Archives for category: Autumn

This recipe was published in the Guardian Weekend on 10th September. I was at work, and a collegue thrust it under my nose. I may have mentioned having a bit of a thing for tahini (and you can always tell who’s made a particular batch of houmous). When I looked at it again, later, I was rather excited to see that the head notes mentioned a lovely lady named Tara who I was at Ballymaloe with, and who has since snared the entirely enviable job of being one of Ottolenghi’s recipe testers. Apparently, after testing this one she pronounced that she could eat it by the bucketful, which is a) a wise verdict and b) a good thing because this recipe makes a (small) bucketful.

So I decided to make it this week as a sort of starter for a low key anniversary dinner to have with a certain person who also likes tahini a lot. And garlic. The good thing about long term relationships is you don’t have to worry about smelling like garlic anymore.

Tara has done a good job, because I didn’t want to change a thing about this recipe. Well, except I prefer to think of it as a ‘dip’ rather than a ‘spread’ – I don’t know, the word ‘spread’ just conjures up cheap margarine and sandwich fillings. Basically, you peel and deseed a squash and then roast it for a long time with salt and cinnamon and oil. It looks so appetising when it comes out of the oven, so golden and glowing, that I pretty much decided I would only roast squash like this from now on. Then you dump it in a food processor with tahini, garlic and greek yoghurt. That’s pretty much it, apart from decorating it with sesame seeds and coriander and date syrup. The full ingredients and method are online here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/sep/09/butternut-tahini-spread-batata-recipes

I’m planning to post the other dishes I made for the dinner soon, for the minority who are interested in garlicky romance food.

prunus spinosa

Image via Wikipedia

The bad news is it’s too late now for your sloe gin to be ready in time for Christmas. The good news is, that means you won’t feel obliged to give any of it away as Christmas presents. Hooray! You’ll probably be in more need of it in January, anyway. In fact I recently learned that if you make your own booze by mixing vodka with blackberries, elderberries, sloes etc. in a jar, leaving it in a dark place for a few months, and shaking it every day, then you have made ‘tincture’. I.e., it’s medicinal. If you want to make it more drinkable, you have to add a considerable amount of sugar, which no doubt reduces its healing benefits somewhat, but the link is clear.

If you live in Oxford, plentiful sloes are available in Brasenose woods (at the bottom of Shotover). If you don’t, I’m afraid I can’t help you, except to say that the branches of the sloe have lots of sharp thorny bits which are apparently slightly poisonous, so avoid getting scratched by them if you can. And don’t eat the berries raw, they make your mouth taste all furry.

It goes without saying that you should not use your finest gin for this – any nuances of taste will be smothered by the sugar and fruit. I used Tesco’s value range, but I’ve heard good things about Lidl gin in this context.

Sloe gin

Makes approx. 2 x 70cl. bottles

700g sloes
350g sugar
2 bottles gin

You will need 2 large kilner jars, or similar. Sterilise them by washing them in hot soapy water and drying them in a low oven. In the meantime, wash and dry the sloes and prick each one several times with a (sterilised) needle. This is the tedious bit. I read that you could bypass it by putting the sloes in the freezer so the skins burst, but it didn’t work for me. So put the radio on, or listen to a podcast or something. When all the berries have tiny holes in them, divide them between the  warm jars, cover each with half the sugar, and top up with a bottle of gin each (keep the gin bottles to reuse for the final product if you like). After 3 months the gin will be ready to drink – apparently it benefits from being kept for longer, but I’m not able to comment on that. You should shake it every day for the first couple of weeks or so and then whenever you remember after that. Keep it in a dark, cool place.

When the time is up, strain out the berries and pour the finished gin either back into the original gin bottles or into something prettier (the rather cute Christmassy bottle in the picture came from Ikea).

