Rosie says: “There’s something slightly melancholic and back-to-school about September, and the slow, painful ebbing away of summer. October brings with it a new energy and optimism, and a comforting certainty that we are well and truly in the midst of autumn. Autumn surprises me in the quiet, understated way it delights. The shocking beauty of a crisp, golden-tinged autumnal day, and the seasonal pleasures of ripe autumn produce, all hold unique charms to be celebrated and cherished.
As it’s now too nippy for alfresco get-togethers, we turn our attention to cosy inside gatherings, and there are so many lovely ways to make dinners extra special at this time of year. One of my favourite supper clubs I held in London was in the autumn, with the Russian food writer Alissa Timoshkina. Together, and with the help of brilliant florist, Worm London, we worked on a gorgeous set-up for the dinner that included a huge, meandering hanging display of dried hops, and tablescapes of autumnal fruit (figs, split pomegranates and pears), along with boughs of glossy, ruby and bronze-hued crab apples, and grasses dotted down the tables in stem jars. I served a menu of foraged and allotment produce: fried wild beefsteak mushrooms for the vegetarians; slow-cooked pork belly with cider, allotment apples and homegrown lovage-flecked potatoes; and a delicate dashi and eel broth with local wild cherry plums I fermented to make a kind of east London umeboshi.
But I’m not suggesting anything quite so elaborate for our dinners at home. Autumnal tables can be given a sense of occasion with simple displays of harvest fruit and vegetables – I love to place those cheerful, bobbly squashes, apples and pears down the table, on a simple white linen cloth. And, if you’re lucky enough to own or live near a fruiting crab apple tree, branches hanging with the little fruits make a statement on their own, or as additions to floral arrangements along with brambles.
With the change in the season, the tone of our cooking and appetites also shift, and, happily, this coincides with the abundance of orchard fruits. As we enter a phase of eating rich braises, meat dishes and cheeseboards, the English apples, pears and quinces are at their prime. I love preserving these fruits to make the most of their season, and search out local quinces, medlars and crab apples for quivering jellies.
Good old fashioned apples also work beautifully for one of my all-time favourites which I’m sharing with you here – apple jelly with chilli, ginger and mint. I make it in bulk every year to eat with roast meats, cheeses and in sandwiches (it’s particularly good in toasties and sausage sandwiches). The recipe is simple but requires a little patience when finding the setting point, as pectin and moisture levels in the fruit do vary. Once you’ve made your first jar, though, I’m sure this will become a permanent fixture in your fridge.”
- Granny Smith apples or cooking apples 600-750g
- caster sugar (see method)
- cider vinegar or lime juice 1 tsp
- red chilli 1, deseeded and finely diced
- pul biber or dried chilli flakes 2 tsp
- ginger 2cm piece, peeled and finely chopped
- mint a sprig, leaves finely chopped