October’s piles of pumpkins must be one of the prettiest sights of the season. Jack O’Lantern-carving fun aside I go in for eating the flesh as a spiced soup, mashed as a partner to some good meaty sausages or baked with orange zest and rosemary.
There’s pumpkin pie, too, which is mostly thought of as an American dish but – much like the carving of the lanterns – its heritage really lies with the other winter squashes that are the pumpkin’s British relatives. Like Norfolk’s old recipe for Million Pie – a pastry crust filled with the sweetened and spiced mash of one of the many other squashes that would have been around in the 16th century at this time of year.
Our modern grocers are happily getting better at offering up a wider variety of squashes again than just the old-faithful butternut and pumpkin. Keep an eye out for the glorious variety of shapes, sizes and colours that run the gamut of our gourds.
Poor old crab apples. Autumn’s ugly sisters in need of just a little love and care to become all meltingly sweet and spicy and delicious.
These days crab apples are too often left to rot on the ground and all-too-seldom brought into the kitchen. But t’wasn’t ever thus. Crab apples used to prized for their tart flavour and acidity which is no good at all for eating the apples raw but can be put to great use as an ingredient.
They’re even better than eating apples for this ‘butter’. Which is really a sweetened, spiced, thick apple spread that’s very lovely on toast, crumpets, fruit buns or as a stand-by sauce for roast pork.
This Kent tradition is a great way to use up any summer fruits still knocking about in the garden, fridge or freezer. With some of autumn’s finest fruits added too and layered up with brandy and sugar you’ll have a treat in store come Christmas.
The Hodgkin’s fruits can then be served with cream, ice-cream or meringues – and the muskily fruited brandy as a liqueur on the side.
As September advances into Autumn-proper this warming lunch or supper of tender lamb’s kidneys and mushrooms on chunks of warm bread becomes particularly appealing. It’s pretty filling so the quantities below should serve four.
We got some terrific black pudding last weekend from one of my favourite butchers – Clive Downs. His delightful shop is in a pretty village called Porlock that is well worth seeking out for anyone on their hols down Exmoor way. Clive and his team make their mince and sausages etc, and source the best local meats.
The car home was loaded up with some belly of pork, lamb loin, sausages and then this black pudding which became a very lovely late supper with apples cooked in the black pudding fat, flamed with calvados and then finished with a grating of nutmeg.