October – time for pumpkins, Halloween and the clocks changing.

There’s a nip in the air and our ‘in-between season’ clothes are swapped for winter warmers.

Food choices also lean towards winter warmers with soups, casseroles, crumbles and pies. Root vegetables are at their best now along with cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, leafy greens and Brussels sprouts.

Below are quick and easy recipes that I have cooked throughout October.

Cooked minced beef under a layer of mashed potato

Cottage Pie

Serves 4 – 6

Sometimes you just need something plain to eat, so this is my cottage pie. Everyone has their own recipe, but if you’re new to making your own, start with this one and make it your own.

500g mince

1tbsp oil

350g mixed carrot, celery, onion or leek

2 beef stock cubes

1 bay leaf

700g floury potatoes

25g butter

100ml milk

Salt & pepper

  1. Heat a heavy based frying pan over a high heat, add the oil and crumble in the mince. Use a fork to mash and break up the lumps of meat so that you don’t end up with lumpy mince.
  2. Whizz the vegetables in a food processor to fine, or cut them up into small pieces.
  3. Add the vegetables to the mince and mix everything together.
  4. Fry for a few minutes, then crumble in the stock cubes and add enough water to almost cover the mince. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 45 mins to cook the mince and reduce the sauce.
  5. Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks, boil until tender, then drain, allow to steam dry for a few minutes, then add the butter and milk. Mash with a potato masher, add more milk if the consistency is too stiff and season to taste.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6
  7. Spoon the mince into an oven proof dish, top with the potato and put into the oven for 20-30 mins to heat everything through and crisp the top of the potato.
Sliced slow cooked leg of lamb

Sunday Slow Roast Leg of Lamb

Serves about 6

1.4K leg of lamb boned

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 cloves garlic finely sliced

2 tbsp tomato puree

2 tbsp crushed coriander seed

12 grinds black pepper

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp salt

  1. Mix the rosemary, garlic, tomato puree, crushed coriander, pepper and oil together to make a rub.
  2. If the lamb is rolled, cut the strings and flatten it out. Smear over the spice mix and rub it into the meat. Cover and put back into the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7.
  4. Put the lamb into a snug fitting roasting tin, sprinkle with salt and put into the hot oven for 20mins.
  5. Once the time is up, cover with a snug fitting lid or tinfoil, reduce the heat to 170C/325/Gas3 and cook for a further 1 to 1½ hours, or until tender.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30mins in a warm place before slicing and serving with vegetables.
A wrap piled with a line of chicken, spicy salad and Greek yogurt

Super Quick Chicken Fajitas

Serves 2

Fajitas are great & my kids like all the side dishes that go with them. I made these recently when time was tight and everyone thought they were delicious.

4 wraps

1 large chicken breast

½ tsp smoked paprika

10 grinds black pepper

Pinch salt

¼ tsp chilli powder, or to taste

½ tsp vegetable bouillon powder

Natural Greek yogurt

Salad

1 spring onion

1 small red or green chilli, or to taste

1 large tomato

Juice of ½ lime

1 small ripe avocado

Small bunch coriander

¼ tsp salt

  1. Cut the chicken into thin strips, mix the smoked paprika, salt, pepper, chilli powder & veg bouillon together. Sprinkle over the chicken and mix well to coat.
  2. Make the salad: thinly slice the spring onion, finely dice the chilli. Cut the tomato into small dice along with the avocado. Chop the coriander and mix everything together with the lime juice and salt.
  3. Heat a heavy based frying pan, add a little oil and when just smoking, add the chicken to the pan. Stir fry to cook and brown the chicken, then remove from the heat.
  4. Warm the wraps for 30 secs in a microwave and divide the chicken and salad between each wrap. Top with a drizzle of yogurt, roll and serve.
A bowl of Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Serves at least 8

Minestrone is a great soup to make if you’re trying to use up odds and ends from the fridge, it can be a rustic & chunky meal in a bowl or finely chopped. I usually put some ham in mine, but it can also be gluten & dairy free, vegetarian or vegan. Use this recipe as a base and create your own.

1 large leek or onion, chopped

3 med carrots, diced

1 large stick celery, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, chopped (optional)

2-3 rashers bacon, piece of chorizo or some ham, chopped (optional)

1 can beans, rinsed & drained

1 can chopped tomatoes

Chicken or vegetable stock (optional)

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

Good handful of kale or parsley, chopped

Handful of pasta (optional)

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large, heavy based pan over a medium high heat. Fry the bacon to crisp if using, then add the leek, carrots, celery, pepper and garlic. Fry for a few minutes more, stirring from time to time.
  2. Add the beans and tomatoes, top up with water or stock to come about 3cm over the vegetables. Add the mixed herbs, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for 20mins.
  3. Add the kale or parsley and the pasta. Simmer for a further 10mins. Adjust seasoning & the soup is now ready to serve.
A casserole of beef with beetroot puree

Roasted Beetroot & Beef Casserole

Serves 5 to 6

This is a luscious red beef casserole. Try to buy raw beetroot and either roast or boil it for a more intense colour. You can use the vacuum packed ready cooked beetroot, but the colour fades and the flavour is not as intense.

