Category Archives: Autumn/Winter

Stuffed Baked Squash


DSCN5824I have this lingering love affair with squash. I like it pretty much however it is cooked. However in this neck of the woods, we do not get a lot of choice. On my occasional visits to Germany and Britain, I drool over the different squashes available. Here we basically get one sort and that is the squash that looks like a green curling stone, a flattened globe. They do come in a range of sizes however, from some not much bigger than a tea plate up to bigger than a soccer football. That said it is possible, on the markets at least,  to buy a half or even a quarter of a squash, with no fuss. As an aside, it is also possible to buy one (1) stick of celery! I just love it here.

Anyway I spotted this recipe, and because of my declared love and the original title of ‘Twice Baked Squash’, investigated further.

First off it said use butternut squash. Yes I have seen them, but not around here. But I did have an ordinary squash, so I thought ‘this is a goer’.  Next it said use goats cheese. Well I have some feta that needed using – that will do. Further it said user kosher salt – haven’t got any and none to be bought around here, however as I planned to use feta cheese, which is quite salty, I decided against using any more.Next up was low-fat Greek yoghurt, and again I thought, will ordinary Italian yoghurt from Sud Tirol do? I very sensibly told myself that it would and that no one would be any the wiser.

Lastly it called for Panko breadcrumbs. Now, I have seen this word a lot just lately, but I looked it up on Wikipedia just to refresh my memory. These are breadcrumbs made from a Japanese bread that is baked specially, by passing an electric current through the dough, producing a loaf that has very little crust and has the property of absorbing very little oil or butter when it is further cooked. I make my own breadcrumbs from the bread that I make. My bread is organic sourdough and I am very happy with it, and it has not come from the other side of the world.

I have to say the original title, of Twice Baked Squash, fooled me into thinking that it was a little exotic, and it was not until I had started the first baking that I realized what I was doing. I was softening the squash in the most expensive way possible, by baking it. That is not my style, no way. So I did back-to-back test cooking on how to soften half a squash and here are the results.


Original Recipe said to wrap the squash in aluminium foil and bake at 230 C/450 F/ Gas 8/  Very Hot for 35 minutes or until a knife tested soft. Well our oven takes about 20 minutes to get to that sort of temperature, so a total of 50 minutes oven time at full bore = expensive.

My Recipe. Next I put the other half, without foil, in our vegetable steamer and steamed it for about 12 minutes, using a low gas on the hob top. Done to perfection. I used a cup full of water which took less than 5 minutes to come to the boil, and that water went straight into the stock pot afterwards. I have to confess that I feel incredibly smug when I save time and money, with no loss of flavour either.

Now to my recipe.

Serves 4. Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 30 minutes


Half a medium squash cut through the middle,  deseeded

3 or 4 medium sticks of celery cut to 6 mm/ 1/4 inch lengths

1 medium onion finely sliced

1 clove of garlic minced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh sage chopped finely or 1/2 tablespoon of dried sage

50 gm/ 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons of yoghurt

2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, dry toasted in a frying pan


Steam the half squash for about 10 to 12 minutes or until it is fully softened. Test with a skewer or thin knife.

Meanwhile saute the onion, celery slices and the garlic in a little of the olive oil. Leave a little texture in the celery.


Using a dessert spoon, remove the flesh, from the squash, transferring it to a small mixing bowl and , leaving a 6 mm/ 1/4 inch layer all over.


Retain the shell

Mash the flesh and then add the cheese, yoghurt, celery, onion, garlic and sage. Mix thoroughly.


Transfer the mixture to the retained shell, smoothing over the surface.

Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.


Sprinkle sparingly with the remaining olive oil.

Bake in a pre set oven at 200 C/425 F/Gas 6/Moderate Hot for about 15 minutes or until it is heated right through.

DSCN5833Serve immediately with vegetables of your choice. And very tasty it was too.




Filed under Autumn/Winter, Cheese, Main Meal, Spring, Vegetables

Stir Fried Brussels Sprouts and Apple



I just love Brussels Sprouts. Raw, boiled, steamed, baked, in a stew, cold the next day, whatever and now this way. It is made with a little maple syrup or honey added, and that touch of sweetness gives the sprouts a bit extra on the taste front and help counter any bitterness from the sprouts.

