The Autumn Collection: River Cottage potatoes dauphinoise with cepes

We had the first frosts this week. Well, the first ones in London. And, though it was wonderful to wake up to such bright, sharp cold, it made me realise how lucky we have been with the weather this autumn. Nothing but crisp, sunny days, barely a trace of rain, and plenty of leaves to crunch. Now, though, it might be time to buy some new gloves and to succumb to real comfort food. Soup and toast are no longer going to cut it.

For me, there is nothing more comforting than some kind of hot potato dish, whether mashed, roasted or baked. My personal favourite is dauphinoise potatoes because they always feel like a treat, yet they are one of the most straightforward shove-in-the-oven dishes about. You can eat them on their own, with some salad or with a roast, make them into a meal by adding some smoked mackerel or, for a vegetarian and very-low-on-shopping version, this one, using dried porcini, is a delight. Continue reading

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The Autumn Collection: Fern Verrow’s ruby chard curry

Fern Verrow, for those who don’t know (and I didn’t) is a biodynamic farm in the Black Mountains, in Herefordshire, run by Jane Scotter and Harry Astley. They farm and grow produce all year round, helped by two people for part of the year, and sell some of it in London, on Saturdays, here. Their book came to my attention via a somewhat circuitous route. First, I saw an Observer round-up of autumn recipes, which included one of its recipes then, a few days later, re-acquainting myself with the main Islington library, I noticed that they had a really well-stocked cookery section. And there was a brand-new copy of this book which, as far as I can tell, no one else had ever borrowed.

I hope, by writing this blog, that I can encourage you either to borrow this from your own local library or buy a copy because it is one of the most useful and beautiful books I have had the pleasure to use and, though not explicitly vegetarian, is exceptionally inspiring if you are. Continue reading

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The Autumn Collection: the perfect cold remedy

I usually have a list of blog posts that I want to write, stacking up like airlines waiting to land. And, sometimes, I get to them as planned and sometimes I don’t. If life gets in the way, either the post I was thinking about will be pushed down the list by another, or nothing gets written at all.

This week, for example, I spent three days in bed and, though I had planned to try a few vegetarian recipes for a dinner with friends, both the cooking and the dinner were cancelled thanks to not being very vertical. I have had no appetite, and no interest in recipes. I knew I was feeling better when I started craving something other than glasses of water, when I started to think about what would make me feel well again.  Continue reading

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The Autumn Collection: Cadiz Bramble

I struggle with the start of autumn, with the shift from sitting out on long, light evenings to darkness and drear. Then, little by little, the joy of cooking with blackberries, plums and squash, of making stews and cakes, of practically snuggling up to every meal for warmth and comfort takes over and I am happily ensconced in my steamed-up kitchen, cooking, listening to music, feeling cosy.

But there are certain things I carry over from the summer, like the thought of particular dishes and drinks that I make repeatedly. This year, throughout July and August, I made a particular cocktail, the Rebujito, over and over again. And, already this autumn, I have discovered the colder weather equivalent, the Cadiz Bramble. Continue reading

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Sourdough Suppers’ mango and chilli chutney

Writing a book, I think, is quite a feat. Writing one and getting it published is even more impressive. And, considering both of those things, writing one and publishing it yourself seems practically superhuman. Self-publishing used to have a bad reputation but, these days, it is often both accepted for what it is (see tales of Amazon success here and here) and also seen as a very laudable route to finding a mainstream publisher.

So, in amongst the more ‘classic publishing’ cookbooks I have worked on this year, I was really proud to help someone self-publish their first. I was approached by a friend of a friend, Hilary Cacchio, to help her put together her book about sourdough and it is, if I say so myself, really lovely. Beautifully illustrated by animator Kate Charter, it is both a precise teach-yourself how to make bread book, but also a recipe book that will inspire you throughout the year. Continue reading

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Elevenses with Fortnum’s: ginger biscuits

Fortnum & Mason is one of those places that, for a long time, I barely glanced at. It seemed to be a beautiful piece of history, in a lovely part of London but, a bit like a palace or a castle, not somewhere for the likes of me. But this year I worked on their first cookbook and I discovered so much about the shop and what it has been for the last 300 years that I rather fell in love with it. Continue reading

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A Book for Life: Brindisa and pollo a la vinagreta

In UK publishing, the Christmas season is well under way. And sometimes, as the huge rush of new titles appears in the shops and online, it’s hard, even for a book-lover, to know where to start. As I wander round Foyle’s cookbook section, I have been known to wonder ‘what’s the point of publishing another one?’ Then a book comes along that is so complete, so knowledgeable and beautiful that I know exactly what the point is and shut up for another year. Brindisa is such a book. Continue reading

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