I've been meaning to write this post for a while and been holding back not because of lack of inspiration and recipes but rather there have been so many I have had a hard time making the selection. This autumn has been truly golden. The summer stretched as long as possible until finally passing the torch to rain and wind. Days have since gotten shorter and are often covered under a grey blanket. Bertrand started nursery which means we have all been down with different flues ever since. That has meant a lot of days spent home, cooking something nourishing and comforting. Food has always made me feel better, no matter the situation, so it's also my way of offering comfort. Specially during this season which can get dull and depressing, the search for comfort begins.
There is something enjoyable (in the lack of a better word) in taking some days off and staying home. To pay more attention to yourself, focus on your health and getting better. And also to just be at home. To enjoy morning cuddles with my son, to read a book I bought two years ago and hadn' t had time to read. Like a gift of time to take it slow and do things I wish I had more time for, with doctor's orders. So of course I cooked, as much as possible, between doctor's appointments and fever. Here are three recipes that for me captured the seasonal essence and satisfied my appetite for comfort.
If you have read my previous posts you already know I write a lot about comfort. It probably has something to do with growing up in Estonia where it's cold nine months of the year and the temperature can go as low as -30°C during those long winter nights. It can be magical but most of the time it's just grey and you have to bring the comfort. I have already written about my love for risotto and how much joy it brings - both making and eating it. So it's only appropriate there is a seasonal risotto recipe amongst my autumn selection.
1 tbsp butter 2 shallots (finely chopped) 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced) 400g wild mushrooms (roughly chopped) 200g arborio rice 1 l vegetable broth 1 tbsp dried parsley 40 g graded Parmesan or Grana Padano
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in the pan (leave the rest for later) and add the onions on medium-low heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the garlic and parsley, then the chopped mushrooms. Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes, so they give out their water and become soft. Stir through and add the rice.
Stir until everything is well coated and the rice has absorbed all the buttery mixture. Start adding the broth 2 tbsp at a time to the rice, stirring until absorbed. Continue adding the broth, stirring after each addition until it has been absorbed. It should take about 20-25 minutes. Finally add the rest of the butter and Parmesan/Grana Padano and stir everything gently together.
The second recipe I'm sharing is for sweet potato gnocchi. Gnocchi is one of my favourite comfort foods and sweet potato is so fitting during colder months, so it really is the perfect combination of the two. It's not a very precise recipe regarding quantities but is easy to make, promise. I used 5 smaller sweet potatoes and around 4-5 tablespoons of flour. The thing to remember here is to try to use as little flour as possible, just enough to form a dough. If you feel it's too sticky add some more. For the brown butter sage sauce use unsalted butter.
Sweet potato gnocchi
Equal amounts of sweet potatoes and flour 5 tbsp butter 1 tbsp dried sage
Halve the sweet potatoes and put them in the oven until soft. While they cook, prepare the brown butter sage sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat, let it become golden brown, it should take couple of minutes, then add sage. Let the sage simmer in butter for couple of minutes, then take the pan from heat. In a big pot put the water to boil. Once the sweet potatoes are soft remove the skins, the insides should be soft enough to carve with a spoon. Gather the soft sweet potatoes in a bowl and mash trough with fork. Now add flour, this is the least precise part. Try to add as little as possible, so the gnocci wouldn't be rubbery. There should be enough flour to form a dough. Roughly said the same quantity of flour as there is the sweet potato mash. Roll the mixture into a dough, do not over work it. Divide the dough into four parts. Add some flour on your working counter top or table so it wouldn't stick. Using your hands, one part at a time roll the dough long and thin, then using a knife cut into small pieces, about the size of the nail of your thumb. One by one add the cut pieces into the boiling water. They will sink at first but within couple of minutes float to the surface. Keep your eye on them, they will be ready fast. Once on the surface, take them out of the water and toss them on the pan in the brown butter and sage sauce. Let them brown for a couple of minutes over medium heat and that's it!
Chai poached pears have become a regular in our kitchen within the last months. So if there is one dessert for this season it will have to be this one. A wonderfully light dessert with a nice warm kick, courtesy of chai. This will warm you up from the inside.
Chai poached pears
4-5 pears (depending on size and the used pot)
2 tbsp chai ( I used sticky chai blend from Herbonata which has so much more depth and flavour then chai powders)
3 tbsp honey
1.3 l water
Mix the chai and honey in the water over meedium heat. While it comes to a simmer peal the pears and add to the chai mixture. Let it come to a boil and let them boil for about 30-40 minutes, depending how ripe your pears are to begin with.