One of the beauties of wok cooking is the speed with which food can be prepared and brought to the table, and the smaller the food is chopped to, the quicker it is cooked, and this recipe is no different. When my son Adam was at high school, he had a Chinese friend, whose parents owned and ran a Chinese takeaway, and on occasions when I went to collect Adam when he had been playing with his friend, I had the opportunity to see the behind the scenes action in the kitchen of the takeaway. An array of woks on impossibly high gas flames and the  two parents stirring and shaking vigorously for all they were worth, and producing a meal in mere minutes. Impressive.

One can of course prepare all the food before cooking, in which case one would have to soak the prepared apple in lemon juice to prevent it from going brown. However by working swiftly it can be prepared while the onion is cooking, saving the cost of said lemon juice. Like wise the sprouts can also be prepared quickly while the onions and apples are cooking.

Serves 4. Preparation Time 15 minutes. Cooking Time 15 minutes (maximum). Total time approximately 20 – 25 minutes


1 large onion, finely sliced.

2 cloves of garlic.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

1  cooking apple or firm crisp eating apple.

1 level tablespoon maple syrup or honey or sugar

370 gm/12 oz/ 3 cups Brussels sprouts, chopped into eighths , or shredded in a processor

100 gm/ 3 1/2 oz/ 1/3 cup pine nuts, any nuts, chopped or flaked, no nuts

salt and pepper to taste


In a wok (preferably), or medium frying pan, gently soften the onion, in a little of the oil, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue for another 2 minutes.

While the onion and garlic are cooking, chop the apple into small bite size pieces.

Add to the onion and garlic, increase the heat and stir fry for 2 or 3 minutes.


Add the maple syrup and stir fry for 1 minute, and then scrape into a bowl and reserve for later.



Add the rest of the oil and then the sprouts. Over quite a high heat stir fry the sprouts up to 5 minutes, depending on how fine they have been chopped, and until they have turned bright green and are beginning to brown on the edges.


Add the onion. garlic and apple mixture, and working quickly, stir fry, warming through the whole mixture. Season to taste.


Add the nuts, stirring through to distribute them equally.

Serve immediately onto hot plates.


Here I have served them with hot home made sauerkraut in a tomato sauce, and plain boiled potatoes.



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Filed under Autumn/Winter, Main Meal, Spring, Student Food, Vegetables

Brussels Sprouts in Red Wine, with Black Olives


I love Brussels Sprouts. I hated Brussels Sprouts. But I cannot remember when the change occurred. I clearly remember waking upon Sunday mornings at home, when I was a child, and dreading the prospect of sprouts for dinner. Sunday meant roast dinner and roast dinners were always a trial for me, as I was never that keen on meat, especially roast lamb. Adding Brussels Sprouts to the meal just compounded my misery.

When my son Adam, who was young at the time declared his hatred for Brussels Sprouts, I decided to hunt for ‘the recipe’ that would win him over. This is it. After trying some dozen or so varied recipes this is the one where he declared his new found passion for Brussels Sprouts. It has been a firm favourite since, and some 25 years later it is kind of gratifying to know that not only is it still his favourite but that his children in turn share his enthusiasm.

It is straightforward to make and I suppose that is a key to its success. The red wine adds a pleasant ochre to the sprouts as well as tempering the sharpness of taste that you sometimes get with sprouts.

Serves 4. Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking Time 20 minutes.


2 tablespoons Olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced

1 or 2 cloves of garlic crushed

500 gm/1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered through the stem so they hold together

20 Black olives, pitted and halved.

Dry red wine


In a large frying pan or wok, saute the sliced onion for 5 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile trim and quarter the sprouts.


Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another 2 minutes.

Add the Brussels Sprout, saute and stir until the sprouts begin to catch and brown.


Add the olives and enough wine to nearly cover the sprouts mixture. Increase the heat to bring to the boil.



Fit the lid and simmer for about 10 -12 minutes or until they are at your desired texture.


Serve immediately.

