Roast Butternut with Cheese, Leeks and Parsley

Barbers 1883 Butternut

This has to be a contender for the ultimate comfort food – sweet, roasted, caramelised butternut with a hint of chilli filled with melty leeks, strong tangy cheddar and a final flourish of fresh, verdant parsley.  The molten, almost fondue like, cheese combines so well with the squash;  cosy, heart and soul warming food – a veritable hug on a cold and rainy day.

These are all ingredients I keep to hand at this time of year and if I wasn’t going to go the above route (although why I wouldn’t, I can’t think…) I have another idea for you.  Roast chunks of butternut in the oven, meanwhile soften leeks in a large pan with a splash of oil and a knob of butter.  When the butternut is soft add to the leeks with a litre of vegetable or chicken stock, a splash of dry sherry and a pinch of chilli flakes.  Whizz with a hand held blender and serve with a swirl of cream and a slice or two of cheese on toast.

Two choices, which way to go…..

Roast Butternut with Cheese, Leeks and Parsley

1 butternut

Pinch of chilli flakes

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 large leek (or 2 small) washed and sliced

80g strong cheddar, I used Barbers 1833

1 tablespoon cream

10g parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200.  Cut the butternut in half, scoop out the seeds and then brush the cut surface with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle with a pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper and roast for an hour or until soft and caramelised.  Meanwhile melt the remaining oil and the butter in a pan and cook the onion and leek gently until soft.   Add the grated cheese, cream, parsley and season to taste.  When the butternut is done remove from the oven, divide the leek mixture between the two halves, sprinkle with a little extra cheddar if you want and then return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling.  This would serve two for lunch with some quick pickled onions (August 2014) and a salad or four as a side if you halved each half.

Barbers very kindly gave me some of their Vintage Reserve Cheddar and this is what I used for this recipe.


Cheddar is King

Barbers 1883 Steak

When it comes to cheese, Cheddar is King.  I feel some intakes of breath and raised eyebrows so let me explain.  I love cheese, absolutely adore the stuff.  Blue cheese, soft cheese, smelly cheese, holey cheese, hard cheese – you name it, it works for me.  If however and God forbid, I had to choose just one cheese then it would have to be cheddar and this is why.

Parmesan is fabulous – strong, salty and perfect grated on pasta, shaved over salads or in chunks after dinner with a perfect pear – but I don’t want it in a cheese and pickle sandwich.  Gorgonzola in a warm salad with mushrooms or melted over my onion tart tatin is splendid but I wouldn’t want it in my cauliflower cheese.  Sharp white feta – just the ticket in a Greek salad or my Feta and Spinach parcels but honestly has no place in a wobbly, fluffy cheese souffle.  Do you see where I am going with this?  All cheeses have their perfect place, some can even adapt to a couple of occasions but there is only one contender for the main prize, one that can do everything, the supreme all rounder – the mighty cheddar.

Sweet, tangy, nutty, salty it is just divine and a regular in my fridge.  In fact since I first set out into the big wide world and had to fend for myself I don’t think my shopping basket has ever been without it.   First few weeks in London – cheese on toast with Worcester sauce to remind me of Yorkshire Saturdays in front of the wrestling.  Studying for my city exams – cheese and pickle sandwiches for a week so as to have no cooking distraction.  Oh and when I say cheese in both these cases I do of course mean cheddar.

It is a saviour when I need to rustle up a packed lunch from a skeleton fridge or for a snack and I’m sure barely a week goes by without it being the main feature – cheese souffle, cauliflower cheese, Welsh rarebit, cheesy leeks on toast, a grand Saturday ploughmans or my daughters favourite, plain pasta with butter and cheese.

This then, is a new best friend.  A love child if you will from a grilled cheese sandwich and a steak sarnie.  The melty cheddar forms an alliance between the savoury, meaty juices and the sweet onion relish that has to be tasted to be believed.  That it is all incased in toasty, crisp bread is simply gilding the lily.  It is superb, it is supreme.  Just try it.

Barbers 1883 Steak 2

Barbers 1833 Cheddar and Steak Sandwich with Quick Onion Relish

You might want to add a handful of rocket or watercress to the sandwich for a little peppery bite, not that it needs it but you might like the greenery.

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 small onion (snooker ball size), chopped

1 heaped teaspoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 steak, approx 250g

2 thick slices of good, rustic bread – a sourdough or similar

50g good strong cheddar, I used Barbers 1833, thinly sliced

Melt the butter and oil in a small frying pan, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook slowly until soft, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the sugar, balsamic and a teaspoon of water and cook for another 15 minutes by which time you should have a sticky relish, taste it as you may need a drop or two more of balsamic.  Cook your steak how you like but rare to medium rare works best for this, then sprinkle with salt and leave to rest for at least 5 minutes.  Whilst it is resting preheat your grill to high, toast the bread and then divide the cheese between the two slices of toast and put under the grill until the cheese is melting.  Place your rested steak onto one slice of cheesy toast, spread over the onion relish and top with the remaining slice.  Cut in half and tuck in.

I recently attended the BBC Good Food Fair as a guest of Barbers1833 who kindly gave me some of their delicious cheddar which I used for this and several other recipes.  I was already a fan of their cheddar and regularly buy it from my local farmshop.  By the way, I have previously made my Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt (December 2013) which rely on a belting cheddar, with Barbers1833 and they were amazing.

Cheese Biscuits 2

Onion Tart

Onion Tart_

As a child in Yorkshire we seemed to go to a lot of point-to-points.  I’m not sure why but it was definitely a feature of the winter months.  Parked in a field somewhere, there were always other children I knew to muck about with and best of all, the row upon row of open car boots which signalled the picnics, an obvious highlight.  Always hot sausages wrapped in a tinfoil parcel, soup of some description and of course the quiche.  My mother made a cracking quiche which was transported from the Aga into the back of the car so as to be still warm for lunch.  Crisp pastry, wobbly creamy custard and salty bacon, lovely.

Fast forward a couple of decades and maddeningly my children are not so keen on the old quiche, too much wobbly stuff in the middle apparently.  What they are mad about however is this onion tart, probably because it is very much an onion tart as opposed to an onion quiche.  I’m not sure it could hold its head up in the South of France as a pissaladiere but it is along those lines.  Slow cooked melting onions with salty savoury anchovies on crisp pastry.  Add black olives if you like, I sometimes do and sometimes don’t but I insist on the criss crossed anchovies even if it seems a little dated and similar may well have graced a 1970’s cooking article.

So, this is a tart I make all the time, whatever the weather.  It comes into play for lunch with a big salad, it has been on picnics (though no point-to-points yet) and has even made a star turn as a vegetarian main.  Where I find it most useful though is cut into small squares and served before lunch or supper – let me tell you, it goes down a storm.

I served this recently before Sunday lunch and couldn’t believe the speed with which all the children hoovered it up, seeking out the bits with the most anchovy which surprised me.   It may be one of the easiest warm canapés to serve with drinks too as you can make it ahead and then cook it just prior to serving – I promise your guests will love it.

Onion Tart 2

Onion Tart

As my family love the saltiness of the anchovies I boost this flavour by spreading a thin layer of anchovy paste on the pastry before putting the onions on top.  This addition is of course entirely up to you, the tart is delicious without it.  Either make your own pastry using a 200g flour to 100g fat ratio, or use ready made – half a 500g pack is about right.

2 large onions, or 4-5 normal size ones, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 egg, well beaten

2 tablespoons creme fraiche (or double cream if that is all you have)

250g (approx) shortcrust pastry, see introduction

Anchovy paste, optional, see introduction.

Preheat the oven to 200 and put a baking tray in the oven to heat up, this is to put the tart in its tin onto – the immediate heat will crisp the base.  Melt the butter with the oil in a medium size pan, add the chopped onions and the salt and cook gently until soft but not coloured which will take about half an hour.  Meanwhile roll out the pastry thinly and line a tin, around 18x30cm and put this into the fridge.  When the onions are a soft sludge put them into a bowl to cool for 10 minutes then mix in the egg and creme fraiche along with some black pepper.  If you are going to use the anchovy paste now is the time to spread a thin layer over the pastry then pour the onion mixture onto the pastry, level the surface and put in the oven (on the preheated baking tray) for 20 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before carefully tipping onto a board and cutting up.  Makes about 24 small squares but really this is up to you.

Onion Tart 3