Nigel Slater's five mellow recipes for autumn (2024)

As the year winds down, I want to spend more time in the kitchen than ever, taking things slowly, cooking as a hobby as much as simply getting something delicious on the table. It is now that the casseroles come out for a bit of pot-roasting, the dough hook gets attached to the food mixer and the kitchen is full of the sweet, mellow scents of the season.

Chilled almond and caramelised garlic soup

The mellow sweetness of the roasted garlic works nicely here with the subtle notes of the almond soup. This is the sort of recipe – a chilled soup – I would have hated a few years ago, yet now would be happy to eat every day. I feel the need to emphasise the importance of the soup being properly chilled. Lukewarm soup is a friend to no one.

Serves 4
garlic 1 head
skinned almonds 200g
olive oil 200ml
chilled water 150g
ice cubes 10
sherry vinegar 1 tbsp
black grapes 8

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place the head of garlic in a small baking tin and roast for 40 minutes till the skins are pale gold and the inside is soft and sweet. Peel the skin from the garlic (you can squeeze the cloves out easily) and put the cloves in a small dish and set aside.

Put the skinned almonds in a blender with the olive oil, water, 4 of the garlic cloves and the ice cubes and process to a smooth puree. Stir in the sherry vinegar and correct the seasoning with a little salt. Cut each grape in half and remove any seeds. Pour the soup into 4 bowls and float the grapes and remaining roasted garlic on top.

Pot roast guinea fowl with pears and walnuts

Nigel Slater's five mellow recipes for autumn (1)

Browning the guinea fowl is essential. The juices will be sweeter and the dish more interesting. Serve the meat, cut into large pieces, with spoons for the copious and delicious juices.

Serves 2 generously
guinea fowl 1
olive oil 2tbsp
pears 2
swede 1, medium-sized
thyme 6 sprigs
apple juice 600ml, unfiltered
walnuts 60g

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 5 . Season the guinea fowl with salt then lightly brown on all sides in the oil over a medium heat.

Transfer to a casserole dish in which it will fit snugly with room for the pears and swede around it. Halve the pears and tuck them around the bird. Peel the swede, then cut into large cubes, about 2cm square, then add to the pot. Pour in the apple juice and bring to the boil. As soon as the juice has boiled, turn off the heat, cover with a lid, and place in the preheated oven.

Roast the guinea fowl for 45 minutes till the meat is tender and can be easily pulled away from the bone. In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the walnuts, adding them to the pot-roast half way through through cooking.

When the guinea fowl is tender, remove from the oven and pull off the legs and wings and slice the breast thickly. Divide between two wide, shallow bowls or deep plates, spoon over the pears and swedes, then ladle over the juices. Serve with bread and a spoon.

Pork and plum roll

Nigel Slater's five mellow recipes for autumn (2)

As much as we are encouraged to use the right tool for the right job, I often end up using simply what I happen to have around the house. In the case of this recipe, a cutlet bat is needed, and yet I manage perfectly well using a rolling pin for flattening minute steaks, escalopes and the like.

Serves 4
onion 1, medium
olive oil 3 tbsp
sausagemeat 300g
chestnuts 100g, vacuum packed, peeled
plums 8 small
pork steaks 4, 150g each

Peel and finely chop the onion. Warm the olive in a saucepan, add the chopped onion and leave to soften for 10-12 minutes, with the occasional stir, over a moderate heat. When the onion is soft and translucent, add the sausage meat, crumbled into small pieces and continue cooking for 6-7 minutes till the meat is lightly browned. Roughly chop the chestnuts and add to the mixture. Halve, stone and chop 4 of the plums, then stir them into the onion and sausage mixture. Season with salt and a little black pepper and set aside. Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Place a large piece of clingfilm on a wooden chopping board then place a pork steak on it. Fold the clingfilm over the pork then bat it out to roughly 16cm µ 20cm with a cutlet bat. With the long side facing you, put one fifth of the stuffing on the left hand edge of the meat then roll up and secure with a skewer or co*cktail sticks. Brush with a little oil. Repeat with the remaining three, placing them in a small roasting tin as you go. Scatter over the remaining stuffing. Tuck the whole plums around the parcels of meat and roast for 40 minutes till sizzling.

Hazelnut and blackberry cheesecake

Nigel Slater's five mellow recipes for autumn (3)

The cheesecakes I like best are those with an element of tartness to balance the sweet creaminess of the curd. Blackberries, either folded through the mixture or (better, I think) added after baking, are a good example. That slight sharpness is welcome among the soft crumbs and creamy filling.