450g raw beetroot, roasted until tender

750g diced stewing steak

1 tbsp oil

Rind and juice of 1 orange

1 large red onion, sliced

2 heaped teaspoons grated root ginger

1 large clove garlic, finely sliced

Water as needed

Salt & pepper

A spoonful of Greek yogurt, crème fraiche or sour cream to garnish (optional)

  1. Puree the beetroot with the orange rind and juice, add a little extra water if the mixture is too thick to blend.
  2. Heat the oven to 130C/250F/Gas1.
  3. Heat a heavy based casserole dish over a high heat, add the oil and when hot, add the beef, browning it well.
  4. Add the sliced red onion, grated root ginger & sliced garlic, stir to combine, then add the beetroot puree and stir well.
  5. Bring to a simmer, put a lid on the pan and put into the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
  6. Adjust the seasoning stir through the cream or yogurt and it’s ready to serve.
mixed red vegetables cooked with adzuki beans topped with crispy potato slices

Red Dragon Pie

Serves 6 – 8

This dish will suit vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike, it’s a one stop meal that only needs a bit of salad to spin it out even further.

½ mug dry adzuki beans or 1 tin

650g mixed red, yellow and orange vegetables. I used squash, beetroot, red onion, red pepper and sweet potato

1 clove garlic

½ tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp paprika

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 tin chopped tomatoes

¾ tsp salt

1 tbsp oil

700g (8small) floury potatoes with skin on

2 tbsp oil

Salt & pepper

  1. If using dry beans, soak overnight, then cook in unsalted water for around 30mins until tender, drain
  2. Cut the vegetables into 5mm dice, put into a heavy based pan with 1 tablespoon oil and fry on a medium heat until starting to soften.
  3. Add the garlic, turmeric, chilli powder and paprika. Stir well and add the tomatoes plus ½ tin of water. Simmer for 10 mins, then add the cooked beans, stir everything well and cook for a further 10 mins.
  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Boil the potatoes in their skins. Once cooked, drain and allow to steam dry and cool enough to handle.
  6. Slice the potatoes into about 3 slices each, put into a bowl, drizzle over 2 tbsp oil and season with salt & pepper. Toss gently to combine the oil and seasoning with the potato slices.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6
  8. Tip the bean mixture into a casserole dish, top with the potato, overlapping the slices, then put into the oven and bake for 30 to 40 mins or until the contents of the casserole are hot and bubbling and the potatoes have crisped.
  9. Serve as it is or with a side salad.
A bowl of soba noodles with cabbage, broccoli tossed with an almond, ginger and soy sauce.

Warm Soba Noodle Stir Through

Serves 4

This stir through is incredibly quick and easy to make. Steam the veg to keep as many of the nutrients as possible.

250g (3 portions) soba noodles

½ Savoy cabbage, shredded

Small head broccoli, floretted

Small bunch chives or 1 spring onion – finely sliced

Sauce

4 tbsp almond or peanut butter

5 tbsp water

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp grated root ginger

1 small clove garlic

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp honey

  1. Blend the sauce ingredients together using a stick blender
  2. Use a steamer and put the broccoli florets in the bottom with the shredded cabbage on the top. Steam for about 5 mins, or until the broccoli is cooked but still has a crunch.
  3. Cook the noodles at the same time a you are steaming the vegetables in a large pan of water until just cooked.
  4. Toss the noodles, vegetables and sauce together either in one of the cooking pans if big enough or a large bowl. Divide into bowls and serve.
A bowl of Thai style chicken curry

Thai Style Chicken Curry

Serves 4

Fresh curry paste makes all the difference to a Thai curry. This one is ‘in the style’ because I am using easily sourced everyday ingredients rather than special Thai ones.

Curry Paste

1 tsp chilli flakes or to taste

Rind & juice of 1 small lemon

Rind & juice of 1 lime

Small handful coriander leaves & stalks

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

3 cloves garlic

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

6 anchovy fillets or 1 tsp shrimp paste if you have it

Thumb sized piece of root ginger

1 tin coconut milk

3 chicken breasts, sliced thinly

1 large green pepper, chopped into bite size pieces

2 tbsp fish sauce

Garnish

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

Coriander leaves, chopped

1 small tomato, seeds removed & finely diced

  1. Make the curry paste: blend all the curry paste ingredients well.
  2. Heat a large, heavy based frying pan over a high heat, add the paste and cook, stirring until it has thickened and changed colour.
  3. Add the chicken, stir to coat in the paste, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the coconut milk.
  4. Add the green pepper to the pan, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 mins. Season with the fish sauce.
  5. Mix the spring onions, coriander leaves and diced tomato together.
  6. Divide the curry between bowls and sprinkle over the garnish. Serve with rice.
A slice of Pecan and Apple Pie

Pecan & Apple Tart

Serves 8 to 12

This recipe started out as a reduced sugar pecan pie. By adding the stewed apple I removed almost half the sugar and the result is this very light, delicious pie. It’s also good with walnuts or almonds.

