Herby Poached Egg and Smoked Salmon on Sourdough Toast

Whenever I read through a recipe book I look longingly at some of the delicious ideas for breakfasts, but I keep going past that section because I never have time to make an elaborate breakfast. Fool that I am, quite often all it takes is a little forward planning and a delicious and different breakfast can be on the table in ten minutes – the same time it takes to prepare my usual boiled eggs and toast.

I saw Jamie Oliver make this on his most recent TV series and it sounded, and looked, so delicious that I was determined to make it myself. I’m so glad I did, it required no forethought – besides having the ingredients to hand – and it really was on the table in ten minutes.  This would make a great light lunch as well.

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RECIPE – serves 2

extra virgin olive oil
a few fresh chives, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2 large eggs
2 thick slices of sourdough, toasted
cream cheese
smoked salmon, roughly chopped
a large handful of spinach
Tabasco sauce
1 lemon


METHOD 

Lay two 40cm sheets of non-PVC clingfilm flat on a work surface and rub with a little oil. Place one at a time into a cup and push down to create a well to hold the egg.

Sprinkle the chopped chives and chilli in the centre of the sheet, then carefully crack the egg on top. Pull in the sides of the clingfilm and be sure to gently squeeze out any air around the egg. Twist, then tie a knot in the clingfilm to secure the egg snugly inside. Repeat with the other egg in the other sheet.

Your egg parcels should look like this:

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Poach the egg parcels in a pan of simmering water for 6 to 7 minutes for soft-poached, or until cooked to your liking.

Place a colander or steamer above the pan and wilt the spinach as the egg poaches.

Meanwhile, toast the bread and spread the cream cheese on it like butter. Scatter the smoked salmon over the cream cheese. Squeeze any excess liquid out of the spinach, then spoon over the toast.

Snip open the clingfilm parcel, unwrap the egg and place proudly on top. Dot with a little Tabasco and serve with a wedge of lemon for squeezing over, then season and tuck in.

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Pasta, Cherry Tomatoes and Blue Cheese

We were supposed to go out for a meal last night, but a combination of fatigue and ennui determined that we would light the log burner and have a simple supper instead. Having nothing planned, I turned to the fridge and the pantry to find a handful of simple ingredients and cook this fast, simple and delicious treat.

We would have enjoyed our meal out, I’m sure, but I’m not so sure whether it would have been quite as lovely as what we ended up with.

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RECIPE – serves 2

300g cherry tomatoes, quartered

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 fat garlic clove, thinly sliced

a good pinch of dried chilli flakes

a small handful of basil leaves, torn

220g pasta (whatever you have available)

200g soft, creamy blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Dolcelatte etc)

a little parmesan, finely grated


METHOD 

Combine the tomatoes, oil, garlic, basil and chilli flakes in a bowl, with a good pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water at a rolling boil. Drain, return the pasta to the pan and add the tomato mix, toss well then crumble the cheese into it. Stir well, drizzle with a little more olive oil and a final twist of black pepper.

Serve in warmed bowls garnished with finely grated parmesan, alongside a simple green salad, dressed with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Celeriac and Apple Soup

Simple as they seem, soups can be a real test of a cook’s palate and skill at combining flavours. This Tom Kerridge recipe is a great example, deceptively simple with only a handful of ingredients, the soup itself is the classic winter pairing of creamy celeriac and sharp cooking apples and is lovely by itself. Add some garnishes however and the resulting flavour combinations are eye-popping, every mouthful offers something different.

I have used pumpkin oil as a garnish here; it’s an unusual ingredient, and quite expensive – though it will go an awful long way. Use it like you would toasted sesame oil, as a seasoning and garnish, and it lifts anything it comes into contact with. A very worthwhile investment indeed.

This soup makes a delicious and filling supper meal, or a very elegant first course.

