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Rum and Coke Onions (for Grilled Cheese)

I’m not the only kitchen-dweller turning to slow food to keep me occupied during quarantine. Everywhere I turn is a tenderly roasted leg of something, a wild garlic pesto blended in small batches by hand in a pestle and mortar, a sourdough loaf three days in the making.

We’re gravitating towards these methods because they use up some of the time so many of us have a little more of now. More laborious recipes have undeniable meditative and grounding qualities. After all, the things that used to ground us – the first sip of cold beer after a stressful day, an hour in the gym to set us up for the being sat at the office, a day spent putting the world to rights with our best friend – are no longer available to us.

While eating properly keeps us physically well, I’d argue that the preparation of food itself can play a huge part in keeping us mentally well too.

If you’re usually an on-the-table-in-15 minutes cook and you’ve been struggling lately with the same anxieties that we’re all sharing, try cooking slowly one day this week. Lose yourself entirely in the process and see how it makes you feel. If you hate it and it doesn’t help you whatsoever, you’ll have gained a delicious meal and lost a little time – and if you’re reading this, I’d wager you’ve got a bit of that to throw around at the moment.

For me, there’s no better example of slow food than caramelised onions. The longer, lower and slower you cook them, the better they are. Chop them finely, set them on a low heat and potter about in the kitchen, stirring them from time to time, until the pan is sticky and golden.

Caramelised onions lend themselves well to most alcohols, I just happened to have a can of rum and coke in the cupboard and used it in place of the beer I’d usually infuse them with and they made for such a pleasant grilled cheese experience that I wanted to share them.

Makes enough for 4-6 grilled cheeses (they’ll keep in the fridge for a good few days)

3 onions
Half a can of pre-mixed rum and coke (I used the Captain Morgs one)
Pinch salt

  1. Slice your onions as finely as you can manage
  2. Heat a knob of butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a non-stick pan
  3. Add the onions, making sure the heat is as low as possible, and stir
  4. Keep stirring every few minutes or so, adding a little water at a time if you’re worried about the onions sticking, until they’re really starting to brown. Mine were on for at least an hour.
  5. Pour in the rum and coke and stir until it’s evapourated.
  6. Set aside, ready for heaping in to grilled cheese sandwiches or stirring through cooked pasta..

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Cauliflower (and Butternut Squash) Cheese with Wild Garlic

Comfort eating? Me? Never.

A global pandemic and international quarantine seemed as good a time as any to show my face on my own website again. Sharing recipes with you feels like a nice way to use the approximately six million hours a week of spare time I have on my hands now that I’m not allowed to go the pub, see any of my friends or family or even venture outside of my own postcode.

A recipe for wild garlic feels all of a sudden potentially less useful now that you might not be permitted to wander about foraging for it. I was lucky enough to get a bag in this week’s Riverford box, so I hope some of you might find a way to track it down, too. If not, you could try baking whole cloves of garlic with the cauliflower and squash to achieve a similar flavour.

Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Cheese with Wild Garlic

I roast the cauliflower as opposed to boil it for this recipe. I avoid boiling vegetables wherever I can – a habit I adopted from my Mum, who insists that boiling them reduces their nutritional content in some way. I’ve never thought to check, but trust her blindly on these matters. Everything tastes better roasted anyway, there’s something so boring about boiling a vegetable.

This would serve as a beautiful side to roast chicken or a nut loaf, or you could add cooked pasta just before the second bake to make it a main course in itself. Personally, I shoved half of this tray down me without accompaniment before work, and it was the highlight of my day.

Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Cheese with Wild Garlic

1 whole cauliflower
½ a butternut squash

50g butter
2 tbsps flour
600ml milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
150g cheddar
Big handful wild garlic

  1. Pre heat the oven to Gas Mark 6 (180 fan).
  2. Prepare the vegetables for roasting first. Cut the cauliflower in to florets. Chop the butternut squash in to very small pieces (it cooks more slowly than cauli, so we need to keep them small so that they can keep up). Arrange in a roasting tin that they fill comfortably. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. While the vegetables are baking, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook for a minute or so. A paste(ish) should form. Gradually add milk a splash at a time, stirring constantly, until you’ve got a thick sauce.
  5. Keep the sauce on a very low heat, thickening all the time, while you (very finely) chop your wild garlic and grate your cheese.
  6. Pour the grated cheese (reserving some for sprinkling on the top) and wild garlic in to the sauce, along with the dollop of mustard, and stir to combine. Take off the heat.
  7. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked vegetables and stir to coat. Scatter the remaining grated cheese over the top and bake for a further 25 minutes.

I hope you’re all keeping safe and happy, in whatever ways you’re able. Eat as well as you can within the parameters of our new reality and look after yourself. You know where I am should things get weird or lonely or scary or boring.

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Vegetarian Sausage and Marmite Casserole

I’ve decided in this – the second week of October – to accept that Autumn is our current reality. Freshly laundered clothes will no longer dry in a matter of hours, beer gardens are cancelled until further notice, darkness reigns on the way too and from work but, most importantly, the le creuset is back on top of the cooker and ready to make me feel better.

You’ll have to excuse the potentially poor formatting in this recipe, I’m in between laptops and using the app but wanted to get it out into the world before I forget. It’s a quick, cheap, easily repeatable vegetarian meal – and I know that’s what you come to me for.

Serves 4

2 carrots / 4 potatoes / 1 onion / 1 leek / 4-8 vegetarian sausages / 1 litre stock / 2 heaped tbsps plain flour / 1 heaped tsp soft dark brown sugar / 1 heaped tbsp marmite

Cook sausages according to pack instructions (I use Quorn frozen, 18 mins at 180)

Peel and roughly chop the carrots, onions and potatoes into medium chunks (see pictures if you’re not sure on what ‘medium’ should look like). Cut leek down the middle to wash (they can get mud and grit almost through to the centre) then roughly chop those too.

Put a heavy based saucepan or casserole dish on a high heat and add 1-2 tbsps oil (rapeseed, olive, vegetable, whatever you have).

Add all the vegetables and the flour, and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add stock and stir to ensure flour has dissolved into it, then add marmite and sugar.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes, adding the sausages as soon as they’re finished in the oven.

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