Autumn is probably my favourite season in this country. It’s a beautiful season when it comes to going for a walk in the country and the rich oranges and reds on display also seem so vibrant and alive. It’s also getting towards that time of year when we all evenings getting darker earlier, swiftly followed by chilly autumnal nights, Halloween and even Christmas(!?)
I also know that I now start thinking about making warming winter-style meals rather than focussing on salads etc. Although it doesn’t seem 5 minutes since it was spring time, I have to say that I am looking forward to some nice soups, stews and casseroles now.
These one-pot meals can be the saviour of the busy workers and parents too and if you use a slow cooker, a little preparation means that dinner can be sorted before you leave to go to work and ready when you get in, with the exception maybe of cooking an accompaniment if you’re having something like chilli. This is also the time of year when it’s ideal to start cooking in bulk and then freezing portions for use in the week. This is a great money-saving idea, as you not only save time on messing about during the week, but also save on fuel bills too which is always important to take into consideration.
A great idea is to stock up on what fruit and veg in season at the market, and what’s on special offer at either your local butchers or supermarket. Then have a look in your store cupboards and make sure that you have plenty of seasonings in as simple things added to a batch of minced beef can change it from savoury mince, to Bolognese, to chilli with a couple of simple additions.
But we all know these things and yet still get bored of eating the same old, same old. So I for one am constantly on the look-out for something a little different. I don’t know about you, but I often take inspiration from some of my favourite TV chefs. Madhur Jaffrey is one such chef. Not only does she cook some fabulous, traditional Asian meals but she also tailors according to British tastes. Asian food does not have to be super-spicy, but can be flavoursome as well as subtle, with a hint of piquancy. Try and push yourself out of your comfort zone occasionally by looking at cooking which is maybe a little different to that which you are used to.
Another place to look to for inspiration is Mexico and Spain with the help of someone like Thomasina Miers and her incredible Wahaca cookbooks. These cuisines are also super tasty and full of flavour and still can be cooked in one pot, saving time and money. And so I would really suggest that you spend some time on planning your next batch of freezer fodder, make some notes before you go shopping and surprise your family and/or friends with something a little different next time you take the lid off your slow cooker!