Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

Sweet Potato Logo

I must admit, I came to the sweet potato party quite late in life. Considering I eat pretty much anything I don’t know why I’ve been so ambivalent towards the sweet potato / boniato.

Perhaps it’s the way I’ve always seen it prepared; baked jacket-potato style with its orange flesh collapsing in on itself and scooped straight out of its blistered skin. And what is it about the skin that takes on irregular shiny-caramel looking spots where the flesh is peeking through? And when mixed in with carrots and parsnips as part of the Sunday roast veggies drizzled in maple syrup, the sweet potato pretty much disintegrates into the buttery maple juices at the bottom of the pan.

I think I may have answered my own question!

At a party years ago, I remember there was a sweet potato and peanut butter filo parcel which all the veggies were enjoying but I couldn’t decide whether i liked it or wondered whether it should be dessert; all it needed was some vanilla ice cream and a dusting of icing sugar and I’d have been happy…I think.

But it was on a trip to LA that my love for the sweet potato was restored. After several food blow outs I fancied something light but not salad-light(!) and came across a plain chicken breast with fries dish on the menu, that as it arrived on the table I thought, wow these American potatoes are really orange! After the first bite I realised they were sweet potato fries, duh! However, they were sweet, salty and acidic all in one bite. My eyes lit up, they were coated in salt, and freshness of lime zest and juice screamed through.

Since sweet potatoes and boniatos (white fleshed Caribbean sweet potatoes) are currently in season what better way to celebrate them than to try and recreate these lime, salty, sweet potato fries which I have shamelessly decided to call, margarita sweet potato fries; the tequila is optional.

Note: cutting them thicker makes for lighter work but they take longer to cook.

Grill some chicken breasts and corn on the cob to make this a great mid-week family supper. But I warn you, the first time I made this I ate the entire tray of sweet potato fries and left everything else!

 

 

 

…sweet potato fries which I have shamelessly decided to call,
margarita sweet potato fries; the tequila is optional…

Margarita Sweet Potato Fries

1st: Preheat the oven to 210°C

2nd: Wash the sweet potatoes to remove any soil or grit they may still have and slice into fries or wedges should you wish. There is no need to peel them.

3rd: Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt flakes, pepper and lime zest.

4th: Cook in the oven for anything from 25 to 40 mins depending on size. Try to turn them once and get good colour on them throughout the cooking process.

5th: Squeeze lime juice over them as they come out of the oven and sprinkle with fresh coriander.

These fries are great with chicken but make a tasty accompaniment to grilled pork loin and white fish; anything that will pair well with zesty lime juice.

Whether you eat them as a side dish or as the main I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

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Pumpkin

Posted: October 30, 2017 in Autumn, Comfort Food, Family, home cooking, Soups, Uncategorized

Whole Oven Baked Pumpkin

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Ingredients:

1 whole pumpkin

250g Grated cheese (Gruyére,cheddar, emmental, etc)

300ml Double cream

500ml Vegetable stock (or chicken stock should you prefer)

2 Bay leaves 

Rasp of Nutmeg

Salt & pepper

Method:

 

1st: Pre-heat your oven to 190°c. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray and cut the top quarter off the top of the pumpkin. Reserve to one side.

2nd: Scoop out the seeds from the interior and any fibrous bits.

3rd: Fill the pumpkin with the cheese.  Use any cheese you wish, I used a packet of pre-grated cheese which had a mix of Emmental, Gruyére, Cheddar and Red Leicester, but you are more than welcome to stick to one cheese or combinations of cheeses that you prefer.

4th: Pour in the pot of cream.

5th: Add the bay leaves, nutmeg and salt & pepper.  Top up the pumpkin with your choice of stock but make sure not to fill it to the brim.

6th: Put the lid back on the pumpkin and place it in the oven for approx 1hour (this can take any length of time from 45mins to 1hr 15mins), until the flesh comes away from the pumpkin’s skin or a knife can be pushed through (careful not to pierce the skin).