Here I have served the sprouts with baked potato, baked carrots and baked Jerusalem artichoke. I have in the past served it with plain boiled rice.

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Filed under ALL Recipes, Autumn/Winter, Main Meal, Vegetables

Braised Red Cabbage


This dish is very popular in Germany and Austria where it is consumed throughout the year, but of course in Britain, red cabbage is used almost exclusively for Pickled Red Cabbage, and rarely for serving hot, which is a pity really. It provides a sweet counterpoint to stronger flavoured items on the plate such as Brussels Sprouts, Parsnips, Swede or Game in much the same way that Cranberry Sauce does, and at a fraction of the cost.

It is simplicity to make, freezes well and the flavour improves if made the day before it is wanted, and just heated up prior to serving. For vegetarians and vegans it could be served with plain boiled potatoes as a main course.



1 small red cabbage

25 gm/1 0z/ butter

1 large onion finely sliced

1 level teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 level teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 Bramley or cooking apple peeled,cored and grated

100 ml red wine vinegar

100 ml cold water

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly or similar


Melt the butter in a suitably large saucepan and gently saute the onion for 5 minutes


Finely slice the cabbage discarding the core, then add to the onion.

Stir in the spices, apple, sugar, red wine vinegar and water. Season well.

Stir until the sugar is dissolved, fit the lid, bring to the boil and the simmer with a lid on for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Check near the hour and make sure the cabbage is tender and also to ensure that the liquid has nearly evaporated. If it has not then cook for a further 10 minutes with the lid off.

Stir in the redcurrant jelly and serve. I used grape jelly the last time I made it, and it was just as nice.


If you do want to make this ahead then when you reheat it just a add a very little water so that it does not catch on the bottom of the pan. Warm it through for about 10 minutes and serve hot.

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Filed under ALL Recipes, Autumn/Winter, Main Meal, Side Dishes, Spring, Vegetables

Mince Pies


Makes 12 or so and takes about 45 minutes

Christmas in Britain would not be the same without these. Countless millions are sold and consumed every year, but it is so easy to make your own. By using self raising flour the pies are light and soft. Adding the lemon to the flour introduces an extra flavour to the mincemeat. Fresh from the oven and served with cream – pure decadence.


200 gm/7 oz/2 cups self-raising flour (or plain flour with baking powder added)

100 gm/3 1/2 oz/1 cup butter out of the fridge, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 lemon finely grated zest and juice

250 gm/8 1/2 oz/2 1/2 cups mincemeat

Icing sugar for dusting


1 Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, add the butter and together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2 Stir in the sugar and lemon zest, then using a round bladed knife stir in the lemon juice and a little cold water, until the mixture comes together.

3 Work the dough gently into a ball and then roll out to about 3 mm/ 1/8 inch thick. Stamp out 9 cm/ 3 1/2 inch diameter rounds and line a greased 12 hole baking tin.

4 Spoon a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each case.


5 Roll out the remaining pastry and stamp out stars and place them centrally on each case


6 Bake in a pre-heated oven set to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6/moderate hot oven, for 12 to 15 minutes until the pastry is golden.

7 Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar

8 At stage 5 you could freeze them for later baking. Just put them in the freezer, in the baking tins and when frozen remove them and put into bags. Bake in a hot oven straight from the freezer for about 18 minutes


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Filed under ALL Recipes, Autumn/Winter, Christmas, Dessert, Recipes

Deep Fried Sheep’s Eyeballs



Okay I confess these are NOT deep fried sheep’s eyeballs, however one can,with a little imagination, envisage the initial resistance as one bites into a real sheep’s eyeball and then the sudden relaxing of resistance as the teeth penetrates and the contents empty into your mouth – Got the picture?

I created these many years ago when I was invited to a party and we were urged to bring unusual foods for the party. They are simplicity to make, along as you don’t laugh too much when you are making them.  I presented them at the party as Deep Fried Sheep’s Eyeballs, and they created a great deal of comment. Interesting as well when they were pounced upon by the gourmets and pronounced as the best eyeballs they had tasted! They are just as nice served hot or cold, though probably with a tasty accompanying sauce.

