Posts Tagged ‘Autumn’

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Kitchen Crush

November 14, 2011

As may be apparent from the previous post my current, primary kitchen crush is with Dan Lepard. An extra helping of his recipes courtesy of last week’s Saturday Guardian provided these spicy Bonfire Night Biscuits.

A quick and easy recipe to knock up even if you’re not lucky enough to have a bonfire in your back garden to provide the autumnal smell of wood smoke, the aroma of these baking in your kitchen will make the dullest November day sparkle. The recipe asks for glace ginger but I used stem ginger and the comments section suggest that crystalised would do just as well if you wanted. I also cut out into rounds and adjusted the baking time down a bit to compensate. The base biscuit recipe I imagine is adaptable by swapping the spices and additions – I’m planning a Christmas version. Watch this space.

My other current crush is on Mr Hugh Fearnly-Wittingstal. My summer holiday this year was spent in Dorset taking part in the Four Day  Cookery Course at Park Farm, the headquarters of River Cottage. They run day courses that cover everything from bread and baking to curing meat, even seashore foraging.

I’ve long wanted to do the four day course; which dedicates a day each to meat, fish, veg and bread and baking; and I’m so glad that I did. It’s not cheap, but I turned it into my summer holiday – with a few days spent exploring and walking the surrounding area – and I can honestly say that having done the course it was the best value for money of any holiday I have ever taken.

I’ve tried to blog about it, but I can’t find the words to do the week justice. I could write a list of the dishes cooked, decipher my notes into recipes to share with you, but this would not convey what I learnt or the fun that I had. The team at Park Farm go out of their way to ensure you have good fun and the hours whip by as their share their passion and knowledge and you share, with the others on the course, the fruits of your labour.

I made and ate things that I would not normally try and it has given me more confidence in the kitchen and with my palate and skills. Should I try to more accurately describe all that I learned, made and ate I would run out of adjectives by the first lunchtime. There are photo’s on my Flickr page which chronicle the dishes cooked and eaten over the four days and I hope they give an indication of the fun that was had.

On the course I bought a copy of  ‘River Cottage Veg Everyday!’ book – the latest from Hugh. It accompanies his current TV Programme where he extolls the virtues of a veg based diet by giving up meat and fish for the summer. The book accompanies his current TV show on C4 which follows the usual River Cottage format of HFW taking something he’s passionate about and making an entertaining and informative programme to share his passion. Whilst Hugh isn’t going to be a life long vegetarian he wants us to eat more veg and realise that veg-centric meals needn’t be dull.

The book is broken down into sections on salads and soups, raw things and bready things and mezze and tapas to name a few.

First off for me was the veggie biryani made for 12 – want to feed a crowd? Who could ask for more than succulent spicy veg with curried rice garnished with crunchy almonds? A breeze to prepare and cook, and if you can lift the casserole dish containing enough for 12 people and carry it to the table to reveal and serve, all the better (I needed help just getting it out of the oven – damn you Le Cruset with your sturdy based pans, wrist splints should be sold alongside them IMO).

For dips and salads, please make the roasted carrot hummous – this has replaced Peamole (it is what it sounds like) as the dip-tastic choice of the season and the raw beetroot and walnut and cumin salad add a fab crunchy side – try it with a smoked fish platter.

Above is a warming Sunday night dinner for friends, a puy lentil and spinach soup (made with the veg stock recipe from the same book) filling and warming, perfect  after a long walk in the crisp autumnal sunshine. Should you want a little meat in there, I added some pancetta as there were some in the fridge that needed using. I don’t think Hugh would mind.

What I enjoy about veggie cooking, and all the things I’ve made from this book so far, is the ease with which each dish is adaptable in terms of using up what’s in the fridge or buying what’s currently in season. I feel more able to play around without the meat – perhaps because the total cost of the dish is cheaper so the risk is less. Perhaps also just because I’m more comfortable with cooking veg and less fearful of over or under cooking and more confident of how the dish will fare as leftovers. I’ve made more than I’ve covered here, and yet more are flagged. This book is one that I will return to over and over again.

