Autumn has arrived full of bluster. The clocks have gone back and we’ve been shocked into a new rhythm. The first few days always take some adjustment. By four twilight begins, by five its night. Until now the weather has been mild, but bonfire night always seems to mark the start of a new and fierce season. A sheet of yellow and orange suddenly cloaks the countryside and we ceremoniously dig out our woolly jumpers. The shops, now replete with hearty Autumn ingredients, almost lure us into the kitchen. The colder months seem to have their own kind of abundance and the seasonal food calls for hefty appetites. We spend hours out walking, building up to indulgent suppers. The hedgerows are heaving with blackberries, damsons and sloes. And the larder is alive with misshapen pumpkins, gnarly apples and aubergines. Now that the spoils of summer have slowly made way for the paragons of Autumn, there is much to get excited about in the kitchen.
Borlotti Beans with Pancetta and Breadcrumbs
For the beans:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of borlotti beans (or fresh borlotti beans if you can get hold of them)
50 ml chicken stock
A big handful of sage, chopped (plus extra for serving)
200g pancetta, chopped
A slurp of red wine vinegar
For the breadcrumbs:
5og stale bread
small bunch of fresh parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
To make the beans, heat the oil in a pan over a low heat and gently fry the chopped garlic for a minute or so. Add the beans, stock and sage and bring to a simmer. cook gently for 2-3 minutes until the beans are warmed through. Drain away any excess liquid.
In a separate frying pan, fry the pancetta in a very little olive oil until crispy. Add the fried pancetta to the beans.
To make the breadcrumbs, place the bread and parsley in a food processor and blitz until you have rough crumbs. Add the oil and lemon zest and pulse again. Using the same frying pan as the pancetta, fry the breadcrumbs until they start to turn crispy. Do this slowly to keep the bright green colour of the herb.
Place the beans in a warm serving dish, drizzle with red wine vinegar. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs along with a little chopped sage. I served mine with cavelo nero, but this dish is delicious with any green leafy veg or simply on their own.
Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup
4 tbsp truffle oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 kg Pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
700 ml chicken or vegetable stock
200g red lentils
Drizzle of cream and chopped parsley to serve.
Heat the truffle oil in a large pan and gently cook the chopped onion until translucent, but not brown. Add the pumpkin and carry on cooking for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is gold and soft. Pour in the veg stock and add the lentils. Simmer of 10 minutes, until the lentils and pumpkin are very soft.
Puree the mixture with a hand-held blender or in a processor. Once processed, heat the soup again.
Serve in a large bowl with a generous drizzle of cream and a handful of chopped parsley.