Mushroom stroganoff

Mushroom stroganoff served with rice and fresh coriander
Stroganoff is a traditional Russian stew consisting of chunks of beef cooked in a stock and sour cream sauce flavoured with mustard or tomato paste or both. Nowadays it’s usually flavoured with a generous sprinkling of sweet and smoky paprika – though I’m not sure how traditional this is, it certainly adds a beautiful depth of flavour to the sauce. The warm, creamy sauce makes this a lovely dinner for a chilly autumn evening, piled on a hefty serving of carbs (rice, pasta, mashed potato, thickly cut sourdough toast….wait, where was I?).

Autumn is also the time of year that many varieties of wild mushrooms are in season. I absolutely love mushrooms, and I don’t believe that you’re missing out on anything by substituting the usual strips of beef with mushrooms in this recipe, especially if you can find a mix of different types that are both meaty and packed with flavour. I used a combination of Portobello, chestnut and chanterelle mushrooms, the latter of which were a very exciting find in the local organic grocers. Chanterelles can be found in the UK from late summer all throughout autumn, and I think they are just as exciting (and expensive…) as a piece of good quality steak. You can use whatever variety of mushrooms you prefer or which are available in the shops. Of course if you dislike mushrooms then you can switch back to the traditional beef – use a cut suitable for quick cooking such as rump or sirloin.

One year ago:
Steak pie with puff pastry
Toad in the hole with onion gravy
Easy apple tarts
Ingredients for wild mushroom stroganoff
Ingredients (serves 2)
400g mixed mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tbsp tomato puree
Splash of white wine
100ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp sour cream
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley to garnish
Rice to serve

Method
1. Prepare the mushrooms. Lightly rinse them if you feel like they’re very grubby, but a wipe with a damp cloth and a quick dust of the gills with a pastry brush should do the job. Slice or halve any large mushrooms so that they are all in similar bite-sized pieces.
Mixed cleaned and sliced mushrooms
2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan until the butter begins to bubble.
Heating butter and olive oil in a large pan
3. Tip in the onion and garlic and mix well in the olive and butter. Cook over a medium heat for about five minutes until the onion has softened.
Frying onion and garlic in olive oil and butter
4. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms, mixing well again. Fry quickly until the mushrooms begin to brown, adding a little extra butter if necessary.
Adding mixed mushrooms to the onions and garlic
5. Stir through the paprika, chilli powder, mustard and tomato puree, then add the white wine and allow to bubble for a few minutes.
Adding white wine to the mixed mushrooms
6. Add the vegetable stock and sour cream and stir well. Reduce the heat and cook for another few minutes until the sauce is well combined and the mushrooms are cooked through. Season to taste with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Adding sour cream to the mushroom stroganoff
Finishing the mushroom stroganoff with seasoning
Serve the stroganoff with rice, or pasta such as tagliatelle if you prefer, and top with fresh parsley.
Mushroom stroganoff served with rice
Mushroom stroganoff served with fresh coriander

Autumn fruit crumble

Seasonal autumn fruits for a crumble
One of my first ever recipes on this blog was for a rhubarb crumble, spiced with star anise and vanilla and served with homemade custard. While rhubarb crumble is a celebration of spring, this recipe is the ultimate, turbo-charged celebration of autumn. I mentioned the combination in that first post about crumble: a mixture of apples, pears, plums and brambles. These fruits are the absolute joys of autumn produce and come in a wide variety throughout the season, so you can make this recipe slightly differently each time. Use blackberries instead of wild brambles (though picking wild brambles is another joy of autumn in itself), use eating apples instead of cooking apples, use whatever types of ripe plums you can find at the shops.

One ingredient I highly recommend making the effort to get hold of is a bag of damsons, which are tiny darkest-blue plums that have an incredible jammy texture when cooked. They’re also quite sour after cooking, which balances out all the sweetness in the rest of the crumble. They are difficult to find in supermarkets, but you should have better luck getting them at a greengrocer.

I wished I’d had ground almonds in the cupboard when I made the crumble topping, as I think almonds go so well with fruits like pears and plums. Add a few tablespoons to the mixture with the oats if you have some. This makes a very generous quantity of crumble topping, which freezes very well, so if you don’t end up using it all just pop the remainder in a labelled plastic bag and store in the freezer for another time.

