As the season changes to autumn, casseroles, stews, pasta dishes and homemade cakes and breads suddenly seem very appealing! Autumn dishes often reflect the colours of the season, the golden browns, deep yellows and vibrant reds of corn, pumpkins, squash and tomatoes. Maybe this is how nature prepares us for the winter months ahead. E.L.
CORN BREAD (Serves 4 - 6)
Perfect to serve with thick stews and soups or on bonfire night with sausages and beans. Cornmeal is the same as maizemeal and is available from health food shops and some supermarkets.
1 tblsp butter, for greasing
100g / 4oz plain flour
100g / 4oz corn meal (maizemeal)
1 tblsp caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
150ml / ¼ pint milk or buttermilk
75g / 3oz butter, melted
Heat the oven to 200°C / Gas 6. Generously grease a 23cm / 9" square tin or 12 individual patty tins with butter.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat the egg, milk and melted butter together and pour into the centre of the dry ingredients. Whisk thoroughly until a smooth batter is formed, adding a little more milk if necessary. The batter should look like a soft cake batter, not a pancake batter.
Pour into the prepared tin/s and cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until well risen, golden brown and firm to the touch. Turn the bread out onto a cooling rack. Best eaten warm.
DEEP FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (Serves 4)
With the summer such as it has been, there may be plenty of green - unripe - tomatoes in the garden. Green tomatoes have a tart, brisk flavor and apple-like crunch that can be used in a number of ways. Of course they make delicious chutney but you can also mix them (approximately 50:50) with sweet eating apples and use in pies and crumbles. They are especially good sliced and fried in a crisp cornmeal coating and served with a rich tomato sauce, chilli jam, or simply grilled bacon and tomato ketchup. If you can't get hold of green tomatoes, use firm red tomatoes. Sprinkle the slices with a pinch of salt and a squirt of lemon juice to get the green tomato experience.
4 large green or firm red tomatoes, sliced medium thick
lemon juice, if needed (see above)
1 large or 2 small eggs, beaten
2-3 tblsps milk
oil for frying
For the cornmeal coating:
50g / 2oz plain flour
50g / 2oz cornmeal (maizemeal)
½ tsp salt
Mix together the cornmeal coating ingredients and spread on a large shallow dish.
Beat the egg and milk together with a pinch of salt. Then, working in batches (about 5 slices) dip each tomato slice into the coating mix, followed by the egg mixture and then, once again, the coating mixture. Place the prepared slices on a plate. Heat a little oil in a heavy frying pan, then carefully cook the first batch for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a warmed plate while you continue to coat and cook the remaining slices. Serve immediately.
Note: This cornmeal coating works well as a dredge for chicken pieces or fried fish. It is useful to make up a batch and store in a cool, dry place.
SWEETCORN FRITTERS (Serves 4)
These fritters make a quick and easy lunch or supper. Serve with a fresh green salad, or crisp slices of bacon and cherry tomato and balsamic ragù for something more substantial. They are also a traditional and delicious accompaniment to fried chicken.
2 fresh corn cobs
or 1 x 375g can sweet corn, drained
150g / 5oz plain four
5ml / 1 tsp baking powder
150ml / ¼ pint milk
5ml / 1 tsp sugar
salt and black pepper
oil for frying
If using fresh corn, remove all the husks from the corn and using a sharp knife, carefully slice the kernels from each cob. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the kernels for 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Sift together the flour and baking powder. Beat the eggs into the milk, then whisk into the flour until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper.
Put the sweet corn in a bowl and add just enough batter to cover them. The batter is there to hold the corn together. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. When it is hot enough that a drop of batter sizzles readily, drop four separate tablespoons of the mixture in the pan. Fry until golden, turning once. Transfer the fritters to a warm plate then repeat until all the mixture is used up.
CHERRY TOMATO RAGÙ (Serves 4)
A good basic tomato ragù can be used as the basis for any number of dishes. If you have a glut of tomatoes, make up this sauce and freeze in batches. It's great on its own, with fish or meatballs, or as the basis for bolognaise, lasagne, pasta sauces or soups. Once you have the basic tomato ragù you can jazz it up with chilli flakes for Arrabiatta sauce then add black olives, capers and anchovy (or a dash of fish sauce) to make Puttanesca. I often add a dash of Thai fish sauce to tomato dishes which surprisingly does not add a fishy flavour - the fish sauce gives 'umami', a Japanese word meaning 'deliciousness' - and really intensifies the 'tomatoey-ness' of the tomatoes!
3 tblsps olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
450g / 1lb cherry tomatoes
1 tblsp tomato purée
1 tsp Thai fish sauce (optional)
salt and black pepper
Using a potato peeler, pare off a strip of orange peel, then juice the orange. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, orange juice and strip of zest then heat gently until the tomatoes burst and release their juice. Add the fish sauce (if using) then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding pepper and salt if needed. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until you have a rich thick sauce.