Autumn is my favourite time of year. Yes, I can wax lyrical about autumn fashions – coats (sob), gloves, hats and boots – but it’s not just that that I love. The colours are spectacular. There is a quality to the light in autumn that bathes everything in a particular golden glow. It’s a time of smoke-scented festivals – Halloween and Bonfire Night – and subdued lights twinkling in darkness. The excitement of Christmas lurks just beneath the surface. And while the days are bearably cool and ideal for daytripping, the evenings are cold, allowing for the ultimate comfortable indulgence, cuddled up with a book, blanket and pot of tea.
And the food of autumn is particularly magnificent. Suddenly, the greengrocer is laden with squash, marrow, pumpkin, and sweet potato. Slow-cooked jacket spuds are the ultimate winter warmer, and stews and casseroles bulked up with pulses replace light salads at dinner time. Bangers and mash, toad in the hole, sausage casserole, beef hotpot, lamb stew, chicken saag, anything lentil-based warmed through with spices, all served up with lashings of sauce or gravy – my mouth is watering just thinking about the meals this time of year inspires!
Toad in the hole with damson jelly gravy
A personal favourite on cool autumn days is cauliflower cheese – such a simple and cheap meal. Last week I found myself craving this dish, and nipped around the the local shop, where 75p bought be the biggest cauliflower I’ve ever seen! I made a batch in my biggest pyrex, and it is still feeding me three days later…
Sausage casserole with peppers and lentils
But I had so much cauliflower left over – including plenty of the sweet, succulent stalk – that I decided a spot of cauliflower soup for lunches wouldn’t go amiss.
I didn’t have a recipe, I simply fried an onion in a little butter with some dried spices and a spot of fresh tarragon I had left over. I then added the cauliflower stalk and florettes, and a couple of cubed potatoes that were on their way out, covered with vegetable stock and a little milk, and boiled until the potatoes were falling apart. I mashed the soup with a potato masher to start it breaking down before transfering to a blender, then returned to the pan and seasoned with plenty of black pepper to taste.
The cauliflower soup was delicious alone. But having treated myself to my Fourme D’Ambert last weekend, I couldn’t resist a spot of experimentation. I took the soup to work along with a small handful of Fourme cheese, cubed. I nuked the soup in the microwave, then stirred through the cheese cubes. The effect was concentrated bites of flavour and slightly melty cheese in a thick cauliflower soup and was absolutely divine! I highly recommend it as a simple way to add variation.