Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tagliatelle

butternut squash pastaThis simple pasta, black bean and butternut squash dish is something that I have been making off and on for over 25 years. I’m not sure where I first got the idea, but as it has stood the test of time I thought I might share it. There is little skill involved, just a willingness to chop a few things, roast one or two and toss them together. No sauces, no tricky timings – it is pretty easy. And really rather nice, as things involving pasta tend to be. Continue reading

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Spring Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus and a Lemon Thyme Butter and Caper Sauce

spring ricotta gnocchi with caper butter sauceBecause this is a rather detailed recipe I will keep my usual rambling preamble brief-ish. But take heart, it is only long because I have lavishly described the ins and outs of the gnocchi-making process, and given three ways to roll it out. In fact,  I think it may take longer to read this post than it will to make this dish. If you heroically read through to the end of the recipe you will see that gnocchi is quite a playful, fun thing to prepare. Not at all daunting, unlike a souffle or creme brulee, or any one of a number of dishes we foodies/gourmands/greedy guts feel we should tackle in our lifetime. Once you get the rolling out down-pat the whole process shouldn’t take much longer than 20 minutes, not including an optional timeout (the dough, not you) in the fridge. It’s just that my  ramblings only make it seem like the War and Peace of recipes, rather than the Very Hungry Caterpillar recipe that it is. Continue reading

Linguine with Spring Herbs, Chilli and Crab

crab linguineIn winter many of us are happy to take a bit more time preparing meals – chopping stuff to pop into the slow cooker to enjoy later; cooking down a sulfurous pile of onions to a sweet tangle of deliciousness. But Spring, well it is the shape of things to come, with gardens to be pottered in, hills to be climbed, miles to be run (the first only for me!). After a cooped up winter we just want to be outside, not inside reducing a heavy sauce or tending to a stovetop stew. So even though the temperature is not yet playing ball, I am just going to pretend it is warm, willing on the thermometer with spring-fresh meals like this. Continue reading

Rocket and Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta and a Rude Health Giveaway

rocket and pumpkinseed pesto pastaScotland’s unseasonal mood-boosting weather continues, so today I am spoiling you with both a fool-proof seasonal pesto recipe and a Rude Health whole grains  giveaway. I hope you like the look and sound of both. And no, I don’t have sunstroke, I’m just feeling a bit generous. Be assured that stingy, recipe-only food to glow returns next time. Continue reading

Greenslove: Greens and Squash Gnocchi with Chili and Roquefort

Yesterday was Mothers’ Day in the UK – or Mothering Sunday, if you prefer not to pander to the Hallmark hijacking of celebrations. Although Andrew and Rachel were away on the train to Newcastle for the football – with my blessing I should add – I managed to have a special day with Andrew’s mum Ann, and great-aunt Trudy. We had thought we would splash out on a slap-up restaurant lunch, or indulge in a fancy afternoon tea at one of the hotels, but I just couldn’t bring myself to book a table. Although I like being waited on hand and foot as much as anyone else, what I wanted – and what I knew Ann wanted too –  was to chill out with some nice food, a bottle of something bubbly and just relax. For us going out to a restaurant  is a treat and not a weekly occurrence, but sometimes you just want to take your time, not worry about getting crumbs on your face and, for us, watch the hens take sun baths in the hard-baked ground. Simple pleasures.  Continue reading

Orecchiette with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Chili-Lemon Pangritata

Yay! We’ve reached March! Despite the fact that – at least in the UK – March can actually be more miserable than February (more wind, more rain), it does have one huge advantage – promise. With every newly-hatched chartreuse bud, with every daffodil held tight in its green jacket, with every brave nosing through of still-chilled soil,  Spring marches ever closer (yes, that pun was intended, however bad).

Today as I topped up the chicken feeders and filled the garden bird feeders it didn’t dawn on me that I had stepped out sans outer garment. Although the temperature is single digit, the air is still and the sun on my back was warm and inviting. I lingered in my shirt sleeves, surveying our modest garden for signs of promise: the delphiniums are well and truly up from their long nap; the Lenten roses in full flower, their cerise cups nodding companionably below one of my favourite winter plants, the blue tit-attracting mahonia Japonica; our various lavenders are bristling with new life and the promise of heady summer scent. And of course the weeds have a head start on all of the above, poking cheekily through paving cracks and spreading blatantly through still-dormant areas of the garden. At least I know what I’ll be doing, trowel in hand, next weekend.