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RECIPE – serves 4

500g celeriac

1 litre vegetable stock

3 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 large Bramley apples, or other sharp cooking apples

the juice of a lemon, freshly squeezed

200ml double cream

1/2 nutmeg, finely grated

To garnish (use any or all):

salty, soft blue cheese (Roquefort, dolcelatte or similar), crumbled

toasted walnuts

celery leaves

a few drops of pumpkin oil

sourdough croutons


METHOD 

Heat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4.

Peel the celeriac and retain the peel, chop the flesh into 2cm cubes and tip onto a roasting tray, drizzle a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil over it. Using your hands, ensure that every surface of every piece of celeriac has a fine film of oil, then spread the pieces out evenly across the roasting tray. Do not crowd your tray, leave a little space between each piece of vegetable and in a single layer, otherwise some pieces will steam rather than roast. Roasting drives out some of the moisture in the vegetable, intensifying the flavour in a way that steaming does not. The oil coating protects the vegetable from the dry heat and delays caramelisation until the vegetable is soft. Roast for 30-40 minutes until soft and just starting to brown.

Meanwhile, put the celeriac peel into the stock and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes.

Sweat the onion in 1 tbsp rapeseed oil with a little salt for around ten minutes until softened but not coloured – the salt will help as it encourages the moisture in the onions to be released.

Peel and dice the apples and toss them in a large bowl with the lemon juice. When the onion is soft, add the apples with the lemon juice and the roasted celeriac. Strain the infused stock into the pan and bring to the boil, simmer for ten minutes until the apple has started to break down. Add the cream, bring the temperature of the soup back up until it is just about to boil, then turn off the heat. Using a stick blender, or worktop blender, blitz the soup until it is smooth. Test and correct the seasoning, and grate in half a fresh nutmeg.

To serve, garnish with any or all of the garnishes listed.

Squash Fritters with Green Tomato Salsa

I still have a small mountain of green tomatoes in my kitchen. They stubbornly refuse to ripen, not surprising given that it is November, but they are still firm and healthy. Determined to make use of them, I found this Jamie Oliver recipe which sounded intriguing.

When I started to make the fritter batter I must confess that I wondered whether I’d made the right decision, things didn’t look very promising at all. However, I soldiered on, mainly because I didn’t have anything else to fall back on. I needn’t have worried, they turned out to be absolutely delicious, especially when paired with the punchy salsa.

I served them alongside pan-seared salmon fillets and a simple green salad, quite wonderful.

Jamie’s original recipe calls for leftover roasted squash, I cannot think of any circumstances when I would have any leftover squash. If you are like me then you will need to roast some squash before you begin: peel and chop your squash into 2cm cubes, season lightly and toss in a little olive oil, just enough to coat each cube, and roast in a 200C/ Gas 6 oven for around 40 minutes until the edges are starting to caramelise.

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RECIPE – serves 4

For the salsa:

2 medium green tomatoes
2 medium, ripe red tomatoes
2 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and finely sliced
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
a small bunch of fresh basil
extra-virgin olive oil

For the fritters:

250 g roasted squash
250 g ricotta cheese
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons wholewheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder


METHOD 

Chop all the tomatoes, some roughly and some finely so you’ve got a range of shapes and textures, scrape them into a bowl with the chillies and spring onions, grate the lemon zest over the top, squeeze in half the lemon juice and stir thoroughly.

Pick and roughly tear the basil leaves, then add to the tomatoes along with a good pinch of sea salt, some black pepper and a drizzle of oil. Mix well, check and adjust the seasoning then set aside.

Roughly mash the squash in a large bowl then add the ricotta, allspice and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Crack in the eggs and whisk to combine, then fold through the flour and baking powder.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan or skillet over a medium heat, add 4 to 6 large spoonfuls of batter and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden and crisp on the bottom. Flip the fritters over and fry for a further 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Keep in a warm oven while you prepare the rest of the fritters and cook your salmon, or whatever you decide to accompany them.

Mushroom, Ale and Celeriac Pie

I spotted this recipe in a copy of Vegetarian Living, a monthly magazine I can heartily recommend as it has some of the most amazing recipes, giving the lie to the perception that vegetarian food is boring. This recipe was crafted by Rachel Demuth, who runs a cookery school – I keep dropping hints to my wife that a course there would be a good present…

She might take more notice now, we had this last night and all she kept saying was: “This is delicious!”

