One side of autumn does not resemble the other, yet we insist on speaking of just four seasons. In this extract from our columnist’s new book, recipes are arranged more in rhythm with nature. Here are a few that feel fitting right now
My new book is written in six chapters, each of which roughly knit together two months at a time – I find a year divided into four seasons a bit too vague. Just step into a greengrocer on the summer side of autumn and then again as autumn turns into winter and you’ll see the difference. There are so many more subtleties to what’s growing than spring, summer, autumn and winter.
While the seasons are a useful tool, your eyes and tastebuds should always be your primary guide. What I cook is not always led by produce but by the mood of the day, the feeling of rain or sun on my skin, the arrival of a certain friend, even something I see on the news. Some days dinner comes entirely from the storecupboard – there is as much of a thrill in the ingenuity of that for me. So, sometimes its macaroni cheese in July, and if that’s what I crave, so be it.
That said, there is something joyful about eating food at its best. Damsons as the evenings draw in, apricots when the nights are at their longest, watermelon on a searing hot day, squash at Halloween. It is about an ingredient at its peak, the apex of its flavour, but more than that it’s about a time, a place and the memories of days past that are wrapped up in every bite.
In London, where I live, the ebb and flow of the year is always apparent. The seasons come and go with force and how we eat changes dramatically. I remember what a revelation it was, as a young chef, learning to cook with the seasons. Every Saturday would start with a strong coffee with all my fellow chefs at Borough market. Then I’d walk over to Tony Booth’s veg stall, smell peaches, squeeze tomatoes, bite sharp little apples. Each week it reconnected me with nature, with what was growing.
Sometimes the hardest part of cooking is deciding what to make, staring at an open fridge, leafing through cookbooks. The ones I love to cook from the most are those that make it easier to whittle down a whole world of eating to what suits our mood and desires at a certain time. I hope to do the same here, and hope also that this week’s autumnal offering feels as hearty as it does easy and refreshing. You are the cook and the eater, so be led by your heart as well as your palate.
Red cabbage and juniper sauerkraut (on the cover)
You can either eat this as a quick autumnal slaw, or leave it to ferment and sharpen into a bright fuchsia sauerkraut over a few weeks.
Makes about 4 jars or serves 8
1kg red cabbage
A good pinch of flaky sea salt for slaw, or 2 tbsp fine sea salt for sauerkraut 1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tbsp fennel seeds
200g crisp eating apples, grated
1 If you are making sauerkraut you will need 1–3 weeks and a large bowl, a ceramic crock or a big Tupperware with a lid, a plate that fits inside, a heavy weight and a tea towel.
2 Finely chop or slice the cabbage and fennel. Put it into a large bowl as you prepare it and sprinkle with the 2 tbsp salt, layer by layer (if you plan to eat this as a slaw, just sprinkle the whole lot with the pinch of flaky salt). Bash the juniper and fennel seeds to a coarse powder. Add the apple and spices to the veg, then massage together for a few minutes. The cabbage should start letting out water. If you are eating this as a slaw, stop at this stage and serve.
3 To ferment, transfer everything, including the juices, into your crock or Tupperware. Press down firmly to cover with the liquid. Put a plate on top and weigh it down. Cover with the tea towel. You may not have much liquid at first, but check it every few hours, removing the cloth, weight and plate and applying pressure with clean hands – this will help extract more liquid. By the end of the day you should have 1-2cms of liquid above the top of the cabbage. Replace the plate, weight and cloth each time. Keep in a cool, darkish part of your kitchen.
4 The sauerkraut will taste good within a few days, but improves greatly by the second week. Check it every couple of days to make sure it is still submerged, pressing down if not. If a little surface growth appears, scrape it off – it is not a problem. When your sauerkraut is ready, press it into sterilised jars with some of the liquid and a tight lid. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Smoky mushroom and roast kale lasagne
This is based on Vincisgrassi, an Italian mushroom lasagne. The original gets its smokiness from parma ham; I use roasted kale and smoked water, which you can buy from Halen Môn.