Serves 8-10
For the base
hazelnuts 125g, skinned
shortbread or digestive biscuits 200g
butter 60g

For the filling
caster sugar 75g
hazelnuts 75g, skinned, chopped into gravel-size pieces
full fat cream cheese 500g
golden caster sugar 150g
eggs 3, plus 1 extra egg yolk
vanilla extract 1 tsp
double cream 200g

To finish
blackberries 300g

You will need a round cake tin with a removable base or a spring-form cake tin measuring 20cm in diameter and about 7.5cm high.

Cut a disc of baking parchment to fit in the bottom of the tin – it will stop the base sticking.

In a dry, shallow pan, toast the hazelnut till the skins are dark and flaky, then tip them onto a tea towel or kitchen paper. Rub the hazelnuts in the towel until most of the skins have flaked off. (If you are using skinned hazelnuts omit this step.) Return the nuts to the pan and toast for 2 or 3 minutes till they darken a little and smell warm and nutty. Tip them into the bowl of a food processor.

Put the biscuits in with the nuts then process briefly to coarse crumbs. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Tip the crumbs into the butter and combine. Remove from the heat and tip three quarters of the crumbs into the lined cake tin and press gently with a spoon or the back of your hand until they are level. Avoid the temptation to compact the crumbs too firmly. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Set the oven at 120C/gas mark ½. To make the filling, scatter the sugar over the surface of a shallow pan and leave to melt over a moderate heat. Do not stir. When melted, add the hazelnuts and cook for a minute or two, till the sugar is golden brown. Don’t stir, but if the mixture is browning unevenly, then turn the pan gently to move the molten sugar around. Tip onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and leave to set.

Blitz the praline to coarse (grit-sized) crumbs in the food processor. Put the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a food mixer and beat for one minute till smooth. Add the eggs and the extra egg yolk, lightly beaten, one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl regularly with a rubber spatula.

Wrap a couple of layers of tin foil around the base and sides of the cake tin, making certain there are no gaps. I cannot tell you how important this is.

Add the vanilla extract to the cheesecake filling. In another bowl, lightly whip the cream, stopping as soon as it starts to feel heavy on the whisk. It should almost be able to hold its shape. Stop the food mixer and stir the cream into the cheesecake filling. Scrape the mixture into the cake tin then scatter the praline over the surface. Gently fold the praline into the cheesecake mix. Put the wrapped tin into a roasting tin, then pour in enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the cake tin. Bake for 1.5hrs to 1hr 40 mins, until the cake is lightly firm around the edge, but the centre is still wobbly. Turn off the heat but leave the cake in the oven until it’s cool.

Remove the cake from the roasting tin, but leave it in its cake tin, and refrigerate overnight. I urge you not to skip this step.

The next day, remove the cake from its tin and cover the top with the blackberries and remaining crumbs.

Sweet fig and dark chocolate loaf

Nigel Slater's five mellow recipes for autumn (4)

I have always liked the idea of a stollen, where fruit and marzipan is rolled up in a sweetened bread dough. Why something so delicious should be reserved for Christmas has always puzzled me. This loaf has a foot in the stollen camp, its exterior being an enriched bread dough. Its filling, lightly spiced with cardamom, is fruit, nuts and chocolate rather than marzipan.

Serves 8
For the dough
butter 50g
plain flour 250g
easy bake yeast 7g
milk 100ml, warmed
sugar 25g
salt ½ tsp
egg 1 large, lightly beaten

For the filling
green cardamoms 6
figs 3, roughly chopped
dark chocolate 100g, chopped into small pieces
walnut halves 50g
golden sultanas 40g
ground cinnamon half tsp

For the glaze
butter 50g
icing sugar

Melt the butter in a small pan, then leave to cool down. Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast then stir in the milk, sugar, salt, cooled butter and the lightly beaten egg. Mix thoroughly – the dough will be soft and rather sticky. Turn out on to a lightly floured board. As you knead, the dough will become less sticky, more like a bread dough. When it is soft, elastic and no longer sticking to the board, transfer to a floured bowl. Set aside in a warm place, covered with a clean tea towel, for a good hour.

For the filling, break the cardamom pods and remove their black seeds. Crush the seeds to a coarse powder using a pestle and mortar or a spice mill. Mix the figs, chocolate, walnut halves, sultanas, cinnamon together.

Dust the work surface with flour and tip your risen dough on to it. Roll out into a rectangle about 24cm µ 20cm. Place the longest side towards you and spread the fig filling over the dough, then roll up, swiss-roll style, to form a plump loaf shape. Lift onto a floured baking sheet, cover with a tea towel and return to a warm place to prove for a further hour. Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Place the loaf in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes until pale gold. Melt the butter for the glaze and brush over the loaf. Cool on a wire rack, then dust generously with icing sugar.

  • Nigel Slater’s new book, A Year of Good Eating, is out now (HarperCollins, £28). Order now for £18 (including a signed recipe card) from the Guardian Bookshop or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.
Nigel Slater's five mellow recipes for autumn (2024)
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