From Darina Allen’s ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’

A couple of weeks ago, I had a Sunday off, which is rare-ish for me. I never take Sundays for granted anymore, and I have decided that the best thing to do with them is to have lunch. Hardly a novel idea, I know, but I’ve let Sunday lunch slip over the years and now I want it back. When I was younger and at home we almost always had a traditional roast, which I didn’t really appreciate, being a fussy eater, unless it was beef or chicken, and we almost never had chicken. Inevitably, the leftover roast meat met the same fate on a Monday: cold beef with bubble and squeak, pork casserole, shepherd’s pie, chicken and mushroom pie. I loved that chicken pie as well.

When I left home to go to university I cast aside such routines in the light of my newfound independence and desire to contradict everything my parents stood for. I couldn’t really cook much, I was practically vegetarian and I spent all my excess money in Topshop, so Sunday lunch went out the window. It only returned years later in Oxford when Tom lived a couple of doors down from a pub that we could practically roll into from bed on a Sunday afternoon. The roasts were pretty terrible. The meat was the same colour whatever you ordered. The vegetables were boiled mercilessly. The gravy had a suspicious, glossy skin on it. I was happy to let Sunday lunch go again for a while.

Then, a few more weeks ago, I had a transformative Sunday lunch at the Magdalen Arms. There was a guinea fowl roasted in a Le Creuset casserole with chunks of smoked bacon and pale, creamy juice salty with smoked bacon and watercress on top. Comfort blanket mashed potato. A glass of wine. And then a very, very rich flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake with praline ice-cream and an espresso. That pretty much decided me that I need Sunday lunch in my life again. I’ve never been too attached to the traditional, British, meat and two veg school of lunching; all I want is something homemade and bolstering and company to eat it with. The following recipe is what we made for our friends Lizzy and Charlie when they came over on that Sunday I mentioned right at the start of this post. Their two year old, Ariella, didn’t eat much of it, but she had a good go. Afterwards we went for a walk and picked some sloes and noticed the acorns and autumnal leaves. It was a pretty great Sunday, as far as I’m concerned.

Beer braised short ribs with walnut dumplings

Serves 6

We made this on Sunday morning, but if I had thought ahead I might have recommended making this the day before you’re going to eat it. That way you can skim off some of the extra fat – the ribs have a big layer of it and the flavour and texture of that affects the final result – and reduce the sauce down if you want it thicker. And you won’t have to start chopping vegetables before you’ve even had your porridge.

Also, your ribs shouldn’t really look like the ones in the photo unless you have an absolutely giant pan; we should have asked our butcher to chop them into pieces…

2 tbsp vegetable/olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 onion
2 carrots
1 parsnip
1 celery stalk
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp plain flour
2 kg beef short ribs
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
finely grated zest of 1 orange
170ml freshly squeezed orange juice
375ml wheat beer
500ml beef stock

For the walnut dumplings:
185ml whole milk
1 egg
40g butter, melted
190g flour
30g potato flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp orange zest
3 tbsp walnuts, toasted
1 handful parsley

Chop the onion, carrot, parsnip and celery. Heat half the oil and butter in a large casserole dish or pan that can go in the oven. Saute the vegetables with the bay leaf for about 10 minutes, until lightly golden, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining oil and butter to the dish. Season the flour and toss the short ribs in it, shaking off any excess, then brown the ribs (in batches if necessary) and set aside.

Add the garlic, spices, orange zest and juice, beer, stock and 375ml water to the casserole dish and stir, scraping any residue from the bottom, then add back in the vegetable mix and ribs. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour 20 minutes. My smallest hob ring is still a bit hot to keep things at a simmer, so I transferred the dish to the oven at about 90c. Uncover after the time is up and cook for a further 40 minutes to thicken up the sauce. Turn the oven to 180c.

Make the dumplings by combining the milk, egg and butter. Sift in the flours (I used spelt because I think walnuts go with a sort of wholemeal vibe, but the original recipe calls for plain) and baking powder. Chop the walnuts and parsley and add with the orange zest and 1 tsp salt, mixing until combined. Shape the mixture into balls – I found I needed to add a bit more flour – and add to the casserole. If you make the dumplings before the 40 minutes cooking time has elapsed, just put them on a floured tray in the fridge.

