Yay! Autumn has finally arrived and we’re loving the cooler evenings and crisp mornings (complete with condensation on the window panes upon waking). Although the days are still warm, there’s nothing better than popping on a jumper as the sun goes down, lighting the fire and opening a bottle of red wine.
For us, the onset of cooler mornings and evenings also sees a change in the meals we’re preparing and eating. Guest breakfasts are heartier, and in place of salads and barbecues we’re spending our time in the kitchen preparing soups, casseroles, stews, preserves, bakes and puddings for evening meals with family and friends.
We put aside a rainy day recently to restock the pantry with two batches of chutney, using produce that’s still in abundance at the local farmer’s market – one a spicy pear and walnut (gorgeous with cheese) and the other a ‘never-fail’ tomato chutney.
We’ve also returned to serving home-baked cheese shortbreads with the afternoon wine service, and this week baked a batch of parmesan, chilli and thyme biscuits; we made a triple batch of dough and shaped and popped two portions in the freezer so that we have warm, fragrant and buttery shortbread ready to serve in under half an hour.
Traditional Tomato Chutney
1⅓ kg tomatoes (cored and skinned)500 grams apples (eating apples, cored, not peeled)
700 grams red onions (peeled and chopped)
500 millilitres cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh root ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
400 grams raisins or sultanas
450 grams soft brown sugar
1 tspn cayenne pepper (if you like spice, feel free to increase the amount of cayenne or add some red chilli flakes to taste)
1 tablespoon sea salt
Put all the ingredients into a pot, bring to a simmer and then cook over a low simmer for three to four hours. Stir occasionally (more frequently towards the end of the cooking time to prevent sticking); the chutney is ready when only a small amount of syrupy liquid collects in a depression that you make in the chutney with a spoon (it will firm up further once cooled).
Discard the cinnamon stick and pour into sterilised preserving jars; seal the lids and leave to cool before labelling. And although this can be eaten immediately, the flavours have fully developed and it’s at its best after a couple of months.
Parmesan, Chilli and Thyme Shortbreads
A great complement to afternoon drinks, these are buttery, cheesey, spicy and thyme-scented – a magical combination which proves very moor-ish! This recipe makes around 30 biscuits.
120gm unsalted butter at room temperature
150gm finely grated extra-sharp Parmesan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix the butter in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamy, then add the other ingredients and mix until combined (add a tablespoon or two of water – in batches as needed – to pull the dough together.Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until creamy. Add the Parmesan, flour, salt, thyme and pepper and combine.
On a lightly floured board roll the dough into a log; wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (170C if fan forced).
Retrieve the dough from the freezer, cut into 7mm thick slices. Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake for 22 minutes until golden.