Nigel Slater's warming autumn recipes (2024)

The light coming into the kitchen is golden once more and I couldn’t be happier. Each warm, sunny day is bookended by crisp mornings and cool evenings. There is a distinct change of climate at the stove, too: the jars of beans and lentils have come down from the larder shelf; there is meat cooking slowly on its bones; and there are proper puddings in the oven. As a cook, I’m in my element, but also as a shopper, with the best of both seasons at my fingertips. After just one too many salad days of a long, hot summer, this cook has never been happier to be back in the kitchen.

Duck with figs and thyme

In autumn I like to roast a duck with figs – the seedy fruit is pleasing against the rich, soft flesh of the bird. The idea works in casserole form, too, with the duck simmering to tenderness with celery, onion and thyme and the fruit introduced at the last minute. I do think it essential to brown the duck first and utilise its fat for lightly browning the vegetables.

I’m not sure you need anything “on the side”. But pushed, I would offer a bowl of bitter leaf salad.

Serves 4
whole duck 2.7kg, oven-ready, jointed
small banana shallots 300g
carrots 300g
celery 2 sticks
thyme sprigs 15g
water 1 litre
figs 300g
parsley 10g

Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 7. Put the duck pieces into a casserole or deep-sided roasting tin, then into the hot oven for 30 minutes.

While the duck is in the oven, peel the shallots but leave them whole. Roughly chop the carrots and celery. The duck should be lightly brown in places and starting to sizzle. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 180C/gas mark 4. Lift the duck pieces from the dish and set aside.

Put the casserole or roasting tin over a moderate heat, add the shallots, carrots and celery, and fry for 5 minutes in the fat left behind by the duck until they are lightly coloured, stirring them from time to time. Drain the duck fat from the tin, keeping it for later (it will keep in the fridge for a few days and makes cracking roast potatoes). Return the duck to the pan and mix with the vegetables, tuck in the thyme, pour in the water and bring to the boil.

Cover the dish with a lid and transfer to the oven. Roast for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then remove the duck pieces from the casserole and keep warm. Cut each fig in half, then push them down into the gravy and place over a medium heat. Chop the parsley and stir it into the gravy. Bring to the boil and let it bubble for about 10 minutes, till the liquid is reduced by half. You need just enough to moisten the meat, fruit and vegetables. Return the duck to the sauce and serve.

Fondant pumpkin, mustard sauce

Nigel Slater's warming autumn recipes (1)

Short of a tray of damsons, I can think of nothing that marks our journey into autumn quite like the sight of a proper pumpkin. By proper I mean a round one rather the ubiquitous butternut. A pumpkin as big as your head.

Serves 3
pumpkin 2kg
olive oil 4 tbsp
hot chicken or vegetable stock1 litre
double cream 200g
grain mustard 1 tbsp
smooth dijon mustard 1 tbsp

Cut the pumpkin into six large wedges. Remove and discard the seeds and fibres. Warm the olive oil in a large, deep-sided roasting tin over a moderate heat. Lightly brown both cut sides of each wedge of pumpkin, turning them over as each one colours using kitchen tongs.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Lay the wedges of pumpkin on their side then pour over the hot chicken or vegetable stock and seal the roasting tin with kitchen foil. Bake for 45 minutes then remove the foil, turn the pieces of pumpkin over and baste them thoroughly with the stock. Return to the oven and continue cooking for a further 45 minutes. The pumpkin should be translucent, each slice heavy with stock.

Carefully lift the pumpkin from the stock and set aside on a warm serving dish. Place the stock over a fierce heat and let it reduce to about 200ml. Pour in the cream, then stir in the two mustards, a little at a time, until you have a warmth you like. Season with salt and black pepper.

Spoon the mustard sauce over the slices of pumpkin and serve.

Pot-roast knuckle of pork with grapes

Nigel Slater's warming autumn recipes (2)

The point of a pot roast is the intensely flavoured broth that surrounds the meat. A mash of some sort will merge deliciously with the broth in your dish.

Serves 4
pork knuckle 1.2kg
olive oil 3 tbsp, plus extra for rubbing
onions2 medium
celery 2 sticks
garlic 3 large cloves
fresh ginger 50g
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
chilli flakes ½ tsp
cinnamon stick 1
black grapes 200g
water 500ml
honey 1-2 tbsp

To finish
parsley 10 sprigs
pistachios 2 tbsp, shelled
mashed potato or celeriac to serve

Rub the pork with a little oil then season with salt. Warm the 3 tbsps of oil in an oven-proof casserole or deep roasting tin then lightly brown the meat on all sides, turning it as necessary. Set the oven at 170C/gas mark 3. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.

