When Autumn kicks in, I relish the chillier side of life (until the clocks change that is)… sunny afternoons in the park, the incredible slanting light, comfort food and comforting blankets, winter boots, the frosty mulchy smells … and porridge for breakfast! And squashes!
As I mentioned before there are some healthier options for breakfast but nothing beats the first bowl of real porridge in Autumn when the air has taken on a biting chill and the sun is low in the sky. I like mine in many ways, although my absolute top favourite is with cream and muscovado sugar. This is reserved as a treat though so on a regular day I like berries. As a frugal gal I buy these frozen (or even better, pick and freeze fresh during the summer thanks to a blackberry bush in a friends garden) so they are always available. Blueberries are the best, if you add them in the last few minutes of cooking time so they get to the edge of bursting, or raspberries warmed up into a hot squidgy softness. Or any other fruit in fact: dried fruit added near the beginning such as a couple of chopped prunes or raisins that will plump up and add a lovely bite, mashed bananas give the whole thing a gorgeous sweetness, apple puree swirled into the top, sliced figs, stewed plums, the possibilities are delicious.
I use 1 cup of oats to 2 cups of liquid (milk or water is your preference) heat slowly until your porridge has a creamy consistency
Read this excellent article on ‘perfect’ porridge. There are so many options out there…
Of course, to make it that extra little bit special.. add the cream and muscovado anyway…
The other treat, is squashes. Mainly because it’s great to say but also because of the wondrous butternut.
They are such a brilliant staple at this time of year. One butternut squash can be used for multiple meals throughout the week; half roasted and eaten as a side dish, the other half pureed and added to risotto… This week we had 1/2 in a soup and half in my latest invention, a lasagne. We are eating a lot of vegetarian food at the moment and in Autumn it feels easier than ever to make a meal feel meaty because of the glorious squash..squash squash squash squash
Butternut Squash Lasagne
I use a 30cm x 25cm lasagna tray for this so yours may be taller or flatter depending on the size of your dish. I never normally weigh or measure lasagne ingredients, it’s a great one to just ‘chuck everything in’. Below is an exact recipe, here is my very rough version: I always use 2 tins of tomatoes for the red sauce and a pint of milk for the white!
12 sheets of dry lasagne
1/2 large butternut squash
2 onions chopped finely
3 large flat mushrooms or 2 courgettes diced
4 cloves of garlic chopped
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
pinch of brown sugar
pinch of powdered mustard
salt and pepper
35g plain flour
1 pint of milk
1/4 tsp mustard powder or 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard
4 tbsp grated parmesan…
and another 4sbp for the top
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to gas 4/180 degrees
First peel and chop your butternut squash into 1cm cubes. Drizzle with olive oil , season lightly, toss to coat and place in the oven for 30 minutes, turn every so often until evenly cooked.
Wash your spinach and put in a pan over a low heat until wilted. Drain off any excess liquid grate in lots of nutmeg and roughly chop.
Now make the tomato sauce:
Heat a generous splash of olive oil in your largest pan. add onions and cook with the lid on on a low heat until soft.
Add the courgettes/mushrooms and colour lightly
Add the garlic and stir to release it’s fragrance, add both tins of chopped tomatoes, the sugar and mustard.
Leave this to cook and reduce while you make the white sauce:
Heat butter in a pan, when melted and foaming add the flour and sitr until you have formed a roux (a butter and flour paste) stir the paste on a very low heat for 1 minute (this makes sure the flour is cooked and you don’t end up witha floury tasting sauce)
Slowly incorporate the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. If you get lumps don’t worry, just get a whisk and whisk like mad. (For classic sauce tips look to the woman who knows) the sauce will slowly thicken, keep the heat low and when it coats the back of a spoon turn the heat off season and add the mustard and cheese.
By this time your squash should be cooked and your tomato sauce should have reduced.
Spoon a little sauce onto the bottom of the pan (this stops the pasta from sticking
Put 3 sheets of lasagne on top in an even layer, then a 1/2 of the tomato sauce, then 3 more sheets of pasta. Now add the spinach in a layer and the butternut squash on top of that, 3 more sheets of pasta on top then the remaining tomato sauce, now the final 3 sheets of pasta. Top this with the white sauce then sprinkle over the parmesan cheese.
Bake in the oven for 35-50 minutes until the top is brown and bubbling.
You could serve this with a truly autumnal coleslaw made with red cabbage and apples or some sauteed pointed green cabbage….