Steamed pumpkin, red curry sauce
Serves 4 with rice
small hot chillies - 4
lemon grass - 2 fat stems
ginger - a walnut-sized lump
red shallots - 2 or 3
shrimp paste (optional) - 3/4 of a teaspoon
coriander stems and roots - about 8
tomatoes - 6 large, juicy ones, roughly chopped
a small pumpkin or firm orange-fleshed squash
Make the spice paste: roughly chop the chillies, the lemon grass (minus any tough outer leaves) and put them in a food processor. Peel the ginger, slice it and add to the chillies. Peel and roughly chop the shallots and blitz in the food processor with the other ingredients, the shrimp paste, coriander and 2 tablespoons of water to help the blade engage. Stop when you have a rough paste.
Transfer the spice paste to a shallow pan. Let it sizzle briefly over a moderate heat then stir in the chopped tomatoes and add a generous seasoning of salt. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn't stick or dry out.
Cut the pumpkin into thick wedges, discard the seeds and fibres and put the pumpkin into the top of a steamer (alternatively you can cook it in a colander over a pan of simmering water). Test for tenderness after about 20 minutes. It should be thoroughly soft and not far from collapse.
Put the pumpkin pieces on plates or shallow bowls, spooning over the red curry sauce as you go. Serve with rice if you wish.
Sweet potato mash with spring onions
Mashed sweet potato can sometimes be a little too sweet, which is why I have added spring onions and fresh coriander to this. They seem to take off the sugary notes. Rich and comforting, this is best with a main dish that has a little gravy with it, to stir into the golden mash on your plate.
sweet potatoes - 2 large ones
a thick slice of butter
spring onions - 5
coriander - a handful of leaves
Peel the sweet potatoes and bring them to the boil in lightly salted water. Simmer till tender to the point of a knife - about 15 minutes or so. Drain thoroughly and tip into a bowl. Mash thoroughly with the butter. Season with black pepper, the spring onions finely sliced and the coriander. Serve immediately.
A simple mussel broth
Clean, clear tastes here. A fresh and invigorating soup for a cold autumn day.
chicken stock - 500ml
ginger - a lump the size of a walnut in its shell
chillies - 2 medium hot, sliced
a juicy lime
mussels - 24
a small handful of coriander leaves
Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a deep pan. Peel the ginger, slice it as thick as a pound coin and add to the stock. Finely chop the chillies, squeeze the lime and add to the stock. Simmer for five minutes before adding the mussels. As soon as they open, chuck in the coriander and check the seasoning, it may need a little salt.
Pan-fried mushrooms with toasted bread and parsley
The weight of mushrooms you need here will depend on the variety you choose. The softer, more tender mushrooms such as chanterelles and oysters will need less cooking time than firm cultivated funghi.
mushrooms - 400g
butter - 80g
garlic - 2 medium sized cloves
parsley - a handful
a small ciabatta loaf
Sort the mushrooms into those that are thick fleshed (such as field or chestnut varieties) and into more fragile types such as chanterelles and oyster mushrooms. Cut the sturdier varieties into large bite-size pieces. Leave the more fragile ones whole. Carefully remove any growing medium, but don't wash them.
Melt 50g of the butter in a shallow pan together with the peeled and crushed garlic. As soon as the garlic is soft and fragrant, add the prepared mushrooms, (firm ones first, tender ones later). Let them soften and colour for a few minutes then add the parsley and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Meanwhile, in a second pan, melt the remaining butter, tear the bread into bite-sized pieces, and fry till golden. Toss with the mushrooms and serve.
Red cabbage, blue cheese and walnut slaw
A crisp autumn salad for eating as a light lunch or maybe a first course.
a quarter of a red cabbage
fennel - half a medium-sized bulb
a russet apple
a little lemon juice
a medium carrot
blue cheese such as Harborne, Cashel or Beenleigh - 150g
a handful of walnuts
a rib of celery
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons mild red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
a pinch of caster sugar
Shred the cabbage and fennel. Cut the apple into quarters, discard the core, then slice them finely. Toss the apples immediately in a little lemon juice to stop them discolouring. Shred the carrot into matchsticks (or grate it very coarsely). Slice the cheese thinly. Toast the walnuts in a non-stick pan till they smell warm and nutty. Thinly slice the celery.
Make the dressing by mixing the vinegar and mustard with a little salt and black pepper. Beat in the groundnut and walnut oils, then taste, and add a little sugar if necessary.
Toss the salad ingredients together, gently, so you don't break up the cheese too much. Divide between plates and drizzle over the dressing.
Guinea fowl with mustard and crème fraiche
This recipe will also work well with pheasant, in season, or small chickens. You could serve it with rice or plain and simple boiled potatoes to soak up the sauce, though the mashed sweet potato below works pretty well for me.
guinea fowl - 2
large onions - 2
carrots - 2
celery - 2 ribs
thyme - 6 bushy sprigs
garlic - 2 plump cloves
juice of a lemon
grain mustard - 2 tablespoons
bay leaves - 2 or 3
chicken or vegetable stock - 1 litre
smooth Dijon mustard - 1 tablespoon
crème fraiche - 100g
roughly chopped parsley - a handful
Check the guinea fowl for any stray feathers. Cut each bird in half down the backbone. Pour a little oil into a high sided roasting tin or baking dish and lightly brown the birds all over. Set aside.
Set the oven at 180C/gas 4.
Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the onions then add them to the pan once the birds are out, adding a little more oil if necessary.
Peel and dice the carrots and the celery and then add to the pan with the sprigs of thyme and the peeled garlic. Let everything cook till soft and pale gold (it is important that nothing browns).
Stir in the lemon juice and mustard, add the bay leaves then pour in the stock. Stir well, season with salt and black pepper, return the birds to the pan, and bring to the boil.
Cover the pan with foil then bake in the preheated oven for 55 minutes.
Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes, till all is golden and tender. Remove the birds and set on a warm serving plate.
Stir the last tablespoon of mustard, the crème fraiche and the chopped parsley into the roasting tin and simmer for a minute or two and check the seasoning. Serve the guinea fowl, pouring over the sauce as you go.
Baked apples with cinnamon crème fraiche
By all means use 'cooking' apples here, but many of the interesting dessert apples around at the moment bake deliciously, too. It is worth checking out farmers' markets and farm shops for locally grown fruit.
plump and juicy dessert apples - 6
golden caster sugar - 2 tablespoons
butter - about 50g
For the sauce:
200g crème fraiche - 20g
golden caster sugar - 2 level tablespoons
a knife-point of ground cinnamon (or more to taste)
Set the oven at 180C/gas 4. Score the apples round their tummies, cutting just through the skin. This will stop them exploding in the oven. Put the apples in an ovenproof dish.
Wet the fruit with a tablespoon or so of water then scatter a little sugar over them, and dot with the butter. Bake for 35-40 minutes depending on the size of the apples. Pierce them with a skewer to check for tenderness.
Just before you remove them from the oven, put the crème fraiche in a small, non-stick milk pan, add the sugar and the cinnamon and bring almost to the boil. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and serve round the apples.