Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oldies are Goodies

One of the very happy side effects of living in a gurt big house in the country, and away from the hustle and bustle of London and constant social shenanigans that I would normally be furiously embroiled in, is that I'm really learning the value of spending real quality time with loved ones: friends and family.

So yesterday I was very excited when one of my bestest girlfriends came down to visit, the first time we've seen each other in the eight months or so since I went abroad. I had said we had so much to catch up on we should invest in one of those chess game timers - ok, 10 minutes to you, 10 minutes to me, 10 you, 10 me...thankfully we didn't have to resort to anything quite so regimented and I think we still pretty much covered all the bases, whilst at the same time cooking and eating a really very delicious, comforting winter supper to fill our tums as we talked.

Unsurprisingly, I'm the sort who finds it hard to concentrate on even two things at once - so listening, talking AND cooking meant that proceedings went veeeery leisurely, but that was fine, we had all the time in the world!

To curb our appetites, I quickly whipped us up some of the Carrot and Ginger soup, a rerun my last entry. It was just too good not to share!

A while later, we followed this up with Roast Butternut Squash and Bacon linguine with crumbled deep fried Sage, then a Blackberry tarlet for puds.

The Butternut Squash and Bacon linguine was really a bit of an experiment using some of my favourite ingredient combinations - I often use Butternut Squash in risotto, but I'd never actually cooked it with pasta. I figured really, what can go wrong with all of those goodies included?! My hunch was right and we both agreed it got top marks:

Butternut Squash & Bacon Linguine with crumbled deep fried Sage
Serves 2

a quarter of a butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced relatively small; 3-4 rashers bacon or pancetta, diced; 1 clove garlic, chopped; 8-9 sage leaves; 1/4 pint single cream; olive oil; linguine for 2

Lay foil over a roasting tray and spread the butternut squash over, drizzle with olive oil and season generously, then roast at 240C for 30 minutes until soft with a little bite.
Start cooking the Linguine.
Lay the bacon in a frying pan and fry fast until slightly crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and lay on kitchen paper to drain the fat, then quickly fry up the sage in the remaining bacon fat, removing to drain next to the bacon once done. My bacon produced enough fat for the whole dish but if yours doesn't, at this stage add a little olive oil and add the garlic until it sizzles and starts to go golden, then the bacon, and finally the butternut squash. Season, stir and cook through for a few minutes, and then add the cream, heat through for a minute or two.
Drain the linguine, retaining a tiny amount of water so the pasta doesn't dry, and toss together with the butternut squash mixture. Serve onto plates and crumble over the deep fried sage.
Thinking about it, by the time we served up, I was so eager to eat that I clean forgot parmesan, which of course would top off a truly delicious dish perfectly.

Blackberry Tarlets
Serves 2

I cheated and used preprepared, ready-to-cook tartlet cases (sorry, was BUSY during the day, can't cook everything from scratch!), but they were spectacular, so I would highly recommend cheating any day!

For the custard, beat 1 egg and add in a quarter pint of single cream, then beat in caster sugar. I've not quite figured out the right amount of caster sugar to add...I guesstimate maybe 5-6 tablespoons? Arrange the tartlet cases on a baking tray, and pour the custard in. Arrange the blackberries in the cases, and cook on about 180C for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is cooked and the custard golden. Sift some icing sugar over the top if you want it really fancy. Me n mi amiga just gobbled ours! hot! hot!

Then the two greedy little piggies sat down with a cuppa chai and some of my special banana bread which I cooked that morning, the secret of which I will reveal when the time is right...

What else are best friends for than to help demolish the banana bread that you would otherwise be forced to eat entirely by yourself?!


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