Gem Squash – a sumptuous vegetable.

Hello again…

….so two posts in one week! Not bad huh?

I wanted to share with you this fabulous vegetable which I grew up with back home in Africa. It is simply the most wonderful squash going and I haven’t seen it in the UK for a long time, so imagine my joy when I was shopping for my weekly veg at the local green grocer and I stumbled upon this wonderful delight. I couldn’t contain my excitement and immediately bought 8 (yes I know, maybe a bit of overkill, but seriously, if you hadn’t eaten something in 12 years, wouldn’t you buy way to many?! ).

So I cooked them and then my husband and myself ate them for dinner with roast pork, and oh my was it everything that I had dreamt about and more, it took me back to the days when I was a kid and was sitting around the dining room table wondering what vegetables we were going to get that day, if it would be the dreaded broccoli or the divine gem squash.  So, needless to say, I was very happy. My husband who is also from Africa, was equally delighted with the gem squash. So do yourselves a favour, go to your local green grocer and ask them for this wonderful vegetable, you won’t know what you have been missing out on until you have tried them!

This is what they look like –

Lovely and green

Lovely and green

Now for the recipe…

Gem Squash – how to cook them:

  • 4 Gem Squash (basically allow 2 per person, so if 5 people, then 10!)
  • Salted butter for putting inside
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Cut off the little stem at the top of each one, it should come off fairly easily, then cut each gem squash in half.

Pre pip removal

Pre pip removal

2. Remove all the pips using a teaspoon (basically the same way you would for butternut squash), so you end up with something looking like this:

Ready for boiling,

Ready for boiling,

3. Place all the gem squash in a large pot (it doesn’t matter if they are on top of each other), fill the pot with cold water ensure that you cover the gem squash. They will float, but that’s fine, as you will put a lid on top, so try to ensure that you don’t overfill. Kind of like the picture below.

Ready for boiling

Ready for boiling

4. Bring to the boil and when the water starts to boil, set your timer for about 10 mins, basically you want them to be nice and soft but still retain the shape, if you over boil, the skins will be soft. The easiest way to tell if they are cooked is to gently put a sharp knife into the yellow flesh and if it slides in easily, they are ready, if there is a bit of a resistance, then boil for a few minutes more. Once cooked they will look something like this –

Just out the pot.

Just out the pot.

5. Then take your salted butter (or whatever you have non salted is just as good) and put a nice little knob of butter in each of the cavities of the gem squash. Something like this –

Ready to be eaten.

Ready to be eaten.

6. Season with a bit of salt and pepper – I reckon if you added a bit of grated cheese to it, it would be delicious and serve. If you are dieting, then don’t add the butter, just season well, it will still taste divine.

7. Everyone has different ways of eating it, I like to use my fork and scoop it all out onto my plate to eat alongside all the rest of my food, my partner prefers to eat it out of the skin scooping out all the lovely flesh. Either way is fine – it really is up to you, word of warning though if you do eat it out of the skin, it is very hot when it just comes out the pan, so be careful.

Well, that’s it from me for now, I hope to be back later this week with my Great British Bake Off bake along entry, so look out for that and if you do decide to make these, please let me know in the comments below. I hope that you like them as much as I do.

Till next time.






Cheddar Cheese and Chilli Bread.

So, it’s been awhile…

…..apologies for that, I have been busy with my parents coming to stay, getting a new website built and most importantly of all, going on holiday and having a blessing celebration with my lovely husband. I had such fun and ate soo much yummy Greek food, that I do believe I probably gained some weight, but I guess that is what holiday’s are for.

As I was going away for most of September, I was unsure of where or not I would be able to take part in this month’s Cheese Please challenge over on the wonderful Fromage Homage, however, when we got back from holiday, as per usual there was no bread, or anything in the fridge (apart from a wonderful meal cooked by a friend of ours who was staying over), so yesterday, myself and my partner were wondering what type of bread to make and so we decided to make Cheddar Cheese and Chilli bread, which ties in neatly with this months challenge.

You will see from my previous post for the cheese please challenge when I entered the Feta, Oregano and Sundried tomato into the August Cheese Please challenge that I went into more details and had more photos, so for guidance on how to knead the bread and when to add the cheese extra and how, please see that post, which you can find by simply clicking here.

