Autumn Fruits

"Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness..." - John Keats

There are two types of people at this time of year, those who are mourning the end of summer and those who are giddy with excitement at the autumnal chill in the air. I am definitely one of the latter. I love bright blue skies and the sun warming my bones but my ideal time is when I can wear shades and a scarf and the leaves start turning from green to a spectrum of oranges and reds. I love slippers and layers and blankets, stews and soups and roast dinners.

I spent Sunday morning embracing the change of the seasons, turning a punnet of plums and some leftover apples into compote and crumble. As always I looked up a few recipes and then made up my own, chopping the fruit and adding a splash of water, a couple of spoonfuls of light muscovado sugar, a dash of vanilla essence and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. The ingredients simmered for twenty minutes and filled the kitchen with the sweet smell of spices while I read passages from Nigel Slater cookbooks. The perfect way to spend a Sunday.

Podcast - Ctrl, Alt, Delete

I don't know where I've been hiding but I've just discovered Emma Gannon's fabulous Ctrl, Alt, Delete podcast. On this evening's commute, I listened to #70, an interview with Melissa Hemsley, which was all about wellbeing, the joy of nutritional food and the benefits of meditation. An absolute treat. I'm excited to work my way through the other 90 episodes.

An Easy Veggie Curry

This recipe is for when you really can't be bothered to cook but want something cosy and wholesome. Everything goes in one saucepan and simmers away while you put your feet up. It makes enough for 3 - 4 meals and tastes even better the day after you cook it.

1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1 teaspoon of ground tumeric
1 medium aubergine, chopped into cubes
A couple of handfuls of chopped broccoli and cauliflower or any veggies you fancy (if I'm feeling really lazy I buy the pre-chopped packs)
1 tin of chickpeas
1 tin of coconut milk
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until the onion softens. Add the spices and stir for about 30 seconds. Add all of the other ingredients to the saucepan and stir well. Grind in a little salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for 40 minutes. Serve with either brown or white rice, whichever you prefer. Curl up and enjoy!

The Herbal World Of Jekka McVicar

I first became aware of Jekka McVicar while I was working at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. For many years, while I looked after Alan Titchmarsh, he would stop to chat to her and we would admire her stand or garden. Jekka started by growing herbs for friends and soon they became so sought after that she found herself growing more and more. To the point where her family had to move to a house with some land so that the business could flourish. How wonderful to make a living from growing something that brings such happiness. Jekka has grown herbs for many top chefs, adding that little something extra but essential to finish their creations. She now creates herb gardens for school children and hospices amongst others and she also teaches to make sure that her immense knowledge is shared.

I listened to this interview while walking along the river in the sunshine. It's a lovely escapist listen.

The Herbal World of Jekka McVicar, Food Programme - BBC Radio 4

Culinary herb pioneer Jekka McVicar shares her life through food with Sheila Dillon.

Nutrition - Pick Up Limes

As a vegetarian I'm always on the lookout for fresh ideas for what to cook and snack on. As time goes by, I am more and more interested in eating whole foods that really nourish my body but I also believe that a little something sweet isn't the worst thing in the world. I am also leaning more and more towards a vegan way of eating which is why I really like the YouTube channel Pick Up Limes. The creator, Sadia, has such a nice easy style which is warm and light and not at all preachy. Her ideas videos make me feel really excited about food that is kind to my body and really tasty at the same time. A real treat.

Earl Grey Prune, Spelt & Oat Scones

The recipe for these scones is from the beautiful Violet Bakery Cookbook. A friend of mine suggested making these when I was really busy at work last year. She makes them in batches and then freezes them, taking one out of the freezer each morning to cook and enjoy with a coffee. The process of making them is very therapeutic and the butter, natural yogurt and oats in them give a lovely indulgent taste. A bit like sweet porridge in a scone.

There is something so comforting about eating home-baked treats. It's nice knowing what's in what you're eating (!) and along with that there's the love and care you've taken making something to treat yourself. When I'm super-busy with work, making a little time to take care of myself is super important and this recipe is just the thing to make me feel I'm doing that.

Leek & Chickpea Soup

After all the sweet indulgence of Christmas I start to crave vegetables and something *clean* to eat. Today I rustled up some leek and chickpea soup. I tend to make recipes up as I go along so you may want to add more or less seasoning or vary the amount of vegetables.

Olive oil to sauté the vegetables
1/2 large white onion
1 large leek
1 carrot
2 large cloves of garlic
750ml water
1/2 vegetable stock cube
1 tin chickpeas
A good grind of salt & pepper
1 bay leaf

Saute the finely chopped onion, carrot and leek in a glug of olive oil for about five minutes or until they start to soften. Add the thinly sliced garlic, stir in and continue to sauté for about a minute. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add to the mix. Add 750ml water and half a vegetable stock cube. (You can use a whole stock cube for a stronger taste but I like to really enjoy the taste of the vegetables.) Add salt and pepper to taste and rest a bay leaf on top of the soup.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 30 minutes or longer if you can. Serve with humous on rice cakes or a big chunk of bread and butter. Enjoy : )