A Tasty Gift

Squash, Smoked Bacon and Potato Soup – Serves 4

A few days ago, I was thinking about what to prepare for dinner, the weather was miserable, cold and rainy. I wanted to make something healthy but yummy for the kids. I remembered this recipe from the days I was working with Theo Randall at the InterContinental Park Lane in London. This dish is simply perfect for a rainy November day. It will warm up our bodies and lift our spirits!

The sweetness of the squash, the rich taste of the bacon and the creaminess of the charlotte potatoes, they all mix together to create this delicious soup. I know the chicken stock is amazing when homemade, but let’s be realistic, between the kids, work and everything else, finding time to make homemade chicken stock has become a real luxury. So don’t hesitate to use stock cubes! I recommend the gelatine ones instead of the granulate. In my opinion they have a better flavour and are easier to dissolve. If you have time go for a fresh homemade chicken stock that’s great, if you don’t the soup will still taste amazing with the stock from the box.

1kg ripe onion squash or Butternut squash
1 small onion chopped
100g of smoked bacon cut in cubes
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1tsp of chopped thyme
300g of charlotte potatoes, peeled and cubed
1L chicken stock
70g crème fraiche
Salt and black pepper

1. Peel the squash and remove the seeds and fibres. Cut the flesh into cubes.
2. Fry the onion and bacon in the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan until light gold in colour. Add the thyme, squash and potatoes and stir, then cook for a further 5 minutes.
3. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. After 30 minutes turn the heat off and let it cool for 10 minutes. Ladle into a blender and pulse until smooth, if you got a small blender do it in small batches.
5. Now pour it back into the pan and stir in the crème fraiche, add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat and serve piping hot. Enjoy!

Recommended Wine: Pinot Noir (New Zealand)

Pork Chops, Oven Baked Leeks and Potatoes – Serves 4-6

I love pork chops, but they can be a bit dry sometimes. If you buy the chops from a butcher shop, make sure to ask for the top end loin chops, (these have a nice amount of fat around the eye of the meat, a bit like a ribeye steak). If instead you buy your meat from a supermarket just make sure they’ve got a nice layer of fat. Always remember when cooking pork that fat is flavour. The leek and potatoes will be a perfect match for your pork chops, with the saltines of the anchovies and the sweetness of the cream.

4 pork chops (1inch thick)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped rosemary
Juice of 1 lemon

For the leek and potatoes
1kg of charlotte potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces, 250g of leeks, cut into 1inch pieces, 1 garlic clove sliced, 50g anchovy fillets (packed in oil), drained
1tbsp of olive oil
400ml double cream
40g dry breadcrumbs
Salt and black pepper

1. Preheat the oven at 180c or mark 4. Parboil the potatoes in boiling salty water for 10 minutes until tender, then drain. At the same time blanch the leeks in another pan of boiling water for 5 minutes until tender, drain well. Put the potatoes and the leeks in a large bowl.
2. Heat a saucepan and briefly fry the garlic and anchovies in the olive oil, then add the cream and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to the bowl and gently mix with the potatoes and leeks. Season with salt and black pepper.
3. Place into a baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil after 30 minutes, scatter the breadcrumbs over the surface, then continue to bake for 5-10 minutes until brown on top.
4. While the potato and leek dish is baking, prepare the pork chops. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Mix together the rosemary, most of the lemon juice, the olive oil and some seasoning. Rub on both sides of the chops.
5. Grill the chops for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and leave to rest for 1 minute, then sprinkle with the rest of the lemon juice and a dash of olive oil. Serve with the oven baked leeks and potatoes as a side.

Recommended Wine: Tempranillo Rioja (Spain)

Apple, Amaretti and Cardamom Crumble – Serves 4

This variation of the classic apple crumble is truly delicious. Adding the lovely flavour of the amaretti biscuits and the hint of cardamom spice. I suggest preparing this dish in individual ramekins and serve with a drizzle of Disaronno liquor for the adults and vanilla ice cream for the little ones.

8 slightly sour apples (Granny Smith are my favourites) peeled and cored 1tsp ground cardamom
100g sugar
18 amaretti biscuits
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
180g unsalted butter
200g self-raising flour

1. Preheat the oven at 180c or mark 4. Cut the apples into eighths and place in a pan with cardamom and half of the sugar. Bring slowly to a simmer and cook with a lid on until the apples are almost cooked and slightly mushy.
2. Crumble amaretti biscuits in your hand and add a third of them to the apples with the vanilla and mix well. Divide between six ramekins.
3. Melt a walnut-sized piece of butter and set aside. Place the remaining butter in a food processor with flour and the remaining sugar and blitz into crumbs.
4. Tip the crumbs into a bowl and mix with the remaining crumbled amaretti biscuits.
5. Sprinkle this crumble topping over the stewed apple and gently press down, then drizzle with the melted butter. Place the ramekins onto a baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake until the topping is golden and crunchy. Serve straight from the oven. Tuck in!

Recommended Wine: Sauterne (France)

Simone Conti

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