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The dreaded "C" Word..

Somehow I am sitting here wondering why I am about to talk about the dreaded “C” word.. Yes I mean Christmas! How has that crept up on us?

I am already missing the light evenings, when I feel like I have more hours in the day to spend in the kitchen. Now however it’s the opposite arriving home in the dark and just wanting a quick fix and something warming for dinner. Luckily I have it sorted! 😉

It started a little late this year, with the absurd weather we have had, vegetables have bene doing their own thing. I mean it’s mid November and fresh tomatoes are still growing?! But finally, the root vegetables that I relate winter with are back! It started last month when I did my prep for Halloween. Pumpkins are normally carved then thrown out, not with me.. they are carved up and eaten! This year I kept it simple, taking out the seeds, roasting them and then storing them. Perfect as a little snack or to sprinkle over a dish. I like them plain or seasoned, topping them with herbs, oils or seasoning when roasting them means they can take on any flavour you want.

Back to the pumpkin, roasted in the oven with basic seasoning. Chunks of the pumpkin covered in Carrington’s Chilli Rub, some left natural and some with oil and paprika. Once roasted I part blend it, then add it to my homemade stock, put on the hob to warm with the addition of sweated onions and garlic. I like to keep it simple and to taste the one predominant flavour. Sometimes I will create a more complex stock or add other vegetables into the oven to roast like peppers, garlic, carrot and parsnip. But this time I just wanted a classic pumpkin soup. Once ready it was put into multiple containers, some for the freezer to enjoy at a later date and some into the fridge to enjoy that week. I love eating it a few days later, or even weeks later when grabbing a batch out the freezer, the flavour is always much more rich and punchy.

The few bowls already enjoyed have been eaten very differently. Having the base of the pumpkin soup then adding the additional toppings and seasoning. Some with pumpkin seeds (which I prepared earlier when carving the pumpkin), some with added chilli oil and chilli seeds, fresh parsley and herbs …all seeming quite normal? Until one day I had a mad craving and wanted to try it with something a little different – I added Marmite! LOVE IT OR HATE IT, but I loved it, strangely it works well with the pumpkin.. I know you think I am mad so it is just one of those you’ll have to try for yourself!

But don’t worry I don’t normally add Marmite, I since have been doing some batch cooking and preparation with more traditional ingredients. You know what, even if you don’t grow your own it is not expensive to make healthy and hearty dishes yourself. In fact, Tesco sell a root veg pack for £1!! Giving you a selection of swede, parsnip, carrot and onion I think? A great base for a veg soup!

I like to make my own stock as I can choose the flavour and know exactly what goes into my food, the great thing about this too, is I can make all my meals gluten free and vegan.

Last week I used a handful of carrots, swede, parsnips and the basic onion and garlic to make a variety of dishes. Using other ingredients I had in my cupboard such as green lentils and mung beans I had the base to some great dishes. As you know my herb collection is vast too.. with freshly picked and dried herbs from my garden and the number of chilli salts, rubs and peppers I have from my friends at Wiltshire Chillies and Carringtons I can always make something different. I made a vegetable soup and a vegetable casserole.. which in turn made over 8 meals! So real budget cooking that is simple and accessible. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to have a spare 5 minutes and the enthusiasm to create something you enjoy. It definitely pays off, coming home after a long day- or even when you have one of those CBA days you don’t need to cook, instead just open the freezer!

Now with November drawing to a close, it is time to decide on the Christmas Table.. Each year I create a different vegetarian dish to bring to the table. For many years it was a winter vegetable pie, but it has also been Quorn roasts, filo roulades and last year; a fig, walnut and blue cheese tart with a crumble topping.

I am still undecided on what it will be this year, the current cookery shows from MasterChef, Rick Stein and Nigella are all inspiring me- what will you be having? Anything that you can suggest for me?

I am looking forward to dessert too, the traditional Homemade yule log and Christmas pudding I think will also be ditched this year for something different. Maybe a dark chocolate and pear tart? Or something I have recently seen on Rick Stein’s show, a Clementine Almond and Olive Oil Cake.

I think a meringue dish could also be on the cards! Loved by all in our household, quick and simple to make and light after a Christmas meal. I made some the other week, accompanied by the last lot of berries from the garden and my homemade gin jam which I shared with you last week. Maybe I will mix up a traditional trifle, well deconstruct it completely and just have alternative layers. Meringue in place of cream, Alcoholic sponge and pear layers? Hmm ….

I think you will just have to read my blog in December to see what I have decided on. 😉

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