One year ago:
Meatloaf
Stewed apples and plums
Ingredients for seasonal autumn fruit crumbe
Ingredients (makes one very large crumble to feed a crowd)
150g cold unsalted butter
250g plain flour
75g soft light brown sugar
50g oats
1.5kg autumn fruit (approximately – I used 3 cooking apples, 3 pears, 8 greengages and 3-4 handfuls each of damsons and brambles)
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Cut the butter into small cubes.
Chilled butter cut into small cubes
2. Add the butter to the plain flour and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Adding chilled butter to the plain flour
Rubbing the cold butter into the plain flour
3. Add the sugar and mix well.
Adding light brown sugar to the butter and flour mix
4. Add the oats, and ground almonds if using, and mix again. Set the crumble topping aside.
Adding oats to the crumble topping mix
5. Prepare the fruit by peeling, coring and chopping the apples and pears into chunks and removing the stones from the plums and halving. Arrange the fruit in a large, deep ovenproof dish.
Preparing the seasonal autumn fruit 1
6. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the fruit.
Sprinkling sugar over the seasonal autumn fruit
7. Pile the crumble topping over the fruit, pressing down gently with the back of a spoon.
Topping the autumn fruit crumble 1
Autumn fruit crumble ready to bake
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the juice from the fruit is bubbling up to the surface.
Close up of Seasonal autumn fruit crumble
Serve with lashings of warm vanilla custard, with the curtains drawn, the heating on and surrounded by flickering candles. Comfort food done right.
Seasonal autumn fruit crumble served with vanilla custard
Seasonal autumn fruit crumble

Pickled beetroot

Beetroots pickled in white wine vinegar, brown sugar and spices
I absolutely love sharp flavours. I love the sour tang of a fizzy sweet or a slice of lemon tart, my salad dressings are always strong with lemon juice or vinegar or both, and don’t even try giving me a fish supper without a pickled onion on the side. Pickles are the ideal antidote to a craving for something sharp and sour, and they come in any variety you could want: onions, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, walnuts, beetroots, the mysterious pickled egg (which I am yet to try…it seems a pickle too far to me but do correct me if I’m wrong). Pickling is also a fantastic way to preserve fresh vegetables either if you have a huge glut or if you’re a small household, like us.

I got a bag of home-grown fresh beetroot from my dad a couple of weeks ago, but with only two of us in the house, one of us feeling very under the weather and the weeks menu already planned and bought I wasn’t sure where to incorporate these beautiful little vegetables into our meals. Pickling it was. A jar of pickled vegetables will keep extremely well in the fridge for several months, if not longer. Just make sure that you sterilise the jar before filling – wash the jar in hot soapy water, fill to the brim with boiling water and then drain and leave upside down in a warm oven or on the counter top to air dry completely.

One year ago:
Pasta carbonara
Ingredients for pickled beetroot
Ingredients (makes one large jar)
500g beetroot
300ml white wine vinegar
200ml water
200g light brown sugar
2 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp course sea salt

Method
1. Give the beetroots a scrub under cold water if they still have earth on them, and trim the leaves and roots. Place in a large pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the beetroots, until a sharp knife can be easily inserted.
Washed and trimmed beetroots ready to be boiled
Boiled beetroots
2. Drain the beetroots and leave to cool.
Boiled and drained beetroots ready to be peeled and sliced
3. Peel the beetroots (this should be quite easy – I used kitchen roll to gently rub away the skin which meant my hands didn’t end up dyed completely red!) and cut into thick slices. Pack the beetroot slices into a large sterilised jar.
Thickly sliced beetroots
Thickly sliced beetroots
4. Place the vinegar, water, sugar and spices into a small pan. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Pickling liquor made of vinegar, sugar and aromatics
5. Put a teaspoon of sea salt on top of the sliced beetroot.
Adding a teaspoon of course sea salt to the sliced beetroot
6. Carefully pour the hot pickling liquor over the beetroot to fill the jar. You might not need all the liquid, but make sure to pack all the spices in. Leave to cool then seal with the lid and store in the fridge.
Pouring the hot pickling liquor over the sliced beetroot
Pouring the hot pickling liquor over the sliced beetroot
The beetroot doesn’t need a long maturing time, you can eat it a couple of days after pickling. It will keep well in the fridge for several months – label the jar so you remember when they were made.
Pickled beetroot
Serve the pickles with a spread of cheese and crackers, or use in sandwiches or a goat cheese salad…or just creep to the fridge and eat a slice straight out the jar if your cravings demand it.