Now for the recipe –

Chilli and Cheddar Cheese Bread:

  • 500g Strong White Bread Flour (you could also use 250g Strong wholemeal and 250g Strong white).
  • 17g Polenta (or Semolina)
  • 14g Fresh Yeast
  • 6g Salt
  • 300g tepid water (if using fresh chillies, put those in before the water and then deduct the amount they weigh from the total water)
  • 50g olive oil
  • 5 or 6 fresh red chillies OR 15g of dried chilli flakes. You should add the amount of chilli you are comfortable with, if you don’t like chilli, then add less, but if you like, add more, but do add some as you need the flavour.
  • 150g Cheddar Cheese (any brand will do)


1. Put flour, and polenta into a big mixing bowl, add the fresh yeast and crumble it into the mix.

2. Add the salt, fresh chilli (or dried if using) and give it a mix around so all the ingredients are combined.

3. Add the water and olive oil and combine in the bowl under a rough dough is formed.

4. Tip the dough out onto a clean surface and then knead for ten minutes until the gluten has started to work and the dough is nice and stretchy as per the images in my previous post here. At this point you want to add the cheddar cheese as you would the feta cheese in the previous post.

5. Shape the dough into a rough ball and return to the bowl, cover with a shower cap or clingfilm and set aside in a warm place for an hour.

6. After an hour the dough should have doubled in size, if it hasn’t this could be due to a particularly cold day so maybe give it a bit more time.

7. Tip the dough out and then knock back the air gently. Then flatten out on the clean surface before stretching out the dough and folding it back onto itself, again, if unsure of how to do this look back to this post. Once this is done, gently turn the dough over and shape it into the size or shape of the tin that you are using, or free form if that is how you wish to style it. I used a loaf tin for mine as we like the shape of our bread to be in a loaf.  Should look something like below:

Chilli and Cheese dough

Ready for second rise

8. Cover with the shower cap and set aside for 45 minutes, after which time check that it has risen to your liking, if so switch your oven onto 220 degrees C non fan, set your timer for a further 10 minutes to check if the oven is ready.

9. If oven is ready, remove the shower cap, slice the bread in 2 or 3 places using a sharp knife to let the air out (if you forget, its not a drama!) and gently place in the oven for 37 minutes.

10. Remove from tin and place on a cooling rack and allow to cool. TOP TIP – to check bread is ready gently tap the bottom of the bread and if it is ready it will sound hollow. 

11. Once the bread has cooled sufficiently, then either slice it open to eat it, or put a clean tea cloth over it to allow it to return the crust and eat when you like. To help it last longer, you can freeze it or store it in a plastic bag.

So good we made two!

So good we made two!

Cheddar Cheese and Chilli

Cheddar Cheese and Chilli

Cheddar Cheese and Chilli Bread

Cheddar Cheese and Chilli Bread

Enjoy and I hope you try this sometime, it is a firm favourite in our house!

I am entering this recipe and blog post in to September’s Cheese, Please! Cheddar Challenge.

Bacon Brownies.

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for the silence this week, I started a different phase of my job and so had less time than previously so just a case of making some time!

Anyway, its August now and in theory summer is now officially here, yesterday in London was just divine – so lovely and hot and even the breeze was hot, made feel like I was on holiday! Sadly though, I was at work.

So this week and last weekend, I have made quite a few things, some successful, some not so much, still, we solider on don’t we?!

I made Bacon Brownies, now, this was an experience, admittedly I was suffering quite a bad hangover at the time (note to self, try to avoid baking when terribly hungover!) I tended to rush a few of the processes where I should have actually been more considered and patient and done the processes in stages. So to that effect, I may make the brownies again this weekend, but this time stick to the recipe properly and not try and do all the steps at once, it didn’t work!

The brownies involved making caramel, which I must confess, I have made once before and it wasn’t particularly successful and a touch burnt, this time as it was a dry caramel, well, needless to say, I managed to rescue some of it, but there was still an overriding taste of burnt which did kind of work in the actual brownie mix, but yes, not my best effort!

So, if you feel like trying out the recipe, here it is with my slight amendments – the original is here.

Top tip for making caramel, I wish I had read this before I actually started, but you live and you learn – read this article here. That article is from the amazing David Lebovitz, go check out his blog, there are some amazing recipes there.

One last top tip – if you burn the caramel and you have some stuck to your pan, then simply cover the caramel mixture which is stuck to the pan/pot with coco cola and leave to sit overnight. The next morning, there will be no trace of the caramel and you can simply just pour the coke in the pan down the sink and voilà you have a clean pan – just give it a rinse and you have a perfectly usable pan again. I must say, I was quite amazed as I really didn’t think it would work!

