Can you believe this weather? It’s clement, often sunny and positively warm; even The Weather Man calls it warm instead of mild (it’s only ‘warm’ if it’s spring or summer, otherwise it’s ‘mild’, them’s the rules). The gods must be smiling down benevolently, sparing us the sky-high cost of heating the houses just yet.
So it almost feels like it should be salads and barbecues on the menu, we should be sipping cocktails on the patio and planning picnics. And yet the patio is covered with leaves, the days are short and we wake up to the sight of fog in the valley.
So I should be fully within my rights to wax lyrical about pumpkins, soups and root vegetables, those perfect autumnal dishes that are comforting, warming and invariably have cheese in them.
But autumn doesn’t mean only heavy and stodgy food. We often forget it’s the true time of plenty: after the harvest the pantries are full, the fruit needs to be jammed and the game hung.
Modern times do not see so many pantries, even fewer of them full of hanging game but there are plenty of gorgeous dishes to be cooked at this time of year.
All the summer tomatoes, aubergines and peppers will have worthy successors: parsnips, sweet potatoes, beetroot and carrots. Sounds boring? Wait till you try the autumnal vegetable tian or the beetroot gratin.
If we don’t have plentiful, cheap ingredients for a Mediterranean vegetable lasagne any more, let’s make one with cabbage. I promise it won’t be worse, only completely different.
Instead of tomatoes we have mushrooms now, wild ones too if we pay a small fortune or live in Scotland. With a punnet of chanterelles you can make some truly magical dishes: pile them on toast, bake them with creamy orzo pasta or simply fold into pappardelle or linguini.
Then there’s fruit: Bursa figs which are the best variety are now in season. Serve them in a salad with the last of summer tomatoes, caramelise them to go with feta saganaki or make a sticky fig cake.
Homely pears are none the worse: with black rice risotto or in a salad with parsnip and halloumi. Or in a cake – with sticky pear and ginger, who needs apple pie?
There is still time for a jar of greengage jelly or rose hip jam – the latter one is foraged wild rose fruit which means free food, which always tastes good.
And as you might have notice, all those fabulous dishes are meat free! There will be something gorgeously seasonal for meat eaters too, next week. For now, discover all those beautiful autumnal vegetables!