Sumac Roasted Squash & Carrots with Sautéed Cavolo Nero & Shallots, Lemon Yoghurt, Pomegranate & Dukkah…

When the nights draw in and the thought of hibernation becomes ever more alluring, there are times when I know I’ve overindulged. Forking molten Camembert into my mouth at the weekend with friends counts as one of those occasions – wholly delicious, understandable and indeed even necessary at the time as, let’s face it, all melted cheese is at the beginning – but slightly more difficult to deal with the morning after when unrelenting denim is dragged unenthusiastically up my legs inch by inch. These are the times I want to recharge the system, to flush it out with vegetables, olive oil and good fats and feel as though I’m actively feeding it with both dark green & leafy and bright orange & sweet goodness and this simple, cosy vegetarian supper is just the dish to do that.

Bright, citrussy sumac gives most things a lovely, fragrant flavour and its russet coloured sandiness works particularly well here with the natural sweetness of roasted squash & carrots. Black kale – one of my all-time favourite greens and so much more appealing with its dark velvet leaves than its sturdier, spikier sibling – wilts alongside fragments of shallot that infuse it with a caramelised sweetness. Yoghurt based dressings are reached for time and again in our house – there’s something about their creamy appearance that reminds us of the more indulgent mayonnaise but the guilt-free tang cleanses the palate and soothes both conscience & waistband – while warming, spicy dukkah crumbs and nuggets of candy coloured fruit give lovely textural contrast. The dish is minimum effort, maximum reward and I hope it will leave you as enamoured with the autumnal ingredients as it did us.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • Olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 medium carrots
  • Sumac
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 2 small banana shallots
  • 100g Cavolo Nero
  • 100g fat-free Greek yoghurt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Seeds of half a pomegranate
  • Dukkah

RECIPE

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190/375/gas mark 5.
  2. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil onto a large baking tray (you may need 2 depending on the size of your vegetables) and place in the oven on a middle-top shelf to warm.
  3. Wash & dry the squash then slice into rounds approximately 1-1/5cm thick then wash & dry the carrots before slicing into batons (I don’t remove the skins as I like both the flavour and the goodness that comes from them but if you would prefer to, then by all means peel both vegetables before cutting).
  4. Add both vegetables to a large bowl, drizzle over 2 tbsps. of olive oil and generously dust everything with sumac, flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Remove baking tray(s) from the oven and evenly place the sliced vegetables on them in a single layer before roasting until they are golden brown and soft enough to be pierced all the way through with a knife; this will take approximately 40 minutes, turning and flipping your vegetables half way through.
  6. When your squash & carrots are approximately 15 minutes from being done, remove the tops, bottoms & outer skin of your shallots, slice in half lengthways and then chop across into slender half-moons, roughly 0.5cm thick.
  7. In a small, non-stick frying pan, add 1 tsp. of olive oil and place on a medium heat.
  8. Add your half-moon shallots (breaking them into individual pieces as you do) and sauté gently until slightly crispy with a nice golden colour.
  9. While your shallots are cooking, remove the central vein from your cavolo nero leaves, slice in half, gather together in a pile and slice finely into thin ribbons.
  10. Once your shallots are nearly done, add the cavolo nero to your frying pan and gently toss for five minutes to ensure everything is warmed through and lightly coated in oil.
  11. Lightly beat together the Greek yoghurt & lemon juice in a small bowl.
  12. Once your vegetables are all done, remove from the oven and the hob; place some of the shallot speckled cavolo nero on a plate and add slices of the squash & pieces of the carrot.
  13. Dollop teaspoonfuls of the lemon-yoghurt on top then scatter with pomegranate seeds and dukkah and serve immediately.

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A bowlful of spring in the form of delicate homemade pasta with chicken, lemon, pine nuts, basil & Parmesan…

Ah, sunshine. Blue skies. Warm breezes. Finally, it feels as though spring may be peeking its head around the corner like the ugly-duckling-but-obviously-about-to-be-turned-into-a-gorgeous swan heroine of every John Hughes movie and doesn’t it feel utterly fabulous?

This Easter weekend brought among other things a bright & crisp ramble around Hampstead Heath, frozen yoghurt in the sunshine of our local green and of course, the chance to indulge in some of the most delicious & traditional Easter foods like hot cross buns toasted ’til golden then lavished with softened butter or candy coloured speckled eggs that force themselves into my unsuspecting mouth whenever I walk past them.

This time of year also lends itself to the classic roast dinner in the form of tender, softly pink lamb; delicious and seasonal, it’s a wonderful way to celebrate and enjoy some of the finest produce out there…however that’s not what happened in this kitchen over this Easter weekend.

Nope. And despite loving lamb as I do, I’m not a bit sorry because what happened instead?

This did.

Making pasta with Alex

Yes. This.

Making pasta with Alex

Fresh, delicate & dreamily elegant, this homemade angel hair pasta was brought to life by our own flour dusted fingers and then partnered with a zesty Parmesan & lemon sauce, warmly pine nuts, shredded chicken and torn basil leaves.

Sigh.

Swoon.

The creamy coloured strands were lighter than silk and pairing them with those toasty nuts and satiny emerald leaves was a combination sent straight from heaven and a welcome alternative to a roast dinner that would have been undoubtedly moreish but left us fit only for a nap post-dining.

So let’s take a step back and see how this perfect plate of spring fare came into being…

Making pasta with Alex

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Step into the wonderful world of wholegrains with a chicken, chickpea & bulgar wheat one pot wonder…

It’s interesting how much our tastes and eating habits change as we grow up. When we’re young, we eat what we’re given by parents, family & friends. We learn to love and loathe certain ingredients. We embrace or become wary of different cuisines by the reactions we see around us. We’re defined by the contents of our lunchboxes in the playground and our first-flat-fridges when friends come round for dinner.

My beloved mum who never met a vegetable she didn’t want to start a meaningful relationship with and who placed great importance during my and my sister’s childhoods on eating well balanced meals around a table together was also famous among my friends for always having a tin of mini chocolate bars in our cupboard and this approach of ‘everything in moderation’ is as deeply embedded in me from her as my love for Rhett Butler & strawberry milk.

Something that I’ve recently tried, subsequently loved and which I’m sure my pre-teen self might have wrinkled her nose at are wholegrains. I know, I know, you get that I like them because I talk about them a bit.

Okay a lot.

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Alright, all the time but I can’t help it – there are so many benefits to these tiny nuggets of loveliness that I become impassioned on their behalf whenever they come up in conversation. Like Frodo Baggins or Oliver Twist, wholegrains might appear on the surface to be the quiet, unassuming underdog but overlook them at your peril because like our pointy-eared hobbit or Cockney, jazz handed orphan, there’s much more to them than meets the eye.

Simple, healthy & filling? Check.

An average cup packing a whopping 33% dietary fibre? Check.

Helping to reduce the risk of strokes, diabetes & heart disease? Check.

Wholegrains add bulk to a quick dinner meaning you feel full on less calorie intake, make the perfect next-day-leftovers lunch and greedily absorb whatever flavours you want to drizzle or drench them with and this one pot recipe is an excellent example of this.

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