Pumpkin, Cheese and Garlic Bake [Vegetarian Christmas dish]

Christmas dinner can be a little tricky if you are vegetarian. Sure, you’ve got all the veg, bread sauce, Yorkshire puds and vegetarian stuffing if you like it, but unless you are splashing out on a nut roast, there isn’t a lot to make up a ‘main meal’. As a vegetarian – not just a vegetarian, but a fussy vegetarian who needs a balanced meal with all the groups for health reasons – Christmas dinner can be a pain when it comes to protein. I don’t like bread sauce, Yorkshire puds, stuffing or nut roast, so I’m basically doomed. This year, as I was catering for two vegetarians, I thought it was time to try a new recipe. I still had three pumpkins from the veg patch and I thought it was perfect for xmas dinner – I know they are traditionally linked with Thanksgiving, but in the UK we didn’t have it a month earlier so we could afford to use the pumpkin again!

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I needed something quick and simple, with some protein in. I opted for cheese. As pumpkin is, well, bland, I also decided to throw some garlic in there too.

It is really basic and can be made in advance of the big day so it doesn’t take up space in the kitchen. Of course, you could make this any time of the year too 😉

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Pumpkin, Cheese and Garlic Bake

(Serves 6)

-1 large pumpkin -Olive oil, for drizzling -260g cheddar cheese -20g Swiss gruye -2 garlic cloves

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Cut the pumpkin and remove the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into large slices and place on baking trays. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until golden and cooked. Allow to cool completely.
  3. Cut the pumpkin up into small cubes and place in an oven-proof dish.
  4. Grate the cheese and dice the garlic up into small pieces. Mix together and then sprinkle it over the top of the pumpkin.
  5. Preheat the grill to high and heat the bake until the cheese has melted at the top is golden – it should only take a minute or two so keep an eye on it. Or, preheat the oven to 200C and bake for approximately 10-20 minutes, or until the top is golden and the cheese has melted.
  6. Serve. Store in the fridge when cold.

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Christmas from the garden

Christmas is one of the busiest times in the kitchen, but it doesn’t mean you can’t pop out to the garden too… especially to harvest things.

Christmas cooking can be like the climax of the harvested year. You can give your jams away as presents, eat redcurrant and cranberry jelly and sauce with your Christmas meal. Harvested chestnuts or other nuts can be used in desserts. Dried cranberries or raisins are great for puds. And of course, anything that is still green at this time of year can be added to your wreath or house for festive cheer.

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Dried Cranberry Chocolate Cake anyone?

But you don’t have to stop there… what about the main Christmas meal?

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What about growing and cooking your own Christmas dinner?

For future thinking, here are some traditional Christmas dinner things you could plan to grow for next Christmas:

  • Potatoes – we always plant so many we still have plenty in the ground come Christmas day. As long as they are well buried and not planted in too damp a place, potato tubers will be fine against the frosts.
  • Brussel Sprouts or Brukale (Brussel sprout crossed with kale).
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots – yes, you can still be harvesting carrots from the ground at Christmas, if you cover them with fleece.
  • Parsnips
  • Cabbages
  • Beetroot – why not add some to your roasted roots?
  • Celeriac – ditto, or a celeriac mash? Or just boiled?
  • Celery – homemade stuffing anyone? And in that case how about freezing some pears or storing some apple too?
  • Onions
  • Runner- beans or peas – store them in your freezers all year round from the first harvest onwards.
  • Pumpkin or squash – usually USA’s Thanksgiving, I know, but how about roasting some and creating a vegetarian/vegan replacement for the usual meat?
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Homegrown Brussels and Brukale

Christmas is a holiday, a time of celebration and of having fun with loved ones. To me, it is also a time to be creative and original, to do what I love by going back and cooking from scratch, a way of tying up my year of cooking and growing. This year we will be having our own cabbage, beans, pumpkin, celeriac, beetroot, carrots, potatoes and Brussel Sprouts, not to forget homegrown redcurrant jelly and homemade cranberry sauce… What a way to celebrate an end to 2018!

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RIP David Austin Sr. 