So now for the recipe.

Bacon Salted Caramel Brownies:

Bacon Brownies Fresh out the oven



Recipe inspired by Annie my aunt, adapted from Rebecca’s recipe (link above) which in turn was adapted from David Lebovitz.

For the salted bacon caramel:

  • 6 slices of streaky bacon (I find this crisps up better)
  • 1/2 cup double cream
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 90g of salted butter

For the Brownies:

  • 115g salted butter cut into pieces
  • 180g of dark chocolate (I just broke it into pieces as I took it out the wrapper – try and use 70% or more coca solids)
  • 1/4 cup coco powder – I used green and blacks but use whatever you have in your store cupboard.
  • 3 larges eggs
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain flour.


  1. 1. In a shallow pan fry the 6 slices of bacon until crisp, I recommend cutting the bacon in pieces or as the other recipe suggests in half but you can do it whole!). Remove bacon once crisp and set aside. Leave bacon fat (grease) in the pan and then add the cream to the hot pan and let it cool. Once the bacon has cooled, crumble or chop finely. I was too impatient at this stage and had already started the caramel, I recommend that you do actually wait for the cream mixture to cool before making the caramel.
  2. In a larger pan (I used a pot – if its your first time making caramel make sure it is a pan you are not worried about possibly ruining!) heat the sugar over a high heat (watch it carefully though!) until the mixture is liquid and a deep amber colour – with this process you can stir the sugar (read above how to make caramel!) so that it doesn’t burn and stick!. Once it is a deep amber colour, add the butter and the cooled bacon cream all at once (now you see why so important to let it cool!) and stir until the butter is melted , you should hopefully get a nice toffee colour happening. At the chopped bacon and let cool thoroughly.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, I didn’t use fan, but if you do, then use it at 160 degrees I would imagine.
  4. Line a square baking tin with grease proof paper ensuring that it covers the bottom and side of the tin. Grease with butter or spray with low fat cooking spray which works really well.
  5. In a large microwavable bowl, melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave (start with 30 seconds and stir thoroughly , then microwave for 10 seconds at a time stirring each time  (I found I only need two of these!) until the chocolate and butter is incorporated together. You can of course do this the traditional way by putting the bowl over a simmering pan of hot water on the stove – up to you!). Add the coca and whisk until smooth, then add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each time, then add the sugar, again, whisking it in, then the vanilla and finally the flour. Stir only until combined, so make sure that you use a fairly substantial size bowl.
  6. Pour half the batter into the prepared baking tin. Then dot around about a third of the bacon caramel mixture, evenly spaced over the whole area. it doesn’t need to cover the whole area just make sure there are nice splotches everywhere. Pour over the rest of the brownie mixture the drop spoonfuls over the top of the mixture and using a skewer swirl it all around so it gets slightly incorporated. Yum!
  7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until its slightly gooey in the middle but still firm. Mine looked slightly undercooked this was due to the caramel melting again, it was actually cooked, so make sure you don’t dry it out!
  8. Then cut into pieces once slightly cooled down and eat by itself or serve with bacon ice cream or any other ice-cream!

Bacon Brownie with Bacon Icecream


The bacon ice cream was made by my husband and was in my opinion delicious. You can find the recipe for that here.

Thats it from me – I will be back soon with another post, until then have a fabulous weekend.




Picnic Plait.

So as promised in yesterday’s blog, I will now give you the recipe for the Picnic Loaf which I made over the weekend. I got this recipe out of book Bread Making by Ruth Clemens. She makes everything really quite simple and you can see her blog over here. This recipe is not on her blog, but I am it is her recipe! There is also a cheats way to make it, which I will share at the end of the blog!

Recipe for Picnic Plait:



  • 100g (3 1/2oz) strong white bread flour
  • 2tsp fast action dry yeast
  • 125ml/125g (4 1/2fl oz / 4 1/2 oz) water, cold.


  • 200g (7oz) strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 large egg


  • 125 g (4 1/2 oz) (4-5) slices of thick cut roast ham (I used thin sliced ham and about 10 slices and it was fine!)
  • 75g (2 3/4 oz) cherry tomatoes quartered (I used normal vine tomatoes and just sliced them and it was fine!)
  • 75 g (2 3/4 oz) mozzarella (I used cheddar grated and it was fine!)
  • Small handful of basil leaves (or chives or other herb – your choice).


  • 1 egg beaten.

