Hearty, warming and delicious – Sarah Rodrigues explores the autumn ingredients that perfectly embody the season
As much as many of us crave those balmy summer months, there’s something undeniably special about autumn — or fall depending on where you come from. The colours of the leaves; days that are increasingly cold yet still bright; the favourite sweaters, scarves and boots that you can pull out of closets and layer up in, and the cosiness of time indoors.
Part of the appeal of staying in when it’s cold outside is eating hearty and warming food. Seasonal ingredients are at their delicious, wholesome, and colourful best during these months — so it’s also a great time to fuel up and boost your defenses against winter. Especially as the festive season — with its late nights, bountiful booze and plummeting temperatures — is notoriously unkind to the immune system.
5 vegan autumn ingredients I’m dishing up:
1. Butternut Squash
Squash and its variants are practically synonymous with this time of year – after all, where would Halloween and Thanksgiving be without them?
As one of those beautiful ingredients that lends itself equally well to sweet recipes and savoury, pumpkin is also incredibly versatile – you can make pumpkin pie just as easily as you can make pumpkin lasagne, and you can earn a load of zero waste points by blitzing the guts into puree and roasting the skin and seeds after you’ve feasted on the flesh.
Chickpea, Pumpkin & Coconut Curry – from @nourishingalex
- 350g orange pumpkin or butternut squash, de-skinned & chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
- 400g can coconut milk
- 400g can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 2tsp ground cumin
- 2tsp ground coriander
- 1tsp ground ginger
- 1tbsp medium curry powder
- 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
- a couple handfuls of fresh spinach
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Sauté the onion & garlic in a large saucepan on a medium heat with a little water/oil for 10 mins until see through.
- Add in all the spices stir for 1 min until fragrant, then pour in the chopped tomatoes & coconut milk, pumpkin & chickpeas. Season with salt & pepper, give it a good stir. Bring to boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 mins until the pumpkin is soft and the sauce has reduced. Add in a couple handfuls of spinach 5 mins before the end of cooking time to wilt.
- Meanwhile cook up 2-3 servings of rice according to packet instructions. Once cooked, drain the water from the pan and stir in 1/2 tsp turmeric until the rice is all yellow.
- Serve the curry with the turmeric rice.
2. Brussel Sprouts
Ah, the Marmite of the Vegetable World (so much so that one UK supermarket chain decided to combine the two in a 2018 product!).
Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that Brussels pack a substantial nutritional punch, being rich in antioxidants, Vitamins K&C, and fibre – but without very many calories. Often treated solely as the domain of festive meals, they’re at their best from September – so why wait until December? Nor do they need to be eaten hot, as this next recipe shows…
Cashew Caesar with brussels, hazelnuts, cranberries and chickpeas from @deliciouslyella
For the salad:
- 500g Brussel sprouts
- 100g dried cranberries
- 100g roasted hazelnuts
- 1 x 400g can chickpeas
For the dressing:
- 150g cashews
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 10 tablespoons almond milk
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Start by making the dressing; place the cashews into a blender with a couple tablespoons of the almond milk and pulse until a smooth paste forms. Once smooth, add the rest of dressing ingredients and pulse until a thick, smooth dressing forms. You can add a little more almond milk if you prefer a thinner consistency or your blender needs the additional liquid.
- Once you’ve made the dressing, leave it to one side and prepare the salad.
Roughly chop the hazelnuts and drain the chickpeas. Wash and dry the Brussel Sprouts, before very finely slicing into thin strips – it should be the consistency of slaw.
- Place the sliced sprouts into a large bowl and add the dried cranberries, chopped hazelnuts and drained chickpeas, mix well.
- Finally, stir through the dressing before serving.
If anyone ever sang The Owl and the Pussycat to you when you were a child, you’d be forgiven for believing that quince is something as fictitious as a ‘runcible spoon.’ In fact, it’s a pear-like fruit that’s sour when uncooked, but quite delicious when cooked – and full of nutrients and antioxidants, too.
Perfect for changing up your autumn breakfast routine.
Autumn Porridge with Spiced Quince – from @lazycatkitchen
Spiced Quince (10 servings)
- 3 large quinces / about 1.2 kg
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- 1 star anise
- a quill of cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 1 whole all spice
- a large strip of lemon peel
- ½ cup brown sugar (my version isn’t overly sweet, so add more sugar if you like)
- ½ lemon
Porridge (2 servings)
- 100 g jumbo rolled oats (gluten-free for gluten-free version)
- any thin plant milk or full fat coconut milk thinned with 50% water
- a handful of any nuts, chopped
- seeds from ½ pomegranate (optional)
- maple or agave syrup, to serve (optional)
For the spiced quince
- Prepare a large bowl of water with 2 tbsp of lemon juice. Peel each quince, chop into half, core and cut each half into four equal sized pieces. Keep prepped quince in the bowl of lemon water to prevent discolouration.