It is. It is one of those recipes that must use alchemy, it is very much more than the sum of its delicious parts. The gravy that results is also fantastic; I have made a note to myself to make this the next time we have a roast beef dinner, the pairing will be sublime.

Curiously, for such a ‘beefy’ dish, it is very easily made vegan-friendly. Just use vegan ale (yes, there is such a thing) and vegan puff pastry, use water rather than egg to stick the pastry on, and brush the top of the pastry with soy milk.

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RECIPE – serves 4

10g dried porcini mushrooms
300ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250g celeriac, peeled and diced into 1 cm cubes
1 large carrot, sliced
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
150g mixed mushrooms, sliced
200ml Guinness or similar ale
1x 400g tin tomatoes
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp Marmite
½ tsp cornflour
2 bay leaves
2 tsp fresh thyme, leaves only
a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
500g puff pastry or flaky pastry
1 egg, beaten


METHOD 

In a pan, heat the vegetable stock until boiling then add the dried porcini and allow to sit in the cooling stock for 30 minutes. Prepare all your other ingredients.

Strain the re-hydrated porcini through muslin, saving the stock for use later. Finely dice the porcini and set aside for now.

In a large deep-sided frying pan or wok, fry the sliced onion in sunflower oil for around 5 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the diced celeriac and carrot and fry on a high heat, stirring often. Add the crushed garlic and the mushrooms (not the porcini) and cook for around 5 minutes until the mushrooms have given up their liquor and most of it has cooked off. Add the bay leaves.

Pour in the ale and bring it to a simmer for a few minutes. Meanwhile, mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of cold water and mix to a paste.

Add the tinned tomatoes, vegetable stock, chopped porcini, coarse grain mustard and Marmite, bring to the boil then add the cornflour paste. Stir thoroughly and keep stirring until the sauce has thickened, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes until the sauce is thick and rich

Add the chopped thyme and parsley and season well. Leave it to cool completely.

Heat the oven to 220C/ 200C fan/ gas 7.

Pour the cold mushroom filling into a 1 litre pie dish. Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin (4 or 5 mm) large enough to cover your pie dish with some to spare. If your pie dish has a flat edge then cut a ring of pastry to the thickness of the flat edge and stick it on with a brush of beaten egg.

Carefully lift the pastry and place it over the pie dish. Press down the edges to form a good seal and trim off any excess with a sharp knife. Reserve the trimmings to decorate the pie. Knock up and flute the edges of the pie and cut a small cross in the middle to let out the steam. Brush the top with beaten egg.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed up and golden.

I served this with creamy potato mash with a couple of tablespoonfuls of horseradish cream whipped into it, alongside seasonal vegetables.

Quick and Easy Flaky Pastry

I fancied making a pie yesterday, so I set out shopping in the morning and was quite perplexed to find that in all the shops I visited not a single one stocked any blocks of all-butter puff pastry. Now, a block of ready-made all-butter puff pastry is one of the few processed ingredients that I am happy to use, but though they all had the ready-rolled stuff it’s not quite the same.

I make rough-puff pastry quite a lot, but it does take a fair bit of time and attention – to be more accurate, you need to be around at various times during the day to roll and turn the pastry between chilling it. I didn’t have that freedom yesterday, but I really fancied that pie…

The answer was this: a super-quick and stupidly easy way to make flaky pastry. It doesn’t rise anywhere near as much as puff, but it laminates beautifully and is incredibly buttery. You do need to work quickly though, keeping the butter very cold is the key to success here so follow the instructions closely.


RECIPE – makes 450g of pastry

225g plain flour, sifted

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

170g unsalted butter

120 ml water


METHOD 

One hour before you will make the pastry, put the flour, butter and water in the freezer. Keep an eye on the water as it might freeze solid, which you don’t want. What you DO want are ice-cold ingredients.