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Sharing the Love

November 9, 2010

I’m under no illusion about the reasons behind my baking, there is absolutely nothing altruistic in my providing treats for those around me. It is a fair and equal exchange between me, the baker, and those that receive the finished goods (bakee?).  If I didn’t live near such lovely people, or work with those whose company I enjoyed, I would bake far, far less. Or weigh far, far more. But I’m lucky. I have good neighbours, friends and colleagues and they enable me to indulge in my hobby and I know that they are lovely people, whose company I enjoy through, my baking.

The rewards extend beyond the pleasure I get from the recipe books I hoard, the planning and baking and even beyond watching others enjoy what I have created; my relationships with neighbours especially, have developed in part because I needed people to offload the products of my kitchen onto, which in turn has led to some good friendships.  At work, the baking provides a framework for connections and small talk, leading what can be odd office dynamics to develop into something more genuine.

Last week a colleague shared with me more apples from her garden, these apples have been a real bonus and  have provided a wonderful autumnal theme to recent baking sessions. I won’t repost the recipes in full, but this weekend I took the latest batch of apples and made a stock of apple sauce as per Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen. Most went into the freezer for future use, but one batch was saved for Sunday’s pre-dawn (I’m looking forward to spring already) baking session and her Spiced Applesauce Cake. I didn’t bother with the frosting and I really don’t think it needs it. It’s so easy to bake and only takes 35 minutes in the oven, there’s a tartness and moistness from the applesauce that I really enjoyed especially against the toasted nuts.

If you read here with any regularity you’ll know my affinity for courgettes and spotting Nigel Slater’s cake that combined the two was the highlight so far of his latest book.

This is a wonderfully easy cake to make, and the moistness from the courgettes and apples are offset by the crunch of the nuts. I used a mixture of walnuts and pecans and you could play around to your heart’s content with the nuts and dried fruit combinations. Having baked so much recently from American recipes the ‘pinch’ of cinnamon seemed overly cautious, and you could add nutmeg or mixed spice quite happily I think. I hint of citrus might not have gone amis either, the zest of an orange would do wonders to lift it slightly – perhaps judge on the tartness of your apples? I would avoid any juice as additional liquid content might cause problems with the water from the courgettes and apple (top tip only discovered after I’d made this, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness is to put the apples and courgette in a salad spinner to remove the excess water – might have to make this cake again to try it out – let me know if you use this method).

So, whilst autumn makes its presence known with the reversion to GMT and leaf-blocked guttering, step into your kitchen and bake this to share with your family and friends. Or perhaps make new friends and connections by wrapping up to give to neighbours and colleagues.

A Cake of Apples and Courgettes

Nigel Slater; Tender Vol II

200g butter

200g caster sugar

2 large eggs

150g/2 small courgettes

1 small apple

200g plain flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of cinnamon (be generous)

60g pecans, roughly chopped

60g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a 20cm x 12cm x 9cm loaf tin (I doubled quantities and made several smaller loaves – all the better for sharing and also gave me chance to try out the tin liners from Lakeland)

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about 5 mins in a stand mixer

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl

Beat the eggs and add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture

Coarsely grate the apple and courgettes (I used a processor – far quicker and less messy, especially if you have juicy apples) and then squeeze in a clean tea towel to remove excess water

Fold the courgettes and apples into the mixture then slowly add the flour mixture until just combined

Add the nuts and sultanas, scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for oner hour or until it is golden and firm to the touch.

Allow to cool in the tin

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Gingerbread for an Autumnal Afternoon

November 2, 2009
I have just spent a lovely weekend with my brother, his family and their amazing new kitchen. I am still suffering from severe kitchen envy, the whole space was a thing of beauty, from the fridge that I’m sure I could fit inside to the cutlery drawer that would placate the most obsessive compulsive urges. Luckily he has yet to purchase a Kitchen Aid mixer or I may not have coped at all. After a long walk in the beech woods around Box he prepared a the most divine beef bourguignon and I, with help from my niece, nephew (and a perfect G&T or several) made the Apple and Date Cake from a few months ago this time with a handful of chopped pecans – a good addition should you wish to add a little crunch.