Victoria plum and frangipane tart

Victoria plum and frangipane tart 2
As the Starks are so keen to tell us, Winter Is Coming. And they’re not wrong, but first we have my favourite season of the year to enjoy: Autumn. For the next few months plums in the UK are at their prime and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and flavours and colours. There are tiny, intensely sweet greengages or plump, juicy Black Amber and Denniston’s Superb varieties or dark indigo-blue damsons with their sharp, distinctive flavour. One of the most commonly available plums in our shops and supermarkets is the Victoria plum. Oval in shape and red or yellow in colour, Victoria plums are sweet and have a firm texture so are perfect both eaten straight out the fruit bowl or used for baking.

Almonds are a perfect pairing with the sweet and sharp flavour of plum, so a frangipane tart seemed like an ideal way to incorporate this seasonal fruit into some baking. Frangipane is a sweet filling used in cakes and pastries, which combines ground almonds with butter, sugar and eggs, and sometimes a little flour or flavourings like vanilla or alcoholic liquors. When cooked in a tart frangipane puffs up in a most satisfying way to create a light, moist filling.

I first made this tart a couple of weeks ago, and by happy coincidence the following weeks Great British Bake Off episode (only the best television show ever amirite?) was pastry themed, and what did they have to make in the first challenge but frangipane tarts. This inspired me to add a layer of jam between the pastry and frangipane filling when I made the tart again last weekend. The addition got a resounding thumbs up from the lucky taste-testers. Finally, since frangipane requires a fairly long bake, there’s no need to blind bake the pastry first. Of course, we don’t want any soggy bottoms here, but we also don’t want burnt pastry. Paul Hollywood would not be happy, and that thought is scary enough, let alone imagining Mary Berry’s disapproving face.

One year ago:
Dark chocolate mousse
Ingredients for plum and frangipane tart
Ingredients (makes a 28cm tart)
500g shortcrust pastry
12 small Victoria plums (about 400-450g)
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp plain flour
100g ground almonds
Optional: 2-3 tbsp plum jam
Crème fraiche to serve

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Roll the pastry on a floured surface until it is just bigger than the tart case and about half a centimeter thick.
Ready made shortcrust pastry
Rolling out shortcrust pastry
The first time I made this recipe (shown in the picture) I went very thin with the pastry, so it was almost see-through, but I think it’s better to keep it a little thicker so the tart has a good, solid base and you can appreciate the short, crumbly texture of the pastry.

2. Carefully place the sheet of pastry into the tart case – drape it over your rolling pin and use this to lift it up and over. Gently, but firmly press the pastry into the case. I tear a little pastry from a corner, roll it into a ball and use this to press the pastry into all the edges, so that my nails don’t puncture the delicate pastry.
Lining a tart case with shortcrust pastry
3. Trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife, prick the base with a fork and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Trimming the pastry case and pricking with a fork
4. Halve and stone the plums.
Halving and stoning the Victoria plums
5. Place the soft butter and caster sugar in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
Softened butter and caster sugar
Beating the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
6. Pour in the eggs a bit at a time, beating well in between each addition until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and flour and mix well again.
Adding the eggs, vanilla extract and flour to the butter and sugar
7. Fold the almonds through the mixture, ensuring they are evenly combined.
Ground almonds to be folded through the frangipane mixture
Frangipane mixture
8. If using the jam, then spread a thin layer on top of the chilled pastry. Next carefully spread out the frangipane mixture into an even layer.
Filling the pastry case with frangipane
Spreading the frangipane evenly on the pastry base
9. Arrange the plums on the top of the tart, cut side down, and push gently into the frangipane.
Arranging the plums in the pastry case 2
Arranging the plums in the pastry case 1
10. Place the tart on a large baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until the frangipane filling has risen, the surface is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when pushed into the frangipane. Leave the tart to cool on a wire rack.
Cooling the baked tart 2
Cooling the baked tart 1
Serve warm or cool with some thick, creamy crème fraiche. The tart will keep for a few days in an airtight container, though it is best eaten on the day it’s made so tuck in!
Victoria plum and frangipane tart
Victoria plum and frangipane tart served with creme fraiche 1

Pumpkin pie with maple cream

Slices of pumpkin pie served with maple cream
Pumpkin pie was a revelation to me. I had never tried it until a couple of years ago, when I decided to give it a go from scratch for a Thanksgiving meal. I loved it. The pastry is crisp, the filling is smooth and the sweet pumpkin is amazing paired with Christmas-y spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. You can make pumpkin pie with pumpkin from a can, but it’s actually so easy to prepare fresh pumpkin…using a microwave. I came across that tip in a BBC Good Food recipe and it works perfectly. If you don’t have a microwave you could probably steam the pumpkin until soft, but a microwave is quick and simple.

