How To Entertain This November – With Alexandra Dudley

Alexandra Dudley is a food columnist, cookbook author and the host of the Come For Supper podcast. In this monthly column, she shares delicious recipes for chic entertaining. This time, it’s a warm salad, an autumnal risotto and a beautiful tart.
By Alexandra Dudley /

November is a month for comfort cooking and there are few dishes as comforting as risotto. I use onion squash for this recipe, which gives it a vibrant orange hue and deliciously creamy texture. A sage and walnut browned butter gives it a little more flair and makes it perfect for entertaining. I love to serve it alongside some hearty greens – a warm salad of kale stuffed with plump sultanas and generous shavings of parmesan. Then there’s a pear tart to finish – best served with some crème fraîche or good double cream.

I like to serve this menu with a zesty white wine to cut  through the richness of the risotto. I love this Austrian grüner veltliner from Cave Bristol, which has a great selection of natural wines made by small-scale producers.


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Warm Cavolo Nero, Smoked Almond, Sultana & Parmesan Salad

This is a simple and delicious way to elevate greens. The balance of sweet and salty takes a bunch of kale from something quite bland to quite wonderful. Juicy plump sultanas and lots of salty cheese add brilliant texture, too. I love it alongside a risotto, but it is equally good on its own enjoyed as a starter.

Serves
4
Total Time
15 Minutes
Ingredients
1 big bunch of cavolo nero
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
2 fat cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
60g of sultanas
1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp of honey
1 good pinch of salt
50g of smoked or roasted almonds, roughly chopped
70g of parmesan or Grana Padano, cut into thin slices
Method
Step 1
Chop the cavolo nero into wide ribbons. Blanch in salted boiling water for 1 minute then drain, refresh in cold water and drain again.
Step 2
Heat a frying pan over low-medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic and cook very gently for 4-5 minutes until the garlic has softened. Make sure not to burn it.
Step 3
Add the sultanas and cook until they have plumped and softened, about a minute. Switch off the heat, add the apple cider vinegar, and honey and salt and stir.
Step 4
Add the kale, warm vinaigrette and smoked almonds to a bowl and break in the cheese. Toss and arrange onto a serving platter.

Roasted Onion Squash Risotto With Sage & Walnut Burnt Butter

I love the variety of squash that comes with autumn. Onion squash (also known as red kuri) is one of my favourites. It is buttery soft and slightly sweet. The skin is edible and when roasted it becomes wonderfully nutty and caramelised. It works perfectly for this risotto and breaks up easily into the cooked rice, turning it a vibrant shade of autumnal orange. I often make this midweek, but I love to jazz it up with a sage and walnut burnt butter when I’m entertaining. 

Serves
4
Total Time
1 Hour 28 Minutes
Ingredients
1 medium-sized onion squash (or butternut) cut into wedges
Olive oil
Salt
1 large shallot or white onion
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
250g of arborio risotto rice
1 large glass of dry white wine
500-600ml of vegetable or chicken stock
1 knob of butter
50g of grated Grana Padano
For The Sage & Walnut Burnt Butter:
80g of butter
30g of walnuts chopped
12 sage leaves
Method
Step 1
Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan.
Step 2
Cut the onion squash in half, remove the seeds and cut into wedges. Place on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and season generously with sea salt. Roast for 40 minutes until cooked through and slightly charred.
Step 3
Allow it to cool slightly before placing 300g (keeping the skins) into a bowl. Gently break up using a fork.
Step 4
Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large heavy-based pan and fry the shallot on a low heat until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
Step 5
Stir through the rice. Pour in the wine and stir until the alcohol has been absorbed.
Step 6
Slowly begin to add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring occasionally and only adding more when the liquid has nearly absorbed.
Step 7
Test your risotto after 15 minutes. It should be nearly cooked with a little bite. You may not need to add all of the stock.
Step 8
Add the broken squash, good knob of butter and the Grana Padano. Stir until well incorporated. Cover and switch off the heat while you make the butter.
Step 9
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat and cook for 2 minutes. Add the walnuts and sage, and cook for about 5 more minutes until the sage is crisp and the butter has begun to deposit small dark flecks on the bottom of the pan. If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt. Switch off the heat.
Step 10
Return to the risotto and season to taste. You may need to loosen it with a touch more stock. Spoon into bowls and drizzle over the sage and walnut butter.

Pear & Almond Tart

Of all the puddings I make for dinner parties, this one might be my favourite. I love the chewy sweetness of almond frangipane against soft cooked fruit. In the warmer months I make this with apricots, but in autumn I make it with pears. I cannot stress how vital it is that you grind your own almonds when making the frangipane. Ready-ground almonds lack both flavour and texture – and the coarseness of crumb is what makes the frangipane in this tart so good. I like to use Williams pears for this. They are soft, juicy and not too grainy, but I have used conference pears in the past too. Just ensure they are ripe.

Serves
Makes 8-10 slices
Total Time
3 Hours 58 Minutes
Ingredients
220g of plain flour
20g of icing sugar
1 pinch of fine sea salt
130g of cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1-2 tsp of ice-cold water
For The Frangipane:
200g of unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g of caster sugar
200g of blanched almonds
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3-4 ripe Williams pears
Method
Step 1
For the pastry place the flour, icing sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and pulse just until the dough begins to come together. Add a little cold water if needed (start with just 1 teaspoon). Gather the dough and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in clingfilm or reusable wrap and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
Step 2
Wipe down the bowl of the food processor and pulse the almonds until they resemble breadcrumbs.
Step 3
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk. Beat in the eggs then fold in the almonds. Place the frangipane in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
Step 4
Lightly dust a surface with flour and roll the pastry until it is about the thickness of a £1 coin. Line a loose-bottomed fluted tart dish (23cm wide x 4cm deep) with the pastry. Trim the edges and return the lined tart dish to the fridge to chill for a further 30 minutes while you preheat the oven and prepare the pears.
Step 5
Preheat a large baking tray in the middle of the oven and preheat to 180°C Fan.
Step 6
Peel, core and halve the pears.
Step 7
Spoon the frangipane mixture into the chilled pastry case. Level the top and use the back of a spoon to create wells in which to place the pears, taking care to leave enough room between to allow the frangipane mixture to rise. Arrange the pear halves, cut side down on the filling.
Step 8
Bake for about 50-60 minutes on the preheated tray until the almond filling and pastry are golden brown. If the frangipane is browning too much, cover loosely with foil.
Step 9
Allow the tart to cool, transfer onto a serving plate and dust with icing sugar. Serve with creme fraiche or double cream.

For more from Alexandra, follow her @AlexandraDudley or visit AlexandraDudley.com.

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