Sea­soned sense

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

The Guardian - Cook - - Book Extract - Anna Jones Anna Jones is a chef, writer and au­thor of A Mod­ern Way to Eat and A Mod­ern Way to Cook (Fourth Es­tate); an­na­; @we_are_­food

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

800g fen­nel

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.

Serves 4–6

30g dried porcini

450g mush­rooms

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.

Serves 4

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.

Serves 4

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.

Makes 4

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.

Serves 4

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

To serve

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

150g rasp­ber­ries

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.

Serves 8–10

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

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