A lot of people love September. I’m more of a spring renewal fan myself, but I must say, this year I’m seeing the beauty in the turn of the season and a fresh page. For the first time for 20 years, though, there’s no official ‘new term.’ With sons aged 21 and 24, and the youngest finishing at uni in the summer, the era of formal education is finally over. I’ll just have to buy myself a new pencil case and pens, then.
The seasons may be changing, but the garden is far from finished. I have a second flush of zinnias about to flower, my heroic ‘Million Bells’ are still blooming, the Mme Alfred Carriere rose is offering a few subtle white flowers, and there’s a riot of rosy honeysuckle going on by the shed. I have some fabulous toffee coloured rudbeckia, and the last of the chillis, tomatoes and strawberries to pick. I’m still using my herbs, lemony thyme in tarts and cocktails, aromatic bay leaves for pickles and sauces, and the last of the basil to flavour roasted tomato soup, as well as my favourite chocolate mint tea. Chocolate mint is a wonderful herb, I love the flavour.
The new season really makes me want to cook. I tend not to do very much over summer, living on salads and light food, but I love the produce that’s available at this time of year. I collected the chillis from my single potted plant over a month, and froze them. When I had enough, I made a batch of chilli jam. It’s the first time I’ve tried this preserve, and it’s a winner. So easy, and absolutely delicious. My recipe came from Nigella Lawson (http://www.nigella.com/recipes/chilli-jam) and it took about 20 minutes. We like it stirred into a vegetarian curry (current favourite is aubergine and tomato), or liberally applied to a cheese scone with a wedge of strong cheddar.
Chilli jam – the colour of autumn
Served with cheese scones…recipe from an ancient Bero baking book.
I’ve also been making plum and apple compote for porridge. On Friday I bought a sack of tiny onions for pickling and I can’t wait to get those underway with juniper berries and fresh bay leaves from my tree. I went blackberrying and picked a kilo of fruits. Some of these went on top of a pavlova with home made lemon curd, and I made a syrup for blackberry gin by simmering the fruit with some sugar until thickened, cooled, and then used as a mixer with plenty of ice.
I love blackberrying: a reminder of childhood. I chose a perfectly still, sunny day, and didn’t meet a soul on my foraging trip. I also got lost….this happens to me regularly.
Frozen blackberries topping a home made lemon pavlova
It’s a beautiful time to stroll over to the town allotments and see what’s growing. I loved the pumpkins and dahlias last week.
And the zinnias – they’re not subtle but I just love their strong, painterly colours in lipstick pink, hot orange, gold and plum. I’m so pleased that I grew some from seed this year and raised them in a container. After the first onslaught by slugs, the second wave have fared much better.
It’s also the season for figs. I’ve just made this recipe for dinner tonight.
A very quick watercolour sketch. But they deserve a proper attempt.
I’m really enjoying a cook book by Gill Meller called Time. I’ve made quite a few of the recipes, but the winner so far is these parsley and potato flatbreads. They don’t look very glamorous in my picture, but they are absolutely delicious.
In other news, I’ve been roasting sunflower seeds with sea salt and oil for salads and snacks, and painting the flowers.
We found this incredible sunflower meadow a few weeks ago. It looks like Provence, but it’s in Northamptonshire.
And then I collaged it.
The colours I see at the moment do make me want to get my sketch book out all the time. This is another one…
If someone is coming over, I like making dessert. This treacle, orange and thyme tart went down well. It’s another one of Gil Meller’s, although I used a less opulent tart mixture and just added his idea of orange and thyme from the garden.
So that’s my September on a plate. Even with a tiny garden I can grow and cook with some of the flavours that I love.