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Dreading the return of thick coats and chilly mornings? Darina Allen’s cosy autumn recipes will help you embrace the season ahead.
When it comes to autumn, there are two types of people in the world. Half have spent nine months waiting to crack out chunky jumpers, cinnamon-y candles and spiced hot drinks. The others? They’re quietly mourning summer while bidding farewell to lightweight duvets and post-work sunshine. Still coming to terms with yesterday’s autumn equinox? The season’s culinary delights should be enough to bring you round.
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Warming one-pot stews, comforting roast dinners and sweet-and-sour fruit-based desserts: autumn calls for simple ingredients, cooked well, with supremely tasty results. One chef who’s very much on board with this spirit is Darina Allen. Widely considered Ireland’s most famous cook, Allen is best known as the founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School. Set on an organic farm, it’s renowned for fusing cuisines and culinary techniques to create delicious yet approachable feasts.
Happily, you can now recreate the Ballymaloe way with Allen’s new cookbook, How to Cook: The 100 Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know. As the title suggests, it’s full of Allen’s best back-to-basics kitchen secrets – you’ll discover how to rustle up delicious, seasonal dishes using simple ingredients that will quickly work their way into your weekly repertoire. Love what you’re hearing? Below, you’ll find three warming recipes from Allen’s new book that celebrate comforting autumnal flavours…
Firstly, if roast dinners seem too time-consuming, Allen’s one-dish roast chicken supper makes the perfect stand-in. She cooks crispy bacon, chicken and potatoes with a mix of rosemary and thyme, then serves it with vegetables on the side for a moreish mixture that’s ideal Sunday fare.
Allen’s vegan option is equally crowd-pleasing, with white beans, tomatoes and garlic all combining to make a fragrant stew. We’ll be making big batches of this on weekends, then freezing the leftovers for a cosy WFH lunch whenever we need.
Finally, if the return of Bake Off has got you craving classic desserts, but pastry-making strikes fear into your very soul, Allen’s apple and blackberry pie is the perfect cheat. Instead of breadcrumbing butter and flour, Allen breaks every pastry rule with her ingenious creaming method. The result? A sublimely tasty pie.
And lo, we’re ready to embrace chilly mornings and tights season once more…
One-dish roast chicken supper
Darina says: “Another lip-smackingly delicious dish that family and friends love me to cook for them. A whole roasting tray of crispy chicken, bacon and potatoes, perfumed with rosemary and thyme leaves. For a feistier flavour, substitute one-third to half the bacon for diced chorizo. Halve the quantities below for a smaller serving.”
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 500g streaky bacon lardons
- 2kg free-range, organic chicken thighs, drumsticks and wings
- 2–3 tbsp thyme leaves
- 1–2 tbsp chopped rosemary
- 1.1kg (about 10 large) potatoes
- 250g onions, sliced
- 60–110ml hot chicken stock (optional)
- flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 230°C/gas mark 8.
Heat the oil in a roasting tin, add the bacon and toss over a high heat until it is beginning to colour. Remove to a plate with a perforated spoon.
Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Put into a large bowl and scatter with most of the thyme leaves and chopped rosemary, reserving some for the potatoes. (I sometimes add a sprinkling of chilli flakes or smoked paprika – it gets a brilliant reaction.) Toss well.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1cm-thick chips. Dry and season well with salt, pepper and the reserved herbs. Add to the bowl with chicken. Drizzle with the bacon fat and olive oil from the pan and toss once again.
Scatter the onions and bacon over the base of a 37 x 31cm roasting tin, or two smaller 30 x 20cm tins. Arrange the chicken and potatoes haphazardly on top, making sure that the potatoes are popping up. Drizzle with a little more oil. Roast for 45 minutes–1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through (the juices should be running clear if pricked with a knife) and the chips are crispy at the edges. (Organic chicken pieces are larger, so the cooking time can be up to 1 ¼ hours.) Add the chicken stock at the end if the dish needs a little more juice. Serve from the tin, family style, with a good green salad and vegetables of your choice.
