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
Five-minute fish supper
This is a happy, healthy dish for those days you’re by yourself, feeling the pressure and need a boost. Being pressed for time needn’t mean eating badly. Serve with a wedge of good, chunky sourdough bread lathered in butter. If you’ve got a bit more time, try with some lightly crushed buttered potatoes with fresh parsley.
Feel free to replace the haddock with other seasonal, sustainable white fish such as coley.
Quick and easy
Beetroot and Brazil nut salad served with chilli and garlic corn
This recipe can be made vegan by substituting the quails’ eggs for marinated, fried tofu, and the butter for a soy substitute.*
Beetroots are a plenty this season, and this can call for a bit of inventiveness - so here’s something I put together today. There is something incredibly satisfying about serving this salad alongside corn, as the colours really bring out the best in each other, and the sweetness of the corn is a good foil to the earthiness of the beetroot. The corn uses the same recipe as posted here, minus the honey.
This makes for a wholesome, healthy lunch that is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate.
Pickled garlic can be found in most supermarkets and Eastern European shops. It has a sweeter, more subtle flavour than raw garlic, and a slight acidity that cuts the beets well. You can use standard garlic if you wish, but it will be fiery when raw!
Vegetarian / Vegan*
Serves 4, generously
Quick and easy
Foraged apple pie, served with ice cream, sweet hawberry sauce and nigella seeds
"September has come, it is hers
Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,
Whose nature prefers
Trees without leaves and a fire in the fireplace.
So I give her this month and the next” - excerpt from Autumn Journal, Louis Macneice
September grows older, and as nights are creeping in, it seems that my desire for warm and comforting spices is, too. Whilst part of me wants to squirrel away all the apples in the world for the winter ahead, I couldn’t resist the call of a happy, homely apple pie. If squirrelling is your mission, or if you live on your own, you will be happy to know that apple pie freezes extremely well, so a little work today can be a nice treat to your future selves. It goes particularly well with a good film and a scoop of icecream, or with a cup of tea after a stressful day at work.
Serves 4-6 depending on portion size
A bit of chopping, but not difficult
Foraged pear, sorrel and yarrow tart with taleggio
As many of you will have seen (here), I have been combing my borough’s abandoned and overhanging abandoned orchards for fruit with Martin recently, and we brought home a hefting bag full of delicious fruit. It makes me very sad to see just how much fruit is left as windfall in locations full of people; the lack of curiosity makes perplexes me.
Whilst it is a joy to eat the fruit fresh (especially off the tree), and I am intending to make preserves with whatever remains, I came up with this recipe the other morning, and just had to try it. It’s delicious! The sweetness of the pears and the cooked sorrel is wonderfully offset by the taleggio. On this occasion, I served the tart with Fat Hen, cress, chard, chicory, nasturtium, angelica, anise hyssop, and rocket picked from the garden along with some borlotti beans, dressed in a rosemary and garlic oil that I had made. I think that this would go particularly well with a bit of pickle, perhaps pickled nasturtium seeds or some cornichons. Try it and let me know what you think!
Vegetarian** (you must replace taleggio and Parmesan, tips below)
Serves 6-8 depending on portion size (made 2 medium tarts for me)
Quick and easy
Tortiglioni with Stilton and horseradish sauce, topped with crispy blackpepper broccoli and smashed toasted walnuts
Who said broccoli is boring? I think the poor old brassica has got a bad rap after having been boiled to death for decades on end. Here, it serves as the main event, with its crispy, charred goodness bringing out all the mid-notes of the Stilton cheese. The walnuts add a depth of flavour, as well as that all-important protein. Makes for an indulgent midweek meal, a great pick-me-up on those days when you’ve been caught out in the drizzle waiting for a delayed train.
Quick and easy