30g dried porcini
25g butter, plus more for greasing Olive oil
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley 150g kale, stalks removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
300g fresh lasagne sheets
150g parmesan, grated, plus a bit extra Truffle oil (optional)
For the bechamel
1 litre whole milk or almond milk ½ small onion 2 bay leaves 8 black peppercorns 50g butter 75g plain flour 1 tbsp smoked water (optional)
It’s about a time, a place and the memories of days past that are wrapped up in every bite
1 Cover the porcini with 200ml boiling water. Use a brush or damp kitchen paper to clean the mushrooms, then tear or slice into bite-size pieces.
2 For the bechamel, heat the milk in a pan with the onion, bay and peppercorns until boiling. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a jug and set aside for later.
3 Next, cook your mushrooms. Melt half the butter over a very high heat and add a splash of olive oil. When hot, add half the fresh mushrooms and cook, moving them around the pan, until browned and crisp (about 5–7 minutes). Add a pinch of salt, then remove the first batch to a large bowl.
4 Put the pan back on the heat, add the rest of the butter and a bit more oil, then cook the rest of the mushrooms. Once golden, drain and chop the porcini (set aside the soaking liquid), then add them to the pan, along with the parsley. Stir well, then tip into the bowl with the rest of the mushrooms.
5 Now, back to your sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the flour and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the milk, bit by bit, starting with small drops and whisking well to prevent lumps. Stir in the porcini soaking liquid. Put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly – the mixture will thicken. Simmer for 3 minutes, then stir in the smoked water (if using) and the parsley and mushroom mixture. Heat gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
6 In a bowl, scrunch the kale with
1 tbsp olive oil and some salt and pepper and mix through the sauce too.
7 Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Butter an ovenproof dish (about 20 x 30cm). If using dried pasta, cook to the packet instructions. If using fresh, cook the sheets four at a time in boiling water for 2 minutes and assembling the dish as you go. Start with a layer of pasta, then sauce, then a sprinkling of parmesan. Keep building up the layers until you have used all the pasta sheets. Finish with a layer of sauce and parmesan. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Drizzle with truffle oil, if you like, and serve with more parmesan and some green salad.
Roast roots and wasted pesto (1)
You might normally overlook the ingredients of this accompanying pesto, but there is little more satisfying than making something out of nothing.
1 bunch of carrots with tops 1 bunch of beetroots with tops 1 small butternut squash 100g whole black olives in oil, pitted 2 tbsp baby capers in brine 1 unwaxed lemon
1 bulb of garlic
A piece of hard, white cheese, such as manchego or parmesan (optional) Extra virgin olive oil
1 Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Separate the tops from the carrots and beetroots, then wash and set aside.
2 Scrub the carrots and beetroots well, as you’re not going to peel them. Cut the squash in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and set aside, then slice the squash into 1cm wedges. Slice the beetroot into quarters, or halves if they are small, and the carrots in half lengthways, or quarters if large.
3 Tip all the veg into a baking tray. Drizzle with oil from the olive jar and 2 tbsp of caper brine. Add the capers and give everything a good mix.
4 Grate over the zest of the lemon, then cut it in half and add to the tray along with the whole garlic bulb. Bake for 30– 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked and golden around the edges.
5 Meanwhile, wash the squash seeds under cold water to remove any fibrous bits. Coat with a little oil from the olives, and add to the tray with the olives. Roast for 10 mins, until you hear them pop and they have turned darker.
6 Once cooked, remove the vegetables from the oven, carefully spoon out the lemon and garlic, and put the veg back in the oven to keep them warm.
7 Next, make the pesto. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its papery skin into the bowl of a food processor. Add the roasted seeds, lemon halves (picking out any pips) and grated cheese, if using, and blitz to a coarse paste. Add the carrot and beetroot tops and about 4 tbsp of oil from the olive jar and pulse into a chunky pesto. Add more oil or water, if needed. Season with caper brine.
8 Serve the roasted veg in the middle of the table, with the pesto for spooning. Freeze leftover pesto in ice-cube trays for up to a few months or keep in a jar in the fridge, covered with a little oil, where it will keep for up to a week.