Pastry

225g plain flour

110g butter

1 small egg

Filling

250g pecan nuts, 2/3 chopped, 1/3 left whole

4 eggs

225g light brown sugar

1 large cooking apple (approx. 225g)

Juice of ½ lemon

  1. Make the pastry: rub the butter into the flour, mix in the egg and mix to a smooth dough. Refrigerate for 30 mins, then roll out, line a 26cm flan dish and bake blind at 200C/400F/Gas6.
  2. Make the filling: Peel, core & slice the apple, put into a small pot with the lemon juice and stew until it has become pulp. Allow to cool a little.
  3. Beat the eggs with the sugar, add the apple pulp, then stir in the chopped nuts.
  4. Pour the nut mixture into the baked pastry case, scatter or arrange the whole pecan nuts over the top and put into the oven at 200C/400F/Gas6 for 10mins, then reduce the heat to 170C/325F/Gas3 and cook for 25 to 40mins, or until the middle of the pie still wobbles slightly when jiggled. If the top starts to brown too much, put a piece of foil over the top.
  5. Once the pie is cooked, allow it to cool for 30mins before serving.
A pan of prawns cooked with tomatoes and garlic

Italian Style Prawn Sauce

Serves 3 – 4

This sauce can be made ahead to the end of stage 4, then finished at the last minute. Splitting the prawns lengthwise the dish seem more extravagant and reduces cooking time. Serve with either rice or pasta.

6 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

275g raw prawn tails

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp thyme leaves

300ml water

¼ tsp chilli flakes

300g cherry or small tomatoes, halved or quartered

2 spring onions, finely sliced

Handful parsley, roughly chopped

Squeeze of lemon juice

  1. Remove the shells from the prawn tails and reserve. Cut the prawns in half lengthwise.
  2. Make the sauce: heat ½ the oil in a heavy based pan, add the garlic and fry for a few moments. Add the reserved prawn tails, tomato puree and thyme leaves. Stir to combine, then add the water. Bring to the boil, put a lid on the pan and simmer for 10mins.
  3. When time is up, blitz the whole lot with a hand blender, then pass through a sieve, reserving the liquid.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in a heavy based frying pan, add the tomatoes & chilli flakes, fry over a high heat until the juices start to flow and the tomatoes soften. Add the prawn sauce and boil until reduced by about half.
  5. Reduce the heat, add the prawns, spring onions, parsley, stir everything together for 1 minute, or until the prawns are cooked. Squeeze over the lemon juice, adjust the seasoning, remove from the heat and serve.
Orange infused stewed apples and strawberries topped with orange flavoured sponge

Strawberry, Apple & Orange Pudding

Serves 6 – 8

A great pudding for a cold night, use frozen berries if you have them.

500g strawberries, fresh or defrosted if frozen

700g Bramley apple, peeled, cored and sliced

Juice of 2 small oranges

50g sugar

Sponge

60g soft butter

85g soft brown sugar

100g self raising flour

2 eggs

Rind of 2 oranges

  1. Put the apple slices into a heavy based pan with the sugar and orange juice. Stew until the apples are just starting to break down.
  2. Put the strawberries into the bottom of a casserole dish, top with the apple.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6
  4. Put all of the sponge ingredients into a bowl and beat to combine. Spoon over the strawberry and apple mixture.
  5. Put the pudding into the oven and cook for 30 to 40 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the sponge comes out clean.
  6. Serve with cream, ice cream, yogurt or custard.
A slice of apple, almond and cinnamon cake with a garnish of rasperries

Apple, Almond & Cinnamon Cake

Makes 1 x 20cm cake

3 large Cox or Granny Smith apples (450g)

Zest & juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp ground cinnamon

225g butter

225g caster sugar

3 eggs

225g SR flour

2 tsp baking powder

25g ground almonds

30g flaked almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4
  2. Grease and line the base of a 20cm spring tin
  3. Peel & core the apples, coarsely grate and mix with the lemon rind & juice.
  4. Cream the butter, sugar and ground cinnamon. Beat in the eggs, then add the flour, baking powder & ground almonds.
  5. Stir in the grated apples.
  6. Spoon into the prepared tin, level the top and sprinkle with flaked almonds.
  7. Put the cake into the oven and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If the top begins to get too brown, cover with foil.
  8. Once cooked, allow the cake to cool in the tin until cool enough to handle, then turn out onto a wire rack.
  9. Serve warm with cream, crème fraiche or yogurt.
A platter of vegetables, pistschio nuts, rice and spices baked together

Vegetable & Pistachio Biryani

Serves 4

I like a biryani, the vegetable ones in particular are delicious and light

600g mixed vegetables eg. Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onions, celery, peppers etc.