The pastry for this pie needs to be blind baked – baked without any filling – which keeps it crisp even once the wet filling has gone in. You can use proper ceramic baking beans for this, if you have them, but any sort of dried bean will do the job just as well, as will uncooked rice. Just don’t try to cook and eat the beans or rice after you’ve used them for blind baking!
Ingredients for pumpkin pie with maple cream
Ingredients
700g piece of pumpkin
Sweet short crust read-to-roll pastry
150ml double cream
150g light brown muscavado sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
Grating of whole nutmeg
2 eggs

150ml double cream
1 tbsp maple syrup

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/ Gas Mark 6. Cut the skin off the pumpkin using a very sharp knife and chop into large chunks. Place in a microwaveable bowl and cover with cling film. Microwave for about 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Drain away any water and leave aside to cool.
Chunks of fresh pumpkin to be cooked in a microwave
Cooked pumpkin chunks
2. Roll the pastry out so it’s a little bit bigger than your pie dish. Lift carefully, with the help of your rolling pin (/wine bottle), onto the pie dish. Gently coax the pastry into the dish, and press into all the edges. Leave some of the pastry overhanging the tin – you can cut this away to neaten up the pie after baking the case. Short crust pastry, and in particular sweet short pastry, can be tricky to work with as it breaks easily. First of all, make sure everything is cold – the pastry, your hands, even fling open the windows to chill the room down. Secondly, don’t panic if the pastry rips because it can easily be patched up with some excess pastry (as you can see in my pictures!). Once the filling is in no one will ever know…
Sweet shortcrust pastry for a pumpkin pie
Lining the pie dish with sweet short crust pastry
3. Line the pastry with foil, baking parchment or cling film and then fill with ceramic baking beans, dried beans or even rice.
Blind baking the sweet short crust pastry
Bake for 20 minutes and then remove the baking beans and bake for a further 10 minutes without anything on the pastry until it’s a nice golden brown colour. Now you can neaten up the edges of the pie with a sharp knife.
Cooked pastry case
Tidying up the cooked pastry case
4. Blend together the pumpkin, double cream, sugar, spices and eggs.
Pumpking pie filling ingredients
Pumpkin pie filling
5. Turn the oven down to 160C/140C fan/Gas Mark 3. Pour the filling mixture into the pastry case and bake for about an hour. The filling might puff up a little, but will fall back down when it cools.
Filling the pumpkin pie
Baked pumpkin pie
6. Whip the rest of the double cream with the maple syrup.
Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin pie is great both hot and cold. Serve with the maple cream, or some vanilla ice cream if you prefer while the pie is hot.
Pumpkin pie served with whipped maple cream

Winter spiced pumpkin soup and toasted pumpkin seeds

Lightly spiced pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds
I love Halloween. Nostalgic memories of getting dressed up and perfecting a doorstep-routine in order to go trick-or-treating and collect a haul of sweets. Ridiculously messy games like ducking for apples and treacle scones or doughnuts on string. Dark nights inside with blankets, candles lit and a scary movie (which I actually hate, but it always makes it better if there’s someone else who hates them more than you…naming no names ahem). And, of course, Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without pumpkin carving.

However, pumpkins aren’t just for carving. At the moment, during autumn, the squash family are in their prime and they have a delicious sweet flavour that works equally well in savoury dishes and puddings alike. I have a classic pumpkin pie recipe for you later in the week, but today’s post is all savoury with a lightly spiced pumpkin soup and some toasted pumpkin seeds. Even if you are carving your pumpkin, don’t throw away the seeds inside – frying these off with a bit of spice is super easy and they’re so tasty. But the flesh of the pumpkin is the real prize, so pick up an extra pumpkin while you’re getting some for carving, and try this gorgeous soup, flavoured with warming spices like chilli, paprika and nutmeg and made into a hearty meal with some red lentils. A perfect autumn lunch.
Ingredients for spiced pumpkin soup
Ingredients
Large pumpkin (about 3.5kg)
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
3 onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
100g lentils
1 tsp chilli flakes
3 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cinnamon
Grating of whole nutmeg
3 litres chicken stock
Salt and pepper

