The colder it gets, the more drawn I am to comfort food and nature crafting. Using finds from nature walks is a great way to bring the outdoors indoors, keeping you connected to nature even when you’re stuck inside.
And eating seasonally is a good way to get vitamins to help you fight off seasonal ailments. Here are a few ways to warm up this autumn.
As soon as the weather requires a raincoat, my thoughts turn to warming drinks. Top of the list is hot chocolate.
I use Green and Blacks if I can: it’s pricey but a little goes a long way – and its less sweet than cheaper hot chocolate. However, cheap cocoa (rather than hot chocolate) can also be tasty.
I prefer to make it with almond milk for a nutty flavour but have also used a 50/50 almond milk/Jersey milk blend for a richer result. Beat it thoroughly with a whisk to make it extra- creamy, adding sugar or honey to taste. Some people like to add cardamon, ginger or nutmeg too.
Top with cream, marshmallows, candied peel or nuts to turn it into as much of a pudding as a drink. Alternatively, add brandy or coffee liqueur for a more adult edge.
Elderberry cordial or port both offer a dairy free warming autumn drink. Stew elderberries with equal amounts of sugar and strain through muslin (or clean old tights) to remove the seeds, then either ferment with a little yeast or store chilled.
For cordial, add water and lemon juice to taste. For port, let the mix ferment. I leave it for a year or so but younger port can be mulled if you get impatient. Serve in front of a fire for optimum enjoyment.
I love one pot meals, and they come into their own in autumn. I use whatever I have a glut of, or find on offer at the supermarket. Here are a few of my favourites:
- Chickpeas with root vegetables (Add sausage or bacon if you like meat in every meal).
- Squash curry: use a whole squash as your curry base, along with onions and any other vegetables you have that need using up. I like to add garlic, ginger and coriander but you can add chilli and other spices if you want more of a kick. Serve with rice or cous cous and flat bread (making your own is much cheaper and tastier than buying it). Home made chutney can add variety to your meal.
- Stew: Fry finely chopped onions, carrots and celery. Add larger chunks of vegetables (or meat, if you prefer) and fry until they start to colour. Add wine or apple juice to deglaze the pan, then pour over stock to cover and simmer with herbs until you’re happy with the flavour (seasoning with salt and pepper to taste).
- Stroganoff: Fry onion and mushrooms until the onions have caramelized and mushrooms have given up most of their moisture. Add strips of chicken or beef at this stage if you eat meat, and fry until cooked. Add stock, mix through, then add sour cream and paprika. Serve with rice.
Autumn is pudding season. Blackberry and apple crumble is my favourite autumn treat, ideally with clotted cream.
As blackberry season draws to an end, elderberries can be used in place of blackberries – or use hawthorn and/or rosehips for an alternative hedgerow crumble. Cook separately, removing the seeds, then add the puree to your apple mix.
Chocolate brownies are another easy treat. I use almond flour in place of flour in this recipe for extra decadence (and gluten free brownies).
Add in a crafting session, whether making pine cone hedgehogs, knitting a simple scarf or hat, or making seed head bouquets and you can enjoy autumn delights without getting too cold.