Autumn menu

Autumn on the menu

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. The cooler weather brings me indoors to spend time happily cooking in the warmth of the kitchen. At the top of my shopping list are new season’s apples and pears, figs, gorgeous plums and persimmons with colours as beautiful as the changing autumn leaves. Gently poach fruit in sugar syrup to intensify the flavours and enjoy as a delicious dessert.

Sweet baby brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, leeks and onions, golden pumpkins, zucchini and mushrooms are ready to roast and turn into a sensational warm salad; a snapshot of the season on your plate.

Autumn calls for some slow cooking. Sauces and stews can simmer away, as flavours intensify and develop. With all due respect to the Easter Bunny, rabbit is delicious in pasta sauce. The recipe below can be cooked in the oven. As with all things cooked slowly, it’s just as easy to make large quantities and keep some for later on. I don’t know why, but it always tastes better next time.

Enjoy the simple menu below to celebrate this glorious season.

warm salad of autumn vegetables

Vegetables are a revelation when roasted, as this brings out their natural sweetness. Balance with a squeeze of lemon at the end and top with creamy marinated feta. Enjoy this warm salad as a sensational starter or alongside a roast as part of the main course.

600g Kent pumpkin

4 baby onions

150g baby brussel sprouts

150g baby zucchini

2 portobello mushrooms

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ (half) tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp dried oregano

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to season

juice of 1-2 lemons

180g marinated feta to serve

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cut the pumpkin into thin wedges and remove the skin if desired.

Leave the skin on the onions and cut in half lengthways. Place on a large baking tray alongside the pumpkin. Set aside.

Cut the brussel sprouts in half and place on a separate baking tray. Scatter the zucchini over. Cut the mushrooms into 6 wedges each and place on tray with zucchini and sprouts.

Mix oil with garlic, chilli and oregano. Drizzle over both trays of vegetables. Season vegetables with salt and pepper.

Place the tray of pumpkin in the oven and cook for 35 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft and cooked. Add the second tray and continue to cook the vegetables for a further 10 – 15 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Divide between plates, squeeze over a little lemon juice and top with a dollop of marinated feta.

serves 4.

pappardelle with rabbit ragu

Rabbit makes a delicious sauce for pasta. This makes a large quantity, enough for eight. Keep leftover sauce in the fridge or freezer to whip out at a later date for an instant meal with minimal fuss. Fresh pasta cooks in next to no time. Make your own pappardelle by cutting fresh lasagne sheets into thick strips with a sharp knife.

2 tbsp olive oil

1 rabbit, jointed in six pieces

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 brown onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

500ml stock (meat or vegetable)

500ml tomato sugo

2 bayleaf

sprig of fresh oregano

sprig of fresh thyme

1 cup green olives, pitted

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 kg fresh pappardelle pasta

fresh parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 180C.

Heat oil in heavy based, oven proof pot. Add the rabbit pieces and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add celery, carrots, onions and garlic to the pot and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until well softened.

Return the rabbit pieces to the pot, then add stock, tomato sugo, herbs and olives and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and place in oven. Cook for 1 ½ (one and a half) hours.

Remove from oven, take the rabbit pieces out of the pot and shred the meat roughly. Remove and discard all bones. Return the meat to the pot and stir through the sauce. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil and cook fresh pasta for a few minutes, until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander, then toss the drained pasta through the ragu.

Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

serves 8.

poached autumn fruit compote

Use any combination of seasonal fruits to make this delicious and simple compote.

2 cups raw sugar

2 cups water

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange

1 lemon

4 brown pears, quartered and cored

4 plums, halved and stones removed

4 figs, halved

natural yoghurt, to serve

Place sugar and water in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat to dissolve. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Use a vegetable peeler to peel a thin piece of skin from the orange and lemon. Add to the pot with the other aromatics. Reserve the citrus fruit for another use.

Place the pear quarters in the poaching liquid and gently cook over low heat for 15 minutes, until the pears are soft when pierced with a sharp knife. Add plums and figs and continue to cook for a few minutes more, until the fruit is softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly in the poaching syrup.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt.

Serves 4.


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