Morgan Christmas Dinner 2011

This is just a fun little post, I wanted to show you what we had for our Christmas dinner this year 🙂 I’m very strict in my Christmas traditions, it has to be the same every year. Exactly the same! I still live at home but my brother has moved out and he comes home every Christmas and we all spend the day together. We don’t have anyone else over; just the core four!  We open all our presents in the morning and then sit down for lunch about 1pm…by which time we’ve all had a drink or 4 and feeling generally quite jolly.

This was this years beautiful table setting, expertly laid by my Mum to include party poppers, placenames, candles and crackers.

Our starter is always the same, cooked and assembled by Head Chef AKA Dad. We have beautiful smoked salmon and king prawns over lettuce, with a lovely zingy lime and chilli dressing and crispy bacon bits on top. This years dressing was a bit of an experiment as my Dad said he’d added quite a bit more chilli than usual. As we were eating, he tentatively asked for our opinions. I personally was a big fan, the chilli gave the whole dish a great kick but my Mum and brother were not quite as sure. We’ll have to see what becomes of the dressing in 2012!

After a pleasant break in which we received our first “table present” (a tradition carried on from our childhood which cheered us up immensely remembering that after all our main presents were opened we would still have these to come) the various dishes which made up the main event started appearing on the table.

Stuffing balls and sausages wrapped in bacon (a must have for any Christmas dinner!)

Perfectly roasted potatoes and parsnips.

Homemade bread and cranberry sauces!

Carrots and Brussel sprouts…not my favourite but unfortunately a vital component of Christmas lunch. I forced down a couple…well maybe only one…half.

My plate, laden with meat, awaiting the onslaught of accompaniments!

And here, in all it’s glory, is my finished plate. We actually got new plates this year which was quite exciting, lovely big white ones which eliminate the age-old problem of overcrowding. Unfortunately my eyes were slightly bigger than my belly and as much as I tried, I was only able to eat about 3/4. Still a pretty good effort I think but very difficult to come to terms with at the time. My favourites were the gorgeous roast potatoes and my Mums homemade cranberry sauce.

I was so stuffed that I couldn’t even contemplate dessert, opting instead for a couple of soothing glasses of delicious, creamy Baileys. A perfect ending to a perfect lunch and another successful Morgan Family Christmas!


Friends Indian Restaurant – Bishops Waltham

Last night me and Ben went for dinner at Friends Refined Indian Cuisine in Bishops Waltham. We’ve wanted to go there for ages, having previously only sampled their food in takeaway format (which is amazing!!) and we booked a table for 7.15, planning to go for a couple of drinks at a pub nearby beforehand.

We were actually slightly late for our reservation due to having to go to a further away pub than originally planned but this was not a problem. We were greeted warmly and led to a lovely little table for two at the back of the restaurant. The dining area is quite small and according to the website seats 50 which sounds about right. There was a table next to us which was really quite close and I was hoping nobody would be seated there, luckily it remained empty throughout our dinner.

First things first, drinks! Ben opted for a Cobra beer while I chose one of the only wines available by the glass which I think was a Chardonnay. We also got some water for the table.

There was a really nice atmosphere in the restaurant – there were only two other tables occupied which made for minimal noise and there was some music playing quietly in the background. We guessed that the restaurant does most of it’s business through takeaways as there was a steady stream of people coming in to collect their food throughout our meal.

We opted against starters as we are valiantly trying to be a little healthier what with it being January and all and we also know from takeaway experience that the portion sizes are not to be scoffed at!

We ordered a curry, rice and naan each and onion bhaji’s to share as Ben said they were the best he’s ever tried, high praise indeed! We waited a while for our food to come but it wasn’t an issue as we were chatting and enjoying our drinks. I think they were waiting for us to signal we were ready or something as at one point one of the lovely guys came over and asked if we were “ready for our mains?” which confused us slightly as we hadn’t had starters! But it didn’t matter.

After that, a steady stream of food was bought out to our little table and it was time to feast!

I ordered the Lamb Pasanda, described on the menu as the “next step up from a korma” as I am slightly unadventurous and not a huge fan of spicy curries.

Apologies for the less than ideal photos, I only had my iPhone and it was super dark in there!