Sift the flour and salt into a large, cold mixing bowl. Using the large holes of a cheese grater, quickly grate the butter into the flour – as fast as you can so that it doesn’t have time to warm up. Using a knife, stir the butter and flour around until each strand of butter is coated with flour and the butter is spread evenly throughout the flour. Add the ice-cold water and use the knife to bind the pastry together; a good way to do this is to act as if you are cutting with the knife, dragging the blade through the mixture three or four times, then giving the bowl a quarter turn and dragging the blade through another three or four times, until the water is all taken up with the flour. Once again, you need to move quickly while the mixture is ice cold.

Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together into a ball. Try to minimise the amount that you handle it, because you don’t want the butter strands to melt together, and handling pastry too much tends to make it tough.

Roll the pastry out into a long oblong, then fold one third of it into the centre of the pastry, and then fold the other third over the top of that. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or until you need to use it, at which point you can roll it out and use it as you would a ready-made pastry.

Southern Indian Rice and Seafood Soup

This dish started life as a Jamie Oliver recipe – always a good starting point – and with only a few slight alterations it has become an eternal favourite in our house.

It’s perfect for autumnal evenings: thick, filling, warming, comforting. I make it quite spicy, but if you’re not a fan of chilli heat just reduce the amount of chilli powder accordingly and use milder fresh chillies.

The ingredients list may look a little daunting, but this is actually a quick and easy dish to make and most of it you probably already have in your cupboards.

Once again, using a home-made vegetable stock makes an incredible difference to the depth of flavour. I have made two versions of this side-by-side, one using a good bouillon powder and the other using my own stock – the difference was like night and day. Using ghee (clarified butter) rather than oil also makes an enormous difference. Much of the shelf space in my fridge is taken up with home-made concoctions such as these – it’s a sacrifice worth making for the results you get.

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RECIPE – serves 4

3 tbsp ghee

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 tbsp brown mustard seeds

a handful of fresh curry leaves (I freeze mine fresh and use them as needed)

2 tsp cumin seeds

5 birds-eye chillies, finely sliced, seeds left in

4 cm fresh ginger, finely chopped

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tsp garam masala

1 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder

2 tsp turmeric

2 handfuls of Basmati rice

600 ml vegetable stock

2 400 ml tins of coconut milk

600g fish (a mix of cod, hake, haddock, salmon and prawns) cut into large chunks

a small bunch of fresh coriander stalks, chopped

the zest and juice of 2 limes

2 tsp garam masala to garnish

mild red chillies to garnish (optional)

a small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped, to garnish


METHOD 

Put the garam masala, hot chilli powder and turmeric in a small bowl with a little water and make into a smooth paste. Set aside for now. Doing this prevents the spices burning when added to the pan.

Melt the ghee in a very large pan, then fry the onions gently for around ten minutes until softened but not coloured. Adding a little salt to the onions encourages their moisture to leach out and prevents browning. Toward the end of the softening time, add the brown mustard seeds, curry leaves, cumin seeds, birds-eye chillies, ginger and garlic. Stir thoroughly and cook on gently for a few minutes until deeply aromatic. Add the spice paste, stir thoroughly and cook for a minute before adding the Basmati rice. Stir again, thoroughly coating the rice with the spices.

Add the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for ten minutes. Add the coconut milk with a good pinch of salt and bring back to a simmer – do not let it boil.

At this point you can turn the heat off and let the broth steep for a few hours. This deepens and softens the flavours of the spice, but you can of course carry straight on…

At this point you will of course have been tasting the broth regularly, and you may be puzzled that it tastes a little flat and unexciting. Fear not, the magic happens now.

If you are using them for the garnish, slit each mild red chilli several times and add to the broth.

Add the fish (not the prawns if you are using them, not yet) together with the chopped coriander stalks, put a lid over the pan and simmer gently for around ten minutes, until the fish starts to flake. Three or four minutes before the fish is cooked, add the prawns and re-cover the pan.

