This is the ultimate comfort food for a dark winter night : Butternut, sweet potato and fennel gratin

Butternut, sweet potato and fennel gratin

This is a super easy alternative to the humble potato gratin; slightly sweeter thanks to the combination of squash and sweet potato and easier to stomach because of the bitter fennel which cuts through the rich cream and bacon pieces (though the crisp cheese lid ensures that it is no less comforting). Serve with a little gem and radicchio leaf salad.

Serves four

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash

4 large sweet potatoes

2 fennel bulbs

Handful fresh thyme

Handul fresh rosemary

1 generous handful dried cranberries

200g lardons (smoked or unsmoked)

350ml double cream

250g comté cheese, grated

Olive oil, salt and pepper

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (gas mark 4).

Peel and top and tail the sweet potato and squash-you will also need to half and scoop out the seeds of the latter-before feeding them through the slicing blade of a food processor to create fine and evenly chopped discs.  If you do not have a food processor opt for a mandolin cutter or cut by hand with a newly sharpened knife.

Top and tail the fennel bulbs, remove the tough outer layer and finely slice.

Toss all the vegetables in a mixing bowl with some olive oil, salt and paper and the thyme and rosemary leaves and leave to one side.

Cream

Place a dry, non-stick frying pan on the hob and allow to heat up before flash frying the lardons for a couple of minutes or until just cooked through.

Add to the vegetable mix, along with the dried cranberries, and combine before tipping the whole lot into a shallow roasting tray. Cover evenly with the cream and place in the oven for 30-40mins.

Remove from the oven, scatter the cheese over the top and return to the grill for a few minutes or until the cheese has completey melted and is starting to catch.

Next week: orange and chocolate chip ricotta pancakes with poached pears