I love autumn and everything about it. The colours, smells, that snappiness in the air, the strong sunshine followed by the weaker, watery kind of late afternoon, the mist in the mornings, the return of porridge (more later) ah…was there ever a better season than autumn? It’s rich and abundant and there is so much that is yummy in the produce of the season. It’s a time for cosy food, eaten by candlelight as the rain lashed down or the fog rolls in.
There’s no need to let healthy eating go completely out of the window, but it is the season to indulge in hearty food, soul food that takes the chill from your bones and gives you the strength and fortitude to face dark early mornings, commuting in the wind and rain and the start of Christmas shopping (first present bought yesterday – Helen, you are a lucky girl!)
So, what did I make for dinner last night? Well, I am having a love affair with sage right now, it’s the very essence of cold weather cooking for me and I think would be my dessert island herb. I love the robust, aromatic flavour and the way that it stands up to fierce temperatures and even crisps up for a deeper, more mellow flavour. So here we have it.
Pork and squash tray roast with pancetta and sage.
Two pork chops or loin steaks
6 slices of pancetta
16 sage leaves
half a medium butternut squash, chopped into inch cubes
a red onion, cut lengthways into 8 chunks
8 garlic cloves, still in their papery skin
some olive oil
salt and pepper
splash of dry sherry
100ml chicken stock
pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Take your pork and put 4 leaves of sage on one side of each. Lay the pancetta over, holding the sage to the meat and then flip over in your hands, add 4 more leaves of sage and wrap the pancetta round. The pancetta gives a rich saltiness to the dish and really perks up the soft pork flavour. Place in a strong roasting tin, crossed pancetta side down. Add the squash, garlic and red onion to the tray, placing around the meat. Drizzle the veg with olive oil and season the whole thing with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for about 40 mins or until the veg is soft and the pork is cooked. It’s nice if you manage to get some crisp edges to your veg but depending on how much juice comes out of the pork and the squash this isn’t always possible and isn’t necessary.
Take the vegetables and pork out of the tin, put on a plate and keep warm back in the oven. You should have the juices, the garlic and oil still in the roasting tin. Squash the garlic so the roasted cloves pop out of their skins. Pick the skins out with fingers. Lick fingers. Put the tray over the heat on your stove top. Add the stock and the sherry (about 50mls will do) and simmer. The sauce will become syrupy very quickly. Remove from heat.
Arrange the meat and veg on warmed plates and pour over the gravy. Serve with mulled red cabbage. Eat at the table, by candlelight, with no TV. Have a conversation about autumn flavours and get planning your next meal!
What is your favourite autumn meal?