- Put cut up quince into a large pot (with a lid). Add about 2 cups / 0.5 litre of water, all the spices including vanilla seeds and leftover vanilla bean and sugar to the quince. Place a lid on top of the pot and bring everything to the boil gently.
- Once the mixture has boiled, reduce the heat and simmer the fruit on a very low heat (I used setting 1 out of 6) for about 1½ to 2 hours (until quince is soft). Cover the pot with a lid but leave a small gap so that some of the steam can escape. It’s important to cook quince very gently as this will turn the flesh the most beautiful pink colour.
- Once the fruit is soft, take it out of the pot and set aside. Gently simmer the remaining liquid (without the lid) for a few more minutes to thicken the syrup.
For the porridge
- Put oats into a pan and pour enough plant milk to cover them. Cook your oats on a low-medium heat, stirring frequently. As soon as oats absorb the milk add some more.
- Keep on adding milk until you achieve a consistency you like, I like mine to have a bit of texture. Once you’ve added all the milk, let the porridge cook gently (little bubbles will rise to the surface) for another minute or two.
- Serve immediately with a portion of warmed up quince & syrup, sprinkle of nuts, pomegranate seeds and a dusting of cinnamon.
4. Apples & Pears
So basic, so much a staple, that it’s often easy to overlook them as not being ‘exotic,’ ‘special’ or ‘different’ enough (I remember a boyfriend once complaining to me that his parents, both perfectly respectable, healthy and hearty cooks, never ‘marinaded’ anything. I suggested that he might like to check his grammar and his brattishness…Anyway!).
Apples and pears are the stuff of autumn crumbles and pies which, yes, may SEEM uninspired…but not when you’re making this recipe.
Spiced Apple & Pear Peanut Butter Crumble from @rebelrecipes
For the vegan crumble topping
- 100g ground almonds
- 6 tbsp oats
- 3 tbsp wholewheat flour
- 3 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 1 tsp all spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 5 tbsp peanut butter
- 5 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
For the fruit
- 2 small apples peeled, cored & chopped into small cubes
- 2 medium pears peeled, cored & chopped into small cubes
- 4 tbsp water – more if needed
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 6 medjool dates chopped
- Prep time: 20 min
- Cooking time: 40 min
- Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
- In a small bowl, mix together the peanut butter, maple syrup, and almond and vanilla essence. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir thoroughly until you get a crumb (get your hands involved).
- Meanwhile, in saucepan, combine the apples, pears, water, dates, cinnamon, and ginger. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes until the fruit softens.
- Once softened, add them to a deep baking tray then add the crumble topping.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes – it’s ready when the topping is golden.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.
- Serve with yogurt, custard or vegan ice cream.
Deeply flavoured and nutty, chestnuts are not just for ‘roasting on an open fire’ but are one of those fabulous ingredients that work as well with sweet foods as with savoury.
Combined with mushrooms – also in season right now – they pack an earthy, rustic punch that’s perfect for cold weather comfort.
Chestnut and Mushroom Sticky Rice from @woon.heng
For the sticky rice
- 2 cups glutinous rice, rinse until water turns clear, and soak overnight or up to 4 hours, then drain well
- 1/2 cup roasted chestnuts
- 1/4 cup Shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 7 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- salt, to taste
- chopped scallions, for garnish
- fried shallots, for garnish
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine / vegetable broth
- 1/2 tablespoon stir fry sauce
- 1 teaspoon thick dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- In a heated non-stick pan with 3 teaspoons of oil, sauté shallots until fragrant, then add mushrooms and continue to sauté until aromatic.
- Add the sauce and continue to cook until well combined & drizzle the mixture with sesame oil. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Place drained glutinous rice in a heat safe proof bowl and add 1 cup + 1/3 cup water. Then, top rice with the mushrooms mixture and chestnut.
- Steam rice over high heat for 30-35 minutes. Using a chopstick/fork, fluff rice by mixing mushrooms mixture until well combined. Season to your preference. Then, steam for another 20-25 minutes. (Be sure you have enough water for steaming). Note: some brands have a softer rice texture, in that case, please adjust the cooking time.
- Turn off the heat and let it cool off, top with fried shallots and chopped scallions before serving.
Which ingredient ticks all the right boxes for you? We’d love to see your creations. Be sure to tag us on Instagram @theplanetshine with the finished dish.