Roast squash, sage, chestnut and pancetta risotto

Introduced to me by my housemate, this really is a winner!

If you’re a bit unsure of butternut squash, I feel this could be a great way to warm to it. Colourful and full of flavour, there’s something to enjoy in every bite. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe which you can find here, although you also need a basic risotto recipe (not listed fully in the method or ingredients list).

Half way through making the risotto, the butternut squash needs to come out of the oven to have further ingredients adding to it, which is a little tricky on your own with a pan of risotto to stop from potentially burning! So I have to admit, I needed an extra pair of hands to allow for 100% risotto attention! We also removed the skin from the butternut squash after that initial 30 minutes too – the recipe doesn’t state this but it just felt like the right thing to do!

Next time I cook this (and there will be a next time as it’s too tasty not to!) I will try roasting the butternut squash seeds for 5 minutes before adding them to the sage and chestnuts, I just felt they were too soft after only 10 minutes in the oven.

We also fried streaky bacon separately as there were vegetarians among us! So (although it made for slightly more washing up) it is a very versatile recipe to please all. And I’d definitely recommend the serving suggestion of mascarpone cheese – it really brings it all together.

When your ‘tell it how it is’ brother says he’d eat this at a restaurant, you know you’re onto a winner! And with very little meat in the recipe, it’s all the more astonishing!

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Prawn, Tenderstem Broccoli, Feta & Almond Salad

Letting me love prawns again.

I’ve never been a massive fan of prawns, especially those little frozen ones found in prawn cocktails that are often wet, squishy and drown in sauce!.. Ok, so perhaps it’s actually those traditional prawn cocktails that have spoilt them for me.

But these meaty king prawns marinated in harissa paste and lemon zest, with the slightly charred flavour from the griddle pan, are gorgeous. The simplicity of this recipe surprised me, as it looks so special on the plate. Plus the different textures and mix of hot, cold and warm elements makes it a joy to eat.

It’s from the Sirocco Persian cook book from Sabrina Ghayour, where on every page you will find bright and vibrant recipes to catch your eye.

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You can easily whip this up in half an hour, with very few ingredients. A quick tip (that may seem obvious) is when adding the ingredients together for the dressing, use your tablespoon measure for the oil first, as then the honey slips straight out of it afterwards rather than getting stuck (literally felt my life change when I figured that out).

I enjoyed this as a main meal (twice!) but I reckon it would turn a few heads as a starter if you have any dinner parties lined up. Or if you are planning on treating that special someone in a couple of weeks time.

I think it’s rare that people get genuinely excited by a salad. But so far the two I have made from this book (apple, pomegranate, red onion and sumac) have been simple, versatile and full of new flavours!

Summer Pea, Spring Onion & Mint Soup

Ok so it might not be summer… but everyone has a bag of frozen peas in the freezer no matter what time of year!

Super easy, green and healthy, this soup will pick you up on these ever increasingly cold days. And with the recipe making enough for 6, you can freeze some to save for another day. This is from Mary Berry’s Cook Now Eat Later – a really handy book to have around this time of year if you’re hosting parties and need to be super organised!

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Plus when cooking for one and waiting for pay day, recipes like this really see you through! It’s also been a nice change to include more vegetarian meals in my diet recently. Although i’m sure I’ll make up for that once the festive season really kicks in!

Super-speedy Steamed Salmon

Ready in 30minutes – perfect!

This super quick one pan Jamie Oliver dish is ideal for those nights you need something sharpish and still want the flavour and goodness of a healthy meal!

Just follow the simple instructions and you’ll have a stress free time cooking something you can’t wait to tuck in to. If you are doubling this up for 4 people, you’ll need to use 2 pans as a couple of portions fit perfectly in each. We were lucky enough to get a whole side of salmon for £10! So there was more than enough to go round.

The veg ends up quite sticky at the bottom of the pan so you’ve got to be careful not to let it catch. It would have probably been perfect if the fillets of salmon we used weren’t quite so big and therefore would have cooked a tad quicker.

Although it’s not my favourite couscous meal, it’s a great way to cook salmon (and the rest of the meal at the same time), it just flakes apart like it should! It would be easy for everything to end up as a pinky yellow blur but with a spoonful of yoghurt and a sprinkling of basil, it breaks it all up and brings that green freshness which makes every meal look even more enticing!

Charred Avo & Eggs

Super quick and super healthy.

We often treat ourselves to a nice breakfast either Saturday or Sunday, but usually struggle to find something new that we’ll all like. Plus it usually ends up being brunch anyway!

So we came across this brilliant Jamie Oliver dish that takes only 25minutes to cook! And he is true to his word – it really does only take 25minutes.

All it takes is a bit of chopping and peeling and you’re pretty much there. We actually used a whole avocado as we felt it would go to waste if we left half of it. I feel like it’s the first time i’ve cooked avocado like this, and I was surprised how it stayed together. I was expecting a bit of a mush to be honest! The ribbons of sweet potato is a great idea, and they cook so quickly. We used mint, parsley and coriander to garnish with which we thought really brought everything together. As for the cottage cheese – it’s great to find a new recipe to use it in!

Definitely going to make this again. Makes a nice change from the Mexican breakfast we often have, and takes a fraction of the time!

Rosemary & Sage Pork Chops with Caramelised Shallots & Cider

If you’re going to try a new pork dish – make it this one!

It’s pretty quick, easy and just so delicious. Yes it’s totally unhealthy, but worth it! Plus at least you know everything that’s going in it.

This recipe is from lorraine Pascale. She really does comfort food with a twist and a lot of taste.

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Take pride in picking your pork chops… we’ve all experienced those ones that cook down to about half the size and are really chewy! Not that we spent any more money – we still bought humble Tesco pork chops, just made sure they were a decent size and thickness.

We’ve made this a couple of times, this time we made buttery mash rather than mustard mash. Either is great, as it’s the apple, shallot and cider sauce that really steals the show! We always use Aspalls Cider, and it’s nice you have a glass left for yourself at the end too.

Yes, this is quite sweet, but it all blends together so well that you’ll relish every mouthful!

Mexican-style Fish Cakes

Don’t be fooled!

Honestly, I found this recipe and didn’t look so much at the timings… “fishcakes, yeh that’s a dish we’ll have time to do on a week night.” Oh how wrong I was!

I think in total this Jamie dish took us 3 hours to make. Which isn’t a problem if you are prepared for it, but not the nicest surprise after a long day at work. However, it’s not a difficult recipe to follow. Neither are there loads of ingredients to buy.

We served this with the Mexican salad we make for pulled pork wraps, along with a lovely corn on the cob – something we rarely have but I love! Unfortunately we couldn’t find polenta so we used semolina instead. And our Juice plus resident coated her fish cakes in crushed almonds and missed out on the sweet corn (both in the fish cake and as a side).

I was really surprised these held together as they were so wet when we were shaping them! However we were pleasantly surprised when they cam out of the oven. I’d advise that you probably need to add more oil in the pan as you fry them as it is absorbed so quickly and the semolina starts to burn.

Sardines is an interesting choice, and one that I thought would taste far stronger amongst the other ingredients. But overall, I think they tasted more of sweet potato than anything else. If you enjoy fish cakes and are looking for another recipe then it’s one to try, but if fish cakes are something you rarely have, then I’d advise trying the Chorizo Fish Cakes we made back in September.