Gourd-on Bleu

Hallowe’en has always been a time for dressing up, scaring off the ghoulies and filling up the gap between summer and Christmas. These days though kids go ‘Trick or Treating’ instead of guising and carve pumpkins instead of turnip. Without the prospect or Thanksgiving pumpkin pie to use up the pumpkin afterwards we got to thinking about other things to do with it in the kitchen. We’re also not the kind of folks to pass up any way of including biscuits in our day-to-day diet and the result is this complex tasting yet rustic pasta dish. You can use any type of gourd for this recipe so experiment with pumpkin or any of the weird and wonderful squash out there.

Squash and Amaretti Pappardelle
Recipe serves 4

1 medium Gourd, roughly cut into chunks
Roasted with:
2 Cloves garlic (bashed and peeled)
1 tsp Dried sage
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Chilli flakes
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

For the pasta:
5 Amaretti biscuits
1 tbs Balsamic vinegar
1 tbs Olive oil
1/4-1/2 a nut of nutmeg
2 Tomatoes, chopped
A handful of fresh sage
1 Red onion, finely sliced
6 slices Parma style ham, cut into small strips
Pecorino cheese

1 large bag Fresh Pappardelle pasta

Cut the gourd in half and remove the seeds. These can be cleaned and roasted in spice, butter and salt to make a yummy snack if you like, but sometimes life is too short to wash seeds…

Slice the flesh into wedges about 1-2 cm thick, drizzle with olive oil and mix with the rest of the roasting ingredients. Spread the wedges out on a roasting sheet and bake in a hot oven (gas 6) for around 30 minutes. When ready they should be soft when you insert a knife and hopefully they will have slightly caught around the edges. Allow to cool slightly then remove the skin and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Place the gourd into a mixing bowl, crush the Amaretti and add these too. This may sound odd but actually pumpkin and Amaretti is a very traditional italian ravioli filling, also, it really does work. Add in the oil, vinegar and tomatoes and mix well.

Start boiling the pasta. The sauce doesn’t take long to finish (3-4 minutes) so bear that in mind when timing the cooking of pasta!

In a large saucepan, fry the onion and ham and in a little oil until the fat has rendered off and the onions are soft. (Those of a vegetarian persuasion just leave out the ham). Add the gourd/biscuit/tomato mix and stir through. The mix needs to be a little wet to help the sauce coat the pasta. Add anything from one spoon to a ladle of pasta water to help loosen it up, depending how wet your gourds are. Once the sauce is piping hot, drain the pasta and add to the pan with chopped fresh sage and a good handful of grated pecorino. Stir well.

Serve with some crunchy bread, a glass of rich red wine and a good helping of cracked black pepper. Enjoy!

Pop-tastic!

You can’t have a decent movie night without popcorn right? We settled down for a bit of a movie marathon recently and rather than plumping for the easy option of homemade salted popcorn (simply pop the corn in with a good chunk of salted butter. Anchor is good for flavour) Mrs Stovies tried to devise her own recipe for cinema style sweet popcorn. The stuff from the counter, not the toffee one that comes in a bag. After a couple of failed attempts here’s the recipe that worked, and boy was it good. Crunchy, hot and sweet enough but not toothache inducing. Munch away, just don’t rustle too much!

Cinema Style Sweet Popcorn

2 handfuls Corn kernals
50g Caster sugar
75ml Water
25g Butter
1-2tsp Vanilla syrup (3-4 drops Vanilla extract if you don’t have the coffee shop type syrup around)

First get the popcorn on the go. Put the kernels into the biggest pan you own, with the lid on. No oil, no butter, nothing. Sit on a medium flame/heat and wait with baited breath for the pops to start. When the pops become infrequent, turn off the heat and leave to sit, with the lid on while you do the sugary bit.

In a small saucepan bring the sugar and water up to the boil, keep it going until the liquid turns golden. When it does drop in the vanilla and butter and keeps stirring while it melts together. When you’re ready pour this over the warm popcorn and stir like a mad thing to coat all of the popped corn before it sets.

Pour into a big bowl and share over a good movie.

Quite probably the best fish in town!

