Felicity Cloake puts your oven-baked recipes to the test.
Cook readers never fail to surprise: I expected a volley of roast lamb and ribs of beef this week, but instead I found myself cooking Portuguese sea bream and searching for Syrian pepper.
Roasting concentrates flavours, and that rings true for my top two recipes this week, Katherine Hackworthy's sweetly spiced cake is beautifully moist and fluffy, while Cheeku Bhasin's colourful salad made the perfect spring lunch. No horseradish required.
The winning recipe: spicy roasted butternut squash salad with tahini and yoghurt dressing
I created a delicious spicy, butternut squash salad that I cannot stop eating! It's healthy, moreish and flavourful.
Cheeku Bhasin, Mombasa, Kenya cook2jhoom.wordpress.com
1 medium butternut squash, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1½ tsp cumin powder
1½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 large onion, sliced into wedges
150g mixed salad leaves
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pepper, sliced
4 tbsp toasted mixed seeds
For the dressing
230g low-fat yoghurt
2 tbsp light tahini
Juice of 1½ limes
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp honey or maple syrup
2 heaped tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 heaped tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Slice the squash into 1cm-thick wedges. Blend the oil and spices into a paste and toss with the squash and onion. Spread on a baking tray and roast for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool.
2 Whisk all the dressing ingredients with 2 tbsp water and season to taste.
3 When the vegetables have cooled, lay them on a bed of salad leaves, tomato and pepper. Top with seeds and serve with the dressing on the side.
Stuffed sea bream with sourdough and chorizo
Here's a clean, fresh and simple dish inspired by a little restaurant on the south-east coast of Portugal, where I have spent so many summers.
Miguel de Almeida, London, westcoastcooking.wordpress.com
2 sea bream, cleaned
100g stale sourdough bread
15g fresh tarragon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250g baby new potatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Rub the fish with the lemon.
2 Add the bread, chorizo and tarragon to a food processor to make coarse breadcrumbs. Stuff the fish and cover with what's left. Drizzle with oil, season and bake for 25 minutes.
3 Put the potatoes on a tray, drizzle with oil and season. Bake until golden, remove from the oven and crush each with the back of a teaspoon.
4 Fry the garlic in the potatoes' oil, then pour it back over them to serve.
Porcini and cashew roast
The porcini mushrooms give this roast a rich, deep flavour.
Jayne and Bibi Rodgers, Leeds, veggierunners.com
1 leek, sliced
1 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
40g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 300ml hot water
100g chestnut or white mushrooms, sliced
150g cashews, whole or roughly chopped
75g wholemeal breadcrumbs
2 tsp dried oregano
1 egg, beaten
Salt and black pepper
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease and line a loaf tin.
2 Saute the leek, onion, garlic and celery for 10 minutes, stirring well.
3 Drain and slice the porcini. Add them to the vegetables along with the other mushrooms. Saute until soft.
4 Add the cashews, breadcrumbs and oregano, then season. Stir in the egg.
5 Spoon into the tin, pressing it into the corners. Cook for 50-60 minutes. Place foil over the top if it browns too fast.
Roasted pepper, fennel and ricotta dip
Fennel isn't the main ingredient here, but it gives the dip a great kick.
Natalie Wong, London, twinnydip.blogspot.co.uk
Serves 8 as a starter
1 small fennel bulb
1 tbsp olive oil
5 sprigs of rosemary
4 red and/or orange peppers
1 small red onion
2 heaped tbsp ricotta
1 or 2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Remove the outer leaves and feathery tops from the fennel, and cut into thick slices. Drizzle with oil and roast with 2 rosemary sprigs for 30‑40 minutes until soft.
2 Meanwhile, wash, trim and quarter the peppers, and cut the red onion into thick rings. Add to the fennel with the remaining rosemary for the last 25 minutes. Discard the rosemary stalks. Once the peppers cool, the skins should peel away easily.
3 Whizz the vegetables in a food processor until smooth. Add ricotta and lemon juice to taste; season well.
4 Spoon the dip into a bowl and top with seeds or pine nuts, if desired.
Roasted spiced pomegranate chicken
Dressed in this marinade the chicken has a gorgeous lustre.
Rachel Kelly, London, marmadukescarlet.blogspot.co.uk
1 bay leaf
For the dressing
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp Aleppo pepper (or pul biber in Turkish)
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cumin
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (reserve the skins)
1 Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/gas mark 8. Whizz half the onion in a blender with the molasses, garlic, ginger, spices, lemon juice and zest.
2 Season the inside of the chicken, and stuff with the remaining half onion, bay leaf and lemon shells.
3 Combine half the dressing with the butter and massage under the skin. Put the chicken in a tin and drizzle with oil.
4 Roast for 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, pour the last of the dressing over the chicken and cook, covered with foil, for the remaining time. The rule of thumb for chicken is 20 minutes per 500g, plus 25 minutes. Baste if necessary. Rest for 10 minutes, covered in foil, before carving.
Butternut squash spice cake with coconut icing
This cake came about simply because I had a butternut squash to use up, and the family all enjoyed the results. Katherine Hackworthy, Newark-on-Trent
4 butternut squash (around 400g)
Oil or butter, for greasing
115g butter, softened
150g brown sugar
150g granulated sugar
210g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the icing
320ml coconut cream
1½ tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Peel, cube and roast the squash for 30 minutes until soft, but not browned. Puree, then stir in the milk.
2 Reduce the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease a 23cm diameter cake tin and dust with a little flour.
3 Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix, then blend in the squash mixture.
4 Sift together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add gradually to the squash mixture until combined.
5 Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
6 Beat together the coconut cream and icing sugar, chill, then use for frosting.
Spicy roasted butternut squash salad with tahini and yoghurt dressing. Photograph: Georgia Glynn Smith for the Guardian