Dr. Mark Gardener
Dr. Christine Gardener


Cooking with Watson...

It's elementary!

We have a new cooker, a Watson range. This is broadly similar to Aga and Rayburn type cookers. It takes a bit of getting used to but now we woulnd't be without it...


Pumpkin Soup

Our crop of pumpkins and squashes was not fantastic this year but we did have several reasonable pumpkins and a few small butternut squashes. There are loads of things you can do with these but for the moment here is a recipe for soup.



1 kg Pumpkin (or squash)
200 g Onion
200 g Potato
1 tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp ground Nutmeg
1 tsp ground Ginger
4 pints water or stock
Sage and Rosemary (about a handful)
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves: quite a lot (8-10)

You don't have to make this much. Toasted pumpkin seeds make a nice garnish.


Chop your pumpkin into large chunks. Start by cutting in half and then scoop out the seeds. Rinse these in a colander and save them for later. There is no need to peel the skin off the pumpkin, just chop into large chunks (about 2 cm thick) and put into a roasting tin. Bung this in a hot oven with some oil and a few chopped herbs (about a handful); rosemary and sage go very nicely with pumpkins. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Meanwhile roughly chop the onions and potatoes and put in a large pan with the stock. If you haven't got any stock then a couple of stock cubes (chicken or vegetable) and plain water are fine. Bring this to the boil and simmer whilst the pumpkin roasts. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and add it all to the pan. At this point I like to add some seasoning so add the cumin, nutmeg and ginger as well as some salt and pepper. Mash up the mixture for a bit and simmer and stir for a few minutes. Now you need to blitz the mixture into a soup. I used a jug blender but a hand blender works fine. Make the mix as fine or chunky as you prefer (I like a few bits) and return to the pan. Adjust the seasoning until you like it and serve. This is where the seeds come into play. Blot them dry and put into a fairly hot frying pan with no oil at all. Dry toast them until they begin to change colour but you'll need to keep them moving or else they will burn. In the picture below I served with a few leftover vegetables that had been re-fried with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Pumpkin soup with a garnish of roasted veg and pumpkin seeds



After a bumper harvest we had loads of 'spare' courgettes, ideal to make glutney (as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall calls it). I searched the internet for recipes and finally made up one of my own from combining the 'best' of several that I found. With chutney you are aiming to produce a thick syrupy mixture with sweetness, sourness and spice. The heating in vinegar preserves the mixture (but keep in the fridge once opened). Make a chunky mixture for eating with cheese and cold meats but try a finer mix if you want a chutney that can go in your sandwiches.



1.5 Lb courgette
8 oz Onion
8 oz raisins or sultanas
1 pint Malt vinegar
12 oz sugar, white
1 tbsp coriander seed
2 tbsp black mustard seed
2 tbsp salt
4 small dried chilli

Everything assembled to make apple chutney


Chop the courgette into chunks (no need to remove the skin), the bigger the chunks the chunkier the final chutney. Add to a large pan. Chop the onion and add to pan. Add all the other ingredients and heat the pan. Stir occasionally. Keep the pan at a simmer until the mixture has gone thick and syrupy (about 1/3 reduction of volume). Heat up some jars (so they do not crack when mixture is added) and use a funnel to transfer the mixture into each jar. Leave a small gap at the top and screw on the lids whilst the mixture is still hot.

On the left, un-cooked mixture. Simmer until syrupy

You will end up with four or five jars, depending of course on how big they are.


This recipe works well with many other ingredients. For example substitute the courgette with apple or beetroot. Try a combination. Similarly the spice mixture can be varied; this year I was unable to find black mustard seed locally so I used a packet of picking spice instead, a couple of tbsp was about right. Try adding a tablespoon of curry powder for a change. You can pep up the spice with extra dried chillies.


Parsnip recipes

Winter is the time of the root vegetable and after the first frosts (even down here in Devon) the parsnip is top of the list. Parsnips are terrific simply roasted but there is a lot more that can be done.


Parsnip soup

A while back I was preparing some parsnips for roasting. I simply peeled them and chopped into chunks ready for the oven (a bit of olive oil, some garlic and rosemary - no par boiling, simply roast for 30-40 mins at 200C). However, some pieces were a little small and I did not want to end up with charcoal. My home grown parsnips are on the large side and also often have the odd side branch. This makes them awkward to chop into even sized pieces.

I decided to use the smaller (spare) bits to make a soup. Here is how I did it (this makes enough for 2 servings).


8 oz parsnip peeled and chopped
1 pint water
1 stock cube
1/2 tsp curry powder


Peel and chop the parsnip. Bring to the boil in about 1 pint of water and simmer for 10-15 mins until soft. Remove from heat and add a stock cube (vegetable or chicken is best). Stir until the stock cube has dissolved. Blitz the mixture in a food processor or use a hand held blender. Return to the heat and bring back to a simmer. Add some curry powder to taste along with salt and pepper.


Cheesy baked parsnip mash

This is a favourite in the winter-time. It couldn't be much easier. Peel and chop us some parsnips (how much depends how greedy you are) and boil until just soft enough to mash. Remove from the heat and drain. Add a dollop of butter and mash to your personal liking (it never gets a smooth as potato). Season with salt and pepper. Add some grated cheese. You can use cheddar or parmesan (or both). The amount depends on how cheesy you want the final bake to be. Pile the mixture into a baking dish, add some grated cheese to the top and put into a hottish oven. Bake for about 15 mins or until the top is browned (or you simply cannot wait any longer).


Runner bean soup

I kind of forgot to check my runner beans often enough and ended up with a fair few large and stringy specimens. In addition the wind blew over my supports and the whole crop had to be processed quickly to use them up. I came up with the idea of a soup.


2 Lb runner beans
8 oz onion
2 pints water
Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper to taste
Mustard powder (English) to taste


Chop the beans into chunks, 1 inch (2.5 cm) bits are fine. No need to remove the strings although any that present themselves can be discarded. Roughly chop the onion(s); I used about half a pound of onion for every two pounds of bean. Put the vegetables into a large pan and cover with water. I found that you need about a pint per pound of beans. Do not add any seasoning at this point. Bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour or until the beans are reasonably soft. Remove from the heat and put through a blender. The strigy bits will not blitz down too well and need to be removed so pass the whole lot through a coarse sieve or fine colander. This takes a bit of time. Return the sieved liquid to a pan and bring up to a low simmer. Turn off the heat and add the seasoning. Start with a good slug of Worcester sauce (about 2 Tbsp) and then English mustard powder (1 heaped Tsp at least) add salt and pepper to taste. This freezes pretty well and can be saved until the nights draw in.