What do you grow/dream of growing for Christmas time? Let us know.

For Christmas baking recipes, check out Beagle Baking (https://bellasbakingsite.wordpress.com/home/)

Just type ‘Christmas’ into the search bar and it will show you some festive treats.

And then, after all that food, just follow Rainbow’s advice:

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Bed.

Pumpkin Risotto

We still have a few pumpkins waiting for attention. Roasting them and then adding to a dish is a perfect way of using them – see Pumpkin Coconut CurryPumpkin SoupPumpkin cake for more ideas…

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Pumpkin Risotto

(Serves 4)

-1 small pumpkin -Olive oil, for  roasting -25g butter – 1 onion, sliced – 325g rice – Salt and pepper, for seasoning -750ml vegetable stock –More cooked vegetables, to serve (optional)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Slice and clear the insides of a pumpkin. Cut into segments and place on a roasting tray, drizzled with olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
  2. Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat down a little.
  3. Add the rice and a grinding of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the butter.
  4. Add the stock after frying the rice like a pilau for a couple of minutes, bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
  5. Turn the heat down once the stock is bubbling and leave to simmer until almost all of the stock has been absorbed. Add the roasted pumpkin, cut up into squares, cover, and leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Serve with cooked vegetables.

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Pumpkin Soup

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I haven’t made a lot of soups in my time – carrot and coriander once years ago and a vegetable broth at River Cottage – but I have always wanted to make pumpkin soup with a homegrown pumpkin.

We did really well with the pumpkins this year and after my siblings had carved their spooky faces into two of them for Halloween, I turned one of them – forgotten which one, might have been Bob or Reg… – into soup. Cruel, but it was either that or feed him to the pigs.

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Here is my super-duper easy pumpkin soup. You could add more seasoning to it of you would like more flavour. I have heard suggestions of chilli and peanut butter before…

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Pumpkin Soup

Serves… a lot. At least ten people. 

-1 medium sized pumpkin, 1.5kg, de-seeded -Olive oil, for roasting and frying -1 large onion, sliced -700ml boiling water -1 generous tsp Bouillon vegetable stock powder – A pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the pumpkin up into chunks and place on a non-stick baking tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil and place in the centre of the oven. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin wedges are cooked and perhaps browning a little. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  2. In a deep-based pan, fry the onion in olive oil until golden brown.
  3. Place the pumpkin and the onion in a food processor and blitz until mush.
  4. Add the tsp veg stock powder to the boiling water and mix well. Slowly pour into the food processor and blitz the pumpkin again.
  5. Scare the contents of the food processor into the pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Add the pinch of salt.
  6. Serve hot in bowls. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Can be frozen too.

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Victoria Plum Crumble

We had a lot of plums this year, all from one Victoria tree (this is the tree I’ve nearly killed plenty of times).

We’ve made lots of plum jam but we quickly had to get a move on as they were rotting in the fridge so I made a plum crumble. It seems to have been a hit and here is the recipe if it tickles your tastebuds…

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Victoria Plum Crumble

(Serves 6)

For the fruit: -1kg Victoria plums, de-stoned -3tbsp granulated sugar

For the crumble: -110g plain flour -55g granulated sugar -170g salted butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Place the fruit at the base of an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the sugar generously over the top, and mix it in.
  3. In a bowl, using your fingers, rub the flour, sugar and butter together, so that the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. Scatter the crumble over the top of the fruit.
  4. Place the dish in the oven and cook for about half an hour, until the fruit is hot and bubbling and the crumble is golden brown.
  5. Serve warm. Keep in the fridge for up to three days.

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Update: 1st September 2018 – Sweetcorn

Harvested our first sweetcorn of 2018 yesterday, and I think it is our best yet.

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Fully grown, yellow kernels, picked just at the right time. Not tough and old, but completely tender and sweet.

We grew our usual Swift F1 seeds this year. We started them off in tall yoghurt pots of compost indoors in May. Once they were big enough to handle and the frosts were over, we planted them outdoors into fertilised earth in direct sunlight. With the glorious sun in June and July along with a vigorous watering schedule, the actual sweetcorn plants grew huge, are tallest yet, going past my 5’3 at least.