“At this point the pumpkin is in real danger of collapse.  The larger the pumpkin, the greater the danger!  Don’t panic, it will look deflated but will taste delicious.” HFW.

7th: Fish out the bay leaves and serve piping hot.

If there is any leftover, scoop the remaining flesh out and blitz with some extra cream, cheese & stock.

The perfect pumpkin recipe to celebrate this fantastic gourd and welcome in those longer autumnal evenings.

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If I could only use one herb or spice for the rest of my life, seasoning aside, I would have to (pun intended) stick with cinnamon.

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Spice prized for both flavour and medicinal properties; the brown coloured, woody spice is evocatively aromatic with warming sweet and savoury notes at the same time.

Ancient Romans used cinnamon to make their bitter wine palatable and Ancient Greeks used cinnamon to season meat and vegetable dishes.  The Arabic world used it to flavour tea and now include it in most sweet and savoury dishes.  The rest of the world add it to baked goods and continue to sprinkle it over sweet treats and desserts.

Cinnamon is high in antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory properties; it helps protect cognitive function, the heart and fight diabetes.  Regular cinnamon use, such as sprinkled over your morning porridge, can help lower your glycemic load and even help you to lose weight.

In cooking, the sweet-spicy flavour and warmth of cinnamon enhances the taste of fruits and vegetables, is a perfect partner for chocolate and no apple pie would be worth eating without cinnamon.

When baking with cinnamon, the entire house smells comforting and feels safe, warm and homely.

As the temperature drops and autumn makes itself known to us it’s this feeling of comfort and warmth that I’m trying to evoke through my food but I’m not ready for hot custard over fruit crumbles sprinkled with cinnamon nor hearty stews infused with cinnamon stick; something sweet to accompany a morning coffee sounds just right and there is nothing better than a cinnamon roll in the morning (or at any other time of day!)

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Proper cinnamon rolls can be cumbersome to make as you need to make an enriched dough, allow time to prove etc. as can be seen above but they are seriously good to eat.  However, there are a couple of cheats that make this easy to do for breakfast without even having changed out of your PJ’s.

Cheat Cinnamon Rolls

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Ingredients:
1 Pack of Puff Pastry
Melted butter
Brown Sugar
Cinnamon powder
Icing Sugar and water for the glaze

Method:
1st: Spread the melted butter over the unrolled puff pastry
2nd:  Sprinkle over the brown sugar and cinnamon powder.
3rd: Roll the pastry back up and cut into slices.
Place in a preheated oven at 200˚C for 10-14mins or until puffed and golden.
4th: Allow to cool on a wire rack and once cool prepare your glaze.  Drizzle over your cinnamon rolls.

When day and night are of equal length and druids encircle Stonehenge; the moon grows fat and glows blood-red.  Summer turns to autumn.  Farmers and their families work hard to ensure their crop comes in before the first frost.  It’s harvest time.

The more delicate crops, beans and leafy greens, get picked first.

The pumpkin, large, round and orange, peaking out from under its deep green leaves, soaking up every last ounce of summer sunshine until eventually it too must be picked.  But whilst the rest of the crops are ready to be consumed, the pumpkin has another month to develop.  As it further ripens, its starches turn into sugars giving the pumpkin its sweet taste.  The pumpkin needs this time to mature and for its skin to harden.

Come late October, the pumpkin has reached perfection.  The excess of them meaning that they get churned out as Halloween pumpkins but for others, it is time to give thanks to the hare, the spirit of the land, for a bumper crop in this year and for the next.

And a whole pumpkin baked in the oven, a la river cottage, can’t be anything less than delicious!

Whole Oven Baked Pumkin

Ingredients:

1 whole pumpkin

250g Grated cheese (Gruyére,cheddar, emmental, etc)

300ml Double cream

500ml Vegetable stock (or chicken stock should you prefer)

2 Bay leaves 

Rasp of Nutmeg

Salt & pepper

Method:

1st: Pre-heat your oven to 190°c. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray and cut the top quarter off the top of the pumpkin. Reserve to one side.

