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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South in south west; a taste of The South in Fulham

For a south-west London girl who loves country music and food (in no particular order), I was really excited to hear of a new southern American restaurant, Stagolee’s Hot Chicken and Liquor Joint, opening up in Fulham. While I’ve made the journey across the pond a few times I’ve never been to The South so this cuisine was virgin territory for me, and my taste buds were beyond excited. No pressure then Stagolee’s… 

The South is famed for its hospitality and Stagolee’s didn’t let us down. We were greeted by friendly (but not too intrusive) staff and enjoyed a chat with the Nashville-native owner, Jordan, who talked us through the menu, whisky, moonshine and what makes southern cuisine so special.

We started off sharing the hot spinach dip, a cheesy spinach and artichoke dip served with tortillas. I could have eaten this and nothing else all evening and left a happy woman. Spinach, artichoke and cheese are three of my favourite foods, so put them all together and I was in food heaven for a while. But it was my duty to eat a main course too…

We opted for the chicken platters; excellent value for money at under £10 each. Beware those of you who aren’t keen on heat, you might be best off choosing the skillet fried chicken. We went for the hot chicken which I loved – but I was pleased to have sides to balance out the heat. Olivia found the hot chicken a bit too hot, and she’s fairly hard-core, so tread carefully, but if you think you’re tough enough I personally recommend the hot chicken.

The deliciously refreshing carrot salad

When I say excellent value for money I really mean it. We each got two pieces of delicious chicken, two yummy sides and cornbread. And speaking of cornbread, where has it been all my life? I wasn’t expecting to enjoy what seemed like cake with a main course quite as much as I did. I really must have a go at making some myself! Sides include the classic mac and cheese, sweet potato, southern-style greens (served with ham hock – again, mouth-wateringly scrumptious), and carrot salad (which reminded me of coronation chicken without the chicken. Or the mayonnaise). The carrot salad was refreshing and full of flavour – definitely my favourite. Crinkle cut chips are also available but it seems a shame to me to not enjoy the other side dishes. Let’s face it, you can get chips almost anywhere.

I’m afraid pudding beat us – there was simply no room left. However, it would have been almost criminal to leave without enjoying a whisky. Having started the evening with a delicious gin cocktail and then enjoyed a bottle of red with the main meal I wasn’t really in the best place to judge how good a whisky it was, so I’ll just have to trust the barman on this one. Needless to say, I enjoyed it!

 So the big question is, would I go back to Stagolee’s? Absolutely, although really do feel the need to visit Nashville even more than ever now to check out the food, if nothing else!

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!

 

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.