Another view of autumn in full swing is that it's time to break in your boots, break out the tea cosies, snuggle up in front of a fire with a good book in the evenings, see friends over cups of coffee, and above all, make the most of the sunny hours there are during the day. Platitudes? Cuteseyness? Perhaps. But who cares when it feels good? Yours truly has enjoyed a lot of suchlike goodness lately and will hence not spend much time waxing lyrical about things when there are boots to be waxed and books to be read. There is time, though, for two notes that might warm up your autumn. Here goes.
Kember & Jones, Glasgow
If you find yourself in Glasgow's West End while peckish, Kember & Jones on Byres Road offers pretty much all your heart desires: excellent scones, dashing soups, a very wicked raspberry-banana bread, savoury tartlets, and much more - not least the occasional waft of chocolatey warmth from the oven. The queue during lunchtime is long, but this is food one likes to go to lengths for. And while this food emporium (oh, whatever - they can get away with it if anyone can) is good any time of the year, autumn transforms it into everyone's favourite home away from home. Take a friend and watch the rain through the windows. Fall for it.
'Tis squash season! Shout it from your kitchen window (though better not too loudly - been there, done that, scared the squirrels). Roasted, souped and risottoed squash are well-established yummities which are great to revisit every year. But let me introduce you to a version which has been an eye-opener as much as a mouth-opener to me in recent years. It was recommended by a famous historian of alchemy, and goodness, the man knows what he talks about in both lecture room and kitchen! Ladies and gentlemen, I present
Butternut Squash GnocchiCut 1 butternut squash of ca. 2lb in half, de-seed and place face down onto an oiled baking tray to roast at a medium temperature until soft (takes about 45-60 minutes); then scoop out the flesh and mush it up with a fork. Add another splash of finest olive oil, a very decent dash of salt, some pepper, spices or herbs as inspired (rosemary and thyme go well with this; some like nutmeg), and finally some flour (ca. 2 cups), which is to be mixed in delicately until the dough holds but is not too stodgy.
*** Beware: gnocchi dough does not like to be manhandled (that goes for the potato variety as well) - if you do knead too much, it takes its revenge by sulking itself into a chewy mess that will cling to your teeth. So, take the loving approach, not the I-will-punch-the-living-daylights-out-of-you one.***
When it's all akin to gnocchi dough as you know it, wrap in clingfilm and rest for at least 30 minutes in your good old refrigeration device (that might be your fridge or, in single-glazed flats, your hallway...).
When dinner time comes around, divide the dough into manageable portions (4-6, I'd say), roll into sausages and cut off gnocchi-sized bits, which you then imprint with a fork on one side to maximise surface area. Put onto a lightly floured surface in a single layer and keep covered with a damp kitchen towel or aforementioned clingfilm until ready to cook.
Bring lots of water to the boil, salt generously, and tip in a test gnoccho. It should float up to the surface after 3-5 minutes, at which point you remove it with a slotted spoon, gobble it down and proceed to cook the lot, in batches, adjusting cooking time according to the taste test.
The finished gnocchi are best on their own, perchance with a bit of melted sage butter on top, some grated Parmesan and more black pepper. They feel incredibly comfortable beside a selection of perfectly cooked wild mushrooms, and (just for colour and crunch) some steamed broccoli topped with roasted flaked almonds.
I'm afraid I have to break off here - there's a squash that wants roasting in my kitchen and squirrels waiting to hear the good news just outside it. But go ahead, try it, and feed a friend - because that's what food/autumn/life is all about, isn't it?