Tag: September

In Season: September

Man, I’m late with this one. Hedgerows have been thick with blackberries for weeks, thanks to a meterological anomaly of a year that’s brought a heatwave and with it early sightings of autumnal fruits. Same as every year, I’ve been opening drawers to stare longingly at wooly tights, so this turn of events is all too welcome. In mid-August I rolled up my jeans, went off for a walk in search of these gems – with the Myths & Legends podcast in my ears– and was rewarded with a lot of nettle stings but, more importantly, a big bag of blackberries.

During my outings, I’ve also picked a berry with a fat spider on it and stood on a bird corpse. Swings and roundabouts.

To be pernickety, blackberries aren’t really berries at all – they’re made up of drupelets, the individual bobbles you get on raspberries and blackberries – and have also been known as brambleberries, brumblekites and lawers. No matter what you call them, they’re also great in terms of fibre and vitamin C. For me, blackberries = crumble time, but I guess it’s time to branch out… Read More

Pear & cinnamon crumble cake

Pear and cinnamon crumble cake // The Dinner Bell

I might call this “Surprise Victory Cake”, instead of its actual descriptive name, because I did not expect this to work, and my god, it did. It really did.

I just about half-followed a recipe: made the topping up as I went along; tasted and guessed at the spice quantities; set to work bringing it all together with bowls strewn around the kitchen. The mixing stage was nerve-wracking, and for a split second, I wondered if it was a a waste of time and ingredients.

But then I put it in the oven and the kitchen filled with the smell of autumn. Cut into it and found it had the perfect level of springiness,  just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg flavour.

It turned out to be a cake that you take into the office and ten minutes later start getting “Oh yes 10/10” messages. A cake that might make your flatmate mutter, “Marry me,” as they take a bite. Maybe a couple of “I feel all warm and cosy inside”s. Read More

Fig and goats cheese vol au vents

That’s right – vol au vents. We’ve done some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff and landed squarely in the ’70s.

Fig and goats cheese vol au ventsMaybe it’s because I wasn’t around for their orange-tinted heyday that I have a soft spot for a bite-size foods. Or it could be that they leave your other hand free for a drink. The actual reason I like canapés? There’s a lot of scope for using cheese, in more ways than you could with one of those cheese boards that only feature as many varieties as cheese knives in that long-abandoned box (four).

It’s the tooth-squeak of a grilled halloumi skewer. The tongue-tingle of a good quality cheddar paired with pineapple. The nutty quality of an aged Comté. The soft ooze of burrata. If it came to it, I could give up steak, or bread, or pasta. Just don’t torture me, alone(y) without torta mascarpone.*

The cheese of the hour is goats cheese. To some people, it tastes “like a farm”. (When and why and where have all these people been licking barnyards?) But truly, it delivers an unbeatable tang that sits so wonderfully alongside sweet fruits and honey. Here, a soft goats cheese nestles with lightly honeyed caramelised onions and jammy fig to make a vol au vent that’s very much for the modern age. Read More

In Season: September

Anyone who’s been through a school system that kicks off in September knows this: it’s the real new year. As we dodge kids in too-big jumpers on the pavements, it’s hard not to get nostalgic about new bags and catching up with all your mates after some time apart and trying some “new year, new me” magic via the medium of shoes*. And for those of us who throughout the summer crave wool tights and cosy corners, crunchy leaves and steaming mugs of hot chocolate, the type that fit perfectly into the curves of your hand, it’s 30 days of hope and promise.

September, in food too, is the great month of overlaps, its bounty made obvious by a glance at the seasonal calendar**. It’s our last chance for several months to grab short-season gems like plums and blueberries, but our first chance to get in on some sweet butternut squash lovin’. It’s very nearly soup season. Today, we’re focusing on plum, courgette, and the sweet and jammy fig.  Read More

Strawberry and pecan courgette cake

This courgette cake was a long time coming. Strawberry and pecan courgette cake // The Dinner BellThe cake stand in my kitchen had gathered dust. Perched atop the cabinets, it’s stood unloved since the Marvellous Night Circus cake, a state of affairs that 2012 me would never have predicted.

She also wouldn’t have predicted me being caught out with a cache of enormous courgettes that need eating.

Those ones went into courgette and Comté gratin (recipe tbc), but they got me thinking about courgette cake. When I said those words, people recoiled slightly, much like they did with avocado cake, but I’ve proven ’em wrong once and I’ll prove ’em wrong again.

