Archive for the 'squash' Category

On the road: The Wellington Arms

It has been a while since my last blog post – it came as quite a shock to see how much time had past since I last properly posted here. I’ve still been trying new recipes and ingredients but only recently realised how much I’ve missed writing about my culinary adventures. After what has been a tough year so far, I’ve decided to return to blogging and plan to post here regularly – at least once a week. I will continue to focus on seasonal, local ingredients, with the odd detour along the way, including documenting any great restaurant finds.

Indeed my first post is on a fantastic restaurant Bill and I discovered with friends a few weeks ago – The Wellington Arms in Baughurst, Hampshire. I was tasked with finding a country pub or restaurant halfway between Surrey (where we live) and Oxfordshire and after some searching came across the Independent’s Top 50 Country Pubs where The Wellington Arms came highly recommended.

After visiting the website I came across a glowing recommendation from one of my favourite food writers, Diana Henry: “At this tiny but perfectly formed pub, it is worth fighting for one of the twelve tables.” My mind was made up and I desperately hoped they would be able to squeeze us in. Our luck was in and I managed to secure a last-minute booking for Saturday lunchtime – no fighting needed.

The drive along winding country lanes to the tiny village of Baughurst was beautiful and picturesque – I wish I had had a proper camera with me to take photos of the stunning countryside with contrasting fields of vibrant yellow oilseed rape.

Arriving at The Wellington Arms, we were greeted by this sign:



The Wellington Arms has its own rare-breed hens, along with pigs, sheep and bee hives. Using homegrown, local and organic produce, the owners Simon and Jason grow salad leaves and herbs in their kitchen garden (using polytunnels in winter) and asparagus, courgettes, pumpkins, salads and root vegetables in raised beds.


This already seemed like a special place and worthy of the rave reviews I had read online. This was confirmed when we settled down at our table (after a very warm welcome from Simon) and read through the excellent menu.

My starter, twice-baked Westcombe Cheddar cheese soufflé on braised leeks with double cream & Parmesan, was incredible – rich in flavour with a light, fluffy texture.


My main, baked potato gnocchi with roasted butternut squash, walnuts, sage and Parmesan, was equally delicious and incredibly filling. The flavours worked in perfect harmony, with the sage and Parmesan providing the perfect savoury foil to the sweet squash, caramelised walnuts and sticky balsamic dressing.


My dessert (yes, I was full but there was no way I was turning this down) was a warm and comforting Seville marmalade sponge pudding with homemade custard.


This restaurant embodies everything I love – seasonal, local produce cooked well. No fancy techniques, just great food, with the produce the stars of the show. We shall definitely be back.

Autumn treasures

The temperature has dropped, the wind is picking up and the leaves are beginning to turn – summer seems but a distant memory; autumn has well and truly arrived.
I have sadly neglected this blog over the summer, but with good reason; B. and I bought a house!
What with the buying process and wanting to decorate the house before we moved in, it took most of the summer to sort out. However, I am pleased to report that we are now all settled in and ready to get back to the serious business of cooking!
With the changing of the seasons comes a new exciting array of produce to cook with and help us get through winter: among them mushrooms, autumn berries and root vegetables.
My absolute favourite autumnal/winter vegetable has to be squash. For a start there are so many varieties: butternut, acorn, harlequin and yellow crookneck are just a few. They come in all different shapes, sizes and colours – true autumnal treasures.
Butternut is the most accessible and easy to find, and is very similar to pumpkin. It has a wonderful rich sweetness in its dark orangey flesh, and is extremely versatile. Butternut can be used in many dishes, from curries to soups and stews.
However, as I mentioned in my wild garlic post, I have a great love of risotto – and one with butternut squash is perfect for the cool (and often miserable) autumn weather. Many people I know who don’t like squash find it too sweet; here I have combined it with earthy sage, aromatic thyme and tangy Gorgonzola to offset the sweetness, and it is a stunning match.
Although you can boil squash, it does lose some of its sweetness; roasting it along with some sage and thyme in this dish intensifies the flavours and they all marry together nicely. The fried sage leaves may sound a little fancy, but they taste amazing and make a real difference.

For me, this dish signals that autumn is here, and goes a fair way for compensating for the terrible English weather. I hope it does the same for you too.

Butternut squash, gorgonzola and sage risotto

Serves 4

1 onion, diced
Splash of olive oil
Knob of butter
1 medium-sized butternut squash
6-8 sprigs of fresh sage (about 1 standard supermarket pack)
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
400g risotto rice
1.5l vegetable stock (I used Marigold Vegetable Bouillon)
115g Gorgonzola


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler (the skin can be tough to peel); scoop out the seeds and fibrous bits and discard. Cut the squash into small chunks and put  onto a baking tray. Reserve 6 of the largest sage leaves and finely chop the remaining leaves. Pick off the thyme leaves. Sprinkle the sage and thyme over the squash, season with sea salt and black pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Toss to combine and cook for 20 minutes or until cooked through and starting to caramelise.

2. Meanwhile, fry the onion in a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add the risotto rice, stir then gradually add the hot stock, stirring continuously between each addition until absorbed. Continue for 20 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed and the rice is al dente. Add more water if needs be.

3. In a small frying pan, fry the reserved sage leaves in a little olive oil over a medium-high heat for a few seconds each side until crisp. Set aside on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

4. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir through the gorgonzola and roasted squash. Top with the crisp sage leaves and serve immediately.

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© 2015 Sharon Lane

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