Autumn, 2014
The Spoils of Autumn
Super Moon

I had a lot of seasonal leftovers to eat up, what with Christmas coming and all. Pumpkin mostly. Lots of pumpkin. Plus some Cavolo Nero.
So today I had a quick dinner of homemade (defrosted) herb sausage with a rich onion gravy, onion and cavolo nero with horseradish and cream, and boiled potatoes dressed with sage butter to keep me going.

Onion Gravy
sauce veg
Following Fiona Becket's method is great for making a decent gravy when you don't have roast juices to use, but you do have some decent stock.
Thoroughly caramelising the onions, as for French onion soup, gives the soup excellent body, and a smooth gravy results from straining them back out again.

Serves 4

Heat the olive oil and the butter then add the onions and cook over high heat, stirring regularly, until they begin to darken. Turn down the heat and cook gently, stirring frequently, until thoroughly caramelised, but not burnt, as if you were making French Onion Soup.
You can add bicarbonate of soda and a little sugar to the onions to speed up this process.
Add the flour, and stir until cooked and separating a little from the fat, then de-glaze the pan with liquor, then add the stock gradually, whisking thoroughly at each step.
Press the gravy through a sieve to remove any lumps and the remains of the onions, add any flavourings you like wine, cider, port, fruit juice, etc, adjust the consistency, season, serve.
Excellent, though I suspect it largely depends on the quality of your stock.
Of course mine was superb!

Leeks with Pear and Green Bean Purée
side veg vegan
My neighbour Nancy has an allotment from which she regularly and very kindly brings me samples. Today it was runner beans, which gave me the impetus to try and recreate an intriguing recipe fragment I found on a Christmas memo pad It's really very good, though probably better suited to the summertime - light and delicate as it is.

Serves 4

Cut the beans into pieces and simmer until very tender. Drain.
Peel the pears, quarter, cut away the cores, cut into fat chunks and simmer with the lemon juice and pear brandy until soft but not completely disintegrating.
Blend the two together with a little extra lemon juice or cooking water as necessary to a smooth purée. Pass the purée through a sieve and season.
If you reserve some of the pear you can then adjust the flavour to your taste - it's easy to overwhelm the subtle bean flavour with too much pear.
Cut the leeks into large pieces, wash thoroughly and cook with butter, salt, ground white pepper and herbs if you fancy as for buttered leeks.
Meanwhile cut the crusts from the bread slices, grate or blend them to breadcrumbs, mix with grated lemon zest and bake until they turn golden and dried at Gas Mark 4.
Serve the leeks dressed with the pear and bean purée and scattered with breadcrumbs.
Delightful, and a handsome colour.
I used fresh (whole) runner beans, but I suspect this might work perfectly well with broad beans or even dried beans. Like flageolet.

Chorizo Stuffed Peppers
main meat
I made this to use up some peppers and chorizo I had in the fridge, and threw in the other things I found in there.
Other stuffings are also available.

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil.
Chop the chorizo and onions finely. Halve the leek and slice finely then wash thoroughly and drain. Crush the garlic.
Cut off the tops from the peppers and scoop out the seeds and ribs. Blanch in the water for a minute or two. Arrange them in an oven dish which will hold them standing upright.
Blanch the rice, rinse under cool water and set aside.
Fry the chorizo in a little oil until it begins to sweat, add the onions and fry a little, add the leeks and fry until they soften, add the garlic, then the tomato purée and fry until the oil begins to separate.
Stir in the blanched rice, then add the tin of tomatoes and a little water. Add the Worcestershire and hot sauces and season well. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked al dente. Remove from the heat.

Chop the mozzarella, reserving slices to top the peppers.
Stir the chopped mozzarella and the yoghurt or crème fraîche and coriander if using through the filling, then stuff the peppers with the mixture.
Lay a slice of mozzarella (or a grating of good melting cheese like Ementhaler) on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake the stuffed peppers for 30 minutes until tender and the rice is cooked.
Not bad, if a bit bland. In my experience that's always the way with stuffed peppers. They're better with the crème fraîche and coriander.
Best served with a bit of liquid, a chilli or cheese sauce or perhaps some creamed leeks?

Roast Mushrooms and Aubergine
main side veg vegan
My cute landlady Aline made up this gorgeous mixture of mushrooms, aubergines and red onions the other day and I was very impressed.
So here it is.

Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a vegan main course

Halve or quarter the mushrooms if necessary so they're about an inch cubed, cut the aubergine somewhat smaller - perhaps 1cm cubes. Cut the garlic into slivers, chop the red onion, not too small.
Mix the mushrooms, garlic, red onion, some herbs if you like (thyme, parsley etc), stir thoroughly to coat with olive oil and put in a roasting dish with enough room that they're not piled too deep (or there will be too much liquid).
Dot with a generous amount of butter and roast at Gas Mark 7 until tender, and the juices have mostly cooked off - about 1 hour.

Microwave the aubergine pieces until they begin to collapse (this should stop them absorbing quite so much oil). Drizzle olive oil over the aubergine in a second roasting tin. Stir throughly to coat, season with salt, pepper and perhaps some finely chopped rosemary. Roast at about Gas Mark 6 until they are meltingly soft - about 40 minutes.
Mix the two dishes together and serve.
Yum. The vegetables are delightfully succulent. If a bit brown.
You could try roasting them all together, but it might make the mushrooms over-soggy.

Imperfect Quiche Lorraine
main meat
I worked through one of Felicity Cloake's usually excellent perfect recipes, and good though it was, I found the filling slightly disappointing. Particularly given the obvious amount of work she put in.
The pastry, on the other hand, was perfect. Though I might have managed to roll it a bit thinner.

Serves 6

Sift the flour and a generous pinch of salt on to a cold surface. Cut the butter into 1cm cubes and stir it in, then gently squidge the two together, so the flour combines with the lumps of butter - the aim is not to mix it completely, so it turns into crumbs, but to have small lumps of butter coated with flour. Like the name, it should look quite rough, even unfinished.
I chilled the butter in the freezer for a while, then grated it, and cut it into the flour with a knife. Seemed to work pretty well, the pastry was quite good.
It could do with a dash of salt in it too though.
Sprinkle a little of the water over the top and stir it into the dough. Add enough water to bring it into a dough (unless your kitchen is very dry, you probably won't need it all), without overworking the mixture, then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Lightly flour a work surface and shape the dough into a rectangle. Roll it out until 3 times its original length.

Fold the top third back into the centre, then bring the bottom third up to meet it, so your dough has three layers. Give the dough a quarter turn and roll out again until three times the length, fold again as before, and chill it for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and put a baking tray in to warm. Grease a deep (at least 3cm) 20cm tin, and line it with the pastry, leaving an extra few centimetres overhang to minimize shrinkage. Push it into the corners as well as you can without stretching or tearing it. The pastry will swell quite a bit during cooking almost like real puff pastry, so it needs to be rolled quite thinly (thinner than I did anyway), even if that leaves you quite a lot left over. Keep any extra in case you need it for remedial work later. Line with foil (shiny side down) and weight down with baking beans or rice. Place on the baking tray and blind bake in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and patch up any holes with the extra pastry if necessary. Bake for a further 8 minutes, then brush the base with egg white and put back into the oven for 5 minutes. Carefully trim the overhanging pastry to neaten.

Fry the bacon for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through, but not crisp. Drain and spread half over the hot base.

Put the cream and the eggs and yolks into a large bowl (or a food mixer if you have one) with a generous pinch of salt, and beat together slowly until combined, then give it a fast whisk for 30 seconds until frothy. Pour over the base to fill and then sprinkle over the rest of the bacon. I was surprised that the egg mixture all fit into the pastry shell! Bake for 20 minutes and then keep an eye on it - it's done when it's puffed up, but still wobbly at the centre. Allow to cool slightly before serving - hot quiche tastes of disappointingly little.
Felicity Cloake's might have been perfect, but mine wasn't. Not that it was all that bad either, mind.

Dan Lepard's rough puff pastry works really quite well, but I slightly overcooked mine around the edges. You want it golden, but not browned. I think I should have turned my oven down slightly. The egg white wash does a very good job of protecting the pastry (you do need to bake the de-beaned crust for long enough to dry it out before painting it with the egg though). Perhaps too good a job - personally I like a bit of soggy crust!
I undercooked (browning on top, but still rather too wobbly all around) my filling at first, but it's easily repaired with a return to the oven. Probably best to give it a stab with a skewer as you would baking a cake to see how it's getting along inside.
But my problem is it was just a bit too eggy for the perfect quiche. Maybe more yolk and less whole egg would have sorted it? I also blended about 100g mashed crumbly blue cheese into the egg and cream mixture. Whatever Felicity thinks, I like a bit of cheese in my quiche and it was yum - so there.
I made a small spinach version with the leftover puff pastry (and some cooked, squeezed spinach), but didn't really rate it as much. Maybe I'll revisit the idea.

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