One week in the Autumn - The kitchen and the garden

This blog is part of a series of eating seasonally and trying to grow as much as we can. Please read One week in the winter - Eating from the larder first as it provides a lot of background and general information about what and how we eat that I don't need to repeat here.

As I write this the vegetable plot slowly ebbs towards the winter but there is lots to harvest and eat. I was away with work in October so a lot of food which needed processing then ended up in the freezer and I'm slowing turning my attention to some of it this week.

This is one week in early/mid November and growing, harvesting, preserving and cooking all our food feels like a full time job.


Breakfast is porridge with rhubarb from the freezer, chopped nuts and maple syrup.

The weather is very wet so we work in the caravan this morning and can have lunch at home. We've been cultivating some blue oyster mushrooms in the larder and I after moving then when re-organising things they've stalled, either because of being moved or fluctuating temperatures so I harvest what has grown and we have mushroom and cheese omelettes with our eggs for lunch, a slice of sourdough on the side.

I'm cooking the Christmas cake today. I use the recipe from Nigel Slater's Christmas Chronicles and I always make a large family cake. I share it with guests over the festive period but I also like to enjoy it well into January and even into February which is why I make a big one. After it's cooked I will feed it with brandy a couple of times a week until I add the marzipan and icing the week before Christmas.

I have harvested one particularly huge pumpkin and the stalk is looking a bit mushy so it needs to be dealt with. I cut a huge wedge and squeeze it into the pressure cooker - still only about one eighth of the whole thing. Once it has cooled down after being steamed I scoop out the flesh to add to a sauce I'm making for a lasagne. I started by roasting some of the last tomatoes from our polytunnel with some celery I grew, onions and garlic. Once caramelised in the roasting tin I add them to a large cooking pot with some cooked courgette from the freezer, herbs and an extra tin of tomatoes. I make a béchamel sauce with some milk from the freezer and add a layer of buttered kale and chard to the lasagne layers along with pasta sheets when I'm assembling. We eat it later with some salad leaves from the garden. 

The pressure cooker contains a good deal of water and juice from cooking the pumpkin. I add to this a tin of coconut milk, another huge wedge of chopped up pumpkin, a large onion, almost a whole head of our celery (we have a lot growing),a large chilli and stock. This cooks in 10 minutes but I leave it until the morning to cool and blend.

seasonal eating blog - freshly harvested greens

Just a quick note about growing and selling veg. I was so happy with the celery I grew I was hoping to sell it to the local veg shop but the day after harvesting it was so limp I realised there was no way anyone would want to buy it, despite it still being fine to cook with. Celery is often one of the Dirty Dozen, the most sprayed vegetables and fruits tested each year, I read somewhere that celery can be sprayed with 29 different pesticides. The same applies to kale which is almost always on the list. I grow about 8 different varieties of kale which all often look very sad the next day after they have been picked. If you cannot afford or source organic fruit and vegetables then look up the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 and try to avoid those most sprayed.


I feed the sourdough to make bread this evening. Breakfast is porridge with some apples freshly cooked down, we have boxes of them everywhere and I've already preserved as many as I can for now so I'm cooking them in the mornings when I can.

Lunch at the wood is the soup made yesterday and bread toasted on the fire, food tastes so much better when cooked outside!

seasonal eating blog

I sort through a huge basket of haws harvested at the woodland. I'll use them dried for teas and I'm going to try making ink with them next year as well. 

The work of the giant pumpkin continues and another huge hunk of it is squeezed into the pressure cooker. Once cooled down I scrape the puree into boxes and bags for the freezer. To the leftover water in the pressure cooker I add fresh pumpkin chunks, apples from the old apple tree in our woodland, celery, onion, courgette from the freezer, homemade chicken stock and a generous dollop of mustard with ale for another soup.

Easy dinner of organic pasta with homemade pesto and some shredded kale, topped with my favourite Hafod organic cheese - we visited the farm where they make this cheese earlier in the year and buy it as a treat from our local wholefood shop.

The bread is mixed and put in the fridge to rise overnight.


I bake the sourdough bread when I get up at 6.30.

Breakfast is porridge with cooked apple, chopped almonds and maple syrup. I blend and portion the soup from the pressure cooker.

I'm at home as it's raining all day and I'm tackling some damsons from the freezer. I was given about 4kg of them a couple of months ago by a friend. At the time I only had time to sort through, wash and divide them into bags of different weights. I take one 500g bag and add them to a large jar with 250g of golden castor sugar and 1 litre of Welsh gin, give it all a good shake and put them on a shelf in the pantry.

pitting damsons for jam

I then take 2kg of the damsons (which I'd taken from the freezer last night) and begin the laborious job of pitting each one with a cherry pitter. Earlier in the year I used our rhubarb to infuse some vodka and after I'd strained off the vodka I bottled it and chucked the discarded rhubarb into the freezer. I add this to the damsons and weigh the whole lot, adding the same amount of organic cane sugar. I've been making my my own vanilla extract for a few years and I need to strain the vanilla pods from the last batch. I do this and chuck the pods and seeds into the jam with everything else and set it to boil. The pits are put into a small pan and boiled to get the last bits of flesh off, these are strained and the liquid is added. Once the desired temperature of 104 degrees is reached I cool for a short while then pour the jam into warm sterilised jars, it fills eleven of them for the pantry and to give to friends, family and the person that gave me the damsons in the first place.

Lunch is the soup I made last night and I make some fresh cheese scones to go with it.

Another easy dinner tonight of homemade baked beans from the freezer with baked potatoes. The ultimate comfort food, it's so good. I like this recipe for slow cooked baked beans and usually make large batches for the freezer.


Homemade museli for breakfast. 

Lunch taken to eat at my knitting group is some leftover pasta from Tuesday night.