Chard, lentil and bay gratin (2)
With flavours firmly rooted in Italy, this gratin tastes more indulgent than the sum of its parts.
250ml vegetable stock
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
250ml double cream
400g tin of green puy lentils, drained (or 250g home-cooked) 400g chard (swiss or rainbow) Butter or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A whole nutmeg
50g mature cheddar, grated (optional) 1 Combine the stock, tomatoes and bay leaves in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10–15 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced by about a third, then pour in the cream and the lentils and cover to keep warm.
2 Cut the chard stalks from their leaves and shred the leaves into 1cm-wide ribbons, then cut the stems into 2cm lengths, keeping them separate.
3 Heat a shallow ovenproof pan with a lid on a medium heat. Add a knob of butter or drizzle of oil, then add the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, add the chard stalks, then cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until they have lost their rawness. Remove the lid. Stir in the leaves, then take the pan off the heat.
4 Pour in the lentil mixture, grate in some nutmeg and mix well. If you don’t have an ovenproof pan, transfer the mixture to a gratin dish at this point. Dot over the cheese, if using, then bake at 200C/400F/gas 6 for 25 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
There is little more satisfying than making something out of nothing
Fennel and lemon scotch eggs with tomato chutney (3)
If you want a runny yolk, you can deep-fry the eggs until golden on the outside, for 3-4 minutes, but I opt for oven-baking to make them a little lighter. This gives a hard-boiled centre, but that’s OK by me.
6 medium eggs
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika Olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Salt and black pepper
400g tin of butter beans, drained 1 small sweet potato (about 120g), grated
50g grated cheese, such as cheddar Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 red chilli, finely chopped (or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes)
A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped 100g mixed small seeds, such as sesame and sunflower
Dijon mustard, to serve (optional) Mayonnaise, to serve (optional)
For the tomato chutney
400g tin of chopped tomatoes 1 small stick of cinnamon 2 tbsp capers 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Put 4 of the eggs into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil, then start a timer set for 3 minutes. Crack the cooked eggs, just to break the shell, then sit them in cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel them, then roll in the smoked paprika until covered.
2 Set the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Put
a frying pan on a medium heat and add a little oil. Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, or until soft and sweet, then transfer half the onion to a bowl with the leftover smoked paprika, fennel seeds and a pinch of salt and pepper.
3 For the chutney, put the pan with the rest of the onion back on to the heat. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, capers and red wine vinegar. Cook for 20 minutes, or until reduced and thick.
4 In another bowl, mash the beans until pretty smooth. Add the sweet potato, cheese, lemon zest, chilli, parsley, onion, and garlic mixture. Crack in one of the remaining eggs. Mix well, season with salt and pepper, then divide into four equal portions.
5 Flatten ¼ of the bean mixture into
Raspberry and coconut are two of my mum’s favourite flavours – perfectly light and not too sweet
an oval-shaped pattie. Pop a paprikadusted egg into the middle of the pattie. Gently and quickly shape the mixture around the egg, moulding it with your hands (almost like you’re handling a hot potato), making sure the egg is snugly wrapped with no air gaps. 6 Crack the remaining egg into a shallow dish. Beat well. Put the seeds on a plate with a pinch of salt. Roll the wrapped eggs in the beaten egg, then in the seeds, and put on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with the other three eggs.
7 Bake for 30–40 minutes, or until golden. Rest for a few minutes before eating with the cooled chutney, as well as some dijon mustard and mayonnaise, if that’s your thing.
Turmeric and coconut baked aloo gobi (4)
My favourite way to eat cauliflower: the sweet note of the coconut milk, the punch of ginger and green chilli, the earthiness of mustard seeds and clean spice of turmeric are perfect sidekicks for the buttery roasted vegetable.
