Author Archives: john

Butternut and Chicken Pasta

butternut and chillis

Butternut and other Squash are at their most plentiful in Autumn and, unless you have a lot of cool storage, need to be used within a month or two. (See here for tips on storage of squash.) This butternut and chicken pasta dish builds on the sweet smoothness of butternut squash to make a voluptuous and tasty dish that can be served with pasta, rice or with potatoes and other vegetables. Small portions can also be set into upturned moulds and served as a starter. If you do not have butternut, other firm types of squash can be used, or, indeed, we have also made this recipe with golden courgettes but this does not produce the same texture which is the signature of this dish.

Ingredients for 4 to 5 generous servings:

  • 2 table spoons (30ml) cooking oil
  • 500g (approximately 1lb) of chicken breast meat cut into 1cm (0.5 inch) cubes
  • 2 rashers of bacon chopped into 6mm (0.25 inch) squares
  • 225g (8 oz) of onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic (or to taste), skinned and crushed
  • Approximately 300g (11 oz) of butternut or other squash, see above, cut into 1cm (0.5 inch) cubes
  • 400g (14oz) of canned chopped tomatoes. Some of these may be substituted with fresh de-skinned chopped tomatoes if available to improve the flavour of the dish.
  • 1 glass (, 125ml 6 oz) of red wine (we used a Merlot)
  • 1 fresh Jalapeno chilli (optional) de-seeded but left whole for a subtle heat or chopped for a more vigorous energy. Other chilli types can be used but caution is advised!
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried Mixed herbs and/or Oregano added to taste, start with 2 level teaspoons (10ml)
  • Serve with approximately 80 – 100g (3 to 4 ounces) uncooked weight of pasta (spaghetti or fusili) per person or with potatoes and other vegetables as a form of stew.


Prepare all the ingredients. De-skinning the fresh tomatoes is most easily accomplished by drowning them in almost boiling water and waiting a few minutes for the skins to split and/or loosen from the flesh. Heat the oil in a large frying or saute pan and when hot add the onion, garlic, bacon and chicken. Fry until the onion is soft and the chicken has lost all its raw colour. Reduce the heat and add the squash, fry gently for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the chopped tomato, chilli (if used) and wine (if also using fresh tomato, keep this to one side and add later.) Stir and cook for 3 – 5 minutes until the butternut is soft.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the herbs. At this point add the fresh tomatoes if used. Stir thoroughly, cover and cook until the chicken is tender.

If looking for a mild heat, remove the whole chilli before serving.

Thai Style Chicken Soup

In East Asia soups are a staple part of any diet. This Thai style chicken soup is easy to make and requires few ingredients, none of which are difficult to obtain. The amounts shown here serve 4 generously as a main course or 6 as a starter. Serve with a rice dish as a main, a simple egg fried will suffice. Halve the amounts for 2 servings. prawns can also be used as the main ingredient.


  • 12oz to 15oz ( 330 – 420g) of chicken breast fillet, skinned
  • 14oz (800ml) Coconut milk
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
  • 1/2pt (600ml) chicken stock (see later)
  • Red chillis to taste, start with 2, finely chopped
  • 2 stems of lemon grass or 4 rounded teaspoons of lemon grass paste
  • 2″ (5cm) piece of fresh ginger or 4 rounded teaspoons ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1oz/30g or slightly more bunch fresh coriander, chopped, stalks and all
  • Salt and pepper to taste


If using fresh ginger and/or lemon grass, crush these to release their flavour. Add the lemon grass and ginger to the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, reduce heat slightly and allow to cook just off the boil for 15 minutes or so. In the mean time, prepare the chicken by slicing into 1/2″ (1.5cm) squares about 1/8″ (3mm) thick.

Prepare the chicken stock either using stock cubes or preferably gel pots and hot water. If using home made stock, make sure that it is not too strong in flavour, warm throroughly before adding. Add the stock, peanut butter and chicken to the spiced coconut milk mixture. Bring to a gently simmer again. Cook for about 15 minutes until chicken is soft.

Add the fish sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes or so. Remove the whole ginger and lemon grass if used and add the coriander but keep a few coriander leaves as a garnish to sprinkle on the soup after serving.

Serve and enjoy.

This soup can also be made with de-veined fresh or pre-cooked prawns instead of chicken. If frozen prawns are used, ensure that they are thoroughly de-frosted before use. Un-cooked prawns should not be added until the last 5 minutes of cooking, cooked prawns 3 minutes before. Check the seasoning before serving.

Bargnolino (Italian Sloe Liqueur)

Ingredients for 2 to 3 x 750ml bottles:

1kg Sloes
500g granulated sugar – although other types will work ok
1 litre of pure 90˚alcohol – cheap vodka will do if you cannot get the REAL thing
1 bottle of Gutturnio red wine (strong, heavy red. Malbec or Primitivo will do)

Wash sloes. When dry put into large jar with a lid together with the sugar. Cover with the alcohol, yes, all of it.
Leave to infuse for 50-60 days. Shake container every 2 days.
Remove berries and add wine* to jar. Leave to infuse for another 15 days.
After 15 days, filter through a cloth and bottle.
*You can add some cinnamon at this point if you like it – we do not.