I’m lucky enough to live something where Autumn is a season of joy. Mostly places I’ve lived it’s been far too wet to really enjoy, but currently I live somewhere far enough east that we don’t get the full west coast Atlantic deluges I grew up with and far enough west that we’re sheltered from the worst of the North Sea winds, so the leaves stay on the trees long enough to turn beautiful colours. Long walks kicking or crunching through drifts of Autumn leaves is definitely a thing here.
The other great joy of October is that it’s pie season. We’re at the tail end of harvest season here so – combined with the fact that this area still has a lot of big apple trees – the month starts just as the glut of apples kick in. I didn’t have as many apples as I sometimes end up with, social distancing means my knitting group meets virtually rather than in person, so there were no big bags of crab apple sitting around looking forlorn and tempting me to make jelly. So instead I first made apple sauce and then mini apple pies. One of the joys of moving into my own place was having all my little pastry cutters to hand, so my latest batch involved cute little stars on top, which was it’s own small joy.
I couldn’t tell you when I last made my own sausage rolls, since my mum mastered the art, they’ve become part of her repertoire of vegetarian-friendly meals that she can make when I visit and rely on my dad happily eating too. However, I had nice veggie sausages lurking in the freezer and I wanted to do something different with them, so sausage rolls it was, I even found puff pastry on special offer. (Though I was reminded why I normally just pay the extra for JusRoll puff pastry, it’s just puffier and all round better.) In my old place pies were one of the few baked goods that came out reliably well in the oven there, so I made them a lot, but as after some initial trial and error my current oven is far more widely reliable so I’ve made a wider variety of baked goods and pies have somewhat fallen by the way side. So it’s been a delight to rediscover the joys of home-made pies this season. I even bought some pears the other day, half hoping they’d remain brick-like and I could poach them and make pie. And that’s before we even get to pastries, I haven’t made Lorraine Pascale’s cheats Danish pastries in years but they remain a delightful Sunday brunch – top tip, do the first part of the prep in your pyjamas, stick them in the fridge and then they’ll be chilled and ready to go by the time you’re out of shower – just a shame I can’t actually have friends round to share the joy!
This year I’ve also been enjoying experimenting with savoury flans. I made a sausage and mushroom flan when my parents were visiting, and then made mini marscapone, pepper and mushroom flans for me. Individual pies are just so much easier when you’re cooking for one.
We’re also well and truly into soup season, and I’ve been taking advantage of the glut of leeks that my parents had this year. They normally plant their leeks in batches but due to supply issues they could only get them all in one batch and they needed to get them straight into the ground, so they’ve all come through at once. No complaints from me though, all the home-grown leeks for me! Generally I consider a leek and a potato to be the natural base for any soup, but I’ve had enough leeks to had to make specifically ‘leek and…’ soups, though leek and cauliflower soup is definitely a favourite.
The other delight of last month has been orecchiette. I had a recipe years ago that I was desperate to try but could I get hold of orecchiette? I could not. Then to my delight I came across it randomly – in the middle of Lidl – and snaffled it immediately. Of course, I’ve lost the recipe in the intervening time, haven’t I? So instead I’ve been having fun experimenting with multiple different orecchiette recipes from the Guardian website, orecchiette with chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce is both super tasty and really very different – I haven’t decided if I’d make it again but it was definitely well worth trying. Another new discovery with orecchiette is that it has a longer cooking time than most other pastas I’ve used so I’ve been accidentally developing a liking for my pasta actually al dente! I’m still not convinced by the instruction, to making the cooking water ‘salty like the sea’ but I do now have some decent quality sea salt to cook with.