Serves 4 as an antipasti or starter, with preparation taking about 10 minutes and cooking about 10 to 15 minutes


Grapes, the largest and seedless grapes you can buy, green or black

300 ml/10 fl oz/1 1/4 vegetable oil for frying

150 ml/5 fl oz/1/2 cup warm milk

100 gm/3 1/2 oz/1 cup flour

1 egg

packet dried yeast

1 teaspoon of chili powder


  1. Mix together the flour, milk,egg, yeast and chili, and allow to develop into a fairly thick batter for about an hour in a warm place.
  2. Pour the oil into a saucepan so that the oil will cover the grapes, and heat to about 190 C/375 F.
  3. Dip grapes into the batter and fry for about 4 minutes, remove and place on kitchen paper to drain.
  4. Keep them warm whilst doing the rest.
  5. Serve immediately.


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Filed under ALL Recipes, Autumn/Winter, Fruit, Grapes, Humour, Recipes, Spicy

Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

This recipe makes a fine tasting cake that will do you justice at christmas when your guests taste it, and comes courtesy of my wife Joy, who traditionally makes the christmas cake every year. In Italy there is no cake that comes close to ‘our’ christmas cake, the nearest they have is Panetone, which is a chewy yeast based confection, which in its own way is very pleasant, and is most like the british glazed teacake in texture. Most Italians cannot grasp the concept of a cake that can be kept for months and even years (in the case of christening cakes traditionly being the top tier of a wedding cake). It is seemingly beyond their comprehension that a cake that old can be edible let alone delicious. We have given up trying to convince them. Still it is their loss not ours.

This recipe gives about 24 slices, takes about 30 minutes to prepare and about 3 hours to cook.


800kg/1 1/2lbs/ 3 1/2 cups mixed sultanas, raisins and currants

100gm/3 1/2oz/ 1/2 cup glaciated mixed fruits

100gm/3 1/2oz/ 1/2 cup glaciated cherries chopped

100gm/3 1/2oz/ 1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped

100gm/3 1/2oz/ 1/2 cupdried figs, roughly chopped

80gm/3oz/ 1/3 cup flaked almonds

1 orange, zest and juice

150ml/ 5floz/ 1/2 cup/ sherry or masarla

250gm/8oz/ 1cup unsalted butter at room temperature

175gm/5 1/2oz/ 1 cup soft brown sugar

15ml/ 1/2 floz/ 3 teaspoons golden syrup

5ml/ – / 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

5 mediem eggs, lightly beaten

300gm/10 oz/ 1 cup plain flour

75gm/2 1/2 oz/ 1/4 cup self raising flour

5ml/ – 1 teaspoon ground ginger

5ml/ – /1 teaspoon ground mace

5ml/ – /1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

5ml/ – / 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice

15ml/ 1/2 floz/ 3 teaspoons orange marmalade


You will need a 20 x 9 cm deep spring form cake tin for this recipe

  1. Mix together the dried fuit,almonds, orange zest and juice and sherry in a large mixing bowl. Cover and allow to soak overnight.
  2. Grease and double line the cake tin with baking parchment.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the golden syrup.
  5. Stir the vanilla essence into the eggs and then stir into the butter and sugar mixture.
  6. Sieve the flours and spices into the mixture gently folding in.
  7. Fold in the marmalade and add the nuts and dried fruit, stirring gently to achieve a uniform mixture.
  8. Spoon into your prepared cake tin, smoothing the top and forming a small depression in the centre.
  9. Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven set at 150C/300F/Gas 2/Slow for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake.
  10. After about 2 hours you may need to cover the top with foil to stop it burning for the remainder of the cooking time.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for at least an hour before removing it from the tin. Leave it to cool completely on a wire rack.
  12. When completely cool, wrap in baking parchment and foil and then in an airtight tin. Store in a cool place,
  13. Every 4 weeks you can ‘feed’ it by making holes across the top with a skewer and pouring on 20ml/ 3/4floz/1 tablespoon of sherry or port.

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Filed under ALL Recipes, Autumn/Winter, Cakes, Christmas, Drying Fruit, Recipes