2nd: Scoop out the seeds from the interior and any fibrous bits.

3rd: Fill the pumpkin with the cheese.  Use any cheese you wish, I used a packet of pre-grated cheese which had a mix of Emmental, Gruyére, Cheddar and Red Leicester, but you are more than welcome to stick to one cheese or combinations of cheeses that you prefer.

4th: Pour in the pot of cream.

5th: Add the bay leaves, nutmeg and salt & pepper.  Top up the pumpkin with your choice of stock but make sure not to fill it to the brim.

6th: Put the lid back on the pumpkin and place it in the oven for approx 1hour (this can take any length of time from 45mins to 1hr 15mins), until the flesh comes away from the pumpkin’s skin or a knife can be pushed through (careful not to pierce the skin).

“At this point the pumpkin is in real danger of collapse.  The larger the pumpkin, the greater the danger!  Don’t panic, it will look deflated but will taste delicious.” HFW.

7th: Fish out the bay leaves and serve piping hot.

If there is any leftover, scoop the remaining flesh out and blitz with some extra cream, cheese & stock.

The perfect pumpkin recipe to celebrate this fantastic gourd and welcome in those longer autumnal evenings.

Mushroom

Posted: October 14, 2016 in Autumn, Uncategorized

After Wednesday’s rain and already having had to reach for a pair of PJ trousers mid-night is proof that summer has waved goodbye and autumn has walked through the door.

During autumn, the fresh produce that becomes available to us is that of the forest.  Vivid greens having transformed themselves into the colours of the earth over the hot summer months.  And even though we all associate the gourd: pumpkins and squashes, as autumnal feasts, for me autumn is all about the mushroom – which incidentally celebrates National Mushroom Day (usa) on 15th October!

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Most fungi like to grow in moist areas and will therefore be most prominent after wet periods.  For optimal growing conditions the temperature needs to be quite mild, making mid-autumn and spring ideal mushroom growing seasons.

Some wild mushrooms, like morels, only make their prominence in springtime especially after the rain.  During the autumn months, trumpet shaped chanterelles and porcinis can be found in the countryside.

shroom1Mushrooms can be found in supermarkets all year round (button, shitake, portobello, oyster and other varieties) but these have probably been cultivated for supermarket sales.  Wild mushrooms (chanterelle, porcini, morels, truffles, cepes) will only be found in season but are increasingly sold at farmers’ markets.  Should you be unable to source wild mushroom varieties – which is a problem I’m struggling with at the moment – then reconstituted dried mushrooms will add great depth of flavour to any dish you are trying to create.

Butter, garlic and parsley – the holy trinity – in the life of a mushroom!

Woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme are also great with mushrooms.  I always sauté mushrooms in butter with garlic, thyme and rosemary for fragrant-flavour and a sprinkling of chopped parsley for its fresh grassy hit on the palate.

Below you will find some great mushroom recipes to help celebrate your perfect autumnal Mushroom Day:

Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:

risotto

  • Dried mushrooms
  • Button/chestnut mushrooms
  • Risotto Rice
  • Chicken stock
  • Shallots or Spring onions
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • dry sherry/vermouth
  • parmesan
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley

 Method:

1st: Prepare a litre of stock and keep it warm on the hob. Use any stock you wish – I prefer chicken and not vegetable stock and generally use a stock pot. Both need to be mixed with hot water. I don’t make my own stock as have neither the inkling nor the need.

2nd: Place the dried Porcini mushrooms into a bowl and cover with hot water from a recently boiled kettle to reconstitute. Leave for 10mins.

3rd: In a saucepan add some butter and olive oil. Once foamy, add a couple of finely chopped shallots (shallots are more authentic in a risotto than spring onions). Sautée until the onions are soft and translucent.