I also got a peshwari naan which is my absolute favourite, lots of scrummy coconut and almonds in the middle. As you can see I really lean toward the sweeter options when having a curry; there is something about the combination of a slightly spicy sauce and the sweetness of coconut and almond that just works perfectly in my opinion.

In a stroke of genius I opted against the usual basmati rice and instead bravely got the exciting sounding keema rice, containing cooked lamb and fried onions. It was seriously amazing. I was worried that lamb curry + lamb rice might be, dare I say it, too much lamb…but obviously I came to my senses as you can actually never have too much lamb. It was perfect, ensuring a taste of meat in every bite, a difficult feat with some curries that contain less than generous ratios of meat to sauce. Happily this is not the case at Friends and even if I’d gone for plain rice I think I would have had more than enough lamb to last me through!

The lamb pasanda was amazing. The flavour was so rich and intense, I could really taste the almonds and cream and there was a hint of spice that kept me on my toes! Combined with the rice and the naan I was in absolute heaven! We hardly ever get Indian takeaways or go out to restaurants but I think we will be going to Friends a lot more often now. We quite often cook kormas and tikkas at home using Quorn chicken pieces or fillets but the flavour is never there. Even in really good ready-meals (if there is such a thing!?) that we very occasionally buy, the flavour is always just lacking. I have been seriously impressed by the food at Friend’s and it has proved, to me, that Indian food is one of the only cuisines we just can’t replicate accurately and needs to be sampled at a restaurant.

Benji got a Vegetable Dopiaza as he was fancying something a bit spicy. He got mushroom rice and a plain naan to accompany his curry.

The mushroom rice was crammed with fat, juicy mushrooms and he said the rice had absorbed all the flavours making it tasty enough to eat on it’s own!

His dopiaza was full of perfectly cooked vegetables and there was a sizeable heat to the dish which Ben really enjoyed. There were no complaints with regards to the naan, not a crumb was left on that plate when he was finished!

We also got a starter sized dish of onion bhaji’s which we asked to be served with our meals. These were absolutely delicious and we cleared the dish with no problems!

I was actually really impressed with the portion sizes overall; when eating out I often can’t finish my food and end up leaving a lot but at Friends I was able to eat it all which was very exciting! It could have been because we went without starters, something we don’t normally do but is obviously beneficial!

Overall we had an absolutely delightful evening at Friends and will definitely be back, I actually suggested we go back tonight but Ben understandably told me to calm down. The service was really friendly and nice and we felt well looked after and not at all rushed. The dinner came to £41 which included two Cobra beers and a glass of wine and we felt this was reasonable. We like the convenience of being able to walk down to the Village from Ben’s house and saving money on train/taxi fares into town which is always good.

Finally, I saw this on the website and just had to share it:

The name “Friends” comes from the fact that a group of friends own and run the restaurant.

How adorable is that!?

Super Duper Butternut Squash And Goats Cheese Lasagna

I made this lasagna a few weeks ago on a Saturday night and to be honest not a day has gone by when one of us hasn’t mentioned it. In fact, just a week after the initial creation I had to go to Sainsburys and buy all the ingredients again because we just had to have it for dinner, it wasn’t even an option.

Butternut squash is one of my all time favourite vegetables and I really wanted to make a lasagna based around it, as something a bit different from the usual veggie mince ones we make. I also wanted to incorporate goats cheese as everything goats cheese touches turns to gold. I googled extensively for recipes but couldn’t find any that were exactly what I wanted so I decided to just wing it, lasagna is pretty forgiving when it comes to experimentation!

The only thing I would say is that this lasagna was quite expensive but I did have to buy all the ingredients from scratch as we didn’t have any. As a special treat I think I’m going to write out exactly what I did in case anyone wants to make it, please do because it really is phenomenal!!

So, to make this super duper Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Lasagna you will need:

1 large butternut squash

2 medium sweet potatoes

500g baby leaf spinach (or you could use frozen, just drain it to within an inch of it’s life)

chopped tomatoes

lasagna sheets (dry or fresh)

grated cheddar cheese

goats cheese

white lasagna sauce (you should probably make it but I was already dreading the butternut squash chopping and so lazily bought a Dolmio jar)


garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

So! With all your ingredients lovingly lined up on the counter (or not if you’re not quite as sad as me) we can begin! First of all I tackled the squash. I bought a HUGE one so had to use a very large knife to even begin to make some damage. I peeled it first til I was down to the lovely orange flesh. I then cut it in half lengthways, scooped out all the seeds and sliced it into approximately 1 inch thick slices. Such a gorgeous colour!