For the pumpkin seeds:
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Prepare the pumpkin. The easiest way to handle a large pumpkin is to cut it into manageable chunks using a large, very sharp knife. Cut one side away and scoop out the seeds inside with your hands – put these in a bowl of cold water for later. You can scrape away even more of the stringy innards that are stuck to the flesh using a spoon. Cut the rest of the pumpkin into big chunks, throwing away the stalk. Using a smaller, but equally sharp, knife cut away the tough skin and chop into small cubes.
Rinsing the pumpkin seeds
Chopped pumpkin for winter soup
2. Heat the oil and butter in a large pan. Once the butter starts to bubble, throw in the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes.
Browning onions for pumpkin soup
3. Toss the pumpkin pieces in the onion and continue to cook for about five minutes until the pumpkin begins to brown and soften. Tip in the lentils, chilli flakes, paprika, cinnamon and about 1/3 of a whole nutmeg grated. Mix well and continue to fry for a couple of minutes.
Adding the pumpkin, spices and lentils
4. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Season, pop a lid on the pan and lower the heat a bit so that the soup is just simmering. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin and lentils are tender.
Adding the stock to the soup
5. Leave the soup to cool and then blend until smooth – you can do this in a counter-top blender, but a hand blender is even quicker and easier. Of course, you can just use a masher if you prefer a chunkier texture.
Spiced pumpkin soup to be blended
Pumpkin soup blitzed with a hand blender
6. After immersing the pumpkin seeds in cold water, the gunk around the seeds should sink to the bottom and come away easily. Lay the seeds out on paper towels to dry while you heat a frying pan. Dry fry the pumpkin seeds, moving them around in the pan until they start to brown. Sprinkle over the ground cumin and coriander and some salt and pepper and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Keep an eye on the seeds as they can burn quickly. Turn the heat off and set aside to cool.
Toasting the pumpkin seeds
Dry frying the pumpkin seeds with spices
To serve, heat the soup and sprinkle over a few pumpkin seeds for extra texture. Some warmed crusty bread with butter, or even garlic bread, is a perfect accompaniment. The soup will keep in the fridge for a week, and of course can be frozen for longer. The seeds should store well in an airtight container and are great for snacking on if you’re in need of a nibble.

Easy apple tarts

Quick apple tart served with vanilla ice cream
This is a great little recipe if you need a dessert in a hurry. It’s basically a cheats apple tart, and isn’t much more than an assembly job, especially if you use ready-made puff pastry. It’s a great way to use up eating apples, of which there are many different British varieties in season at the moment. Don’t use cooking apples as they will become mush during the baking, but any eating apple will do – ours actually came from an overhanging tree in the Mitchell’s back garden (with neighbour permission of course!). Lemon juice stops the apple slices from browning and the brown sugar brings the sweetness back up and adds a caramelised toffee flavour. Then it’s just into the oven for a quick bake and a little glaze of jam at the end. Done and dusted in half an hour.

A special mention has to go to Natasha and Josh for their gift to me of a beautiful jar of homemade plum jam – with plums from the garden and all. The perfect topping for these fruity little tarts.
Ingredients for quick apple tarts
Ingredients (makes 6-8 small tarts)
400g puff pastry (or follow the quantities and method here)
4-5 eating apples
Half a lemon
2 tsp soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp plum or apricot jam

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Roll your pastry out to about half a centimetre thick. Using either a pastry cutter or a small bowl and a knife, cut out rounds of pastry and lay onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. You want the size of the pastry circles to be a little bigger than the height of the apples. Pop into the fridge while you prepare the apples.
Rolling the homemade puff pastry
Cutting rounds of puff pastry
2. Cut the apples into thin slices and toss in the brown sugar and the juice of half a lemon.
Thinly sliced apple sprinkled with lemon juice and soft brown sugar
3. Arrange the apple slices on top of the pastry circles, overlapping in the middle. Brush a little egg around the edges of the pastry and bake for 8-10 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and the apple has started to caramelise.
Arranging the apple slices on the puff pastry
Baked apple tarts before glazing
4. While the pastries bake, heat the jam gently. Use a pastry brush to dab the melted jam over the top of the baked tarts.
Homemade plum jam
Heating the plum jam for glazing the tarts
Quick apple tarts
Serve warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream, or leave to cool and have with a steaming hot mug of tea.
Quick apple tart served with vanilla ice cream