Pumpkin tart, sausage rolls and loaf cakes

I’m feeling good after my daughter’s second first-birthday party which we hosted this afternoon with some friends we met at an antenatal class. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since we were all a bunch of strangers standing around looking overwhelmed while we tried to imagine ‘an outline of a fruit’ in our pelvises. We’ve come a long way. For the party I cooked two cakes out of The Guardian: a ginger cake with three types of ginger and lots of sugar…

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And a more virtuous pumpkin and raisin tea loaf with no butter and only 200g of the sweet stuff.

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I also made some pork and thyme, and some meat-free sausage rolls which we did well not to eat up in entirety as soon as they came out of the oven.

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The pork and thyme sausage rolls were just the standard: Jus-rol puff pastry filled with butcher’s sausagemeat seasoned with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. In the veggie ones I used two sachets (150g) of Granose meat-free Lincolnshire sausage mix and added to it some roasted pumpkin and shallots, cubed cooked potato and fresh thyme.

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I’ll certainly be making the veggie sausage rolls again, along with this tasty pumpkin and shallot puff pastry pizza that I made for dinner on Saturday night with the leftovers.

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It might not look like much in the photograph, but it really hit the spot. The recipe is based on this one by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (The Guardian again, slap), but I made it my own by spreading on some leftover cheese sauce from my daughter’s macaroni and some crumbled goats cheese. It works well as a quick dinner but would also be good in miniature as a canape, hey, it is Christmas. Here is the recipe.

Pumpkin and three cheese puff pastry pizza (serves two)

400g (approx) pumpkin or squash
6 shallots
Oil for roasting
100-150g puff pastry
Butter for greasing tray
8 tbsp bechamel sauce*
2 tbsp each of finely graded cheddar and grana padano
A splash of Lea & Perrins
Grated nutmeg
5cm chunk of goats cheese, crumbled
1 bushy stalk of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 190 celcius for roasting, then 210 celcius to cook the pastry tart

Peel and chop your pumpkin into 3-5cm cubes and place in a roasting dish. Peel the shallots, I do this by sitting them in boiling hot water for a couple of minutes before peeling, this loosens the skins and makes them much quicker to prepare. Trim the black part of the root but leave the white bit so that the shallots hold together when roasting, slice the big ones in half.

Drizzle a little oil over the pumpkin and shallot and season with salt and pepper before roasting in the top of the oven at 190 degrees for 45-55 minutes until soft and starting to brown.

While the pumpkin is roasting, lightly grease a baking sheet with butter and roll out your pastry to about 1-2mm thick so that it covers the bottom of your baking sheet plus about 3cm on each side. Place the pastry in the tray and fold down the edges to make a hem, this will be the crust of your pizza.

Stir some fresh thyme leaves into the white sauce and season, then spread over the pastry as you would a pizza base with tomato sauce.

Arrange the roasted pumpkin, shallots and crumbled goats cheese over the base.

Cook in a high oven (210 degrees) for about 18 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

Serve straight away with a warm potato salad and rocket leaves, or just as is!

*I don’t use precise quantities to make a bechamel and I tend to just use the most basic of recipes – about 2 tbsp of butter to 2 tbsp of plain flour and about half a pint of whole milk. Melt the butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low hob and stir in the flour to make a roux, or paste. When a thick but smooth yellow paste is formed, add the milk a dribble at a time, stirring constantly, until you have a smooth and glossy white sauce. If lumps form, continue stirring until the sauce is thickened and free of lumps, then start adding the milk again, more slowly this time, and remember to keep stirring! When the sauce is thin enough to pour but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, add grated cheese and seasonings and cover with cling-film until serving – best used right away. Delia of course has a much more comprehensive recipe on her website.

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