Early autumn recipes | Nigel Slater (2024)

The first breath of autumn and the farmers’ market resembles a church at harvest festival. Green-shouldered tomatoes in a dusty wooden box. Yellow squashes for baking. Courgettes on the verge of marrow-hood and cucumbers that curl and twist like a French horn. In the span of less than three weeks, the stalls have gone from green to gold.

A soldierly row of marrows, striped like a greengrocer’s awning, is hoping it won’t end its days suffocating in mince and white sauce. Translucent, refreshing, yet somewhat bland, the flesh of a marrow cries out for spice. Chillies and coriander seeds, turmeric and pepper, mustard and curry leaves. Seasoning that imbues warmth to what is possibly the least used of the season’s vegetables. It is my belief a marrow should have its moment in the sun.

Nothing good will come from cooking a big fat squash in boiling water. I tend to steam them, cut into fat, awkwardly shaped chunks, then add them to a tomato sauce with garlic and mustard seeds, or slide them into a red lentil dal the colour of rust, hot with garlic, mustard seeds and fresh red chillies.

And with the marrows, come the plums. Czar and Opal, Victoria and Marjorie’s Seedling. Plums the colour of autumn leaves, to bake beneath a piecrust the edges of which have been crimped between thumb and index finger, or peep out from the buttery pebbles of a cobbler. This time, I celebrated their jewel colours by simmering them with sugar as a sauce for rice cooked with milk, cloves and cardamom. A pudding that deserves a place at any altar.

Dal with marrow

Once the lentils are soft, I beat the mixture with a wooden spoon, a process that makes the finished dal especially creamy.
Serves 4

onions 3, large
groundnut or vegetable oil 4 tbsp
garlic 5 cloves
red mild chillies 4, large
coriander seeds 2 tsp
black mustard seeds 2 tsp
yellow mustard seeds 2 tsp
ground cumin 2 tsp
ground turmeric 2 tsp
split red lentils 250g
curry leaves 15-20
marrow 1kg

Peel the onions and slice them into rings about the width of a pencil. Warm the groundnut oil in a medium to large saucepan over a moderate heat, add the onions and lower the heat. Leave them to soften, with the occasional stir, for a good 30-40 minutes, until they are pale gold, sticky to the touch and soft enough to crush between your fingers.

Peel and finely slice the garlic and stir into the onions. Cut the chillies in half and then into thin, matchstick-size strips, then add to the onions and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Crush the coriander seeds to a fine powder then stir into the onions together with the mustard seeds, ground cumin and turmeric.

Rinse the lentils then stir into the onions. Pour in 1 litre of water and bring to the boil. Add salt and the curry leaves then partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. The lentils are done when they are soft and easily crushable.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and place a steamer basket or colander over the top. Peel the marrow, remove the seeds and fluffy core, then cut the flesh into large pieces about 3cm in diameter. Put the marrow in the steamer, cover with a lid, and leave for about 10 minutes.

Beat the lentils for a minute or so with a wooden spoon. Check the seasoning. Transfer the cooked marrow to the lentils, pushing it down into the sauce, and let it simmer for a further 5 minutes or so then serve.

Sweet spiced rice and plums

Early autumn recipes | Nigel Slater (1)

I cannot keep rice pudding for winter alone. The soft grains and sweet milk appeal just as much on a late summer’s afternoon as they do when frost is on the ground. I add a touch of spice in the same way my mother would have added a bay leaf and a pinch of ground nutmeg. A couple of cloves, a few grains of cardamom and, if I have any, a little long pepper, with its notes of vanilla and sweet heat.
Serves 4

pudding rice 150g
full cream milk 500ml
condensed milk 200ml
green cardamom 6 pods
cloves 4
long pepper 2 pods (optional)

For the plums:
plums 12, ripe
light muscovado 50g
lemon 1

Put the rice into a medium-sized, heavy-based saucepan with 500ml of water and bring to the boil. Watch carefully until the water has evaporated, a matter of 5-7 minutes, then pour in the milk. Stir in the condensed milk. Crack the cardamom pods with a heavy weight, such as a pestle, just enough so that they open slightly, but the brown seeds remain inside. As the liquid returns to the boil, add them, together with the cloves and, if you are using it, the long pepper. Lower the heat and let it simmer.

Check the rice after 15 minutes, giving it a bit longer if necessary. The grains should be quite soft and creamy.

Meanwhile cook the plums: halve and stone the fruits and put them in a saucepan with the sugar. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice into the plums. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover partially with a lid and cook for 10-15 minutes until the plums are soft, almost to the point of collapse.

Ladle the warm rice into dishes, removing cardamom, cloves and pepper as you go, then spoon over the plums and their garnet-red juices.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater

Early autumn recipes | Nigel Slater (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Last Updated:

Views: 5824

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Birthday: 1999-05-27

Address: Apt. 171 8116 Bailey Via, Roberthaven, GA 58289

Phone: +2585395768220

Job: Lead Liaison

Hobby: Lockpicking, LARPing, Lego building, Lapidary, Macrame, Book restoration, Bodybuilding

Introduction: My name is Sen. Ignacio Ratke, I am a adventurous, zealous, outstanding, agreeable, precious, excited, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.