¾ mug brown basmati rice

100g shelled pistachio nuts

3 cardamom pods

4 cloves

1 sm cinnamon stick

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp paprika

½ tsp chilli powder

6 good desert spoonfuls Greek yogurt

Salt & pepper

15g butter

Coriander or parsley to garnish

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil, pour in the rice and cook for 10mins. Drain and allow to steam.
  2. Chop the vegetables into bite size pieces, heat 1 tbsp oil in a heavy based pan and fry for a few minutes to start the cooking process. Add the pistachio nuts to the vegetables, then the spices. Stir well to combine, then add the yogurt. Remove from the heat and season.
  3. Line the bottom of a large, heavy based pan with a circle of non-stick baking parchment. Place the pan on a low heat and put the butter on top of the parchment.
  4. Sprinkle in a layer of rice, followed by a layer of vegetables. Continue until everything is used up. You should have at least 2 layers of each, maybe 3 depending on the size of your pan.
  5. Increase the heat until you hear sizzling from the pan, reduce the heat to low, put a tight fitting lid onto the pan and allow the biryani to cook for 40 mins.
  6. To serve, turn out onto a serving plate, remove the baking parchment and sprinkle with coriander or parsley.
A bowl of soba noodles and vegetables

Warm Soba Noodle Bowl

Serves 1

Soba noodles are made with percentage of buckwheat flour, so are more delicate than Chinese, Udon or Ramen noodles. This is a very quick supper with whatever vegetables are in the fridge.

About 150g mixed vegetables eg: carrot, celery, cabbage, Chinese leaves, pak choi, spring onion, frozen peas or beans, pepper, radish, spinach etc

Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

1 portion soba noodles

1 tsp oil

Parsley or coriander to finish

Dressing

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp tomato ketchup

2 tsp rice or wine vinegar

½ tsp finely grated root ginger

1 small clove garlic, grated

1 tsp sesame oil

  1. Make the sauce and set aside
  2. Depending on what vegetables you are using, finely slice peppers, cabbage, spring onion, pak choi, celery. Coarsely grate any carrot, radish etc.
  3. Cook the noodles in plenty boiling water, they only take a few minutes. Drain and rinse under running water.
  4. Heat a small frying pan to hot, add the oil and when it starts to smoke, add all the vegetables plus the chilli flakes and stir fry for a few minutes to wilt and heat them through. Remove from the heat.
  5. Mix with the dressing and warm noodles, pile into a bowl and eat!
Pork tenderloin flattened and rolled with bacon, apple and prune stuffing.

Pork Tenderloin with Bacon, Apple & Prune Stuffing

Serves 2 – 3

This looks really impressive but is actually very quick and easy to make. As the pork is low in fat, the stuffing helps keep it juicy.

1 pork tenderloin

1 tart desert apple cored & diced, I used Cox, Granny Smith or Braeburn would also work well.

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 rashers bacon, finely diced

6 prunes, chopped

1 tbsp chopped rosemary

2 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp oil

150ml white wine or cider

  1. Make the stuffing: Heat the oil in a heavy based pan, add the onion and bacon, fry until the onion is soft, then add the apple & prunes. Fry for a few minutes more, then add the rosemary and parsley. Season with salt & pepper, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. Prepare the pork: remove the sinew from the tenderloin, then flatten it out. You want to cut an ‘N’ shape down the length of the meat in order to stretch it out. Do this by cutting a slit lengthwise down one side of the meat, about ¾ way through. Turn over and repeat on the other side. Now cover with a piece of cling film and bat out with a rolling pin to about 5mm thickness.
  3. Spread the stuffing over the pork and roll up from the long edge, folding in the ends as you go. Tie the bundle closed with string.
  4. Pre heat the oven to 170/325F/Gas3.
  5. Place a large piece of foil in the bottom of a roasting tin, put the meat on the foil an bring the edges up to form a snug parcel. Pour over the wine or cider and close the parcel up.
  6. Bake in the oven for 1 ¼ hours.
  7. Once cooked, remove from the oven, pour the juices into a pan and keep the meat warm. Boil the juices until they are reduced to a syrupy sauce, about 4 tablespoons. Check the seasoning.
  8. To serve, slice the meat and divide onto plates, spoon over the sauce.