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    8 comforting dishes to cook this Autumn

    28 September 2020

    It is undeniably autumn: the trees have turned yellow and kids have been collecting conkers in the park. Whilst the t-shirt weather is now behind us, this does mean we can look forward to knitted jumpers, crisp mornings and warming comfort food.

    As the weather cools and the days shorten, now is the time to embrace the season’s best feasts and treats. From delicious stews, spiced desserts and thick onion gravy, we have collated all our favourite comfort dishes for those cosy nights in:

    Boeuf bourguignon recipe

    Nothing embodies autumn better than the presence of a casserole on the hob, bubbling away, slowly gaining body and flavour, and filling the kitchen with boozy, meaty, smoky smells. There should be a lot of love for all kinds of stews, but boeuf bourguignon must take the crown.

    Boeuf bourguignon is simply a pretty great beef stew with all the best things in it: beef braised until tender alongside tiny onions, button mushrooms, and smoky bacon, all cooked in a lot of red wine. We must acknowledge that this stew is slightly more complicated than other beef stews (the daubes, the estouffades and the terrines), requiring browning of the meat, which adds additional stages to the cooking process, but it also this which makes it one of those most delicious beef dishes, eliciting a depth of flavour and a glossy mahogany-coloured sauce that those other beef stews could only dream of.

    Spiced Apple Cake

    The spice is right (Photo: Samuel Pollen)

    This sweet and spicy cake is a wonderfully warming treat on a chilly autumn afternoon with a cup of tea. Spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, it’s a fruity delight and the ultimate autumn cake.

    Using both cooking and eating apples, this apple cake gives you get the best of both worlds. Bramleys are cooking apples: you wouldn’t want to eat them raw, they’d be sour and give you tummy ache, but cooked down with just a little water, even without sugar, they soften into sweet apple sauce, and in this cake they will bake into the sponge of the cake, while the alternating slices of eating apples retain their shape and bite. This recipe is adapted from Anna Hedworth’s excellent apple cake that she serves at her restaurant Cook House in Newcastle.

    A hearty steak and kidney pudding

    Most of us remain squeamish about preparing kidneys at home, which is a great shame. They lend an earthy richness to a meat stew, and they’re cheap and nutritious. They are short on effort, once you’ve got to grips with de-coring them. Sharp kitchen scissors: snip carefully and it will come away neatly in one piece.

    Now, about that pastry. Suet is the fat from around the kidneys of sheep and cows. It creates a decadent pastry — softer than shortcrust, denser than puff — a pastry that longs for quintessentially British flavours: bittersweet marmalade or tender braised meats. Suet yields easily to a fork, spilling out its gravied goods. Milk powder stops the pudding turning a wan grey, and Henderson’s Relish — Sheffield’s superior answer to Worcestershire sauce — adds savoury depth. This is food for people who swing axes and sail seas, not those who sit in front of computers. But frankly, who cares. It’s the perfect dish for a lazy autumn weekend.

    Autumn Eton mess recipe

    Eton mess seems to be a pretty straight-forward pudding: whipped cream, broken meringue, berries – and its name means that we tend not to question its origins. But its first incarnation with the distinctive name didn’t even feature meringues – and other places lay claim to the actual cream-meringue-fruit pud genesis.

    Traditionally, it’s made with strawberries or raspberries, but given its uncertain beginnings, you can feel on safe ground to play around a little. This recipe takes on an autumnal twist to suit it to the time of year: the bramley apples are cooked down into a compote that is appropriately soft. This is then layered with the meringue-rubbled, dark muscovado cream, with blackberries dotted throughout, some bleeding into the cream, some sitting proudly on top.

    Chicken, pumpkin and grape traybake

    The colours alone of this simple traybake are a fairly unsubtle reflection of the autumnal scene before us: all burnt orange, golden brown and deep, dusky purple. Add in the sight of a pumpkin and a vine of new harvest grapes and you’ve got a dish you could set your calendar to.

    Not only does this dish manage to harness something of what’s going on in the fields around us, but it also fills the house with delicious aromas. The recipe requires part of a pumpkin harvested and cured for a thirty days before reaching the oven, grapes picked just as the winemakers begin their first pressings and red onions dried in the last of the summer heat. October on a plate, some might say.

    Liver, bacon and onion gravy

    Credit: Samuel Pollen

    Liver and bacon, fried up in a pan and served with onion gravy, is the perfect dish to welcome in Autumn with open arms: the onion is sweet and caramelised, the meat hearty, rich and smoky, and the gravy thick and glossy, primed for dunking. It’s a simple dish: each of the elements is cooked in one pan. While some of those elements are set aside, the pan is not wiped out in between, so the gravy takes on the built-up depth of all the different ingredients, making the most of the little bits of browned meat, which is where all the flavour sits, waiting.

    Serve with buttery mash and some steamed greens – or, if you and you feel like a delicious childhood gravy treat, simply pile it onto a thick slice of toasted sourdough, and eat with lots of english mustard.

    Roasted Pineapple

    his delicious vanilla and pineapple dessert is as close as we’ll get to preserving those last vestiges of Autumn sunshine: pineapple, peeled but whole, still sporting its Sideshow Bob haircut, roasted until cooked all the way through, and caramelised on the outside. Served hot with ice cream, or boozy cream, and drizzled with the spicy, dark glaze that drips off during cooking, it’s a good bridge to take us from Summer into Autumn.

    Vanilla and pineapple were made for each other: the fragrant seeds bring out the natural complexities in the sweetness of the fruit, and the smokiness of the vanilla pairs well with a little chilli pepper, giving a gentle hum of spice to the dish. Use proper vanilla paste, rather than an extract or essence: apart from a better, more intense flavour, the speckling of the black beans across the roasted fruit is beautiful.

    Pumpkin Cake

    Pumpkin should taste like bright sunshine on a cold day, earthy and sweet, but it’s easy for that distinctive flavour to become lost.

    If you’re not careful, pumpkin has the tendency to be a little underwhelming. It has such promise: plump and vibrant, even brighter on the inside than out. But to really shine, it needs a helping hand. It seems counter-intuitive than a big, ballsy flavour would illuminate rather than dominate the mellow, golden pumpkin flavour, but when it comes to pumpkins, it’s true. Smoky bacon and sage turns a bland soup into something wonderful – if you don’t believe me try this soup recipe here; sharp cheddar elevates a pumpkin-based scone; and a generous addition of autumnal spices folded through a thick custard make for a show-stopping pumpkin pie.

    This recipe pair’s it with the baker’s hero ingredient: browned butter. When you continue to cook melted butter, the milk solids in the butter caramelise, turning the butter dark brown, and transforming the aroma and flavour into something complicated: nutty, biscuity, simultaneously sweet and savoury. The combo of browned butter and pumpkin is a wonderful one, and the two muscovado sugars give the cake a toffee-sweetness that is perfect for Autumn.