White bean stew with tomatoes and rosemary
Darina says: “This bean stew freezes brilliantly in all its incarnations – see variations below. Serve as a vegetarian main or as a side dish to roast lamb or pork, or roast vegetables.”
- 225g dried haricot beans or cannellini beans
- bouquet garni made from a bay leaf, parsley stalks, thyme, celery stick (optional)
- 1 onion, halved
- 1 carrot, halved
- 175g chopped onion
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- a large sprig of rosemary, chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add the bouquet garni, onion and carrot, cover and simmer for 30 minutes–1 hour until the beans are soft but not mushy. Just before the end of cooking, add salt to taste. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard. Save the cooking liquid for later.
Meanwhile, sweat the chopped onion gently in the oil in a wide saucepan for 7–8 minutes until soft but not coloured, add the garlic and cook for a further minute or two. Then add the chopped tomatoes, cooked white beans and rosemary. Simmer for 10–15 minutes – add some of the bean liquid if necessary and season well with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar. The mixture should be loose and juicy but not swimming in liquid.
- Haricot beans with tomatoes, rosemary & cauliflower: Blanch and refresh 450g cauliflower or broccoli florets, add to the main recipe 5 minutes before the end of cooking.
- Haricot beans with tomatoes, rosemary & chilli: Add 1 chopped red or green chilli to the chopped onions and proceed as in the main recipe.
- Haricot beans with tomatoes & rosemary with chorizo: Add 1 chorizo, sliced, to the tomato base with the beans and rosemary.
- Gratin of haricot beans with tomatoes & rosemary: Put the mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish. Scatter a mixture of buttered crumbs and approx. 50g grated Cheddar cheese (or a mixture of Cheddar and Parmesan or other well-flavoured cheeses) over the top and put into a hot oven or flash under a grill until crisp and golden on top.
Apple and blackberry pie
Darina says: “Apple pie is virtually everyone’s favourite pudding. My famous break-all-the-rules pastry taught to me by my mum is made by the creaming method, so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. I make this pie year-round with whatever fruits are in season: rhubarb, green gooseberries and elderflower, a mixture of stone fruit, such as apricots, peaches and nectarines… Enjoy all with a blob of softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar, it’s obligatory!”
For the break-all-the-rules pastry:
- 225g butter, softened
- 40g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 2 organic, free-range eggs
- 350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 organic, free-range egg, beaten with a dash of milk
For the filling:
- 600g Bramley cooking apples, peeled and cut into large dice
- 110g blackberries
- 150g granulated sugar
- softly whipped cream
- dark soft brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food processor. Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out on to a piece of floured baking parchment, flatten into a round, then wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle – better still, make it the day before.
Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick, then use about two-thirds of it to line an 18 x 30 x 2.5cm square tin or a 22.5cm round tin. Fill the pie to the top with the apples and blackberries and sprinkle with the sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, press the edges together to seal. Decorate with pastry leaves, brush with the beaten egg mixture and bake for 45 minutes–1 hour until the apples are tender. When cooked, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar, cut into pieces and serve with softly whipped cream and sugar.
- Classic apple pie: Use 675g Bramley cooking apples, peeled and cut into large dice, 2–3 cloves and 150g granulated sugar for the filling.
- Apple & raspberry: pie Use 450g Bramley cooking apples and approx. 225g raspberries.
- Rhubarb pie: Use approx. 900g red rhubarb, cut into 1cm pieces and 175–225g sugar.
- Apricot, peach & nectarine pie: Use a total 1kg fruit and 225g granulated sugar.
- Green gooseberry & elderflower pie: Use approx. 700g gooseberries, 250g brown sugar and 3 elderflowers.
- Cherry pie: Use 1kg cherries.
How to Cook: The 100 Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know by Darina Allen (£22, Octopus Publishing) is out 23 September
Photography: Nassima Rothacker