What does autumn mean to you? To me, it means a great deal. I think I may have mentioned my love for it on previous occasions, when I’ve attempted to write about the virtues of summer cooking, failed miserably and gone on about how it’s nowhere near as good as autumn, food-wise. And I stand by this completely – salads are all very well, but they just don’t really compare to a roast dinner or a hearty stew. And you can’t really have piping hot steamed pudding and custard when it piping hot outside. Well, you can I suppose, if you really want to. But despite all this talk of fantastic roast dinners, it’s pretty tricky to rustle one up mid-week, so what autumnal treats can you produce every day that aren’t too much hassle and, most importantly, won’t make too much of an dent in your bank balance?
First up – soup. It doesn’t have to be an all-day affair. The perfect example of an easy mid-week warmer is that classic, Minestrone. Ok, so this recipe might not be traditional in the exact sense of the word, but it echoes the simple principles of the healthy and filling original. Just fry up your chopped onion and garlic, add some diced carrot and then put in a tin of chopped tomatoes and a decent amount of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then break up some dried spaghetti into small pieces and pop in – you can also add a tin of borlotti beans too for extra healthy brownie points. After five minutes or so, put in a couple of handfuls of frozen peas and corn with some diced cabbage and season too, of course. Simmer for a few more minutes until the cabbage is slightly tender but still retains a bit of crunch, then serve with some bread and butter.
I wrote a blog a while back about various ways to use up the leftovers from your roast dinners. One of these was to make sure you always get a good stock out of your chicken carcass. Now is the time to use that stock. You can make a great chicken soup by frying up some onion and leeks before heating up the stock. Maybe put some in chopped up potato and cream too.
Liven up some sausages and mash with your own version of baked beans. Again with the chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes, but this time, add only the borlotti beans (beans are my friends) and a tablespoon of dark brown sugar. Let it stew for a while until the sauce is nice and thick and sweet, adding a little bit of water if it starts to get a bit too gloopy. Lovely stuff.
Another easy autumnal pudding that doesn’t require two hours steaming on the hob is baked apples. Just remove the core from some rather large ones and fill the remaining hole with butter, brown sugar and some dried sultanas, and don’t forget to score down the skin a few times with a sharp knife, or you might have a few exploding apples to clean up after. Stick them in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until they go brown and crispy, then serve with some cream, or ice cream, or yoghurt if you’re feeling healthy.
Autumn isn’t just about slow-cooking for hours. There are many easy and cheap ways to celebrate the season. But don’t let us stop you slow cooking for hours if you want to. That’s easy and cheap too, in fact. Just takes a bit longer…