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Sometimes we need a little bit of health in our lives. Ok, so I know we’re nearing the end of January already, and many of you are almost at the end of your detoxes (seriously, well done, I raise a glass of red to you) but there’s no need to slow down on the healthy eating. Butternut squash has such a wonderfully creamy texture and slow roasting in olive oil lifts the flavour to a caramelised sweetness. But the healthy properties of this soup don’t stop there. The colour is complimented with carrot, which is full of antioxidants, and with a little hint of warmth through the red chilli, sweetness from the garlic and a zingy squeeze of lemon, this soup will become your pick-me-up staple. Take it to work in a Thermos, pour into a mug and enjoy whilst tackling your dissertation, or make it on a slow Sunday, and enjoy the last remnants of your weekend with a bowl curled up on the sofa.

 

You Will Need

1 Butternut Squash

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 white onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 small carrot, grated

1 ½ pints chicken or vegetable stock

A squeeze of lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon double cream to serve

 

Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/Gas Mark 5. On a chopping board, top and tail the butternut squash and then slice in half length ways. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Remove the outside skin with a peeler or vegetable knife and discard peelings. Slice the squash and cut into 1cm chunks. Place on a baking tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, making sure each piece is coated. Season well and roast in the oven for 40 minutes, turning regularly.

After the squash has been roasting for 20 minutes, heat the remaining oil in a large stockpot over a medium heat. Add the onions and slowly cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute. Add the carrot, cook for another minute, then pour over the stock and bring to the boil.

Once the squash is tender and beginning to crisp at the edges, remove from the oven and add to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes and then remove from the heat. Using a stick blender, whizz the soup until smooth and no lumps remain. Season with some pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and serve with a drizzle of double cream and extra black pepper.

Jars of pesto are boring. Sure they are convenient, but you’ll open one jar, use a spoonful and then it will linger in the back of the fridge alongside some black pitted olives, slowly sprouting some nice looking mould to scare you when you open it again a month later. To avoid this little green monster, I’ve taken to making my own pesto using all fresh ingredients without leaving any leftovers to sprout in the fridge.

As January has crept back into our lives again, my comfort food radar has been screaming CARBONARA on repeat whenever I get in from the cold. Despite my previous efforts to stick by my cookie diet (go for a walk, eat a cookie), I know that a vat of cream and bacon may just tip the scales in the wrong direction after a Christmas of too much Pinot Grigio and breaded king prawns.

However, the magic of this pesto is that it turns wonderfully creamy with a splash of cooking water swirled into a bowl of linguine. Carbonara? Pah, I’ve forgotten what that is.

All the traditional elements of pesto are in this dish, with a few added twists. The mushrooms give it a meaty flavour, whilst the toasted walnuts give this pesto a great nutty texture. With a good handful of parmesan, this dish feels like it is bursting with cream, but is actually full of vegetable goodness.

You can prepare this pesto in advance and chill in the fridge, so all you need to do is cook your pasta fresh, reducing your time in the kitchen. If you’re eating for one, no problem. Just use half and refrigerate the rest. This pesto would also go great as an alternative bruschetta topping, or add half a pint of vegetable stock and blend to make a tasty soup. 

 

Serves Two

You Will Need

½ white onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

6-7 mushrooms, sliced

1 handful of walnut pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large handful of finely grated parmesan

Large bunch of fresh basil, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to season

Linguine to serve

 

Preheat the oven to 180oc fan/200oc/gas mark 4. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the linguine. In a separate saucepan over a medium heat, fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft.

Once the pasta has been cooking for 4 minutes, add the walnuts to a small baking tray and drizzle with a little oil. Toast in the oven for 6 minutes, turning halfway.

Add the basil to the mushroom mix and cook for a further minute, then transfer to a glass jug. Add the toasted walnuts, the majority of the parmesan (reserving some for later) and a good glug of olive oil. Season well and with a stick blender, blitz until coarse, but not pureed.

Drain the pasta, reserving a tablespoon of cooking water to help the pesto bind to the linguine. Mix in the pesto until fully incorporated and creamy.

Transfer to two warmed bowls and serve with a sprinkling of the remaining parmesan, baby basil leaves and a good helping of black pepper.

 

 

It’s January 2012, the month of detoxes, painful gym membership fees and sighing longingly in the mirror at your Christmas food baby. And here I am, asking you to make cookies. What sort of blog post is that? I should probably post you a fabulous salad recipe, or invest in a juicer to make sexy juices like food blog Shutterbean does. And yet, my first experiment of 2012 heralded such success, I’m ripping up the blogging book and telling you to eat some cookies.

The pairing of poppy seed and lemon is normally a flavour of choice for fat American muffins, but this food relationship keeps on giving in biscuit form. These cookies are delicately scented with lemon zest, with little blue-ish flecks of poppy seed. Big chunks of smashed white chocolate give a sweet vanilla flavour which doubles up with the dot of vanilla paste. If you’re looking for a new food love folks, this is it. Hunt some down, it’s baking nectar.

If you’re feeling guilty that sugar and butter aren’t exactly on your ‘Good Food’ list, never fear. Pack ‘em up with a flask of coffee and go for a walk instead. Bundle them up for a friend in need with a bottle of wine to blast away the January Blues. Treat yourself after a day of soul destroying dissertation work with an hour spent making these beauties. I promise you won’t be disappointed. New Year’s resolutions? Pah, let’s just promise to eat well and be happy this year.

Basic cookie recipe from The Boy Who Bakes by Edd Kimber

 

You Will Need

250g plain flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon of poppy seeds

Zest of 1 lemon

113g softened butter (I used Stork)

110g caster sugar

110g soft brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

¼ teaspoon vanilla paste (optional)

150g good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped

 

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder through a sieve. Stir through the poppy seeds and lemon zest. Set aside

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the sugars and butter until creamy. Carefully add the egg a little at a time until fully combined. Add a small dot of vanilla paste if using and mix in well (If you have none to hand, don’t worry, the vanilla flavours in the chocolate will give you the same notes).

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mix slowly until fully combined. Mix in the chocolate carefully (I find this easiest mixing by hand) and wrap the dough in cling film tightly. Either chill overnight or place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to chill.

Preheat the oven to 160oc fan/ 180/ gas mark 4 and grease two baking trays with butter. Remove the dough from the fridge/freezer and roll into small balls about 60g in weight. The dough should make around 12-14 cookies. Space out evenly on the baking sheets and bake for 16-18 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.