I love love love party food- who doesn’t? .. and when you’re pressed for time but want something that tastes good and looks even better this is a good one to start with.

You will need large fresh tomatoes and courgettes. Choose the tomatoes that are still quite stiff and that are flat at the top. With a very sharp knife cut slices into the tomato stopping at around 1cm from the bottom. The best is to cut quarters and then cut these in half again so that you’ll get symmetry. Slice the courgettes quite finely and place 1/2 slices of courgette in between the tomato slices. When this is done drizzle olive oil over it and any other herbs or spices of your choice. Parmesan is also an interesting option. I used oregano and black pepper over mine. Place the stuffed tomato in the oven until the slices start to separate and the tomato opens up a little bit. Warn your guests that it will be very hot at first.. Feel free to leave comments with your party food suggestions!

 


The butternut squash – also known as the butternut pumpkin or Cucurbita moschata – was a delightful discovery in my kitchen. It’s not that easy to find and surprisingly most vegetable hawkers will not even have heard of it. If you have trouble finding one just email me and I’ll let you know where to go. This recipe was the suggestion of a work colleague. It sounded simple enough and I was very curious to try out something I’d never tasted before.

You obviously need to be prepared for this one – although after some research I found many butternut squash recipes, so I’m likely to buy another one very soon. Apparently it’s also very nutritious and in some countries used often in making baby food. Aside from the butternut squash you will only need: walnuts, 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic, stock and water. It’s THAT simple, see?!

Chop up your butternut squash first. I didn’t peel it and when it was far too late realized that I might have needed to peel it. A quick internet search told me it’s ok to eat the peel so I left it there, but most recipes will tell you to peel it. I can guarantee that the peel becomes tender enough to blend easily and does not leave a bitter taste. In case you’re wondering, you can also eat this vegetable (fruit? it is debatable) raw and it tastes half way between a honey melon and a pumpkin. I know because I’ve tried it of course. However if you decide to peel it, it’ll probably be much easier to chop.

Fry the chopped onion and minced garlic in a small amount of olive oil until they just begin to brown. Throw in the chopped butternut squash and a stock cube and fill with water until the butternut squash is just covered. Leave it to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetable is soft enough to blend. Blend 🙂

Crush the walnuts in any manner you deem fit. Throw them into the blended soup and leave to cook for a few minutes. Blend again, unless you prefer a crunchier soup, but remember that blending will release more walnut flavour into the soup and this is probably what you’ll be wanting at this point. I added a little bit of salt but you don’t really have to do that. The taste is nutty and sweet and unlike most soups I’ve ever tried before. Very impressed!


Chicken wrapped with parma ham and cheese

So, what does one do with a pack of defrosted boneless chicken thighs?  As usual, open the fridge and wait for inspiration!

Before I start, a quick word on the chicken:  most of us are familiar with the convenience of chicken breast. Cut them up, grill, stir fry, throw into a sauce etc. no hassles with bones and not particularly messy. The thing is they do tend to lack a little in the flavour department.   We came across these boned chicken thighs which are just as convenient but MUCH more juicy and tasty, so keep an eye out next time you go shopping!

Ok, now on to the important stuff… so once again we’re staring at an open fridge, and a rather disappointing Chicken Cordon Bleu dish that I had ordered at a restaurant recently came to mind. Surely I can do better?  So out comes some parma ham and sliced cheese.  It’s odd how most of our ingredients are chosen depending on how close the expiry date is.. maybe the fridge is over-stocked?  oh well, the ham came from a leg, so it didn’t need to grow any!

Its saturday morning, and I’m not very good at maintaining a train of thought!

So, pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees.  In the meantime, trim off any excess fat from the chicken and ham.   Fold the cheese slices so that they are roughly half the size of the chicken thighs.   Try and pair up different sized pieces of ham and chicken so that the ham is more or less the same width, and one and a half times longer than the chicken.

A word of warning here:  it’s very tempting to nibble any offcuts of ham or cheese, but if you are using the same knife or chopping board as for the raw chicken, don’t even THINK about it!!!

Place the cheese on the chicken, and roll up into a little parcel. next wrap the ham around the chicken.  Parma ham is quite sticky, so when you roll it back onto itself (hence the extra length of ham needed) it will hold itself together, but use a couple of toothpicks just to keep it in one piece.

Cook in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until the chicken is done.   the ham on the outside will help prevent it getting burnt or dry.

In the meantime, grab a handful of mangetout, rinse and dry.   mix a tablespoon of olive oil with a teaspoon of mustard. If you are using mustard powder, use less as it is much stronger.   Toss them in a hot pan until the smell of the mangetout starts to come out.   By now, the chicken should be almost done.

Serve, and enjoy!   oh, and don’t forget to remove the toothpicks!