in love with is still firmly my favourite! Aligot is the most delicious potato dish that goes wonderfully with the local beef or veal. I’ve served it to every guest I’ve hosted out there and they’ve all loved it. It’s beautifully garlicky and totally moreish!

You can buy aligot at pretty much any food market in the Aveyron, but I missed it when I was back in London and decided to have a go at making some myself. Of course I like to put my twist on it – and, I’ve been advised, this is also something some locals recommend; you may have guessed already, I like to add a spot of white wine. It gives the aligot a zingy kick that works well with a nice piece of pork belly and green beans, a great autumnal meal, but tastes especially good the next morning served on crusty baguette. Mmmm, delicious!

Aligot (serves 4)

Ingredients

2oz butter

Garlic (I like to use at least four fat cloves!)

2lbs potatoes (ideally Maris Piper)

14oz grated laguiole or cantal cheese (use Lancashire cheese if you can’t find the French cheeses in your local supermarket)

Salt and pepper to taste

Up to half a bottle of white table wine

Method

Place the garlic and butter in a pan and melt over a low heat for around 20 minutes. Leave the garlic for longer if you have the time.

Boil the potatoes and drain. Add the garlic infused butter and cream together with a handheld mixer.

Add the grated cheese little by little, stirring over a low heat until it is melted and smooth. Gradually add the wine, continuing to stir over a low heat. Once the aligot is at a consistency you’re happy with serve and enjoy. And enjoy again tomorrow!

A taste of summer: cherry and coconut flapjacks

Hello and welcome to my new blog. In this blog I’ll be writing about baking delicious sweet treats, afternoon teas and other tea-room-related fun…

Afternoon tea has always been a hobby of mine, from the early days of baking cakes and sharing them with childhood friends, teddy bears and bunny rabbits (yes, real ones named Miffy, Buffy, Peter, Chocolate and Delilah) on a picnic rug on the playroom floor to my excitement as an adult visiting national trust properties and quaint villages where sandwiches, scones and clotted cream were the first priority!

I also developed an addiction to vintage china and pretty things, which started when I inherited tea sets from both my grandmothers. I can’t explain it but I really do think a cup of tea tastes so much better from a cup and saucer! My collection/addiction – whatever you want to call it – grew and now I have my beautiful little tea room in Wimbledon where my customers are treated to good old fashioned cakes which are all baked on the premises and afternoon teas which are all served on beautiful vintage china. If you’re in the area please do call in and see us!

Baking the cakes myself is definitely one of the really fun parts of my job! We get to make traditional favourites such as Victoria sandwich, lemon drizzle and coffee cake as well as trying out new recipes and adapting recipes to give our own take on the classics. One of my personal favourites, which I think works well all year round is coconut and cherry flapjack. I really think the flavours complement each other and, for me, both cherries and coconut evoke memories of both family Christmases and long, lazy summers in the south of France.

Flapjacks are a relatively new cake, having been around in the UK since the 1930s and are still popular today – they’re great for picnics and packed lunches and go wonderfully with a lovely cup of tea. They’re an easy bake which makes them perfect for children – this is probably why I first made them with my Grandmother as a small child. And they can be cut into bite-size pieces suitable for children or larger slices for grown-up children!

 

Cherry and coconut flapjacks – makes 12

Ingredients

6oz butter

3oz golden syrup

3oz honey

6oz sugar

12oz oats

5oz glace cherries, halved

1oz desiccated coconut

Method

Melt the butter, syrup, honey and sugar in a saucepan. Once fully melted, stir in the oats. Add the cherries and coconut a bit at a time, stirring in as you go to get an even distribution.

Pour the mixture into a greased baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven (150c) for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Leave in the tray until cooled as removing warm flapjacks from the tray will result in a big, crumbled mess! Once cool, slice into twelve pieces, put the kettle on and indulge!

 

Willow Bough Tea Rooms is open 9am-5pm Monday to Saturday and can be found at 11 Merton Park Parade, Kingston Road, Wimbledon SW19 3NT.