As some of you may already know, I have been turning a blind eye to the end of summer. I had my first pumpkin spice latte yesterday (no, not the sugar explosions from that well-known coffee place, but my own), and I’ve already baked with my homegrown apples twice. What I haven’t done is put away the summer clothes just yet, but there was an unmistakable chill in the air today that gently whispered a dress probably hadn’t been the best option. A chill that also reminded me it was finally time to turn that pumpkin I had purchased a week ago into the first real autumnal soup of the season.
I love pumpkin soup and have many different recipes. The one I made today, however, is probably the easiest of them all. You simply roast your pumpkin with red onions, garlic and spices, add some broth and blitz in a blender. That’s all! Hardly work — tons of flavor, as roasting is known to do.
Here’s the recipe:
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
- 1 small pumpkin, peeled and chopped
- 4 small red onions, peeled and cut into sections
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 tsp dried cumin
- 1/2 tsp dried coriander
- 1/2 tsp dried curcuma
- fleur de sel
- freshly-cracked pepper
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 600 ml hot vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 200C. In a baking tray, mix the pumpkin, red onion, garlic, spices, salt and pepper and oil. Roast for 40 minutes (stirring once) until nice and soft. Blitz the vegetables and stock in a blender; you may have to do this in batches. Serve with fresh pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
September 14th and it’s 32C here in the Netherlands. I’m melting away again as I type, so you can only imagine how hot it was in my kitchen this morning while I baked up a new recipe for you (and for us, of course)!
It’s funny how the word ‘September’ immediately means fall to everyone, when, in fact, it’s still summer — officially, until next week. I’ve certainly seen my share of pumpkins, colorful leaves and even Halloween stuff on social media since the first of the month! For me, it’s a bit double. Yes, I like the fall (notice the word ‘like’), but summer is my favorite season, and I hate to see it go.
Interestingly enough, I still jump on the bandwagon. I couldn’t resist buying my first pumpkin at the Ekoplaza last Sunday (to roast, not use as a decoration), and apples and warm spices sure seem to be inspiring me — as you will notice from the following recipe.
These little apple-pecan bundt cakes are beautifully aromatic thanks to a touch of that wonderful French gingerbread spice for pain d’épices. If you don’t have it, feel free to replace it with pumpkin pie spices or Dutch speculaas spices. Both should work well. But oh, let me tell you about the topping! A lightly salted brown sugar & cinnamon glaze is the crowing glory to these very autumnal treats — and I’m not ashamed to admit I licked the pan clean… How could I not?! OK, OK… bring on the fall!
Here’s the recipe:
PS: You can also use a large bundt cake pan to make this recipe.
Apple-Pecan Bundt Cakes with Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Glaze
Makes 6 cakes
- 220g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp pain d’épices spices
- 250g apple (approx. 1 large or 2 small, peeled, cored and finely chopped )
- 100g pecans, roughly chopped
- 150gr Greek yogurt
- 80 gr butter, melted
- 80g granulated sugar
- 50g light brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
For the glaze:
- 50g butter
- 80g brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- good pinch of salt
- 2 heaped tbsps crème fraîche
- powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C and generously butter and flour a mini-bundt cake pan. Using a wooden spoon, mix the flour, baking powder, pain d’épices spices, chopped apples and 90g of the chopped pecans. With a standing or hand-held mixer at medium speed, beat the yogurt, melted butter, sugars and vanilla extract. Beat in each egg one at a time while the machine is still running. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and fold in to combine. Divide the mixture over the bundt tin and bake the cakes for approximately 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the tin before unmolding. When the cakes have cooled, place them on a rack (set on top of a large sheet of baking paper). To make the glaze, heat the butter and sugar in a small saucepan while whisking continuously for approximately 2-3 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Now whisk in the cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and vigorously whisk in the crème fraîche. Add in as much powdered sugar to make a glaze that you like. I prefer my glaze thick but not too thick, so I add about 5 tbsps. Drizzle the glaze over the cakes and top with the rest of the chopped pecans.
It’s a good thing when your children like your cooking. Yes, there have been foods that Kirstie absolutely hated. Like pumpkins, for example. Or avocados. She used to almost gag at the sight of an avocado, and now she eats them happily and without protest. The same goes for pumpkin, too. Though perhaps not completely ‘happily’.
They say that children have to try some foods several times before they can accept them, and I think this is very true and demands a little perseverance on the part of the parents. While Kirstie was growing up I always encouraged her to at least try a little of something she didn’t like. And then I prepared that particular food again. And again. I don’t know if that makes me a good or bad mother, but I will never wrap my head around parents who cook separately for their children. I am, by no means, judging. We all do what we think is right for our families.