When the fish is cooked, remove the mild red chillies and set aside for use as a garnish, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary, stir to break up the fish, then add the lime zest and juice, stir, and scatter 2 teaspoons of garam masala over the top.  Taste it now… your toes will probably curl in pleasure!

Serve in bowls garnished with chopped coriander leaves and a mild red chilli each if you like.

This requires nothing else alongside it except, perhaps, some chapattis; it is a complete meal in itself.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tagine

I love all the seasons. Spring is my favourite because of the sense of nature’s renewal and the first hint of warmth in the wind, but autumn runs it a close second because of the luscious, warming food that comes out of our kitchen as the evenings draw in and the temperature drops.

I called this blog Love and Fishes because we love fish and eat a lot of it; on that reasoning I could have easily called it Love and Squashes – we eat a LOT of winter squash! It’s such a versatile, delicious vegetable, and it delivers in every dish. It works especially well in this Middle-Eastern inspired dish which I have been refining for a few years now. It’s perfect now, for me at least. If you’re not much into spice then you can reduce the amount of harissa used from 4 teaspoons to 2, but I think you’ll love it just as it is.

This dish becomes heavenly when made with home-made vegetable stock, for both the tagine itself and – particularly – when used to make the couscous.

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RECIPE – serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
150g large flat mushrooms, sliced
2 preserved lemons, rind only, thinly sliced
2 small red onions, cut into thin wedges
350g butternut squash, deseeded and cubed
1 red pepper, deseeded and cubed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tsp harissa paste
400g can chopped tomatoes
250ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with 2 tbsp water
small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves and stems chopped

To serve:

300g couscous
450ml vegetable stock


METHOD 

Heat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ Gas 6.

Tip your cubed squash onto a roasting tray and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive or rapeseed oil over it together with a good pinch of sea salt. Using your hands, ensure that every surface of every piece of squash has a fine film of oil, then spread the pieces out evenly across the roasting tray. Do not crowd your tray, leave a little space between each piece of vegetable and in a single layer, otherwise some pieces will steam rather than roast. Roasting drives out some of the moisture in the vegetable, intensifying the flavour in a way that steaming does not. The oil coating protects the vegetable from the dry heat and delays caramelisation until the vegetable is soft, the caramelisation also adds an essential layer of extra flavour. Roast for between 45 and 60 minutes, then set aside until needed.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan or wok, add the mushrooms and sauté until all the liquor bubbles off the mushrooms. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of the oil in the pan, add the onions, pepper, garlic and half the preserved lemon and sauté for 2 or 3 mins. Add the harissa, stir for a minute, then add the tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins or until the onions and pepper are tender. Toward the end of the 15 minutes, make up the cornflour paste and stir it into the sauce, turn the heat up and boil for a few minutes until thickened, stirring frequently.

Stir in the coriander stems, mushrooms and roasted squash cubes together with the remaining preserved lemon and simmer uncovered for a further 5 mins. Check and adjust the seasoning. Stir in the coriander leaves and serve spooned over couscous.

To make the couscous: heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan and measure out the dry couscous into a large pan. Season the stock then, when it has reached the boil, pour it over the couscous. Stir vigorously, cover the pan and set aside. After ten minutes, remove the lid, fluff up the hydrated couscous with a fork and serve.

Grilled Sea Bass with Chilli and Mango Sauce

I am lucky enough to have access to a great fishmonger, and I’m always buying his fresh-caught sea bass. It has a lovely flavour and firm flesh, is an easy fish to work with, and whatever you pair it with it makes an impressive dish to put in front of guests. To prepare it, you need to gut and descale it, remove the fins and cut out the gills – but if you don’t fancy the work your fishmonger will happily do it for you.

This recipe comes courtesy of Gizzi Erskine, and it is perfect. It’s definitely one that I will make again and again, my wife demands it.

