Fresh winter feasting with Julius Roberts

At this time of year, life is all about making the most of things. Seizing the wintery weather and turning ‘being stuck inside’ into an indoor adventure. So, in partnership with our friends over at Barbour, we’ve teamed up with some of our favourite people, to help you make the most of your downtime this season.

Lastly, we have cook, farmer and gardener, Julius Roberts (aka telltalefood) to talk us through his fresh and festive roast pumpkin, fresh ricotta and toasted hazelnuts recipe.


Back in the day cooking as a chef in London, my favourite dishes were the small vegetarian sharing plates. They were simple and elegant with quality produce at their heart. Four years on, I’ve moved to a small rural farm deep in the Dorset countryside where I live off the land and grow by the seasons. And while I don’t much miss the intensity and stress of the restaurant world, I do miss the creativity, comradery and the learning that I experienced there. But most of all I miss the ethos of those simple vegetarian recipes. Recipes that I loved, and I continue to make in some form or another, to this day.

A particular favourite was when we used to get in the most fantastic crown prince pumpkins. I grow these pumpkins every year now, setting aside large swathes of the garden for my pumpkin patch.

In this recipe, the pumpkin is roasted until caramelised to accentuate the sweet and nutty flavours. At the restaurant, we served it with the most incredible burrata, but I don’t have access to that down in Dorset. We do however have an organic jersey milk vending machine just down the road, and a fresh ricotta made with this very special milk is a perfect replacement. Toasted hazelnuts exaggerate the nuttiness of the pumpkin and provide a welcome crunch. While dashes of lemon cut through the richness. A smattering of whichever seasonal herb you have to hand is the cherry on top.



Step 1: Making the ricotta

Pour your milk into a heavy based saucepan, season well with salt and then bring to just before boiling. Take off the heat and squeeze in every drop of juice from 4-5 lemons — you may need more, depending on the acidity. You should see the milk immediately begin to curdle. Give it a stir and leave to one side for 20 minutes.

The milk should have separated into curds and whey by now, and now you need to gently separate the two. Place a few folds of muslin in a colander, or if you don’t have a colander set up an upturned stool with the muslin tied on each leg as shown in the photos. Place a bowl underneath to capture the whey and carefully pour through the curds. The muslin should capture all the creamy curds, allowing the whey to drip into the bowl below. Leave to drip for at least 30 mins, the longer you leave it, the firmer your ricotta will get which I leave up to you. The whey is fantastic used instead of water for baking bread, or if you have pigs, they go mad for it.

Step 2: Prepare the pumpkin

While the ricotta is dripping, carefully slice the pumpkin in half and then into crescent moon wedges. Take your time and use a long sharp knife. Arrange the pumpkin wedges on a baking tray, separate the garlic into cloves and dot around the tray. I smash each clove with the back of my knife to slightly open them, but keep them enveloped in the skin as this protects them from burning. Arrange the rosemary evenly around the tray and then generously douse the lot in olive oil. Season well with salt and roast at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes until caramelised on the outside, tender in the middle.

Step 3: Roast the hazelnuts

When the pumpkin is ready, toast the hazelnuts carefully in a frying pan. This activates the oils and intensifies their flavour, then smash lightly in a pestle and mortar. The ricotta will have firmed up nicely by now, but still be light and fresh.

Step 4: Serve

Place a generous tablespoon on each plate. Arrange the hot roast pumpkin alongside the ricotta and drizzle over some quality olive oil. Sprinkle on the hazelnuts and grate a hefty smattering of lemon zest from the squeezed lemons. A few drops of juice wouldn’t go amiss either. Season well with salt and pepper and finish with the chopped herbs.

Step 5: Enjoy

Now, here’s the fun part! Get comfy and enjoy your delicious roast pumpkin, fresh ricotta and toasted hazelnuts dish.

Finding that winter warmer

Farming life demands a lot from the clothes I wear, especially in the darkest depths of winter. I need quality, warmth and durability. A jacket with room for a few layers’ underneath, that keeps me warm while tending the flock. This quilted piece from Barbour provides exactly that. It’s stylish, but hard-wearing and comfortable.

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