This cake is perfect for this time of year, when strawberry season comes to an end, courgette gluts leave home gardeners desperately pressing the vegetable into the arms of visitors, and the clouds open to remind us that yes, we’ve had a delightful three days of summer but we are still in England, giving you just enough time to put the oven on and consider branching out into wearing sleeves again.

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Chicken, leek & cider pie

Today, we’re nearly halfway through the Idiot Challenge for Idiot People. Set and voted upon by a group of university friends, the challenge forces us (the idiots) to work out in some way every day for the month of April. Chicken pie with leek and cider // The Dinner BellIt’s less stupid, now, than it otherwise might have been – we’ve negotiated “lighter” exercise, like yoga, in, in an effort to give our bodies a little rest. Two weeks in, and a few people have dropped days, but thanks to a refusal to give in, most of us are going strong, despite aches and the necessity to wake up before the sun to squeeze things in. We’re all exercising more, and better, for it – I guess it’s the way we support each other. This is what I left university with: one degree, and several stubborn, idiot friends.

And then, sticky dancefloors and counting coins in the half-dark. Bubbles up my nose and a too-strong fruit taste. Half-carrying my friend’s dad back to his house after too many “mystery strength” Somerset varieties. These are my memories of most ciders.

It was university, of course, that did that too. May we never drink cider and black again.

Quite understandably, I shy away from cider a little these days, lest I get caught out by something overly sweet and too full of bubbles; still, when given the opportunity to try the new ciders from Aspall, I leapt at it because, well, I have faith in Aspall.

And Waddlegoose did not let me down.
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Spicy spring pasta with spinach and pea pesto

Did I add those ingredients just so I could have a fun title? I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t part of the equation — but mostly it’s about the snuck-in secret veggies, because there’s something weirdly satisfying about being able to tick off your five a day very swiftly by whipping up spinach and pea pesto.

Spicy spring pasta with spinach and pea pesto // The Dinner BellWhat can I say? I lead a thoroughly rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

Honestly, this week we’re all craving green things, whether it’s because we’ve acquired a lot of chocolate or just down to the brighter skies that come with switching the clocks back, (although that always seems to mean losing an hour’s sleep).

But it’s time for fresh starts, again, and rediscovery — the “tomorrow” we were awaiting the arrival of before it’d be sensible to look to getting in shape is here. And so we shake off the darkness of winter, peeling it away like soggy shoes after a rainy commute, and we dig into recipe books, reminding ourselves what vegetables look like, and we chuck in some extras.
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Squash, sage, and Stilton mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon

W

hen I was at sixth form, I also worked three jobs (ish), and dreamed about all the free time I’d have as a grown up. Monday to Friday was sixth form – although around half of that time was sitting in the common room, or taking trips to Tesco in free periods – and Friday afternoon was cleaning for a family friend. Weekends in retail. Half-terms split between retail and a part-time feature writing job at a local magazine. Monday to Friday, nine to five, sounded glorious.

How adorable, right?

Now, it’s all busybusybusy, hours flying by before we can even stop to think how we’re spending them (the tube. The tube is where we’re spending them). And it’s for this reason that I’ve become a cheat in the kitchen, relying on recipes that can be made in a big batch and easily tweaked and recycled across multiple nights. For months, this was big bubbling pans of chili, made often enough that it became a flat joke. The holy grail of lazy home cooking? Big batches that can be frozen, and reheated fairly quickly. Read More

In Season: September

O

h September. The month of new beginnings and shiny shoes, golden leaves and apple pies. So many years after leaving school, September still feels like the start of something – and the changing of the seasons brings with it a plethora of culinary goodies in deepest orange and darkest blue.

This month, we kiss goodbye to plums, blueberries, and Bramley apples, and we welcome in, among so many others, blackberries, kale, and squash. Read More

Pear & honey mini galettes

This time last week, I was waking up from a nap, with a pounding headache and a strange sense of home that contradicts everything I wrote about in my past post.

Pear & honey mini galettes // The Littlest BakehouseIf you’re expecting this to be a romantic story about friendship and discussing deep issues under the stars…you’re going to be disappointed. At a friend’s place, we were far enough out of London to actually see the stars, but bank holiday Friday was a night of tequila shots and pizza, cookies baked at 1am and so many ridiculous stories that will become part of the lore of our group. The weekend has been the subject of a number of flashbacks throughout the week that have left me burying my face in my hands, half in laughter and half in disbelief. In short, it was excellent. Read More