Sunday, 30 September 2012

September 30th - £6 for some chocolate fingers, and a damson compote

Dear Nigel,

Autumn is here, thick and heavy, alternating between those bright and sunny windswept days when the changing leaves glow, and dark, wet and muddy days when venturing out is done under protest. I am waiting for my log store to arrive so i can lay in supplies for the winter. The dark days make us like squirrels tucking things away in the freezer, making jam for buttered crumpets in front of the tele and bottling the last of the summer.

The produce at the Harvest auction showed likewise. There were plenty of jars of homemade lemon curd and pickled onions, jams and chutneys. You could almost picture which villager brought which item. There was a whole swathe of gladioli in vibrant shades, and two onions and a sweetcorn which was slightly less funny when the second one appeared, although one raucous laugh from the back obviously didn't think so.

It was bring-your-own-drinks and a choice of pud. The Pie itself was first class, which rather suprised me, although maybe it shouldn't. Maybe we have all got used to eating and expecting better quality food these days, from pubs, restaurants (naturally), school dinners, hospitals and even village hall get-togethers. The event was a sell-out and a good mix of young and old. It was good to feel part of a community and made welcome.

And then the bidding started in earnest. The vicar (who Dawn French must surely have based her character on in 'The Vicar of Dibley') seemed to be bidding against herself in an urge to up the proceedings, and the profits. Sophie had great fun bidding wildly for a packet of chocolate fingers, which ended up costing me about £6 for the privilege.

Red is everywhere,quickening the heart. The Robin is back perched high on Archie. There are Rose hips in the hedgerows and deep pink sedum blossoms covered in the last bumblebees of  summer; and the giant heads of fading hydrangeas, like ladies in swimming hats, nodding over the paths. I buy chilli plants for the house and a bowl of tiny kir-like damsons to make into compote. The shops are full of fresh Turkish figs and pomegranates to pick at and sprinkle on puddings.(I'm never quite happy with that word 'desert' - pudding sounds just so much better, like something you're going to eat rather than just look at on a trolley.)

You make a Courgette and Lancashire cheese crumble and apologise for its 70's nut-cutlet image. But don't. I make a similar Cauliflower crumble that i love (but have been banned for making it by the kids since leaving Cornwall, where i bought cauliflowers from little tables at field edges for 20p each, and it became our weekly frugal staple).Your crumble is fragrant with flecks of chopped Rosemary and walnut pieces. The toasting of the cheese in the crumble mixture on top is what gives it its satisfying and moreish qualities.

'There is a chill to the house and sweaters all round. Supper is risotto, the first of the season.' If ever there were a single comfort food to welcome you home on a cold, dark night, it is a well-made risotto.You make yours simply today with just onion, rice, stock and Gorgonzola. I realise the dark is so intense here, the light-pollution so completely absent, that unless i remember to put on the house light i am left fumbling my way in the dark with a torch to locate the back door.

Come and join us round the fire for hot chocolate with marshmallows this windy night,


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