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Recipes of the Month
September - Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup

In North America, farmers grow a great range of squashes, including the succulent butternut variety. It tastes similar to pumpkin, which could be substituted in this recipe. You will need a liquidiser.

 

INGREDIENTS

serves 6-8

  • 1 butternut squash or 1 small pumpkin
  • 8oz (225g) dried white beans
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 pints (1.7 litres) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 pint (450 ml) semi-skimmed or whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Celery leaves for garnish

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Drain them and place in a large saucepan. Roughly chop the onion and garlic and add them to the pan with 2 pints of the stock, 1 teaspoon of the dried thyme and the bay leaf. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until the beans are tender.

Peel the butternut and discard the seeds and membrane. Finely dice the flesh and simmer in the reserved stock and thym for 15 minutes until tender.

Allow to cool, then remove the bay leaf from the beans, add the butternut squash, milk and stock mixture and puree in a liquidiser until smooth.

Return to the pan and reheat gently. Season to taste, sprinkle paprika in the centre of each serving and garnish with the chopped celery leaves.

 
August - Scented Pears Poached in Red Wine

Pears turn a deep burgundy colour when they are poached gently in spiced red wine. American Bosc and British Conference are good dessert pears for cooking.

Serve with creme fraiche if desired.

 

INGREDIENTS

serves 4

  • 4 firm dessert pears
  • 1/2 pint (285ml) red wine
  • 1/2 glass Cassis (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4oz (115g) caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • A twist of freshly ground black pepper
  • Mint sprigs for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche (optional)

Peel the pears and leave them whole with their stalks on. Pour the red wine and optional Cassis into a large pan and add the lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar, ginger, honey, cloves, bay leaves and black pepper. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the pears, spoon the micture over them, and cover the pan. Reduce to a low heat and, keeping the liquid just below boiling point, poach gently for 1 hour - turning occasionaly - until pears are translucent and soft, but not mushy.

Remove the pears from the liquid and arrange on a serving dish. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Strain the liquid through a sieve and discard the cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Pour over the pears and chill overnight.

Garnish with mint sprigs and serve chilled with a little creme fraiche if desired.

 

 
July - Paella Catalana

Among the many variations of paella - Spain's most famous dish - this recipe is particularly colourful. It comes from the north-east coast of Spain, and reflects the abundance and variety of the region's seafood.

To cut down on Preparation time, you can buy cleaned squid from a fishmonger or a large supermarket.

Serve with crusty French bread, a crisp green salad, and a full-bodied wine like Rioja.

INGREDIENTS

serves 6

  • 1 lb (450 g) cleaned squid
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 pint (285ml) red wine
  • 24-30 mussels
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 medium yellow pepper
  • 4 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 1 lb (450 g) monkfish fillet
  • 12 large raw prawns
  • 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pints (1.4 litres) fish or chicken stock
  • 1 lb (450 g) Italian easy-cook brown rice
  • 4 oz (115 g) frozen peas or petits pois
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

METHOD

Halve 2 of the cloves of garlic and put them in the bottom of an Ovenproof dish. Slice the body of the cleaned squid into thin rings, and then cut its tentacles into small evenly sized pieces. Put the squid on top of the garlic and pour over half the red wine. Cover and cook for 1 hour in the Oven, stirring occasionally, until the squid is tender.

Meanwhile, scrub the mussels under cold running water and scrape off all the beards and barnacles.

Halve another clove of garlic, then finely chop the onion and parsley. Place the garlic halves, half of the chopped onion, the parsley, mussels and the rest of the red wine in a wide shallow pan, or casserole, with a tightly fitting lid. Cover the pan and bring to the boil, shaking frequently until all of the mussels are open. Reserving the cooking liquid, lift the mussels out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Discard any of the mussels that have not opened.

Halve, de-seed and roughly chop the pepper. Plunge the tomatoes into a bowl of hot water for 30 seconds, then into cold water for 1 minute, until cool enough to peel off the skins with your fingers. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Crush the remaining garlic with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

When the squid is cooked, reserve the cooking liquid and drain. Remove the garlic halves and put the squid and the cooking liquid to one side.

Skin the monkfish fillet, cutting off as much of the tough grey membrane as possible, with a filleting or other sharp knife. Cut the fish into bite-sized chunks. If desired, reserve some whole prawns for garnishing, or leave their tail flanges on. Shell the rest of the prawns with your fingers. Then making a shallow cut along the back of the prawn, remove the dark intestinal vein that runs along the back.

Heat all the olive oil in a large pan and add the monkfish and prawns. Cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring gently. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the pepper, tomatoes and the remaining onion and garlic. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened.

Heat the stock in a separate pan until it is just simmering. Meanwhile, stir the brown rice into the pan, then pour in the reserved liquid from the mussels and squid. Gently bring to the boil and simmer uncovered until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Stir occasionally.

As the amount of hot stock needed will vary according to the absorbency of the rice you are using, add it gradually in measures of about 1/2 pint (285ml) at a time. Cook over a moderate heat and stir frequently until each measure has been absorbed by the rice. After 30 minutes all the stock should be absorbed, and the rice should be just tender.

Add the frozen peas, then after 1-2 minutes the monkfish, prawns and squid, and stir gently until heated right through. Season to taste and serve.

 
May - Vanilla Fudge

INGREDIENTS

  • 1x20cm squarecake tin, greased and lined with parchment paper
  • 375g condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon strong vanilla essence
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 50g butter

In a saucepan, mix togethe the condensed milk, vanilla essence, sugar and butter. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

Bring to the boil, and boil until the mixture has turned the classic vanilla golden fudge colour. If using a sugar thermometer this will be at 116 degrees C.

Remove from the heat, beat until smooth and pour the fudge into the lined tin. Allow it to cool completely and set before cutting it into squares.

Makes up to 40 pieces

Note: Chopped nuts, raisins or currants can be added to this recipe just before you pour it into the tin.

 
May - Crème brûlée

No on can ever agree on whether this dish is classic French or British but it's so good to eat that I love to claim it's British...

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 x Size 1 ramekins
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, split, or a few drops of vanilla essence
  • Icing sugar to finish


Method

Mix together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Bring the cream to the boil with the vanilla pod or essence. Remove the pod and scrape the seeds into the cream. Now whisk the cream into the egg yolks and sugar.

Sit the bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water and heat until the custard begins to thicken, stirring all the time. It should have the consistency of single cream.

Now divide the custard between the ramekins. Put these in a roasting tin and pour in some warm water until it comes three-quarter of the way up the sides of the moulds.

Put into the oven and leave until the Crème brûlées are just on the point of setting, approximately 20-30 minutes. To test, remove one of the moulds from the water and shake it gently.

There should still be slight movement in the centre of the custard. If it seems a little too runny, returm to the oven and check after another 5-10 munutes. Remove from the oven and the roasting tray to allow to cool.

Dust the brûlées generously with icing sugar, wiping around the edge before you glaze them, either under a preheated grill or with a gas gun (see page 11). As the sugar heats, it begins to dissolve, bubble and to colour: This is the time to redust and rebubble.

To achieve a good, rich, crisp topping repeat three times.

 
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