Tip: You can make up your own filling for this recipe to suit your own taste, so if you are vegetarian, then you don’t need the ham. All you need to remember is to balance the dry ingredients with the wet ones, otherwise you will end up with a soggy dough.


Step 1.

Mix together the preferment ingredients in a bowl and cover with cling film and allow to develop for at least 4 hours or overnight in a cool kitchen or in the fridge. Once developed the preferment should be bubbly and have increased in volume. My fridge is quite cold so it didn’t develop as well as perhaps it should’ve done, all I did was left out of the fridge for about and 1 hour and it developed nicely, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look like it is working!

Step 2.

Add all dough ingredients to the pre-ferment and mix it into a rough dough. Tip out of the bowl and then knead it on a smooth work surface for about 10 minutes until smooth.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oil bowl (I used olive oil), cover with cling film or a shower cap and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

After kneading and about to rest for 1 1/2 hours.

After kneading and about to rest for 1 1/2 hours.

Step 3.

Once the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a work surface (there is no need to oil or flour the surface to prevent it from sticking as it will be a little oily from the bowl). Gently roll it out into a 30cm x 30cm square (I didn’t manage to do this so it was a bit oblong, but that is fine!). Then gently press a finger at the bottom edge of the dough to mark the square or oblong into thirds.

Step 4.

You now need to fill the plait, so in the middle section which you have marked out, you need to use half the ham or filling of your choice to cover this section (before I laid down the ham, I actually put a layer of homemade chilli sauce, you could use ketchup or pesto or bbq sauce if you wanted, or leave it plain!) then scatter over the tomatoes, cheese and basil leaves (or whatever herbs you are using) before covering with the sliced ham. It should now look something like this –

Middle Section Filled

Middle Section Filled

Step 5.

You now need to make vertical cuts at the top and bottom of the dough so that the central sections form flaps that will be folded in later. Now make diagonal cuts at a 45 degree angle from the top corner of the dough to the filling on each side. The should be about 2.5cm (1 inch) apart. Cut away the two triangles at the very top and the bottom of each side. It should look something like this –

Plaits cut and triangles removed.

Plaits cut and triangles removed.


Step 6.

It is now ready to be plaited. Fold the flaps at the top and the bottom down over the filling. Then take the top strip of the dough from the left and fold it diagonally over the filling. Then fold in the strip from the right and overlap. Repeat the plaiting all the way down, one from the left one from the right and you should end up with something looking similar to this –

The finished plaited loaf waiting to prove.

The finished plaited loaf waiting to prove.

Carry on plaiting until all down and once finished tuck the straps underneath the loaf (I must admit that I had put slightly too much filling so it didn’t quite end up going all the way round to seal in the filling). Once this is done and you are happy with it (don’t worry if there are slight gaps, this is fine and doesn’t affect the finished product!) Gently pick it up and transfer the loaf to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, use both hands to support the plait otherwise it is liable to break up. Looking like this –

Ready for final prove.

Ready for final prove.

Step 7.

You then cover the plait with a clean dish towel and place it in a warm spot to puff and double in size (I left mine for about 30 mins, to be honest, it probably could’ve been left for longer, but if it looks like it has risen and doubled in size then you are ready to go!) Preheat your oven to 180 oC(fan)/200oC/400oF/Gas Mark 6. When the plait has risen brush all over with beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until golden all over. (I chose to use the normal oven without the fan as I didn’t want the paper blowing everywhere!). Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

You should hopefully have something which looks like this –

2013-07-19 16.48.40


As you can see, I used the left over triangle to make a little snack with some cheese and chilli sauce!

As my plaits weren’t completely sealed, some of my cheese did melt out, but to be honest, it didn’t detract from the flavour as there was still some cheese in there and it didn’t affect the integrity of the bake. Once it has cooled completely you can then cover with a tea towel and take it on your picnic where you can wow your guests by cutting it open in front of them!

It should hopefully look like this inside –

Sliced and ready to be eaten!

Sliced and ready to be eaten!

I do hope that you enjoy making this – it really is not a difficult as it appears and the end result is amazing! I will definitely be making it again!

As promised, below is a link for a really simple picnic loaf where you can just essentially buy the bread already made and use a variety of fillings. Please note that I haven’t tried this recipe but am sharing it with you to give you an option.

I took this loaf recipe from Jacqueline Meldrum on her blog . Click here for the recipe for the stuffed picnic loaf option.

I will confess to not having made this, but I thought you all would appreciate an option for those days when you are not in the mood t bake!

Happy baking and have a good week.