Cooking for others doesn't have to be stressful. Keeping things simple and seasonal isn't too difficult with a bit of forward planning. Starting with a cocktail as an aperitif when there is pasta for dinner followed by a dessert keeps things a little lighter. Pumpkin is abundant and cheap at present. In a pasta, the chilli gives it a great kick. Try serving it with a dollop of mascarpone and additional nuts as a garnish, with a big seasonal green salad on the side, too. And don't forget the runny cream when serving the banana cake warm. We had this meal recently - my friend Sophie on the cake and me on the pasta, and it was an absolute hit. Happy cooking!
Roast pumpkin, chilli and nut pasta
½ pumpkin, (roughly 2 cups chopped) peeled and chopped into 2-3cm chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp flaky sea salt
1 tsp chilli flakes
About 400g papardelle, fettucine, orsimilar long pasta
¼ cup almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts or a mixture
1 tsp butter
3 cloves garlic, freshly crushed
Pinch additional chilli flakes
About ½ cup cream
Parmesan and parsley, to garnish
Heat oven to 200C. Cover a roasting tray with baking paper. Add the pumpkin, then drizzle with olive oil and add the sea salt and chilli flakes. Roast for about 30 minutes.
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water, until al dente. Set aside.
Roughly chop the nuts. Heat a large frying pan to medium heat and add the nuts. Gently heat for a few minutes as they turn golden. Add the butter, garlic and the additional pinch of chilli flakes, and gently heat, being careful not to burn the garlic. After a few minutes, increase the heat and add half the cream. Allow it to bubble and reduce and mix with the garlic and nut mixture.
Add the cooked pasta to the frying pan, and gently toss to combine, adding more cream if necessary for moisture. Heat through. Add the pumpkin and gently combine.
Serve immediately with parsley and parmesan.
Rosemary Tom Collins
This strong and tart cocktail is a great start to an evening.
Makes 2 small glasses
Ice (extra-large cubes if you can)
Juice of two small lemons
4 Tbsp rosemary sugar syrup (recipe below)
2 sprigs of rosemary, to garnish
Soda water, to top the glass
Take two small glasses and fill with ice.
Add gin, lemon juice and rosemary syrup. Stir in the glass to combine.
Add a splash of soda water and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
For the rosemary sugar syrup
½ cup white sugar
½ cup water
2 sprigs rosemary
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool, then remove the rosemary sprigs before using. Will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Dark chocolate, walnut, and banana cake
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
125g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1½ cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
2 Tbsp spiced rum or brandy
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp good-quality vanilla extract
150g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Whittaker's Dark Ghana)
Dollop of runny cream or yoghurt to serve
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line a spring-form cake tin.
Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and combine well.
Melt the butter, then add the sugar and beat well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well, then add the mashed bananas and the rum or brandy. Stir in the walnuts, chocolate chunks and vanilla. Add half the flour mixture, incorporate it well, then add the rest and mix until combined.
Pour mixture into the cake tin, and bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, then serve warm with runny cream or yoghurt.