I cook from scratch most days. It’s tempting now it there are only the two of us in the house, to slip into a twenty minutes at two hundred degrees type of cooking - and there is a fair amount of that. But more often than not, I can be found, pottering in my kitchen, listening to an audio-book, chopping veg, a pot of something simmering on the stove. Nothing elaborate - just good, simple, nourishing, food.
When I was a teenager, I was given the Reader’s Digest Cookery Year book for Christmas - a month by month seasonal recipe book. It’s been one of the most influential books in my life and has informed my attitude towards food - growing , cooking and eating, ever since.
November usually involves a lot of tomatoes, as the last ones are harvested before the plants are cleared away. I had just enough from my very last picking to make about a litre of passata. I cut the fruits in half, sprinkle over a couple of chopped garlic cloves, drizzle with olive oil, season, and roast until they are soft and squashy.
Then it’s a case of pushing the pulp through a sieve and we have the most delicious fresh and extremely versatile tomato sauce. We both adore this, and we’ve been enjoying it in many different dishes over the past few months. It’s great at pepping up chicken fillets or pork chops for a midweek meal, drizzled on fish tacos, and it makes a tasty soup base.
But pasta pomodoro is the clear winner in this house. Just as it comes - maybe with a dash of chilli flakes, if I remember at the time. A perfect way to say goodbye to the tomatoes of 2018.
We still have plenty of beetroot to harvest, though. I grew three different colours this year, and the pink candy striped one has done best. Happily there are enough of the purple and golden beets to give a wee bit of contrast. I’m happy to eat these roasted and dressed simply with a vinaigrette dressing - orange is nice. A few peppery leaves work well too, if you have them
I’m also making a lot of soups and risottos using the leeks, carrots and turnips that are growing, and the kale and chard provide us with greens - steamed until tender and served with butter.
Desserts are a Sunday treat (although I have been known to sneak a cornetto from the freezer now and then). Usually it’s a crumble or a rice pudding, but I rang the changes slightly, with this scrumptious Pear Streusel Cake - easy recipe from Delia online. The pears had been languishing in the fruit bowl, and were, quite frankly, past their best. Still, I managed to salvage enough to make this and it worked out just fine. Perfect with some thick Greek yogurt on the side.
And then there were the birthday doughnuts. A special request - might have been inspired by the bake-off? Anyway, I had never made them before and now I have. Yes they are pretty misshapen - okay - very misshapen, but they were such fun to make and they tasted fantastic. Plain, simple sugar ring doughnuts (recipe from tesco online). Could even be a new November tradition!