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As the nights draw in and temperatures drop, Maria Broadbent, of CASA in Bury St Edmunds, shares some delicious seasonal favourites and gives us some helpful advice on how to get through Covid-19 during autumn




I love everything about autumn – the sound and smell of drying leaves and the aroma of early morning dew that signals the transition of summer into autumn. This is also the time of year for an abundance of fruit and late summer vegetables.

Root vegetables and squashes inherently ‘look’ like autumn – maybe it’s that combination of warm yellow and orange that imitates the autumn leaves? Maybe the connection to Hallowe’en?

Soups, casseroles, tagines all ease the shortening of the days and the changing temperatures. We have the added challenge this year of Covid restrictions and the question of how to keep ourselves busy and sane!

Autumn colours (42381661)
Autumn colours (42381661)

Here is a simple pumpkin soup which will ensure that all that scooping at Hallowe’en

is not an environmental catastrophe. Plus – it’s vegan, gluten free and above all REALLY TASTY.

CREAMY CURRIED PUMPKIN SOUP

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of oil

2 onions

2 teaspoons mild curry powder

1kg pumpkin

700ml vegetable stock

150ml cream (or coconut milk)

Salt and pepper

Peel and finely chop the onions – cook gently in the oil for 5 minutes, add the curry powder and cook for another 2 minutes.

Scoop out your pumpkin and separate the seeds.

You can roast the pumpkin first for extra flavour for 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade or simply add it to the onions and cook.

You may also toast the seeds in the oven on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade or fry with olive oil in a pan until they start to pop.

Add the stock and bring the soup to a boil, then turn the heat down until it just gently bubbles – keeping a lid on uses less electricity and gas! Bubble gently for 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is totally soft. Blitz the soup with either a hand blender stick or in a liquidiser – make sure lid is on tightly.

Add the cream or coconut milk, plus season with salt and pepper to your taste. This will freeze for up to two months.

Another great seasonal favourite is a lovely fruit crumble – you can play around with the fundamental ingredients to suit your own preferences. Plum or apple and blackberry are my top two. Here is a basic recipe, but feel free to swap around the flours for wholemeal or exchange some of the flour for oats (butter for vegan alternatives) – just keep the fat to carb ratio as close to this as you can. As far as spices are concerned, you can omit or swap these, too, and you can also use different sugars. . . the permutations are endless.

CLASSIC CRUMBLE RECIPE

For the crumble topping:

225g plain flour

150g soft brown sugar

75g butter at room temperature

1 level teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground mixed spice

Fruity bit:

900g fruit (eg apples or plums)

75g sultanas

2 tablespoons water

Method:

Wash, peel and chop apples (remove stones if using stoned fruit).

Heat in a pan with sultanas and water until soft and fluffy or soft for plums.

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle in the baking powder and spices.

Add the butter and rub between your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Put the fruit mix into a deep pie dish (around 3 litres)and spread evenly – cover with crumble topping and spread gently with a fork.

Cook in oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 30-40 minutes.

You can serve this with cream, custard, ice cream, evaporated milk or vegan alternatives.

Support British business and local producers

Many businesses are under pressure and I do think that there has been a real effort to support local enterprise in general. With the restrictions on travelling abroad people are hopefully spending their money in the UK. Who knows what the months ahead hold – but please keep supporting and buying local where you can.

In Suffolk, we produce a lot of potatoes, pork and apples – now it doesn't take too much imagination to make that into a roast Sunday lunch. However, you can also buy a huge range of pork products, including Suffolk chorizo and of course the delicious Suffolk black bacon.

Suffolk also boasts the first UK lentil grower. Based in Beccles, Hodmedods are a UK grain and pulse grower – this includes quinoa from Essex, interesting and alternative bread flours, plus beans and peas.

Say cheese!

Binham Blue and Suffolk Gold are two of our more well known local cheeses – confident enough to grace any cheeseboard. How about tackling a simple homemade chutney with some of the soft fruit grown locally? It will have matured nicely by Christmas and would make a lovely gift on its own or part of a mini Suffolk hamper. And, of course, it’s great with cheese.

SPICED APPLE CHUTNEY

Ingredients:

225g onions, chopped

900g apples, cored and chopped

110g dates

15g coriander

15g paprika

15g mixed spice

15g salt

340g granulated sugar

350ml malt vinegar

75ml pomegranate molasses

Method:

Soak the dates in boiling water for 20 minutes – check for stones and chop up.

Put all the ingredients into a large pan, preferably a preserving pan (it must be stainless steel, enamel or a non-stick pan, chipped or copper are not good as they react with the acidity).

Bring the ingredients to the boil and let simmer for around 1½-2 hours. Stirring from time to time. It is ready when you can make a hole in the mixture and it does not immediately fill with liquid.

Turn into sterilised jars, seal and cool.

Store in a dark cupboard and leave for at least two, preferably three months before even considering eating it.

How to sterilise jars for jams and preserves – this is very important if you don’t want mouldy jam (just saying).

Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.

Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinse, but don’t dry them.

Place the jars onto a baking tray and into the oven for 10 minutes.

Soak the lids in boiling water for a few minutes.

Support your local hostelries

Boris announced on Tuesday that the hospitality trade must close at 10pm every night. This is a much greater threat to bars and clubs – so I urge you all to continue to support local hostelries over the coming months. The Prime Minister indicated these measures may well be in place for six months – so we have to rise to the challenge of providing a warm and safe welcome to customers.

What can you do to help?

Book before arriving at a restaurant.

Be prepared to pay a deposit or at the very least inform if you are not able to uphold your reservation.

Wear a mask on arrival and when moving around the restaurant.

Download NHS COVID-19 APP and use on entry:

APPLE: apps.apple.com/us/app/id1520427663

ANDROID: play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.nhs.covid19.production

Wash your hands thoroughly if you use the toilet.

Be patient with staff – wearing masks and having to cover twice the floor area both make their jobs considerably harder than normal.

Follow the Government guidance but also the individual policies of the premises you are visiting.

Keep enjoying eating and drinking out – thank you.

Remember that takeaways help support local eateries, too.

Take care of yourself

Human beings are inherently sociable creatures (well, not all, I know!). Being restricted in our social interactions can have a harmful effect on our mental health – so what can we do? I have been racking my brains to come up with some ideas that allow people to come out and partake in an activity whilst maintaining social distancing. Thoughts so far include wine tastings, quiz and cookery demonstrations – the plan is to hold these in house. As the nights draw in we will all need to be resourceful in order to keep ourselves physically and mentally ‘fit’.

Certainly maintaining a healthy but not overly intense approach to life is good. Going for walks, especially in autumn with all the beautiful colours is a good way to get fresh air and exercise. Avoiding lots of processed food, refined carbs and junk food other than for treats is good practice, too. Excessive alcohol consumption became synonymous with the first lockdown and as we all know, moderation is the key here.

Worried you will get bored now the temperatures are dropping and the nights are drawing in? Autumn and winter are a great time to take up a new hobby. We have a plethora of shops in Bury St Edmunds offering some of the following ideas:

Sewing supplies

Cookery shops – try some jam and chutney making…or pasta!

Knitting and embroidery

Crafting

Model shops

Art supplies

Not sure where to start? The shops have trained staff to advise and there are plenty of online tutorials available.

Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Tel 01284 701313

See casabse.co.uk