An ordinary week

I wouldn’t want you to think that the life of a rural food writer is all restaurant openings, lunches with publishers, freebies from artisan suppliers and exotically complex four-star meals three times a day. Would you believe that absolutely none of that has happened to me this week? I know.

Saturday was a lovely day, completely given over to preparing for, throwing, and tidying up after our youngest child’s birthday party. It was endless rounds of sandwiches, little chipolata sausages and a couple of hundred tiny sausage rolls. Obviously, iced party rings, chocolate fingers and those lovely pink wafer biscuits too. The requested sandwiches were the Nigella-style marmite sandwiches; you smear the marmite into the butter creating a smooth beige homogenised paste. I don’t know why but they really do taste better that way. The sausage rolls have no secret magic touch to them, they’re just good sausage meat from the local butchers, and all-butter puff pastry from the supermarket chill-cabinet. Plenty of egg wash and a hot oven. The full recipe will be in my next book. The final few remaining leftover sausage rolls where re-heated for a tired dinnertime snack, Annie and I sat exhausted and merely dipped them straight into a nearly finished jar of wholegrain Dijon mustard. Just sufficient.

Sunday Lunch, and unusually we didn’t have my father in law here. I suggested we go out for lunch. One of the local Indian restaurants had been highly recommended by a friend. They do a buffet Sunday lunch, so I thought we’d take the children. The food was lovely, and just as you’d expect – all the Friday night favourites were there. The problem was, I have become so used to cooking a roast for Sunday lunch that even an excellent chicken tikka just seems wrong, at that time of the week. The life-long weekly metronomic expectations of gravy and roast potatoes can’t be stopped by one splendid buffet.

Purple sprouting broccoli has reappeared in the veg box. The first night I just pulled the really big green leaves off and threw them into some leftover thick vegetable soup. It had been left alone, gathering flavour in the fridge for a couple of days. I served it with some excellent bread, just toasted and rubbed with raw garlic.

Annie asked if I could please use the rest of the purple sprouting broccoli in one of her favourite pasta sauces. It gets quickly boiled until it’s on the soft side of tender, and then chopped and added to almost too much garlic and a dried chilli that have been gently sweating in good olive oil. The broccoli then continues to cook in the garlic and oil as you put some spaghetti on the boil. When everything is nearly ready just add a few anchovies to the broccoli and a splash of the pasta water. Drain the pasta, add to the sauce (by now almost a mush), check for seasoning and serve on warm plates. No parmesan is needed – instead grate some very stale bread over the top or make coarse breadcrumbs and swirl a little more of the good olive oil over and around the food.

My truly terrible discovery this week (and I almost kept this to myself – oh, the shame of it) is that crumbled up Oreo cookies are even nicer than crumbled up Bourbon biscuits when thrown on top of vanilla ice-cream. Just a dash of fresh cream helps lightens everything, or more traditionally go with a couple of splurts from a chocolate-gloop squeezy-bottle.

Sandwiches, sausage rolls, curry for lunch, vegetable soup, broccoli and pasta and the dubious delights of cookies and ice-cream. All in all, a very ordinary week.

Roast Squash on Pasta

The squash that Phil delivered last week became a pasta sauce. It was a Crown Prince variety, green skinned, and with deep orange flesh. For two of us, I used half the squash. The other half was devoured by the children, just plain roast in wedges with some sausages and mash.

Halve the squash and remove the seeds with a spoon. You could peel the squash now, or leave it until the pieces have cooked. Either / or, you choose. Put the pieces on a roasting tray with plenty of unpeeled garlic cloves and half a dozen Thyme twigs. A quick glug of olive oil will stop anything from sticking too badly. Roast in a hot oven until the squash has softened and the garlic smells ready.

If you haven’t previously peeled the squash, do it now. I used a spoon – it’s not the least bit difficult. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook your favourite pasta. The other night we had spaghetti – a big flatter shape would also hold this sauce well. Put the squash pieces in a bowl, and squeeze the garlic out of the skins. Rub the thyme leaves from the stalks. Try hard not to break up the squash any more than you need to, this will all happen as you start dressing the pasta. I mixed a little crème fraiche into the garlic and then folded that into the squash. Taste, season, perhaps a squeeze of lemon, maybe a shake ofTabasco.

When the pasta is ready return it to the pan with a splash of cooking water and the sauce, fold carefully together to try and avoid mashing the delicate squash.

 Serve it up on some warm plates, with a quick swish of olive oil over the top. Perhaps some grated parmesan too. I happen to think that crumbled amoretti biscuits are perfect on top of this. Try it, it’s a revelation. But beware they go soft very quickly, so you may want to be a bit precious about it and serve the crumbled biscuits separately at the table. Just add enough to your plate for a few mouthfuls at a time. It’s a bit affected and on the borderline of being a chore, but it really is worth it.