Seasonal Special: four delicious ways to use autumnal ingredients

So, November is here and so is the Durham we remember… cold, dark and drizzly. Don’t fret, we’ve got just the ticket to cheer you up after a depressing walk home from the library. We’ve chosen four delicious ways to use the ingredients that are at their sparkling best this season to make simple dishes which will brighten up the long evenings…

Butternut squash and sage risotto (with pancetta, mascarpone and toasted pine nuts)

This vibrant risotto recipe is a fantastic dinner party dish, as it looks beautiful when laid out on the table but isn’t too fiddly to create. The basic recipe that I used can be found on Jamie Oliver’s website, however, I made a few alterations; substituting chestnuts for pine nuts, adding fresh sage into the risotto mix and leaving out the chilli and coriander seeds. Rich and perfectly balanced flavours make this one a winner every time!

Ingredients (serves 6)

Time to make: 1hr 30 mins

400g risotto rice

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large white onion (or 2 small)

2 cloves garlic

2 wineglasses white wine

1.2 litres vegetable or chicken stock

160g (100g in risotto mix, 60g to garnish) parmesan cheese

1 large butternut squash

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

12 slices of pancetta or streaky bacon (to garnish)

80g pine nuts (to garnish)

6 tablespoons of mascarpone (to garnish)


Chop the butternut squash into quarters (no need to skin), removing the pulp and seeds and rub with olive oil before placing into the oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 40 mins: start on your risotto mix in the mean time.

Heat the stock in a saucepan until gently simmering.

In a separate pan heat the butter and olive oil then add the onions, garlic and torn up sage leaves. Cook on a low heat for around 10 minutes.

Once the onions have softened, mix in the rice. Turn the heat up slightly and lightly fry the rice whilst stirring continuously. Add the white wine into the pan and keep stirring until the liquid has reduced and soaked into the rice.

Now start adding ladles of your stock into the mix and turn the heat down to a simmer. Once each ladle of stock has soaked into the rice, add the next. Continue this process over the course of around 15 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of this process you should be frying your pancetta and pine nuts, ready to garnish.

Once you have used up all your stock, taste a bit of your rice. If it is soft but still with a slight firmness then remove your pan from the heat. If not then add some boiling water and keep testing the rice until it is cooked.

Now it’s time to add your butternut squash. Scoop the flesh of the squash out of the skins and mix into your risotto. Now mix in 100g of your parmesan.

Plate up your risotto and add two pieces of pancetta, a dollop of mascarpone, some pine nuts and a sprinkling of parmesan to each serving. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Kale pesto spaghetti with pan-fried cherry tomatoes

This kale pesto is an inventive and delicious take on the usual basil-based variety and it is also packed with all the extra super-food goodness of this versatile leaf. It’s so easy to make and any excess can happily keep in the fridge for around 3 days. In keeping with this more nutritious form of pesto I chose to use organic whole-wheat spaghetti for my dish: it worked really well but this is of course optional. This recipe is based on the BBC Good Food version, however, I reduced the (rather excessive!) oil quantity and also the number of garlic cloves from 3 to 2 to make it less overpoweringly garlicky.

Ingredients (serves 5)

Time to make: 15 mins

85g curly kale leaves

85g parmesan cheese (finely grated)

85g pine nuts

Juice of 1 lemon

2 small cloves of garlic

100ml extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch or two of salt

Ground black pepper

5–10 cherry tomatoes/person

Approx. 80g dried spaghetti/person


Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and put in 80g of spaghetti per person: leave this to cook whilst preparing your pesto.

Lightly toast the pine nuts on a medium heat.

Once these are done, add your kale, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil (Do not add the parmesan yet) either into a food processor (and blitz together ‘til it forms a paste) or, if using a hand blender, into a large bowl and blitz until smooth.

Mix the finely grated parmesan in with a spoon and then add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Whilst the pasta is still cooking, fry up the cherry tomatoes on a high heat with a little bit of olive oil so that they get slightly burnished on their skins.

Once the pasta is cooked, take off the heat, drain the water and immediately add the pesto into the pan whilst the pasta is still wet (this makes the pesto spread more easily).

Plate up with the cherry tomatoes and sprinkling of parmesan on each portion to serve.

Mulled wine poached cinnamon pears

The gorgeously ripe pears you find at this time of year make a great low-fat dessert, and are also known to ease digestion. I’m serving mine with fresh orange wedges, and I’m topping them with dark chocolate drizzle for a slightly more indulgent twist. This recipe is based on the BBC Good Food spiced wine poached pears but, alternatively, you can poach the pears in Riesling and honey, and serve them with a sweet ricotta cheese.

Ingredients (serves 2)

Time to make: 35 mins

2 ripe pears

75g of sugar

Zest of 1 large orange

2 cinnamon sticks

Half a bottle of mulled wine

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Dark chocolate and orange wedges to garnish


Put the wine, sugar, cinnamon, thyme and orange zest in a large saucepan.

Lower the pears into the pan, making sure they’re completely submerged in the wine. Poach them on a low heat for 25 minutes, although if they’re not ripe they should take slightly longer. Make sure to keep checking them, because if you leave them in the wine for too long they will fall apart.

Take the pears out of the pan and put them to the side. Boil the liquid to reduce it by half so that it reaches a thicker, syrupy consistency. Leave to cool.

Serve each pear with the cooled syrup, a couple of fresh orange wedges, and dark chocolate shavings with drizzle to serve.

Celeriac & roast garlic mash

This healthy veg dish has a beautiful nutty flavour, and is just as comforting as the traditional potato mash. Celeriac is no longer stocked in M&S or Tesco, so if you’re willing to venture a little further into the Indoor Market (in Market Square) it is really worth it. Just don’t be alarmed by it’s hairy exterior! This recipe is based on Jamie Oliver, but I roasted the garlic in the oven instead of sautéing it, which gives it that sweet, rich garlic taste. It is particularly suited to pairing with red meat. If you accompany it with salmon, try substituting the thyme for mustard.

Ingredients: (Serves 2)

Time to make: 45 mins

1kg celeriac

1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock

2 big garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

Fresh thyme


To start, drizzle 2 big garlic cloves with water and olive oil. Wrap them in tin foil and place them in the oven at 205 degrees.

Slice the end of the celeriac off, then place it on a chopping board with the flat edge facing down. Slice it all up into cubes.

Place about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet and heat it up. Add the celeriac and thyme.

Fry on a medium-high heat till the edges start to brown. This should take about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, place a lid on top and simmer for around 25 minutes on a low heat until it is tender.

Mash up the celeriac with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Take the garlic out of the oven and smash it up, then mix it into your celeriac mash.

Serve with a few fresh sprigs of thyme.


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