The autumn menu

Pear, blue cheese and prosciutto soda bread

Autumn has seen plenty of culinary experiments, with the need to keep up my 5 a day and various trips providing lots of inspiration.

In my Lancashire postcard, I talked about going to Booths and I came home with a number of recipes to try from their autumn leaflet and Christmas book. Their parsnip and hazelnut soup is a firm lunchtime favourite now, with the pear, blue cheese and prosciutto soda bread seen at the top of this post. I'm going to try adapting this into a bread maker recipe for a lighter loaf.

My version of Booths' parsnip and hazelnut soup

There's no recipe available online for the soup, but it's an easy peasy one. I've adapted it slightly by omitting the 250ml whipping cream and I don't think the result suffers. Simply toast 75g hazelnuts in a large pan for 5 minutes, then add 1 teaspoon olive oil, 500g parsnips plus 2 garlic cloves (both peeled) and saute everything for 5 minutes. Then add 500ml vegetable stock and 500ml semi skimmed milk, plus salt and pepper to taste to the pan and bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and whizz everything together using a blender, then ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with chopped hazelnuts and thyme leaves. Serves 6 generously.

I was shocked to find my storecupboard vegetable stock cubes contain palm oil. Once they're used up I plan to make my own. This recipe looks like a good starting point, though I'm going to reduce the salt content (we don't use salt in cooking) and probably use celery salt to substitute for both the salt and celery and take it from there. I have loads of spare jars, so storing this bulkier version of my little cubes in the fridge isn't going to be a problem.

Fun times making a tomato based curry

My addiction to National Trust cheese scones continues (an alternative accompaniment to soupy lunches), joined by further inspiration from meals out. The picture shows me making a curry at WI last week using Gretchen's recipe from The Farm Cookery School. Indian street food at Mowgli at the weekend was a revelation and I'm looking forward to trying more of Nisha Katona's recipes.

My version of lentil, beetroot and feta salad

A meal out with the girls at The Real Greek in Bristol recently inspired me to try my hand at recreating their lentil, beetroot and feta salad. It's meant to contain green lentils, but I didn't have enough, so I used a mix of those plus puy lentils (50:50 and 250g in this case), simmered with 400ml vegetable stock (or stock cube) and freshly ground black pepper for 20 minutes. Drain if needed and then add the juice of lemon.

Serve a quarter of the lentils in a bowl with sliced beetroot on top (1 medium) and 20g of crumbled or chopped feta with a sparse drizzle of olive oil. You can also add fresh herbs if desired - flat leaf parsley or coriander to taste would be my choice. A warmed flatbread completes the dish.

It's simple to do and tasty for either lunch or as a starter. Those lentils can be warmed through too, which takes us nicely into hearty winter fare and thoughts of trying some hot chocolate stirrers.

Which recipes are you experimenting with currently?


  1. Great call with the stock powder, making it now as hate buying the commercial stuff as I think it is way to much sugar and also cheating when i use it. Thanks very much for the tip

  2. Mmmmmm - that bread looks absolutely delicious VP. May well be tempted to try it out along with the soup :) Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm going to dabble with a celeriac and apple soup at the weekend after watching 'The Hairy Bikers' cook up some comfort food recipes this afternoon.

    1. I love the soup, it's the best parsnip soup combo I've found so far :)

  3. It's difficult to avoid palm oil but I have read but apparently 40% of palm oil production is from sustainable sources. The problem is that we can never tell whether the palm oil used as ingredients come from these sources or as a result of deforestation. More needed on labeling.

    1. I need to research this issue further as I did see a hint from somewhere that sustainable palm oil may not be all that it's cracked up to be. I'm looking forward to seeing how my veggie powder fares in my recipes.

  4. I love soup and enjoy making it. Most recent concoction was parsnip and green apple (about 2/3 parsnip to 1/3 apple) roasted for 15 mins or so in a hot oven with a sprinkle of salt and olive oil, then into a pot with a chopped potato and chicken broth. Cook, blend, add broth or cream. Blue cheese crumbled or as a bread would go really well with this.

    1. I've made curried apple and parsnip soup previously Pat. I'd recommend trying the parsnip with hazelnuts recipe as they go together so well.

  5. Inspiring and shaming in equal measure. I need to try some new recipes I think. Parsnips make fab soup and I was thinking only today that it's time to dig some up.

    Have you ever tried Spaghetti Rosso? Puréed beetroot with spaghetti (and onion) cooked like a risotto?

    1. Ooh I DO like the sound of that Colleen, thanks for the tip!

  6. My vegetable stock is powder in a jar - but will check for a hint of palm oil.

    1. It gets into the most surprising of places Diana. Fingers crossed its not in your jar.


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