Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne

When you have a food blog, you want to add recipes that are delicious, but they also need to look good in a photograph too. I’m not the best photographer (and when I’ve made something I generally just want to get on with eating it, not spending ages photographing it!). I’ve also found that some dishes just don’t look great. This recipe is one that is tasty, but just not pretty to look at.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne (serves 2-3)

1/2 large butternut squash, chopped into 1cm cubes
2 small onions, chopped into 2cm chunks
Olive oil
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tsp Italian dried mixed Herbs
150g Spinach (I often use frozen)
100g butter
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
100g plain flour
Ground black pepper
650ml of milk
10 lasagne sheets (fresh is good if you want it to cook quickly, but dried sheets are fine if you don’t mind waiting longer for your lasagne to cook)
50g vegetarian Parmesan style cheese

1. Preheat oven to 200°C.

2. Roast the Butternut Squash and onion, drizzled with oil, in the oven for 25 minutes until cooked through.

3. Heat the tomatoes, herbs and spinach together in a pan to make a rustic sort of tomato sauce. Stir in the butternut squash and onion.

4. Make the white sauce by melting the butter with the sage leaves. Add the flour and the ground pepper, to taste, and whisk to form a smooth paste. Allow to cook for a further minute. Slowly add the milk a splash at a time, whisking into combine before adding more milk. Put the sauce to one side.

5. Assemble the lasagne by layering the sheets of pasta, tomato sauce and the white sauce. Top the lasagne with the vegetarian parmesan.

6. Bake for 25 minutes if using fresh lasagne sheets, or around 45 minutes if you are using dried pasta.

I’ve also found that I can make an allergy friendly version of the white sauce using dairy free spread (Vitalite), gluten free plain flour and a milk substitute (Koko). In this instance I would also use dairy free cheese instead of the vegetarian parmesan.

Baileys Popcorn

This is a grown up popcorn, ideal for a party or a film night with the girls.

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Baileys Caramel Popcorn

125g popcorn, unpopped
Frylight cooking spray
100g caster sugar
50g liquid glucose
100g butter
120ml Baileys
2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

1. Start by popping the popcorn. I store my unpopped corn in the freezer as I read somewhere that this makes the fluffiest popcorn. It also seems to help with making sure as many kernels pop as possible. I pop my popcorn in a lidded glass bowl in the microwave. I spray Frylight over the kernels, cover with the lid and set the microwave for 2 minutes. If the popping hasn’t slowed down by the time the microwave pings, I add another 30 seconds, and keep doing this until most of the kernels look to have popped.

2. Spread out the popcorn in a single on a large baking tray or trays. I use a silicone sheet instead of baking paper or foil here to line the baking tray, like the sort you can use to line the bottom of your oven. You can then start preparing the caramel coating. In a pan, gently heat the sugar, butter and liquid glucose, stirring until it combines and the butter is melted. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the temperature up and heat for 2 minutes. The mixture will become a caramel colour. Keep an eye on it but don’t stir it.

3. Add the Baileys, watch out in case it spits when you tip it in. Mix thoroughly to combine, it may take awhile for the caramel and Baileys to combine to a smooth consisteny, and keep on the heat for 2 more minutes.

4. Remove from the heat. Add the Bicarbonate of Soda. The mixture will fizz up, give it a good stir to mix it thoroughly. Tip it over the popcorn and mix the popcorn around with a spoon to make sure it is all coated. This will take a few minutes to get an even coverage.

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5. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Bake the popcorn for 20 minutes until the caramel has just started to crisp up. It will take on a deeper brown colour on baking. Allow to cool before serving.

Love is … Chocolate Chilli mug cake

Mug cakes cooked in the microwave were really popular last year, which I found amusing as we’ve made cakes in the microwave at our house from being children. My sister’s favourite was chocolate sponge, mine was golden syrup sponge. I thought I’d update the flavourings with something she likes as an adult; chocolate and chilli.

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Chocolate and Chilli Microwave Mug Cake (serves 1)

30g chocolate
25g butter
1 tsp chipotle Chilli powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
5 tbsp self raising flour

1. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave in a large mug, heating slowly and stopping to stir frequently, so the chocolate doesn’t burn.

2. Mix in the remaining ingredients, stirring well.

3. Microwave for 1.5 minutes.

Orange and Cranberry Pancakes

This is a nice relaxed breakfast dish, perfect for some weekend pottering in the kitchen.

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Orange and Cranberry Pancakes (serves 2)

1 small tin of mandarins (get the broken segments if you can)
A generous handful of dried cranberries
100g self raising flour
2tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
150ml milk
Oil for frying

1. Drain the mandarins, reserving the juice. Keep half of them to serve alongside your pancakes. The rest will need breaking up into small chunks to put into the pancake mixture.

2. Tip the cranberries into a microwaveable bowl and pour over just enough of the reserved mandarin juice to cover them.  Microwave for 1 minute so that the dried cranberries soak up the juice and plump up.

3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and baking powder. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg and milk.  Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dried ingredients, mixing thoroughly to form a smooth batter. Add the cranberries and any of the remaining mandarin juice from the microwaveable bowl as well as the broken up mandarin pieces and mix in. (You can leave the batter to sit for a while, but it is fine to use straight away.)

4. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan. Drop small rounds of the mixture into the pan. Cook over a gentle heat until small bubbles appear on the top surface. Gently turn the pancakes over and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes until golden. Repeat until all the mixture is used up.

Serve with the remaining mandarins.

Avocado and sweetcorn salsa

It’s raining and grey here in Yorkshire so I needed some food that is full of sunshine to cheer me up. This is a Mexican inspired recipe that’s easy to throw together.

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Avocoda and Sweetcorn Salsa (makes one small bowl full)

225g canned sweetcorn, drained
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
8-10 cherry tomatoes, quartered, and de-seeded if you don’t like the insides like me!
A handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together well.  Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours before eating.

Fresh coriander is a good substitute for basil.

This is also nice mixed with cooled pasta shapes to make a pasta salad for lunch.

Chocolate thumbprint cookies

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100g Butter, at room temperature
100g Caster Sugar
3 heaped tablespoons Cocoa powder
Pinch of Salt
1 tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
175g Plain flour
100g White chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2. Cream together the sugar and the butter. Then mix in the cocoa powder until well combined.

3. Add the salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and flour and mix briskly together.

4. Prepare 2 large baking sheets by covering them in baking paper.

5. Roll the mixture into walnut sized balls and place on the baking sheets, keeping them well spaced. Press your thumb into the middle to make a indent.

6. Bake in the oven for 7-9 minutes for a chewy texture. You can leave them in longer if you want a firmer texture.

7. When you take the biscuits out of the oven, press your thumb into them again to make sure the dent remains.

8. Allow the biscuits to cool.

9. Melt the white chocolate.  I do this in the microwave, but take care to melt the chocolate gently as it can easily burn. Use the chocolate to fill the indent. Allow the chocolate to set. (If, like me you are taking these biscuits to a Lego themed event you can top them with a Lego brick modelled from modelling icing.)

This recipe is based on a recipe from A Pinch of Yum.