Recipes: Get creative with autumn veg

While the turning of the leaves and the shortening of the days has hinted at the onset of autumn, it’s not until we hear the chug-chug-chug of the old battered Land Rover belonging to “Richard the Pumpkin Man” that we know that the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness has well and truly arrived.

Ploughing matches permitting, he appears at the beginning of October as if out of an 11-month hibernation, at various local farmers’ markets with a trailer laden with a glorious selection of pumpkins and squashes, only to disappear again once Halloween has passed. He also does briefly resurface on Christmas Eve to collect his turkey.

Having let Mr V have his second-grade and damaged gourds for our turkeys to peck at during the autumn, he collects in lieu of payment a bird that’s been “naturally stuffed” with his own pumpkins for his Christmas dinner.

For this roast vegetable tatin, I’ve sneaked a few of the turkeys’ supplies, along with parsnips, shallots and garlic. If you cannot buy Jerusalem artichokes, then swede is a great alternative.

My family tend to be chocolate purists when it comes to “contaminating” their sacred delicacy with anything vaguely unusual, and pumpkin would definitely come into this category. So I didn’t tell them I’d mixed chocolate and pumpkin in this cake and just waited for their response. It has proved a real hit, well received by anyone who tastes it.

I don’t always bother with the orange syrup and Amaretto cream, as it is equally delicious with just cream or ice cream.

Finally, this delicious seeded flat-bread is easy to make and takes less cooking time than conventional bread. Serve it with soup or eat it on its own as a starter.

Roast Vegetable Tatin (pictured above)

Serves 6

  • 450g (1lb) parsnips
  • 450g (1lb) squash or pumpkin
  • 250g (8oz) Jerusalem artichokes or swede
  • 450g (1lb) shallots or small onions
  • 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 12 fat garlic cloves in their skins

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Peel all the vegetables that need peeling. Cut the parsnips and pumpkin into chunks and the artichokes if necessary. Brush the onions with oil and season them with salt and pepper. Place them in a tray and start roasting them (they need a head start on the other vegetables).

Parboil the other vegetables and drain well. Place all the vegetables in a roasting tray with the onions and add the rest of the oil. Add the rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.

Turn everything over to get well coated in oil and seasoning and continue roasting in the oven until everything is soft and golden. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

For the pastry

  • 250g (9oz) plain flour
  • 150g (5oz) butter
  • 2 small eggs

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, then bind to a paste using the egg. To assemble: take a round oven dish large enough to accommodate all the vegetables and transfer the vegetables to it.

Slip the garlic cloves out of their skins. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little sugar and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar if you have some to hand. Roll out the pastry until it is roughly the same size as your dish and about the thickness of a pound coin.

Move the vegetables away from the edge of the dish then lay the pastry over, tucking the sides down well into the edges. Bake at the same temperature as before until the pastry is cooked, about 35 minutes.

To serve, invert the dish on to a large plate. You can also make individual versions of these.

Seeded flatbread

Seeded Flat Bread

  • 250g (8oz) seeded bread flour
  • 150ml (5fl oz) warm water
  • 10g (1/2 oz) fresh yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Generous amounts of sesame/sunflower/pumpkin seeds
  • Extra olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/ gas mark 7. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and add the honey. Warm the flour and add the oil and salt. When the yeast mixture is frothing add it to the flour and mix to a dough. Leave it to prove until it has doubled in bulk.

Knock back the dough and knead well. Roll out with a rolling pin to a rough circle approximately 2.5cm (1in) thick and place on an oiled baking sheet. Spray with water and scatter generously with the seeds.

Scatter with a little sea salt. Press down with the flat of your hand to embed the seeds into the bread. Prove again until doubled in size and use fingertips to make some dimples. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Chocolate pumpkin torte

Chocolate and Pumpkin Torte with Orange Syrup and Amaretto Cream

Serves 8

You will also need a 24cm spring-form cake tin

  • 225g (8oz) dark chocolate
  • 150g (5oz) butter, cubed
  • 5 eggs
  • 225g (8oz) Muscovado sugar
  • 225g (8oz) pumpkin purée
  • 225g (8oz) ground almonds
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

For the orange syrup

  • 2 oranges
  • 110g (4oz) granulated sugar

For the Amaretto cream

  • 275ml (1/2 pint) double cream
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto
  • 1 dessertspoon caster sugar

    • To make the pumpkin purée, roast wedges of pumpkin in the oven until soft, scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, remove from the heat source and add the butter.

      Stir until the butter has melted. Add the eggs one at a time while adding spoonfuls of the sugar and almonds. Finally mix in the pumpkin purée. Butter the cake tin and line the base with parchment paper. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 45-55 minutes or until the centre feels firm.

      Allow to cool, then dust with cocoa powder. For the orange syrup, peel the zest from one of the oranges and cut it into fine strips. Squeeze the juice from both oranges and strain it.

      Place the sugar in a shallow pan and gently heat it until it starts to turn to a light to medium golden colour. Take care, as it is very hot at this stage. Do not attempt to stir it while it is cooking.

      When the caramel is ready, add the orange zest and stir with a fork. Next pour in the orange juice. Set aside. Any hard bits of caramel that form will dissolve in the syrup after a while.

      For the Amaretto cream, put the sugar and Amaretto into the cream and whip it until it holds its shape. Serve the torte while still warm, cut into wedges, drizzled with the syrup and finished with the cream. It is equally delicious served on its own with just cream.

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