Layered green lentil, onion squash, roasted garlic, chilli and brie salad
Healthy, wholesome and flavourful, this salad is a warming dish making the most of the season’s colours and flavours. Most of the preparation is passive, so it’s a good one to make whilst sipping on something tasty. I served mine on a Himalayan salt block that I received as a (very generous!) present this year. However, as this is a pretty strange thing to have in the kitchen, just season the constituent ingredients by salting the lentils’ cooking water and the squash.
Romanian stuffed peppers - Ardei umpluti cu legume / carne
I tried this delicious recipe when I first went to live in Florence with my dear friend Kiki in 2010. She and her mother are both wonderful cooks, and I think it might have been the first time that I had tried Romanian food (I hope to post more Romanian recipes in the future, as it is a wonderful cuisine that hasn’t had that much exposure in the English speaking world).
This dish is incredibly easy to prepare, and can be made either with meat or in vegan form. Here, I have posted the vegan recipe as it is probably more unusual, but if you want to make it with meat, I recommend using an equal mixture of pork and beef mince and using between 500-700g depending on the size of the peppers you are using, you can then discard the soy/Bisto, and indeed the mushrooms and chard if you wish. A meaty version will go happily with water instead of stock in the sauce, as the meat will give its flavour to the broth. This can also alternatively be cooked over a low-medium flame on a stovetop for 1.5 hours.
Should, for some reason, you end up with leftover mix, this can be cooked on its own and then added to a tomato sauce and couscous to make a quick little lunch.
Vegetarian/Vegan (*use egg binding substitute, e.g. tomato paste)
A little prep, but well worth it
Tea eggs, 茶叶蛋
Tea eggs are a traditional snack in homes and markets throughout China. They are very simple to prepare and make a delicious, and beautiful snack, entrée, or picnic food. The longer they can be let to steep, the better. I like to leave mine steep overnight.
Serves 12 as a light snack
Easy to put together, takes time to marinate
Harlequin squash and roasted garlic gnocchi in a rich tomato and ricotta sauce
This dish is full of autumnal colour and flavour. Harlequin squashes are among the most beautiful of the Curcubita genus, and bring the wildness of zebra skin or ladybird spots to the plate. They squashes are relatively easy to grow — even if you are relatively short of space — but can also be found in supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and organic food shops at this time of year.
Don’t worry about the amount of garlic this requires. Roasted garlic doesn’t possess the harshness of flavour that raw, or even fried, garlic can sometimes contain. It is sweet, gentle and provides a marvellous base flavour to this simple September recipe. You can make your own gnocchi, dundari or other pasta dumpling incorporating some roasted garlic into the mixture, or you can use packaged stuff if you’re in a rush.
The seeds from the squash could be used to grow your own. Alternatively, I like to roast them in soy, sesame and sriracha as shown here – they make a wonderful snack!
Serves 2 with some leftovers for lunch
Some passive prep, but simple
Raw peach, red cabbage, coconut and lime spicy salad
Thai and Vietnamese-inspired flavours unite here to make for one delicious raw salad. I came up with this recipe when I wanted something quick, bright and energizing. This meal makes for a happy packed lunch or summer salad.
The best peaches for this should be just ripened with a slight firmness. You may wish to add a touch of fish sauce, soy or sesame oil for seasoning.
Serves 4 as a side
Quick and easy
Six Jewel Salad
In creating this dish, I took some influence from Turkish cuisine, where bulgar wheat features a prominent part in dishes like Qisir. The dish has a wonderful balance of sweet and sour notes, but make sure to mix properly if you want to have it at its best. It works as an excellent main on a sunny autumnal day like today, but would equally be a happy addition to a buffet table, or as a side at a dinner party.
A note of advice – be sure to buy good quality, fresh fennel – it is in season now and should be at its best and brightest. It will contain more sugars and will caramelize better.
Vegetarian / Vegan if feta subsitute used
Serves 4-8 depending on usage
Can be prepared in advance
Simple prep, but a few cooking steps
Mushroom, fennel and tarragon risotto
September is one of the most giving seasons of the year, and one of its best gifts is indubitably fennel. Florentine fennel, or finocchio, is larger, sweeter, and contains more water than its wild counterparts, but the tips of foeniculum vulgare would be an equally winsome addition to this thoroughly seasonal dish, which is calming and reviving as the mornings and evenings become darker and colder.
Whilst taking a walk to be alone with my thoughts earlier today, I happened across a huge spear headed orach plant overflowing from someone’s front garden. I snipped off a handful of leaves and collected a few seeds to sow for myself and decided to add them to this celebration of the seasons.
Vegetarian (parmesan subsituted) / Vegan (if butter is substituted for soya)
Easy, but requires a little time to cook
Orach - Atriplex prostrata
This plant is basically free spinach. I marvel at how many people must pull this ‘weed’ up only to go and spend a couple of pounds on a bag of cultivated spinach. It is packed with all the good stuff you would expect of any member of the Amaranthaceae and Chenopodioideae groups. As one would expect of any wild thing, it is far more hardy than cultivated varieties and is extremely easy to grow, even in poor soils. In fact, it is commonly found in cities, disturbed ground and waste ground.
I found someone’s front garden overflowing with the stuff overspilling into the pathway today, so took a handful of leaves to add to an autumnal risotto I will be making this evening.
Penne all’arrabbiata - 5 steps to a delicious lunch
Simple, understated, and easily overlooked, penne all’arrabbiata — the delightfully named ‘angry pasta’ — is a great go-to when you’re pressed for time. I’ve got to give it to the Romans when it comes to making amazing dishes with very few ingredients.
Tinned tomatoes aside (as I always have these in my cupboard), there are five constituent ingredients to this sauce: penne, garlic, chilli, salt and pepper.
Vegan (*you will have to use Vegan pasta)
Extremely quick and easy
Mutter paneer मटर पनीर and handmade kalonji rotis रोटी
This recipe can be made vegan by replacing the paneer with tofu.*
Mutter paneer is a favourite of mine that I probably first encountered at Lahore Karahi in Tooting as a child. I still have a huge soft spot for the restaurant, which is at the centre of the Pakistani community in the area and has been providing cheap, delicious food to the borough for just over two decades.
Perhaps the most marvellous thing about mutter paneer is that it can bring the colours, flavours and vibrancy of summer onto a plate at any time of year, as its primary ingredients — tomatoes and peas — both preserve phenomenally well. In the winter, I just use frozen peas and tinned toms.
It’s worth making rotis, a.k.a chapatis by hand - the taste is worlds away from the shop-bought stuff, and they’re very simple to make. I have used kalonji seeds to add a little extra flavour.
Vegetarian / Vegan*
Serves 2-4 (depending on use as a main / side)
Quick and easy