Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

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.

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.

Pear

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“Ui que freski!” can be heard as people pop out of their warm houses into the cool work morning air.

Midday temperatures climbing and sunny (though not unbearably hot) sunsets disappearing in the blink of an eye and evenings creeping in sooner.  Sorry folks but autumn is setting up camp for the next few months.

Fruit and veg has grown full to bursting soaking up every last bit of summer sunshine getting itself ready for the harvest.  Thankfully making its abundance present in our kitchens.

pearsA quintessential autumnal fruit is the pear.  Once I see pears-a-plenty I know autumn is here.  And I don’t mean long haul, greenhouse grown perfect pears; dry and hard to the bite.  I mean pears of varying shapes and sizes, soft to the touch, buttery and bursting with juice.

Outshined by apples every year, however, I find the pear just as versatile in the kitchen – it can be baked into cakes, used to top cheesecakes, used in salads, pureed, transformed into a chutney/relish, poached, used in main dishes as well as desserts.  A great accompaniment to cheese, especially if it’s blue and let’s be honest, perry (pear cider) really is that much better than apple cider.

So in a bid to extol the virtues of the underdog, I’ve created a few simple pear recipes to get your autumn pear imagination flowing.

  • Pear, gorgonzola, prosciutto and walnut galette
  • Pear, ginger and cinnamon tart

You can make both of these recipes simultaneously as they require similar ingredients and cooking times but their eatability is just as desireable!

Serves 2 as a 2 course dinner but quantities can be easily doubled.

Ingredients: 1 block of puff pastry and 2 pears (whether serving 4 or 2 as a two-course dinner)

Pear, gorgonzola, prosciutto and walnut galettePear and Blue Cheese Tart

  • Blue cheese (or other blue cheese)
  • Prosciutto (or other cured ham)
  • Rocket leaves
  • Walnuts
  • Honey and olive oil dressing
  • Seasoning

Method:

1st: Roll the block of puff pastry out onto a well floured board.

2nd: Cut the pastry into quarters and score the pastry with the tip of a knife creating a 1cm border around the outer edge (do not cut all the way through).
If creating both the sweet and savory version, leave 2 quarters to one side.

3rd: Crumble the gorgonzola into a bowl and beat with a palette knife until soft.  Spread a layer of this over inside of the border of each of your quarters.

4th: Slice half a pear per quarter and place ontop of the gorgonzola.  Brush the border with either milk or an egg-wash.

5th: Place into a preheated oven at 200°C for 15-20mins or until golden brown.

6th: Add slices of prosciutto, rocket leaves and walnut halves over before dressing and seasoning to taste.

Pear, Ginger and Cinnamon galettePear, ginger and cinnamon tart

  • Cinnamon
  • Light brown sugar
  • Stem ginger in syurp
  • Flake almonds
  • Cream / Ice cream to serve

Complete stages 1 & 2 as above.

1st: Brush the inside of the quarters with egg-wash and sprinkle cinnamon, sugar and a piece of stem ginger per quarter (chopped finely).

2nd: Slice the pears finely and arrange half a pear per quarter.

3rd: Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and cinnamon.

4th: Egg wash the border and place into a preheated oven at 200°C for 15-20mins or until golden brown.

5th: Serve with flaked almonds and either cream (with some of the ginger syrup mixed in) or ice cream.

Optional Extra – sprinkle the tart with ground ginger for added depth and warmth.

Click on the following links to view previous recipes posted on http://www.gastrorob.com

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Try any of the following or create some of your own; why not post your recipes here?

Pearfect!

Whilst stocking up the fridge after my weekly shop I realised I had a few plums and pears at the back of the fridge that had been there for quite a while.  There was also half a punnet of blackberries that were on the turn and needed using up.

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I didn’t want to waste any of them and throw them away, but there is only so much fruit I can buy without it turning.

After giving it some thought the best and most effective way to use these up was by putting them into a cake.

I went to task, peeling, coring and slicing the pears; washing the plums, removing their stone and picking out the blackberries that had the merest hint of mould on them.  The cake batter was a simple sponge mixture but slightly tweaked to incorporate ground cinnamon and using plain flour instead of self raising flour.  

A standard sponge recipe calls for 2 eggs and some milk but as I can be quite clumsy when it comes to adding milk, I used 3 eggs instead.

Pear, Plum and Blackberry Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

20131006-115529.jpg150g Plain Flour

150g Butter

150g Soft Brown Sugar

3 Eggs

1 1/2 tspns Baking Powder

Vanilla Extract / Almond Essence

1 tspn Cinnamon

Flaked almonds and demerara sugar optional

For the Cake:

1st: Cream the sugar and butter together.

2nd: Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.

3rd: Add a splosh of vanilla extract/almond essence or a dash of both!

4th: Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder.  Mix.

5th: Pour into a greased and lined baking tin.  Assemble the fruit as you wish.

6th: Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25-30mins.

7th: Sprinkle the cake with flaked almonds and demerara sugar and put back into the oven for 10mins.

8th: Allow to cool before serving.

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Delicious as a tea-time cake or equally rewarding with vanilla ice cream as a decadent dessert!

Give this cake a go.  A simple fruit sponge cake with added extras.  Experiment with different fruits.  If you buy out of season fruits the best way to bring out their natural sweetness is to bake them, so why not bake them in a cake?  Members of the plum family are best at taking on spice.  This cake would work with ground ginger, nutmeg, clove but if you want to keep it simple; cinnamon is the direction to go.

Considering they were destined for the bin, the outcome was certainly a resounding success.

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Even though in this part of the world September is still full-on summer, once pears make an appearance you know Autumn is on its way.  The air is slightly cooler and crisper during the mornings and evenings; the weather has changed.

