For a delicious quick starter or canape, I love using chicory boats, and load them up with something to tickle the tastebuds, often it’s a nice smoked fish mousse, but I wanted to try something different, so I delved into my River Cottage Everyday book and came back with the Beetroot Houmous recipe, and having lots of beetroot plump and inviting in the garden decided to go for this.
Beetroot and Walnut Houmous (River Cottage)
Roast 4 medium beetroot in the oven with a dash of olive oil.
Pop these in a foodprocessor with 50g toasted walnuts, 25g breadcrumbs, a tablespoon of tahini, cumin to taste, juice from a lemon, salt and pepper, a garlic clove and a good glug of olive oil/rapessed oil, and blend until a nice coarse paste is achieved.
Break off the chicory boats, and load with a teaspoon of houmous, a crumble of feta or goats cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.
A year ago I built myself a cider press, a simple wooden frame with two pads pushed together with an 8 ton bottle jack, I was so pleased with how well it worked and I pressed 40 litres of juice that I made into a dry fizzy cider.
This year I will be making my cider a bit sweeter and still, and as it’s that time of year again, last night got the press out. This year I was fortunate to be able to borrow a scratter which made the job easier.
You need to halve or quarter the apples before scratting them, last year I froze and then bashed them up. Once you have the lovely apple pulp, you can pop this into the “cheese” a layer of pulp wrapped in a fine weave muslin, I used net curtain material from Dunelm.
I filled 2 “cheeses” of pulp before pressing, last night I pressed about 30 litres in around 3 hours using a mixture of Tom Putt a sharp Dorset cider apple and Bramley. The next batch I plan to press will be an apple and pear mix.
I popped in a few campden tablets to prevent oxidisation, this will be left for 24 hours before I put in the cider yeast.
I was given a lovely selection of wild mushrooms by a friend and wanted to make a favourite of mine from my vegetarian days, wild mushroom risotto, usually i’ll keep it nice and simple but I wanted to add a touch of something green to give the dish a little more life, so I picked a handful of salsola from the garden.
As with so many good recipes, start by gently sweating a finely chopped onion and some garlic in a large frying pan on a low heat, in a dash of olive oil and a knob of butter, they should be nice and soft and not taking any colour. Add about 200g Arborio risotto rice, after a few minutes, add a glass of white wine and allow to reduce, then add a good dash of vegetable stock. If you have some dry porcini mushrooms, let these soak in a cup of warm water for a few minutes until hydrated, and then pour the dark liquid into the rice.
Keep adding a little stock at a time until the rice is starting to become soft, and pop your mushrooms, fresh and dried into a frying pan with a knob of butter and fry off, adding the salsola to cook for the last minute or two.
Once the risotto is ready it should be lovely and smooth and creamy with still a slight bite to the grains, season with a little salt and pepper, and stir in a knob of butter and some grated parmesan.
Serve in a bowl with the mushrooms and salsola piled on top of the rice, and garnish with some chopped flat leaf parsley and some parmesan shavings, and a little splash of olive oil.
I love this time of year, the tastes change and I find myself craving more stubstantial earthier tasting food, soups and stews, mushrooms and apples. The way the seasons pass is wonderful, we had our first fire of the season, and to mark it I wanted something earthy and warming.
Here’s my simple soup recipe with crookneck squash, red lentils and warming spices.
Sweat off a finely chopped onion and a couple of chopped garlic cloves in olive oil, in a large saucepan, add a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a dried chilli ( I used a smokey chipotle to add an extra smokey element). Let the spices toast slightly to release their flavour, and add a cup full of red lentils and a chopped medium squash. Cover with vegetable stock or boiling water and leave to simmer for 40 mins before blitzing with a hand blender.
Serve with a good dollop of plain yoghurt, some chopped chives, croutons and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Then wait for the glow of autumn warmth.
I’m planning on posting a series of good heartwarming autumnal recipes, so watch this space.
When I read Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s article on making cheese in the Guardian Food & Drink section a few weeks ago, I felt compelled to have a go for myself, especially since my neighbour had offered me some raw milk from her Anglo-Nubian goats.
I had a quick taste of the milk before I started making the cheese and was surprised to find it un-goaty, creamy and delicious, this my neighbour informed me is typical of Anglo-Nubian milk, which is very high in butterfat.
I used 2 litres of the raw milk, and added a pinch of salt and warmed to 38 degrees C. I then stirred in 2 teaspoons of vegetarian rennet.
I left the curds to set for 15 minutes, and was amazed to see a solid blancmange type curd set, which i then spooned into a jelly bag for a few hours for the whey to drip out.
The resulting cheese was a lovely fresh buttery slightly grass tasting ricotta style cheese, that got tastier as the days went by. It was delicious spread thickly on my home made rosemary and sea salt focaccia, with olive oil drizzled generously and some finely chopped rosemary sprinkled over.
I definitely plan on doing this again, and trying some further cheeses.
For anyone looking to make their own cheeses have a look at Ricki Carroll’s “Home Cheese Making” a much recommended guide, which I recently treated myself to.
With my hot smoked trout, I wanted to come up with a delicious pasta for our supper to do the fish justice.
Gently sweat a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves in a large pan, add the zest of a finely grated unwaxed lemon and the flakes of smoked fish, you can use hot or cold smoked salmon or trout. Add a good few table spoons of creme fraiche.
Meanwhile add some fresh egg tagliatelle to boiling salted water and cook until al dente, drain and add to the creamy fish, add plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, and a sprinkle of finely chopped flat leaf parsley and a little finely grated parmesan.
I went fly fishing in the week to the wonderful Exe Valley Trout Fishery on the edge of Exmoor, and was fortunate enough to catch 4 rainbow trout, which I had an eye on hot smoking. So once home, I filleted them out, and dry cured them with crushed juniper berries, coarse sea salt and brown sugar.
The fillets were left to cure in the fridge overnight, and the liquid drained off the next day, this is a wonderful process as it alters the texture of the fish completely, and all it needs is a quick rinse and drying off and it was ready to pop in the smoker.
I used my cold smoke generator to cold smoke the fish for 8 hours using beech dust to produce a slightly sweet smoke. After this initial smoking I popped some charcoals in the smoker, and hot smoked the fillets for 20 minutes until they were cooked through.
The fillets were well smoked with the beech smoke giving the fish a delicious subtle sweet smokey taste, and the juniper berries coming through with a slight peppery gin flavour.
See the following post for how I made best use of these lovely smoked trout.