You know the idea of Autumn? Sitting inside in front of a glowing fire, all snug and warm when it's dark and cold outside; drifts of crisp red and gold leaves which you crunch underfoot and kick into the air; the air getting that little bit sharper and fresher, turning your cheeks pink and making you curl your sleeves around your hands to keep them warm. Pub lunches, with dark wood and bright candles... I love it.
What I hate is Actual Autumn; wearing about twelve layers to pad restlessly about the house in and still being cold, and being bored to death because there's nothing to do inside and you can't go out without getting soaked. Wet feet. Thoroughly depressing grey days.
You wouldn't think a season could change that much from one end of a country to the other (uh, unless you live in, I don't know, Russia. I'm talking an England-sized country, here), but Autumn has been a revelation to me these past few weeks. It turns out watching everything die is a lot more picturesque under bright, clear sunlight; on campus there's a bush such a bright shade of red that it looks like it's burning, and on Saturday my flatmates and I went walking on the common and found a baby Christmas tree growing in a secluded corner.
This is the sort of seasonal comfort food that my brain automatically associates with Autumn-in-inverted-commas, and it's been such a shock to actually have an Autumn (rather than the Northern alternative: 'Death Months') that I thought it was time to dig out the recipe. I made it for the first last year - just before Halloween, actually; I remember because I was hurrying to get tea ready for my dad and sister before I went out to a party. If it amuses you, imagine me cooking this dressed as Anne Boleyn. It adds a certain je ne sais quoi, I think.
Anyway, it's totally comforting, ridiculously easy (if you have a food processor. You know, the sort I Don't Have At Uni with me. I used a masher and tore up the breadcrumbs by hand) and extremely cheap, which gives me a good feeling about my ability to look after myself in the big wide world. Oh, and healthy, don't forget that. Don't let those Death Months strike you down, as we say up North.
...We don't actually say that. I might just tell people that we do.
Carrot & Parsnip Crumble
Recipe from Josceline Dimbleby's Complete Cookbook
100g brown bread (leave crusts on)
4 tbsp fromage frais or similar (this time I used yoghurt; I've used creme fraiche before)
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
75g grated cheddar cheese
25g parmesan (I skipped this and use 100g cheddar)
2 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
1. Whizz (or tear) the bread to crumbs in a food processor, then set aside in a bowl. Peel and chop carrots and parsnips roughly, then boil them til very soft. Drain and put in the food processor (may need two batches) with the fromage frais, and whizz to a smooth paste.
2. Grate in the nutmeg & add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish and spread level.