Nigel Slater’s autumn recipes to take time over (2024)

I am on the brink of lighting the first fire of the year. In fact, by the time you read this, I shall probably have done so. And with the cooler weather comes a different type of eating. Slower and (slightly) more complex, the sort of cooking that keep us a little longer in the kitchen but also at the table. Food to linger over.

Pumpkin with rice and beetroot

Lasagne aside, the most famous of layered recipes is probably biryani, where meat and rice is pressed down in a pot with onions and spices and often enclosed in a pastry crust. To say it’s a lot of work is an understatement. It is one those dishes I tend to leave to restaurant cooks.

A somewhat simpler version can be made without meat, and without the pastry crust. I did a version this week, layering saffron rice with mashed pumpkin and spiced onions that took a good hour, but without the inevitable fuss of the classic.

Serves 4
onions 2 medium
groundnut oil 4 tbsp
ginger 60g
chilli flakes 1 tsp
pumpkin 1.5kg
white basmati rice 300g
saffron 2 pinches
green cardamom pods 12
peppercorns 8
bay leaves 4
cinnamon 1 stick
beetroot 200g

Peel and roughly chop the onions. Warm 3 tablespoons of the oil in a deep pan then add the onions and cook over a low to moderate heat. Grate the ginger and stir into the onions with the chilli flakes, and let them continue cooking until the onions are soft and golden brown – a good 25 minutes.

Peel the pumpkin, cut into large pieces, then steam for 15 minutes till soft. Drain and mash with a vegetable masher or fork. Stir in black pepper and a little salt.

Wash the rice in warm water: put the rice in a large bowl with plenty of warm water, stir the rice around in the water with your hand, pour off the cloudy water, then repeat twice until the water is almost clear. Drain the rice, put in a medium-sized saucepan with enough water to cover by 3cm. Add the saffron and whole cardamom pods, peppercorns, bay leaves and cinnamon stick, then bring to the boil. Lower the heat so the water simmers, then cover tightly with a lid. Leave to cook for 10 minutes.

Remove the rice from the heat and leave to rest without removing the lid. Coarsely grate the beetroot and set aside. Lift the lid from the rice and stir briefly with a fork to separate the grains.

Now assemble the dish. Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into the dish then add one third of the rice followed by a third of the pumpkin. Scatter a third of the onions over the pumpkin then half of the beetroot. Now continue layering until all the rice, pumpkin, onion and beetroot is finished.

Bake for an hour at 200C/gas mark 6.

Crab and avocado cream

Nigel Slater’s autumn recipes to take time over (1)

Crab and avocado is a comfortable marriage, needing only something crisp to press all my bells at once. (I often serve carta di musica with mashed avocado and white crab meat.) I sometimes dice cucumber finely and fold it into the avocado cream too. A layer of crunch amid the smooth green cream and flakes of seafood.

You can make a modern version of the seafood co*cktail by layering mashed avocado, cucumber and crab meat – I use both the brick-red brown meat and the snowy needles of sweet white flesh. It can look beautiful in a wine glass, especially when the layers are put together loosely rather than tightly packed. A squeeze of lime wouldn’t go amiss and I like to put in some coriander too, a herb very much at home with both crab and avocado.

Serves 4
avocados 3 ripe
lime juice 4 tbsp
red chilli 1 large
cucumber ½
white crab meat 250g
brown crab meat 250g
coriander leaves 3 tbsp, chopped

Peel and stone the avocados, then put the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Squeeze in the lime juice. Halve, seed and finely chop the chilli then add to the avocado and process it all to a smooth, pale green paste.

Peel the cucumber, core with a teaspoon and discard the seeds, then cut first into thick strips then into small cubes and fold into the avocado cream.

Check the white and brown crab meat for any remaining shell, then fork the chopped coriander through the white meat.

Loosely layer the avocado and white and brown crab meats in four glasses or small dishes, chill for half an hour and serve.

Spinach and feta filo

Nigel Slater’s autumn recipes to take time over (2)

The first time I met the mixture of filo, spinach and feta was aboard a ferry bound for the Greek islands circa 1980 and I have loved it ever since. For all its cellophane wrapper and dubious age, I wolfed my flaky pastry parcel gratefully and have used the combination in tarts, salads and little pies ever since. (Try brushing a sheet of filo with melted butter then sprinkling it with sea salt and dried thyme. Bake till crisp, then shatter the cooked pastry and scatter over a salad of spinach leaves and feta.)

This time, a roll-up of chilli-flecked spinach and melted cheese baked inside the filo. The rolled layers of vegetables, cheese and pastry formed a simple lunch with a salad of tomato, black olive and basil.

Serves 6
spinach 600g
dill 30g
feta 400g
mozzarella 375g
dried chilli flakes 2-3 tsp
butter 105g
filo pastry 6 sheets (about 250g)
nigella seeds 2 tsp
poppy seeds 2 tsp
sesame seeds 2 tsp

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Wash the spinach, then, with the leaves still wet, place it in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. Cover tightly with a lid and let the leaves cook in their own steam for a minute or two till wilted. Tip them into a colander and squeeze out any moisture.

