roast butternut squash salad with pomegranate and tahini dressing

roast butternut squash salad with pomegranate and tahini dressing
A spicy, sweet and sour roasted squash salad topped with tangy cheese, crunchy hazelnuts and beautiful jewel-like pomegranate seeds. It is simple yet sumptuous and the perfect autumn salad.

urap: indonesian cooked vegetable salad with coconut and lime dressing

urap: indonesian cooked vegetable salad with coconut and lime dressing
It's that time of year when you start wondering about what to wear. Is it cold enough to wear a coat? If I wear my coat will I be too hot? If I don't, will I be too cold? And the perennial question of what to eat for supper ... do I have a salad? (I love salads.) But it is chilly at night, perhaps I should cook up some greens; something a little more autumnal?

rice porridge for breakfast: congee, juk or babur

rice porridge for breakfast: congee, juk or babur
I'm up with the birds this morning, together with Mia, my elderly cat, who meows imperiously at me to be let out the back door and into the garden. (We don't have a cat flap; I act as the cat's personal concierge. It is a thankless but necessary task.) Seconds later the cat is meowing scratchily to be allowed back in. She sinuously scurries in through the small gap that I have opened up, skids to a halt and scolds me with a reproving look that says "Why did you let me outside when it is so cold?" "Hey, you're the one with a fur coat," I say. "I'm the one freezing in my jammies, waiting on you." "And your point?" says the cat haughtily. "Enough of this frivolous conversation. Feed me. Now."

turkish poached eggs in yogurt (cilbir)

Turkish poached eggs in yogurt (cilbir)
I have a feeling that when I meet new people I have barely got the social niceties out of the way before I am grilling them on their favourite foods. Omer was no exception, as he told me about cilbir, a Turkish egg and yogurt dish, his favourite comfort food from childhood. Sadly, something got a bit lost in translation as Omer's passionate defence of gloopy eggs in a sour yogurt sauce sounded, frankly, revolting. But then Omer isn't much of a cook and hadn't actually cooked it himself. And in trying to get firmer details, I struggled as my Turkish is non-existent too.

burn baby burn (or heathcliffe's chilli burn odyssey: a cautionary tale)

dried chillies, used for illustrative purposes only!
What do you do when one of your dearest friends phones with a problem? Of course you listen, while trying to work out whether they are laughing or crying, and try to make sense of the stream-of-conscious excitable babble from the other end of the phone. You're a good friend, and a shoulder to cry on when necessary. Except, of course, this time you can't help and you are desperately trying not to guffaw with laughter.

what's in season: october

windfall apples, October 2015
Behold the apples’ rounded worlds:
juice-green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers, the rind
mapped with its crimson stain.

The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.

They lie as wanton as they fall,
and where they fall and break,
the stallion clamps his crunching jaws,
the starling stabs his beak.

In each plump gourd the cidery bite
of boys’ teeth tears the skin;
the waltzing wasp consumes his share,
the bent worm enters in.

I, with as easy hunger, take
entire my season’s dole;
welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour,
the hollow and the whole.

Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

vietnamese chicken noodle soup (pho)

 Vietnamese chicken noodle soup (pho)
That I love Asian noodles I think is probably a given. A Vietnamese-style pho (pronounced "fuh") is one of my favourite meals, especially if I have any leftover roast meat to use up. So if you're thinking ahead to Sunday's roast chicken lunch, think how good Monday's supper will be (particularly if you use the carcass to make a stock).

halloumi tikka (squeaky cheese in a spicy yogurt marinade!)

grilled halloumi tikka
This year's BBQ season was somewhat short-lived, which is a bit of shame as I didn't have many opportunities to roll out one of my BBQ favourites, halloumi tikka. Fortunately though, you don't have to wait until the temperature rises and the sun comes out. It works perfectly well under the grill or in a hot pan.

salmon and blackberry salad with blackberry dressing

salmon and blackberry salad with blackberry dressing
I had this glorious Chinese-style blackberry sauce on a piece of salmon recently. It's sweet and tart and, if I say so myself, utterly divine. The sauce actually works rather well with grilled chicken too. I suspect it would be lovely with pork chops too.

turkish-style cucumber and tomato soup

turkish-style cucumber and tomato soup
So much for the expected heatwave. Oh well, I love this simple soup, which is slightly tart and refreshing on a hot day (rain or not and rather nice at the end of summer too. Don't be deceived by its somewhat sludgy appearence!

Goat's cheese and blackberry salad with blackberry vinaigrette

Goat's cheese and blackberry salad with blackberry vinaigrette
I live a simpler life these days. Part of it is a case of cutting my coat according to my cloth. Part is wanting to live a more sustainable life. I suppose my priorities have changed and these days I just don't feel a sense of envy for the things I don't have (mainly my lack of designer shoes!).

what's in season: september

wild brambles (about 20 feet from my front door!)
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots