Pumpkin Soup

Some days lunch is crunching on raw kale out of the bag, hunched over my laptop in the library.

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Some days lunch is expensive meals in fancy restaurants, waiters doting on your every need.

Some days lunch is soup.

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Soup days are best. Slightly more nourishing and satisfying than plain kale. And slightly slightly cheaper than Michelin  star meals. Soup is the best of both worlds.

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I love all kinds of soup, and this is one of my favourites. It’s fairly easy to make (once you’re into the pumpkin that is!) Also, as we are nearing the end of pumpkin season, it is good to make the most of it while you can! If you can’t face the pumpkin and the carving knife, or you don’t want to make enough soup to feed a small village, this recipe works just as well with butternut squash!

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Pumpkin soup with toasted corn

(recipe shamelessly stolen from Delia’s vegetarian cookbook (well worth a read!) and can be found online here)

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

25g butter

700g pumpkin (or butternut squash) deseeded and chopped into 1 inch pieces

570g sweetcorn (mine came from a can, but if you are feeling patient, you can take it off the cob yourself)

salt and pepper

275ml milk

725ml vegetable stock

1 tablespoon melted butter

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Begin by melting the butter in a saucepan, then add the onion and cook on a low heat until softened- about 8 minutes. Add the pumpkin, half the sweetcorn, season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir. 

Put the lid on and, keeping the heat low, sweat the vegetables until they have begun to release their juices- about 10 minutes. Pour in the milk and stock and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While that’s happening, preheat the grill to its highest setting. Stir the melted butter into the remaining sweetcorn, and place under the grill for about ten minutes, or until it is nice and toasted. This is also really fun because occasionally you will hear it popping! After about 8 minutes it should be nicely toasted and golden.

Once the soup is ready, using a food processor, or blender, blend it to a puree.

To serve, sprinkle the toasted sweetcorn over the top and enjoy with some nice crunchy bread.

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Also- here’s a tip for a really easy and delicious snack! Once you have deseeded the pumpkin, rinse the orange gunk off the seeds, sprinkle with a little salt and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes.

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Delish! And great to tide you over until your soup is ready!

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xxR

Apple Crumble Cake

Some things that are really good look really bad. Like… for example…

Okay okay I can’t really think of any things that are really good and really bad looking. Except this cake.

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So I made this cake last weekend for some of my friends, and it went down a real hit. They loved it. So I thought, great! I will bake it again, take some quick pics and throw it on the blog. But no.

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I made it again, and for some reason things just went wrong. I was too confident. I put too much apple and I think it was too heavy for the cake. Also I was too keen, I cut into it straight from the oven and it sort of collapsed in the middle. If only I’d waited for it to cool down…

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This is also a good example of how practice does not always make perfect. Sometimes practice makes things worse.

The good news is- this is still one of the most delicious things. So make it. Just, don’t be like me. Be patient, be reserved. Be calm about your cake. And it will be perfect.

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Apple Crumble Cake 

225g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

225g caster sugar

2 eggs

150g butter, melted

Measure the flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs and butter into a bowl. Mix well, then beat.

(Easy.)

Pour this mixture into a loaf or cake tin and make the topping.

For the topping:

1 large cooking apple

caster sugar, for sprinkling

cinnamon, for sprinkling

150g plain flour

100g butter

90g brown sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Peel the apple and cut it into thin slices. Sprinkle some caster sugar and cinnamon on it- not too much, probably no more sugar than about a tablespoon, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Lay these slices of apple on top of your cake mixture.

In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour, until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the sugar and mix in.

Sprinkle this over the top of your cake.

Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour in a 160 degree oven.

I would strongly suggest allowing the cake to cool, and stabilise a little bit, before cutting into it!

xxR

Sunday Lunch Focaccia

Being somewhat American and mostly vegetarian, traditional English Sunday Lunch is not really something I’ve ever done. We’re more of a crack open a tin of soup, some bread, cheese, salad sort of family. Which is sort of a shame. I think I could probably use a few more roast potatoes in my life. Maybe the odd yorkshire here and there.

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But it doesn’t mean we don’t value the whole ritual of Sunday Lunch. It’s still nice to sit down, as a family, and enjoy some good food, chicken or no chicken.

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This is perfect bread for Sunday soup. Warm, soft, really tasty, what’s not to love?!

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Olive Oil Focaccia 

recipe adapted from Paul Hollywood’s on the BBC (find it here)

250g strong white bread flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 sachet dried easy blend yeast

200ml cold water

olive oil for drizzling

a few cloves of garlic

sea salt

Put the flour, salt, yeast and 150 ml of the water in a bowl. Mix together using a wooden spoon or your hands to form a dough, then knead with your hands for five minutes. Gradually add the remaining water. It will be quite a wet dough, but don’t worry! That’s exactly what you want!

Keep kneading by stretching  the dough and folding into the centre for another five minutes, then tip the dough onto the counter and keep kneading for five more minutes.

Put it back in the bowl and let it rise until it has doubled in size.

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Once it has risen, tip it onto a greased baking sheet. Flatten it and push it into the corners, then let it rise again for an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and finely slice the cloves of garlic. Once it has risen, push your fingers into the dough to make little indents. Drizzle with olive oil, the slices of garlic and a good pinch of sea salt.

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Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy straight from the oven.

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xxR