Today has been a typical lazy Saturday in our house which began with breakfast in bed and watching numerous cookery programmes on television whilst leafing through cookbooks (I’m obsessed arent I?!). After a walk to the local bakery to pick up some supplies, I sat down on the sofa for a bit of a rest and managed to catch the last ten minutes of Raymond Blanc’s ‘Kitchen Secrets’.
I adore Raymond Blanc. I think he is a fantastic chef, he produces some wonderfully simple yet mouth-watering dishes that are full of lots of fresh produce and can easily be reproduced at home, he appears to be a very nice man (unlike some celebrity chefs that we are all aware of) and I can’t help admire the French accent! Today, Raymond was making a winter vegetable salad containing pumpkin, beetroot and a red wine and port reduction.
I absolutely loved the sound of the flavour combinations Blanc had used in the salad dish and it got me thinking more and more about lunch, the creative cogs were whirring and it was time to use Blanc’s dish as the inspiration for a posh lunch for a bit of a dreary Saturday!
I had to play with the limited ingredients we had in so decided to use some butternut squash instead of pumpkin, some red onions for colour, spinach for a bit of crunch and feta for a bit of saltiness.
Butternut Squash, Feta and Balsamic Onions
One medium butternut squash, peeled and deseeded
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Handful of spinach leaves
75g feta cheese
100ml red wine
1 star anise
For butternut squash puree
Take half of your butternut squash and dice into 1cm cubes.
Heat a pan with a glug of olive oil. When hot, add the squash and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper and approximately a tbsp of lemon juice.
Turn the heat up to high and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes, checking and tossing regularly ensuring that the squash doesn’t stick and burn.
When the squash is soft, allow to cool slightly and transfer to a food processor. Blend until smooth.
Transfer to a bowl, season and pour in a glug (approximately a tbsp) of olive oil.
For the red onion
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Cut the red onion into 8ths. Toss in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme and seasoning.
Roast in the oven for 30 mins on a pre oiled baking sheet checking regularly to ensure that the onion hasn’t stuck or burnt.
For the butternut squash rounds
Taking the remaining butternut squash, cut into large slice 1.5cm thick. Use a pastry cutter to cut into rounds.
Heat a frying pan and add olive oil. Once hot, cook the butternut squash for a few minutes on each side.
Add the butternut squash to the baking tray with the onions in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
For the port and red wine sauce
Heat a small sauce pan. When smoking, add 100ml of port to the pan and reduce by half.
Next, add in the red wine and stair anise and allow to simmer for ten minutes to gradually reduce down until you have a thick syrup.
Remove the stair anise from the pan.
For the feta
Cut into bitesize chunks.
Transfer to a bowl, drizzle over some olive oil and season with cracked black pepper.
Place a few tbsp of the puree in the centre of a large plate.
Top with spinach leaves.
Place a round of butternut squash to either side of the mound of puree.
Dot around the balsamic red onions and feta.
Drizzle over the red wine and port reduction.
This felt like an utterly luxurious lunch for lazy Saturday but was actually really simple to create. I think to improve the dish further, I would use goats cheese instead of feta and I would make fondant butternut squash rounds instead of just roasting them.
All in all, a wonderful dish packed with flavour. Thank you kindly Monsieur Blanc for the inspiration and for helping me get my cooking mojo back after a break from the kitchen!