Tag Archives: fresh start

Creamy butternut squash pasta bake


I’ve never been fond of Macaroni Cheese, I’m not sure why, but this dish has never appealed to me, but after mooching through Tom Kerridge’s book, A Fresh Start, I saw this recipe for Creamy Butternut Squash pasta bake. I like butternut squash, so I thought I would give it a go.



575 calories per serving

  • 1kg butternut squash, cut into chunks (about 2 cm)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g macaroni
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the cheese sauce

  • 60g butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1 litre whole milk
  • 60g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

For the topping

  • A handful of sage leaves
  • 40g sun-blushed tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 50g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin oil (or use olive oil)
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

How did I get on?

The first thing that needed to be done was to cut the butternut squash into chunks. So for that, I called upon my husband, or rather my husband volunteered as he didn’t want to see me chop my fingers off!  Here’s how he got on:

After he had cut up the butternut squash, not quite as fast as in the video, we put it on a roasting tray, drizzled it with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, where it cooked on the top shelf for 25 minutes at 220ºC/Gas 7.

Once it was cooked and cooled, then comes my favourite part, you put three quarters into a blender and blitz it together.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the macaroni until al dente.

For the sauce, melt the better, add the floured stir for one minute. Then add the milk and whisk until it thickens slightly. Then add the Parmesan and nutmeg and stir until the cheese has melted. Grab your butternut squash puree and stir it through. That’s the most difficult part over with!


Drain the macaroni, add to the sauce and stir well. Tip into a deep baking dish and scatter over the rest of the butternut squash, sage, sun-blushed tomatoes and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with the oil.

This is placed in the middle shelf of the one, turning on the oven grill at the same time (I have to admit, I forgot to do this!).

Bake for ten minutes and then take out and scatter the pumpkins seeds evenly over the surface and return to the oven for a further five minutes.


The finished dish

This dish was very tasty, a change from your normal macaroni cheese dish. It wasn’t hard to prepare, the most tricky bit being the sauce. There wasn’t much preparation apart from the butternut squash, so once you had prepared and roasted this, the rest didn’t take very long at all.

This makes enough for six people, so if that’s too much, you can freeze it and just defrost it and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes.





Tamarind Chicken Skewers with Green Mango Salad

Following on from my Beef Biryani recipe last week, this is again from Tom Kerridge’s Fresh Start: How to cook amazing food at home.


750g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
5 tbsp. tamarind paste
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
5 tbsp. brown sugar
4cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated

For the green mango salad:
750g firm green (unripe) mangoes, peeled
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1-2 long red chillies, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp light brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. fish sauce
A large handful of coriander leaves: roughly chopped

How did I get on?


The first thing was to cut each of the thighs into quarters and place in a bowl along with the tamarind, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and ginger. (Again I cheated with the ginger and used ginger paste). I mixed it with the chicken and left to marinate in a bowl. It says to marinate for 20 minutes, but I took the dog for a walk whilst it marinated and so it was in for about an hour.

When I got back from the walk, I made the mango salad:

Mango Salad

after cutting the mango flesh away from the stone, I sliced it into strips, put in a bowl, added the shallot, chillies (I used one), brown sugar, juice of a lime and fish sauce – I didn’t add much fish sauce as I’m not a huge fan of the taste. Then I added the coriander, which gave the salad a wonderful boost of flavour.

I then retrieved the chicken pieces out of the marinade and threaded the chunks onto a skewer.

Chicken skewers ready to go in the oven


Tom’s recipe says to griddle them over a medium heat, but we don’t possess one, so instead we put them in the oven. I know you don’t get the charring in the oven, but we didn’t have a choice.

They were in the oven for about 25 minutes at 180 degrees.

Ready to eat!


Once out of the oven, plate them on a warm dish, serve with lime wedges for squeezing over and the mango salad alongside.






Tamarind chicken skewers and mango salad plated up

A very simple dish to make and there’s not a huge list of ingredients. The mango salad was delicious, it tasted very refreshing and a nice change from our normal green salad that usually accompanies something like this. I think it would be a great addition to a barbecue and we are definitely going to do this when the sun decides to shine and we can dust off the barbecue. This recipe serves six, but we didn’t use as much chicken as was listed, but we polished off what we did have.

A definite firm favourite in our household!






My cooking background (or lack of it!)

assorted spices on black frying pan

Growing up in my household, food was always very plain and simple. Granted it was the 1960/70s and pizzerias, Chinese and Indian restaurants were not a common thing, but my mother originated from Holland and her idea of a meal was meat and vegetables every night. After my father died when I was seven, my mother meet someone else who was a butcher, so even though we dined on steaks most nights, it tended to get a bit boring.

Then I met my boyfriend, Phil and he introduced me to a variety of new palate sensations, taking me out to Indian restaurants (yes, I did start off with a Korma), Chinese meals, Kentucky Fried Chicken and burger bars.

Phil was a chef, he worked for one of the top hotels in Southampton called The Polygon as a trainee, a few months after meeting him we were engaged and the following year we were married. Now because he was a chef, I didn’t do any cooking, it was left to him and I wasn’t unhappy about this arrangement. Sure, I would cook the odd dinner, but not having had any experience I was reluctant to give it a go.

Two children later and my son is a chef too. He left college and went to chef in Sydney, Australia working for high profile restaurants and is now based in Bristol working in a restaurant called Bulrush, which has recently gained its first Michelin star.

One day I decided to make a Victoria sponge cake and found that I could actually produce quite a good one and so began my love for baking cakes and decorating them. I make cakes for birthdays, weddings or any occasion at all for friends and clients.

Noah’s ark cake

But I still didn’t tackle the dinners, I was happy to make the puddings, but that was about it.

It wasn’t that long ago that me and hubby sat down to watch a new programme which Tom Kerridge presented, How To Lose Weight For Good weightforgoodand I liked what I saw, the recipes seemed fairly straightforward and tasty, so we ordered the book and went shopping to collect the ingredients. I have to admit that there was a lot to collect, especially the spices, but they aren’t very expensive and once you have bought them, they do last a long time. There were some that I hadn’t even heard of, but luckily for me, hubby was there to guide me.

I took over the cooking of the main dinners, I felt more confident being able to follow a recipe and I have to say that we were pleased with some of the meals that have been produced, they were very tasty and you had the added bonus of knowing they were low fat recipes. My favourite is the Southern Fried Chicken, a take on a KFC, which tastes great!

Tom has brought out two books in the same vein, Lose Weight For Good and his newest one, Tom Kerridge’s Fresh Start. We have already cooked a couple of recipes from the new book in which the Peanut Chicken Stir Fry Noodles is already a firm favourite.

I will be making his Beef Biriyani recipe this week, so I will put up pictures of it stage by stage, just to prove that even somebody who is a novice like me, can make his dishes.

Quote: The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating it!

John Walters