I’ve moved house recently, so it’s not exactly been gourmet rations of late. I started off trying to make practical meals to use up everything I’d got stashed in the freezer, although this quickly degenerated into plates of random things with no purpose other than satiating an appetite. You can identify a low point when mayonnaise becomes a pasta sauce…
So now I have a new kitchen for a new season. This is really a suggestion in a bowl, rather than a recipe, but I enjoyed it enough to take a couple of photos as I sat surrounded by boxes waiting to be unpacked. And it had to be a smartphone photo, since my camera is deep in the mire of boxes awaiting attention.
I took inspiration from a recent trip to Greece for this, where sweet, sun ripened figs adorned the daily breakfast table. Figs really benefit from being slightly warm, as if they have just dropped off a tree on a sunny Mediterranean afternoon and burst open on the ground. They’re much less exciting plucked from the fridge on a dreary, autumn day in the UK. So start by warming through a couple of quartered figs in a low oven for 10 minutes, generously drizzled with a spoonful of syrup from a jar of stem ginger.
Fill a bowl with thick and creamy greek yogurt, pop your figs on top, sprinkle with a handful of your favourite granola, another drizzle of ginger syrup, a little chopped stem ginger and a few thyme leaves. Serves 1. Read more
It’s suddenly very autumnal out there. The trees are sequentially turning golden and the breeze carries with it the scent of burning leaves, bonfires and chestnuts, hanging in the cold night air. A light mist seems to settle most evenings now, as the sun sets ever earlier, mixing atmospherically with the smokey scent in the air.
I’m happily continuing my current obsession with sweet potatoes and squashes. On a crisp Autumn day, sometimes a salad can seem like just the thing for supper, yet once it’s gone dark, all salad thoughts rapidly evaporate in favour of eating something warmer and comforting. This is the salad for such an evening – warm, sweet squash and buttery, rich pecans contrast beautifully with rich, creamy cheese and peppery rocket.
The combination of squash and pecans crops up a lot in seasonal American recipes – squash and pecan pies seem intrinsically linked to thanksgiving. Whilst we don’t have thanksgiving in the UK, the flavours still epitomise the Autumn season for me.
You want a lovely, sticky soft cheese for this recipe. I bought one from a cheese stall on our local market and can’t remember exactly what it was, maybe a Cardo or a Wigmore, but it was the sort of cheese that oozes satisfyingly from its rind when left at room temperature. A goat cheese could also work well with this. Make sure it’s removed from the fridge at the start of the cooking time to allow it to warm up and bring out the flavour.
I’m having a bit of a sweet potato love-in at the moment. Maybe it’s their enticingly autumnal orange colour, but I’ve eaten this dish so many times recently, I just had to share it. I love the bright colours and sweet flavours; it’s a lovely, comforting and filling supper.
Peel and chop a small sweet potato into small cubes – the smaller they are the faster they’ll cook. I try to cut mine smaller than 1cm if I can. Heat a little oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat and add the potato. Cover with a lid and fry gently, stirring occasionally, for around 10 minutes until soft and slightly golden.
Meanwhile, peel a small corn on the cob and slice off the kernels, or use a small tin if you can’t get fresh corn. Slice a few spring onions and halve a handful of cherry tomatoes.
Slice a couple of chunks of chorizo sausage and cut into cubes. Add these to the cooked potato and stir for a couple of minutes till the oil starts to ooze out. If you don’t have chorizo or don’t want to use it, add half a teaspoon of paprika instead for a lovely smoky flavour.
Throw in the corn, onions and tomatoes and allow to cook for A few minutes. Then add a good handful of spinach and allow to wilt then crack one or two eggs over the top, turn the heat to medium-low, put the lid back on and allow to cook for a few minutes until the egg white has set but the yolk is still lovely and runny.
Sprinkle over some chopped coriander and serve.
Serves 1, takes 20-25 minutes.
1 small sweet potato
1 small corn on the cob
Small bunch Spring onions
a few slices of chorizo or 1/2 tsp paprika
1 or 2 eggs
So I’ve been spiralising again, it’s quite addictive once you start! This time with an actual spiraliser, a lovely birthday gift that enables me to spiral away at speed; no vegetable is seemingly safe from being turned into some sort of noodle.
