There is always some vegetable that even the most hard-core vegetable lover dislikes. I count myself as a hard-core vegetable lover: I can rant for hours about the secret pleasures of artichokes or the juicy consistency of asparagus. I eat vegetables because they are good-for-you, sure, but mainly I eat them because I want to eat them. I want to cook with them. Whenever I go to the market, I have to stop myself from buying too much. I am a compulsive vegetable shopper, I admit it, and nothing excites me more than a good-looking (and better tasting!) fruit and veggies stall. My vegetable love has always been one of the distinctive tract of my personality: my sister is the one who eats only meat, I am the one who eats only vegs. We are a team, when it comes to eating.
This week is probably the most beautiful one here. The woods, which are dark and green and gloomy in summer, and dark and bare and gloomy in winter, turn into a festive array of yellow, red and green. They manage to bring a little joy to the overcast days.
I am no fan of autumn. I never understood its charms when living in Italy: to us it is just the rain season. It can rain for weeks, with no breaks (this is happening right now in Italy. Looks like someone up there wants to wipe out all the dirt, which sounds like a good idea, actually; but the ones who get wiped away are never the right ones). In a place like the UK, where it rains most of the summer, autumn can be much sunnier than summer itself. It is a beautiful period. I still remember one poem by Emily Dickinson, which I happen to remember by heart: ‘The morns are meeker than they were.. ‘. I have good reasons for remembering it. When our English teacher made us analyse it for a test, the whole class, 30 reasonably well learned students, concluded it was about spring. How can you say something positive at all about autumn? Take 30 random Italian guys: we won’t understand a thing about autumn charms. The poem is very clear, but we were all so sure no one could speak about it in such terms, that we happily ignored all evidences.
With time, I have learned to appreciate this season’s subtleties. Every autumn I also rediscover squash, one of my favourite ingredients ever. The farmers market is bursting with beautiful squashes, but the famous butternut is not the best one around. The winner here is the small Hokkaido, bright orange, together with a very dense and sweet one with a thick and dark green peel, not unlike Kabocha. Also pumpkins are quite flavourful.
I try new recipes when I am so inclined, but I like squash so much that every time I develop a series of simple go-to favourites, which are what I cook most times, on a daily basis. I had years where most of the pumpkins would go in pasta (I love gratin pasta with savoy cabbage and pumpkin) or just mashed with garlic or shallots and some herbs. This year I often go for soups and roasted squash.
There exist millions of interesting blogs out there. Billions of wonderful recipes. We can’t reasonably try them all. Of those that we do try, just a few enter into the ‘all time favourite’ list. Others, you make a couple of time, and then you forget. Then a year goes by, and something reminds you of that great recipe that would just be perfect for the particular occasion.
Sometimes you remember it all: who where and when posted it. Maybe you made a bookmark or a clipping or whatever. Then you go there, and the blog is gone.
However, that is not what usually happens, for me at least. Most of the time what happens is that I simply forget where the recipe came from. Even if I did save the recipe in my ‘ to do ‘ list, well, the list is a bit too long to find it easily.
Sometimes I like the recipe so much, or I tweak it so much, that I like to actually rewrite the recipe here, in my space.
But sometimes the original post is so good and clear that there is really no need for that. So I thought that for me it is going to be useful to post a roundup of my favourite recipes, now and again. I also thought you might like me to share it, just to get a few new (at least double tested) ideas. I’ll start with a few recipes I’ve been collecting in the last months – I hope this becomes a regular habit.
Did I already say how much I love this place? And how much I love this cookbook? I love it so much that I could not contemplate closing it in a box, and it is the only cookbook that made the move with me.
Their cooking can be summarized – their words, not mine – in ‘garlic and lemon’. Love it or hate it. I had a chance to try the cookbook because it was in the library, after reading this recension. I fell in love with the recipes, and obviously, first time I went to London for a trip, I basically choose the hotel because it was just a few meters away from their Notting Hill shop :). It was no disappointment, also on subsequent visits.