“It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.”
Personally, I think Wodehouse has got it right. There is something so exhilarating and positive about the crisp autumnal air. A certain romance if you will, about wrapping up in woolly jumper, hearing the crunch of fallen leaves under your feet and that cold stinging sensation against your pink cheeks when you walk into a beautifully warmed house. The month of October signals a welcomed transition from the stifling humidity and intense summer rays to a dazzling, golden light and misty early mornings. It is from this perfect weather that most wonderful food can be produced. And oh boy, have I got some sweet treats for you!
The season of the root vegetable is upon us and for this I say ‘huzzah!’. October is the ideal month to pick up and abundance of veg to make some tasty and wholesome soup. Whenever I watch ‘Come dine with me’ (yes, I’m an awful person) I am constantly shocked by the number of people who turn their nose up at the idea of soup for a starter. Any dish, if given a certain degree of love and attention, and most importantly seasoning, should make a bland mush of ingredients taste bloody good! Butternut squash, pumpkins, parsnips are at your disposal, not to mention other vegetables such as cauliflowers, kale and of course don’t forget the nuts! Nothing beats a couple of roasted, almond coloured chestnuts on an open fire. So, if you’re struggling to think of a way to use up the veg left over in your fridge, and eat relatively well, make a soup!
I find roasting some butternut squash, blending it with some sautéed shallots, garlic and vegetable stock work a treat. Make sure you add plenty of salt and pepper and don’t be shy in adding other herbs and spices. Cumin powder or seeds are lovely; equally curry powder and paprika are just as good. If you want to show off a bit on presentation, why not make some parmesan crisps? Grate some cheese into circular shape onto some baking paper and grill till it melts slightly. Put them to one side until cool and then use a fish slice to pick them up and place with some crème fraîche on the surface of the soup. A good seeded loaf is always quite nice with a hearty soup as well. If you’re running short of time a couple hunks of granary bread should do it nicely. Delicious!
As previously mentioned cauliflower is in season. I know it sounds old-fashioned but a good cauliflower cheese hits the spot. Depending on who you’re cooking for, I like to put a good tablespoon of mustard into my mornay sauce (a fancy word for cheese sauce) and make some garlic breadcrumbs to put on top as it gives it a bit more ‘oomph’. Don’t be afraid to cook with some of the cauliflower leaves too, they’re just as enjoyable. Oh and before I forget, a sprinkling of sweet paprika to finish adds a nice touch and a little colour. As you can see above, my cooking is very ‘rustic’ meaning a little bit shabby. I’m hoping cookery school will teach me presentation, God knows I need it!
Finally, something sweet! A friend of mine recently recommended the malteser cake by Nigella Lawson. I am aware that in the past there have been some issues with her quantities etc but so far, I have had a good run with this domestic goddess. Despite an illegal amount of butter and sugar in her recipes, I think she’s great. You can find her malteser cake in her book ‘Feast’ which is well-worth a read. She uses horlicks in her cake to create the malt-like taste found inside a malteser which although sounds a bit strange, it’s worth it. As you can see from the picture, my icing came out a little thinner than hers (I made it twice and it happened both times), so I would suggest using a little less hot water or adding a bit more icing sugar if you want your cake to look more like hers. The icing does have a lovely sheen to it. Quite 1950s cookbook. This cake is perfect for birthdays but just as nice for an autumn treat. Cup of tea in one hand, cake in the other and come dine with me on the television (I’ll admit it, I’m a terrible person…).
Have a lovely week!
E. Wells X