4th: Add the risotto rice to the saucepan and slick with the oniony, buttery mixture. Keep stirring the mixture so that it won’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Once you hear the rice begin to fry in the pan, pour in a glass of dry sherry. Mix into the rice mixture and let the alcohol boil off.

 5th: Add ladlefuls of warm stock to the rice. As one ladleful of stock is absorbed add the next. Don’t let the rice become waterlogged as what you want is the rice to slowly cook whilst at the same time releasing its sweet, creamy starch. This stage will take approx 15mins until all the stock is absorbed.

If using fresh mushrooms, at some point chop them and add to the mixture to cook them with the risotto before moving onto the next stage.

6th: Drain most of the porcini mushroom liquor into the risotto, chop the rehydrated mushrooms and add to the risotto, make sure to retain the bottom of the liquor which will be full of grit. Take off the heat and mix in a decent knob of butter and a good handful of grated parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning. Clamp on a lid and let it sit for anything from 2-5mins.

Serve with a couple of drops of truffle oil and a green ribbon of extra virgin olive oil, a subtle grating of parmesan and a scattering of freshly chopped parsley. 

Mushroom Arancini Balls

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Mushrooms on toast

img_3167This needs no recipe but remember to use a medley of mushrooms; dried, wild and shop-bought, and serve on a decent slice of rustic bread.  No plastic bread here!  Don’t overcrowd the pan as you cook the mushrooms, otherwise the ‘shrooms will become waterlogged.  Season well with salt, pepper and garlic and add your medley of herbs.  At the very end of the cooking process, squeeze the tip of a lemon over the mushrooms – too much will ruin the dish.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle more chopped parsley over.

Cheesey Mushroom Melts

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Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 large mushrooms per person
  • Slice of blue cheese per mushroom
  • Thyme leaves
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning

Method:

1st: Put the grill on high.  Clean and trim the mushrooms removing any grit and gnarly parts.

2nd: Put a large knob of butter into an oven proof pan, place the mushrooms stem side up and drizzle olive oil and sprinkle thyme leaves over.  Season.  Cook on the hob until the mushrooms are soft all the way through.

3rd: Baste the mushrooms in the melted butter.  Once cooked, place a slice of blue cheese on each mushroom, drizzle in olive oil and place in the hot grill.

4th: Take out of the grill once the cheese has melted and serve.

Use your imagination on how to use these mushroom cheese melts: serve in a bap as an alternative to a veggie burger – the meatiness of the mushroom works well here.  Boil pasta and serve the mushroom melt over and grate parmesan cheese over the plate, steak and chips and cheesy mushrooms.  Or at its simplest, serve on slices of rustic sourdough toasted bread – which is just a great Sunday supper!

I’m currently working on a mushroom, pear and blue cheese tart with walnuts; mushroom works with blue cheese, blue cheese works with pear, walnuts work with all three.  Might be a great idea, could be a natural disaster– I’ll let you know how that turns out.

These are just a few of my favourite mushroom recipes to help you celebrate Mushroom Day 2016.

Remember there are plenty of other mushroom recipes that you can research online such as mushroom stroganoff, stir fry beef and mushrooms served with noodles, or sauté mushrooms, stir in some cream and parmesan cheese and pour over drained pasta – to name a few ideas.  If you want to be adventurous go for it – just stick to flavour combos that you know will work, tweak them and make it work with the flavours you like.

So whether you’re creating a mushroom duxelle for your beef wellington, rolling mushroom arancini or braving the weather to go out foraging for the best truffles money can buy, remember; autumn wouldn’t be autumn without the beige-white flesh of a fungi.

Regardless of the change in season, I am still refusing to bring out the duvet!

Start by making a mushroom risotto but make sure to ALWAYS make a little bit extra just so that you can make these easy to create, amazing arancini!

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Ingredients:

  • Leftover mushroom risotto
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • plain flour
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for frying

Method:

 

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1st: Take the fridge cold mushroom risotto and make teaspoon sized balls.  Roll the mixture in the palm of your hands, taking care to squish back in any pieces of mushroom that stick out.