What about you: is your garden springing to attention? What’s up first for you (besides weeds)? Of course you Antipodeans are slowly heading towards Autumn, but I’d still like to know what heralds your Spring. Hopefully by the next post I may have even had a quick lunch (as much for my always-hungry hens as the temperature) in the garden. Let me know when you’ve had your first Spring picnic, and what you ate. 

cheering up my desk today

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A Trio of Kale Recipes – Crisps, Frittata and Pasta

Before the festive eating binge begins I thought I would share a few healthy kale-based treats with you. And yes, I do mean treats: some crisps, a pasta, and a mildly spiced frittata. Other than the kale, it should nearly be store cupboard stuff, so easy and economical: a bonus at this wallet-bleeding time of year.

I don’t know about you, but we are having quite a few pantry and freezer-based meals (and chucking out a not inconsiderable amount of freezer burned mystery-meat type packages), which is kind of fun in a frugal, Little House on the Prairie kind of way. Not quite grinding my own flour but definitely heading in that direction. This is partly to make way for dishes that I am preparing in advance and squirrelling away, but also to make January less painful. For example, tonight I am using black beans from the freezer to make black bean chilli, and this weekend some leftover vegetables will be paired with a dauntingly large frozen haunch of venison to make a ginormous slow-cooked casserole. Even some frozen leftover wine will get added in (I know, who keeps leftover wine in their freezer). My inner pioneer has been unleashed. As I write we are under a severe storm watch (gusts around 130 mph for the next several hours), thus reinforcing my can-do-in-the-kitchen attitude. If you are reading this that means the electricity is still on! Continue reading

Lemony Courgette and Fine Bean Tagliatelle in Herbed Creme Fraiche

I hope you all had a fine weekend of doing not very much. Or at least doing something that you wanted to do. Weekends are often the time when busy folk do all the mundane things they didn’t have time to get to during the week – weed-pulling, bill paying, car tinkering,…hen house clearing (me). But, as a discerning and cultured person, I am sure that you are much more interesting than that. While I am cleaning the chicken coop or sniffing and squeezing melons at Lidl, I imagine that you are meeting friends at some smart gallery for a bone-china cup of tea and a peruse of the paintings. Or at least enjoying a good book in the garden.

These are things I enjoy as well, but sometimes a bit of scrubbing, buffing and straightening are fine, too. As it happens, Mr A was away in Portugal smacking a tiny white ball around, and as he is the main instigator/scheduler in casa foodtoglow, Miss R and I were left to our own devices. Did we get all dressed up and go to Harvey Nichols to exclaim at the price tags and nibble sushi? Did we put the top down on my cute little pistachio-coloured Figaro and drive down the coast, hair flying, stereo cranked? Did we heck. Despite visions of girlie bonding time the reality of this past weekend was a homework marathon for Miss R (I know – what’s the rush?) and me on my knees scrubbing floors. And, do you know what? It was good. Sad, I know, but sometimes it’s just what is needed. Continue reading

Mediterranean Sauteed Artichoke Pasta with Poor Mans’ Parmesan

What a great weekend! Despite the vagaries of a Scottish ‘summer’ – which is basically autumn with added midges and tennis –  my family and I had an idyllic Saturday and Sunday.  A perfect mix of socialising and doing bother all. Humour me for a few minutes while I elucidate.

Every year we host a big barbecue, with work colleagues, family of colleagues and Mr A’s fellow Maggies Monster Bike and Hikers in attendance. I buy decent sausages and fish, and make homemade burgers, salads and maybe a fruity pavlova or two. But it’s really about the mildly alcohol-enhanced chat (Scottish stereotype intact), daft games involving malted milk balls and water guns, and treating our tolerant neighbours to my daughter’s frankly awesome taste in tunes.

The past few times Mr A and his partner in all things childish, Issy, have taken to scouring the charity shops for the most dire, embarrassing and ill-fitting hats and garments to inflict on our game partygoers: every balding man has to have an Abba wig and at least someone has to sport superhero underpants over their trousers (hello Gordon!).  But every year there is the fret about what the weather might unleash. So, every year a marquee gets erected in the garden to act as a weather charm, warding off looming thunderheads that tend to gather like snarling dogs. Do you do that too? Not set up marquees but, say, drag an umbrella around so that you won’t need it: it always rains if I don’t have one rather than when I do. I practise a lot of rain god appeasing here in Edinburgh.

But, despite an almighty downpour of rainforest proportion at T minus 2 hours, we ended up dancing, singing, gossiping, marshmallow toasting and chowing without the downer of raincoats and wellies. All under under our nearly-midnight sun. Bliss. And to top it all off from two very thoughtful friends came the gift of little coats for our rescue hens. So even our girls could join in the dress up ‘fun’. We tried one on our most amiable (ie, daft) girl and it fitted perfectly. She wasn’t too sure about it, but I bet she will be clucking for it before too long. Continue reading