I never get colds and am so under the weather. A couple of  trips out in the torrential rain to get Dan have done me in. Auggie thought I had to be kidding, couldn’t we just leave him there? Only Lee was safe playing with his butterfly, eating his book, safe in his mobile hothouse. Unlike the others he loves being under that plastic pram cover. Auggie tries to get in beside him and is given short shift by Lee. Nice try kid, I’d be in there myself if I could….

The upshot is that our oven is now on every afternoon warming the kitchen and cooking dinner.We’ve been too busy drying off to faff around chopping veg for soups so I’ve been roasting up whatever’s around whole or halved. Yesterday it was leeks, butternuts and carrots in olive oil with rosemary. I then browned a handful of pancetta in the soup pot, adding hot stock, and a handful of red lentils then roughly chopped up the roasted veggies and throw them in. You let things simmer for about 15 minutes then blend to the texture you like and season to taste. That was dinner sorted while everyone dried off and had hot chocolate.

Fruit is another thing that’s magic done in the oven and at this time of the year you get a lovely mix of end of summer and  start of autumn varieties. At the moment plums don’t have the sugar of the high summer varieties but they work beautifully baked with pears. I also love some dried figs in there too but fresh are obviously wonderful but they can be trickier and pricier to track down.
A few weeks ago there were still peaches and nectarines around and and they work really well in this recipe. You can do this kind of dish in under an hour but like most roasting, it tastes better if you give it plenty of time. An hour and a half plus will give you super-sticky, almost chewy fruit gently spiced that’s aching for a dollop of cream.ice-cream or greek yogurt and maybe a handful of crumbled biscuits. We had some with a cheese cake last night and it was as good as it sounds.

Slow baked spiced fruit

You’ll need:

3 large red firm plums (or 5/6 small ones)

6 dried figs

4 medium firm pears

1/2 glass red wine

3 heaped tablespoons light muscovado sugar

The spices

1 cinnamon quill

4 pieces mace

7-8 peppercorns

1/4 teaspoon  ground ginger

4 star anise

Small pinch ground cloves

Peel, core and quarter the pears.  Halve  the plums removing the stones. Place in an ovenproof dish along with figs and cinnamon quill. Mix the rest of the spices with the wine and sugar then pour over the fruit. Cover the dish with tinfoil and  bake for 30 minutes at Gas mark 5.Remove the foil and gently turn the fruit over to make sure all sides get coated in wine then return to the oven and bake for a further hour or so until the liquid has reduced to a sticky caramel.  Eat warm or at room temperature.


Blackberry Pancakes

Pancakes. Once you get the hang of them you can whip up a batch in about 5 minutes, less if you have a well trained child on the case. Auggie, my crazy 3 year old obedient in hardly any other situation, knows that the egg white must be whipped up to stiff peaks “like clouds” before I’ll add them, that all the blueberries in the freezer will not be going into 1 batch of pancakes (I buy when they’re cheap, freeze, then have a stash right through the winter months).

In the kitchen I rule – shame about everywhere else! He’s even getting the hang of folding – we’ve tried his way and the more leaden result was enough to convince him. Arts and crafts sessions often lead to meltdowns (mine not theirs) but in our house baking in is the way to get everyone on the same page. If you’ve got a kid (or 2) you’ll know this is no mean feat.

Anyways, back to breakfast. We make pancakes almost every weekend and I even made some last Thursday morning before school – pregnancy has me up at the most ungodly hours and instead of cruising websites I can’t afford I decided to make breakfast.

The basic recipe is simple – flour, baking powder, egg and milk but rather than just throwing them all in together a few tricks will give you results that beat most of what you’ll get served out and about (and charged a tenner for).
First of all, I am a firm believer in separating the egg despite what lots of recipes say. It really does make for a lighter result. I beat the white first til I get the “clouds” then separately beat the yolk with the milk, adding in the flour and baking powder. A pinch of salt is pretty essential and I’m recently converted to the addition of some cane sugar. These bring up the flavours and go in with the flour. Most recipes recommend you sieve the flour, salt and baking powder before you start and yeah, it certainly doesn’t hurt (adds more air which is always good) but if I’m in a hurry I don’t and things still work out fine. If I need to buy time with the kids while I wake myself up with coffee, clear space in the kitchen or whatever, I get Auggie on the case but to be honest, kids don’t really sieve so well so you kind of need to keep an eye on things or the whole kitchen gets a not so  light dusting…

When everything is fully mixed together, I fold in the egg white along with a large handful of berries – blueberries are the default, raspberries are gorgeous too and this week I used some of the blackberry booty we picked last weekend. These were amazing and just to take things up a notch I did some caramelized panfried apples aswell. A most autumnal breakfast if ever there was one….

Blackberry pancakes topped with caramelized apples

You’ll need:

150g or 1 cup of plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

A generous pinch fine salt

1 tablespoon cane sugar

1 egg

200ml milk

2 tablespoons of melted butter

A large handful berries (roughly a punnet) – I often use these straight from the freezer but you can of course take them out in advance

1 apple – I like cookers for bite but any will do.

A knob of butter

Apple syrup or runny honey

If you’re the kind of cook that can only deal with one pan at a time (and lots of us are first thing in the morning) do the apples first but they are pretty easy so if you might want to throw them on while the pancakes are cooking to save time. Peel and slice them then heat a little butter on the pan, throw the slices on and toss until they start to change colour. This will take about 2 minutes. To make the pancakes, if you can spare the extra minute, sieve the flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside. Separate the egg and then beat the white to stiff peaks. Beat the yolk with the milk and when mixed, add the flour mix and the sugar then beat til smooth. Turn off the mixer and fold in the egg white and then the berries and finally the butter.

Heat some butter on a clean pan. Dollop a soup ladle of pancake mix onto the pan. You’ll fit 2 or 3 on a typical kitchen pan. Cook until golden then turn over (about 1-2 mins each side). Before you do the next batch, wipe the pan with some kitchen paper then heat another knob of butter. If you’re not sure your pancakes are fully cooked press down on them with a spatula. If some wet mix runs out leave them on for another bit. When the pancakes are ready, serve topped with the apples and generous knob of butter. A drizzle of apple or maple syrup or honey if you don’t have these will finish things off.

If you want take things further, a dollop of Greek yogurt on the side is lovely and of course no one ever says no to a couple of slices of crispy bacon…

This week sees the last of corn on the cob. The simplest way to go is to boil it up until tender then have it slathered with butter but it makes very good pancakes which are a cinch to make. Another thing you could try is a salad with this week’s ramiro pepper, chili and lime. This one was a revelation to me over the summer. So simple but bursting with flavour. Might even make you think it’s still summer….

Have a great weekend,