Peel and roughly chop the onions. Return the pan to the heat then add the onions, letting them soften over a low to moderate heat. Slice the celery into 2cm lengths then stir into the onions. Peel the garlic and add whole to the pan. Peel the ginger, cut into slices as thick as a pound coin, then stir into the vegetables and cover the pan with a lid. Continue cooking for five minutes, stirring from time to time.

Stir in the ground cinnamon, chilli flakes and cinnamon stick, add half the grapes, then pour in the water and 1 tbsp of the honey. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

Return the pork to the pan together with any of its juices that may have escaped while resting, then cover with a lid or a sheet of tin foil and place in the oven. Leave for an hour and a half, turning the meat over halfway through.

Check the pork for doneness. You should be able to pull it from the bone with ease. If it resists, continue cooking for a little longer. Correct the seasoning with more salt, black pepper and the remaining honey as you think fit. Introduce the reserved grapes and return to the oven, lid off, for a further 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, leave to rest, lid on, meat still in its juices, for a good 15 minutes. Remove the parsley leaves from their stalks and roughly chop them. Chop the pistachios and toss with the parsley. Pull the meat and fat from the bone and serve in thick slices in shallow bowls, with mashed potato or celeriac if you wish. Spoon the cooking juices and vegetables over as you serve, and scatter with the parsley and pistachios.

Noodle soup with lentils and soured cream

Nigel Slater's warming autumn recipes (3)

Filming in Iran last year, the crew would often end their long working days at a hotel buffet, or what, at 11pm, was left of it. I grew exceptionally fond of ash reshteh, a deeply consoling soup thick with beans, flat noodles and chickpeas. Recipes varied at each locale, as indeed they should, but the soothing nature of the dish never faltered. I make a version of that dish, with a final addition of very lightly cooked spinach, using linguine for want of the traditional, difficult-to-find reshteh noodles.

Serves 4-6
onions 4
olive oil 3 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves
ground turmeric 2 tsp
chickpeas 1 x 400g tin
haricot beans 1 x 400g tin
small brown lentils 100g
vegetable stock 1 litre
butter 40g
linguine or Iranian reshteh noodles 100g
spinach 200g
parsley 30g
coriander 20g
mint 15g
soured cream 250ml

Peel the onions. Roughly chop two of them and thinly slice the others. Warm the olive oil in a large pan set over a moderate heat, add the two chopped onions and fry them for 10-15 minutes till soft and pale gold. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Stir in the garlic and ground turmeric and continue cooking for a couple of minutes.

Drain the chickpeas and haricot beans and stir them into the onions together with the lentils and stock. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and leave to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the pan occasionally.

Melt the butter in a shallow pan, then add the reserved sliced onions and let them cook slowly, with the occasional stir, until they are a rich toffee brown. This will take a good half an hour.

Add the linguine or noodles to the simmering beans. Wash the spinach, put it in a separate pan set over a medium heat, cover with a lid and leave it for 3 or 4 minutes until it has wilted. Turn occasionally with kitchen tongs. Remove the spinach and put it in a colander under cold running water until cool.

Wring the moisture from the spinach with your hands then stir into the simmering stew. Roughly chop the parsley, coriander and mint leaves and stir most of them into the onions and beans.

Fold in the soured cream, then ladle into bowls and fold in the remaining herbs and the fried onions.

Blackberry and apple marzipan crumble

Nigel Slater's warming autumn recipes (4)

To interfere with the simplicity of a crumble crust feels a bit like arguing with God, but I don’t think He’d object to the addition of almonds. A jug of double or sour cream wouldn’t go amiss.

Serves 6
For the filling
sharp apples 900g
butter 20g
caster sugar 2 tbsp
unfiltered apple juice 100ml
ground cinnamon a pinch
blackberries 200g

For the crumble
butter 90g
plain flour 150g
ground almonds 5 tbsp
marzipan 100g
flaked almonds a small handful

double cream or sour cream to serve

Peel, quarter and core the apples, then cut each quarter into about four segments. Melt the butter in a shallow pan over a low to moderate heat, add the apples and sugar and let them cook for 10 minutes or so, turning occasionally, until they have turned pale gold and are approaching tenderness. Stir in the apple juice, sprinkle over the pinch of cinnamon, tip in the blackberries and set aside. Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4.

Make the crumble: rub the butter into the flour, either using your fingertips or a food processor, until you have fine crumbs, then fold in the ground almonds. Tear the marzipan into small cubes, about 2cm in size, and stir into the crumble.

Transfer the apples and blackberries to a deep baking dish approximately 22cm x 24cm. Loosely scatter the crumble over the fruit, then the flaked almonds. Bake for about an hour until the crumble is golden and a little of the fruit has bled into the crust here and there. Leave the crumble to calm down for 10 minutes or so before serving, if you wish with double or sour cream.

Nigel Slater's warming autumn recipes (2024)
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