Crisp – the very definition of Autumn.  And what fruit could define the essence of crisp better than a pear?

Of course we can buy pears all year round – but these are tasteless long haul pears that are dry and hard to the bite.  I’m talking about pears that have a floral smell when you bring them up to your nose.  Pears that are buttery in texture; that once bitten release their sweet juice.

As September and October are pear months, I thought I’d rustle up a few pear recipes both sweet and savory to help you make the most of these delicious fruits.

Pork Loin and Pear Salad (warm)

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1st: Heat a griddle pan until it is searing hot.  Whilst this is heating up marinade the pork loin slices in oil, lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper.

2nd: Peel, core and slice a couple of pears.  Once the griddle is hot place the pears on the griddle pan to create scorch marks on all sides.  Leave to one side to cool.

3rd: Place the pork loin into the griddle – do not move the pieces around.  Griddle them for a couple of minutes each side until cooked through.

4th: Dress rocket leaves with olive oil and lemon juice, season to taste.

5th: Arrange artistically on your plate.

This makes a great lunch or a light supper.  Adding blue cheese and/or walnuts would be quite a classic combo but I tend to keep this dish simple.  Make sure to have some crusty bread on the side to soak up any juices!

Alternatively make it a cold salad and replace the pork loin with slices of prosciutto.

Pear and almond cake

I made this cake last weekend and it is delicious.  The good thing with this mixture is that it can be quite sloppy resulting in a moist cake.  Not only is it great as an afternoon tea trolley cake served with a dollop of double cream but it makes a convincing pudding to end a meal with.  I followed this following River Cottage recipe :

Ingredients

pear_almond_cake_ice_cream

  •  300g unsalted butter, softened
  •  250g caster sugar
  •   4 medium eggs
  •  150g wholemeal self raising flour (I used normal self raising flour)
  •  150g ground almonds
  •  A good pinch of cinnamon

For the caramelised pears:

  •  6 pears (reasonably firm, but not rock hard)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  •  2 tbsp granulated sugar

Click on the River Cottage link and watch the video on how to make your cake.

Pear and Gorgonzola Tartwarm-pear-tart

Ingredients

  • 2 x 200g sheets store-bought shortcrust pastry, thawed
  • 80g gorgonzola
  • 2 teaspoons oregano leaves
  • 2 pears, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cracked black pepper
  • 50g watercress sprigs
  • 6 slices prosciutto

Method

1st: Preheat oven to 180°C.

2nd: Place pastry on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.

3rd: Spread each pastry with gorgonzola and top with oregano and pears.

4th: Place the honey, oil and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine and drizzle the tarts with half the honey mixture.

5th: Bake for 15 minutes or until pastry is golden and crisp and serve, topped with watercress and prosciutto and the remaining olive oil and honey mixture.

If you’ve got a favourite pear recipe why not share it here so that we can all revel in the marvel of the season’s fruit.

Wet, windy Wednesday’s tropical storm (apparently the tail end of Hurricane Nadine) was the herald that Summer was over. Cloudless, cerulean blue skies turning to ghostly grey and the drop in temperature were the clues to make everyone assume that Autumn was on its way.

Patio furniture and BBQ sets have been hidden away until next year.

Our food naturally changes with the seasons. When I think of Autumn, I don’t just think of the obvious gourd. Not that there is anything wrong with a bright orange pumpkin or a seasonal butternut squash used in soups or roasted with maple syrup but characteristically they tend to be associated with Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving.

To me Autumn is more than just this; it is about a return to the food of the forest. Vivid greens having transformed themselves into the colour of the earth. Foraging for the last remaining edible scraps that will eventually be wiped out by the onslaught of cold and rain.

Mushrooms are the ultimate autumnal feast. I know we can get several varieties of white mushroom throughout the year thanks to supermarkets capitalising on our greed, but these tend to be bland and tasteless with a very short storage life.

Truffles, Cepes, Morels, Chanterelles, Portobello

Wild mushrooms are packed full of flavour but are found scant in the wild. Therefore, drying these is the perfect way of extending their shelf life.

My neighbours recently (or maybe not that recently, I can’t remember) gave me a packet of dried porcini mushrooms that they had brought back from Rome for me. So what best to cook with these than Mushroom Risotto!

Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:

  • Dried mushrooms
  • Button/chestnut mushrooms
  • Risotto Rice
  • Chicken stock
  • Onions/shallots
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • dry white wine
  • parmesan
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley

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 either a cube or those new stock pots. Both need to be mixed with hot water. I most certainly don’t make my own stock as have neither the incling nor the need to have to make everything from scratch!

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 finely chopped medium onion or if you prefer to use shallots do so (shallots are more authentic in a risotto than 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 white wine. Mix into the rice mixture and let the alcohol boil off.

5th: Chop the fresh mushrooms and add to the mixture.

6th: Now you can start adding ladelfuls of warm stock to the rice. As one ladelful 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 unitl all the stock is absorbed but do not let this faze you; remain calm and relaxed.

I tend to find the repetitive stirring very reassuring and almost lulling.

7th: Drain the porcini mushrooms and add to the risotto. Take off the heat and mix in some more butter and parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning. Clamp on a lid and let it sit for at least 2mins before serving. Serve with a ribbon of olive oil and chopped parsely to add another level of taste as well as colour.

If you want to be extravagant but not show-offy, replace the olive oil at the end for truffle oil! A tiny bottle costs around £10 but a little goes a very long way.

NB The risotto should be one homogenous mixture.  The liquid should not be oozing away from the rice.  Neither should the risotto be so dry that a spoonful remains stoic in the centre of your plate!

Buon Appetito!