Autumn is surely the best season.
Not only does our landscape transform into those incredible gemstone colours, but it yields some of our best-loved ingredients. Plus that increasingly bracing weather entitles us all to some heart-warming and belly-filling dishes... Salad? Not for at least the next six months!
If you’re off on a self-catering holiday during this glorious season but are not sure what to cook, then here are five of our favourite, fuss-free autumn meal suggestions.
Hearty vegetable soup
This dish is perfect for lunch, providing sufficient energy for your afternoon endeavours. It can also incorporate any vegetables that you like. Courgettes, mushrooms, celery, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, pumpkin and leeks are just a few of the fresh ingredients that come into season at this time of year.
The basic soup is made by chopping your veg of choice into small cubes and simmering with garlic and ¾ pint of vegetable or chicken stock until the veg is tender. Blend the tomatoes (or cut and mash, if there’s no blender in your holiday cottage), adding to the pot with some parsley. Heat until bubbling and serve with some warm, buttered rolls for a quick and easy lunch that everyone will eat without issue.
A one pot, slow-cooking casserole
In an ovenproof dish, heat some oil and add chopped onions and garlic. Contrary to usual practice, Jamie Oliver says the meat should be placed straight in the dish without being browned first. Add the sliced vegetables of your choice – usually carrots, celery, potatoes, butternut squash and parsnips – with some tomato puree, a generous slug of red wine and some vegetable stock. Bring this to the boil on the hob, then carefully put the lid on your dish and place in a preheated oven at around 160C.
Cooking time varies, but expect for it to take about three hours for your meat to get tender. Serve with some buttery mashed potatoes and pour the casserole gravy over the top. This is the perfect dish to cook if you’re not straying too far or it’s raining outside and you’ve decided to stay in for a few hours playing games.
Risotto is one of those dishes which is far easier to make than many people think, for some reason. This version uses lovely fresh seasonal mushrooms and dehydrated porcini for added flavour, and is wholly vegetarian.
In a pan, heat a glug of olive oil and add some chopped onion, garlic and the sliced mushrooms. Cook until softened and then add around 350g of Arborio rice. Cook the rice in the oil for a few minutes, being careful not to let anything stick or burn, then add some vegetable stock and ¼ pint of white wine. Keep adding more stock until the rice has absorbed it and become creamy in texture. Add the dehydrated porcini mushrooms and cook until they’ve heated through. Serve with seasoning and some vegetarian cheese or parmesan.
'Tis the season for cooking apples and if your trees aren’t full of them, then the shops will be. Everyone loves apple crumble, especially with a bit of added crunch in your topping. It’s so simple to make, we’d advice you to double your quantities so that everyone can enjoy seconds!
In a big bowl, rub together 300g of plain flour, 200g butter and 175g brown sugar until you get a sandy consistency. We like to add a generous spoonful of porridge oats or desiccated coconut for extra texture. Put this aside for now.
Peel and slice your cooking apples, place in a buttered, ovenproof dish and sprinkle with brown sugar, a spoonful of flour and a little cinnamon. Add a few cloves if you fancy, just remember to warn everyone before they dig in.
Cover the fruit with the crumble mix and cook at 180C for about 40 minutes. Serve piping hot with thick custard, cream and/or some good quality local vanilla ice cream. Delicious!
Coffee and walnut cake
Probably the last thing you’ll think of doing on your self-catering holiday is baking a cake, but given your holiday cottage is bound to be a home-from-home with a wonderful kitchen, you might just find you want to whip up something spongy. In which case, a coffee and walnut cake is the only option!
This follows a traditional sponge cake recipe and technique; for a decent sized sandwich cake, you should cream together 225g butter with 225g caster sugar. When these are combined, add 225g self-raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder with four eggs. Add a teaspoon of espresso coffee powder and 50g chopped walnuts. Mix well until you have a smooth batter which drops softly from the back of the spoon – otherwise, slacken with a little milk.
Divide the mixture into two greased sandwich tins and bake at 170C for 25 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer/ knife – if it comes out clean, you’re done! While the cake is cooling, make a quantity of butter icing, mixing 125g softened butter with 200g icing sugar and 50ml of strong coffee. Whip the whole lot up until you have a cloudy, beige mixture and sandwich between the two sponges, with a nice dollop for the top. Finish with a few walnuts and get that kettle on!
Perhaps cooking wasn’t on your list of ‘things to do on my self-catering holiday’, but you’ll undoubtedly venture into the kitchen at some point – and if you do, perhaps you’ll consider our suggestions for delicious autumnal dishes?
Why not take a look at the full range of properties available to you this autumn?