Tag Archives: Autumn

Autumnal Eats

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

500g spinach

fresh nutmeg

Tomato Sauce

2 onions chopped finely

olive oil

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

White Sauce

35g plain flour

40g butter

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

Serves 6

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….



Filed under Breakfast, Fruit, Recipes, Supper, vegetables

Baked Ham with Flagolet Beans and Celeriac Mash

Nothing says Autumn like a hearty stew. Ham is one of my favourite things to cook as it makes for an excellent frugal Sunday lunch dish. Celeriac is in season at the moment and very cheap. It is an excellent (if ugly) ingredient. It is the root of celery and has a lovely subtle celery flavour, it pairs well with potato and can be used to make soup or an amazing gratin with cream and nutmeg (recipe soon!)

Not only is this dish cheap, it is also totally delicious and will last for a lunch then a supper the next day or can stretch, with side dishes (curly kale or savoy cabbage would be good) to feed 6. Brilliant.

The following recipe was inspired by a recipe in one of my favourite cook books, Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries for Ham with Butter Beans.

I often substitute any bean in a recipe with flagolet as I love their silky texture, light green colour, nutty flavour and how they stand up well to slow cooking . The picture below is courtesy of Delicious Magazine, click here to see their excellent tips on storing, soaking and using beans.

If you do not fancy the mash with this, just double the quantity of beans.

Gammon is the hind-quarters of the pig that typically uses the term ‘ham’. Ham ‘hock’ or ‘hand’ is also referred to as ham but this is the front leg and is normally sold on the bone. This is good for a large carving ham, suitable for Christmas or a big party. Nigel Slater states to use ‘boiling bacon’ in his recipe but I have never known the difference, even my lovely local butcher looked confused and offered gammon. Does anybody know the difference? Do let me know… His boiling bacon recipe does not require pre-soaking whereas I would always suggest this with gammon to rid it of it’s excess salt.

Soak your gammon overnight in water, the next day, put it in fresh water and bring to the boil. Discard water.

If you are using dried beans, soak these overnight too then boil for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until tender…and begin…

Ham with Flagolet Beans and Celeriac Mash

1.5kg unsmoked gammon

olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

1 tsp paprika

optional: 2-4 chorizo sausages sliced into chunks (the uncooked kind, not the pre-cooked slicing kind)

2 or 3 sprigs of thyme

a few carrots or 1/4 of a butternut squash

1 tin or 200g dried  flagolet beans

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Celeriac mash recipe below

Pre heat your oven to gas 4 or 180 degrees

Slice the skin off your gammon (don’t worry if it is uneven) now slice off the fat in one piece leaving a thin layer (you want this to crisp up in the final stage).

Heat oil in large oven-proof pan and add gammon fat, onions and chorizo if you are using it. The chorizo will seep it’s delicious paprika scented oil into the onions.

Peel and chop your carrots or squash into 1cm pieces

Once the onions are softened add thes carrots/squash to the pan with the thyme sprigs and all 4 garlic cloves whole. Stir to coat for a minute.

Remove the gammon fat from the pan and put to one side.

Add flagolet beans chopped tomatoes and 100ml water, stir to combine and bring to the boil.

Now push your gammon down into the bean sauce and tuck the fat in next to it. Put the lid on (or a double layer of foil) and bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

In the last 30 minutes:

Remove from the oven and turn the gammon so the thin layer of fat you retained it visible above the sauce, leave lid off and return to the oven so the sauce can thicken and fat can caramelise.

Make your mash!

Celeriac Mash

You want to make this as you would normal mashed potatoes just use 2/3 celeriac and 1/3 potatoes. I used 1/2 a small celeriac and 2 medium potatoes.

celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks

potatoes, peeled and cut to roughly the same size as your celeriac chunks


salt and pepper

Peel your celeriac . Celeriac has a tough outer layer and you need to remove at least 5mm of the outer flesh to get to the pure white underneath otherwise you will get lumps when you mash. Peel it once, then peel it again.

Put your potatoes in cold water and bring to the boil, then add the celeriac

When both are soft to the point of a knife, drain and mash with butter and salt and pepper.

Serve with thick slices of the ham, and spoonfuls of the bean sauce.


Filed under Baking, Kitchen Tips, Meat, Pulses, Recipes, Supper, vegetables

Spicy Root Soup

Nothing in the fridge, let’s make soup!










There were a few lonely looking carrots and parsnips in the fridge and now that Autumn has finally arrived I thought a warming spicy soup would suit nicely.

Turmeric, cumin and coriander add a light curried spice and although beautifully subtle they enrich the sweetness of the roots. I think carrot and/or parsnip soup on its own is too sweet; it needs this spicy kick.

Spicy Root Soup

6 carrots

6 small parsnips

4 cloves of garlic, whole in skins

1 onion, diced

olive oil


500ml chicken/vegetable/bouillon stock

Parmesan rind

1tsp cumin seeds

1tsp thyme

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground coriander

Salt and Pepper

Serves 2

Peel and chop your roots into large chunks, roughly the same size. Put in a roasting dish with 1/2 the cumin seeds, the thyme, a few knobs of  butter and enough olive oil to lightly coat the roots. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast the roots on gas mark 4 (180 degrees) for about 40 minutes or until they are soft. Turn them frequently as you do not want them to caramelise as you normally would as this will make them hard to puree and you’ll end up with lumps.

Add the garlic cloves (in their skins) for the final 15 minutes.

Heat a knob of butter in a large pan and fry your onions gently for 10 minutes with the lid on. Grind the remaining cumin seeds and add them to the onions with the turmeric and coriander. Cook the spices for a minute so they release their aroma.

Remove roots from oven and separate garlic cloves, squeeze the flesh out of the skins and add this to the onion and spice mix.

Add the roasted roots and all the juices and spices left in the roasting tray and stir to combine. Pour over hot stock, add Parmesan rind (this adds a lovely richness but is not compulsory!) and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the Parmesan rind and discard.

Now puree! Either use a puree wand gizmo that my kitchen is sadly lacking (this makes for a smoother soup) or as I do, put it in a food mixer and whiz until smooth. (I think the only way for a truly smooth soup when made with root vegetables would be to sieve it at this stage, but really, who wants to do that?)

Return soup to the pan, add more stock if it’s too thick, season with salt and pepper and re-heat.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche swirled into the top and thick sliced sourdough toast with butter. Actually, this would be nice with a lovely fresh plain naan bread!


TIP: Parmesan rind will enrich any soup, just add it at the same time that you add the liquid and remember to remove it before pureeing or serving.

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Filed under Kitchen Tips, Recipes, Soup, Supper, vegetables, Vegetarian

Scrumping for Quinces

It is the hottest October since 1984 and the boughs of a near-by neighbours tree are heavy with enormous ripe quinces.  One successful scrumping expedition later and I have a kitchen full of their fragrant citrus apple perfume.  I have decided to make everything and anything possible with them starting with quince paste or ‘Membrillo’. This soft fruity preserve goes beautifully with cheese (typically Manchego) and is sold by the (very expensive) ounce. It is notoriously tricky to make, but worth a go… I’ll update you once the mission begins…



Filed under Cheese, Fruit, Preserving, Recipes