What's in season...October
October is the perfect month to get cosy with comforting meals. The early autumn meats, fruits and vegetables turn from green, light and hydrating, to rich, warming and earthy. Start the transition on your menus and highlight all of this month's seasonal ingredients in your dishes.
Luscious autumn lamb
Lamb is commonly enjoyed around easter time, but did you know that early autumn is when British, grass-fed lambs are most plentiful. Their meat has been nourished with the abundance of fresh grass consumed over the summer months, coming to terms with its own flavours, perfect for serving in the autumn.
Slow-cooked lamb shank hotpot
What you need:
Four, British lamb shanks
Handful of plain flour
Two brown onions, sliced
Three celery sticks, sliced
Six cloves of garlic, crushed
Three tablespoons of tomato puree
750ml red wine
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
Two bay leaves
Four carrots, halved lengthways and cut into thirds
Five large baking potatoes
75g butter, melted
How to make it:
Preheat the oven to 150°C.
On the hob, heat a good glug of olive oil in a heatproof casserole dish
Toss the lamb shanks in plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. Shake off the excess flour and leave it aside to use again later.
Once the oil is hot, add the shanks two at a time. Brown all over, then remove from the pan, set aside and repeat.
Remove the fat from the dish and turn the heat down. Add another splash of olive oil to the pan, then add onions and celery.
Cook on low for 10 minutes, then add in crushed garlic, and two tablespoons of the reserved flour from earlier. Cook for a further three minutes.
Stir in tomato puree, and leave for another two minutes.
Increase the heat then pour in red wine and chopped tomatoes. Mix together, then add the lamb shanks to the pan, ensuring they are submerged in the liquid.
Add bay leaves and carrots, and simmer in the liquid. Once simmering, transfer the pot to the oven, and cook for two and a half hours, turning the shanks occasionally.
Check that the lamb is tender, and falls easily off the bone. Once they are cooked, transfer the lamb shanks from the casserole dish to another dish or plate and set aside.
Dip a spoon into the casserole liquid, and see if it lightly coats the back of the spoon. If the juices are too runny, pop the dish over the hob and simmer for five to 10 minutes.
In the meantime, shred the meat from the shanks off its bone, keeping some large chunks. Pop the meat back into the sauce and leave it aside.
Increase oven temperature to 200°C. Peel your baking potatoes and slice them as thin as possible, then pop in a large bowl of cold, salted water.
Once they are all sliced, drain the water and dry well with kitchen paper. Return the potatoes to the bowl and toss with melted butter.
Transfer the ragu to an ovenproof dish and lay the potato slices over the top in an overlapping pattern. Season well with salt and bake for 50 minutes, until golden.
Serve alongside a portion of seasonal green vegetables!
You could also use delicious British lamb neck fillets, the perfect cut for slow cooking, in a curry, or a roasted leg of lamb served with all of the trimmings!
Earthy butternut squash
Butternut squash is perfect in a winter warming soup, adding an autumnal twist to risottos, or simply roasted and served as a side dish. It's a great base ingredient that perfectly complements many other flavours such as garlic, chilli, thyme and sage.
If the skin is tough and appears dull rather than shiny, and when it shows a tan/orange shade, it means it's ready!
Store the squash in a cool, dry place (it can keep for up to six months if stored correctly!)
Ravioli from scratch
Filled pasta is a perfect dish for spotlighting main ingredients, and the use of butternut squash here highlights the versatility of the vegetable.
What you need:
One butternut squash
290g plain flour
Half a teaspoon of salt
Four large eggs
100g parmesan, grated
One tablespoon of brown sugar
Two cloves garlic, crushed
One tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
Two teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
To make a butternut squash puree:
Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Chop into 1.5cm cubes, and coat in a drizzle of olive oil.
Cook at 200°C in the oven, for around 45 to 60 minutes, until the squash is completely soft.
Once cooked, use a food processor to puree the squash, until completely smooth.
For the pasta:
Mix plain flour and salt in a bowl. On a clean surface, pour out the flour into a heap, then make a well in the centre using your hands. Crack eggs into the well, and slowly whisk into the flour using a fork.
Once a dough starts to form, use your hands to knead it until smooth, and no longer sticky. Keep flouring the surface if the dough begins to stick.
Wrap the dough tightly in a piece of cling film, and pop it in the fridge for at least an hour.
When you are ready to roll the pasta, remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it from the cling film. Cut the dough into quarters, rewrap three of the pieces in cling film, and put them back in the fridge.
Lightly flour the surface, and using a rolling pin, roll the piece of dough into a long rectangle, around 1/2 centimeter thick.
Using a pasta maker, set it to the widest setting and roll the dough through twice.
Fold the short ends of the dough into the centre of the rectangle, then fold it in half again. With the rolling pin, roll the dough out again to 1/2 centimeter thick, then put it through the pasta machine another two times.
Reduce the setting on the pasta machine by one degree, and repeat the folding and rolling process through the machine, another two to three times.
Repeat this over again for each pasta setting, until you reach the thinnest one. Once done, leave it to sit on a clean work surface, and keep it covered with a clean kitchen towel. Repeat this process for all of the remaining dough in the fridge.
For the filling:
To a large bowl, add 285g of your butternut squash puree, parmesan, ricotta, and brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper, then mix.
Assemble the pasta:
On a floured surface, lay out one sheet of dough. Spoon one tablespoon of filling every 2.5cm - (if the sheet is wide enough, you can lay two rows of filling).
Between each dollop of filling, using your finger, lightly wet the dough with water.
Gently lay a second sheet of dough over the top of the first layer, then press between the fillings to seal the sheets together.
Using a pasta or pizza cutter, or a very sharp knife, slice between each pocket to create individual ravioli.
Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, then pop them in the fridge until it's time to cook.
Cook the pasta:
Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan. When it becomes foamy, reduce the heat and continue to melt until it turns a deep, golden colour, and begins to smell nutty.
Add in garlic, sage and thyme, and cook in the pan for around a minute, until you can smell the flavours. Remove from the heat.
Pop a large pan of salted water on to boil, and once bubbling, add in batches of ravioli (making sure there's not too many to overcrowd the pan). Cook for around one and a half minutes, until tender. Remove from the water and pop in the pan of sauce.
Repeat until all of the pasta is cooked, then gently toss them all in the butter, and serve with gratings of fresh parmesan.