The Ship, in Leith’s trendy shore area is touted as a ‘seafood restaurant and champagne bar’ and you know, they aren’t kidding either. The fish and chip menu has several unusual and discerning side options on offer – a bottle of Veuve perhaps, Krug? Decadent booze treats aside, The Ship is gradually becoming one one of Team Stovies’ favourite haunts. The surroundings are perfect for any occasion from a long and lazy Sunday lunch, to a romantic dinner with dark wood panelling, fresh white roses on the tables and oceanic charts in place of wallpaper, there’s a real sense of intimacy and calm conducive to good conversation.

Image © The Ship

We were greeted with a warm welcome as always, and left to peruse the menus. This is one restaurant where you never feel rushed. Even when it’s hoaching, which is both charming and refreshing in the churn and burn society we live in. Drinks in hand we settled back to decide on eats. Although we had only intended to have main courses, a half pint of shell on native prawns and some steamed surf clams with spanish ham were too delicious sounding to miss. They didn’t disappoint either. The prawns, served simply with lemon mayonnaise, reminded us why prawn cocktail once ruled the starter world and the clams were amongst the best we have ever had. Rich with bacon, wine and garlic sauce but wonderfully light at the same time! The only problem is they have quite probably spoiled all other clam dishes for life!

As this was the last meal out before Baby Stovies arrived, the good lady opted for a real treat of Shetland langoustines with garlic butter and Ship’s chips. The three grilled crustaceans were monstrous in size, melt in the mouth, meaty and delightfully sweet. On the other side of the table, a classic of lobster thermidor arrived with an apology from the chef – the lobsters were a little small today so he’d served up two halves instead. Was this ok? Oh yes! Rich and cheesy yet still light enough for the plate to be squeaky clean, the accompanying Ship’s chips were just the right kind of chunky to mop up any surplus sauce. Both dishes came with a house salad, which we feel deserves a mention for being so well executed – vinaigrette dressed rocket and green leaves with posh deseeded cucumber, red onion and peppers, it’s always a perfect match to the seafood here.

No space for pudding, She: too full of baby; He: lobstered to the max. We’ll save room for it next time though, when we’re back with the baby.

Fishy good times + drinks £70.00

The Ship on The Shore, Leith. Tel: 0131 555 0409 http://www.theshipontheshore.co.uk/

Spicy, ricey, nicey.

This is a bit of an all purpose dish, we’ve served it up as a fancy side and for meat free meals in the week. It’s a nice light equivalent the usual heavy, oily curry night but still packed with flavour. This will do more than enough for four as a main, or eight as part of a full on curry feast served with other dishes.

Vegetable Byriani

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups Rice
3 cups Water
A handful of garden peas
1 Onion, diced
1 Green pepper, diced
1 Clove of garlic, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
A large handful of fresh coriander
A large handful of fresh mint
Salt
Vegetable bullion powder
5-6 Cardamon pods
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Yellow mustard seed
1 inch piece of cinnamon
2 Bay leaves
2 tsp Curry powder (use your favourite)
A pinch of saffron soaked in 1/2 cup milk

Heat some oil (about a tablespoon) in a pan until smoking. Use a plain, unflavoured oil like groundnut. Chuck in all of the spices apart from the saffron and fry until the seeds start to pop. This is a good way to get proper, burn speckled ‘chefs arms’ to impress your friends with at dinner. When the spices are going raj (sorry, couldn’t help myself) add in the garlic, ginger, onion and pepper. Once these start to colour stir in the rice and peas.

The aromas in your kitchen will be pretty amazing right now, sadly though there is a bit of a wait to eat! Add the water, salt (a couple of generous pinches should do) and about a teaspoon of vegetable stock powder. Bring to the boil and cook for two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop and stir through half of the coriander, reserving the rest to add just before serving. Pour the milky saffron mix over the top but don’t mix it in, cover tightly and reduce the heat to the lowest you can. Cook for 40-50 minutes and do not lift the lid, no matter how tempting it is!

When you are ready to eat stir in the remaining chopped coriander and the chopped mint. Serve with chutneys and the indian bread of your choice. I love puri, the lady likes naan. Cheats tip – order your breads from the takeaway!