2nd: Place all the mushroom rice balls onto a baking sheet and place back in the fridge for a few moments to firm up.  Use this time to bring out the flour, beat the egg and pour breadcrumbs onto a plate that you’ll need for the next stage.

3rd: Take the rice balls out of the fridge and dredge each one through flour – shake off the excess – then pass through the beaten egg, and roll in the breadcrumbs.

4th: Chill for 10mins before deep frying them until golden.

These can be eaten as they are.  I prepared a quick aioli and chilli mayo to snack on but some favour a béchamel style sauce to dip these luscious balls into.  Either way, it’s a win-win situation: delicious mushroom risotto, amazing arancini!

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Rain splattering the windows for hours on end, the sea battering our coasts, wind howling through trees and thunder having its regular grumble at lightning. The home providing refuge and comfort from the elements.  As the weather turns we begin to want food that is more substantial such as roast dinners and oven cooked meals. And whilst we’re at it – pudding also follows suit.

As Autumn takes its hold on us we begin to want traditional British nursery desserts such as fruit crumbles – smothered in lashings of hot custard, that Enid Blyton would definitely have had mother baking at home!

My favourite crumble to make is a spiced plum crumble, however, any fruit variations are delicious.

I recently made an orchard crumble with: apples, pears, plums and a scattering of frozen blueberries.  The apples were a couple of Bramleys and some wrinkled looking Braeburns that were sat at the bottom of the fridge, the conference pears were nearly on the turn and the plums were hard as rock!

A crumble is a great way to use fruit that you bought thinking would ripen and is still rock hard weeks later or a glut of fruit that you bought on offer and you need to use up…fast!

When it comes to crumble, I always think of people as being in two camps: those that prefer more crumble topping, and those that prefer more fruit filling.  Even within this, there are then those who prefer their crumble slightly more scorched and crunchy, and those who prefer a blonde crumble, slightly soggy as it’s bathed in the tart fruit juices.

Regardless of which camp you’re in, I would recommend making your crumble mixture and keeping it in the freezer until you need it.  I pulse the butter and flour in a food processor and then mix in demerara sugar and flaked almonds.  I used to enjoy ‘fluttering’  the flour and butter (mixing these by rubbing them together between the fleshy parts of your fingers and thumb) but to be honest I don’t particularly feel that this makes for a better crumble and can be unnecessarily timely.  I’d rather spend the time pimping up the fruit.

Plum Crumble

For the crumble :
100g of butter
200g plain flour
100g Demerara sugar
flaked almonds
cinnamon
For the fruit filling:
12 plums
50g butter
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
4 tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp caster sugar
rasping of fresh nutmeg
a splosh of water

Method:
1st:
Make the crumble mixture either by hand or the food processor and place in the freezer until needed.
2nd: Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
3rd: Cut the plums in half and remove the stone.  Sauté for a few minutes in a hot frying pan in the butter.
4th: Once the plums have begun to release their juices add the sugar and golden syrup.
5th: After a few minutes, add the vanilla, star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add a splosh of water if you feel everything is too syrupy (I sometimes add red wine, port or plum liqueur).
6th: Once the plums have broken down into the syrup, place into an oven dish.
7th: Pour the crumble mix over.  Optional extras are mixing in flaked almonds/oats or adding powdered cinnamon.
8th: Bake in the oven for 20-25min or until golden brown.

A crumble is one of those desserts that you can quickly rustle up for one, two, four or more depending on how much fruit you’ve got – plus if you’ve got frozen crumble mix ready to go, it can be a quick dessert for a midweek supper should you have people round.

The best bit about a crumble is that it is hard to get wrong; my only definite piece of advice is, don’t go tropical!  You can make it as frugal or decadent as you want – decide whether it’s going to be:
a) hot custard
b) pouring cream
c) vanilla ice-cream
d) go nutty
e) go oaty
f) all of the above!

This autumn, how many different crumbles can you make?
Let me know which is your favourite.