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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Poaching from Poppins here but the Pistachio & Pickle is practically perfect in every way…

Have you ever put somewhere on your list that you had a real hankering to visit but wanted to wait until you had enough time to truly enjoy it? Somewhere that you were almost a little bit afraid to try for fear that it might not live up to the sky high expectations you had of it after hearing rave reviews?

Welcome to the Pistachio & Pickle, just such a place for me.

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A cake to please your soul…and your skinny jeans…

When the cast of ‘Oliver’ exalted their love of food, glorious food and longed with waifish eyes for indigestion, I think the foodie inside us all agreed with them. Not about needing the Pepto Bismol perhaps but about the sentiments that food can trigger; the boys’ hot sausage and mustard might take you to a warm and cosy autumnal fireplace supper as the rain lashes down outside while cold jelly and custard may transport you back to your youth and Sunday lunch at your nan’s house.

And cake? Well it may not have been sung about by roguish scamps armed with a cheeky Cockney twang and a light fingered touch, but cake is responsible for triggering a multitude of sentiments. Often presented to mark a celebration or special occasion, cake is definite treat food. Think about it – most other foods have some health benefits. I mean you can even tout anti-oxidants as the reason behind your clinging onto a glass of Pinot Noir and a bar of 70% Green & Blacks if you feel the need but cake? Hard to justify the physical well-being that comes from a marriage of butter, sugar, eggs and flour.

Good thing then that we really don’t care! That’s right, we don’t even try to justify it because – just to clarify – we don’t care! Cake is good for the soul. It’s good for the spirit. It makes you happy be it dark, rich and fudgy chocolate layers, tangy, bright and crunchy-topped lemon muffins or a glossily iced and whiskey-scented fruit loaf and here’s a new one for the repertoire – a damply more-ish lemon blueberry yoghurt cake.

I promise I’m not going against everything I’ve just said and deliberately trying to be healthy here by hiding fruit in the batter – I’m just branching out with my baking tins, spatulas and whisk.

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