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RECIPE – serves 2

2 small sea bass
4 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
3 tbsp shao hsing wine or sherry
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
½ firm mango (green underripe mangoes are great if you can find them), peeled and cut into matchsticks
200ml water
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour, mixed with 2 tbsp of water
To garnish, a handful of fresh coriander leaves 


METHOD 

Using a sharp, serrated knife, make 3 or 4 cuts on each side of the fish.

Put the fish into a bowl, pour 2 tbsp of the fish sauce over it and leave to marinate for 5–10 minutes.

Heat the grill to a high heat.

Put the rest of the fish sauce and all the remaining ingredients, except the cornflour and the coriander, into a saucepan. Place over a medium heat and bring gently to a simmer.

Pour in the cornflour mix and stir until thickened. Cover and keep warm.

Grill the fish for 8 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden on the outside but firm and flaky when pushed in its meatiest part.

Place on a serving platter and pour over the sauce. Finally, sprinkle with the coriander.

Roasted Squash and Spinach Speltotto

Pearled spelt and pearl barley lend themselves extremely well to long, slow risotto-cooking. When cooked they become lush and creamy, and their earthy, nutty flavour pairs brilliantly with the flavours of the autumn: mushrooms, sweet potatoes and winter squash. This recipe uses squash but you could substitute for any similar earthy ingredient and it makes for a simple yet delicious meal for a winter evening; it does take a little time, but some things are worth the wait and this is one of them.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a good stock for this dish (or any risotto-type dish for that matter). Your stock will be taken up by the grains as they expand and lend them its flavour; get your stock right and you will end up with a dish that will taste as if it has been made by a seasoned professional. Seriously.

This is easily adapted for vegans, simply omit the butter and Parmesan.

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RECIPE – serves 3

500g of butternut or other winter squash, cut into 1cm cubes

1000 ml vegetable stock

20g unsalted butter

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

300g pearled spelt or pearl barley

75ml vermouth

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

50g Parmesan, finely grated

1/2 of a nutmeg, finely grated

a few good handfuls of baby leaf spinach


METHOD 

Heat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ Gas 6.

Tip your cubed squash onto a roasting tray and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive or rapeseed oil over it together with a good pinch of sea salt. Using your hands, ensure that every surface of every piece of squash has a fine film of oil, then spread the pieces out evenly across the roasting tray. Do not crowd your tray, leave a little space between each piece of vegetable and in a single layer, otherwise some pieces will steam rather than roast. Roasting drives out some of the moisture in the vegetable, intensifying the flavour in a way that steaming does not. The oil coating protects the vegetable from the dry heat and delays caramelisation until the vegetable is soft, the caramelisation also adds an essential layer of extra flavour. Roast for between 45 and 60 minutes, then set aside until needed.

Heat your stock in a suitable pan until it is just simmering. Keep it at that point throughout the cooking time.

Melt the butter with the oil in a large risotto pan or deep-sided frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions and fry gently until they are softened, about ten minutes. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute more, then add the pearled spelt or barley and stir thoroughly until every grain is slick with oil. Turn the heat up and add the vermouth; let it bubble for a minute or so until the alcohol has burned off then add a ladleful of hot stock to the pan, stir thoroughly and bring the heat right down to a gentle simmer.

If your risotto is cooked at too high a temperature the stock will simply evaporate, whereas you want it to be able to penetrate through the grain. The ideal temperature is just short of boiling point; if your stock went in cold it would leave the dish too cool and always trying to catch up with the heat.

Add more stock to the pan when the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are in danger of catching; keep on adding the stock, a little at a time, until the grains are tender but with a good ‘bite’ – this is very much a personal thing but it is hard to accidentally overcook these grains. Pearled spelt will take around 30 minutes to cook, pearl barley will take closer to 40 minutes on average.

When the grain is cooked, stir the roasted squash through the pan and add the parsley, nutmeg and Parmesan. Stir until thoroughly combined and then season carefully before adding the spinach and allowing it to wilt into the pan.

Serve with a crisp green salad dressed with a good squeeze of lemon juice; the acidity of the lemon cuts through the earthy nuttiness of the speltotto and each enhances the other.