Anyway, an early shift at work today meant a few hours free this afternoon and I need to spread a little love and reconnect with my small, yet (almost) perfectly formed kitchen. I know Parkin is the order of the week, it being Bonfire Night on Thursday, but once again a tub of buttermilk dictated the recipe somewhat and I had bookmarked this Gingerbread recipe from Shauna at Bay Area Bites. I don’t remember how or when I came across it, but the range of spices she uses appeals and led to it being put to one side for autumn and here we are. As I type it’s cooling in the pan, I followed the recipe below with a few very minor changes which are in italics. Other than the grinding of the cardamon seeds (anyone know where to get ground cardamon? I can’t seem to find it anywhere) this came together in no time and was baked in 40 minutes.


SHUNA’S FAMOUS GINGERBREAD


18 ounces All Purpose Flour (I used half wholemeal)
6 ounces Sugar (
golden granulated but I wonder what a soft brown would be like)
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
3 Tablespoons + Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Ground Cardamon (
I only had pods of which I ground a generous teaspoons worth of the seeds as I wasn’t sure if the ground seeds would be stronger than the pre-ground stuff)
1 teaspoon + Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon *optional: Ground Coriander* (
I didn’t use)

8 ounces Unsalted Butter
3 1/2 ounces Blackstrap Molasses
6 ounces Simple Syrup **recipe in instructions** you may substitute Lyle’s golden syrup or light corn syrup (
I used golden syrup)

3 each Large Egg Yolks
2 each Large Eggs
8 ounces buttermilk you may substitute sour cream or use a mixture of them both to create the eight ounces


**To make simple syrup place equal parts sugar and cold water in saucepan and bring to a boil until mixture is clear. For a thicker syrup boil for at least 10 minutes or increase the amount of sugar. For this recipe 1/2 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water will be sufficient.**


1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C)
2. Butter desired baking vessels. {Sometimes I coat with raw or white sugar inside as you would flour for a cake.}
3. Sift all dry ingredients except salt and pepper into a large bowl
4. Whisk in salt and pepper until mixture is uniform and create a “well” in center
5. In a medium non-reactive saucepan bring butter, molasses and simple syrup to a boil slowly {this mixture is feisty and will boil over if the heat is on too high or your saucepan is crowding it}
6. In another bowl whisk together egg yolks, eggs and dairy
7. When mixture on stove comes to a boil, shut off heat and let rest for a moment
8. Pour this hot mixture all at once into the center of your bowl of dry ingredients
9. Using a whisk, mix dry ingredients into liquid, from center out, carefully
10. When batter begins to seize, pour in second bowl of wet ingredients
11. Whisk batter until smooth and uniform. Batter is loose
12. Pour batter a little over halfway into buttered baking tins
13. I set my first timer for about 15 minutes, {unless you are making muffin-size or smaller}, so that I can turn the pan around for a more even bake (
I used a Bundt tin and it was done at 40 mins)
14. Gingerbread is done when sides pull away from the pan, middle bounces back to the touch and/or a cake-tester inserted in the center comes out clean
15. Cool at least until warm before slicing.


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Bring on the Soups

October 23, 2009
So, the clocks go back this weekend, the evenings are drawing in and if the Today programme are debating us Brits (or perhaps just the English and Welsh, depending on where in the argument you fall) joining European time once again, then it must be time for soup.
I’ve had a nasty bout of gastric flu which is lingering as I’m unable to stop eating and stick to clear fluids (gin doesn’t count, I checked). Today I was a bit better and also bored, so following a bowl of the most amazing minestrone soup at the Glebe Cairn Cafe at the Kilmartin House Museum on my recent trip to Scotland I felt now was the time to try and move into soup season. A search through my recipes and a brief Google led me to this version from the River Cafe. I substituted the onion with a leek, left out the garlic (not a fan) added runner beans and used up a pointed cabbage (in two stages) instead of the chard and cavolo nero. Whatever recipe I found I would leave out any pasta, but this had none. Next time I make it (and there will be a next time) I will add more beans, and maybe some tomato puree to add a little more depth. It also needed more stock than was called for, but I liked it stew-like. I can’t wait until tomorrow to see if the comments are right about it being better on the second day.