Roughly chop the spinach and the dill and mix them together. Coarsely grate the feta and mozzarella into the spinach and dill, then season with black pepper and the chilli flakes. Melt the butter in a small pan.

Place a sheet of filo on a work surface or chopping board. Brush generously with some of the melted butter. Place a second sheet on top, butter it, then repeat with a third sheet. With the longest edge towards you, shape half of the filling in a long sausage, along the nearest edge.

Roll the pastry away from you, covering the filling and forming a long cylinder. Transfer to a baking tin.

Now repeat with the remaining three sheets of pastry and the remaining filling. Place the second roll close to the first. Brush with the last of the butter then sprinkle with the nigella, poppy and sesame seeds.

Bake for about 20 minutes till the pastry is pale gold, then serve immediately.

Beef rib boulangere

Nigel Slater’s autumn recipes to take time over (3)

It was the first properly cold morning of autumn when we set about making this deeply comforting dish. Layers of potato and cheap, bone-in meat for a night when the chestnut leaves are piling up in the lane outside the house. The hands-on cooking time here is minimal, involving little more than the slicing of onions and Maris Pipers, but the unattended cooking time, when the recipe gets on with things itself, is a good two hours. The dish is all the better for that, the flavours deepen and the separate elements – the meat, stock and potatoes – become, deliciously, as one.

During the layering of meat and potatoes I like to tuck in the stripped rib bones, and in so doing extracting every last bit of goodness and savour from them. On the side, a crisp white cabbage salad, perhaps (olive oil, white wine vinegar, dill), and some bread with which to sponge up the herb-stippled juices.

Serves 6
beef short ribs 1.4kg
olive oil 4 tbsp
onions 3 medium
thyme 8 sprigs
rosemary 4 bushy sprigs
bay leaves 4
black peppercorns 8
beef stock 2 litres
large potatoes 1kg

Cut the beef into ribs. Warm the oil in a large, deep-sided pan, then brown the ribs all over, taking care as they may spit and pop. Turn the ribs over with kitchen tongs as they colour, removing them to a plate when their fat is golden.

Peel and thinly slice the onions then put them into the pan in which you have just browned the beef, adding the thyme, rosemary, bay and peppercorns, and lower the heat to moderate. Let the onions cook, giving them the occasional stir, for about 20 minutes, until they are soft and light gold.

Return the beef ribs to the pan, together with any juices from the plate, then pour over the beef stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat so the liquid quietly putters, partially cover with a lid, and leave for 1 hour or until the meat can easily be cut from the bones.

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Remove the ribs from the pan and pull the meat from the bones. Slice the potatoes thinly, using a mandoline if you have one, a large cook’s knife if not. In a large, shallow baking dish or roasting tin, layer the potatoes and the meat and onions, seasoning each layer as you go with salt and black pepper, then pour over the stock from the pan.

Bake for an hour to 90 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and giving.

Pistachio brittle and raspberry mille-feuille

Nigel Slater’s autumn recipes to take time over (4)

As much as I like the idea of the classic layered mille-feuille I feel it only works when the pastry is very dark, thin and crisp and the filling involves a few sharp fruits to contrast the soft, billowing blandness of the cream. Raspberries, blackberries and blackcurrants then, rather than peaches and strawberries. You can go further with the contrasting textures by adding crushed brittle or almond or pistachio praline to the whipped cream. The cream is best when beaten until only just thick enough to spread.

Serves 8
caster sugar 125g
shelled pistachios 125g
puff pastry 320g
double cream 500ml
raspberries 250g

To decorate
icing sugar 3 tbsp
raspberries 125g

You will need a small, lightly oiled baking sheet and two large baking sheets, one of which is lined with baking parchment.

Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 8. Put the sugar in a non-stick shallow pan over a low to moderate heat. Watch very carefully as it melts, then, when it is golden, add the shelled pistachios. As the sugar darkens to a deep bronze, tip the mixture out onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and leave to cool.

Roll out the pastry to a rectangle measuring 28cm x 33cm. Transfer to the baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Place a second sheet of parchment on top, then cover with the second large baking sheet. Place a heavy roasting tin on top then bake for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the roasting tin, baking sheet and top layer of parchment, then continue to bake for a further five minutes or until the pastry is deep golden brown and very crisp.

Break the pistachio brittle into large pieces and reduce to coarse crystals using a food processor. If you prefer, pound the brittle to crumbs with a pestle and mortar.

Whip the cream until thick. Crush the raspberries with a fork and fold them into the cream together with three quarters of the crushed nut brittle. Cut the pastry in half lengthways and trim the edges, crushing the trimmings to crumbs with a knife.

Place one of the two sheets of pastry on a serving dish or board. Spoon the cream, fruit and nut filling on top, smooth the surface flat pushing the cream right to the edge of the pastry, then cover with the second piece of pastry. Press down lightly on the cake with your hands or a baking sheet to settle the layers of cream and pastry.

Smooth the edges flat with a palette knife, then cover the sides with the reserved pastry crumbs, pushing them in with the knife.

To decorate, mix the reserved brittle with the icing sugar, then scatter over the top of the cake. Place the remaining raspberries along the top and serve.


Nigel Slater’s autumn recipes to take time over (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated:

Views: 6492

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.