For me, one of the greatest compliments is when Kirstie asks me if I can make a particular dish again. It implies that the meal was memorable. Perhaps it will be one of those dishes she’ll make for her own family some day, seasoning it with plenty of fond memories of her childhood at home.
So last Friday, when she asked me when I would be making pasta with blue cheese again, I promised her I’d make it very soon. And that’s what I brought to the table in my beautiful dark blue Le Creuset casserole last night. I must say that I gave the dish a new twist. Improved it, in my opinion. Whereas in the past I used too many ingredients (chicken or bacon, leeks, mushrooms), I decided to keep it a little more sober this time, and to make it vegetarian.
The combination of flavors is a perfect marriage between the sharp, woodsy and slightly herbal Gorgonzola piccante; the crisp, toasted walnuts and a crowning of sweet, caramelized red onions. It’s also a dish that you can make in under twenty minutes, which makes it all the more appealing.
Tagliatelle with Gorgonzola, Walnuts and Caramelized Red Onions
- 75g walnuts
- 2 knobs of butter
- 2 medium red onions, halved and sliced
- 325g tagliatelle
- 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 120ml dry white wine
- 2 tbsps crème fraîche
- 225g Gorgonzola piccante, cubed
- 200g fresh spinach leaves
- fleur de sel
- freshly cracked pepper
Toast your walnuts briefly in a small ungreased frying pan, chop them roughly and set them aside. Wipe the pan and melt one knob of the butter. Sauté your onions, stirring frequently. In the meantime, bring a large pan of water to the boil for your tagliatelle. Add salt to the water before adding in your dried pasta. Cook al dente for approximately 6-7 minutes. It may be a good idea to check the packet instructions on the particular brand you choose. I always give my pasta a minute or two less than indicated. While your pasta cooks, melt the other knob of butter in a large, shallow casserole and add the garlic, making sure it doesn’t brown. Do this over a low heat. After a few minutes, increase the heat and immediately add the wine. Allow this to bubble for about three minutes before whisking in the cream and 3/4 of the cheese. Now add the spinach and a tablespoon of the cooking water from the pasta. Give the spinach a few minutes to wilt and let the sauce thicken. Drain the pasta and stir through the sauce. Season with salt if desired, though the gorgonzola provides enough flavor on its own. Scatter with the rest of the cheese and the walnuts. Top with the caramelized onions and finish with a good grating of fresh pepper.
I have a beautiful apple tree in my garden. We bought it ten years ago when we were living in another house. We had a huge garden back then. It was lush and full of trees that produced the most colorful blossoms in the spring. There was even a hazelnut tree, which believe it or not, we discovered that very last autumn before moving away.
My daughter loved that garden. Sometimes she would lie by the pond and dream away, or sit at the picnic table and color or do other things that kids do. We had a husky named Meiki back then, and she loved that garden, too.
It was a bit of a wild garden. Though we mowed the lawn when necessary, we never really tended to it much. It just sort of did its own thing — and it did it quite well. We were so eager to move to our new house, but how we hated having to leave that garden behind.
Luckily, both our apple tree and cherry tree hadn’t been planted for long, so we dug them up and carefully transported them to our new house, where they got a lovely place in our new, much more civilized garden.
Every year, right around this time, I head outside armed with an old French colander to pick just a few apples for the muffins I am sharing with you today. Be warned, they are as addictive as they sound, so you may have trouble restraining yourself to just one. Because they are filled with confiture de lait, that gloriously silky French caramel sauce, they are somewhat reminiscent of candy apples. Wonderfully seasonal at this time of year, of course. Enjoy, and happy September!
Apple Caramel Muffins with Confiture de Lait
Makes 12 large muffins
- 250g flour
- 150g light brown sugar
- 2 tsps cinnamon
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 2 small apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 150ml milk
- 65ml sunflower oil
- 2 small eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Confiture de Lait
*You may want to line a baking sheet with foil and place it in the lowest part of your oven. Getting caramel off the oven floor is no fun!
*The confiture de lait doesn’t work the same way jam would when used as a muffin filling. The gooey sauce rather disappears into the sponge giving it a bit of extra sweetness around the center!
Preheat the oven to 200C and prepare your muffin pan. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, soda and salt in a bowl. Add in the apples and stir to coat them with the mixture. In a jug, whisk the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently. Fill each muffin hole with about 1 tbsp of the batter. Then top with a tsp confiture de lait and about ¾ tbsp of the batter. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes. Ice them with a little more confiture while they are still hot. These muffins go so, so well with a nice chai!