Bake the casserole (with dumplings) for a further 30 minutes, or until the dumplings are golden and the ribs are tender. The meat should be almost soft enough to cut with a spoon.

From Jane Lawson’s ‘Snowflakes and Schnapps’

As I enigmatically alluded in my last post, today I have for you a recipe for a quince cake. This is a puddingy sort of cake, with a close-textured sponge at the bottom, a layer of ground almonds above that, a wheel of golden poached quinces above that, and on top of that a cinnamon and sugar sponge layer. We ate it warm from the oven with a splodge of creme fraiche, which I can highly recommend. The leftovers went to work with Tom, so I don’t know how it fares the next day, though I can’t imagine anything bad coming of sponge and quince and almonds.

It’s not as difficult to make as it may sound – if you’ve baked your quince, you’re away. If you haven’t, it will take a few hours, but I think this is a nice lazy Sunday cake anyway. Alternatively, this recipe came from a Stephanie Alexander plum cake, so you could use any sort of bakeable, cinnamon and nut compatible fruit in place of the quince (i.e. most autumnal fruit).

 

Quince and cinnamon cake

Serves 8-12 (i.e. makes one big cake)

You will need an unusually large cake tin for this recipe – if you don’t have one, you may need to split the mixture between two tins. It rises a lot!

for the topping:
60g butter
110g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs

for the cake:
180g butter, soft
150g caster sugar
135g plain flour
135g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs
70ml milk
60g ground almonds
1-2 baked quinces, in wedges

Preheat the oven to 180c and lightly grease a 26cm springform tin, or 2 smaller springform tins.

Make the topping by melting the butter and stirring in the cinnamon and sugar. Allow this mixture to cool a bit before whisking the eggs and stirring in.

Cream the butter and sugar, then stir in the flours and salt. Mix the eggs with the milk, beat lightly and add to the flour mix to make a soft dough. If your eggs were quite small and the mix is stiff, add a touch more milk. Spoon the batter into the tin/s and sprinkle over the ground almonds. Arrange the quince segments in a circular pattern on top and spoon over the cinnamon topping. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

From Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion

Champion quince

Image via Wikipedia

We had quinces at work, great big yellow-green ones, from Italy I think. Quinces are one of the seasonal benchmarks for me. Blackberries into apples into cycling in gloves into Sunday lunches into sloe picking into quince. I love the turning of the seasons, when you feel all optimistic about what’s to come, and autumn is the best one (because spring into summer often doesn’t quite happen, and autumn into winter I’m sometimes too cold to appreciate). Because quinces take so long to cook, they’re a good initiation into the more warming, slow and gentle food we start to eat as it gets darker and colder, and they have the added bonus of making indoors smell like a lovely place to potter around.

There’s a whole section on what to do with a glut of quinces in Stevie Parle’s book, ‘Real Food From Near and Far’ (which is a great book, full of interesting recipes and super aesthetically pleasing). I don’t think four quinces counts as a glut, but I was drawn to the recipe for baked quinces. It involves half a bottle of white wine, just enough sugar, and a lot of bay leaves. I actually got scared and halved the amount of bay leaves. That was plenty for me, but maybe I’m just unadventurous? Anyway, it turns out that a stash of aromatic, golden, tender, faintly bay-fragranced quince is a very good thing to have in your fridge. I’ve been eating it with greek yoghurt and on porridge for breakfast, it was great topped with an almond heavy crumble mix, and today I made a cake with a spiral of quince segments under a cinnamon-sugar top. But that’s another recipe.

Baked quince

2 large quinces
1/2 bottle white wine
150g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5-10 bay leaves
4 cloves
a thumb sized piece of root ginger, peeled and chopped

Preheat the oven to 150c.

Peel and core the quinces and cut into wedges. Put all the ingredients into a deep baking tray or casserole dish, cover tightly and bake for an hour or two, until tender all the way through.

From Stevie Parle’s ‘Real Food From Near and Far’