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Sweetcorn are pollinated by wind rather than insects. You want to get the dust from the tops of the plant onto the tassels below that will become the sweetcorn if pollinated. I did a lot of hand pollinating this year, due to the lack of wind, and thank goodness it seemed to work!

To check if the sweetcorn is ready to harvest, you wait until the tassels have become dark brown instead of white, basically died back. You then gently peel apart the green skin of the corn and insert a finger nail into one of the kernels – if the liquid comes out milky white, it is ready. If not, leave it for a couple of days before checking again.

Now this is important: harvest your sweetcorn only the you are about to cook it. As soon as you take that cob off the plant, its sugar starch degenerates rapidly, straight away. This means the taste of the cob decreases in yumminess very, very quickly. You are advised to bring a large pan of water to the boil before you pick your cob!

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Perfect cob! Cooked and put in the bowl in readiness for kernel removal…

To cook the cob, remove the green outer leaves and tassels. Plop the whole cob into the boiling water and leave to boil for a couple of minutes. Remove and put to one side to cool. You can either serve sweetcorn whole as corn on the cob with some butter, or, standing the corn in a large bowl, using a knife, cut down the sides of the cob, scraping the kernels off. You can then serve the sweetcorn kernels without the cob or you can freeze them like this in plastic bags, as they will take up less space in your fridge. Cooking and freezing locks in the sugar starch and preserves the taste and goodness of the sweetcorn.

Voila!

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Sweetcorn kernels scraped off and served for lunch.

Does anyone else think of Pocahontas when they see sweetcorn with the green leaves still on?

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‘Just around the river bend…’ 

That film’s got sot some cracking good songs.

Other fun news: made tomato passata last week and last night I used it to make homemade pizza.

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That means that our dinner used homegrown onion, garlic, perpetual leaf spinach, oregano and tomatoes!

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Shame the mozzarella and cheddar, olive oil and bread flour or yeast weren’t home produced… but at least the pizza base was homemade!

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Recipe for pizza can be found here: Updated recipe: homemade pizza and information about growing sweetcorn can be found here: Sweetcorn

Update continued…

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In my last post I got very excited about making my first preserved chopped tomatoes from our homegrown crop. I will end that little story by saying I used them in a homemade paneer curry last night and it was great – along with homegrown onion, garlic, coriander seeds and mustard seeds in it, and homegrown runner beans on the side, of course. Here is a link to my paneer recipe if you need it, part of my old cucumber post —> Cucumbers

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Now that the rain has settled in … 😦 I’ve had lots of time to catch up on making preserves. Spent a busy Friday making two batches of strawberry jam and a chutney – recipe coming soon!

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But I took the chance yesterday to snap some quick pictures of the garden in the sun before the rain came back and would love to share some with you. Below is a picture of our William red rose. It is the most prolific yet at the moment. I counted 7 flowers and another 8 buds getting ready to open the other day. This after mostly just 3 at a time for the last couple of years. It shows how good feeding a rose is… It is a beautiful, delicious smelling rose I highly recommend.

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Next up we have the sweetcorn. It has grown so tall this year – taller than me, which isn’t saying much, but that makes it over 5’3… They have been loving the summer and he sprinkler and are looking really good. Next test will be to see if they have produced any kernels…

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I grew most of my tomatoes indoors this year, which I always do because the English weather is often rubbish, but we do always get a few rogue plants in the compost we spread outside. These often come to nothing but this year they are laden with fruit and look stunning!

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Below is a photo of the one chickpea plant that decided to germinate. The little brown pods are the beginning of what will hopefully turn into an actual chickpea being grown. Fingers crossed.

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Runner beans are doing very well, but I’m going to have to start using a ladder.

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Pumpkin!

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The other huge plant this year was the courgettes. The actual plants were whopping in size. I should have taken a photo earlier when they looked even more striking, but I got one now to remind myself in the future that courgettes need space!

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That’s all for now. Hope you all have a glorious twelfth – oh, fun fact, it is international elephant day on 12th August every year.