Quick and Convenient Fresh Pesto Cubes

guindilla chilli pesto
There’s not better topping for pasta than fresh pesto, it’s a whole lot better than the stuff you get in jars that the Italians call ‘dead pesto’. Unfortunately, it can be a hassle to make and tends to only last for a few days in the fridge, and you hardly want to eat it for several days in a row… A great tip is to make a quantity of fresh pesto (or any intense pasta sauce) and put it into an ice cube tray.  When it’s frozen, pop the cubes out and keep them in a plastic bag. When you need one, take it out of the freezer and throw it in the still warm cooked pasta. Stir round the pan a little to help it melt, and voila, fresh pesto in no time at all! The flavour is retained by freezing, and you can toss in as many portions as you require. Continue reading

Warm Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad with Fresh Pesto Dressing

Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad

This is a hearty and robust warm beetrot and butternut squash salad with pesto dressing that makes a great addition to any meal.

On opening my laptop a few days ago, the first message of the day was from eat the seasons, cheerily but firmly instructing me to ‘eat BEETROOT’.  Who could argue with such advice? I love their emails, they really help you to get a feel for the seasonal food of the time that leeches into your consciousness, and you know you will definitely eat BEETROOT if the chance arises.

Truth being, I never stopped eating beetroot.  A few weeks ago I put out a teaser of all the vegetables I bought from Riverford Farm Shop, promising recipes in abundance which I failed to deliver.  Well, now’s the time to come good on my promise – two, yes TWO recipes if not dedicated to, then at least containing that humble purple rogue – the beetroot.  Say goodbye to that crystal white choppping board, and say hello to rich earthy goodness.

Warm Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad with Pesto Dressing

2 Beetroot
1 Butternut Squash
A Handful of baby spinach leaves
1 chicory bulb
Other mild flavoured salad leaves such as Lambs lettuce

Pesto dressing

1 good handful of basil leaves
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 clove of garlic

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. Place the two beetroot in the middle of a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place two sprigs of rosemary or thyme on them.  Roast for around 1 hour until the beetroot has softened but still remains slightly firm throughout (use a skewer to test).
3. Meanwhile chop the butternut squash (don’t peel it!) into chunks about the length of the beetroot – you’ll eventually be chopping the beetroot into wedges too, and you want them to all be a similar size.   Toss in olive oil.
4. Halfway through cooking the beetroot scatter the butternut squash around them, sprinkle with salt and pepper and return to the oven for the remaining 30 minutes.
5. Once cooked (the butternut squash will be lightly browned and caramelised), remove from the oven and set aside and keep warm – the vegetables should still be warm for the salad, but not hot.

roast beetroot and squash in the roasting tray

6. Make the pesto by toasting the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden brown all over, then puree in a small food processor or pestle and mortar with the garlic, olive oil, basil and parmesan.  Taste the dressing and adjust any ingredients.
7. Arrange the chicory, baby spinach and leaves in a salad bowl.  Add the beetroot and butternut squash, then drizzle over the dressing.  If you want some additional sharpness, toss in a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.  Mix together thoroughly and serve warm.
tossing the salad

This is a great recipe that would go equally well with Roast Turkey, a vegetarian Christmas Roast, or as a hearty and robust addition to any meal.  The next recipe will follow soon (ish) !

Links: Eat The Seasons, Riverford Farm Shop
Twitter: @RiverfordShops

Mint Sauce

mintAugust and September is the best time to harvest summer mint leaves for mint sauce – a versatile ingredient that is great in salad dressings as well as roast lamb.

Mint is an amazingly versatile herb equally at home in both sweet and savoury dishes, able to lift new potatoes or fresh peas to new levels of flavour or cut through rich curry dishes in raita.  Summer always brings a glut of mint to our garden, and the leaves are strewn extravangantly over even the most unlikely of meals (‘Any mint with your beans on toast?’).  But in these happy times the memory of winter lurks menacingly in the distance, and the time comes to squirrel away some of the leaves to secure the bright flavour for the coming seasons.

Mint Sauce

Ingredients
A handful of fresh mint leaves, stalks removed
Cider vinegar (enough to cover)
1tsp sugar

1. Chop the mint leaves finely.
2. Place in a ‘Kilner’ type jar as in the above photo.
3. Press down and pour in enough cider vinegar to cover.
4. Add sugar and mix thoroughly.

The sauce is ready after a few hours, but you’ll find the flavour will improve after a few weeks.  As well as the usual uses with roast lamb, mint sauce is great in salad dressings – mix a few tablespoons with honey, cracked black pepper and olive oil for a fantastic summer salad dressing.  Maybe not this summer though – looking out of my window it’s starting to feel distinctly wintery already…