autumn inspiration

Over the last month or so it feels like I have barely been home. Which probably is because, well, I haven’t. Between trips to the family farm to visit my mum there has been a delightful country weekend with the girls in Orange and a trip to Melbourne to check out their eligible bachelors. All good fun but it did mean that it had been quite some time since I had made my usual weekend pilgrimage to my favourite fruit & veg joint.

So this Saturday saw me eagerly anticipating my shopping expedition. With a guest cook appearance at my well cellared friends place, I was looking for inspiration. And inspiration did I find. It was almost like I’d  walked into an entirely different shop since my last visit. Gone were the masses of peaches, nectarines and mangoes, the bounty of summer, replaced by apples and pears in all shapes and sizes. Hello autumn.

One look at the furry quinces and I knew  the decision as to what to have for dessert was done. I remember reading about quinces long before I ever encountered one in the flesh. Maggie Beer was waxing lyrically about their perfumed flavour and deep crimson colour when cooked. She has a life long convert in me.

Another of my autumn favourites is pomegranate. Definitely a contender for best looking ‘super model’ of the fruit world, their jewelled flesh makes a great addition to salads while their acidity means they work particularly well with duck. Now I’m not so sure when exactly official duck season is, but in my world any season is duck season, especially autumn……all good things

an autumnal sunday dinner
pistachio butter
canellini bean & parmesan puree
pot roasted duck legs
red wine & cumin potatoes
witlof & pomegranate salad
poached quinces with yoghurt

pistachio butter
makes approx 1 cup

I first heard of the idea of non-peanut nut butters from the lovely Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini. Jarad Ingersoll has a walnut butter in his latest book which inspired this pistachio butter.

Toasting the nuts first does mean you loose a little of their gorgeous colour but it’s worth it for the more intense flavour.

200g pre-shelled pistachios
1/2t sea salt
tiny pinch sugar
1/4C (125mL) extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until it reaches your desired consistency – smoother for some and crunchier for others.

canellini bean & parmesan puree
makes approx 1 1/2C

A recent very enjoyable Sunday lunch at Donovan’s in Melbourne inspired this great little dip. They served it swimming in parmesan oil but I chose to keep it a bit more waistline friendly.

Feel free to use whichever white beans you prefer. At Donovan’s they went with fava. You could make a more speedy version with canned beans but the flavour won’t be as good. You’ll need to increase the amount of beans if you do go with canned.

200g dried canellini beans (or other white beans)
2 cloves garlic
1/3C parmesan oil* or extra virgin olive oil
60g parmesan cheese, finely grated
juice 1 lemon

Soak beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Drain and place beans in a large saucepan. Cover generously with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1-2 hours or until beans are very tender.

Drain beans and allow to cool slightly. Place in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and whizz until very smooth. Season to taste and serve at room temperature.

*note: Parmesan oil is just extra virgin olive oil that has had the leftover rinds from parmesan cheese soaked in it. I usually have a jar in the fridge and just add cheese rinds as they come to hand.

pot roasted duck legs
serves 4
Adapted from Jared Ingersoll’s Shared Plates.

This is my new favourite way to cook duck. The results are in the duck confit spectrum without having to invest the time or copious amounts of duck fat. Super moist rich meat that falls off the bone with nicely browned crispy skin, it’s hard to go past. Toss in the amazingly sweet duck fat cooked onions and you’re on a real winner.

Over two hours does seem like a very long time to cook a couple of duck legs but trst me the results are worth the wait.

4 duck legs (marylands)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch thyme
4 white onions, halved and finely sliced
1/4C chicken stock or water

Preheat oven to 200C. Pick the leaves from half the bunch of thyme and combine with chopped garlic. Rub over duck legs, season with salt and pepper and then place in a casserole dish just large enough to hold the duck in a single layer. Scatter over the remaining thyme sprigs, onion and stock. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven.

Reduce temp to 180C and cook for 2 hours stirring every 20mins or so. When duck is very tender uncover and cook for a further 20mins or until the skin is nicely browned.

Divide duck and onion between serving plates and  serve hot.

red wine & cumin potatoes
serves 4-6
Adapted from Jared Ingersoll’s Shared Plates.

This is one of those recipes which sounds so out there that you just have to try it. Jared recommends using 25g coriander seeds which seemed like a typo. I woosed out and only used about 15g which gave a lovely earthy note to the spuds. Feel free to go the whole hog with 25g if you dare.

500g chat or new potatoes, washed
250mL (1C) olive oil
15g coriander seeds, toasted and ground
250mL (1C) red wine
sea salt

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Season well. Bring to the boil and simmer for approx 20mins or until cooked through. Drain and keep warm.

Crush each potato to flatten a little. Heat oil in a high sided saucepan until very hot. Fry potatoes until golden brown on both sides. Add coriander and wine gradually being careful as the mixture will boil up and spit. Continue to fry until the wine has been reduced and the spuds are a little black looking.

Drain on paper towel and serve hot sprinkled with a generous dusting of sea salt.

witlof & pomegranate salad
serves 6
Inspired by the great Janny Kryitsis in Wild Weed Pie.

This salad is the perfect thing to serve with something really rich like duck. Witlof or Belgian endive provides bitterness to help counter the oiliness of the duck along with crunch for a textural  variation.

1 pomegranate
4 witlof (Belgian endive)
3 brown shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 small Corella pears, quartered and thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil

Deseed pomegranate. Reserve half the seeds. Place the other half of the seeds in a strainer over a bowl and press down with the back of a spoon to extract the juices. Mix in an equal volume of oil to the juice and season well.

Separate witlof into individual leaves and toss with shallots, pears and dressing. Arrange on a serving platter and serve sprinkled with the reserved pomegranate seeds.

poached quinces with yoghurt
makes heaps
Adapted from Jared Ingersoll’s Shared Plates.

Poached quinces are such a versatile thing and will keep for a few months in the fridge so when I’m going to the effort I like to make a big batch. Feel free to reduce the quantities but you need the poaching liquid to cover the fruit as much as possible for the best results.

You can peel and quarter the quinces for quicker cooking but if you leave them whole they are much more easy to cut after they are cooked.

3.5kg quinces (approx 9)
1.5kg sugar
2L (8C) water
1C red wine
1 cinnamon stick
zest & juice 1 lemon
zest & juice 1 orange
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
6 peppercorns
sweetened yoghurt, to serve

Preheat oven to 200C. Scrub and wash quince to remove downy outer layer. Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepan that will hold the quince snugly in a single layer. Bring to the boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add quince and cover with a small plate to keep the quince submerged.

Return to the boil then place in the preheated oven and cook for 5-6 hours turning periodically until the quince have turned a lovely deep crimson colour.

Cut quince in half and serve half a quince per person with a little poaching syrup with the yoghurt passed separately.


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