I can feel the Autumn mood settling into my kitchen already. I like a little chilli in many dishes, but as the seasons change, my choice of recipe changes too. In summer I like my chilli paired with citrus and herbs, something bright and vibrant, evocative of Vietnam or Mexico. As the weather turns cooler, I move towards gentle, sweet spices; mellow and rich with coconut or cream. This laksa strikes just the right comforting note on a cool, damp evening. Read more
Maple syrup is one of my quintessential autumn ingredients. It’s probably just the pictures of golden leaves on every bottle that’s created this connection, but when the leaves start to fall, I suddenly start drizzling maple syrup over fruit for breakfast, sloshing it into squash soups and adorning cakes with maple cream cheese icings.
Whilst I was in Vancouver earlier this year I duly stocked up on all things maple syrup. My suitcase arrived home with a stash of maple syrup crystals, maple butter and maples candies, all of which have been patiently sitting in my cupboard awaiting their moment in the limelight. I almost feel like I must apologise in advance for this recipe, I know how annoying it is to come across specialist ingredients in a recipe. But I think with a little substitution here and a little google there, you can probably get away without a trip to Canada.
This is a lovely moist apple cake topped with a crunchy pecan crumble. It’s a multi-tasking cake, one to serve up warm for pudding, with custard or ice cream, or as a stolen slice with a cup of tea in the afternoon. Read more
Making a salad can often feel like a slapdash affair; a few fresh ingredients quickly tossed together, fast food at its healthy best. So it was nice to spend a little extra time over the weekend to make this salad, packed with the sort of sweet, earthy flavours that I start to crave when the autumn comes.
Unless you are eating it raw, beetroot will never be a fast food. And whilst I do use those pre-cooked, vacuum-packed beetroots from time to time, they can be a little bit watery, losing some of their fabulous rich flavour and colour. Much better to cook your own, although this takes time. I’m amazed by the number of recipes that insist you can roast a beetroot in 30-40 minutes. The only time I roasted some beetroots, I was amazed at the length of time they took to cook, taunting me from the depths of the oven as they remained hard as nails for hours on end, disregarding my every effort to hurry them along. I’ve not roasted a beetroot since. But for this recipe I wanted the dense, sweet flesh that only roasting seems to yield, so I decided to experiment with simmering them and then grilling them to get that sweet caramelised flavour in a fraction of the time. Its still not exactly quick, but it does save on oven-induced torment.
Lightly crushed hazelnuts
Summer is slowly slipping through my grasp. The leaves are starting to turn golden on the trees across the road and the nights are suddenly creeping in. As I came out of the tube at 8pm the other evening, I was surprised to find that it was already dark. It was a particularly cool evening, beset with thick drizzle and my flip flops suddenly felt rather foolish. So I trudged home with cold, damp toes and did the only sensible thing – made a crumble to cheer myself up.
I had a lovely, large punnet of English Victoria plums in the fridge and a packet of hazelnuts in the cupboard, perfect for an impromptu warm pudding. As I set about crushing the hazelnuts for the topping, I had the sudden inspiration that I could caramelise them first, thinking that a handful of hazelnut praline would add some extra crunch and a richer flavour to the finished dish. Read more
Soup is the ultimate winter soul food. Nourishing and sustaining, with endless varieties, I never get bored with it.
This soup was borne out of pretty much the entire contents of my fridge – a squash, a couple of shallots, a carton of chicken stock and a little double cream. It was frankly a pretty bare fridge, but I had no desire to head out to the shops and this was the first thing that came to mind. I guess thats the joy of soups, there are no rules, you make make a soup from practically anything.
I do like to have a cake on hand when I have weekend guests. The moment invariably arrives where a cup of tea and a slice of something sweet will go down nicely. Given the time of year, I thought I’d make a Parkin. I grew up having Parkin as a Bonfire night treat and only latterly did I learn that this type of cake is indigenous to Lancashire and Yorkshire and rarely eaten in other parts of England. Even my Cheshire-bred husband never had Parkin. Now I’m not going to get started on the differences between Yorkshire and Lancashire versions, all I will say is that there is something appealing about celebrating and preserving my regional heritage, even if I am now mostly feeding suspicious southerners!
The best way I can describe a Parkin is a cross between a ginger cake and a flapjack. It’s imperative to make it about a week before you want to eat it, which gives the flavour time to mature and, most importantly, allows its texture to develop. It becomes denser and stickier the longer you leave it, evolving from an oaty ginger cake into something really special. I nearly always forget to bake it in time, but this year I had it in the oven a week in advance and then it sat, patiently wrapped in foil, ready for its weekend unveiling. Read more