1 large cauliflower or 2 small ones 600g potatoes. washed, skin on 4 tbsp coconut oil
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled 4 green chillies, finely chopped 4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp ground turmeric
400ml tin of coconut milk
1 unwaxed lemon, cut in half Salt and black pepper
Thick Greek or coconut yoghurt Almonds A small bunch of coriander, leaves picked
1 Set the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Fill and boil the kettle. Cut the large leaves and stalks from the cauliflower. You can leave the little leaves close to the florets – they will go nice and crisp when roasted. Turn the cauliflower upside down and cut a hollow in the middle of the stalk, so that it cooks evenly. Take a pan big enough to hold the cauliflower, half fill it with water from the kettle, then bring it to the boil. Season the water with salt, then immerse the cauliflower and simmer for 6 minutes. Drain the water, put the lid back on, switch off the heat, and leave the cauliflower to steam in the residual heat for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into 2cm pieces, leaving the skin on.
2 Take an ovenproof dish or pan (that can go on the hob as well) large enough to take the cauliflower. Spoon in the coconut oil. Grate the ginger into the oil. Add the chillies and garlic to the pan, then put over a medium heat. Let the spices and aromatics cook for a few minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the mustard seeds and continue cooking until the garlic has softened, then add the turmeric and a big pinch of salt.
3 Pour the coconut milk into the spice mixture, stir well and season with a little black pepper. When the milk starts to bubble gently, turn off the heat, put the drained cauliflower in the dish, then baste it with the coconutspice mixture. Throw the lemon halves into the side of the dish too, then scatter the potatoes around; they will sit in the coconut milk.
4 Bake the cauliflower for 40–45 minutes, basting it occasionally with the spiced sauce in the dish. You want it to catch a little on top. Test that the cauliflower is cooked by inserting a knife into the middle – it should be tender and the potatoes and cauliflower should have soaked up most of the sauce. Once it’s perfect, take it out of the oven. Transfer to a serving dish, then squeeze over the roasted lemons. Serve in the middle of the table, with little bowls of yoghurt, almonds and coriander for sprinkling.
Coconut raspberry cakes
Raspberry and coconut are two of my mum’s favourite flavours – perfectly light and not too sweet.
Makes 12 little cakes
400g tin of coconut milk
200g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
150g coconut sugar or light brown sugar 4 medium organic eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of flaky sea salt
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
150g white spelt flour
175g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp set honey
A handful of coconut flakes, toasted
1 Put the tin of coconut milk into the freezer for 20 minutes. Open the cold tin carefully, without disturbing the contents. Scoop out the set cream on the top and return it to the fridge. Set aside the tin and its more watery coconut milk for later in the recipe.
2 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Butter a 12-hole muffin tin. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one by one.
3 Add the vanilla, salt, lemon zest, flour, almonds, baking powder and 4 tbsp of the watery coconut milk and mix until you have a thick batter.
4 Fold in the raspberries, then divide the mixture between the holes of the buttered muffin tin. Bake for 25 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
5 To make the icing, use an electric whisk to beat the set coconut cream with the honey in a metal bowl. Put it straight back into the fridge to cool. Allow your cakes to cool completely before generously icing them with the coconut cream and scattering them with the coconut flakes.
Almond and smoked salt blondies
Though these don’t have the cocoa or chocolate that a brownie would (which makes them blondies), I do use muscovado sugar, which turns them a deep dark brunette.
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp flaky smoked sea salt, plus a pinch 250g white spelt flour
180g coconut oil or unsalted butter 125g dark muscovado sugar
125g golden caster sugar, plus an extra 50g
3 medium eggs
2 tsp good vanilla extract or paste 125g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), chopped into large pieces 100g almonds, skin on, roughly chopped
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with greaseproof paper.
2 Put the baking powder, salt and flour in a bowl and whisk away any lumps.
3 Melt the coconut oil or butter in a pan. Add the sugars and whisk until mostly dissolved, then pour into a bowl. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
4 Separate one of the eggs and reserve 1 tbsp of the white, then put the remainder and the yolk into the bowl with the rest of the eggs. Beat the eggs, coconut oil and vanilla extract together with a whisk. Fold in the flour mixture and the chocolate, then pour the mixture into the lined tin.
5 Whisk the 1 tbsp of egg white until fluffy, then add the almonds, 50g of caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Spread over the blondie mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crisp on top and still a little gooey inside.
6 Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin, slice into squares.
The Modern Cook’s Year
Anna’s new book is published by 4th Estate and is out on 5 October