This is such a great time of year. The weather is beautiful and crisp, the leaves are gorgeous and the conkers are massive. I know this as I recently spent time in the forest hunting for them with the kids.
The puppy was on duty to help search for them (although trying to catch a labrador before he attempts to eat his quarry is difficult).
I don’t know about you, but my family is craving seasonal and heart-warmingly colourful food that tantalises the taste buds. After all, we’ll soon be on a staple diet of hot broth, steak pie and mince and tatties.
My pumpkins and beetroot, courtesy of our supplier, Robin Gray, on the Isle of Arran, are going strong, and we’re still using them in the restaurant.
The former are a Japanese variety, which are grown on the sandy banks of Whiting Bay. They make the most incredible pumpkin purée – like silk laced with double cream.
My first recipe features broad beans, although we’re starting to phase them out in the restaurant this week. We had prepared and frozen the last crop, but we’re already running low. Hopefully you’ll be able to find some in your freezer.
This week’s menu is relatively quick to prepare. When I hear folks saying they have no time to cook when they get home from work, I ask them to make this week’s main – pasta carbonara – and time themselves.
Honestly, from start to finish, including chopping the bacon, and tipping the mix into a hot serving bowl, as well as pouring a cheeky wee glass of wine, it should take a maximum of 15 minutes.
WARM BROAD BEAN AND HAM HOCK SALAD
This dish is my take on ham and lentil soup. I love it served slightly warm, so if you don’t want to ice the peas and beans then just keep them hot and toss into the bowl at the last minute.
1 Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the broad beans and cook for two minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of iced water to refresh.
2 Re-boil the water, add the peas and cook for one minute, then drain well and refresh in another bowl of iced water.
3 Drain the peas and beans, pat dry with kitchen paper then place them in a large bowl and stir in the oil and vinegar.
4 Just before serving, stir the chilli, spring onions, parsley, mint and ham hock into the peas and beans (you could also add optional pea shoots). Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, serve immediately.
This is one of those dishes that I wouldn’t order in an unfamiliar restaurant, as I don’t like it when it comes in a bland creamy sauce. For a good result, I always recommend you buy quality garlic and bacon, and use two varieties of cheese.
1 Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Remove the rind, then chop the bacon/pancetta. Finely grate both cheeses and mix them together. Beat the yolks in a medium bowl, season with a little freshly ground black pepper and set everything aside.
2 Add 1 tsp salt to the boiling water, add the pasta and when the water comes back to the boil, cook at a constant simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until al dente (just cooked).
3 Bash the garlic cloves with the blade of a knife, just to bruise them. While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the pancetta with the garlic cloves. Drop the butter into a large wide frying pan or wok and, as soon as it’s melted, tip in the pancetta and garlic. Leave these to cook on a medium heat for about five minutes, stirring often, until the pancetta is golden and crisp. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard.
4 Keep the heat under the pancetta on low. When the pasta is ready, lift it from the water with a pasta fork or tongs and put it in the frying pan with the bacon/pancetta. Don’t worry if a little water drops in the pan, and don’t throw the pasta water away yet.
5 Mix most of the cheese in with the eggs, keeping a small handful back for sprinkling over later. Take the pan of spaghetti and bacon/pancetta off the heat. Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using the tongs or a long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture, which thickens but doesn’t scramble, and everything is coated. Add extra pasta cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it). You don’t want it wet, just moist. Season with a little salt, if needed.
6 Serve immediately.
CHOCOLATE GINGER ORANGE POTS
Instead of doing toffee apples, which can create a sticky mess, make these delicious treats in advance of Bonfire Night. Pop them in the fridge and all you’ll need on the night is a teaspoon. I am all for everything in moderation, so I don’t mind the kids getting a taste of this lovely dark chocolate (a shame, as I thought my two would leave my stash of 70 per cent cocoa stuff alone). If you’re not mad about ginger, just leave it out.
MAKES EIGHT TO TEN
1 Preheat the oven to 140C/Gas 1.
2 Warm the cream and vanilla on a low heat on the stove, then turn off.
3 Meanwhile melt the chocolate in the milk. You can do this in a bowl over a pan of hot water on the hob, or microwave (remember to stir every 30 seconds).
4 Whisk egg yolks, zest, icing sugar and ground ginger together until light and fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla-infused cream, and whisk together until well combined.
5 Place the chopped ginger and a little ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger) into the bottom of the ramekins. Top with the chocolate mixture. Place the ramekins into a deep roasting tin and pour in enough hot water to come up to at least two-thirds of the way up the side of the pots. Bake for 25 minutes, or until slightly puffed-up and spongy to the touch. The surface should form a little crust.
6 Remove the pots from the oven, allow to cool for a few moments and lift from the water on to a clean tray. Chill in the fridge for at least six hours before serving. Serve straight from the fridge.
200g broad beans, podded
200g fresh peas, podded
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 mild red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 spring onion trimmed and finely sliced
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
100g pulled ham hock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g Ayrshire streaky bacon or pancetta
60g pecorino cheese
3 large eggs, yolk only
350g linguine or spaghetti, good quality dried is best
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
50g unsalted butter
Maldon sea salt and freshly grated black pepper
600ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla seed
500g 70 per cent cocoa chocolate
8 egg yolks
zest of 1 orange
4 heaped tbsps icing sugar
4 tsps ground ginger
120g stem ginger chopped into small pieces, or a knob of grated fresh ginger