I am on the search for suet for my Christmas puddings. I try a butcher about 25 minutes north of me in the town where I go to my knitting group. The young assistant doesn't even know what suet is, her boss tells me they never see it now. I ring an organic butcher I like to use in Hay and they can offer me dripping but no suet. I try my most local butcher on the way home (should have gone there first) and they produce a gigantic piece of suet asking me how much I would like, seemingly delighted that I'm going to be using it for my puddings. They get whole cows from a local farmer and butcher them themselves, using it all,

When I get home I grate the suet (this is probably what puts people off but it's not too bad at all) and add all the other pudding ingredients to steep overnight. I use the recipe in Delia Smith's Christmas with some amendments from my friends' dad which are basically use loads more citrus peel and add loads more booze. This is the fourth year I've made these puddings and they are a highlight of the Christmas eating!

For dinner I heat some fat saved from a roast pork cooked weeks ago and cook diced onions, celery and carrots, then add brown lentils and homemade stock. I make a large batch for the feeezer, as always! I cook some sausages from the butcher to go with them and serve them on top of the lentils with some kale and chard from the garden cooked in olive oil with garlic.


Porridge with stewed apples and chopped nuts for breakfast. I feed the sourdough.

The Christmas pudding mixture is poured into two buttered pudding basins and as we are working at the wood today I cook them one by one in the slow cooker for 10 hours instead of in the steamer on the stove, it works perfectly. 

Lunch is sourdough sandwiches at the wood with cheese and pickle. While we are there we take our first harvest of honey from our bees!

For dinner I make a chicken pie. I was intending to make a rough puff pastry from scratch but feel too tired and pressed for time so I call into the Co-op on the way home to buy some ready made puff pastry. I fry onions, celery and carrots, add a small amount of cooked pumpkin for some extra creaminess, some leftover roast chicken and a portion of chicken gravy from the freezer. I line a large pie dish and a small pie dish with some of the pastry and blind bake them in the oven. I spoon in the mixture and add the pastry tops. I serve the pie with roasted potatoes I harvested from the garden today and some buttered chard.


I pop out first thing to Hay to collect a book I've ordered and whilst I'm out I get some sliced ham to make croque madames. This is one of my favourite breakfasts ever, usually made when I have some béchamel left over or I remember to put some to one side. See here for some inspiration.

I decide to make some handmade chocolates after trying them at a friends house. I use one third cocoa butter buttons, one third cacao powder and one third maple syrup, all heated slowly in a bain marie. Once melted I add chopped dates, sultanas and nuts and then drop teaspoon sized amounts onto greaseproof paper to cool. They are a great success and despite using all organic ingredients bought at the local wholefood shop, I calculate that they cost about half what a bar of organic chocolate costs with less packaging involved. If I replaced the maple syrup with organic sugar they would be less than a third of the cost.

With the some puff pastry left over from the friday pies and some homemade pesto I make some pin wheels to take to a local event.

Eric makes pizza for dinner with the sourdough discard. He makes a sauce using  our tomatoes roasted in oil in the oven with herbs and tops with mozarella. He finishes them off with rocket leaves and nasturtium flowers from our garden.


One of our Marsh Daisy hens which we hatched earlier in the year has laid her first egg! Very exciting. We have eggs on toast for lunch with a tiny amount of what we 99% think is a clouded agaric mushroom found outside the caravan. 1 in 5 people react badly to it so we both try it to see if we are amongst the lucky ones and can keep eating them (update: we are both fine). I feed the sourdough starter.

For dinner I take some courgette and chickpea dal from the freezer (I mention this in the last blog) and make a large batch (for dinner and the freezer) of thoran to go with it along with some brown rice. In 2015 I read about this Keralan Thali feast in the Guardian food supplement and I've made the whole lot ( although not always the Appam) many times for dinner parties. I also make the individual dishes in bulk from time to time and I love to make and eat this fresh tasting Thoran curry either with beetroot, cabbage or in this case large handfuls of kale and chard freshly harvested.

Jobs done in the garden this week - Harvesting beans, mulching beds, clearting the pots of tomatoes in the polytunnel and filling the new raised beds now there with soil, harvesting and eating the raspberries, harvesting celery, drying celery leaf for storage, nasturtiums dried for storage, hawthorns dried, field and broad beans are sown in trays in the polytunnel, cabbages and kale harvested, lots of weeding and clearing plants that have finished cropping.In the ground we already have purple sprouting broccoli, brussels sprouts, leeks, broad beans, garlic and lots more kale of different varieties.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about how we eat during the autumn in a way which nourishes us, supports local farming and does as little harm to the planet as we can currently manage.

Other blog posts you might enjoy:

Favourite seasonal cookbooks

One week in the winter - Eating from the larder

One week in the summer - Eating the harvest

A lot of my work is inspired by seasonal eating, pickling, preserving, foraging and filling the larder which you can find below:

Spring Kitchen

Summer Kitchen

Autumn Kitchen

Winter Kitchen

1 comment

Pam Bellinger

Loved reading this. It looks like some of my days and I think of you living such a loving life. Thanks for the link to the Keralian recipes – I love going to Herb in Leicester and now I will make some of their food. And the dirty dozen lists. PAN was the organisation that first frightened me into seeking a safer life for my babies. We had a poster of theirs on the toilet door and my children grew up with the knowledge of pesticide side effects.

My news is that I am involved in the local library community garden and am leading it into phase two – city park gives way to insect wildlife haven. Celeriac has been my big win this year and we are eating celeriac steaks, marinaded in ginger, garlic, maple syrup and tamari. I’m convinced that pouring all my wee all year round on my allotment is all the fertility it needs. Well, plus humanure for the cauliflowers! (This shouldn’t have been a comment I realise. I was being lazy not going into email!) Lots of love to you both

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