I chopped these slices into cubes and put them onto a large baking tray to wait patiently for me while I sliced the sweet potatoes. I peeled those bad boys and cut them into cubes of the same size of the squash – let me tell you slicing sweet potato after slicing butternut squash is like a walk in the park, it was like cutting butter!

Once my potatoes were cut into neat cubes I added them to the baking tray, shook them around a bit and drizzled them with olive oil, salt, pepper and four whole garlic cloves (vampires love lasagna). I then added the MAGIC ingredient, sage! I used fresh sage which I really think is quite important in this recipe, it was only 78p so I pushed the boat out. I picked off about 5 leaves and dotted them around the tray.



Yummy! I popped the beauties in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180. Now at this point I found it to be a great time to grab a glass of vino and put your feet up, as all the manual labour was done and the rest of the recipe is just layering and arranging, very girly!



After about 40 minutes the squash and potato were smelling absolutely amazing and I was having great difficulty restraining myself from pouring the whole lot in a bowl and eating it in front of the TV with aforementioned wine. It was the sage that really made the flavours all come together; it goes all crispy and yummy looking so don’t throw it away, pop it in the lasagna! I squeezed open the garlic cloves which had roasted spectacularly and put the pulp into the lasagna too, waste not want not!

It was time to get serious now though. The moment every self-confessed lasagna freak loves, The Layering. There is something so theraputic about layering, I almost get into a kind of rhythm as I reach for each ingredient, watching my creation rise magnificently in front of me and imagining the guaranteed beauty of the cross-section once cooked. This lasagna is quite complex with quite a lot of layering possibilities. I started by putting the bag of spinach into a frying pan and turning the heat up until it started to wilt.



While it was wilting I assembled my ingredients – roasted squash and sweet potato, chopped tomatoes, lasagna sheets, white sauce and cheddar cheese. Layer me up baby!



Seriously, how amazing does that look? All those bright, gorgeous colours, it looks like a summers day! In fact I may have said just that, drunkenly, to my boyfriend as he came into the kitchen to check out my progress.



Now I feel I should explain the awkward elbowing/jostling for space effect occuring with the cheese. I actually ran out of grated chedder as I reached the surface and felt it would be a sensible idea to give my muscles a rest and just slice some. The second time I made this I ensured I had purchased enough goats cheese that there was enough to form a structurally strong layer on the top, thus negating the need for the not-quite-as-posh cheddar. As you can see from the photos, I created a simple layering system of lasagna sheets, butternut squash and sweet potato, tomatoes and spinach, followed by a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and a generous glug of white sauce. I then repeated the process 3 times (it was a MASSIVE dish!) although I should add that the bottom layer consisted of tomatoes as over the years we have learned that for some reason lasagna sheets cook better when they are not right on the very bottom of the dish. One of lifes great mysteries that. The top layer had obviously the added goats cheese and the rest of the white sauce, plus some torn sage leaves for extra flavour. The entire dish (extremely weighty!) went into the oven for approximately an hour on 180 as I wanted to be sure the lasagna sheets were fully cooked. Upon final inspection I was greeted with this beheamouth…



Which I’m sure you’ll agree, looked terrific. We were very very excited. Within about 10 seconds of me hauling the dish from the oven Ben was besides me, plate in hand, offering to carve.



And carve I did! We just had the lasagna, no side salad, no chips, nothing. You don’t need anything else!



It was just incredible. The flavour of the sage came through in every bite, the squash was perfectly cooked, the cheddar had melted into the sauce making it extra cheesy and the goats cheese on top was crisp and strong. I saved the top layer for my very last bite and it was so worth the wait! I’m not going to lie to you, we both went back for seconds and very nearly thirds but we stopped ourselves at the last minute. I let it cool, wrapped it in foil and put it in the fridge overnight and we had it for lunch the next day, still delicious! This is a huge lasagna and unless you’re insanely greedy like us it should make 6 portions, possibly even 8 if teamed with a substantial side.

Just writing this post has made the cravings flare again with such alarming ferocity that it may have to be on the menu for this Saturday nights dinner.