6 September 2002

Sumptuous September

fare in autumn style

In with the old and in

with the new.

Philippa Vine combines

the end of the summer

produce with the start

of the autumn crops

for some delicious

September dishes

I ALWAYS get excited when autumn approaches because the return of heartier meals is always welcomed in our household.

It is a time to make the most of seasonal crops and this month I use late courgettes and new lush leeks to enhance the distinctive tang of goats cheese for a tasty starter.

Wild blackberries are now ready for picking and a jelly made from these is the base of a fruit sauce to compliment the richness of roast duck. Remember to freeze plenty of these free berries, ready for use in the coming months (and especially with next months Farmlife Flavours pudding recipe). My inspiration for jelly making goes back to my grandmother whose saucepan and strainer I still use.

To take advantage of the plentiful and inexpensive supply of stone fruit I have used plums to replace cherries in my version of Cherry Clafoutis. Traditionally this "Yorkshire pudding meets Limousin" recipe (it originates from the Limoges region of France) uses whole fruit but I find de-stoning the plums beforehand makes the dish easier to eat and the extra preparation time pays off when you have four children, five if you include Mr V, spitting out stones at the meal table.

Having had many years of free plums from our recently deceased Victoria plum tree which grew outside our chicken plucking unit, I now have to buy mine and get them from Tendring Fruit Farm at the Hailsham Farmers Market.

Once the children have returned back to school I try to replenish my freezer with homemade stock ready for winter soup making and I start thinking about making the Christmas cake. There are busy weeks ahead!

Roast Duck with Wild Blackberry Sauce

Roasting a whole duck is more economical than quarters and has a much better flavour but when time is at a premium then duck breasts will do. This recipe produces a well-cooked tender duck with only a slight crispness to the skin. If you dont want to make the sauce try just serving with a spoonful of blackberry jelly and some pan juices.

Serves 4

A brace of duck (This should give you plenty of left-overs)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

15g (1/2 oz) butter

4 shallots, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, chopped

150ml (1/4 pt) red wine

300ml (1/2 pt) chicken stock or duck stock made from the giblets

2 good tablespoons blackberry jelly

125g (5oz) blackberries

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas 6). Wipe the ducks skin, prick all over and rub salt into it. Roast the ducks breast-side down on a rack over a roasting tin for about 11/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when the legs are pierced. When cooked remove from the oven and set aside in a warm place to rest for about 10 minutes. While the ducks are cooking make the sauce; melt the butter in a saucepan, add the shallots and garlic, fry gently until transparent. Pour in the wine and boil until reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Then add the stock, jelly and blackberries, as they come to the boil turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the blackberries are soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove about a dozen whole blackberries and set them aside for decoration on the plates. Tip the remaining contents of the pan into a sieve and strain into a pan, press down well with a spoon to extract as much of the fruits juice as possible. Then return to the heat and reduce by boiling rapidly until the sauce has a syrupy consistency. Check the seasoning. When the ducks are cooked drain off the excess fat from the pan and pour any juices into the sauce. Serve the sauce in a jug or around the slices of duck on plates and decorate with the whole blackberries. Delicious served with green vegetables with roast potatoes cooked in duck fat. .

Plum Batter Pudding

This is about as simple a dessert to make as you can imagine, a pancake batter poured over fruit in an ovenproof dish, then baked in the oven. It looks like a tart and is best eaten lukewarm.

Serves 4-6.

4 eggs

50g (2oz) caster sugar, plus 1 tablespoon

150ml (1/4 pt) milk

150ml (1/4 pt) cream

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

50g (2oz) plain flour, sieved

25g (1oz) ground almonds

450g (1lb) plums

Butter for greasing tin

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas 6). Generously butter an ovenproof tin or dish (size approx 30cm x 21cm). Cut the plums in half and stone. Place cut side down in the dish and sprinkle over the sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the plums). Place the eggs, vanilla essence and 50g (2oz) sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until creamy and pale white. Then gently fold in the flour and ground almonds and finally add the milk and cream. Pour the batter mixture over the plums. Cook for about 25 minutes or more until set. (You may need to cover half way through cooking to stop it from getting too brown). Dust with icing sugar just before serving with our without cream.

Leek, Courgette & Goats Cheese

Try to get an English "brie type" soft goats cheese with an edible rind because this will melt smoothly and ooze over the salad.

Serves 4.

2 leeks, thinly sliced with most of the green trimmed away

4 medium courgettes,

sliced diagonally

50g (2oz) chopped walnuts

2 small soft goats cheeses, including the rind, cubed

oil

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons walnut oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon whole-grain

mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat an oiled ridged frying pan and fry the slices of courgette for about 3 minutes on each side then set aside. Steam or blanch the sliced leeks in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes, then drain. Put the courgettes and leeks into a bowl and add the walnuts. For the dressing, just simply mix all the ingredients together with seasoning to taste. Pour it over the vegetables and toss well. Just before you are ready to serve the salad, warm the cubes of goats cheese under the grill for a couple of minutes until it just starts to ooze out and soften and toss them into the salad.

Wild Blackberry Jelly

Blackberries are low in pectin so they need lemon juice to help set

the jelly, or you could use sugar with added pectin. The jelly is

delicious served on scones or in puddings.

1.8kg (4lb) blackberries

600ml (1pt) water

Juice of 2 lemons

sugar

Put the blackberries in a preserving pan or large saucepan, add the water and lemon juice and simmer until quite tender. Strain it through a jelly bag into a large bowl for several hours or leave it overnight to drip, (I use an up-end of a stool or chair to tie the jelly bag onto). Measure the juice and pour back into the clean pan. For every 600ml (1pt) juice add 450g (1lb) sugar. Add the sugar to the juice, then bring to boiling point and boil rapidly until setting point is reached, say about 10 minutes. Draw the pan off the heat and spoon a little of the juice on to a cold saucer. Put in the freezer for a couple of minutes, then push the juice in the saucer with the tip of a finger. If it wrinkles, you have a set. If it doesnt, boil fast for another 5 minutes and test again. Pot into warmed jars, cover with waxed paper. Label when cold. Store in a cool dark place . This jelly will keep for up to a year.